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THE 2018 EBJ EUROVISION EXCELLENCE AWARDS | The Performances

Hello there. Remember me? After the longest ad break in history (and after breaking my vow to finish these awards by the time the Eurovision 2018 DVD was released, OOPS), I’m finally back with the second EBJEE presentation segment.

This time, the trophies re: all things performance-wise will be presented, including three more People’s Choice Awards. That means everything from drama levels to dance moves, money notes and costume choices is about to be honoured by yours truly (and by you truly…I had no part in deciding the People’s Choice winners, obviously). So without any more ado than I’ve already adone, let’s get this party started!

 

 

 

Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Belarus, Ukraine

Okay, so you’re not going to find Rasmussen and his bearded stagefellows on Coronation Street or the Bold and the Beautiful (for starters, their acting skills are too superior). But they went beyond the small screen and straight onto the silver screen with the cinematic level of drama they served up in Lisbon. Intense smouldering stares, manly stomping and a fake snowstorm that whipped all that hair back and forth majestically…what more could you want? If a Scandinavian hipster version of Pirates of the Caribbean was ever produced, this is what it would look like.

 

 

Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Italy

I asked you guys to vote for the most totes emosh (DID I JUST TYPE THAT?!?) three minutes of Eurovision 2018, and you delivered by crowning Michael Schulte’s tribute to his late father the winner of this tearjerking People’s Choice trophy. I’m not about to argue, even though I didn’t “feel it” with You Let Me Walk Alone until the ESC performance rolled around, feat. backdrop photos and lyrics that made the message extra clear. But hey, all the feels were present and accounted for when it mattered most.

 

 

Winner Estonia Honourable Mention/s Armenia

This gong goes to a performance that had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, goosebumps popping up on my arms and of course, tingles shooting up and down my spine. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Elina Nechayeva’s haunting delivery of La Forza came straight to my doorstep in Chillsville and affected me from top to toe. At one point I actually thought I was having an aneurysm and considered calling an ambulance, but then I realised it was just the glass-shattering notes messing with my middle ear.

 

 

Winner Honourable Ukraine Mention/s Ireland, Norway

Who knew a piano could be so multifunctional until Mélovin gave us that stellar live demonstration? It’s handy for anyone musical who can only afford to live in a tiny studio apartment to know that there’s an instrument that can double as a bed. What a space-saver! Mélovin, of course, was using it more as a coffin (or according to the artist himself, as a uterus from which he was birthed in a matter of seconds…seriously). But each to their own.

 

 

Winner Moldova’s human storage cabinet Honourable Mention/s Estonia, Sweden, Ukraine

Here’s another People’s Choice Award I’d struggle to argue with. Moldova (or ‘Russia 2.0’, as they were known this year) clearly have no qualms about sourcing stage props at Ikea: first it was the mirrors from the Moldovan NF, then the super-sized cabinet they lugged to Lisbon. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It often happens that the simplest things are the most effective, and DoReDoS proved that spectacularly.

When one door closes, another one opens…frantically, in Moldova’s case.

 

 

Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Cyprus, Denmark

Speaking of Moldova…it wasn’t just the furniture they used that made My Lucky Day so successful. The DoReDoS doppelgangers played a big part in that too. What would this performance have been without them? An extra enthusiastic high five goes to the guy who had to swap his shoes for heels at one point (I’m not ashamed to admit I have still have leg envy).

 

 

Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Cyprus, Moldova

I gave this award to Sweden last year, and I’m doing it again for a similar reason. Both Robin Bengtsson (and his backing dancers) and Benjamin Ingrosso didn’t just bust a move on or around a stage prop, but with a stage prop – and both performances were flawless. In Benjamin’s case, he was working in harmony with lighting, and transported us to an ultra-cool nightclub where sneakers are in the dress code and slick dance moves are mandatory.

 

 

Winner Norway Honourable Mention/s Italy

The cartoon instruments, question marks and soccer balls etc scribbled on screen by Norway added an element of cute to Alexander Rybak’s performance that made it seem all the more appropriate for Junior Eurovision – but I wouldn’t have ditched them from his adult Eurovision stage show. Without that little extra something, That’s How You Write A Song live wouldn’t have been quite so memorable (marginally…it still would have had Eurovision’s biggest runaway winner ever fronting it, after all).

 

 

Winner Israel Honourable Mention/s Belarus, Finland

It’s often said that less is more, but at the ESC more is more just as frequently. We bounced from a bare-bones winner in 2017 to the opposite in 2018 with Netta – not the performer who threw the absolute most at their stage show, but the most successful one to make things flamboyant. Lights, lucky cats, crazy costumes, clucking backup dancers, explosions…just the basics for Israel’s three minutes.

 

 

Winner Cyprus Honourable Mention/s Denmark, Ukraine

When it comes to the most perfect package deals of this year’s contest – where vocals and visuals were so on point you could practically cut yourself – nobody was as flawless as Cyprus. Armed with a Swarovski crystal-studded catsuit, a quartet of dancers almost as fierce as herself and a slick Sacha Jean-Baptiste staging concept, Eleni did no wrong. She proved to everyone skeptical of her abilities to perform live (I used to be) that she’s worth the hype.

 

 

Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Italy, United Kingdom

Germany’s was the highest-scoring performance of the Big 5, and you guys clearly agreed that their 4th place was earned with this People’s Choice pick. To be honest, I think all of the automatic qualifiers put their best possible foot forward this year, which didn’t pay off all round. But Germany won’t be worrying about that when they can just sit back and languish in their success.

 

 

Winner Eleni Foureira Honourable Mention/s Amaia, Saara Aalto

I’ve already mentioned Eleni’s catsuit in passing, but as ladies’ costumes in Lisbon go it’s worth an award all of its own. Leaving just enough to the imagination, combining crystals with leather and being just as hot as Fuego called for, this outfit couldn’t have been better (cat) suited for Cyprus in 2018. It should be displayed in the Louvre in close proximity to the Mona Lisa. Or at least in the Eurovision section at Stockholm’s ABBA Museum.

 

 

Winner Benjamin Ingrosso Honourable Mention/s Cesár Sampson

I have a bias towards anything and everything Scandinavian, including the fashion – so don’t be surprised by this pick. As unsure as I still am re: Benjamin’s shoe choice, he did pull the look off. Plus, the positives of his toned-down-from-Melfest jacket selection and the decision to actually wear said jacket like a normal person this time outweighed any negatives.

 

 

Winner Marija Ivanovska (Eye Cue) Honourable Mention/s Vanja Radovanović

There was no competition here, really. I’m struggling to think of another fashion disaster from the entirety of ESC history as momentous as this one from Macedonia. Neither of Marija’s outfits even sound good on paper – a shiny pink tuxedo jacket feat. armpit cutouts worn backwards, followed by a wildly unflattering knitted playsuit? NOPE. As gorgeous as she is, nobody could make those work. A Barbara Dex Award well deserved.

