Holy guacamole, guys! If you thought the last four or five Saturdays were busy when it came to the ESC NF calendar…then you’re not entirely wrong, they totally were. But this Saturday is on another level, because we’re about to find ourselves with five more songs for Lisbon. FIVE, I TELL YOU!!! THAT’S FOUR MORE THAN ONE!!!
In addition – and I won’t use aggressive all-caps on you this time – Lithuania is edging ever closer to the end of Eurovizija (so they say, but I’ll believe it when I see it) and Sweden’s penultimate Melfest show has arrived. Nights like this are exactly why ‘Super Saturday’ was coined, and I am pumped. Are you?
Here’s a rundown of the evening:
- Estonia (Eesti Laul final)
- Finland (UMK final)
- Iceland (Söngvakeppnin final)
- Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 8)
- Poland (Krajowe Eliminacje final)
- San Marino (1in360 final)
- Sweden (Melodifestivalen Andra Chansen round)
As usual, I’m going to review everything major that went down in ESC terms this week, and I’ll also be talking Estonian eventfulness and Swedish shenanigans (that’s Eesti Laul and Melodifestivalen, for those of you who’d prefer I speak like a normal person). Sorry if you were hoping for a UMK (Monsters please), Poland (Delirium please), etc ramble. Maybe next year, if my time management skills have become superhuman by then!
Let’s rewind to last Saturday, which saw Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Slovenia and Ukraine take their picks for Portugal. Enrolling in the Class of 2018 were: AWS with Viszlát Nyár; Laura Rizzotto with Funny Girl; DoReDos with My Lucky Day; Lea Sirk with Hvala, Ne!; and Mélovin with Under The Ladder. Along the way we lost BQl and Tayanna, who’ve now finished second two years running in EMA and Vidbir respectively – but it wasn’t for nothing. My favourite choice of last Saturday night was Latvia’s (as they continue to bring it for the fourth year in a row…we’ll see if they get rewarded this time). Having not had the time to follow Supernova at all this season, I had no idea what to expect when I checked out Laura’s winning performance. Afterwards, all I could think was ‘Wow!’ – so you could say it took me (pleasantly) by surprise.
Over in Sweden, the fourth and final semi of Melodifestivalen ended with direkt qualifications for Mariette (shocking) and Rolandz (*sigh*), plus Andra Chansen tickets for Felix Sandman and Olivia Eliasson. It wasn’t a jaw-dropper of a show by any means – Mariette was the favourite, Rolandz obviously is the Owe Thornqvist of 2018 (as I suspected) and Felix will probably get to the final via the scenic route – and it doesn’t look like this week’s AC round will see any major surprises either…OR WILL IT?!? More on that later on in this post.
The NF action didn’t all go down on Saturday: Sunday night was Armenia and Romania’s turn to crown a couple of champions. Armenia could have gone any which way after pre-Depi Evratesil fave Tamar Kaprelian didn’t even advance to the final – and they opted for the first song performed on the night, Qami by Sevak Khanagyan. Now, I do want to keep my poker face on as much as possible until I officially review the entries for Lisbon, but I just have to say that I totally forgive Armenia for letting Tamar go (i.e. we may have lost a bop, but we’ve gained a GORGEOUS ballad in its place). As for Romania, who settled on Goodbye by The Humans…well, I think I need some grow time on that one. The lack of yodeling is something we’ll all have to get used to.
The week ended with two ‘ta-da!’ moments – a.k.a. on Friday, Cyprus and The Netherlands unveiled their entries at last. Eleni Foureira’s Fuego is the ethnopop banger I’ve/we’ve all been waiting for, and once again I think Cyprus has the competitive edge over Greece (I’m still not over Gravity finishing lower than This Is Love last year. JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED). Waylon’s Outlaw In ‘Em – revealed as his Eurovision pick after five consecutive nights of musical possibilities – is not an ethnopop banger (shocking). Instead it’s a full-on, no-holds-barred twang-a-langin’ country anthem in which he is sporadically possessed by Jon Bon Jovi circa 1987. I’ll leave you to wonder (until review time) whether that’s a pro or a con as far as I’m concerned.
I wanted to talk a little bit about Eesti Laul, which isn’t an NF I usually follow from go to whoa – I’ve barely had time to glance at it this year – but it can always be relied on to spit out some really interesting songs that would never be mistaken for Melfest rejects (they’re just so inherently Estonian somehow).
A few semi finals ago there were 20 potential successors to Koit & Laura’s Verona in play; now, 10 remain (DUN DUN DUN!) and tonight is the night for Estonia to name the best one (hopefully, although we all have a different opinion of which one that is) winner.
- Young, Karl Kristjan & Karl Killing feat. Wateva
- Sky, Eliis Pärna & Gerli Padar
- Knock Knock, Nika
- Thousand Words, Sibyl Vane
- Home, Stig Rästa
- Laura (Walk With Me), Vajé
- La Forza, Elina Netšajeva
- (Can’t Keep Calling) Misty, Frankie Animal
- Drop That Boogie, Iiris & Agoh
- Welcome To My World, Evestus
The top three in the odds are Elina, Stig and Vajé (well, they were when I wrote this), but are any of those acts in my personal top three? Short answer: yes. Long answer: keep reading.
La Forza I initially listened to this after hearing Eurofans left, right and centre raving about it, and I didn’t feel it much at first (probably because my expectations were higher than Elina’s glass-shattering soprano notes). But a few listens later, my skin is goosebumping during the chorus. Elina’s performance looks and sounds like nothing else in Eesti Laul 2018, and nothing else in Eurovision 2018 at this point. She is stunning, vocally flawless, and the wearer of a skirt bigger than Aliona Moon’s and just as arresting.
Home Ott Lepland did it to me in 2012, and now it’s Stig who’s making me want to fly to Tallinn ASAP and propose to him on the spot. What a romantic! As always, I’m surprised to see him back in the comp considering he looks like he stumbled across it by accident but decided to just roll with the punches. That aside, I adore this song. It’s sweet and heartfelt without being gag material (FYI, Stig, this is me telling you that I’m currently free for GoT viewings).
Young This is too cute, gosh darn it! One of the Karls even has BRACES, for heaven’s sake (I think it’s one of the Karls…there are a lot of cooks in this kitchen and I’m confused). No, it’s not the most distinctive song on the planet (and it won’t win tonight) but it’s fresh and fun, which gets a YAASSS from me.
Who’s going to win it?
I don’t want to discount anyone and look stupid later (which has already happened a handful of times this selection season), but in my mind the most likely winners are Stig and Elina (not to be mistaken for the Stig and Elina duo of 2015). And I can narrow it down even further than that, because I just don’t think Home is powerful enough to outshine La Forza – though that depends on what Estonia is looking for. Stig gets the authentic, singer-songwriter vote; Elina has the ‘wow!’ moments (La Forza is one long ‘wow!’ moment in itself, actually). I’m thinking it’ll be wow over ‘aww!’ this time.
Oh, and to cover my butt…my underdog winner prediction would be Sibyl Vane or Frankie Animal.
What do you think? Who’s getting on the plane to Portugal on behalf of Estonia, and will their microphone work once they get there?
Kristianstad is the name (does Sweden has a Kostovstad tucked away somewhere?) and Andra Chansen is the game, people. The eight songs that finished 3rd and 4th in their respective Melfest semis throughout February will be chopped in half tonight, with four acts to join Benjamin Ingrosso, John Lundvik, Samir & Viktor, LIAMOO, Martin Almgren, Jessica Andersson, Mariette and *takes a breath* Rolandz in the final. The AC round is often made up of both the obvious and the WTF (results-wise), making it well worth watching even if you’re impatient for the final to just get here already.
Speaking of things just happening already, I’m going to get straight into the duels and share my thoughts on who I’d like to win, and who probably will.
