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IS IT TOO LATE FOR (SOME ESC FINAL) LOVE? Looking back at Tel Aviv’s Saturday show, at long last

Hi guys! Jaz here. Before I begin this post properly, I wanted to apologise for being so AWOL since Eurovision and for taking an Alekseev-esque forever to get this final review up. The only way it could have been later is if I posted it closer to the final of Eurovision 2020 – and believe me, that could easily have been the case. Thanks to a lot of life stuff (some good, some bad and some that kept me inconveniently busy) I’ve had to prioritise other things for the past four weeks, and I couldn’t be on the ball with post-ESC discussions which I’m sincerely sorry for. I’m also sorry to announce that, since too much time has passed and because I’m still under pressure, I won’t be able to hand out any Eurovision awards this year. I’ve done so in some form every single year since 2009, so I’m pretty sad about having to abandon them – but I am planning to bring them back bigger (SO MUCH BIGGER) and better next year. By then you’ll be looking at a new and improved EBJ, because at the moment I’m also working on a complete revamp/rebrand of the blog to coincide – more or less – with its 10th birthday (!!!). I felt that an extreme makeover was due, and I thought this was the perfect time to make it happen. Please stay tuned for the unveiling (a costume reveal of sorts) and don’t give up on me if you’ve enjoyed my contest-driven content in the past. I’m still here, planning exciting Eurovisiony things for the off season, and I’m always available to chat on my socials. Follow me everywhere and/or subscribe to EBJ in the sidebar, so you know when I’m back on track and when you can check out my kickass new look and layout! Now, back to today’s post…

 

BREAKING NEWS: I’m still alive! My excuse for taking so long to get this grand final review done is that I pushed everything non-ESC in my life aside in the contest lead-up (since I couldn’t concentrate on anything else). And so, after the show I sadly had to spend some time attending to stuff like going to work, paying my bills and interacting with other human beings.

But I’m back on the blog now, with a supersized look at what went down on May 18. This was the final from top to bottom, feat. the controversial aftermath that’s left the contest with some loose ends. Are you up for attempting to read the whole thing? If so, get comfortable, brew yourself a behemoth cup of coffee, and I’ll see you on the other side of this Eurovision 2019 tsunami of typing. Catch me down in the comments where we can talk about all things Tel Aviv…if there’s anything I haven’t already mentioned by then.

 

 

That’s how you start a show! The star-studded flag parade

I don’t know about you, but I love the now-traditional ESC final flag parade/artist parade/whatever you want to call it. It gives all of the acts a pressure-free moment in the spotlight to say hey to the crowd, have a dance break or wordlessly advocate the destruction of capitalism. You know, the usual.

This year there were plenty of non-competing stars involved too, i.e. Dana International, Ilanit and Netta (of course). But the best guest was Nadav Guedj. No longer a teenager but still looking 30 like he did in Vienna at age 16, he asked us to let him show us Tel Aviv IN Tel Aviv, and it was magical. Thanks to KAN for making all of our dreams come true by bringing him back. I just wish we could have had the full three minutes of Golden Boy, since Nadav is the self-proclaimed King of Fun and all.

 

 

The automatic finalists bring their A-game

Now, on to the filling of this song contest sandwich. It’s a blessing and a curse having your spot in the final secured, and it sometimes feels like the Big 5/host country don’t have the same fight of the countries that made it through semis. I was pretty impressed this year, though…mostly. The first auto-finalist to take the stage was Germany, followed by hosts Israel, then the UK, France, Italy and last but not least, Spain. My ranking of their performances from ‘HECK YES!’ to ‘hmm’ might surprise you.

Spain Why did I love this? How did the tacky two-storey house manage to work? Why did the giant puppet not-on-a-string amuse, not confuse me? It must be the sheer power of Miki, his biceps and La Venda. This whole performance was OTT and not at all how I would have played it – but it was fun, created a party atmosphere and closed off the show in classic Eurovision style.

France Speaking of OTT, France could have taken Chanel’s advice and taken one thing off before leaving the house (or in this case, dropped one element of their staging before taking it to Tel Aviv) but again, I didn’t mind that much. Bilal has sass, stage presence and style pouring out of him. Combine that with the poignance of his two dancers and the home video slotted in at the end, and you’ve got a memorable and moving performance.

Italy For me, this live didn’t quite do justice to Soldi as a song, but that’s because the song is so good it’s better heard and not seen (not that I mind looking at Mahmood for three minutes). I would have preferred more of a ‘Sacha Jean Baptiste Does Switzerland’ approach to the visuals: edgy camera cuts, a restricted colour scheme and that screen ratio that gives things a music video look. But this is Italy and they never completely miss the mark.

Israel Say what you want about the song (and the possibility of Kobi being Sacha Baron Cohen in disguise) but this was a very classy presentation from Israel. After the bonkers-ness of Toy, it was a nice contrast to see them pull off something serious and sophisticated. There weren’t any plot twists, but a song being staged exactly as it sounds like it should be isn’t a bad thing.

Germany Call me crazy, but my opinion of Sister changed for the (slightly) better after Carlotta and Laurita had done their thing. Against the odds and my better judgment, I genuinely liked what Germany did with their staging, simple as it was. Chemistry and vocals were top-notch. This was not the definite last place performance I was expecting. Lucky I didn’t bet on it!

The UK Michael’s performance might be my least favourite of the auto-finalists, but it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t anything special. It felt a bit half-baked as he wandered around the stage by himself for the first few minutes, and even when his backing singers materialised, it wasn’t a ‘wow’ moment.

 

 

Highlights of the first half

The honour of opening this year’s final went to Malta, which was going to be no mean feat for 18-year-old deer-in-the-headlights Michela. Chameleon was the best possible song to start with, but would being first cab off the rank scare her into underperforming? That was the question, and no way, José was the answer. Michela did an awesome job, even if she still lacked the confidence of former openers like Laura Tesoro and Imri Ziv.

Poor Albania was stuck with the cursed second slot (which was a waste of space for any country that wasn’t Germany, to be honest) but I was just happy to have Jonida in the final. As always, she looked stunning – Eurovision on Saturday night, flamenco competition on Sunday morning – and as always, she sang like an extremely impassioned songbird. Moody lighting! Fire! Writhing CGI bodies in a massive bird’s nest! This had it all.

Once again I had the pants charmed off me (not literally, but it was a close one) by the Czech Republic. Lake Malawi are fantastic live – with lead singer Albert delivering vocals almost as perfect as his teeth – and their simple-but-effective performance provided damning evidence that less is more. I couldn’t complain about any aspect of their three minutes, even if you held a confetti cannon to my head.

If you thought Sweden wasn’t going to make my shortlist of first-half highlights, do you even know me at all? Their staging was glorious, John was his usual charismatic self and The Mamas were fab. I would like some more fire from Sweden next year, and they’ll need it if they want to secure that seventh win Björkman in particular is so desperate for.

Everybody was switched on for the final, and that was extra evident with Cyprus. If you read my SF1 review you’ll have seen my Tamta roast (she wasn’t putting in any effort, her outfit was atrocious, etc) and while I stand by what I said then, I have to hand it to her – that Saturday night performance was AMAZING. Whatever was holding her back earlier in the week was no longer an issue, and she showed us all why she’s such a superstar when it mattered most. I actually came around on the crystal-encrusted bathing suit and crotch-high platform boots, so I guess I can’t stand by my initial comments on those. It’s not a great getup for grocery shopping, but for Eurovision? Sure.

The one to watch out for in this half was The Netherlands. And if there was anything amiss or missing in the semi – camera connection, descending lamps that dropped down a little too far, etc – it had been dealt with to make this a definite contender, if not the Fairytale-type runaway winner the odds were suggesting it could be. I still had the overwhelming desire to pick up that piano and throw it across the arena, but I couldn’t because a) I was at home in Australia and not inside the arena, and b) I’d have trouble lifting it, let alone making it airborne.

 

 

My favourite moments from a seriously stacked second half

Back when I reviewed Norway I said Spirit In The Sky was way too much fun to be left in the semi and miss out on the final top 10. Alexandra, Tom and Fred reminded me why with their sensational three-minute schlagerjoikfest (there’s a word I never thought I’d use, but I hope I get to use it again). I still wasn’t totally sold on the visuals, but the song is irresistible. And Alexandra is a Nordic queen who we need at Eurovision solo ASAP (no offence, boys).

The award for Most Improved Between SF and GF goes to…who else but Estonia? Victor’s semi performance at Eesti Laul was super ropey only for him to pull himself together for the final, and the exact same thing happened at Eurovision. Weird. Whatever the reason for the tune-up, the only thing wrong with Estonia’s performance on Saturday was that shot of a cameraman and the side of the stage that went on for a full three seconds. What is it with songs called Storm and things going wrong? Granted, a dodgy shot isn’t on the same scale as a stage crasher, but I’m starting to think this song title is cursed.

All references to how ridiculously good-looking Chingiz is aside (for the moment), Azerbaijan was well and truly back this year. If X My Heart was a half-hearted hop, Truth was a running leap across the Grand Canyon that landed safely on the other side. They may have been trying too hard with that tacky representation of Chingiz’ soul taking a quick vacay in the arena rafters…but apart from that, I have no issues. I would love to see Mr Mustafayev back at Eurovision in the future doing some of the flamenco-fusion he does so well. Preferably shirtless.

It was going to be hard for Serbia to stand out in such a competitive half of the final. In all honesty, they didn’t. But that doesn’t mean Nevena didn’t deliver absolute perfection. I love Kruna on its own, but the atmospheric staging, glamourous/edgy styling and phenomenal vocals were the salted caramel syrup and toasted coconut flakes on top (great, now I’m hungry).

I don’t know where Switzerland got that extra spark from, but it was in the air the whole time Luca and his ladies (and gentlemen) in red were dirty dancing their butts off on stage. This felt like a surefire podium finisher to me, or at least Switzerland’s most successful contest in (what feels like) forever. She Got Me was never going to be vocal jury bait, but it nailed the Eurobanger brief.

How can I not mention my homegirl Kate Miller-Heidke? With all the momentum she’d built during the week and all the talk of Australia potentially taking the trophy home, I was extra anxious during her performance. Would she deliver a knockout vocal again? Would the poles bend and not snap? Would she succumb to the pressure and accidentally fling her mic across the arena and concuss Jon Ola Sand? Thankfully, KMH sang beautifully and did not injure herself or the Executive Supervisor of the EBU. See, Australians can behave themselves when they’re overseas! Zero Gravity’s staging was and will remain iconic for a long time to come, so a big congrats to our delegation for making magic.

 

 

The best and worst of the interval acts

In hindsight, the 2019 show should have been called the Eurovision Interval Act Contest. If that were the case and we were awarding points to everyone who occupied the HOUR-LONG voting window, my douze would go to the Song Switch for sure. Conchita, Måns, Eleni and Verka practically blew the roof off Expo Tel Aviv (is that an inappropriate way of describing it?) with their respective reworkings of Heroes, Fuego, Dancing Lasha Tumbai and Toy. The most powerful rendition was Conchita’s; MZW gets the gong for Song I’ll Be Playing On Spotify Constantly; Verka by Eleni shouldn’t have worked but somehow it did (I could say the same for the strategically-placed stars on her bodysuit); and Verka herself took Toy to brilliant new levels of bonkers. I would happily watch an entire concert of Eurovision grads singing each other’s entries, especially if it culminates in a group song with yet another former winner like Gali Atari.

My other favourite interval act – which I had to YouTube later because Aussie broadcaster SBS cut it out to make room for an ad break – was The Idan Raichel Project with Bo’ee. I was already a big fan of Idan, so when I found out he was on the program it was like discovering Darin and Agnes were doing Malmö all over again (well, maybe not quite that exciting, but what is?). This guy moves me with his music like an Israeli version of Joci Pápai, and there was no chance I’d be unaffected by his Eurovision appearance. Any chance we can have him and his project represent Israel one day, KAN? You’d get most of my votes if you made it happen.

Then there was Netta, who popped up again in a subtle yellow number to perform Margaret’s In My Cabana. Or was it her new song Nana Banana? I can’t really tell the difference, but I always enjoy watching her do her thing.