 

 

Winner Elina Nechayeva Honourable Mention/s Saara Aalto

There hasn’t been an ESC female vocal as consistently faultless and hauntingly beautiful as Elina’s since Jamala’s, so I had to hand this trophy her way. ‘DAMN, GIRL!’ are the words that come to my mind every time she opens her mouth. What she can do with her vocal cords is beyond belief, and I’m 50% amazed, 50% jealous (she’s two months younger than me, FFS).

 

 

Winner Eugent Bushpepa Honourable Mention/s Sevak Khanagyan, Waylon

I don’t know how you solve a problem like Maria (musical theatre reference alert) but I do know how you fill an arena like Eugent: by singing your ASS off. This guy can project his powerful voice for miles without seeming to break a sweat, and I could listen to him do it all day long. Even among the numerous other strong male voices of the year, he stood out.

 

 

Winner Amaia y Alfred Honourable Mention/s Equinox, Iriao

I’m sensing this could be a controversial choice (as controversial as I get, anyway). Alfred, I’ll admit, is the weak link in this pair, but I actually like how his raw-edged vocal blends with Amaia’s delicate, high-clarity diamond of a voice. They were never fighting each other for the spotlight (which happened a bit with Equinox), instead balancing each other out.

 

 

Winner Elina Nechayeva Honourable Mention/s Örs Siklósi (AWS), Netta

Estonia’s opera diva strikes again! You know someone’s impressive when there’s not one, not two, but a whole bunch of mind-blowing notes peppering their performance. I don’t think I need to justify this one any further.

 

 

Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Germany

Every national final winner has at least two months between their crowning moment and Eurovision to pimp their performance and polish any questionable vocals. Some don’t change a thing when they really should, some don’t because they don’t need to…and then there’s countries like Moldova, who (with that Russian input) took a perfectly adequate NF stage show and transformed it into something none of us will forget in a hurry. DoReDoS said that body talk is magic, but so was their performance.

 

 

That’s all for today, peeps…but what do you think of the winners? Which Portuguese performances deserved these EBJEE trophies in your eyes? Let me know below – then prepare yourselves for the final (very late) lot of my Eurovision awards for the year, feat. The Show and The Results!

 

 

 

 

THE 2018 EBJ EUROVISION EXCELLENCE AWARDS | The Artists + The Songs

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! I realise it may not be evening at all when you’re reading this, but for the sake of the glamorous awards ceremony I’m trying to hold, can we pretend it is? Yes? Awesome. Welcome to the first episode of the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards for 2018!

Like Jessica Mauboy, I know…I know what you must be thinking. Namely, ‘Um, Eurovision awards season is over, isn’t it? Y U so late, Jaz?’. Well, FYI my too-late marker is when the official contest DVD comes out – so as long as I beat that release date, I reckon it’s all good. And that gives me another few weeks to get my awards over with, so I’m actually early when you think about it.

Maybe don’t think about it.

Anyway, I’m guessing you didn’t drop by for a discussion about my questionable timing. You came for the EBJEE artist and song gongs to be handed out, including a bunch of the People’s Choice Awards that you guys have been voting for all week, right? In that case, I won’t make you wait any longer. Let’s get this show on the road! 

 

 

 

 

Winner Eleni Foureira Honourable Mention/s Elina Nechayeva, Franka

She does say she’s got the fire, and who am I to argue when Eleni is always putting her money where her (amazing) mouth (that I am super jealous of) is? Girl’s got plenty of other appealing attributes – she sings, she dances, she rolls with it when her comments become memes – but it’s her Mediterranean, top-to-toe, hot-as-heckness that’s most noticeable. I need hair, makeup and workout regime advice from Foureira ASAP, so I too can become fuego.

 

 

Winner Mikolas Josef Honourable Mention/s Cesár Sampson, Waylon

This might be a controversial call to make, but come on…who doesn’t love a hot nerd? Sure, Mikolas’ dorky persona is purely for onstage purposes, but I dig the guy with the glasses + braces just as much as the male model with 20/20 vision we see offstage. When you think about it, he’s like Superman switching into Clark Kent mode – only Mikolas uses his specs to tap into the geek chic trend (rather than to conceal a superhero alter ego). I have no problem with this.

 

 

Winner SuRie Honourable Mention/s Saara Aalto, Jessica Mauboy

Kicking off the People’s Choice Awards this year was the prize for most personable female performer, and I’m not at all disappointed that you guys chose SuRie. Who wouldn’t want to be her best friend? With that being unlikely (I haven’t seen a BFF advertisement anywhere) following her on Twitter is an easy way to bring some light into your life. She is hilarious. If we don’t see her at Eurovision solo again, let’s hope we see her giving Belgium more backup support in the future – she’s clearly their good luck charm!

 

 

Winner Cesár Sampson Honourable Mention/s Ari Oláfsson, Mikolas Josef

This one took me by surprise, I must say – Cesár did come across more reserved than Mikolas and less adorable than Ari (but who isn’t?). Still, he didn’t put a foot wrong with the media or fans in Lisbon, took part in some awesome jam sessions with other artists, and made friends with even more. Plus, like SuRie, his social media appeal is just as attractive as his face (I am currently living for his Instagram captions). Bonus: because he won this award I get to say…Hail Cesár!

 

 

Winner Jessica Mauboy Honourable Mention/s Alexander Rybak, DoReDos

Maybe you had your doubts about how well Jess carried off her (in particular, grand final) performance of We Got Love. I’d understand. But if you didn’t watch her on stage – in her element and clearly in her happy place – and feel some joy and enthusiasm yourself, then WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!? I have no doubts that Miss Mauboy was meant to be a performer, and I could watch her singing, smiling and dancing so hard she gets whiplash all day long.

 

 

Winner Benjamin Ingrosso Honourable Mention/s Ari Oláfsson

He didn’t feel the love from the people in the actual contest (myself excluded…my fingers are still sore from frantically voting for Sweden) but Ingrosso tops the public vote here, and that’s an okay consolation prize. When it comes to 2018’s under-21 club, Benjamin out-scored and out-performed the other members by a mile, handling the pressures of the experience like someone who’s been in the spotlight for more than a decade should. Grattis!

 

 

Winner Crazy Honourable Mention/s Lie To Me

This award usually goes to a song that sounds a whole lot like another one, but not so much that it could be pinned down for plagiarism. Crazy wasn’t booted out of the ESC on that basis, but the fact is that the instrumentals of the song ARE the same ones used in a Romanian (arguably inferior) song released just prior to Franka’s. When the double-up was exposed, a chicken-or-egg debate followed – but the EBU decided Franka was good to go and wouldn’t be disqualified (even though she eventually was…from her semi!).  All’s well that ends well, I guess.

 

 

Winner Czech Republic Honourable Mention/s Ireland, Slovenia

This trophy goes to the country that didn’t exactly make waves in Kyiv…but fast-forward 12 months to Lisbon, and they strutted in with a tsunami of awesome. Slotting into that scenario perfectly was the Czech Republic, who in the years PM (Pre-Mikolas) had only made the final once (in 2016, when they came last). Enter Josef (who Czech TV once wanted to send to Eurovision with My Turn…*shudder*) and the banger that is Lie To Me, and all of a sudden Czechia had Neville Longbottomed…right into 6th place, their best result ever. Let’s hope they can keep it up in Israel.

