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AWESOME ESC ALMOSTS | My top 10 songs of the 2017 selection season

Just because national final season ended back in March doesn’t mean we should forget about it, right? After all, every year brings with it a fresh batch of boss music for us fans to add to our respective playlists, and the happy-dances danced as a result of that can last forever. AND this is all before Eurovision itself even begins! I think I speak for all of us when I say – as a totally unknown band called ABBA once said – thank you for the music, NF season.

There’s no better way to top off a thanks than with a top 10, in my opinion – so here we are. It might seem like I’m just crazy late in posting this countdown, but now is a good time to pay tribute to the 2017 selection season: firstly, because it’s Thursday and I’m a big supporter of #ThrowbackThursday (check my Instagram if you don’t believe me); and secondly, because it’s not long until the results of this year’s OGAE Second Chance Contest are revealed. It turns out that half of my favourite tracks from the recent run of national finals were chosen to compete in the SCC, so I guess I’m not as alternative as I thought. Damn.

The lone rule for this list? I only allowed myself to pick one song from any particular country – so you’re not about to see Melfest song after Melfest song. Keep reading to find out which Eurovision could-have-beens I fell in love with this season, and how I think they would have fared in Kyiv compared to the songs that actually ended up there. And don’t forget to share your personal favourite songs in the comments!

 

 

#10 | Two Faces by Michéle (Switzerland)

NF result 3rd, Die Entscheidungsshow

Is it better than Apollo? No, but…apples and oranges.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Definitely not, though I like to think it would have been staged better than Apollo.

I’m sorry to have to say this, but I know I’m not the only one who’s come to expect a certain level of sub-standardness when reviewing the Swiss national finalists each year. 2017 was an exception in that the final bunch of songs – bar one – were actually more than mediocre. My favourite, Apollo aside, was pocket rocket Michéle’s Two Faces, which took me by surprise given how mod-pop it is. It’s not a perfect production, and my inner jury’s still out on whether the ‘sugar and salt’ analogy is good or awkward…but damn, this is catchy. And even though it does sound radio-friendly, I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

 

#9 | Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrhjola (Finland)

NF result 8th, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu

Is it better than Blackbird? No, but again it’s hard to compare the two.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Probably not.

If this song was sung in English (or Swedish), it would have been right at home in the Melodifestivalen line-up. That’s a big compliment from me meaning it’s a) slickly produced pop, b) minty-fresh radio material, and c) gets stuck in your head like it’s made of super glue. The fact that it’s in Finnish, though, further set it apart in the UMK field, and adds to the aloof kind of cool it projects. The fusion of country twang and electro sounds is very Avicii, and gives it an automatic x-factor. For me, it was the NF character that speaks its own language (literally) and has little hope of winning, but will inevitably end up on my selection season playlist. There’s at least one of those in every national final.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#8 | I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer (United Kingdom)

NF result Unknown, Eurovision: You Decide

Is it better than Never Give Up On You? No, but it’s less of an identity-crisis song.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope.

You guys know mama loves her female power ballads (when they’re good ones…I am fairly discerning). Why do you think I was such an enthusiastic member of Team Denmark this year? Speaking of blonde powerhouse vocalists, here’s Holly Brewer, who sang the shiz out of the sensational PB that is I Wish I Loved You More. I can admit that this sort of song had its heyday circa 2007, but the genre never stopped floating my boat. I love that IWILYM promises to become something dynamic and explosive, and then delivers – first with big + bold choruses, then with that money note that you KNOW is coming, but it still packs a punch when it arrives. It’s a knockout (and so is Holly, on whom I have a raging girl crush).

 

#7 | Heart of Gold by BQL

NF result 2nd, EMA

Is it better than On My Way ? HELL YEAH!

Would it have done better in Kyiv? HELL YEAH!

BQL (made up of two musos who are apparently blood brothers…who’d have guessed?) broke hearts throughout the Euroverse when they failed to get Slovenia’s golden ticket in 2017 – Slovenia’s fault, obvs. Okay, so their live performance was a little rough around the edges, while Omar Naber’s was flawless (it was another Margaret/Michał Szpak situation). And Heart of Gold itself is a bit all-over-the-place as a song, needing a restructure and a revamp. But like everything created by Maraaya, it has SO much going for it. Simple but effective lyrics, and not one, but about five epic melodies, for example. If it had won EMA and undergone a pre-ESC facelift, wonderful things might have happened to a country that has now chosen two questionable entries in a row.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#6 | One by Ida Una (Denmark)

NF result 2nd, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Where I Am? Not according to moi.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I have to say yes (but I don’t want to).

Here’s a prime example of the safe, sugary pop songs that dominate DMGP – and this one is actually about love and peace (I don’t know if Måns and Petra would approve or be appalled). I’m not normally a supporter of either cookie-cutter music or lame lyrics, but I have totally dug the vibe of Ida Una’s One since day one. The lyrics are the main drawback, because everything else is very Scandi-2017…and how about the insane singalong-ability of the chorus? It turns one word into ten syllables, making it a surefire hook without it being too simplistic. I was pretty convinced this track was going to Kyiv because it’s right up Denmark’s street, and I wouldn’t have minded that result since the song is right up my street too.

 

#5 | Places by Ulrikke (Norway)

NF result 4th, Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Grab The Moment? No, but it’s a close call.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I think it would have finished just outside the top 10, so no.

I wouldn’t willingly swap Grab The Moment – one of my true ESC 2017 loves – for anything. But if I had to for some random reason, I’d have sent Ulrikke’s Places to Ukraine in a heartbeat. That’d be on the condition that Norway totally rethought the MGP staging of the song, which wasn’t nearly ‘tropical beach party WOOHOO’ enough. Places itself, though, is a JAM – a summer jam that I’m being forced to play in winter as I imagine being by the ocean. My buzzwords for this countdown have been ‘current’ and ‘catchy’, and I have to use them again to describe this because it has bucketloads of both. More so than Dansk MGP and Melodifestivalen, Norsk MGP tends to deliver on pop with a bit of edge, and pop that’s very now – not squeaky-clean, sugary or safe. Places is an excellent example of that, I reckon.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#4 | Hold On by Nano (Sweden)

NF result 2nd, Melodifestivalen

Is it better than I Can’t Go On? In some ways, yes. In others, no.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope – I think it would have done the same thing.

As you may or may not know (have I mentioned it often enough? I’m not sure…) I was in the audience for the Melfest final this year – and holy Herreys, it was amazing! I didn’t quite get the happy ending I was hoping for, however, as someone supporting Nano rather than Robin. Don’t get me wrong (Bengtsson lyrical pun intended), Sweden NEVER puts a foot wrong at Eurovision IMO (2009 excepted). But Hold On gets to me in a goosebumpy way that the perfectly-polished I Can’t Go On never did. Maybe it’s because it seems more authentic, or because it’s more dynamic and powerful. Or maybe it’s just a cracking song that appeals a teensy bit more to my tastes. Whatever the case, I can’t help being disappointed that Nano was Sweden’s choice to go to Eurovision, but got pipped at the post anyway.

 

#3 | I Love You by Tayanna (Ukraine)

NF result 2nd, Vidbir

Is it better than Time? Absolutely.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? For sure, providing Tayanna’s throat was in full functioning order at the time.

There were a handful of massively missed opportunities during the 2017 selection season, and sadly, host country Ukraine was responsible for one of them. I can understand how it happened, though. The Ukrainian final was super strong, with Tayanna, Mélovin and Rozhden being my personal standouts – but Tayanna’s incredible power ballad (here I go again with the PB love) was the cream of the crop…prior to that final. Tragically, her vocal ability was compromised by some sort of illness when she needed it most, leading to a performance full of cringe-worthy moments. That’s not the performance above – I had to choose the video of Tayanna at her best since it helps me to daydream about how I Love You would have been one of the best and most wildly-applauded host entries of recent times. Oh, and how it would have given Ukraine a respectable result without forcing another fork-out of contest hosting funds.

 

#2 | Ouch! By LeKlein (Spain)

NF result 3rd, Objetivo Eurovisión

Is it better than Do It For Your Lover? Well, yeah. I’d say ‘What isn’t?’ but that would be unnecessarily cruel to Manel and also not technically true.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? You bet your butt it would have!

EPIC ERROR ALERT NO. 3!!! Call this a controversial call, but if Spain made any mistake at their NF this year (which they did, though when I say ‘Spain’ I mean the Objetivo judging panel) it wasn’t picking Manel over Mirela. It was leaving LeKlein in 3rd, which definitely made me say Ouch! She might not have been everybody’s cup of sangria, but I’m convinced Ouch! was the best option for Spain in 2017, and would have secured them a spot on the left side of the scoreboard (I can say that with authority because there’s no way of proving me wrong). This song is an anthem of rock-electro-pop proportions, with a sense of fun and a simple hook that would have been memorable in the Eurovision final for sure. Unless, that is, I’m the minority and everyone else would have seen an aggressive androgynous woman yelling at them down the camera for three minutes #possible.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#1 | Deák by Spoon 21 (Hungary)

NF result DNQ (semi-final), A Dal

Is it better than Origo? It’s equally epic.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? No.

Funnily enough, I’m glad this song – my favourite find from the 2017 season – didn’t end up at the ESC. Spoon 21’s live performance just wasn’t up to scratch, and that was all to do with vocals. Hungary still would have sent my number one entry of the year if they’d sent Deák instead of Origo, but you’ll never catch me disputing Joci Pápai’s place in the contest. Still, as a song for listening to (ten times a day) Deák is superb. It’s the most K-pop sounding NF song I’ve ever heard, and I love it for that. It’s unique, infectious and gets a zillion cool points just by being in Hungarian. And speaking of cool points, I feel like a cooler person just listening to it – it’s a little bit hipster but mainstream enough to have mass appeal. All in all, it’s a kickass track that proves Spoon 21 – who entered A Dal 2015 with something completely different – isn’t a one-trick pony boy band.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

 

So, how did I do? Do you think any of these songs would have made better Eurovision entries than what we actually got? Which musical masterpieces from A Dal to Vidbir and every NF in-between got you excited this year? If you have something (nice) to say, say it in the comments box below J

I’d better go now – it’s time for daily listen no. 10 of Déak, and I can’t keep Spoon 21 waiting.

 

 

 

 

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…

 


 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 3 (The Show + The Results)

Well…I was all set to start this post with a ‘Hey, at least I managed to finish these awards before the 2017 contest came out on DVD!’ (like that would have been an achievement anyway). But MY BAD, missed the boat on that one. So instead, I’ll open with a ‘Hey, at least I managed to finish these awards before my 2017 DVD arrived in the mail!’. True fact.

