Blog Archives

HE’S GOT THE LOOK(S) | 13 times Koit Toome’s ESC 2016 facial expressions spoke to your soul

Well, this might be the most ridiculous post I’ve ever published (apart from this one). Clearly, nine years (!!!) of blogging have not transformed me into a generator of sophisticated content. But having fun is better than being sophisticated, unless you’re meeting the Queen (I am referring to Conchita Wurst of course, though the same applies to the one who’s pretty well-known in Commonwealth countries).

The general gist is that Koit Toome was a gift to us all at Eurovision 2016, at least from the neck up. When performing Verona with Laura by his side – albeit about ten metres away most of the time – he brought constant drama (drama that used to be romance, obviously) via his pliable face, and it proved he hasn’t overdone it with the Botox despite somehow looking as fresh-faced as he did at Eurovision 1998.

Even though Koit’s OTT soap-opera-style expressions didn’t help Estonia to qualify in Kyiv, he and Laura’s performance wouldn’t have been the same without them, and I think that deserves acknowledgement. I also think they (unintentionally) managed to convey a lot of the feels we everyday people have experienced at one time or another, making Mr. Toome everybody’s personal spirit animal (but not affiliated with the song that lost to Verona in Eesti Laul 2017). You want proof? Don’t worry, I’ve got it!

 

When you’ve done something bad and you’re not sure whether your parents are about to find out about it or not

 

When you read through an exam paper and literally nothing makes any sense

 

When another one of your friends gets engaged/promoted/announces their pregnancy/buys a house, and you have to pretend to be happy for them even though your biggest life achievement to date is eating two pizzas in one sitting

 

When someone you’re talking to says something really stupid, and you can’t figure out if they were being sarcastic or they’re actually THAT stupid

 

When you overhear an epic piece of trash talk about someone you hate

 

When you’ve been stalking someone on Instagram and accidentally liked one of their ancient photos, and you’re currently weighing up the pros and cons of entering the Witness Protection Program

 

When you see a dog in the street but circumstances will not allow you to go over and declare undying love for it (or even just pat it)

 

When it dawns on you that there’s a 99% chance you left the iron on this morning, and that you may arrive home to a smouldering pile of what used to be your house

 

When your boss publicly bitches out your really annoying coworker

 

When you’ve just had a group discussion and contributed a great idea, only to have someone else swoop in and take the credit for it

 

When you realise you have to make an appointment over the phone, and no one else is going to do it for you because you’re (supposedly) a grown-ass adult

 

When someone claims something is true with an arrogant air of authority, but you know better and you’re about to prove it

 

And, of course, when someone claims to love Eurovision but can only come up with Waterloo or Euphoria when you ask what their all-time favourite entry is

 

 

Which Koit face is your favourite? Can you believe I just asked such a ridiculous question? Do you think Estonia might have made it through to the final if he’d stayed a little more serious? If you’re as fascinated by this topic as I am and you’ve got something to say about it, say it in the comments (or on social media accompanied by #koitface…that hashtag could totally catch on if it didn’t back in May).

 

Until next time, when I’ll probably post something that restores your faith in me as a mature Eurovision professional…

 


 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands + Poland

Hello again, and welcome to another episode of me putting the Eurovision 2017 entries I adore up on a pedestal, and tearing the ones I hate to shreds. Fun times (unless you love the songs I can’t stand)!

Another six songs are up for some serious judging today, via me and – once again – my mum. Being the crazy lady that she is (it’s hereditary), she has voluntarily come back to have her say on The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland. So are you ready, Martina, Koit & Laura, Levina, Fusedmarc, O’G3NE and Kasia? Too bad if you’re not, because it’s time for you to be reviewed in 3, 2, 1….now.

 

 

My thoughts I’d never complain about a contest that has a lot of musical variety – after all, forty-plus ballads/dance tracks/Hard Rock Hallelujah rip-offs wouldn’t be fun to watch or listen to (or  be much fun for the producers trying to create an entertaining running order). So in terms of that, a nice little jazzy number from the Czech Republic helps with the whole ‘celebrating diversity’ motto of the 2017 comp. But that doesn’t stop My Turn from being the most boring song in the line-up by a mile. I just don’t think it has a lot to offer – the melody isn’t very catchy or exciting, there’s nothing about it that stands out and makes it memorable (I’m actually struggling to recall how the verses go right now) and I’m not a massive fan of Martina’s voice either – though I expect she’ll sound pretty much studio-perfect on the Kyiv stage. Speaking of the stage…not even an Azerbaijan 2013 level of staging genius would pimp out this entry enough to push it into the qualification zone, IMO. Dead last in the semi isn’t a dead cert, but it’s hard to imagine the juries or televoters lavishing attention on My Turn when there’s the likes of Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois (for the former) and I Can’t Go On and City Lights (for the latter) surrounding it. Then again, I didn’t think the Czech Republic would qualify last year, so I’ll prepare to stand corrected just in case. 4 points.

My mum says… This is a bit naff. It’s got a nice chorus and seems simple to sing along to, but I get the feeling two or three run-throughs would be enough for me to get bored of hearing it! Martina has an unusual voice – I wasn’t sure if it was a female or male voice at first, and I guess that makes things interesting. But the bottom line is that I won’t be too bothered if don’t hear her song again anytime soon. 4 points.

The Czech Republic’s score 4.00

 

 

My thoughts I’ll get right to the point on this one: if Koit and Laura’s duet accurately depicts what being lost in Verona is like, then drop me off there without access to Google Maps! I LOVE this song, just as much as Koit’s 1998 entry Mere Lapsed and a million times more than the weak-as-water Let’s Get Loud by Laura’s Suntribe in 2005. Verona seems to borrow sounds from three or four different decades – mostly the 1990s and the 2000s – which doesn’t leave it feeling super fresh, but the infectiousness of all of its elements, the instant hook and the fact that it wasn’t written in the traditional A-B-A-B-C-B song structure (the song is as lost as Koit and Laura, but in a good way that keeps you wondering where it’ll end up) wins me over anyway. It’s a little dated, but in a way that works – more nostalgic than stale. The singers themselves sound great together and when they’re doing their solo duties, but their chemistry leaves a bit to be desired. It might have been the Eesti Laul staging that was a little off, but I hope there’s not a Chanée and N’evergreen situation happening behind the scenes…or a reverse scenario in which Koit and Laura are great mates IRL, but can’t channel the necessary emotions to give an authentic, appropriately-tortured performance. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, because we haven’t (correct me if I’m wrong) seen a live version of Verona since it won the NF. It’s done well in the OGAE poll so far which makes me happy, but that’s not always a reliable indication of what will succeed in the actual show. Still, I think Estonia – after a shocking trip to Stockholm that saw Jüri Pootsmann finish last in the first semi – has the power to propel themselves into the final, and onto that sought-after left side of the scoreboard with this pairing. 10 points.

My mum says… Once I stopped wondering why ‘two silly boats in the sea’ had been considered a wise lyrical choice by Verona’s writers (after Jaz informed me that the lyric is ‘two SAILING boats’, which I must admit makes more sense) I started to enjoy Estonia’s entry. I wouldn’t say it’s fantastic, but I like the sound, the beat, and the way Koit and Laura’s voices complement each other. It’s definitely more than musical wallpaper, so I think it should do well in competition. 6 points.

Estonia’s score 8.00

 

 

My thoughts Let’s do the math: in the past two years, Germany has sent two absolute gems to Eurovision, only to f%*k up the staging of both (to different degrees) and fall utterly flat in the final. If that’s the way the universe is working, then by rights Levina’s Perfect Life should be staged flawlessly and be super-successful on the scoreboard…even though it’s a bit of a snoozefest. Of course, Deutschland could just as easily be heading for their third wooden spoon on the trot (undeserved in each case) which would mainly upset me because Levina seems like an awesome person whose (perfect) life should be filled with sunshine and rainbows and puppies. Plus, the girl can sing. It’s just too bad that the song she ended up winning Unser Song with is a non-event. It starts out as a Titanium homage – which teases you with the prospect of it turning into a proper dance banger – only to veer off into plod-along territory and stay there. It’s almost like Perfect Life doesn’t know what type of song it wants to be, so it’s ended up as a compromise between a ballad and a club track that’s too down-tempo to compete with other in-betweeners like Sweden and Macedonia. I can’t realistically see anyone picking up their phone and taking the time to vote for it, and I also don’t think it’s going to stand out as something spectacular that the juries would freak out about. That doesn’t bode well for Germany. They really need to find their groove again, or have a Belgium-style turnaround. Try it in 2018, okay? 6 points.

My mum says… This is more my style. I was mouthing the words of the chorus by the end, and when that happens without me even realising, I know I’ve found a favourite – or at least a song I wouldn’t change stations on if it came on the radio. Perfect Life is definitely radio-friendly. I like Levina’s voice and the lyrics, plus the fact that she’s obviously happy with her lot. I think many of  us could learn some lessons from her…or at least from whoever came up with the song’s concept. 7 points.

