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From ‘Heroes’ to zeroes: Reviewing the Eurovision 2015 semi and final scoreboards, all the way from first to worst

Ah, yes. What a gift the combo of Sweden’s winning song title and Austria/Germany’s double nul-points has been to Eurovision journalism! Just to warn you – this may not be the last time I make use of the heroes/zeroes thing. But, in my defence, it is particularly relevant to today’s post:, even though today’s post isn’t particularly relevant.

Allow me to explain: it’s been over a fortnight since the first semi final of Eurovision 2015; over a week since the final; and three days since May came to an end (WHAT THE?!?!). That means it’s beyond time I did what everyone else has already done: look back on this year’s results. I’m going to pretend the lateness is intentional because I want to stand out from the crowd, when really it’s due to me being a slowpoke and taking this long to mould everything I want to say into something readable. You guys know by now that there’s waiting involved (for other people) in everything I do. It’s part of my charm…I hope.

At long last, though, I have performed a results analysis on all three nights of Viennese competition (feel free to applaud before reading any further). You won’t find a dissection of every single split and combined figure from all forty countries below – if you want the specifics, you can seek them out yourself here) – but you will find:

  • Some brief opinions on the final re: everything except the performances (since I already reviewed all 27 performances in my previous post);
  • An overview of how the Australian televoters and jurors ranked the finalists, and a reminder of where our first (but not last?) final points went; and
  • Plenty of stats from/observations of the split and combined scoreboards of the final and both semis.

So, in the words of Eurovision groove master Guy Sebastian: let’s (oh) get on it, (ooh) get on it!

 

The ESC 2015 final: A Twitter-friendly, Jaz-eye view on everything BUT the performances

‘Twitter-friendly’ = brief. I am capable of being short and sweet, you know.

Having said that, it would take at least two or three Tweets to make all of this info public.

  • The opening You had me at ‘flying Conchita in sparkly jumpsuit’. The Building Bridges theme song was a bit too JESC for ESC in my opinion, but I could learn to love it. The intro in its entirety was too long-winded. Nearly half an hour before song no. 1? Give me a break. A shorter break.
  • The hosts Alice, Mirjam and Arabella became slightly more appealing as the shows progressed – by final night, they were almost charismatic. But the main reason I was happy for them to have camera time was so I could stare at their outfits (Austrian design gets my tick of approval!). Conchita, as Green Room host, left the other three ladies in her glittery wake. #QUEEN.
  • The postcards As adorable as something can be when that something isn’t a puppy. These pre-performance featurettes were somewhat similar to last year’s – all thematically linked, but all unique in what they depicted each act doing, this time around Austria. It’s obvious there’s a lot to do over there, and if showing us that was ORF’s way of increasing tourism, it’s worked on me. But I think I’ll leave the bungee jumping to Monika and Vaidas.
mvpc

Monika and Vaidas, hoping they’ll be out of their body casts in time to perform at Eurovision. Spoiler alert: they were.

  • The interval acts An interval act has to be really, really, really good for me to watch it without thinking to myself ‘Is this STILL going? Me want results!’. Unfortunately, Mr. Percussionist didn’t fit that brief. But Conchita’s mini-medley was fabulous – I could watch and listen to her all day long. Can we have Conchita at Eurovision every year in some capacity? She can be the new Lys Assia (even though we still have the old Lys Assia).
  • The voting sequence The most exciting one we’ve sat through in years…but more on that later. I will say now that I’m legit going to start a petition to stop that ‘We don’t need to hear the results from any more countries to know that so-and-so is the winner! Congratulations! Oh, but I suppose we’d better hear the rest…’. HATE. IT. WITH. A. PASSION. It’s unnecessary, and disrespectful to the countries who are yet to announce their points and who aren’t in first place on the scoreboard. Yet it’s becoming a contest trend. Ugh.
  • The end result I more or less covered this last time, but in terms of the winner and where we’re headed in 2016 as a result, I’m RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY. CAPS LOCK IS TOTALLY NECESSARY TO GET ACROSS TO YOU JUST HOW HAPPY I AM. Take Eurovision as seriously as Sweden does, and there’s no reason you can’t win twice within four years. I expect them to equal and overtake Ireland’s winning tally in the not-too-distant future.

swwwThat is all.

 

‘Straya’s say: A little look-see at the points from the land Down Under

Speaking of Eurovision strutting back to Scandinavia next year…with Australia-in-the-ESC-for-keeps advocate Christer Björkman in a position of power where the 61st contest is concerned, it’s becoming more and more likely that we Aussies will be invited back to the party. I’ll make my thoughts on this matter public when the time’s right. For now, let’s just have a nosy at Australia’s debut grand final votes.

The Aussie points were presented by our beloved newsreader Lee Lin Chin (can’t help wishing it’d been me though). Lee Lin may not look like a badass (in fact, if Twitter is to be believed, she looks more like a certain extra-terrestrial, which I think is a very cruel and not at all amusing comparison) but I can assure you that her appearance is deceiving. She swept her sass to one side for her result-reading time, ever the professional when she needs to be. Here are the points she revealed to Europe and beyond:

  • 1pt Georgia
  • 2pts Israel
  • 3pts Estonia
  • 4pts Norway
  • 5pts Serbia
  • 6pts Belgium
  • 7pts Latvia
  • 8pts Italy
  • 10pts Russia
  • 12pts Sweden
Eurovision-Lee-Lin-Chin

Seeing red: Alice and Mirjam pale in comparison to the resplendent Lee Lin Chin.

As it turned out, Australia’s combined result was in keeping with quite a few other countries’ results. Our top three – Sweden, Russia and Italy – matched the Belgian and Latvian top threes exactly. Romania, Spain, Israel and Portugal also deemed Måns, Polina and Il Volo worthy of top points, in one order or another.

In addition, we predicted the eventual top six, not including ourselves (obviously) and with Belgium and Latvia in the wrong places. I don’t think that’s an indication of our collective psychic prowess so much as an indication that a handful of countries were almost universally popular this year.

So that was the combined result. Now, let’s banana split it a bit.

The Australian jurors’ top threes:

  • J1 Amanda Pelman – Russia, Sweden, Cyprus
  • J2 Richard Wilkins – Russia, Italy, Sweden
  • J3 Danielle Spencer – Russia, Belgium, Sweden
  • J4 Ash London – Sweden, Belgium, Russia
  • J5 Jake Stone – Russia, Sweden, Norway

Russia and Sweden were particularly popular with our jury, making it into all five members’ top threes. Italy, a little surprisingly, only featured once (who knew Richard Wilkins had such good taste? Amiright, Aussies?) as did Cyprus and Norway. Belgium was ranked second twice.

The Australian televoters’ top three:

Sweden, Belgium, Serbia

Clearly, we were feeling some Serbia ljubav that the jurors – who ranked Bojana 9th in the final – were not. This could have something to do with our sizeable Serbian population, or it could be down to the bulk of early-morning voters being Eurovision fans easily sucked in by the oh-so-ESC anthem of self-love that is Beauty Never Lies. Or it could be neither. I didn’t vote for Serbia, so you’ll have to direct any whys to someone who did!

The Australian jurors’ bottom threes:

  • J1 Amanda Pelman – Belgium, Poland, Montenegro
  • J2 Richard Wilkins – Armenia, Israel, Albania
  • J3 Danielle Spencer – Poland, Armenia, Slovenia
  • J4 Ash London – Germany, Montenegro, Slovenia
  • J5 Jake Stone – Armenia, United Kingdom, Slovenia

Reading the above as places 24, 25 and 26, you can see that Slovenia was ranked last three times. I’m somewhat taken aback by this. Could it be because Marjetka’s voice left a bad taste in multiple mouths (a.k.a. bad sound in their ears)? Or was there a widespread aversion to those damn headphones? My confused face is well and truly on. Interesting here is Belgium’s appearance, when Loïc was ranked in the top five of three other jurors. These bottom threes are a lot more varied than the top threes, with nine different countries appearing (as opposed to six appearing in the top threes).

The Australian televoters’ bottom three:

France, Albania, Azerbaijan

Now you can see just how different the tastes of televoters and juries can be. Without any specific criteria to assess the songs/performances against, we ranked three countries that barely factored into the jury’s bottom three at all 24th, 25th and 26th. For further comparison, our jury ranked France 21st, Albania 23rd and Azerbaijan…6th. It doesn’t take a genius to determine which party Elnur was more appealing to (and that wasn’t the case in Australia alone).

 

So, all of the above was Australia’s first – but, as we’ll be forced to say until who knows when, perhaps not last – contribution to the final results. ‘What results?’ I hear you ask. ‘It’s been that long since the final actually happened that I can’t remember a thing about them!’. Well, fear not, because I’m about to refresh your memory.

 

Final-ly…an overview of the expected and ‘OMG!’ outcomes of Eurovision 2015’s last hurrah

This year’s voting sequence really was an epic one. The algorithm employed by the EBU to make the results as exciting as possible can only do so much when it has to be based on the jury votes. Often the addition of the televotes screws it up completely (i.e. it’s quite obvious who’s going to win when we’re only a quarter of the way through the announcements).

But this year, we were treated to a spectacle in which Russia took an early lead and held it with both hands for the entire first half of the sequence. Then, Sweden slowly but surely closed the gap, overtook Russia, then built up their own lead. By the time there were five or so countries left to announce their points, we knew Måns had Polina beat – but that’s far, far later than usual. The tension up to that point nearly killed me.

Knowing how the sequence ended will make future viewings much less taxing, and I intend to enjoy many of those in the coming months. How come? For the result that was in my favour for the first time. For Guy Sebastian personally thanking the artists from the countries that gave Australia high points (*melts*). For Måns’ priceless facial expression when it dawned on him that he’d won! I could go on, but instead I’ll jump into the promised scoreboard overview.

 

scoreboard-2015-eurovision

 The top five (a.k.a. the five countries I predicted as potential winners, by some miracle):

1. Sweden (365)

2. Russia (303)

3. Italy (292)

4. Belgium (217)

5. Australia (196)

  • The televoters’ top five consisted of Italy, Russia, Sweden, Belgium and Estonia. The juries chose Sweden, Latvia, Russia, Australia and Belgium as their favourites. Sweden becomes the first country in the combined jury/televoting era to not win the televote and still win the entire contest.
  • Sweden and Italy were the only countries to receive points from everyone but themselves. Sweden’s lowest score was a 4 from Greece; Italy’s was a single point from Belarus and Lithuania.
  • Sweden scored twelve sets of 12 points, to Italy’s nine and Russia’s five. Belgium received three sets, including one from Hungary, and Australia nabbed two, from hosts Austria and winners Sweden.
  • Måns’ victory is Sweden’s second in four years and their sixth overall (watch out, Ireland!). If you’re still not convinced that they know how to succeed at Eurovision, just take a look at their track record, starting at 2011: 3rd, 1st, 14th (as the 2013 hosts, you can cut them a bit of slack), 3rd, and 1st. If the pattern continues, the winner of Melodifestivalen 2016 should prepare themselves for a mid-table finish at the ESC.
  • The winning margin of 62 is the biggest since Sweden last won in 2012. Back then, Loreen defeated the Buranovskiye Babushki by 113 points.
  • Russia is the runner-up for the second time in four years. They haven’t finished outside of the top ten since 2011.
  • Italy makes up for last year’s misstep with their second-strongest finish since their comeback, also in 2011 (a lot happened/has happened in/since 2011).
  • Belgium can be proud of their first top five finish since 2003. Only three countries – Azerbaijan, Malta and Montenegro – saw fit to leave Loïc pointless.
  • Australia rounded out the top five with points from all but six countries. We found ourselves the third favourite of seven countries, scoring a very respectable 8 points from Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, San Marino, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

 

The rest of the top ten:

6. Latvia (186)

7. Estonia (106)

8. Norway (102)

9. Israel (97)

10. Serbia (53)

  • After a string of non-qualifications between 2008 and 2014, Latvia not only advanced to the final (just behind Sweden) but rose up the ranks into the top ten for the first time in ten years. This amazing success (seriously…I’m SO proud) was helped along by three sets of 12 points. If the contest had been completely decided by the juries, Aminata would have finished second.
  • Estonia also makes a return to good fortune after Tanja’s surprise DNQ in Copenhagen, despite not scoring any douze points. Neither did fellow top ten finishers Norway and Israel.
  • Speaking of Norway…Mørland & Debrah’s eighth place is Norway’s second in a row, and their third top ten result in a row.
  • Israel pulled a Latvia/Estonia, with a happy ending that was a long time coming. Having not seen a final since 2010, it took a sixteen-year-old in the body of someone twice that age to get them there. Nadav and his shiny sneakers secured Israel’s best placing since 2008.
  • Rounding out the top ten was Serbia, scoring just 53 points. This is the lowest score for a 10th-placed entry since Croatia squeezed in with 42 points in 2001.

 

The mid-to-low table finishers:

11. Georgia (51)

12. Azerbaijan (49)

13. Montenegro (44)

14. Slovenia (39)

15. Romania (35)

16. Armenia (34)

17. Albania (34)

18. Lithuania (30)

19. Greece (23)

20. Hungary (19)

21. Spain (15)

22. Cyprus (11)

  • Azerbaijan didn’t quite manage to manoeuvre their way back into the top 10, but their 12th place is a big improvement on last year’s 22nd place, which was their worst-ever placing by far. After finishing 8th with their debut entry in 2008, then enjoying successive top five results between 2009 and 2013, it still seems like they’ve lost their touch a bit. But perhaps jumping from 22nd to 12th is evidence that they’re clawing their way back up. Will we see an equally impressive leap to 2nd place in 2016?
  • Montenegro can bask in the glory of their most successful Eurovision to date as an independent nation, while Adio composer Željko Joksimović can only wonder what went wrong as he contemplates his first finish outside of the top ten. For Montenegro, though, 13th place in the final is a coup. After their first semi-final qualification in Copenhagen, they seem to be surfing a little wave of success.
  • Greece scored less than last year, but received a (slightly) higher placing with Maria Elena’s ballad than they did with Freaky Fortune’s dance banger. If the latter had represented Greece in down-tempo Vienna, I suspect the country would have fared a lot better.

 

The bottom five:

23. Poland (10)

24. United Kingdom (5)

25. France (4)

26. Germany (0)

27. Austria (0)

  • Poland finished 15th in the televote, but the juries weren’t keen on In The Name of Love at all and ranked Monika last.
  • After two years of avoiding the bottom five, the UK found themselves back there once again. France languishes in the lows of the bottom five for the fourth time in a row (ouch). Still, with four whole points to her name, Lisa Angell doubled Twin Twin’s measly two points from 2014.
  • The double-whammy of woe for Germany and hosts Austria is the first of its kind since 1997, when both Norway and Portugal got the goose egg. Germany wasn’t ranked last with the televoters (25th) or juries (20th), so got a particularly raw deal. Austria did rank last in the televote, but 13th in the jury vote.

And that, ladies and gents, was the final. Before I wrap up this momentous post, let’s whiz through the semi results as well.

