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EBJ’s top 10…hosts of the last decade

1. 2007  in Helsinki, Finland: Jaana Pelkonen & Mikko Leppilampi

I’m pretty sure these two wrote Hosting Eurovision In A Genuinely Comedic, Enthusiastic, Engaging and Professional Way Without Making The Home Viewers Want To Thrust Their Fists Through The TV Screen: For Dummies. Bravo, and douze points!

 2. 2010 in Oslo, Norway: Nadia Hasnaoui, Haddy N’jie & Eric Solbakken

There’s always a shining beacon among a trio of hosts and in Oslo it was Eric, who provided some much-needed comic relief by donning a Milan Stanković wig and InCulto hotpants (I’m still wondering where you buy those), among other things. But the ladies were faultless, despite begging the question, “Why so serious?”.

3. 2004 in Istanbul, Turkey: Meltem Cumbul & Korhan Abay

I’m still not entirely certain that Mr. Abay was alive back then, but he did a pretty good job of compeering alongside Miss Cumbul. I particularly liked their banter about George Clooney and Pamela Anderson (the resemblance is uncanny!).

4. 2011 in Düsseldorf, Germany: Anke Engelke, Judith Rakers & Stefan Raab

If it’d been Anke on her own, she’d be at the top, but as it is she can thank Judith (who I’m sure is a great news presenter but at the ESC had all the enthusiasm of Norway when they discovered they hadn’t qualified) and Stefan (who needed to be surgically removed from his guitar) for dragging her down to 4th place.

 5. 2002 in Tallinn, Estonia: Annely Peebo & Marko Matvere

There’s little I love more than hosts presenting a pre-shot fantasy sequence of themselves singing an ode to their ‘love’ and laughing gaily when one catches the other in a face pack. Amazingly 2002 gave me exactly that. Very sweet.

6. 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia: Jovana Janković & Željko Joksimović

These two weren’t bad, but I reckon they should stick to their day jobs if Eurovision lands inSerbia again in their lifetime.

7. 2005 in Kyiv, Ukraine: Maria “Masha” Efrosnina & Pavlo “Pasha” Shylko

If you look up ‘Painfully scripted dialogue’ in the dictionary, there’s a toothy photograph of this duo underneath it.

8. 2006 in Athens, Greece: Maria Menounos & Sakis Rouvas

Great show, Greece. Not so good = the presenters. Did Maria know what Eurovision was before she was asked to host it? I’m not sure. Her partnership with Greek god Sakis was a bit of a shambles in any case, with plenty of stumbles to go round and a cringe-worthy lip-sync from his end.

9. 2009 in Moscow, Russia: Natalia Vodianova & Andrey Malahov/ Alsou & Ivan Urgant

Alsou and Ivan were perfectly adequate hosts, but they pale in comparison to the horror show (or lust-fest, whichever you prefer) that was the Supermodel and the Sleaze of the Semi Finals. Shudder.

10. 2003 in Riga, Latvia: Marie N & Renars Kaupers

I’m sorry, but if I’m watching the ’03 contest and there’s a wall nearby, it’s usually less than a minute after Marie and Renars emerge that I’m driven up it. I wasn’t a huge fan of (read: I really hated) the former’s winning song, so it was easy to turn my nose up at her hosting skills. But I loved Renars in Brainstorm! Perhaps that’s the kind of fronting he should stick to.

 

Just to let you fellow Eurovisionaries know: I’ve made it my mission to blog all year, every year, which can be a tough ask when there’s little happening on the ESC/JESC fronts. But I do have a bunch of random posts lined up, so I thought I’d do up a little schedule to keep you informed of when to expect them, if you’re interested. Remember, it’s two or more a week in twenty-eleven!

Tuesdays: Time Warp Tuesday

Fridays/Saturdays: A random feature, rant, news update or top 10

And of course, a surprise post anytime if I feel like it!

Stay alerted by following EBJ on Twitter, liking on Facebook (links in the sidebar) and/or subscribing (link at the bottom of the page).

Retrospective Reviews 2011: S to Z

Or S to U, whatever takes your fancy!

SAN MARINO

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: Stand By

Artist: Senit

Result: 16th in semi final

My favourite lyric: “Waves of eternity, waves of serenity”

The best bits: It was great to have Italy Junior (would a San Marinese person kill me for saying that?) back in the contest after two years away, and they at least managed to improve their record by a few points. Senit looked and sounded pretty spectacular on the night.

The other bits: In my opinion, this is San Marino’s worst entry EVER! That’s mainly due to my unconditional love for their only other one from back in 2008, Complice. Stand By is of an equally lazy tempo, but it’s just so much drearier, and there wasn’t a whole lot they could do on stage with it.

I give the song: 6

I give the vocals: 8 

I give the performance: 7 

Points for San Marino: 7

 

SERBIA

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: Čaroban

Artist: Nina

Result: 14th

Gimmick: Welcome to the 60s

The best bits: Serbia can’t put a foot wrong in my eyes, always bringing something unique to the stage. This year, they had a theme and they stuck to it in costume, graphics, choreography and hairdos (apparently Nina’s normally a long-haired brunette). But why not go all out, when you can do it in a classy and entertaining way?