Duel 1: In My Cabana, Margaret VS Cuba Libre, Moncho
First up, two songs that both make me want to go on holiday to a tropical island. Given that Moncho couldn’t have been paired with Mendez for a duel, In My Cabana VS Cuba Libre is the next best thing. There should be a clear winner here – i.e. if Margaret doesn’t walk away with victory in this battle, then there will be something very weird going on in the world (or at least on Planet Eurovision). Then again, I never expected Moncho to get to Andra Chansen in the first place…so I shouldn’t underestimate him again. Still, it’s GOT to be Margaret.
Who should win (IMO) Margaret
Who WILL win Margaret
Duel 2: All The Feels, Renaida VS Never Learn, Olivia Eliasson
Here we have a female soloist in black and fluorescent sports-chic, singing a slick and modern dance-pop song, versus a female soloist in black and fluorescent sports-chic, singing a slick and modern dance-pop song. Well, you can’t say Renaida and OIivia aren’t evenly matched. Having both in the final wouldn’t make a lot of sense, although I do like both songs. But Renaida is the superior performer – her energy and confidence sell All The Feels at a price I’m more than willing to pay, whereas Olivia struggled to perform Never Learn with conviction. I do think this could be the most closely-fought duel of the night considering how similar the options are – sometimes it’s a lot easier choosing between pizza and cake than choosing between pizza and pizza.
Who should win (IMO) Renaida
Who WILL win Renaida
Duel 3: Every Single Day, Felix Sandman VS Songburning, Mimi Werner
We all have our painful AC duels – the ones that are bittersweet because we love both songs and want them both to score a spot in the final. This is mine for the year, in case you hadn’t guessed. I love Felix and his Frans impersonation (Felix is totally sorry, though) plus the bare-bones staging that made the whole thing feel genuine. And yep, I also love Mimi’s country cracker that was staged to perfection (colour scheme, backup drummers and fire curtain were all on point) even if her vocal was wobbly at times. Oof. At the end of the day, my heart (the one in my chest, not the on-screen Melfest app one that drives me INSANE) says Felix a little louder than it says Mimi. Based on his impressive Spotify stream count (it’s more like a flood) and Mimi’s lack thereof, I’d say we’ll be seeing Mr. Sandman in Stockholm next Saturday.
Who should win (IMO) Felix
Who WILL win Felix
Duel 4: Patrick Swayze, Sigrid Bernson VS Everyday by Mendez
Sunny slice of Scandipop goes head-to-head with Latin pop summer song – but who comes out on top? I have been back and forth on this one more times than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms. My personal preference is Mendez, but Sigrid and the effervescent Patrick Swayze have grown on me since the Karlstad semi. And I just don’t know what will win out in the end! SEND HELP.
Who should win (IMO) Mendez
Who WILL win Mendez…or Sigrid. One of the two for sure.
I’ve showed you mine, now you have to show me yours! Who would you bet on to make it out of Andra Chansen tonight?
NF UPDATE: What’s up next?
- 4/3 Portugal (Festival da Canção final)
- 10/3 Norway (Melodi Grand Prix final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen final)
- 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)
We are so close to the end of national final season, which is sad – but there’s something satisfying about having a freshly-full house of Eurovision entries to talk about. May the best songs win this weekend (the best according to me, that is, because I’m selfish and want things to go my way musically), and may you enjoy whatever you choose to watch!
SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Talking all things Estonia, Sweden + Spain on the most super-sized NF weekend so far!
Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs! I feel like I can use that as a greeting with some relevance, since France dropped their Eurovision 2017 entry on us earlier in the week, just in time to steal some of Germany’s thunder. Not that Germany had that much to steal in the first place, but more on that in another post (for now, I’ll just say that red, white and blue > red, black and yellow). My point is, any opportunity one gets to throw around some random, stereotypical French should be taken. Oui oui!
France is just about the only country where there ISN’T any NF action going on this weekend – a weekend so full of finals (and heats, and semis…all the good stuff), there’s not enough room for all of them to trend on Twitter. Feast your soon-to-be-weary eyes on this lot:
- 11/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final one (feat. Lenna Kuurmaa, Elina Born + Ivo Linna)
- 11/2 Ukraine’s untitled NF – semi final two (feat. Kuznetsov + Ilaria)
- 11/2 Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival – the final (feat. Michele Bravi, Elodie + Alessio Bernabei)
- 11/2 Hungary’s A Dal – semi final two (feat. Ádám Szabó, Kállay Saunders Band + Roma Soul)
- 11/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final two (feat. Mariette, Lisa Ajax + Benjamin Ingrosso)
- 11/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat six (feat. Mia, Sasha Song + Aistė Pilvelytė)
- 11/2 Spain’s Objetivo Eurovisión – the final (feat. LeKlein, Paula Rojo + Mirela)
- 12/2 Latvia’s Supernova – heat two (feat. Markus Riva + My Radiant You)
- 13/2 Israel’s Rising Star – the final (feat. Julietta, Diana Golbi, Beatbox Element + Imri Ziv)
Visit eurovision.tv for all of the live-streaming links. And because it might be lonely and want to have a cup of coffee and a chat with you.
What will you be watching? You’ve got about as much chance of catching everything at once as I do of covering it all here – so I guess we’ll both have to pick our priorities.
To be honest – as if the title of this post wasn’t a giveaway – I’ve already decided where my loyalties lie. So, if you want some verdicts on/predictions for Eesti Laul, Melodifestivalen and Objetivo Eurovisión, you’ve come to the right blog.
Let’s muse about the music!
Estonia: Elina Born is back as Eesti Laul begins…but is she In Or Out?
It’s a good thing there isn’t a prize for Best Blog Subtitle, ‘cause I wouldn’t be winning any for that one. Blame Elina Born, who went and signed herself up for Eesti Laul as a soloist – for the second time – with a Stig Rästa song that begs to be used in many punny ways (it’s the new That Sounds Good To Me). Girl has said Goodbye To Yesterday and hello to a shot at competing in Kyiv, and her quest begins tonight with the first semi final of Estonia’s always enjoyable NF.
Of course, she’s not the only act competing this evening, so I shouldn’t devote too much screen space to her alone. Elina will be the second of ten acts to perform, and here’s a rundown of them all:
- Slingshot by Lenna Kuurmaa
- In Or Out by Elina Born
- Everything But You by Carl-Philip
- Suur Ioterii by Ivo Linna
- Feel Me Now by Ariadne
- Supernatural by Uku Suviste
- Hey Kiddo by Laura Prits
- Have You Now by Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux feat. Maian
- Valan Pisaraid by Janno Reim & Kosmos
- Hurricane by Leemet Onno
As usual, Estonia is providing us with an interesting set of songs, many of which take some second or third listens to figure out (it’s a pre-selection of acquired tastes, IMO, which is not a bad thing because it speaks for the complexity of what ERT program the show with). Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of being able to listen more than once – and in some cases, my first impressions are based on snippets (with a Eurotrip three weeks away and other commitments calling, time is like thunder short for me at the moment). Here are the semi one songs that stood out to me with minimal exposure.
My top five In Or Out, Everything But You, Feel Me Now, Supernatural + Have You Now. My favourites from this shortlist would be In Or Out (the trumpeting might be passé, but it’s still enjoyable) and Have You Now (which is obviously an Estonian tribute to The Chainsmokers). There’s nothing super-duper dated – or plain terrible – in the whole semi, though. Not even Ivo Linna is acting his age, musically-speaking.
Predicting the ACTUAL top five Slingshot, In Or Out, Feel Me Now, Hey Kiddo + Have You Now. I won’t say where I pulled this prediction from (in the interest of maintaining some degree of ladylike elegance) but let’s just say it’s unreliable. On the other hand, if it turns out to be 60%-100% right, I’ll claim that I produced it after a careful, educated analysis. K?
Do you think Eesti Laul’s off to a good start? Is there someone in this first semi who can do what Juri Pöötsmann couldn’t and get Estonia to the Eurovision final again (without giving the impression that their hobbies include dismemberment, and preserving vital organs in formaldehyde)? Let me know in the comments.