The reason for my lateness is the same as always: life, its craziness, and the annoying need to prioritise ‘other stuff’ over Eurovision stuff. It sucks, doesn’t it? But I figure that if you love the ESC as much as I do (unconditionally, and with a burning desire not unlike the one Kasia Mós mentions in Flashlight) then you won’t care which contest I’m discussing and when. A.k.a. you won’t mind that I’m still talking about the 2017 show like it happened two weeks ago.

On that note, here’s the last lot of EBJEE trophies for the year feat. the awards for The Show and The Results! You’ll find all of the remaining People’s Choice Awards below too, so if you can remember who/what you voted for (the polls were open back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, after all), then you’ll now be able to see if your picks came out on top.

Enjoy, and let me know who your show/results statuettes would go to in the comments…

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Oleksandr Skichko, Timur Miroshnychenko Winner Volodymyr Ostapchuk

I have to agree with you guys on this one. In a strange turn of events, I personally thought that Timur – who’s co-hosted Junior Eurovision twice – was the weakest host (or at least the most wooden. If you’d touched him on any of the three show nights you’d have gotten a splinter). Oleks was an improvement, but Vova’s role as the class clown (and, I can’t deny, his Disney prince-level good looks) gave him extra appeal.

 

Honourable Mention/s Oleks + Vova’s Eurovision medley (SF2), Jamala – ‘Zamanyly’ (SF1) Winner ONUKA megamix (the final)

I’m a little surprised that ONUKA was the overwhelming winner of this award, but that’s probably my Jamala superfan status skewing my perspective (I would willingly watch her gargle the alphabet). It was no Love Love Peace Peace, but the megamix was another example of Ukraine putting all their best musical feet forward when they had the chance.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jana Burčeska reveals she’s pregnant…then gets proposed to! Winner The Ukrainian butt-flasher takes the shine off Jamala’s new single

Unlike in 2010, when Jimmy Jump crashed Spain’s performance and fooled us all into thinking it was supposed to happen for a good ten seconds, we all knew something was up when one of Ukraine’s own (draped in an Australian flag, which had all of us Aussies dying of embarrassment for a while) put the ass into the class of Jamala’s satellite stage serenade. It was the most iconic OMG moment of the 2017 contest by far.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s The Netherlands Winner Italy

Am I the only person disappointed in the postcards this year? They were both boring and a little bit all-over-the-place. Still, like shopping in a secondhand store, if you take the time to sift through all the crap you will find a few gems. The revelation that Amy Vol is a shoplifter (well, she would be if she didn’t have two sisters stopping her) nearly secured the Netherlands this trophy, but Italy’s group of Gabbanis was unbeatable. If that restaurant was real I’d be booking a table ASAP!

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner Finland

Now I know how Iceland’s DNQ made Greta fans feel last year. Back then, I was all ‘Whatever!’ as someone who thought Hear Them Calling was pretty mediocre. But then Blackbird came along and broke my heart with its failure to make the final. I still don’t get it, and I can imagine myself in the same situation fifty years from now (as I wave my walking stick around wildly and croak stuff like ‘Norma John were robbed!’ at randoms on the street).

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Australia

No country’s qualification this year really, truly shocked me. But (and it physically pains me to say this) after Isaiah’s semi performance, I had serious doubts about Australia going through. I still think I was right to worry, and it gives me heart palpitations knowing that if it wasn’t for the juries, it would have been third time unlucky for us.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Portugal Winner Sweden

It’s safe to say that when we’re making our semi predictions each year, the little list of countries in the ‘Definite’ category always includes Sweden. Even in 2010, the only year they didn’t qualify (which I’m still not over, BTW), they were confidently predicted to make it. In my mind there was no way in the world – this one, or any parallel universes that happen to exist – that Robin Bengtsson was going to miss out on the final. Another Anna Bergendahl he was not.

‘I DID NOT SEE THIS COMING!!!’ said no one ever.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic Winner Lithuania

On the other end of the spectrum lies Lithuania, whose mammoth NF marathon did not produce a surefire success this year. Rain of Revolution was the complete opposite – a for-sure failure that only outdid expectations by NOT finishing last in its semi. Fusedmarc’s night wasn’t the kind that Donny Montell was waiting for.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria’s 2nd, Portugal’s 1st, Sweden’s 5th Winner Moldova’s 3rd

When it comes to Eurovision, the population of Struggletown often includes Moldova. They’ve taken the serious approach before (2007, 2013), and brought the fun (2005, 2008, 2012), but neither had ever taken them higher than 6th place – and that was back in their debut year of ’05. Enter Sunstroke Project (take two). Their performances of party anthem Hey Mamma ticked every box without being try-hard, and whenever I think about the fact that they got such a great result, I want to weep with happiness. I guess Kyiv’s a good luck charm for Moldova!

 

Honourable Mention/s Latvia’s 18th in the semi Winner Finland’s 12th in the semi

What more can I say about this without shaking salt into a blackbird-shaped wound? Finland’s 12th was undeserved because Norma John should have been higher, not lower. Hashtag heartbroken; hashtag sadface; hashtag stop using hashtags outside of social media, Jaz.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Germany’s 25th Winner Spain’s 26th

If the ‘it’ in ‘do it for your lover’ = gallantly volunteer to finish dead last in the final so nobody else has to, then Manel lived up to his song title like a champion. I personally would never launch a hate campaign against DIFYL (in certain contexts, it’s an enjoyable listen) but I knew it was headed for position 26 on the scoreboard. Aurally it’s not a competitive song, and visually it came off tacky and amateurish (not Manel’s fault). The shock value of Spain’s result was zero.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland’s DNQ, Moldova’s 3rd Winner Italy’s 6th

You guys voted, and I can’t deny that you picked a major-league shocker. All those YouTube views! All those OGAE poll points! All those months as bookies’ fave to win! All that pre-show hype! It seemed like Italy had the win signed, sealed and delivered to Francesco’s door before rehearsals even began in Kyiv. Once they did, it was either a win or a solid top 3 result on the cards…wasn’t it? Well, no, as it turned out. Italy was even squeezed out of the top 5, by the same country (Sweden) that nudged 2016 OGAE winner France into 6th last year.

 

 

 

That’s it! I have to say, it’s a relief that I finally get to roll up the EBJEE red carpet for another year and move on to some of the awesome Eurovision entertainment I have planned for you this off season. But first, I want to know what you thought of this third and final awards announcement – and as I said in the intro (scroll up for about a half hour and you’ll find it) which people and places you’d pick as your personal winners. Let’s see if we have anything in common…even if the fact that we’re all Euronerds means we’ve needed to agree to disagree from the very beginning of our fan lives.

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 2 (The Performances)

It’s lucky these awards aren’t being broadcast on TV, because nobody would have hung around until the ad break dividing parts 1 and 2 was over. What can I say? Life gets busy sometimes, and since nobody as yet has offered to pay me to talk about Eurovision, other things often have to be prioritised so I can continue to have a roof over my head and eat regular meals.

Hopefully this second slice of trophy-giving will be worth the wait for those of you who enjoyed the first. Back then (last week…totally vintage times), I gave numerous back-pats to the artists and songs of Kyiv 2017. This time, the spotlight’s shining on what happened when those songs were taken to the stage by those artists. Every element of the performances – from backdrops, props and dancers to costumes and vocals – has at least one award in its honour, and the winners weren’t all decided by me. Yes, that means there are more People’s Choice results below for you to feast your ESC-admiring eyes on!

So sit back, relax and do it for your lover…’it’ being checking out my performance awards and nothing more. Get your mind out of the gutter.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner United Kingdom

With Lucie being a stage star and all, you’d expect her to project serious emotion via both her facial expressions and flailing limbs (i.e. arm flourishes). She did…but there were times when her inner drama switch was turned up way too high, to the point where she looked like she was in physical pain. There is a border between theatrical stage emoting and Eurovision stage emoting, and I think Lucie stayed in theatre territory when she should have crossed over to the other side. Still, I’m rewarding her here for every angtsy look and death-grip hand gesture she poured into her performance. An A for effort is all yours, Luce.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria Winner Norway

There wasn’t half as much hi-tech trickery on the stage/screen in Kyiv as there was in Stockholm – no holograms of naked Belarusians, for instance, could be seen (you can decide if that was a great loss or not). Both Bulgaria and Norway opted for on-screen graphic overlays – the TV equivalent of the little drawings you can do on your Instagram stories – to pimp their performances. But I’m putting Norway in pole position, because they had some technical trickery going on in their audio presentation as well as their visual presentation. I still can’t wrap my head around exactly how JOWST was manipulating those ‘kill, kill, kill, kill’ bits (live sampling/bending/looping/ warping?) but at least he wasn’t just standing there pretending to DJ like we’ve seen in past contests.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Hungary

Getting emotional doesn’t always involve a box of tissues. Joci Pápai’s performance for Hungary wasn’t a sad one per se, but it was the most dynamically emotional of the year in that it featured two very different outpouring feelings. Throughout the verses and choruses of Origo, Joci portrayed the pain of forbidden love and of being a target for prejudice in a very vulnerable, mournful way – then changed gears for the rap, venting his frustration and anger over similar issues. Part of what I love about the song is the range of emotions embedded in it, as well as Joci’s talent for conveying them with authenticity.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Portugal

This was a hard one for me to narrow down, because both Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois DID involve me fumbling for a box of tissues. But there was a delicateness to Salvador’s rendition of his song that gave me goosebumps as well as wet eyes. The lyrics, too, have the power to destroy an old romantic like myself, despite the fact (or perhaps due to the fact) that he’s professing a love big enough to sustain a two-person relationship, when I can’t even beguile a guy into buying me flowers.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland, Hungary Winner Moldova

When a massive part of your appeal revolves around a musical instrument – the sax played by Epic Sax Guy, obviously – you know you’re using it wisely. With both sax and violin providing serious fun for Moldova’s 2 x 3 minutes on stage, Hey Mamma’s live wouldn’t have been the same without them, even though we weren’t actually hearing the boys play (it matters less with instruments like these than when you’re watching someone rip into a solo on a clearly unplugged electric guitar).