Germany’s score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts I think we know which country Georgia passed the bonkers baton on to after last year! Funnily enough, I’d probably be saying the same thing if Get Frighten had won in Lithuania. What we’ve got instead is less novelty but way more untamed, and it’s nothing like the Game of Thrones-inspired military march song I thought Fusedmarc would present me with, back before I heard Rain of Revolution for the first time (it just goes to show that you can’t judge a song by its title). I’m not even sure how to categorise this entry, which is almost a positive attribute when you consider how ‘different’ that makes it. Part electropop, part funk with a rocky edge, it’s not as offensive to me as it seems to be to most other Eurofans – I really like the beat and melody of everything leading up to the choruses, and the chorus itself has a pretty high sing-along factor. I also dug the staging of the song at Eurovizijos, and if they’ve decided to keep those visual effects for Eurovision, they’re sure to look epic on that LED-laden stage. But vocalist Viktorija lets a little too loose with her big notes, and that equals a messy listen (those screechy ‘YEAH YEAH’ bits being the main culprit). And it has to be said – by me, apparently – that she gives off some crazy vibes (in a psychotic, escaped mental patient sort of way, which ain’t ideal). The overall package is something that, once unwrapped, I wouldn’t try to return for store credit…but I can understand why other people would. So I’m safely predicting Rain of Revolution to go absolutely nowhere in its semi, which is a shame after Donny ‘Modern ESC Legend’ Montell did so well for Lithuania in 2016. 5 points.

My mum says… Lithuania’s taking us all back to the 80s whether we like it or not, by the (literal) sound of it. I’m not sure I do like it. Rain of Revolution is a song that seemed like it was going to become something better than what it began as, but it never did. I’ll give a few ticks of approval for the nostalgic feel and the energy of the beat, but that’s it. 5 points.

Lithuania’s score 5.00

 

 

My thoughts O-M-G3NE, I was excited when these ladies were announced as the Dutch reps for the year (as they’re JESC alums, I followed their Voice journey and have watched their audition for the show about 500 times). They’d been rumored before and their selection was bound to happen sooner or later, but I was happy to have it sooner. That, of course, was prior to Lights and Shadows being chosen and then released. So did I change my mind when it came out? Well, no…although I do think the trio have been saddled with a song that’s far too focused on being a vehicle for their voices rather than a current, competitive contest song. There’s a lot of emotion attached to O’G3NE’s entry because a) it was co-written by their father, and b) it was co-written by their father about their seriously ill mother. That should allow them to really feel what they’re singing rather than just parrot the lyrics pitch-perfectly, which they can do without trying anyway – their harmonies are incredible. However, heartstring-tugging aside, the song is a throwback with Wilson Phillips comparisons that won’t stop cropping up. IMO that’s not totally terrible, since I get a kick out of the rousing 90s feel of it. And even though it’s a very wordy song, I find it pretty easy to sing along to, and very catchy. It definitely stands out, and last but not least, we can bet on the performance being flawless, with the vocals being the shining beacon of jury bait. I just don’t know if it’s going to be a big success, a flop, or finish somewhere in between the two. I wanted O’G3NE to come strutting in to the contest with a surefire hit – i.e. a killer pop song circa 2017 (not 1997) that highlighted their vocal abilities without sacrificing musical fabulousness. I can’t say they’ve done that (DAMNIT!), but there’s a lot I do like about Lights and Shadows. And I’m still excited to have this girl band back in the Eurovision family. 7 points.

My mum says… Sigh. I could happily listen to these girls harmonising all day long. When they’re harmonising to Lights and Shadows, I instantly get the Wilson Phillips feelings that I’ve been told loads of others have too. There’s also a bit of B*Witched in here, making the song/singer combination very 90s indeed. That girl group style is one I usually enjoy, and this is no exception. Though I’d be surprised to hear something like it on the radio, I’d willingly play it again for my own listening pleasure. 10 points.

The Netherlands’ score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts Poland has been pretty hit-and-miss with me since they came back from their Eurovision vacation in 2014 (with a bang). There actually seems to be a pattern forming with my attitude towards their entries: My Słowianie, yes; In The Name of Love, not so much; Color of Your Life, yes. Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, let me cut to the chase: I’m not a huge fan of Flashlight. I had a favourite in the Polish NF that I thought had a better chance of winning (Isabell’s Swedish-written, Kygo-esque Voiceless, FYI) so Kasia took me by surprise when she won instead, with what’s a perfectly okay, gothic and melodramatic ballad. It’s just not the sort of ballad that rubs me up the right way. I feel like it would have fit in better at Kyiv in 2005, though it also reminds me of Lithuania’s Nomads in the Night which popped up three years later in Belgrade. I wish it reminded me more of Poland’s entry that year from Isis Gee, which IS the sort of ballad I prefer. Flashlight has a reasonable chorus – I wouldn’t call it catchy, however it does have some staying power – but I honestly can’t remember how any other part of it goes, and I’ve listened to it just as often as I’ve listened to the likes of Cyprus and Montenegro – two far more instant songs. It’s not memorable or modern enough for me, and I suspect for the contest in 2017 either. I wouldn’t give it zero chance of qualifying, because it might well go through…but if so, I expect it will die in the final. On the plus side, I’m guaranteed to love whatever Poland sends to Milan the as-yet-unidentified host city of Eurovision 2018. 5 points.

My mum says… It’s funny how something so dramatic can fall so flat! This didn’t do anything much for me, and I’m having trouble thinking of the melody too. It sounds like it’s trying to be something spectacular, but it never hits the heights to make that happen. Kasia’s voice is another great one that I’d say deserves a better song to show it off. 5 points.

Poland’s score 5.00

 

 

Aaaaand we’re done for the day! The ranking for this round of reviews looks like this:

  1. The Netherlands (8.5)
  2. Estonia (8.00)
  3. Germany (6.5)
  4. Poland (5.00)
  5. Lithuania (5.00)
  6. Czech Republic (4.00)

Forget two heads being better than one – three is obviously better than two, if O’G3NE’s win over Koit and Laura is any indication (though that was mainly my mum’s influence). You’ll have to hang around until all 42/43 (will I review Russia? I’m not sure at this point) songs have been crossed off the to-do list to find out which country will top our full ranking…and which one will bring up the rear. After that, Eurovision itself will decide whether terrible taste runs in my family or not.

Next time on Jaz Judges Eurovision 2017, I’m rolling out the red carpet for Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta and Switzerland. Drop by if you don’t want me to dance alone! And before that, as always, leave your thoughts + feelings on today’s reviews in the comments. Do you think the Netherlands will do the best out of this bunch in Kyiv, or does OGAE poll darling Estonia have the edge? Perhaps we’ll find ourselves in Prague next year and you’ll be saying ‘I told you so’. Let us know below!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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: 

  1. Slingshot by Lenna Kuurmaa
  2. In Or Out by Elina Born
  3. Everything But You by Carl-Philip
  4. Suur Ioterii by Ivo Linna
  5. Feel Me Now by Ariadne
  6. Supernatural by Uku Suviste
  7. Hey Kiddo by Laura Prits
  8. Have You Now by Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux feat. Maian
  9. Valan Pisaraid by Janno Reim & Kosmos
  10. 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?

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I doubt Elina will be pulling her hair in frustration after tonight…unless that’s how she celebrates too.

 

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. 

  1. A Million Years by Mariette
  2. Himmel Och Hav by Roger Pontare
  3. Up by Etzia
  4. Vart Haru Varit by Allyawan
  5. Hearts Align by Dismissed
  6. I Don’t Give A by Lisa Ajax
  7. Good Lovin’ by Benjamin Ingrosso

deltavling-2-melodifestivalen-2017-lyrics-performances

 

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.
benjamin-ingrosso-lyrics-text-good-lovin-melodifestivalen

His mum’s done Melfest four times, so I think fabulousness (and great hair) must be in his genes.

 

The rest

  • 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?

oe17

  1. Do It For Your Lover by Manel Navarro
  2. Ouch! by LeKlein
  3. Lo Que Nunca Fue by Paula Rojo
  4. Spin My Head by Mario Jefferson
  5. Momento Critico by Maika
  6. 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

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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)!

 

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REVIEWS | The EBJ Jury Judges Eurovision 2016 (Part 3)

It’s creeping ever closer, people! If you don’t know what I mean by ‘it’, then I have to question why you’re reading this blog. For those who do know, you’ll also be aware that the Eurovision 2016 stage is taking shape inside the Globe Arena, and that means more reviewing must be done before it resembles the diagrams we oohed and aahed over a little while ago. It’s still mostly scaffolding at this point – but there’s no time to waste! Let’s say hej to today’s judges, and to the countries they’ll be discussing in this third installment of reviews.

 

 TODAY’S EBJ JURORS
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By now, you guys should know where to meet and greet the EBJ Jury, so I won’t tell you again (well, maybe just one more time. Hint: scroll up!). James, Martin and myself are about to complement and criticise the life out of Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and San Marino – or, as I like to call them (because we’re all best buddies), Eneda, Jüri, Jamie-Lee, Donny, Douwe Bob and Serhat. Who’ll be our favourite, and will any country other than the predictable one be our LEAST favourite? Settle down with some popcorn and find out now!

