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!
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…
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.
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:
- Sweden (12)
- Belarus (10.5)
- Norway (10)
- Switzerland (8)
- Russia (7)
- 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:
- You Got Me, Stella & Alexandra
- Talk To The Hand, Aleksander Walmann
- Scandilove, Ida Maria
- Light Me Up, Nicoline
- I Like, I Like, I Like, Tom Hugo
- Stop The Music, Charla K
- Tengo Otra, Alejandro Fuentes
- Moren Din, Vidar Villa
- Who We Are, Rebecca
- 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.
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.
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?
- Everyday, Mendez
- All The Feels, Renaida
- A Bitter Lullaby, Martin Almgren
- My Turn, John Lundvik
- Party Voice, Jessica Andersson
- Last Breath, LIAMOO
- Shuffla, Samir & Viktor
- For You, Mariette
- Every Single Day, Felix Sandman
- In My Cabana, Margaret
- Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso
- 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.
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.
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.
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…
SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A results rundown, Malta’s musical half-marathon + the Swedish spectacular starts again!
Welcome to another triple S – Selection Season Saturday! This is the first SSS of what will be a frantic February on the Eurovision NF calendar. Seriously, BRACE YOURSELVES. We do get to ease into things though, with five pan-European heats, semis and finals happening tonight instead of 500 (or what feels like 500. Those Saturdays are still to come).
Those five ESC warm-ups are in Hungary (A Dal Heat 3), Latvia (Supernova semi 1), Lithuania (Eurovizija Heat 4), Malta (MESC final) and *screams* Sweden (Melodifestivalen Heat 1). I cannot believe Melfest is kicking off again – this time last year, I was figuring out what to shove in my suitcase before flying off to Stockholm for the final. I might be watching from afar in Australia this time around, but that doesn’t mean I’m not practically peeing my pants with excitement. In case it’s not obvious enough, I’m a Melfest freak and will definitely be sacrificing all other NFs for Sweden’s over the coming month-and-a-half (unless Dansk MGP turns out to be unmissable). And, naturally, I’m going to discuss Melfest’s first heat/deltävling in detail in this post – plus run my eye over all the pre-Eurovision results and internal selections from the past seven days, AND ramble on about Malta for a while too.
Let’s get started…and finished, so you can hit up my comments box with your opinions + predictions before this evening’s shows get underway.
Cyprus stopped the rumour mill turning fast by announcing Eleni Foureira (not Helena Paparizou) as their act for 2018. She’s heading to Lisbon with Fuego, which will be unveiled in March – but it was written by pop powerhouse Alex P, the man behind Yassou Maria by Sarbel, Always by Aysel and Arash, and La La Love by Ivi Adamou. In other words, he’s yet to send a dud track to Eurovision, and my hopes are sky-high for this latest entry. All I know about Eleni at this stage is that she’s tried to represent Greece a handful of times in the past…so if Greece is beaten by Cyprus this year, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves!
The Czech Republic MERCIFULLY chose Mikolas Josef and Lie To Me as their (clearly best-ever) entry on Monday, which eased my French pain a little (I’ll talk about that in second). This song is so catchy, so irresistible, and yes – so inappropriate. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the lyrical content Mikolas will have to rewrite/tweak (Robin Bengtsson can offer advice on how to seamlessly transition from ‘f**king’ to ‘freaking’) to satisfy the EBU. Can he please keep the bamboo bit? It’s brilliant.
Oh, France. Sacre bleu! Okay, so I’m not mad at them for making Mercy by Madame Monsieur the Destination Eurovision winner last Saturday – it’s a great song with a great story to tell. The only reason my heart still hurts is because I was major-league invested in Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva, and to see him put in the flawless performance he did only to get pipped in the public vote put the Eva into devastating. On the plus side, my winner prediction was correct. Woohoo/sadface.
We have an artist and a to-be-heard song from Ireland, with Britain’s Got Talent alum Ryan O’Shaughnessy (who according to Wikipedia is the nephew of Gary O’Shaughnessy, representative of Ireland in 2001…is this the truth?) off to Portugal with Together. I hope it’s not lame like the title would suggest – Ryan’s described it as a power ballad with a gospel feel, which to me sounds like a Sam Smith knockoff (I would not be opposed to that BTW).