 

Honourable Mention/s The UK’s mirror shell Winner Azerbaijan’s blackboard

You voters out there surprised me a little with this one, but majority rules! Dihaj’s blackboard was definitely a standout addition to 2017’s string of acts-with-props, and made Daz Sampson’s blackboard from 2006 look even tackier than it did at the time. Although I must say, his was more explicitly relevant to his song’s subject matter – between the board, the ladder and the horse-head man, Dihaj has a LOT of explaining to do.

This looks less like one of the daydreams that Dihaj is into and more like one of my nightmares.

 

Honourable Mention/s Hungary, Moldova Winner Sweden

For most of the backing singers and/or dancers who weren’t hidden from view, staying in tune and in time would have been the biggest challenges. Robin Bengtsson’s visible backup crew, however – feat. previous Melfest contestant and ESC backer-upper Alvaro Estrella – not only had to provide vocal support and smooth moves, but do both while walking on treadmills. And we thought Ukraine’s hamster wheel dude from 2014 had a tough job! The quartet pulled it off perfectly, though, and had a big hand in Sweden’s fourth consecutive top 5 finish.

 

Honourable Mention/s Cyprus Winner Sweden

Because treadmills. Too cool for school choreography coupled with an element of danger will win out every time. Handy Hint No. 362: Next time you’re at a party trying to impress someone, why not try moonwalking barefoot on a bed of nails?

 

Honourable Mention/s France, Portugal Winner United Kingdom

It was a shiny gold showstopper for the UK this year, and though that wouldn’t be my personal pick for best backdrop, I can see the attraction. The graphics were perfectly timed to the music and made the stage virtually disappear, as if Lucie were actually singing in space (not the sexy kind Slavko was referring to, but normal, otherworldly space). The numerous glitter explosions at pivotal moments of Never Give Up On You oozed Eurovision sophistication.

A Eurovision star + actual stars…what more could you want?

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Israel

You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve forgotten a country in this category, because there were times when it seemed like every second act on stage had found a way to incorporate their giant face/body/boobs (oh, Malta) into their performance. The country that did it best, in my opinion, was Israel, because it wasn’t OTT or used just for flashiness. Super-sized Imri didn’t stay on the screens for the entire song – instead he was used to literally illustrate the ‘breaking me to pieces’ line of I Feel Alive’s chorus. The added bonus was that we all got to stare at not one, but two Imris for a fleeting yet fabulous amount of time.

 

Honourable Mention/s Romania Winner Croatia

I don’t know if I hate to say this or not, but the ESC isn’t as crazy as it used to be – maybe it’s the influence of recent winners having been pretty pared-back on stage. There weren’t many acts that threw everything they could think of at their staging in 2017, but we can’t say Croatia was one of them. To name a few of their staging elements: violinist, cellist, half-and-half costume, giant Jacques x2, LED lightning, an instrumental duel, pyro jets AND a pyro curtain, massive sunflowers and a rainbow. The pyro operator in particular must have needed a nap after that…I know I did!

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Sweden Winner Moldova

This award goes to the most perfectly-wrapped package of the year – the country that brought their A-game to vocals, costumes, choreography, staging, lighting and anything else you can think of. Obviously, Portugal and Bulgaria were flawless – but Sunstroke Project managed to corral more performance bits and pieces than Salvador and Kristian had to work with into a cohesive and ridiculously fun whole. And it all seemed to come so naturally.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s France Winner Italy, United Kingdom

We have a tie! I can’t say I’m surprised that Germany and Spain didn’t even come close to winning this People’s Choice prize. Nor did I see this rush of love for the UK coming, but I do get it. As over-emotional as she got at times, Lucie’s performance was vocally perfect and looked stunning on screen. And who wouldn’t get a kick out of Francesco’s three minutes? If you didn’t raise your arms and do that dance along with Gabbani + Gorilla, I have major concerns about you.

 

Honourable Mention/s Artsvik, Tamara Gachechiladze Winner O’G3NE

This is NOT an award the Netherlands would have won back in 2015, when Trijntje Oosterhuis’ black dress (*shudder*) was replaced by the reception tent for a Goth wedding (*double shudder*). But the classic little black dresses – plus one catsuit – worn by O’G3NE this year and suitably sparklified for the occasion, were gorgeous. I’m glad they didn’t go too matchy-matchy, and were able to get the girl group look even though every Vol sister wore a different style. Where do I get my own version?

FYI, these outfits will also double as appropriate attire for Verka Serduchka’s funeral one day.

 

Honourable Mention/s Joci Pápai, Sunstroke Project Winner Robin Bengtsson

One of the minor changes made to Robin’s Melfest performance for Eurovision was a suit swap – matte blue for shiny purple. You’d think I’d be too busy admiring the man IN the suit to notice such a thing, but because it was such a cool costume choice (yes, right down to the lack of socks, which somehow makes the look more crisp) I noticed.

Freaking beautiful (HAD TO).

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Martina Bárta Winner Lindita

If you read my biggest Eurovision 2017 mistakes post, you’ll already know that my eyes felt violated by the very sight of Lindita’s Vegas bride getup. If you didn’t, then you should know that my eyeballs may never fully recover from the experience of seeing her take to the stage in something so atrocious.

 

Honourable Mention/s Ksienija Žuk Winner Artsvik

I love braids, but I’ve only mastered the basic kinds – so I’d be keen to have the contact details of whoever worked their magic on Artsvik’s mane. That was art. It should be on display in the Louvre.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kasia Mós, Lindita Winner Anja Nissen

I know some of you will want to hit me with an inflatable Israeli hammer over this one, but I’m entitled to my (many, many, ESC-related) opinions! Anja just blows me away with the sheer power of her voice every time – there’s a reason she won The Voice here in Australia. Her diva vocal is always ready for action, and it’s so forceful I wouldn’t be surprised if her fire curtain was set off by the woman herself, in a Carrie-like moment of explosive kinetic energy.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jacques Houdek, Salvador Sobral Winner Kristian Kostov

Again, remember: THIS IS SUBJECTIVE. I was torn between Salvador and Kristian, aware that Salvador’s voice is more unique…but Kristian’s silky smooth, beyond-his-years vocals won my internal battle. He looks so young (and IS so young) and then he opens his mouth and it’s all maturity and polish and confidence, and I’m sold. I’m expecting big stuff from this kid.

 

Honourable Mention/s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner O’G3NE

Who else? Even if all 42 acts of 2017 had been groups, O’G3NE would have reigned supreme. Having sung together as siblings for so long, their harmonies are incomparable and absolutely perfect, always. I would happily listen to them all day long, and I’m convinced they could sing That Sounds Good To Me and make it appealing. That’s how good they are!

 

Honourable Mention/s Anja Nissen, Kasia Mós Winner Lindita

She may have worn a dress designed by the devil himself (or at least the devil’s personal seamstress), but not even that could distract from Lindita’s epic money note, one which first knocked our socks off (though not Robin Bengtsson’s, since he wasn’t wearing any) back in December 2016 when World was Botë and she won Festivali I Këngës. I have to bring back the word amazeballs just to describe it. She should become a deep sea free diver or professional balloon blower-upper with a lung capacity like that.

 

Honourable Mention/s Georgia Winner Hungary

Don’t get me wrong – Joci’s performance at A Dal was great, and a worthy winner of the NF. But I was worried Hungary would leave it be and not adapt it to fit the far bigger and grander stage of Eurovision. I also thought Joci was a little nervous and restrained back then. Fast forward to May, though, and the confidence and fire jets were out in full force. Hungary were one of only two countries to use the satellite stage too, which proved they’d really thought about how to expand on the A Dal staging. Mission accomplished!

 

 

And that concludes the second segment of the EBJEEs ceremony for 2017! Your butts must be pretty numb by now, so I’m sure that’s a relief. Still to come is the third and final part which will feature the awards for The Show: i.e. the hosts, interval acts, postcards and results. That’ll be a short one, so the only butt trouble you’ll have is if you fall asleep after reading it and then wake up with a butt on your hands (is that not the opening line of Verona?).

Between now and then, though, let me know what you thought of today’s awards. Where would your trophies go? Did the People’s Choice Awards pan out your way this time? All polite or constructively critical opinions are welcome in the comments.

 

TTYL Eurofam!

 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

As O.Torvald would say, it’s TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME! The trophies have been polished, the red carpet has been unrolled, and I’m ready to start giving out my Eurovision Excellence Awards to the countries, artists and songs that competed in the 2017 contest.

The ceremony will take place in three parts (since I went a little crazy with the amount of awards this year). Following on from this first installment will be The Performances, then The Show + The Results – but today, I’m acknowledging the musicians and the music that made 2017 so awesome…and in some cases, the opposite. You’ll also find out the full results of five People’s Choice Awards, with the rest to be revealed in Part 2 and Part 3. Thanks to everyone who voted in the PC polls, by the way – there were more of you than I expected, and I’m so grateful for your input. I hope you’re happy with the outcomes, but if you’re not you can’t blame me. #offthehook.

Now, without further ado, I’m going to get the first lot of EBJEE trophies off to their new owners before they get dusty. Sit back, relax and enjoy (or get outraged by) the awards for The Artists + The Songs!

 

 

THE ARTISTS

Honourable Mention/s Robin Bengtsson, Salvador Sobral Winner Imri Ziv

He may be hot in an ‘I spend longer in front of the mirror each morning than any girl I know’ kind of way – but hot is hot, right? Those eyes! That smile! Those biceps! Those abs! I won’t go any further down because a) I like to keep things mostly non-smutty around here, and b) you get where I’m going, I’m sure. It’s rumoured that Israel’s finest Imri has a thing for Anja Nissen – and who could blame him – but if she spurns you, Mr. Ziv, it’s highly likely that I’ll be available as a consolation prize.

 

Honourable Mention/s Amy Vol, Lisa Vol, Shelley Vol (O’G3NE) Winner Anja Nissen

Speaking of the stunning Anja, here she is as the winner of the Hottest She Award (imagine how attractive the kids would be if she and Imri got together!). I couldn’t really choose anyone else despite the tough competition, since I have a massive girl crush on her. She’s the ultimate blonde bombshell, drop-dead gorgeous from top to toe…except when she appeared on the Kyiv stage during rehearsals in that notorious and absolutely hideous circus/swimming costume. But NOBODY could have pulled that off (not unless they were a clown competing in the Synchronised Swimming event at the Olympics). Anyway, I’m bowing down to your beauty, Anja!

 

Honourable Mention/s Ilinca, Ksienija Žuk Winner Alma

Apparently Alma has a certain je ne sais quois (both the French and Hera Björk puns are intended) that gave her the edge over the other nominees, though not by much. This award probably isn’t what she’d like to have won recently, but the fact that so many Eurofans would be happy to call her their BFF has to be flattering.