The other bits: Whilst I like that they made the decision to keep the song in Serbian, I reckon the English version – which was really well written – could have gotten them some more points and perhaps a position in the top 10. Also, I don’t think the people behind the performance took into consideration all the viewers who suffer from motion sickness.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 10 

I give the performance: 10 

Points for Serbia: 10  

 

SLOVAKIA

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: I’m Still Alive

Artist: TWiiNS

Result: 13th in semi final

Gimmick: The Doubles, volume II

The best bits: Is this more American-sounding than the US national anthem? Perhaps, but so is Azerbaijan, and I like this a lot better! The twins (sorry, TWiiNS. That name = the worst part of the entry) pulled off quite a polished performance. I was expecting some awful vocals, Jedward-style, but was impressed, if not blown away, by those they gave. Both looked absolutely amazing – there’s definitely not a prettier twin with those two.

The other bits: I’m sure a lot of other people could, but I can’t really complain about anything here. Apart from the fact that their absolutely amazing-ness makes me feel about as attractive as Dustin the Turkey.

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 7

I give the performance: 8 

Points for Slovakia: 8

 

SLOVENIA

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: No One

Artist: Maja Keuc

Result: 13th

Reminds me of: Fighter by Christina Aguilera

The best bits: Now here’s some mind-blowing vocals! I can’t sing Maja’s praises enough (although when I do I get told to shut up because I can’t sing an eighth as good as her). For a long time, in fact, right up until the Düsseldorf performance, I couldn’t see why people were bandying “Slovenia 2012!!!” around the place. But something happened on that stage, with the hand flourishing and body armor, akin to what happened with Ukraine in 2010 – an electrifying three minutes.

The other bits: I can’t believe security allowed those platform boots into the arena! Surely they qualify as a weapon?

I give the song: 9

I give the vocals: 10 

I give the performance: 10 

Points for Slovenia: 12

 

SPAIN

My favourite national finalist: Volver by Auryn

Song: Qui Me Quiten Lo Bailao

Artist: Lucía Perez

Result: 23rd

Reminds me of: Hey Soul Sister by Train

The best bits: This song is a little closer to the upbeat Spanish pop entries that I always get into – think Dime from 03, Para Llenarme De Ti from 04 and I Love You Mi Vida from 07 (e-eh-oh!). It’s cheesy, but sunny, and no matter what Lucia really thought of it – as she reportedly wanted to sing something else – she did a good job of convincing us that she was having a good time on stage. You can’t be in a bad mood when listening to it.

The other bits: IMO it’s the weakest entry from the Big 5. And the performance featured the most awkward dance move I think I’ve ever seen at the contest…you know the one!

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 9 

I give the performance: 9

Points for Spain: 8

 

SWEDEN

My favourite national finalist: This one/In The Club by Danny Saucedo

Song: Popular

Artist: Eric Saade

Result:  3rd

My favourite lyric: “Don’t say that it’s impossible, ‘cause I know it’s possible”

The best bits: I don’t give a pile of sequins how little sense the lyrics make, or how questionable Eric’s vocals are – I LOVE THIS SONG! Fredrik Kempe is the Einstein of Schlager, having written about a gajillion fabulous Melodifestivalen/ESC songs over the last decade or so, and he delivered another in 2011. I’m not quite sure how one is supposed to dance to Popular when one is not on stage and one is not famous and one has not been taught choreography, but I dance anyway whenever this comes on. I loved the stage show, the breaking (and sometimes, non-breaking) glass and Eric, of course.

The other bits: Yes, there is that ever-present issue of his vocals. But Dana International won Eurovision, and back in 1998 she had the voice of an angel…with strep throat.

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 7

I give the performance: 10 

Points for Sweden: 10

 

SWITZERLAND

My favourite national finalist: Home by The Colors and Ilira

Song: In Love For A While

Artist: Anna Rossinelli

Result:  25th

Reminds me of: I’m Yours by Jason Mraz

The best bits: One of my favourite moments was when the Swiss made it to their first final since automatically qualifying in 2006. I don’t think they were expecting their country to be in a magic envelope. Come to think of it, neither was I! The song is sweet, but seemed too humble to make an impact, and in the end it got lost in the crowd. However Anna (a delightful vocalist) and her cohorts turned out a charming performance, with enough sun to rival the Spaniards.

The other bits: As I mentioned, the song is modest: not dull, but simple, and it doesn’t go far from start to finish. It reminds me of those dreams where you’re running as fast as you can but you aren’t moving. ILFAW is definitely less frustrating than that, but still…

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 10 

I give the performance: 9 

Points for Switzerland: 10

 

TURKEY

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: Live It Up

Artist: Yuksek Sadakat

Result: 14th in semi final

Reminds me of: Genius by Jet

The best bits: Electro-rock strikes again! Only now with 99% more green pants and hamster balls. I don’t think Turkey is capable of sending a bad song to Eurovision, though we know now they are capable of not qualifying (shock horror!). I love a reliable band/artist: one you know you’ll get to watch and listen to without fear of cringing at a bum note. Yuksek fit that ball..er, I mean, bill.

The other bits: It seems to me that Turkey was trying to recreate the success they had in Oslo by sending a similar band with a similar song. But as a hardcore We Could Be The Same fan, I find this inferior. It just doesn’t capture my attention. Maybe go back to ethno-pop next year?

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 9 

I give the performance: 9 

Points for Turkey: 8

 

UKRAINE

My favourite national finalist: This one/The Kukusha by Zlata Ognevich

Song: Angel

Artist: Mika Newton

Result:  4th

Gimmick: Magic Sand at a whole new level

The best bits: Am I the only person who missed most of the sand because I was watching Mika? Yes, I was mainly thinking ‘I love those feathers’, ‘I wonder where her shoes are from?’ and ‘Wow, mullet dresses have really caught on this year!’, but it’s also due to my undying love for this song – I wanted to pay attention to her performance. Say the words un-clichéd, haunting and ballad in the same sentence and I’m so there. Follow them up with feathers, stiletto boots and a mullet dress (sigh, and sand art) and I’m a goner.

