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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

  

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

Congrats Portugal, and better luck next time Moldova.

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

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

 

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

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

 

Happy Almost-Rehearsal Week!

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 7 (Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Serbia, Slovenia + the United Kingdom)

We’re nearly there, guys. It’s May, and the first live semi final of Eurovision 2018 is on Tuesday. TUESDAY!!!!!

I’ve never been so terrified at how quickly time is passing and so keen for a little bit more to pass at the same time. I’ve also never been so confused about which songs are going where, especially in SF1. But the chances of me embarrassing myself by getting 5 or 6 qualifiers correct is a discussion for another day.

Right now, I’m taking care of business by squeezing in the last few rounds of reviews for the year. This is the second last installment, and it involves ginger beards, cinnamon rolls and candy-coloured hair. Sweet. So who’s got the goods and who’s got some explaining to do out of Rasmussen, Ari, Ermal & Fabrizio, Sanja Ilić & Balkanika, Lea and SuRie? That’s subjective, but keep reading if you want my opinion!

 

  

My thoughts Everyone out there who’s been dreaming of the day Game of Thrones would meet Eurovision: this is your year! Okay, so maybe Rasmussen’s Higher Ground is more Vikings than GoT, but I really wanted to joke about the possibility of Denmark using gratuitous nudity and decapitations in their staging concept (in reality, it’s Belarus who’ve gone gratuitous and gruesome). What Denmark has done is let a Melodifestivalen reject represent them at the contest – an “honour” shared with Azerbaijan in 2016, and heaven knows how many other countries in heaven knows how many other years. But it’s not all bad, because a Melfest discard will still be half-decent at least, and this particular one is more than that. It’s definitely more adventurous than the Danish entries we’re used to (in style, performance, and in the sense that it screams ‘epic sea shanty!’ and begs for us all to wave our cutlasses in the air like we just don’t care). Combining Gregorian-esque chants with a pounding beat, an interesting time signature and a big ol’ belter of a chorus, it’s reminiscent of Himmel I Hav by Roger Pontare (of Melfest…go figure); only Higher Ground is more current, and more accessible by way of being in English. Even so, you wouldn’t hear a song like it anywhere outside of the ESC bubble or a movie soundtrack. To me, that’s part of the charm. There are a lot of layers to this song as far as production goes (you might say it’s as deep as the deep blue sea) with instrumentals that are rich and soaring, and powerful vocals from Rasmussen. I love the way his hair (and beard) blows in the manufactured breeze conjured up by our beloved wind machines – this song needs weather, though I don’t suggest Rasmussen pulls a Flashdance by drenching himself in water while wearing a leotard that leaves little to the imagination. My favourite thing about this track is how quickly it creates an atmosphere. Electricity is crackling in the air pretty much from the second it starts, and that’s hard to ignore – unlike a few Danish entries from recent years. I also have to commend the fact that there isn’t another song competing in this contest quite so suited to the nautical theme and ship-inspired stage. Congrats to Denmark for choosing so wisely, even if it was accidental. At the end of the day, I’m pleased with Higher Ground if not impressed by it. Anja Nissen was a hard act to follow for me, as someone (in the minority, I know) obsessed with her and Where I Am. That remains a song more stylistically Jaz than this one. Still, HG is a solid effort and stands out in the field. It’s got a reasonable shot of qualifying, but if it does I doubt we’ll see it on the left side of the scoreboard. Denmark still has a way to go before I start dropping the douze on them and calling them potential winners.

2017 VS 2018? I’ve fangirled over Anja too much to be disloyal, so 2017 it is.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Last round, I said that the Czech Republic had glowed the heck up in the space between Eurovision 2017 and Eurovision 2018. Flip the script, and you have Iceland – a country that has willingly swapped the incredible, why-the-eff-didn’t-she-qualify ice queen Svala and her Scandipop masterpiece Paper for….ugh. How do I even describe Our Choice without having to shove my life savings into the swear jar? I guess first off, I have to get one thing straight: I absolutely adore Ari. The Nathan Trent of 2018, he is a precious and über-talented human who deserves a brilliant song to represent Iceland with. It’s a massive shame that what he gets to represent them with is the musical equivalent of squishy cheese, vintage 1990. Seriously, this song sounds like it predates its own performer (Ari was born in 1998…let that sink in and horrify you if you think late 90s babies should still be in diapers). It puts Boggie’s Wars For Nothing, a similarly saccharine wannabe charity song, on the same level as We Are The World and Do They Know It’s Christmas? While there’s literally nothing I like about the song, the lyrics well and truly are the worst aspect. It’s 2018, we have entries likeToy and Dance You Off feat. razor-sharp lyrics, and Iceland thinks that lame lines like ‘There’s always a choice we can make to help and to heal in different ways’ and ‘Inside we’re all the same’ are acceptable? NOPE. Granted, Pollapönk got away with ‘Inside we’re the same’ in 2014, but that was a message song not originally written in hieroglyphics on a stone tablet by Ancient Egyptians. I think the credited songwriter here is trying to pull a fast one on us by pretending Our Choice was penned this century. I can make a concession given that the Icelandic NF Söngvakeppnin was very lacklustre this year. But regardless, I’m mystified as to how this topped the lot (Aron Hannes + Golddigger = far superior). I suppose Ari’s puppy-dog eyes, strong voice and ability to sell the song to some degree (not 100% – he ain’t Superman) must have had something to do with the win. It’s safe to say that is the only song contest this bland, stale ballad will be winning. PLEASE FORGIVE ME, ARI! It’s not you, it’s the song. And as if the signs for it going nowhere weren’t clear enough, Our Choice was lumped with the Slot of Death (no. 2) in the Semi of Death. The best possible outcome for Iceland this year is to not finish last on Tuesday night, and even that’s an ambitious goal. If Ari had released his song as an actual charity single to raise money for the homeless (thirty years ago), it might have done some good. But at a highly-competitive song contest in 2018, he’s just preaching to the non-converted.

2017 VS 2018? Bring back Svala (or give Ari something reasonable to work with).

My score 2.5

 

 

My thoughts There are two ways I’ve reacted to Italian entries lately: I fall in love with them immediately (grande amore!), or I think ‘hmm’ at first only to fall in love after three or four listens. What I always think is that Italian music is classy AF – unlike myself – and has its own unmistakeable thing going on. All of that applies to Ermal and Fabrizio’s Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente…except the instant enamour bit, because this was a song that snuck up on me with its brilliance, as opposed to smacking me in the face with it while blowing a vuvuzela and yelling ‘VIVA ITALIA!’. On first listen I found it too complex, too wordy and not hooky enough to remember. I think I must have had a headache at the time too, because Fabrizio’s insanely gravelly voice was up there with nails down a blackboard on the ‘Dear Lord, Make It Stop!’ scale. I looked up the translation of the lyrics; felt no change (I mentioned in the last round that I’m a soulless witch – Eurovision’s own Ebenezer Scrooge). Listened to it again; a slightly higher opinion of it. Listened to it again – to cut a long and boring story short – and BAM, just like that I was head over heels. And I don’t think it’s just a crush or a phase. I’m in this for the long haul, so put a ring on it, Italy! The complexity of this song is now something I appreciate about it: the melody and phrasing isn’t clear-cut and there’s no hooks that have been shoehorned in purely to make people dance, cry or headbang. The wordiness is one of those classic Italian musical tropes, and I feel like it’s in keeping with Ermal and Fabrizio having so much to say. And as for the lack of memorability I thought NMAFN had before…well, that’s probably still the case for a lot of first-time listeners, but I can’t get it out of my head now. The message is getting to me more these days, and I applaud the substance of the subject matter. That meaningfulness, combined with the beautiful guitar work, amazing chorus in which Italian has never sounded better, and contrasting smooth-edged/rough-edged vocals of the duo (that I understand now balance each other out, yin-yang style) makes for an overall impression of SI, SI, SI. Sure, it took a while for me to reach this state of obsession – which may not bode well for Italy’s contest chances – but good things come to those who wait. Speaking of this in a competition context, I have to come full circle and say ‘hmm’. Will Europe (and Australia) get this? Can the anti-war, anti-terrorism message be conveyed strongly enough via staging in three minutes to affect and pull focus in a 26–song final? One in which many of the other songs will be more instantly memorable and potentially overshadow Italy’s? Sadly, I doubt it. Italy was the overwhelming fave in 2017 (until the last minute) and ended up 6th. Unless this flips those fortunes, as current 10th favourite to win I see it ending up far lower. But I love it so much (finally), I’m hoping to be proven wrong.

2017 VS 2018? Anti-evil beats evolution – 2018.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts There are a few songs in the Lisbon fam that are ESC throwbacks, and I love it. Taking me back in time to the mid/late 2000s are the likes of Belarus, Greece and Serbia (obviously, or I wouldn’t have mentioned this at the start of their review). Ethnic to the extreme with a Eurodance beat, and partly performed by a strangely attractive bald yet bearded dude? Hvala da, Slovenia joke intended. There’s no question Nova Deca could have slipped seamlessly into the line-up of the Istanbul or Helsinki contests (it would have been a great host entry in Belgrade too, no disrespect to Oro) but I’m happy it’s here in 2018 adding retro variety to the show. It’s striking from the second it begins, when the wailing (I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else to describe it) puts the ethno in ethnopop. Just when you think you’re in for 180 seconds of traditional Serbian folk music, DAT BEAT kicks in and promises much more – not that I would have been mad about a totally traditional Serbian song, especially after last year’s mostly Swedish production. Good energy, an anthemic quality and a catchy chorus (a key ‘Woohoo!’ requirement for me) fill the rest of the running time, and I have zero complaints about any of it. I’m not sure what else to say – sometimes you just like something and you can’t put into (that many) words why. I will admit that this is not a song anyone’s likely to call ‘so 2018’. But I don’t care. It’s another one you’d never stumble upon outside of Eurovision (or at least outside of the Balkans) which is one of the things I love about it. I’m sure the huge Serbian population here in Australia will respond to this positively, dancing up a SuRie storm. Whether or not that translates into votes, we’ll see. I do think Serbia will struggle for a final spot again, and to be honest my jaw will drop a little if Balkanika are announced as qualifiers – in a good way. Nova Deca would be a fantastic song to have in the final program, since no matter what it follows or precedes it will be different. And I think Serbia needs some encouragement to start sending ethno-fusion songs to Eurovision on a more regular basis, because when they do, they do it very well. They always get the Jaz tick of approval, anyway.

2017 VS 2018? 2018. Easy choice.

My score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts Pink hair, don’t care. That’s Lea Sirk (and her Portuguese twin Cláudia Pascoal), repping Slovenia with a song that makes last year’s On My Way sound even more passé than it actually was. First things first, I’m still pissed that BQL were knocked back again at EMA with another amazing Maraaya creation. I sincerely hope their victory day will come. In the meantime, we have Hvala, Ne!, a song I have quite the like/dislike relationship with. Do the good things outweigh the bad, IMO? Let’s see. Positives: It’s contemporary and radio-friendly; it has attitude; it’s in Slovene when the temptation to switch to the English version would have been high; and Lea is a solid performer and vocalist. The NF performance was simple but effective too, so if they’ve replicated it in a way that fills the bigger ESC stage, I’ll be happy. Negatives: It’s kind of flat and monotonous; the noise in the chorus that punctuates ‘Hvala ne’ sounds like a smoke alarm having a nervous breakdown, and I am not here for it; and Lea’s NF outfit was super unflattering (it looks like she’s wearing something similar for Eurovision, and I do not approve). Okay, so it seems I’m leaning towards the angel on my shoulder rather than the devil on the other one re: Hvala, Ne! But at the same time, the song doesn’t ignite enough passion in me – in a yay or nay way – to make me want to vote for it. And I suspect I’m not the only person thinking this. There aren’t any ‘wow’ moments to speak of, and Lea’s position in the running order isn’t too favourable – Montenegro before her, while not the best Balkan ballad ever, is grander; and Ukraine after her? Well, they could destroy any impression Slovenia leaves like it’s a scrap of paper left on top of Melovin’s flaming piano. I can see Slovenia finishing in the 11th-14th bracket in SF2, but no higher. If I’m right, I won’t be glad to see the back of Lea and her amazing fairy floss hair, but I won’t miss her song in the final a whole lot either.

