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EBJ’s Top 10…national final songs of the 2018 season + a playlist of ALL my favourites!

Is it just me who feels like we had a handful of Eurovision 2018 entries five minutes ago and were impatiently waiting for the rest to be locked in? And yet, somehow, the selection season is actually over. We have our 43, and that’s been the situation for a few weeks now.

It’s kind of sad, but there is a bright side – besides another contest being on the cards in the foreseeable future. Before looking back at Kyiv 2017 and looking SIX WEEKS (!) ahead to Lisbon 2018, we now get to glance over at this latest NF season and say ‘How you doin’?’ in a suggestive Joey Tribbiani way to all of the awesome new music we discovered throughout January, February and March (and maybe a little in December too). And today I’m finally ready to present you with my personal list of absolute favourites.

For some reason, I didn’t let myself have total free-rein fun with it (I may be my own boss, but it turns out I’m a strict one). There were conditions. DUN DUN DUN!!!

  1. This is an obvious one, but I couldn’t choose a song that won the NF it competed in, even if it was my favourite in the field. Once that happens, the song stops being an NF song and becomes a Eurovision entry, after all.
  2. Secondly, I only let myself choose one song per country, so don’t think you’re about to see me fawn over ten Melfest tracks in a row – it hasn’t happened. It would have been more like 3x Swedish songs, 3x Norwegian, 3x French and 1x token from somewhere else anyway.

Based on these rules, I’ve put together my top 10 and I’m pretty pleased with it. But, since this year offered up so much great stuff, if you make it to the end of this post – or just cut out the middle man and scroll straight through – you’ll find a playlist of my top 10 plus ALL of my other ‘best of the rest’ songs from this season. Feel free to tell me what excellent taste I have in the comments (or at least be polite when you’re criticising it). And don’t forget to leave a list of your NF favourites from 2018 too – I want to know what stood out to you and what you might have preferred to hear/see in Portugal over what will be. Because I’m nosy *hopes it’s part of my charm*.

Now, let’s get into the list!

 

 

#10 | Astronaut by Liam Tamne

Unplaced in Eurovision: You Decide (United Kingdom)

I know many of you will want to throw a pie at my face (or in this case, perhaps a plate of bangers and mash) for suggesting that ANYTHING in the You Decide lineup was better than Asanda’s Legends. Don’t get me wrong…that was dope, and in my opinion was probably the best choice the UK could have made for Lisbon (sorry/not SuRie). But while my head knew that much, my heart was with Liam and his Astronaut. Apart from taking the space metaphors a little too far at times, this song appeals to me in every way – from the modern and atmospheric production to the pretty melodies and Liam’s crystal-clear falsetto. In fact, the only thing that really bothers me is the line ‘take your body into space’, which sounds like a threat a serial killer would make to a bound-and-gagged victim after consuming a tray of hash brownies. But (bizarrely) that’s not a deal breaker. You can be my astronaut for sure, Liam (in a platonic way because I know you have a husband).

 

#9 | Signals by Karui

Unplaced, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (Denmark)

When Karui didn’t even get a look in to the super final of DMGP this year, it didn’t come as a surprise. She may have turned in a stellar, soulful performance, but Signals is just not the kind of song Denmark would ever choose to send to Eurovision. As a consolation prize, though, it’s totally the kind of song I get a kick out of, and I plan to listen to it on the reg until I find a 2019 Danish reject to replace it. The song is like a less urban version of All My Friends by Snakehips, with bare-bones verses and hypnotic choruses that run smooth like a chocolate fondue (why do I always end up comparing music to food?). It’s the perfect backing track to a low-key house party or a romantic rendezvous – not, I have to admit, a great song to enter in a competition, which is another reason why I didn’t crumple dramatically to the floor when it didn’t go anywhere in DMGP. I still want to hear more stuff like this from Denmark in the future, even if it only serves to end up on a Spotify playlist of mine post-show.