The other bits: I did confuse myself a bit by falling head-over-heels for the original version, then reaching the summit of Mt. Disappointment when it was rocked up, sped up and retitled in English, THEN saying how it didn’t work on stage, and now deciding that it really did and I adore it more than ever. I am also confused as to how this did so well when so many people seemed to dislike it.

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 9

I give the performance: 9 

Points for Ukraine: 10

 

UNITED KINGDOM

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: I Can

Artist: Blue

Result:  11th

My favourite lyric: “We’re not the first ones to be divided, won’t be the last to be reunited”

The best bits: I salute you, UK, for clawing yourselves out of the depths of last place and a shocking “tune” by recruiting one of the most cherished boy-bands of my girlhood to sing a modern, anthemic, self-composed song – aptly about getting back up again.

The other bits: I will stand by (to borrow a phrase from San Marino) my assertion that the UK had the best and most winner-like song of the 2011 contest. Unfortunately, the performance was bordering on shambolic. If the shiny suits had caught fire beforehand and had to be swapped for street clothes, Lee had drunk some honey tea, and someone had suggested that perhaps green lighting and giant LED head shots of Blue (apparently half-naked) were not the most suitable effect options, things would have been a whole lot better. The song deserved more than 100 points; the staging, considerably less.

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 6

I give the performance: 7 

Points for the UK: 8

 

COMING UP: The first ever official Time Warp Tuesday…what Eurovision moment will I pick? Tune in Tues and see!

 

Jaz x

What’s next for twenty-eleven?

Hello all!   

I hope you’re doing well wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. I’ve spent the last few days “studying” for my exams next week and wishing I could be blogging instead. I’m determined to keep doing so (the latter, that is, not pretend to study) all year round, but it’s a bit hard at the moment.

This is especially frustrating when I’m wanting to put up my retrospective reviews for you! I’ve been putting them together in bits and pieces, looking at the songs, artists and performances from 2011, in between doing what I’m supposed to, and I’m hoping to post them in installments from early next week – the first being countries A to B. So please come back to check them out and share your own opinions (subscribe to EBJ to get alerted…pretty please? Just go to the bottom of the page). In the meantime, why not relive my 2010 retrospective reviews from here: https://eurovisionbyjaz.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/retrospective-reviews-a-to-b/

In the (350 or so) days before Baku, here are some of the other posts I’ve got planned:

– Top 10’s: JESC to ESC, songs that shouldn’t have come last, and anything else I can think of!

– Articles: What does it take to be a runner-up in Eurovision? What have the last decade’s winners been up to lately? Plus, some contest questions that have to be asked…

– Time-warp Tuesdays: I’ll be shining the spotlight on a personal classic moment from the glittery ESC history every week, courtesy of Youtube, just for nostalgic fun!

– And of course, my take on all the developments from Armeniain the lead up to 2011’s other contest, Junior Eurovision.

To conclude, I’ll continue the randomness of this particular post by saying:

a)      I picked up my copy of the Electric Pictures documentary The Secret History of Eurovision today. From an actual shop. Finally, we Australians get something Eurovision easier! I haven’t watched it yet, but I remember how good it was from the broadcast in May, and if you do, or if you didn’t get the chance to see it, you can get it online right now. It’s stocked at www.dymocks.com.au and http://shop.abc.net.au/ for $30AUD, and both ship overseas. What are you waiting for?

b)      My first Time-warp Tuesday begins…now! Yes, I am aware it’s more like Forgotten Favourites Friday, but who’s caring? Let’s go back to 1989 and one of those runners-up…one that really should have gone all the way. It’s the United Kingdom, who back then asked themselves the question that they should be asking themselves more often now (the answer can be found in song form in their 2010 entry): why do I always get it wrong? This is from Live Report, and it’s one of my all-time favourites. Talk to you soon!

 

Mum’s the word, but mine counts too! Reviewing the 2011 album

ESC2011Earlier this week I promised a post that reviewed this year’s double CD, with input from my non-Eurovision-fan mother. Well, the time has come!

My mum’s happy enough to listen to the songs once (I swear I didn’t tie her down. Not this year, anyway) and occasionally ask me questions that make me laugh smugly in a ‘Oh what a ridiculous question to ask, you song-contest novice!’ manner, before actually answering the question. But her interest ventures no further than that. I thought it would be interesting to compare her reactions to the entries as a non-fan with mine as a slightly obsessed one in a quick review. So here it is…enjoy!

 

Here are the songs my mum felt the need to comment on:

Azerbaijan – She said: ‘This is nice isn’t it?’

Belarus – She said: ‘They aren’t from Belarus, by any chance, are they?’

France – She said: ‘Hmm. Very dramatic!’ Yeah, thanks, I hadn’t picked up on that.

UK – She said: ‘Is this the Blue one? It’s good!’ She had heard it once before on The Graham Norton Show and then found it just okay.

Georgia – She said: ‘She’s got a powerful voice.’

Hungary – She said: ‘She has a nice voice.’ Such supreme adjective use, Mama! Just kidding. I do love you really.

Ireland – She said: ‘I like this!’ about 15 seconds in. Then ‘I LOVE this!’ about 10 seconds later.