The eyepatch-wearing elephant in the room at this point is Madonna, who was sickeningly overpaid to “perform” (a.k.a. attempt to sing and then have the crap autotuned out of her voice) Like A Prayer – a song of hers I do normally enjoy – and Future – a song of hers I don’t want to enjoy but find myself singing in the shower. If we’re going to compare her to the 26 acts that performed in the competition, here’s my verdict: her staging and costuming were elaborate and on point, but her vocals were not up to scratch. If we had to have about 57 interval acts, then I’d have preferred more affordable Israeli entertainment…or an extended Song Switch with Salvador Sobral doing his best job of Hey Mamma by the Sunstroke Project. A girl can dream.

 

 

Jaw-dropping jury results + televoting triumphs and tragedies

About six months after Malta opened the show – thanks to that excessive voting window – it was finally time for the results to filter out, starting with the points from the juries. You guys know what went down, so I’m not about to rehash the whole sequence…but here are a few things that stuck out to me.

The big shock success with the juries was North Macedonia. Maybe I should have seen it coming (I had been trying to figure out who the Austria 2018 of 2019 would be, but couldn’t land on anyone) but nope, my jaw was on the floor as big points rolled in for an equally-surprised Tamara over and over again. Proud is hardly one of my favourite entries of the year, but I couldn’t help having my heart warmed by such butt-kicking from a country that hadn’t even qualified since Baku. It’s terrible that Tamara and her team were robbed of knowing North Macedonia won the jury vote during the broadcast…but more on that in a minute.

Italy and the Czech Republic also found favour with the juries to an extent I didn’t expect. Obviously Mahmood was a jury winner in Sanremo, but I wasn’t sure the professionals would warm to the urban style of Soldi at Eurovision. That 4th-place finish said otherwise, and I was damn excited about it! I’m also thrilled for Lake Malawi, who must have come across as flawlessly to the jurors as they did to common folk like myself watching the following night. I thought the Friend of a Friend lyrics, if nothing else, might turn them off – but perhaps it really hit home that sometimes, noisy neighbours sound like YOU AND ME WHEN WE’RE MAKING LOOOOOOVE.

In terms of countries I thought would fare better than they did on the jury vote, The Netherlands and Australia come to mind. Duncan’s 3rd place is nothing to scoff at of course, but I figured if he couldn’t win the jury vote he’d have to be runner-up at least. The actual result cast some brief doubt on whether his televote score would be enough for The Netherlands to win. Kate Miller-Heidke’s 6th place was also fine, but I think some jurors might have seen her performance as novelty rather than the incredible show of talent and lady-balls that it was.

Like multiple winners before him, Duncan missed out on topping the class where the juries were concerned. See how devastated he was about that?

Serbia and Israel also did worse than I’d predicted. The host country got an especially raw deal (something we’re used to seeing at this point) with 12 points and 12 points alone from the “Belarusian jury”, which we later found out should have been a big fat zero. Poor Kobi.

After all that, it was time to move on to the televote and see how the new point-presentation method would pan out. It was confusing, it was heartbreaking here and there, and it gave us moments like these:

  • The Czech Republic receiving 7 measly public points. What was that about? I’m even more shocked by this than I am by their jury score. All I can think is that Lake Malawi’s early running order position paved the way for 23 other songs (well, minus the UK and Germany) to memory-block them into almost nothingness. FOR SHAME, EUROPE (not Australia because we gave them 2 of those 7 points).
  • Norway’s spectacular three-digit, winning – as we found out later, grr – score that more than made up for the lack of jury love for Spirit in the Sky and had Alexandra crying adorable tears of joy. If only KEiiNO had been left until last á la the “old” results sequence, ramping up the tension and letting them celebrate that televote win on camera instead of later when it dawned on them what had happened.
  • That now iconic ‘I’m sorry…’ to Germany as they scored absolutely nothing. On the one hand, it’s an achievement to rack up zero points from 40 countries, especially on more than one occasion. On the other, I do feel sorry for S!sters, who delivered the best performance possible and deserved at least a handful of points for their trouble. Having said that, I didn’t have a reason to vote for them, and I guess nobody else did either.
  • Sweden and The Netherlands being set up as the last two standing when in fact, they were not. Some people got the same enjoyment out of watching John Lundvik’s soul be destroyed that they got out of Benjamin Ingrosso’s 21 points last year, but celebrating a comparative failure is pretty mean-spirited IMO – and the new system ensuring it would be fixated on quite frankly sucks.

As a last word on this, I’m going to beg the EBU to revert back to the perfectly tense and dramatic 2016-2018 televoting sequence. It wasn’t broken, so there was no need to fix it. And that way we can avoid the on-screen devastation of cinnamon-roll Czechs, vulnerable teenagers from Malta and Swedes fooled into thinking they’re one of the two remaining contenders when they’re actually not even close. All of the above was PURE EVIL, even if it did make great TV.

 

 

Thoughts on the final scoreboard and this year’s winner…actually, wait a second!

Because which scoreboard am I supposed to discuss here? Just when we and the Eurovision acts themselves had come to terms with who finished where, mistakes became apparent. If we thought that one Danish juror ranking backwards in 2016 was bad, we were wrong.

The biggest ‘oops!’ has to be the Belarusian “jury” points – put together based on their allocation pot after the actual jurors weren’t able to, in the words of Chingiz, shut up about it – being delivered backwards. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to how the hell that happened, but as a result, Israel ended up with 12 points when they should have received 0, and Malta was denied a douze point celebration. And that’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of what was affected by this monumental f%$k-up. You know it all by now, but Sweden moved up to 5th place, bumping Norway down to 6th; North Macedonia moved from 8th to 7th (oh, and they actually WON the jury vote); Cyprus moved from 15th to 13th; and a bunch of other countries swapped places too. WTF?!?!

Then it was revealed that, thanks to the possibility of three jurors voting backwards, Poland and Lithuania could have qualified to the final over Belarus and Denmark in their respective semis. Obviously, any truth to this can’t change anything, but that just makes me feel extra bad for the implicated countries. Lithuania might have been the most severely screwed over. An issue with the Italian televotes was dismissed, one that would have put Jurij in 10th place…but if the Russian juror alleged to have ranked backwards did do so, it would also have put Jurij 10th. He then would have tied with Leonora, and on (my) countback it seems Lithuania would have been sent through to Saturday instead. My GOD. This whole situation is messier than my bedroom, and it’s going to be hard to trust the initial results next year in the Netherlands – though you’d think this reflects so badly on the EBU, they’ll do anything to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Speaking of the Netherlands, let’s move on to happier topics (and from now on I’m talking about the altered, correct version of the scoreboard). A big belated congratulations goes to Duncan from me, for grabbing the first Dutch win in 44 years with a song that may not have been my preferred winner, but is undeniably worthy (and if you’re about to deny that, just imagine me drowning out your voice by blasting the ‘DOOOOOON’T DEEEEEEEEENYYYYYY’ part of Face the Shadow). Arcade is Amar Pelos Dois all over again for me: a beautiful ballad feat. a pitch-perfect, pared-back but still atmospheric performance that I wasn’t personally emotionally invested in, but I knew it was The One anyway and could accept that. Especially since it means I may well be off to the Netherlands next May, a place I’ve always wanted to go and a place I’m sure will host the shiz out of the ESC, if their JESC efforts are anything to go by. Also I really, really like stroopwafels – so if I do go to Amsterdam/Rotterdam/wherever, I’ll probably be eating them for every meal.

Other results that put a spring in my step in spite of the disastrous Post-Eurovision Depression were Italy finishing 2nd, their equal-highest placement since 1990 (though I was surprised they hit those heights with a good but not great performance…see below); Switzerland scoring their first top 5 finish since 1993; Sweden scoring their 7th top 5 result of the decade; Australia squeezing back into the top 10 after last year’s blip; and the Czech Republic doing pretty well for themselves even with the handicap of that disgustingly low televote score. I’m not going to dwell on the “losers” of the night, but I will say this: for the love of Jessica Garlick, PLEASE get your act together BBC. Something’s got to give and it has nothing to do with erasing Brexit from the memory of the voting public. As Leonora keeps telling us, don’t get too political…because it’s stupid.

As happy as I am with a lot of the final results, there are some that still don’t sit quite right with me. Was it just a weird contest and nothing would have made sense no matter what happened? Maybe. But I’m talking Italy’s 2nd place (which performance-wise, doesn’t feel as slick or iconic as Fuego, Beautiful Mess, Sound of Silence…I could go on); Russia’s 3rd place (which feels a little unearned, and my gut feeling is that bronze position deserved to go to Switzerland); Australia’s 9th place (call me biased, but with such a statement performance and so much pre-final momentum it seems like we should have ended up a bit higher); and a few placements further down that I’ll sit and stew about quietly because I’ve already said too much. If you’re as confused by some of the outcomes as I am, then let’s both hope 2020 brings with it a more straightforward Eurovision in every possible way.

 

 

Okay – believe it or not, I think I’ve said everything I wanted to say about this year’s dramatic, slightly disastrous (in hindsight) Eurovision final. I know it took me a few weeks longer than everyone else on the planet, but it’s better to arrive late to the party than to not turn up at all.

I still have some 2019 coverage to come here on EBJ, and then I’ll be moving on to some top-notch off-season content if I say so myself. That will include a Best of the Decade series, where we celebrate all that the ESC has gifted us throughout the 2010s…and boy, has it been generous! I hope you’ll drop by for some of that goodness. Remember to subscribe in the sidebar and/or follow me on my socials (also in the sidebar because CONVENIENCE) to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

In the meantime, hit up that comments box with your personal highlights and lowlights of Tel Aviv. Whatever you’re thinking, if it’s Eurovision-themed I want to hear it. If it isn’t, I’ll have to pass. Sorry.

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

 

 

Drummer boys, golden boys and Italian stallions: My very Swede Eurovision final experience (Part 1)

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: it’s taken me an eternity to put this post-final post together. It’s a good thing I’m not a news service, or being paid to run this blog – because if that was the case, I’d be failing epically at the former and be über undeserving of the latter (but if anyone wants to pay me for running this blog, I promise I’ll lift my game and work hard for the money).

My lame excuse for the lateness is the fact that all I’ve been capable of since Saturday night/Sunday morning *considers moving to Europe to eliminate the need of saying stuff like that anymore* is basking in the glow brought on by my favourite song winning Eurovision for the very first time. My beloved Sweden, and Måns, and his leather pants (like I could bypass any opportunity to mention those) won the 60th contest on the weekend, fairly and squarely and in accordance with all EBU rules and regulations – a concept some people are struggling with.

After a voting sequence that was pointing us in an easterly direction for about half the time, Sweden began to close the gap, eventually taking the lead, then building up a decent point buffer from there. It wasn’t a battle for victory on par with the likes of 2003 in terms of how profusely my palms (and some other places we won’t discuss) were sweating, but it was the most exciting round of results we’ve seen in a while. For once, that algorithm designed to disguise the winner for as long as possible excelled itself.

This year’s contest featured a lot of firsts for me and many of my fellow Australian fans. Watching live, voting, and cheering on our own country became part of the package, and I did all of this on Saturday night/Sunday morning (seriously, AAGH!) at an epic live screening party in Perth. Held at The Backlot private cinema, the soiree was organised by some esteemed and very awesome members of the Aussie Eurovision community – Kate Hansen, Renee Pozzi and Kingsley Dawes. With a 2014 Euroclub evening AND this screening under our rhinestone-encrusted belts, we Perth peeps are well on our way to making our city the Eurovision capital of Australia…or at least one of them. I send Il Volo-endorsed grande amore to Kate, Renee and Kingsley, for the effort and attention to detail put into the party planning and execution. Douze points for everyone!

evpR1st

A little more re: the party, for those of you who want to know just how EBJ spent her Eurovisionmas…draped in flags, nearly fifty of us fans (among them several interstate visitors, including Sharleen from ESC Insight) drank from light-up glasses, weighed up the pros and cons of Marta Jandová tossing her shoes aside during the second semi final, and went bonkers when Guy Sebastian took to the Wiener Stadthalle stage. This was the closest I’ve ever been to sharing the Eurovision experience with a crowd of fans, and it was made even more memorable by the fact that we were Australians cheering on Australia in our first – but potentially not our last – appearance in the contest. I mean, we sang along to Tonight Again like we were competing in the Group Karaoke World Championships or something (which we totally would have won, by the way). And afterwards, I really did want to ‘do’ the night again. But I couldn’t. Thanks for the false hope, Guy.

evpR2nd

Anyway, in addition to the drinking, singing, dancing and voting, there was a Best Dressed competition – I’m dubbing it ‘The Anti-Barbara Dex Award’ – judged by a well-known radio personality, and won by Daryl Dickson, a.k.a. ConchiDaz. To top it all off, we gave out some points of our own, with the douze going to Italy even though we were allowed to vote for Australia (don’t let anyone tell you we’re biased). It seems the boys from Il Volo really did have sway over the SMSing public.