 

#8 | Ptica by BQL

2nd, EMA (Slovenia)

Okay, so it might have been BQL with Promise that technically came second in EMA…but the semi-final Slovenian version of this song is miles better. In any language, it’s no Heart of Gold (which 110% should have gone to Kyiv despite the boys being more performance-ready this year) but it has the Maraaya Midas touch, and that’s enough to warrant it a spot on my best of the rest list. I just love the cruisy vibe, the acoustic-pop sound, and OF COURSE the light-up guitars (it’s like Poli Genova personally oversaw the instrument-pimping process). Honestly, if BQL return for a third try at representing Slovenia next year with a song less impressive than this, it HAS to be their time. Maybe the musical love child of Heart of Gold and Ptica would do the trick? You’re welcome for the musical inspiration, Maraaya.

 

#7 | Lelya by Tayanna

2nd, Vidbir (Ukraine)

If there’s one thing we learnt from NF season 2017, it’s that Tayanna can SING…unless she’s got a throat infection. Fortunately she made a triumphant comeback to Vidbir this year, switching from a big dramatic ballad to a fast-paced retro pop banger in the process. As you’ll know if you tuned in to see her in action, she sang so studio-perfectly while dancing her ass off that she had to fend off accusations of lip-syncing on live TV. But she’s not fake – just fierce AF. And so is Lelya, with a catchy chorus and unrelenting energy that helped Tayanna hang on to her 2nd place from a year earlier. I would have preferred her to go to Eurovision on home soil with I Love You (what a host entry that would have been!) and I’m happy with Under The Ladder as Ukraine’s song for Lisbon, but Lelya would have been a worthy entry too. BTW…I’ve linked Tayanna’s semi performance above because, even though she was vocally flawless both times, I really did not like the oversized pantsuit she wore in the final. Seriously.

 

#6 | My Turn by John Lundvik

3rd, Melodifestivalen (Sweden)

Why are the Melfest performances geoblocked on YouTube? In Australia, anyway. It’s a travesty, is what it is. But I digress. If you read the Selection Season posts that led up to this one (which you totally would have because you just can’t get enough of me, AMIRIGHT?!?) then you might have noticed I transitioned from thinking My Turn was cheesier than a board of brie and camembert, to thinking that it was magnificent (while continuing to acknowledge the cheese). It’s not like it’s Our Choice cheesy (Iceland has a lot to answer for). It’s more of a ‘I just won Idol circa 2002 and this is my uplifting, inspirational winner’s single! Yay for me!’ situation. But it just works. It has all the moments it needs to give me goosebumps, right down to the explosive money note that we all knew would be accompanied by a fire curtain before we even saw John perform it on the Melfest stage. And speaking of which, he performs it so well with so much confidence, it’s hard to hate. Who knows, he may not believe a word he’s singing, but he makes me believe that he does. It so is your turn, John…just not to win Melodifestivalen, obviously.

 

#5 | Delirium by Isabell Otrębus

9th, Krajowe Eliminajce (Poland)

There’s something about Isabell that isn’t that appealing to Poland – this year in particular, when her NF outing ended with second-last place. I’ll admit that Delirium is a better song to listen to than to watch being performed (making it less than ideal to send to a contest where visuals are as crucial to a successful package as the song). But that’s what I’m ranking here anyway – songs that I have already or will be Spotifying the shiz out of over the next few months/years/centuries (because Delirium gives me enough life to guarantee I’ll live beyond 100). This song is better, I reckon, than Isabell’s 2017 Krajowe entry Voiceless. That was good, but Delirium is great. It’s not quite a pop music masterpiece, but pretty close – everything about it is contemporary, the production (Swedish, surprise surprise) is slick, and the chorus is simple but super catchy. If I’m honest, I would have preferred Poland to send it to Lisbon over Light Me Up, but I also know full well that Gromee and Lukas will fare better than Isabell would have. So I’ll just accept what actually happened, and continue to press play on this whenever the mood takes me (which is about every half an hour).