 

 

Winner A Matter of Time Honourable Mention/s Funny Girl, Stones

I have to say – and I do it as a former English major with a penchant for decent song lyrics – there was a ton of great wording to be heard in Lisbon, which ain’t the case with every contest. The lyricists of Sennek’s A Matter of Time (including Sennek herself) may have lacked the originality of my 2017 Best Lyrics winner JOWST, but they made up for it with sophisticated, mysterious and tightly-rhymed lyrics. My favourite line, FYI, has to be ‘Sometimes it seems we’re at the wrong station, looking for a deadly combination’. It’s macabre, and I love it.

 

 

Winner Who We Are Honourable Mention/s Our Choice, Toy

For the record, the only nominees here I mentally filed under ‘Worst’ rather than ‘Weirdest’ are Our Choice and Who We Are. I chose Who We Are over the Icelandic cheesefest because…well, need I say more than ‘It’s me Jenny B’? The most awful rap in music history was surrounded by lame lines, but the cringe factor in those thirty seconds alone could not be overshadowed. Props go to Jenifer for rapping such trash convincingly, but she deserves better.

 

 

Winner You Let Me Walk Alone Honourable Mention/s Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

This is a very objective award – obviously, we’re all going to have different entries that we weren’t fans of at first but grew to appreciate later. My big one for 2018 came from Germany via Michael Schulte, who somehow won me over with his flawless, impassioned and well-staged performance in the final…despite me ranking YLMWA 40th of the 43 at one point. I should know by now that first impressions never last. I mean, I don’t even skip San Marino on shuffle now (!!!).

 

 

 

Winner Toy Honourable Mention/s Monsters, Tu Canción

Some fanwanks – songs that the devoted Eurofan community goes crazy like Croatia for, pre-contest – deliver in the end (á la Heroes) while others do not (á la Occidentali’s Karma). This year’s biggest fan favourite Toy, a song that had the potential to bomb even after winning the OGAE poll and topping the betting odds for months, ultimately did add another first to its collection. My way of congratulating Netta is to give her this award, because TBH I was convinced Israel 2018 would be to the scoreboard what Italy was last year – a fave that (slightly) flopped.

 

 

Winner Fuego Honourable Mention/s Dance You Off, Lie To Me

We had no shortage of butt-shaker songs this year (so expect 2019 to be bursting with ballads), but the one that had y’all burning the most calories was Cyprus’ Fuego, by the looks of it. This song now has a permanent place on my ESC party playlist, so I’m not about to question the tastes of my readers. I would question the sanity of anyone who can stay seated after Eleni’s first sultry mention of the song title though.

 

 

Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic, Malta

Here’s another public-voted prize for Sweden to make me feel better about their TRAVESTY of a televote at Eurovision. I should clarify – and you’ll know this if you checked out my Best Video nominee playlist – the Dance You Off video nominated for this award was the original, pre-ESC version. But how cool is a) the new version, and b) the fact that we got two MVs from a country that often gives us zero? Watch the winning video below for a hit of slick retroness.

 

 

Winner My Lucky Day Honourable Mention/s Higher Ground, La Forza

Some songs come to life when performed live, despite sounding a little flat when coming out of a speaker. Thanks to the genius staging of My Lucky Day, a mediocre song became a mind-blowing musical number that deserved its top 10 place based on the degree of performance difficulty alone. I like this song so much more when I’m watching it than when I’m listening to it.

 

 

Winner Lost and Found Honourable Mention/s A Matter of Time, Forever

And then…there are the songs that just didn’t work live, because the staging was a fail, the singer wasn’t up the task, or the song was just better to hear than see. On those first and last counts, no other country belly-flopped harder than Macedonia. And what makes Lost and Found’s live disaster so much worse is that Eye Cue were armed with such awesome material to start with. Yeah, the song is messy, but messy in an interesting, unique way that could have been staged (and styled) to its advantage. Since it wasn’t, I’d much rather blast it in the car and pretend the performance never happened.

 

  

That’s all for now, folks – but what do you think of the 2018 EBJEEs so far? Did your favourites take home the People’s Choice Awards? Which artists and songs would score these trophies if you were handing them out? Let me know below – and stay tuned for the second EBJEE episode feat. all things performance-related!

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOTE FOR THE WINNERS! Have your say in the 2018 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards

***UPDATE: The People’s Choice polls are now CLOSED. Thanks for voting, and stay tuned for the results!***

 

Good day to you, sir/madam! We might be slipping into the ESC off-season (when the contest landscape is bare except for an occasional tumbleweed blowing through), but for now ‘tis still the season to be jolly – I mean, we’re not done dissecting Eurovision 2018 yet. Well, I’m not. You can’t have a love affair that passionate end and then move on in a matter of weeks.

This time of year is traditionally reserved for handing out post-show accolades, so naturally my version of Eurovision awards is coming back with a vengeance. Yes, it’s EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards time again. And as usual, I’m starting the proceedings by letting you decide the winners of a whole bunch of trophies (trophies not designed by Kosta Boda, but designed by me using MS Paint because I’m sadly lacking in PhotoShop). So flex those voting fingers and prepare to pick your favourites in the categories of The Artists, The Songs, The Show and The Results. I’m counting on you to crown some alternative Lisbon champions – after all, it makes less work for sometimes-lazy me.

Vote while you can…the People’s Choice polls are now open!

 

 

Miss Congeniality

Last year’s winner Alma

She’s friendly, she’s fun, and she’s the female singer of 2018 you’d choose to hang out with above all others. It’s about personality rather than looks for this award (though all of these ladies are beautiful on the outside AND the inside).

 

Mr. Congeniality

Last year’s winner Nathan Trent

Now it’s time for you to pick the most personable male artist who charmed both fans and the media in Lisbon. You’d take a road trip with him without hesitation, because you’d be guaranteed a great time and a lot of laughs!

 

The Young Achiever Award

Last year’s winner Kristian Kostov 

Age ain’t nothing but a number, and it definitely doesn’t stop those with a little less life experience taking on Eurovision. Which member of Portugal’s 21-and-under club impressed you the most on and/or off the stage?

 

Dancefloor Filler of the Year

Last year’s winner Hey Mamma

Whether you were in the Euroclub, at a Eurovision party or home alone in your pajamas, there had to be at least one song this year that you couldn’t resist dancing to – and will be playing again any time you need to add some life to a future party.

  

Best Music Video

Last year’s winner Belgium

We don’t get preview videos from every single country competing in the contest, but the bunch we do get often bring their A-game. 2018 was no exception, so let’s see which video you think is the best of the best! If you need a refresher, check out all of the nominees here.