 

A snapshot of the semi-final scoreboards, split and combined

Here are the combined results of semi final 1:

  1. Russia (182)
  2. Belgium (149)
  3. Estonia (105)
  4. Georgia (98)
  5. Romania (89)
  6. Greece (81)
  7. Armenia (77)
  8. Hungary (67)
  9. Serbia (63)
  10. Albania (62)
  11. Moldova (41)
  12. Belarus (39)
  13. Denmark (33)
  14. The Netherlands (33)
  15. FYR Macedonia (28)
  16. Finland (13)
  • The winner of this semi, with the televoters, juries and overall, was Russia. This is the second time Russia has won a semi they’ve participated in – the Buranovskiye Babushki also won theirs in 2012.
  • Placing last, Finland achieved their worst result in Eurovision semi history. But if it had been purely up to us televoters, PKN would have qualified!
  • Four of the ten qualifiers did not qualify last year – Belgium, Estonia, Georgia and Albania (Serbia did not participate in 2014).
  • The televoting top three = Russia, Estonia and Belgium. The jury top three = Russia, Belgium and Greece.
  • Loser of the televote was FYR Macedonia; loser of the jury vote was Finland.
  • Only Russia and Georgia were ranked equally by the televoters and the juries. Both parties did agree on three of the eventual top five, with Russia, Belgium and Georgia appearing at the top on both sides of the split vote. The televoters also had Estonia and Romania in their top five, while the juries had Greece and The Netherlands up there.
  • The most drastic differences between the televotes and jury votes involved Armenia (6th T, 12th J); Serbia (7th T, 13th J); The Netherlands (15th T, 5th J); Finland (10th T, 16th J); and Estonia (2nd T, 9th J).

I predicted nine of the ten qualifiers (thinking Denmark would qualify in place of Serbia…d’oh!) but only predicted the correct finishing positions of Russia, Greece and Albania. How did you do?

 

Here are the combined results of semi final 2:

  1. Sweden (217)
  2. Latvia (155)
  3. Israel (151)
  4. Norway (123)
  5. Slovenia (92)
  6. Cyprus (87)
  7. Lithuania (67)
  8. Poland (57)
  9. Montenegro (57)
  10. Azerbaijan (53)
  11. Malta (43)
  12. Ireland (35)
  13. Czech Republic (33)
  14. Portugal (19)
  15. Iceland (14)
  16. San Marino (11)
  17. Switzerland (4)
  • This semi’s televote, jury and overall winner was Sweden. This marked Sweden’s third semi final win after 2011 and 2012 victories.
  • Unfortunately for Switzerland, they lost a semi for the third time. Piero & the Music Stars and Michael von der Heide also finished last in 2004 and 2010.
  • Three of the qualifiers did not qualify last year – Latvia, Israel and Lithuania (Cyprus did not participate in 2014).
  • Azerbaijan recorded its worst-ever result in a semi final, qualifying tentatively in 10th.
  • The televoting top three = Sweden, Israel and Latvia. The jury top three = Sweden, Latvia and Norway.
  • Loser of the televote was Switzerland; loser of the jury vote was San Marino.
  • This time (Lithuanian pun not intended) three countries – Sweden, Cyprus and Portugal – were ranked equally by both parties, while Sweden, Latvia, Israel and Norway were agreed upon in both top fives. The televoters had Poland in their top five, while the juries had Malta in the mix.
  • In semi no. 2, the split revealed big disagreements regarding Malta (12th T, 5th J); Ireland (16th T, 7th J); and Poland (4th T, 16th J).

I also predicted nine out of ten qualifiers in this case (a personal best), under the impression that Iceland would qualify instead of Poland. Oops. Again, I managed to guess three finishing positions – Sweden’s, Malta’s and Ireland’s. Better luck next year to me, and to you if you couldn’t see the future so well either!

 

 

That’s all for today (as if it wasn’t enough for a lifetime) but rest assured that I have serious posting plans for the nest few months.

Up next will be my argument in favour of retaining the jury vote in the wake of Sweden’s “controversial” triumph. Then, you’ll have your chance to vote in the People’s Choice categories of the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards 2015 (woohoo?); the EBJEEs themselves will take place; I’ll reveal my top 10 performance highlights from Vienna and my picks for the national final runners-up who probably should have gone to Eurovision; and I’ll be publishing my exposé on all the lookalikes from the Class of ’15.

I hope you’ll drop by for some or all of these (hopefully) exciting events! In the meantime, let me know what you thought of this year’s voting sequence, results and winner. Please note that members of the Anti-Måns Brigade may be given the cold shoulder for a few days.

Just kidding.

Until next time…

 

nsig

 

Jaz on film, JESC split results and a Viennese top 5 – Welcome to 2015!

Yes, ladies and gents…we are now in the year after 2014 and before 2016, and I am scared, confused and excited, in that order. I didn’t get the chance to say auf wiedersehen to 2014 here on EBJ because I’m a disorganised slowpoke; nor did I get to say a big HAPPY NEW YEAR to those of you who inexplicably still read my ramblings even though they’re usually as up-to-date with current ESC-vents as Daria Kinzer was up-to-date with her fashion choices in Düsseldorf. I.e. not very. So…yeah, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I hope you had a fabulous NYE which involved getting your non-fan friends drunk enough so that they actually confessed to enjoying the Qele Qele remix you were playing on repeat. Unless you’re under the legal drinking age in your state/territory in which case I’m sure it was fruit punch all the way, woohoo.

Clearly I’ve been indulging in some “fruit punch” this evening, but let’s push that to one side and crack on with today’s posting. I’m starting 2015 with a wild and untamed ramble, covering multiple Eurovision and Junior Eurovision bases and mostly filled with info that you already know – just to prove that I’m staying the same old Jaz this year (only with a long-promised new-look blog on the horizon). Here’s a summary so you can choose to abandon ship now, or continue on into the murky yet glittery depths…

  • EBJ takes Youtube: Talking all things ESC with Terminal Three!
  • Divide and (not quite) conquer: The JESC split results, revealed
  • What’s good enough for Russia is good enough for San Marino…right?
  • Ladies’ night: The awesome foursome who’ll host contest no. 60
  • The first five Vienna-bound entries: first impressions and rankings!

If you’re still interested? Then let’s get going!

 

EBJ takes Youtube: Talking all things ESC with Terminal Three!

Once upon a time, way back in November – Junior Eurovision weekend, to be specific – I had the pleasure of attending a Eurovision gathering of the club variety (a.k.a. a Euroclub…duh) right here in Perth, highlights of which included a) dancing on a stage with a mass of flag-draped revelers, belting out Fairytale word-for-word, and b) actually being encouraged to judge the fashion choices of others as a decision-maker in a Best Dressed comp.

I must admit though, my absolute highlight of the evening was meeting the boys from Terminal Three – Fraser, Matt and Jason – who have turned their respective ESC obsessions into a schlager-ific Youtube channel. Hashtag Aussie Eurofans are the best Eurofans (in our own minds). In amongst the countdowns, news flashes and other awesomeness of the T3 channel are interviews aplenty, and recently I was lucky enough to be the subject of one!

As much as it pains me to say this, as I am the Queen of Awkward when a camera’s on me (and at most other times) you can watch me chat one-on-one with Fraser below re: the origins of this li’l ole blog, Melodifestivalen, and my undying love for Ott Lepland. Please keep in mind that I’m much funnier, personable and attractive in real life.

I’d like to thank Terminal Three for wanting to interview me in the first place, then taking the time to do it. You can check out everything they have to offer on Youtube, and/or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t deprive yourself of such Eurovisiony goodness!

 

Divide and (not quite) conquer: The JESC split results, revealed

It took some time, but the EBU did finally release the split scores of November’s Junior Eurovision this week. That’s a belated Xmas gift to all of us who now get to spend weeks dissecting the differences, and discussing how irritating it must be to Armenia to find that they were ranked second with both the juries and televoters, but ended up in third place (that’s just how the system works at this point in time, Betty. Besides, bronze ain’t a substance to be sneezed at). Here’s my dinky little version of the results, with a much more professional one feat. all the figures available here.

js14

Firstly, congratulations to both Bulgaria and Italy for winning their respective halves of the vote. I’d consider that almost as good as a legit victory for Bulgaria, whose previous JESC participations have ended very differently. As for Italy, it’s just further proof that they’ll always have power over the juries because they are classy as f%#k. Unlike myself.

Vincenzo didn’t manage to wow the folks at home in the same way he wowed the industry pros. I blame the fact that I wasn’t on European soil and was therefore unable to vote for him until my fingers fell off. I can understand viewers being spellbound by Bulgaria instead, considering a) how magnificent Planet of the Children is and b) how ridiculously adorable Krisia is. Oh, and c) how talented Hasan and Ibrahim are at tickling the ivories.

The jury was more impressed by Federica’s age-defying operatic pipes, ranking her third versus the televoters’ seventh. They also appreciated Sophia Patsalides’ flawless performance (and Cons + chiffon combo) considerably more than the televoters, which is surprising. As is Sweden’s situation – 15th with the fans and 11th with the juries, in spite of the staging and costuming being stronger than Julia’s vocals. I can only assume there were some jury members just as partial to the glittery fringe-fest as myself.

Sympho-Nick may be scratching their heads right now as they attempt to comprehend their 3rd/12th results. Maybe all the jury members went on a group trip to see Frozen at the movies, hated it, and Ukraine’s performance brought back bad memories? Or were the fans won over by the girls’ vocal transformation since the Ukrainian final?

Still, only four countries were seen as equals by jury members and televoters alike: Armenia (2nd), Belarus (8th), Georgia (10th) and Croatia (16th). I guess poor Josie made a breathlessly off-key impression on everyone, whilst nobody could resist Betty’s sunny charms and bendy backup dancers. Fair call.

What do you think of the results? Are you flabbergasted that Krisia & Co topped the televote or would you have seen that coming even with Donny Montell’s crystal blindfold glued to your face? What is up with that disparity between how the televoters and juries saw Ukraine? And how much would you bet on my asking inane questions like these at the end of every section of every post I put up in 2015? Let me know below.

 

What’s good enough for Russia is good enough for San Marino…right?

WTF am I talking about, I hear you ask? Sending a couple of ex-JESC contestants to carry the hopes of a nation on their teenaged shoulders, that’s what. While Russia went with a pair of twins who managed to win Junior Eurovision back in the day, San Marino have selected two much less successful teens from different wombs to represent them, neither of whom is Valentina Monetta (obviously she’s not a teen, but it’s so shocking to not have her flying the Sammarinese flag I thought I’d clarify).

croppedAnitaMichele1

Ages combined, they’ll still be younger than most of their competitors in Austria.

Michele Perniola and Anita Simoncini are the sixteen-year-olds in question, as you’ll no doubt know since they were internally selected around the time man discovered fire (as always, I’m on to breaking news with all the speed of a comatose sloth). Both he and she failed somewhat unfairly in JESC in my opinion – Michele finishing 10th out of twelve last year in Kyiv, and Anita and her fellow Peppermints coming second last in Malta. Some might say that doesn’t bode well for the duo, but I disagree. Here’s why:

  • JESC is separate enough from ESC that it shouldn’t affect them negatively, IF they have a good entry that’s grown-up enough for the adult contest. Did the Tolmachevy sisters make the top 10 in Copenhagen because they’d won JESC six years earlier? Nope.
  • We have high-definition proof that both Michele and Anita have stage presence, live vocal abilities and good camera engagement. Plus, they both look super pretty on TV.
  • They’ve experienced the closest thing to a Eurovision rehearsal that isn’t a Eurovision rehearsal by competing in Junior, so they won’t be clueless kids on an adult stage.
  • Age has no bearing on Eurovision success. People went nuts for the Russian grannies, but Engelbert Humperdinck floundered (granted, he didn’t provide everyone with woodfired treats baked on-stage, but the point’s still valid). Meanwhile, Anjeza Shahini, Olta Boka, Safura, Maja Keuc and Roberto Bellarosa have all held their own in adult Eurovision in recent times as teenagers. And there was that nineteen-year-old named Lena who did fairly well for herself in 2010.

I’m not sure why I’m leaping to *insert genius couple name for Anita and Michele here* defence when they haven’t even been subjected to a barrage of hate from the rather opinionated Eurofans…yet. But if you were skeptical when you heard the announcement, why not wait until their entry is debuted and then have a good ol’ bitchfest? Or not. You never know, you might like it. At the very least, it can’t be more immature than The Social Network Song.

 

Ladies’ night: The awesome foursome who’ll host contest no. 60

I use the word ‘awesome’ purely because it rhymes with ‘foursome’, as we won’t know how yay or nay these women are when it comes to hosting duties until the contest comes around. Mirjam Wiechselbraun, Alice Tumler and Arabella Kiesbauer (say that three times fast) are ORF’s choice to head up the proceedings of the 60th contest, with reigning champ and generally exquisite creature Conchita Wurst taking on the role of Green Room host.

ORF_ESC_Mod_small2

This is as close as we’ll ever get to the Spice Girls hosting Eurovision.

Now, I’m all about girl power, but as someone who believes no more than two people should host Eurovision at any given time, I’ve got to label this as excessive. How many people do you need to engage in cheesy scripted banter sporadically over seven hours, really? Sheesh. I am looking forward to seeing Conchita in action though, as I think she’ll make the often awkward interviews with contestants seem effortless – and no doubt she’ll be wearing something amazing when doing so.

 

The first five Vienna-bound entries: first impressions and rankings!

We’ve reached out first milestone in terms of ranking the Class of Vienna, with five entries now decided (more or less). Until we meet again at ten, here’s how I’d stack them up.

  1. Malta – it’s a mess, but a hot one. MESC wasn’t that high-quality this season, and even with the clear amount of work the needs to be done on Warrior, it did stand out, and I can’t help liking it. I hope they don’t swap it for something else. PS – Having a rule that stipulates the winning song can be changed is the stupidest thing ever. Why even hold a national final if that’s the case?
  2. Albania – First listen = forgettable Disney ballad. Second listen = girl crush on Elhaida and sudden appreciation for Diell, which has that Albanian something-something to it that intrigues me. Please don’t switch to English.
  3. Netherlands – It’s good. It’s catchy. But it’s repetitive and I don’t think it’ll sound fresh come May.
  4. Belarus – Not Uzari’s best effort, but I love him and I love Maimuna, so having them both on the ESC stage will be phenom. Assuming no rigging scandals emerge that get them disqualified.
  5. Macedonia – I don’t hate it. It’s going to be a slow-burn grower for me, I reckon.

Feel free to share your Viennese top 5 below. Just keep the swearing to a minimum, won’t you?

 

I’m going to wrap things up now, before you lose the will to live. The thought of the month ahead might pep you up, as there’s more national final action than there might seem at first glance. We’ve got prelims and semis from Lithuania, Cyprus, Hungary and Iceland throughout January, as well as the Georgian final on Valentine’s Day and the Swiss final on the 31st. That’s just the start of the wonderful craziness to come as we barrel down the road towards Eurovision no. 60. I’ll be reviewing and predicting as many NFs as I can, in amongst the top 10s, playlists, country profiles and other random stuff that will make 2015 basically the same as any other year as far as this blog’s concerned. I hope you’ll join me on the ride!

Until next time.

EBJ Signature

 

The 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 2 (The Performances, Costumes + Results)

Eurovision 2014. My awards. Very delayed second half. No further introduction necessary.

ebjees14

The Performances

s
Axel Hirsoux
Basim
Carl Espen
Conchita Wurst
Sergej Četković
Teo

DISCLAIMER: The Conchita persona may be a feminine one, but the majestic voice that comes out of her is, biologically, Tom Neuwirth’s. Therefore I’m classifying Conchita’s vocal performance as a man’s. In this category, she sure showed the boys who’s boss. Soft and vulnerable when it needed to be and all-powerful at every other moment, Tom’s voice never wavered – not even during the notoriously second-rate winner’s reprise (which is excusable). I’d have to give the Money Note of the Year Award (if I’d thought of including one) to that final ‘flaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame!!!’ for sure.

