Blog Archives

EUROVISION BY JAZ X EUROVISION UNION | Reacting to another blogger’s top 10 Melodifestivalen entries from the last 10 years

Fun fact: It’s been a hot minute (as in about three years) since I collaborated with anybody via this here blog. So when my talented and equally ESC-centric amigo Anita from Eurovision Union floated the idea of a pre-Melodifestivalen fling between our sites, I was like:

What we decided to do, just before the 2019 competition kicks off this Saturday (!!!) is each make a list of our top 10 favourite Melfest tracks from the last ten years (that length of time was hard enough…having any more songs to choose from would be torture). Then we’d swap our rankings and judge each other’s awful and/or excellent tastes when it comes to Europe’s biggest and best NF. So that’s what we’re doing today, basically!

Here’s Anita’s judgment of MY top 10 Melfest entries, 2009-2018. Check out her site if you haven’t already, because it is a Eurovision news-and-review lover’s fantasy land. And then keep reading mine to see what I think of her top 10 songs.

PS – By the way, we decided to consider songs that won Melfest as Eurovision entries, so we haven’t included any on either of our lists. If we’d forced ourselves to consider Loreen, Måns, Sanna etc, there wouldn’t have been room for anyone else.

 

 

#1 | Good Lovin’, Benjamin Ingrosso (2017)

There are two things you need to know about me in case you didn’t already: firstly, I’m a big Benjamin Ingrosso fangirl; and secondly, I was there in Friends Arena two years ago when he performed this song live at the Melfest final (something I drop into conversations as often as possible). I’m telling you this stuff so you’re prepared for the doubly-special place Good Lovin’ has in my heart. Should it have been his winning entry instead of Dance You Off? Definitely not. Were the giant baked-potato-in-foil props a good idea? Not so much. But those things aside, this is just one song in an endless string of slick, catchy and super-streamable Scandipop produced by Benjamin. It was a great Melfest debut for him and I listen to it on a far too regular basis. Nope, can’t fault your taste on this one, Anita.

 

#2 | Hold On, Nano (2017)

I may as well lay my cards on the table immediately: when I was sitting there in Friends Arena back in 2017 (told you I liked to mention that at every opportunity), it was Nano I wanted to win. Looking at it now, I’m glad Robin Bengtsson got his turn – but in a parallel universe, Hold On made for an awesome Eurovision entry and didn’t need treadmills to do it. One of my favourite things about Nano, this song and his performance of it was that none of it screamed typical Melfest. It was polished but had rough edges, was presented with more shadow than light, and wasn’t fronted by a buff, precision-choreographed teenage male soloist with perfect teeth and a head packed with hair product. Nano gave us something that felt true and stood out for that reason. Overall, his entry was like Rag ‘n’ Bone Man meets Rudimental, and I was totally there for it.

 

#3 | My Heart Is Refusing Me, Loreen (2011)

The original but not the best – that’s how I’d describe Loreen’s Melfest debut. That’s only because what came after it was Euphoria, and no mere mortal could ever hope to top that (or have something they’d done prior be considered better). MHIRM had substance and style, and it’s aged well enough that it could probably compete in 2019 and nobody would say it was dated. I’ve always liked the slow-burn structure of the song – how it builds into a dance track with a dark-disco feel gradually over three minutes, never making me feel like waiting for the climax to come is boring. Melfest 2011 is actually the first edition of the NF I watched as a fan who actually knew what ‘NU KÖR VI!’ meant, and I remember this song being my top pick at the time…and being devastated when it failed to get out of Andra Chansen. In all honesty, I think it’s a better song than eventual winner Popular, but it probably wouldn’t have the hit the heights of 3rd place at Eurovision.

 

#4 | Youniverse, Molly Sanden (2016)

Okay, so it wasn’t third time lucky for Molly at Melfest…and we haven’t seen her there since (she’s been too busy releasing epic non-competition music, most of which can be found on her latest album Större). But Youniverse was a solid effort, once you get past the wordplay of the title which messed with my mind at first. The writer and former English major in me loves the imagery and perfectly-rhymed lyrics – I mean, ‘We’re stars wrapped up in skin, the light comes from within’ is practically poetry. And the part of me that appreciates atypical pop songs (as opposed to cookie cutter, ultra-predictable pop songs) applauds the electronic dance-pop of the verses that alternates with the power ballad-esque choruses. There was something missing from the overall Youniverse package that prevented it from stopping Frans – and a few other acts – in his tracks, and it’s not my favourite Melfest entry of Molly’s (that “honour” goes to 2012’s Why Am I Crying?). But it’s sophisticated, unique and as I said, solid.

  

#5 | Put Your Love On Me, Boris René (2016)

Realistically, I could sum up how I feel about this number in one word, and that word would be YAAASSSSS!!! But you guys know my motto is ‘Why use one word when you could use 1500?’. So here goes. Who would have expected an ex-soccer player to contribute more to the Melfest lineup than some fancy footwork? Boris René delivered that by the truckload, but he also had a) above average vocal abilities, b) tons of charisma, and c) a heart that was IN A LITTER BOX. I don’t care if it’s supposed to be ‘little box’, I hear litter every time. Regardless, this entry is 100% pure joy and makes me so happy whenever I hear it (which is at least once a day, voluntarily). I’m glad Boris used the same formula for his follow-up Her Kiss, which is equally as effective as a musical happy pill. Either song popping up on a top 10 list is just plain old-fashioned good taste. 

 

#6 | To The End, YOHIO (2014)

I bet you thought as this point that I was going to be annoyingly complimentary about all of Anita’s Melodifestivalen favourites. Well, it took a while, but we’ve arrived at one that I don’t dislike exactly…but I definitely don’t think of it as a personal best of mine either. To The End was YOHIO’s attempt to go one better than he did in 2013, when he lost out to Andra Chansen’s very own You by Robin Stjernberg (now there’s a song I love). To me he pulled an Ulrik Munther and tried too hard to succeed, ending up with an entry that didn’t quite recapture the magic of the first. Of course, this is my opinion – and I’m not saying that 2013’s Heartbreak Hotel was the greatest song on the planet – but I much preferred his debut to what came the year after. The show’s results reflected that, with To The End finishing 6th. Though having said that, 2014 was a way, WAY stronger Melfest year than 2013.

 

#7 | Bröder, Linus Svenning (2014)

Here’s a song that’s more emotionally-charged than most found at Melfest, and I was feeling all of the feels from Linus when he competed with it. The style of the song is great, building on a piano ballad beginning to end as more of a rock/power ballad. And Linus sells it so well, with more vulnerability than you might expect to vibe off someone with so many body modifications. As a package, this reminds me of LIAMOO’s Last Breath in its simplicity and authentic, true-to-the-artist nature. Unfortunately, when Linus came back in 2015, a lot of his authenticity was lost in Forever Starts Today, which tried so hard to be a step up that it backfired. But I digress. I’m supposed to be talking about Bröder, and that gets a big thumbs up from me even if I’m not as obsessed with it now as I was back then.

 

#8 | Blame It On The Disco, Alcazar (2014)

This is a classic case of knowing your lane and staying in it. Basically, Blame It On The Disco is Alcazar doing what Alcazar have always done and do best, and do I have any complaints about that? Um, no. My personal favourite from their competition back catalogue is Stay The Night (2009), but this is a close second…and to my surprise, it nearly finished second in Melfest. It does have everything one could possibly want from a Swedish schlager song and performance – including sequins, choreography, a key change, pyro, plenty of (machine-made) wind…and of course, the trio entering the stage from within a giant mirror ball. And, if you can manage to look past all of that, the song itself is a pretty good slice of its genre – with a singalong chorus that’s harder to escape than the hedge maze in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A-ARE WE GONNA PARTY TONIGHT? Well, I couldn’t possibly say no, Alcazar.

  

#9 | Begging, Anton Ewald (2013)

It pains me to say that I knocked this off my own top 10 list (as reviewed by Anita…hit up the link at the start or end of this post to see it) at the last second. Why I love it so much and what makes it special is that Anton served us a 1950s Hollywood look and dance moves to match, all the while delivering a song that was contrastingly cutting edge. It was an interesting combo at least and an iconic one at most. I don’t want to admit that Anton himself, whose vocals are average but who has the face of a ridiculously attractive angel, at all influences my longstanding appreciation of this track, but I will admit it because I’m only human. His follow-up Natural had the same effect, though I genuinely think both are great dance songs that most other national finals would kill to have on their programs. Begging lived up to its title and actually did have me begging for more. 

 

#10 | Busy Doin’ Nothin’, Ace Wilder (2014)               

Am I allowed to say ‘the original but not the best’ again? We all have our preferred song from the Ace Wilder Melfest trilogy, and I’m afraid to confess (literally, in case somebody flies into a rage and tries to attack me) that this one isn’t mine (Wild Child is my favourite, if you must know). Busy Doin’ Nothin’ is a cracker though, and if it hadn’t been for Queen Sanna and the incredible Undo, I would happily have sat back and let Sweden send it to Eurovision. There’s something endearing about a thirty-something woman styled like and armed with all the angst of a hormonal teenager shouting repeatedly that she doesn’t want to adult – which we can all identify with. I know that sounds sarcastic, but I’m serious. When a song is this catchy and current, it can contain both yelling and attitude without either being a dealbreaker.

 

 

And that, my friends, is that. I hope you enjoyed my reaction to somebody else’s NF faves, and aren’t too disappointed that there was nothing I could honestly trash. I guess birds of a feather really do flock together, because the girls behind Eurovision Union and Eurovision By Jaz both have great musical taste. In fact, if you check out Anita’s judgment of my top 10, you’ll notice we have a few songs in common. SPOOKY.

One last reminder: see my song picks on Eurovision Union here!

 

 

What do YOU think of Anita’s Melfest top 10? Who would make it into your 2009-2018 best-of list? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

GOODBYE TO YESTERDAY…A.K.A. 2018! My top 10 songs from last year’s ESC, JESC and NF season

Okay…so I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to be more prompt with my posts. Some things are just too hard to change, and I actually think you guys would miss the old, always late and always running behind Jaz if she was replaced with a new, punctual version.

On that note, it’s January 3rd and time for me to finally say HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I can’t believe 2018 is no more. Time freaking FLIES, but on the plus side that means we’re about to enter ESC NF season again – a better season than the best bits of autumn, winter, spring and summer combined. Before every second thing I type becomes ‘Melodifestivalen’ (or potentially ‘Australia Decides’), I’ve got to squeeze in a look back at the year we’ve just farewelled.

2018 began with a sensational string of Eurovision selections, continued with a phenomenal Portuguese ESC, and ended with an unforgettable Junior Eurovision. Accompanying those three events were hundreds of songs competing to get to or win a Eurovision event, and to honour the sheer awesomeness of some, I’m presenting you with my top 10 favourites from across the board. Keep reading to find out which songs I chose and why (there’s some weird ones that needed an explanation) then hit the comments box/visit me on my socials to share your own musical highlights of the last year living on Planet Eurovision!

 

 

 

#10 | Tengo Otra, Alejandro Fuentes (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)

Is this a curveball way to start this list? Probably. But being a Eurovision and national final freak means getting used to other people going gaga over songs that didn’t stand out to you at all. For some reason – a reason I’m about to try and identify – Tengo Otra is a standout of the 2018 NF season for me, knowing it passed the majority of fans (and Norwegians) by as part of the MGP lineup.

I can understand that when I remember it was surrounded by the likes of Rebecca’s big ballad, Ida Maria’s iconic and NSFW Scandilove and Alexander Rybak. But I think the Despacito Latin-pop influence that leaked into multiple NFs last year was peak bueno with Alejandro. In fact, I’m going to go all out and say that this song is better than Despacito (and it’s been inarguably less overplayed). Tengo Otra is just as summery and catchy, but edgier – and the production on the studio version is next level. It’s one of those songs that starts so mysteriously, you can’t help wondering where it’s going. And when the chorus arrives it’s not in-your-face, but it makes exactly the statement it came to make: ‘Visit Chile Or Anywhere Else Where Spanish Is Spoken!’. That’s what it says to me, anyway.

Should this song have been sent to Eurovision? Not before Rybak’s or Rebecca’s – but the beauty of national finals is discovering more music to love whether it gets to the big show or not. I will say that Tengo Otra > the majority of songs Spain has sent to the contest recently. To you that may not be saying much, but to me this track is a banger. It didn’t pop up on my most-played of 2018 Spotlify playlist for nada!

 

 

#9 | Scandilove, Ida Maria (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)

Can you tell that I rather enjoyed Norway’s MGP last year? A lot more than I enjoyed the Danish equivalent, that’s for sure. If Dansk has the monopoly on safe, cookie-cutter radio pop with the occasional bearded Viking thrown in, then Norsk has original, often moody Scandipop locked down. I can’t say the wonderfully bizarre Scandilove is moody, but it’s definitely original. Spice Girls with 1000% more attitude level original!

Behind the bonkers is a genuinely well-crafted pop song with a bouncy beat and unmatched energy. And you guys know I’m a sucker for a catchy chorus. When it comes to lyrical one-liners, this track is as quotable as Mean Girls. If you need fast proof, I’d offer up ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’ and of course, ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion, it’s f*%king freezing!’. How do you say ‘iconic AF’ in Norwegian? I’m asking because I also want to use the phrase to describe Ida’s spotted suit and High-School-Musical-on-crack staging.

It’s all so brilliant and impossible to ignore. There’s a part of me that wonders what it would have been like if Norway had sent Scandilove to Eurovision, but I don’t blame them for playing it safe. You can’t go from silent storms and grabbing the moment to I’M SCANDINAVIAN Y’ALL without building up to it.

 

 

#8 | Talk To The Hand, Aleksander Walmann (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)

This is the last MGP entry on this list, I promise (the 2018 show was just TOO GOOD). Eurovision 2017 proved that the lyrical genius of JOWST and the vocal talents of Aleksander Walmann was an excellent combination. And if it ain’t broke, why not try it again immediately at Melodi Grand Prix?

