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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:

 

Anyway…

 

 

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: 

  1. Dai Laga, AIDAN
  2. Rocket, Miriana Conte
  3. Supernovas, Jasmine Abela
  4. Call 2morrow, Matthew Anthony
  5. One Step At A Time, Danica Muscat
  6. Breaking Point, Dwett
  7. Love Renegade, Lawrence Gray
  8. Song For Dad, Richard & Joe Micallef
  9. First Time, Tiziana Calleja
  10. Back To Life, Eleanor Cassar
  11. Beyond Blue Horizons, Rhiannon
  12. Heart of Gold, Brooke
  13. Taboo, Christabelle
  14. Turn It Up, Deborah C
  15. We Can Run, Avenue Sky
  16. 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.

  1. Patrick Swayze, Sigrid Bernson
  2. My Turn, John Lundvik
  3. All The Feels, Renaida
  4. Livet På En Pinne, Edward Blom
  5. Osby Tennessee, Kikki Danielsson
  6. Solen Lever Kvar Hos Dig, Kamferdrops
  7. 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!

Based on his song title, Benjamin won’t be doing this on stage.

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!

 

Until then,

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

erai

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

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

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

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

 

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

mesc16

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Chameleon Ira is more or less to MESC 2016 what Måns Zelmerlöw was to Melfest 2015. If it’s going to be a by-the-book kind of year, she’ll take the victory with ease.
Untitled

She’s in the ‘hood, and in with a very good chance of representing Malta for the second time.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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