 

The Salvador Sobral Award for Performance With The Most “Feelings” 

***NEW AWARD*** 

Music isn’t fireworks, it’s feelings – at least, that’s what 2017’s Eurovision winner told us. Emotion on the Eurovision stage is easy to find, whether it’s happiness, sadness, anger or something else entirely. Which artist from Lisbon’s line-up had their heart well and truly on their sleeve, and made you feel all the feels too?

 

Best Prop/Gimmick

Last year’s winner Azerbaijan

The Eurovision stage sees more stand-out props and gimmicks than any other, and they (usually) add something special to a performance. Vote for the little – or large – extra something that made you say ‘Wow!’ this year.

 

Best Performance from the Big 5

Last year’s winner United Kingdom

There are always musical hits and misses from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – but this award is for the country that stood out on stage when compared to their fellow automatic finalists (the hosts not included).

 

The Host With The Most

Last year’s winner Volodymyr ‘Vova’ Ostapchuk

Having not one, not two, not even three…but FOUR female hosts this year was intense. But hey, it gives us a lot of choice when choosing the one that stood out from the others. Go forth and name a name from the 2018 hostess squad!

 

OMG Moment of the Year

Last year’s winner The Ukrainian butt-flasher crashes Jamala’s performance

There were many jaw-on-the-floor occurrences this year, and not just during the performances – the rehearsals and results provided some WTF moments too. Which one saw you shocked to your very core…or compelled you to take to Twitter in total disbelief?

 

The ‘How Did THAT Happen?’ Award for Most Shocking Result

Last year’s winner Finland’s DNQ

Speaking of shocking…even the most talented predictor wouldn’t have seen some of the Eurovision 2018 scoreboard placements coming. Some countries defied expectations while others failed when we thought they’d flourish. Choose your biggest personal surprise below!

 

 

Aaaaaaaand *drumroll* your duty is done! Thanks for having your say, and stay tuned for the presentation ceremonies of the 2018 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. There are plenty more trophies to be handed out in addition to the People’s Choice gongs, and you won’t want to miss out on knowing who’s taking them home to display proudly on a spotlit pedestal with a velvet rope around it (that’s not too much to ask, is it?).

 

 

 

 

IT’S THE (GRAND) FINAL COUNTDOWN! My top 10 performances of Eurovision 2018

It’s been less than two weeks since Israel won Eurovision, but to me it actually feels like longer – which makes it even more shameful that it’s taken me all this time to pick out my favourite performances of Portugal’s contest just past.

In my defence, it wasn’t an easy decision! Competition was fiercer than Eleni Foureira’s catsuit-and-stilettos combo this year, especially due to the no-LED policy of the stage design which meant countries had to get extra creative when chasing the wow factor. Better late than never, though, I’ve made my choices (just like Ari Oláfsson told me to). And, in reverse order as always, because I like to whip up a fresh batch of suspense every time I do a top 10 countdown, here they are. Let me know what our agree/disagree ratio is in the comments below…

 

 

#10| Ukraine (Mélovin with Under The Ladder)

When Eurovision meets Ukraine, the result is usually OTT – but up until 2018, it had been a while since the country lived large in terms of their contest staging (1944 and Time didn’t exactly slap you in the face with such subtle items as hamster wheels and half-naked centurions). So it was nice to see Ukraine changing up their recent less-is-more approach for a) a vampiric-looking artist slowly rising from the hellish interior of his grand piano; b) said artist removing a layer of clothing halfway through the song, which in this case looked a lot more badass than when Alexander Rybak did it; and c) yeah yeah FIRE!!! When you think about it, Mélovin’s performance could have been even more flamboyant – but he seemed to know just when to stop to give it the specific level of drama and Gothic glamour it needed. Under The Ladder on the Lisbon stage was as confident and cohesive as we’ve come to expect from Ukraine, whether they’re keeping things simple or kicking their staging up a notch or two (hundred).

 

#9 | Israel (Netta with Toy

If it’s controversial to not have Netta right at the top of a ranking like this, then so be it. I didn’t vote for Israel this year and I can’t claim that Toy is the winning song I would have preferred (let’s just say that I was hoping to be trawling through Air BnB apartments in Limassol right about now). But I can’t argue with the punch this performance packed, thanks mostly to Netta herself and not so much to her dancers, who made the whole thing look more novelty than it actually was. Miss Barzilai, though, even without her looper, was a force to be reckoned with. Every facial expression, hand gesture and note was there; the attitude and sass were sky-high just as they should have been; and it was easy to believe that any guy stupid enough to cross her would be sorrier than Frans realising he really was sorry. Netta sold her song like her life depended on it, with her oriental outfit and backdrop adding an exotic touch to the appealingly bonkers proceedings (and not, IMO, falling into the category of cultural appropriation). The Altice Arena audience went crazy for this, and even on TV it was obvious why.

 

#8 | Austria (Cesár Sampson with Nobody But You

Starring in this year’s episode of ‘Surprising Eurovision Third-Placers’ was Austria’s Cesár, who contributed a jury vote-winning rendition of Nobody But You to the grand final line-up. While I didn’t see that overwhelming jury love coming, I did get some spine-tingles from his performance: one that proved he could more than cope with the transition from backing singer to main artist. Commanding the stage – and a spectacular hydraulic platform – completely solo, he made it hard for me to look away from him (or even blink, lest I miss a shot of his impressive arm musculature). Austria also added a mix of shadowy and golden lighting that perfectly suited the song and its soul vibes; a bit of crowd interaction in the second half to up the human connection with Cesár; and, tapping into a trend that was way overused in 2017, the sole giant selfie of the year…which was great apart from the fact that super-sized Cesár was wearing a different shirt to flesh-and-blood Cesár. But that’s a mildly irritating detail I can overlook, based on how boss every other aspect of this performance was.

 

#7 | Denmark (Rasmussen with Higher Ground)

Like Sweden (a country you should expect me to mention later on in this list) Denmark rarely changes much about their staging between their national final and Eurovision. Unlike Sweden, a lot of the time they need to but just don’t. Fortunately, 2018 was not one of those years – and some credit needs to be given to the ship-inspired Lisbon stage for that. Performing a seafaring Viking song, Rasmussen must have thanked his lucky stars when he discovered how neatly Higher Ground fit in to the concept of the ESC this year. Sure, a ship wasn’t the first thing you thought of when you looked at the stage, but just knowing how appropriate Denmark’s package would appear in the year of ‘All Aboard!’ gave them a boost. Sails, snow, stomping, blue lighting, beards, and a manufactured breeze were all Rasmussen needed to create the ideal atmosphere for Higher Ground – and what came out of the oven once all of those ingredients had been combined and baked was gobbled up by televoters. They ranked Denmark first in the second semi, and in the top five in the final. That’s definitely higher ground than the Danes managed to reach in Kyiv!