All in all, I had a blast, and I’m not sure I can bear to sit at home by myself, on my couch, watching a delayed broadcast of the final, ever again. And on that note, allow me to make public my intentions for May 2016. It probably won’t shock you to learn that I want to be on the ground in Stockholm/Göteborg. Not only that, but I want to be in the Press Centre, with laminated accreditation hanging around my neck. After ten years of being a Eurovision obsessive, I want the live experience with all the trimmings. As Jade Ewen might say if she was as excited as I am right now, it’s beyond my time.

I promised myself that if Sweden won in Vienna, I would do everything possible to make my Eurovision dream a reality (killing two birds with one stone, as Sweden is at the top of my travel list) and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Nothing’s for certain, unfortunately, but if I don’t make it in 2016, I want to be able to say I tried my best. I have a year to go for it, and as fast as that year will go by, I will make the most of it – planning, saving, and generally annoying the crap out of my friends who have attended the contest by constantly asking them inane questions. Brace yourselves, guys.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. Every other Eurovision site in existence may have already reviewed the grand final, but in the spirit of being better late than never, I’m doing it today. Since there’s a massive amount to talk about, I’m going to stick with the performances only at this point – the meat in the ESC sandwich. You’re cordially invited to accompany me on my tour through the bum-numbingly long, but brilliant evening.

 

finaleeeee

The conclusion to Eurovision 2015 turned out to be a great one – not half as weak as I’d thought it would be earlier in the season. In spite of some (i.e. a LOT of) shaky camera work, and a string of second-half ballads that put our abilities to stay conscious to the test, I enjoyed every minute of it. I would say ‘every three minutes of it’ as I’m about to review all 27 performances…but that’s not technically true.

Let’s begin on a positive note (#musicalpun).

 

The good

Any country that manages to have a hundred people backing their singer without breaching the six-person rule deserves a high five – so high five, France! N’oubliez Pas is a slow burner of a song, but the many (many, many) drummer boys, 3D and 2D, who joined Lisa in the last thirty seconds, made the crescendo worth the wait. It put me in mind of a better-executed attempt of Ukraine 2012.

Israel’s Nadav told us to come here and enjoy (although he didn’t make good on his promise to show us Tel Aviv) and I was more than happy to allow myself to be bossed around by a teenager on this occasion. Tonight Again aside, Golden Boy is the song I’d most like to have seen performed live, just to experience the energy and atmosphere it stirred up in the Stadthalle.

TH00087_31

I hate to break it to Nadav, but his backing dancers might have more claim to the throne of fun than he does. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

I can’t deny (see what I did there?) that Armenia turned a shambolic studio song into a successful live one. The theatricality of Face The Shadow means it was bound to be better in this environment. Awesome outfits, great graphics and a possible lawsuit from Cadbury due to the use of so much purple later, I’m verging on being pro-Genealogy.

Ah, Sweden. If any country knows how to do Eurovision and make it look effortless, it’s Sverige. The subtle and not-so-subtle changes made since Måns won Melodifestivalen took something perfect, and somehow turned it into something even more so. I am glad no changes were made in the leather pants department. Måns should bring out his own line of those things.

Australia’s debut was a mighty good one. I am so gosh darn proud of Guy, who spent his ground-time in Vienna charming the press and fans – and then, when it came to his big moment, charming us all over again. His performance of Tonight Again couldn’t have gone down better, and he even pulled off beige trousers (not literally. Eurovision is a family show, and I don’t think anyone would be considering Australia as a permanent participant if that had happened).

Belgium’s performance was undoubtedly the coolest thing I have ever seen on an ESC stage. I already raved about it in my semi 1 review, but I’m still in awe of the minimalist monochromatic visuals, and the cutting-edge choreography, and the fact that I’m talking about Belgium in such a positive light right now. ‘Once agaaaaain Motherrrr’ BELGIUM.

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Loïc, wondering if his forward-combed hairdo was the most stylish selection for Eurovision. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Montenegro put on a show that was the love child (or should I say ‘ljubav’ child?) of Molitva and every stage show that has ever been associated with the name ‘Željko Joksimović’. And it was totally on point as a result. Unfortunately we’ll never know how Knez felt about it, as his face is incapable of displaying anything other than slight surprise.

Let’s forget what happened later on in the evening for Germany and just focus on…you know what? I can’t. Nul points? For THIS? We’ll discuss exactly how that happened later, but Ann Sophie was incredible on that stage, in that jumpsuit (where she found one that actually flattered her behind, I don’t know). She took saucy and sultry to a new level, and her vocals didn’t have the slightly irritating nasally sound they had during Germany’s drama-filled NF.

Latvia’s Aminata is such a revelation. She may be teeny tiny, but her voice is huge, and note-perfect every time. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the reason she didn’t get to represent Latvia last year was so she could come back this year and take them to a place they hadn’t been in years: the final. In return, she required at least four people to take her to the toilet, because there’s no way that dress was pee-friendly.

Tugging on our heartstrings for Romania, Voltaj looked good, sounded good, and got their message across in a non-sickening manner. Even the post-performance cut to the kid from the music video melted my heart and brought a tear to my eye…okay, maybe not. But it didn’t make me roll my eyes, which makes it a success by my standards.

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Why have giant hamster wheels or Trojan horses when you can have suitcases and shipping containers? (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Polina Gagarina had a song at her disposal that Eurovision winners are made of, and put on a show worthy of a winner too. A few more Olympic ice skaters by her side, and Russia may have gone all the way.

I know I didn’t warn you that this post may contain sexual references, but here’s one: Italy was orgasmic. Stunning in every possible respect, and spine-tingling from start to finish. I actually died a little bit when Gianluca winked at the camera, and I refuse to be ashamed of that.

 

The not-so-good

There was something missing in Slovenia’s performance (and unfortunately, it wasn’t the headphones). Here For You in studio is brilliant, but radio-ready songs can be challenging when one must figure out how to plonk them on a stage in an aesthetically-pleasing way. The camera work wasn’t up to scratch, but as I mentioned before, that wasn’t exclusive to the Slovenian performance.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love A Monster Like Me, and for those keeping tabs, yes, I still have a lady crush on Debrah and her majestic mane of tangle-free wonderment. But I found the lighting and the costuming Norway opted for so incredibly unsuitable for such a dark and moody song. It was distracting, and that’s definitely not good. I hate to bring The Dress into the Eurovision bubble, but what was white and gold should really have been black and blue.

 

The WTF?!

Did the United Kingdom look at a bunch of old Eurovision clips and think to themselves ‘anything you can do, we can do better!’ and then throw everything they’d seen into the same performance? That’s the impression Electro Velvet gave me. Safura’s light-up dress from 2010 was a clear influence, as were Cristina Scarlat’s ratty hair extensions from 2014 (Bianca’s brunette version being used to disguise the hefty battery pack responsible for lighting up her dress). The duo’s vocals were very good, and the staging could have been a lot worse – but it still had ‘WTF?!’ written all over it.

Since Spain’s rehearsals had caused the watching press to laugh rather than applaud, I expected to do the same when Edurne made her televised Eurovision appearance. But the stage show torn out of the ESC 2006 playbook, feat. a costume reveal, OTT arm movements and some very dramatic dance moves (I did feel a bit like I was watching an episode of Dancing With The Stars) actually worked for me. Even I wouldn’t call it sedate, however.

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Spain’s performance was a hair-raiser…at least for Edurne. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Here’s a fun fact about Georgia’s Nina Sublatti: she’s not asthmatic. How do we know this? Because she was engulfed in an overload of dry ice during the final, and when it dissipated, she wasn’t on the floor in a wheezing heap of feathers and thigh-high boots. The person in charge of dispensing said dry ice at this time is probably out of a job by now (or at least left the arena with a Sublatti boot-mark on his forehead).

 

If I might interrupt myself (I just checked with me and I say it’s okay)…I do realise I’m rambling here, so try to keep the rest of my performance reviews brief. Expect more in-depth dishing on the good ones listed above when I rank my top 10 performances of the year in a near-future post.

 

The rest

There was nothing wrong with Estonia’s performance, apart from how mildly infuriated I was by Elina wearing pink lipstick instead of red (which would have complemented the smoky retro-glamour feel of Goodbye To Yesterday so much more). ESCrush update: I am still strangely attracted to Stig. He can jingle his keys at my door any time.

Speaking of lips…Lithuania suffered a mishap when Vaidas and Monika got a little too into their ‘one kiss’ (which was technically their 498th kiss, if I’ve done the math correctly) and missed the next line of This Time. Oops. This performance was too cheesy for my taste in the second semi, and it continued to be so in the final.

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‘If we squeeze our eyes shut hard enough, maybe all of our competition will be gone when we open them!’ (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

I’m still not 100% sold on Beauty Never Lies lyrically-speaking, but the reaction Serbia received before, during, and after Bojana’s performance was something to behold. I would have killed to have been in the crowd for the up-tempo section of the song (although it probably would have been me who was killed or maimed in that seething mass of hysterical, hip-shaking fans).

ORF placed Cyprus between Sweden and Australia, which was good for us in terms of musical variety, but not so good for John in terms of being remembered. I hate to say it, but I think the  Aussies erased him from most people’s memories.

The Makemakes represented Austria on home soil with pride, a flaming piano and a member of Occupational Health and Safety personnel waiting in the wings with a fire extinguisher. There was nothing to criticise here, but there was nothing that would compel people to pick up their phones and vote for the host country either. Hence, I figure, why they placed last with the televoters.

Greece’s Maria Elena pulled off the best Céline Dion impression of the year whilst dressed as Delta Goodrem at the Logie Awards (Aussie reference alert!). That’s pretty much all that happened. There were no bouzoukis, no trampolines and no shouts of ‘OPA!’. Is it wrong of me to miss stereotypical Greece?

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Maria reaches out for the Hollywood Tape after one last breath resulted in some, ahem, shifting. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Poland won on the prettiest staging front – their blossoming background was blooming beautiful. I did find myself focusing more closely on that than on anything else though. It’s almost like the floral graphics are to Poland 2015 what the butter-churning, laundry-doing ladies were to Poland 2014.

Hungary’s wars to succeed in the contest pretty much did amount to nothing. I was actually quite transfixed by Boggie’s performance, and I do think Hungary staged Wars For Nothing as well as they possibly could have. But positioned in the viewer fatigue zone in slot 22 of 27, they were bound to struggle with such a sleepy song.

Azerbaijan appear to have lost their Eurovision touch to an extent. How they managed to make a man-filled glass box which eventually filled with rose petals as a woman with the world’s longest dress train belted towards it NOT be a distraction from their entry, then two years on pare things right back with two interpretive dancers who WERE a distraction, beats me. Should we be impressed by that?

A change of outfit and a less out-of-control vocal from Elhaida Dani meant Albania crept up a bit in my estimations…but just a bit. I wasn’t blown away. I do feel like the originally-selected Diell would have blown me away, but it was nice to have Albania in the final again even if all I felt was a slight breeze.

 

 

I suspect that this post may have gone on longer than the actual final at this point (now the most drawn-out in Eurovision history) so I’m going to bring it to an abrupt end right now. ‘Right now’ of course meaning ‘in a few minutes after I’ve gotten around to it.’