 

 

Albania

James Okay, I feel like I’m going to be in the minority here when I say I actually think the revamp has improved Albania’s song this year…instrumentally, at least. Fairytale 2.0 sounds a lot more professional than Përrallë did – the only issue I have is that Eneda’s new vocal somehow sounds like she recorded it right after waking up from a three-hour nap, and quite fancied getting straight back to bed as soon as she was done. I’m hoping she really attacks it live because even with its lucky running order position, it’s gonna need a LOT of extra energy if it’s to stand ANY chance of making it to Saturday night. The English lyrics aren’t brilliant, I must admit, but that’s never been an issue in the past *cough, undo my sad, cough*. As a song though, I do enjoy listening to Fairytale, and the hook does stick with me. I’d be happy to see Albania in the final with this.

Martin Swapping from Albanian to English, along with losing forty-five seconds of the FiK version of Fairytale, is going to lead to yet another non-qualification for Albania – much in the same way as it did for Hersi in 2014. What was a powerful and passionate emotional rollercoaster with lots of interesting nuances in Tirana has now lost it all and become a repetitive low-key ballad that no longer holds my attention.

Jaz Albania seem to have forgotten fast that a fully-Albanian language entry gave them their best-ever Eurovision result. Obviously, it’s well within their rights to sing in whatever language they like – but I can’t help feeling that ANY language other than English would have helped Eneda’s Fairytale retain the mystery and intrigue that it initially had (and in doing so, you might say, made it a Fairytale with a happy ending). Like Martin, I can’t say that this song, in its English incarnation, is anything special – whereas it was when it was known as Përrallë. Language gripes aside, I still rate the gritty, rocky sound (and how it contrasts with Eneda’s/Kate Winslet’s ladylike styling), and the melody and construction of the choruses is still interesting (we’re rarely on the receiving end of cookie-cutter stuff from Albania). But, without the air of ‘Ooh, what’s this all about then?’ that the original version of the song created, I cannot see this qualifying. Not unless a handful of other countries stumble and fall flat on their faces, that is.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 5
  • Fraser 5
  • James 5
  • Jaz 6
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 2
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 8
  • Wolfgang 6

Albania’s EBJ Jury score is…5.33

 

 

Estonia 

James Aagh, Estonia. I genuinely still don’t know what I think of Play yet. It’s definitely one of the most original songs in this year’s line-up, and it’s fresh and relevant whilst oozing the kind of timeless classiness that Estonia are so good at of late. The thing I’m not so sure about is Jüri’s voice – if the song had been written a couple of semitones higher, it would be in a much more comfortable place for him. This is something I’m all too familiar with from trying to record covers myself – literally, if someone from his team could just whack the karaoke version into Audacity and change the pitch up a bit, everything would be fine! He still sings it perfectly well, of course, but there’s not a single point in the song where he has the chance to break out of that sludgy lower register and show off the full extent of his vocal capabilities, and the overall effect is far too dark, in my opinion. Yes, I know it’s MEANT to be like that, but I don’t think it really works. Especially live – the melody is so low that it blends in with the track and obscures a lot of the meaning, which is a shame since the lyrics are one of the song’s highlights. I still think it’s got a pretty good shot at qualifying, though, and it’s definitely going to stand out, one way or another.

Martin With a passing nod to the vocal style of Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy, Jüri brings chic and coolness to Eurovision with a very laid-back and confident performance, together with a song that builds nicely and has a memorable chorus. Play just lacks a ‘wow’ moment that would definitely confirm a final place, and a possible top half finish for Estonia. Because of that, this could be one of the ‘better’ casualties of this year’s semi finals.

Jaz Estonia has pulled a Latvia this year, selecting a song written by their 2015 representative to fly their flag (I’ll be swapping the countries around and saying the same thing about Latvia when the time comes). While I’d put Love Injected on par with Heartbeat in the ‘How freaking awesome is this?’ department, I’d actually rank Goodbye To Yesterday a little lower than Jüri’s Play. That’s not because I hate GTY (I don’t, although it never topped my rankings) but because I LOVE Play. Jüri + this song = a performance by a more well-groomed and more intense version of Hozier, and it is soaked with smoky retro sophistication. This kid (I can call him that since he’s younger than me and my mental age is akin to that of a teenager) might look angelic, but when he’s on stage, those of us watching him aren’t sure whether he wants to skin us alive or if he’s just really, really in the zone. I like the fact that he’s so ‘in character’ as he works his way through a song that literally hits all the notes that Bond-inspired vintage-vibe pop should. Of all the throwback songs that will be showing up in Stockholm this year (‘all’ meaning, like, three or four) this is the most well-executed IMO, and it almost serves as a prequel – or sequel, depending on how the listener writes the story – to GTY, as an added bonus. Though I doubt Jüri will squeeze out a single tear á la Elina Born at Eurovision, I don’t doubt his ability to take Stig’s song to the final…and perhaps secure Estonia another top 10 result as well.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 12
  • Fraser 6
  • James 5
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 7
  • Nick 4
  • Penny 8
  • Rory 6
  • Wolfgang 5

Estonia’s EBJ Jury score is…7

 

 

Germany

James I should absolutely adore this. It’s got that modern synth-pop sound with a waif-like female lead vocal, which I usually really dig…but something about Ghost just doesn’t click with me. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments – I like the bridge, for example, and the chords in the ‘lonely in a crowded room together’ line. But on the whole, that chorus is such an anti-climax, isn’t it (please say somebody agrees with me?). It’s still a decent enough song, but I guess I just feel a bit miffed every time I hear it because I feel like it could have been soooooo much better! I hope it grows on me, and it probably will when I get the CD and actually let myself play all the songs to within an inch of their lives…but until then, it’s mid-table at best for me. Sorry, Germany.

Martin Melancholic lyrics, an atmospheric score and hauntingly powerful vocals were all at odds with the visual package of an 18-year-old girl obsessed with manga outfits! ‘The Voice of Germany’ was totally the focus of the national final performance of Ghost and rightly so. Jamie-Lee’s simple but sublime delivery of this entry could be the sleeper hit this year in Stockholm. One of my favourites – it’s my number 4 at this stage.

Jaz I don’t want to get overly-attached to Jamie-Lee and her Ghost, given what happened in the wake of me latching on to Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke (I’m beginning to think I’m a bad luck charm). But…this song is brilliant! Hashtag fail on the ‘keep your distance’ thing! I’m no musical expert – which you may find hard to believe – but I think that technically-speaking, this is one of the best songs competing in this year’s contest. The background music is almost church hymn-like, which adds a pleading but accepting tone to the words pouring out of Jamie’s mouth; while the steady beat makes the whole thing hypnotic. As a package, the music and lyrics are fresh and edgy, and Eurovision needs those adjectives. However, what we see rather than hear is where Germany has gone wrong. I know Jamie-Lee loves her K-pop and her Harajuku-inspired outfits (in other words, Gwen Stefani would adore her) – but not only does her choice of costume detract from a song it just isn’t suitable for, it also makes for a jarring combination of a mature, emotionally-charged song being performed by someone who looks distinctly Junior Eurovision, and therefore far too young to have an understanding of what she’s singing about. Jamie, sans stuffed-toy-covered wardrobe, does have the maturity required to pull this off despite her young age, and her vocal talents are undeniable. But dressing the way she does, she’d be better off joining Dolly Style when one of their current members inevitably departs, or performing a song that is as fun, cute and playful as she looks. To people not named Jaz, the contrast between Ghost and Jamie’s sartorial selections might make her stand out positively from her 25 fellow finalists – but I think, as much as I admire her passion for and loyalty to her look, keeping it for Eurovision is a big risk. I do love the song though…

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 8
  • Fraser 5
  • James 5
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 10
  • Nick 12
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 4
  • Wolfgang 10

Germany’s EBJ Jury score is…7.78

 

 

Lithuania

James Okay, yes, this has ‘Melfest Reject’ written all over it, but you know what? I don’t mind at all. One thing I really look for in Eurovision now is relevance. As I’m hosting a Eurovision party for all my non-fan friends, I get really excited when there are songs that sound like they’d fit right into the UK charts or radio playlists right now, because then I can point at the screen and go ‘SEE? EUROVISION’S NOT SHIT!’ and smile smugly as all my friends listen and can’t help but agree, because songs like Lithuania’s match their own tastes and would do so well if released by someone more well-known over here. So yeah, well done Lithuania! Ever since Attention, which I ADORED, they’ve really upped their game at Eurovision, and I’m enjoying their commitment to giving Europe the very best that their country can offer! Another thing though – have you heard any of Donny’s more recent music? Because damn, boy, he’s so much better now than when he sang that god-awful thing at the ESC in 2012! He’s got a really slick Troye Sivan/The Weeknd kind of vibe going on (think Aminata/Loïc Nottet if you want a contest reference) and it really suits his voice and style. I sort of wish he’d entered something more like that for Eurovision, but meh – I’ve Been Waiting… is more than good enough as it is!

