This is it! I’ve finally finished reviewing all 41 Eurovision 2019 entries, just in time for Sunday’s opening party to signal the start of ESC week…as opposed to ESC rehearsal week, which we’ve been living and breathing since last weekend.
I don’t know about you, but I’m damn ready for this contest while also not being ready at all. Maybe because it came around quicker than Kseniya Simonova can mime Moldova’s “snow art” at double speed. Still, all that’s left for me to do is hang up my flags, buy my snacks and plan my SF1 voting strategy. Oh, and publish this round of reviews, obviously.
Keep reading to find out what I think of Bilal, S!sters, Kobi, Mahmood, Miki and Michael’s songs for next Saturday night. And keep in mind that I wrote these reviews before France et cetera had hit the Expo Tel Aviv stage, so any comments I made about staging were speculative. Speculative and arguably better than what some countries actually came up with.
PS – If you want to catch up on any of my other 2019 reviews, you can find them all here.
France + Eurovision = c’est magnifique these days. It all started with Amir back in 2016, and the run of absolute quality continued with Alma and Madame Monsieur. Not only have their eventual entries been amazing, but the standard of songs in their NF Destination Eurovision – held during the past two selection seasons – has been sky high. Voice Kids alumnus, social media star and Conchita worshipper Bilal Hassani emerged victorious from the 2019 show, having battled some tough competition and a lot of haters. The haters didn’t disappear after his win, but his fans will give him all the support he needs as he takes on Tel Aviv in style. I’m definitely a fan, but not just of Bilal. Roi is also doing all the right things for me.
Co-written by Madame Monsieur, this song is nothing like Mercy but it does have a message. It’s all about self-empowerment, standing up for yourself, owning your individuality and wearing huge blinged-up shoulderpads. I can personally relate to all of that (don’t underestimate the power of giving shape to your shoulders, people). Anyway, those themes are wrapped up in a pop-ballad package that manages to be quintessentially French without being stereotypically French. Maybe it’s the language mix, with the lyrics flitting between Française and Anglaise faster than you can say baguette. That technique has been used a few times by France at Eurovision events, including ESC 2007 and JESC 2018 – and they know how to do it well. Madame Monsieur know how to pen a current-sounding pop song well too, and though Roi isn’t as contemporary or powerful as Mercy, it still has a lot to offer. Every bit of it is catchy and consistent in its Frenglish; it has plenty of different segments that stop it sounding repetitive or becoming boring; the chorus is strong and easy to sing along to; and the lyrics make the message clear if you speak English and/or French (and if you speak neither, Bilal’s hand-crown helps get the meaning across). I really liked this track the first time I heard it, and it’s continued to grow on me like a sophisticated French fungus ever since.
In all honesty, however, the song pales in comparison to Bilal himself. He has to be my favourite personality of the 2019 contest – he’s fun, flamboyant and friendly, with star power but the kind of down-to-earth nature that makes me want him as my celebrity BFF. And of course, he can sing, dress to impress and rock flowing blonde wigs better than anyone. What’s wrong with this picture I’ve painted? Well, not much. But sadly I can’t see France going too far with Roi. Though plenty of people will be seeing and hearing this entry for the first time during the final (or when it’s previewed during the semis), with so many other standouts bound to catch their eyes and ears, I don’t like its chances. France’s fate might depend on how the Roi staging has evolved, but I can’t imagine they’ll be a televote or jury favourite. From that 6th place in 2016 to 12th and then 13th place last year, they’ve been drifting downwards, and I suspect that will continue to be the case with Bilal…but I’m hoping to be so wrong everybody will laugh at me later.
In a line A powerful, appealing piece of multilingual pop fronted by an awesome human 2018 VS 2019 2019 by one of Bilal’s wig hairs Predicted result 14th-18th My score 10 points
Okay, Germany: take a seat, because it’s time we had a serious talk. But first, some context. Michael Schulte did a top job of making our jaws drop last year when he finished 4th (don’t pretend you saw that coming). As always, when a country does randomly well after years of doing the opposite, I hoped his result would be the start of another successful streak for Germany. The contents of their 2019 national final seemed to promise the same thing. Then, last-minute wildcard addition Sister won it. How that happened is still a mystery to me, though I know we’re about to enter Eurovision week and I should move on from NF drama. But I just don’t get it. What did this entry have to offer that the other German songs didn’t? It wasn’t performed better or staged better than the rest, and the song was weak by comparison. Now it’s lost the one thing that made it memorable (the giant lazy Susan, which presumably goes on the table that belongs with Leonora’s giant chair). And I suspect that’s not the only thing Germany is going to lose.