There was obviously a lot more to Eurovision 2015 than just the performances – take flying Conchita, for example. But I’ll leave my thoughts on that marvelous moment, plus the rather exciting voting sequence and the intricacies of the scoreboard, for next time.

If you can’t wait, I have to wonder why you haven’t read all of the results analyses published by numerous other ESC websites promptly after the final. You guys know my motto is ‘never do today what can be worked on over the next three or four days and then finally completed when it’s to your liking but when your readers are starting to think you might have died.’ Fear not – á la Elhaida, I’m alive (ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi). And I’m already halfway through the belated scoreboard scrutinisation, so it will be up prior to Eurovision 2020, I promise.

Before it does go live, be sure to let me know what you thought of the Viennese final. Of the 27 acts that made it to Saturday, which ones impressed you and which ones did you use as a toilet break (a much-needed break if you were involved in a drinking game during Spain’s performance)? And, how did you watch the final? From the comfort of your couch, at a party, or in the arena until you were poked in the eye by a flagpole and were carted screaming off to First Aid? I want all the details. Think of me as someone who’d read your diary if you left it unattended. But nicer.

 

nsig

 

VIENNA 2015 | It’s the final countdown, so let’s pick a winner (and squeeze in a review of semi two)!

Welcome to Eurovision final Saturday, random person or regular reader (I think I have at least one of those…)!!! This day has the ability to be both the best and worst of the year, depending on just how much you love Eurovision. If you’re head over heels like me – and I’m going to assume you are – then you have to be prepared to be extremely excited one minute, and extremely depressed the next. The 60th contest is nearing its conclusion, and that brings with it Loreen-levels of euphoria as well as the kind of unshakeable sadness that Anita and Michele must have felt when they found out they were going to be lumped with a Ralph Siegel song. We feel you, guys.

This is where we are as I type this: 13 countries have fallen at the semi stage, and 27 remain in contention to succeed Conchita and give one of their broadcasters a very expensive coup. By the end of the evening, 26 of these participants will have lost (an unfortunate way to put it, perhaps, but technically true) and one will have won the opportunity to take the snazzy glass microphone home and display it on their mantelpiece (after Instagramming an “artistic” shot of it, of course). It’s time to take a punt at just which country and act that will be – and to take a guess at where all 26 losers will end up.

Before I get to that, it’s time for a quick (don’t take that too seriously coming from me) rundown of the second semi final, held two days ago and already reviewed by everyone else. What can I say? Being fashionably late is my trademark.

 

Semi final two was not vastly different to the first, except in song quality – I thought it was clearly the stronger one. Our three hosts were slightly less wooden, Conchita put them all to shame yet again with her easy charm and radiant glow (I think I love her a little bit), and the postcards continued to be precious. The 17 performances were what made the difference, so let’s focus on those.

These were the ten qualifiers, in performance order:

  • Lithuania I like cheese as much as the next person (assuming the next person doesn’t have an intolerance to dairy) but This Time is too cheesy even for me. Lyrically and performance-wise, this was dripping with the stuff. I found it artificial, not cute. Not that it matters, because it qualified anyway.
  • Montenegro Never underestimate the power of Željko Joksimović! The Balkan tropes were out and proud during this performance, and if Knez had been wearing a Željko mask, nobody would have picked up on it (and the cardboard would have looked more realistic than Knez’s actual face).
  • Norway I adore this song so much I’d marry it if I could. But the colour scheme – the warm lighting and the white outfits – doesn’t embrace the darkness and moodiness of the song, and prevents Norway’s overall package from being a slick one in winning contention. The harmonies were lovely as ever, though.
  • Israel Nadav really IS the king of fun! One of the few floor-fillers in this year’s contest, Israel got the party started at last and qualified for the first time in five years. They also provided us with frequent shots of some golden shoes that Herreys would die for.
  • Latvia Speaking of qualifying for the first time in a long time…Aminata used her incredible voice and artfully flailing arms to full advantage, taking Latvia into the final after six years of DNQs.
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Who knew that all Latvia needed to succeed was a decent cactus impression?

  • Azerbaijan Well, there wasn’t a big Perspex box involved here (always a disappointment) but I’d watch and listen to this performance any day over last year’s Azeri snoozefest. The dancers are verging on distracting from Elnur’s vocal – a big selling point of the entry.
  • Sweden Call me biased, what with my unconditional love for Sweden and Måns’ leather pants and all, but this was perfection. It was a carbon copy of the Melodifestivalen performance give or take a cone-headed cartoon man, sure, but why fix what ain’t broken? Possible winner status = cemented.
  • Cyprus Two words: surprisingly good. I didn’t rate this song too highly in studio, but John was engaging and vocally on his game. Not to mention the fact that he rocked specs on stage in the way of 2007 champ Marija Šerifović. I give a big tick to Cyprus’ use of the background too.
  • Slovenia I wanted Maraaya to wow me, but sadly, they did not. The combination of Marjetka’s ever-present headphones and her standing pretty statically the whole time made the performance quite introverted and not very energetic (in spite of the efforts of the air violinist). I still really like the song though, and clearly I’m not the only one.
  • Poland The prettiest staging of the night. I am a little surprised this advanced, but it proves that Poland can opt for the opposite of busty butter-churners and still get somewhere. And yet I still miss the busty butter-churners…

 

Now, my thoughts on the seven non-qualfiers (also in performance order, because it just works, okay? Get off my back!):

  • Ireland All is absolutely forgiven for Ireland’s shocking staging of Heartbeat in Copenhagen after this. Molly was always going to be a borderline qualifier if she qualified at all, and it just didn’t happen for her on Thursday. But I really enjoyed her time on stage – or playing the piano in the middle of a forest. I couldn’t tell which.
  • San Marino That’s what I did when I wasn’t laughing at Michele’s opening ‘No!’. Nothing, not Michele’s sass or Anita’s pretty dress, could have saved this from being bottom of the heap. I hope you’re happy, Ralph.
  • Malta I think the reworked version of Warrior is what let this down – it just fell flat in the stadium (from a TV viewer’s perspective, anyway) and had little lasting impact. Amber herself looked and sounded better. Malta made great use of the background, but that’s not enough.
  • Portugal Like Sertab Erener when she got her heel stuck in the Istanbul stage vent, Portugal was going nowhere fast. Leonor also looked and sounded decent, but she looked strangely angry during the choruses.
  • Czech Republic As several people told me I would, I didn’t mind this live. Marta and Václav have great chemistry on and off stage, and if they’d been in a theatre mid-way through The Phantom of the Opera, they would have received a standing ovation (the theatrical equivalent of a sure place in the final). It would have been great for the Czech Republic to earn their first final place, but it wasn’t to be. Gee, I hope Marta didn’t take off her shoes and throw them at Václav in anger. Oh wait…
  • Iceland The poofy dress may have worked for me in the end, but it wasn’t enough of distraction from the shrill vocal and the fact that Unbroken is one long chorus. Iceland will miss the final for the first time since 2007, and María will be throwing away her tin of gold body paint.
  • Switzerland Melanie Réné was probably my non-qualifier of the night. I’ll admit that Time To Shine is an anticlimactic song, but this performance took me by surprise. Loved the costume, loved the drummers, loved the lighting scheme (I’m big on lighting this year). Job well done, Switzerland.

 

In terms of predictions, I managed to call 9/10 again – Iceland being my downfall this time (the Nordics have not been kind to me). It turns out that there’s only enough room in the final for golden shoes, not golden feet (and extreme, off-key repetition). I failed to predict Poland as a qualifier, but I’m happy enough to see them go through.

How did you go with your predictions? Prepare to spill all as you venture on into my guesses for the outcome of the grand final – coming to you live from Vienna in a matter of hours!

 

finaleeeee

The running order

Slovenia, France, Israel, Estonia, United Kingdom, Armenia, Lithuania, Serbia, Norway, Sweden, Cyprus, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Greece, Montenegro, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Hungary, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Albania, Italy

It seems the theory that a producer-orchestrated running order will always result in the most entertaining and varied string of songs isn’t a reliable one – at least when the producers leave some of the draw to chance. With a heap of ballads pulling the second half out of the hat, ORF have had no choice but to compile a very down-tempo latter part of the proceedings. We’d better all choreograph some interpretive dance moves suitable for Hour of the Wolf, because after Golden Boy, Still In Love With You and Tonight Again, there’s more or less NOTHING to woki our popos to.

Slovenia should set a good tone for the show, however, and Israel will elevate the energy levels as we head into a long home stretch. If reports on the UK’s rehearsals are to be believed, it will be a positive to get their performance out of the way early on. Sweden can win from a reasonably early 10th slot if they’re meant to – Austria did it in 2014 from 11th. I hope discussion on Australia finally making its ESC debut in the 12th slot won’t overshadow the next country on stage, Belgium, who could be in store for their best result in a very long time.

Funky Germany’s scored a decent position between two ballads, but I suspect Ann Sophie will struggle anyway. Latvia, on the other hand, might benefit from being in a similar situation. Love Injected is nothing if not a standout song, and preceding Poland will probably suffer as a result. The final six songs will be hard to stay awake for, if I’m honest. Albania, I hope, will pep us all up enough so that we can be blown away by Italy, who will close the 2015 contest (I’m not 100% happy about them being last, but I can understand ORF’s reasoning).

Like I said and like we all know, the song that’s meant to win will win from any position, which means there’s still hope for Italy. But it doesn’t look like we’re going to have a repeat of 2003 here, when Turkey won after performing 4th (sorry, Estonia!). We might well have a repeat of 2003 in terms of voting though – back then, Turkey beat Belgium by 2 points, who in turn beat Russia by a single point. My fingers will be crossed for a nail-biter finish in that vein.

 

Highlights of the night: my expectations

Justifying myself in brief, Twitter-esque form, these are the countries I’ll be hanging out to see in action:

  • France An army of drummers that doesn’t breach the six-person rule? I’m intrigued, France.
  • Israel It may have been Pink who wanted to get the party started on a Saturday night, but it’s Nadav who’ll be the party-starter on this occasion.
  • United Kingdom Will Electro Velvet salvage a shambles, or will this be car crash television? I’m morbidly keen to find out.
  • Norway Because no matter how unsuitable I think the mise en scène is, A Monster Like Me is one of my goosebump songs. I actually don’t know what would happen to my body if they’d nailed the lighting and costuming.
  • Sweden The favourite. MY favourite. Need I say more?
  • Australia Uh, hello! I never thought the day would come that I could cheer my own country on in the ESC. I cannot wait for this moment.
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‘Do whatcha whatcha whatcha want…as long as that’s voting for Australia!’

  • Belgium This is just…so freaking cool. Bravo, Belgium!
  • Austria The cheer received by the host country is always up there with my favourite final moments. I don’t expect this to be any exception.
  • Montenegro It’s a Balkan ballad. There’s mountains in the background and minimalist dressing in the foreground. This was made for me!
  • Latvia Like Belgium’s, Latvia’s song is weird in the best possible way. Love Injected, and Aminata’s interpretation of it, is spellbinding. This could be a surprise success.
  • Spain I hear everything except the kitchen sink (though I’m not convinced they haven’t swathed that in sequins and secreted it somewhere on stage) has been thrown at Edurne’s performance, and I can’t say I’m not keen to find out if it’s true – and if it works.
  • Italy We have to wait a long time to see Il Volo smoulder their way through Grande Amore, but I have no doubt it’ll be worth it.

 Let me know which acts you’re most looking forward to down below.

 

So, who’s going to take the trophy home?

I still believe this is an open year, despite one country in particular rising up the ranks and overtaking one of the long-standing bookies’ favourites. I don’t think we have a clear-cut champ just yet…but I reserve the right to change my mind once the votes start coming in and everyone rushes to book a hotel room in Sochi for May 2016.

No matter how biased it may seem, I cannot discount Australia as a potential winner – even based on novelty value alone. We have a good position in the first half, and Guy Sebastian is fronting a catchy, energetic pop song that will be remembered even if it’s just by association – like, ‘Hey! Let’s vote for the Australian song!’. The juries will give him a boost thanks to his impressive vocals. I don’t necessarily think Tonight Again deserves to win, but would I complain if it did? Um, no. I’d be screaming my head off, actually.