It wasn’t a case of JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann this time, but the man in the light-up mask remained a composer and lyricist of Talk To The Hand as he had been for Grab The Moment. What can I say? He’s got the magic touch when it comes to pop earworms with lyrics that couldn’t be less cliché. Granted, I don’t think anybody’s uttered the phrase ‘talk to the hand’ with sincerity since 2002…but I was quick to overlook that from the second I pressed play on this track for the first time. It’s funky, it’s fresh, and that guitar intro reminds me so much of the Seinfeld theme that I’m transported back to the 90s while still feeling very much in 2018 (which we’re not any more, but you know what I mean). It’s a song that’s seriously good without taking itself too seriously, and if you can sit still when you’re listening to it I feel compelled to judge you.

Having said all of that, I was actually surprised to see Aleksander in the MGP super final again – I wasn’t sure Norway would be so keen to send him straight back to Eurovision, especially when he was competing against Rebecca and the most unbeatable Alexander of all, Rybak. As it turns out, they weren’t (which may have been a mistake in the end) but I was happy enough to have TTTH get as far as it did. It’s a bop and a half, and I want the JOWST X Walmann pairing to keep on gifting the world with music just like it.

 

 

#7 | Time, Daniel Yastremski (Belarus, Junior Eurovision)

Creeped out by the whole concept of Junior Eurovision but don’t mind being exposed to JESC entries that could pass as ESC entries? Then pay attention to this favourite musical moment of mine. The only thing that made Belarus’ host act/song/performance from Minsk unsuitable for adult Eurovision was Daniel’s birth date.

For starters, the slick R&B pop anthem that is Time (the best Time ever sent to a Eurovision event IMO) was written by Kirill Yermakov, a.k.a. Kirill Good, who’s competed in a bunch of Belarusian JESC and ESC preselections – hello contest pedigree! No surprises as to why it strikes the best kind of balance between youthful and mature. If you’ve checked out Kirill and Daniel’s acoustic duet, then you should easily be able to imagine a parallel universe in which Kirill submitted the song to Eurofest and won with it. As for Daniel’s performance at JESC 2018…well, it was a total Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every way, that is, and very forward thinking – nobody would bat an eyelid if Sweden turned up in Tel Aviv with something similar, basically. Factor in Daniel’s charisma (he has more than I do and I’m a senior citizen by comparison) and you’ve got a package deal that stands out for all the right reasons.

I know Time wasn’t a hit with all Junior fans, and its eventual 11th place in the comp (I DEMAND JUSTICE) proved that. But if you read my review of the song back in November, you’ll understand why I love it so much and why it’s a highlight of my 2018 in ESC/JESC/NF terms. I don’t want the Kirill/Daniel story to end without the success and massive amount of points it deserves, so here’s hoping there’s a Eurovision collab on the horizon (a.k.a. the second Daniel turns 16). Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping myself busy listening to that awesome duet on repeat.

 

 

#6 | Qami, Sevak Khanagyan (Armenia, Eurovision)

Back in May 2017, foolish Jaz thought that Blackbird becoming a DNQ when it should have flown into the ESC final was the most painful non-qualification scenario she would ever experience. Little did she know that the worst was yet to come, around about the same time she realised referring to herself in the third person is damn annoying.

It’s not that I thought Armenia was a certain finalist last year – but I guess I fell so far in love with Qami (and if I’m honest, the sculpted-ab body armour Sevak wore at Depi Evratesil) I figured everyone else must love it too. Long story you already know short, it bombed out after what I have to admit was a slightly boring performance, and my body could not produce the amount of salt and water needed for me to cry out my anguish. I exaggerate, but it really did hurt.

Regardless, here is a haunting power ballad with ethnic flourishes – much like another song I’ll be talking about later – that captured me in the way Origo did in 2017. In both cases I stumbled across the songs after a previous favourite fell before the NF final and I was searching for a replacement. I loved and lost Deák by Spoon 21 during A Dal 2017 only to discover Origo, and then latched onto Qami in the wake of Poison (Ari Ari) not getting anywhere. It’s a typical song for me to go crazy over, based on my penchant for Balkan ballads. The atmosphere, beauty and power give me goosebumps every time. And it may be a slow burner, but like Aram Mp3’s Not Alone, the explosive climax (I’m talking in musical terms here, you dirty-minded individual) is worth waiting for. Armenia does dynamic songs very well, and for that I salute them. This one deserves a do-over in the form of staging revamp and a retrospective spot in the Eurovision final.

 

 

#5 | Lie To Me, Mikolas Josef (Czech Republic, Eurovision)

Together we’ve witnessed many Eurovision glow-ups over the years. Belgium sending Rhythm Inside right after ghastly Mother, Moldova following up the lacklustre DNQ Falling Stars with eventual bronze medalist Hey Mamma…the list goes on and on. At the very top of it or thereabouts, though, has to be the Czech Republic. How else could you acknowledge the mammoth gap between My Turn and Lie To Me in practically every department? And to think that someone initially wanted Mikolas to perform My Turn…holy WTF.

I cannot overstate how much I was blindsided by Lie To Me popping up as one of the Czech candidates last year, and as soon as I’d heard it for the first time I knew it had to be The One (you don’t want to know what I would have done had it NOT been selected for Lisbon). This song is nothing if not iconic. Ridiculously catchy, eternally danceable and lyrically questionable in the best kind of way, the only problem I have with it is the fact that I still don’t know what ‘Set my camel in the mood’ means.

It doesn’t take a genius to interpret the line ‘Whop-bop-a-lu-bop on his wood bamboo’, but even that gets points from me for originality. Eurovision gets lyrics that saucy pretty infrequently, so when Lie To Me hit the stage in Lisbon it grabbed eyes AND ears. A catastrophe seemed likely when Mikolas nearly snapped himself in half during rehearsals – an injury that could have led to a forced withdrawal – but he managed to pull himself together, play safe for the semi final and then risk it all (‘all’ = the integrity of his spinal column and ability to walk) with a flip for the final. The risk paid off, with the show Mr. Josef putting on earning the Czech Republic their best result ever by a long shot. Lie To Me has also earned him the honour of a place on this list, for being an irresistible song I’ll be lip-syncing for a long time to come.

 

 

#4 | Doma, Marija Spasovska (Macedonia, Junior Eurovision)

Brace yourselves, because I’m about to make a big call: Macedonia’s JESC 2018 entry is arguably the best song they’ve ever sent to a Eurovision event. That’s in my opinion, obviously…but Doma is something special and I know I’m not the only one outraged that it missed out on the Minsk top 10. Marija’s live performance was beautifully staged (which came as a shock since Macedonia are the masters of staging self-sabotage) if slightly shaky in the vocal department – and her song was/is stunning.

I’m not going to repeat all of the adjectives from my review, and my love for this can’t adequately be expressed in words anyway (despite this paragraph of typing). I will say that Elena Risteska, who gave us the epic Ninanajna in 2006 and who should have represented Macedonia again by now (maybe she’s up for a trip to Tel Aviv in May?) helping create such a spellbinding, spine-tingling  ballad is not surprising. Elena plus Darko Dimitrov, the man behind a bajillion Macedonian/other ex-Yugo ESC entries, including Ninanajna.

With a songwriting team like that in her corner, it’s no wonder Marija ended up with such an amazing track. Armed with Doma in a less competitive contest, I think Macedonia could have reached a higher rung on the scoreboard ladder than 12th, but if it’s any consolation this will always be among my personal favourites of last year’s JESC.

 

 

#3 | Last Breath, LIAMOO (Sweden, Melodifestivalen)

I’m not the most confident person on the planet, but I am 110% confident in saying that LIAMOO should have finished higher than 6th in last year’s Melfest final. Last Breath is the bomb! There hasn’t been a better combo of rap and singing by the same person since all the way back in 2017 when Joci Papái gave us the gift of Origo.

Clearly I’m not the type to be turned off by rapping (unlike every jury member ever). I see it as a way of expressing emotions that can’t be expressed properly via vocal runs or money notes, and an outpouring of emotion is what we got from LIAMOO. A rapper first and foremost, the way he structured and performed the song made it authentic and believable because he was in his comfort zone. His verses are neat, quick and pave a smooth path for that cracking chorus, which always makes me feel some kind of way (whatever that means…it’s a good thing right, kids?). Sure, it’s quite a repetitive song, but I could (and do) listen to it over and over again without getting bored thanks to that magical melody. I also watch the performance a heck of a lot too. It’s simpler than Dance You Off and less of a statement piece – but with great lighting, some dry ice and rapid-fire camera cuts (á la Oscar Zia’s equally epic Human performance from 2016) comes something applause-worthy.

As a song that hits me in the heart, from a multitalented performer and accompanied by stripped-back staging, Last Breath is easily one of my favourite musical moments of 2018. I’m super psyched to see what LIAMOO and Hanna Ferm produce at Melfest this year.

 

 

#2 | Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso (Sweden, Eurovision)

I’m issuing a spoiler alert to inform you that this is the last Eurovision entry to make my list. Last, but the opposite of least, being my favourite entry from Lisbon and another song to add to the ‘Why yes, I AM incredibly biased when it comes to Sweden!’ pile. If I’m being honest, Benjamin Ingrosso’s entire 2018 was a musical highlight for me (I even enjoyed his endless Instagram stories about pasta). First came Dance You Off; then the World’s Greatest Bromance™ with Felix Sandman that led to Tror Du Att Han Bryr Sig, then his first proper album Identification dropped and blessed us all with an array of peak summer Scandipop. But it was his Melfest win on attempt no. 2 that had me riding a rollercoaster of emotions last year.

There were lows – one in particular that I call the Outrageous Televoting Incident of 2018 In Which Europe and Australia Displayed A Major Lack of Taste. But for the most part, everything to do with Dance You Off had me on a high. I mean, the staging for starters – I’m pretty sure the words ‘revolutionary’ and ‘dope’ were invented with that rightfully glorified tanning bed in mind. Benjamin was just a boy, dancing on top of and in front of lighting tubes, asking us to love him…and it totally worked on me (not a tough task since I was Team Ingrosso when he was dancing in front of giant foil-covered baked potatoes for Good Lovin’).

He claimed that Melfest crown/ugly trophy and went on to do the exact same performance, only slicker, at Eurovision. The juries saw sense and ranked him 2nd overall, and as for the rest – well, I like to pretend it never happened and just say grattis till Sverige on another top 10 result. Contest placings aside, the real reason Dance You Off is such a highlight for me is because as a song, it’s a pure and simple pop masterpiece. If Michael Jackson, early 90s R&B and a freshly-opened 2018 nightclub somehow had a baby, this would be the product. And thanks to Identification, there are siblings!

 

 

#1 | Eva, Lisandro Cuxi (France, Destination Eurovision)

This might be a surprise numero uno for you if Madame Monsieur’s Mercy was your pièce de résistance of Eurovision 2018. Don’t get me wrong, Mercy is a great song with a great message. But Eva is an even greater song (PLEASE DON’T ABUSE ME IT’S JUST MORE TO MY TASTE ASDFGHJKL) also featuring a message. Sure, it’s less about a refugee child and more about a single mother who moonlights as an exotic dancer…but sometimes it’s the most controversial/emotional subjects that make the best music (Exhibit A: Running, Exhibit B: 1944 and Exhibit C: Mercy, of course).

In a national final that was full of fantastic songs, Lisandro’s piqued my interest immediately above other eventual favourites like Ailleurs, OK ou KO and Rêves de Gamin. Not only do I love me some R&B, but as a Melodifestivalen madwoman I love anything that looks and sounds like it could go direkt to Friends Arena. Eva ticks both of those boxes, and also has a moody atmosphere, radio-ready sound and glass-shattering money note (one that was more on point in the Destination Eurovision final than in the semi, I’ll admit).

Some might say it comes across as manufactured and inauthentic compared to Mercy, but I will fight them to the death (or at least until we’re all pretty tired) in my attempt to prove them wrong. Eva just delivers its message in a different way and is packaged differently to Mercy. And it just so happens that Eva’s genre is more up my alley – so far up my alley that I may have cried a little when Lisandro lost to Madame Monsieur. I’m past the weeping stage now, but this kick-ass gem of a song has stayed with me and been played by moi too many times to count. I love it more than the French delegation loves CGI Eiffel Towers. That’s big love.

 

 

I’ve showed you mine – now you have to show me yours! Which songs from ESC, JESC and the NFs of 2018 do you feel blessed to have on your Spotify playlists?

 

  

 

 

 

SUNDAY SHORTLIST | My top six tracks from Benjamin Ingrosso’s Identification

Have you been trapped in a basement for the past month or so? Maybe you just don’t follow Swedish darling and Eurovision 2018 wonder boy/televote non-magnet Benjamin Ingrosso on social media (the less dramatic option). Either way, you might’ve missed the build up to and eventual release on Friday of Benjamin’s first proper album: a.k.a. Identification.

I, as a tragic Ingrosso fangirl from way back, missed nothing. I’d been clinging on to the pre-release song teasers on Instagram like Salvador Sobral clinging on to the hope that he wouldn’t have to hand the ESC winner trophy to a fast-food-and-fireworks song like Toy (i.e. desperately). I dropped everything to read Scandipop’s comprehensive preview (luckily I wasn’t holding anything fragile, expensive or living at the time), and shook my fist super threateningly at Central European Time for dictating that the album would be released while I was at work. No prizes for guessing what I did the second I got home on Friday…

It’s now been a few days since Identification dropped, and since then I’ve played it more or less nonstop. As a result, I’m beyond ready to review it for anyone who’s interested – but rather than rambling on endlessly about all 12 tracks (which I could, because every single one is DOPE) I’ve decided to pick out my favourite six songs from the album and ramble on about those, and only those.

Behind the naturally cool-as-heck cover art of Identification is Benjamin’s latest single I Wouldn’t Know, Melodifestivalen winner/Eurovision entry/greatest song ever Dance You Off, and ten other slickly-produced pop songs – all co-written by the man himself – ranging from emotional ballads and hazy dream-pop to dancefloor bangers. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the best of that brilliant bunch according to Jaz. You wouldn’t be here reading this if you didn’t want my opinions, right?