 

#6 | Estonia (Elina Nechayeva with La Forza)

I’ve said this in a previous post, but there was a time when I thought Estonia didn’t need to stick Elina in a ridiculously expensive projection dress to make a statement. La Forza and her insanely impressive operatic talents would do the trick on their own, right? Well, we’ll never know for sure – but what I now know for certain is that The Dress: Eurovision Edition (forget about some wedding guest getup that’s black and blue/white and gold) turned Estonia’s appearance at Eurovision 2018 into a showstopper. What helped to make the performance all the more dynamic were the close-up shots of Elina during the soft, mystical verses (just to hammer home how stunning she is) interspersed with wider shots and aerial shots during the explosive choruses – those showing off the dress projections to maximum advantage. If I was being ultra picky (as I enjoy being sometimes) I would have liked the lighting scheme and projections to be totally celestial – more cool colours to take us all to a galaxy far, far away. But a bit of red lighting here and there and some psychedelic dress swirls didn’t prevent me from being speechless at the end of this three minutes.

 

#5 | Australia (Jessica Mauboy with We Got Love)

Okay…before you scream at your screen that I must have walked Rasmussen’s plank and drowned in a sea of my own insanity, hear me out. Firstly, I’m Australian and am therefore totally biased when it comes to our handful of ESC entries and my unconditional defense of them. Secondly, when I name Jessica’s performance as one of my favourites of the year, I’m referring more to the stronger semi-final version than the nervy final version. And thirdly, whatever your opinion on her vocals, that dress (which we now know finished 2nd in the Barbara Dex vote) or the characteristically dark Sacha Jean Baptiste staging, you have to admit that Jess is a ray of sunshine who invested every fibre of her energy into her time on stage and brought light to those overly-moody surroundings. I felt so proud (and a little bit teary) after her Thursday night performance – and part of that was to do with the freedom, rawness and authenticity that came from the dreamtime dance moves and a vocal that was a rough diamond rather than a crystal-clear one-carat diamond. Jess did what she does best by bringing her personality on stage as a prop, and I really enjoyed watching her as a result.

 

#4 | Moldova (DoReDos with My Lucky Day)

Discarding a cool NF staging concept in the hope of wowing people at the ESC with an even cooler concept is risky. Moldova took that risk, ran with it, and ended up providing us with an impeccably-timed slapstick-chic performance that elevated an okay song to sensational status. Try and find a flaw in DoReDos’ Eurovision creation and I will dispute whatever you come up with, because it had it ALL. Eye-catching costumes (in Moldovan flag colours, of course)? Check. Boatloads of stage presence and charisma from all three band members and their backing squad? Check. An oversized Ikea cabinet put to better use than anything with doors has been before? Check! Putting paid to the stereotype that men can’t multitask – and proving that women absolutely can – the trio sang, danced and dashed in out of those doors without missing a beat or looking like it was any sort of struggle. In a day and age of the easily distracted (myself included) keeping all eyes on you for 180 seconds can be difficult – but My Lucky Day live in Lisbon was entertainment well worth the price of admission.

 

#3 | Czech Republic (Mikolas Josef with Lie To Me)

From being stuck on a hospital gurney with a neck brace on to turning out a performance like this – only to go on and top it in the final? Mikolas, I salute you. For a horrifying few days early on in rehearsal week, we weren’t sure whether the Czech Republic would even get to compete in the contest with their best entry ever. But the Eurovision gods were smiling down on us (that, and Mikolas did what doctors told him to do). He got through his semi show in more restrained style than he would have liked before pulling out all of the acrobatic stops on the Saturday night – moves that capped off a super-fun, well-choreographed, part-music video/part-live performance feat. SWAG. There is nothing I would change about the Czech staging, although I wouldn’t have complained if a hologram camel had materialised at some point. The highlight – besides Mikolas landing the flip and not ending up back in the emergency room – has to be the butt wiggle/floss/backpack combo after the second chorus. That was genius, and in keeping with the saucy subject matter. I can fully understand why plenty of these greedies want to eat Mikolas’ spaghetti (apologies if I just said something super rude…I honestly don’t know).

 

#2 | Cyprus (Eleni Foureira with Fuego)  

There’s a reason Eurofans still talk about Ani Lorak all the time, despite Shady Lady finishing as the Eurovision runner-up TEN YEARS AGO (!). Ani was a crazy-hot woman in an amazing outfit who, backed by a posse of equally attractive dancers, strutted her way through a top-notch pop song to rapturous applause from the audience. Does that sound familiar? Does it sound…fuego, perhaps? I think so. Eleni came to Portugal armed with an ethnopop banger that had all the best elements of Shady Lady in its staging, and also threw back to Secret Combination and Qele Qele (Greece and Armenia’s ’08 entries that finished 3rd and 4th respectively). I loved being reminded of those other fierce women who’d showed the ESC who was boss back in the day, while being treated to a song that was modern enough to work in 2018. Eleni looked incredible, danced like a woman possessed, and whipped her hair back and forth in amongst fake and real fire while wearing that sparkly catsuit you wouldn’t want to have to pee while sewn into. I’m not going to lie…I wanted to BE her. If we must have successful 2018 entry copycats in 2019, can they please be Fuego + Foureira copycats?

 

#1 | Sweden (Benjamin Ingrosso with Dance You Off)

As we arrive at my no. 1 personal pick for Eurovision performance of the year, it will either be a massive plot twist (because you’re new here and were partly responsible for Sweden’s low televoting score) or a predictable ending (because you know how obsessed with Sweden and how big a fan of Benjamin’s I am). Whatever the reason for that lack of love from the public, it was not a problem for me – someone in awe of the glow-up between Benjamin’s 2017 and 2018 Melodifestivalen performances, and then continually impressed by the Dance You Off performance that was copy-pasted to the ESC (why would you mess with something that slick?). I don’t know why people have an issue with Swedish performances being the same every time, at Melfest and in every Eurovision rehearsal. When you put that much effort in to a stage show – even though Benjamin’s was relatively simple, just extremely effective – and rehearse the crap out of it, why shouldn’t it be flawless by the time it’s going to be on TV? I love this song and I love how it was staged, unconditionally. Jean Baptiste who?

 

 

I’ve showed you mine…now show me yours! Which Eurovision performances floated your boat the most this year?

 

 

 

 

FUEGO, FASHION FREAKSHOWS AND FAILS: The good, the bad and the “other” of Eurovision 2018’s first semi final

Not only has Eurovision 2018 arrived – it’s begun with a bang, as 10 semi-finalists became bonafide finalists and 9 poor non-qualifiers (including one angry Swiss woman in a hat, so I heard) were sent packing last night in Lisbon. There’s a lot to talk about and a lot of opinions to be aired, and I’m about to talk and air mine for anyone who’s interested!

BTW, if you were wondering why my qualifier predictions didn’t pop up here on EBJ pre-semi, it’s because I posted them on my Instagram and Twitter. If you want to see how accurate I was (before I mention it later in this post) and don’t want to miss my predictions for the second semi – or the final – make sure you follow me socially @EurovisionByJaz. All the links are in the sidebar.

Now, let’s have a chat about the yays, the nays and everything else that caught my attention during yesterday’s first semi final.