 

t

Cristina Scarlat
Hersi
Mei Finegold
Paula Seling
Ruth Lorenzo
Sanna Nielsen

Like you thought I was going to pick someone else. I now realise that a lot of what I said above also applies to Sanna. The woman’s got both the soft vulnerability and the lung-busting power down pat. Her vocal was clear as crystal every time I had the pleasure of hearing it (which was many, many times, all of them voluntary) not to mention effortlessly executed. Undo was engineered to show off her voice, and I commend it for a job well done.

 

u
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Norway
Spain
Sweden

Also known as ‘The Goose-Bump Arouser Award’ (for a sexier option) this goes to the performance that had a certain something special; something that connected with me emotionally and gave me the chills. Despite the little sob I had over Sweden in the first semi, I’m giving this to Norway, because Carl had me covered in goosebumps. Plus, I’m fairly sure my spine actually tingled at one point, and unless I had a spider down the back of my jumper (OH DEAR GOD) there’s only one explanation.

 

v
Austria
Belgium
Hungary
Moldova
Spain

030

To win this award, artists can have made Oscar-worthy facial expressions on stage (hence the title) or been backed by emotional interpretive dance, or…I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. In the battle of diva drama fought between Conchita and Ruth Lorenzo, it’s Conchita who has the edge, because she managed to ooze drama despite standing in the same spot for her entire performance. There were minimal arm flourishes and hair flicks, and yet, her three minutes were more dramatic than an entire season of Days of Our Lives (though with the acting level on that show, that doesn’t say much). You go, girlfriend. Just not to drama school, ‘cause you’re already qualified.

 

w
France
Iceland
Malta
Norway
Slovenia
Switzerland

Like Conchita without her beard (sorry for mentioning her so much, but it’s gonna carry on all year) who is Tinkara without her flute? Having never seen her minus the flute (apart from in her postcard) I’m starting to wonder if she’s had it surgically attached. It added a nice (albeit mimed) touch to the performance, and the way she wielded it made her look even more like some kind of magical lady-warlock, which worked for me.

 

x
Azerbaijan (the trapeze artist)
Denmark (the banner to end all banners)
Greece (the trampoline)
Montenegro (the figure skater)
Romania (the hologram effect)
Ukraine (the hamster wheel)

032

You know it’s been a good year for props/gimmicks when you’re torn between a trampoline and a giant hamster wheel. In this case, I’m going for the hamster wheel. Ukraine proved once again that they are the masters of on-stage equipment by taking a pared-down version of Svetlana Loboda’s Hell Machine and pimping it out with a fine specimen of male flesh (i.e. a hot dude) to illustrate – I can only assume – the passing of time. As Greece would have, Ukraine get bonus points for having their singer interact with the prop rather than just sing in front of it.

 

y
Austria
Armenia
San Marino
Ukraine

Normally, I like my wind machines turned up to maximum. I’m talking 130km/h gusts that blow even the most gelled-down hair in history into a frenzy. But this year, I found myself appreciating the subtlety of Armenia’s wind machine use. With Aram Mp3 not in possession of a flowing mane, all the breeze did was give his jacket some lift, but that had a big effect – adding more impact to the dubstep portion of Not Alone. If he’d been blown off the stage by 130km/hr gusts, it wouldn’t have been the same. Although it would have been amusing…

 
z
Belarus
Denmark
Estonia
Hungary
Israel
Lithuania

Dance made up the bulk of the Estonian ingredients this year, after all. It may not have
ultimately worked in their favour, but Tanja and her man-friend had moves that deserve applause *insert a smattering here*. Apparently Tanja can sing in any position, and that knowledge was used to advantage as she ran, jumped, lunged, and got thrown around all over the place, all the while contributing more to the total vocal than Jedward did in 2011 and 2012 combined. I’m 90% admiration, 10% envy. Okay…60/40.

 

z1
Austria
Greece
Iceland
Montenegro
Poland
Slovenia

Say what you like re: the beard winning the contest, but you can’t deny that Austria’s entry was just as well-groomed in every other respect. As has been the norm for a while now, there was a lot of background screening to work with on the Eurovision stage, and in terms of using that to complement the rest of the elements (song, costume etc) I think Austria nailed it. Their background was gold and fiery and gave Conchita wings so she could literally (pardon the blatant misuse of ‘literally’) rise like a phoenix. If it was predictable, it’s only because we all knew what kind of visuals would suit the song.

 

z2
Armenia
Finland
Sweden

031

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This has been the mantra of many a Swedish entry in the period between Melodifestivalen and Eurovision, with the likes of Eric Saade and Loreen barely changing costume from one to the other, let alone anything else. In the not-so-curious case of Sanna Nielsen, her people hit on a lighting scheme that was simple but so effective, and almost served as a physical prop. So they didn’t sacrifice it for the big show; they just made it even more impressive. I’m now hoping to receive my very own light cage for my birthday this year. Ikea sells those, right?

 

z3
Greece
Poland
Portugal
Russia
Ukraine

It isn’t just an overload of props and/or gimmicks that sends a performance into OTT territory (which isn’t always a negative…if you can’t tie your hair to someone else’s and ride a see-saw whilst brandishing a light saber and dancing in unison in front of a giant sun at Eurovision, where can you?). Poland’s entry was choreographed and costumed to perfection, but it’s their determination to be boob-inclusive at all costs that wins them this gong. Those butter-churning, stain-removing girls had pretty much all of their charms on display despite the contest being a family show. I guess a lot of parents no longer have to give their kids the sex talk.

 

z4
Lithuania (excuse me sir, but your hands appear to be IN MY DRESS!)
Moldova (Cristina literally tears her hair out)
Romania (awkward hug…such an awkward hug)

I am a huge fan of your average costume reveal. Plaid pants are ripped off to expose sequined short shorts? Great, thanks InCulto. Three-piece suit becomes evening gown by the end of the song? Best part of Latvia ‘02. But it turns out that not-so-average costume reveals have the ability to freak me out, as demonstrated when Cristina Scarlat became so irritated with her overgrown weave, she went and yanked it right off. I applaud Moldova for trying something new, but if hair-pulling isn’t the final frontier, what is? Navel lint? Splinters? Teeth?

 

z5
Austria – 19%
Iceland – 4%
Israel – 6%
The Netherlands – 35%
Poland – 13%
Sweden – 15%
Ukraine – 8%

A lot of countries presented us with the total package this year. In fact, more did than didn’t, and disappointingly, there were zero train wrecks. But the country that impressed y’all the most by a long shot was the Netherlands, and though my vote went to Poland, I can see why. Dressed to perfection, Ilse and Waylon performed like the pros they are, using what could have been a very awkward microphone situation to their advantage. It was intimately staged and graphically effective. Let’s hope the trend continues for the Dutch in Austria.

 

The Costumes

z6
Cleo and the Slavic girls – 26%
Emma – 13%
Molly – 4%
Pollapönk – 9%
Suzy – 2%
The Common Linnets – 28%
Tinkara Kovač – 11%
Vilija – 7%

bdcl

When you think to yourself, ‘How would I dress this act?’ and can’t come up with anything better than the reality, you know costuming has been well-executed (either that or it’s so horrific, you couldn’t imagine anything worse). In this case it’s the former, and I applaud your choice of Best Dressed for 2014. Waylon would have had a hard time going wrong, so it really came down to Ilse – and fortunately, she appeared on stage looking like a country Americana angel. From the retro bouffant hairdo to the tips of her stilettoed pumps, she was glorious.

 

z7
Kasey Smith
The Shin & Mariko
Tijana Dapčević

wdtd

What happens when you combine button-up track pants and a tuxedo? A fashion faux pas, that’s what. Throw in some wack blue shoes that match your stunning but completely out-of-place chandelier earrings, and you’ve got one steaming hot mess. Oh Tijana. Suitability for the entry aside, she looked lovely from the neck up. From the neck down, though, it was 100% WTF. And now you know exactly where my Barbara Dex vote went this year.

 

z8
Andras Kállay-Saunders
Firelight

I know, I know – not every song calls for a backless, crystal-encrusted leotard with a feathered mullet skirt and matching platform boots (particularly not Running). But as I’m convinced that Richard Edwards wore the same outfit to Malta’s rehearsals as he did for the live shows, Firelight nabs this one.

 
z9
Emma
Kasey Smith
The Slavic girls
Twin Twin

033

Between them, these nominees had just about every body part on display (and if you’re wondering about Twin Twin, I have two words for you…DEM SHORTS). But I’d be crazy if I didn’t recognise Poland as the sauciest by far. Although, it wasn’t so much the Slavic girls’ costumes that were x-rated as the lack thereof.

 

z91

Cristina Scarlat
Kasey Smith

Because your average maxi dress is much easier on the eye than a part flouncy, part asphyxiating mix of…whatever that gold thing was a mix of. Also going against this creation was the fact that Kasey could hardly move in it, which made her look very uncomfortable on stage.

 

z92
Cleo
Lorent (Twin Twin)
Ruth Lorenzo
The Tolmachevy Sisters
Vilija

034

It may be forehead-pulsingly tight, but Cleo’s high braid feat. festive materials is one hairstyle from this contest that I’m desperate to copy. Unfortunately, I’m lacking the length of hair necessary to pull it off, so I hope it’s still a relevant look in, say, twelve months. #whocares, #gonnadoitanyway.

 

The Results

z93
Estonia
Israel
Lithuania
Portugal

I really, truly thought Estonia had the final in the bag. The upside to the choreography’s failure to see them through is that I can now insist to anyone who’ll listen (and even those who won’t) that Sandra should have walked Eesti Laul and would have been dangerous in the final she would have made for sure, blah blah blah. Nonetheless, I remain flabbergasted that one of my certainties back at prediction time turned out to be a DNQ.

 

z94
Montenegro
Poland
San Marino
Switzerland

Third time lucky is a legitimate thing, and Valentina Monetta knows that now. Let’s just hope she didn’t get one taste of glory and wants more next year (there has to be SOMEONE else from San Marino who can sing). ValMon’s qualification got her this trophy because it was the only one that literally made my jaw drop. I didn’t shut my mouth for hours, and was planning on suing the EBU for extreme dehydration.

 

z95
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Greece
Romania
Sweden
Ukraine

As we would later discover, this wasn’t Greece’s most successful year (STILL not over it) but even in an off year, they flew into the final with the greatest of ease. They are part of the exclusive 100% Club, which consists of those countries that have never failed to advance from a semi, so it’s always a safe bet when you put cash on them to go through. That’s not to say it’s impossible for them to DNQ, but the day that happened would be a shocking one (and a good one for all the pigs sprouting wings).

 

z96
Albania
Belgium
Georgia
Latvia

As admirably authentic as it was (and bonkers) there was never any hope for Three Minutes To Earth as far as I’m concerned. There was a possibility it wouldn’t come last in its semi, but even that was slim. Still, The Shin and Mariko gave a great performance, so if you’re reading this, guys…don’t hurt me.

 

z97
Armenia
Spain
Switzerland
United Kingdom

In terms of entry quality and results, Armenia (thankfully) made us forget all about Malmö’s double denim incident courtesy of Dorians. 4th may not have been the win they were hoping for, but I think Sirusho would agree that it beats the heck out of 18th.

 

z977
Austria
Finland
Hungary
The Netherlands
Sweden
Ukraine

Hungary is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with, and their national final A Dal one of the strongest I’ve ever followed. I have this sneaking suspicion we could be heading to Budapest within the next few years. Running’s somewhat unexpected top 5 placing built on this. I think we were all skeptical of the entry’s ability to push past the subject matter and be judged as a ‘package’ – the package being a well-performed, contemporary song that wasn’t nonsensical fluff, lyrically speaking. Fortunately, it was, and that makes me go WOOHOO HUNGARY YOU GO GIRLFRIEND. Et cetera.

 

z978
Azerbaijan
France
Greece
Poland

Like I said…soooooo not moving on from this travesty. It’s been two months and I still cry myself to sleep, sobbing ‘ri…ii..iiise upp!’. Just kidding. I don’t say that. I only weep. Even Kalomira clone Eleftheria (the only other recent Greek act to not hit the heights of the top 10) did better than Freaky Fortune. I realise this was an open year, and points were going all over the place, but IMO Greece should have been at least where Romania ended up. I guess holograms > trampolines.

 

z979
Austria
Belarus
Germany
Georgia
Sweden
Ukraine

There came a point – a sad, sad point – where I knew Sanna wasn’t quite going to go all the way, despite her victory in the OGAE vote. But after her amazeballs performance in semi one, I was convinced that the haters would be left with many unfortunate emotions to undo when she easily made the top 5. The bronze medal represents a great performance by a great act that was just missing that something extra that would have made it a winner.

 

z980
Azerbaijan – 19%
Estonia – 17%
France – 9%
Greece – 17%
Russia – 15%
United Kingdom – 23%

The last award of the 2014 EBJEEs (I hear your collective sigh of relief) is also a People’s Choice Award. You voted, and it turns out that Molly’s lack of success shocked you more than anybody else’s (or in Russia’s case, shocked you more than the twins getting that high). You’d think we would have learnt to never overestimate the UK after 2011 (though I still maintain Blue were robbed in part) but nope – here we all were again, gushing about a UK entry that wasn’t crap and/or sung by someone who lived in world sans Eurovision. All dreams of Manchester 2015 were dashed when the points just trickled in, in contrast to the flooding they were doing for Austria and the Netherlands.

 
At long last, I’m done! Hallelujah. Hard rock hallelujah. Thank the Lordi! And other ESC-related puns. My trophy table is now empty, and it’s time to move on to random filler until Junior Eurovision – now with 100% more Greece and Cyprus – comes along. I will be keeping an eye on the Austrian developments over the coming months, i.e. claiming I knew that INSERT CITY NAME HERE would get the hosting honours, so I hope you’ll join me. I promise I’ll be entertaining.

In the meantime…Part 2 of the awards: discuss.

 
What do you think of my picks and your picks of the performances, costumes and results from Copenhagen?

 

The 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

In incredibly scintillating news, I received my Eurovision 2014 DVD in the mail last week. Well, it was exciting for me. And now I’m thinking, what better time to reveal the winners of my contest awards for this year? At least that’s what I’m telling myself, to distract from the fact that it’s taken me THIS LONG to get my s%!t together and post them. But hey – this way you can be sitting down watching your DVD while you read this, and reminding yourself why the winners are worthy…or, as will probably be the case with many of you, questioning my terrible judgment. But remember, you got to choose the winners of six awards this year, three of which will be revealed in this first installment of the EBJEEs. There were almost 150 votes in today’s People’s Choice-ers alone, so thanks for making the decisions in such vast (by this blog’s standards) numbers!

I won’t ramble on about the specifics of Part 1. You know the deal by looking at the title of this post. I’m just going to leave you to enjoy the “ceremony” in which 17 trophies will be handed out, and hopefully accepted without incident – i.e. NOT in the style of Dana International in Jerusalem. Keep an eye out for the People’s Choice Awards, because the full voting results are included.

