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THE TEL AVIV REVIEWS | Round 6 feat. Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova + Portugal

Hello (yet) again, and welcome to (yet) another round of Eurovision 2019 reviews! Rehearsals starting this Saturday – oh to the my to the GOD – is a reminder that time is running out, and if I want to spill all my personally-brewed tea on this year’s entries before the contest begins, I better pick up the pace. So here are five more judged and scored songs for those of you who’ve been enjoying them so far, via Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal.

Check out my thoughts on PÆNDA, Leonora, Michela, Anna and Conan’s (pick the odd one out) contributions to the comp, then share yours in the comments. Love is forever and I’ll love YOU forever if you do.

 

 

Austria was arguably to Eurovision 2018 what Bulgaria was to Eurovision 2016: a country that hadn’t done much for a while coming out of nowhere and shooting up the scoreboard. It was more predictable when Poli did it, but since Cesár Sampson was one of her backing singers maybe we should have predicted his 3rd place (the man has a magic touch). With PÆNDA and Limits being Austria’s follow-up to Nobody But You, I’m curious to see if she can pull off another shockingly high result for Austria. Or if she’ll squat her way to a DNQ like the last blue-haired female soloist to compete in the contest. Or if she’ll wind up somewhere in between. Limits is the sort of song that could do anything. I could justify it finishing in the top five, fifteenth, last in the final or missing out on qualification altogether.

It’s such an introverted song compared to most of the others. I almost feel like we’re intruding listening to it, like PÆNDA should be singing in a soundproof room behind closed doors (and far away from the prying ears of Lake Malawi). Yet that super personal, intimate feel of the song is one of its appealing points. That feeling is threaded all the way through, with vulnerability and genuine emotion at the core of PÆNDA’s high-pitched, delicate vocals. I can’t deny that this is a touching track with loads of musical integrity. But at the same time, it does feel like a bit of a disappointment. While I’m glad Austria didn’t do a Cyprus and carbon copy their 2018 showstopper, I was hoping for more of a statement piece. Limits is pretty same-same for its entire three minutes, and the chorus in particular fails to elevate it to interesting heights. All those bajillion-syllable ‘yous’ feel a little lazy, like nobody could be bothered to fill in the space with anything more complex. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it’s the impression I get from such a repetitive and uneventful chorus.

If Limits was a minute long I’d enjoy it more, but as a full-length song aiming to grab my attention and keep it, it doesn’t work. I do have a sneaking suspicion Austria will be bringing it with their staging this year, however. The potential is definitely there. I’m thinking moody lighting, dreamy LED graphics and a quirky-but-not-too-quirky costume choice. Maybe some dry ice too, if it doesn’t bring back more memories of Rykka and her squatting. I also expect PÆNDA to deliver some beautifully gift-wrapped vocals to our doorsteps. If she does and she is surrounded by aesthetic goodness, the juries will find her hard to resist. Televoters, I’m not so sure. I can’t vote in the second semi, but if I could I’d have other countries in mind. If most home voters are the same, we could be saying adios to Austria on the Thursday night – but until rehearsals and the real thing, I’m not game to make a set-in-stone prediction on this one. I know my Limits.

 

In a line Fragile and beautiful but a bit boring 2018 VS 2019 2018, because there really ain’t nobody but you, Cesár Predicted result SF 7th-12th, GF 11th-17th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

  

Denmark isn’t exactly the luckiest Scandinavian country in the contest these days. Then again, you make your own luck – so they’ve only got themselves to blame for their 2015-2017 string of buh-bow (a.k.a. sad trumpet) moments. Last year they brought out some burly, bearded Vikings and were back on form and back in the top 10. So why did they decide to ditch everything Rasmussen-esque in 2019 in favour of a song that sounds like it was written for a laundry detergent commercial? I’m all for countries bouncing around rather than replicating what brought them success the previous year, but this change of direction is a shock to the system. Not on the same level as Iceland’s change of direction, but a shock nonetheless.