There are a few bones to pick here without even mentioning the quality of the song: the ‘!’ in S!sters (that kind of stylisation was last considered cool circa 2002); the fact that the song title is virtually the same as the group name; Carlotta and Laura not actually being related (making my last point even more irritating); and the knowledge that Sister was rejected by Switzerland before being picked up, dusted off and dropped on Germany’s doorstep. As for the song itself…well, after my first listen I pegged it as this year’s 26th placer. That’s not because it’s terrible – I wouldn’t say it was. But it is a big pile of nothingness. It’s not instant, it has no call to action, it’s not dramatic enough to be a musical theatre number but too overblown to be an appealing pop ballad…there’s just nothing to grab on to. The verses sound like they’re still in the workshopping process, with a stilted structure and questionable lyrics. The chorus isn’t bad until the girls start shouting ‘SISTER!’ repeatedly at each other. And the whole thing is too slow and plodding, with not enough going on throughout the three minutes to make it feel like three minutes instead of ten. Carlotta and Laura are lovely, I’m sure, and they do the best they can with the material they’ve been given. But that material is not up to scratch.
I think Germany’s recent last places at Eurovision have been undeserved. But this year, there is no other entry already in the final or likely to qualify from the semis that deserves to finish lower than this. Not having seen S!sters’ new and (probably not) improved staging as I type this, I can’t imagine they’ve miraculously given themselves a chance of finishing above 26th. What else can I say about this? Switzerland made the right move rejecting it. And if Germany wanted to build on their 2018 triumph, they would have been better off sending Makeda or my preferred pick Linus Bruhn (whose performance needed polishing, but who had potential) to Israel. Or you know, LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE. I’m sorry for all the negativity, and I know the same amount of time and effort has been invested in this entry as in the other 40. But I’m disappointed. And as S!sters keep saying ad nauseum, if you feel something, ‘don’t you try to hide it, SISTERRRRR.’
In a line A non-event with a good message but few other redeeming features 2018 VS 2019 2018, in news that will shock no one Predicted result 26th My score 4 points
It’s host country time! The aptly-titled Home is Israel’s first post-win entry since 1999, and I don’t think Kobi can hold a candle to Eden and Yom Huledet. But who could? The correct answer is ‘no one’. Kobi has nothing in common with the boy band anyway, though there were enough Kobis in his music video to create one (nobody show it to Simon Cowell, for god’s sake). 20 years later, Israel is sending a solo singer down the road to the arena with a dramatic operatic ballad. It’s safe to say they haven’t attempted to repeat their 2018 winning formula here. RIP chicken clucks, Pokémon references and plagiarism lawsuits from the White Stripes.
My first experience with Home was not a good one. Having been drawn in by those ethnic wails at the beginning, I was feeling it. Then the wails turned out to be false advertising for a haunting Israeli masterpiece that never materialised, and I felt cheated. What did materialise was pompous and over-pronounced and self-indulgent. But two things happened after that. One, I got to know Kobi and discovered that he’s next-level likeable, which automatically forced me to be kindlier about his song. Two, I listened to said song a few more times, and in shocking news (because this never happens *insert sarcasm here*) I came around. I realise grower songs aren’t great for a contest relying heavily on instant appeal. But regardless, Home has made progress with me. I’m not turned off by the dramatics any more, I appreciate the melody and slow burn, and I feel like Kobi can do it all justice with a voice that understandably won him The Next Star. If I compare Home to other recent (ish) male operatic entries, it comes out on top of My Heart Is Yours – Norway’s 2010 host entry – and Sognu from France in 2011. It still sits way below Grande Amore from Il Volo, but that’s the pinnacle of the genre and cannot be beaten. For me, Home is average with a tendency to be slightly above. If I had to give it a grade on a report card I’d go with a B minus, but I would have given it a D a few weeks ago.