*clears throat*

Ladies and gentlemen and everyone in-between, this is…

ebjees14

The Artists

a
Andras Kállay-Saunders
Nikolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune)
RiskyKidd
Sebalter
Theofilos Pouzbouris (Freaky Fortune)
Topi Latukka (Softengine)
Waylon (The Common Linnets)

046

Between them, Freaky Fortune and Riskykidd more than upped the hotness quotient in Copenhagen. But with Theofilos being on the short side (as a woman of stature, I tend to steer clear of diminutive men) and Nikolas having had some dodgy hair moments, I have to give this first gong to the sheer beauty that goes by the stage name of Riskykidd. At 19, he’s slightly too young for me (I hate how that time has come already) but I’m still going to bask in the ambience of his chiseled cheekbones and often intense ‘wrong side of the tracks’ vibe.

 
b
Cleo
Conchita Wurst
Dilara Kazimova
Kasey Smith
Maria Yaremchuk
Paula Seling
Ruth Lorenzo
Tanja

047

This is always a tough category, and it’s unlikely that we’re all going to agree on the result (this also extends to the ‘He’ award. Sorry if Riskykidd doesn’t do it for you). My personal preference is the hot tamale from Spain, via the UK/US, Ruth Lorenzo. With or without a faceload of slap, with a retro updo or rocking the wet look, in a fancy frock or holey hand-me-downs, this woman looks stunning. I look at her and the main word that comes to mind is ‘bombshell’. FYI, others include ‘How come my eyebrows never look that perfect?’, ‘Wearing a red lip: any tips, Ruth?’ and ‘How you doin’?’. I guess you could say I’ve developed a girl crush.

 
c
Conchita Wurst
Men of Pollapönk
Nicolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune)
Sebalter

There was no beard more talked about this year than Conchita’s, and I’m not just referring to the talk regarding Eurovision. In fact, I don’t expect another beard to become as much of a household name (in my house, it’s called Frank) for the rest of 2014. It is perfectly-groomed facial hair that graces the chin/cheek/upper lip area of a stunning woman, and that makes it a beard with a difference. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time talking about a beard in my life. Such is the power of Frank.

 
d
Basim – 20%
Heiðar Örn Kristjánsson (Pollapönk) – 9%
Jöran Steinhauer (Aarzemnieki) – 24%
Nikolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune) – 7%
Sebalter – 39%
Teo – 2%

You guys chose – and pretty firmly – Sebalter as your Mr. Congeniality for 2014! The Swiss fiddler/whistler/waistcoat-wearer beat out Latvia’s Jöran by 15%, presumably with his on and off-stage charm and charisma. By all accounts, he’s friendly and funny, making him as nice on the inside as he is on the outside (as far as some are concerned…he’s no Lepland/Mengoni for me personally).

 
e
Conchita Wurst – 15%
Mei Finegold – 15%
Ruth Lorenzo – 25%
Sanna Nielsen – 15%
Suzy – 15%
Tijana Dapčević – 17%

Someone else who’s good inside and out is Ruth Lorenzo, who bumped Tijana to take out the Miss Congeniality award with a quarter of the votes. Far from the fiery, fierce stereotype of your average hot-headed Spaniard (and I emphasise, stereotype…Spanish women, don’t get mad) Ruth is cool, calm and collected, and from what I’ve seen, always willing to give anyone a bit of her time. She’s a woman I’d want to be friends with – in fact, when I’ve finally nailed down Kaliopi and Hannah Mancini as half of my ladies’ wolfpack, Ruth will be next on the list.

 
f
Basim
Emma
Pollapönk
Sebalter
Teo
Twin Twin

I get the feeling these guys never have an off night. Then again, I think I’d be constantly energetic and entertaining too if I got around in a bright blue (or *insert the colour of your choice here*) suit. With a matching velour tracksuit for lazy time, of course. As a band catering to children and adults, Pollapönk have to have the enthusiasm to cover all bases. They definitely conserved it for their six minutes in the spotlight.

 
g
Conchita Wurst – the bearded lady
Elaiza – underdogs of USFD
Paula Seling & Ovi – Eurovision royalty return
The Tolmachevy Sisters – JESC (t)winners
Valentina Monetta – third time’s the charm

Conchita Wurst

She made up a considerable amount of the discussion bulk within the ESC bubble, and basically all of it in the outside world, making many of us wonder why something so simple as a five o’ clock shadow (albeit an exquisitely-groomed five o’ clock shadow) was causing such a stir. There can be no other rightful winner of this award than Conchita, who I’m sure doesn’t rock the beard with the intention of it being a gimmick, but doesn’t have much of a choice. If beardless Nadine Beiler had donned the gold lace and busted out Rise Like A Phoenix, we’d be headed to Amsterdam next year.

 

The Songs

h
Austria
France
Greece
Latvia
Malta
Sweden

Moustache may not sound eerily similar to another song on the whole – although I could make a case for it being a masculine, less raunchy version of Katy Perry’s Peacock – but the verses ignited such loud screeches of ‘PLAGIARISM!’ for their resemblance to Stromae’s Papaoutai, I’ve got to give this one to Twin Twin. Plagiarism or not, I’m indifferent. I love both songs, so I’m just going to congratulate both artists on stumbling upon a catchy string of notes. And make a plea with Stromae to one day represent Belgium.

 
j
Austria
Estonia
Romania
Spain
Sweden

Dancing In The Rain is one of those songs you’d only hear at Eurovision. There are so many elements that make it come off as contrived for the purpose, i.e. the mix of languages and those massive money notes, which may not be in Spanish, but can be roughly translated to ‘I’m trying so hard to push FTW, I may burst into smithereens’. I’ll admit that you could say the same re: My Beloved Sweden, but as Sweden = more than a fanwank in the end, and Spain = not quite as much, I’m not going to.

 
k
Austria
Azerbaijan
Montenegro
Norway
Spain
Sweden

Speaking of Sweden (as I have done way too often since Sanna won Melfest and will continue to do for the rest of eternity), my bias towards Undo cannot be totally quashed for the purposes of these awards. There were some damn good ballads competing in Copenhagen, but as Sanna’s has given me the feels/goosebumps from the first listen through to my most recent, and because I actually cried during her semi-final performance (hey, it was a freaking long time coming, and I was emotionally invested, okay?!?) it’s far and away my Ballad of the Year. My apologies if that gives you a sad that’s hard to undo.

 
l
Azerbaijan
Georgia
Montenegro
Poland
Portugal
Slovenia

They were thin on the ground this year, so anything with a vaguely traditional instrument thrown in has made the shortlist. But five have made way for the half-folksy, half-hip hop, all sexy Youtube sensation that is My Słowianie. The song somehow manages to be divisive and edgy as well as perfect for Eurovision and appealing to its audiences, which couldn’t be achieved by the likes of Igranka. Carried with attitude and talent by Cleo (Donatan’s actual contribution is yet to be measured) it’s everything I want from my ethno-pop – yet miles away from your typical examples of the genre.

 
m
Denmark
Estonia
France
Greece
Israel
Portugal

This isn’t a difficult category to narrow down for me, because every year there’s at least one entry that I CANNOT HELP shaking my thing to. These songs have some kind of force that catapults me off my couch and has me doing my best Shakira imitation before my brain has had time to process what’s happened. In 2014, I was a little torn between Greece’s trumpets and Portugal’s wa-wa-wehs, and I’m still not sure what swayed it in Greece’s favour, but as the MC and big boss of these awards, I don’t have to justify my decision. Instead, I’m just going to twerk a bit, as the mere mention of Rise Up has awoken the mysterious booty-shaking powers within. BRB.

 
n
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Finland
Georgia
The Netherlands
Russia

There was a decent amount of songs that I didn’t ‘get’ initially this year. Something Better made a huge leap in my estimations – so much so that I went from wishing Finland had literally chosen something better to digging the heck out of it (whilst still holding a candle for some other UMK gems). It was the live performance and ‘more is more’ approach to lighting that helped win me over. The song is a stadium anthem that, when it won UMK, wasn’t in the right setting to show it off to full advantage. Plus, the months between the NF and the ESC gave Softengine time to polish up (and grow up).

 
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Russia
Ukraine

ENTERTAINMENT-DENMARK-EUROVISION-SONG-CONTEST

Just a couple of not-so-special songs IMO were elevated by aesthetics this year – elevated all the way into the top 10, in fact, which in Russia’s case was particularly surprising to me. The Tolmachevy sisters’ three minutes on stage featured everything but the kitchen sink (though I’m not convinced that wasn’t hidden away somewhere in amongst the see-saws and staffs and papier-mâché suns). But, with pared-back costumes and seamless choreography that utilised all of those props, I couldn’t stop watching. This is one example of why the Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t always live up to its name.

 
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France
Greece
Romania
Slovenia

I may be referring to studio versions here, but Moustache also works better in another kind of studio – the intimate TV kind, as opposed to a massive arena with a massive stage to fill. When it comes to listening though, the studio version is cleaner and slicker. Plus, you’re not being distracted by a failed attempt to use a big space in the right way.

 
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France – 4%
Hungary – 11%
Iceland – 15%
Moldova – 4%
Poland – 37%
Spain – 7%
Switzerland – 22%

There were faux game shows, dramatic storylines and wayward servings of spaghetti to choose from, but you guys went for what I will re-title ‘Breast Preview Video’. Poland wins! And by a decent length from Switzerland, too. I can’t say I’m in total agreement with this, but the video certainly stays true to the statement being made by the song. It’s not as though setting it in a convent and having the Slavic girls churn butter very clinically whilst wearing ankle-length habits would have made sense.

 
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Azerbaijan
Belarus
Denmark
Germany
Macedonia
Poland
Portugal
Slovenia
United Kingdom

All the contestants went out of their way making their #MyEurovisionFlag, though some clearly put in more effort than others (a painting, Valentina?? Really? At least Suzy chose to paint herself). As such, this is the biggest, toughest and probably most subjective category of the entire EBJEEs. My pick is host country Denmark, for its mix of effort and creativity (see Valentina? More non-canvas painting!) and daringness in not only repurposing a heap of ancient furniture, but also a stretch of road that I’m sure got Basim and his buddies in trouble with the local council.

 

That’s Part 1 taken care of, and it’s now time for intermission. The line for the toilets will be long, but since Part 2 won’t be coming to you for a few days, don’t be concerned. Just before you go, it’s time to let the disagreement ensue…

 

Tell me what you’re thinking re: the People’s Choice winners, and my personal picks.

 

NEXT TIME: Before they get too dusty, I’ll be handing out EBJEE trophies in the categories of The Performances, The Costumes and The Results.

 

My Very Late ESC 2014 Grand Final Review (Part 2): Thoughts on the scoreboard feat. the semis

If there’s a prize for being late to the party (the party being reviewing Eurovision 2014) then back off, because it’s mine! The thing is – and you’ll be bored of me rehashing this – since I was too excited to study during the ESC week, and too depressed to be productive in the few days afterwards, I’m now in a period of chaos where I have multiple MAHUSIVE assignments due within the next week (my last week of the semester, thank the Lordi) that I’ve barely begun. Therefore, I’m having to work my butt off with little time to blog, which sucks. That’s my excuse for why the second part of my final review is coming out over a fortnight after the contest, and over a week after the first part.

This is basically just a run through of the scoreboards from the final and the semis, with comments by moi, plus a recap of the Australian online vote and a mini post-show ranking to show you how my preferences were changed by epic lighting and/or magnificent costuming. I’m not going to get into the intricacies of the split results much, as similar analysis has been done (The Eurovision Times published a a few particularly good ones you can find here and here if you haven’t checked them out yet) so this is more of an overview accompanied by catty judgments.

 

The Final Scoreboard: A Closer, Totally Unbiased Look

 Two things about the voting sequence before we get to the results:

a) Crossing to all of the spokespersons at once on the big screen? More of that please. Although if I’d spotted Alyona Lanskaya I would have remembered to mute her impromptu and totally unnecessary version of Solayoh. You had your moment last year, Alyona. NO ONE CARES.

b) Umm, that early winner announcement! I’ve had more than one night’s anger over that. After the backlash caused by the same thing in Malmö, I assumed it wouldn’t happen again. But oh no, charming Nikolaj and adorable Pilou lost a bit of their charm and adorableness when they announced Austria as unbeatable with about two or three countries left to vote (I know they were just doing what they’d been instructed to, but I have to lash out at somebody). We all knew Conchita was the winner – to announce it early took away from the significance of the remaining countries votes, turning them into an afterthought. I am hoping this doesn’t become a tradition.

Now, those results…we’ve all seen them, but who wouldn’t want to see them again and then hear me complain about Greece not beating Romania for several paragraphs?

1. Austria 290 – No real surprises here. After Conchita’s performance I was thankful I’d predicted Austria as a probable winner. Still, with the spread of scores and the relatively low gap between 1st and 2nd place, this was no landslide.

If you don't have proper weights, why not use your Eurovision trophy to tone those arms?

If you don’t have proper weights, why not use your Eurovision trophy to tone those arms?

2. The Netherlands 238 – I’m thrilled for the Dutch, still. If Anouk had been last year’s runner-up, I’d have struggled to understand it, but The Common Linnets captured the mood and created a magic that I totally got (in the end).

3. Sweden 218 – I’m happy with this, and I hope Sanna is too. I knew my favourite song of the year wasn’t quite going to go all the way after a certain point, but because I was worried Sweden could head in the direction of Hungary in 2011, the bronze position is brilliant.

'And directly in front of me you can see the most valuable light saber in my collection...'

‘And directly in front of me you can see the most valuable light saber in my collection…’

4. Armenia 174 – Again, this ain’t exactly shocking. I never saw Armenia winning with Not Alone, as much as I love it. Finishing in 4th, they’ve got to be at least a teensy bit pleased that they blew Azerbaijan out of the water.

5. Hungary 143 – This is proof that Hungary is getting better and better at playing the Eurovision game every year. A very good, very current song that many thought would bomb because of its subject matter triumphed instead. Well done Andras!

6. Ukraine 113

7. Russia 89 – Now THIS was a surprise. As the televoters much preferred it over the jurors, I put it down to the staging, which I personally couldn’t tear my eyes away from. The hair trick and giant see-saw are surely what people remembered when they picked up their phones.

8. Norway 88

9. Denmark 74

10. Spain 74 – I guess the lesson here for Spain is if they send an attractive brunette who can sing the leg off a chair to perform a typically Eurovision ballad, they’ll secure themselves 10th place. That’s a good showing for Spain.

'If my hair touches any of this electrical equipment, we could be in trouble!'

‘If my hair touches any of this electrical equipment, we could be in trouble!’

11. Finland 72

12. Romania 72 – Romania and Moldova are experts in just missing out on the top 10. In this case, Romania should have completely missed out IMO.

13. Switzerland 64

14. Poland 62 – The jury sealed Donatan & Cleo’s fate via the drag effect of ranking them 23rd to the televoters’ 5th. Not that 14th is a terrible result – I’m just mourning what could have been for one of my favourite entries.

15. Iceland 58

16. Belarus 43

17. United Kingdom 40 – Ouch. After weeks of steadily declining odds and promising rehearsals, Molly failed to meet expectation and then some. But there was only 34 points between her and Ruth, which is something of a consolation.

Due to nerves, Molly couldn't wait for her three minutes to end so she could go to the toilet...