So, Love Is Forever. For some reason I feel differently about this song every time I listen to it. One minute I think it’s cute and I really like the campfire feel, off-the-wall lyrics and language mix. The next, I think it’s way too sugary sweet, it gets on my nerves and I’m a) creeped out by Leonora’s unblinking eye contact down the camera and b) confused by the presence of that giant chair. It is a cute song, and the lyrics are (mostly) original and rhyme super-satisfyingly without resorting to fire/higher/desire – a trademark of co-writer Lise Cabble (who’s written a heap of DMGP and Eurovision hits including New Tomorrow and Only Teardrops). At the same time, it’s so twee that it borders on being more suited to JESC than ESC, right down to Leonora’s outfit – as worn by one of Serbia’s Junior artists in 2017. It certainly can be annoying if I’m not in the mood for it. And yes, it sounds like the audio of an ad where a perfect nuclear family frolics in their manicured garden, with their golden retriever and wearing white linen, in celebration of successfully removing a miniscule stain from said white linen with a revolutionary new laundry product.

Maybe Denmark’s success this year will depend on the mood televoters and jurors are in. Though if everyone else is as nonplussed by the chair as I am – and it has been confirmed that it’s traveling to Tel Aviv – that won’t help. Leonora won’t want people distracted by oversized furniture and her death stare when they could be focusing on an adorable, vocally solid song. Beyond vocally solid, actually. Love Is Forever isn’t the most challenging song to sing, but Leonora works extremely well with what she’s been given and I’m yet to hear her drop a note. I just don’t know about this entry in its entirety. There’s no point where it’s a disastrous car crash, nor is there a moment that makes it worthy of qualifying easily. Basically, it’s borderline. And given that Denmark may have their momentum stolen by the Swedish (meat) ball of joy appearing on stage after them, I’m leaning towards the side of the borderline that results in a DNQ.

 

In a line Cute and charming but a potential cause of diabetes and nightmares 2018 VS 2019 2018. I miss the manly stomping, glorious beards and long flowing locks Predicted result SF 9th-14th, GF 16th-20th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

There’s a handful of countries unexpectedly bringing their A-game to Tel Aviv, and Malta is one of them. The tiny island picked Michela as their artist as part of her X Factor winner prize, eventually pairing her with Chameleon: a creation from the bright minds behind If Love Was A Crime, Beautiful Mess, Nobody But You and Bones. With a back catalogue like that, Malta’s Symphonix song had every chance of being a cracker. I was unprepared for just how awesome it is, especially since it’s nothing like party anthem ILWAC, Kristian’s slick power ballad, gospel force Nobody But You or the otherworldly pop of Equinox.

Sitting comfortably and confidently on the fence between weird and wonderful – meaning it’s both bonkers and packed with mass appeal – Chameleon makes the Maltese entry of the same name that almost was (back in 2016) sound incredibly passé. It’s a tropically-tinged floor filler with a powerful singalong bridge, and a chorus that takes away so much musical build so quickly it stops you in your tracks. I don’t know how such a non-chorus can be so effective, but this one just is. Outside of the chorus, this song is busier than Grand Central Station – but because every bit of it is catchy, memorable and current, it works. I swear Chameleon wouldn’t have been turned down by Dua Lipa in a parallel universe, and I’ve never said that about a Maltese entry before (as a big Dua fan, that’s a thumbs up from me). What also makes me dig this is Michela’s vocal delivery. We haven’t seen her perform it live yet (well, I haven’t) but we know from her X Factor performances that she can sing, and her vocals are soulful with an edgy catch. She makes this song even more interesting.

What else could Malta possibly do to make Christabelle’s DNQ a distant memory? Well, they could hire Loreen’s Euphoria choreographer and the design team behind Jamala’s incredible tree graphic. Wait – they did? Oh, okay then. I think we all know what Euphoria and 1944 have in common. Not that I think Malta is going to win Eurovision with Chameleon or anything…I don’t think it’s quite got the goods to go all the way. But unless an unlikely mistake is made with Michela’s staging (I’m hoping for something as colourful and fun as the music video) or she develops strep throat during rehearsals (touch wood in favour of that NOT happening), they are on track to score their best result since 2013. If all goes according to whatever plans they’ve made, mid-top-10 isn’t out of the question. Malta might be entering a Chameleon, but they’re not blending into the background!