Spain tested all of us who feel uncomfortable when witnessing a PDA by selecting Alfred & Amaia, newly minted #couplegoals, to pick up where Slovenia’s Platin left off in 2004. MWAH. Their song Tu Canción is sweet, and I hope they don’t break up before the contest…if they do, their performance might look more like this:
What would we do without the mammoth, Mediterranean Bank-sponsored Maltese national final in our lives? Granted, it’s not as mammoth as it used to be (and I’m not even sure MedBank are involved these days), but MESC still has its own unique attractions – the cheesy lyrical content, numerous Borgs and Micallefs, and artists who just keep coming back no matter how many times they don’t make it to Eurovision (you know I’m thinking of Deborah C). I wouldn’t want it any other way (so please don’t get offended if you’re Maltese or pro-Malta…I’m just calling things as I see them in an affectionate way, K?).
This year, sixteen acts will be whittled down to one in a single night – brutal! It will probably take the entire night, though. As a sloth in a human suit, I can totally relate to Malta taking things slooooowly. Here’s the line-up for this evening:
- Dai Laga, AIDAN
- Rocket, Miriana Conte
- Supernovas, Jasmine Abela
- Call 2morrow, Matthew Anthony
- One Step At A Time, Danica Muscat
- Breaking Point, Dwett
- Love Renegade, Lawrence Gray
- Song For Dad, Richard & Joe Micallef
- First Time, Tiziana Calleja
- Back To Life, Eleanor Cassar
- Beyond Blue Horizons, Rhiannon
- Heart of Gold, Brooke
- Taboo, Christabelle
- Turn It Up, Deborah C
- We Can Run, Avenue Sky
- Evolution, Petra
There are actually not that many returnees in this bunch, but Deborah C is worth about five with the amount of times she’s had a bash at the comp. There are a handful of new faces too, and that seems to have come hand-in-hand with some songs that aren’t what we’re used to hearing from our favourite tiny island. So which ones am I hoping will appear on Spotify so I can listen to them because I want to, not because I have to?
My top 5
Rocket I feel like I’m at a party for one having this as my favourite, but I reckon it’s underrated. Ultra-catchy, youthful enough for 16-year-old Miriana without sounding like it should be at JESC rather than MESC, and lyrically adequate (as in they make sense and don’t resort to love/above type stuff), it’s got everything going for it. Wouldn’t be out of place in a Melfest semi. 9/10.
Heart of Gold As much of a Wiktoria Lay Me Down tribute as this is, there’s a reason we all fell head-over-heels for that. Some of the same country-pop charm pops up here, as does the weirdest lyrical concept in history – ‘You’re a pack of wolves with a heart of gold’. WOT?!? Still, sometimes all I need to enjoy something is an infectious tune, and HOG’s got one. 8.5/10.
Call 2morrow I can’t believe I’m rooting for a song with a painfully 2000s number in the title. I mean, I literally messaged this exact phrase to my friends on my Nokia 3310 when I was 13. But regardless, the song itself is surprisingly un-Malta and on the right side of alt-pop to appeal to me. Points added for ‘Does your body still remember my bed’; points off for the use of the word ‘cuddle’. 8/10.
Song For Dad This is so corny and so cheesy, I’ve taken to calling it a musical quesadilla. But I am a big fan of Mexican food, so that doesn’t mean I’m totally turned off by Richard & Joe’s familial love-fest (just partially turned off by the clichéd lyrics re: standing by someone’s side when times get tough and blah blah blah *reaches for a sick bag*). The folksy feel and melody are pretty palatable, and I’m always a sucker for Richard’s singing voice. 7.5/10.
Taboo Firstly, I’ve got to say it: this is not Christabelle at her best. Secondly I’ll say that she’s still decent, even without a song on par with the sensational Rush from 2015. Clunky, mixed-metaphor lyrics (a trend for MESC 2018 apparently) and a dated dubstep breakdown do not stop Taboo from being one of the most memorable and modern tracks competing tonight. 7.5/10.
Predicting the winner
MESC is often an easy nut to crack when it comes to predicting the outcome, but an occasional curveball (plus my strangely amateurish prediction skills…only been doing it for 12 years, guys) zaps my confidence a bit.
My top three educated guesses for the win are Jasmine Abela (we share a name! I have to show her some love), Richard & Joe and Brooke, with Christabelle trailing behind because I just don’t see Taboo as winner material. If I were a betting woman, I’d be dropping my cash on Brooke. It seems like it might be third time lucky for her.
Will Malta gravitate towards Jasmine’s power ballad, Richard & Joe’s sugar overload or Brooke’s expensive and heavy aortic pump (Heart of Gold has more of a ring to it, I’ll admit) OR will I be wrong for the first time this selection season? Tune in to the MESC 2018 final from 21:00 CET here to find out – and while you’re waiting for the show to start (assuming you’re a weirdo who’d willingly sacrifice a Melfest semi for MESC) let me know who your tip is to represent Malta in Lisbon below.