2017 VS 2018? I’m actually torn on this one. Both have big pros and cons. 2018, I think?

My score 7

 

 

 

My thoughts In 2017, the UK reminded us all that glitters is gold – and that a gold-drenched stage and singer won’t necessarily propel you into the gold medal position. Something they’re hoping will do the trick is sending a two-time backup singer (for Belgium, with Loïc and Blanche) in the form of SuRie. She’s a superstar on social media and the kind of Eurovision artist we all want to be our BFF…so it’s a shame that Storm doesn’t live up to her awesomeness as a person.  Like Germany, the UK is not earning their automatic Saturday night spot with this – a song that would have a hard time qualifying from a semi. It’s nice, there’s nothing wrong with it, and SuRie is a joy to watch perform as she’s a Little Miss Sunshine onstage like Jess Mauboy. The lyrics are cheesy and predictable at times, but she charms her way through them and makes me believe she means what she’s saying (not that I’d been having trouble believing storms don’t last forever). But no matter how hard I look, I can’t find any ‘oomph’ in this. It’s lacking an element of excitement to light my fire and toast my marshmallows. Is it a heart-warmer? Not really. Can you dance to it? Nope. Is it hard to resist singing along to? Not in my experience. To put it another way, if Eurovision was an election campaign made up of political candidates, the UK wouldn’t be one who makes a powerful statement and attracts voters like Portuguese custard tarts attract Lisbon tourists. Up against the other automatic finalists, Storm comes across mediocre – and my ‘meh’ feeling only increases when I compare it to the other 37 songs. I hate that I’m not even surprised by that happening with a UK entry. Who wants to be accustomed to average? Lucie Jones gave us a glimmer of hope last year, but if she couldn’t finish higher than 15th, I don’t think SuRie can either. This year is turning out to be more on par with 2017 than we first thought in terms of the overall standard, so because Never Give Up On You > Storm, my early prediction for the UK now is 18th-22nd. But here’s your consolation prize, SuRie: when it comes to crowning the Twitter Queen of Eurovision 2018, nobody else stands a chance.

2017 VS 2018? I loved Lucie, so sorry SuRie.

My score 6.5

 

 

37 down, SIX TO GO!!! I’m on the home stretch, y’all, and that’s worth a happy dance. While I’m getting jiggy with it, you can check out this round’s ranking: 

  1. Italy (10)
  2. Serbia (8.5)
  3. Denmark (7)
  4. Slovenia (7)
  5. United Kingdom (6.5)
  6. Iceland (2.5)

All I’m going to say on this one is…poor Ari.

Does Italy give you the most grande amore out of these six songs, or does Rasmussen’s majestic beard song win you over every time? Maybe you actually *gulp* enjoy Iceland? Make your decision and vote for your favourite now!

 

NEXT TIME It’s all come down to this: the final six countries competing in Eurovision 2018. Who’s got me fist-pumping and who’s got me face-palming when it comes to Belarus, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland? This weekend, all will be revealed…

  

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Azerbaijan, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Norway + Portugal

Pryvit, Europeople.

That’s right – we have to say hej då to the ‘hej!’ greetings that preceded Stockholm 2016 (at least temporarily…as someone still learning Swedish, expect me to throw around random words á la Svenska on a regular basis, no matter which country is hosting the show). It’s time to hop on board the Ukrainian bandwagon! That’s because we’re less than a month away from the first semi final of Eurovision 2017 (!!!) which, at the time of typing, will still be held in Kyiv. Sans Russia, surprise surprise.

So now I’ve said hello accordingly, there’s some important business to take care of: FINALLY kickstarting my song reviews. Sadly, I haven’t had time to pull together an EBJ Jury for 2017, having just been sightseeing, Melfesting and eating too much cake in Europe for a month (which I will be using as an excuse for not achieving stuff until approximately October). But guess who offered to help me out by listening to and passing judgment on all 43 42 competing entries?

MRS. JAZ! Yes, my mum is back on EBJ,  just after traveling with me to Melfest and then requesting a copy of the 2017 album with genuine enthusiasm (like I said in my last post, the brainwashing is going swimmingly, guys). So get ready to hear verdicts on the Class of 2017 from someone who may have seen Robin Bengtsson strut his freaking beautiful stuff in the flesh twice, but hadn’t heard any of the other competing entries before reviewing them. She’s got the fresh perspective, I’ve got the constant comparisons to last year on lock. Let’s get going!

First up…well, the title says it all. Read on to find out if Dihaj, Anja, Tamara, Joci, JOWST and Salvador managed to impress both a hardcore ESC fan and a first impression-ist.

 

 

My thoughts Say whatever you want about Azerbaijan at Eurovision (be it good or bad; be you polite or potty-mouthed) – you can’t deny that they’re dangerous. They’ve never failed to qualify for the final, and despite a dip in results recently, more than 50% of their time in the contest has been spent sitting pretty in the top five. So will it be a sky-high finish or another slump for Dihaj’s Skeletons: a song that makes a big move away from Melodifestivalen discard Miracle? If it were up to me, Azerbaijan would definitely be back on the left side of the 2017 scoreboard – and I mean WAY up on that side. This song kicks butt! It’s everything I was hoping for from the often experimental Dihaj – interesting, edgy, moody and current – but still has a Sia-esque, accessible pop sound, making it less divisive and giving it more mass appeal. The verses, pre-chorus and chorus itself blend together brilliantly; yet each one has its own distinct vibe without any weak links letting the team down. And is the whole thing catchy or what? The lyrics (particularly in the chorus) make zero sense, if you can even interpret them in the first place – my first impression was ‘I’m a skeleton…and I love my minions’ – but that doesn’t bother me at all. Factor in Dihaj’s quirky sense of style, powerful-but-raspy vocal and Azerbaijan’s tendency to make staging their bitch, and you’ve got the formula for something that, annoyingly, won’t reach the ranks of Running Scared or Always…but totally deserves a top ten finish. 10 points.

My mum says… Oh yes – I liked this straight away (so it was a good start to the marathon of listening I’ve gotten myself in for). Dihaj has a great voice with great range, and took me on a bit of a musical journey reminiscent of an exotic, mysterious Contiki tour. The song is catchy for sure, but not in a commercial ‘How many times have we heard this before?’ kind of way. It sounds like it’s going to have a heck of a stage show to go with it at Eurovision. Well, that’s what I’d be hoping for, anyway! 8 points.

Azerbaijan’s score 9.00

 

 

My thoughts For many Eurofans, The Voice Australia winner Anja was the “real” winner of DMGP 2016. With the Emmelie de Forest creation Never Alone finishing second (shockingly), I don’t think any of our jaws hit the floor when she was announced as a returnee to the comp this year. She changed genre and the all-around vibe of her performance with the all-Aussie Where I Am, which hasn’t completely paid off in the Eurovision bubble (according to some, this entry is yet another hashtag fail for Denmark). But I disagree as much as I possibly could. I LOVE THIS SONG! Love, love, love it. Sure, the pop ballad style may be slightly passé, but there’s something – and by that, I mean everything – about Where I Am that makes it my dream pop ballad. The melody is extraordinarily earwormy, the layers of instrumentation (with an ever-so-slight electronic influence) are contemporary, and Anja’s powerful delivery is unparalleled. She can sing the pants off an entire arena without even trying (so make sure you don’t go commando if you’re heading to Kyiv), and that does elevate a song that I’ll admit would be more pedestrian if sung by a lesser vocalist. And it has to be said that, as always, she looks stunning while she’s doing it (GIRL CRUSH ALERT). Can you tell the whole Danish package is parked up my street? The Australian-ness of it all is an added bonus. My only dilemma is, which flag do I wave if both Australia and Denmark make it to the final? I know I’ve got two hands, but one is reserved for the national flag of my favourite song’s country. I suppose the Aussie one covers both bases, whether Denmark likes it or not. Anyway, I digress. I’m giving Anja DOUZE POINTS!!!

My mum says… If you told me to describe how I feel about this one in two letters, I could do it. I’m not sure why you would, but my point is that the letters would be O and K. It’s no more than nice, and I feel like I’ve heard it before – which I don’t feel at all with Azerbaijan (and I like to hear something different). If I was Denmark, I’d be worried about being forgotten in the 42. As me, I’m just not too keen to listen to this one again anytime soon. It’s not horrible, but I don’t feel the love from above. 5 points.

Denmark’s score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts Let’s be honest – the standard of the Georgian NF was pretty mediocre this year. That being the UNDENIABLE TRUTH (assuming you agree with me) then it’s safe to say that Tako/Tamara, who almost made it to Moscow in 2009, was probably the optimal option to send to Kyiv. Sadly, however, that is the biggest compliment I can bestow on Keep The Faith, which ironically makes me lose faith in Georgia as a Eurovision country that can bring it on. 2016’s Midnight Gold was bat-shit crazy and I bloody loved it, but this bargain basement Bond ballad sucks the soul out of me. Lyrically, it could be lamer, given the overall concept of the song (which is like ‘Let’s take Polina Gagarina’s Million Voices and turn it into a melodramatic musical marathon fit for The Phantom of the Opera!’) but Tamara’s constant droning of ‘keep the faaaaaaith’ almost makes me wish they’d gone full cheese when writing it. It just goes on and on, and then on some more, until you’re expecting her head to explode from the pressure. Don’t get me wrong, because I don’t loathe this song with a passion (which I’m guessing sounds like a lie after all the hate I’ve let loose so far). It’s not in my bottom three. Simply put, though, I don’t like it. Like Anja, Tamara has a powerful set of pipes up her glittery sleeve, but in this case I don’t think they make the song any better. This is all my opinion, of course, which I’m entitled to as much as you’re entitled to metaphorically slap me while screaming ‘TBLISI 2018!!!’…so if you’re Team Georgia, I tip my hat to you. But I won’t be joining you on the playing field. You’ll find me sitting on the sidelines blasting Midnight Gold instead. 3 points.

My mum says… For something so dramatic, there’s a lack of x-factor and general satisfaction here. It may have been a better fit for a Broadway musical than a song contest. It promises more than it delivers, even though there’s an obvious crescendo reached…maybe Tamara’s voice isn’t quite strong enough for the song? She certainly wants it to be, and I admire her for going for it and really attacking her performance. But I don’t think her aggression is the way to win Eurovision. 4 points.

Georgia’s score 3.5

 

 

My thoughts There was a time when I thought I’d never move on from the traumatic loss of Spoon 21 at A Dal’s semi-final stage. Sure, their live performance of Deák was pants, but the song was/is peak electropop – and who’s to say the band couldn’t have made Ryan Dolan-level progress between the NF and the ESC anyway? True as that may be, it’s Joci Pápai and Origo heading off to Kyiv on Hungary’s behalf…and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Consider my poker face gone and my entire deck of cards on the table, folks, because this is my favourite song of the contest. I am in love with it, and would totally propose to it if that was a socially acceptable thing to do (apparently you can marry the Eiffel Tower, but not a three-minute Eurovision song). It’s haunting and hypnotic from beginning to end, with the mix of Hungarian (one of my most-loved musical languages) and Romani (which, like the song’s subject matter, highlights Joci’s heritage) making it extra-exotic, and allowing him to tell his story as authentically as possible. The rap is also a cool addition, seeming like an outlet for Joci to vent his frustrations and emotions in an unrestrained way that doesn’t happen in the lead-up. Every element of Origo flows smoothly into the next, with the slick production and ethnic riff making it current yet still one of the most original (pun intended) entries of the year. I understand that it’s a divisive song, but I think it was an adventurous choice for Hungary to make, and I love that it represents multiple facets of their music scene by marrying the old and the new. Whether that will work in their favour or not remains to be seen, but I’ll be praying that it does. DOUZE POINTS!!!

My mum says… As a disclaimer, Jaz didn’t tell me how she felt about this song before I offered up my own opinion (she doesn’t even tell me which country each one is from before she forces me to I voluntarily listen to them). As it turns out, though, I love it too! It actually gave me goosebumps. Beautiful instrumentals, great atmosphere and something I can’t put my finger on that just makes me want to hear it again – and hear more of what Joci can do. Origo gets 12 points from me!

Hungary’s score 12.00

 

 

My thoughts When it comes to the MGPs, I think Denmark had the superior line-up in 2017 (which is definitely not the norm). Norway only had a few songs that had the potential to give them the final finish at Eurovision that Agnete’s could not. Luckily, though, they picked one. Grab The Moment is an effortlessly ‘now’ pop song that takes advantage of the universe’s unquenchable thirst for music with weird noises and vocal samples in the background (which JOWST manages to pull off live). It’s familiar enough, style-wise, to feel comfortable, but original enough to not provoke any cries of ‘PLAGIARISM!’; and the chorus is so damn hooky, it could catch a great white shark without even breaking the ocean’s surface. I liked the song straight away because it’s not a challenging listen. All it asks from you is to have some fun (and not in an out-of-tune Tereza Kerndlová kind of way) and it makes that very easy to do. No, it doesn’t have what it takes to win Eurovision, and I’m not even confident it will sail to the final. But I personally am more than ready to grab the moment – and enjoy every moment JOWST and Aleksander are on stage. 8 points.

My mum says… This one’s definitely catchy, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I feel like if I listened to it two or three more times in a row, I wouldn’t like it much more – it would start to annoy me instead! I’m not a fan of the lyrics, and I don’t hear anything that makes it stand out from the crowd. It’s not terrible, but all I can say is ‘next, please’. 5 points.

Norway’s score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts Montenegro’s taking us back to 2003, San Marino to 1977 and Portugal to 1956 for Eurovision 2017 – go figure. Two of those three throwbacks I’m on board with (stay tuned to the rest of the reviews to find out which time warp I DON’T want to do again) and Salvador’s is one of them. Why Amar Pelos Dois is so high in the betting odds is a bit of a mystery to me, but I can’t bring myself to trash what is a delicate, soaring and very vintage ballad that is powerful because it isn’t, if that makes sense. We haven’t heard a song so ‘classic ESC’ compete for a long time, and as such, it’s hard to say whether it will prove the bookies right or not. I do think Salvador can win televoters over with his adorkable charms, though, and perhaps the juries with both the song and his understated, pitch-perfect delivery of it. I feel like I want Portugal to do well more than I want Amar Pelos Dois itself to succeed (because there are plenty of other songs that I prefer) but there won’t be one without the other. So, in amongst my fistfuls of Hungarian, Danish, Swedish and Australian flags, you might just find a teeny little Portuguese flag come Eurovision week. 7 points.