Martin Donny gives this entry everything – it’s definitely memorable, it’s a standout high-tempo pop song that is performed superbly well, and it makes full use of his onstage charisma and good looks. Is the song’s title also a good omen for Lithuania? Donny could well be singing ‘I’ve been waiting for this night’ over the credits of the Eurovision final as his country’s first winner.

Jaz How does a pasty, preppy dude whose hobbies include strumming an imaginary guitar and wearing comical bejeweled blindfolds transform into a buff, bronzed and blonde (for the most part) crowd-captivator? Why not ask Donny Montell? He’s done just that between 2012 and 2016. Don’t get me wrong – Love Is Blind was the bomb, and Donny has always been a showman and a half, who can dance and sing simultaneously to a degree that probably makes Eric Saade very depressed indeed. But it’s great to see that Donny has evolved as an artist, and that he didn’t try to make an ESC comeback by repeating his approach of four years ago. I’ve Been Waiting For This Night is a bog-standard dance anthem, but the catchy chorus coupled with Donny’s charisma elevate it to above-average. Not since Kurt Calleja’s This Is The Night have we witnessed an entry that sets the tone for the show so perfectly (although Tonight Again did a darn good job of that in Vienna, I must say). Needless to say, the Globen audience (which will include me!), plus everyone watching on TV will be partying it up-up-up-up-up-uuup Loreen-style thanks to Lithuania. I am expecting them to qualify, and I will be complaining very loudly if they don’t. Oh, and I’ll also be starting a petition to get Donny to drop the Anglicised stage name and revert back to his much cooler birth name. ‘Donny’ worked with Love Is Blind. ‘Donatas’ is the artist IBWFTN deserves.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 3
  • Fraser 10
  • James 6
  • Jaz 8
  • Martin 8
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 3
  • Wolfgang 10

Lithuania’s EBJ Jury score is…6.55

 

 Netherlands 

James Anyone who knows me will know that I absolutely love Calm After The Storm. So I guess when we worked out that by sending Douwe Bob, The Netherlands were going to be trying country music again, I was cautiously optimistic. And then I heard the song. Yeah, no. It’s the kind of thing that would only feel at home around the track 12 mark on disc two of some cheap ‘Driving Anthems’ compilation: the kind my Dad would play on long car journeys circa 2004. As a result, Slow Down just makes me think of those car journeys as a kid and I get a weird second-hand travel-sickness from it and…yeah, I just really don’t like it. The chord pattern, the instrumentation, the tone of the whole thing – it’s supposed to make you feel happy, but by the third line I just want to Sellotape Bob’s smug little mouth shut so he ‘can’t go on’ (see what I did there? Eh, eh?). Can I just stop listening to this and go listen to Calm After The Storm again instead please? That was such a special song. This is not.

Martin Country & western returns to Eurovision courtesy of the Netherlands yet again – it’s always about the lyrics, as this genre can sound like every other C & W track you’ve ever heard. Slow Down is well sung, and Douwe Bob is personable and handsome…but the steady pace and sound of the song won’t stand out in Stockholm. Another possible ‘good’ non-qualifier for me.

Jaz I have to agree with both James and Martin on this one, in terms of the fact that Douwe Bob’s Slow Down is achingly average – and it certainly doesn’t recapture the magic of Calm After The Storm (though you can’t blame the Netherlands for trying to in the wake of the Trijntje incident). The song’s not bad (we’ll come to one that is almost undeniably so in a minute). But, as much as I enjoy the cruisy pace and general jauntiness of it, plus Bob’s insistence that we chillax bro – and his vocal, which is super-smooth with a rough retro edge that I find strangely attractive – the entry as a whole just doesn’t ‘do’ much for me. Therefore, I have no choice but to file it away with the likes of Finland and the Czech Republic. I can’t imagine that the staging for this will be epic enough to make Douwe Bob the second coming of the Common Linnets, because even on its own, their song had the x-factor. Still, he should serve us up a nice, clap-friendly three minutes on stage (and if he lets that rose tattoo poke out of his shirt, you may hear me wolf-whistling amidst the applause). That should at least ensure that he won’t be bottom of his semi. Qualification isn’t out of his reach, but it’s definitely not in the bag.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 7
  • Fraser 6
  • James 3
  • Jaz 6
  • Martin 7
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 10
  • Rory 3
  • Wolfgang 3

The Netherlands’ EBJ Jury score is…5.55

 

 

San Marino

James Okay…is this a joke? Like, genuinely, I hope this is a joke, because if not, it’s just plain embarrassing. I cannot comprehend how one country can send so many palpably half-arsed entries in such a short space of time. I completely understand that San Marino are strapped for cash, and since Ralph Siegel has stopped bankrolling their entire Eurovision operation (hallelujah!) they’ve adopted the approach of nominating artists who can pay their own participation fee. So that essentially means they’ve got the pick of, oh, I don’t know, EVERY SLIGHTLY RICH ARTIST IN THE ENTIRE CONTINENT – hey, actually no, THE ENTIRE WORLD…and they’ve sent THIS. Was this really the best they could do? The original was dire, but by trying to squash Serhat’s badly-written, cringey, lopsided spoken words (that is not singing. I’m sorry, but no) into a DISCO TRACK, they’ve somehow managed to make it even worse. The beat itself, well, erm, Baccara called and they want that back ASAP. But dear lord, Serhat’s voice is the most grating thing in the entire Stockholm line-up! My dog has a bigger vocal range than he does. I’d literally rather spend three minutes listening to her barking right in my ear for her daily Dentastick, and deal with the copious amount of drool that accompanies such a request, than listen to any track with Serhat’s voice on it. Look at his face and then Google the troll face, and tell me they’re not distant cousins at the very least. This HAS to be a pisstake, right? It goes without saying that they haven’t got a hope in hell of qualifying, and if they do – ESPECIALLY if they take the place of someone like Gabriela from the Czech Republic – then there is something very, very wrong with this contest. Come on, San Marino. Sort yourselves out for next year, I beg you!

Martin The Turkish Leonard Cohen meets Studio 54! What would have been a very creepy monotone delivery of a set of ‘obsessive’ lyrics by Serhat is now tempered by some decent female backing, and the light and breezy disco beat that somehow makes this work. I Didn’t Know isn’t great (that’s an understatement!) but at least it’s now bearable to listen to. And, it’s no longer my worst entry this year (just).

Jaz I’ll be honest, and I think many of you will agree with me on this: I’ve never had particularly high expectations of San Marino’s Eurovision entries. Whether they’ve been armed with Siegel’s stash of cash or not, I’ve never been on the edge of my seat waiting for them to produce something on par with an Italian effort (I’m not a Valentina Monetta fan either, which doesn’t help). Even so, the sheer awfulness of I Didn’t Know has sent my jaw straight to the floor countless times since it was unveiled in its original, non-disco form. Like James, I was sure San Marino were trolling us when they presented the song to the public – how else could you explain the so-stale-it-was-growing-stuff track that sounded more like a recording of an audio book gone wrong than a song, or the laughable accompanying video clip that could have been lifted from an SNL sketch? But sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, I Didn’t Know was given the Donna Summer treatment, and OH DEAR GOD. This is what media outlets and non-fans will latch on to when they want to make a mockery of the contest. They won’t ignore it in favour of discussing Latvia or France – they’ll zone directly in on Serhat and his Seventies nightmare (thanks a lot, San Marino/Turkey). Based superficially on his appearance, I had hoped for a trumpet-backed, updated version of Mambo No. 5 from this guy, which would have been a bit of fun. But what we got instead more closely resembles something you’d step in by mistake at the local dog park. In the words of His Majesty Michele Perniola (whose 2015 entry is suddenly sounding like musical genius by comparison), NO. 

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 8
  • Fraser 5
  • James 0
  • Jaz 1
  • Martin 4
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 2
  • Rory 1
  • Wolfgang 0

San Marino’s EBJ Jury score is…2.44

 

 

Duh duh duh…another six bite the dust! This third round of reviews has produced the lowest-scoring set of songs so far – but it did include San Marino, so we should have anticipated that. Here’s today’s top six: 

  1. Germany (7.78)
  2. Estonia (7)
  3. Lithuania (6.55)
  4. The Netherlands (5.55)
  5. Albania (5.33)
  6. San Marino (2.44)

I tip my hat (the hat I’m not actually wearing) to Jamie-Lee Kriewitz for taking out the top spot on this occasion. You go, girlfriend. Where will she finish in the grand scheme of the EBJ Jury’s Top 43? We’ll all find out in a few weeks’ time.

Coming up, two Eurofans from the US of A will join me to pass judgment on Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Denmark, Montenegro and Spain. There’s bound to be some hits and misses among them, so make sure you drop by to witness the humorous differences of opinion (it’s always amusing when someone rips a song to shreds and someone else takes offence and they have an argument which results in the destruction of a longtime friendship, don’t you think?).