 

#4 | Poison (Ari Ari) by Tamar Kaprelian

DNQ, Depi Evratesil (Armenia)

Initially, I was under the impression that this was the ONLY song Armenia should send to Eurovision this year. Then they went and kicked Tamar to the curb at the semi-final stage of Depi Evratesil (THE NERVE!) and chose Qami…which I ended up falling in love with because it gives me all the Renaida-style feels. But rest assured that a) I’m still mad about the Poison rejection, and b) I will never forget what an epic piece of ethno pop it is. And that’s not just by comparison to Genealogy’s Face The Shadow, which was dire. In a parallel universe – and with some staging changes plus a boost from backing vocalists – this would have been an ESC return that gave an entire continent a bad case of the earworms. I mean, that chorus is stickier than super glue!  Overall, the song is three minutes of Tamar playing Princess Jasmine in the Armenian production of Aladdin, and hers is an Arabian night I want to relive over and over again. Ari ari-lly love this.

 

#3 | Scandilove by Ida Maria

Unplaced, Melodi Grand Prix (Norway)

I have to start by saying that I had a hard time choosing my Norway song for this list. I had no doubt there’d be one, I just didn’t know whether it would be Talk To The Hand, Who We Are or Scandilove (and narrowing it down to those three was tricky enough. #firstworldproblems). Ultimately I opted for Scandilove because it’s the Mean Girls of music: endlessly quotable, totally iconic and SO much fun. If you don’t believe me on that first point, allow me to present you with the following lyrical gems: ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion, it’s fucking freeeeezing’; ‘You’re in Scandinavia, biatch’, and of course, ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’ (though I’m still not sure exactly what that entails). The whole thing is so weirdly wonderful, a part of me wishes Norway had taken a non-Rybak risk and bestowed Europe with such a magical gift of song in May. Especially since Ida performed it so perfectly (when I was expecting a car crash) and with all the energy, attitude and costume game we could have hoped for. 1990s Spice Girl pop and 2010s too-cool-for-school Scandi pop – with a sprinkling of ridiculousness – join forces here, and the result is amazing.

 

#2 | Compass by Alejandro Reyes

2nd, Die Entscheidungsshow (Switzerland)

Now I’m getting into the songs that I not only wanted to win, but nearly got my way with (which is me saying that this song and my #1 both finished second in their respective NFs). I do think Stones is a good song, and that Switzerland was sensible in picking it. But if I’d had the picking power over there (I cannot imagine a scenario in which this would be the case, but just roll with me) I would have gone with Compass in a heartbeat. I was impressed by Switzerland having a potential Eurovision song that was so damn now, it could be the latest thing Shaun Mendes fangirls are freaking out over (rarely something you find in a Swiss NF). Still, I would have dug this like a hole in the sand even if it had been competing in Melodifestivalen surrounded by similarly current radio hits. It’s easy-listening but still has energy; the lyrics are interesting, neatly rhymed and non-cliché; and the chorus is stripped-back (word-wise) but memorable. As a package, Compass comes gift-wrapped in fancy paper with a big fat bow on top. And, as an added bonus, Alejandro is a beautiful sight to behold and can deliver himself to my door gift-wrapped (or not) any time.

 

#1 | Eva by Lisandro Cuxi

2nd, Destination Eurovision (France)

Eva feels nothing but a heartache…and I was the same when Lisandro was beaten at the last minute by Madame Monsieur in France’s 2018 NF. As with Norway, there was a handful of French possibles that could have ended up on this list, and they did all end up on the playlist you’ll find below (including Emmy Liyana’s OK ou KO and Nassi’s Rêves de Gamin). But I had to make Lisandro’s Eva my number one NF song of the season because not only do I love love LOVE it, it’s also the one song that destroyed me when it finished second, not first. It didn’t help that it looked like it was going to win until, as I said, the last minute (oh, the pain!). But enough about that, since it didn’t win and I’ve now accepted that. As a standalone song outside of a competition, to me Eva is everything. It’s moody, mixes languages without interrupting lyrical or audio flow, tells a story, goes hard on hypnotic beats and power, and is generally an R & B banger that stood out to me from the moment I heard a snippet of it. Lisandro’s smooth-as-silk vocals are the cherry on top of the croissant. More than ever, I wish we could make an exception to the September 1st rule and wheel this one out to represent France in 2019, but the best I can hope for is that Lisandro tries again with a song that’s equally good, or better (if such a thing even exists).