My mum says… I quite like this one, as old-fashioned as it is. I can imagine it being performed in a smoky jazz club (in spite of the lack of jazz) in the 1950s, with nothing but a man, a few supporting instrumentalists and some dry ice on the intimate stage. I don’t think it would win the contest in this day and age in a fit (as a layperson) but it has to make for a nice contrast against the countries coming equipped with all the bells and whistles Customs will allow into Ukraine, doesn’t it? 7 points.

Portugal’s score 7.00

 

 

That’s the six songs for today taken care of! Now, with Round One done, the leaderboard looks like this:

  1. Hungary (12.00)
  2. Azerbaijan (9.00)
  3. Denmark (8.5)
  4. Portugal (7.00)
  5. Norway (6.5)
  6. Georgia (3.5)

Congratulations (and celebrations, etc) go to Joci for his impressive win. Sure, he only had to impress two people to make the number one spot, but I was pretty convinced my mum would think Origo was oriNOOOOOOO.

Can Hungary keep a hold of the metaphorical crown with 36 countries’ songs still to be scrutinized? TBH, if I keep going with only two jurors, he probably will. Lucky the final EBJ ranking doesn’t count towards anything official. OR DOES IT?!?

No, it doesn’t.

Waiting in the wings to be reviewed in Round Two are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland – i.e. lots of girl power feat. Koit Toome and that guy from Fusedmarc. Don’t forget to drop by to see if anyone ends up with a douze…or the opposite. As Koit and Laura would say, prepare for dramAAaaAA.

In the meantime, let me (and my mum) know what you think of the songs we’ve reviewed this time. Do you agree with any of our opinions, or should we be ashamed of ourselves for countless reasons? Don’t leave the comments box lonely 😦

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…performances of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016

If you’ve heard a faint sobbing sound over the past few days and weren’t sure where or who it was coming from, I have the answers. Australia is the location, and I’m the crier. Since Saturday night, I’ve been busy mourning the loss of what would have been my new numero uno entry of Eurovision 2016 – Simone’s Heart Shaped Hole. In a shock conclusion that very few of us saw coming, Denmark selected Lighthouse X to represent them in Stockholm with the solid-but-far-from-spectacular Soldiers of Love. There may be some truth to the theory that the three-piece man-band’s super final rivals (a.k.a. the blonde bombshells) cancelled each other out – but even taking that into consideration, it’s hard to fathom how Lighthouse X managed to attract 42% of the public’s votes.

But…at the end of the day, they did, and they are off to the ESC in May. We’ll see what happens to them when they get there (which, at this early stage, could be anything. Miracles never cease). I’m not here today to trash them like a tissue I just blew my nose on. I’m here because, underwhelming winner or not, DMGP was stellar this year – and I want to talk about it some more before we all move on to (hopefully less jaw-dropping) pastures. As there were ten acts competing at the weekend, what better way to both review and rank the NF than with a Top 10? Having critiqued all of the acts based on their performances (an umbrella term covering staging, choreography, costumes and vocals) I proudly present my Top 10 performances of DMGP 2016!

 

  

#10 | Muri & Mario’s performance of To Stjerner

It pains me to say this, as someone very much pro-To Stjerner…but what the actual heck was going on here? Vocally, Muri & Mario (well, I say both, but Muri was doing all the heavy lifting) were A-grade – as the majority of the ten acts were on Saturday night – but their staging and street-wear styling get a D minus from me. From Muri’s awkward and uncomfortable bopping (he clearly knew how stupid he looked) to the out-of-sync and out-of-place gymnasts hanging from the rafters, this was three minutes of pure cringe, culminating in the addition of ‘Ridiculous Guitar Man Making Constipation Face’ (as I have chosen to call him). There was that one magical shot of Muri reaching out to a hanging hula-hooper prior to the final chorus, but that wasn’t enough to salvage anything from the wreckage of this car-crash performance.

 

#9 | Kristel Lisberg’s performance of Who Needs A Heart

Meh. To me, Kristel’s was the weakest ballad competing in DMGP, and although it was staged how such a song should be, the whole package was a bit of a snoozefest (and I wasn’t even watching it at three in the morning. I was wide awake until song no. 7). And surprisingly, her vocals weren’t up to scratch either. All in all, this performance was as bland and beige as the dress Kristel had on underneath all of that bling. But it beats Muri & Mario’s on the basis of being yawn-worthy rather than cringe-worthy.

 

#8 | Jessica’s performance of Break It Good

Reggae usually puts me in a good mood, so even though I knew Jessica wasn’t a contender for the super final, let alone Stockholm, I was looking forward to her time on stage. She didn’t really disappoint. Costumes that clashed prints and energetic dancers equaled visuals that suited the song well. Still, this was quite a slow 180 seconds, and I wasn’t unhappy to move on to the next lot once Break It Good was finished (for good).

 

#7 | Veronicas Illusion’s performance of The Wrong Kind

For a song that could have suffered live on stage, The Wrong Kind was successfully executed via commendable vocals and a lot of strutting, on the part of Veronica herself and her posse (they can’t be compared to Taylor Swift’s squad, but they had a decent amount of fierceness). If I had to nitpick, I’d say that Veronica looked a little unsteady in her high-heeled boots. Had she borrowed Anja Nissen’s fancy sneakers, she’d have been better off (and her strutting would have been Academy Award-winning…if there was a category at the Oscars for such a thing. There totally should be).

 

#6 | Lighthouse X’s performance of Soldiers of Love

This was a song and performance that in no way screamed ‘OBVIOUS WINNER!’, which probably explains why Denmark chose it to represent them at Eurovision. On stage, it was competent and enjoyable, and the trio of acceptably attractive Scandi men were acceptably engaging and charismatic. None of that, of course, disguises the fact that Denmark could have sent something spectacular to Stockholm, but opted to send something safe instead – AGAIN (but I’ll save a lengthier rant on that subject for my 2016 reviews). The most interesting thing about Lighthouse X + DMGP was learning that the band name is pronounced ‘Lighthouse Ten’, not ‘Lighthouse Ex’ (I personally think the latter sounds cooler, but whatever).

 

#5 | David Jay’s performance of Rays of Sunlight

This was like the second coming of Basim, so naturally, I dug it. Rays of Sunlight is such a sunny (EXCEEDINGLY APPROPRIATE ADJECTIVE ALERT!), funky song that it didn’t require gimmicks to sell itself – just some peppy dance moves and a stylish hat. David Jay is a decent showman, and took advantage of his opening slot to elevate the energy levels of the crowd watching (and dancing) on. Okay, so I wasn’t 100% convinced about the presence of pink turtleneck sweaters, on men, in 2016. But I got such a kick out of the rest of the performance that I’ll forgive DR’s stylist-in-residence for that faux pas.

 

#4 | Bracelet’s performance of Breakaway

The lead singer of this “band” (let’s face it…he was the star of the show and should have entered as a solo artist) may have been a member of Panic At The Disco circa 2007 if his hair, fashion and nail varnish choices were anything to go by – but the guy can deliver a studio-perfect vocal, and that’s what matters (plus, he should be able to dress however the hell he wants. Judgmental snobs like me should be ignored). Breakaway is a fun stadium anthem, and that was really reflected in Bracelet’s staging. With glitter and pyrotechnics aplenty, the trio were having a party up there that we were all invited to. It rocked.

 

#3 | Anja Nissen’s performance of Never Alone

At last! Now we know what Emmelie de Forest’s Eurovision performance would have looked like if she was less Lord-of-the-Rings-extra and more Step-Up-film-franchise-extra (which isn’t meant to be an insult, by the way). Anja’s performance, coupled with the De Forest composition Never Alone, was basically Only Teardrops Part 2 (The Pumped-Up Kicks and Polka Dots Edition). That being the truth and nothing but the whole truth (IMO), I’m glad she finished as the runner-up. But she did give her all to the competition, injecting her performance with personality, enthusiasm, and a powerful vocal. This was the only song of the night that had a distinct “moment” – one that signifies a song is in it to win it. When Anja sank down on her knees and belted out that big, big note as sparks flew behind her, it was magic. You go, girlfriend.

 

#2 | Sophia Nohr’s performance of Blue Horizon

While one of my DMGP favourites failed performance-wise (To Stjerner), one of my least favourites impressed me with its staging. A sultry, smoky rendition of Blue Horizon from Sophia – complete with a giant image of her head in the background, lip-syncing to her own song á la Anastasia Prikhodko in Moscow – set the scene for the folksy number, and her styling was perfection in gypsy form. Considering she barely moved for three minutes, it’s commendable that she kept me transfixed the entire time. This was proof that you don’t have to employ ‘big’ and ‘loud’ and ‘in your face’ as performance buzzwords if you want to make an impact.

 

#1 | Simone’s performance of Heart Shaped Hole

I’ll be honest. I had very high hopes for the staging of this song, and they weren’t met. I wanted moody, edgy and shadowy; what I got instead was romantic, shiny and stringy (seriously, that giant heart-hole looked like it was made out of spangled seaweed). And Simone was far too cheery the entire time given that her song wasn’t an airy-fairy ode to true love (it’s quite the opposite, in fact). But I can’t not make her third DMGP performance my number one pick, because it still managed to set off a physical reaction in me (i.e. spine tingles) in addition to a multitude of emotional feels. And, tackling a song that doesn’t mess around in the key change department, Simone sang flawlessly. She lights up whatever stage she’s standing on, and watching her do her thing is glorious…even if she really should wipe the smile off her face.

 

 

Hmm…I may have to settle in for a repeat viewing of Denmark’s selection ASAP, having reminded myself of how super-duper awesome it was. Not that I particularly want to relive my beloved Simone and fellow Aussie Anja being beaten by a band I hadn’t even considered potential winners.

It still hurts SO BAD *sniff*.

But the pity party’s got to end sometime. Did you feast your eyes and ears on DMGP on the weekend? If so, I want to know what you thought of the performances and the results. Were Lighthouse X deserving champs in your opinion, or have Denmark just planted their feet firmly in the semis for the second year running? Who would have given the hosts of 2014 their best shot at another win on Swedish soil? Let me know below.

 

Until next time (a.k.a. Super Saturday #3!)…

 

2015sig

 

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 7)

Bonjour! You’re reading eurovisionbyjaz.com – yep, the ‘.wordpress’ is finally a thing of the past, in case you missed me plastering that all over my social media on the weekend – and this is Part 7 of the Viennese Verdicts. There’s just one set of songs left to review after today, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s worth a ‘hooray!’ or a ‘hell no!’. Though if you’re not up for checking out the EBJ Jury’s catty critiques (with the occasional compliment thrown in to prove we’re not unfeeling cyborgs) you’d have clicked away by now. Right?

Those of you sticking around may have trouble believing this, but rehearsals in Vienna are already underway. Where the fu…er, I mean, feather boa, did the last twelve months go?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that it is physically paining me to not be tapping away at my laptop keyboard in the swanky Austrian press centre. I desperately wish I was on site, regularly caressing my official lanyard and socialising with other peeps who love Eurovision and write stuff *makes über-ugly cry face*. So I’m using this post, and all posts yet to come pre-ESC as a distraction from that pain. Just so you know, in case they come across all angsty.

So let the distraction commence! Facing the music (HA HA) today will be Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. Their fate is in the hands of one familiar face, one not-so-familiar face, and me. You have to feel sorry for these countries…

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv9

Nick Provenghi: “Like one esteemed (and infamous) Valentina Monetta, I’m back! Sadly, though, I won’t make it through to the final, as I can’t come back a third time *sad face*. Nevertheless, I’m more than eager to sink my teeth into another batch of songs! But before that, it’s worth noting that ESC 2011 in Düsseldorf (loved having the umlaut, BTW) was the first contest I followed. And in this batch of songs, I actually have the country that sent my winner from 2011! Hopefully they’ve delivered something on par with their four-year-old entry (spoiler: they haven’t…no one in 2015 has).”

Visit Nick’s Eurovision blog here.

James Sayer: “Hello! I’m James, a 19-year-old Creative Writing student at Edge Hill University…which is near Liverpool (nobody has ever heard of it, I’m aware. It’s lovely though, promise.) In Eurovision circles, you may know of me from ESC Views, which I set up and co-ran with Rory [a fellow member of the EBJ Jury] for most of last year (and then uni happened, and I had to leave. Sad times. Rory keeps it going now though, and he does a fabulous job, if I do say so myself!). My favourite Eurovision entry ever is Horehronie. Gravity. Shady Lady. Olou Tou Kosmou I Elpida. THIS QUESTION IS TOO DIFFICULT. I’ve never been to see Eurovision live, although this is literally my number one life goal. Until then, I fill my time by writing poems (I’m not THAT pretentious, I swear) and hosting awesome flat parties, which may or may not be an elaborate excuse to subliminally shove obscure European music down my unsuspecting friends’ throats without them realising *mwahahahahaaa*. Also, it’s rumoured that my hair has magical powers. I cannot confirm or refute this statement.”