 

 

THE GOOD

I’ll start with perhaps Portugal’s biggest triumph as a first-time hosting nation: the visual delivery of the 2018 theme/concept/slogan. I was already shipping a Eurovision with a nautical overtone (though those terrible puns from Daniela nearly put me off entirely) and I wasn’t disappointed with the beautiful intro/interval graphics and postcard transitions.

Also tapping into the theme was the stage – obviously. As a non-rehearsal watcher, last night was the unveiling of it in action for me, and I have to say the design and lighting setup was impressive. It looked LIT AF, in fact (pardon the pun/irritating Gen Z slang). I did end up missing the LEDs a fair bit, but I’ll get to that.

Onto the cream-of-the-crop performances now, and the first to get me on my feet was my second favourite, the Czech Republic and to think there was a chance Mikolas might have had to withdraw only a week ago! It’s a Paula and Ovi miracle (definitely not a Samra miracle) that he got off the hospital gurney and back into his braces with time to spare. You could tell he was treading carefully, but with the backing dancers providing the gymnastics and Mikolas himself compensating with backpack-loads of attitude, no enjoyment was lost for me. I would have voted the SHIZ out of this if I could have (and I’m flexing my texting fingers for the final, Mr. Josef…don’t you worry).

Israel, as I expected, did not come across as the winner we thought it would be up until recently (it’s just too motherbucking bonkers). But Netta is absolutely adorable, and I’m filing her performance under my highlights because the replication of Toy’s vocals live – without the infamous looper – was surprisingly slick and almost studio-perfect. Best hairstyle of the night by far, too: Princess Leia plus My Little Pony is a good combo.

The most impressive three minutes on that impressive stage, in my opinion (like I’d be typing out anyone else’s opinions), belonged to Estonia. Wow, wow and more wow. I didn’t think Elina needed that crazy expensive dress clashing with her undeniable vocal talent, but it turns out I would have missed it if it wasn’t there. She is stunning, the vocals were exquisite, and I think the dress projections were worth Estonia’s spending spree. It helped score them their first qualification since 2015, after all. As for a win now they’re in the final…I’m not convinced, but this certainly stands out (and Elina literally stands about six feet over everyone else).

The touching, pan-European Amar Pelos Dois do-over defrosted even my icy, unfeeling heart – but any tears that sprung up in my eyes could have come at the sight of a) Svala, after I’d just seen Our Choice be the biggest glow-down in ESC history, or b) Norma John, which triggered the memory of Finland’s shock DNQ last year. Or maybe even Kristian Kostov, because he’s so damn dope and so much cooler than I will ever be. I don’t begrudge (much).

Now, on the results…after all my see-sawing when trying to predict the SF1 qualifiers, I ended up not being shocked at all, after revising my guesses mentally once all 19 performances were through. I got 8/10 Qs correct (I’d anticipated Azerbaijan and Greece rather than Albania and Ireland) which was good news for me (I didn’t humiliate myself! YAY!!!). And I also felt that the results made sense. Albania and Ireland definitely deserved to make the final – Eugent on those powerful, flawless vocals alone. As for Azerbaijan, who have now lost their 100% qualification record – well, I saw it coming after a okay performance of an okay song from Aisel. Maybe that will teach the land of (yeah yeah yeah) fire to rely on sound-alike Swedish productions.

 

 

THE BAD

Here’s something I knew months ago: four hosts is too many. Something else I suspected that was confirmed last night: a script not written by Edward af Sillén is massively inferior to a script Sweden’s 2018 commentator did pen. Contrived, clichéd, and packed with jokes that nobody of sound mind would find funny, this script (and the people reading it…sorry, ladies) will not go down in history as one of the contest’s best. Fortunately, we’re really here for the music and results announcements that nearly push us over the edge, and Portugal has delivered on both of those fronts so far.

Belgium’s three-year run of success came to a screeching halt after Sennek turned out a reasonable but not spectacular performance of A Matter of Time. I never connected with this song on the same level as Rhythm Inside, What’s The Pressure and City Lights – I didn’t feel that it had as much to offer. It wasn’t the car crash I semi-expected live, but girl was NERVOUS and it showed (and not in a vulnerable, ‘We MUST vote for her!’ way á la Blanche). Also…WTF was she wearing? I can only assume it’s an oversized lampshade from Ikea’s upcoming collection that she borrowed from work. Yikes.

The aforementioned Kristian Kostov left Bulgaria with big shoes to fill, and I don’t think Equinox was up to the task. Sure, they qualified, but I found their performance of Bones overly cold and a little uninteresting – visually boring too, which is unusual for a Sacha Jean-Baptiste creation. Bulgaria aren’t winning Eurovision 2018, and I’ll be very surprised if Equinox come close to Kristian’s second place.

When it comes to ‘What were they thinking?’ moments, Macedonia gave us the whole enchilada.  Aimless wandering and a ridiculous costume that was then ripped off to reveal an even more ridiculous (and very distracting) one equaled staging that made a messy-sounding song look messy as well. If Marija had put her tuxedo jacket on the right way round and kept it on, some dignity would have been retained, but…oh dear.

Just because my jaw wasn’t on the floor during the results doesn’t mean I wasn’t heartbroken by a few DNQs. Armenia – my bronze favourite of the year – hit the hardest, even though I understand why the televote wouldn’t have been strong enough for Sevak. I do think we’ll see that the jury vote for Armenia was stronger, but even so there wasn’t enough going on during his performance to make it exceptional (the vocals were exceptional, though).

I was also disappointed by Switzerland not making it. Zibbz produced such a cracking performance of Stones that I expect to see them in 11th – 12th or 13th at the lowest – when all the stats come out post-final. Apparently Corinne was raging in the green room after her country’s name didn’t leave any of the hostesses’ lips, and I can’t say I blame her. You let it out, Coco.

  

 

THE “OTHER”

As impressed as I was by the overall look of the Altice Arena stage and the flexibility of the lights, I felt that the lack of LEDs was clear in the stage not looking as different for each performance as it usually would. Some countries – Austria and Cyprus, for example – transformed the stage, but for the most part it felt like 19 acts competing on the same platform with the same background, rather than 19 unique ‘looks’ being created. I appreciate what RTP was trying to do by scrapping built-in screens, but it backfired a bit. I’d like to see them back in 2019.

It’s not that often we see artists failing to mask their nerves on stage, but there were a couple of obvious shaky hands last night – and neither of the people those hands belonged to managed to make it to the final. I’m talking about Alekseev and Sennek, who I couldn’t help feeling sorry for. I’m surprised Alekseev kept his hold on that rose for as long as he had to. Maybe he listened to Hey Ya by OutKast as part of his pre-performance routine and decided to ‘shake it like a Polaroid picture’. You never know.

There were a handful of performances that I felt were missing something – something that, if heard or seen, might have elevated them to exceptional. For Belarus, I’d say it was the original version of Forever. The less dramatic piano-heavy revamp took away a big chunk of impact, and made the performance feel like it was lumbering along. For Croatia, I wanted darker, moodier lighting and a spotlight on Franka to up the glamour and sex appeal (not that she herself needs much help in those areas *fans self*). And for Austria, the only thing I’d pick on is the unseen backing singers. I think Cesár needed them to strut out onto the platform behind him for the final chorus (like he did when singing backup for Poli Genova in 2016) to make the stage feel less empty and remind us that the gospel backing wasn’t coming from some mysterious disembodied choir.