 

 

So that’s the cream of the crop for me…but about the rest? Well, here they are alongside my top-tier NF favourites.

 

How long would your personal playlist be? Would any of my top 10 picks make it into your top 10? Write me a sentence or a story in the comments and let me know!

 

I’ll be back soon with another pre-Portugal post, and then it’ll be time for the EBJ reviews to kick off (the only time I wish Eurovision wasn’t currently a 40+ country contest is when I have to write about every single entry). Watch out for those, and/or subscribe (in the sidebar), and/or follow me on your standard social media platforms @EurovisionByJaz, for new post alerts. Oh, and ESC-related thoughts complimented by GIFs. What more could you want?

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | The French finale + Czech-ing out the competition

Bonjour! To answer all the usual questions…yes, I’m still alive; yes, I’m still blogging; and yes, my excuse for NOT blogging since Junior Eurovision in ye olde November 2017 (!!!) is the same (annoying adult commitments such as work, etc).

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m beyond ready to dive deep into Eurovision 2018’s selection season. Tonight is a great night to do it, with three shows – including one decider – on the calendar. Plus, we get a Romanian heat and another installment of Israel’s Next Star tomorrow night. Oh, and on Monday, something’s happening in Spain (Operación Triunfo is just a big ol’ bunch of confusion), while the Czech Republic will announce that Mikolas Josef is representing them in Lisbon which of their six shortlisted acts is heading to Lisbon. OOF. If you thought I wasn’t going to make a dramatic re-entrance into the world of Euroblogging to cover all/whatever I can manage of this NF action…

‘What I can manage’, a.k.a. what I’ve chosen to cover this weekend are the happenings in the two countries that are 110%, totally and definitely choosing their reps for Portugal now (but don’t worry, I’ll be all over the Melodifestivalen semis once they start next weekend). That’s France and the Czech Republic, hence the punny title of this post.

So, without further ado, I’m going to share with you my thoughts on the songs of their selections, and predict who’ll end up flying the blue, white and red for a) a country that’s always in the ESC final, and b) a country that’s almost never in the ESC final. Leave your opinions + predictions in the comments below!

 

First up…

  

I have to kick off the France talk by saying OOH LA LA! After heading to Eurovision all flawless for the past few years (right down to Amir’s perfect teeth and Alma’s endless legs), they’ve continued to bring it in 2018 with a super-high-standard national final: Destination Eurovision (which sounds like an awesome holiday resort on a private island that one can only gain access to if one knows all the words to Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale by heart).

After two semis of eighteen acts performing their potential ESC entries, plus a version of something else – and being scored by a jury only – eight artists remain, as do eight songs that are decent at worst and brilliant at best. C’est magnifique!

Tonight’s show looks a little like this (because it will also feature duets): 

  1. Mamma Mia, Louka
  2. Ailleurs, Max Cinnamon
  3. OK ou KO, Emmy Liyana
  4. Mercy, Madame Monsieur
  5. Rêve de Gamin, Nassi
  6. Eva, Lisandro Cuxi
  7. Lisboa Jerusalem, Igit
  8. Ciao, Malo’

A handful of great songs fell by the wayside in the lead-up to this final, but the fact that they weren’t sacrificed for inferior songs (IMO) says a lot about the effort France is putting in at the moment. I’m not saying that I absolutely adore every single song still in the running – I have some standout favourites for sure. But as you’re about to see, there’s nothing on display tonight that will have me hitting the mute button (or reaching for a pair of earplugs – whichever’s easiest in my 4am haze).

 

Thoughts + scores

Mamma Mia This was one of the first songs to grab my attention at the snippet stage, and I’m still loving it. It’s a little bit tropical-pop and edges towards the Latin pop trend too, so basically it’s pretty exotic. Oui, it’s repetitive, but the chorus is the hook and I’m biting! Louka is an attractive Frenchman, which also helps (yeah, I can be shallow. Sue me). 8.5/10.