Jasmin Bear: “I loved the umlaut too, and for the record, I DO believe that James’ hair has magical powers.”

 

 

This round of VVs is all about groups and duos – plus a Céline Dion impersonator – by pure chance (I literally pulled these out of a hat). Read on to find out how Nick, James and I rate PKN, Michele & Anita, Anti Social Media, Elina & Stig and Maria Elena’s respective three minutes.

 

 

FINLAND

Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät

Finland

Nick: Punk and Eurovision – who would’ve thought it? Well, technically, I wished for a kind of punk to win Finland’s NF last year, but that’s the past. Anyway, when PKN won UMK, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I am now. Initially, I was furious that my favourites, Satin Circus and Järjestyshäiriö, lost out to what sounded like pure noise. But with time, I was able to accept the losses and actually listen to Aina Mun Pitää in a fair context. And for what it is, it isn’t half bad! It’s got a strong punk sensibility and the lyrics are probably the most unique and “heartfelt” of the year. Sure, it still annoys me after about a minute, but that’s pretty much the whole song, so whatever. In the end, I’ve come around to support PKN, even more so after the (hilarious) outrage over their “every other song is crap” comment. I’m even able to support my pet country now! I don’t support the song, but having said that, a high finish from Finland could see more rock entries in the contest, and that’d be just amazing. 5 points.

James: I am still not over this. Finland should have sent Satin Circus, Solju, Opera Skaala…hell, just about ANYTHING from UMK would have been better than Aina Mun Pitää. Ignoring the elephant in the room with this one is just impossible. Yes, these guys are handicapped. Why, may I ask, does that excuse the fact that their song is a pile of steaming horse shite? Just listen to the bloody thing (if your ears can bear it). I’ve smashed plates that made a more pleasing noise than that. It’s honestly as though the four band members are all playing different songs and just happen to be doing so in close proximity to the others. They can’t keep in time with each other! I feel like I should insert a politically correct line here like ‘I appreciate the difficulties they’ve overcome, and I’m glad to see them enjoying themselves’…but in all honesty I don’t, and I’m not. The Finnish entry makes me angry because they beat some amazing songs on a SYMPATHY vote, and will probably do ridiculously well in Vienna on the same basis. This is not the X-Factor, where sob stories are part and parcel of the whole shebang. Eurovision is a SONG contest, and this mess is just not good enough. I’m sorry, but I can’t give this any more than 0 points.

Jaz: Back when PKN won UMK, my reaction was, fittingly, OMG – WTF?!? Finland may have impressed me by embracing all genres for the purposes of their 2015 NF (opera, folk, alt-rock, the ultimately triumphant punk…everything was accounted for) but they horrified me by choosing Aina Mun Pitää. I’m telling you, I spent an entire hour attempting to pick my jaw up off the floor that evening. I am not a punk fan at the best of times, and tend to avoid it like a very loud plague. So naturally, I couldn’t believe that a minute-and-a-half of migraine-inducing noise had been voluntarily selected by a country to represent them at Eurovision (over the fun and freshness that we all agree is Crossroads by Satin Circus, mind you). As I said at the time, I have nothing against PKN themselves, and I hope they have a blast in Vienna. I also think it’s great that they’re using music as an outlet for their frustrations, helping those of us who do not have to live with disabilities better understand what it’s like (there’s that PC statement James stylishly sidestepped). The problem is, I’m not 100% sure that what Finland have here IS music. I have mellowed since that fateful final, having reached the point where one must accept that a certain song is competing and that’s that. I.e. there’s no point in swearing like a profanity buzzer personified on Twitter about it. But the bottom line is that punk is not my cup of tea. Finland is not my #40 song of the year at the moment, as I actually appreciate how memorable it is, and how it couldn’t be any less cheesy even though it’s a message song of sorts. But there’s no hook here, no real tune, and no spectacular vocals to admire/distract us from the terrible song (more on Greece later). If people vote based on song, and jury members do the same, this shouldn’t qualify. If they opt for sympathy votes instead, Aina Mun Pitää may be through, and from there, anything could happen. That’s precisely what worries me, because there’s no way this deserves to outdo Something Better. It most definitely isn’t something better. 3 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 2.67

 

 

SAN MARINO

Chain of Lights by Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini

San Marino

Nick: Oh, look who’s back – the only person who’s been a more frequent participant than Valentina Monetta for lovely little San Marino, songwriter Ralph Siegel. What’s different now is that he’s recruited JESC veterans Michele and Anita to do his dirty work this year. And he’s managed to out-musty Maybe as the most 80s-tastic schlager-esque revival song ever. Michele and Anita are both capable vocalists, and it’s unfortunate that their talents are wasted on this dirge. At least we’ll get to see them two more times when they come back next year and when they finally qualify in ESC 2017. 3 points.

James: I still haven’t listened to this all the way through once. I just can’t. Siegel is bankrolling the entire country, apparently, and I’m desperately sad for Michele and Anita. They’re young, talented singers, and because of unfortunate financial restrictions, they’re stuck singing this dreary monstrosity, which is basically Switzerland 2006 and ValMon 3.0 shoved into a particularly temperamental blender and regurgitated as a particularly sickly blancmange. I found an interview with them, can’t remember where, but they specifically said they wanted to sing something modern and uptempo. This is neither, and I feel like it’s going to be the cringiest, most uncomfortable thing that we’ll have to sit through in Vienna. At least we’ll only have to do so once, in their semi. 1 point, purely because it’s marginally better than Finland.

Jaz: The reign of Valentina may have ended *sighs with relief* but that (apparently) doesn’t mean that Ralph Siegel has given up on Eurovision. Presumably because San Marino made the final last year with one of his compositions – which I still believe was an ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake…just give them what they want!’ vote – they figure Siegel is their third-time-lucky charm. Well, if the mess that is Chain of Lights is any indication, they are very, very wrong. I had such high hopes for Anita and Michele. They’re both talented, camera-ready, and, thanks to their Junior Eurovision experiences in 2013 and 2014 respectively, well-equipped to handle the hullabaloo (that word does not get used enough) of the adult Eurovision weeks, despite their young age. All they needed was an age-appropriate song that was remotely contemporary, and they would have been well on their way to not being humiliated in front of millions of people. What they have instead is a megamix of three different entries from Eurovision 1982, none of them good ones. This song leaves me with so many questions. Why do I know it’s a mish-mash disaster, yet at the same time I have trouble remembering how it goes? Why does the chorus remind me so much of Lionel Richie’s Hello, a song I actually like? And why is Siegel still under the impression that he can succeed at Eurovision when he hasn’t since the 1990s? I may never get the answers to these questions, but one I can answer myself is ‘will San Marino qualify this year?’. No, they will not. And that really blows for two teens who could have put the Tolmachevy Sisters to shame with a better song up their sleeves. 3 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 2.33

 

 

DENMARK

The Way You Are by Anti Social Media

Denmark

Nick: Ooh, controversy! Just like Finland’s, Denmark’s selection generated huge amounts of rage when fellow JESC veteran and Eurofan favourite Anne Gaadegard’s Suitcase lost out to this. And having totally forgotten both the winner and runner-up since my first listens (my fave was Julie Bjerre’s adorable Tæt På Mine Drømme), I came to the unpopular agreement with the Danish jurors. Anti Social Media’s song has a lot of pop simplicity that I appreciate, and since it technically falls into the genre of pop-rock, I have an automatic bias for it. The chorus is immediate and very catchy, and the groove is a fun one, a rarity for 2015! That being said, the live performance is shaky, and I’m not a huge fan of the lead singer’s voice. And after a while, it really did get on my nerves, but I’m coming around to it again. Considering that the last Danish entrant to do that was one Miss de Forest, that could bode well (or badly, if you’re DR) for Denmark. 6 points.

James: Luck of the draw has saddled me with a load of entries which will make you guys think I am a complete bitch. I do apologise, and I promise you there ARE songs I love this year…but Denmark’s ain’t one of ‘em. This infuriatingly faux-happy THING offends me, and I don’t even know why – it’s just the way it is (see what I did there? Jaz will be proud). It just makes me frown a lot, and want to skip it every time I hear that intro. Denmark do this quite often. I hated Cliché Love Song, I hated Should’ve Known Better, I hated New Tomorrow…need I go on? Stop with all this fake happiness!! I mean, come on – this is a country where the music industry is full of fabulously moody electro divas like Medina. WHY CAN’T WE HAVE ONE OF THEM FOR THE ESC?!?!? Ugh. If it’s any consolation, my friend Izzy really likes this one. And it’s probably gonna qualify and do annoyingly well. There, I said something positive. 2 points, purely because it’s marginally better than San Marino. There’s a pattern emerging here…

Jaz: Ah, Denmark…another country that had me swearing on social media once their national final had concluded. There’s got to be irony in that somewhere, considering the winning act was Anti Social Media. I was almost as outraged by their DMGP win as I was by PKN’s victory, as The Way You Are was my least favourite contender to represent last year’s hosts. I didn’t think it was dreadful – like, San Marino-level dreadful – but it was musical wallpaper to me. Hence why I may have had an over-dramatic reaction to it beating Anne Gadegaard’s Suitcase by a miniscule margin. But over time, I’ve stopped sobbing and screaming ‘IF ONLY!’ into my pillow, and come to accept that this song does have its place in the 2015 field. It is peppy, after all, and reasonably energetic, and god knows we need an injection of peppiness and energy in Vienna. It’s also cool by default because it’s retro: 1960s-esque, so still set apart from the 1920s-esque UK entry. However, I still have a problem with The Way You Are, which is a problem I often have with Danish entries (Cliché Love Song not included, because that was the bomb dot com). They’re competent, they’re catchy, and they’re well-performed…but they don’t excite me. I can’t connect with them on a level that in the past, would make me cheer for them, and this year, will make me vote for them. Anti Social Media are personable boys/men, and their song is good, but it’s not great by my standards. Still, I’m not a harsh judge, so they get 6 points from me.

EBJ Jury Score: 4.67

 

 

ESTONIA

Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa

Estonia

Nick: My Danish love story was repeated on a grander scale with the Estonian entry, as I downloaded it in January and called it something to the effect of a “beacon of light.” Nowadays, it’s fighting a losing battle to stay in the good graces of my scoreboard. The problem hasn’t necessarily been overplaying, it’s been that the song is starting to show its weaknesses. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a mess, repeating the same words over and over but maintaining a façade of depth. The music is probably its strongest asset, and I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for the opening, but after that, it doesn’t really do anything for me. Finally, the worst part has to be the live vocals, which have sounded ropey from both parties from what I’ve heard. All that means that Estonia’s falling onto the wrong side of six points. 5 points.

James: Didn’t like this at first. Didn’t get it AT ALL…until I got the CD and started actually listening to it, that is. Because yeah, okay, I must admit it’s pretty fantastic. I still don’t understand the ‘OMG IT’S GONNA WIN’ hype, but I’m really enjoying the song now, so I’ll roll with it. I’ve known about Elina Born for a while, and I still think she can do better than this, and sonically, that ‘breathing in a deep sleep pace’ line still makes me cringe every time…I don’t even know why, Stig just spits it out and it’s horrible. And it doesn’t even really make sense. But enough of that, I’m nitpicking. Probably trying to justify why I didn’t like it at first. It’s such a grower, it really is. It’s got nothing on the absolute magic of Calm After The Storm and the comparisons are unavoidable, but it’s a nice entry nonetheless. 6 points.

Jaz: Stig and Elina won their way to Eurovision in a landslide victory that would have been comparable to Andreas Kümmert’s, had he accepted his win. They wiped the floor with the competition in their own country, and they’re a formidable force coming into the next, most important stage of battle. Of course, much of that status is being attributed to their Common Linnets resemblance, which as far as I can see extends to Stig being a man á la Waylon, and Elina being a woman á la Ilse DeLange. Calm After The Storm and Goodbye To Yesterday are different creatures, and with a totally different dynamic between the pairs performing them. I didn’t see The Netherlands as the dark horse they turned out to be last year, as I liked but didn’t love their song (though I felt the same way about Anouk’s Birds, so perhaps I should have seen it coming) but Estonia 2015, I see. I’m not convinced we’ll be headed to Tallinn next May, but all in all I am very impressed with what the strangely attractive Stig and the not-so-strangely attractive Elina are bringing to Vienna. Goodbye To Yesterday is another retro-tinged track (although it’s far more subtly so than the Danish/UK entries) and it’s blended with a guitar pop sound that is super on-trend outside of the ESC sphere. It’s moody and melancholy without being depressing, and it’s lyrically rather clever – it tells a tale while repeatedly reinforcing the central idea via the choruses. That dynamic I mentioned earlier is intriguing. Stig and Elina are having a musical conversation with each other, but they’re letting us in on it too as they each reveal their side of the story. ‘I didn’t want to wake you up/why didn’t you wake me up?’ just works. I can’t help but be hooked on this, folks. There are songs I like more, but the bleakness and uniqueness of GTY is mesmerising to the ears – and that so-close-but-so-distant NF presentation is mesmerising to the eyes. This is a strong package that should be feared by most, if not all, of the 2015 participants. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.00

 

 

GREECE

One Last Breath by Maria Elena Kyriakou

Greece

Nick: Where’d it all go wrong, Greece? The refreshed NF format born in 2013 has thrown up some gems, but this year it just flopped completely. This ballad was the only non-ethno touched song of the five, and I initially gave it pity points for that. But then it had to stand on its own and it nearly fell down the stairs. It’s the definition of a lame lady ballad (stealing that term from you, Jaz!), with its sappy lyrics and ridiculous score. That’d kinda be okay if Maria Elena could save the song, but judging that performance from the NF, she can’t. Maybe that’ll change in Vienna, but for now, this is a basement dweller for me. And, if nothing improves, it should keep Greece in the semis for the first time ever. Poor thing. 1 point.