 

In a line A little bit of bizarre and a lot of brilliance makes for a surprise banger 2018 VS 2019 2019 hands down Predicted result SF 4th-6th, GF 5th-9th My score 10 points

 

 

 

 

Moldova are the masters of two things when it comes to Eurovision: being memeable, and finding themselves in the top 10 against the odds (literally). They don’t always bring something weirdly wonderful though, and when they don’t it seems to be a mistake – just compare the results of Hey Mamma and My Lucky Day to Wild Soul and I Want Your Love. It’s with great regret that I announce something you probably already know: Moldova’s fate is sealed this year, and sadly it involves staying in the semis. It’s what Anna wants, right? To STAAAAAAY? Maybe missing out on the final isn’t what she has in mind, but I do not see a scenario in which this song, which I’d describe as a reject from a Céline Dion album circa 1996, goes anywhere.

I should say that Stay is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I manage to enjoy it on some level despite knowing it doesn’t hold a candle to the majority of songs it’s competing against. It’s dated, more melodramatic than a Mexican telenovela, predictable, blatantly borrowed from Swedes all too eager to be rid of it, and would need Céline Dion herself to elevate it to qualifier status. And don’t get me started on the lyrics. MY LORD. Have you ever come across a chorus so by-the-numbers? ‘Stay, until I find a way to be together, forever’s here to stay, no matter what they say, we’ll be together’? S Club 7’s cheesiest love songs didn’t have such lame lyrics in the early 2000s (a time when Stay still would have sounded stale). You must be wondering how it’s possible for me to like it at all, and I’ve actually been wondering the same thing. Granted, 1990s Céline Dion is legendary, and the fact that Stay is that kind of throwback works in its favour with me. I can pick out appealing parts of the melody too – the tune is the least offensive thing about this entry.

Seeing a tiny diamond doesn’t cancel out all of the rough, though. And there are more qualification-stoppers than I’ve already mentioned. Take, for example, Anna seeming to struggle a little singing in English (pronunciation-wise, that is…her vocal strength is A+). It’s times like this I wish Moldova would remember 2013 and how Aliona Moon and O Mie flourished in Romanian. But, like Croatia this year, they’ve decided on English and it puts the cringey lyrics on full display. I do think there is potential here for stellar staging, but it wouldn’t be enough to get Anna to the final. When Switzerland struts in and makes their undeniable mark on the stage straight afterwards, who’s going to remember – let alone want to vote for – Moldova? I’m sorry, but this is a no-hoper for me. Bring back the wack in 2020 please!

 

In a line A cookie-cutter power ballad that belongs in the 90s 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 15th-17th My score 6 points

 

 

 

 

Portugal fell as far as a host country possibly can last year (with the exception of Austria scoring zero points in Vienna…ouch). O Jardim was a stunning song and I still think its last place was undeserved, but at the same time I can see how it happened. The song didn’t stand out, but that will not be a problem for our gracious 2018 hosts this year. Telemóveis is totally bonkers and has nothing in common with O Jardim bar being in Portuguese, unless Cláudia and Isaura stuck spoons to their faces at one point and I just missed it.

I don’t even know how to describe this song, especially since it took me weeks to figure out if I even liked it. It turns out I do – I like it a lot. That’s partly because it’s so original, partly because in spite of that it’s still very Portuguese, and partly because I’m proud of Portugal for being so adventurous. Telemóveis is striking from start to finish and undeniably unforgettable. The first thing that grabs my attention is actually Conan’s vocals, which are smooth as silk but have a haunting quality that makes his native tongue sound particularly nice (I can’t say ‘sensual’ based on his performance, but Portuguese is definitely a sexy language). Thank heavens he can sing, because a song this out-of-the-box would sound so bad if its singer was even slightly off key. The song itself has so many different layers and segments to it and they’re all intriguing. It’s like a mystery to be solved in three minutes, and I can never solve it so I’m left scratching my head…but somehow I’m still satisfied because my ears have had an artistic experience. This really feels above and beyond a lot of the other songs for Tel Aviv, and I don’t mean that in a holier-than-thou way. I just mean that next to more predictable, derivative pop, it’s on another planet. Those dance moves from Conan and his co-star are definitely unlike any I’ve seen on this planet before.