 

In album tracklist order…

 

Behave

It would have been easy to make Dance You Off the Identification opener, but I’m glad Benjamin didn’t – not when this absolute BANGER was waiting in the wings, equipped to get things started in style. Ingrosso’s trademark falsetto leads to a chorus so infectious, you’ll feel like wearing a surgical face mask and bathing in antibacterial sanitiser after hearing it. Subject-wise the song is almost like a Dance You Off prequel, with Benjamin taking us to the club where he’ll eventually dance this girl off the floor because she’s become a bitch (his side of the story) – only on this occasion, they’re meeting for the first time and she’s looking mighty fine…hence why he can’t make his eyes behave. Honestly, he could have based this song’s lyrics on his desire to judo chop Big Bird from Sesame Street and I’d still rate it. As it is, I’m placing a mental bet on Behave being the follow-up single to I Wouldn’t Know.

 

I Wouldn’t Know

Speaking of which, here’s I Wouldn’t Know in all its summer-soaked glory – track no. 2 of the album and one of my highlights without a doubt. If this song seems to sound like LA (which it totally does) that’s Benjamin’s excessive time spent in the city creeping in to his music. It’s a pretty upbeat song considering it’s about someone who’s just not that into him (are all these songs about the same person? If so, she must be seriously high-maintenance). Every time I hear the retro, sun-bleached intro, I feel like I’ve been transported to the land of palm trees and shopping streets where Julia Roberts is not welcome until she’s made the full transition from hooker with a heart of gold to Richard Gere’s sophisticated arm candy (and yes, that is a compliment). Cruisy vibes and overall catchiness make this a perfect addition to any holiday roadtrip playlist. Also, ‘Tell me what it’s like to love someone who gives a damn about you, ‘cause I wouldn’t know’? Sick burn, Benjamin.

 

I’ll Be Fine Somehow

This breakup ballad has none of the danceable qualities of Behave or the ironic happy feels of I Wouldn’t Know, but it’s equally awesome in its own way. It reminds me a little of Benjamin’s first grown-up single Fall In Love, only it’s slower and sounds more like it was influenced by R&B. It tells a typical story that we can all identify with (album title pun not intended, but I’ll roll with it). That includes a little list of the pros and cons of the relationship split in question, summed up in the chorus with this lyric: ‘I miss the way that you feel but I won’t miss the way I felt’. Excuse me while I melt into a puddle of feelings on the floor! My only complaint about this song is that it’s too short. As we Eurovision fans are well aware, three minutes isn’t always sufficient song-wise, and I’ll Be Fine Somehow is over before I’ve had the chance to reflect on all of the horrendous aspects of my love life. I suppose I could just play it ten times in a row…

 

So Good So Fine When You’re Messing With My Mind

This is what happens when you put Benjamin’s late 80s/early 90s influences in a blender with a bunch of top-tier pop songs and a big scoop of protein powder. Oh, and a profanity bleep for every chorus that only draws more attention to the d-word. There’s no kale or chia seeds in there, but that just makes for a more appetising smoothie. If Dance You Off didn’t do anything for you but you’re still hoping for an Ingrosso track that will make you move, this would be my suggestion – the chorus alone is impossible to sit still to. Coming a close second in the ‘Best of SGSFWYMWMM’ stakes is the fact that every part of the song is interesting and has a unique selling point, but all parts compliment each other like it ain’t no thang (or, to use normal person words, effortlessly). Like Behave, this song would make a great follow-up single to I Wouldn’t Know. HINT HINT.

 

Spotlights

You can hear the Los Angeles in this one too. Spotlights is basically Benjamin justifying his place in the music industry – and in the spotlight, obviously – in the face of haters who think he’s only where he is in his career thanks to the Wahlgren-Ingrosso legacy (this is something the Kardashians should consider doing if they can gather enough material). And this justification is boxed up in jazz-pop package that Bruno Mars would be proud of. My highlight within-a-highlight here has to be the second verse, because the rhymes are so, so satisfyingly neat. ‘See I was only fifteen, labels didn’t want me, they saw me on the TV, said I didn’t have a story, so I had to prove it, did it with my music, when I become a star they’re gonna say they always knew it’ = bomb wording if ever I’ve seen it. I don’t mind if Benjy’s career did get a boost from that hyphenated family name, because it eventually led to this song’s existence in my life and presence on all of my summer party soundtracks.

 

Dance You Off

Well, duh! I like to think of Dance You Off as the last official track of Identification, with Happiness being an acoustic tack-on that makes for a nice encore rather than a great grand finale. Fortunately, this song helps Benjamin go out with a bang. You guys know what it sounds like – I don’t need to describe it to you. Will that stop me though? Um, no. The late 80s/early 90s atmosphere is thick, the Michael Jackson influences are clear, and no matter how many times I listen to this track (or watch the mind-blowing performance) I will NEVER understand why the voting Eurovision public responded to it so negatively. It goes without saying that I exclude myself from that narrative, since I voted for Sweden and only Sweden back in May (well, there may have been a few messages sent for Mikolas Josef, but you get my drift). Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. Dance You Off is the gift that keeps on giving, televoting points or *sniff* hardly any televoting points.

 

 

Okay – that’s my top six tracks covered, so I’ll press pause on the ramble. But I do want to say one more thing: if you’re yet to give this album a go, get on it ASAP (wherever you usually listen to music digitally). It’s far from being a collection of Dance You Off clones, so if that wasn’t your cup of cocoa but you are a pop lover, you’re still likely to find something Benjamin Ingrosso-branded to enjoy.

I’m going to cheat and recommend two more tracks in addition to my favourite six: No Sleep (which sounds like it was recorded under water with the supervision of The Weeknd, and the result is glorious) and Good Intentions (another one to make you feel like you’re in sunny LA drinking cocktails at a beach party). But, in case you hadn’t guessed, I love this entire album and wouldn’t tell you to avoid any of it.

 

If you have given Identification a run-through, tell me which tracks floated your boat in the comments. How many stars would you give it? It’s pretty obvious that I’d give it the full five.

Now I’ve got to go play it again, because it’s been several hours and I’m having withdrawals.

 

Until next time (when I’ll write about something in a less sickeningly complimentary way),

 

 

THE 2018 EBJ EUROVISION EXCELLENCE AWARDS | The Show + The Results

First things first: I know Eurovision ended (what feels like) months ago, and that “awards ceremonies” like this should have too. But if you’re a regular EBJ reader (WHAT A LEGEND) then you’ll be familiar with my lack of multitasking skills, and therefore my inability to blog when other aspects of life get busy.

But my motto is ‘better late than never’, and I do like to (eventually) finish what I start. So at last, here’s the third and final episode of the 2018 EBJEEs – brought to you before I get stuck into some serious off-season filler material. Today’s show is all about…well, Lisbon’s ESC show, as well as the results revealed at the end of it. If you missed me handing out trophies for The Artists + Songs and The Performances, update yourself and then come back to see what I (and you – there’s still a few People’s Choice Awards to go) thought was worthy of an accolade when it comes to the hosts, qualifiers, non-qualifiers, final scoreboard positions and more.

And, if you agree or disagree with literally anything, tell me in the comments!

 

  

 

Winner Filomena Cautela

The reason I decided this award should continue to be People’s Choice in 2018 was not because I wanted to see who’d win it based on public opinion – it’s because I wanted to see how much of an Alexander-Rybak-in-Moscow-style win it would give to Filomena. Providing some comic relief from the cringe that was the hosts’ script, she may not have been up there with the Anke Engelkes and Petra Medes of the contest MC world…but Filomena was definitely the star attraction of the Real Housewives of Lisbon.

Even Elina knew the best host answer was a no-brainer.

 

 

Winner SuRie’s stage invasion Honourable Mention/s Australia loses the televote, Sweden finishes 2nd with the juries…then 23rd with the public

You guys chose SuRie’s performance – well, the part of it that was way more memorable than intended, anyway – as the jaw-dropper of jaw-droppers for 2018, and I’m not about to argue. For the second year running at the ESC, an absolute queen was interrupted while doing her thing. Fortunately (like Jamala), SuRie carried on afterwards like nothing had happened. The stage invasion actually seemed to put more energy and fight into her than she’d had during her uneventful initial few minutes.

 

 

Winner Czech Republic Honourable Mention/s Iceland, Ukraine

Confession: At this point, I can barely remember any of the postcards. It has been a while since I’ve seen them, but at the end of the day I just don’t think they were very memorable. I do remember, however, Mikolas Josef jumping around looking like a living, breathing Mardi Gras float (and/or a piñata) – and to be honest, totally pulling it off. That in itself deserves an award.

 

 

Winner Switzerland Honourable Mention/s Armenia, Latvia

Armenia’s DNQ might have hurt me more, but in the wake of the semi final performances I was definitely more surprised that Switzerland didn’t squeeze through. Zibbz nailed Stones on the night, and I think they knew it – so much so that Corinne’s reaction to their non-qualification was apparently as iconic as Moran Mazor’s in 2013 (only with fewer tears and more rage).

 

 

Winner Ireland Honourable Mention/s Serbia

After four years of being stuck in the semis, I did not think the luck of the Irish would get the Emerald Isle to the final this time around either. In fact, right up until I saw Ryan perform Together live – and heard the crowd reaction to his dancers – I was convinced Ireland wasn’t going anywhere. What can I say? Sometimes you’re more than happy to stand corrected.

 

 

Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Cyprus, Czech Republic

Forget the lack of televoting love for the Swedes this year – regardless of that, they remain one of the most successful Eurovision countries of the 2010s, and if you thought there was any chance Benjamin Ingrosso wouldn’t qualify this year for Sweden, you must have been off your fika. I can’t see another 2010 disgrace being allowed while Christer Björkman is in command.

 

 

Winner Iceland Honourable Mention/s Macedonia, San Marino

Poor Iceland didn’t have a chance this year, and we all knew it (I don’t know if Ari knew it and decided to make the most of the experience despite that or not). A song like Our Choice would have struggled in 1995, so it was beyond stale in 2018 – a problem not shared by Paper last year, and that didn’t make it through either. Here’s hoping Iceland can break their DNQ streak in Israel.

 

 

Winner Czech Republic’s 6th place Honourable Mention/s Cyprus’ 2nd place

I may have gushed over the Czech 2017-2018 glow-up on multiple occasions, but can it ever be discussed enough? When you come out of nowhere with such an iconic, contemporary hit-potential BANGER, you deserve to hit the heights of the top 10 for sure. A spot in the top 5 would have been preferable for Lie To Me, but for a country with a previous PB of dead last in the final, 6th on the Saturday night is an amazing outcome.

 

 

Winner Australia’s 20th place Honourable Mention/s Portugal’s 26th place

I’ve admitted before that Jess Mauboy’s semi performance was far stronger than the final version (DAMMIT) but I will never understand how we lost the televote, which led to that unfortunate, could-be-worse-but-still-ain’t-good 20th. If Isaiah managed to make the top 10, Jess should have at least been on the left-hand side of the scoreboard! The fact that she wasn’t even close is a tragedy Shakespeare could have penned a play about.

 

 

Winner Spain’s 23rd place Honourable Mention/s Israel’s 1st place

The problem with Spain using Operación Triunfo to select their Eurovision entry this year was that everyone was too busy shipping Alfred and Amaia to think about choosing a song that would thrive in an international song contest. The pair didn’t have months to win over Europe with their love story – they only had three minutes, and it was never going to be enough.

 

 

Winner Italy’s 5th place Honourable Mention/s Australia’s 20th place

I’m glad to find out that I’m not alone in my still-lingering shock over Italy’s placing. It’s not that I think it was undeserved – if you read my 2018 reviews, you’ll remember that I grew to love Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente (around about the same time I learnt how to spell it properly). I just thought Italy was no more or no less impressive than France live on stage at the final, and I expected both to finish in that 10th-15th range. But Eurovision curveballs are a big thing these days, so maybe it was so unlikely I should have seen it coming.

Was Ermal pleasantly surprised or putting his gracious loser face into practice? We’ll never know.

 

 

That’s it – the 2018 EBJEEs are finally done and dusted! Did your favourites take home the People’s Choice Awards? Which parts of Lisbon’s show and results would score these trophies if you were in charge?

 

 

 

 

THE 2018 EBJ EUROVISION EXCELLENCE AWARDS | The Performances

Hello there. Remember me? After the longest ad break in history (and after breaking my vow to finish these awards by the time the Eurovision 2018 DVD was released, OOPS), I’m finally back with the second EBJEE presentation segment.

This time, the trophies re: all things performance-wise will be presented, including three more People’s Choice Awards. That means everything from drama levels to dance moves, money notes and costume choices is about to be honoured by yours truly (and by you truly…I had no part in deciding the People’s Choice winners, obviously). So without any more ado than I’ve already adone, let’s get this party started!

 

 

 

Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Belarus, Ukraine

Okay, so you’re not going to find Rasmussen and his bearded stagefellows on Coronation Street or the Bold and the Beautiful (for starters, their acting skills are too superior). But they went beyond the small screen and straight onto the silver screen with the cinematic level of drama they served up in Lisbon. Intense smouldering stares, manly stomping and a fake snowstorm that whipped all that hair back and forth majestically…what more could you want? If a Scandinavian hipster version of Pirates of the Caribbean was ever produced, this is what it would look like.

 

 

Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Italy

I asked you guys to vote for the most totes emosh (DID I JUST TYPE THAT?!?) three minutes of Eurovision 2018, and you delivered by crowning Michael Schulte’s tribute to his late father the winner of this tearjerking People’s Choice trophy. I’m not about to argue, even though I didn’t “feel it” with You Let Me Walk Alone until the ESC performance rolled around, feat. backdrop photos and lyrics that made the message extra clear. But hey, all the feels were present and accounted for when it mattered most.

 

 

Winner Estonia Honourable Mention/s Armenia

This gong goes to a performance that had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, goosebumps popping up on my arms and of course, tingles shooting up and down my spine. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Elina Nechayeva’s haunting delivery of La Forza came straight to my doorstep in Chillsville and affected me from top to toe. At one point I actually thought I was having an aneurysm and considered calling an ambulance, but then I realised it was just the glass-shattering notes messing with my middle ear.

 

 

Winner Honourable Ukraine Mention/s Ireland, Norway

Who knew a piano could be so multifunctional until Mélovin gave us that stellar live demonstration? It’s handy for anyone musical who can only afford to live in a tiny studio apartment to know that there’s an instrument that can double as a bed. What a space-saver! Mélovin, of course, was using it more as a coffin (or according to the artist himself, as a uterus from which he was birthed in a matter of seconds…seriously). But each to their own.