Italy – She said: ‘Mmm. No, I don’t like this one. It’s too…mishy-mashy.’ I did tell her that I hated Madness of Love on my first listen and now love it, but she refused to budge.

Latvia – She said: Nothing. But she did start dancing to it, which I took as a promising sign. If I’d had a camcorder handy I’d have made Musiqq famous on Australia’s Funniest Home Videos.

Norway – She said: ‘This African stuff is so happy! It just makes you feel good!’ And none more so than African-inspired music from Norway!

Slovenia – She said: ‘This is very Christina Aguilera.’ It’s offical. There is No One on the planet who can’t hear the Xtina in Maja!

Ukraine – She said: ‘She sounds a bit like [Australian singer who sounds nothing like Mika Newton] Delta Goodrem.’

So, based on the above, this is My Mother calling, and here are the first points from…well, My Mother:

1 Georgia

2 France

3 Ukraine

4 Slovenia

5 Latvia

6 Hungary

7 Azerbaijan

And now the top three: 8 points go to…United Kingdom! (applause). 10 points go to…Norway! (more applause). And finally, the 12 points go to…IRELAND! (riotous applause and virtual flag-waving. Ouch, you just poked me in the virtual eye.)

 

Rightio, it’s my turn now. I’m not going to cover every song in depth: I’m saving that for my Retrospective Reviews, to be posted within the next few weeks. I’ll just put my two cents in on…

…the songs that worked really well on disc: Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, UK, Ireland, Latvia, Macedonia, Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia, San Marino

…the songs that are better with sight and sound: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Serbia, Sweden, Ukraine

All in all, I think what started out as a mundane contest (musically speaking) has ended up being a really strong one, as showcased on the album – perhaps not to everyone, but definitely to moi! All of the studio tracks are listenable to varying extents, and there’s nothing that comes across awfully on the CD as there has been in previous years (if you don’t believe me, grab the 2004 album and have a listen to Albania. It is truly terrible).

If you still haven’t grabbed your copy, head to the official Eurovision.tv shop, Amazon, eBay, JB Hifi online or any of your good, local music stores.

What do your parents, or your non-fan friends think about Eurovision or this year’s entries? Let me know down below!

The 2011 split results revealed, and ranked!

THE FINAL

 
It wasn’t until July last year that the split results were released, so to wake up this morning and see that the EBU had made them public just a fortnight after the contest was a great surprise!
 
I’m wondering if you’ll be as shocked as I was by some of the entries that both the juries and televoters decided were worthy of their highest points…here’s a brief look at the final stats as seen above.
 
  • If the outcome of Eurovision was still decided by 100% televoting (as it was up until a few years ago), this year’s top 10 would have consisted of Azerbaijan, Sweden, Greece, Ukraine, UK, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Russia, Germany, and Ireland. So not too different country-wise, but quite different position-wise!
  • And in a fantasy land (not mine) where Eurovision is decided by the pros alone, Italy would have won, followed by Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Austria, Ireland, Ukraine, Serbia, Sweden and Germany.
  • That means the J’s and TV’s have just 50% of their top 10’s in common.
  • Azerbaijan and Sweden were very close with the fans, with just 2 point separating them.
  • The UK might take some comfort in the love they got from the televoters – all 166 points worth –  despite the fact that the juries didn’t rate them.
  • Fan favourite Denmark shockingly owe the juries their 5th place – not the televoters, who pushed them down to 18th!
  • The countries on the most equal footing are Lithuania, Iceland, Romania, Germany and Azerbaijan, who attracted a similar amount of attention from both sides.
 
 
Check out the split semi finals below (click them bigger):

SEMI FINAL 1

  • The juries got 80% of the qualifiers they wanted; the televoters got 70%.
  • You can see two very different winners from each group…both more than a bit stereotypical! The juries lavished the love on Lithuania, a grand, old-fashioned ballad belted out with gusto (and a bit of sign language, which was a nice touch, albeit stolen from Latvia’s 2005 performance) whereas the televoters couldn’t get enough of Greece’s ethnic-modern fusion (and perhaps their absurdly attractive singer).
  • Also expected is the popularity of Norway with the TV’s in comparision to its rear-end-of-the-scoreboard relegation with the J’s.
 
SEMI FINAL 2
  • Here, the juries, got 80% again, whereas the televoters got 90%. It seems the compromise is working out fair!
  • Once again, we can see two very different, but not surprising semi winners. The powerhouse vocals of Maja from Slovenia won out with the pros, whilst the Popular powerhouse performance/party anthem of Sweden got the TV’s dialling.
  • The viewers shared Anastasia Vinnikova’s love for Belarus, it seems.

 

What do you think of the split results? Were you shocked or surprised, or did you expect what you saw? Let me know down below!

EBJ’s top 43: round 2, with some serious knockouts

The artists have landed, press conferences and rehearsals have begun, and I’m still stuck over the other side of the world looking like Kermit the Frog – green with envy for everyone who’s set foot on Düsseldorf soil. I’m keeping well away from photographic evidence of said rehearsals, as I like a surprise, and I haven’t listened to a 2011 song for…too long (in an annual ban that keeps my ears fresh for the contest broadcast). But not so long that I couldn’t put together another top 43!  

My second go is unbelievably different to my first. To save you from having to go back and check the other one to see how, I’ve bracketed the various ups and downs of each country, and on those that have made a distinctive change, provided some explanation…

EBJ’s top 43, round 2:

  1. United Kingdom(+1) – My ever-increasing love for this song (and the silly inspirational feeling I get during the chorus) coupled with my ever-increasing hunger for theUKto win has just pushed it above Latvia this time around.