If anyone tries to tell you that Melodifestivalen ISN’T the cream of the NF crop, they are a) delusional, b) lying, or c) have their own opinion which is totally fine, each to their own etc. But my favourite selection show has always been Melfest, and my unconditional love was strengthened even more by my final visit in 2017 (FYI I will be mentioning it every chance I get this season). Needless to say, even though I already said it in the intro, I am pumped like a bicycle tyre for the six-week extravaganza to start again. Tonight’s first heat will see seven acts – including vintage Eurovision legend Kikki Danielsson – go head-to-head in Karlstad for two final places and two second chances.
- Patrick Swayze, Sigrid Bernson
- My Turn, John Lundvik
- All The Feels, Renaida
- Livet På En Pinne, Edward Blom
- Osby Tennessee, Kikki Danielsson
- Solen Lever Kvar Hos Dig, Kamferdrops
- Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso
The Eurofan community has been mouthing off about the “weakness” of this heat (based, might I add, on audio snippets and rehearsal glimpses) but my motto is that first impressions never last. Besides, it only takes one amazing song to succeed or even win Eurovision – which isn’t SVT’s first priority at this stage anyway. The priority is to put on another ratings-magnet variety show for us all to dissect on Twitter. One step at a time, people.
I do feel like the best of Melfest 2018 is yet to come, but I’ve warmed up to a lot of the songs in this heat despite that. Have you? Speak up in the comments!
My top 4
Dance You Off Benjamin’s Melfest debut last year was an awesome one IMO, and if I were ten years younger I would 110% have a poster of him on my wall. DYO sounds more like Good Lovin’ than his post-Melfest 2017 singles did, and that’s fine because he can do no wrong. I’m very keen to see his performance, which has been choreographed by Robin Bengtsson’s treadmill consultant.*
*I made this job title up, but WHAT A CAREER THAT WOULD BE!
Solen Lever Kvar Hos Dig It’s like Jamie-Lee Kriewitz took up residence on Kamferdrops’ face and just stayed there, isn’t it? That aside, there’s something dreamy about this track that makes me want to hear more. It’s schlager, 2018-style. In the club. With sequined tracksuits.
My Turn A good power ballad can do wonders, and this sounds like it could be a darn good PB. It stands out for the right reasons even in the slot of death (which is more like a lot of grievous bodily harm in a seven-song show).
All The Feels Well, at least there’s not a hashtag shoehorned into the title as well. When you have all the feels, I guess you just have to express it through song – and Renaida’s expression is nicely in keeping with the Dua Lipa/Zara Larsson badass lady pop genre.
So, who’s going direkt til final? Benjamin Ingrosso + John Lundvik. Benjamin was the hot fave for this heat (pun actually not intended) but it was John who won the audience poll post-rehearsals. I thought he was being underrated, so that’s a relief. If he and Mr. Ingrosso do go direkt, I’ll be happy.
And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Edward Blom + Kamferdrops. Edward sounds like he’s putting on the kind of Broadway-esque, “humorous” performance usually put on by the host/s before the actual competition starts, and since I think it’s ridiculous I wouldn’t put it past Sweden to send it to AC. Kamferdrops, my spidey senses tell me, could be left out of the top four entirely, but nobody’s really fighting for fourth place, so I’m having a wishful guess. Otherwise it could be Renaida squeaking through.
What do you think? Can you predict how Sweden will vote, or are you as unsure as I am?
NF UPDATE: WHAT’S NEXT?
Here’s what’s on offer in the lead-up to the next Super Saturday.
- Sunday 4/2 Romania: (Selecția Națională semi 3), Switzerland (Entscheidungsshow final)
- Tuesday 6/2 Italy (Sanremo night 1)
- Wednesday 7/2 Italy (Sanremo night 2), United Kingdom (You Decide final)
- Thursday 8/2 Italy (Sanremo night 3)
- Friday 9/2 Italy (Sanremo night 4), San Marino (1in360 night 1)
Which show are you most excited for?
Well, I reckon I’ve said enough for one night. Aren’t you glad I didn’t review every NF of the evening? My typing fingers sure are.