James: Oh, Greece? I genuinely forgot this song was even in the competition. It came up on shuffle the other day, and it was at about 2 minutes 30 seconds before I finally remembered which one I was listening to, having mentally crossed off a whole host of more memorable lady ballads from this year first. That can’t be a good sign. I mean, once I get over the fact that I forgot it existed, One Last Breath isn’t too bad as a song, I guess. But at the same time, it’s one of those LLBs that does absolutely bugger-all for 90% of the song and then gets all dramatic and angsty in the last chorus, and leaves you feeling a bit like ‘um…okay, calm down love, what was all that for?’ Nah, sorry Greece. You’ve lost the plot. 4 points (wow, I’m being nice…).

Jaz: In this year of ballads, it’s great that we have a country like Greece – a country that can be relied upon to liven things up with some big, fun, ethno-pop number. The last thing we needed from them was an aspiring Céline Dion in an evening gown, peddling a mournful love ballad that would suck the life out of us all. So it really is wonderf-what? What’s that you’re saying? That IS what Greece has given us? Oh yeah, I forgot. On PURPOSE. I get that last year’s rap/dance fusion feat. trampoline didn’t fare so well (which is a complete mystery to me, by the way) but is that justification to head off in the total opposite direction? I mean, there are like, zero trampolines involved in Maria Elena’s entry. One Last Breath – a final intake of air that is not the result of too much trampolining – is a power ballad in the vein of Anna Vissi’s Everything, which worked on home ground in 2006 because a) it was way more powerful, b) it was way more memorable, and c) it was 2006. Even though Maria Elena is as beautiful as her voice, her song is passé, which is even more evident when it’s placed beside more relevant ballads like Norway’s and Italy’s. This is Greece we’re talking about, so no doubt they’ll qualify to the final. But I cannot foresee One Last Breath making much of a splash once it gets there. Then again, I thought Rise Up was a top 10 cert, and look how wrong I was about that. Athens 2016, anyone? 4 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 3.00

 

 

Well, that was…unimpressive. The quality of the songs in this round, that is – not what we said about them (we were hilarious). Here’s proof of the mediocre scoring we couldn’t avoid doling out:

  1. Estonia (7.00)
  2. Denmark (4.67)
  3. Greece (3.00)
  4. Finland (2.67)
  5. San Marino (2.33)

So Elina and Stig win the day, albeit with one of the lowest winning average scores to date.

Estonia hasn’t scored highly enough with the EBJ Jury to squeeze into our collective top 10. How far up have they been ranked? And is poor San Marino sitting at #40? You’ll have to drop by for the final installment of the Viennese Verdicts to find out. If you want to know exactly when that post goes live and you’re not already subscribed to EBJ/stalking my social media, you can subscribe or follow me on Twitter/like my Facebook page (all links are over in the sidebar). I would appreciate it like Dima Bilan appreciates nobody bringing up Mulletgate ’06!

All will be revealed then…but not before James returns to judge, alongside Fraser from escTMi and moi (duh), Portugal, Australia, Latvia, Macedonia and Belarus. Whether you need a break from reading rehearsal gossip by then or not, please come and check it out. ‘Tis the season to be all over all things Eurovision, ‘tis it not?

On that note, I want to know how you’d rank today’s reviewed entries, so spill in the comments.

 

Until next time…

nsig

 

PS – I must quickly mention the results of the 2015 OGAE poll, which started and finished in a flash. As you’re probably aware, Italy took the prize (meaning I am doing a very stylish victory dance as I type this) which may signify that they’re going to follow suit on May 23rd, or that they’ll have to settle for bronze like last year’s OGAE winner Sweden. Of course, it could also signify nothing of the sort. But I have to celebrate the implications of my entire top 3 ending up in the poll’s top 5 – Italy first, Sweden second, and Norway fourth. My fingers are crossed that these results bode well for Eurovision success of some sort. Let me know below how your favourites scored with the OGAE clubs!

 

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.
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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.
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“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.
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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?

 

Copenhagen Reviews: Part 3 (Latvia-Portugal)

Hello again, all of y’all who aren’t too busy living it up in Copenhagen and having in-depth conversations with your new BFF Sanna Nielsen to read blog posts written by an extremely jealous Australian who wants Sanna to be her BFF. Writing about Eurovision is somehow a good coping mechanism to help deal with the burning envy I am feeling seeing Facebook and Twitter bursting with photos from Denmark, so I present to you the second-last part of my 2014 reviews. Every word about Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Portugal was written with love and in between pathetic sobs of ‘I want to be in the Hallerne! Why aren’t I in the Hallerne?!?’. While I muse over the answer to that question, check out my thoughts on these entries.

 

LATVIA

Cake To Bake by Aarzemnieki

latviaBest lyric: ‘I talked to a unicorn the other night, he took me up on a lonely star.’

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Latvia has a less-than-impressive Eurovision success rate. They may have begun with a 3rd place back in 2000 and won two years later, but it’s been pretty much downhill from there, with their last five entries failing to qualify to the final. Ouch. I wonder if that’s a painful stat for Aarzemnieki to note. It’s up to them to break the drought, after all. I’ll save my thoughts on their chances for later and focus for now on how I like their song, because I do. It’s so cute, and lead singer Jöran is so smiley, that insulting it would be up there with hurling abuse at a precious little old lady who’s just presented you with a tray of freshly-baked scones. Or cakes, which would be more appropriate in this instance. You can easily make fun of the lyrics, but like quite a few songs this year which seem to be about one thing and are actually about another, Cake To Bake isn’t exactly about kitchen troubles. When you know that, you can see how this song strikes a nice balance between novelty and serious. Like Joan Franka’s You And Me, it’s a track made for singing round the campfire, and those kinds of songs can either be nailed or be fails at Eurovision (we all know how things went for Joan). I find this very infectious, and find the chemistry between the band members genuine, so I’m inclined to think it will work – but in a semi final with many a strong contender, and this being Latvia, that doesn’t necessarily translate to qualification. I can’t imagine the juries loving this, so it’s up to Jöran to beam that megawatt smile of his down the cameras and connect with all the televoters. If he and the gang can make them ‘aww!’ then anything is possible. I would really like to see this on Saturday night, because Aarzemnieki = adorable puppy, and a DNQ = slamming the door in its face. DON’T DO THAT TO THE PUPPY, EUROPE!

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 7 points.

 

LITHUANIA

Attention by Vilija 

lithuaniaBest lyric: ‘Do you dream about me in your bed? Keep on dreaming…’

Better than 2013: Yes 

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Lithuania selected their song/artist combo this year through what can only be described as a marathon, and the outcome needed to be amazing to make it worth their while. I wouldn’t say they totally succeeded in that, but this song has a fan in me. The problem is everything but the song. Positives first: I think Attention rocks in so many ways. It’s original, it doesn’t rhyme all the bloody time which is refreshing, it’s modern, it’s catchy (someone please take that word away from me!) and it’s memorable. Pardon the pun, but it definitely captures one’s attention. Lithuania have more often than not sent entries in recent years that either make me go ‘meh’ or make me scream ‘OH DEAR GOD, MY EARS! MAKE IT STOP!’. So I’m thrilled that I can support them based on song choice for once. Now, the negatives that have to be addressed: Vilija. Her stage presence. Her dance moves (or at least the ones she’s been given). Her choice of costume both at the national final (you know, that end part about six months after it started) and Eurovision In Concert…the list goes on, and that’s not good. I can’t comment on her live vocal as I restricted myself to the radio edit, but I’ve heard mixed reviews on that too. This is what I meant when I said that Lithuania hadn’t 100% succeeded in giving us an entry worth the epic journey to select it. I’m sure Vilija is a lovely person, but she needs sorting out in so many areas that I can’t imagine she’ll be contest-ready in a week. However, I’m willing to be proven wrong on this occasion. My fingers are crossed that Lithuania end up grabbing attention in all the right ways. 

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.

 

MACEDONIA

To The Sky by Tijana Dapčević 

macedoniaSounds like: the background song after a contestant with a sob story has successfully auditioned for American Idol 

Better than 2013: Definitely less of a car crash, so, yeah!

Top 10 material: No

IMO: FYROM were a guilty pleasure for me last year (though I’ll never forgive them for taking away Imperija, which would have been an actual pleasure) because they were so bad on stage it was frightening, yet somehow entertaining. I’m not convinced Tijana’s performance will be frightening OR entertaining if it complements her song. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se – in fact, I’ve been defending it from anyone saying it’s super dated because I only consider it mildly so. It’s radio-friendly rock feel makes it accessible and inoffensive, and Tijana’s, shall we say, rugged voice takes command and owns the three minutes. But ‘nothing wrong’ and ‘inoffensive’ makes a winner not, and this is kind of blah on the whole. It doesn’t sound remotely Macedonian, so there’s no ethnicity to latch on to. Lyrically, it feels contrived, and whilst Tijana does a good job of wrapping her manly (let’s no longer pretend it sounds otherwise) tone around the words, I’m not sure she really believes what she’s singing. With all that in mind, and despite the fact that vanilla songs can and do qualify thanks to the juries, I reckon it’ll take one hell of a prop and/or costume reveal to elevate this to qualifying territory. I’m talking some hybrid of Svetlana Loboda’s Hell Machine, Farid’s glass box and Rambo Amadeus’ donkey here, that belches out wind, dry ice and multicoloured confetti simultaneously. Did Tijana happen to pack one of those? If not, I suspect what she’ll be packing is her bags as soon as semi 2 is over. 

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

MALTA

Coming Home by Firelight 

maltaSounds like: I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons; Coming Home by Philip Phillips

Better than 2013: A little bit

Top 10 material: Yes 

IMO: Every year, the same thing tends to happen with Malta and myself. They pick a song that I liked going in to their final, but that wasn’t my favourite. Then, shortly after the victory, I suddenly realise that they’ve picked the best possible option – the ‘right’ entry (even if I still like a couple of the losing songs better). You can see where I’m going with this. Firelight stood out to me from MESC 2014 as an act with a decent song and as possible winners, but I was concentrating all my energy on JESC alumni Daniel Testa FTW. He was my top pick. But lo and behold, Coming Home took the crown, and about five minutes later I had accepted this as what was meant to be. This song may be as derivative as they come, and tug at the heartstrings a little too obviously (if the song alone doesn’t tear you up good the video should do it) but damn, it’s got me. Not to the point where I’m going to rave about it, as there are other styles of music and other songs in the contest that I prefer. But I can’t help feeling warm and fuzzy when I hear it, and strangely calm too. Anything with a country vibe does that to me. The key for Firelight will be to keep that sentiment genuine and their onstage camaraderie fresh – i.e. make it look and sound like they’re singing the song for the first time, not the hundredth. Because if they don’t believe it, neither will we. I would expect Malta to sail into the final regardless, but once there they could either be forgotten about, or capture the feeling in the moment and do very well. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be impossible, under the right circumstances, for the tiny Mediterranean island to host two Eurovision events within six months. 

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

MOLDOVA

Wild Soul by Cristina Scarlat 

moldovaBest lyric: ‘The world can throw a dice for each of us, any time.’

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

IMO: In my mind, Aliona Moon was a perfect angel with a voice that makes flowers unfurl and heals wounded animals. If she was the angel on the shoulder of Moldova, then Cristina Scarlat is the devil on the other side. I’m not saying she’s evil and/or untalented – but she’s bringing something quite dark and intense to the table which is a contrast to last year’s offering. Wild Soul is just as powerful as O Mie, but rather than lamenting lost love via a stunning piano ballad, it does…something else, in a dark dubsteppy fashion. Okay, so the lyrics are a little confusing and open to interpretation. I think we can all agree, however, that Cristina’s telling us she has a wild soul in a cruel world, and if you try to argue with her SHE WILL STRANGLE YOU. Because, you know, she has no feelings of mercy. I prefer the lighter, brighter Moldova authorised by Pasha Parfeny that we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing for the past two years, but there is a lot I like about this Moldova too. The dubstep is good (though Cristina should be grateful she’s not singing right after Aram Mp3, ‘cause Armenia’s done it better); I enjoy the way the song unfolds over the three minutes, in particular the transitions between verses and chorus; and her voice is ultra commanding. It needs to be to handle a song like this. I’m actually really interested to see how this is staged and costumed in comparison to how it was in the NF. It has the potential to be really effective on stage if done right. If they throw everything including the kitchen sink (albeit adorned with Swarovski crystals and placed on a solid gold pillar) at the presentation like last year, in a way that makes too much look like just enough, that would be fine by me. I have no feelings of mercy either. Not when it comes to being OTT.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.