I may not be a Home hater any more, yet the song still isn’t what I wanted from Israel this year. I was hoping for something more like their 2018 Junior Eurovision entry or The Fire In Your Eyes: something spellbinding and ethnic. Even a song feat. some Hebrew would have been nice, but they opted for a full English breakfast instead. With Madonna being shipped in as an interval act, Home seems like another missed opportunity for Israel to show off some culture. Host entries have set up camp in Struggletown lately, and while I think Kobi can do more for Israel than The Makemakes did for Austria and Cláudia Pascoal did for Portugal (not that they deserved to hit rock bottom) I would be surprised to see him on the left side of the scoreboard. But since 26th place is pretty much reserved for Germany, he’s sure to avoid the ultimate embarrassment. And with a song that’s quite powerful and a voice to match, he has the chance to nip at the heels of the top half. Even so, Israel should come to terms with a mid-table downgrade from 2018’s clucking awesome 1st place.
In a line A majestic number fit for musical theatre that won’t thrill Europe or embarrass Israel 2018 VS 2019 2018 – fun and inventive wins out for me Predicted result 15th-20th My score 6 points
Ah, Italy. A true Eurovision love of mine, second only to Sweden (I have my reasons). A country that cannot help but be classy and ultra-Italian, no matter which genre they’re dipping their leather-clad toes into. And a country that really should have won at least once since their 2011 comeback. Could 2019 finally be the year they go all the way? If it is, you’ll hear my hysterical screams all the way from deepest, darkest Siberia or wherever else you are in the world. I am head-over-heels for Soldi (I love Mahmood too, but there’s no point being head-over-heels for him when you’re a straight woman). Just when I thought Italy couldn’t impress me more than they already have during the 2010s, along comes a song so effortlessly cool, I can barely believe it’s a Eurovision entry.
Not because I don’t think Eurovision is the coolest thing ever. Clearly I do, having devoted ten years of my life to talking about it here on EBJ. It’s just that songs like Soldi don’t often pop up in the contest. Actually, we’ve never had one quite like it competing, and I never imagined that if we did it would be a contender for the win. This song is edgy, gritty and tells a tale of woe – Mahmood’s relationship with his father isn’t very Brady Bunch – but it also manages to be fun (it’s the irresistible claps), inventive and catchy. It combines the classic Italian musical traits we know and love, like lyrical wordiness and rich (from all that Soldi) instrumentals, with hypnotic urban beats, hip-hop influences and an Arabic undercurrent. Mahmood’s cultural makeup is represented by the ethnic and language fusion, while his family story is represented in the lyrics. This is deep. It has fireworks AND feelings (take that, Salvador). It’s also a very cleverly-composed song, with those wordy verses being broken up by a minimalist chorus everyone can latch on to in seconds. My absolute highlight of Soldi is the Arabic-infused bridge, which adds an extra element of interest and significance to a modern masterpiece. I also like the nonchalance of Mahmood’s performance style: his distinctive vocals are always A+, but when he’s singing this song he gives off a ‘whatever’ vibe. It’s like he’s channelling the indifference he now feels towards his father, who he’s learnt is all about the money. That’s my interpretation, anyway.
Italy is hardly trying too hard this year, and apparently that’s what it takes to be a dangerous competitor. It’s like barely bothering with an assignment only to score 95%, purely because you didn’t overthink or overwork it. That makes me wonder if Italy actually wants a Eurovision victory, or if they’re happy to carry on with strong top 10 placements. After all, they won JESC by accident in 2014 and turned down the chance to host it the following year. They might get what (I think) they’re wishing for in Tel Aviv, because the path to victory isn’t as clear for Mahmood as it is for the other big favourites. He did win the 2019 OGAE Poll, but it was a tight race and those points all came from hardcore fans. I don’t know if the general public will take to Soldi like we have. Juries should at least reward its originality, but it’s not traditionally jury-friendly on other counts. And I’m unsure if Italy can stage this in a way that gets the message across and matches the cool, contemporary feel of the song. I would love all of the above to become irrelevant and have Italy as our winner this year – they’re my personal second favourites – but I’m sensing that’s too much to ask.