    Blue celebrate after finding out they're my number one

2. Latvia(-1)

3. Sweden(+7)

4. Iceland

5. Denmark(+9)

6. Slovakia(+7)

7. Ukraine(-4)  – When I did my initial top, my ranking of Mika was based on the version of Angels she performed at the national final. The faster, screechier, English, Eurovision version has spoilt what was in my eyes an amazing ballad. Still, I haven’t the heart to knock it out of my top ten…

8. Cyprus(+7)

9. Norway(-1)

10. Ireland(-4)

11. Bosnia&Herzegovina(-2)

12. Macedonia(+23) – Even I was surprised by the leap this one made! I don’t even know why its happened – all I know is that I’m loving it. I still don’t rate Vlatko as a vocalist, however.  

13. Israel(-6)

14. Netherlands(-3)

15. Armenia(+23) – There’s another leapfrogger inArmenia. Who knew that the lyrical genius of ‘Boom boom, chaka chaka’ would win me over eventually?

16. Belarus(+6)

17. Greece(+9)

18. Italy(-1)

19. Hungary(+5)

20. Poland (-15) – Jestem was in my top five originally, and though I still have a soft spot for it (and hope Poland finally qualify for the final) I’m just finding it’s fading into the background a bit against some more exciting numbers.

21. Croatia(-9)

22. Azerbaijan(+6)

23. Estonia(-7)

24. Turkey(-6)

25. Serbia(-5)

26. Russia(+7)

27. Bulgaria(-6)

28. Romania(-3)

29. Albania(-12) – Once again, this descent can be blamed on English-language reworking. I’m proud ofPolandandSerbiafor discarding the English versions of their entries in favour of the native language ones.

30. Germany(-3)

31. Moldova(+4)

32. France(-9)

33. Austria(-2)

34. Georgia(-2)

35. Portugal(+6)

36. Slovenia(-6) – I may be abused for this, but I just don’t see the appeal inSlovenia. I certainly see Maja’s talent – she has a brilliant voice. But it’s too wannabe, 2000s Christina Aguilera for my taste.

37. San Marino(+5)

38. Finland(-2)

39. Switzerland(-2)

40. Spain(-11)

41. Belgium(-1)

42. Malta(-3)

43. Lithuania– No change here. I think this song is absolutely dreadful, and if it qualifies from its semi, I will die of shock. In a fittingly dramatic manner, of course.

One week to the first semi, and counting!

Eurovision fan haul: Part 1

The pins: These (from left: Athens 2006, Helsinki 2007, Belgrade 2008 and Athens again) came from the official Eurovision.tv shop, in a surprise package. All you do is order it, and you get a bunch of random items in the mail - merchandise from the last few years - for a great price. There is a risk in that you may receive something you already have (like me) but it’s often worth it. I can’t say I’ve worn the badges yet, but I may have to decorate myself with them this year, as they’re less messy than writing ‘GO TURKEY!’ across your forehead with eyeliner as I did in 2010.

The podcasts: It’s a long story as to why I have these on disc instead of on my iPod, so I’ll try to condense it for you: Chapter 1) They are comprehensive, which is fabulous, but they take up a LOT of room on any device, and my iPod eventually gave me an ultimatum: ‘It’s me or the podcasts, Jaz!’; Chapter 2) I deleted them from said device, but wanted to keep them to listen to again (and again and again); Chapter 3) My laptop is unreliable, having had a meltdown last year of epic proportions. It’s not been the same since, and I didn’t want to risk losing all the podcasts and have to download them all again; Chapter 4) So I burn them onto CDs as I see fit. The End. Get the SBS and ESC Today podcasts on iTunes, and the ESC Insight podcasts at escinsight.com, or iTunes…for FREE of course.
The CD’s: I’ve only recently completed my official album collection (sans 2011, of course), which consists of: 2000-2005 which all came from eBay and together cost me under $50 AUD which is AMAZING; and 2006-2010 which came from both the Eurovision.tv shop, Amazon.co.uk, and music stores here in Australia. I love having them all, not just for display purposes, but because many of the songs from the earlier 2000s aren’t available on iTunes over here. Those CDs are becoming harder to get, but I suggest eBay as a first resource every time, as it is so cheap, and if you pick a reliable seller, you always get what they say you will. My 2001 and 2004 albums cost about $20 AUD…together…including postage. Hence words cannot express my love for eBay.
The ‘other’ CD’s: The first two are: The Very Best of the Eurovision Song Contest from JB Hifi; and Ultimate Eurovision Party from amazon.co.uk. If I had to suggest to you one to get, I’d go for the former, as it features a lot of winners, and all the unforgettables, whereas I think the Party CD originated in the UK, as it’s very biased. It considers James Fox’s Hold On To Our Love a party anthem…still, both are great listens. Lastly, I have: Junior Eurovision 2010 from amazon.co.uk; and Melodifestivalen 2011 from ebay.com.au. I’d never considered buying the JESC or Melodifestivalen albums before these, but I felt both were so strong that I couldn’t go past them.
The videos: Now, before you go emailing the EBU and telling them to arrest me for copyright infringement, I assure you that these are for my private, in-home use only. They are the 2009 and 2010 editions of Junior Eurovision, taped from TV onto trusty VHS and covered to look decent by moi.