Sweden: Melfest makes it to Malmö for a big-deal Deltävling 2
That’s right – we’re taking a trip back to Malmö Arena, where those of us who were otherwise engaged during Petra Mede’s Melfest hosting gig may have first laid eyes on her when she owned Eurovision in 2013. Unfortunately, some might say, tonight ain’t about Petra – it’s about the seven acts who all want to follow in Ace Wilder and Nano’s footsteps (I assume) since they lead straight to Friends Arena in Stockholm, and the Melfest final.
- A Million Years by Mariette
- Himmel Och Hav by Roger Pontare
- Up by Etzia
- Vart Haru Varit by Allyawan
- Hearts Align by Dismissed
- I Don’t Give A by Lisa Ajax
- Good Lovin’ by Benjamin Ingrosso
We’re down one returnee from last week, with Mariette, Roger Pontare and Lisa Ajax in the mix. In Göteborg, just two of the four comeback acts progressed, and with only one real contender standing/dancing in the way of Mariette etc’s direkt and AC spots, can they all make it through? SHOULD they? Melodifestivalen raises some tough questions. Luckily, they’ll be answered later, but I’ll have a go at filling in the blanks in the meantime.
My top four
- A Million Years – Is this better than Don’t Stop Believing? I don’t think so, but it’s similarly intriguing and contemporary. The lyrics are a little cliché, and that ticks me off as a writer who goes out of their way to avoid clichés. I really need access to the complete package before I make my mind up about Mariette 2.0. Potential for greatness is here, though.
- Vart Haru Varit – This is Adrijana’s Amare with a male singer and a slight increase in mass appeal. It’ll probably make just as much of an impression as Amare did (i.e. none whatsoever) but dang it, I love Swedish hip-hop!
- I Don’t Give A – In case you missed the barely detectable F-bomb (times ten) in Lisa’s sequel to My Heart Wants Me Dead, yes, it exists (#sarcasm). It’s not necessary in a song that lacks the Zara Larsson attitude and style I was expecting. Still, expletives aside, there’s pros a-plenty to be found in I Don’t Give A. The pop ballad style lets Lisa show off her amazing vocals, and all in all it’s very ‘now’. Well, I think it is. I’m not too tuned in to what the youths of today are into *returns to knitting an intricate sweater for my dog*.
- Good Lovin’ – Maybe I’m biased, given that I practically had a heart attack when my beloved (in a platonic way as he’s a bit too young for me) Benjamin was announced as a Melfester for 2017…but THIS KICKS BUTT. It’s everything I want in a pop song and more. It also manages to be both what I was expecting, and something completely different. Slick, smooth, and well-sung. Så brå.
- Himmel Och Hav – I actually toyed with having Roger in my top four thanks to the great atmosphere and ethnicity of this track. As someone who never fell hard for When Spirits Are Calling My Name, I could learn to like this more than that. GASP!
- Up – I know this isn’t culturally similar to Kizunguzungu, but it’s easy to compare the vibes of the two. I can’t see Etzia sharing SaRaha’s success in a) going through to Andra Chansen, and b) getting out of it. Up is catchy, but pretty pedestrian overall.
- Hearts Align – This is okay. It’s fine. The performance and costuming choices will be the biggest talking point though. No chance of direkt for Dismissed, methinks.
On that note, it’s time to make a few predictions. Last week I somehow managed to be 100% correct, so I’m going to do my best not to ruin that this time.
Who’s going direkt? Mariette + Lisa Ajax. Based on such data as Facebook likes, Mariette seems to be the Nano of this week’s show (swap the man bun for dreadlocks and the difference is undetectable) in that the heat is hers to lose. Lisa’s song might divide voters (unless the f-word is on par with ‘darn it!’ in Sweden) but I have no doubt she’ll nail it live, and it’s big enough to leave a lasting impression. The swearing actually makes the song more memorable, I must say.
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Benjamin Ingrosso + Dismissed. I desperately want Ingrosso to go straight through, but girl power is likely to pip him at the post. Fourth place could go to Roger Pontare if Sweden is still feeling his flow, but I suspect it might go to Dismissed as Hearts Align screams Andra Chansen to me.
In the immortal words of Elaiza, is it right or is it wrong? Do you think you know who’ll go where when the results of Deltävling 2 are revealed? Tell me more!
Spain: Which of the six singers will fill Barei’s dancing shoes?
Si, amigos – Objetivo Eurovisión is back, albeit without Brequette (maybe 2018 is your year, queen). The line-up is much more diverse than it was in 2016, which makes the outcome harder to predict. But we can’t complain about variety and (reasonable) quality all round…can we?
- Do It For Your Lover by Manel Navarro
- Ouch! by LeKlein
- Lo Que Nunca Fue by Paula Rojo
- Spin My Head by Mario Jefferson
- Momento Critico by Maika
- Contigo by Mirela
I don’t know about you, but I can clearly divide up these six songs: there’s two that I absolutely adore, two that I quite like, and two that I wouldn’t miss if I never heard them again. And I have no idea whether Spain will think along the same lines, or choose a song that has no chance of reversing their Eurovision fortunes. One thing’s for sure – I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat while waiting for them to make up their collective mind.
My top six
- Ouch! – This song is ridiculously sublime. I can’t take LeKlein’s screams of ‘ouuuuuuuch’ seriously (she sounds exactly like me whenever I stub my toe on something) but I love everything else about her potential ESC entry. I love the grammatically awkward lyrics, the melody of the verses, the power and anthemic quality of the chorus, the polished production…it’s all very bueno. Now, if only she could carry it off live without numerous unstable vocal moments…
- Contigo – It’s no Nada Es Comparable A Ti (not only my fave NF effort from Mirela, but one of my fave NF songs ever) but then again, it’s not supposed to be. It’s an instantly infectious, ethno-pop triumph that needs to be a World Cup theme ASAP. The lyrics might be rubbish (I speak zero Spanish and have not yet Google-translated them) but who cares? Sometimes you just want to get up and dance and have a good time – a fiesta then a siesta – without considering the meaningfulness of lyrical content. Contigo is perfect for that purpose.
- Spin My Head – I feel like having your head spun up (as opposed to around) would be painful, but Mario seems to be welcoming it. Again, this isn’t going to win any awards for substance, but I would wave my hands in the air like I just didn’t care to it in a club (or in the supermarket. Whenever, wherever, as Shakira would say). The Spanglish chorus is decent when it could have been a disaster.
- Do It For Your Lover – Speaking of Spanglish, here’s a mixed-language version of The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. That’s not a negative, but I do wish Manel was offering up something more original. I also wish ‘do it for your lover’ wasn’t repeated nearly THIRTY times in three minutes. What is ‘it’, anyway?
- Momento Critico – Maika is not a woman I’d want to mess with, so in case she ever reads this, I’m going to point out the positives of her Objetivo song. It’s unashamedly rocky. It has attitude. It’s somewhat memorable (although I have forgotten how it goes now that I think about it. But I know I thought it was kind of memorable). It’s not bad. Please don’t come at me with an industrial-sized blowtorch, Maika.
- Lo Que Nunca Fue – Boring. Sweet and cute and charming in a countrified way, sure, but this leaves no impression on me whatsoever. It’s totally forgettable, and if there’s a hook in it, I can’t hear it. All of this means it’ll probably win.
Who SHOULD win LeKlein or Mirela. Yes, they’re my personal top picks, but I genuinely believe they have the best odds out of the six of making Spain’s trip to Ukraine worth it. I’m not saying they’re Eurovision winners, but if either one wins tonight and takes advantage of the gap between now and the contest (to revamp and maybe take a few singing lessons) anything’s possible.
Who WILL win I want to scream ‘SEND HELP!’ on this one, because I cannot decide. I’m not even convinced that one of my preferred two will win. I’m going to rule out Maika and Mario. Paula and Manel are my dark horses. The failure of Maria Isabel’s ethno-pop to get far last year gives me doubts about Mirela…so that leaves LeKlein. She’s already proven she appeals to the public (winning the Eurocasting round is why she’s in OE) and if she produces a more polished live rendition of Ouch! tonight, she could win this too. Or not, and I’m just wishful thinking.