Sense the sarcasm, guys.

While you’re waiting for me to hit publish on that post, let the EBJ Jury know what you think of today’s tracks. Does Germany’s Ghost get you going, or will it just get you going to the kitchen to put the kettle on? Is San Marino’s sixth place deserved or totally uncalled for? Comment and score these songs for yourself down below – we’d all love to hear from you!

 

Until next time,

 

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3, 2, 1…60! My first semi-final predictions (plus an updated pre-ESC Top 40)

There’s only one way to sum up how I’m feeling right now.

emae

As I write these words, the first semi final of Eurovision 2015 is mere hours away, with the jury semi already over. It genuinely feels like I was saying the same thing about Eurovision 2014 about a month ago. I don’t know about time being like thunder, but it sure moves freaking fast!

Pushing that frightening thought aside, I can tell you that I am more excited to set my alarm for 2.30am Wednesday than I ever thought I could be. I won’t tell you a whole lot more before I get into my predictions for the first semi, because I’ve still got flags to plaster all over my living room and show snacks to send someone else out to buy for me (because I’m too hyped-up to be let out in public).

A two-part disclaimer re: this post’s predictions, which cover the results, possible jaw-droppers and general other Eurovisiony occurrences:

  • You may or may not be aware that my foresight is dreadful. Unless something is blatantly obvious, I will rarely see it coming (just check out my 2014 prediction post if you want proof. So please make allowances for this when you’re checking out my thoughts.
  • You also may or may not be aware that I NEVER watch the Eurovision rehearsals – nor have I listened to any of this year’s entries for about seven weeks. I have my reasons for this, but the former does make it very hard to guess what’s going to happen. My predictions are based on what I’ve heard about the run-throughs, and the few photos I’ve seen so far.

I think that’s all I need to gab on about for now, so let’s dive in to my amateurish assumptions regarding the outcome of semi final numero uno!

PS – I’ve also taken the liberty of letting you know who I’m voting for, as I support my favourites for the very first time. If you want to throw stuff at me after reading that bit, you’ll need to have quite the arm. I know my next-door neighbours, and you’re not any of them.

 

sf1pred

The running order

Moldova, Armenia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Estonia, FYR Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Belarus,  Russia, Denmark, Albania, Romania and Georgia.

I’m fairly confident that I’ve predicted this correctly. Then again, this is ME we’re talking about *checks the appropriate Wikipedia page for the 127th time just to be sure*.


The results

My top 10 prediction

Because making a fool of myself by listing qualifiers randomly isn’t enough.

  1. Russia
  2. Estonia
  3. Georgia
  4. Belgium
  5. Armenia
  6. Greece
  7. Romania
  8. Denmark
  9. Hungary
  10. Albania

I don’t want to accept this – purely because the song’s not up there with my favourites – but Russia has pulled off one perfect rehearsal after another, if the reactions of the press are to be believed. In this semi, Polina has the potential to be a formidable force.

russia

Polina doesn’t want coloured powder thrown at her tonight – she wants your votes. And it’s highly likely she’ll get them.

I’m not convinced Estonia still has the steam to come out on top here, but they should do well anyway.

I desperately want Belgium to get through, and I think they will. But as what they’ve chosen to put on stage has divided observers, I don’t think Loïc will come too close to winning the semi.

I had Armenia down as a DNQ when their live performance was a question mark, but it seems they’ve managed not to transfer the chaos from the studio version of Don’t Deny Face The Shadow to the live version. The power of all those personalities and voices, plus a decent stage show, should see them qualify safely.

Greece is, well, Greece. One Last Breath may be a bore, but I hear they’ve staged it well, and Maria Elena is great at what she does – impersonating Céline Dion. Not so great, however, that she’ll end up mimicking Switzerland’s 1988 victory or anything.

Since they’ve been so successful in the years post-comeback, it’s hard to imagine a final without Hungary in it. Boggie is a borderline qualifier as far as I’m concerned, but I’m putting her down as a finalist because a) to reference The Common Linnets, she’ll be the calm after Serbia’s storm, and that in itself could be arresting; and b) the juries will lap her song up like its water and they’ve just been wandering through the desert sans liquid for a week. The Aussie jury in particular is on the hunt for a ‘social cause’ (bleurgh) and Wars For Nothing is nothing (like the wars) if not that.

I feel like Albania will slip in to the top 10, but just. Serbia has the potential to snatch that 10th spot though.

 

My fantasy top 10

A.k.a. the result we’ll never get in a million years, unless I happen to become all-powerful within the next few hours.

  1. Belgium
  2. Romania
  3. FYR Macedonia
  4. Moldova
  5. Estonia
  6. Georgia
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Belarus
  9. Denmark
  10. Russia

Go on, have a good old laugh about this. I know it’s wishful thinking of the most ridiculous kind.

 

My bottom six prediction 11. Serbia, 12. The Netherlands, 13. Finland, 14. Belarus, 15. Moldova, 16. FYR Macedonia

Bojana’s voice and presence for Serbia – plus the last thirty seconds of Beauty Never Lies – could carry her through, but Elhaida Dani also has a big voice and a more consistent, cohesive song. Hence I’m bumping Serbia into ‘close, but no cigar (or Saturday night)’ territory.

Trijntje has swapped her boob-baring gown for something more demure and less MY EYES, MY EYES!! But I reckon she’ll struggle nonetheless.

nether

‘What did you say about my stylist running with scissors?’

Finland could sail through, but I’m not convinced people’s heads will stop reeling in time to decide whether they liked Aina Mun Pitää or not. I’m intrigued to see how it does jury-wise.

I was going to tip the sleazefest that is Moldova to advance, having had a gut feeling that Eduard might scrape through for a while now. After all, last year’s rather sleazy (and cheesy) Belarusian Cheesecake had no trouble getting out of its semi. And the fact that Moldova are not incorporating hair removal into their choreography this year bodes well. But now I’m ignoring my gut (probably a mistake) and falling in line with the crowd who think the Moldovan package is trash dressed up in trampy police outfits. Please note that if they do qualify, I will say ‘I told you so!’ even though I technically didn’t.

 

If there’s a shock result…because there’s always something I don’t see coming, no matter how hard I try to see it beforehand. In the case of semi one, the shocker could be a country with a 100% qualification record losing that record – I’m referring to Greece or Romania, as I’ll choke on my kvass if Russia trips up in this department. I’m not saying this IS going to happen – as you’ve seen from my predictions above, I don’t think that’s the case at all.

But but but, if a gasp-worthy outcome is on the cards, there is a chance it could.  Neither Greece nor Romania have sent songs that scream ‘qualifier!’, for different reasons – Greece because it’s a prehistoric ballad, Romania because it’s understated (it’s hard to believe Voltaj are representing the same country that gave us angle grinding, round pianos and Cezar). But, by the media’s reckoning, both One Last Breath and De La Capăt have been well-staged and performed during rehearsals, and even if they hadn’t been, one or neither advancing would equal much drama and debate, methinks.

How about this: what if Finland win the first semi? If PKN made it to the final, that in itself wouldn’t make my eyes bug out of my head. But if I later found out they’d topped it, well…then my eyeballs would know no bounds.

My third and final jaw-on-the-floor moment would involve FYR Macedonia qualifying. I am Beyoncé-level crazy in love with Autumn Leaves, but it was always a song on the fence in terms of qualification. Now Daniel’s rehearsed and things have (apparently) been particularly beige and not particularly cohesive, I’m fearing the worst. Therefore, if he does manage to nab the 9th or 10th spot post-voting, I will be flabbergasted. Flabbergasted in a hysterically happy kind of way (i.e. I will alternate between collapsing on the floor clutching my chest, and moonwalking up and down my hallway).

 

Who’s most likely to…

…get the biggest round of applause? Serbia and Russia.

Serbia has one of the only up-tempo songs in this semi at their disposal – at least for the final stretch of their three minutes – and Bojana will have a big, triumphant finish that I’m sure the fans in the Stadthalle will go crazy over. I would, if I was there (can you hear the sound of my heart breaking?) even though Beauty Never Lies is literally my least favourite entry right now, as you’ll see when I unveil my updated Top 40 below. Curse that painful English version that’s cheesier than a wheel of Switzerland’s finest!

ser

Craploads of silver material? Check. Flags? Check. White snuggies with built-in neck braces? Check.

And, to answer the question I know you have in mind – no, I don’t think Russia’s going to get booed this year. Polina is so angelic, and by all accounts, her performance is so on point, that I will be surprised if anyone in the audience lets loose with a big, fat, B-O-O.

 

…sing best live? Genealogy, Loïc Nottet, Maria Elena Kyriakou, Polina Gagarina, Elhaida Dani…I could go on.

There is a wealth of wonderful singers in the Viennese lineup, but in terms of the live voices I’m most enthusiastic to hear in action, I’ll be waiting for Genealogy, Loïc and Polina.

 

…sing worst live? Moldova.