 

 

Winner Moldova’s human storage cabinet Honourable Mention/s Estonia, Sweden, Ukraine

Here’s another People’s Choice Award I’d struggle to argue with. Moldova (or ‘Russia 2.0’, as they were known this year) clearly have no qualms about sourcing stage props at Ikea: first it was the mirrors from the Moldovan NF, then the super-sized cabinet they lugged to Lisbon. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It often happens that the simplest things are the most effective, and DoReDoS proved that spectacularly.

When one door closes, another one opens…frantically, in Moldova’s case.

 

 

Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Cyprus, Denmark

Speaking of Moldova…it wasn’t just the furniture they used that made My Lucky Day so successful. The DoReDoS doppelgangers played a big part in that too. What would this performance have been without them? An extra enthusiastic high five goes to the guy who had to swap his shoes for heels at one point (I’m not ashamed to admit I have still have leg envy).

 

 

Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Cyprus, Moldova

I gave this award to Sweden last year, and I’m doing it again for a similar reason. Both Robin Bengtsson (and his backing dancers) and Benjamin Ingrosso didn’t just bust a move on or around a stage prop, but with a stage prop – and both performances were flawless. In Benjamin’s case, he was working in harmony with lighting, and transported us to an ultra-cool nightclub where sneakers are in the dress code and slick dance moves are mandatory.

 

 

Winner Norway Honourable Mention/s Italy

The cartoon instruments, question marks and soccer balls etc scribbled on screen by Norway added an element of cute to Alexander Rybak’s performance that made it seem all the more appropriate for Junior Eurovision – but I wouldn’t have ditched them from his adult Eurovision stage show. Without that little extra something, That’s How You Write A Song live wouldn’t have been quite so memorable (marginally…it still would have had Eurovision’s biggest runaway winner ever fronting it, after all).

 

 

Winner Israel Honourable Mention/s Belarus, Finland

It’s often said that less is more, but at the ESC more is more just as frequently. We bounced from a bare-bones winner in 2017 to the opposite in 2018 with Netta – not the performer who threw the absolute most at their stage show, but the most successful one to make things flamboyant. Lights, lucky cats, crazy costumes, clucking backup dancers, explosions…just the basics for Israel’s three minutes.

 

 

Winner Cyprus Honourable Mention/s Denmark, Ukraine

When it comes to the most perfect package deals of this year’s contest – where vocals and visuals were so on point you could practically cut yourself – nobody was as flawless as Cyprus. Armed with a Swarovski crystal-studded catsuit, a quartet of dancers almost as fierce as herself and a slick Sacha Jean-Baptiste staging concept, Eleni did no wrong. She proved to everyone skeptical of her abilities to perform live (I used to be) that she’s worth the hype.

 

 

Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Italy, United Kingdom

Germany’s was the highest-scoring performance of the Big 5, and you guys clearly agreed that their 4th place was earned with this People’s Choice pick. To be honest, I think all of the automatic qualifiers put their best possible foot forward this year, which didn’t pay off all round. But Germany won’t be worrying about that when they can just sit back and languish in their success.

 

 

Winner Eleni Foureira Honourable Mention/s Amaia, Saara Aalto

I’ve already mentioned Eleni’s catsuit in passing, but as ladies’ costumes in Lisbon go it’s worth an award all of its own. Leaving just enough to the imagination, combining crystals with leather and being just as hot as Fuego called for, this outfit couldn’t have been better (cat) suited for Cyprus in 2018. It should be displayed in the Louvre in close proximity to the Mona Lisa. Or at least in the Eurovision section at Stockholm’s ABBA Museum.

 

 

Winner Benjamin Ingrosso Honourable Mention/s Cesár Sampson

I have a bias towards anything and everything Scandinavian, including the fashion – so don’t be surprised by this pick. As unsure as I still am re: Benjamin’s shoe choice, he did pull the look off. Plus, the positives of his toned-down-from-Melfest jacket selection and the decision to actually wear said jacket like a normal person this time outweighed any negatives.

 

 

Winner Marija Ivanovska (Eye Cue) Honourable Mention/s Vanja Radovanović

There was no competition here, really. I’m struggling to think of another fashion disaster from the entirety of ESC history as momentous as this one from Macedonia. Neither of Marija’s outfits even sound good on paper – a shiny pink tuxedo jacket feat. armpit cutouts worn backwards, followed by a wildly unflattering knitted playsuit? NOPE. As gorgeous as she is, nobody could make those work. A Barbara Dex Award well deserved.

 

 

Winner Elina Nechayeva Honourable Mention/s Saara Aalto

There hasn’t been an ESC female vocal as consistently faultless and hauntingly beautiful as Elina’s since Jamala’s, so I had to hand this trophy her way. ‘DAMN, GIRL!’ are the words that come to my mind every time she opens her mouth. What she can do with her vocal cords is beyond belief, and I’m 50% amazed, 50% jealous (she’s two months younger than me, FFS).

 

 

Winner Eugent Bushpepa Honourable Mention/s Sevak Khanagyan, Waylon

I don’t know how you solve a problem like Maria (musical theatre reference alert) but I do know how you fill an arena like Eugent: by singing your ASS off. This guy can project his powerful voice for miles without seeming to break a sweat, and I could listen to him do it all day long. Even among the numerous other strong male voices of the year, he stood out.

 

 

Winner Amaia y Alfred Honourable Mention/s Equinox, Iriao

I’m sensing this could be a controversial choice (as controversial as I get, anyway). Alfred, I’ll admit, is the weak link in this pair, but I actually like how his raw-edged vocal blends with Amaia’s delicate, high-clarity diamond of a voice. They were never fighting each other for the spotlight (which happened a bit with Equinox), instead balancing each other out.

 

 

Winner Elina Nechayeva Honourable Mention/s Örs Siklósi (AWS), Netta

Estonia’s opera diva strikes again! You know someone’s impressive when there’s not one, not two, but a whole bunch of mind-blowing notes peppering their performance. I don’t think I need to justify this one any further.

 

 

Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Germany

Every national final winner has at least two months between their crowning moment and Eurovision to pimp their performance and polish any questionable vocals. Some don’t change a thing when they really should, some don’t because they don’t need to…and then there’s countries like Moldova, who (with that Russian input) took a perfectly adequate NF stage show and transformed it into something none of us will forget in a hurry. DoReDoS said that body talk is magic, but so was their performance.

 

 

That’s all for today, peeps…but what do you think of the winners? Which Portuguese performances deserved these EBJEE trophies in your eyes? Let me know below – then prepare yourselves for the final (very late) lot of my Eurovision awards for the year, feat. The Show and The Results!

 

 

 

 

THE 2018 EBJ EUROVISION EXCELLENCE AWARDS | The Artists + The Songs

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! I realise it may not be evening at all when you’re reading this, but for the sake of the glamorous awards ceremony I’m trying to hold, can we pretend it is? Yes? Awesome. Welcome to the first episode of the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards for 2018!

Like Jessica Mauboy, I know…I know what you must be thinking. Namely, ‘Um, Eurovision awards season is over, isn’t it? Y U so late, Jaz?’. Well, FYI my too-late marker is when the official contest DVD comes out – so as long as I beat that release date, I reckon it’s all good. And that gives me another few weeks to get my awards over with, so I’m actually early when you think about it.

Maybe don’t think about it.

Anyway, I’m guessing you didn’t drop by for a discussion about my questionable timing. You came for the EBJEE artist and song gongs to be handed out, including a bunch of the People’s Choice Awards that you guys have been voting for all week, right? In that case, I won’t make you wait any longer. Let’s get this show on the road! 

 

 

 

 

Winner Eleni Foureira Honourable Mention/s Elina Nechayeva, Franka

She does say she’s got the fire, and who am I to argue when Eleni is always putting her money where her (amazing) mouth (that I am super jealous of) is? Girl’s got plenty of other appealing attributes – she sings, she dances, she rolls with it when her comments become memes – but it’s her Mediterranean, top-to-toe, hot-as-heckness that’s most noticeable. I need hair, makeup and workout regime advice from Foureira ASAP, so I too can become fuego.

 

 

Winner Mikolas Josef Honourable Mention/s Cesár Sampson, Waylon

This might be a controversial call to make, but come on…who doesn’t love a hot nerd? Sure, Mikolas’ dorky persona is purely for onstage purposes, but I dig the guy with the glasses + braces just as much as the male model with 20/20 vision we see offstage. When you think about it, he’s like Superman switching into Clark Kent mode – only Mikolas uses his specs to tap into the geek chic trend (rather than to conceal a superhero alter ego). I have no problem with this.

 

 

Winner SuRie Honourable Mention/s Saara Aalto, Jessica Mauboy

Kicking off the People’s Choice Awards this year was the prize for most personable female performer, and I’m not at all disappointed that you guys chose SuRie. Who wouldn’t want to be her best friend? With that being unlikely (I haven’t seen a BFF advertisement anywhere) following her on Twitter is an easy way to bring some light into your life. She is hilarious. If we don’t see her at Eurovision solo again, let’s hope we see her giving Belgium more backup support in the future – she’s clearly their good luck charm!

 

 

Winner Cesár Sampson Honourable Mention/s Ari Oláfsson, Mikolas Josef

This one took me by surprise, I must say – Cesár did come across more reserved than Mikolas and less adorable than Ari (but who isn’t?). Still, he didn’t put a foot wrong with the media or fans in Lisbon, took part in some awesome jam sessions with other artists, and made friends with even more. Plus, like SuRie, his social media appeal is just as attractive as his face (I am currently living for his Instagram captions). Bonus: because he won this award I get to say…Hail Cesár!

 

 

Winner Jessica Mauboy Honourable Mention/s Alexander Rybak, DoReDos

Maybe you had your doubts about how well Jess carried off her (in particular, grand final) performance of We Got Love. I’d understand. But if you didn’t watch her on stage – in her element and clearly in her happy place – and feel some joy and enthusiasm yourself, then WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!? I have no doubts that Miss Mauboy was meant to be a performer, and I could watch her singing, smiling and dancing so hard she gets whiplash all day long.

 

 

Winner Benjamin Ingrosso Honourable Mention/s Ari Oláfsson

He didn’t feel the love from the people in the actual contest (myself excluded…my fingers are still sore from frantically voting for Sweden) but Ingrosso tops the public vote here, and that’s an okay consolation prize. When it comes to 2018’s under-21 club, Benjamin out-scored and out-performed the other members by a mile, handling the pressures of the experience like someone who’s been in the spotlight for more than a decade should. Grattis!

 

 

Winner Crazy Honourable Mention/s Lie To Me

This award usually goes to a song that sounds a whole lot like another one, but not so much that it could be pinned down for plagiarism. Crazy wasn’t booted out of the ESC on that basis, but the fact is that the instrumentals of the song ARE the same ones used in a Romanian (arguably inferior) song released just prior to Franka’s. When the double-up was exposed, a chicken-or-egg debate followed – but the EBU decided Franka was good to go and wouldn’t be disqualified (even though she eventually was…from her semi!).  All’s well that ends well, I guess.

 

 

Winner Czech Republic Honourable Mention/s Ireland, Slovenia

This trophy goes to the country that didn’t exactly make waves in Kyiv…but fast-forward 12 months to Lisbon, and they strutted in with a tsunami of awesome. Slotting into that scenario perfectly was the Czech Republic, who in the years PM (Pre-Mikolas) had only made the final once (in 2016, when they came last). Enter Josef (who Czech TV once wanted to send to Eurovision with My Turn…*shudder*) and the banger that is Lie To Me, and all of a sudden Czechia had Neville Longbottomed…right into 6th place, their best result ever. Let’s hope they can keep it up in Israel.

 

 

Winner A Matter of Time Honourable Mention/s Funny Girl, Stones

I have to say – and I do it as a former English major with a penchant for decent song lyrics – there was a ton of great wording to be heard in Lisbon, which ain’t the case with every contest. The lyricists of Sennek’s A Matter of Time (including Sennek herself) may have lacked the originality of my 2017 Best Lyrics winner JOWST, but they made up for it with sophisticated, mysterious and tightly-rhymed lyrics. My favourite line, FYI, has to be ‘Sometimes it seems we’re at the wrong station, looking for a deadly combination’. It’s macabre, and I love it.

 

 

Winner Who We Are Honourable Mention/s Our Choice, Toy

For the record, the only nominees here I mentally filed under ‘Worst’ rather than ‘Weirdest’ are Our Choice and Who We Are. I chose Who We Are over the Icelandic cheesefest because…well, need I say more than ‘It’s me Jenny B’? The most awful rap in music history was surrounded by lame lines, but the cringe factor in those thirty seconds alone could not be overshadowed. Props go to Jenifer for rapping such trash convincingly, but she deserves better.

 

 

Winner You Let Me Walk Alone Honourable Mention/s Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

This is a very objective award – obviously, we’re all going to have different entries that we weren’t fans of at first but grew to appreciate later. My big one for 2018 came from Germany via Michael Schulte, who somehow won me over with his flawless, impassioned and well-staged performance in the final…despite me ranking YLMWA 40th of the 43 at one point. I should know by now that first impressions never last. I mean, I don’t even skip San Marino on shuffle now (!!!).

 

 

 

Winner Toy Honourable Mention/s Monsters, Tu Canción

Some fanwanks – songs that the devoted Eurofan community goes crazy like Croatia for, pre-contest – deliver in the end (á la Heroes) while others do not (á la Occidentali’s Karma). This year’s biggest fan favourite Toy, a song that had the potential to bomb even after winning the OGAE poll and topping the betting odds for months, ultimately did add another first to its collection. My way of congratulating Netta is to give her this award, because TBH I was convinced Israel 2018 would be to the scoreboard what Italy was last year – a fave that (slightly) flopped.

 

 

Winner Fuego Honourable Mention/s Dance You Off, Lie To Me

We had no shortage of butt-shaker songs this year (so expect 2019 to be bursting with ballads), but the one that had y’all burning the most calories was Cyprus’ Fuego, by the looks of it. This song now has a permanent place on my ESC party playlist, so I’m not about to question the tastes of my readers. I would question the sanity of anyone who can stay seated after Eleni’s first sultry mention of the song title though.