I’m off now to get my traditional power nap before that pesky alarm goes off at 3am (livin’ that unfortunate time zone life as always). Don’t forget to join yours truly on Twitter then so we can try to out-zinger each other (Vocals! Costumes! Props! Results! David Lindgren’s antics! There’s so much stuff to critique) – just follow me @EurovisionByJaz. It’s going to be a fun one, guys!
SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Talking all things Estonia, Sweden + Spain on the most super-sized NF weekend so far!
Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs! I feel like I can use that as a greeting with some relevance, since France dropped their Eurovision 2017 entry on us earlier in the week, just in time to steal some of Germany’s thunder. Not that Germany had that much to steal in the first place, but more on that in another post (for now, I’ll just say that red, white and blue > red, black and yellow). My point is, any opportunity one gets to throw around some random, stereotypical French should be taken. Oui oui!
France is just about the only country where there ISN’T any NF action going on this weekend – a weekend so full of finals (and heats, and semis…all the good stuff), there’s not enough room for all of them to trend on Twitter. Feast your soon-to-be-weary eyes on this lot:
- 11/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final one (feat. Lenna Kuurmaa, Elina Born + Ivo Linna)
- 11/2 Ukraine’s untitled NF – semi final two (feat. Kuznetsov + Ilaria)
- 11/2 Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival – the final (feat. Michele Bravi, Elodie + Alessio Bernabei)
- 11/2 Hungary’s A Dal – semi final two (feat. Ádám Szabó, Kállay Saunders Band + Roma Soul)
- 11/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final two (feat. Mariette, Lisa Ajax + Benjamin Ingrosso)
- 11/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat six (feat. Mia, Sasha Song + Aistė Pilvelytė)
- 11/2 Spain’s Objetivo Eurovisión – the final (feat. LeKlein, Paula Rojo + Mirela)
- 12/2 Latvia’s Supernova – heat two (feat. Markus Riva + My Radiant You)
- 13/2 Israel’s Rising Star – the final (feat. Julietta, Diana Golbi, Beatbox Element + Imri Ziv)
Visit eurovision.tv for all of the live-streaming links. And because it might be lonely and want to have a cup of coffee and a chat with you.
What will you be watching? You’ve got about as much chance of catching everything at once as I do of covering it all here – so I guess we’ll both have to pick our priorities.
To be honest – as if the title of this post wasn’t a giveaway – I’ve already decided where my loyalties lie. So, if you want some verdicts on/predictions for Eesti Laul, Melodifestivalen and Objetivo Eurovisión, you’ve come to the right blog.
Let’s muse about the music!
Estonia: Elina Born is back as Eesti Laul begins…but is she In Or Out?
It’s a good thing there isn’t a prize for Best Blog Subtitle, ‘cause I wouldn’t be winning any for that one. Blame Elina Born, who went and signed herself up for Eesti Laul as a soloist – for the second time – with a Stig Rästa song that begs to be used in many punny ways (it’s the new That Sounds Good To Me). Girl has said Goodbye To Yesterday and hello to a shot at competing in Kyiv, and her quest begins tonight with the first semi final of Estonia’s always enjoyable NF.
Of course, she’s not the only act competing this evening, so I shouldn’t devote too much screen space to her alone. Elina will be the second of ten acts to perform, and here’s a rundown of them all:
- Slingshot by Lenna Kuurmaa
- In Or Out by Elina Born
- Everything But You by Carl-Philip
- Suur Ioterii by Ivo Linna
- Feel Me Now by Ariadne
- Supernatural by Uku Suviste
- Hey Kiddo by Laura Prits
- Have You Now by Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux feat. Maian
- Valan Pisaraid by Janno Reim & Kosmos
- Hurricane by Leemet Onno
As usual, Estonia is providing us with an interesting set of songs, many of which take some second or third listens to figure out (it’s a pre-selection of acquired tastes, IMO, which is not a bad thing because it speaks for the complexity of what ERT program the show with). Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of being able to listen more than once – and in some cases, my first impressions are based on snippets (with a Eurotrip three weeks away and other commitments calling, time is like thunder short for me at the moment). Here are the semi one songs that stood out to me with minimal exposure.
My top five In Or Out, Everything But You, Feel Me Now, Supernatural + Have You Now. My favourites from this shortlist would be In Or Out (the trumpeting might be passé, but it’s still enjoyable) and Have You Now (which is obviously an Estonian tribute to The Chainsmokers). There’s nothing super-duper dated – or plain terrible – in the whole semi, though. Not even Ivo Linna is acting his age, musically-speaking.