ICYMI because I was making no sense, I’m a big fan of Telemóvéis. I love the music, the vocals, the unpredictable structure and how avant-garde it is. I even love the crazy costumes and even crazier choreography that make it stand out even more. It’s by far the most experimental entry of the year, and again I’d like to applaud Portugal for picking it. I can’t say I have a clue how people outside the Eurofandom will respond. On one hand, Conan is memorable times a million and the song is one of a kind. But the whole package is also strange and potentially inaccessible – and that’s even more obvious given Portugal is performing between Estonia and Greece, two countries armed with very accessible, instant entries. One of three things will probably go down: Portugal will make everyone forget Estonia and fly into the final; Estonia and Greece will make Portugal look too bizarre and prevent them from qualifying; or I’m overthinking things and all three will advance. If you told me I could have a pasteis de nata but only if I picked one scenario, I’d have to go with Portugal missing out. But please, PLEASE prove me wrong, jurors/televoters.

 

In a line A sensational song so arty, it should be on display in the Tate Modern 2018 VS 2019 2019, but I love them both Predicted result SF 8th-12th, GF 8th-15th My score 10 points

 

 

 

 

30 down, 11 to go! I wouldn’t want Eurovision to shrink back down to 20-something entries, but 41 is hard work. It wasn’t difficult for me to rank today’s five, though I did have a few ties to break:

  1. Portugal (10)
  2. Malta (10)
  3. Denmark (7)
  4. Austria (7)
  5. Moldova (6)

Congrats Portugal, and better luck next time Moldova.

Now for an update on my overall ranking if you’re interested, and why wouldn’t you be? Actually, don’t answer that:

  1. Hungary (12)
  2. Switzerland (12)
  3. The Netherlands (12)
  4. Greece (12)
  5. Estonia (10)
  6. Portugal (10)
  7. Norway (10)
  8. Cyprus (10)
  9. Malta (10)
  10. Czech Republic (10)
  11. Belarus (10)
  12. Russia (8)
  13. Romania (8)
  14. Belgium (8)
  15. Armenia (8)
  16. Iceland (8)
  17. Serbia (8)
  18. Albania (8)
  19. Denmark (7)
  20. Lithuania (7)
  21. Croatia (7)
  22. Australia (7)
  23. Austria (7)
  24. San Marino (7)
  25. Moldova (6)
  26. Montenegro (5)
  27. Latvia (5)
  28. Poland (5)
  29. North Macedonia (4)
  30. Georgia (4)

 

Next time I’ll be reviewing Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden – and after that there’s just the Big 5 and Israel to take care of. Follow me everywhere at @EurovisionByJaz so you don’t miss a thing, and be prepared to tell me what you think of them all.

Speaking of which…who’s your most-streamed and most-skipped on Spotify when it comes to Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal? Let me know below.

 

Happy Almost-Rehearsal Week!

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The best of three for Darude, Portugal takes their pick + Swedish second chances

Hello and welcome, yet again, to Saturday night. One more week and I won’t have to come up with different ways of introducing the same thing anymore, woohoo!

We’re still a way away from a complete Class of ESC 2019, with not long to go until it MUST be complete – so prepare for a crazy period of last-minute NFs and internally-selected song reveals. This breakdown from ESC Xtra includes all the important info that I’m not about to repeat. But to repeat some of it, here’s what’s happening tonight:

  • Finland Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, final
  • Georgia Georgian Idol, final
  • Iceland Söngvakeppnin, final
  • Moldova O Melodie Pentru Europa, final
  • Norway Melodi Grand Prix, final
  • Portugal Festival da Canção, final
  • Sweden Melodifestivalen, Andra Chansen round

Then on Sunday we have:

  • Serbia Beovizija, final

That’s a whole lot in a short space of time. Are you ready for it? If not, maybe I can ease you in with my previews and predictions for the week, feat. Finland, Portugal and Sweden.

Let’s do this!