As we all know, Cyprus was the one to overtake Israel in the odds a few days ago, and while Eleni’s performance was as fiery as Fuego needed it to be (and let’s get this out of the way – she is as HOT AS HELL, and I say that as a straight woman) I’m having trouble seeing it as a winner. I don’t think we’re quite going to get to Cyprus next May, though I am willing to stand corrected if it means a second sun-and-sea contest in a row (one I might actually be attending).

 

 

That’s all I’ve got to say on Lisbon’s first semi final at this point – I’m actually amazed I word-vomited this much after a basically sleepless night (the 3am wake-ups are worth it, but they’re hard work). Let me know in the comments what you thought of the show, how your predictions panned out and how many of your favourites you’ll get to see compete on Saturday night.

One down, two to go! Eurovision 2018 is still in its early stages y’all, and I am PSYCHED! Half of the second semi’s points will be handed out tonight in the jury show: excitement. It’s an unpredictable year: excitement. Anything could still happen…MASS EXCITEMENT. Seriously, I’m in need of some tranquilisers here (and I wish I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, because AS IF I’ll be able to concentrate on anything not related to Eurovision right now).

 

Anyway…I’ll see you after semi 2 for more post-show verdicts!

 

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 1 (Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + the Netherlands)

Hello there! I bet you thought this day would never come – the day when I’d finally get my Euroshiz together and do what every other ESC website has been doing for a month.

REVIEWS!!!

Okay, so you might have known I’d kick things off eventually if you’re familiar with my sloth-like tendencies (never visit this blog for breaking news, because it won’t be breaking by the time I talk about it). Now that there are four weeks to go until Lisbon’s first semi final, though, you’re about to be flooded with my verdicts on all 43 songs competing in Eurovision 2018. It’s a review tsunami, so strap on your lifejackets and take a big breath!

For Round 1, my high-tech random selection process – in which I copy-pasted a list of the countries, closed my eyes and pointed at it 43 times – resulted in Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands being the fortunate first group to be judged (you’ll have to wait a while for the lucky last). So if you want to see how I rate Sevak, Eleni, AWS, Christabelle and Waylon, you came to the right place.

Check out my reviews, vote for your favourite of today’s five, and share your thoughts in the comments. Pretty please?

 

 

My thoughts If you’d told me a few months ago that Tamar Kaprelian would not be representing Armenia at Eurovision this year, I would have had a very melodramatic meltdown. Poison (Ari Ari) is an ethnopop masterpiece after all (Disagree? CASH ME OUSSIDE, HOW BOW DAH?!?) and when I listened to the snippets of everything else Depi Evratesil had to offer, I didn’t hear anything as awesome. As Donny Montell knows, love is blind…but it also made me deaf to the potential of eventual winning song Qami. I honestly can’t even recall hearing a snippet of Sevak’s power ballad – the first all-Armenian language song sent to adult Eurovision – even though I definitely did. Yet all it took was one look at/listen to his national final performance for me to forget about Poison (almost – a banger is always a banger) and fall head-over-heels for Qami. ‘Wind’ as it translates to – and it’s a safe assumption that he’s talking about the force of nature, not the aftermath of a particularly spicy vindaloo – ticks every box on my mental checklist for epic ballads. It’s a slow burner that starts off subtly before exploding at the end of the second chorus (kind of like the 0-100k/ph dynamism of Aram Mp3’s Not Alone). It’s haunting and mysterious. The melody is stunning, and the repetition of the title gives us non-Armenian speakers something to latch on to. Plus, the contrast between the delicate first half and Sevak’s vocal and visual strength (there’s wearing your heart on your sleeve and then there’s wearing your abs on the outside of your shirt) makes the overall package vulnerable and powerful at the same time. I know a lot of fans aren’t as psyched about this one as I am, but every year there’s one song I adore that not many other people seem to (and it can either bomb, or kick butt in the actual contest like Origo last year). I do think there is room for Qami to do some butt-kicking in Lisbon, this not being a ballad-heavy year and Sevak having the kind of song that could be a mind-blower if it’s staged right. But that’s more of a hope and prayer than a prediction, so don’t hold me to it!

2017 VS 2018? 2018, hands down (sorry, Artsvik).

My score 12

 

 

My thoughts Speaking of ethnopop masterpieces…enter Cyprus! Strutting in wearing a catsuit and a pair of sky-high heels, of course. Last year I was pleasantly surprised by Hovig’s Gravity, which was constantly compared to Rag & Bone Man’s Human – familiarity doesn’t breed contempt with me, I guess. I’m mentioning the comparison because once again, Cyprus has delivered a great pop song that happens to fit neatly into the mould of one I’ve heard before – in this case, a bunch of songs from Helena Paparizou’s back catalogue. Is there anything wrong with that? Umm, NO. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud originality, and Lisbon is lucky to have it in the form of Israel, Ukraine etc. But even a Paparizou album filler would be welcome at Eurovision, and since we can’t have the queen herself performing one (though she did record a version), Eleni and her Fuego are the next best thing. I love this, and it was an instant love strengthened by the fact that ‘You got me pelican fly fly flying’ is legitimately one of the lyrics. That IS original! I feel like this song was engineered especially to appeal to ethnopop tragics like myself because, in that department, it does everything right. Simple, neatly-rhymed verses + a chorus made up of hooky melodies and yeahs (which can be exchanged for ohs) + a memorable riff played on a traditional instrument = this, and every other ethnopop entry ever. Basically, it’s Aphrodisiac (Greece 2012) with a 2018 magic wand waved over it. With the product placement from the music video out of the question for the live ESC performance, and Eleni sure to be looking as hot as the fire she’s singing about, my only concern is how she’ll sound. The lives of hers I’ve checked out have been fine – albeit feat. some heavy lifting from backing vocalists – but I have heard she isn’t the most reliable live performer. Still, if Jedward can sing seemingly in tune (with their backup vocalists’ mics turned way up) then anyone can. And if someone can point me in the direction of proof that Eleni is actually a top-notch singer and convince me that I shouldn’t be worried, they’ll get a gold star. I really want this to be Cyprus’ fourth finalist in a row, not their first DNQ since 2013.