Predicting the ACTUAL top five Slingshot, In Or Out, Feel Me Now, Hey Kiddo + Have You Now. I won’t say where I pulled this prediction from (in the interest of maintaining some degree of ladylike elegance) but let’s just say it’s unreliable. On the other hand, if it turns out to be 60%-100% right, I’ll claim that I produced it after a careful, educated analysis. K?
Do you think Eesti Laul’s off to a good start? Is there someone in this first semi who can do what Juri Pöötsmann couldn’t and get Estonia to the Eurovision final again (without giving the impression that their hobbies include dismemberment, and preserving vital organs in formaldehyde)? Let me know in the comments.
Sweden: Melfest makes it to Malmö for a big-deal Deltävling 2
That’s right – we’re taking a trip back to Malmö Arena, where those of us who were otherwise engaged during Petra Mede’s Melfest hosting gig may have first laid eyes on her when she owned Eurovision in 2013. Unfortunately, some might say, tonight ain’t about Petra – it’s about the seven acts who all want to follow in Ace Wilder and Nano’s footsteps (I assume) since they lead straight to Friends Arena in Stockholm, and the Melfest final.
- A Million Years by Mariette
- Himmel Och Hav by Roger Pontare
- Up by Etzia
- Vart Haru Varit by Allyawan
- Hearts Align by Dismissed
- I Don’t Give A by Lisa Ajax
- Good Lovin’ by Benjamin Ingrosso
We’re down one returnee from last week, with Mariette, Roger Pontare and Lisa Ajax in the mix. In Göteborg, just two of the four comeback acts progressed, and with only one real contender standing/dancing in the way of Mariette etc’s direkt and AC spots, can they all make it through? SHOULD they? Melodifestivalen raises some tough questions. Luckily, they’ll be answered later, but I’ll have a go at filling in the blanks in the meantime.
My top four
- A Million Years – Is this better than Don’t Stop Believing? I don’t think so, but it’s similarly intriguing and contemporary. The lyrics are a little cliché, and that ticks me off as a writer who goes out of their way to avoid clichés. I really need access to the complete package before I make my mind up about Mariette 2.0. Potential for greatness is here, though.
- Vart Haru Varit – This is Adrijana’s Amare with a male singer and a slight increase in mass appeal. It’ll probably make just as much of an impression as Amare did (i.e. none whatsoever) but dang it, I love Swedish hip-hop!
- I Don’t Give A – In case you missed the barely detectable F-bomb (times ten) in Lisa’s sequel to My Heart Wants Me Dead, yes, it exists (#sarcasm). It’s not necessary in a song that lacks the Zara Larsson attitude and style I was expecting. Still, expletives aside, there’s pros a-plenty to be found in I Don’t Give A. The pop ballad style lets Lisa show off her amazing vocals, and all in all it’s very ‘now’. Well, I think it is. I’m not too tuned in to what the youths of today are into *returns to knitting an intricate sweater for my dog*.
- Good Lovin’ – Maybe I’m biased, given that I practically had a heart attack when my beloved (in a platonic way as he’s a bit too young for me) Benjamin was announced as a Melfester for 2017…but THIS KICKS BUTT. It’s everything I want in a pop song and more. It also manages to be both what I was expecting, and something completely different. Slick, smooth, and well-sung. Så brå.
- Himmel Och Hav – I actually toyed with having Roger in my top four thanks to the great atmosphere and ethnicity of this track. As someone who never fell hard for When Spirits Are Calling My Name, I could learn to like this more than that. GASP!
- Up – I know this isn’t culturally similar to Kizunguzungu, but it’s easy to compare the vibes of the two. I can’t see Etzia sharing SaRaha’s success in a) going through to Andra Chansen, and b) getting out of it. Up is catchy, but pretty pedestrian overall.
- Hearts Align – This is okay. It’s fine. The performance and costuming choices will be the biggest talking point though. No chance of direkt for Dismissed, methinks.
On that note, it’s time to make a few predictions. Last week I somehow managed to be 100% correct, so I’m going to do my best not to ruin that this time.
Who’s going direkt? Mariette + Lisa Ajax. Based on such data as Facebook likes, Mariette seems to be the Nano of this week’s show (swap the man bun for dreadlocks and the difference is undetectable) in that the heat is hers to lose. Lisa’s song might divide voters (unless the f-word is on par with ‘darn it!’ in Sweden) but I have no doubt she’ll nail it live, and it’s big enough to leave a lasting impression. The swearing actually makes the song more memorable, I must say.