Molly soon regretted eating that curry just before her turn onstage…

18. Germany 39

19. Montenegro 37 – Not only did they make the final for the first time, but Montenegro beat big players Greece, Italy and Azerbaijan. That’s a win for them as far as I’m concerned. Figure skaters = success. Just ask Dima Bilan.

20. Greece 35 – How…just how did this happen? I am CRUSHED. Okay, so when I step back and look at all the factors I can kind of see how it happened. But even cookie-cutter, dated Aphrodisiac did better than this!

21. Italy 33

22. Azerbaijan 33 – So, they’re not invincible after all, eh? For the first time since their 2008 debut, Azerbaijan finished out of the top 10, and not narrowly. I have to admit, it pleases me to learn that they are capable of failure, since up until now I assumed they’d do amazingly even if they sent a bag of garbage (literally) to represent them, and that irritated me.

23. Malta 32

24. San Marino 14 – Props to SM for not coming last. I hope such an unprecedented result doesn’t encourage a fourth consecutive appearance from Valentina (and Ralph)…*shudder*.

It was Valentina's incredibly accurate zombie impression that got her to the final.

It was Valentina’s incredibly accurate zombie impression that got her to the final.

25. Slovenia 9

26. France 2 – Not for the first time in recent history, one of my most-loved entries lost the final. Waldo’s People in 2009, Tooji in 2012, and now this! Maybe Moustache wasn’t very effective in such a grand setting, but…TWO POINTS?!? I guess I should just be grateful that Twin Twin didn’t pull a Jemini.

 

Australia calling! The results from our unofficial final vote

Over on broadcaster SBS’s Eurovision site, us fans Down Under had the chance to thumbs up or thumbs down each entry as was our want. I couldn’t even do that, because of state-related time zone issues, so it was up to the rest of my fellow Aussies to decide our “points”. Here’s our top 10, in traditional ESC fashion:

1 point went to Ukraine

2 points went to Malta

3 points went to Switzerland

4 points went to the UK

5 points went to Poland

6 points went to Iceland

7 points went to Finland

8 points went to the Netherlands

10 points went to Sweden

Aaaaaaaaand, surprise surprise…our 12 points went to Austria.

So it looks like Conchita has recruited herself a fan club over here as well. We actually agreed with Europe’s entire top 3 (albeit in a slightly different order) but put Finland, Iceland, Poland (woohoo!), the UK, Switzerland and Malta in place of Armenia, Hungary, Russia, Norway, Denmark and Spain. Oh, and in case you were wondering, San Marino came in 26th. So I guess it wasn’t so much a Maybe here as a Definitely Not.

 

Back To The Semis: The Winners, Losers and Almosts

Semi final 1 ↓

  1. The Netherlands 150
  2. Sweden 131
  3. Hungary 127
  4. Armenia 121
  5. Ukraine 118
  6. Russia 63
  7. Montenegro 63
  8. Iceland 61
  9. Azerbaijan 57
  10. San Marino 40
  11. Portugal 39
  12. Estonia 36
  13. Latvia 33
  14. Belgium 28
  15. Albania 22
  16. Moldova 13
  • For the first time ever, the Netherlands topped a Eurovision semi final. I’m still surprised by this to be honest (because I didn’t think the majority would rule on a humble l’il country number…and it’s the Netherlands) but it’s something for all of the countries in a rut to take note of. With the right song and act, anything is possible.
  • Sanna pipped Andras for the honour of qualifying second, but not by much. Hungary are going from strength to strength, having qualified every year since their 2011 comeback, and made the final top 10 for two consecutive years.
  • There was a 55-point gap split between the 5th and 6th qualifiers – Ukraine and Russia. Montenegro made it to their first final on the same point level as Russia, with Iceland very close behind.
  • Azerbaijan’s 9th place made quite the change from their previous stellar history. During the 2008-2011 period they qualified 6th, 2nd, 2nd and 2nd, and won their semi final last year in Malmö. It’s safe to say Dilara didn’t start many fires with her slow-burn ballad!
  • Jaws all over the globe hit the floor when San Marino went through, unsurprisingly in 10th place. What we didn’t know at the time was that poor Portugal had finished just under San Marino. A single point was all that separated Valentina and Suzy, which probably left the latter wondering what she could have done to win over a few more jury members (it was the juries who sealed her fate by ranking her last).
  • Moldova’s hair-ripping routine failed to get them to the final for the first time since 2008. Perhaps now they’ll realise that the classic costume reveal is still okay?

 

Semi final 2 ↓

  1. Austria 169
  2. Romania 125
  3. Finland 97
  4. Switzerland 92
  5. Belarus 87
  6. Norway 77
  7. Greece 74
  8. Poland 70
  9. Malta 63
  10. Slovenia 52
  11. Lithuania 36
  12. Ireland 35
  13. Macedonia 33
  14. Israel 19
  15. Georgia 15
  • From losing their semi final and limping only to 16th place in last year’s to winning the whole thing, Austria sure rose up (pardon the pun) in the rankings this time around. Conchita’s powerful pipes won convincingly over Paula Seling’s dog-frightener of a note.
  • Surprisingly high qualifiers in this semi (for me) were Finland and Switzerland, in 3rd and 4th places. Switzerland turned out to be less of a borderline entry than many of us thought it would be. Greece, on the other hand, didn’t do as well as is expected of them, nor as well as I was hoping.
  • Poland’s qualification was pretty convincing for a country that hadn’t seen a Saturday night since 2008, putting them 18 points ahead of just-in Slovenia.
  • Vilija can’t have been as devastated as Suzy must have been to end up 11th, as her result was brought on by much more than one point. Things were quite tight in the 11th-13th-placed range.
  • Israel coming second-to-last with only four more points than bonkers Georgia was a big shock for me, and I’m not even a massive fan of Same Heart. Mei’s performance was fiercer than 100 angry Beyoncés in a fistfight, and I’m sure she’s made it her mission to hunt down and poke her sword at everyone who failed to vote for her.
  • Georgia last = duh. Okay, so the song has grown on me, and the parachute thing actually worked IMO, but Three Minutes To Earth was always going to be more like Three Minutes to the Bottom of the Scoreboard.

 

My top 10, two weeks later

As usual, seeing the songs performed live for the real deal changed my already changeable mind a LOT. Once again I used this handy sorter to gauge my own opinion, and below you can see my post-show top fifteen (because I didn’t think anyone would want to read through my entire top 37 for the third time) and how they’ve moved from my most recent ranking done just prior to the first semi. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who might have been hoping for a renouncement of my Team Sanna membership.

  1. Sweden (=)
  2. Poland (+5)
  3. Greece (-1)
  4. France (-1)
  5. Armenia (+1)
  6. Denmark (+4)
  7. Italy (+6)
  8. Belarus (=)
  9. Norway (=)
  10. Hungary (-6)
  11. Montenegro (-6)
  12. Ukraine (+12)
  13. Iceland (+1)
  14. Finland (+21)
  15. Albania (+7)

So I’m clearly crushing on Finland after Softengine rocked the Hallerne…what about you? How have your rankings changed since the show?

 

That’s about all I have to say on the scores at the moment. I hope this overview was worth the delay in one way or another! If you’re still up for complaining and/or rejoicing in the outcomes of this year’s contest, I’m up for listening, so comment down below with any of your unaired thoughts.

 

NEXT TIME: Watch out…the 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence are coming! I’m about to open my People’s Choice polls, and I want you to vote to decide each winner (duh. That’s the whole point) so make sure you drop by in a few days’ time to have your say. This year you get to vote on more awards than ever before in the two-or-three-year history of the ceremony, so get excited! Please? Just a little bit?

 

My Very Late ESC 2014 Grand Final Review (Part 1)

Well, this is belated. Having been unable to focus on study for the week leading up to Eurovision, and then over the Eurovision period itself, I was forced to make up for lost time the second Conchita Wurst ended her winner’s reprise. To cut a boring story short, I’ve only just been able to put together something of a review of last Saturday’s final from Copenhagen to follow my overviews of the semis. I’ve barely even started dissecting the results, so while that’s still in progress (I’m hoping you guys will still be interested in reading that by the time I post it) I’ll just cover everything up until the voting.

As it’s been like, FOREVERRRR since the final took place, allow me to refresh your memory via my personal highlights and lowlights of the evening; plus some extremely exciting photographs of my decorating/waving paraphernalia. Things just don’t get more epic than this…

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I had a mini Molly, Conchita and Sanna (courtesy of Ben Morris’ Minipop Icons) to accompany me during the show, plus some DIY banners to wave until the Sellotape gave way.

To begin: we all know that it was Austria’s golden girl Conchita who took out the contest on Saturday evening, marking her country’s first win since 1966. It wasn’t a landslide win, but despite the EBU’s best efforts to disguise the result for as long as possible via their voting order algorithm (only to have the hosts announce the winner early AGAIN which I will complain about in detail when I talk results) there came a point where we knew we were going to Vienna. Or Innsbruck. Maybe Graz? I’m reluctant to settle on the likeliest host city for 2015 after the great “Oh, it’s definitely going to be Stockholm!” incident of 2012. Not that it matters – wherever in Austria the 60th contest takes place, I’ll be über excited to see the show. My delayed congratulations go out to Conchita, and her short but sweet victory speech. Rise Like A Phoenix may not have been up there with my favourite entries of the year, but it’s a worthy winner in so many ways. The added bonus is that it’s always nice to see a country of few recent successes do incredibly well. This could be the start of a wave of excellent results for Austria, a la Germany 2010-2012…so long as they don’t decide to send Trackshittaz again.

My state newspaper won't be winning any awards for original headlines on this one.

My state newspaper won’t be winning any awards for headline originality in this instance.

 

My favourite acts of the night

Many of those who impressed me during the semis did it again during the final. In fact, all of my highlights bar one were semi-finalists. Read on to find out which member of the Big 6 floated my boat.

  • Iceland – as proud as I am of the fine Australian export that is The Wiggles, I was born a bit early to have grown up with them (the Spice Girls were my one true childhood love). Pollapönk seem like an adult-appropriate version of The Wiggles to me, so I’m not ashamed to say I was thoroughly entertained by their colourful performance yet again. No Prejudice is like the theme of Conchita’s win. I wonder if she and the boys ever got together for a chat? They seem to have a lot in common (beards included).
ICELAND_second_rehearsal_Thomas_Hanses_preview

Um, that’s not quite how you do the YMCA, guys…

  • Armenia – Aram was perhaps feeling some pressure in the final, as his vocal was slightly ropey. But I still found his three minutes full of impact. Waiting for the song’s climax to explode (almost literally, with those fire jets they had going), knowing it was about to go BAM, was exciting every time.
  • Poland – following in the footsteps of the comparable Igranka, here was a song that could have been dreadful live but turned out to work like a charm (it must be the charming beauty of the Slavic girls). Cleo swapped t-shirts, but apart from that, Poland put on the same saucy, folksy performance that catapulted them into the final in the first place.
  • Greece – no song got the crowd moving like Rise Up. At home, surrounded by junk food and feeling particularly lazy, I stayed put on the couch…but my #TeamFreakyFortune banner was getting a workout, believe me. The energy level here was through the roof, and that was pre-trampoline.
Freaky+Fortune+Eurovision+Song+Contest+Rehearsals+3vYQbRo7yNDl

“Look, Ma – no gravity!”

  • Austria – this was a winning performance, flawless and full of the sass and drama that has become Conchita’s trademark. The roar of the crowd before, during and after was well-deserved, and gave me a strong feeling that what was a very open contest had narrowed over the course of just three minutes.
  • Sweden – I didn’t cry this time, but my beloved Sanna nailed Undo just as she had in the semi, and continued to give me the feels and the chills I mentioned in my review. And I must thank her for giving me something to put on my Christmas list – my own personal (and preferably portable) cage of light.
  • Finland – Softengine have wooed me, and I swear it’s not because of their clean-cut cuteness. I wasn’t fazed by Something Better at UMK, or when I watched the music video, and yet somehow the Eurovision performances have left me digging the heck out of it.
  • Denmark – this has to be done, I’m afraid…SKUBA DUBA DAP DAP DIDI DAJ, I LOVE YOU! Because I honestly do, Denmark. Basim kicked home country butt, renewing my affection for Cliché Love Song in the process. The unfurling flag put off some people, but I thought it was a massive fabric cherry on top of an excellent performance.
  • The Netherlands – The Common Linnets were the total package on final night. They sounded great, looked great, connected with each other and the camera well (Waylon’s smouldering eyes…) and their staging was simple but perfectly suited to CATS. My only complaint concerns the guitar soloist, who put way too much drama into his shred on a clearly unplugged instrument.
article-2625266-1DBBBB6200000578-720_634x460

Ilse attempts to disguise her jealousy over not being given a hat of her own.

 

My least-favourite acts of the night

Because nobody hashtag failed (not miserably, anyway) I’m about to get rul, rul picky. Prepare yourselves.

  • Romania – neither Paula nor Ovi sang as well as they had in their semi, and all the elements of the act that were awkward then seemed even more so on this occasion. I draw your attention to the hug, which resulted in Ovi almost choking on a chunk of Paula’s hair. He’ll be producing hairballs for weeks.
  • Italy – Emma’s vocals are rough around the edges, and that’s part of her appeal. But to me her performance was a bit messy and aggressive. I felt like she was shouting directly at me for most of the song. Amazing outfit though – it was like she smashed a bunch of mirrors, poured PVA glue all down her front and then rolled in the debris. I am totally copying that for my next night out.
eurovision-2014-emma-marrone-rivincita-guardian

“If I just stick my arm out awkwardly like this, maybe they won’t notice my underwear…”

  • Spain – don’t get me wrong, Ruth’s a great singer, and stunning to look at (the wet look really works for her). But there were moments when she was over-singing those money notes so much, I thought she was going to explode. I don’t think the janitors would have appreciated having to Hoover up bits of Ruth from all over the arena.
  • United Kingdom – nothing was particularly wrong, but something wasn’t right here. I didn’t connect and I didn’t feel the anthemic-ness of COTU was genuine. A UK win was a lost cause when I found myself thinking more about how awesome Molly’s shoes were than anything else.

 

What else went down?

  • The Danish version of the Swedish artist parade gets my tick of approval. Taking us through the running order and introducing each act in one hit was genius. I hope the Austrians were taking notes!
  • The hosts were…well, there. Nikolaj was charming, Lise was a pro, and Pilou continued to be adorable and have a stage name that reminds me of a certain Claymation penguin. BUT THEY WEREN’T JANA AND MIKKO! Three is an odd number (duh) but I always find it extra odd with Eurovision hosts. One or two people  is enough, and makes it far easier to divvy up duties such as chatting awkwardly with the contestants in the green room.
article-2625266-1DBBC62100000578-838_634x425

Pilou totally missed the memo to keep his hands clasped in a professional manner at all times.

  • I have to mention the postcards again. I touched on them briefly in my semi reviews, but I don’t think that adequately conveyed my feelings for them. I love it when the postcards make you want to watch them over and over again (unlike the touristy ones from the likes of Baku which become little more than attractive yet annoying breaks between songs) and these ones definitely did that. Aside from giving us a look at the next artist up, they entertained AND informed us that, for example, Andras Kállay-Saunders trots around with pre-solved Rubik’s cubes in his backpack, and Emma maintains her figure by making flags out of her food instead of eating it. These postcards made our #MyEurovisionFlags look amateur.
  • It was a relief to see Emmelie de Forest deviate from singing Only Teardrops for the billionth time in order to perform Rainmaker, a song I prefer. It’s been a year and she still hasn’t stumbled upon a shoe store, but at least she’s found a hairbrush and added some colour to her wardrobe – she looked like Pocahontas at a rave, and it was glorious. All the artists in the final joining her on stage to sing along was as heart-warming as I imagined it would be, although I bet they spent the whole time surreptitiously elbowing each other out of the way to get in shot.