Let’s not pretend otherwise. I don’t know how far Eduard has come since his woeful-yet-winning NF performance, but he won’t stand up vocally next to…well, more or less ALL of the singers taking to the stage after him. Fortunately, I Want Your Love isn’t an LLB (lame lady ballad, in case you’re new and don’t know that’s a thing now) that relies on a stunning vocal to elevate it. Nothing is going to retrieve this from the trash chute, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

…make the best use of the background? Romania.

I predict this because, singing mostly in Romanian, Voltaj need to use the visuals as much as possible to convey their message to those of us who don’t understand Romanian and/or who don’t already know the story of the song. I believe they’re making a good attempt at that.

 

…have the most boring stage show? The Netherlands, Hungary and Denmark.

I know not every country can have men in hamster wheels rolling around among giant wooden horses trapped in glass boxes, while rainbow sparks rain down and the wind machine is switched up to MAX, and then the wind blows some of the rainbow sparks into the audience and someone’s flag catches fire, and then the stadium starts burning and everyone has to evacuate, and the stadium ends up as a pile of black rubble littered with smoking cardboard cut-outs of Nina Sublatti.

Ahem. My point is, it’s unnecessary for every performance to have bells and whistles attached. It’s unlikely that Trijntje, Boggie or Anti Social Media are going to do anything but stand still and sing and pretend to play their instruments. There might be a bit of walking around involved, but that’ll be it. ASSUMPTION ALERT!!!

 

…have the best costume/? Georgia.

I’m cheating here, as I have seen Nina’s getup – a badass version of Maja Keuc’s leather-and-metallic look from Düsseldorf. Or perhaps the new-and-improved edition of Molly Smitten-Downes’ backup singers’ costumes. Either way, it’s perfection.

georgia

Nina, ready to take flight and land on a scarecrow straight after her performance.

 …have the worst costume/s? The Netherlands.

Yes, Trijntje (how did I end up having to type that name so many times during this post?) has changed her dress, thank the Lordi. But we can’t just forget about the original ensemble that looked like it had been personally designed for her by Freddy Krueger. And what’s with the veil? This is Eurovision, not Derby Day at the races. Or a funeral, for that matter.

 

So, where are my votes going?

Having been given the chance to vote in Eurovision for the first (and “only”) time, I’m not going to waste it. I’ll reveal to you now in list form who I’m supporting, so you can blame me if X country goes through against your wishes, and so I can refer back to it at 4.30 tomorrow morning when I’m too delirious to remember who I wanted to vote for.

This list aligns with the aforementioned fantasy top 10, but I’m saving my votes for the first five countries on it: Belgium, Romania, FYR Macedonia, Moldova and (possibly) Estonia. I say ‘(possibly) Estonia’ because I’m not as attached to Goodbye To Yesterday as I am to the other four songs. Plus, I don’t think Stig & Elina need my help as much as the others do.

 

Last but not least, it’s ranking time! 

It’s tradition to revise one’s Top 40 just before the contest kicks off…isn’t it? I’m gonna say it is. And so, I present to you my updated pre-ESC ranking, with numeric proof of how much it’s changed over the last few months.

tfu

Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

And with that out-of-place Taylor Swift reference, I pronounce this post over, ladies and gents! I can’t wait to join y’all for the first semi final, watching live and – if you’re a fellow Australian, or if you’ve just never bothered to vote before – voting for the first time.

I probably won’t be taking to social media during the show, because I want to focus 110% on what’s happening on my TV screen (the voting period excepted, of course) so this is peace out from me until we have our first ten finalists. Besides the seven already booked in to Saturday night. You know what I mean. I’ll be back before semi two to review the performances and results of semi one, and make some more unreliable predictions. Yay?

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoy the show…unless you’re in Vienna and are attending the contest, in which case I hope you have a horrible time (though I’ll retract that if you promise to send me a postcard and/or a lock of Måns Zelmerlöw’s chest hair). Let me know below what your plans are for the evening/afternoon/morning (bloody time zones!) plus your predictions for this first Eurovision 2015 installment. Who’s going through and who’s going home? Place your bets now.

 

See you on the other side of the semi!

 

nsig

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 7)

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

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

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

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

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv9

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

Visit Nick’s Eurovision blog here.

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

FINLAND

Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät

Finland

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

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

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

EBJ Jury Score: 2.67

 

 

SAN MARINO

Chain of Lights by Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini

San Marino

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

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

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

EBJ Jury Score: 2.33

 

 

DENMARK

The Way You Are by Anti Social Media

Denmark

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

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

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

EBJ Jury Score: 4.67

 

 

ESTONIA

Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa

Estonia

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

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

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

EBJ Jury Score: 7.00

 

 

GREECE

One Last Breath by Maria Elena Kyriakou

Greece

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

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

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

EBJ Jury Score: 3.00

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Until next time…

nsig

 

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

 

EBJ’s top 10…national finalists of the 2014 season (plus a playlist of extras!)

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!

 

Discussing, predicting and March-ing on with another Super Saturday!

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.

The horror of the one time I watched this performance will never leave me.

The horror of the one time I watched this performance will never leave me.

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.  

  1. Laule Täis Taevakaar by Brigita Murutar
  2. Für Elise by Traffic
  3. Search by Norman Salumäe
  4. Resignal by Wilhelm
  5. Supernoova by Lenna
  6. Maybe-Maybe by Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band
  7. Siin Või Sealpool Maad by Maiken
  8. Tule Ja Jää by Kõrsikud
  9. Amazing by Tanja
  10. 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:

  1. Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
  2. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  3. Love Trigger by J.E.M
  4. All We Are by State of Drama
  5. En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
  6. När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
  7. Survivor by Helena Paparizou
  8. 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: 

  1. Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
  2. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  3. Love Trigger by J.E.M
  4. All We Are by State of Drama
  5. En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
  6. När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
  7. Survivor by Helena Paparizou (sorry, Helena fans…I just have this feeling)
  8. Echo by Outtrigger
I think AC could be the end of the line for Helena.

I think AC could be the end of the line for Helena.

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.
It's not hard to tell which one of them wants the moustache...

It’s not hard to tell which one of them wants the moustache…

 

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?

EBJ Signature

 

Malmö Reviews | Part 2 (Estonia-Italy)

Happy Friday, ladies and gents! You may have noticed that I’ve redecorated EBJ since your last visit. I’m now officially Sweden-ised, feeling festive and ready to paarrtaaaay *insert visualisations of streamers flying every which way here*. And it’s about time too – it is May, a.k.a. Eurovision Month, and this IS the second episode of my Malmö Reviews. Gee whiz.

So now’s the time to prepare yourself for my verdicts on Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel AND Italy (#outofbreath) because here they are. Oh, and stay tuned to see my rankings of these entries (and to show me yours).

 

ESTONIA

Et Uus Saaks Alguse by Birgit Õigemeel

Estonia13Sounds like: Nótt by Yohanna

IMO: We can debate until the cows come home about Estonia choosing Birgit The Safe Option over the scary hairy dudes and the amazing Grete Paia, but the reality is, Birgit is the one going to Malmö, and she’s taking her diet Kuula with her. Diet Kuula? Geddit? Not so much? Well, my point is that it’s another year and we have another Estonian ballad – but unlike last year’s, which was mesmerising in so many ways (and had a lot of drama and power) this one’s kind of bland. I’ll put it this way: Kuula was, to me, all 31 of Baskin-Robbins’ ice-cream flavours combined in one sundae, with lashings of hot fudge sauce and sprinkles. Et Uus is 97% fat-free vanilla frozen yoghurt. Having said all of that and convincing you that I detest Birgit’s ballad, I actually don’t. It’s pleasant, and I enjoy listening to it. But that’s all. It’s three minutes of niceness, with no real hook or crescendo.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.

 

FINLAND

Marry Me by Krista Siegfrids  

Finland13Best lyric: ‘I don’t think there are no ladies who will give you cuter babies.’

IMO: I did not like this song when I first heard a snippet via a recap of all the UMK finalists. Then I heard the full version after it won, and fell in love with it (I probably would have married Krista at that point). THEN, it started to get on my nerves a little bit. So where am I now? Somewhere in-between enjoying it, and being annoyed by it, that’s where. As much as I loved the Finnish entry last year, it’s nice to have something as brash and fun from Finland as När Jag Blundar was sweet and subdued. Everything about this is loud, from the punchy chorus to the bridal party’s outfits, and I’m glad for that. What would be the point in toning down an entry like this, one that could pass as a Katy Perry B-side? It’s not the OTT-ness that irritates me; in fact, I can’t put my finger on exactly what is responsible for that (Krista’s constant demand for me to put a ring on it, perhaps). But I guess I can settle for a love-hate relationship with Marry Me. That should prepare me for a real marriage, right?