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Benjamin Ingrosso + Dismissed. I desperately want Ingrosso to go straight through, but girl power is likely to pip him at the post. Fourth place could go to Roger Pontare if Sweden is still feeling his flow, but I suspect it might go to Dismissed as Hearts Align screams Andra Chansen to me.
In the immortal words of Elaiza, is it right or is it wrong? Do you think you know who’ll go where when the results of Deltävling 2 are revealed? Tell me more!
Spain: Which of the six singers will fill Barei’s dancing shoes?
Si, amigos – Objetivo Eurovisión is back, albeit without Brequette (maybe 2018 is your year, queen). The line-up is much more diverse than it was in 2016, which makes the outcome harder to predict. But we can’t complain about variety and (reasonable) quality all round…can we?
- Do It For Your Lover by Manel Navarro
- Ouch! by LeKlein
- Lo Que Nunca Fue by Paula Rojo
- Spin My Head by Mario Jefferson
- Momento Critico by Maika
- Contigo by Mirela
I don’t know about you, but I can clearly divide up these six songs: there’s two that I absolutely adore, two that I quite like, and two that I wouldn’t miss if I never heard them again. And I have no idea whether Spain will think along the same lines, or choose a song that has no chance of reversing their Eurovision fortunes. One thing’s for sure – I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat while waiting for them to make up their collective mind.
My top six
- Ouch! – This song is ridiculously sublime. I can’t take LeKlein’s screams of ‘ouuuuuuuch’ seriously (she sounds exactly like me whenever I stub my toe on something) but I love everything else about her potential ESC entry. I love the grammatically awkward lyrics, the melody of the verses, the power and anthemic quality of the chorus, the polished production…it’s all very bueno. Now, if only she could carry it off live without numerous unstable vocal moments…
- Contigo – It’s no Nada Es Comparable A Ti (not only my fave NF effort from Mirela, but one of my fave NF songs ever) but then again, it’s not supposed to be. It’s an instantly infectious, ethno-pop triumph that needs to be a World Cup theme ASAP. The lyrics might be rubbish (I speak zero Spanish and have not yet Google-translated them) but who cares? Sometimes you just want to get up and dance and have a good time – a fiesta then a siesta – without considering the meaningfulness of lyrical content. Contigo is perfect for that purpose.
- Spin My Head – I feel like having your head spun up (as opposed to around) would be painful, but Mario seems to be welcoming it. Again, this isn’t going to win any awards for substance, but I would wave my hands in the air like I just didn’t care to it in a club (or in the supermarket. Whenever, wherever, as Shakira would say). The Spanglish chorus is decent when it could have been a disaster.
- Do It For Your Lover – Speaking of Spanglish, here’s a mixed-language version of The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. That’s not a negative, but I do wish Manel was offering up something more original. I also wish ‘do it for your lover’ wasn’t repeated nearly THIRTY times in three minutes. What is ‘it’, anyway?
- Momento Critico – Maika is not a woman I’d want to mess with, so in case she ever reads this, I’m going to point out the positives of her Objetivo song. It’s unashamedly rocky. It has attitude. It’s somewhat memorable (although I have forgotten how it goes now that I think about it. But I know I thought it was kind of memorable). It’s not bad. Please don’t come at me with an industrial-sized blowtorch, Maika.
- Lo Que Nunca Fue – Boring. Sweet and cute and charming in a countrified way, sure, but this leaves no impression on me whatsoever. It’s totally forgettable, and if there’s a hook in it, I can’t hear it. All of this means it’ll probably win.
Who SHOULD win LeKlein or Mirela. Yes, they’re my personal top picks, but I genuinely believe they have the best odds out of the six of making Spain’s trip to Ukraine worth it. I’m not saying they’re Eurovision winners, but if either one wins tonight and takes advantage of the gap between now and the contest (to revamp and maybe take a few singing lessons) anything’s possible.
Who WILL win I want to scream ‘SEND HELP!’ on this one, because I cannot decide. I’m not even convinced that one of my preferred two will win. I’m going to rule out Maika and Mario. Paula and Manel are my dark horses. The failure of Maria Isabel’s ethno-pop to get far last year gives me doubts about Mirela…so that leaves LeKlein. She’s already proven she appeals to the public (winning the Eurocasting round is why she’s in OE) and if she produces a more polished live rendition of Ouch! tonight, she could win this too. Or not, and I’m just wishful thinking.
In a shocking turn of events, I want to know what you think about the Spanish show. What’s good, what’s bad and what’s even worse in your opinion? And, more importantly, who’s going to win? You’ve got a 1 in 6 chance of getting it right!