Ailleurs I DO absolutely adore this one. It’s magical. The chorus is memorable and makes an impact without being loud and in-your-face. Overall, it’s pretty and soothing, with a nice mix of French and English lyrics. Max is kind of meek as a performer, but hopefully having made it to the final will give him a Blanche-like confidence boost. 9.5/10.

OK ou KO Emmy’s song isn’t at the top of my love list, but it’s excellent – soulful, smooth and perfectly suited to her powerful voice. I don’t connect with it as much as I do with some of the others, but that’s its only fault. 8/10.

Mercy I have the connection issue with this one too – I want to feel a rush of love for Madame Monsieur, but I just don’t. Still, I have to admit that everything is cool, contemporary and slick. I won’t jump up and down with excitement if Mercy goes to Eurovision, but I’ll be proud of France for sending something current and original. 8/10.

Rêve de Gamin Okay, so this was better in studio than on stage, but I didn’t think Nassi’s live was terrible by any means (the 2018 version of Daz Sampson’s Teenage Life staging worked for me). I will always be quick to defend this song though, because I think it’s awesome. The blend of dance-pop and ethnic music breaks is boss. 9.5/10.

Eva Honesty is the best policy (apparently) so here goes: THIS IS MY FAVOURITE (AND CAPITAL LETTERS ARE NECESSARY TO EXPRESS THIS)!!! Lisandro is the bomb dot com. He sings, he dances, he wins TV talent shows, and he was born and half-raised in Portugal. Hello! He’s also armed with a superb r & b-inspired track that may not be up everyone’s street but has its own personalised parking bay outside my house. 10/10.

Lisboa Jersualem It wouldn’t be a showcase of French music without something that could have been lifted from a Cirque du Soleil soundtrack (that’s a compliment, BTW). Listening to this transports me to a Parisian sidewalk where the scent of cigarette smoke and croissants intermingles seductively (or so I imagine, having never been to Paris). The song is my least favourite in the final, but I’m glad it’s there. 7/10.

Ciao I actually hated this at first, but it’s grown on me like a musical fungus and I’m now digging it. The chorus is tailor-made for an arena (and an arm-waving audience of thousands), although the verses are much less memorable (as in I literally can’t recall how they go right now). 7.5/10.

 

My predictions

Realistically, I think half of France’s final songs are out of winning contention – in random order, Mamma Mia, Ailleurs, Rêve de Gamin and Lisboa Jerusalem. That leaves the betting faves Eva and Mercy (also winners of their respective semis) and chasing pair OK ou KO and Ciao. It’ll be interesting to see the results from the two voting parties that haven’t come into play yet – televoters and a beefed-up international jury. The fact that the ultimate decision-makers are different this time makes predicting a winner more difficult…but I would stick with Eva and Mercy as the ones to put your money on.

Lisandro, as France’s reigning Voice champ, has proven to be a televote magnet in the past, and his performance will be one of the strongest (vocally and visually) tonight. Madame Monsieur, meanwhile, are the winners in iTunes’ eyes, and because they’re not my personal favourite they’ll probably win (when I get invested in a song it’s practically a death sentence). As I said, if they do, I won’t be thrilled…but I’ll come to terms with it.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see OK ou KO or Ciao sneak up behind those two with a strong televote, but winning on that alone (if the international jury votes go mostly elsewhere) would be a tough task. The juries, feat. the likes of Armenia, Bulgaria, Israel and Sweden, might opt for the less “Frenchy” stuff á la Eva (giving it even more of a leg up), Ailleurs or Ciao, but to be honest I have no idea how they’ll distribute their points.

Alright, alright! So you want a definitive winner prediction from me, do you? Here it is: in the hope of not jinxing my numero uno Lisandro, I’m going with Madame Monsieur for the win (while still hoping and praying for Lisandro on the DL).