2017 VS 2018? This is like choosing a favourite child. NOPE. Not happening.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts You’ve got to give Hungary credit for never sending the same song to Eurovision twice. Their bounce-around approach has, since their 2011 comeback, given us dance pop, electro rock, an acoustic alt-ballad, EDM, a charity song, anthemic rock and an ethnopop slice of heaven (Joci Papái was my favourite last year and is still a true musical love of mine). In 2018 we’re getting something different again with hardcore(ish) rock/metal/I’m clearly not an expert on the genre of AWS’ Viszlát Nyár but it sounds intense to me. It’s certainly the most hardcore, rocky song competing in Lisbon, and while that will help it stand out, such songs don’t always go over well at the ESC (I can’t imagine juries going nuts over this). The fact is that the demographic AWS are aiming at is not found, in droves at least, in the Eurovision audience (if someone did a Venn diagram to demonstrate it, the two fan bases would have a pretty tiny overlap area). I’m definitely not the kind of person who would readily abandon their pop sensibilities for anything involving screaming to music. So you might be surprised to learn that I actually like this. Like, not love (á la Origo, which I said I’d marry in my review last year if I could) but yes, I dig it. It reminds me a little of Dead By April’s Melodifestivalen entry Mystery, which I was obsessed with back in 2012 – it features the same mixture of soft moments and intense, scream-your-lungs-out moments that a) make it dynamic, and b) stop it from totally alienating people who aren’t regular purveyors of hard rock. As always, Hungarian sounds alluring and mysterious as the language of choice (is there a genre it doesn’t work with?), especially in the verses. Overall, Viszlát Nyár might be well outside my top 10 for the year, but there are only two or three songs I dislike and this is not one of them. I’m a big supporter of Hungary in the contest and I do hope AWS give the country their 8th consecutive qualification…but I think it could be a tough task. The best comparison song would be Softengine’s Something Better, which did very well for Finland in 2014 but was a lot more accessible (and the screaming was confined to the last twenty seconds or so). I don’t expect Hungary to perform as impressively as that if they do make the final, and TBH, I’ll live if they don’t. Still, it would be nice to have some rock on hand to spice up the best Saturday night of the year.

2017 VS 2018? It’s a no-brainer – Origo all the way.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Not for the first time – they did it last year too – Malta is sending an artist to Eurovision who’s tried to represent them before with a better song than the one they’re actually getting to go with. In Christabelle’s case, 2015’s Rush really should have been her Eurovision song, but it finished 2nd in MESC that year (Saddy McSadface). And so, three years later, we’ve ended up with Taboo, a mostly Maltese production feat. input from Thomas g:Son (shocking). I’ve developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with this song, though now I think about it, those words are probably too strong – ‘like-dislike’ would be more accurate. Basically, there are parts of it I really like and others that I really don’t. First, the negatives: it may not be as lyrically lame as past Maltese entries, but it’s all over the place with metaphors and similes, making it fairly nonsensical and the message confusing (apparently it’s about mental health struggles, ICYMI). The chorus in particular bugs me like crazy – it seems like the songwriters wanted it to be meaningful, but it turned into a mess of words that happen to rhyme with ‘animals’ (criminals, miracle, *my brain explodes*). The dubstep break is my other main gripe with Taboo, just because it feels passé and could have been left out to no great loss. Positives-wise, there’s good energy, a hypnotic beat, a contemporary-sounding melody, and an overall approving nod for Malta choosing something like this. And I have to mention the MESC performance, which was OTT but very cool at the same time…even if it might be hard to replicate on Lisbon’s LED-less stage. To her credit, Christabelle is a likeable performer with a decent voice, providing she’s not running a marathon or doing star jumps constantly during a performance (code for ‘don’t make her move too much, Team Malta!’). I think Taboo has a better chance of qualifying to the final than Claudia’s Breathlessly did last year – that proved us all right when it went nowhere. But in semi two, where five or six countries could easily advance from the first half alone, Malta’s odds are 50-50, and the shock value will be minimal whether they qualify or not. Unfortunately they’re performing just three songs before Sweden, and Benjamin is armed with an uptempo song accompanied by a slick, impressive stage presentation – much like Malta, but better. And with Sweden being almost a dead cert to qualify, if one of the two is going to be sacrificed to the DNQ gods, it will be Malta.

2017 VS 2018? 2018 fo sho. I’d rather break the taboo than be breathless.

My score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts The first question to ask someone who’s about to hear Outlaw In ‘Em for the first time is ‘How do you feel about country music?’. If their answer is ‘Not good’, then they won’t be giving it douze points, or anything close. Waylon’s solo Eurovision entry is without a doubt the countriest country song I’ve ever come across. Every lyric, every guitar lick – even the title – is dripping in the genre, and makes me feel like an idiot (or should I say ‘good for nothin’ varmint’?) for not wearing a cowboy hat. Of course, as soon as the song’s over, normal cowboy-hatless life resumes. I have to say, I do enjoy a country song or 65, but I’m more of an easy-listening cruisy country fan, as opposed to a rip-roarin’, honky-tonkin’, gun-totin’ type. In that sense, you can understand why I much prefer Waylon feat. Ilse deLange (a.k.a. The Common Linnets) with Calm After The Storm to this entry. The fact that Outlaw is so darn country – to the point where it’s about to fall off a cliff edge into Cheesy Canyon – is a turn-off for me, even though I appreciate the go hard or go home mentality (a half-assed country-tinged track for Waylon? No sirree). It reminds me of Achy Breaky Heart too much to take seriously, only it’s too fast to boot-scoot to. I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t want all of y’all to challenge me to a stand-off just yet. I’m not totally, 110% anti-Outlaw. On the plus side, I like the lyrics: unlike Malta, the theme here is clear and consistent; and the rhyming is beautiful, which makes the overall package sound neat. The song is unique (in this competition, anyway) and definitely memorable. And Waylon is a great performer even when he’s not locking eyes with Ilse – in Portugal he’ll be making eyes at the camera instead, and I’ll imagine he’s staring straight into my soul (in a sexy way, not a demonic way). Will he end up staring down the barrel of qualification, though? The betting odds say heck yes, but I have to wonder if this song is going to be too divisive. It does come to life more on stage than in studio, so I can see it meeting expectations on the night/s that count most. Yet the mass appeal needed for a win isn’t there, and I can’t see a Common Linnets result in Waylon’s future either.

2017 VS 2018? 2017. Girl power and incredible harmonies > full-on country extravaganza.

My score 6.5

 

 

And that, guys, is Round 1 done and dusted. Five down, 38 to go in less than four weeks.

SEND HELP.

Then, when you’ve dialed 911/000/whatever your country’s equivalent is on my behalf, you can take a look at today’s mini-ranking:

  1. Armenia (12)
  2. Cyprus (10)
  3. Hungary (7)
  4. Malta (6.5) 
  5. The Netherlands (6.5)

So it’s Sevak who takes the top spot, which is obviously not a shock to me because I already knew how I felt about these five songs (let me hear you say ‘DUH!’). Now the question is, can Qami hold on to the #1 position as the EBJ 2018 reviews continue? You’ll have to stay tuned – and subscribed, hint hint – to find out. Opt in for new post email alerts in the sidebar, or find me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram (all @EurovisionByJaz) to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

Before I sign off and in turn stop begging you to follow me on social media, I do have another question:

 

NEXT TIME The Lisbon reviews are just revving up…and if I want to get them finished before Eurovision happens, I need to get a move on. Drop by on the weekend when I’ll sit myself down on the EBJ judging panel to critique Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania, and Spain!

 

Until then,