 

MONTENEGRO

Moj Svijet by Sergej Četković

montenegroSounds like: the spirit of Željko Joksimović will be present in Copenhagen

Better than 2013: Is chocolate better than ice cream? I can’t choose!

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Montenegro has gone from divisive and quite frankly, badass (well, as badass as you can get when astronauts and sexy cyborgs unite) to majestic balladry in one short year, and I’m in love. Just when I thought the lack of Balkan countries in the contest atm would make things unbearable, the country that brought us Igranka (igranku, ku ku, irgranku) of all countries has saved the day with a beautiful Balkan ballad that brings to mind gems like Lejla and Nije Ljubav Stvar. Gorgeous. That’s also an adjective I’d use to describe the music video, which is basically a long advert for Montenegrin tourism with all its sweeping shots of clifftops and crashing waves. When I’m not gazing starry-eyed into the distance as the song transports me to one of those clifftops, I’m thinking ‘I wish this song would literally transport me to one of those clifftops.’ I just love this song to pieces. Thankfully the English version isn’t the ESC version, because the native tongue makes a lovely song even lovelier. It’s soaring and sentimental (but not overly so) and goes somewhere, even ending while it’s still in that big, climactic place. By all accounts Sergej is a top bloke and a great vocalist, but by rehearsal-based account he’s a bit stiff, so loosen up, man, for possible qualification’s sake! I desperately want Montenegro to make the final for the first time with this, still believing Who See should have gone through. Unfortunately, I have this feeling Moj Svijet is just going to miss out thanks to songs that perhaps deserve it less from countries that always go through (I’m referring to Russia). I know not everyone feels the same way about this as I do, but…come on! We’re talking pure class, here, people. You’ve got to award points for that.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

THE NETHERLANDS

Calm After The Storm by The Common Linnets

netherlandsSounds like: it was made for road trippin’ through America (with the possibility of falling asleep at the wheel)

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Just a brief aside to defend myself – yes, I am Team Common Linnets over Team Anouk, but I never got Anouk, and as I said re: Malta, country music soothes me. This song is a palate cleanser and a half, so humble it’s verging on comatose. It will put many a flag-waver to sleep, but I find it a rather enjoyable listen. Ilse and Waylon’s voices blend nicely together, at least in studio, and the song cruises along at the same altitude which doesn’t bother me because this is not meant to be a big, brash drama-fest. Although I am running out of things to say about it already, and that ironically says a lot. I like it, I like that it’s less depressing than Birds, the performance will be competent if not mind-blowing, I’ll be surprised if it qualifies…what else is there to come up with? Unless they manage to catch some wave of momentum from last year’s ‘at last!’ qualification, I suspect The Common Linnets will be nothing more than a pleasant break between more exciting entries.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

NORWAY

Silent Storm by Carl Espen

norwayBest lyric: ‘I’m here to use my heart and my hands. Somehow the bruises changed my plans.’

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: It’s been a while since we’ve had a Norwegian ballad in the contest, and since the last one was the melodramatic My Heart Is Yours, it’s like having a whole new Norway with the much calmer and restrained Silent Storm in the running. I didn’t follow MGP too closely this year, listening to a snippet of this song when I heard it was the favourite out of curiosity and only hearing the full version post-victory. The snippet had me questioning why it was the favourite – that thirty seconds was okay, but nothing more. It was the song in its entirety that gave me some serious feels, more serious than Carl himself (someone give the man some laughing gas stat, or at least tell him a joke!). It was the simple but effective piano intro that kick-started said feels, followed by the lyrically sparse verses in which few words say so much, then the chorus (in case you weren’t sure what usually comes after a verse) which is pretty in a haunting, sad kind of way – that being a compliment, guys. Basically, I find this whole song hauntingly beautiful, and the fact that Carl puts the required emotion into his performance without letting it spill over – there’s that restraint again – holds my interest the whole time. To say that this song is calmer than others is not to say that it doesn’t go anywhere. It certainly does ramp up towards the end, which is where Carl has been heard to lose his control on the higher notes, and also where they really need to be at their best. Because this is a bare-bones sort of ballad, he’s very exposed. I hope he’s not reading this and is now totally offended and terrified of screwing up. If you are, Carl, I’m sorry. I’m really fond of your song, and if you can just pull off that last thirty seconds (backup singers may come in handy to mask any cracks) yours could be a magic moment.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

POLAND

My Słowianie – Slavic Girls by Donatan & Cleo

polandSounds like: the Igranka of 2014

Better than 2013: Technically, yeah. Better than Poland’s last entry in 2011? Also yeah.

Top 10 material: No

IMO: This song was a web phenomenon back when it was first released, with Youtube views of the video currently in the double-digit millions (which I’m sure has nothing to do with the amount of cleavage on display in it) and people have been getting down to it all over the world. As a fan of Igranka, which this reminds me of a bit in style terms and a lot on pure weirdness and divisiveness, I took to it instantly, and a part of me does now want to be a Slavic girl. But I can’t shake the feeling that I should be ashamed of loving this. Even if you subtract the endless parade of boobs from the equation, I still class this as a guilty pleasure even though I don’t want to. I think as a song, it’s got truckloads of appeal. It’s ethnic, but not your standard ethno-pop that we’ve all heard countless times before (for more on that, see the next review on Portugal!). It’s got way more attitude than those kinds of songs, especially during the Polish parts which are the best parts. I’m glad they’ve gone for the bilingual version over just English, because three whole minutes of lines like ‘cream and butter taste so good’ would be hard to take (although Cleo has a point there). I hate to use this word yet again, but this is catchy, darn it, and there’s nothing else like it in the contest. My one complaint is that Cleo feels the need to announce hers and Donatan’s names at the beginning, Jason Derülo-style, like we’d have no idea who was singing the song otherwise. But that’s just one of my pet peeves. As with Montenegro, I’ll be devastated if this doesn’t qualify, but it is on the tipping point. I can imagine it being even more divisive than Igranka, and since that failed I think Poland’s chances are on the slim side. No doubt Cleo, who has a PHD in Swag and proves the theory that Slavic girls are stunning, and Donatan, who…well, I’m still not sure what he contributes to the duo in terms of stage performance (will he even turn up?) will give success their best shot.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

PORTUGAL

Quero Se Tua by Suzy

portugalSounds like: Eurovision 2004 is back with a vengeance

Better than 2013: Again, this doesn’t apply, but I do like it more than Vida Minha.

Top 10 material: No

IMO: I say Eurovision 2004 with regards to this entry because it reminds me of Xandee’s 1 Life, but Quero Se Tua could just as easily have been drawn from the archives of the 90s. It’s not like Gina G was that far off this. Having said that AND made that disparaging reference above (ethno-pop we’ve all heard before, blah blah blah) you’ll be surprised to learn that I’m actually pro-Portugal this year. It’s those very ethno-pop cliché numbers that, as predictable as they are, suck people in by the droves, and I am not ashamed to announce that I think this is gold. Not douze-level gold, but worth a decent chunk of imaginary points, if not real live ESC points. I have the feeling I would detest it if it were in English, but the Portuguese makes it both a) mysterious – the lyrics could be genius for all I know as I’m yet to Google a translation – and b) exotic and even more representative of its country than the music. Throw in a dance beat with those qualities and you’ve got an irresistible Portuguese version of at least three entries from each year between 2000 and 2008. So it won’t win any awards for being current…so what? Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of Eurovision nostalgia every now and then, or in my case, 24/7? Kati Wolf look-alike Suzy is a confident performer armed with the ability to dance and sing fairly well at the same time, and a shirtless backup drummer who adds energy to the proceedings. I’m assuming she’s brought him to Copenhagen with her. He won’t help her win or come anywhere near contention, but I for one will enjoy his presence. And Portugal’s, for that matter. Let’s hope they don’t take Suzy’s likely non-qualification as a sign to withdraw again.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.

 

Believe it or not (depending on how much time you think passed while you were reading this) that’s another lot of reviews completed. With one more group to go, here’s my penultimate mini-ranking based on the points I’ve handed out this time.

  1. Poland
  2. Montenegro
  3. Norway
  4. Lithuania
  5. Moldova
  6. Portugal
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Malta
  9. Latvia
  10. Macedonia

Stay tuned for the last installment, up this weekend when there’ll be a week to go until the grand final. That’s Saturday, in case you weren’t sure. Then and there I’ll be rating and hating on Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. There’s definitely both rating and hating to be done over that bunch.

I shall see you then. In the meantime, answer me this:

 

As always, what do you think of the songs from Latvia through Portugal? How would you rank them?

 

Malmö Memories | Recapping Eurovision 2013

Hej hej, ladies and gents. You are reading the first installment of my annual trip back to the Eurovision that was. Was seemingly very recently, but in reality was just about a year ago, at that. Holy crap, right?

There’s less than a month to go until Copenhagen’s first semi, and we bloggers have a lot to cram in to such a short period – i.e. mass reviews and predictions – especially if we’re juggling uni assignments and a new job, as I am. But I’m going to make it all happen, because Eurovision is priority #1. Just don’t tell that to my lecturers or employers.

I’m beginning my re-coverage of last year’s contest right now with the Malmö Memories series (it’s not as catchy as Flashbaku, but what can you do?). During the next week I’ll be revealing my top 10 moments and top 10 entries, one year on, of 2013. But first, it’s recap time, in case anyone out there is having a brain snap and can’t remember what the heck went down in May. For those of you who can and just want a refresher, or even if you recall it all but are totes bored at the moment, this is also for you.  

L-R: Every ESC fan’s dream car at this time last year; even Malmö’s monuments got into the spirit of things; and the official countdown clock closes in on the contest. Danke to my online friend from Germany, Wolfgang, for taking these pics on the ground in Sweden and sending them to me!

L-R: Every ESC fan’s dream car at this time last year; even Malmö’s monuments got into the spirit of things; and the official countdown clock closes in on the contest. Danke to my online friend from Germany, Wolfgang, for taking these pics on the ground in Sweden and sending them to me!

EUROVISION 2013: THE BASICS

Edition 58th

When May 14th, 16th and 18th, 2013

Where Malmö Arena, Malmö, Sweden

Motto “We Are One”

Broadcaster Sveriges Television

Hosts Petra Mede, Eric Saade (green room)

Entries 39

Debutants 0

Returnees 1 – Armenia

Withdrawals 4 – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey

 

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Participants 16

Opened Austria – Shine by Natalia Kelly

Closed Serbia – Ljubav Je Svuda by Moje 3

Interval act “Northern Lights” dance piece

My highlights

  • Slovenia: No, Hannah didn’t qualify. And no, she didn’t hang on to her vocal as well as she could have ideally. But did she give it her all? Did she look freaking fierce? Was her staging and choreography top-notch? Um, yes, yes and YES. This was the first performance of the night that impressed me.
  •  Ukraine: Part of me wanted Zlata to be plonked on her boulder only to stack it and spew forth a stream of expletives. One person shouldn’t be allowed to be so stunning, talented AND graceful. But as it turns out, she was, and she gave a perfect performance of Gravity as always. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She’s like a female Ott Lepland, only without the risk of impregnation via a smoldering gaze.
When your heels are so high you can't walk in them, there's only one solution...

When your heels are so high you can’t walk in them, there’s only one solution…

  • Montenegro: Igranka was and still is epic in studio, but could so easily have been the car-crash live act of the year. Fortunately for Who See, not only did Macedonia take out that title, but the boys and Nina managed to pull off a great performance of the tricky dubstep number. The fact that this didn’t qualify still makes me weep.
  • Moldova: This was just…everything. And I mean that. Moldova threw a lot at Aliona – the hair, the gown/projector screen, the dancers, the hydraulic lift – but she and her powerful voice complemented all of that rather than clashed with it.
Thousands in the audience, and not one person told Aliona her dress was on fire.

Thousands in the audience, and not one person told Aliona her dress was on fire.

  • Ireland: Having avoided listening to Ryan live until Eurovision itself (for fear that a song I really liked would go straight on the ‘going nowhere’ pile) I was nervous about how he’d go in a massive arena in front of a huge live audience and an even huger TV audience. But somehow, Mr. Dolan went from amateur at best to a totally competent and on-pitch performer. Bravo.
  • Belgium: Also proving the haters wrong was Roberto Bellarosa, who, despite being dressed like Donny Montell at a funeral, turned out a slick performance of Love Kills that made me as proud as if I were his mother. Weird but true.

 

The results

  1. Denmark 167
  2. Russia 156
  3. Ukraine 140
  4. Moldova 95
  5. Belgium 75
  6. Netherlands 75
  7. Belarus 64
  8. Ireland 54
  9. Lithuania 53
  10. Estonia 52
  11. Serbia 46
  12. Montenegro 41
  13. Croatia 38
  14. Austria 27
  15. Cyprus 11
  16. Slovenia 8
  • Denmark more than improved on 2012’s narrow qualification by winning the first semi, defeating the country that did the same in Baku.
  •  Belgium may have qualified for the first time since 2010, but Roberto’s advancement also marked the first qualification for an act selected by RTBF (Belgium’s French-language broadcaster) since the semi-final system was introduced.
  • The Netherlands made it to the final for the first time since 2004.
  •  Six countries in total qualified for at least the second year running, whilst the other four appeared in the final after previous failures to do so.
  • Serbia failed to qualify for the first time, ending the night in 11th place with Montenegro right behind them.
  • Slovenia lost the first semi, but they scored themselves a better placing than 2012’s 17th.