Italy outclassed all others in the OGAE vote, and while that doesn’t always signal impending success, it’s not devoid of clout. I wish Il Volo were performing prior to the point where viewer fatigue will set in, but I’m convinced they will make a big impression even as the last act on stage. Even if they f%#k up completely, I’m going to vote for them.

Russia has come out of nowhere to be a danger to the holy trinity of Sweden, Italy and Australia, who sat on top of the odds list for months. Polina is currently second-favourite to win, and though I will be disappointed if she does – not because it’s Russia, but because the song and performance don’t do much for me – I won’t be shocked. Russia won Eurovision seven years ago with a white-clad singer, and there’s a real chance they could do the same again. Polina definitely looks better in that dress than Dima Bilan would.

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I can’t deny that Russia is on the white track to win.

My last pick for a probable winner has to be the favourite, Sweden. Måns is almost guaranteed to give Sweden another podium finish, but with Polina snapping at his heels (in a very ladylike manner) the landslide win a lot of us expected is no longer likely. I still believe he has a fighting chance, and I hope the nineteen or so votes I’ll be texting his way will contribute to that. LYCKA TILL SVERIGE!

What’s that? You also want a dark horse? Well, since I aim to please, here’s one: Belgium *insert dramatic soap opera music here*. Loïc, like Polina, has upset the apple cart of pre-contest favourites, having overtaken Australia. He’s sitting in fourth position behind Sweden, Russia and Italy, and this excites me greatly. A Belgian win is a lot to ask, but there is something masterful about the package of Rhythm Inside – the precision, the quirk, how cutting-edge it is – that speaks to me. This is memorable for all the right reasons, and I would LOVE Eurovision to have a winner that’s so out-of-the-stereotypical-box. But if it’s not to be, and Loïc ends up snugly in the top 10 or even the top 5, that will also be worth celebrating.

 

Top half VS bottom half of the table: Who’ll finish where?  

If you’re up for predicting the entire final scoreboard from #1-#27, points included, I’m not going to stop you. I am going to stop myself, however. That could only end in disaster. Instead, I’ll have a stab at predicting which countries will finish on the left side of the scoreboard (i.e. at or close to the top of the table) and which countries won’t be so lucky, as Zdob şi Zdub would say.

Top half Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden

Bottom half Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom

No doubt they’ll be one or two countries that succeed against the odds, but I’ve given up on trying to figure out who they are. Given up or run out of time, one of the two.

 

 

On that note, like Nadav Guedj, I’ve gotta go, bye-bye. I’m off to a cinematic live screening of the final tonight/tomorrow morning, and I’m taking a gigantic flag cape with me (it’s an all-occasion kind of garment, but I thought it would do alright for this). I’m sorry to have rushed this post, but life is hectic at the moment, and to be honest, the occurrence of the ESC isn’t helping! But I’m more than happy to give it some priority time.

I’ll be back, as always, to dissect tonight’s results and discuss any fallout with you guys. In the meantime, hit me up with your predictions. Where is Eurovision headed in 2016? Who’s going to score jaw-droppingly well, and who’s going to fall flat at the final hurdle? Will we get the tense-as-heck voting sequence we’ve been waiting for? Tell me what you think in the comments.

 

Until Eurovision no. 60 comes to an end…

nsig

 

My Very Late ESC 2014 Grand Final Review (Part 2): Thoughts on the scoreboard feat. the semis

If there’s a prize for being late to the party (the party being reviewing Eurovision 2014) then back off, because it’s mine! The thing is – and you’ll be bored of me rehashing this – since I was too excited to study during the ESC week, and too depressed to be productive in the few days afterwards, I’m now in a period of chaos where I have multiple MAHUSIVE assignments due within the next week (my last week of the semester, thank the Lordi) that I’ve barely begun. Therefore, I’m having to work my butt off with little time to blog, which sucks. That’s my excuse for why the second part of my final review is coming out over a fortnight after the contest, and over a week after the first part.

This is basically just a run through of the scoreboards from the final and the semis, with comments by moi, plus a recap of the Australian online vote and a mini post-show ranking to show you how my preferences were changed by epic lighting and/or magnificent costuming. I’m not going to get into the intricacies of the split results much, as similar analysis has been done (The Eurovision Times published a a few particularly good ones you can find here and here if you haven’t checked them out yet) so this is more of an overview accompanied by catty judgments.

 

The Final Scoreboard: A Closer, Totally Unbiased Look

 Two things about the voting sequence before we get to the results:

a) Crossing to all of the spokespersons at once on the big screen? More of that please. Although if I’d spotted Alyona Lanskaya I would have remembered to mute her impromptu and totally unnecessary version of Solayoh. You had your moment last year, Alyona. NO ONE CARES.

b) Umm, that early winner announcement! I’ve had more than one night’s anger over that. After the backlash caused by the same thing in Malmö, I assumed it wouldn’t happen again. But oh no, charming Nikolaj and adorable Pilou lost a bit of their charm and adorableness when they announced Austria as unbeatable with about two or three countries left to vote (I know they were just doing what they’d been instructed to, but I have to lash out at somebody). We all knew Conchita was the winner – to announce it early took away from the significance of the remaining countries votes, turning them into an afterthought. I am hoping this doesn’t become a tradition.

Now, those results…we’ve all seen them, but who wouldn’t want to see them again and then hear me complain about Greece not beating Romania for several paragraphs?

1. Austria 290 – No real surprises here. After Conchita’s performance I was thankful I’d predicted Austria as a probable winner. Still, with the spread of scores and the relatively low gap between 1st and 2nd place, this was no landslide.

If you don't have proper weights, why not use your Eurovision trophy to tone those arms?

If you don’t have proper weights, why not use your Eurovision trophy to tone those arms?

2. The Netherlands 238 – I’m thrilled for the Dutch, still. If Anouk had been last year’s runner-up, I’d have struggled to understand it, but The Common Linnets captured the mood and created a magic that I totally got (in the end).

3. Sweden 218 – I’m happy with this, and I hope Sanna is too. I knew my favourite song of the year wasn’t quite going to go all the way after a certain point, but because I was worried Sweden could head in the direction of Hungary in 2011, the bronze position is brilliant.

'And directly in front of me you can see the most valuable light saber in my collection...'

‘And directly in front of me you can see the most valuable light saber in my collection…’

4. Armenia 174 – Again, this ain’t exactly shocking. I never saw Armenia winning with Not Alone, as much as I love it. Finishing in 4th, they’ve got to be at least a teensy bit pleased that they blew Azerbaijan out of the water.

5. Hungary 143 – This is proof that Hungary is getting better and better at playing the Eurovision game every year. A very good, very current song that many thought would bomb because of its subject matter triumphed instead. Well done Andras!

6. Ukraine 113

7. Russia 89 – Now THIS was a surprise. As the televoters much preferred it over the jurors, I put it down to the staging, which I personally couldn’t tear my eyes away from. The hair trick and giant see-saw are surely what people remembered when they picked up their phones.

8. Norway 88

9. Denmark 74

10. Spain 74 – I guess the lesson here for Spain is if they send an attractive brunette who can sing the leg off a chair to perform a typically Eurovision ballad, they’ll secure themselves 10th place. That’s a good showing for Spain.

'If my hair touches any of this electrical equipment, we could be in trouble!'

‘If my hair touches any of this electrical equipment, we could be in trouble!’

11. Finland 72

12. Romania 72 – Romania and Moldova are experts in just missing out on the top 10. In this case, Romania should have completely missed out IMO.

13. Switzerland 64

14. Poland 62 – The jury sealed Donatan & Cleo’s fate via the drag effect of ranking them 23rd to the televoters’ 5th. Not that 14th is a terrible result – I’m just mourning what could have been for one of my favourite entries.

15. Iceland 58

16. Belarus 43

17. United Kingdom 40 – Ouch. After weeks of steadily declining odds and promising rehearsals, Molly failed to meet expectation and then some. But there was only 34 points between her and Ruth, which is something of a consolation.

Due to nerves, Molly couldn't wait for her three minutes to end so she could go to the toilet...

Molly soon regretted eating that curry just before her turn onstage…

18. Germany 39

19. Montenegro 37 – Not only did they make the final for the first time, but Montenegro beat big players Greece, Italy and Azerbaijan. That’s a win for them as far as I’m concerned. Figure skaters = success. Just ask Dima Bilan.

20. Greece 35 – How…just how did this happen? I am CRUSHED. Okay, so when I step back and look at all the factors I can kind of see how it happened. But even cookie-cutter, dated Aphrodisiac did better than this!

21. Italy 33

22. Azerbaijan 33 – So, they’re not invincible after all, eh? For the first time since their 2008 debut, Azerbaijan finished out of the top 10, and not narrowly. I have to admit, it pleases me to learn that they are capable of failure, since up until now I assumed they’d do amazingly even if they sent a bag of garbage (literally) to represent them, and that irritated me.

23. Malta 32

24. San Marino 14 – Props to SM for not coming last. I hope such an unprecedented result doesn’t encourage a fourth consecutive appearance from Valentina (and Ralph)…*shudder*.

It was Valentina's incredibly accurate zombie impression that got her to the final.

It was Valentina’s incredibly accurate zombie impression that got her to the final.

25. Slovenia 9

26. France 2 – Not for the first time in recent history, one of my most-loved entries lost the final. Waldo’s People in 2009, Tooji in 2012, and now this! Maybe Moustache wasn’t very effective in such a grand setting, but…TWO POINTS?!? I guess I should just be grateful that Twin Twin didn’t pull a Jemini.

 

Australia calling! The results from our unofficial final vote

Over on broadcaster SBS’s Eurovision site, us fans Down Under had the chance to thumbs up or thumbs down each entry as was our want. I couldn’t even do that, because of state-related time zone issues, so it was up to the rest of my fellow Aussies to decide our “points”. Here’s our top 10, in traditional ESC fashion:

1 point went to Ukraine

2 points went to Malta

3 points went to Switzerland

4 points went to the UK

5 points went to Poland

6 points went to Iceland

7 points went to Finland

8 points went to the Netherlands

10 points went to Sweden

Aaaaaaaaand, surprise surprise…our 12 points went to Austria.

So it looks like Conchita has recruited herself a fan club over here as well. We actually agreed with Europe’s entire top 3 (albeit in a slightly different order) but put Finland, Iceland, Poland (woohoo!), the UK, Switzerland and Malta in place of Armenia, Hungary, Russia, Norway, Denmark and Spain. Oh, and in case you were wondering, San Marino came in 26th. So I guess it wasn’t so much a Maybe here as a Definitely Not.

 

Back To The Semis: The Winners, Losers and Almosts

Semi final 1 ↓

  1. The Netherlands 150
  2. Sweden 131
  3. Hungary 127
  4. Armenia 121
  5. Ukraine 118
  6. Russia 63
  7. Montenegro 63
  8. Iceland 61
  9. Azerbaijan 57
  10. San Marino 40
  11. Portugal 39
  12. Estonia 36
  13. Latvia 33
  14. Belgium 28
  15. Albania 22
  16. Moldova 13
  • For the first time ever, the Netherlands topped a Eurovision semi final. I’m still surprised by this to be honest (because I didn’t think the majority would rule on a humble l’il country number…and it’s the Netherlands) but it’s something for all of the countries in a rut to take note of. With the right song and act, anything is possible.
  • Sanna pipped Andras for the honour of qualifying second, but not by much. Hungary are going from strength to strength, having qualified every year since their 2011 comeback, and made the final top 10 for two consecutive years.
  • There was a 55-point gap split between the 5th and 6th qualifiers – Ukraine and Russia. Montenegro made it to their first final on the same point level as Russia, with Iceland very close behind.
  • Azerbaijan’s 9th place made quite the change from their previous stellar history. During the 2008-2011 period they qualified 6th, 2nd, 2nd and 2nd, and won their semi final last year in Malmö. It’s safe to say Dilara didn’t start many fires with her slow-burn ballad!
  • Jaws all over the globe hit the floor when San Marino went through, unsurprisingly in 10th place. What we didn’t know at the time was that poor Portugal had finished just under San Marino. A single point was all that separated Valentina and Suzy, which probably left the latter wondering what she could have done to win over a few more jury members (it was the juries who sealed her fate by ranking her last).
  • Moldova’s hair-ripping routine failed to get them to the final for the first time since 2008. Perhaps now they’ll realise that the classic costume reveal is still okay?

