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SHINE BRIGHT! Jaz’s JESC 2017 Reviews, Round 1 (Cyprus, Georgia, The Netherlands + Poland)

Gamarjoba, Eurofans who do double duty as Junior Eurofans (if you don’t, then this is your warning to back away from this blog for a while). I’m 72% sure I just greeted you guys in Georgian, which is my way of getting into the spirit of Tbilisi’s first Eurovision event.

There’s less than two weeks until Junior Eurovision 2017, when adorable child/vocal powerhouse Mariam Mamadashvili will hand over the title of reigning contest champ to another pint-sized singing sensation (or four, if The Netherlands wins). That means it’s beyond time for me to start reviewing all sixteen songs competing on the 26th! So let’s breeze past the fact that I haven’t posted since the end of August (my bad…my very, VERY bad) and get this party started.

I’ve pulled four countries out of the special EBJ hat I keep in my closet for such occasions, and they are Cyprus, hosts Georgia, The Netherlands, and Poland (bet you didn’t see that coming. It’s not like I stuck them in the title or anything). Keep reading for my thoughts on Nicole Nicolaou’s I Wanna Be A Star, Grigol Kipshidze’s Voice of the Heart, Fource’s Love Me and Alicja Rega’s Mój Dom. Spoiler alert: one of them just might be my favourite entry of the year.

By the way…I didn’t have time to get an EBJ Junior Jury together this year, but I still wanted to be able to average out the score for each song based on a few factors. I’ve gone simplistic by awarding a standard EBU-regulation point score (1-8, 10 or 12 points) to both the song itself (how I rate it personally) and the artist performing it (their vocal skills, personality on stage etc). The average of those two scores will be each country’s final score. As always, I’ll post a mini ranking at the end of each review round + the full ranking alongside my pre-show predictions just before the contest. Share your own mini ranking in the comments to let me know which entries are hot and which are not in your opinion (but don’t be too mean because we are talking about kids here).

Now let’s go.

  

 

Watch it here

Last year…George Michaelides’ Dance Floor finished 16th (second last). I had a lot of blues to dance away in George’s parallel universe where the world is a dance floor after that.

The 2017 verdict Cyprus has transitioned from George’s cutting-edge but unsuccessful ethnopop to oh-so-2005 – but probably more of a point magnet – ethnopop with Nicole. Her catchy (to say the chorus of I Wanna Be A Star is an earworm would be an epic understatement), super-predictable (a blindfolded 2012-edition Donny Montell would have seen that key change coming) song comes via three-time ESC act Constantinos Christoforou – and given that he seemingly represented Cyprus with the adult version of the same song back in Kyiv in 2005, THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. I guess I should stop going on about how dated IWBAS is, because that’s not a totally bad thing. After all, it means Cyprus is doing what Belarus did last year by bringing back a slice of vintage JESC for us all to feast on (although the Belarusian hoverboards would clearly have never featured in a Junior Eurovision circa 2004). I always appreciate a throwback in a contest that has grown up a lot recently, with a lot of the songs having the potential to double as ESC entries if a few lyrical changes were made. This throwback is a classic kid-spirational anthem with Cyprus stamped all over it, and the high energy + hooks = party time for three minutes. I definitely like it – while definitely not loving it – but I do wonder if Nicole has the charisma and live vocal ability to pull it off onstage. If it doesn’t look young and fun and if it doesn’t sound perfect, the result could be cringeworthy. In the end, I see I Wanna Be A Star outperforming Dance Floor, but only by a few rungs on the leaderboard ladder. I’m thinking 12th-14th, prior to making my official predictions…

Song score 7

Artist score 6

Final score 6.5

 

  

Watch it here

Last year….Mariam Mamadashvili’s Mzeo became Georgia’s third JESC winner in ten years of competing. They seriously need to start putting some effort in (#sarcasm).

The 2017 verdict Host entries – at least when they’ve become host entries via their country winning the year before, which isn’t always the case with JESC – have a lot of pressure placed on them to follow in the footsteps of a peak result…or at least not embarrass themselves by failing miserably off the back of a peak result. Whether they’re hosting or not, Georgia is always a country to keep an eye on when Eurovision’s younger sibling drops by, and they’ve proven yet again that they know how this contest works with Grigol and his Voice of the Heart. It’s a more mature song and vocalist combo than usual, and for the third time in a row the lyrics are 100% Georgian (YAASSS for having full confidence in your native language!). It’s almost like a child-friendly version of Versace On The Floor by Bruno Mars – in fact, the structure and 90s R&B sound are so similar I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it was directly inspired by that track. As such, since I’m a mahusive fan of both Bruno Mars and 90s R&B, VOTH is parked so far up my street it’s actually on someone’s front lawn. It’s not my favourite (or even second favourite) song in the 2017 comp, but I dig everything about it. Great melody, great build into some spectacular vocal runs that I hope to heck Grigol can replicate live, and an easy-listening feel that begs for atmospheric staging feat. spotlights and LED stars. In terms of measuring up to Mzeo, I don’t expect it to, but I am hoping for a decent 5th-8th finish. And when the audience inevitably claps their butts off for this host entry, I will be doing the same thing from my sofa (while simultaneously sobbing because I’m not in Tbilisi with them *sniff*).