 

 sf2

Participants 17

Opened Latvia – Here We Go by PeR

Closed Romania – It’s My Life by Cezar

Interval act Darin performing Nobody Knows/So Yours and Agnes performing One Last Time/Release Me

My highlights

  • Azerbaijan: Here is a prime example of a country that really entered the Eurovision Staging Contest, but still managed to do damn well in the song equivalent. Hold Me did grow on me a lot, and it may or may not be one of my top 10 entries of the year (drop by later this week to find out!) but it was that nifty glass box and all that accompanied it that won me over. PS – can you buy those on eBay?
  • Greece: In Baku we got cliché Greece, but thankfully Malmö gave us fun Greece. Koza Mostra were a definite personal highlight because, from the moment Agathonas plucked his first bouzouki string, they got the audience going, and you could feel the atmosphere from your couch. Bonus points for having the ultimate sing-along chorus under their kilts.
  • Israel: I won’t mention That Dress (again). Instead, I’ll take a moment to bask in the sheer power and range of Moran’s glorious vocals. Pardon my French, but she sang the shit out of Rak Bishvilo, putting more emotion into her three minutes than the average cast member of Days of Our Lives puts into their entire career. That probably explains her reaction to not qualifying, proudly sponsored by Kleenex.
Moran: projecting true emotion, or in incredible pain from all the fashion tape holding her dress in place?

Moran: projecting true emotion, or in incredible pain from all the fashion tape holding her dress in place?

  • Hungary: What a gem you are, Kedvesem. I love this song to bits. Like Montenegro, however, Hungary could have come undone in the arena setting. But the quiet beauty of it managed to come through in that less-than-intimate context. My favourite part was when the audience began to clap along, because that’s when I knew ByeAlex was connecting and had a chance of moving on.
  • Norway: Girl crush alert! Margaret took to the stage looking like a sexy White Witch of Narnia, and gave an equally magnetic rendition of IFYML. It was Margs, and not an assortment of props, that did most of the vote-capturing.

 

The results

  1. Azerbaijan 139
  2. Greece 121
  3. Norway 120
  4. Malta 118
  5. Romania 83
  6. Iceland 72
  7. Armenia 69
  8. Hungary 66
  9. Finland 64
  10. Georgia 63
  11. San Marino 47
  12. Bulgaria 45
  13. Switzerland 41
  14. Israel 40
  15. Albania 31
  16. Macedonia 28
  17. Latvia 13
  • Azerbaijan topped their semi for the first time, having come 2nd in 2009, 2010, and 2011 – the year they went on to win the whole contest.
  • There were some close calls in this semi: Greece just pushed ahead of Norway to qualify 2nd; Hungary, Finland, and Georgia were in a battle just to make it through; and Israel came very near to nabbing the highly sought-after (not) 13th place from Switzerland.
  • Hungary made it three for three qualifications since their 2011 comeback. Armenia went through for the first time since 2010 (having sat out the Baku contest) and Finland and Georgia were back on their game after DNQs in 2012.
  • San Marino scored their best result ever with Valentina 2.0, but it wasn’t quite good enough to give them their first ticket to the final. She joined Bulgaria’s Elitsa and Stoyan as previous entrants that didn’t make it.
  • Latvia lost this semi, marking their fifth consecutive failure to advance.

 

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Participants 26

Opened France – L’Enfer Et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois

Closed Ireland – Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan

Interval act Loreen performing a medley of We Got The Power/My Heart Is Refusing Me/Euphoria; Petra Mede performing Swedish Smörgåsbord; Sarah Dawn Finer performing The Winner Takes It All

My highlights 

  • Belgium: Yet again, Le Bellarosa floated my boat, mostly because seeing him in the final meant Belgium was in the final – and that was a shock. He did his country proud, and he must have known it too because OMG THAT ADORABLE LITTLE JUMP FOR JOY AT THE END! I don’t even ‘aww’ at babies, but THAT was heart-melting stuff.
  • Germany: Glorious and all that surrounded it – Natalie’s dress, the props, the timing of the wind machine – lacked the impact we saw at the German final last year. However, that song was made for the stage (and the club) and as it was one of my favourites at the time, I still think it worked in a totally non-biased way.
  • Sweden: Home (country) boy Robin also did his country proud in what I thought was an architectural award-winning jacket. I never get tired of the special reception host entries get from the audience.
Robin clearly forgot to apply deodorant on this occasion.

Robin clearly forgot to apply deodorant on this occasion.

  • Hungary: ByeAlex and his two musketeers seemed to have gained confidence from their qualification, and that showed through in a performance that was just as quietly wonderful, but more polished than it had been in the semi.

 

The results

  1. Denmark 281
  2. Azerbaijan 234
  3. Ukraine 214
  4. Norway 191
  5. Russia 174
  6. Greece 152
  7. Italy 126
  8. Malta 120
  9. Netherlands 114
  10. Hungary 84
  11. Moldova 71
  12. Belgium 71
  13. Romania 65
  14. Sweden 62
  15. Georgia 50
  16. Belarus 48
  17. Iceland 47
  18. Armenia 41
  19. United Kingdom 23
  20. Estonia 19
  21. Germany 18
  22. Lithuania 17
  23. France 14
  24. Finland 13
  25. Spain 8
  26. Ireland 5
  • Denmark won the contest with a decent score, but definitely not by a landslide. Emmelie was helped along by 8 sets of douze points, none of which came from Denmark’s neighbours. Finland and Sweden elected to give theirs to Norway, whilst Norway sent theirs to hosts Sweden.
Emmelie learnt from Loreen that choking on confetti is a bad idea.

Emmelie learnt from Loreen that choking on confetti is a bad idea.

  • In 2012, Loreen won Eurovision with 18 sets of douze, her nearest rivals in that department being Albania, Azerbaijan and Serbia, all on 4 sets. Emmelie scored a meager 8 sets in comparison, two less than Azerbaijan. Ukraine scored 5, and Italy and Norway 3 apiece.
  • Let’s talk language: the 2013 top 10 featured three songs not performed entirely in English, with just two being completely native. Greece was the highest finisher of the three, in 6th place. In 2012, twice as many songs in the top 10 were, at least in large part, in a language other than English.
  • The Netherlands’ top 10 finish was their first since 1999.
  • Moldova once again proved their prowess at not quite making it when they ended 11th for the second year running – after coming 12th in 2011.
  • Countries making the biggest drops from good results to bad included Estonia, who went from 6th in 2012 to 20th, and Spain, who followed up Pastora Soler’s 10th place with 25th.
  • On the upside, Hungary went from 24th to 10th, Malta 21st to 8th, and most impressive of all, Norway from last place to the top 5.
  • Last-placed Ireland received points from three countries – the UK (1), Sweden (2) and Cyprus (2). Spain, in 25th place, received points fro, just two countries – Italy (2) and Albania (6).

 

 

Somebody stop me! I could probably pick out “fun” stat facts until the dawn of Eurovision 2099 (which, btw, will be held in San Marino for the fifth year in a row and be hosted by a cyborg in the likeness of Valentina Monetta). I think I’ve recapped Malmö enough for now. Or ever. So I’ll finish off by saying tack for reading, and by asking you…

 

…what were your highlights (or lowlights) of Eurovision 2013? Was there one performance that blew you away, or a result that shocked you to your very core (how dramatic!)? Let me know below.

 

NEXT TIME: Speaking of highlights, I’ll be expanding on that by counting down my top 10 Malmö moments. That’s everything from money notes to point revelations, interval acts, final poses and…other stuff. I don’t want to give it all away now, do I?

 

A very Scandinavian Super Saturday (feat. the results of your Melfest votes)

Hey, people who read my blog! Tonight is a great big fat night on the NF calendar, with impending host country Denmark and last year’s hosts Sweden going head-to-head with their respective finals. There’s also the Slovenian final to look out for, plus semis in Norway and Portugal and an alleged revelation from Russia…and that’s not all. Yikes, right? Unlike likely Melodifestivalen winner Ace Wilder (spoiler alert!) I suspect none of us will be busy doin’ nothin’ this evening. In fact, we’ll be busy doin’ a heck of a lot. Here’s a more in-depth look at what you’ll be dividing your time between.

 

PS – Read on to the Melfest section to see the results of last week’s poll, and whether they’ve influenced my prediction at all.

PPS – Getting to that section may take while. Seriously – this is a long post. Go grab yourself a cup of tea, or better yet, an energy drink, and get reading.

 

Norway: the semis continue!

I have a confession to make: I didn’t have the time to follow Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix this year.

Having followed it the last few years and enjoyed myself immensely, I had every intention of doing the same thing in 2014. Unfortunately, life (and a bunch of other NFs) got in the way, and last night I realised it wasn’t going to happen, what with the first semi final taking place pretty much as I was accepting that. Oops.

But the show must, and did, go on without me. Three songs out of five are through to next Saturday’s final – Heal by Mo (which I have previewed and quite enjoyed), Needs by Dina Misund, and High Hopes by Linnea Dale. Tonight, another five songs will compete for another three places. They are:

  1. Hele Verden by Cir.Cuz
  2. Right Now by Martine Marbel
  3. Sing by Oda & Wulff
  4. Taste of You by Knut Kippersund Nesdal
  5. Hit Me Up by Charlie

I can’t offer any educated insights here, but I can offer uneducated ones. Based purely on title/name appeal, I like the look of Hele Verden, Right Now and Hit Me Up. It’s a given that at least one of those will qualify to the final, but that won’t stop me from gloating when that happens, just to warn you.

Tomorrow night, it’s the same deal with lucky last semi three, featuring:

  1. Bensin by Moi
  2. Ain’t No Love In This City No More by El Cuero
  3. Who Needs The Universe by Ilebek
  4. Sole Survivor by Elisabeth Carew
  5. Silent Storm by Carl Espen

I’m interested to (eventually) hear Bensin, Who Needs The Universe and Sole Survivor in this group. I’m also interested to hear whether anyone has the potential to reach or top the standard of Margaret Berger – i.e., is Norway keen to keep the ESC in Scandinavia for another year, or are they just not that bothered?  

 

Denmark’s MGP seeks someone to fly the home flag

Speaking of not being bothered…here’s Denmark! DMGP was very strong last year, and we all know what came of that. I’d like to take a moment to remind you of one my personal favourites from back then.

What could have been *sigh*…but it was Emmelie de Forest who took the win, then again in Malmö. That’s why we’re all referring to Denmark as ‘the host country’ this season, isn’t it? So, in saying that, the host country chooses its entry tonight, and whichever song wins can be guaranteed a rapturous applause in the Eurovision final.

That song will be one of ten entries competing in Odense, listed below in running order.

  1. I Choose U by Bryan Rice
  2. Your Lies by Rebekka Thornbech
  3. Feeling The You by Sonny
  4. She’s The One by Danni Elmo
  5. Vi Finder Hjem by Emilie Moldow
  6. Right By Your Side by GlamboyP
  7. Before You Forget Me by Nadia Malm
  8. Cliché Love Song by Basim
  9. It Hurts by Anna David
  10. Wanna Be Loved by Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez

I chose to be lazy here and only listen to the snippets a few times over.

The impression I got was that Denmark definitely don’t want another win; but at the same time, give these songs a chance and you’ll probably find quite a few that will give the Danes a middling to decent result, which won’t embarrass them.

Here’s my top five:

I Choose U Bryan Rice is my ultimate ‘one who got away’. He 110% should have gone to Eurovision in 2010, but was left languishing in second place. Four years later, he’s back with a song that doesn’t have the same impact as his last, but is perfectly good radio pop with a great tempo.

Feeling The You The disco sound is having a revival, no? I blame that for my attraction to this cheesy funkfest. It can’t have anything to do with that nonsensical title, which could either refer to Sonny’s penchant for sexual harassment or some kind of heightened vibe-sensing ability he possesses.

Vi Finder Hjem This reminds me of something you’d find in the Swedish preselection for Junior Eurovision, which suits me just fine. Extra points for singing in Danish!

Cliché Love Song Damn, this is catchy. And I wish some other songs would be this honest. For example, Dina Garipova’s What If would be Shamelessly Lame Ballad Wired To Rake In The Points, and Solayoh would’ve been Off-The-Shelf Ethnopop Five Years Past Its Use-By Date.

Wanna Be Loved Very European dance pop. Not original, but a decent example of what it is.

Now, who among these five and the leftovers will succeed Emmelie as the Danish rep? I always have a hard time predicting DMGP, but working on the basis that my favourites hardly ever win it, I’m going to guess Danni Elmo or GlamboyP. If I was to get lucky and have a most-liked take out the comp, it’d be Bryan Rice or Basim.

What do you think? Who’s going to fly the Danish flag on home ground?