Sorry for the layout of this post, but I’m having trouble with the graphics/text combo at the moment. Anyway, this is Part 1 of my ESC haul, which is something that I’ve wanted to do for ages, ever since I became obsessed with watching haul videos on Youtube. For those of you not clued-in to the trend (I for one was quite behind on getting into it), hauls are basically: random people uploading videos where they show you what they bought on a shopping trip, or got for Christmas, or have collectively amassed over a long period of time, and where they got it.

My Eurovision merchandise has been collected over a long period, and though I have done a collection blog before, it has gotten a lot bigger since then – so I wanted to show you how! This is a true haul however, so not only will I be showing you photos of the stuff, but letting you know exactly what I love about it, and where I got it from. So if you’re missing anything from your own hefty pile of ESC trinkets, I hope I can help you out.

Just a few notes:

  • I haven’t got any 2011 things yet, so don’t call me up on that!
  • If you think I’m missing something that every fan should own, please let me know here or via Facebook/Twitter (you can find the links to both of those on the sidebar). And of course feel free to chat to me about anything else ESC.
  • Hauls are great, but they often attract a lot of negative attention from people who think showing off what you own/have purchased is, well, showing off. This is in no way what mine is about. All I want is to give you a look into the ESC side of my life (a large side!). So if you don’t like this sort of thing, don’t read!

 

But if you do, look out for Part 2 soon.

Jaz x

PS – There’s 10 days until Semi Final #1, and the rehearsals begin on Sunday. It’s really happening! You can download the full (and very complicated) rehearsal schedule from eurovision.tv to see when your country will take to the stage for the first time.

An EBJ top ten: ESC to JESC!

Bonjour, everyone, and Happy Easter! I’m finally back from what feels like a year-long (involuntary) break from blogging. In reality, it was just over a week, but I’ve got so much stuff lined up to do in the few weeks left to Düsseldorf, that when I couldn’t do it, time went very very slowly.

You may have noticed a subtle change in this blog upon your arrival today. Gone are the candy stripes and merry flags of yesterday, giving way to sophistication and rainbows…which then gave way to candy stripes and merry flags once again. Still, it’s a little more streamlined now. I’m easily bored with the aesthetics of things, and so I thought I’d try something new – let me know what you think! And don’t be surprised if EBJ looks completely different next time you drop by…

I’m kicking off with a brand new top 10 today. In case the title didn’t give it away, the topic is my top 10 Eurovision songs that could have entered (and possibly succeeded in) its precocious younger sibling, Junior Eurovision! To save myself a lot of time I decided to look at ESC songs from 2003 onwards – that is, those that literally could have competed in the first ever JESC in Copenhagen (although there would have been some stellar contenders prior to that year…Boom Boom Boomerang, perhaps, eh Austria?). Note that this list isn’t intended to rubbish JESC or the songs that make it – I love the mini version of Eurovision very much, and I think a lot of the kids in it could do a better job of writing good songs than the “seasoned professionals” penning for the big ESC (I’m definitely in favour of Armenia drafting in 12-year-old Vladimir Arzumanyan to write their 2012 entry). Anyway, no more stalling!

My top 10 ESC to JESC entries are:

10. Leto Svet by Kreisiraadio (Estonia 2008) – Summer light, it’s summer light…Subtract the trio of tubby, middle-aged men with receding hairlines and primary-coloured polyester suits from the equation and add in a trio of under-tens clad in sequins, as well as a few more flash cards of onions and cakes, and you’ve got yourself a JESC triumph! This song failed miserably in its 2008 semi final, as it should have, but if taken toCypruslater that year, I reckon it could have stolen the victory right out of the Georgian bumblebees’ feelers.

9. Salvem El Mon by Anonymous (Andorra 2007) – Left, right, up and down, turned up and down, that’s how we treat the world right now…I really like this song, but I feel it was just too ‘young’ for Helsinki. It puts me in mind of Anders, the catchy soft-rock track performed byBelgium’s Trust at JESC the same year, which fared about as well then as Anonymous had in May. The tweenage girls inRotterdam would have adored it.

8. Let’s Get Happy by Lou (Germany 2003) – Let’s get happy and let’s be friends, for tomorrow never ever ends…Apart from the fact that the average JESC entrant should not be observing the goings-on in a discotheque (at least, none that I know of) this song fits Eurovision’s younger sibling like a glove that has an irritatingly chirpy mantra embroidered onto it.

7. That Sounds Good To Me by Josh Dubovie (UK 2010) – You bring the sunshine, I’ll bring the good times…I think we all knew that the UK was destined to bring up the rear of the scoreboard last year inOslo. But perhaps if Josh had enlisted his younger brother (whether he actually has one or not, I can’t say) to jet over toMinskand belt it out whilst attempting some clever choreography, it could have fared better.

6. Teenage Life by Daz Sampson (UK 2006) – “What did you learn at school today?”…A catchy song about school days, performed by a bouncy, smiley artist in a track suit, surrounded by girls in uniform, blackboards and wooden desks? If that bouncy, smiley artist hadn’t been Daz “I’m steadily approaching middle age but trying to fool you into thinking I’m not” Sampson, the Russian twins may have been pipped at the post.

5. Weil Der Mensch Zählt by Alf Poier (Austria 2003) – Little hares have short noses and little cats have soft paws…You may think the reggae-to-rock sound of this song – and Alf himself – too frightening for JESC. But think back to the Belarusian entry from 2009, which was about a magic rabbit but sounded more like a song about the devil attacking you in bed and eating your soul as a midnight snack.