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

FRANCE

L’enfer Et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois

France13Sounds like: Rolling In The Deep by Adele  

IMO: Can I picture Amandine performing this in a smoky, slightly sleazy underground club in Paris, wearing a feather boa and not much else? Oui oui. It is trés French, or at least very stereotypically French – classy, chic, a little bit retro and a little bit seedy. This is just the kind of thing that, besides the Harlem Shake and dance anthems that all sound exactly the same, the global music charts are full of right now, in the wake of the aforementioned Adele. I’m not the biggest fan of this style of music myself, but this particular song has its charms. The French language has never sounded better for starters, and despite the slow tempo, it uses the three minutes well to build into something interesting. All in all, it’s better than what I was expecting, and it’s more instant than Anggun’s entry last year. But it’s not right up there with the best of 2013 pour moi . PS – apologies for all the primary school French I crammed into this paragraph.   

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

GEORGIA

Waterfall by Sophie & Nodi

Georgia13Better than 2012: Yes

IMO: I’d never tried Georgian cheese before this, and now I have I can say that it’s not too bad. Certainly not as overpowering as Russian cheese, if you know what I mean. Waterfall (the cheese in question) is another cliché-ridden ballad from reigning ESC champ Thomas G:son, with lyrics you can see coming from a continent away even with a Donny Montell-brand blindfold on. It seems to have been written expressly for suckers who can’t help feeling buoyed by that chorus, and that money note, even though they know full well the whole thing is contrived and unoriginal. Suckers like me. But with the inevitable floaty dress for Sophie, well-timed pyrotechnics and flawless vocals the duo will provide (I’m thinking it must be illegal in Georgia to be a bad singer) the other ballads better watch out. Some say this could be a dark horse to win, and as someone who’d love to witness a Georgian Eurovision, I could come to terms with that.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

GERMANY

Glorious by Cascada

Germany13Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: The German national final was über strong this year, but it was always going to be Cascada’s to lose. I’m glad they didn’t, because they were the best pick for another Eurovision success for Germany. Glorious is straight-up dance, which is what Cascada is known for, and it is genuinely glorious (lacking the irony of one of their previous hits Evacuate The Dancefloor, which was clearly constructed to ensure the dancefloor would be packed) if familiar, what with the Euphoria plagiarism claims and all. But that’s just dance music. This is just the kind of infectious number that will lift the roof off Malmö Arena in a way no other entry of 2013 can, so I hope Natalie and her DJs are prepared to pay for damages. I also hope Glorious doesn’t bomb against the odds. It’s having a hard time contesting Denmark and Ukraine and the like as a favourite to win, but if all goes according to plan it should hit the highs of the top 10, which is nothing to be sneezed at. Side note: can someone please come to my house and surgically remove the German flag from my hand when the final is over? I’m gonna be gripping that real tight.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!

 

GREECE

Alcohol Is Free by Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis  

Greece13Sounds like: For Real by Athena

IMO: Greece, Greece, Greece – you’ve done it again. This country can barely afford to post a letter to Malmö, let alone send a troupe of kilt-wearing rockers and Agathonas of the Impressive Moustache there direct. Yet that’s what they’re doing, and it will undoubtedly keep up their 100% qualification record. Alcohol Is Free is a breath of fresh air after the incredibly clichéd Aphrodisiac, and has a better shot at getting Greece back into the top 10. I’m not totally backing it, as there are plenty of entries I’d rather root for; however I do think it’s a lot of fun, and an up-tempo song that uses traditional instruments usually gets my tick of approval. It was a good idea to have the title in English, and then have that title make up the entire chorus. Even though alcohol isn’t free anywhere that I know of, 99% of us will be unable to resist chanting ‘alcohol, alcohol, alcohol is freeeeee’ in time with the guys. Scientific fact. The 1% that don’t will be unconscious from consuming too much “free” alcohol.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

HUNGARY

Kedvesem by ByeAlex 

Hungary13Better than 2012: Yes

IMO: It could happen anytime, anywhere, with anything or anyone. You don’t know it’s going to until it does, and then BAM! You’re a goner. No, I’m not talking about being hit by a bus. I’m talking about falling in love, because I am officially head-over-heels for the Hungarian entry this year…and believe me, I did NOT see it coming. There’s something about this humble little song that gets me every time, and there’s nothing forced or sugary about it. I think Hungarian is beautiful and mysterious when set to music (especially if you don’t bother to Google a lyric translation) so that’s part of it. The extra punch given by the Zoohacker remix was much appreciated also. It’s an enigma, Kedvesem. I’m not 110% sure why I adore it, but I just do. They say you know when you know, and I know, so that’s enough! It’s just unfortunate that my favourite Hungarian entry since they rejoined the contest in 2011 is also the least likely to qualify. I wouldn’t care if it came last in the final. Just to see it get to Saturday night would be a major highlight. Make it happen, my European friends.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!

 

ICELAND

Ég á Líf  by Eythor Ingi  

Iceland13Sounds like: the Icelandic national anthem

IMO: This wasn’t the most exciting song Iceland could have chosen, but there is something special about it. It could be that Eythor chose to keep it in Icelandic, which is another mysterious musical language. Big ups for that, because the switch from Icelandic to English in recent years has been a huge mistake. It could also be that anthemic quality that gets me feeling all patriotic and emotional, Olympic medal ceremony-style. Who knows. The thing is, that something special doesn’t elevate this ballad to Yohanna status, although the overall appearance is similar (it’s the hair). What could lift it is a superb stage show, with emphasis on lighting and background. I wouldn’t mind the Aurora Borealis being brought back for another spin either.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

IRELAND

Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan  

Ireland13Best lyric: ‘When the stars are aligned, you’ve got to make love a state of mind.’

IMO: How sweet it is to have our first Jedward-free year out of three! This post-twin effort from Ireland blows their 2012 entry out of the water (line) as far as I’m concerned. For one thing, it’s not some random song that was offered to and rejected by a bunch of artists before eventually being picked up for Eurovision. It is a slickly produced dance track co-written by Mr. Dolan himself and complex enough to avoid Euphoria comparisons. I’m really loving it, and I expect the stage show to appeal to me just as much. What could ruin Ryan’s chances is his vocal unreliability. I actually haven’t been able to bring myself to watch a live performance of his, because I love the song so much and don’t want to mark it down because of a rubbish live vocal. Some have said he did fine at Eurovision in Concert, whilst others were less impressed, so I’m just going to give him the benefit of my own doubt until semi final 1. He’s sandwiched between two ballads, one of which is incredibly yawn-worthy, so he should stand out. I will be praying for Ireland to prove that they don’t need a pair of hyperactive siblings to get somewhere.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

ISRAEL

Rak Bishvilo by Moran Mazor 

Israel13Sounds like: Milim by Harel Skaat

IMO: Now for someone who will have no trouble singing like a champ – the bespectacled, boob-baring Moran from Israel (whose specs and chest may distract from the vocal performance, but still). Her ballad is one of the better ones going to Malmö. It’s pretty but dramatic, and you can hear the emotion behind it. However (yes, there are however’s) it is quite repetitive – after what seems like the 300th ‘rak bishvilloooo’, it’s like, ‘it’s only for him, we get it!’. And it is lacking in wow factor, which sound-alike Milim did have. I think it’s almost great, a major improvement on last year’s song that I despised, but not Israel at their absolute best.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.

 

ITALY

L’essenziale by Marco Mengoni

Italy13Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: I wonder if I can I complete this review without drawing attention to how insanely attractive Marco Mengoni is? Oops, instant fail. Oh well! I like his SanRemo-winning entry almost as much as I like looking at him. It reminds me a bit of Alessandro Casillo’s É Vero, which competed in SanRemo 2012 but was ineligible for ESC selection since Alessandro was only 15…which made me sad because I LOVED that song. So thank you Mr. Mengoni, for bringing some of that to the big show. L’essenziale in its own right is pure class (how unusual coming from Italy. Not.) and for me, one of the best ballads competing. The rawness of Marco’s voice gives authenticity to the emotion within, which should make for an honest and convincing performance, during which I will do my utmost to focus on the song instead of that beautiful, beautiful face. I’m not sure L’essenziale won’t get lost in the final, because it is a simpler, less instant song than most. But I hope it makes it to the left side of the scoreboard at least.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

Ciao Italy, and hello rankings! This is how I rate these entries against each other: 

  1. Hungary 12
  2. Germany 12
  3. Ireland 10
  4. Italy 10
  5. Greece 7
  6. Iceland 7
  7. France 7
  8. Georgia 7
  9. Finland 7
  10. Israel 6
  11. Estonia 6

Now you try?

 

What are your thoughts on my thoughts this time around? How do you rate the songs from Estonia to Italy?  

 

NEXT TIME: You’ll never guess…more reviews! Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Romania and Russia better brace themselves, ’cause I’m about to get all judgmental on their bee-hinds.

 

Ready, get set, GO! My guide to the best “almosts” of the 2013 national finals

The best thing about the selection season being over (well, the only thing, really…sob!) is that we get to bask in the wonderfulness of the music that didn’t make the final cut. Every year brings with it a truckload of great songs from all over Europe that will eventually be added to NF-themed playlists of people all over the world.

Of course, the end of the season ain’t all fun and games and compiling playlists when you should be doing more important things. There are also those hours spent mourning the fact that certain preselection entries came so close to securing that ticket to Eurovision, only to be pipped by something clearly inferior. But hey, that’s a first world problem that we ESC fans just have to deal with.