Whatever you’re watching this evening (or tomorrow morning, if you’ve also been screwed over by your time zone), I hope to see you on Twitter for some 140-character or less fun times. We Eurofans know how to party, even if it’s just on social media.
May the best songs win (or qualify)!
For those of us who place Melodifestivalen up on a pedestal, right next to Eurovision (because we believe it to be equally as epic) today was practically Christmas.
For today was the day we all received 28 gifts of varying shapes and sizes, in the form of the artists competing in the national final of dreams in February/March 2017. I was particularly keen to unwrap these gifts given I’m actually attending Melfest for the first time next year (!!!) and will have the chance to see twelve of the artists in the flesh come finalen…and then have some press charges in the wake of me inappropriately touching them.
Anyway, after months of rumours that ran right up to the start of this morning’s press conference – hosted by the adorable David Lindgren sans Clara Henry and Hasse Andersson – we now know exactly who will and who won’t be popping up in the four semi finals. Many confirmations of what we already knew were made; blanks were neatly filled in by returnees and newbies alike; and one of the biggest bombshells in Melfest artist-announcement history was dropped.
Let’s run through the entire list of participants and songs, and I’ll unload my initial thoughts and impressions along the way. I apologise in advance for any spelling mistakes, incorrect information or general incoherent rambling that you might encounter here. I’m both delirious with excitement and rushing to get this post up while it’s still relevant, so I’m not at the top of my game just nu.
Semi 1 | Göteborg
- Amare, Adrijana
- Her Kiss, Boris René
- Hold On, Nano
- Mitt Liv, Charlotte Perrelli
- One More Night, Dinah Nah
- Road Trip, De Vet Du
- Wild Child, Ace Wilder
We knew Adrijana, Charlotte Perrelli, De Vet Du and Ace Wilder were shoo-ins already, so the most pleasant surprises in this first roll-call – for me, at least – were Boris René and Dinah Nah.
Boris ended up being one of my favourites from this year’s comp, and I still can’t help dancing enthusiastically when Put Your Love On Me comes on shuffle (as well as shouting ‘IN A LITTERBOX’ loudly enough for my neighbours to hear and subsequently consider moving to Siberia). Suffice to say I can’t wait to discover what he has in store for us for his second shot.
Dinah Nah was heavily rumoured to return in 2016, but evidently she needed more time to find a track that might get her to the final again. I am very glad to see that her hair is still pink.
I know I should be peeing my pants with excitement about Ace Wilder, but to be honest, I wish she’d taken some more time away like Dinah did – I’m not sure I can handle her two years in a row. But I’ll reserve (most of) my judgments until we hear what she has to offer.
Apparently Charlotte Perrelli doesn’t want to win Melfest on this occasion, but has her reasons for giving it another go after The Girl failed to even make Andra Chansen in 2012. I’m guessing she won’t be disappointed if her aim is not to go to Eurovision for the third time.
I’m clueless re: Adrijana and Nano, so perhaps one of them will be the exotic stranger who has me head-over-heels for their entry (then sobbing into my specially-commissioned sequined Kleenex when it finishes last). It happens every year!
Semi 2 | Malmö
- A Million Years, Mariette
- Good Loovin’, Benjamin Ingrosso
- Hearts Align, Dismissed
- Himmel Och Hav, Roger Pontare
- I Don’t Give A, Lisa Ajax
- Up, Etzia
- Vart Haru Varit, Allyawan
The second semi will feature just as many big hitters as the first – such as Mariette (who took home the bronze medal in the Year of Måns), Roger Pontare (a Melfest and Eurovision veteran who last represented Sweden on home soil in 2000), and Lisa Ajax (the Idol winner who also won her semi this year over eventual runner-up Oscar Zia).
I can’t say I’m as excited – on names alone – for this round. But I am pretty keen to hear from the debutants. Benjamin Ingrosso, who comes from a family of serious musical heavyweights (Pernilla Wahlgren is his mother, for starters) is one I’ll definitely be watching. And listening to, obviously. Despite the totally unnecessary extra ‘o’ in his song title (#petpeeve).