In a line Flawless and meaningful modern Italian music with an exotic twist 2018 VS 2019 2019, but Italy always impresses me Predicted result 4th-6th My score 12 points
What happens when arguably the best song in a national final is performed by someone with no desire to go to Eurovision? Well, occasionally it still wins and we’re treated to an unenthusiastic performance that drags a great song down. Fortunately for Spain, they had a solid backup to María’s Muérdeme in the form of Miki’s La Venda. His song might not be as current and slick as hers, but he performs it with so much enthusiasm he makes it better than it would have been with a less lively artist attached to it. This guy has tough competition when it comes to being Mr. Congeniality, ESC 2019 Edition – especially from his fellow auto-finalists Bilal, Kobi and Michael. He blows them all away when it comes to charisma and personality during a performance though. And La Venda is the perfect song for him in terms of letting his fun flag fly.
It’s also a perfect party anthem. Is there a better motivator to get up and dance in this upcoming contest? I don’t think so! If you can listen to this without moving, congratulations on living Les Misérables. The song is a piñata made of music that’s been busted open and proceeds to rain happiness and effervescence over all of us for all three minutes. That’s because it starts as it means to go on – in top gear with trumpets and an insanely joyful melody. The fact that it doesn’t change much throughout means it lacks a little dynamism, but it also means the energy is constant and keeps you (literally) on your toes. The pace is almost frantic, but I for one am willing to try and keep up with it as I shout ‘LA VENDA YA CAYÓÓÓÓÓÓ!!!’ repeatedly until my neighbours beg me for mercy. Something else I really like about this is the message that lies underneath the façade of fun and frivolity, proving that you don’t need to be dead serious to make a statement. According to Miki (or his lyricist), we should all take off our metaphorical blindfolds and see all that we have and all that life has to offer us instead of looking away, Finland-style. And to that I say amen. It’s a relief to have a break from anything remotely lovey-dovey after Amaia and Alfred’s PDA display. Spain is giving us a fiesta instead of a love-fest this year, and ironically I love them for it.
I don’t know if enough Europeans or my fellow Australians will be feeling the same level of love for this. It has been popular with fans and done pretty well in pre-polls, but it’s not unusual for Spanish entries to be hyped to the point of, in hindsight, overhype. I get a kick out of the Spanish fans’ enthusiasm re: their ESC entries, and I’m on their side this time…but even so I’m thinking Miki might struggle to live up to his hype. He’s a Hulk-strong performer, but La Venda has weaknesses: it’s repetitive, it stays in the same gear all the way through (a pro and a con, as I mentioned before) and it tends to disappear like fairy floss when followed by more eventful entries. Unless Spain scores a late second-half slot in the final, I can easily see them being forgotten in the middle of a 26-song stack. Having said that, La Venda is so enjoyable, and it has the power to get an audience going like nothing else it’s up against. If the ecstatic crowd gets a starring role in the performance alongside Miki, this entry will be elevated.
In a line The ultimate Latin party in a three-minute package 2018 VS 2019 2019 Predicted result 16th-21st My score 8 points
If you thought Germany was the only country with a song rejected by someone else, you thought wrong. The UK is bringing to Tel Aviv what could have been the Swedish entry sung by John Lundvik (but probably would have drifted down to mid-table in the Melfest final while Bishara packed his bags instead). John, who co-wrote Bigger Than Us and will compete against his own composition this week, originally wanted to enter Melfest with the ballad instead of Too Late For Love. He was convinced to change his tune, and that’s how Michael ended up with (this version) of the song. I don’t know why I wasted time telling that story when you all know it already. Anyway, Michael’s certainly made Bigger Than Us his own with his big voice – and his endless repertoire of arm flourishes. It’s hard to imagine anyone else singing it now…but would I prefer it if the song hadn’t been recycled by Mr. Rice?