2013 brought us a lot of excellent stuff that almost made it. In case you couldn’t keep up with it all, or just want a reminder of what’s what on the wonderfulness front, I present to you my guide to the best of those near misses – the songs that placed either 2nd or 3rd in their NFs, whether deservedly (because they were just as good or not quite as good as the winners) or not (because they were OBVIOUSLY BETTER). And just for good measure, I’ve thrown in some random favourites. I hope you find something here to go crazy for.

 

The ones that got away

First and foremost, here are the almosts that I feel would have been better choices to send to Malmö. I suspect there’ll be regret from a few countries, when their chosen ones crash and burn…

Reste Toi by Roberto Bellarosa (Belgium, unplaced) – Don’t get me wrong; I am a Love Kills fan (there’s about three of us worldwide). But this bouncy, French-language number suited Roberto more than Love Kills, mainly because his grasp of singing in English leaves a lot to be desired. Belgium’s chances of qualifying would have increased a little too, I think, had this been picked.

Dzupai, Libe Boso by Elitsa & Stoyan (Bulgaria, 3rd) – Of the three songs included in the Bulgarian selection, this is the one I know I’m not supposed to like. But I do, darn it. Bulgaria are going to be pushed to qualify as usual, so it wouldn’t have made much difference which song they picked. But when it’s between this and Samo Shampioni (excluding the superior Kismet which was never going to happen thanks to those “copyright issues”) I vote this.

Päästke Noored Hinged by Grete Paia (Estonia, 2nd) – This may well be the most painful loss of the whole season for me. I think Estonia went down the safe path with Birgit and her nice, well performed but wholly unmemorable ballad that has no chance of measuring up to Ott and Kuula. The Estonia that chose Malcolm Lincoln would have gone for Grete’s dynamic electro-pop, and would have improved their chances by doing so.

RIP, Grete. And then come back and save Estonia in 2014!

RIP, Grete. And then come back and save Estonia in 2014!

Angel by Alex Leon feat. Giorgina (Greece, 2nd) – Alcohol Is Free wasn’t a terrible winner from Greece by any means. It’s fun, catchy and much less contrived than Aphrodisiac, but the fact of the matter is that I personally prefer Angel. This is a complex song with a lot going on in the three minutes, and that’s what I like about it. The key words? Sophisticated and current.PS – don’t expect to like it if you didn’t like Cyprus’ wailing banshee of 2011.

Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir (Iceland, 2nd) – Again, what we’re actually getting here is a decent track. But Unnur’s song (and Unnur herself) is so adorable, and so entertaining. It’s got this irresistibly happy vibe to it that reminds me of Regina Osk’s entry in the Icelandic final last year, which was also relegated in favour of something more serious. I want to see fun Iceland again.

Emilia by Electric Fence (Romania, 2nd) – I’m thoroughly weirded out by Romania this year, so even though you could say Electric Fence are weird too, I wish they’d gotten their Eurovision chance in 2013. I hate to keep using the word ‘fun’, but how much fun is this song? Too much, that’s how much. It’s a quirky circus and a half.   

 

The ones I would have enjoyed at Eurovision

Now for the songs I’m not exactly weeping into my keyboard over losing, but that I would have been excited to see grace the stage in Sweden. Maybe some of these artists will get their turn in the near future.

Kush Ta Dha Këtë Emër? by Hersi Matmuja (Albania, 3rd) – An unusual ballad, well sung like everything is from Albania. Try to ignore Hersi’s dreadful Wendy-from-Peter-Pan nightgown.

Nackert by LaBrassBanda (Germany, 2nd) – I didn’t expect this to do as well as it did in Unser Song Für Malmö, but that’s no surprise considering my shocking prediction skills. Douze points for the trumpets!

Crashing Down by Aimée Fitzpatrick (Ireland, 2nd) – This ballad and Only Love Survives were easily the best of the otherwise tragic Irish finalists. It would have made a lovely alternative choice for them. Aimée’s inexperience gave her an appealing vulnerability that really worked for the song.   

Aimée: the only blonde from Ireland who isn’t Jedward.

Aimée: the only blonde from Ireland who isn’t Jedward.

Toda La Noche by Meital De Razon & Asi Tal (Israel, 3rd) – After last year’s fail, it would have been excellent to see Israel come back with a bang. This would have been that bang, with more of those trumpets that I apparently love so much.  

War In The Wardrobe by Gerai Gerai and Miss Sheep (Lithuania, 3rd) – Lithuania always manage to qualify when I least expect it. I wonder if that would have happened had they chosen this, some would say, un-Eurovision-like slice of electronica?

Betrayed by Davinia Pace (Malta, 3rd) – You may call her Pace…Davinia Pace. Because this Bond, James Bond-inspired number is full of drama, unlike Tomorrow. Here’s hoping the next blockbuster in the Bond franchise is named after it.

Bombo by Adelén (Norway, 2nd) – This has arguably been the biggest success of the whole selection season, and I completely understand why. 16-year-old Adelén needs some time to develop her vocal, but with a song this infectious I can cut her some slack.

‘Bombo’ is Spanish for ‘dance until your hair explodes.’

‘Bombo’ is Spanish for ‘dance until your hair explodes.’

Tell The World I’m Here by Ulrik Munther (Sweden, 3rd) – I’ll admit, it’s Ulrik I want to see at Eurovision more than any song. It just wasn’t meant to be this year, with the line of thinking being that he tried too hard to best his 3rd place in Melodifestivalen 2012.

 

The rest of the best

Get Out of My Way by Satsura (Belarus, 3rd) – This is fierce, y’all. Like, bordering on aggressive. But coming from a shirtless muscle man like Satsura, I find that perfectly acceptable. I’d get out of his way anytime.

Unbreakable by Mohamed (Denmark, 2nd)

Stay Awake by Simone (Denmark, 3rd)

We Should Be Through by Mikael Saari (Finland, 2nd)

Colliding Into You by Diandra (Finland, 3rd)

Úgy Fáj by Gigi Radics (Hungary, 2nd) – I wouldn’t willingly trade ByeAlex’s Kedvesem for anything, but if I was forced, this up-tempo ballad performed brilliantly by Gigi would take its place.

I Need A Hero by Samanta Tina (Latvia, 2nd)

I Am Who I Am by Marta Ritova (Latvia, 3rd)

Time To Shine by Girmantė Vaitkutė (Lithuania, 2nd)

Needing You by Kevin Borg (Malta, 2nd)

Runaways by Boris Covali (Moldova, 2nd)

I Love You Te Quiero by Sirkus Eliassen (Norway, 3rd)

Spas by Dušan Svilar (Serbia, 2nd) – This is the type of big, Balkan ballad more like what we’re used to hearing from Serbia (as opposed to Ljubav Je Svuda).

Dame Tu Voz by ESDM (Spain, 3rd)

Heartbreak Hotel by YOHIO (Sweden, 2nd)

Forever & A Day by Jesse Ritch (Switzerland, 3rd)

 

Some less successful favourites from the season

Give Me A Sign by Elija (Austria, 4th)

Secret by Uzari (Belarus, 8th)

Human by Brinck (Denmark, unplaced)

Jeg Har Hele Tiden Vidst Det by Frederikke (Denmark, unplaced)

Enough by Elina Born (Estonia, 8th)

The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory (Germany, 7th)

Lalala by Betty Dittrich (Germany, 8th)

One by Niko (Latvia, 6th)

Fantasy by Danica Muscat (Malta, unplaced in semi)

Det Vakje Mi Tid by Martin Blomvik (Norway, unplaced in semi)

Dumb by Amanda Fondell (Sweden, 7th in semi)

Point Of No Return by Melissa (Switzerland, 4th)

 

Overwhelmed? Let me help…

To summarise the blah blah blah above, here are my top 10 picks of the entire NF season. If you haven’t already and you’re keen to listen to a bunch, these are the ones I’d recommend.

#1 Päästke Noored Hinged by Grete Paia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rv6EOnJdZM

#2 Úgy Fáj by Gigi Radics

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgEdnax9qRg

#3 Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOl7tkTUjrU

#4 Bombo by Adelén

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftZ40IAYO-o

#5 The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxdiqKIxA4o

#6 Toda La Noche by Meital De Razon & Asi Tal

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HKQ9W02WK8

#7 Emilia by Electric Fence

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCuRHiqCfGE

#8 Human by Brinck

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRdg6ueRpuk

#9 Secret by Uzari

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Suo5zITpDzo

#10 Betrayed by Davinia Pace

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DH26TKwtzw

 

I didn’t follow every single NF in detail (who does?) but I hope what I managed to cover and highlight today was comprehensive enough to live up to the word ‘guide’. Now comes the part where I ask you a bunch of questions that may or may not be irritating depending on your mood…a.k.a. the end.

 

So, what did you think of my favourite national finalists? Which ones (included here or not) will be going onto your iPod ASAP?