In a shocking turn of events, I want to know what you think about the Spanish show. What’s good, what’s bad and what’s even worse in your opinion? And, more importantly, who’s going to win? You’ve got a 1 in 6 chance of getting it right!
Whatever you’re watching this evening (or tomorrow morning, if you’ve also been screwed over by your time zone), I hope to see you on Twitter for some 140-character or less fun times. We Eurofans know how to party, even if it’s just on social media.
May the best songs win (or qualify)!
THE KOUNTDOWN TO KYIV | The countries I don’t trust to make the right choices this NF season (a.k.a. Jaz gets way too judgmental!)
Believe it or not, Eurovision’s next national final season is about to begin. THE FEELS!
Sure, Festivali I Këngës was our early Christmas present, and Hungary and Lithuania have kicked off the heat stages of their selections already (Lithuania really should have started theirs in September if they wanted to be sure of a pre-ESC finish). But the coming weekend is when the craziness starts – in the awesome way it always does for us Eurofreaks. It’s more or less non-stop NFs from the moment Belarus and Georgia get going on Friday until the EBU demands the handover of all 43 entries sometime in March. Are you ready? Me neither, but that’s too bad.
Of course, NF season brings with it as much heartbreak as it does happiness, when the songs we fall in love with don’t rise to the top. And there’s a handful of countries that, to me, are more likely to deliver on the ‘WHY, LORDI, WHY?!?’ front than any others. Before the 2017 season switches to supersonic speed, I’m going to expose those countries in the hope that they might not disappoint me this time around.
In other words, I’m about to complain my InCulto-style sparkly short-clad butt off. Who WOULDN’T want to stick around for that?
First, a few FYIs:
- This post = my personal opinion on the most unreliable national finals. I still believe that every country has the right to send whatever they want to Eurovision for whatever reason (maybe they’d rather make a statement than be in it to win it. That’s fine!). I also believe that, as with the ESC itself, whichever song wins is the right winner because it triumphed according to the rules. However, NF mistakes have been made more than once by certain selection shows the way I see it, and I just wanted to point that out.
- Don’t take anything I say below too seriously, and don’t call me out for insulting the intelligence and decisions of entire nations. This is only what I’d dictate in a parallel universe in which the whole season goes my way. Which will NEVER happen, btw.
- I’m using the results of 2016’s finals as my main examples of what went wrong, but don’t be surprised if I throw back to something from ye olden days of 2010-2015 too.
Right – now that we’ve established that I’m not some sort of Eurovision Satan, let’s get started. Here are the countries and their accompanying pre-selections that I’m worried about as we head into the 2017 season.
Belarus (The NF Formerly Known As Eurofest)
Since the Belarusian final is taking place this Friday, I feel like there’s still time for me to give the country that confused and scared us all with a giant baby hologram in Stockholm some passive-aggressive advice (besides ‘Maybe don’t do THAT again…like, ever’). I remember Help You Fly being my least favourite song on offer last year, and I also recall jinxing the results in a big way by joking that because I disliked it so much, it’d probably get the go-ahead for Eurovision. Sure, it grew on me as Ivan’s horrendous audition performance blossomed into something far more polished and professional (though OTT and nonsensical at the same time). But I still believe that Belarus could have chosen something that would at least have flicked them into the ESC final (like Kirill Yermakov’s Running To The Sun or NAVI’s Heta Ziamlia which finished 3rd and 4th respectively), and not had us laughing and cringing in equal measure. Therefore, here’s my tip: think about the big picture, Belarus, and pick the best of what is usually a pretty average bunch. Switzerland does it every year – so can you!
Denmark (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix)
I think I’d need more than two hands to count Denmark’s DMGP missteps on. The past two years in particular have seen them select the most mediocre, inoffensive song possible, only to be surprised when it didn’t make the grade required to see Eurovision’s Saturday night show (presumably because inoffensive mediocrity has, I must admit, worked in their favour before). Two DNQs on the trot should speak for themselves, but I still get the impression that we all need to come together (Eurovision 2016 slogan pun intended) and light a fire (Eurovision 2012 pun NOT intended) under Denmark’s butt to ensure that they don’t do the exact same thing for a third year running. The DMGP line-up in 2016 was actually stellar in my opinion, with at least seven of the ten competing entries worthy of leveling up to the ESC. Two of them even made the super final. Then – *insert sound of a balloon deflating here* – the worst case scenario became a horrifying yet bland reality. Basically, I’ve been betrayed by Denmark too frequently to trust the tastes of their televoting public. It’s on par with feeling personally victimised by Regina George, and it HAS TO STOP.
Estonia (Eesti Laul)
Don’t get me wrong – I think Eesti Laul is an excellent national final, and I’m not about to claim that Goodbye To Yesterday was a mistake of magnificent proportions (clearly, it wasn’t). But Estonia are so hit-and-miss with the calibre of song they crown EL champion, I can’t put too much faith in their decision-making skills. They did a Denmark in 2013 by sacrificing something edgy and exciting for something that could send you to sleep circa Eurovision 1994; then they assumed that a Stig Rästa songwriting credit would be enough to distract from the creep factor of Play’s presentation in 2016 (again, don’t drop that jaw. I love Play and I’m still devastated that it didn’t qualify, but I totally understand why). Those unfortunate turns of events have left me wondering what could have been if Grete Paia’s Päastke Noored Hinged and Mick Pedaja’s Seis (my entries of choice in those years) had won through instead. I reckon they would have made memorable moments for all the right reasons, and that’s what I want from the Estonian entry in 2017. But I’m not holding my breath, because I would like to live to see the Kyiv contest take place.
Finland (Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu)
Sandhja’s Eurovision experience can be more accurately summed up by the existence of a camel toe (the NSFW Urban Dictionary will help you out if you have no idea what I’m referring to) than by Sing It Away being a raging success…because it wasn’t. With a different position in the running order, more creative staging and weaker competition, the outcome might have been different. But at the end of the day, as fun and energetic as the song is, it was disposable. Finland were guilty of failing to bring ‘it’ (i.e. the x factor that has ‘We’re going to the final, bitches!’ written all over it) before 2016, so I worry that they’ll bring ‘it’ only to leave ‘it’ behind in UMK yet again this year. They’ve done it to poor Mikael Saari twice, and Satin Circus suffered the same fate in 2015 with Crossroads, which I believe would have been a dead cert for the ESC final. As I mentioned in this post’s ‘Better Cover My Arse’ disclaimer, every country is at complete liberty to choose what they want to represent them for whatever reason (as much as it wasn’t up my alley, I accept that Aina Mun Pitää brought an until-then uncharted genre to Eurovision and that Finland should be proud of being such musical pioneers). But do I think the Finns are consistently giving themselves the greatest chances of success on the contest stage? Umm, no. So if a pleasant surprise is in store for us re: UMK this year, you’ll be able to consider me a happy Jaz!
This one goes out to all of y’all who never forgot SUNDAY’s Feathers (or Fjaðrir, as it was known during Iceland’s 2015 semis). It also goes out to the two or three people (myself included) who thought that Iceland might have been suffering from ‘Ooh, it’s Greta!” syndrome when they settled on Miss Salóme for Stockholm. You guys will know what I mean when I say that Iceland has issues with sending their best-bet song to Eurovision. They also tend to take a Danish approach sometimes, by shoving innovative, contemporary songs aside to make way for slightly stale and often repetitive middle-of-the-road music (which is not at all representative of the epic, inventive music that the island can produce). Those issues are why I have issues of my own with the Icelandic selection process. At this point, we’re yet to find out who and what will be competing in Söngvakeppnin 2017, but I swear I’ll start feeling anxious as soon as we do, knowing that it’s highly likely the NF will end in…well, perhaps not disaster, but an ‘Oops, our bad!’ at least. Remember, this is my opinion, and Iceland is free to do whatever the heck they want. But they really should listen to me if they want to take full advantage of putting their musical talents on a global platform.