 

Honourable Mention/s Francesco Gabbani, Kristian Kostov  Winner Nathan Trent

I have one thing to say about this result: YAAASSSSS! Well done guys, on voting an actual Mr. Nice Guy (nice guys finish last on the televote, but not overall) the winner of this year’s Mr. Congeniality EBJEE. Nathan Trent is a precious angel sent to Earth to bring pure happiness and light into all of our lives, and anyone who dares dispute that should be burnt at the stake. Or be ignored, one of the two.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kristian Kostov, Sunstroke Project Winner Jacques Houdek

I’m not sure which Jacques to give this trophy to – they might have to share custody of it like a pair of divorced parents with their only child. Regardless, this is an award well deserved by a man – yes, just the one…I’ll let the joke die now – who managed to bring both incredible talent and a LOT of laughter (hvala, Hrvatska, for the comic relief) to this year’s Eurovision. Like Conchita’s facial hair, Jacques’ two voices made him instantly memorable and almost overshadowed every other aspect of his entry. We’ll never see a duet quite like this again.

 

Honourable Mention/s Nathan Trent, Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner Sunstroke Project

Picking a winner for this award was a no-brainer for me, but I did very briefly ask myself which nominee’s concert I’d be the most keen to sit through. The answer, of course, was Sunstroke Project’s – though technically, I wouldn’t be sitting through it so much as dancing my ass off through it. All three of the guys are party-starters in their own right, and look like they could happily live on stage. They’re energetic, enthusiastic and charismatic, and can get even the most stubborn butts off seats without even trying. Born to entertain? Heck yes.

 

Honourable Mention/s Blanche Winner Kristian Kostov

This was one of the smallest categories for 2017, and two of the teens ended up monopolising most of the votes – 91%, in fact. Contest runner-up Kristian beats Blanche yet again, and if that’s partly due to his more confident handling of the whole Eurovision experience – as well as his higher placing on the scoreboard – then I’d say it’s the right result. Still, anyone so fresh-faced who can get up on such a big stage and sing their fully-functioning, youthful heart out deserves a high five. Great job, kids.

 

 

THE SONGS

Honourable Mention/s Gravity, Lights and Shadows Winner Perfect Life

Now, I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism here. Even if a song is almost identical in some way to another, it doesn’t mean it was purposely plagiarised. Still, you have to wonder about that oh-so-familiar sound layered underneath the lyrics of Levina’s Perfect Life. Everyone has heard David Guetta’s Titanium, and I find it hard to believe that anyone could come up with a beat and riff combo so similar and not think ‘Hang on…I know this from somewhere.’ TBH, it’s a shame that Perfect Life doesn’t sound even more like Titanium – i.e. that it didn’t ramp up and become an equally powerful dance banger.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Amar Pelos Dois, Beautiful Mess Winner Grab The Moment

A predicable pick? Probably not. But Grab The Moment has a set of lyrics that are interesting, full of clever rhymes (no love/above level stuff in sight) and SO neatly phrased and tightly packed. It’s wordier than I usually like my songs to be, but the rap-like delivery helps make it the modern pop masterpiece it is. Plus, there’s loads of room for lyrical interpretation, which is right up my alley as a former English major. This is my highlight: ‘Getting kinda heavy on my shoulders, try to stand straight but I’m boneless, got a pocket full of prose while I’m walking on my toes and I’m coping with a map that is roadless.’ Remind yourself of the rest here.

 

Honourable Mention/s Skeletons Winner Space

As much as I’m confused (rather than amazed) by “thorn jeans”, I can’t go past Slavko’s Space as the 2017 song with the most WTF words. It’s not that they don’t make sense, because they do. They’re just so…erotically charged. Not to mention all over the place – there’s a ton of space references, obviously, but one minute the lovers in question are Bonnie and Clyde and the next they’re possessed with superpowers. I commend the line in the chorus that connects writing a story with body language *slow clap*. But ‘Wet dreams…come into me from within’? TMI, Montenegro.

 

Honourable Mention/s Lights and Shadows Winner Amar Pelos Dois

This is a very subjective award, hence why I didn’t make it a People’s Choice. It’s for the entry that I personally didn’t rate too highly pre-contest, but grew to love between then and now. I never disliked eventual winner Amar Pelos Dois, but I didn’t love it and I definitely didn’t get the hype surrounding it (why was it second in the odds? I had no idea). For some reason, though, when I saw Salvador’s performance in the first semi final, I ‘got’ it. I was teary-eyed, my heart was warmed and I finally fell in love with the simplistic, romantic beauty of the song. Better late than never.

 

Honourable Mention/s Dance Alone, Verona Winner Occidentali’s Karma

This trophy doesn’t have to go to a song that was hyped by fans and then under-performed according to expectations, but this year it is. Occidentali’s Karma was predicted to be a runaway winner by a lot of fans in the lead-up to the show, racked up more views on YouTube than any entry preceding it, and stormed to victory in the OGAE Poll. And then, just like France did last year off the back of winning that poll, it finished 6th. As soon as I saw Francesco’s final performance, I knew that my gut feeling of months previously had been right – Italy wasn’t going to win. Falling away from the top five, for a song with so much expected of it, this was Sognu all over again.

 

Honourable Mention/s I Can’t Go On, I Feel Alive Winner Hey Mamma

It was the most successful dance track to take part in the Kyiv contest, and now the Sunstroke Project’s Hey Mamma gets another gong to add to the our engraved with ‘Moldova’s Best-Placed ESC Entry Ever.’ I have zero complaints about your choice here, people! There’s something about a good bit of sax that makes dancing more or less irresistible, and as such I can guarantee that this song will frequent the official Euroclub playlist for years to come.

 

Honourable Mention/s Occidentali’s Karma Winner City Lights

And it’s Belgium by a millimetre! The standard of preview videos was pretty high this year, and I personally wouldn’t have chosen City Lights as my favourite. Still, I can’t fault its stylish, slightly unsettling (in a good way) vibes. The isolation of being ‘all alone in the danger zone’ is expertly brought to the screen, while the titular lights have a mind of their own. Overall, it’s just as cool as the song.

 

Honourable Mention/s Keep The Faith Winner Fly With Me

Some songs are just so much better to watch than to listen to – they just come to life when performed live. Artsvik’s Fly With Me, a song that is a perfectly good but not great audio track, was given the royal treatment for Eurovision, and that gave me a new respect for it. The backdrop emphasised the ethnicity of the song as did the choreography, while the pyrotechnics upped the drama. Excellent costume choices were the cherry on top.

 

Honourable Mention/s Space Winner City Lights

And now, vice versa! Belgium’s performances over the past few years have been epic, but there was a question mark over Blanche’s ability to command an audience and take control of her nerves. She faltered in the semi, but in the end pulled off a much, MUCH better performance in the final and earned her 4th place. Even so, City Lights is a radio dream rather than a live one. The slick production and disembodied, distant sound of Blanche’s recorded vocals (minus the distraction of her looking like she wants to run screaming off the stage) is what I love about the song, and it’s just not as impressive in the ESC context.

 

 

That’s all for today/tonight, guys. I hope you enjoyed the show, and didn’t get too drunk and end up tripping and falling into a stranger’s lap which turned out to be the lap of Jon Ola Sand. It’s very awkward when that happens, let me tell you.

Who would you have given these awards to? Are you shocked by some of the People’s Choice percentages? Can I discuss Eurovision 2017 right up until Eurovision 2018 without annoying you? Let me know in the comments – it’s free (although every swear word directed at me costs $50).

 

Until next time, when 2017’s performances will be in the spotlight…

 

 

 

And Now, For The Not-So-Beautiful Messes: The five biggest on-stage mistakes of Eurovision 2017

Didn’t see this coming in the wake of last week’s top 5 performances of 2017 countdown? Well, neither did I. Consider my face officially palmed.

I actually have the awesome Anita from Eurovision Union to thank for inspiring this companion piece to that post: a countdown of the countries that didn’t, in my opinion, get it all right in terms of their song’s staging and/or performance in Kyiv. I’ve deliberately not made this about the five worst performances, since there wasn’t a single country that I’d say got everything wrong (although one came close). Instead, I’ve singled out the elements in a handful of acts – dodgy vocals, horrifying costume choices, bad backdrops etc – that dragged them down…and in the case of a few, may have had a hand in their non-qualifications.

Have your say on the biggest stuff-ups of Eurovision 2017 in the comments. Remember, honesty is the best policy (and there’s no fun in 24/7 sunshine and rainbows, so get critical!).

Oh, BTW – you can (and should!) still vote in the People’s Choice polls of the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. They’ll close in a few days’ time and the results will be revealed soon after that, so do your Eurofan duty while you have the chance!

 

 

 

#5 | Montenegro steers clear of OTT…for worse, not for better

I’m starting with something that was too inoffensive rather than too offensive, especially considering the source. From my very first listen of Slavko Kalezić’s Space, I was expecting to see it on stage in the campest and most fabulous fashion imaginable. I’m talking buff, topless male dancers who had marinated themselves in body glitter in the hours leading up to the show; galaxy-inspired visuals that alternated between dramatic (for the verses) and flamboyant (for the choruses; and plenty of overuse of the core Eurovision elements – wind and fire. I was confident in Slavko’s ability to make this dream of mine come true, given that he was to 2017 what Tooji was to 2012 – only Space didn’t require the reining in of camp that Stay did. So you can imagine my disappointment when he appeared on the Kyiv stage by himself, with only a mediocre costume change and his beloved Rapunzel braid for company. It’s not that he couldn’t command the stage on his own, because he strutted around like a boss and did the hairycopter with full enthusiasm. But when a song so obviously calls for one to go full gimmick on its ass, one should obey. Space needed more colour, more choreography and a crowd (of five other people) to be everything non-Eurovision fans think the contest is. Not so much to give it a shot at qualifying, since that was unlikely to ever happen (sadface), but just to make the most of the saucy, sassy lyrics; the fun, upbeat vibe; and Slavko’s larger-than-life personality.