 

 

It’s finally time for the Finns to choose which Darude/Sebastian Rejman song will represent them in Israel, in a selection process that’s a lot like 2018 only with less Saara Aalto. On the menu are:

  • Look Away
  • Release Me
  • Superman

Remember how last year, Monsters stood out from the trio of UMK songs and we all knew it was The One? Well, this is nothing like that. I don’t think any one of these three songs is more interesting than the others. As album filler tracks/music I’d dance to mindlessly at a music festival (if I was the type of person to go to a music festival) they’re good. As songs competing against each other with one set to compete at Eurovision, however, they’re all too same-same for my liking. Listening to them one after another is the musical equivalent of looking at this:

There are fans out there loving one, two or all three songs, and I’m happy for them (you know what they say about one person’s trash…not that I reckon these tracks are trash). They just don’t stir any strong emotions in me yet. I also wonder about the chances of Darude’s style succeeding at Eurovision when in a sense it is background music. Not to mention how similar the concept is to Light Me Up from Poland last year…though no doubt Finland will pull off a better performance than Gromee and Lukas did. A pissed-off donkey could provide a better overall vocal.

Look Away is my favourite of the three…I think. Superman is also pretty catchy, but still a bit pedestrian for song about flying, and not walking. Both of those songs have more memorable hooks than Release Me, which for me isn’t competitive enough for Eurovision. I’m wanting one of the others to be chosen this evening. How about you?

Which song will go to Tel Aviv? If I had to narrow it down to one – even though I have zero idea what the Finnish public will like best – I’d pick Look Away, and not just because it’s my personal favourite. I feel like it has a little more potential to push ahead and qualify than Superman or Release Me. Mind you, I mean a little. Let’s not pretend the options are drastically different here!

 

Which song would you happily (or begrudgingly) have as Finland’s ESC 2019 entry?

 

 

Leaving two semi finals in its dust, the Festival da Canção final has arrived – and here are the eight remaining acts hoping to make O Jardim’s (undeserved) fate a distant memory:

  1. A Dois Calema
  2. Mar Doce Mariana Bragada
  3. Perfeito Matay
  4. Pugna Surma
  5. Igual A Ti NBC
  6. Mundo A Mudar Madrepaz
  7. Telemóveis Conan Osíris
  8. Inércia Ana Cláudia

This line-up is an unusual mixture of boring songs and bizarre songs, with one or two in-betweeners. Portugal does have more than one chance to choose something great though, and if the choice was mine it would be centred on these tracks.

My favourites A Dois, Perfeito, Igual A Ti and Telemóveis. That’s in performance order more than anything else, but A Dois may actually be my favourite from this final (and it has nothing to do with Calema being the two most ridiculously good-looking brothers on the planet). The song isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s just the kind of well-produced, easy-listening r&b pop that I automatically adore…so there. Perfeito, on the other hand, is a timeless classic of a ballad that could be more exciting, but makes up for it with grandeur and powerful vocals from Matay that are indeed perfeito.

Igual A Ti is mid-tempo and, in all honesty, middle of the road – yet there’s something about it that I really like, even recognising that it could have represented Portugal at Eurovision in 1997. The chorus is a crown jewel set in slightly dull metal in need of a shine (I’m not going to win any awards for that metaphor, but you know what I mean). Telemóveis, meanwhile, is the song everyone’s talking about and with good reason. More bizarre than anything I’ve ever seen/heard before but so hypnotic at the same time, it’s a statement piece whether you like it or not. And at the core of it, underneath all the face armour and body paint and epileptic choreography, is a kick-ass vocalist who I could listen to all day long.

Predicting a winner This should be easy, given that there’s one song that stands out by miles. Yet I’m not totally convinced Portugal is prepared to send Telemóveis. It would be the bravest possible choice (besides Pugna, which is too strange even for me and didn’t get a heap of public support in its semi final) but with a bunch of safer options, will they take that risk? The jury might stop it in its unconventional tracks. I can see Matay or NBC beating out Conan because their songs have jury AND televote appeal, rather than swaying one way or the other. Matay in particular is the man I’d bet on to win if that’s how things unfold.