Norway (Melodi Grand Prix)
I can’t accuse Norway of opting for non-groundbreaking/icebreaking music for Eurovisual purposes. With songs like I Feed You My Love, A Monster Like Me and Icebreaker (which was highly original in that it crammed two song styles into one) in their archives, they’re certainly closer to Sweden than Denmark in the above-average stakes. However…Icebreaker was divisive, and I could easily argue that Norway had a mass-appeal, ready-made ESC gem at their disposal with Laila Samuels’ Afterglow. A modern, haunting ballad that would have eaten Croatia and the Czech Republic for breakfast (with some minor costume and staging tweaks), the song wasn’t completely overlooked by the Norwegians – but enough to leave Laila wearing her best gracious loser face as Agnete celebrated victory. You might say, depending on your definition of good music, that NMGP 2016 was like the shampoo aisle at the supermarket – an endless parade of high-quality choices that impress, but also overwhelm. I.e. there can be too much of a good thing, and it’s possible that Norway decided on the wrong good thing if building on Mørland & Deborah Scarlett’s success was their aim. That’s why I wouldn’t bet on NMGP producing the best possible winner this year – whereas I’d bet my life savings on Sweden’s Melodifestivalen whittling its entries down to the one that will guarantee them the most commendable Eurovision result they could have achieved.
Well, I think that’s the majority of my complaints officially off my chest. Maybe they’ve sent good vibes out into the NF universe…or maybe the vibes I’ve created are so negative, they’re now the Jemini of juju. Time will tell (and is also like thunder, according to Uzari. It’s multi-talented).
Now it’s your turn to vent. Which Eurovision 2017 selection shows are you most concerned about? Do you trust every country to make the “right” decision, or are there some that need a high five to the face with one of Poli Genova’s giant geometric earrings? Which countries made mistakes last year that have you thirsty for justice this year? Tell all in the comments below.
I’ll be back at the end of the week to preview and predict the Belarusian and Georgian NFs. You better prepare yourselves, because life on Planet Eurovision is about to get busy!
Welcome to another Super Saturday, and an altogether action-packed weekend on the Eurovision NF calendar!
You’ll be relieved to discover that since there’s so much going on, I haven’t got time for a long-winded intro on this occasion. I can hear the globe-spanning cheers already. So let’s leap straight in by looking at this weekend’s program of events, then reviewing and predicting a few of the most important ones (according to moi).
TONIGHT: Estonia’s Eesti Laul final; Finland’s UMK semi 3; Hungary’s A Dal semi 2; Lithuania’s Eurovizijos final (the song’s chosen, now it’s artist-picking time); Sweden’s Melodifestivalen semi 3
TOMORROW NIGHT: Latvia’s Supernova final
A little housekeeping to start…
Thoughts on the Europe-wide news of the week
- Armenia: Six members sourced from six different countries. That’ll be Genealogy, singing Don’t Deny for Armenia in Vienna and so far made up of Essaï and Tamar Kaprelian. Let’s hope that the Six4One resemblance stops with the number of vocalists and the number of places they come from. Or at least that Ralph Siegel has NOTHING to do with the song (which is always a relief).
- Finland: I’m not following UMK very closely this year (any whiff of Satin Circus and I’m all over it, but apart from that…) but I know enough to have been shocked by the elimination of Siru, Otto Ivar AND Eeverest in last weekend’s semi. Still, with the so cray-cray-it’s-incredible Heart of Light in the mix, one of those three had to go. It just turned out that it wasn’t the right time for any of them.
- Iceland: Waking up on Sunday, I wanted to discover that aptly, SUNDAY would be representing Iceland. That wasn’t to be, but Iceland did choose one of my favourites from the final – Lítil Skref by María Olafsdóttir. Only now it’s Unbroken, and it’s not quite the same. This is a lovely but über-repetitive song, and I think the English lyrics reinforce that repetitiveness. Plus, Icelandic is so magical! I miss it already.
- Israel: Nadav Gedj triumphed in The Next Star comp on Tuesday. All I know about him is that he’s not The Girl With The Hair Who I Thought Would Win (Avia) and that he’s touted as a Justin Timberlake-type artist. I approve, based on that latter description.
- Italy: Three attractive Italian men, collectively known as Il Volo, took home the top prize (i.e. a questionable-looking trophy) of the 2015 Sanremo Music Festival, and with it the golden ticket to Eurovision. They appear to have accepted that ticket rather than tossed it in the trash, and on Thursday RAI confirmed that they’ll be packing winning song Grande Amore in their carryon. I professed my love (or should I say ‘amore’?) for this song in my previous post, so I won’t re-hash it here (besides, this ESC Tips article articulates everything I could say and more). Wouldn’t it be funny if Italy won two Eurovision events in a row with a song title featuring the words ‘grande amore’? I know I’d laugh. WITH TOTAL JUBILANCE!
- Montenegro: Apparently my main man Željko Joksimović is composing Knez’s entry. ZJ can NOT seem to stay away from the ESC, and I am very happy about that. There’s no excuse for Montenegro to not pick up where they left off, qualifying for the first time in 2014.
- Serbia: We have our first Serbian rep since Malmö, and her name is Bojana Stamenov. Her song is Ceo Svet Je Moj, and it’s…well, I’m going to call it a grower at this point.
- Sweden: Once again, I royally f%#$ed up my Melfest predictions, not foreseeing at all that Magnus “Schlager Fiend” Carlsson would go direkt til final. Oops. I guess schlager isn’t as stone-cold dead as I had
Now, let’s move on to the key (in my opinion) national final installments of tonight.
ESTONIA: It’s Eesti Laul’s last dance…or song…or whatever
Yep, it’s time for what is always an interesting national final to come to a close for another year. After their semi finals, Estonia has been left with a pretty strong group of ten songs to choose from, but to be honest, I’m not sure I trust them to make the right decision (to find out what I think is the “right” decision, keep reading). Last year, with the likes of Traffic and Sandra Nurmsalu in the final, the country came dangerously close to sending something dreadful to Copenhagen by putting the Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band in their superfinal instead, alongside eventual winner Tanja. Yikes.
Granted, there’s nothing among the 2015 ten that would horrify me as much as that did, but I do have my preferences, and it’s those I want to see in that ultimate stage of competition.
Here’s this evening’s running order:
- Minu Päike by Luisa Värk
- Üle Vesihalli Taeva by Maia Vahtramäe
- Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
- Idiot by Kali Briis Band
- Troubles by Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers
- Burning Lights by Daniel Levi
- Superlove by Elisa Kolk
- Exceptional by The Blurry Lane
- Unriddle Me by Elephants From Neptune
- This Is Our Choice by Triin Niitoja & John4
Third song out Goodbye To Yesterday is the one to beat, and it will be the shock of the season if it doesn’t at least advance to the superfinal. Before I consider calling it as a foregone-conclusion winner, though, it’s time to reveal whether it’s one of my personal top three.
- Goodbye To Yesterday – UH, YEAH IT IS! The first time I heard this (and I’ve noticed a trend here) I was thinking ‘meh’. But soon enough I was hooked on the 60s mod, somewhat melancholy sound, and now I’m thinking ‘This is genius!’. It tells a tale, it’s retro but very now at the same time, and the duet dynamic – Stig’s role and Elina’s – is perfect. Kind of anti-Common Linnets.
- Superlove – This is a really pretty song performed to the max, with dry ice. Dry ice always helps, unless you’re asthmatic. I don’t expect Elisa to win, but I would be happy for her if she did.
- Burning Lights – This veers into vanilla territory genre-wise, but I really like the lyrics, and the chorus has good sing-along potential.
This year, there’ll be a three-strong superfinal in Eesti Laul, and it’s hard to predict which trio of entries will end up there. Last year’s Super Hot Cosmos fiasco is one heck of an indication that Estonia and I have differing ideas of what constitutes decent music. But, as always, I’ll give it a go so you guys can laugh at my haplessness later.