Song score 10

Artist score 10

Final score 10

 

 

 

Watch it here

Last year…Don’t pretend you’ve forgotten about Kisses and Dancin’, or that you’ve forgotten the dance moves. I know I haven’t. As irresistible as it was, it didn’t crack the top 5 in Malta – Kisses finished 8th.

The 2017 verdict Variety is the spice of life (apparently) so the Dutch bounce from girl group to boy band is worth a fist bump. We can expect Fource to be choreographed to within an inch of their pre-pubescent lives at JESC, and if their NF performances are anything to go by their vocals will be pretty tight (unless somebody’s voice breaks at the worst possible moment) – but that’s where the similarities between Kisses and Dancin’ and Love Me come to a screeching halt. Love Me, strangely enough, isn’t as instantly loveable as last year’s song, but after a few listens I’d say it’s just as high-quality. It’s more grown-up, and something you’d hear on mainstream radio if it was entirely in English. The chorus is so simple you don’t have a choice but to belt it out along with the boys (so the English that is used has been used very well) and the instrumental breaks are made for slick, crowd-pumping choreography á la the precision kind I mentioned before. Overall, the song’s energetic, modern and strikes a good balance between youthfulness and sophistication. It’s definitely in the middle on the maturity scale, but even so it reminds me of Macedonia’s too-mature-for-JESC entry last year, Love Will Lead Our Way (I guess when your song has ‘love’ in the title, maturity makes sense). I’m only talking in terms of style, but given Macedonia’s less than impressive result in 2016, that is a worry. Is Love Me dynamic enough to be in it to win it? Not quite, but I’m not discounting these guys. The Netherlands don’t always get the points they deserve at Junior, but when they’re on point anything is possible. Fource’s is a performance I’m extra psyched to see because if it’s cohesive, as the only group act in this year’s contest they’ll stand out for the right reasons.

Song score 8

Artist score 10

Final score 9

 

 

Watch it here

Last year…Poland returned to JESC for the first time since 2004, reaching 11th place (a big leap from their losing streak of 2003/2004) with Olivia Wieczorek and Nie Zapomnij.

The 2017 verdict I wasn’t sure whether to create an air of mystery around this one or just lay all of my cards on the table right away. Eventually (after .5 of a second) I decided to go for the second option, and tell you that the suit of my cards is hearts all the way because OMG I LOVE THIS!! It is stunning. From the first time I heard that tinkly piano intro, I knew I’d found something special – the one song (because my other faves will have less trouble doing well) that I’d be supporting like a woman possessed. Like Georgia, Poland has opted to leave English out of their entry in favour of exotic, unpronounceable-to-the-untrained-speaker Polish, and it’s used in a melodically spine-tingling ballad that sounds more than a little Balkan at times (scoring major love points from me). I also must mention that masterpiece of a key change which, for a split second, makes crystal-clear vocalist Alicja sound like she’s out of tune until you realise she was just transitioning to a powerful second chorus in a way that would challenge singers twice her age. Speaking of Alicja – she may need to work on her charisma and stage presence a teensy bit, but she does emote enough to give Mój Dom the feels it needs to not look like an adult’s song being sung by a teenager. If someone can give her a shot of confidence and a Cinderella-style costume makeover before she steps on the Junior stage, Poland will have achieved perfection. Unfortunately, they aren’t a sure thing for success. I’m hoping this song will be another Tu Primo Grande Amore (or at least come close) but it could just as easily fall by the wayside, a.k.a. the low side of the scoreboard. My fingers will be crossed – once I’m done voting for it – in the hope that other people get the goosebumps I do when I hear it.

Song score 12

Artist score 8

Final score 10

 

 

And Round 1 is DONE! You’ve got to love Junior Eurovision for making the review caseload way lighter than the adult contest does (reviewing 4/16 songs makes you feel much more accomplished than reviewing 4/42 songs).