 

 

Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic, Malta

Here’s another public-voted prize for Sweden to make me feel better about their TRAVESTY of a televote at Eurovision. I should clarify – and you’ll know this if you checked out my Best Video nominee playlist – the Dance You Off video nominated for this award was the original, pre-ESC version. But how cool is a) the new version, and b) the fact that we got two MVs from a country that often gives us zero? Watch the winning video below for a hit of slick retroness.

 

 

Winner My Lucky Day Honourable Mention/s Higher Ground, La Forza

Some songs come to life when performed live, despite sounding a little flat when coming out of a speaker. Thanks to the genius staging of My Lucky Day, a mediocre song became a mind-blowing musical number that deserved its top 10 place based on the degree of performance difficulty alone. I like this song so much more when I’m watching it than when I’m listening to it.

 

 

Winner Lost and Found Honourable Mention/s A Matter of Time, Forever

And then…there are the songs that just didn’t work live, because the staging was a fail, the singer wasn’t up the task, or the song was just better to hear than see. On those first and last counts, no other country belly-flopped harder than Macedonia. And what makes Lost and Found’s live disaster so much worse is that Eye Cue were armed with such awesome material to start with. Yeah, the song is messy, but messy in an interesting, unique way that could have been staged (and styled) to its advantage. Since it wasn’t, I’d much rather blast it in the car and pretend the performance never happened.

 

  

That’s all for now, folks – but what do you think of the 2018 EBJEEs so far? Did your favourites take home the People’s Choice Awards? Which artists and songs would score these trophies if you were handing them out? Let me know below – and stay tuned for the second EBJEE episode feat. all things performance-related!

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S THE (GRAND) FINAL COUNTDOWN! My top 10 performances of Eurovision 2018

It’s been less than two weeks since Israel won Eurovision, but to me it actually feels like longer – which makes it even more shameful that it’s taken me all this time to pick out my favourite performances of Portugal’s contest just past.

In my defence, it wasn’t an easy decision! Competition was fiercer than Eleni Foureira’s catsuit-and-stilettos combo this year, especially due to the no-LED policy of the stage design which meant countries had to get extra creative when chasing the wow factor. Better late than never, though, I’ve made my choices (just like Ari Oláfsson told me to). And, in reverse order as always, because I like to whip up a fresh batch of suspense every time I do a top 10 countdown, here they are. Let me know what our agree/disagree ratio is in the comments below…

 

 

#10| Ukraine (Mélovin with Under The Ladder)

When Eurovision meets Ukraine, the result is usually OTT – but up until 2018, it had been a while since the country lived large in terms of their contest staging (1944 and Time didn’t exactly slap you in the face with such subtle items as hamster wheels and half-naked centurions). So it was nice to see Ukraine changing up their recent less-is-more approach for a) a vampiric-looking artist slowly rising from the hellish interior of his grand piano; b) said artist removing a layer of clothing halfway through the song, which in this case looked a lot more badass than when Alexander Rybak did it; and c) yeah yeah FIRE!!! When you think about it, Mélovin’s performance could have been even more flamboyant – but he seemed to know just when to stop to give it the specific level of drama and Gothic glamour it needed. Under The Ladder on the Lisbon stage was as confident and cohesive as we’ve come to expect from Ukraine, whether they’re keeping things simple or kicking their staging up a notch or two (hundred).

 

#9 | Israel (Netta with Toy

If it’s controversial to not have Netta right at the top of a ranking like this, then so be it. I didn’t vote for Israel this year and I can’t claim that Toy is the winning song I would have preferred (let’s just say that I was hoping to be trawling through Air BnB apartments in Limassol right about now). But I can’t argue with the punch this performance packed, thanks mostly to Netta herself and not so much to her dancers, who made the whole thing look more novelty than it actually was. Miss Barzilai, though, even without her looper, was a force to be reckoned with. Every facial expression, hand gesture and note was there; the attitude and sass were sky-high just as they should have been; and it was easy to believe that any guy stupid enough to cross her would be sorrier than Frans realising he really was sorry. Netta sold her song like her life depended on it, with her oriental outfit and backdrop adding an exotic touch to the appealingly bonkers proceedings (and not, IMO, falling into the category of cultural appropriation). The Altice Arena audience went crazy for this, and even on TV it was obvious why.

 

#8 | Austria (Cesár Sampson with Nobody But You

Starring in this year’s episode of ‘Surprising Eurovision Third-Placers’ was Austria’s Cesár, who contributed a jury vote-winning rendition of Nobody But You to the grand final line-up. While I didn’t see that overwhelming jury love coming, I did get some spine-tingles from his performance: one that proved he could more than cope with the transition from backing singer to main artist. Commanding the stage – and a spectacular hydraulic platform – completely solo, he made it hard for me to look away from him (or even blink, lest I miss a shot of his impressive arm musculature). Austria also added a mix of shadowy and golden lighting that perfectly suited the song and its soul vibes; a bit of crowd interaction in the second half to up the human connection with Cesár; and, tapping into a trend that was way overused in 2017, the sole giant selfie of the year…which was great apart from the fact that super-sized Cesár was wearing a different shirt to flesh-and-blood Cesár. But that’s a mildly irritating detail I can overlook, based on how boss every other aspect of this performance was.

 

#7 | Denmark (Rasmussen with Higher Ground)

Like Sweden (a country you should expect me to mention later on in this list) Denmark rarely changes much about their staging between their national final and Eurovision. Unlike Sweden, a lot of the time they need to but just don’t. Fortunately, 2018 was not one of those years – and some credit needs to be given to the ship-inspired Lisbon stage for that. Performing a seafaring Viking song, Rasmussen must have thanked his lucky stars when he discovered how neatly Higher Ground fit in to the concept of the ESC this year. Sure, a ship wasn’t the first thing you thought of when you looked at the stage, but just knowing how appropriate Denmark’s package would appear in the year of ‘All Aboard!’ gave them a boost. Sails, snow, stomping, blue lighting, beards, and a manufactured breeze were all Rasmussen needed to create the ideal atmosphere for Higher Ground – and what came out of the oven once all of those ingredients had been combined and baked was gobbled up by televoters. They ranked Denmark first in the second semi, and in the top five in the final. That’s definitely higher ground than the Danes managed to reach in Kyiv!

 

#6 | Estonia (Elina Nechayeva with La Forza)

I’ve said this in a previous post, but there was a time when I thought Estonia didn’t need to stick Elina in a ridiculously expensive projection dress to make a statement. La Forza and her insanely impressive operatic talents would do the trick on their own, right? Well, we’ll never know for sure – but what I now know for certain is that The Dress: Eurovision Edition (forget about some wedding guest getup that’s black and blue/white and gold) turned Estonia’s appearance at Eurovision 2018 into a showstopper. What helped to make the performance all the more dynamic were the close-up shots of Elina during the soft, mystical verses (just to hammer home how stunning she is) interspersed with wider shots and aerial shots during the explosive choruses – those showing off the dress projections to maximum advantage. If I was being ultra picky (as I enjoy being sometimes) I would have liked the lighting scheme and projections to be totally celestial – more cool colours to take us all to a galaxy far, far away. But a bit of red lighting here and there and some psychedelic dress swirls didn’t prevent me from being speechless at the end of this three minutes.

 

#5 | Australia (Jessica Mauboy with We Got Love)

Okay…before you scream at your screen that I must have walked Rasmussen’s plank and drowned in a sea of my own insanity, hear me out. Firstly, I’m Australian and am therefore totally biased when it comes to our handful of ESC entries and my unconditional defense of them. Secondly, when I name Jessica’s performance as one of my favourites of the year, I’m referring more to the stronger semi-final version than the nervy final version. And thirdly, whatever your opinion on her vocals, that dress (which we now know finished 2nd in the Barbara Dex vote) or the characteristically dark Sacha Jean Baptiste staging, you have to admit that Jess is a ray of sunshine who invested every fibre of her energy into her time on stage and brought light to those overly-moody surroundings. I felt so proud (and a little bit teary) after her Thursday night performance – and part of that was to do with the freedom, rawness and authenticity that came from the dreamtime dance moves and a vocal that was a rough diamond rather than a crystal-clear one-carat diamond. Jess did what she does best by bringing her personality on stage as a prop, and I really enjoyed watching her as a result.

 

#4 | Moldova (DoReDos with My Lucky Day)

Discarding a cool NF staging concept in the hope of wowing people at the ESC with an even cooler concept is risky. Moldova took that risk, ran with it, and ended up providing us with an impeccably-timed slapstick-chic performance that elevated an okay song to sensational status. Try and find a flaw in DoReDos’ Eurovision creation and I will dispute whatever you come up with, because it had it ALL. Eye-catching costumes (in Moldovan flag colours, of course)? Check. Boatloads of stage presence and charisma from all three band members and their backing squad? Check. An oversized Ikea cabinet put to better use than anything with doors has been before? Check! Putting paid to the stereotype that men can’t multitask – and proving that women absolutely can – the trio sang, danced and dashed in out of those doors without missing a beat or looking like it was any sort of struggle. In a day and age of the easily distracted (myself included) keeping all eyes on you for 180 seconds can be difficult – but My Lucky Day live in Lisbon was entertainment well worth the price of admission.

 

#3 | Czech Republic (Mikolas Josef with Lie To Me)

From being stuck on a hospital gurney with a neck brace on to turning out a performance like this – only to go on and top it in the final? Mikolas, I salute you. For a horrifying few days early on in rehearsal week, we weren’t sure whether the Czech Republic would even get to compete in the contest with their best entry ever. But the Eurovision gods were smiling down on us (that, and Mikolas did what doctors told him to do). He got through his semi show in more restrained style than he would have liked before pulling out all of the acrobatic stops on the Saturday night – moves that capped off a super-fun, well-choreographed, part-music video/part-live performance feat. SWAG. There is nothing I would change about the Czech staging, although I wouldn’t have complained if a hologram camel had materialised at some point. The highlight – besides Mikolas landing the flip and not ending up back in the emergency room – has to be the butt wiggle/floss/backpack combo after the second chorus. That was genius, and in keeping with the saucy subject matter. I can fully understand why plenty of these greedies want to eat Mikolas’ spaghetti (apologies if I just said something super rude…I honestly don’t know).

 

#2 | Cyprus (Eleni Foureira with Fuego)  

There’s a reason Eurofans still talk about Ani Lorak all the time, despite Shady Lady finishing as the Eurovision runner-up TEN YEARS AGO (!). Ani was a crazy-hot woman in an amazing outfit who, backed by a posse of equally attractive dancers, strutted her way through a top-notch pop song to rapturous applause from the audience. Does that sound familiar? Does it sound…fuego, perhaps? I think so. Eleni came to Portugal armed with an ethnopop banger that had all the best elements of Shady Lady in its staging, and also threw back to Secret Combination and Qele Qele (Greece and Armenia’s ’08 entries that finished 3rd and 4th respectively). I loved being reminded of those other fierce women who’d showed the ESC who was boss back in the day, while being treated to a song that was modern enough to work in 2018. Eleni looked incredible, danced like a woman possessed, and whipped her hair back and forth in amongst fake and real fire while wearing that sparkly catsuit you wouldn’t want to have to pee while sewn into. I’m not going to lie…I wanted to BE her. If we must have successful 2018 entry copycats in 2019, can they please be Fuego + Foureira copycats?

 

#1 | Sweden (Benjamin Ingrosso with Dance You Off)

As we arrive at my no. 1 personal pick for Eurovision performance of the year, it will either be a massive plot twist (because you’re new here and were partly responsible for Sweden’s low televoting score) or a predictable ending (because you know how obsessed with Sweden and how big a fan of Benjamin’s I am). Whatever the reason for that lack of love from the public, it was not a problem for me – someone in awe of the glow-up between Benjamin’s 2017 and 2018 Melodifestivalen performances, and then continually impressed by the Dance You Off performance that was copy-pasted to the ESC (why would you mess with something that slick?). I don’t know why people have an issue with Swedish performances being the same every time, at Melfest and in every Eurovision rehearsal. When you put that much effort in to a stage show – even though Benjamin’s was relatively simple, just extremely effective – and rehearse the crap out of it, why shouldn’t it be flawless by the time it’s going to be on TV? I love this song and I love how it was staged, unconditionally. Jean Baptiste who?

 

 

I’ve showed you mine…now show me yours! Which Eurovision performances floated your boat the most this year?

 

 

 

 

WE GOT LOVE, LASERS AND LUCKY DAYS: My highlights and lowlights of Eurovision 2018’s second semi final

Just like that, it’s over: semi final two. We now have our 20 finalists, 6 automatic finalists and a final running order feat. all of them. It’s bittersweet, but there’s still a lot of Eurovision 2018 left to experience – and this contest is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in recent years.

Before we find out for sure whether it will be or not, I need to get a big bunch of thoughts off my chest re: last night’s semi. It was a show I enjoyed a lot more than the first one for some reason (the Australia anticipation was real) and there’s heaps to talk about. So let’s talk!

 

 

THE GOOD 

Their song’s not the strongest, and neither are their vocals – but what Moldova’s DoReDos lacked in above-average sound last night, they more than made up for with an epically-choreographed performance (plus truckloads of charisma and stage presence). Comic timing was crucial to pull the entire three minutes off, and everyone on stage clearly had their watches set to the millisecond. My Lucky Day live is something you can’t look away from, and as such I expect Moldova’s televote on Saturday to be substantial…though in such a competitive year, not as massive as their televote in Kyiv.

I can’t not mention Australia and the sparkly ball of joy that was Jessica Mauboy – I’d have my citizenship revoked and be banished to Siberia. Biased I may be, but I’m (almost literally) bursting with happiness over the show Jess put on. Sure, she had some less than perfect vocal moments, but I actually liked the raw and unpolished way she sounded and moved. She performed professionally, but with enough vulnerability and authenticity to make her come across as relatable and genuine. And I’ve never seen someone hair-flick with so much enthusiasm – no wonder she got whiplash earlier on in the week! I wouldn’t change anything about our performance, and I hope Jess pulls something similar – or even better – out of the bag for the final.