TO THE SUPERFINAL: Goodbye To Yesterday, Burning Lights, Unriddle Me
FTW: Goodbye To Yesterday
If I’m wrong (which never happens…I mean, which constantly happens) then it’s not going to be Goodbye To Yesterday so much as Goodbye To Jaz Predicting Anything EVER AGAIN. But seriously, Estonia…you have the chance to compensate, and then some, for Tanja’s DNQ in Copenhagen here. Don’t stuff it up.
HUNGARY: A Dal’s second (and stronger) semi
This penultimate episode of A Dal is verging on being a hum-dinger. Translation: the hits are definitely outnumbering the misses.
- Úgysem Felejtesz El by Gabi Szűcs
- Untold Story by Other Planet
- World of Violence by Bogi
- A Tükör Előtt by Gergő Oláh
- Fire by Ív
- Run To You by Gyula Éliás Jnr. feat. Fourtissimo
- Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf
- Mesmerize by Passed
- That’s How It Goes by Bálint Gájer
With just four places in the final up for grabs, and five songs I’m rather attached to, this is gonna hurt. Best case scenario, I lose one. Most likely scenario? I lose multiple. Do you care? Probably not.
No doubt you have your own favourites that you’re attempting to ESP into the final. But as I can’t hear you screaming them at me, here are mine!
- World of Violence – This is nothing on Bogi’s We All from last year. But there’s something endearing about it, and about her stage persona. Also, I am now pronouncing ‘violence’ as ‘vi-oh-lence’ because it’s a surprisingly fun thing to do. Bogi knows what I’m talking about.
- Fire – This is the kind of thing I’ve enjoyed hearing in A Dal recently. Interesting, authentic alt-pop that doesn’t try too hard to resemble a “typical” ESC entry. If it won, it wouldn’t make a huge impact on the scoreboard, but it would represent Hungary with integrity.
- Ne Engedj El – (Possibly) controversial opinion: I like this better than What About My Dreams. It may just be the power Hungarian as a musical language has over me, but this is a pop ballad that gives me the elusive feels…the feels that lead to hairs all over my body standing to attention. That’s it, I’m joining Team Kati! *speeds over to Facebook and likes her page*
- Mesmerize – Weird, trippy, and something I’d like to see given a shot on the Eurovision stage. It won’t happen, but a girl can dream, right?
After squeezing into my infamous prediction pants (I had a pizza night this week, so they’re running a little tight), I have come up with my version of A Dal’s results for the night.
TO THE FINAL: Bogi, Ív, Other Planet and Passed
I hate to leave out Miss Wolf, but a) I have this gut feeling she may miss out, and b) if I omit her I won’t be jinxing any chance she does have of qualifying. If you’re tuning into A Dal, let me know who you think has the goods to get through this all-important round on the road to next weekend’s final!
SWEDEN: Melodifestivalen heats up with returnees and debutants
It sure is a mixed bag for tonight’s third semi final. Among others, there’s last year’s surprise success Ellen Benediktson, with a whole new look and sound; brand new face Kalle Johansson; the male Sanna Nielsen (i.e. someone who just keeps on trying) Andreas Johnson; and my big hope of the week, Sami singer and Sweden’s Got Talent champ Jon Henrik Fjällgren. Here’s the full lineup:
- Insomnia by Ellen Benediktson
- För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson
- Bring Out The Fire by Andreas Weise
- Living To Die by Andreas Johnson
- Don’t Stop by Isa
- I See You by Kristin Amparo
- Jag Är Fri (Manne Liem Frije) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Aaaaand here’s my top four (based, as usual, on snippets alone):
- Insomnia – I wasn’t a Songbird lover, so it was always likely I’d be more into Ellen’s reinvented self.
- För Din Skull – Kalle was this year’s Svensktoppen Nästa winner. These winners have a history of going nowhere in Melfest, which makes me sad because I always like them (even when they end up at Melfest with a weaker song). This is no exception.
- Living To Die – I can’t believe I’ve got Andreas down as a favourite, as he’s never impressed me much in his previous attempts. He’s got me intrigued this time. I’ll get back to you on the ‘impressed’ front once I’ve heard the entire song.
- Jag Är Fri – I watched Jon Henrik’s audition for Got Talent as soon as I heard he was competing in Melfest, and fell in love. There’s something spellbinding about what he does when he’s got a microphone shoved in his face, and it sounds like he’s going to keep that magic going tonight.
Now, yet another chance for me to make a fool of myself, woohoo! Three will fall, but four will advance, and damn it, it’s hard to figure out which four that is. This week, I’m cheating a little and using betting odds to guide me. Both ESC Tips and NicerOdds.com have Jon Henrik, Kristin Amparo, Isa and Andreas Johnson as their top four, in that order. I can’t ignore that, but nor am I going to copy it name-for-name. So my tip is as follows:
DIREKT TIL FINAL: Jon Henrik, Kristin
TIL ANDRA CHANSEN: Ellen, Isa
*instantly feels regret at deviating from other people’s predictions*
Oh well. It wouldn’t be right if I got it 100% correct. Or 75%. Or 50%…
Well, I have to be off – lots of mundane stuff to do before falling into bed, only to drag myself back out at 3am for Melfest. I hope I will see you there, if only on Twitter. In the meantime, let me know what you think will go down where tonight, or if you’re reading this on Sunday, your verdict on THAT UNBELIEVABLE DEVELOPMENT!
Whichever final you’re watching – especially if you’re attempting to watch five at once – I hope you have fun times, and that your favourite songs succeed. Unless they’re not my favourites. In that case, I hope they fail miserably.
Hello hello! There are just two weeks until the first semi final of Eurovision 2014, and you can guarantee that they’ll be some of the longest weeks of your life. I will be attempting to make the time fly here at EBJ, with reviews, predictions and today, a top 10 I’m pretty excited about.
It’s been a while since national final season ended, but that doesn’t mean we’ve all stopped analysing the results and complaining that so-and-so definitely should have won, and generally spending far too much time listening to every NF entry Europe-wide. One of my favourite times of year is corralling all the great new music I discover through the preselections into a playlist to freshen up my iPod – and then deciding which ones are the best of the best, so I can deliver them to you and we can commence debating.
I’ve finally done that for the latest NF season, and ten songs remain. It’s those ten songs, my personal favourites from Albania to Ukraine and quite a few places in-between, that I’m counting down right now. In addition I’ve put together a list of other songs I’ve loved this year that didn’t make the final cut, because I couldn’t resist. Have a look (and a listen if you want to) and let me know if we have any common musical ground whatsoever.
First up, my top 10 national finalists of season ’14:
#10 | Breathe by Stefan Stan feat. Teddy K (Romania, 5th)
How often have we seen a great song let down by a weak performance in Eurovision? I haven’t got enough fingers to keep count. Naturally, it happens in national finals too, and a prime example is this song from Romania that fell a little flat live – so much so that I’m posting the video clip so as not to affect anyone’s judgment of the song itself. I have so many feels for it in studio. It’s been constructed in such a way that, whilst Stefan and Teddy have their clearly defined parts to take care of, they come together beautifully, kind of like Nico and Vlad did for Romania in Belgrade. The result is emotional and dramatic, without tipping over the edge of either.
#9 | I’m Alive by Ilaria (Ukraine, 5th)
She may have had the best Eurovision-related light-up dress since Safura (in fact, I’d argue this one’s better) but it’s Ilaria’s weird and wonderful entry into the Ukrainian NF this year that really got me. I’m Alive is a unique song in that I don’t know how to describe it. Is it a ballad? Is it pop? Does it sample the tinny tune of a jewellry box? I’m not sure, but I can say it is quirky in the way of backing music for a gritty film adaptation of a fairy tale (Hansel and Gretel would totally freak out in the middle of creepy woods to this track). If you’re now wondering why the heck I like it so much based on that description, know this: I’m a girl who likes to be scared, as my horror movie collection is testament to.