 

Well, that’s my fan’s-eye view of the grand final, albeit over a week after the fact (oops). Of course, there are the all-important results – the shocks, surprises, and expectations pretty much met – remaining to be discussed (by me…the rest of the planet has got their act together and done it already) and I’ll be doing that sometime in the next few days. Following that, I have some exciting stuff re: Copenhagen planned – i.e. my annual EBJ Awards. For this edition, I want you guys to vote for more than just one award á la last year, so have your poll-taking fingers poised!

 

Looking waaaaaaay back at the final of Eurovision 2014, what were your performance (or other) highlights and lowlights? Did the right song win the contest? And have you managed to undo your post-ESC sad yet?

 

The story so far: My verdict on Copenhagen before it’s FINAL-ly final time!

I’m back! After close to a week of social media avoidance, I’ve witnessed both semi final 1 and 2 on Aussie TV with much DIY banner-waving and popcorn consumption, and I can now temporarily rejoin you all in Eurovision Land before I have to hunker down again to avoid final spoilers. I’m going to take advantage of this, not just by checking my backlog of Twitter notifications and comments, but by having my say on the semis in brief, and taking another look ahead at the final now the participants and running order is locked in. 3, 2, 1, go!

 

SEMI FINAL 1

Together, Pilou, Lise and Nikolaj were no Petra Mede or Anke Engelke, but despite their lame jokes and the lack of segue from ‘Good evening, Europe!’ into postcard numero uno (unless our broadcast was edited down…grr) they hosted without fault. Of course, they had an amazing setting and massive audience to work with, which helped.

As someone who can take or leave Only Teardrops, I tolerated the semi-opener by Emmelie de Forest, and quite enjoyed the Ugly Duckling interval act as a lover of fairy tales (that guy’s sequined tracksuit WILL BE MINE! Mwahahaha!). But it’s the performances of the competing songs and the results that we really want to discuss, right? Here’s what I thought.

 

My performance highlight/s

  • Sweden – Having been invested in Sanna from the moment she was announced as a Melodifestivalen contestant (yet again) and Undo being my #1 song of the contest, my best hope for victory, my shoulder, my shelter, my satellite – oops, veering off into Hirsoux territory there – Sweden’s performance was always going to float my boat. What I did not expect was to burst into tears at the end of the three minutes. I think it was a combination of excitement, emotion and…well, my general pathetic-ness, let’s face it. I welled up when Sanna won Melfest, so I should have seen this coming. She was spellbinding, as usual. Perfection with a blonde bob and in black lace. #creepymuch?
  • Iceland – Pollapönk dried my tears, coming straight after Sanna and brightening everything up. They looked sharp, sounded great, oozed personality and all in all just had a great time up there, and as a result I did too. I’m finally on board with their decision to sing in English now. Watching them, I thought to myself ‘this has GOT to be a qualifier.’
  • Albania – Aside from the tattoo (that’s got to be the most painful postcard of all time) I have to give props to Hersi for singing so beautifully. I love the sound of her voice. Also, she didn’t look hideous as I may have predicted she would earlier this week. I had to pick someone!
  • Russia – Here was proof that good staging can make you love a mediocre song. I enjoyed everything about this performance, even though I’m still not sure how most of it – the hair thing, the see-saw, the Perspex light sabers, etc – was relevant to the song or its message. All I know is that it looked awesome. The twins’ vocals were on point too, and they looked very nice. I didn’t see the immature act I was expecting.
  • Ukraine – Again, an A+ for staging goes to Russia’s non-BFF Ukraine. That hamster wheel was used to full advantage, both by Maria and her man friend (who I’m assuming wasn’t asthmatic or anything since he had to run pretty much the entire time) in what was a simple but effective staging device. This was actually pared back by Ukrainian standards, but after the initial shock of Maria not being carried onstage by a giant, I appreciated it.
  • Portugal – This was old-school Eurovision that still worked like a charm IMO. The crowd was very responsive to it. It was full of energy and Kati Wolf Suzy had the best costume of the night – she looked UH-MAYZING. I didn’t want this performance to end, and I really wanted it to qualify. Sniff.

 

My performance lowlight/s

  • Moldova – First things first: nobody was terrible in this semi. No-one looked awful, sang badly or fell into the moat around the stage (that was a bit of a disappointment). But if I had to choose my least favourite act, it would have to be Moldova because a) it wasn’t as slick a performance as we usually get from them; b) the costuming was fine, but I expected more; and c) WHAT THE %@!* WAS WITH THAT HAIR THING? Whatever happened to tearing off a part of your dress or something? The classics are still okay, guys. Which is more than I can say for Cristina’s scalp right about now.

 

The qualifiers

  • Montenegro – What else can I say except YEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS! It could have gone either way, but I’m so happy it went this way. Welcome to the final, Montenegro!
  • Hungary – Our Australian commentators were surprised by this, but I wasn’t, and I doubt you were either.
  • Russia – Saved by staging, Russia went through and broke the JESC Curse. I’m glad some Junior alumni have finally made it to Saturday night.
  • Armenia – Duh. That is all.
  • Azerbaijan – How shocking for Azerbaijan to qualify! Ha. Ha. They turned out a perfect performance as always.
  • San Marino – My jaw actually hit the floor here. As lovely as Valentina looked and sounded, you CANNOT tell me this wasn’t a pity vote in large part. I’m convinced this qualified 10th and stole a final spot from Portugal or Estonia. Still, congrats to SM for making the final for the first time alongside Montenegro.
  • Ukraine – Another shocker here. Who on earth foresaw it happening?
  • Sweden – I was having palpitations by the time Sanna went through, so thank god they didn’t leave her ‘til last. I may not have been here to type this.
  • Netherlands – Riding the wave of Anouk, are we? CATS will add some genre variety to the final.
  • Iceland – I’m not sure why Iceland was left until last, but woop woop! I desperately wanted them to fill the final spot, and I got my wish.

 

How accurate were my predictions?

Fairly, but far from totally! I correctly predicted 7 of the 10 qualifiers, stumbling on Estonia, Belgium and Moldova. After seeing Axel and Cristina in action, I changed my mind, but it was too late to change my prediction. I am shocked by Estonia’s fail, and I bet Tanja is too…but can I just say, Estonia – if you’d picked Sandra, that would not have happened!

 

 

SEMI FINAL 2

This was a semi where I knew I was going to lose a country I liked, and to make matters worse, everyone was on top form. Kind of. I didn’t mention the postcards earlier, but I found them very interesting viewing again, and I can’t wait to see the final six. Australia was represented with a song-and-dance that could have been less cringe-worthy, and by the lovely Jess Mauboy who did us proud despite some vocal wavering (having seen the doco about her trip to the ESC broadcasted beforehand, I put it down to nerves). The other interval act, featuring Europe’s finest dancers (who videoed themselves and submitted it to eurovision.tv) was great. Now, on to the main event: the competing entries.

 

My performance highlight/s

  • Poland – That’s it…I’m running away to Poland to be a Slavic girl. This was freaking EPIC! It ticked all of my boxes (not that I normally have a check-box for ‘gratuitous display of boobs’). Cleo has everything a star attraction needs to have, plus attitude in spades; the costumes were as folk-mod awesome as I knew they’d be; handkerchiefs were used to great effect…the list goes on.
  • Austria – How could you not be impressed by the power of Conchita? Standing on that platform in her gold dress, looking like a particularly glam Academy Award statuette, she sung the crap out of RLAP like she always does, with a passion that never once appeared forced. Dana International, eat your heart out.
  • Lithuania – This was everything I didn’t expect it to be and more. In the minority I may be, but I LOVED it. Vilija looked amazing (even in a leather tutu), sung like a champ and looked totally unfazed by the man who refused to come out from beneath her skirt. 110% on point.
  • Finland – Yes, the adorable boys from Softengine did win me over some way with their simple but perfect-version-of-what-it-was performance. They get a gold star for using lighting to add so much to the visual of their act, and lead singer Topi gets a mug of hot lemon and honey tea to conserve his screamability for tonight.
  • Greece – You know I’m a little obsessed with Greece this year (song-wise and man candy-wise) so naturally, I was jumping for joy (get it?) after their appearance. It doesn’t take a stack of cash to entertain, and that’s exactly what they did, with the crowd (and moi) going crazy for Rise Up. Plus, thanks to Lise, we now know that Nikolas has a cat called Gary, and that is invaluable information.

 

My performance lowlight/s  

  • Ireland – Again, there were no train wrecks in this semi, which was a bit disappointing actually (somebody better screw up BIG during the voting to make up for it) but Ireland’s performance was rather messy and uncomfortable. Kasey’s costume was distracting because it looked like she was wearing three different outfits at once, so that wasn’t the best either. 

 

The qualifiers

  • Switzerland – Every time the Swiss qualify, I go ‘aww!’, whether I like the song or not. Hunter of Stars has a certain charm, so I was pleased to ‘aww!’.
  • Malta – Yeah, they did. There was never a question.
  • Slovenia – I’m not sure of where all the votes came from to get Tinkara in the top 10, but she’ll add some ethnicity to the final.
  • Norway – I want to congratulate and hug Carl so badly, assuming his ‘silent storm’ isn’t a metaphor for irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Poland – YESYESYESYESYESYES!!! Happiness for Jaz is when the Slavic girls make it through when she didn’t think they would.
  • Romania – Ugh. I was secretly hoping they’d miss out so I could laugh, but alas, Paula & Ovi are set to lame it up in the final. I’ll only keep the sound on to hear Paula’s glass-breaking note sequence.
  • Greece – I’m as happy as a guy in spandex on a trampoline. Which is very.
  • Belarus – That’s right, Anti-Cheesecake Brigade. We did it.
  • Finland – As with Slovenia, I am slightly confused as to where all the interest for this came from, but as the boys are so cute and were so competent, I say well done Finland!
  • Austria – This was always the one that would be left until last. I’ve never seen anyone so relieved as Conchita was to nab that final spot.

 

How accurate were my predictions?

Slightly more so than in Semi 1! I scored 8/10 this time around, with Israel and Macedonia being my incorrect predictions. But with Poland (one of my favourites) and Switzerland (it’s always precious when they qualify) replacing them, I’m happy I was wrong.

 

 

A WORD BEFORE THE FINAL BEGINS…

Right now I’m in that brief gap of time between having seen both semis on Aussie TV, and when the final begins in real time (which I won’t see until Sunday night). Having now seen all but the auto-finalists perform once, I feel it’s only fair I get to update my predictions for what’s going to go down on the scoreboard in the final. And not just because two of the countries I predicted to win didn’t even qualify *blushes*. So…

 

Who will win?

I’m not much surer of this than I was when I last predicted, but at least now I can say it will definitely not be Estonia or Israel (hashtag FAIL). This contest is still wide open, and all I can do is have a stab in the dark. So here are my stabs:

  • Armenia – It’s the favourite. I’ll feel like the world’s biggest moron if I take Aram out of the equation and then he wins.
  • Austria – It’s powerful, memorable and interesting. A dated-style winner maybe, but a worthy one based on Conchita’s power and passion alone.
  • Malta – There’s just something comforting about this that draws you in, and if it draws enough jury members and televoters in…
  • Spain – This is too typical-ESC for me to want it to win, but it has a decent draw, and Ruth has the potential to out-diva Conchita.
  • UK – There was already so much going for this entry, and then the UK only go and get drawn in the plum spot of 26! The BBC couldn’t have hoped for a better slot. If waiting all that time to perform doesn’t affect Molly negatively, there’s a good chance she could take this.

 

Who will make the top 10?

Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden and the UK. I still feel like I’m being too obvious, and there’s sure to be a few surprises up there, so…don’t laugh at my terrible predicting skills. Not to my face, anyway.

  

Who will be left at the bottom?

Surely it’s San Marino? I know I said that about the loser of semi 1, but my god…it has to be, right? I really wish we didn’t have wait until song 25 to sit through it, but I suppose the UK will look even better coming afterwards. If you’re looking for a shock loser (which we’ve had more than once in recent history) I’d say unless it’s a favourite, it won’t be that shocking.

 

Who’s not going to do as well as we think?

Romania. Okay, so not everyone is convinced Miracle will be exactly that, but it has none of the spark that Playing With Fire had. It’s relatively early on in the draw, and I think it will be overshadowed.

 

Who’s going to do better than we think?

Poland and/or the Netherlands. One’s big, brash and full of boobs and the other’s super humble (guess which is which!) but I have this feeling either one (or perhaps both) could defy expectation and neither be considered too OTT or get lost in the field.

 

With all of that said (‘at long last!’ I can hear you saying) it’s time for me to go to bed while those of you in Europe and those of you planning to watch the final live online get your celebration on, damn you. To be honest, I’m still none the wiser about where we’re headed for the 60th ESC, and that is very exciting. The chances of a runaway victory are slimmer than the chances of this being the last we hear of Valentina Monetta (she’s like Freddy Krueger…no matter what happens to her, she will rise again and attempt to murder you in your sleep) so the voting sequence should be a nailbiter. But before that, we have 26 performances to watch. I hope you make the most of every moment, and that the final doesn’t go by as fast as the semis did. I’ll be back early next week to join you all in the throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. Let’s ride it out together by dissecting every little detail of Eurovision 2014.

 

May the best song (preferably in my opinion) win!

 

Hit me up with your highlights and lowlights of the semis, plus your picks for the winner!

 

Copenhagen Reviews: Part 1 (Albania-France)

Hey there, ladies and gents. You’ll be ecstatic to learn that I have zero time for a long, waffly intro today, since I’ve already spent too much time prioritising writing my Eurovision 2014 reviews over “more important” stuff like major uni assignments due on Monday, etc. So I’ll get on to those while you hopefully get on to reading this first installment of verdicts on the Class of Copenhagen. Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and France (whew!) are on the program first up, and whilst there’s not a ton of hate in there, there’s quite a bit of ‘meh’…and some high praise too. Read on to find out which belongs to which, and let me know where you stand on these entries.

 

ALBANIA

One Night’s Anger by Hersi

albaniaSounds like: something The Corrs would have released in the mid-90s, with a dash of intriguing Albanian-ness

Better than 2013: Albanian version, yes. English version, nope.

Top 10 material: No

IMO: You can always rely on Albania to crown something a little bit off-the-wall the winner of Festivali I Këngës – and I mean that in a nice way, for the most part. One Night’s Anger is no exception, even without that intense instrumental opening that didn’t end up making the Eurovision cut. The song is a ballad, but an unusual one that’s difficult to predict the destination of, and I bet it’s difficult to sing too. The rhythm and melody are interesting in their own right, but when combined with Hersi’s unique voice, the overall impression is ear-catching. There was a haunting quality to the song that grabbed me when it won FiK, and at first I couldn’t figure out if I was being grabbed in a good or bad way (unlike being manhandled by a Marco Mengoni type, which would definitely be a good grabbing. Wink wink) but after subsequent listens, I realised I did have a positive appreciation for the balance it strikes between classic and bizarre. Unfortunately, the change from Albanian to English that this country often makes has been to this song’s detriment in my opinion. I’ll readily confess that I tend to prefer whichever language version I heard first in my Eurovision entries, but in this case, it really was the mystery of the Albanian and the emotion Hersi could put into it that’s making me miss it. I still have a regard for One Night’s Anger, the same interesting song now with questionable lyrics – but given the choice, I’d be sending Zemërimi I Një Nate off to Copenhagen next week.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

ARMENIA

Not Alone by Aram Mp3

armeniaBest lyric: ‘What if it’s all in one kiss that turns all seeds into trees?’