No I wouldn’t. Call me crazy (it’s true) but I LOVE this song, in all its repetitive, key-changing, memetastic glory. It’s a TV talent show winner song for sure, but it’s the kind that brings tears to your eyes because you’ve voted for the singer for weeks and they actually won and you’re so invested it doesn’t matter how clichéd their inspirational power ballad is. That’s a hypothetical scenario, but Michael is a TV talent show winner. And with good reason: the boy can sing. He’s the best vocalist the UK have sent to Eurovision in a long time, and his vocals make more of Bigger Than Us than a less skilled singer would have. The song follows a predictable ballad structure: verse, chorus, (alarmingly short) verse, chorus, subdued chorus, money note + key change, lots of emotional warbling, and SCENE. There are no surprises. ‘Bigger’ is repeated 50-something times throughout, and it seems like more because the second chorus comes around so soon, Occidentali’s Karma-style. The last quarter of the song is padded out with extra biggers in place of quality content. And you can pick, down to the split second, when the fire curtain switch will be flicked. I know all of this, yet I still adore this song. The melody is beautiful, the explosive moments are mighty explosive, the gospel backings are rousing and Michael is amazing. Is it a little cheesy? Sure, but I like cheese. And this is uplifting, powerful cheese. If John Lundvik’s life was a musical, Bigger Than Us would be the song signalling his newfound determination to stand tall and fight for what he believes in (which I think would come after he figures out that it isn’t too late for love). Also, if John Lundvik’s life was a musical I would buy front-row tickets. But I digress.
Back to Michael. He’s a top bloke, as we’d say here in Australia. The kind of funny, grounded guy you’d hang out with in a heartbeat. That makes him voteable, at least to people who’ve been following his pre-ESC journey, and those spectacular vocals make him attractive to jurors judging singing ability. Where he might trip up is with the song itself and his performance. Bigger Than Us is probably too passé and predictable to stand out. And if he hasn’t upped his live game since You Decide – in terms of camera connection and toning down those arm movements – I’ll be worried. I’m also concerned the UK is going to leave Bigger Than Us to its own devices staging-wise, and it really isn’t strong enough to survive bare-bones (unlike, for example, The Netherlands’ Arcade). There is a lot that can go wrong here. But at worst it will still be competent and showcase high-class vocals, and that’s not a bad position to be in. I have faith that if everything goes right with this entry, it can improve on the UK’s recent results. After all, it’s SO MUCH BIGGER.
In a line A by-the-numbers power ballad that’s worked its magic on me 2018 VS 2019 2019 Predicted result 15th-19th My score 12 points
If you made it through all that, thanks for sticking around. The UK was lucky last and concludes the EBJ judgments for 2019. I’m not-so-secretly relieved, and I’m guessing you feel the same! Here’s today’s mini-ranking:
- Italy (12)
- United Kingdom (12)
- France (10)
- Spain (8)
- Israel (6)
- Germany (4)
And here’s the maxi-ranking feat. the full class of 2019 (apart from that one student who didn’t make it to graduation):
- Sweden (12)
- Italy (12)
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- Slovenia (12)
- United Kingdom (12)
- The Netherlands (12)
- Greece (12)
- Estonia (10)
- France (10)
- Azerbaijan (10)
- Portugal (10)
- Norway (10)
- Cyprus (10)
- Malta (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Belarus (10)
- Spain (8)
- Russia (8)
- Romania (8)
- Belgium (8)
- Armenia (8)
- Iceland (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Denmark (7)
- Ireland (7)
- Lithuania (7)
- Finland (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- Austria (7)
- San Marino (7)
- Moldova (6)
- Israel (6)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- Poland (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Germany (4)
- Georgia (4)
Sweden on top is no surprise if you know me. Have I changed my mind since the first round of reviews? Not where my favourites are concerned, but if I did a full ranking again there would be some shifts in the 15th-35th range. Might be time to pay another visit to the ESC Sorter…
Be sure to let me know how you rate the Big 5 + Israel – or any country you like – in the comments, as we continue to watch and wait out the rehearsals. And follow me @EurovisionByJaz on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (links are in the sidebar —>) because that’s where you’ll find my predictions for Tel Aviv’s three hopefully fantastic shows. We’re so close, guys. Enjoy what’s left of the lead-up to Eurovision 2019!
THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 6 (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia + San Marino)
I have to open this post with three letters: OMG!!! As I type this, Eurovision 2018 rehearsals are underway, with the semi 1 first halfers taking to the stage yesterday and the second halfers going through the motions right now. It still feels surreal that we’ve reached this point already. Didn’t Salvador only win in Kyiv like, three months ago?