 

#4 | Switzerland sugar-coats their staging of Apollo

I’ve got a job for you: take all of the 2017 entries that were chosen via a national final, and compare how they were staged initially to how they were staged at Eurovision. For the most part, you’ll notice that not many changed drastically, and those that did mostly improved on their presentation. Timebelle’s Apollo, then, is the exception and not the rule, because it went downhill between NF season and contest week. In fact, the only way Switzerland went up was by sticking Miruna at the top of a spiral staircase, which she eventually descended anyway (in stilettos, without breaking a sweat or any bones, which does deserve a high five). What we saw and what we heard clashed like crazy. Apollo benefited way more from the dramatic and modern NF staging, which could have been built on for ESC purposes. Yet that was discarded in favour of cheap and predictable background graphics, the inexplicable staircase (Why was it there? What did it add?), and an equally inexplicable yellow dress that I thought was less Beauty and the Beast inspired and more like the repurposed outer layer of a certain big bird who lives on Sesame Street. And let’s not forget more pastel shades than you’d find in the maternity wing of a major hospital. Overall, the look of this would have worked wonders for the right song (minus the tacky backdrop) but it took a good song and made it below-average. If I were Switzerland, I’d be contacting Sacha Jean-Baptiste right now to book her for Eurovision 2018.

 

#3 | Australia’s hit-and-missed high note

Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy bringing this up in conversation time and time again. However, as patriotic and proud of Isaiah’s work in Kyiv as I am, I can’t deny that when we’re talking about the biggest broadcast boo-boos of the year, that notorious note he aimed for during the semi final HAS to be mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing the guy drop a note while he was singing his heart out on The X Factor last year, so perhaps the grueling rehearsal and media schedule of Eurovision took its toll…or maybe it was a combination of nerves and trying too hard. Whatever the cause, to say that Isaiah failed rather than nailed that note – one accompanied by a pyro curtain, which is the international symbol for ‘This is the moment that’s supposed to win you over and secure your votes’ – would be an understatement. It turned out to be a moment that had me convinced Australia had just lost out on a spot in the grand final instead. Thankfully, because his jury semi performance was more X Factor and less cringe factor, Isaiah did slip through in a still remarkably high sixth place. He then went on to make up for the vocal mishap to end all vocal mishaps on the Saturday night, though it has to be said that the initial pyro note still wasn’t up to scratch. Whenever I watch either of his performances back in the future, my hand will be hovering over the mute button as the two-minute mark approaches.

 

#2 | Albania dresses Lindita up for a wacky wedding…WTF?!?

I could complain until the cows come home about all of the questionable costuming choices made by the 2017 delegations. Belgium? Should have worn the jumpsuit from the flag parade. Poland? Shouldn’t have worn white. Israel? What were they thinking putting him in a shirt when shirtless clearly would have been the best way to go? But right at the top of the heap – though at the bottom of the pile in terms of suitable sartorial selections – is undoubtedly Albania. I don’t know what kind of performance Lindita’s ‘Vegas showgirl meets drunken 3am Vegas bride’ outfit would be appropriate for, but it was just plain ridiculous when paired with World. I don’t get the thought process behind it, assuming there was one. It proved to be such a distraction that I couldn’t even concentrate on Lindita’s mind-blowing vocals, which hadn’t been an issue when she won Festivali I Këngës with the song formerly known as Böte. Unfortunately, this look wasn’t a one-off, as she wore something equally frightening (in nude, not white) on opening ceremony night. She obviously felt pretty and powerful on both occasions – she doesn’t strike me as a person who’d wear what she was told if she wasn’t 100% happy about it – but in my eyes, a black bin liner would have been a better choice both times. You know, like the one Croatia’s Nina Badrić wore back in 2012.

 

#1 | Spain’s…well, everything 

Many of us fans felt sure about two things prior to this year’s contest. One, that Italy would walk it, and two, that Spain would finish dead last. We may have been wrong about the former, but the latter did its predicted duty. Poor Manel – he had a terrible time at Objetivo Eurovisión thanks to The Mirela Incident, and then couldn’t prove anyone wrong by defying our ESC expectations of him. You might wonder why, if you’re unacquainted with both Do It For Your Lover and his rendition of it in Ukraine. Well, the song was weak to start with – great for roaring down the road in a convertible on a summer’s day en route to the coast, but too much of a repetitive flatliner to stand up in a song competition. It could have been saved by some genius stage concept, who knows…but Spain had the total opposite up their hibiscus-patterned shirt sleeve. The surfer idea was good in theory, but the execution was on par with High School Musical 2, if High School Musical 2 had been lumped with a production budget of $100. Low-quality graphics – including a Kombi van that kept on rocking without any danger of anyone knocking, an overhead shot of Manel and his band on surfboards that they just didn’t pull off, and a general air of over-casualness – made the package pretty unappealing. The fact that it was an entire verse before anyone turned around to face the camera/audience was also a turn-off. And just when we thought Spain might scrape enough points to NOT finish 26th, Manel’s voice decided to re-break at a pivotal moment, which sealed the deal. I’m sorry for seeming extra bitchy about this (you must be craving sunlight after all this shade I’ve thrown) but I’m being cruel to be kind. Both Manel and Spain deserve a LOT better.

 

 

Do you agree with any of my picks, or do you think I’M the one making the mistakes? Which competing countries of Eurovision 2017 made the wrong decisions when it came to putting on the best possible show?

 

Next time…you’ve voted (I hope) and now the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award winners – People’s Choice + my personal choices – can be made public. First up, I’ll be handing out (pretend) trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs – followed by The Performances, The Show and The Results. The celebration of Kyiv’s bests and worsts will continue, and you’d be as crazy as Lindita Halimi’s costume designer if you missed it!

 

 

 

GRAB THE MOMENT | Vote in the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards People’s Choice polls!

Yes, it’s that time again – when, in the wake of Eurovision and in the midst of PED, a heap of ESC-themed sites feel compelled to hand out some trophies of their own. They may not be fancy, microphone-shaped Kosta Boda glass, but they give every country, artist, backing singer and man with horse mask on the chance of taking one home.

In the immortal words of Martina Bárta, now it’s my turn. The EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards, as they’ve been branded the past few years, are back! But before I give out any awards personally, I need you guys – yes, YOU (I love that shirt, by the way…it’s totally your colour) – to decide on some winners for me. That’s not because I’m too lazy to choose them myself, but because I love having input from anyone who takes the time to read this blog, and I definitely want to know what you thought were some of the highlights and lowlights of Kyiv 2017. So here we are.

This year, there’s not one…not two…not three…*ten minutes later* but TWELVE People’s Choice Awards up for grabs. I’ve tried to keep the nominees as numerous as possible, but if I haven’t listed someone/something that you REALLY want to vote for, leave me a comment and I will count it as a valid vote. The rules? Well, you can only vote once (on any one device, so feel free to hijack all of the phones/computers/tablets in your household) but you can make multiple choices on each poll – so if you’re struggling to decide, for instance, whether Oleks, Vova or Timur was the best host, just vote for all three.

Who says I’m not generous?

You’ve got one week to vote (and to spread the word so all of your Eurofan friends get to have their say too). Now go forth and pick your personal winners!

 

 

Miss Congeniality

She’s friendly, she’s fun, and she’s the female singer of 2017 you’d choose to hang out with above all others. It’s about personality rather than looks for this award (although all of these ladies are beautiful on the outside AND the inside).

 

Mr. Congeniality

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

 

Teen Act of the Year

Years and years of experience can come in handy when handling Eurovision…but teenagers can do pretty well for themselves too. All of 2017’s teen acts finished in the top 10, but which one was your favourite?

 

Dancefloor Filler of the Year

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

 

Best Music Video

We don’t get preview videos from every single country competing in the contest (this is the one area where Sweden shows weakness) but the bunch we do get often bring their A-game. 2017 was no exception – let’s see which video you think is the best of the best.

Check out all of the nominees here.

 

Best Prop/Gimmick

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

 

Best Use of the Backdrop

The sky is the limit these days when it comes to pimping performances via high-def screenage. It’s a missed opportunity if the background isn’t used to a country’s advantage, but there weren’t many missed opportunities in Kyiv! Which backdrop wowed you when you laid eyes on it?

 

Best Performance From the Big 5

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

 

The Host With The Most

It’s a hard job, choosing between three attractive Ukrainian men – but somebody has to do it! Oleks, Vova and Timur took the reins between them this year, but only one can be crowned the Host With The Most. Take your pick.

  

Opening/Interval Act of the Year

We were spoiled this year when it came to pre and in-between song entertainment, with Ukraine trotting out a bunch of its biggest stars – including ESC 2016 winner Jamala three times (fine by me). Without comparing anything to Love Love Peace Peace, decide on your no. 1 performance.

Check out all of the nominees here.

 

OMG Moment of the Year

There were many jaw-on-the-floor occurrences this year, including the moment rehearsal viewers spotted a questionable (a.k.a. penis-like) image front and centre on one of Latvia’s screens (which had to be covered up). Which one had you shaking your head in disbelief?

 

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

Speaking of shocking…even the most talented predictor wouldn’t have seen some of the Eurovision 2017 scoreboard placements coming. Some countries defied expectations while others failed when we thought they’d flourish. Choose your personal WTF result below!

 

 

Congrats, your work here is done. Thanks for taking the time to vote…and if you didn’t but you’re still reading this, then GET BACK UP THERE AND DO YOUR DUTY!

Drop by EBJ next week for the full results of the People’s Choice Awards – and find out who won all of the other trophies in the categories of The Artists, The Songs, The Performances, The Show and The Results. Things may kick off a little sooner, so if you want to know exactly when, be sure to subscribe in the sidebar, or follow me on Twitter/Instagram.

 

Until then, stay fabulous!

 

 

 

Putting The (Freaking) Beautiful Into The Mess: My five favourite performances of Eurovision 2017

Happy Hump Day, everybody! They say time flies when you’re having fun, but apparently it also flies when you’re in the torturous throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. It’s already been a week and a half since Portugal won their first ever ESC, and to me it actually feels like it’s been longer. Shouldn’t NF season have started again by now?

I just mentioned a bad bout of PED, but I have to admit that mine hasn’t been nearly as bad as usual. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve been pretty busy since final weekend, dealing with all the stuff I didn’t do before the shows because I had nothing but Eurovision on the brain and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. From now until about April 2018, my brain-space will only be 90% occupied by Eurovision – that leaves 10% for everything else, which IMO is plenty.

Obviously I’m not here to talk about anything but the contest, though, and today I’m focusing on the most freaking beautiful performances of 2017, according to moi (because boy, is this a subjective topic). Staging and singing standards were high this year, but there weren’t that many acts that had every single bit of their s%#t together. Here’s my personal shortlist – from no. 5 to no. 1, for maximum soap-opera-cliffhanger suspense – of those that did.