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Armenia started out so strongly in Eurovision with André in Athens, securing 8th place then and notching up four consecutive top 10 placings after that. Then Emmy failed to Boom-Boom her way into the final, Armenia sat the Baku show out for obvious reasons, and Gor Sujyan’s double denim squad qualified but deservedly didn’t get much further. On those sour notes, it’s wonderful to see this country back in potential top 10 (and even potential winning, if the bookies are to be believed) form after three years of misfortune. The difference between Not Alone and those entries from Armenia’s heyday is a lack of ethnicity, but I find this equally as enjoyable. The pan-flutes have been traded in for dubstep beats and minimalism, and the result has a lot of impact. The song is a slow burn of the best kind – the kind that really draws out the build, then explodes, in this case into a dramatic, symphonic crescendo. And yet…I’m not sure I do believe the bookies when they put the odds in Aram’s favour, for two main reasons: firstly, as much as I like the song, that ‘minimalist builder’ element makes me wonder how much focus it can hold as a standalone number. It would be ideal in the background of a Hunger Games montage, but can I imagine the credits rolling over it as Mr. Mp3 reprises the crap out of the Hallerne? Not really. Secondly, the reports that came back from Eurovision In Concert implied that this guy is having issues with owning his performance and commanding the stage. If that was the case in the intimate Melkweg, how’s he going to fare on what we’ve seen is a rather massive stage in the arena? There are questions surrounding Armenia, and one of them is still very much ‘Yerevan 2015? Hmm…’ 

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

AUSTRIA

Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst

austriaSounds like: a Bond theme song waiting to happen

Better than 2013: No 

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Seriously, if the Bond moviemakers don’t call the next one The Phoenix Rises and make this song the theme tune, something is wrong with the world. There’s no denying that Conchita’s entry is totally Bond-ified; nor is there any denying that this genre suits her perfectly, allowing her to let her inner and outer diva shine like a diamond…and rise like a phoenix (duh). She has the power and passion to make her performance one to remember even for those who aren’t fans of her song. Now would be the best time to say that I’m afraid I’m one of them. I don’t hate it by any means, and I LOVE Conchita – after hearing ESC Insight’s interview with her I want us to be BFFs. Like I said, there’s no doubt she’s got the goods to do her demanding song justice. It’s just that the Bond thing is not my thing. Generally (stuff like Adele’s Skyfall included) I find it overly-dramatic and old-fashioned, although very glamorous. Speaking of glamour, I cannot wait to see what Conchita’s wearing for the big event. I’m seeing sequins, plunging necklines, tulle everywhere…OTT sass. I guess the fact that I’m more pumped for costume choices than listening to the song again says more about my feelings than any more rambling could do. The audience, however, will go nuts for this, and that will be a reaction worth waiting for.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

AZERBAIJAN

Start A Fire by Dilara Kazimova

azerbaijanBest lyric: ‘A soldier in the hands of a forgotten mess, digging out the burning bullets in his chest.’

Better than 2013: No. No glass box, no contest!

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: In the most shocking move of the year (that’s sarcasm, people) Azerbaijan have popped into the supermarket and bought themselves a Swedish-made, albeit Azerbaijan-infused ballad to send to Eurovision. They’ve been doing this same thing long enough now that it’s become a tradition/running joke, and on one hand, I have to give them props for it – they take the contest super seriously, and if they’re not in the mood for contending the win, they at least want a decent placing. On the other hand, this recipe for success involves little of Eurovision’s original essence. They’re not so much sending a song that represents their country as sending one to represent their country and do a great job. There’s nothing you or I can do about that, so having got it off my chest I will now say that this particular Swedish ballad is actually a refreshing change from the norm. Look at the differences between Start A Fire and, to use another example, Georgia’s Waterfall from 2013. The former sounds a lot more genuine and interesting than the contrived and clichéd latter. It’s perhaps not as instant, but I quite like it when a song is unusual enough that you need to pay attention to it and get to know it to formulate an opinion. It kind of wanders along for three minutes, never in your face, but always sparking curiosity as to where it’s headed. All in all, it’s not up there with my absolute favourites, but I think it’s pretty and not at all cheesy, which is a big plus.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 8 points.

 

BELARUS

Cheesecake by TEO 

belarusBest lyric: ‘You showed me dance, but I’m not Patrick Swayze, you’re not Jennifer Grey.’

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Belarus was one of the first countries to choose their entry for 2014, and before their NF even took place, I’d picked this song out as a favourite of the lineup – if mainly as a guilty pleasure because I figured I’d be in the minority who liked it in all its sleazy glory. I didn’t think it was going to win that final, but it did and here we are. Cheesecake has gone through a few changes, including one to the lyrics, but it’s essentially the same song as always, and I still get a kick out of it. What can I say? I’m a girl of simple tastes, meaning my main requirement in a good ESC (or non-ESC) song is catchiness, and this song has enough of that to fill twenty cake tins. Yes, it’s a little cheesy and as previously mentioned, a little sleazy, what with the whole Robin Thicke vibe TEO’s got going on. But for a song that at face value is about a dessert (and for those of you who are wondering why I’m suddenly discussing the Latvian entry, nope, I’m still on Belarus) it’s actually deep and meaningful…ish. And, in addition to that Thicke vibe, TEO’s also a confident, entertaining and vocally proficient performer. I’m not trying to make this entry into some masterpiece – I know what it is and that it won’t be taken 110% seriously – but I think it has some merit. And damnit, dat catchy chorus! 

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

BELGIUM

Mother by Axel Hirsoux 

belgiumSounds like: Axel’s mum needs to take out a restraining order…

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Eurovision royalty Ruslana bursting into tears at the opening bars of your song is no indication that it’s going to get the same reaction from the rest of us. I suppose I did well up a bit the first time I heard Mother – but while Ruslana’s emotion came from barely-restrained adoration of Axel and his ode to the woman who lugged him around for nine months, mine was brought on by the realisation that Belgium was actually sending this pompous, melodramatic and sickly sweet THING to Copenhagen. BUT WAIT! We all know you can’t judge a song on one listen, so wanting to familiarise myself with Mother in order to review it, and to give it another chance, I listened to it again. This time, I found it slightly less hideous, I have to admit. I do find the popped-up opera genre OTT (more so when the singer is pushing the lyrics out with so much force that their head reaches boiling point) and when its subject matter is the mother of a fully-grown man and not an adorable gap-toothed child, it’s not cute – it’s creepy. However, I’m now seeing the positive aspects of this entry, e.g. the class, the sentiment, and Axel’s wonderful voice. I won’t be sobbing along with Ruslana anytime soon, and I have no idea why Belgium has decent odds to win Eurovision with this (I’d love to go to Brussels, but not this way!) but it’s no longer at the bottom of my pile. PS – I watched an interview with Axel in which he was rather precious, admitting that flying to Copenhagen will be his first time on a plane. This is a man you can’t be mean about without feeling like the worst person on the planet.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

DENMARK

Cliché Love Song by Basim

denmarkBest lyric: ‘I know from the pizza guy that you’re a special girl.’ 

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Judging a host entry can be a tricky business. You know the host country hasn’t tried too hard to pick a winning song to represent them on home soil – just one that won’t embarrass them on home soil. Therefore you can’t abuse them for not putting in enough effort. In 2014, it seems that hosts Denmark have inadvertently tried hard enough to get fans thinking that history could continue to repeat itself. The story goes like this: Denmark won the ESC in 2000 when Sweden was hosting. Then last year, in Sweden, Denmark won again. If the pattern continues, Tanja’s Amazing (see the next review for my thoughts on that) will win this year just like Estonia did in Copenhagen 2001, and Denmark will narrowly miss out on the win with Basim’s Cliché Love Song. I’m not convinced it’s going to do that well, but a respectable result is on the cards for this infectious, Bruno Mars-esque foot tapper, and it’s infectious, Bruno Mars-esque performer. The song has a hook that gets stuck in your head, light-hearted lyrics, a bit of whistling which is always welcomed, and an energetic singer who can get the job done with ease and knows how to work a crowd. This is going to go down über well in the final, and I think one performance will be enough to get it onto the left side of the scoreboard. I can’t say it wouldn’t be spookily awesome to experience the déjà vu of Denmark coming second in Denmark, and stranger things have happened…so Basim may end up further up that left side than I’m expecting. 

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.

 

ESTONIA

Amazing by Tanja 

estoniaSounds like: Take Me Home by Cash Cash…dare I say Euphoria?

Better than 2013: No 

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Eesti Laul’s early favourite came through this year, beating some competition that actually was amazing. Amazing the song kind of set itself up for a fall in the way of Don’t Play That Song Again (UK 2000) and That Sounds Good To Me (UK 2010). Many of us have used its title against it, unless of course we genuinely believe it is amazing. For me, it’s way too derivative for such praise. The obsession with dance music that’s taken over the world for way too long now means we’ve heard this kind of song a million times before, so it’s not originality that will get Estonia to the final (most likely) and beyond. What will is Amazing’s annoying ability to worm its way into your brain; the irresistible urge to dance it brings on (or is that just me?); the eye-catching choreography, which I say is not a cheap Loreen impersonation; and Tanja herself, who is very pretty to look at and can seemingly dance and sing at the same time. So long as she swaps the bland dress from Eesti Laul for something better (Softengine are apparently good at locating such things if she needs help) there’ll be nothing wrong enough with her act to stop her from doing well. There are plenty of more original songs in this year’s contest that maybe deserve to beat Estonia – not something I’d be saying if Sandra or Traffic, for example, were in Tanja’s position – but the likelihood is that they won’t. As someone who doesn’t want to but can’t help liking this entry, I can come to terms with that, so long as Estonia compensates by sending something magic in their native tongue next year. That’s when I love them the most. 

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

FINLAND

Something Better by Softengine 

finlandBest lyric: ‘Everything I’m used to seems to be fine misshapen, made-up fantasy.’ 

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Just as I became attached to a couple of Eesti Laul entries in particular, so too did I have two songs in Finland’s UMK that caught my attention and never let it go. Unfortunately, neither of those songs was Something Better. This song is on my Copenhagen periphery – it’s there, in the outer field, not offending me but definitely not doing anything for me. I can’t find anything about it that would summon me to pick up the phone and vote for it…you know, if I could (*weeps pathetically all the way from Down Under*). The chorus is okay, verging on catchy, but I cannot for the life of me remember how the rest goes, and I’ve listened to it just as often as everything else. For me to like rock, it has to have something special, and this just doesn’t. I do have a strong opinion on one aspect – the screaming at the end. That hurts my ears. Plus, I fear for lead singer Topi’s vocal chords, having to deal with that through all the rehearsals, the semi final performances and (possibly) the final as well. Then again, if his voice goes I won’t have to put up with the screaming, so bring it on! Sorry, Team Softengine, but I have to be honest, and Something Better is exactly what I’m on the hunt for after listening to this. 

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

FRANCE

Moustache by Twin Twin 

franceSounds like: the love child of Papaoutai by Stromae and Applause by Lady Gaga

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No

IMO: I may be one of those people whose bedrooms are full of French-themed…well, everything, but I have never been able to truly get behind France in Eurovision. When I say ‘get behind’, I’m talking gushing over their song choice and waving a tricolour flag so enthusiastically that it disintegrates. I came close four years ago (and I still bust a move to Allez Ola Olé on a regular basis) and I have enjoyed some of their entries in my years of ESC fandom, but until now, I’ve never fangirled over one. That’s right, I said ‘until now.’ A moustache has come along and changed my life. Ever since listening to the snippets of the three potential French entries, I’ve had this in high regard. Back in the snippet days, it was the one of a strong threesome that stood out to me, seeming to embody all that I love about French pop music. Thinking Joanna had the repping rights in the bag, I was trés trés thrilled when Twin Twin took the win win with the incredibly catchy, quirky Moustache. It takes me right back to other fun French entries that I’ve almost waved a flag for, such as L’Amour A La Française and Divine. It’s not to be taken too seriously, nor is it a novelty song about a guy trying really hard to grow a moustache (that’s Justin Bieber’s next single). The message is a little deeper than that. To be truthful, I wouldn’t care if it wasn’t. I love this for superficial reasons. It sounds great to me, and though I don’t expect it to do wonderfully in the final, I hope it at least looks great too. I’m expecting moustache motifs, clashing prints and the most extensive use of hairspray since Jedward just to keep lead singer Lorent’s ‘do in place. C’est magnifique!  

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!!!

 

And with that, France receives my first and only set of douze so far, which I’m guessing I’ll get some stick for from the Anti-Facial Hair Brigade (a.k.a. anyone who’s hating on Moustache). But remember, I do my very best to respect your opinion – even if you think it totally makes sense that Belgium is being considered a possible winner – so please try to respect mine! To recap it, here’s a mini-ranking of the countries in this first lot of reviews.

  1. France
  2. Armenia
  3. Belarus
  4. Denmark
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Albania
  7. Estonia
  8. Finland
  9. Belgium
  10. Austria

I’m yet to label any entry a ‘loser’, so that last place for Austria at this point doesn’t mean I have no desire to see Conchita rise like a phoenix. I’m just not that bothered.

Next up, in a few days’ time, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel and Italy will be the countries in my judgment zone, so if you enjoyed reading these reviews be sure to drop by for that. If you didn’t, come back anyway and give me another chance to win you over?

 

How do you rate the entries from Albania-France? Will we have to agree to disagree or are we thinking alike?

 

Ranking the Class of Copenhagen: My first top 37 of 2014

Well, another national final season has come to an end, and I don’t know what to do with my life anymore. The Netherlands are calm after the silent storm inside Carl Espen, which was originally worked up in Sanna Nielsen’s head; Greece are trying to rise up but Conchita Wurst’s determination to rise like a phoenix is getting in their way a little bit; and Latvia are still pondering over how to bake that cake with no help from TEO who’s got the cheesecake recipe down pat. I could go on, but instead, allow me to introduce the first of many (i.e. about three) complete rankings of this year’s Eurovision.

Russia’s entry was the missing piece of the puzzle up until a few days ago, and now we’re all free to get busy ordering all 37 competitors from douze-worthy to ‘OH DEAR GOD WHY! WHYYYYYYYYY!!!!!’. It took me a while to figure mine out, and because I hadn’t ranked since around the twenty-song mark, I was flabbergasted by my own apparent opinions. Without further ado, I’ll let you be flabbergasted by them too. This is my pre-contest top 37, with a few justifications along the way.

 

  1. France – My t-shirt with ‘Team Twin Twin’ emblazoned on the front is in the post as we speak. Well, I wish it was anyway, because Moustache has been right up my street from the start. It’s exactly what I want from French pop: catchy, fun, and singing the praises of facial hair (kind of). L’AMOUR.
Twin Twin attempting to spot that sought-after moustache on the horizon.

Twin Twin, attempting to spot that sought-after moustache on the horizon.