 

If you’re tuning in to the Destination final, stream it from 9pm CET here, here, via YouTube, or on TV if you’re in France, of course. And before then, hit up that comment box and tell me who you think will represent France in Lisbon!

 

 

The most impressive thing about the Czech Republic’s pre-Portugal selection process is that they’re managing to have a national final while simultaneously NOT having a national final.

I.e. there’s a line-up of songs competing against one other to win over juries and televoters, but there’s no live performances and no televised competition element. The jury votes, as I’m sure you know, have already been decided, and Mikolas Josef’s Lie To Me topped the scoreboard (somewhat surprisingly as I wouldn’t have considered it jury-friendly). Here he is alongside the five other potential – but not probable – Czech entries for 2018.

  • High On Love, Debbi
  • Stand Up, Doctor Victor
  • We Rule This World, Eddie Stoilow
  • Fly, Eva Burešova
  • Lie To Me, Mikolas Josef
  • Never Forget, Pavel Callta

For me, this selection is like a buffet where the options are a) five different types of unseasoned steamed vegetables, or b) a ten-tier red velvet cake topped with a spun sugar swan. Who in their right mind wouldn’t go for the cake? The cake in this case being Lie To Me, obviously. Okay, so I can understand why the song might rub some people up the wrong way…especially those opposed to blatant sexual references raunchier than Slavko’s ‘My spaceship is ready to blow, drunk in love, I’m gonna explode’. And people who are afraid of camels.

But as far as I can see, the Czech Republic will either be stuck in the semis at Eurovision again or sail to the final, based on whether Mikolas wins the public vote or not.

I’m not that inspired to review the other five songs, but in an attempt to come across as a fair and accommodating judge, I will.

 

Thoughts + scores

High On Love The most superior of the steamed vegetables is clearly this one. Whenever I see the title I’m reminded of this 2012 banger from Norway, which isn’t good because that was way better. But Debbi does have a pretty catchy pop song up her sleeve (in spite of some seriously annoying lyrics). 7/10.

Stand Up Stand up and leave the room? No problem, Doctor Victor. Bland rock is not my cup of tea, and this is so bland I could wallpaper my house with it. 3/10.

We Rule This World Eddie Stoilow (which is seemingly a band and not just the name of one person, go figure) have also produced something beige. WRTW would probably make the super-final at Dansk MGP, but it’s nowhere near interesting enough to hold the Czech Republic’s ESC hopes on its shoulders. 4/10.

Fly Sometimes a screamy lady ballad appeals to me, if the melody is decent and the screaming lady is screaming in the right way. But I feel like Eva is more or less moaning at me very loudly for three minutes because I ruined her favourite shirt when I did her drycleaning or something. 5/10.

Lie To Me This is the love child of Talk Dirty by Jason Derülo, Problem by Ariana Grande and Strip That Down by Liam Payne (don’t ask me how that’s possible), and I am OBSESSED. It has ‘The One’ written all over it in big, crude Sharpie letters. It could be a disaster when performed live (and there will be no camels present, which is a huge disappointment) but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. 10/10.

Never Forget The title of this song is ironic. That’s all I’m going to say. 6/10.

  

My predictions

Speaking of saying the bare minimum…I can give you guys a Czech prediction without using any words at all.

What do you think? Does Mikolas have it all sewn up, or is someone else going to miraculously swoop in to succeed Martina Bárta?

 

SELECTION SEASON CONTINUES: What’s up next?

  • Saturday 3/2: Hungary (heat 3), Latvia (semi final 1), Lithuania (heat 4), Malta, Sweden (semi final 1)
  • Sunday 4/2: Romania (heat 3), Switzerland

 

Whatever you’re watching this weekend, enjoy it…but not too much, ‘coz we’ve all got to save our energy for February and (early) March. Assuming I’ve got the energy, I’ll be on Twitter throughout the season. Follow me @EurovisionByJaz for salty comments and tea-spilling (re: songs I hate) interspersed with OTT compliments (re: songs I love). What can I say? I’m a woman of Eurovision extremes.

 

Until next time,