Still, I remember this time two years ago when a certain Salvador Sobral was the main topic of Festival da Canção conversation, and he went on and won. Granted, Amar Pelos Dois is way more conventional than Telemóveis, but my point is that both of these male soloists attracted/are attracting the same levels of attention. In 2019, I’d much prefer Portugal to live dangerously and divisively, especially after last year’s last-place finish in front of the home crowd. I can’t see any song from this final being more successful in Tel Aviv than Telemóveis, purely because it’s so memorable. If the ESC juries rewarded it for being artistic and original and the public responded for similar reasons, Conan could do extremely well – whereas the other likely FdC winners would be lucky to qualify. So I’m going to take a risk too and say that it will be Telemóveis that comes out on top tonight. It’s so crazy that Portugal would be crazy not to pick it.

 

What do you think? Is Conan too unconventional to be chosen or will this be Portugal’s year to make a statement (that doesn’t involve someone making a pompous speech about “music that actually means something”)?

 

 

It’s the second-to-last week of Melodifestivalen and time for four acts to get a second chance via Andra Chansen. We lost a few songs over the past month that I think should be duelling it out for a Friends Arena spot tonight (NOT THAT I’M ANGRY ABOUT IT OR ANYTHING *sets fire to the nearest car with Carrie-style kinetic energy*) but they’re not. So I have to suck it up and appreciate what we’ll (hopefully) have in next Saturday’s final once these battles have been won.

  • Army of Us Andreas Johnson VS Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
  • Nakna I Regnet Vlad Reiser VS Chasing Rivers Nano
  • Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck VS Torn Lisa Ajax
  • Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson VS I Do Arvingarna

I’m still mystified as to why Andreas Johnson wasn’t paired with Martin Stenmarck, but I guess a) I don’t know how Christer Björkman’s brain works, and b) there’s always some strange match-ups when it comes to AC. In some ways, predicting the results is easier under these circumstances…and in others, it makes it so much harder. But after I’ve told you who I’d like to win, I’ll give it my best shot.

Who I WANT to win Anna Bergendahl, Nano, Lisa Ajax and Rebecka Karlsson.

Truth be told, I’m not crazy in love with Andreas’ OR Anna’s songs (as a This Is My Life lover, Ashes To Ashes just doesn’t measure up). But Anna is definitely the more exciting option – when I’m feeling particularly bitchy I have been known to refer to her duel opponent as Blandreas Johnson. Plus, I’m happy to see her perform as many times as possible in that amazing outfit. Where do I get one?

The Vlad VS Nano duel is actually the toughest one for me to take, because I really like both songs and wish they both had a chance to make the final. But my pre-existing love for Nano + the extra power and passion in Chasing Rivers compared to Nakna I Regnet makes the 2017 runner-up my preferred pick.

I like Martin and Lisa too, though his song is one of his best Melfest entries and hers isn’t as good as I Don’t Give A IMO. Still, I’m backing Lisa because I love her and her voice, and despite some shaky moments last week (she didn’t nail the money note, that’s for sure) Torn is a powerful package and gives Wiktoria some competition in the lady ballad department.

Last but not least is the weirdest duel of all, yet somehow the most evenly matched and most unpredictable. Rebecka is a great singer with a solid if not next-level song, but the staging and styling for Who I Am didn’t do it any favours. Arvingarna are here doing what they do best, and while it is vintage (a.k.a. dated) it’s well-executed and full of enthusiasm. I’d be okay with either act winning this one, but I’m more likely to listen to Rebecka on Spotify, so…I guess I’ll go for her over the guys. We always need more girl power in the final, right?

Who WILL win Anna Bergendahl, Nano, Lisa Ajax and Arvingarna. I’m pretty certain of Anna and Lisa, almost there with Nano and honestly, unsure of that last duel. Just when I’m feeling confident I remember the infamous Anton Hagman VS Loreen battle that ended as unexpectedly as possible. Let’s not have a repeat of that this year, Sweden…don’t let us down!

 

Give me your Andra Chansen tips in the comments and we’ll see who gets it right (it’ll be you).

 

 

That’s all from me for now. I’ll leave you to brace yourselves for a busy night and a week full of song reveals, as Eurovision 2019 creeps ever closer (which is exciting and not scary like I just made it sound).

 

Until next time,