My other main performance highlights were via Hungary, Sweden and Ukraine. AWS went off in the Altice by the look of it, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t attempt a headbang in my lounge room in support of the guys (I broke three windows and a table lamp, but it was worth it). Benjamin Ingrosso was always going to be an anticipated artist of the night for me (long story short ICYMI, I am a fully-fledged Swedophile and a big fan of Benjamin’s). Dance You Off was performed as flawlessly as ever, with the only thing I’d pick on being his choice of sneaker (go back to the Vans, man!). Mélovin’s closure of the semi made sure the run of songs went out with a bang (or technically, a flaming staircase) and he served up all the drama and intense gazes that I was hoping for.

There weren’t any bleeped-out f-bombs dropped, but I couldn’t help loving the postcard blooper reel anyway. We don’t usually get to see the production side of the vignettes that introduce every single song, let alone the parts of the process that don’t go according to plan. Thanks for that, Portugal – and take note, *insert whichever country we’re going to next year here*.

I think we all enjoyed the hosts’ Eurovision dance evolution skit – an original interval act idea if ever I’ve seen one. And speaking of the hosts (all twenty-seven of them), Filomena – who bears a passing resemblance to another ESC legend, Pastora Soler – is proving herself to be the host with the most, outshining the others (whose names I’m afraid I keep mixing up) with her green room antics and commendable attempt at the Loreen crab dance.

Results-wise, I was only really surprised by the first country to be drawn out of the hypothetical hat: Serbia. I didn’t predict Balkanika to qualify, but I’m glad they did, especially after Serbia missed out on a final spot last year. So did Slovenia, who are back in the final for 2018 too (in spite of Lea’s ‘technical malfunction’ gimmick). Russia did what I suspected and failed to advance for the first time – leaving Ukraine as the only country with its 100% qualification record intact (if we’re counting from the introduction of the semi final system). All the other qualifiers were reasonably expected – i.e. they were the 8 I managed to correctly predict. It’s been 8s all round for me this year, which is better than my 6 (!) from 2016; but a 9 in 2019 would be nice. In this case, I had Malta and Romania down as finalists instead of Serbia and Slovenia. But if it helps, I knew The Humans were goners once I’d seen their performance…

 

 

THE BAD

Speaking of Romania…as with Macedonia in SF1, ‘What were they thinking?’ is the phrase that comes to mind here. Goodbye is a great song, IMO, that would have been done justice if ANYTHING other than (what looked like) latex-clad masked mannequins were stuck all over the stage. It was like watching a performance broadcast live from a sex shop (and I didn’t want to know what had been dangled decoratively from the lighting rig). The outcome? An extra goodbye for The Humans, this time to Romania’s 100% qualification record. All bets are off in 2019 with regards to qualification, I’m telling you!

The only other thing I saw as a big downside to this second semi was Latvia’s failure to make it to the final. I kind of knew it was coming (and hadn’t predicted Laura to progress) but Funny Girl is so awesome and she was so kick-ass on stage, a part of me hoped she’d slip through. Let’s hope Latvia can avoid being sent home early (again) next time.

 

 

THE “OTHER”

For whatever reason, I thought the hosts’ script was slightly less AAAAAGGGGHHH this time around. Maybe it’ll be third time lucky and the script in the final will be totally listenable and not make me miss Petra and Måns like crazy. A girl can dream!

Norway – giving us Eurovision song 1500, thank you very much – kicked things off with aplomb, but I felt a little hesitation from Rybak. Maybe the pressure of trying to fill his own shoes has taken a toll, but I wanted him to absolutely let rip and charm the crap out of me like he did at MGP, and he didn’t quite get there. Now he’s safely in the final, perhaps we’ll see that extra gear we know he’s capable of.

The award for throwing everything possible at a performance has to go to Malta – they clearly took cues from Croatia 2017. Just when you thought nothing else could fly out of or appear on the stage surrounding Christabelle, it doggone did. The Chanel rule of removing one thing might have done them some good, but nonetheless I’m a little surprised they didn’t qualify.

Oh, Slovenia. To me, the ‘Oh shit, the music’s cut out!’ trick was a bad move in an otherwise top-notch performance – but apparently, I am wrong. It’s going to be even more cringeworthy when repeated on Saturday, but I’ll try and focus on what happens before and after that to console myself. At the end of the day, I’m happy to have Lea and her drop-crotch jumpsuit still in the game.

 

 

A WORD ON THE FINAL’S RUNNING ORDER… 

It didn’t take long for Christer Björkman and crew to unveil their 26-song masterpiece (let’s face it, the man’s had a lot of practice). Here’s what we have to look forward to this weekend:

First half Ukraine, Spain, Slovenia, Lithuania, Austria, Estonia, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, Serbia, Germany, Albania, France

Yep, it’s ballad central compared to the big-hitter other half. But you can tell Christer and co. did their best to create a varied line-up. Ukraine is an unconventional opening song, but I’m not against it. The most up-tempo, high energy tracks – Norway and Serbia – were put aside to be interspersed with all the slow stuff, which is understandable. France scores the lucky 13th slot, and gets to perform as late as possible in this half. Fantastique!

Second half Czech Republic, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Bulgaria, Moldova, Sweden, Hungary, Israel, Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus, Italy

Mikolas Josef has the honour of getting the real party started (potentially with an ill-advised flip) and will be setting all of our camels in the mood (whatever the heck that means). Followed, in time, by Australia, Finland, Moldova, Sweden, Israel and Cyprus, he’s one of many favoured acts putting forward a banger in this half of the show. Will it all be too much with one after the other? Will Cyprus do what the odds suggest and win after not having to outshine anyone bar Italy? We’ll find out (too) soon. I think the voting sequence this year could see douze points going all over the place, though – or at least to a handful of different countries.

 

 

That’s all I wanted to comment on re: SF2, so now it’s your turn. What did you think of the show and the countries that came out of it smiling? And, who do you think will win the whole thing? Let me know in the comments as we count down to the final…and the inevitable, soul-sucking fog of depression that follows it (I like to end things on a positive note).

 

I’ll see you soon – don’t forget to check out my social media @EurovisionByJaz before the final for predictions, and during for funniness!

 

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 8 (Belarus, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, Sweden + Switzerland)

Well, I did it! 43 reviews down, ZERO to go.

As you may/may not have noticed, I didn’t start my Eurovision reviews this year until mid-April. Over the past 28 days or so, I’ve worked my butt off and written an average of 1.5 reviews every single day – in between going to work, cooking enough food to keep myself alive and occasionally interacting with other humans socially. Sure, I haven’t ironed for a month, my floordrobe has to be seen to be believed, and I have unpaid bills stacked up to the ceiling…but Eurovision is priority number one. Everything else can wait.

I hope at least one of you has enjoyed my 2018 ramblings. If you’ve enjoyed them so much you want to go back and read them again before the contest kicks off – or if you’ve found me for the first time and want to catch up – here are all the links you’ll need for fast access: 

  • Round 1 feat. Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + The Netherlands
  • Round 2 feat Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania + Spain
  • Round 3 feat. Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania + Moldova
  • Round 4 feat. Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland + Latvia
  • Round 5 feat. Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal + Ukraine
  • Round 6 feat. Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia + San Marino
  • Round 7 feat. Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Serbia, Slovenia + the United Kingdom

And then there were six. Before we dive headfirst into Eurovision week, I need to talk about Belarus, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland. Is there a douze-worthy song up the sleeve of Alekseev, Vanja, Alexander, Yulia, Benjamin or Zibbz? Maybe there’s a few, as far as I’m concerned. If you want to know what I think and how I scored their entries, keep reading – and for the final time, scroll for the poll to vote for your favourite!

 

 

My thoughts Sometimes rumours become truths, and that’s how Alekseev ended up representing Ukraine at Eurov…wait. That’s not right. It could have been Alekseev flying the blue-and-yellow flag this year, had he not pulled out of the Ukrainian selection to try his luck in less merciless Belarus. That’s not where the drama stopped (it practically went on Forever). But, many debates in the Eurovision community and withdrawals by fellow Eurofest contestants over the age of this song (i.e. was it eligible to go to the ESC as per the EBU rules and regs) later, Alekseev is in Lisbon after all. And he’s there armed with the original melody and English lyrics of a Russian-language song that was definitely publicly performed prior to September 1st. That date rule is a bendy one, isn’t it? And I’m down with it on this occasion, because I freaking LOVE Forever. This song is everything I want in an old-school Eurovision power ballad. It’s dynamic, dramatic in that classic Eastern European way (Work Your Magic comes to mind as a reference point), has a massive chorus which in turn has two massive money notes in it (which spawned the iconic Twitter account Alekseev’s Mouth) and, like a few other songs this year, takes me back to the ESC glory days of 2004-2008. The octave change in the first verse is an attention-grabbing opening to the song, one that’s hypnotic in its bold, loud moments, and spellbinding in its softer moments. And the melody throughout is haunting enough to give me the shivers. Now, I know what you’re thinking: This is clearly not at the forefront of modern music and isn’t exactly a masterpiece, so why am I making it out to be The Best Song Ever? Well, I don’t have a good answer to that. All I know is that if you could get Eurovision songs delivered like pizza, and I ordered an epic lights-and-shadows power ballad with a sprinkling of cheese, Forever is what I’d expect to be delivered to my door. The only things I’d pick off it, if it were a pizza, are a few questionable lyrics. ‘No need to worry, rain falling down, it’s our happiest story and there’s no one around’ ain’t the stuff of lyrical legends. I’m also bamboozled by Alekseev’s ability to blast his way through Let’s Get It Started by the Black Eyed Peas, in English without any trace of an accent (for his Voice Ukraine audition….you MUST YouTube it!), despite the fact that a few years later his singing English is heavily accented. That’s what makes me wish, since the EBU would probably have allowed it, that he was singing this song as Navsegda on Tuesday night. Not that anyone’s going to be listening to what’s coming out of his (Twitter-famous) mouth when he’s got a BED OF BLOODY ROSES protruding from his back. If the sight of that is as laughable as the press are telling us (us = me ‘cause I don’t watch rehearsals), Belarus are on the borderline of qualification. I suspect they might be sacrificed in this deadly semi, and that will upset me forevAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaah.

2017 VS 2018? I wasn’t a huge fan of Naviband’s song (don’t hate me), so 2018.

My score 10.5

 

 

My thoughts I realise that anything Montenegro sent to the ESC straight after Space would have seemed like a stark contrast – but to go for a majestic Balkan ballad, right off the back of a song that referred to wet dreams, is a plot twist and a half. Bringing us the best possible Montenegrin option (their NF was pretty shocking) is Vanja, and if Inje wasn’t missing the magic ingredient that makes a Balkan ballad sensational (Željko Joksimović as composer) I’d be praising the Eurovision gods for its presence in Portugal. As it is, I’m kind of feeling it. It’s a slow-moving, slow-burning number that doesn’t quite explode into a climax worth waiting for (to use Slavko-approved language) but feels grand anyway. If Lejla by Hari Mata Hari is a Chanel, Inje is a Wal-Mart…but that’s only by comparison. Still, I normally go so (dancing Italian) ape over big Balkan ballads, I was wondering why exactly I couldn’t go crazy over this one. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s due to what isn’t there rather than what is – because what is there is adequate, if not remarkable. It’s slightly too slow-paced to whip up excitement; the melody of the chorus is simplistic when I personally prefer my BBs to be extra-rhythmic; and there are times when I could call it boring, even though I don’t want to. I guess I want the whole thing to level up. Like last year, when I loved the camptastic Space but wanted more from Slavko’s performance (wind/dry ice/a horde of hot, half-naked, oiled-up male dancers seductively waving huge, feathered fans), I like Inje, but I’m asking more of it than it wants to give. I want more drama, more atmosphere and more complexity (I’m very greedy, I know). I’m waiting now to see if the performance fills in some of the gaps – maybe when I’m watching it, I’ll get the spine-tingles I so desire. Or not, as Montenegro’s had as many staging misses as they have hits. They do have a capable, confident performer in their corner, which is a giant plus. Vanja may not be in the same smouldering category as Željko Joksimović, or be quite as compelling as Knez (and unlike Knez, is not an expert at making doves disappear and sawing people in half) but he holds his own. And he’s surprisingly hilarious on social media: a fact that may not help him succeed in the contest, but has won him a lot of admirers thanks to his snappy Inje-hater clapbacks. Vanja? More like VanJAAASS. Because he’s such a dope dude, I regret to predict a DNQ yet again for Montenegro, even knowing that every time they’ve sent a Balkan ballad in the past they have made it to the final. Third time unlucky, I reckon. This song would be a nice addition to the final 26, so if I’m wrong, I won’t complain.

2017 VS 2018? The disco-dance power and smuttiness of Space wins.

My score 7

 

 

 

My thoughts Any Eurofans out there who thought ESC record-holder Rybak wouldn’t end up representing Norway this year were very naïve. I know, because I was one of them. That was in spite of his irresistible performance of That’s How You Write A Song winning me over, after I’d already made the most drastic change-of-mind possible on the song itself. It went a little something like this: Listen No. 1 (with high hopes): ‘What the HELL is THIS?!?!? It’s TRASH, is what it is! You should be ASHAMED of yourself, Alexander!!!’. I was so disappointed, I could have cried myself to sleep that night (but didn’t ‘coz I’m a grown-ass woman and pulled myself together). Then came Listen No. 2, my reaction to which was (inexplicably): ‘Holy crap, this is AMAZING!!! I have never known the true meaning of musicianship until this moment!’. Okay, so I’ve dramatised that reaction a tiny bit to show you how much of a 180-degree turn I did. But boy, did I change my tune. I can’t even remember why I was so appalled in the first place…maybe because the song is a humungous throwback to an era that isn’t yet retro-fashionable again. I no longer care about that, and I definitely don’t care that Alex’s instructions for writing a song are wildly inaccurate. I’m too caught up in the bubblegum fun of the mid-tempo disco music, simple lyrics that make for a karaoke dream song, inevitable violin solo, and showstopping final third. I even love the scatting…what have I become? The onscreen scribbles may have been borrowed from Francesca Michielin, but they’re used more interactively á la Bulgaria in Kyiv, and look great on TV. If you’re thinking I need a reality check and should throw in some negatives to prove I haven’t gone completely insane…too bad. I swear, if anyone other than Rybak was peddling this track, I wouldn’t have come around. It’s not because he is who he is, with that Eurovision legacy, but because he has the ability to sell the song like his life depends on it. And I’m not just buying it – I’m throwing fistfuls of kroner at him while screaming hysterically. He instructs us to ‘believe in it’ in the THYWAS chorus, and he seems to practice what he preaches, pouring boundless energy and charm into his live performances. And he still looks so youthful (more on that in a second) that his childlike enthusiasm is infectious, not creepy. The thing I do find annoying about this, Alexander, is that you couldn’t wait another twelve months to make your (possibly) triumphant comeback TEN years after Fairytale. Nine years just bugs me. Also annoying (as it doesn’t apply to me), how has this guy barely aged, when he was 23 at the time of his win and is about to turn 32? Potential humanoid cyborg alert! More importantly, I might have to issue a potential two-time Eurovision winner alert while I’m at it. I can’t believe I’m even saying it, but Norway’s shift to 2nd in the odds after Rybak’s first rehearsal show how dangerous he could be. A safe top 10 result is more likely, but I am yet to discount this entry from the first-place fight.