As you’ll know if you’ve hung out with me and my blog before, my golden rule is to NEVER watch the rehearsals. I like to keep things fresh for when I fall out of bed onto the floor at 3am for the live shows (that’s why I also haven’t listened to any of the songs in full for a good six weeks). So you won’t find any analysis of who’s nailing and failing their practice runs on the Altice Arena stage here. It’s not like there’s going to be a shortage of that stuff anyway, and I’m sure you know where to find it: my favourites are ESC Xtra, my Aussie girl Anita at Eurovision Union, and ESC Insight for the daily podcasts. But I do offer catty/complimentary comments on Twitter based on descriptions I’ve heard and photos I’ve seen – #professional. Head over there and follow me @EurovisionByJaz for many Mikolas Josef well-wishes and reaction GIFs.
What you will find here is the continuation of my 2018 reviews, as I trudge towards the finish line approximately 150 kilometres behind everyone else. I still get an ‘A’ for effort, right? There are three rounds left for me to bring to you guys, and today’s is all about Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia and San Marino. Want to know what I think of the songs Sennek, Mikolas, Michael, Netta, Eye Cue and Jessika feat. Jenifer packed in their Portuguese suitcases? Then keep reading – and don’t forget to comment your thoughts on these tracks + vote in the Round 6 poll. How else am I supposed to know how much you all disagree with me?
My thoughts Pressure (whatever that is, says Laura Tesoro) on Belgium this year was sky-high, as we wondered if they would maintain the run of Eurovision magnificence that began with Loïc Nottet in 2015. The simple question is, have they done so with Sennek and A Matter of Time? And the not-so-simple answer from me is the following. The thing is, if I loved Rhythm Inside 100% (which I did), I loved What’s The Pressure 90% of that, and City Lights 90% of that. And as much as I want to say my love for A Matter of Time is at 70% or more, the reality is that I don’t love it at all. My brain says ‘This is a damn good song, Jaz, don’t you reckon?’, but my heart says ‘Nope’. It leaves me feeling absolutely nothing. We seem to have a James Bond theme at every ESC these days, and sometimes they do connect with me and give me all the feels (sorry, Renaida possessed me for a second there) but Sennek’s gives me none. No goosebumps, no heart palpitations, no need to call an ambulance due to the sheer shock of how amazing it is whatsoever. I can’t put my finger on why not. It’s polished and sophisticated; cinematic in its drama (totes appropes for a song that should accompany footage of Daniel Craig kicking the asses of fifteen assassins at once); original for what it is, with melodic twists and turns that flow well but make sure there’s no time to get bored; and it’s performed beautifully by Sennek (in studio). So what’s wrong with me? Why don’t I adore this? Why am I more excited by the prospect of Sennek’s visual merchandising work for Ikea than by the prospect of seeing this performed live for the first time? If anyone out there is an amateur or professional psychologist and can offer some insight into my severe Belgian mental block, please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll offer some insight on how I think this will do in Lisbon. Once again Belgium is competing in the first semi, which as we all know is the Semi of Death and Destruction and Weeping Eurofans Worldwide. But since Sennek was a contender FTW in the odds, I’d say she’s on the borderline between certain qualifier and a ‘most likely to’ qualifier. In other words, I won’t be splashing any cash on her to make the final, but I do expect to see her there (especially because I don’t ‘get’ this entry, which means it’ll probably do well because that happens every year). As for what will go down on the Saturday night: well, with a good vocal performance and modern, atmospheric staging, a fourth consecutive top 10 place for Belgium wouldn’t come as a surprise – but I’m thinking 11th to 15th at this point.