With the first four JESC 2017 entries criticised (as nicely as possible) and scored by moi, here are the current standings:

  1. Poland (10)
  2. Georgia (10)
  3. The Netherlands (9)
  4. Cyprus (6.5)

So Grigol just misses out on getting a high five from me in favour of Alicja, whose song I’ve bumped ahead because it’s a little more magical. Will Poland manage to beat Georgia, The Netherlands and Cyprus in the actual contest? Probably not…but a girl can dream.

Before we find out for sure the weekend after next, I want to find out something else from you:

 

Once you’ve voted, come on down to the comments and let me know how you’d rank the rest of this random, out-of-the-EBJ-hat bunch who are prepping to shine bright in Tbilisi. You know you want to! It’ll help pass the time between now and Round 2 feat. Albania, Italy, Macedonia and Portugal J

 

Until then…

 


 

 

Copenhagen Reviews: Part 1 (Albania-France)

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

 

ALBANIA

One Night’s Anger by Hersi

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

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

Top 10 material: No

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

ARMENIA

Not Alone by Aram Mp3

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

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: Yes

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

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

AUSTRIA

Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst

austriaSounds like: a Bond theme song waiting to happen

Better than 2013: No 

Top 10 material: Yes

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

AZERBAIJAN

Start A Fire by Dilara Kazimova

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

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

Top 10 material: Yes

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 8 points.

 

BELARUS

Cheesecake by TEO 

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

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No

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

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

BELGIUM

Mother by Axel Hirsoux 

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

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

DENMARK

Cliché Love Song by Basim

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

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: Yes

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

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.

 

ESTONIA

Amazing by Tanja 

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

Better than 2013: No 

Top 10 material: Yes

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

FINLAND

Something Better by Softengine 

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

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

FRANCE

Moustache by Twin Twin 

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

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Baku Reviews: Part 1 (Albania-Bulgaria)

This week we hit the month-to-go mark on the countdown to Eurovision 2012, and I figured there was no better way to celebrate than by getting on with my annual entry reviews (it was very spur of the moment. I totally didn’t have them planned months in advance…). Now, I know what you’re thinking. “She wants to get on with them. Why doesn’t she just GET ON with them instead of wasting our precious time with an overly wordy intro?” Well, firstly, I’m very offended. Secondly, I just wanted to say that this is the first time I’ve reviewed the songs before the contest has taken place. Usually I do retrospective reviews which take into consideration the performances as well as the songs. But I’ve been reading a lot of reviews on other blogs (none of which are as good as this one, of course. Ha ha.) and enjoyed them so much I couldn’t wait to do my own. Plus, there’s not a whole lot of Eurovision to talk about during this period when all the artists are locked away in rehearsal rooms (or, as is likely in Valentina Monetta’s case, busy having cybersex with someone they met on a certain social networking site).

And so I present to you the first of my Baku Reviews, featuring Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Bulgaria. Please take a minute to comment down below, Tweet me, or tell me your thoughts on that Social Networking Site That Must Not Be Named. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you think of this year’s 42!

Without further ado…

 

Albania

Suus/ Rona Nishliu

Better than 2011: Yes…no…maybe?

The good stuff: Something very strange happened to me with this song. The first time I heard it, I hated it. It was shouty and nonsensical, and whilst it went somewhere, I couldn’t say exactly where (a mental asylum, perhaps?). The second time I listened, I still hated it. But then the preview video premiered, and I thought I’d check it out. Little did I know that three minutes later, Rona and Suus would have given me goosebumps. There was something about her standing there singing her lungs out whilst a bunch of other random stuff was happening (I’m just going to assume it was deep and meaningful stuff) that got to me, and now I’m kind of into this entry, particularly the chorus.

Everything else: It’s not an instant song, one that’s going to get in those people’s heads who are hearing the songs for the first time on the night. I can’t see this getting too many televotes. I’m also not sure that that the juries will go for it – could it be too strange for them?

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.

 

Austria

Woki Mit Deim Popo/ Trackshittaz

Reminds me of: I hate to say this, but it’s got a whiff of Irelande Douze Point about it…

The good stuff: Trackshittaz are one of many acts to appear in a national final multiple times before finally making it to the ESC. Often those acts make it with a song that doesn’t measure up to their previous efforts, and whilst that could be said about these boys from Austria (Oida Taunz! was an NF favourite last year) I can’t help but shake my thing to what won them a ticket to Baku – which is appropriate since that’s what they spend the entire three minutes telling us to do. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s probably sexist and offensive but I don’t care because it’s catchy and fun.