2017 VS 2018? It’s another case of ‘I love them both equally and could never choose!’.

My score 10

 

 

 

My thoughts When Russia gives Eurovision their all, they go BIG (baking sweet treats live on stage and everything). When they really want to win the contest, it’s crystal clear. The only thing big about Yulia’s 2018 entry is the papier-mâché mountain she’s been forced to sing it on top of (the hills are alive…with the sound of mediocre music). And what’s crystal-clear about I Won’t Break is that, while Russia did good by keeping their promise to Yulia after last year’s Drama (drama so sizeable it deserves a capital D), they didn’t do good by her when they came up with this as her comeback track. It goes without saying that this song runs rings around last year’s almost-entry Flame Is Burning. But that’s not saying much, and unfortunately, plenty of the same problems remain. Once again we’ve been presented with a song that is a) unexciting and uninspired, b) belongs in a different decade, c) features wannabe-inspirational lyrics about strength and resilience and how there is light even in the darkest of places, blah blah blah, and d) in a language that Yulia is obviously not 100% comfortable with and cannot clearly pronounce with genuine feeling (which she shouldn’t be expected to). All of this is just on a smaller, much more bearable scale. I mean, I can sit and listen to I Won’t Break without wanting to punch a hole in the wall. But it’s still light years away from making a Best of Russia at Eurovision play list on Spotify. The beat is good, and I like the melody and the way it develops. But the lyrics are vague and clichéd, and overall the song is just not that interesting – it’s one of those you can imagine playing in the background of an Olympics montage (in this case, moments in which athletes triumphed over adversity) and that’s rarely a sign of imminent ESC success (Heroes aside). My biggest issue of all with this entry is that insistence – by whom, I’m not sure – that Yulia sings in English. It’s not her comfort zone. But for all I know, she was the one who insisted on it. I have to wonder, after trying so hard to win in Stockholm and losing to Ukraine, of all places (and Australia, but I don’t think Sound of Silence bothered them much compared to 1944), what happened to Russia’s A-game? Did Sergey accidentally leave it in the stage wings of Globen, where it was picked up on the sly by Christer Björkman and added to Sweden’s already stellar Eurovision toolkit? With the right song and the right approach, Yulia could be portraying Russia at their ESC best, and even though I Won’t Break makes Flame Is Burning sound…well, just as bad as it was, it still only gives her half a chance of success, if that. Yet we know Russia can do amazing things on the Eurovision stage. They certainly have the funds for it. I’m sure that mountain cost a pretty penny, but it wasn’t a wise investment piece. Is it a gimmick that will help them reach the lofty peak of the final, or is that 100% qualification record of theirs about to be destroyed? I can’t decide, but this must be the most dangerously close to a DNQ that they’ve ever been. I want Lazarev-level Russia back next year, please.

2017 VS 2018? There is nothing that isn’t better than Flame Is Burning.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Sweden may not be alphabetically last in this round of reviews, but this is my 43rd review for the year – i.e. I wrote it after the Swiss one below. I decided to save Sverige for as long as possible, like I was eating a particularly delicious slice of chokladkaka and leaving all of the frosting until last. Why? Well, if you’ve read literally any of my posts before, you’ve probably picked up on my Swedophile status: they’re my favourite Eurovision nation, I speak a fair bit of Svenska and am always teaching myself more, and I’ve traveled to Stockholm twice in the past two years (for the ESC in 2016 and for the Melodifestivalen final in 2017). Needless to say, I’m biased as heck when it comes to the country’s contest entries, and you won’t be shocked to discover that Dance You Off is my #1 song of this year’s comp. Some Eurofans hate it and think it’s trash; others aren’t bothered either way; and then there’s people like me who think it’s INCREDIBLE and actually cried a little when Benjamin won Melfest in March (okay, so I might be the only person who cried). I understand why the song doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I’ll tell you why it appeals to me. Firstly, Benjamin’s musical stylings are right up my street, and I love every song he’s released prior to this – Do You Think About Me, One More Time and last year’s Melfest entry Good Lovin’ in particular tap into the polished, slick and summery dance-pop I have a weakness for. Then there’s the resemblance between Dance You Off and two cracking songs by another of my favourite artists, The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face and I Feel It Coming. Those two songs and DYO all take inspiration from the late 80s and early 90s, and mesh those influences with late 2000s pop trends to create effortless cool. THEN there’s my tendency to fangirl over anyone who can whip out some falsetto and smooth dance moves simultaneously (I am aware that Benjamin is too young for me and has insanely hairy Italian arms, but I can still admire his talents, right?). You can add to that simple, but at times downright genius lyrics – ‘Treated you good, we were gold, I dug you like you were treasure’ = OH YES. Last but in no way least, there’s the fan-bloody-tastic staging concept that sees Benjamin bring a music video to life on a stage within a stage. Visually, this is so impressive – the first time you see it especially, but I’ve watched this performance more than any other and I’m still in awe. Unfortunately, because Sweden is criticised more harshly than any other Eurovision country if they don’t have a surefire, mass appeal winner on their hands, I feel this entry is receiving more hate than it deserves. But in a nice act of revenge, it will probably do better than a lot of people think. Don’t discount the fact that many people will see Dance You Off in all its light-up glory for the first time during Thursday’s semi, and even if they don’t like the song, the staging is easily spectacular enough to suck up votes like a vacuum. When Sweden inevitably reaches the final, they might not do quite as well as they have the past two years (though I believe this should do better than 5th) but there’s a top 10 place with their name on it. I hope that some day soon, Sweden stops being punished by Eurovision fans for their streak of success (even if it’s for selfish reasons because I’m sick of seeing hate comments directed at my favourite songs). Regardless…Team Ingrosso, NU KÖR VI!

2017 VS 2018? 2018, but they were both jättebra.

My score 12

 

 

 

My thoughts Ahh, Switzerland. The land of Lys Assia (RIP), excellent cheese and chocolate (what more do you need?), and consistent choosers of the best possible Eurovision entry from their NF. Sadly, they’re rarely rewarded for that last national trait – maybe because their best offering can’t quite compete with the best offerings from most other countries (harsh but true). The Swiss actually had two awesome, you-better-pick-that songs in this year’s Entscheidungsshow, and one of them was indeed Stones. There’s something about this song that is just plain cool and very likeable. It’s Americana-inspired soft rock that’s 100% authentic, 0% artificial – unlike the other Americana song we have in Lisbon via the Netherlands. Corinne and Stefan do spend half their time in Los Angeles, so there’s the explanation for that. It’s brimming with attitude, and the lyrics are definitely on track to being my favourite of the year – they’re especially tight in the chorus, but original and well-rhymed all the way through. The only part I’m not a fan of is the precursor to the final chorus, where it’s rammed down our throats that these two ‘ain’t standing alone’. It’s a little cheesy and not on par with the rest of the song, but that last chorus and the mic-drop ending later, and all is pretty much forgiven. Even though I’m an Australian whose studying days are over, this song makes me want to go on college spring break just so I can attend a party feat. warm beer in those classic red cups, and hopefully scream-sing it at the top of my lungs before jumping off a balcony into someone’s swimming pool. I’m not going to, but dang, the pull is strong! I love that vibe. Stones in general is laid-back and relaxed but has bite, and it’s a good combo. It’s not right up there with my most beloved songs of 2018 – not right now, at least – but as I’ve said before, there are only a few I truly dislike this year and this one is well above those in my ranking. Of course, if Switzerland had sent Compass by Alejandro Reyes, they’d be firmly inside my top 10 and wouldn’t have to worry about being booted out. I’d also be more confident of a qualification then, but with Zibbz I’ve been back and forth. I feel like they can, and therefore might be sacrificed from semi numero uno. There are so many powerful acts and big-hitters up against them, and Switzerland does not have a great recent track record (they last qualified in Copenhagen). However, I have heard good things about their rehearsals, and with this year looking more unpredictable by the minute, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them slip through. It’ll be 9th-14th in the semi, I think – and if it’s 9th or 10th, the final result is likely to be lower than left-side scoreboard. Just being involved in Saturday night, though, would be a step closer to leveling up for a country that’s been sent home early three years in a row.

2017 VS 2018? 2017 by a Stones-throw (my god, I’m hilarious).

My score 8

 

 

And that is that! THANK THE LORDI. Before I go and have a lie down because this race to smash out 43 reviews in a month has exhausted me beyond belief, I’ll give you a look at today’s ranking:

  1. Sweden (12)
  2. Belarus (10.5)
  3. Norway (10)
  4. Switzerland (8)
  5. Russia (7)  
  6. Montenegro (7)

In news that will surprise no one, Sweden tops my list with an easily-earned douze. Belarus and Norway are not far behind. This was a generally high-scoring lot of songs, and I’m glad I got to end on a positive note.

If you’re wondering when I’ll unveil the entire EBJ ranking for 2018, wonder no more: it’s happening ASAP. Definitely before the first semi final, and probably alongside my predictions for SF1 – so keep an eye on my social media over the next few days if you don’t want to miss a thing (I’m @EurovisionByJaz everywhere).

Now it’s time for you to do your Eurovisual duty:

 

Feel free to post your personal ranking of all six – or even all 43 songs in the Lisbon line-up – in the comments. If you have thoughts on anything ESC-related, basically, I’m happy to hear them.

Okay, I’m seriously going to go pass out now. I’ll be back before it’s too late (a.k.a. before that first semi begins) with my promised predictions. Who’s in and who’s out? At this point, I’m still confused about that, so I’ll get back to you…

 

Welcome to Eurovision week – it’s going to be a great one!!

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A shipload of songs for Portugal, Norway’s Grand Prix + the pointy end of Melfest!

It is with great regret – and to be honest, a little relief – that I say hey to you guys on the last Super Saturday of the 2018 ESC NF season. It feels like five minutes ago that the season started, and all of a sudden we’re in the thirties with our set-in-stone song tally and just days away from having a full house (and using the good old sorting tool to its full potential). The positive part of this, though, is that we are now just TWO MONTHS away from the main event.

No, not my birthday…that’s in September. I’m talking about Eurovision, obviously. Isn’t that all I ever do on this blog?

Before the spotlight hits Lisbon, there is more business to take care of. This is a sedate Saturday when you compare it to the last three or four – but the two finals taking place tonight are big ones. 

  • Norway (Melodi Grand Prix final)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen final)

Yep – it’s an all-out Scandifest! And even though I’m mad about it denying me the chance to be on Twitter throughout Melfest if I want to watch MGP afterwards sans spoilers (why did they have to be on the same night, for the love of Loreen?!?) I’m also very, very excited. And very, very keen to get on with talking about a) everything that happened last week re: Portugal’s participating songs, b) Melodi Grand Prix, and c) my beloved Melfest (to think I was in Friends Arena for the final a whole year ago!). So I’ll get straight into it.

 

 

After a drip-drop few months of the NF season (Safura pun intended), all of sudden we are DROWNING in songs (albeit drowning in an enjoyable way).

It all started with the results of last Saturday’s finals, which saw five songs selected in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Poland and San Marino. The role call = La Forza by Elina Nechayeva, Monsters by Saara Aalto, Our Choice by Ari Oláfsson, Light Me Up by Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer, and Who We Are by Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening (a Maltese/German production for San Marino, of course). My least favourite of this bunch by far is Who We Are (and if Norway chooses a much, MUCH superior Who We Are tonight, San Marino will be even worse off) while my top pick of the night was La Forza. I’ll tell you why – assuming I still feel the same way – when the EBJ reviews for 2018 kick off. #cliffhanger.

Sweden’s Melodifestivalen stage has made its last pre-Stockholm pit stop, and the final line-up is complete (obviously, since it’s happening tonight…I’m just mentioning it now). Quashing their competition in each of the four Andra Chansen duels last Saturday were Margaret, Renaida, Felix Sandman and Mendez, paving the way for a Schwarznegger-strong final. For more on that, including my winner prediction, keep reading.

We have our host entry at long last, with Portugal choosing Cláudia Pascoal and her fairy floss hair to defend their Eurovision title with O Jardim. It’s a seriously slow burner of a song, and I definitely need time to figure out how I feel about it – but my first impression is good. Not good enough to make me think Portugal will successfully defend their first-ever win, however.

Later in the week, just when we thought the flood of songs had stopped, in surged Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia and Ireland, unveiling entries by artists that had been locked in for a long time (Belgium in particular). It’s no surprise that most of my attention was on my own country’s entry (no. 4…who would have thought), but I’m actually not going to say anything about Jessica Mauboy’s We Got Love at this stage. Do I love it? Do I hate it? YOU’LL NEVER KNOW MWAHAHAHAHA until later on when I’ve formed a proper and objective opinion. Sorry, not sorry.

If I could describe the others in one word, though, Cesár Sampson’s Nobody But You would be ‘smooth’, Aisel’s X My Heart  ‘underwhelming’, SENNEK’s A Matter of Time ‘interesting’, Franka’s Crazy ’jazzy’, I guess (and I’m glad Croatia isn’t in the same semi as Latvia, because I love Funny Girl and I don’t want two similar songs clamouring for the same points) and Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together ‘sweet’. Stay tuned for those 2018 reviews when I’ll say a lot more than that about all 43 entries.

 

Now it’s time to talk about some potential entries. Let the Scandifest begin!