#8 | Kthehu by Luiz Ejilli (Albania, 10th)
He represented Albania in 2006, in a questionable white suit with Zjarr E Ftohtë (which was much less questionable) and attempted to return to Eurovision eight years later with this stunner of a ballad that should have finished higher in a mediocre field. Luiz Ejilli’s entry into Albania’s Festivali I Këngës 2013 reminded me of some of the great Balkan ballads that have graced the ESC stage over the last decade or so, only it’s slightly less ethnic, the native tongue giving it an edge. I really like the way it develops over the three minutes, but from the beginning it’s mature, sophisticated and kind of mysterious. Some dry ice wouldn’t have gone astray for the performance.
#7 | Kertakäyttösydän by Jasmin Michaela (Finland, unplaced in semi)
Finland, Finland, FINLAND! What were you thinking sending this girl home so early? I’m not saying that because she and I have the same first name and I have some sort of compulsive need to defend her as a result. I’m saying it because her song was fresh pop perfection, performed with talent, charisma and an arsenal of sassy dance moves. All in all, it was terrific, and I can’t believe it missed the final. I’m reminded of Iceland here, who often neglect to send at least one adorable pop song to the ESC in favour of something less fun. Still, Iceland do generally see those songs through to the final, so again I say…Finland, Finland, FINLAND *shakes head despairingly*.
#6 | Für Elise by Traffic (Estonia, 3rd)
Of all the Mumford & Sons soundalikes we’ve heard in recent history, this is my favourite. It’s so ridiculously catchy, and well-performed in a way that makes you feel right at home with Traffic and totally up for singing along (even if you just end up butchering the Estonian language). Speaking of Estonian, it lends itself surprisingly well to this type of music – so much so that I don’t think I’d be as keen on the song if it were in English. I hope the titular Elise is hugely flattered by having such a great song written for her. I’m still in disbelief that it was beaten by not so much Amazing, but by that dreadful other song that I refuse to name the title or performers of.
#5 | Lootus by Lauri Pihlap (Estonia, 8th in semi)
Judging by his styling choices, Lauri fancies himself as Estonia’s answer to Danny Saucedo. In reality, he’s a former Eurovision winner (i.e. a member of 2XL, who took to the stage with Tanel and Dave in 2001) who, if Lootus is any indication, could be Estonia’s answer to Justin Timberlake. This is smooooooooooth stuff, y’all. It’s a bit of a throwback to late 90s/early 00s r & b, which a lot of people may not like about it, but I’m very fond of that time period AND its music. Once again, Estonian adds a touch of beauty to a song that could have been a lot plainer in English.
#4 | Ma Liberté by Joanna (France, 2nd)
I have to admit, I didn’t get this straight away. I was too busy insinuating myself into Team Moustache to notice anything but Joanna’s awesome hairdo, and what I then considered an ‘okay’ ballad. But listening to Ma Liberté after Moustache had safely won the French vote, and then again…and a few more times after that, I developed a real appreciation for it. Like many ballads, it starts off slowly and quietly, before ramping up with one heck of a chorus. What makes this one different is a) the French language, which classes up anything that comes remotely near it; and b) the simple but effective piano riff that adds another layer to the second verse and beyond. This is power and passion, à la Française.
#3 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (Sweden, 7th in semi)
Melodifestivalen was back in top form this year IMO, which meant a lot of casualties during the semi finals. It’s Josef whose loss I’m still mourning way after the fact. His electronically-tinged stadium ballad caught me off guard with how awesome it was. It’s right up my street because it reminded me of something that Darin, another Swedish singer who happens to be my favourite solo artist, like, ever (as mentioned multiple previous posts) would produce. His album Lovekiller was full of tracks like this – soaring power ballads with ‘anthem’ written all over them. Josef combined those musical stylings with a unique look and some nifty Molly Sandén camera effects for Melfest, and though his voice wasn’t as strong live as it is in studio, the result was super cool. The final missed this for sure.
#2 | Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola (Finland, 2nd)
If I could wind back the clock and make any country choose a different entry to send to Copenhagen, I’d choose Finland – and it wouldn’t be the delightful Jasmin Michaela I’d be swapping Softengine with. Instead, it’d be Mikko ‘I Can Cut Glass With These Cheekbones’ Pohjola, and the spellbinding Sängyn. This song gives me goosebumps from start to finish, complete with every hair on my body standing to attention. That gives me the overall appearance of a cold porcupine, but I don’t care because I’m so wrapped up in the magic of what I’m listening to. If you feel the same way, the song should speak for itself, and everything I’ve said about it was a waste of words.
Aaaaaaand my #1 song of the season is…
#1 | Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu (Estonia, 5th)
I love everything that Sandra Nurmsalu has ever been associated with – her music with and without Urban Symphony is amazing. I expected to be biased when judging her contribution to Eesti Laul this year, but I honestly believe that this song would be much loved by moi no matter who was singing it. It’s an effortless ray of sunshine that gets stuck in your head instantly, and it has the same tribal, Lion King soundtrack feel of Zlata’s Gravity, only in folksy packaging. Every part of it is infectious (in a good way) and if it doesn’t put some pep in your step, I’d be worried. Is there any chance the EBU can bend the rules and have this represent Estonia in 2015?
Well, you can’t say I didn’t like what Estonia had to offer this year! Entries from Eesti Laul made up 30% of a top 10 that was incredibly hard to put together. So hard that I must now present you with that promised playlist of other NF entries that impressed me, with a few comments thrown in.
- Natë E Pare by Venera Lumani & Lindi Islami (Albania, 4th) – another lovely ballad from Festivali I Këngës, this one faring much better results-wise.
- Stay With Me by NAPOLI (Belarus, 8th)
- Rapsodiya #1 by Artem Mikhalenko (Belarus, 13th)
- Wanna Be Loved by Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez (Denmark, 2nd)
- Vi Finder Hjem by Emilie Moldow (Denmark, unplaced)
- Error by Madeline Juno (Germany, unplaced) – Madeline didn’t actually get to perform this thanks to the German NF’s strange new system, which was a serious loss.
- Petalouda Stin Athina by Crystallia (Greece, 3rd)
- Catch Me by Gigi Radics (Hungary, 6th in semi)
- It Can’t Be Over by Fool Moon (Hungary, 2nd)
- Running Out of Time by Victor Király (Hungary, 3rd)
- A Legnagyobb Hős by Honeybeast (Hungary, unplaced) – this song is adorable. It has the same kind of offbeat charm that made me fall in love with Kedvesem.
- Þangað Til ég Dey by F.U.N.K (Iceland, unplaced)
- The Movie Song by Eoghan Quigg (Ireland, 2nd)
- One Last Ride by Daniel Testa (Malta, 3rd)
- Heal by Mo (Norway, 3rd) – catchy and current are the keywords here. I will be listening to this on repeat for a long time to come.
- Más (Run) by Brequette (Spain, 2nd)
- Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (Sweden, 6th in semi)
- Red by EKO (Sweden, 8th in semi)
- Echo by Outtrigger (Sweden, 3rd in second chance round) – I am not a rock fan as a rule, but here’s an exception with a head-bangingly epic chorus.
- Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (Sweden, 2nd)
- Survivor by Helena Paparizou (Sweden, 4th)
- Bröder by Linus Svenning (Sweden, 5th)
- Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (Sweden, 8th) – if Eric Saade starred in High School Musical, this would be his solo. Love. It.
- Efter Solsken by Panetoz (Sweden, 9th)
- Love Is Lord by Viktoria Petryk (Ukraine, 2nd)
- Courageous by NeAngely (Ukraine, 5th)
- Tsvetok by Uli Rud (Ukraine, 20th) – Ukraine had no shortage of creepy songs in their NF. This one is bizarre but brilliant in studio. Not so much live.