 

Semi final 2 ↓

  1. Austria 169
  2. Romania 125
  3. Finland 97
  4. Switzerland 92
  5. Belarus 87
  6. Norway 77
  7. Greece 74
  8. Poland 70
  9. Malta 63
  10. Slovenia 52
  11. Lithuania 36
  12. Ireland 35
  13. Macedonia 33
  14. Israel 19
  15. Georgia 15
  • From losing their semi final and limping only to 16th place in last year’s to winning the whole thing, Austria sure rose up (pardon the pun) in the rankings this time around. Conchita’s powerful pipes won convincingly over Paula Seling’s dog-frightener of a note.
  • Surprisingly high qualifiers in this semi (for me) were Finland and Switzerland, in 3rd and 4th places. Switzerland turned out to be less of a borderline entry than many of us thought it would be. Greece, on the other hand, didn’t do as well as is expected of them, nor as well as I was hoping.
  • Poland’s qualification was pretty convincing for a country that hadn’t seen a Saturday night since 2008, putting them 18 points ahead of just-in Slovenia.
  • Vilija can’t have been as devastated as Suzy must have been to end up 11th, as her result was brought on by much more than one point. Things were quite tight in the 11th-13th-placed range.
  • Israel coming second-to-last with only four more points than bonkers Georgia was a big shock for me, and I’m not even a massive fan of Same Heart. Mei’s performance was fiercer than 100 angry Beyoncés in a fistfight, and I’m sure she’s made it her mission to hunt down and poke her sword at everyone who failed to vote for her.
  • Georgia last = duh. Okay, so the song has grown on me, and the parachute thing actually worked IMO, but Three Minutes To Earth was always going to be more like Three Minutes to the Bottom of the Scoreboard.

 

My top 10, two weeks later

As usual, seeing the songs performed live for the real deal changed my already changeable mind a LOT. Once again I used this handy sorter to gauge my own opinion, and below you can see my post-show top fifteen (because I didn’t think anyone would want to read through my entire top 37 for the third time) and how they’ve moved from my most recent ranking done just prior to the first semi. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who might have been hoping for a renouncement of my Team Sanna membership.

  1. Sweden (=)
  2. Poland (+5)
  3. Greece (-1)
  4. France (-1)
  5. Armenia (+1)
  6. Denmark (+4)
  7. Italy (+6)
  8. Belarus (=)
  9. Norway (=)
  10. Hungary (-6)
  11. Montenegro (-6)
  12. Ukraine (+12)
  13. Iceland (+1)
  14. Finland (+21)
  15. Albania (+7)

So I’m clearly crushing on Finland after Softengine rocked the Hallerne…what about you? How have your rankings changed since the show?

 

That’s about all I have to say on the scores at the moment. I hope this overview was worth the delay in one way or another! If you’re still up for complaining and/or rejoicing in the outcomes of this year’s contest, I’m up for listening, so comment down below with any of your unaired thoughts.

 

NEXT TIME: Watch out…the 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence are coming! I’m about to open my People’s Choice polls, and I want you to vote to decide each winner (duh. That’s the whole point) so make sure you drop by in a few days’ time to have your say. This year you get to vote on more awards than ever before in the two-or-three-year history of the ceremony, so get excited! Please? Just a little bit?

 

Baku 2012: My semi final 1 wrap-up

So last night, approximately a hundred years after the rest of the world, Australia got to witness the first semi final from Baku. It took me at least ten minutes to stop hyperventilating (because I was overexcited, not because I was terrified of Montenegro being first up) and start enjoying it all. Despite the fact that the stronger semi and the one with most of my favourites in it is number two, which I’ll see tonight, I did have a good time watching and flag-waving at my party for one (as usual, nobody else in my household showed the least flicker of interest – there is definitely something wrong with them) and I thought that, generally, the performances were strong. Here’s my more detailed take on the first 2012 installment, direct from the land Down Under…

 

LE HIGHLIGHTS

–  Montenegro being act 1 turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the song (I mean, the “song”) was over in a flash and made way for Iceland, who I feel were the real competition beginners since Rambo never had a chance of qualifying anyway.

–  Speaking of Iceland, their dramatic three minutes was a definite highlight, mainly because there were many close-up shots of Jónsi over which I could freely drool because I was by myself.

–  Rona Nishliu’s performance for Albania was my favourite of the night. As you may or may not know, I initially hated Suus, but made a swift and unexplained turnaround after I saw the preview video. The live staging did not disappoint, as it was minimal enough to keep the focus on Rona and her insanely amazing voice (seriously, someone needs to put a straight jacket on that thing. It is CRAZY). Her intensity and emotion was all there, and her costume was just as weird and wonderful as I’d been hoping for…although that stray dreadlock did gross me out a little.

–  I’ve never seen a moonwalking bagpiper before, so thanks for that, Romania. I wonder if he’ll go on to enjoy the same fame and hilarious Youtube remixes of the epic Moldovan sax guy of Year Oslo?

–  Cyprus put on a great show. I loved their outfits, I loved their choreography, and I loved the book-stack prop (once the commentator had informed me that’s what it was. I thought it was a pile of brick pavers at first). I can’t say I loved Ivi’s vocal, but she was far from dreadful. She pulled it off.

–  Ireland’s water fountain – the second most literal prop being used this year after Donny Montell’s blindfold – was put to very good use. It was certainly a more fluid mover than either of the Jeds.

 

LE LOWLIGHTS

–  I don’t actually have many of these to talk about. I will say that I wish Austria had incorporated more popo into their act. There was too much pole dancing in my opinion, and not enough shaking of bottoms. Yes, I am a twenty-year-old female who advocates sexist lyrics and accompanying dance moves. You got a problem with that?

–  I also feel that the whole show went by very quickly. Eurovision often does, because time does fly when you’re having fun as people who like to talk in clichés say, but I think there was a genuine rushed feeling about it all. The transitions between acts were blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rapid, and the digital enveloped were opened so fast that, has they been real, they would have caused more than a few paper cuts.

–   There was no interval act during my broadcast, and I was curious as to whether that was the case in Baku, or if the Australian broadcaster SBS had cut it out. Either way, I was disappointed.

 

LE SHOCKS AND SURPRISES

–  For some reason I expected Anke Engelke to welcome us to Azerbaijan. Last year she made the steadfast hosting script genuinely entertaining, which Leyla, Nargiz and Ell couldn’t quite manage. They looked pretty, though.

–  I was pleasantly surprised by the Crystal Hall’s involvement in introducing each country. Whoever came up with the idea to light it up to resemble all 18 national flags deserves a high five.

–  Greece’s Aphrodisiac worked very well in the arena – better than it worked in the shopping centre that housed their national final, anyway. I always forget what an impact the traditional music, and the traditional dancing, and the slightly less traditional skimpy dress of the quintessential Greek frontwoman has when you stick it all on a stage in front of thousands of excitable and/or drunk fans.

–  Two performances I didn’t expect to enjoy/am ashamed to admit I did came from San Marino and Russia. I don’t know why I liked San Marino’s. Valentina can sure sing, but the costumes were frightening and made no sense, and we all know the song is as high-quality as something a dog would do on the lawn – but I liked it. Go figure. Russia, on the other hand, I suppose is easier to justify. As I predicted, the Babushki received the biggest round of applause of the night, probably because they managed to sing, dance and bake at the same time (and they’re so cute!) Plus, now we know where they found the time to cook those pies for everyone in the press room: during their first rehearsal.

 

LE RESULTS

In order of callout, the lucky ten qualifiers were Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Hungary, Denmark, Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Russia and Ireland. This was an easier semi to predict, so I can’t really gloat about getting 8/10 correct. I didn’t think Hungary or Albania would make it, but I’m glad they did – especially in Albania’s case.

I’m very happy for Cyprus. They’re one of those countries that often try so hard but never get anywhere, so I’m thrilled they’ve booked a place for Saturday night.

It did give me great pleasure also to see the powers that be make Jedward sweat it out, and wonder if they were in fact as popular as they thought. I don’t think we would have seen quite as many cartwheels (an amount that puts Donny’s lone one-hander to shame) had they been announced earlier.

To finish off, I’ll just mention the results of the unofficial Australian vote, conducted at www.sbs.com.au/eurovision. Unsurprisingly, it was the grannies who took out the top spot, followed by Ireland and Denmark. Rounding out our top 5 were Iceland and Cyprus. We may well have agreed with Europe, although I can’t imagine that the Babushki scored highly enough with the juries to win the semi. Time will tell who triumphed, who just slipped in and who just missed out…

 

That’s about all I’ve got to say re: Semi #1, which I suppose was quite a lot. When it comes to Eurovision I can go on for days, so you should count yourself lucky this post wasn’t that excessive. I’ll be back tomorrow with a wrap-up of the second semi, so please don’t tell me who the winner is when I’m still getting over the fact that “Insert Country Name Here” didn’t qualify. In the meantime:

What were your highlights/lowlights of Semi 1???

 

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

Retrospective Reviews 2011: M to R

MACEDONIA

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: Rusinka

Artist: Vlatko Ilievski

Result: 16th in semi final

Reminds me of: Cipela by Marko Kon & Milaan

The best bits: I think I would marry this song if I could. In my adoring eyes, it has everything: one of the catchiest choruses of 2011; ethnic and modern influences; the right balance of fun and seriousness; the ability to work well live and on disc; AND it incorporates the use of a megaphone – something I often look for in a Eurovision song but rarely find.

The other bits: I can’t help feeling that one of Vlatko’s pre-performance rituals is to down a gravel milkshake, if his slighty rough vocals are anything to go by. We’re talking stone-shredding material here! It does suit the song style, however.

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 7

I give the performance: 9

Points for Macedonia: 10

 

MALTA

My favourite national finalist: If I Could Do It All Again by Raquela

Song: One Life

Artist: Glen Vella

Result: 11th

Reminds me of: Glamorous by Fergie

The best bits: Glen’s definitely got the ‘aww’ factor going on – he is so ADORABLE! Or is that just me? Anyway, he’s one of my favourite personalities of Düsseldorf because of his enthusiasm and sense of fun, qualities which really showed through in the performance. Malta may not always send the most contemporary songs to the contest, but they always come prepared to give 110%.

The other bits: The song is stuck pretty much back in the Age of Padded Shoulders (the 1980s) and that just doesn’t cut it in modern Eurovision, as proven by Dana’s similar failure to qualify – though Glen was actually only oooonnnnne point away from making it.  

I give the song: 6

I give the vocals: 8 

I give the performance: 9  

Points for Malta: 8

 

MOLDOVA

My favourite national finalist: Let’s Jazz by Natalia Barbu

Song: So Lucky

Artist: Zdob şi Zdub

Result: 12th

My favourite lyric: “You pull me in your private side show”

The best bits: The boys who joined forces with the drum-beating nanna six years ago brought a similarly quirky-fun entry to Eurovision on their second go. It took me a while to warm to this, but once I did, I thought it equally as good as their 2005 song. I particularly like its clever lyrics and variety.

The other bits: I’m still nonplussed as to the relevance of the monocle. I mean, if this was called So Lucky To Own A Monocle, I’d understand. But it’s not…still, it did serve to  increase the forget-me-not level for Moldova.

I give the song: 9

I give the vocals: 9 

I give the performance: 9 

Points for Moldova: 10

 

NETHERLANDS

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: Never Alone

Artist: 3JS

Result: 19th in semi final

My favourite lyric: “And we’ll find the freedom you left behind”

The best bits: The best entry from the Netherlands since about 2004 didn’t manage to qualify, but it certainly advanced its way into my heart (sorry). Sure, it’s not the most exciting song in the world, but sometime you fancy vanilla ice-cream even more than peanut butter crunch. It builds really nicely into a chorus you can both sing along, and wave your arms in the air to.