  

 

We’ve known the artists and the songs for a good few months – and now, it’s finally time for Norway’s MGP to pit them against each other live and narrow ten down to one. And those ten are, in case you needed a refresher:

  1. You Got Me, Stella & Alexandra
  2. Talk To The Hand, Aleksander Walmann
  3. Scandilove, Ida Maria
  4. Light Me Up, Nicoline
  5. I Like, I Like, I Like, Tom Hugo
  6. Stop The Music, Charla K
  7. Tengo Otra, Alejandro Fuentes
  8. Moren Din, Vidar Villa
  9. Who We Are, Rebecca
  10. That’s How You Write A Song, Alexander Rybak

I don’t know about you, but I reckon this final is pretty freaking beautiful, to quote Robin Bengtsson *struts on treadmill and tries to type at the same time*. You did good, Norway – even if Alexander Rybak isn’t adding a surefire hit to the mix as many of us assumed he would.

Here’s my rundown of the songs that are hits, and those that missed the mark (in my opinion, obviously…feel free to disagree in the comments).

 

My favourite four (a.k.a. Jaz’s personal super final)

Who We Are In the wake of A Monster Like Me, Mørland brings us another musical masterpiece via Rebecca. It’s a power ballad that moves to morph into Sanna Nielsen-style schlager before each chorus, but (plot twist) doesn’t. The lyrics are familiar but not clichéd or a cheesefest, and each part of the song is as memorable as what comes before it – there’s no relying on a strong chorus to carry everything else. AMAZING. This is the MGP song leading the odds at the moment, and if Rebecca can deliver it close to studio-perfect tonight, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing her on an even bigger stage in May. 9.5/10.

Talk To The Hand I was surprised to see JOWST and Aleksander Walmann so keen to give Eurovision another shot so soon – surprised, but psyched. This time Aleksander is the only billed artist, but we still get to experience JOWST’s brilliant lyrics (Grab The Moment won the EBJ Award for Best Lyrics of 2017, ICYMI). And it’s another catchy, cutting-edge pop track, with a faster pace than the Kyiv 10th-placer. I love it. It’s so much fun, and I will be Spotifying the shiz out of it whether it wins or not. 9.5/10.

‘Talk to the hand coz the face ain’t listening…and also coz I’m in the middle of servicing my car.’

Scandilove Speaking of fun…oh my Lordi, this is a party starter. At first I thought it was ridiculous, but all it took was a second listen to get me thinking it was ridiculously epic. It’s unbelievably catchy, bubblegum as heck, and hilariously quotable – ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’, ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion’ and ‘It’s fucking frEEEzing’ are the tip of the iceberg. Sure, it could be an absolute train wreck when performed live, but Ida is innocent until proven guilty. 9/10.

Tengo Otra Who would have thought that the Despacito effect would pop up in Norway’s national final? Or Sweden’s, for that matter? Well, believe it or not, it has – and I’m fine with that when it gives us songs like this. I have no idea what Alejandro is singing about (I’d have better luck if he’d gone with Norwegian) but his melody is exotic and makes me want to dance until sweat is pouring off me and I have to excuse myself to go and down an entire pitcher of sangria. 8.5/10.

 

The leftovers (a.k.a. the stuff that’s still good, just not great)

That’s How You Write A Song Artist-wise, this is the big one. Song-wise, this is the musical equivalent of a trashy TV movie that’s so bad it’s good. What’s not good is how inaccurate the lyrical instructions are (I think there’s a little more involved in the songwriting process than you’re letting on, Alexander) but who cares when the violin riff is so fantastically cheesy? Fairytale this song is not, but it is my guiltiest guilty pleasure of the whole NF season. 8/10.

Moren Din Up until now, the creepiest mother-related song in the Eurovision bubble was Belgium’s 2014 entry from Axel Hirsoux. Enter Vidar, who wants to get it on with someone else’s (I must stress that) mum and is not shy about making that public knowledge by singing about it on national TV. Subject matter aside, the song is folksy fun and I quite like it – all the more as it’s the only Norwegian-language song competing in MGP this year. 7.5/10.

‘Is that your mum over there? Your grandma? You know what, I’m not fussy.’

Stop The Music This is a strange name for a song, but I can’t even make a stupid joke about it along the lines of ‘I wish they had stopped the music’ (HAHAHA not) because it’s a nice song. As ballads go, it’s not the cookie-cutter kind, and I appreciate that. 7.5/10.

You Got Me Holy Haba Haba – Stella’s back! And she’s got her groove back too by the sounds of it (I owe you a congratulatory handshake if you got that reference). Her duet with Alexandra – as opposed to Alexander, Aleksander and Alejandro – is full of energy and packs a decent punch with the chorus, but it doesn’t exactly set my Scandipop-loving soul on fire. 7/10.

Light Me Up This is probably the most nondescript song of the ten. It’s good for radio play or the movie soundtrack of a John Green adaptation, but it’s too lacklustre to compete in a contest. There’s no fight in it. Sorry, Nicoline. 6.5/10.

I Like, I Like, I Like Now here’s a song title I can joke about! It’s not that I don’t like, don’t like, don’t like Tom’s track (though TBH, calling it I Like x1 would have been totally fine) – it’s just one of the few weak links here, and I’d be shocked to see it progress to the super final unless the live performance is miraculously mind-blowing. 6/10.

  

Making my predictions (a.k.a. embarrassing myself)

Traditionally, the four spots in the Melodi Grand Prix super final/gold final/whatever they’re calling it in 2018 are filled by a few predictable betting favourites, plus a few left-field options that few saw coming (and by ‘few’, I mean ‘me because I’m not very perceptive’). I’m not even sure I would have anticipated Grab The Moment making the cut last year if I’d followed MGP (I was busy swanning around Stockholm at the time). So, I’ve thought long and hard about who I think the final four will be this time…

…which didn’t help at all.

That means it’s stab-in-the-dark time, y’all! And I’m taking a stab at Aleksander Walmann, Vidar Villa, Rebecca and Alexander Rybak being the final four. If Walmann fades into the background after performing in the dreaded second slot, or Vidar isn’t the curveball I suspect he might be (remember En Godt Stekt Pizza?) we could see Ida Maria (if Norway’s feeling frisky) or Stella & Alexandra stepping up instead. Rebecca and Rybak are more or less already there, as far as I’m concerned, but don’t make me bet anything on it.

As for the winner, I do think Rebecca will do it if a) her live vocals are up to scratch, and b) the staging hasn’t been stuffed up and does Who We Are justice. That means the music video should definitely NOT be replicated on stage, as cool of a concept as it is.

 

What do you think? Am I crazy for not naming Rybak the runaway winner, or is there someone I’ve overlooked? Who do you want to represent Norway in Lisbon? Let me know below.

 

 

It’s here. After five cities, four semis and one second chance round, Melodifestivalen has arrived in Stockholm, and the capital is prepping for a final that has turned out to be pretty fantastisk considering the overall, weaker-than-usual standard of this year’s competition. 12 songs remain, and outside of victories on the Spotify charts, only one can win. So who’s going to Eurovision?

  1. Everyday, Mendez
  2. All The Feels, Renaida
  3. A Bitter Lullaby, Martin Almgren
  4. My Turn, John Lundvik
  5. Party Voice, Jessica Andersson
  6. Last Breath, LIAMOO
  7. Shuffla, Samir & Viktor
  8. For You, Mariette
  9. Every Single Day, Felix Sandman
  10. In My Cabana, Margaret
  11. Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso
  12. Fuldans, Rolandz

That golden ticket to the ESC is still up for grabs. There’s no crystal-clear winner forging ahead far enough to make betting on them worthwhile (at least for a scaredy cat with a fragile bank account balance like me). Benjamin is leading the odds and won the audience poll; Felix is topping the charts and gaining more support by the second; Mariette or John Lundvik could still surprise; and LIAMOO might be a miracle worker who raps his way to first place.

A lot is going to come down to who Sweden votes for now that the best songs are in direct competition, and what the international juries take to as well (so we probably won’t see Samir & Viktor shuffla in Lisbon). Before I make my best possible winner prediction, I want to run down the full list of tonight’s twelve songs: not in performance or even alphabetical order (gasp!) but by how much I want them to win. Tell me if you feel the same – or not – in the comments.

 

Nej, tack…the songs I DON’T want to win Melfest 2018

A Bitter Lullaby I think there is a place for this in the final, and as long as it isn’t first place (which is about as likely as San Marino winning Eurovision this year) I can make peace with it being there. The song has grown on me since listen no. 1, but I still see it being too vanilla to get Sweden a result on par with what they’re accustomed to. 6.5/10.

Party Voice Melfest wouldn’t be Melfest without a touch of schlager, and since Jessica is one of only four females competing tonight, Party Voice is representing schlager and girl power in Stockholm. But, like Christer Björkman, I do NOT want a song like this winning through to the ESC and setting Sweden back 15-20 years. Again, it’s not going to happen…but I just want to make my feelings clear (while dancing like a mother). 7/10.

For You It’s not Mariette’s fault that she had so much pressure on her to produce a clear Melfest winner. Nonetheless, she didn’t. I think she’s almost out of contention for the win (if she couldn’t do it with A Million Years, she shouldn’t be able to with For You). The song and the performance are good, but missing the x factor. 7/10.

‘I think I deserve a high five for not falling off this pyramid, don’t I?’

Fuldans I can’t be mad that Rolandz went direkt – didn’t we all see it coming? They are officially the Owe Thornqvist of 2018, right down to being handed performance slot 12 in the final. As with Boogieman Blues, I’d be lying if I said I got zero enjoyment out of Fuldans. Knowing it shouldn’t and won’t come anywhere near winning means I’m not worrying about it much. 6/10.

 

The songs I could get on board with (or should I say ‘All Aboard’ with?)

Everyday This is a bop. So much so that I can forgive the line ‘We were always meant to be’ (seriously, couldn’t they come up with anything else?). The chorus is possibly the catchiest of the year, and the colourful, frivolous staging contrasts well with Mendez’ all-black ensemble. 8/10.

All The Feels Fiercest, most flawless female in the final alert! I’m so thankful Renaida made it out of Andra Chansen so we get to witness her smash it on stage again. All The Feels is addictive, contemporary and perfectly choreographed. The odds aren’t in its favour to win, but if it did I would be happier than Nathan Trent after a lottery win. 8.5/10.

Shuffla They’re leading the pack on Spotify – and it’s understandable – but as with Rolandz, it will be the international juries who drag Samir & Viktor down a scoreboard they might have topped if Sweden had 100% of the power. I’m not super keen on a Shuffla win, so that’s okay with me. Still, imagine the energy this would bring to Eurovision, and how jättebra it would be to have Sweden send a song in Swedish for the first time since 1998! 7/10.

They might not win over the juries, but they could be up for a Colgate advertising campaign.

Every Single Day Comparing this song – and Felix himself – to Frans’ win with If I Were Sorry is easy. I ended up loving and supporting that in Stockholm (right down to wearing Frans’ face on my t-shirt) and I can see myself doing the same thing if the Sandman becomes the second-ever winner to come out of Andra Chansen. At this point, though, I like this song, but love others. 8/10.

 

The songs I want to win

My Turn How did I go from labeling this as a total by-the-numbers cheeseboard to adoring it when I’ve only listened to it once since semi 1? Your guess is as good as mine. But there’s something about the melody, power, and John’s beautiful face that’s worked magic on me. Don’t underestimate this one! 9/10.

Last Breath I get that rap isn’t for everyone, but it’s what LIAMOO does best and that makes his performance of Last Breath authentic and moving. The staging is simple but complementary, and the song is dynamic thanks to the uplifting chorus that gives rap-haters a break from the more intense verses. As Sanna Nielsen would say, I’m in love. 9/10.

In My Cabana But of COURSE. I don’t care if Margaret sings like a drunk pack-a-day smoker (although she has come a long way from her Polish NF performance of Cool Me Down). This song is the bomb dot com – a tropical-reggae-pop banger with numerous insanely catchy bits. Oh boy, oh boy. 9.5/10.

‘FYI, when I say ‘go ape’, that’s not an invitation for Francesco Gabbani’s man in a monkey suit to come party with me.’

Dance You Off Last but not least, it’s my boy Benjamin with a slick R & B/dance track and the most epic staging I have ever seen. Together they’re an ESC-ready package that I’ll be cheering for tonight so loudly I’ll wake up everyone else in my house, and you’ll probably hear me even if you’re in Friends Arena. 9.5/10.

 

Predicting the winner, with sweaty palms (and sweaty other places)

I’m going to keep this (kind of) short. Realistically, I think there are four songs that are in it to win it – My Turn, Last Breath, Every Single Day and Dance You Off. As I said before, Samir & Viktor will be dragged down by the international juries, whereas I think Swedish love for Mariette will be decreased now there are stronger songs and performances in play.

Last Breath is too divisive to win, in my opinion – as much as I’d enjoy that. My Turn is probably not current enough. That leaves a likely top two of Benjamin and Felix (who have a bromance going on that Shakespeare would write a sonnet about if he were alive today) and I’m having trouble deciding what’s more likely: the song I actually want to win winning (Dance You Off ) or an Andra Chansen qualifier winning again (Every Single Day). All I feel 100% confident in saying is that Sweden will be sending their fourth guy in a row to Eurovision (so could we please get some girl power á la Sverige in 2019?).

That being said, YOU HAVE TO MAKE AN ACTUAL PREDICTION, JAZ!!! So, for the win, I’m settling on *drumroll*…

Felix. Because I don’t want to jinx Benjamin, but also because I got this feeling inside my bones (Justin Timberlake knows).

 

Who’s your pick to fly the Swedish flag in Lisbon? Do we agree, or do we have to agree to disagree?

  

NF UPDATE: What’s Up Next (The Last NF of the Season, Noooooooooo!)

    • 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)

And we still have song reveals from Bulgaria, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia and Russia to look forward to. Are we spoiled or what?

 

I think I’d better stop the Scandifest now since I could probably publish all of the above as an encyclopedia-thick novel (that nobody would want to read). I hope you enjoy Melfest or MGP if you’re watching one/both tonight, and that you don’t decide to be Eurovision Satan and DM me spoilers from Norway on social media. Have a heart!

 

Until next time, when the real ESC countdown begins…