  1. Sweden – And underneath my TwinTwin shirt, I’ll be wearing…another one that reads ‘Team Sanna!’, of course. I’m still riding high on her Melfest triumph, and to quote Loreen, I’m feeling serious euphoria over Undo. It’s pretty in its own right, but what makes it a stunner is Sanna’s amazing vocal performance. Wear a cardigan when Sweden takes to the stage peeps, ‘cause you’ll be getting chills.
  2. Greece – I didn’t realise quite how much I liked this until I went a-ranking. The combo of dance sounds, rapping, singing by hot Greek men and trumpets is an excellent one. The Floorfiller of the Year Award may be a lost cause for all the other up-tempo countries.
  3. Belarus – That’s right, the cheesecake is still in a sweet (ha) position in my top five. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being won over by TEO’s Robin Thicke-brand sleaze. I just find this irresistible.
  4. Armenia – Rounding out my top five is Aram Mp3, with what is emerging as a hot favourite to win the whole contest. I’m a bit confused by that, but I do love Not Alone. It’s got light and shade, drama and beauty, serenity and anger…basically, a whole lotta contrast.
Could Aram (and Robin Stjernberg's jacket) possibly win the ESC for Armenia?

Could Aram (and Robin Stjernberg’s jacket) possibly win the ESC for Armenia?

  1. Denmark
  2. Iceland
  3. Hungary
  4. Poland – This is undoubtedly the Igranka of 2014 (with added boobage) and while that means it’s unlikely to qualify, it also means I love it. I am still trying to figure out what Donatan’s going to do on stage, though.
  5. Norway
  6. Estonia
  7. Italy
  8. Albania
  9. United Kingdom – They’ve done good this year, you’ve got to admit. I personally am finding COTU to be more of a grower than an instant hit, but I love how anthemic and fresh it sounds. I genuinely hope Molly can give the UK their best result since Blue, or even Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jade.
Molly - the first UK contestant in years to have full bladder control.

Molly: the first UK contestant in years to have full control of her bladder.

  1. Germany
  2. Latvia
  3. Netherlands
  4. Malta
  5. Spain
  6. Montenegro
  7. Romania – It’s a miracle that I’ve come around on this one, let me tell you. I’m still highly unimpressed by the lyrical content, such as it is, but as far as catchiness goes, I’ve mellowed.
  8. Slovenia
  9. Moldova
  10. Ukraine – The original version of Tick Tock would have made my top 15 at least. But I’m part of the minority who think Ukraine have turned it into a totally different and much less appealing song with this third overhaul.
The look on Maria's face says it all.

The look on Maria’s face says it all.

  1. Portugal
  2. Ireland
  3. Azerbaijan
  4. Israel – This is a perfectly good pop song, but that’s all I can really say about it. It doesn’t do anything for me/to me. And TBH, I find Mei a little scary in the way she attacks this song.
  5. Lithuania
  6. Switzerland
  7. Finland
  8. Macedonia
  9. Austria – This is not the ‘ugh!’ end of the spectrum; that’s reserved for the bottom two songs only. This is the ‘not my thing’ section. I like the drama Conchita’s giving us, and her performance will be just as dramatic for sure, but the James Bond vibe just doesn’t float my boat.
I can't wait to see what outfit Conchita pulls out for the ESC.

I can’t wait to see what outfit Conchita pulls out for the ESC.

  1. Russia
  2. San Marino
  3. Georgia
  4. Belgium – Last year, Belgium blew me away, and as far as I can remember, never dropped out of my top 10. This year, I cannot stand them. Well, their song, anyway. Not the whole country. I don’t get this at all. I’m not even sure it’ll get the mother votes.

So that’s that! I will of course be offering more in-depth critiques of all the entries in my reviews, coming up in April. For now, in case you can’t be bothered to scroll back up (it’s Sunday…the laziest day of the week, right?) this is a recap of my current top 10:

  1. France
  2. Sweden
  3. Greece
  4. Belarus
  5. Armenia
  6. Denmark
  7. Iceland
  8. Hungary
  9. Poland
  10. Norway

One of the bajillion things I love about Eurovision is that you never know which countries you’re going to end up fist-pumping for. While I’m pleased to say that the likes of Hungary and Sweden are ranking highly with me yet again, it makes me equally happy that I can fully back countries like France, Belarus and Poland for the first time in ages (or in some cases, ever). How all of these countries will do in the contest – and whether they’ll keep their current positions in my ever-changing rankings – remains to be seen.

That’s all I have to say for today, but I will be back in a big way in the lead-up to May 6th. Here’s a peek at my posting schedule for anyone interested (yes, I made one. It’s a great way to procrastinate study).

ebjschedss 

Before that chaotic period begins, let me know all about your rankings. Who’s riding high in your top 10? Which countries have impressed you for the second, third or infinite time in a row? And which delegations shouldn’t even bother hopping on the plane to Copenhagen? Hit me up with all of your thoughts.

 

Until next time…

EBJ Signature

 

The Final Super Saturday: Discussing the songs of the week and the songs still to come!

Bonjour. It’s been a week since my last post, which at this point in time means approximately 1 345 599 things of significance have happened within the Eurovision bubble. So let’s get straight on to discussing the chaos of the past seven days, plus the action coming your way this weekend and beyond.

 

Since we last spoke…

…a lot of countries have chosen for Copenhagen. Quite a few of them premiered entries for the artists they picked what feels like years ago, with the rest emerging from national finals on top. Here are my initial thoughts on a bunch of the last week’s selections/revelations, in alphabetical order (the best kind!).

Firstly, the NF winners:

  • Denmark: It’s a Cliché Love Song that will represent the home country, with the adorable Basim in the driver’s seat. Damn, it’s catchy, with those shoobi-doobis. Denmark made the right decision out of the three songs that made the DMGP super-final. Bring on the Bruno Mars comparisons, because both Bruno and Basim are awesome.
It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Bruno Mars! Oh wait. It's actually Basim.

Just to clarify, this is a photo of Basim…NOT Bruno Mars.

  • Germany: Speaking of right decisions…Is It Right? Yes, it is. Wildcard act Elaiza took out Unser Song Für Dänemark on Thursday with that aptly titled track, and after recapping the other songs Germany could have chosen, I think they made the best choice. That’s not a compliment, considering how weak the lineup was IMO. Are Germany losing the plot again? Where is Stefan Raab when you need him?
  • Greece: The hosts of 2006 have come up with another slice of trumpeting fun in Rise Up by Freaky Fortune feat. Riskykidd. The pros? It’s trumpeting fun (as aforementioned), it made me want to shake something, and all three of these guys are hot. The cons? Apparently the live performance was laughably bad. I haven’t had the guts to see it for myself yet, but I hope either a) that’s not true, or b) they can sort it out by May-time.
  • Sweden: First off, the Melfest final was the first and only one I plan to watch live this season, and it was AMAZING. There was a strong field in the end despite some major casualties in the semis. It was thought to be Ace Wilder’s for the taking, and I would have enjoyed that, having prepared myself for Sanna Nielsen to lose yet again. But Team Sanna rejoice, because she finally came out on top! It was a narrow victory plagued by technical difficulties, but she’s got the trophy at last, and she’s off to the ESC. Undo is stunning as far as I’m concerned, and it’s definitely in my top 3 heading into this last big weekend of national finals.
Forget 'third time lucky.' Sanna's all about lucky number seven.

Forget third time lucky; Sanna’s all about lucky number seven.

And now, the song premieres:

  • Armenia: Aram Mp3’s entry Not Alone is the latest to have been publicised, with Aram himself being one of those acts announced back when most of us were still in nappies. Was it worth the wait? Well, after one listen, I can say I rather like it. It starts off a little repetitive and humble, but builds into something dramatic. The contrast is good. All in all (right now) it’s a definite step up from the Lonely Planet double-denim gang.
  • Georgia: Three Minutes To Earth by The Shin & Mariko has been released, and it’s…interesting. ‘Interesting’ in this instance of course means ‘confusing and painful and makes me miss off-the-shelf Swedish ballads.’ Just, no.  
  • Montenegro: Sergej Četković will sing Moj Svijet in Denmark, which is a very nice Balkan ballad that actually makes me miss Serbia a little less because it’s very Serbia-like. It also reminds me a bit of Korake Ti Znam, which qualified against the odds. I’m not convinced Montenegro can get to the final for the first time with this, though. It could be too nondescript.
  • The Netherlands: The Common Linnets have gone country with The Calm After The Storm, which will be a refreshingly peaceful three minutes on stage. I find country music very soothing, so even though this entry isn’t particularly dynamic, I’ve taken to it straight away, which didn’t happen to me with Birds.
  • San Marino: Valentina version 3.0 was a personal letdown. Maybe (Forse) is unlikely to make it third time lucky for her. I like it less than both of her previous entries, neither of which I was ever that keen on. Boring and dated are the key words here.

 

Tonight: four more songs?

I put a question mark on the end of that because Azerbaijan is involved this evening, and based on reputation, they could keep us all hanging on their song choice for longer than scheduled. Dilara Kazimova won her country’s final a few weeks ago with an original song, which could or could not be the song she takes to Eurovision. I haven’t listened to that song (Impossible) in case I hate it and it’s picked, or love it and it’s not picked, etc. But this is Azerbaijan we’re talking about – I’m not eager to go to Baku again just yet, but you can never discount them because they know how Eurovision is successfully done.

One country that’s had trouble in that area is Moldova, who seem to be cursed with not quite hitting the heights of the top 10 when they qualify to the final, often alongside neighbours Romania. Their final – O Melodie Pentru Europa – takes place tonight, and as is often the case, I suspect I’m going to like what comes out of it a lot more than I like what came out of the Romanian final (which was no Miracle for me). I haven’t followed their selection this year, mainly because of my current time deficiency (thanks a lot, university) so I’m sorry I can’t say anything about how epic/crappy/both the line-up is for 2014. But Moldova usually gives us a bit of quirk, and I have loved them the last couple of years. Fingers crossed they pick another weird and wonderful song from this selection:

  1. One And All by Diana Staver
  2. Energy by Doiniţa Gherman
  3. Perfect Day by Boris Covali
  4. I’m Yours by Tatiana Heghea
  5. Frozen by Lucia S
  6. Vis by Margarita Ciorici & Metafora
  7. Dragostea Divină by Ana Cernicova
  8. Forever by Edict
  9. Never Stop No by FLUX LIGHT
  10. Urme De Iubiri by Aurel Chirtoacă
  11. Fragmente by Paralela 47
  12. Hallelujah by Diana Brescan
  13. Follow Your Dreams by Mikaella
  14. Your Recovery by Curly
  15. Wild Soul by Cristina Scarlat
  16. The Way I Do by Felicia Dunaf

 

Also tonight, it’s the final of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix…another one I haven’t had time to follow (if you came to this post for reviews and predictions, I really am sorry). I’m not convinced there are any Adeléns or Margaret Bergers amongst the group left standing, with the few snippets I’ve heard being quite dull (aside from Mo’s song, which isn’t the peak of originality but still appeals). But innocent until proven guilty, right? I.e., the potential for a great entry is there until a rubbish one wins. Here are the tracks Norway have to choose from:

  1. Ain’t No Love (In This City No More) by El Cuero
  2. Sole Survivor by Elisabeth Carew
  3. Taste of You by Knut Kippersund Nesdal
  4. Needs by Dina Misund
  5. Heal by Mo
  6. High Hopes by Linnea Dale
  7. Hit Me Up by Charlie
  8. Silent Storm by Carl Espen
  9. Sing by Oda & Wulff
Who's going to win? And would they look as good in this dress as the Bergster?

Who’s going to win? And would they look as good in this dress as the Bergster?

I know one big favourite is Silent Storm, also one of the snippets I listened to that bored me. But you can’t judge a song on a snippet, so if he’s the one, I’ll give him a chance to grow. Those of you who’ve listened to more than previews, let me know below who’s going to represent Norway this year!

 

While you’re at it, feel free to tell me the same re: Portugal. Festival da Canção comes to an end tonight, and let’s hope the result is a triumphant return for a country who took a year’s vacation from the ESC. Surprise, surprise, I haven’t heard a single Portuguese offering yet, so the winner will be a total mystery to me until I press play on their victorious performance. I remember Catarina Pereira from a few years ago, and her status as a former runner-up could give her a boost this time. She’s back with another Andrej Babić creation, and some questionable footwear according to Twitter. We’ll see how she and the others go.

  1. Ao Teu Encontro by Rui Andrade
  2. Mea Culpa by Catarina Pereira
  3. Nas Asas Da Sorte by Zana
  4. Sonhos Roubados by Raquel Guerra
  5. Quero Se Tua by Suzy

All I can say is good luck to everyone…so long as they’ve got a decent song to offer!

 

What’s left of the N-Fs?

Not much at all, people! Post-tonight, there’s only one actual televised final left, and that belongs to Belgium. Eurosong concludes Sunday night, and will hopefully be worth all the pre-final casting and filtering programs. The winning song will have to be damn good to rival my killer love for Love Kills, which I maintain kicked butt. The fact that it got Belgium out of the semis and almost within top 10 range is testament to that. Will the burst of confidence from that result carry through to another impressive (by Belgian standards) showing? I for one am hoping so.

Belgium aside, there are only two countries remaining without complete entries. Austria will allegedly reveal Conchita Wurst’s song on Tuesday, which I’m not exactly enthusiastic for. I can’t imagine it will be anything but a stereotypical Eurovision schlager anthem, and even if it wasn’t, it’s too hard to take someone who looks like an unshaven Kim Kardashian seriously. I admire Miss Wurst in many ways, but I just don’t believe she’s going to do Austria any favours in terms of results.

Conchita is a thing of beauty, but she's also bizarre.

Conchita is a thing of beauty, but she’s also bizarre.

That leaves Russia – controversial Russia. Everything bar music aside, I’m intrigued as to whether they will actually send JESC 2006 champs the Tolmachevy Twins to the contest, as initially stated. I got super excited at that prospect, only to have it snatched away shortly after the fact, so I’m on edge at the moment. I have this feeling we can expect a good effort from Russia, or at the very least something less cheesy than What If (a song with peace-advocating lyrics that now seem rather ironic). Not that it would be difficult to contribute something less cheesy than that.

 

When Russia finally makes its decision (and providing Azerbaijan have also) that’s it. We’ll have our Class of ’14. That’s when the real fun – namely arguing about who’s going to win/qualify, why your taste sucks and mine is fabulous, and lamenting the loss of many amazeballs national finalists – can begin! We’re less than eight weeks away from the first semi final, if you can believe that, and there are a lot of nostalgic (aah, Malmö!) and prediction-based (TwinTwin for the winwin!) things to cram in to that time frame. Join me for the frenzy, won’t you?

In the meantime, enjoy the last Super Saturday of the season.

EBJ Signature

 

PS – I almost forgot to mention THE best news of the week. Australian peeps, get excited, and everyone else, get jealous. This year our broadcaster SBS is holding a televised Eurovision quiz show called The Eurovision Quiz Contest (shocking). Details are still a bit fuzzy (i.e. I’m not sure how many parts there’ll be) but filming starts this weekend, and we can expect the show to be on TV around Eurovision time. YAY! I’m so excited for this, and once again proud of SBS for giving Eurovision the limelight it deserves. If it turns out you can watch the show online internationally, I’ll post the link ASAP so y’all non-Aussies can check it out.