The other bits: This song suffered in the transition from Dutch to English. The rewrite fits nicely, but I can’t get past the crowd of clichés and weather analogies.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 9 

I give the performance: 6 

Points for the Netherlands: 8

 

NORWAY

My favourite national finalist: Not That Easy by Åste & Rikke

Song: Haba Haba

Artist: Stella Mwangi

Result: 17th in semi final

Gimmick: Swahili in the ESC

The best bits: Norway can officially join Macedonia in the exclusive Catchy Chorus Club, although I think they may be the president rather than the secretary. What I love most about this entry is how happy it is. I’d like to see someone listen to it without breaking into song and/or dance, Glee style! Personally, I can’t resist doing the little arm-arm-hair flick-elbow along with the effervescent Stella.  

The other bits: Repeat after me: this is repetitive!  

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 7

I give the performance: 9 

Points for Norway: 10

 

POLAND

My favourite national finalist: Ktoś Taki Jak Ty by Anna Gogola

Song: Jestem

Artist: Magdalena Tul

Result: 19th in semi final

Reminds me of: It’s All About You by Juliana Pasha

The best bits: On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate Poland’s song of 2010 at about 2. This, on the other hand, is off the scale in comparison! It’s a cracking song, whether you take into account its failure to qualify or not. I feel sorry for the country – they made a real effort here with the song and performance, but they just can’t get the votes! Or perhaps the right draw…still, Jestem was a lovely opener for the first semi.

The other bits: I still think modeling the stage show after the video clip (costumes included) would have served Poland better, giving them more of a sultry Slovenia vibe rather than a demure Swiss one, which didn’t seem to fit the song.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 6 

I give the performance: 7 

Points for Poland: 7

 

PORTUGAL

My favourite national finalist: São os Barcos de Lisboa by Nuno Norte

Song: A Luta é Alegria

Artist: Homens da Luta

Result: 18th in semi final

Gimmick: A comedy troupe troops to Eurovision

The best bits: Guilty pleasure alert! I don’t know how I can enjoy listening to a relatively tuneless, extremely repetitive protest song, but gosh darn it, I do. Like Cyprus and a few other countries, Portugal saved the 56th contest from being completely lacking in national musical identity. And like Macedonia, saved it from being a megaphone-free contest!

The other bits: Perhaps they could have taken that one step further and dressed in some sort of national costume, rather than their parents’ 70s throwbacks.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 6 

I give the performance: 5 

Points for Portugal: 6

 

ROMANIA

My favourite national finalist: Bang Bang by Mihai Alexandru/One By One by Adi Cristescu

Song: Change

Artist: Hotel FM

Result: 17th

Reminds me of: Love Song by Sara Bareilles  

The best bits: It’s a nice, smiley, life-affirming song with an interlude for us all to clap in, and some very fetching pinstriped pants. The man wearing said pants isn’t too bad to look at, either.

The other bits: I think this is one of Romania’s blandest entries. They don’t seem to be capable of producing a bad one, but at least a bad one gives us fans something to talk about. Despite the key change, Change doesn’t change that much from start to end.

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 9 

I give the performance: 8 

Points for Romania: 8

 

RUSSIA

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: Get You

Artist: Alexey Vorobyov

Result: 16th

Gimmick: From the man who brought us Gaga, RedOne

The best bits:Russia threw pretty much everything at this – backflips, light-up leather jackets, podiums, choreography…I reckon I also saw a kitchen sink in there somewhere. And why shouldn’t they? I thoroughly enjoyed their performance, although my favourite part is found in the song itself, when the tacked-on dramatic Russian opening gives way to thumping, characteristically RedOne beats.

The other bits: In the semi final, the Australian commentators pointed out that Alexey, or Alex, or Clothilde (whatever name he’s going by these days) totes failed at his backflip. What I want to know is, did he really? Because if nothing had been said, I’d never have noticed. I mean, I thought when you did a backflip you were supposed to dislocate your collarbone.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 9 

I give the performance: 10  

Points for Russia: 10

 

COMING UP: The final RR’s for 2011 – S to Z (technically, S to U…just the last ones, okay?)

Jaz x

Retrospective Reviews 2011: H to L

HUNGARY

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: What About My Dreams?

Artist: Kati Wolf

Result: 22nd

My favourite lyric: “Should I live all my life for only your cause?”

The best bits: This is how you do retro in a good way! There was something distinctly 80s about this song, the performance and, as I’ve previously mentioned, Kati’s hairdo in the semi final (thankfully, someone hid the volumising spray before the final). But I basked in that, being a lover of all things 80s. Plus, the song does have a contemporary feel at times, and I bet it went down like Dana International at the 1999 contest in the Euroclub. F-U-N fun.

The other bits: The blue dress. Oh dear. May this be the last we speak of it.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 9  

I give the performance: 8  

Points for Hungary: 8

 

ICELAND

My favourite national finalist: Nott by Yohanna

Song: Coming Home

Artist: Iceland

Result: 20th

Gimmick: Friends paying tribute

The best bits: Take away the back story of a sad sudden death, and like stripping away the costumes of Lordi – assuming they are, in fact, costumes – there’s still a great song there. I was as bitter as the next person when Yohanna failed to win the Icelandic final, but as soon as I heard Sjonni’s Friends charming their way through this, I was in love. And yet I can’t explain why. It just makes me happy…which in turn makes me feel a little guilty under the circumstances.

The other bits: Sjonni Brink might have originally written the song in English, but I think there’s something magical (or should I say, čaroban) about it in Icelandic – as it was performed at the national final. Aftur Heim has definitely had more plays on my iPod than Coming Home.

I give the song: 9

I give the vocals: 10 

I give the performance: 8 

Points for Iceland: 10

 

IRELAND

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: Lipstick

Artist: Jedward

Result:  8th

Gimmick: Double the trouble and double the hair gel

The best bits: Lipstick makes a mighty fine ringtone, people – I speak from experience! I pretty much love everything about Jedward and their song, despite knowing how irritating they are and that they can sing…badly. They had one of the most up-to-the-minute songs of 2011, the highest shoulders, and really used their twin status to advantage in the choreography.

The other bits: Darn them for beating the United Kingdom!

I give the song: 9

I give the vocals: 5

I give the performance: 10 

Points for Ireland: 8

 

ISRAEL

My favourite national finalist: Or by Chen Aharoni

Song: Ding Dong

Artist: Dana International

Result: 15th in semi final

Gimmick: The resurrection of a winner

The best bits: I love Dana and I love this song! Seeing her on stage, in Gaultier again is definitely one of my highlights from this year’s show. Ding Dong’s a little dated in sound and reminds me of Croatia’s entry, but of the two I much prefer this. Israel also made good use of the catwalk stage, with Dana strutting up there for her finish in a woman-walking-competently-in-heels manner that I can only dream of achieving.

The other bits: The Israeli selection was so strong that it’s difficult to say for sure that Dana DIDN’T only win because she’s Dana. She’s one of the many artists who had come back to Eurovision (or tried to) with a song obviously inferior to her last.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 6 

I give the performance: 8 

Points for Israel: 7

 

ITALY

My favourite national finalist: Vivo Sospesa by Nathalie/Javez by Davide Van De Sfroos

Song: Madness of Love

Artist: Raphael Gualazzi

Result:  2nd

My favourite lyric: “I know for certain I won’t bother you with nostalgia”

The best bits: As you may or may not know, I hated this the first time I heard it. A month later, I was in amore. It’s probably the 2011 song I’ve listened to the most, what with Eurovision, San Remo, and my iPod’s tendency to bring it up in every shuffle. I think Italy turned out to be what we all thought France would be – a fabulous performance that relied on the song and artist alone, and could have skyrocketed or bombed, but ended up doing the former. 

The other bits: More than a month on from the show and I’m still amazed that Italy came second. I think it’s a deserved place (and hopefully one that gets them back in Baku), but really – who saw it getting so high? And I mean the song, not Gualazzi’s vocal range.

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 10 

I give the performance: 9 

Points for Italy: 10

 

LATVIA

My favourite national finalist: This one/Banjo Laura by Lauris Reiniks

Song: Angel In Disguise

Artist: Musiqq

Result: 17th in semi final

Reminds me of: Into The Night by Santana

The best bits: Love me with luscious thighs…if you say so! My thighs, and the rest of me, certainly love this entry. Pop-rap-hip-hop-ballads apparently cater perfectly to my musical tastes. So do banjos, but let’s not go there.

The other bits: The live performance was a bit boring – not bad, just boring. The song is much more effective in audio form alone. Although there is a downside to that too, in that you can’t look upon Emils’ glorious face and better-than-Beiber hair if you’re only listening!

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 10

I give the performance: 7 

Points for Latvia: 10

 

LITHUANIA

My favourite national finalist: Best Friends by Donny Montell & Sasha Son

Song: C’est Ma Vie

Artist: Evelina Sašenko

Result: 19th

Reminds me of: Latvia’s similar use of sign language in 2005 (only I liked that song)

The best bits: I would have a completely wonderful review of this entry if I’d watched it in Düsseldorf with Mute on – though then I wouldn’t have heard Evelina’s lovely vocals. She also looked great, when you could see her past all the dry ice.

The other bits: Cringe. That’s what C’est Ma Vie makes me do. Particularly the chorus. I can see why other people liked it (occasionally) but I just can’t.  

I give the song: 5

I give the vocals: 10 

I give the performance: 9 

Points for Lithuania: 8

 

COMING UP: M to R!

 

Jaz x

Retrospective Reviews 2011: C to G

CROATIA

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: Celebrate

Artist: Daria Kinzer

Result: 15th in semi final

My favourite lyric: “Shine like a comet in a musical galaxy”

The best bits: I do love a costume reveal! Croatia gave us a whole bunch, alongside a pretty catchy, thumping, synthesized number, which thankfully in the end told us to Celebrate with every step we take, rather than Break A Leg (ouch!).

The other bits: Since Croatia finds it hard to advance whether they go for something parochial or not, I’d rather they did. Take a note from Bosnia, my friends: an ageing superstar in a checked dinner jacket who stomps and waves his arms in the air, is charming. A perfectly adequate woman forced to share the stage with a DJ/magician who seems to lack the ability to walk properly…not so much.

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 8

I give the performance: 5

Points for Croatia: 7

 

CYPRUS

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: San Angelos S’agapisa

Artist: Christos Mylordos

Result: 18th in semi final

Reminds me of: Molitva by Marija Šerifović

The best bits: Cyprus injected some much needed ethnicity into the 2011 contest with this haunting ballad. The general opinion of it is reflected in its lowly position, but I for one see it both as one of my favourite (and goose bump inducing) entries, and one of the slickest performances of the year. Am I alone in thinking it deserved to qualify?

The other bits: I will admit that the sudden wailing and clanging that kicks in about a minute in to the song is a Cyprus-shaped element trying desperately to fit in to a round hole. I don’t mind it now, but the song would’ve benefited from toning it down a notch…preferably by telling the ball-swinging lady to zip it, and just swing her ball.

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 10

I give the performance: 9

Points for Cyprus: 12

 

DENMARK

My favourite national finalist: Drømmen by Jeffrey/Sleepless by Anna Noa

Song: New Tomorrow

Artist: A Friend In London

Result: 5th

My favourite lyric: “…did we forget how to live, to dream and what it all means?”

The best bits: This was the first song that had made the word “WINNER” pop up in my brain. Obviously, I was wrong (my other predictions were also incorrect). But I still think it sounds like one – it’s anthemic, sing-along, and not 100% scandal free, which gives us fans something to talk about…as if anyone remembered that Melodifestivalen song from a gazillion years ago before AFIL “plagiarized” it.

The other bits: I don’t think this is a song that stands out on sound alone, and so I think a classy gimmick of some variety (that excludes monocles and super-sized boxing gloves) would have made the live performance a little more interesting.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 9

I give the performance: 7

Points for Denmark: 8

 

ESTONIA

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: Rockefeller Street

Artist: Getter Jaani

Result: 24th

Gimmick: Counting the beat, 2-3-4-5…ah, I mean 1-2-7-3

The best bits: After testing the water with something alternative in 2010 and stepping on a jellyfish, Estonia retreated somewhere shallower this year with a generous slice of mainstream pop. It reminds me of Azerbaijan in the sense that, whilst I just can’t love it, I appreciate how beautifully constructed it is.