Hit me up with your top five performances of the year in the comments, and we’ll see if we have any countries in common…

 

  

#5 | Robin Bengtsson’s performance of I Can’t Go On for Sweden

But of course! I’d be concerned for my mental health – and I’m sure you guys would be too – if I’d willingly left Sweden off this list. Just as the two certainties of life are death and taxes, the two certainties of Swedish Eurovision performances are a) they’ll be polished to perfection, and b) they’ll have been that way since we first saw the future ESC rep on stage at Melodifestivalen. There was certainly no need to change Robin Bengtsson’s risky, but super-suave and super-slick staging of I Can’t Go On between Stockholm and Kyiv – although the backdrop was revamped, two dancers were replaced, and a new suit was bestowed the privilege of being wrapped around Robin (FYI, SVT…I would have done that for free). ANYWAY, Robin’s Eurovision performances were as sharp as said suit, and just as entertaining as his first public one from the NF days. What’s to fault? I do now feel inadequate, since I can barely power-walk on a treadmill without tripping over my own feet (let alone strut on one with confidence while singing, et cetera), but that’s just me being pedantic.

 

 

#4 | Salvador Sobral’s performance of Amar Pelos Dois for Portugal

Taking an alternative approach to Sweden’s cool, calculated one paid off for Portugal. Every single time Salvador the Salvadorable took to the ESC stage, he put a slightly different spin on Amar Pelos Dois, via his vocals and unique performance style. That gave his three minute appearances an authenticity and freshness that was so endearing, it made many of us feel like proud parents watching their shy son come into his own at a school talent contest. But don’t get me wrong – his performances were world class, with an emphasis on the ‘class’. Being the only artist to use the satellite stage (Hungary’s violinist doesn’t count), he stood out without the aid of any bells and whistles (I have no problem with pimping out a performance, but we all know APD needed to be pared-back). He’s a spellbinding presence on his own, and with that stunning woodland backdrop behind him, delivered something that was impossible to ignore. There wasn’t anything else on show in 2017 that was quite so dreamy…if we don’t include Robin Bengtsson’s penetrating gaze and Imri Ziv’s biceps.

 

 

#3 | Joci Pápai’s performance of Origo for Hungary

I might be biased on this one, since as you probably know, Origo is my hands-down numero uno song of the year. But even I was worried that Joci would be too nervous on stage, or that the A Dal performance feat. dancer, violinist and suitably aggressive rap sequence wouldn’t translate well to the much bigger IEC stage. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. The intimacy of the performance – an important thing to cultivate considering the personal nature of the song’s story – was retained, but the use of the satellite stage and the fire jets expanded it to Eurovision-size. The colour scheme was perfect, the camera shots clever, and the emotion just as raw and real as it needed to be to not come across as phony (or over-rehearsed). Joci’s costume change for the final was the icing on the cake. The only thing I’d have done differently is toned down the smile on the violinist’s face – I feel like she needed to be more Sandra Nurmsalu and less Alexander Rybak for Origo purposes. Then again, I can’t blame her for smiling her way through a performance this good.

 

 

#2 | Kristian Kostov’s performance of Beautiful Mess for Bulgaria

I had no idea what to expect from Bulgaria this year in terms of staging, but I knew that Beautiful Mess deserved to be presented in an amazing way. What was ultimately done with it was incredible, and gave it all the visual interest it needed without taking away from the song or from Kristian’s beyond-his-years charisma and vocal talents. Geometric shapes and a bleak but totally on-trend monochromatic colour and lighting scheme went hand-in-hand with Kris’s Addams Family-esque clothing choice. Together, those elements made the performance seem so mature it was easy to forget that he’s a kid who only recently turned 17. The choreography was simple, and the shaky camera shots that kicked in halfway through (perhaps inspired by the treatment of Oscar Zia’s Human at Melfest last year) added to the atmosphere. As Kris sings in the chorus, I don’t want nothing more – i.e. I couldn’t have asked for anything better – from Bulgaria’s performance. That’s two years in a row now, and it makes me excited for what they might bring to the party in Lisbon.

 

 

#1 | Sunstroke Project’s performance of Hey Mamma for Moldova

A public service announcement: from now on, we’re all to spell ‘fun’ like this – M-O-L-D-O-V-A. If you were after a Eurovision 2017 performance that ticked every single box, then you’d undoubtedly have found it in the Sunstroke Project’s sophomore stage appearance. It took a great party song and made it a serious contender by doing everything right. The boys and their brides-to-be were entertaining, energetic and vocally solid; their dance moves were quirky, memorable and easy to copy after a few drinks gave you the courage (or was that just me?); and their background graphics were 10/10. They also threw in a handful of bits and pieces that ramped up the fun factor without turning Hey Mamma into a disposable novelty entry – think the backup singers’ costume change, and their synchronised bouquet toss into the audience. Moldova’s semi performance took me by surprise as I didn’t foresee it being my highlight of the night, but it was. And final night wouldn’t have been the same without them, that’s for sure. A third place well earned? You bet your epic sax!

 

 

Now I’ve shown you mine, you can show me yours! Which performances from Kyiv do you think were the most douze-worthy?

 

 

Next time…I hope your poll-taking skills are still sharp from voting in Barbara Dex, because the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards are about to kick off, and I need you to decide who and what should win the People’s Choice trophies! From the Miss and Mr. Congeniality awards to the Dancefloor Filler of the Year, Best Music Video and OMG Moment of the Year honors, it’s up to you to vote in a whole heap of categories and have your say on the best – and worst – of Eurovision 2017. Don’t miss your chance!!

 

 

 

 

Lights and Shadows: Reviewing the good, the bad and the OMG results of Eurovision 2017

Hey guys! This is the kind of post that should have gone up about five minutes after the Eurovision final ended on Saturday, but I have been internet-less (cue Psycho shower scene music) for the whole week up until this point. So please excuse the slowness.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but on the weekend Portugal did something pretty cool by winning that Eurovision final after more than half a century of trying. No biggie.

Okay, okay…like Ron Burgundy, Portugal’s win IS kind of a big deal. And obviously you already know what went down during the show – from Austria’s giant moon to a flag-draped Ukrainian’s moon (of a different kind) and everything before, in-between and after.

The more-than-convincing win by Salvador Sobral with Amar Pelos Dois is one for the ages. Salvador is a quirky and precious gift to humankind (the Michael Cera of Eurovision, if you will) and APD is a stunning song, lovingly crafted by his equally talented sister Luisa. I’m so glad we got to witness the two of them come together (Stockholm 2016 slogan pun not intended, believe it or not) to perform the best ESC winner reprise in contest history:

I’M NOT CRYING. YOU’RE CRYING.

That’s three years in row now that the Eurovision victory lap has moved me to tears, for one reason or another. If the thought of heading to Lisbon next May wasn’t appealing enough, whoever takes the trip (which might include me!) will also get to see at least one Sobral sibling perform live. BRB, off to plaster a sticker on my loose change jar that says ‘PORTUGAL FUND’.

Of course, many of us were expecting to start up an Italy fund over the weekend, if we hadn’t already. While Francesco Gabbani + gorilla hardly crashed and burned, such a steaming hot favourite finishing outside of the top 5 is flabbergasting.

Occidentali’s Karma wasn’t the only song to end the night in an unexpected place. There were plenty of surprises – good and bad – on the semi and final scoreboards…and then the full split results were made public and provided even more open-mouth moments. It’s customary for every Eurovision-related site to pick all of those results apart like a chicken carcass, so that’s what I’m (finally) doing today. Sans the grease that accompanies picking apart an actual chicken carcass. Sorry for the visual, vegetarians.

FYI 1.0: I’m not too bothered about points, because there are (other) Eurovision nerds out there who can crunch numbers with ease (I can’t) and have beaten me to it anyway. I’m more interested in other stats: agreements and disagreements between the televoters and juries; which countries continued to succeed and which countries fell off the ‘We’re Good At Song Contests!’ wagon; who outdid all of their previous results and who hit a brand new low…that sort of thing. If you want to know how many jurors from Eastern Europe gave five or more points to countries in Western Europe (or something like that), you won’t find that info here.

FYI 2.0: I like to ramble. Even if this is your first time visiting EBJ, then this overly-long intro will have made that clear. So before you go on and read this post (which I hope you do ‘coz it’s interesting, I promise), find a comfortable seat and some energy bars to have by your side – or, as Ilinca from Romania says between bouts of yodeling, ‘Get another coffee, get another one to make it through’. Wise, wise Ilinca.

Now let’s look back at the rankings from the semi finals and the final of Eurovision 2017, and see what stands out for better…or for worse.

 

 

Semi final 1

 Split results stats

  • Countries the juries and televoters agreed on were Portugal and Greece, but they both ranked Sweden, Armenia, Iceland and Latvia
  • The biggest differences of opinion were over Australia (2nd J, 15th T), the Czech Republic (7th J, 18th T) and Belgium (13th J, 3rd J). Fortunately for televoters, the juries didn’t manage to keep Blanche out of qualifying range.

 

 Combined results stats

  • Portugal won a semi for the first time this year. Their previous highest qualification came from a 2nd placing in 2008.
  • Moldova’s 2nd place overall equals their best semi result ever – they also finished 2nd the last time the contest was held in Kyiv in 2005.
  • For Sweden, this was the fifth semi final in a row (host years excluded, of course) in which they’ve finished in the top 3.
  • Australia maintained its 100% qualification record – it could be worse with two semi participations – alongside Azerbaijan (slightly more impressive given they’ve participated in nine semis).
  • The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Portugal (they didn’t compete in Stockholm), Moldova and Greece.
  • The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Georgia, the Czech Republic and Latvia.

 

Moldova’s out-of-the-ordinary strong result and Sweden’s predictably excellent one put a smile on my Post-Eurovision-Depression-ravaged face. I’m also pleased with Isaiah’s 6th place, since after his performance last Tuesday I wasn’t sure Australia would even get to the final at all.

I’m not surprised by Georgia’s narrow miss of the final based on the flawless performance Tamara gave during the broadcast. I’m guessing she didn’t miss a beat, note or dramatic arm flourish during the jury show either.

I feel a bit better about losing Blackbird now that we know Finland wasn’t totally disregarded. The juries just found a few other songs that catered more to their tastes (or better met the criteria they were supposed to be searching for).

Latvia’s last place has left me shook. The juries ranking it right at the bottom makes some sense, but I expected the public to go for this particular pimp-slot song in a big way. Then again, I didn’t vote for it, and apparently I wasn’t alone.