That’s it! I’m done. It’ll take me another six months to actually download all of these songs, of course, but it’ll be worth the wait. Once I’ve done that, I will be revisiting the songs that just missed out on representing their countries and deciding whether they ultimately would have done better. Until we find out how the actual winners go, there’s not much point getting into that side of things.
Now I’m curious. Did you see/hear anything you liked up above? If not, which NF songs that could have been will you be playing to death this year?
NEXT TIME: Better late than never, I’m getting my reviews on. In the first installment, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and France had better watch out, ‘cause it’s judgin’ time!
Yes, it’s now March. But let’s not dwell on that flabbergasting fact, because this year appears to be going just as fast as the last and that scares me. Instead, let’s get straight on to the good stuff: NF talk! This is the first Super Saturday of this month, as I see it.
The end of Eesti Laul
I’ll admit, I’m a pretty sad panda because I did not follow Eesti Laul in detail this year. This national final is becoming a revered one in the Eurovision community, over and above the old classics such as Melodifestivalen (still my favourite, in case you were wondering) and always produces multiple gems that get mentioned like they’re going out of style in every ‘what could have been’ post on the whole internet. Last year, for example, EL gave the world Grete Paia’s electronic epic Päästke Noored Hinged. It also gave birth to the web phenomenon – and the stuff of nightmares – that is Winny Puhh, but the less said about them, the better sleep I’ll get tonight.
What I’m trying to say is that whilst EL may not be perfect, it seems to be consistently interesting and never boring, and so I’m making a vow right now to follow it in 2015 like it’s Ott Lepland and I’m in full stalker mode. As things stand, I’ve listened to three of the ten songs in tonight’s final line-up; a.k.a. 5, 9 and 10 in the running order below.
- Laule Täis Taevakaar by Brigita Murutar
- Für Elise by Traffic
- Search by Norman Salumäe
- Resignal by Wilhelm
- Supernoova by Lenna
- Maybe-Maybe by Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band
- Siin Või Sealpool Maad by Maiken
- Tule Ja Jää by Kõrsikud
- Amazing by Tanja
- Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu
I listened to Lenna’s because she’s Eurovision alumni (as part of Vanilla Ninja and representing Switzerland, mind you) and had a wonderful song in EL a couple of year ago. I wasn’t too impressed this time, unfortunately. I listened to Tanja’s because a ton of people were saying how amazing it was (pardon the pun) and calling her out as the favourite very early on, and I was curious. Again, I was let down.
As you’ll know if you’ve read my last few posts (the reward for which is my gratitude and a possible free dinner if we ever meet in the flesh) I listened to Sandra’s because SHE IS FLAWLESS AND I WILL LOVE HER UNTIL THE END OF TIME. Also, on a saner note, I was interested to hear something solo from her post Urban Symphony. It was third time lucky with EL 2014, because I fell in love with Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad instantly. It’s uplifting, it’s infectious, and Estonian has never sounded so pretty. Therefore, without having heard any competition that would be worthy of beating her, I am backing her FTW tonight. She’s doing wonders in popularity polls the whole web over, and whilst that may have something to do with her previous ESC benchmark, I’m hoping it also bodes well for her result. Her song is more than good enough to justify her return to Europe’s biggest and most bespangled stage.
Do you think Sandra has what it takes, or is there someone I’m missing from Eesti Laul?
Who will be given a second chance in Sweden?
It’s really, really hard to say. The penultimate installment of Melodifestivalen takes place tonight in Lidköping, with eight songs fighting for the last two positions in next weekend’s finale. In the past, when the Andra Chansen eight have been paired up in duels from the start, it’s been easier to guess at what the outcome might be. These days, the process is as follows: half the songs will be knocked out after a round of voting, and the remaining four will then be paired up in duels. The winners of those duels will go to the final and attempt to do a Robin Stjernberg – or at least an Anton Ewald (Anton himself, already in the final this year, will be attempting to do a Loreen…I think). So, that said, here are the songs we’re all racking our brains over:
- Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
- Bröder by Linus Svenning
- Love Trigger by J.E.M
- All We Are by State of Drama
- En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
- När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
- Survivor by Helena Paparizou
- Echo by Outtrigger
It’s a strong show for the most part – Linus, Helena and Outtrigger, for example, were among my favourites in their respective semis. The math/rules dictate that I’m going to lose at least one song I’d love to see go through, and most likely more, so I’ll be all like 😀 if I get my way on one.
But who I want and who will actually get that precious second shot are two very different things. After much deliberation, and with a feeling of wrong-ness still lurking inside me, this is how I believe things will go down.
After the first round of voting:
- Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
- Bröder by Linus Svenning
- Love Trigger by J.E.M
- All We Are by State of Drama
- En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
- När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
- Survivor by Helena Paparizou (sorry, Helena fans…I just have this feeling)
- Echo by Outtrigger
After the duels: Martin and Outtrigger. Martin’s the only AC contestant to have graced the heights of Swedish iTunes, which shows that Sweden are liking him a lot. Outtrigger’s semi performance of a damn good song was disturbing yet fascinating, and tonight should be the same.
So for me, it’s a former ESC entrant and a straightjacket-loving rock band filling those final spots. What about you…who will the lucky two be? And/or, who do you want them to be?
Getting Lithuania’s Attention, and is Romania a done deal?
Also on the agenda for this evening is Lithuania’s artist selection (because they chose their song a week ago. I don’t get it either) and the one-off Romanian final that is Selecția Națională. I purposely haven’t listened to Attention, the Lithuanian entry, because I’m waiting to see what final form it takes. Nor have I listened to any of the Romanian possibles, since I chose their NF as one of my surprises. Nope – I haven’t even let myself play Paula & Ovi’s Miracle, which really is a miracle. With such a lack of stuff to say here, I can ask one big question: do Paula & Ovi have the Romanian representation all sewn up? Many fans seem to think they do, and that TVR even bothering to hold their final is pointless. I’d like to think that P & O wouldn’t be chosen because of who they are in favour of a better entry – but then again, I’m finding it hard to extend that thinking to Estonia, so why should I expect that of a whole country? At the same time, it’s exciting to think that the duo that did so well back in Oslo could be back at the big show and hungry for an even better placing.
I’m so confused! Help me out if you’re clued in on the Selecția selection. Would Miracle deserve to go to Eurovision no matter who was performing it?
Ireland, Azerbaijan and France: past and future entries
To finish off, here are my thoughts on the NF just gone, and the two to come on Sunday.
- Ireland chose their entry after a show that brought out Linda Martin’s inner psycho, and it’s Heartbeat by Can-linn feat. Kasey Smith. I don’t want to give a mahusive verdict pre-review, so I’ll just say it’s not a bad choice. It’s current, has a little Irish stamp on it, and the live performance seems to be more effective than the studio, which matters. I’ll see how I feel in a month or so.
- Azerbaijan’s Böyük Səhnə ends tomorrow night, presumably with an effortlessly good pop song performed by a super-attractive guy or girl who can smoulder down the camera like nobody’s business. The person will also have some other day job or talent that makes them awesome, such as being a lawyer, speaking three languages including that of the Eurovision host country, or being a master of capoeira. It’s just Azerbaijan’s way.
- France’s winning song will also be revealed Sunday, and I’m expecting it to be Ma Liberté or Moustache. I want TwinTwin like cray-cray, but I won’t be devastated should Joanna and the work of art that is her hairdo be the chosen ones.
So that’s basically all the action of this weekend, which should keep you satisfied. Next week brings more, however. Monday, we discover just who’s representing the UK and with what (which may actually be worth looking forward to if the BBC are to be believed) and Wednesday, Mei Finegold’s song for Israel will be picked. In amongst that, I’ll be back with a themed post in honour of Melodifestivalen. Not only will you have the privilege (ha ha) of voting in my own personal ‘So, like, who’s gonna win Melfest?’ poll, but I’ll also be revealing my top 10 Melfest entries of the last five years (because the last 10+ was JUST. TOO. HARD!). Have your own lists at the ready so we can compare notes. Please?
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.
- 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!
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:
- 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?