 

This is it: Melodifestivalen reaches its exciting conclusion

And I’ll be getting up at 3am to tune in! I am so P.U.M.P.E.D, my mini Swedish flag is practically quivering with excitement.

This is the ten-strong lineup for tonight, accompanied by some bite-sized reviews.  

Natural by Anton Ewald – I’ve finally figured out what isn’t clicking here. It’s too forced, too try-hard, too ‘I want to come back and WIN, damn it.’ I loved Anton last year, and I still think he has the face of a Hollywood heartthrob (and the voice of Eric Saade on an off day) but Natural is one club banger that will stay in the club.

Songbird by Ellen Benediktson – And the award for Song Most Likely To Send Me To Sleep goes to Sporty Spice lookalike Ellen! I was shocked when this qualified straight through, because it is nice, but boring as Sanna Nielsen’s outfit. Bless the girl, but she will be my toilet break.

Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar – The schlager-tastic trio has sucked me in with their hypnotically catchy chorus circa 2002, and I no longer dread the thought of them winning. That is partly because they won’t be winning. But they will more than make up for the lack of bedazzling on Sanna.

Alcazar's motto: peace, love, and a sh%!load of sequins.

Alcazar’s motto: peace, love, and a sh%!load of sequins.

Yes We Can by Oscar Zia – Perhaps it’s my secret addiction to cheesy Disney Channel movies talking here, but I LOVE this one. Oscar is adorable, can bust a move and has the voice of an angel (when compared to Anton Ewald). Combine those pros with the karaoke dream that is Yes We Can, and I for one am sold.  

Bröder by Linus Svenning – I’m so happy this came out of AC, because it was one of my favourites in the first semi. It’s one of just two Swedish-language songs in the final, which coupled with the sad back story makes it all the more special. I don’t expect it to do much tonight, but it will stand out in the line up.

Survivor by Helena Paparizou – She made it (almost) all the way! I’ve grown to love Survivor, and the already-established love I had for Helena herself means there is a whole lotta love from me to this entry. I’ve been singing this in the shower, back-to-back with Undo, constantly for the last month. My neighbours are not amused.

Just call her a survivor, already!

Just call her a survivor, already!

To The End by YOHIO – I still prefer Heartbreak Hotel, but this has grown on me. I have to admit though, my favourite thing is that the big, brash performance is going to make Sanna’s simplified staging a breath of fresh air. I think YOHIO’s chances of winning have waned, but he should do okay with this.

Undo by Sanna Nielsen – Sanna is a perfect human, and this is a near-perfect lady ballad IMO. You can take your Wrecking Ball comparisons and shove them somewhere intimate, because there is no way you’ll ever see Sanna swinging across the stage astride a heavy-duty piece of destruction equipment. I do hope to see her swinging into first place during the voting, however.

Efter Solsken by Panetoz – I love these guys, their sound, and their irresistible choreography. They are definitely a collective ray of sunshine in this competition, and if there was to be a shock winner, I’d want it to be them.

Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder – This song is an ear worm and a half. It’s also interesting and modern enough that it would make a good winner. I’m skeptical of Ace’s live vocal abilities (she’s no rival for Sanna in that department) but if Eric Saade can win Melfest, singing prowess is obviously not that important…

The outcome of Melfest 2014 isn’t going to be as hard to predict as DMGP, or as I initially thought. We’ve seen how the acts performed in the semis, we’ve seen the betting odds, and we have our gut instincts to guide us. Still, I was that hopeless during the semis and AC that I needed all the help in the world to make my prediction. That’s why I recruited you guys to vote for who you thought would win tonight.

Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for voting – the numbers were bigger than I expected, and I appreciate every click made. Secondly, HERE ARE THE RESULTS!

mfpr2

 

It was a close one between Ace and Sanna at first, but perhaps poor Sanna is destined to be second-best.

I’m not so sure she can defy that destiny this evening. The result comes down to televotes from the Swedish public, as well as vote cast by a variety of international juries. Last year, the juries took victory away from YOHIO and boosted Robin into what became a winning position. Not to sound too dramatic, but acts will suffer at the hands of either Sweden or the juries. It’s the way of the system.

I’m calling Girl Power to overcome the suffering, in the form of either:

Ace – I had a feeling about her before the poll results proved her so popular. I don’t think the juries will love her, but Sweden does/will, and they could give her the boost required so that a middling jury score won’t matter.

Ellen – Hers was a shock qualify, and I still don’t get it. But apparently there’s something about her I’m missing. Songbird is understated where Busy is aggressive, and sometimes less is more. The victory may depend on how many people have migraines.

Sanna – I am Team Sanna. I want her in Copenhagen, dammit. She’s tried six times in the past, and I’m not convinced she’ll get over the line now, but I can’t discount her. She has a decent draw, and based on downloads Sweden has responded well to Undo. The juries should rate it too, so if it’s not quite a win for Sanna, it will be a good result.

If she wins, it'll undo her sad for sure.

If she wins, it’ll undo her sad for sure.

If you’re watching Melfest tonight, join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz. I’m excited to share my first (and probably only) live NF of the season with anyone who’ll have me. We can share witty 140-character quips until the sun rises (or until the show is over and you go to bed at a reasonable hour, if that’s your situation). See you there?

 

Sans Scandinavia (i.e. elsewhere in Europe)…

I think this post has gone on long enough, so I’ll just gloss over the rest of this weekend’s happenings.  

Tonight

  • Russia will supposedly make an internal selection, having set an NF date and pushed it back already.
  • Slovenia’s EMA final, featuring 2005 rep Omar Naber and a song co-written by Hannah Mancini, begins and ends.
  • Portugal’s Festival da Canção kicks off with a semi.

Sunday

  • Sergej Četković’s song for Montenegro will be premiered. According to Wikipedia it’s called Moj Svijet, which means it’s very unlikely to actually be called Moj Svijet.

Tuesday (not part of the weekend, but worth a mention)

  • Greece decides which of four acts to send to Denmark, presumably flying economy or with the baggage.

 

Alright. I’ve talked at you for long enough. I’ll let you go and prepare your viewing snacks and test your flags for wave-ability and flex your pumping fist. Me, I’ll be setting my alarm for a very silly hour of the morning and choosing the pajamas that would be best suited to watching Melfest.

#AustralianESCfanproblems.

Enjoy your evening, ladies and gents!

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Copenhagen Chat | The chosen ones from the weekend, Melfest musings and my top 13

Hello, if you’re reading this! And if you’re not, then how the heck do you know what I’m saying?

It’s the middle of the week and I’m avoiding study at all costs, so what better time to review and complain about the latest developments of NF season? Let’s get straight on it.

 

The weekend’s action – Running from all the cake, and then some 

  • Latvia: We all joked about Cake To Bake joining Cheesecake in Copenhagen in what would be a very JESC pair of song selections (kid Eurovision is usually the forum for food-themed entries). Well, it’s happened, and May’s contest looks to be the biggest bake-fest since the Buranovskiye Babushki took to the stage with their wood fire oven. Seeing as I’m Team TEO, and Aarzemnieki’s song is sweet (pardon the pun) in an offbeat, lyrically questionable kind of way, that’s fine by me. Although I haven’t listened to the Latvian runner-ups which, by all accounts, were “actual songs”. I’ll leave that utter disappointment for later.
  • Hungary: It was third time lucky for Kállay-Saunders on Saturday night, when he took out A Dal with Running, which deals with a slightly heavier subject matter than dessert. He was a favourite in the strong selection, and I’m pretty pleased he won with a contemporary, catchy, non-novelty pop song. I do feel that Fool Moon had more of the magic I found in Kedvesem last year (and that chair choreography thing would have been cool if they’d taken it to Denmark) but KS still makes it 4/4 great entries for Hungary since they made their comeback in 2011. It remains to be seen whether it’ll be 4/4 qualifications also.
These two may look a bit like Ell & Nikki, but they're not running scared...just running.

These two may look a bit like Ell & Nikki, but they’re not running scared…just running.

  • Macedonia: Tijana and her surprisingly husky voice have premiered To The Sky, and it’s not bad at all. The biggest drawcard is it can’t possibly be the train wreck that was the Esma & Lozano incident. I do suspect it’ll be a grower for most people as opposed to an instant hit, and I can’t help wondering how the originally chosen entry Pobeda would have compared. The way it was described had me excited. Changing the song was a terrible move for FYROM last year, but we may never know what could have been in this case.
  • Spain: In the battle between Brequette and Ruth Lorenzo, it was Ruth who triumphed by the hem of her fancy gown in Mira Quien Va A Eurovisión. There were three songs of the Spanish five that I thought would be great choices (the other one being Jorge’s) so I can’t complain, despite Brequette being my winner. Strangely, she’s been rumoured as a UK entry (hasn’t everyone? I’m expecting to hear my name any day now) with a source alleging the BBC have poached her to sing an English version of Más. As much as I love the song, FOR GOD’S SAKE, BBC, DON’T DO IT!

 

Bits and pieces hot (ish) off the press

  • Poland: Speaking of rumours…one that turned out to be very true was that of Donatan & Cleo taking My, Słowianie to Eurovision. The Polish broadcaster confirmed the duo’s participation last night to the shock of nobody, but to the über-divided opinions of the masses. I listened to the song for the first time after the announcement (I didn’t want to love it/hate it until I knew it was going) and apart from ‘why all the boobs?’ all I could think was ‘Igranka!’. The resemblance is good because I loved/still love Igranka, but bad because that song was just as divisive, and not even a perfect performance could get it into the final. I’m afraid if Poland doesn’t at least qualify this year, they’ll opt out of the comp for good. The ESC doesn’t need to get any smaller at this point.
  • Estonia: I’ve been anxiously awaiting the Eesti Laul final for weeks, and now it’s almost upon us, with the running order draw recently revealed. I’ve only exposed my ears to three entries, all of which happened to make it into the final, and there’s one you’ll probably know I want to win above anything else – Sandra’s. Tanja’s is generic, Lenna’s is too bland, and I don’t know about the rest, but I do know that Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad is FREAKING PERFECTION (like Sandra herself) and if it wins, it will rocket straight to the top of my rankings so far. With such a great song, previous ESC experience behind her and now a plum draw in the running order (last but not least) I feel like it’s meant to be. Please, please let Estonia feel the same way!
How could anyone not vote for this face, or that awesome haircut?

How could anyone not vote for this face, or that awesome haircut?

 

Melodifestivalen: two weeks to go!

And that means we’ve heard the Swedish entry for 2014 – I just have no clue what it is. With only the second chance round left before the final, the list of songs already in is reading unpredictable. Will YOHIO manage to make it with a worse song than he had last year (in my opinion…don’t kill me, super fans) or will the international juries turn on him again? Can Sanna finally go all the way with her beautiful ballad? Or, will we see an Andra Chansen song win for the second time in a row? It’s unlikely, but after last year, I for one would never say never.

In case you’ve forgotten, here are the eight songs in it to win it at the moment:

  • To The End by YOHIO
  • Songbird by Ellen Benediktson
  • Undo by Sanna Nielsen
  • Efter Solsken by Panetoz
  • Yes We Can by Oscar Zia
  • Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder
  • Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar
  • Natural by Anton Ewald

There are only a couple I wouldn’t want to see go to Eurovision, but I feel like you can’t write anyone off at this stage. It’s hard to pick a frontrunner, and even harder to imagine where the Swedish and international points might go. That will hopefully make for a nail-gnawing voting sequence that will keep me from dozing off when it takes place at 5am my time.

As I mentioned and as we all now know, you can’t discount whichever two songs emerge from Andra Chansen from the race either. I’ll be having a guess at the identity of those two on Saturday, so drop by if you want my thoughts. Otherwise, I’ll drop by your house and force you to listen to my thoughts with the threat of duct-taping you to a chair and blasting Cry Baby through your sound system for twelve hours straight. In the meantime, who do you think should get that all-important second shot?

 

Time for a top 13…

…because nobody got the chance to do a top 10. There have been six or so new additions to the class of ’14 since I last went a-ranking, so there was a lot to consider. It took me a good few minutes of blood, sweat and tears to put this together. I present to you the results, a.k.a. my personal top 13:

  1. Belarus
  2. Hungary
  3. Poland
  4. Albania
  5. Iceland
  6. Ukraine
  7. Malta
  8. Spain
  9. Latvia
  10. Finland  
  11. Italy
  12. Switzerland
  13. FYR Macedonia

I apologise, but it’s going to take nothing short of Sandra Nurmsalu to push the Cheesecake aside. What can I say? I’m easily pleased. So much so that I can’t confess to hating anything so far. There’s the meh/yet to grow category, and that’s as low as it goes.

Let me know how your top 13 is looking down below, so long as you’re in the mood for intense arguments over other people’s horrifying musical taste.

 

Coming up this weekend are seven national finals of sorts, kicking off on Friday with Ireland and concluding on Sunday with Azerbaijan, and France’s announcement that TwinTwin are going to Copenhagen (hopefully). It’s a busy one, so put aside all other responsibilities such as bill paying or school work or that knee reconstruction you’ve been waiting to have for eighteen months, and get your streams ready. I’ll be here on Saturday to discuss the chaos. #JoinUs?

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