 

 

Semi final 2

Split results stats

  • The countries juries and televoters agreed on this time were Bulgaria and Ireland, with Serbia, Switzerland, Macedonia, Lithuania and San Marino ranked closely with both.
  • It was a different story for the Netherlands (2nd J, 9th T), Austria (4th J, 14th T), Malta (8th J, 18th T), Croatia (13th J, 5th T), Romania (15th J, 3rd T) and Estonia (17th J, 6th T). The jury got their way with Estonia, but not with Malta.

 

Combined results stats

  • After qualifying for only the second time ever last year, Bulgaria did it for a third time in style by winning the second semi.
  • Hungary achieved their equal best semi result in history, with Joci doing what Magdi Ruzsa managed in 2007.
  • This semi saw Romania pick up their 100% qualifying record where they left off in 2015.
  • Switzerland may have missed out on a spot in the final for the third time in a row, but 12th place isn’t bad considering they placed dead last in their 2015 and 2016 semis.
  • Despite having a hotly tipped song up their sleeve, Macedonia failed to make it out of the semis for the fifth consecutive year.
  • The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Norway, Romania (after being expelled like a naughty school kid last year), Belarus and Denmark.
  • The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Serbia, Malta and Lithuania. Where’s Donny Montell when you need him?

 

Nothing warms my (formerly cold, unfeeling) heart more than seeing Hungary’s Origo – my favourite entry of 2017 – so high in the combined ranking. I figured Joci’s rap would repel a lot of juries, but they still had him in their top 10.

I was a little surprised to see that Denmark just scraped through, but I’m biased when it comes to Anja and Where I Am. Maybe I should have seen it coming. I’m not shocked that she had more jury appeal than televoter appeal. Claudia Faniello did too, but with worse consequences.

San Marino actually finished far lower than I thought they would. Because a) Valentina and Jimmie put on a good show in spite of the material they were working with, and b) I figured I shouldn’t underestimate a Sammarinese disco song after last year, I’d prepared for them to claw their way into 12th-14th territory. Serhat must be pretty pleased with himself now!

 

 

The final

I’ve noted each country’s jury (J) and televote (T) ranking below in the overall ranking.

Split results stats

  • Just like in the semis, the juries and televoters only agreed on the ranking of two countries – Portugal and Bulgaria (who’d also been ranked first by both in their respective semis).
  • It was a close call for Italy, Azerbaijan, Greece, Israel, Germany, Belarus and Spain, who were all ranked reasonably equally by J and T. The televoters’ way would have seen Austria finish last, but the juries elevated Nathan to 16th place overall (which I’m thankful for, because I couldn’t bear to watch that adorable human fall victim to a total lack of love).
  • The biggest disagreements between J and T were over Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Romania and Hungary. Australia gets the award for the largest gap between rankings, with a jury 4th and a televoting 25th.

 

Combined results stats

  • We all know that the entire top 3 – Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova – achieved their best-ever results on Saturday. Portugal and Moldova also made massive leaps after each failing to even qualify the last time they competed. This time last year, Bulgaria had just reached a best-ever placing of 4th, so well done to Kristian for improving on Poli’s already stellar result.
  • Belgium hit the heights of the top 10 for the third time in a row, and Sweden finished 5th for the second time in a row. Consistent!
  • Australia continued their top 10 trend despite receiving the second-lowest amount of public votes, while Norway found themselves back on the left side of the scoreboard after a non-qualification last year. Prior to 2016, the last time Norway had finished outside of the top 10 was 2012.
  • The Netherlands ended up in 11th place again – Douwe Bob did the same last year. Cyprus came 21st for the second straight year. More consistency!
  • 19 of the 26 finalists were also in the Stockholm grand final. Of those 19, 8 improved on their 2016 final placings and 8 dropped down. The most notable dropper is Poland, who went from 8th then to 22nd
  • In terms of host entries, Ukraine put in one of the worst performances – on the scoreboard, not on the stage – of the last decade. Austria’s 26th place with nul points from 2015 obviously outdoes O.Torvald’s 24th place (with 36 whole points) but those are the only two host entries to sink that low in recent years.
  • Spain found themselves in the bottom 5 again this year, after Barei finished 22nd in 2016. This is the first time since 1999 they’ve come last, though, which might seem surprising since they’ve had such bad luck for so long.
  • Germany, on the other hand, managed to better their last few results despite finishing second last. They trailed the pack of participants in both 2015 and 2016, so Levina shouldn’t be too One box of tissues, tops.

 

On Portugal’s win…was Amar Pelos Dois my favourite entry this year? No. Do I agree with everything Salvador said in his spontaneous slash controversial victory speech? No, but that’s more to do with the way he said it (and he’s easily defendable on that front). Am I happy that he and Portugal won the contest last weekend? HECK YEAH!!! Simple, beautiful and emotional – and yes, more about feeling than fireworks, although fireworks are fine – this winning song will be a timeless classic.

Bulgaria and Moldova achieving their best-ever results makes me do a happy dance every time I think about it (so I’d better avoid attending funerals for a while #inappropriate). Kristian’s placing was expected, but the Sunstroke Project outdid even their own expectations, I suspect. I feel strangely like a proud mother (as opposed to the hard-to-impress kind they sang about).

5th place (again) for Sweden is solid if not sensational. They had some tough competition to take out this year, and winning was never a realistic possibility. But they get to hold on to their Eurovision powerhouse title for at least another year.  

Poor Italy. After all of that buildup and so much time spent as the bookies’ fave to win, they didn’t even make the top 5. After seeing Francesco’s performance, I got the impression it wasn’t a winner, but I still thought top 3 was going to happen for him. Nope. Interestingly, France won the OGAE vote last year, like Italy did this year, and also went on to finish 6th. Spooky.

It proved to be a non-event with the juries, but Hungary’s Origo – my beloved #1 song of the year – was thankfully boosted into the top 10 by the televoters (including me…it got about 15 of my 20 votes). Since their 2011 comeback, Hungary has qualified for the final every year and has finished in the top 10 three times. Not too shabby.

On the other hand, Australia was virtually ignored by televoters but adored by the juries. I don’t really understand either response, but I can’t help being thrilled in my own biased way that we made the top 10 yet again.

I figured France was a goner after Alma appeared on stage last looking very lonely and not leaving much of an impression behind her. But 12th? Tré bien! The song definitely deserved that left-side finish, even if the staging left something to be desired.

I thought Israel might do a little better, but I think we all saw Spain’s wooden spoon coming – even before Manel sealed the deal with that cringeworthy vocal fail. I think he’s sweet, and he doesn’t deserve the hate he got before the contest and will probably get now – but I also hope Spain learns a lesson from his lack of success.

 

 

Lastly…the comeback acts, then versus now

Kyiv was a more successful contest for:

  • Sunstroke Project 22nd in 2010/3rd in 2017

…and that’s it! The trio should be particularly grateful for their success, because every single other returning artist had a worse result than they did when they last competed.

  • Koit Toome 12th in 1998/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017
  • Laura Põldvere DNQ (20th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017*
  • Omar Naber DNQ (12th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (17th in semi) in 2017
  • Valentina Monetta 24th in 2014/DNQ (18th in semi) in 2017

*I’m calling Laura’s result this year worse because with Suntribe in 2005, she beat five other countries. This year, she only beat four.

 

 

Okay…I THINK I’ve gotten all of my scoreboard-related thoughts out of my system. Parabéns if you made it all the way through, and parabéns to Portugal for being the cherry on top of a contest with such discussable ingredients. I mean, EVERY Eurovision has an aftermath worth having in-depth conversations about that really confuse everyone outside of the ESC bubble. This one, though, will easily keep us going until the 2017/2018 national final season starts – or until Junior Eurovision in November, if that floats your Naviband-esque boat (it keeps mine extremely buoyant, BTW. Yes, I’m a JESC fangirl).

On that note, if there’s a result or ranking you’re burning to comment on, you’re in the right place. Did Eurovision 2017 pan out how you thought it would, or has it SHOCKED YOU TO YOUR VERY CORE and given you Koit Toome face?

 

Whatever you’re thinking, type it down below. I’m not willing to shut up about this contest until Lisbon’s (maybe) so let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.

 

Until next time – when I’m planning on counting down my top 10 performances of Eurovision 2017 – muitas felicidades!

 

 

 

Portugal, proposals and some pretty terrible predictions: My post-semi + pre-final thoughts on Eurovision 2017!

Well, Eurovision week has flown by faster than Belgium’s betting ranking dropped after the first round of rehearsals (fortunately for Blanche, they’ve crept up again). The countdown to the grand final is on, and at the last minute, Kyiv 2017 has become a bit less ‘Where in Italy are we going next year?’ and a bit more ‘Where else could we be going next year?’. But more on that later.

First, I’m going to take a quick look back at the semi finals. They may not have lived up to Stockholm’s in terms of slick production, interval entertainment value and host awesomeness (Petra, Måns, and Edward af Sillen’s genius scripting skills left three sizeable pairs of shoes to fill) but they definitely delivered on great performances from 36 countries on a sensational stage, and on qualifier shocks.

 

Semi Final 1: Treadmills, twirling braids and bye bye Blackbird

The best of Ukraine was on show on Tuesday night, with rapper Monatik kicking things off; Verka Serduchka playing a part (I’m always happy to see the namesake of my car, Vercar Serduchcar); and reigning champ and all-around goddess Jamala nailing performances of 1944 and Zamanyly. That was all on either side of/in-between the 18 acts competing for the first ten final tickets, of course.

This was the weaker semi final as far as my personal favourites were concerned – and I do think there were more disposable songs on offer, which made parting with them less painful. That was before I knew what was to come when our non-green-room hosts Vova (I may have misheard that nickname for the majority of the show) and Oleksandr announced the qualifiers. But before I have a good old groan of ‘WHY, GOD, WHY?!?!?’ about that, here are my top 5 performance highlights of the night.