Semi 3 | Växjö
- Boogieman Blues, Owe Thörnqvist
- Crucified, Bella & Filippa
- Gotta Thing, The Fooo Conspiracy
- Gravity, Jasmine Kara
- I Can’t Go On, Robin Bengtsson
- Kiss You Goodbye, Anton Hagman
- Snurra Min Jord, Krista Siegfrids
Again, the majority of artists competing in this semi were rumoured by the always reliable Aftonbladet. But that doesn’t make it any less awesome to have my main man Robin Bengtsson back in the mix after his success earlier in the year (when he beat Ace Wilder to win Deltävling 1). If he’s armed with a song that is anywhere near as superb as Constellation Prize, then we are in for a treat come week three. It’s highly likely, as I Can’t Go On was written by two of the three songwriters behind Sanna Nielsen’s Undo, plus my other fave Robin – Robin Stjernberg. *screams internally*.
At 87, Owe Thörnqvist will become the oldest Melfest competitor ever. That’s assuming he lives long enough (I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but he barely made it onto the press conference stage without faceplanting and breaking a hip). If he doesn’t fall off the perch within the next few months, I have a feeling he could be the Hasse Andersson of 2017 and be catapulted further in the comp than I’d prefer via an outpouring of affection from the Swedish public. Hasse Andersson, of course, is also the Hasse Andersson of 2017, seeing as he’s co-hosting the show.
I’ll be flag-waving for The Fooo Conspiracy (despite being about ten years past the average age of their fan demographic) because BOYBAND ALERT, and Jasmine Kara because…well, we Jasmins/Jasmines have to stick together. I reserve the right to retract these pledges of support should these acts’ songs be…well, crap.
I must mention the gorgeousness that is Krista Siegfrids. Our girl from Sweden via Finland has come back for another crack at securing a ticket to Friends Arena, singing again in Swedish (bad move? We’ll have to wait and see). No matter where her journey ends – Växjö, Kyiv, or anywhere in-between – she’s always fun to have around, and I suspect she’ll be hungrier for success this time. That means she should have a song up her stylish sleeve that’s a step up from the good-but-not-great Faller. Fingers crossed!
Semi 4 | Skellefteå
- As I Lay Me Down, Wiktoria
- Bound To Fall, Les Gordons
- Du Får Inte Ändra På Mig, Sara Varga and Juha Mulari
- En Värld Full Av Strider, Jon Henrik Fjällgren feat. Aninia
- När Ingen Ser, Axel Schylström
- Running With Lions, Alice Svensson
- Statements, Loreen
Well, well, well. We know SVT like to save a name bigger than any found in the Welsh phone directory for the last semi final. But they not only outdid themselves on that front for 2017 – they also managed to keep it a secret to ensure that all of our jaws would end up on the floor.
Holy dala horses, Queen Loreen is back! With, I might add, the coolest of minimal song titles AND the songwriting dream team of Segerstad and the Debs joining her in the credits. Anyone who says they saw this coming is either a psychic or a liar (or both), and anyone who doesn’t think it will be a contender FTW needs to have their vital signs checked. It will be the toughest of tasks for Loreen to top Euphoria, but she could be the second coming of Johnny Logan that we’ve all been waiting for. Johnny Logan with a septum piercing.
Wiktoria is making an unsurprising return, but will she have wow-factor staging to elevate her entry this time? I’m interested to find out. Save Me wasn’t right up my street song-wise, so I’m hoping she’s changed things up and gone for a power ballad. The girl can SING, so she could easily handle a Céline Dion update (i.e. something like Isa’s I Will Wait).
Also reappearing in the lineup is Sara Varga, who made it in and out of Andra Chansen in 2011 with Spring För Livet, but she’s not alone. She’s also not alone in making a comeback in partnership with another artist, as Jon Henrik Fjällgren has done the same. The man who nearly put paid to MZW’s trip to Vienna is teaming up with Aninia (Google will tell you all you need to know about her, because I can’t) and I reckon the result will be original, to say the least. It’s such a relief that we’ll be able to say stuff like ‘Are you joiking?’ on Twitter again without people getting (too) annoyed.
Jon Henrik and Loreen aside, the name that most excites/intrigues me is Alice Svensson, another Idol alum who was beaten to the crown by Kevin Borg (he of Maltese national final fame). I’m basing this almost exclusively on the title of her song (that plus previous musical releases are all we have to go on at the moment) because is Running With Lions not totally badass? Both the act itself and the string of words, I mean. Bring it on!
Those are my initial thoughts on the 28 acts unveiled this morning – now it’s time for you to have your say. Are you happy with the peeps preparing to battle it out in Europe’s favourite national final? Which songs are you most excited to hear when the time comes? Do you think Loreen will walk it (or crab-dance it), given her history and supreme songwriting team? Whatever you’re thinking, put it in writing in the comments. The countdown to Melfest 2017 is officially on, guys, so let’s keep the conversation going!