4. Ik Ben Verliefd (Shalalie) by Sieneke (Netherlands 2010) – Shalalie, shalala, I can’t get it out of my head…There’s been plenty of retro, cutesy stuff at Junior over the years, though none with a Smurf connection. Maybe that should change? The Dutch won it in 2009 with a song that included the lyrics ‘Wha-oh-wha-oh, ba-daba-di-do, ba-daba-di-do yeah. Tikkeditak, tikkeditak click clack!’ (one of my favourites) so a bit of ‘Shalalie shalala’ wouldn’t go astray, in my opinion.

3. Let’s Get Loud by Suntribe (Estonia 2005) – Come on girls sing along that song, shake the house till the early morning, boring yesterday is gone…Just writing those lyrics has got the chorus stuck in my head!Estoniahas never participated in JESC, but if they do, let’s hope they send something like this. Cartoon T-shirts and coloured boots included!  

2. Coisas De Nada by Nonstop (Portugal 2006) – Gonna make you dance, gonna make you smile, I’ll make you stop thinking sad things for a while…This is more harmless, inoffensive and dated than downright bad. I think it would have fared exponentially better on the Junior stage, so long as there were more pants involved.

1. Celebrate! by Piero and the Music Stars (Switzerland 2004) – Clap your hands, oh clap your hands, have a wonderful time…I want to say this song sounds like it was written by a 10-year-old, but most of the 10-year-olds in JESC are more eloquent and less clichéd. This bunch look like Hi-5 (or The Wiggles in those multi-coloured shirts) – Australians will know what I mean. Everything about them and this entry (which, may I remind you garnered ZERO points in the semi final) screams ‘Kids entertainment troupe’ – and yet, I can’t even see the kids liking this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVkJd4r7Pd4

Runners-up running hot: the best of the second best

It’s always a fun thing to do: when all of the songs for a Eurovision have been selected, and the behind-the-scenes work begins, to go back through the national finals and listen to the songs that just missed out, because there is always some gems there – and a lot of room for imagining what could have been.

I’ve taken the liberty of putting off things I should be doing to compile my own list of the best of the second-best – all of those great songs by artists who almost got the opportunity to get another stamp on their passports. Some are fan favourites that were taken by surprise by underdogs, whilst others defied expectation just by getting as far as they did. It’s all my opinion, of course, but I hope you discover something you hadn’t heard yet that you’ll be happy you now have…

So I present to you, my fellow Eurovisionaries, the good: 

ALBANIA/ Alban Skenderaj feat. Miriam Cani/ Ende Ka Shprese

ARMENIA/ Emmy/ Ayo

AUSTRIA/ Trackshittaz and Lukas Plöchl / Oida Taunz

"No matter what song you choose, I will be the one singing it! You cannot escape me! MWAHAHAHAHA..."

GERMANY/ Lena/ Push Forward

ISRAEL/ Idit Halevi/ It’s My Time

LITHUANIA/ Linas Adomaitis/ Floating To You

POLAND/ Anna Gogola/ Ktoś Taki Jak Ty

PORTUGAL/ Nuno Norte/ São os Barcos de Lisboa

SLOVENIA/ April/ Ladadidej

SWITZERLAND/ Bernarda Brunovic/ Confidence

 

And, the über good:

I certainly don't look this good when I've been sleepless

DENMARK/ Anne Noa/ Sleepless/ Yes, she’s the Danish Taylor Swift, we get it. But I like this a whole lot more than anything from Swift herself.

IRELAND/ Nikki Kavanagh/ Falling/ Yes, it’s 2011’s version of Drip Drop, we get it…how nice it would have been to have a bit of Niamh back on stage this year! I love ballads if they’re not ridden with clichés, and this was no exception.

LATVIA/ Lauris Reiniks/ Banjo Laura/ I think this will be the quintessential “one that got away” of this year’s national finals. Many fans, myself included, fell in love with Lauris and his banjo upon hearing it for the first time, and whilst I’m also smitten with Latvia’s eventual choice, I can’t deny that this would have gone down an absolute treat in Düsseldorf.

MOLDOVA/ Natalia Barbu/ Let’s Jazz/ This bears more than a passing resemblance to We No Speak Americano – but what’s wrong with that? It’s something very different from the woman who demanded back in 2007 that we never let nobody in and step right on our dreams. It’s a lot more fun.

ROMANIA/ Distinto, Ianna & Anthony Icuagu/ Open Your Eyes/ I love the drama and climactic sound of this song, although I have to admit, I didn’t expect it to reach 2nd place in Romania. It’s almost (I stress, almost) in the league of France, in my educated (cough!) opinion.

The morning after being "In The Club"???

SWEDEN/ Danny Saucedo/ In The Club/ As much as I adore Eric Saade, I think this is a better song than Popular, and perhaps should have pipped it into the winning position. Once you get used to the repetition, you won’t be able to stop yourself from dancing/singing along (very inadequately). In the club, the club, uh-oh indeed.

UKRAINE/ Zlata Ognevich/ The Kukushka/ This is a corker, and oh-so-Ukraine-in-Eurovision – contemporary, but a little ethnic, and with just enough quirk to make it stand out. Despite the mess that was their national final, there was some great music in it, and this is a prime example.

So if you’ve got a little spare time – or a lot – why not head over to Youtube and give the above a spin? Or go further and sift through the rest of the national finals? It’s just another way of keeping the Eurovision fever high all year round – and getting May to get here ASAP!