  • Sweden Yeah, like you didn’t know this was coming. As a Swedeophile who saw Robin win Melodifestivalen in the flesh, I was never going to be anything less than psyched to see him at Eurovision. I Can’t Go On was a great show opener, and Mr. Bengtsson made all the right moves. We expect perfectly polished performances from Sverige, and that’s what we got.
  • Finland Norma John are another act that made barely noticeable changes to their national final performance for ESC purposes. They didn’t need to overhaul Blackbird’s presentation, because it already had all the power it needed to be stunningly heartbreaking. At least, that’s what I thought.
  • Moldova I’d single out the Sunstroke Project as my absolute evening highlight. Everything about Hey Mamma on the Eurovision stage was on point – energetic, irresistible and fun without being tacky, AND it had a costume reveal. I danced my butt off to this one, and burned a lot of calories in the process. Thanks, Moldova!
  • Cyprus Theft of Loïc Nottet’s backdrop aside, Cyprus made a massively positive impression on me, which is just what I was hoping for as a Gravity Kudos to Hovig for finding the point of balance (pun totally intended) between singing in tune and working one’s way through complicated choreography. You can’t say the man’s not multitalented.
  • Armenia The most impressive thing about this was Artsvik’s hair, which had obviously been braided by angels who then moved along to work their magic on O’G3NE’s vocal chords. That’s a compliment, because her costume, vocals and staging were all excellent. The whole package did justice to what’s one of the most unique songs in the 2017 contest.

 

 

Other performances to note include Georgia’s – Tamara blew me away even though I’m not a big fan of Keep The Faith ; Montenegro’s, during which Slavko’s sass level was off the charts, but his spinning braid stole the show; and Iceland’s, because Svala wore Baby Spice platform sneakers and actually looked good (something I aspired to back in 1998). Sadly, none of these three countries made the cut when it came to qualifier crunch time. So who did? And more importantly, how accurate were my pre-show predictions?*

*If I’m honest with myself, I know you probably don’t care how right I was…but I do, so let me be narcissistic for a second.

I pulled Poland out of my predicted ten at the last second, but in favour of Cyprus. Finland was already on my list as a certain qualifier, so it’s safe to say that I didn’t see their DNQ – Finland’s third in a row – coming. And when I watched Norma John’s performance again, looking for reasons as to why they didn’t make it, I couldn’t see any (partly because I was weeping over the emotional lyrics and my vision was blurred). This fail to advance will go down in history as one I will NEVER be able to figure out. I figure Finland must have finished 11th or 12th, which we’ll find out soon after the final, but even that doesn’t make sense to me. So if you have the answer, I’m begging you to tell me what it is so I can get some closure!

Finland excepted, I was happy with the results of this semi. Australia managed to make it through (possibly by the skin of our teeth) which was obviously a huge relief, and it gave me the warm fuzzies to see Moldova (who last made it to the final in 2013) and Portugal (they haven’t seen a Saturday night since 2010!) qualify.

How much pleasure, and how much pain – if any – did the semi final one blood puddle (it wasn’t a full-on bloodbath, after all) give you? How did your predictions pan out? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Semi Final 2: A pregnancy, a marriage proposal and another early exit for Estonia

Three things happened during Thursday’s second semi final that I hadn’t expected, and none of them had anything to do with the eventual qualifiers. The first was that Vova and Oleks actually attempted to live up to Love Love Peace Peace, which was a bad idea (though I appreciate the effort and the Ukrainian feel their musical number brought to the proceedings). The second – and third – were the two Major Life Event Checklist boxes that Jana Burčeska managed to tick off in one night (as I sat on my couch in a very glamorous pair of pajamas with only a farting dog for company). As you know, she revealed her pregnancy via her video postcard, only to be proposed to about an hour later by her boyfriend in the green room. It’s lucky Macedonia DIDN’T qualify, because she might have exploded with happiness (and that’d be a lot harder to clean up than the confetti that’s apparently banned from this year’s show).

Jana’s performance didn’t do much for me, but there were plenty that did. Here are five of my second semi highlights: 

  • Hungary Origo is my favourite entry of the year, and Joci did everything I was hoping for on a stage much bigger than he had to work with at A Dal. Nerves didn’t affect him, the fire jets added more visual interest and the use of the satellite stage for the violinist worked like a dream. FLAWLESS.
  • Denmark Umm, speaking of flawless…after Joci came blonde bombshell Anja, who may have done exactly what she did in DMGP (down to wearing the same red dress, which was a welcome change from the clown swimsuit she wore during rehearsals) but nailed every second of it. I love Where I Am too, a lot of that has to do with Anja’s powerful delivery.
  • Croatia Yes, this was a personal highlight! I couldn’t help being amazed at Jacques’ ability to sing a solo duet live with ease, but the comic relief of his performance is what made it stock in my memory. The half-and-half costume, those turns from “pop” camera to “opera” camera…it was exactly what I was hoping to see (and laugh at continuously for three minutes).
  • Norway This was very similar to what won JOWST the right to represent Norway, but it was SO much slicker. And after a success slump with Agnete in 2016, it was fantastic to see Norway present such a cohesive and current package. I also really like Aleksander’s hat, so that helped.
  • Bulgaria Even though I’ve seen countless Junior Eurovision performers take to the stage with confidence and talent beyond their years, there’s something compelling about Kristian Kostov, who’s a little older but still the youngest artist in the adult contest this year. His voice is amazing, and his stage persona is ‘cool as a cucumber’, and packed with genuine (or well-faked) feeling.

 

This semi served up far more than five epic performances, and others I’d say fall into that category include Austria’s, because it was beautiful and adorable in equal measure; The Netherlands’, what with O’G3NE’s incredible sisterly harmonies; and San Marino’s. Yes, I said San Marino’s. What can I say? Valentina and Jimmie were having so much fun on stage, they almost made Spirit of the Night seem tolerable. It wasn’t a night of good spirits in the end, though, since they didn’t progress from the semi. Here’s who did (like you didn’t already know) compared to who I thought would go through.

Yet again, I had Norway in only to drop them out at the last minute, replacing them with Croatia. As I said, I’m super glad JOWST did qualify, but I feel super sorry for Estonia, who couldn’t shake off the Shock DNQ Syndrome they developed last year. But this time, I found it easier to figure out what went wrong. Verona didn’t work live in the way they’d opted to present it, and the dynamic between Laura and Koit was…well, weird. Koit’s über-dramatic facial expressions were up there with Croatia’s entire performance in the hilarity stakes, and have now become a meme, so that’s something.

I have to admit, although I do love Verona as a song, I didn’t bat an eyelid when it didn’t qualify because I was too busy doing a celebratory dance over Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark and Hungary.

Did any of the second semi’s winners get you on your feet (with excitement or shock value)?

 

  

And final-ly…some grand final opinions and predictions

The 2017 final has turned out to be a banger, musically-speaking. There are strings of songs in the running order that’ll barely give us time to take a breath.

 

Israel will be an ovary-bursting opener – so much so that we might still be fanning ourselves when Poland (in the dreaded second slot) takes their turn. Moldova through Denmark is a worrying stretch for me, since it involves three of my favourite entries mixed in with the two bookies’ favourites. Belgium-Sweden-Bulgaria is an interesting run too. France isn’t as strong a closer as we’ve gotten accustomed to: from what I’ve seen and heard, Alma’s too small on the big stage, and her voice has its wobbly moments.

I’m not going to analyse the running order, because plenty of other sites have already done it with way more finesse than I would, but let’s just say it’s raised some questions, and made the competition a little less predictable.

 

The biggest question is one I’ll have a go at answering…

 

Who’s going to win?

I’ve been back and forth on this one. A month ago, I had a gut feeling that Italy was going to finish second. Then I gave in and decided Francesco had it in the bag. Now I’m totally confused and unsure what to expect when the votes come in feat. dramatic music and the kind of tension that brings on heart palpitations (if it’s anything like the Stockholm voting sequence, which nearly killed me).

Realistically, we could be looking at a Fairytale-type landslide for Italy. But the real fairytale ending would be a Portuguese win. If they can do it, it will be their first in 49 attempts (48 if you don’t count 2006’s Coisas De Nada as an attempt to win Eurovision, which TBH you probably shouldn’t).

In doubt about Salvador’s classic song and quirky performance style combining to produce a scoreboard topper? Well, in a last-minute shocker, he’s loosened Francesco Gabbani’s unwavering grip on the odds-on favourite title to become the current favourite to win – and his performance from Tuesday’s semi final has been viewed 1.5 million times, making nearest rival Blanche’s 980k view count look pretty paltry by comparison.

It’s clear Portugal has captured a lot of imaginations (and votes…DUH!) and as someone who didn’t totally get the hype until I suddenly found myself reaching for the tissues during Salvador’s semi performance, I can say that it’s not too late for the country to charm even more people with voting power.

Bulgaria has to be noted as a contender, but I don’t see Beautiful Mess as winning material. Top 3 or top 5, yes.

To throw in a few random, much less likely potential winners – how hilarious would you find it if I named the United Kingdom and Romania? Lucie Jones’ staging is literally gold standard, and she’s scored herself a great performance spot. I still think people are getting a little over-excited, and that a lower top 10 placing is more likely for the UK, but stranger things have happened. Romania would be the perfect package if they actually had something coming out of their cannons. You never know, though…the slogan of next year’s contest could be ‘Yodel It!’. Alex and Ilinca would need one hell of a televote score to make that a possibility, though.

When it comes to the crunch – meaning I’m about to stop fence-sitting – I still think Italy will win, but not by a massive margin. And if Eurovision doesn’t travel to Milan in 2018, then it’ll probably head to Lisbon. I’d be totally fine with that, having spent a half hour this morning Googling photos of the Portuguese capital and swooning at the sheer beauty of it.

But does Salvadorable outshine namaste, alé?

 

Predicting the top 10, and the bottom 5 😦

Without further ado, this is my best guess at the top 10 – a.k.a. the most sought-after bunch of positions. But I really have no idea what’s going to happen. What else is new?

#worsteurovisionpredictorontheplanet.

  1. Italy
  2. Portugal
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Romania
  5. Sweden
  6. Armenia
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Belgium
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Moldova

Now let’s head down to the opposite end of the scoreboard. This is my predicted bottom 5:

  1. Greece
  2. Poland
  3. Ukraine (sorry!)
  4. Germany
  5. Spain

Seriously, though…douze points, fifty million dollars and a muffin basket for anyone who can nail either end of the scoreboard down before the final begins.

 

Speaking of which, the hours before said final are now in single digits, so I’m going to sign off and try to get a power nap in so I don’t fall asleep during the show (thank god Malta didn’t qualify, or I’d definitely be having a snooze). Whether you’re prepping for a fabulous Eurovision party or getting ready to go it alone tonight, I hope you enjoy what’s left of this year’s contest. Join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz if you want (which you totally should) – and if you don’t, then I’ll see you on the other side when we have the next 1944.

MUCH EXCITE.

 

May the best song (according to the majority of televoters and/or jury members, obviously) win!