The other bits: I am secretly pleased that this only made 24th place, because I never ‘got’ it – got the hype surrounding it that made it one of the early favourites. Maybe it didn’t deserve to be that low, but Getter’s dodgy vocals both in the semi and final make it fairer for her to have ended up on the right side of the scoreboard.

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 5

I give the performance: 8

Points for Estonia: 7

 

FINLAND

My favourite national finalist: Good Enough by Father McKenzie

Song: Da Da Dam

Artist:Paradise Oskar

Result: 21st

My favourite lyric: “I’ll walk my way to see the King and parliament. If they don’t help I’ll do it by myself”

The best bits: I hated this when I first heard it, and wasted many a precious minute of my life muttering about how it was the poor man’s Tom Dice entry. But…it turns out Paradise Oskar was a grower, and now I’m more likely to skip Tom on shuffle in favour of PO. A pertinent message, an adorable guitarist wearing a biodegradable shirt and a bloody massive LED planet – what more could you want?

The other bits: Is this not the strangest opening song of a final EVER? Humble does not set the tone for Eurovison. Not that drawing the 1st slot was Finland’s fault, and not that being humble is a bad thing.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 10

I give the performance: 9

Points for Finland: 10

 

FRANCE

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: Sognu

Artist: Amaury Vassili

Result: 15th

Gimmick: The world’s youngest tenor doing popera

The best bits: God bless you, France, for bringing some serious eye candy to Düsseldorf! And a pretty good song too. But such eye candy! In all seriousness, France also changed their tune quite literally from last year by taking us from Africa to Corsica. I loved Allez Ola Olé, but I really like this dramatic, lushly arranged effort as well.

The other bits: Something just wasn’t right with Amaury’s voice on the night of the final, and consequently no amount of sunset graphics, military jackets or artfully tousled locks (sigh) could disguise it, since we’re all aware of the stellar set of vocal chords he usually possesses.

I give the song: 9

I give the vocals: 7

I give the performance: 7

Points for France: 7

 

GEORGIA

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: One More Day

Artist: Eldrine

Result: 9th

My favourite lyric: “Another forbidden sensation, one more emotional flare, down with the fake hesitation”

The best bits: An electric and energetic performance fromGeorgiawas offset by outfits that made Verka Seduchka look demure by comparision – despite the fact that Eldrine did win the Barbara Dex Award for the worst-dressed artists this year. I can’t admit that I know the words to the chorus off by heart, but I still get a kick out of head-banging and yelling something along the lines of “na dada nah nah nah fire! I’m hmmhnahanahathere!”.

The other bits: The beginning makes me think MaNga. But the rest fails to conjure up the unwavering adoration I had/still have for Turkey’s recent runner-up. I don’t think it’s quite catchy enough for a rock song to appeal to me, as a hardcore pop-tart.

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 9

I give the performance: 10

Points for Georgia: 10

 

GERMANY

My favourite national finalist: Push Forward by Lena

Song: Taken By A Stranger

Artist: Lena

Result: 10th

Gimmick: A winner defends her title

The best bits: Was Germany deliberately trying NOT to win this year? Maybe, but there was a lot more thought put into this entry than you might think, if that were the case. I love the fact that I can’t classify it, or compare it to anything else I’ve heard before. It’s mysterious, lyrically curious and stands out. It’s also got a high-class video clip and a live performance that tuned the arena into a smoky underground club and blew me away! (I’m also a little enamoured with Lena’s onesie).

The other bits: I was going to say that the darkness of the song doesn’t suit Lena as much as the sunshine-and-rainbows sound of Satellite…but it actually does. So I’ve really nothing to go on. Claps for you, Germany!

I give the song: 9

I give the vocals: 9

I give the performance: 10

Points for Germany: 10

 

GREECE

My favourite national finalist: I Don’t Wanna Dance by Nikki Ponte

Song: Watch My Dance

Artist: Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike

Result: 7th

Reminds me of: Cyprus– a song that tries to blend two very different sounds

The best bits: This is yet another grower, a song that I despised three months ago but now chalk it up as another triumph for Greece, who just cannot seem to put a foot wrong in Eurovision these days. It’s also another song that defied expectation via a cracking live performance.

The other bits: I still think the Greek elements are the better ones, and that if Stereo Mike had hopped on his Stereo Bike and ridden away before the national selection, Loukas would have done a fine job on his own.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 10

I give the performance: 9

Points for Greece: 10

 

COMING UP: H to L!

Jaz x

Retrospective Reviews 2011: A to B

FINALLY! ‘Early next week’ may have turned into ‘the end of the week’, but the first of my five Retrospective Reviews installments is ready to be read. I won’t ramble on with a wordy introduction, because I think you know the deal: 43 countries, 43 looks back in time and 43 opinions on the songs, the vocals and the performances.

However…I do have a few things I want to let you know:

  • I’ve rotated Gimmicks, My Favourite Lyric, and Reminds Me Of throughout each entry, so they’re all a little different.
  • My scoring system is out of 10 for the song, vocals (based on those live in Düsseldorf) and performance, but with the final score, I’ve taken the average of those three scores, and rounded it up to match the ESC score system – i.e. if a country’s average was 8.7, I’ve rounded it up to 9 and given that country 10 points, which is the equivalent of 9 in that system. Whew! I haven’t done that much maths since high school! Still, it’s Eurovision-related maths which is a little more fun.

 

ALBANIA

My favourite national finalist: Pranë by Kejsi Tola

Song: Feel the Passion

Artist: Aurela Gaçe

Result: 14th in semi final

Reminds me of: Everyway That I Can by Sertab Erener

The best bits: This is a very unusual song that can’t really be pigeonholed – I guess that’s why Albania went with the eagle theme instead! I love the ethnicity and mystery of the verses, and the fact that the song does go somewhere, rather than staying put on a safe level. Aurela’s stage presence, along with her Rihanna-red hair, Nailene talons and the majestic LED graphic made for a powerful performance.

The other bits: The chorus is too shouty and aggressive for my liking. It especially grates towards the end of the three minutes, leaving me wanting some serious peace and quiet.

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 9

I give the performance: 8

Points for Albania: 8

 

ARMENIA

My favourite national finalist: Ayo by Emmy

Song: Boom Boom

Artist: Emmy

Result: 12th in semi final

My favourite lyric: “It’s time to win me in the ring of love”

The best bits: I’ll admit it: the giant boxing glove/medallion belt/dressing gown combo got me hook (pardon the pun), line and sinker! Yeah, it was cheesy – but I’ve always been more of a savoury than sweet type of girl. Plus, the song is catchy.

The other bits: It’s Armenia’s worst entry by far, as evidenced by its failure to qualify. The dated disco sound of the chorus may be catchy, but it doesn’t work the retro angle to its advantage in the way that Serbia does.  

I give the song: 6

I give the vocals: 5

I give the performance: 8

Points for Armenia: 6

 

AUSTRIA

My favourite national finalist: Oida Taunz by Trackshittaz

Song: The Secret Is Love

Artist: Nadine Beiler

Result: 18th

Reminds me of: Shine by Sophia Nizharadze

The best bits: There were two serious divas in the 2011 contest (of the “Da Vinci of the vocalists” kind, not the “Hurling phones at assistants” kind) and Nadine is one of them. I feel like she could yodel her way through the Macarena and I’d still be enchanted, though thankfully, her self-penned song is more pleasing to the ear than that. The presentation was simple, but all eyes were on her.

The other bits: Nadine’s asymmetric, yet somehow perfect hair makes mine look as attractive as Bon Jovi’s, circa 1988. So envious. The lyrics do cross over into cliché territory at times, as well.

I give the song: 7

I give the vocals: 10

I give the performance: 9

Points for Austria: 8

 

AZERBAIJAN

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: Running Scared

Artist: Ell/Nikki

Result: 1st

Reminds me of: Allt Jag Vill Ha by Josefine Ridell

The best bits: I love thatAzerbaijanwon this year when they were half as desperate to win as they were in 2010. This is a well written, nicely constructed, contemporary pop song that was elevated by an effortless, classy presentation.

The other bits: There’s always a weaker one when it comes to performing duos (though with Jedward it’s hard to tell which one it is) and with these two it’s clearly Nikki/Nigar. She’s an adequate vocalist, but when you compare her to the lovely ladies from Lithuania, Sloveniaand Austria, for example, she falls way short. I also have to say that whilst I’m happy for Azerbaijanand I know they won fair and square, I still can’t wrap my head around Running Scared as THE winning song. It’s too…nice.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 6

I give the performance: 8

Points for Azerbaijan: 7

 

BELARUS

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: I Love Belarus 

Artist: Anastasia Vinnikova 

Result: 14th in semi final

Reminds me of: Born In Byelorussia by Anastasia Vinnikova

My favourite lyric: “…I’m writing a new song” (Oh, how apt!)

The best bits: Guilty pleasure. That’s really all I need to say…but I’ll say a bit more. I feel I shouldn’t like this, considering it’s basically a rocked-up copy of Belarus’ original (better) then disqualified song. But the ethnic snatches and sing-along chorus win me over every time.

The other bits: It’s basically a rocked-up copy of Belarus’ original (better) then disqualified song. Also, I heard someone say that the lyric “courage and my grace” sounds like “cabbage in my bed” and now I can’t think of anything else when I hear it.

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 6

I give the performance: 7

Points for Belarus: 7

 

BELGIUM

My favourite national finalist: C’est La Musique by Steve Linden

Song: With Love Baby

Artist: Witloof Bay

Result: 11th in semi final

Gimmick: 100% music free

The best bits: This song has definitely grown on me since it was chosen; something helped along by seeing it onstage in Düsseldorf, because it’s hard to deny the vocal talents of Witloof Bay! It definitely has variety going for it, standing out and being a lot less repetitive (repetitive repetitive) than most of the other entries.

The other bits: Those “whoa whoa’s” irritate me to the point of the “whoa oh oh oh yeeeeeeeaaaaaah’s” in last year’s UK entry – remember them?

I give the song: 6

I give the vocals: 10

I give the performance: 7

Points for Belgium: 7

 

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

My favourite national finalist: N/A

Song: Love In Rewind

Artist: Dino Merlin

Result: 6th

Gimmick: The age factor

The best bits: Now that I look and listen back, this is becoming my absolute favourite. Bosnia and Herzegovina always brings something unique that just gets me (apart from last year). I think of songs like Lejla and Bistra Voda when I hear this, and how they give me goose bumps in the exact same way. Dino’s a class act and I wouldn’t mind having a granddad like him! No offence, he is only 48, after all. Supposedly.

The other bits: I have nothing bad to say about this. Although…if Mr. Merlin had brought his superb dancing skills from his debut performance to Düsseldorf, we so could have been going to Sarajevo next year!

I give the song: 10

I give the vocals: 10

I give the performance: 9

Points for B & H: 12

 

BULGARIA

My favourite national finalist: This one

Song: Na Inat

Artist: Poli Genova 

Result: 12th in semi final

Reminds me of: a song that the lovechild of Robyn and Pink would record

The best bits: Every time I listen to the first disc of the 2011 album, this is the song that I get stuck in my head. Poli’s not as POLIshed a vocalist as you know who from you know where, but her voice is raw and she belts this out like there’s no tomorrow (or a New Tomorrow, if you’re Denmark…GOD I have to stop these terrible jokes!). Overall, her song is strong, with enough pop to keep me interested and enough rock to allow for lounge room head-banging.

The other bits: A key change wouldn’t have gone astray in lifting this higher in the last chorus. But if you put that aside, what do Bulgaria have to do to qualify? Apart from sing about water, whilst wearing leather pants?

I give the song: 8

I give the vocals: 10

I give the performance: 8 

Points for Bulgaria: 10

 

So the winner of these reviews was Bosnia & Herzegovina…should I pit all of the top-scorers together at the end in one last 2011 battle? Hmm…anyway, look out for the C to G reviews this weekend!

Which is your favourite A to B entry?

Jaz x