The chaos comes to a close, and the countdown continues to number 56!

It seems like yesterday we were all celebrating Germany’s win of 2010 and imagining where we’d be tuning in to one year on. But that year has almost passed already, and the host city, stadium, and of course, all forty-three songs, are locked in place! There’ll be a bit of a lull in action from now as behind-the-scenes work carries on until May – but before that, there’s a whole lot of fun stuff for me to cover, having been otherwise occupied for just a few days. Let’s get to it!

The running order has been decided…

And I was a lot more anxious to find out what happened than I thought I would be! I won’t list the full results as I’m sure you’ve already seen them (if not, check out eurovision.tv or the 2011 Wikipedia page), but I will skim over the crucial info – such as  Poland opening the first semi final, and Greece closing it. Both of those countries are in these positions as wildcards, meaning they were randomly selected to have the advantage of choosing their slots (in the first and second halves). You can imagine why they would have picked these – going first has its perks, and being the last flavour on everybody’s tongue does too.

What is harder to imagine is why the wildcards in semi final two, Slovakia and Latvia, chose the 5th and 17th positions respectively. I’m sure they had their reasons, but you have to wonder why they didn’t mimic those of Poland and Greece. Still, Latvia’s lateness in the draw pleases me (a HUGE fan of Angel In Disguise) despite the fact that I don’t really believe any particular draw helps an entry to qualify/prevents them from doing so. In any case, Bosnia and Herzegovina is numero uno in SF2, whilst Jedward will be the second set of twins to perform that evening at the end.

The dreaded “curse of number two” has befallen Norway and Austria this year, two countries that have been predicted to advance since early in the piece. It’s a curse that has been less evident in recent years than in the past, so if I were Stella or Nadine, I wouldn’t lose any beauty sleep over it. Stella, especially, should sail through to the final even if the curse floats through the air conditioning vents and slaps her in the face during the seventeenth ‘Haba haba!’.

None of the Big 5 have to worry about that either, with all of them being drawn (almost) in the second half of the final. France will be the first of them to grace the stage in 11th position, followed directly by Italy (12th), then the UK (14th – a fairly good slot for them), the host country (16th), and the wildcard of the final, Spain (22nd).

 

Whilst Azerbaijan is running scared.

After keeping us in suspense for slightly longer than intended, one of Eurovision’s newest but most successful countries revealed its entry earlier in the week. It’s titled (as alluded by the hilarious pun above) Running Scared, and whilst in my opinion, it makes Drip Drop look like a winner, it isn’t a bad effort.

For a fairly generic ballad with no ethnic influence, the chorus is strong and after only one listen, I could still remember how it went. Praise has been very generously doled out online for this entry, which I don’t quite understand…but it’s nice. In a 6-point kind of way.

 

Belarus is feeling the love…

As you probably know, Belarus was forced to cobble together a new song for Anastasia Vinnikova when it was revealed that the original, Born In Bielorussia (a song I loved for its fun Junior Eurovision-like qualities) had been publicly performed prior to the allowed date. The newbie, I Love Belarus also sounds like a JESC song, though not such a good one.

Short of hanging a neon sign around Anastasia’s neck in the video clip that flashes “Written in five minutes!”, it couldn’t be any more obvious that this was written in five minutes in a mad dash to meet the deadline (well, maybe more than five. Seven at least). In an apparently desperate effort to pen a song about how wonderful Belarus is – as I’m sure it is – those responsible for this entry have taken the old song, put in a blender with copious amounts of predictable soft rock and poured the contents into a glass only to find it half-empty. And yet…I kind of like it. Why, I don’t know. Nonetheless, it’s not a likely qualifier, being in the second semi. But I give it 6 points, having given the original song 10.  

 

As a handful of countries go English…

Whilst I see the pros of rewriting a song in English for Eurovision purposes, I wish there weren’t so many countries so quick to do it. I love European languages, and having learnt to love the likes of Poland in its native one, the recently released English translations sound very clichéd. When thought is put into the rewriting, and it isn’t just done for the sake of doing it (Albania, Slovenia, and Iceland) it can turn out quite well. As for Poland and the Ukraine…all I can say is, for Bucks (Fizz) sake, go back to Polish/Ukrainian! The translations of those have turned two great songs into two average ones. I should say that it isn’t 100% settled whether or not these two will go with the English versions. Poland has said they’ll see what the fan response is…I could tell you right now the verdict.

Luckily, there are a few countries that have gotten it right: the Netherlands’ 3JS, whose rewrite is both meaningful, and so seamless that there isn’t much difference from the Dutch version; and Italy, who have gone for a combination of the original Italian, and English, which is very effective (Madness of Love, as it is now referred to, has really grown on me over the last few weeks). So I will be applauding these songs, as well as the few countries who will sing in their own language – Cyprus, Bulgaria and Serbia for example – extra vigorously in May.  

 

And more Düsseldorf details are revealed.

A sneak peek of the stage has been released (only in writing unfortunately, as construction is yet to get underway), as well as the postcards and interval acts, on eurovision.tv. The mystery of the reprise has been solved therein, with co-host and my favourite German, Stefan Raab’s Big Band set to perform Satellite in Lena’s place (whilst she’s backstage experiencing a severe case of déjà vu). With 53 days to go until the first semi, the organizers will be going full speed ahead. They’re sure to have the Esprit Arena and its trimmings ready on time if German train schedules are any indication (you know what they say about the punctuality of public transport).

I’m so excited, and I really can’t hide it – can you?