Everything else: According to those lucky enough to attend Eurovision in Concert at the weekend (I hate you all) this song did not work well in the venue. There is, of course, a difference in performing in a club or a hall and performing in a humungous stadium, but this does worry me a little. I really want Austria to do well – by which I mean qualify – but I wouldn’t bet whatever small change falls out of my purse when I upend it on that actually happening.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.

 

Belarus

We Are The Heroes/ LiteSound

Best lyric: ‘As I stand beneath the staring sky, I just lose faith in gravity…’

The good stuff: Thank the Eurovision gods for dodgy national finals. Having originally chosen Alyona Lanskaya and her extremely depressing ballad All My Life, Belarus did a Ukraine and ended up disqualifying her, passing the torch to the original runner-ups and my favourites, LiteSound. Best decision ever! I’m not saying their song is a douze-pointer, but I have no desire to kill myself when I hear it, which is a big improvement. It’s a nice slice of rock-pop with a great sing-along chorus.

Everything else: Songs like this are often accompanied by very boring stage shows (think 3JS doing absolutely nothing for the Netherlands in 2011) so I hope this will be an exception. A quick strut down to high five the front-row flag wavers or a nifty light show is all I’m asking, guys.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.

 

Belgium

Would You?/ Iris

Top 10 material: No

The good stuff: Well…it’s…um. It’s not the worst song of the 42, I can say that at least. It isn’t outright dreadful. Iris is a nice singer, and pretty to look at. I just don’t know what else to say about this entry! It’s so vanilla. Why can’t Belgium send songs to the ESC like the ones they send to JESC, instead of three minutes of perpetual underwhelming-ness?

Everything else: In answer to your question Iris, no, I wouldn’t. If I had to stick around and listen to you sing this 24 hours a day I’d slip into a coma. Would You? just goes nowhere! It’s the ultimate tea-and-toilet break song (although I personally remain glued to my couch for every second of every ESC installment. And no, I do not go to the toilet there). The chorus is hardly distinguishable from the rest of the song. I’m so disappointed by it, because back when Iris was announced I listened to some of her back catalogue and thought “Well done, Belgium. You’ve gone with someone young and fresh who could be described as the European Taylor Swift. Hurrah!” Alas, when it came time to choose a song for Iris, Belgium presented her with two epically boring numbers, and picked the most boring one.

Winner, loser or grower: Loser – 3 points.

 

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Korake Ti Znam/ MayaSar

Better than 2011: No

The good stuff: Belarus did a Ukraine this year, and Bosnia decided to do an Iceland by picking one of their last entries’ backing singers to represent them. I think they chose well. MayaSar is a stunning vocalist, and that voice is perfect for the soaring piano ballad that is Korake Ti Znam. The song is not up there with my best of the best, but I appreciate it for what it is, and that’s a beautifully written and composed three minutes that the juries will probably go crazy for.

Everything else: It took me three or four listens before I could remember how this went, which I think was because its sections seem to blend together. Is that the chorus? No wait, I think that’s it. Or is it….who knows. Bosnia will get a lot of support from its fellow Former Yugoslavians, no doubt, but if that’s not enough to push Maya into the qualification zone, she may not be able to rely on votes from elsewhere.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.

 

Bulgaria

Love Unlimited/ Sofi Marinova

Reminds me of: Mr. Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan

The good stuff: EVERYTHING. Yes, I said it. My love for this song is definitely unlimited (groan) which I’m sure most of you will not understand. I think it’s a great hybrid of the familiar and exotic, and my giddy Aunt, it’s an ear worm! Some may say the multi-language aspect is a desperate attempt to curry favour with a bunch of countries, which may be true, but I think it’s been cleverly incorporated into the chorus. I love that, I love Sofi’s screechy voice, I love it all. For the first time in a while I’ll be waving a Bulgarian flag, and if you don’t like that…well, that’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinion.

Everything else: I’m going to confess – the first time I heard this song, I didn’t realise it was made up of just about every language ever invented (except Udmurt, which is reserved for Russian grannies only). My ears only registered Bulgarian, which they apparently aren’t too tuned to. Rookie mistake!

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.

 

I hope you enjoyed the first lot of my reviews, because there’s a heck of a lot more to come! Next time I’ll be trashing and treasuring Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Georgia. I hope to see you here when I do. In a non-creepy way. Obviously I can’t see you, I just meant…never mind.

 

Jaz x

 

PS – If you were wondering why Azerbaijan with an “A” was missing, here’s why: I’ve decided to review the six finalists together. They’ll make up the final lot of the Baku Reviews.