2017 VS 2018? Blanche = better. I’m not sure how anyone could argue with that.
My score 7
My thoughts If I was giving out an award for the biggest Eurovision glow-up from 2017-2018, the Czech Republic would win it without even trying. I never had a major vendetta against Martina’s My Turn last year, but that’s because it was so bland – bland enough to be one of my least favourite entries of Kyiv. Fast forward twelve months, and the Czech Republic is not only right up in my top 3 for the year, they’re also in the mix to win the entire thing. WTF?!? This almost-favourite status is unprecedented for a country with a disastrous track record, feat. two semi final last places and another last place in the only final they’ve managed to make it to. But I have no hesitation in saying that Lie To Me is the Czechs best entry ever by a million miles. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat after dreaming that Mikolas wasn’t chosen to go to Portugal – that’s how much of a missed opportunity picking anything else would have been. Lie To Me is the musical love child of Problem by Ariana Grande and Talk Dirty by Jason Derülo, with ridiculously wonderful lyrics fired at us a mile a minute until the sparser, smoother, sing-along chorus drops. The trumpet riff pulls you in instantly (what a great way to start a song) and rivals Hey Mamma for catchiness. This might come across as a novelty song in some ways, but at its core it’s epic R&B-pop that’s impossible to ignore even if you don’t like it (but if you don’t, I’m afraid we can’t be friends). It’s urban, fun, a little bit NSFW even though it’s been cleaned up for the contest, and full of attitude. And let’s not forget Mikolas’ charisma and swag, both of which are on the favourable side of the ‘Am I A Douche or Not?‘ spectrum. If I had to pick on something, I’d say I’m not sure about the backpack (or the camel…it’s in the lyrics/music video, and all I can think of based on the song’s subject matter is that its presence has something to do with humps). But I firmly believe that Lie To Me can not only fly into the final, but that Mikolas can ride that camel all the way to the podium. I can’t imagine a song with lyrics like “I know you ‘bop-whop-a-lu bop’ on his wood bamboo” (the tip of the OMG lyric iceberg) actually winning, but 3rd would be a mighty fine spot for the Czech Republic to score. Beyond fine, in fact. Let’s make it happen, Team Miki (and jurors, who will hopefully not think this is offensive and mutter stuff about ‘The youth of today’ as they rank it right at the bottom).
2017 VS 2018? Do I even need to answer this? 2018!!!
My score 12
My thoughts Oh, Germany. What happened to you? 2010 was a turning point that ground to a screeching halt in 2013 with a great song + bad staging. That was followed by a decent but not memorable song, a nul pointer, a great song + terrible costume choice, then a song last year that was destined to do nothing on the scoreboard. This might sound harsh, but there are a lot of countries that deserve an automatic spot in the final more than Germany does at the moment. They’re certainly not making the most of their Big Five status, and I think that trend has continued with You Let Me Walk Alone. It’s supposed to be a sentimental tearjerker of a piano ballad about Michael’s late father – I say ‘supposed’ because the sentiment is lost on me, and my eyes are drier than a desert when I’m listening to it. Does that make the song artificially emotional, or am I a cold, unfeeling witch who should go and live the hermit life in an isolated mountainside cave? Maybe don’t answer that. I am sorry that I don’t feel what I “should” be feeling here (and I’m sorry for Michael’s loss) but this does even less for me than Belgium’s song. It’s musical wallpaper. I do actually like the pre-chorus, because that’s where the lyrics are least cliché and the melody is worth an approving nod. If the rest of the song was more like that part, I wouldn’t be wearing my Negative Nancy t-shirt right now. But as it is, if I do the mental test of asking myself ‘Would this qualify if it was competing in a semi?’, my personal answer is no, I don’t think so. But hey, since Germany has a talent for dragging good songs down with bad staging choices (occasionally…I don’t mean to be a bitch about this) perhaps they’ll do the opposite this year and elevate YLMWA to a place where even I can appreciate it. Then again, I have heard they’re using the old photos-in-the-background trick which doesn’t bode well – I hate that almost as much as I hate cover albums (and I really hate cover albums). Regardless of what Michael is surrounded by, standing on top of or wearing, I think his song will get lost in the 26-song grand final, unless it’s tacked on to the end of the running order (unlikely). I cannot see him faring much better than Levina, but don’t be too hard on me if I’m spectacularly wrong and Germany goes top 10. That would be kicking me while I’m already down, and while I’m confused.
2017 VS 2018? 2017, I guess. Can you feel the lack of enthusiasm?
My score 5
My thoughts Here it is: the bookies’ favourite and runaway winner of the OGAE Poll. This time last year I could have said the same thing about Italy, and we all know what happened to Occidentali’s Karma when the actual contest came around. Thanks to Francesco’s 6th place, we have to question whether Netta will also fall short of pre-show expectations, or if she’ll she do an Alexander Rybak right in front of Alexander Rybak. I feel like it’s one of the two, but more on that after I’ve talked about Toy itself. You might remember that I was never sold on Occidentali’s Karma as a winner, and I have similar gut feelings about Toy…only they’re more fragile feelings this time (which tells me Netta is more likely than Francesco was to steamroll her opponents into submission). Once again I’ve found myself fond of, but not crazy about the song that’s been crowned The One by masses of Eurofans. The thing I do absolutely love about this entry is how original it is, to the point of being riskily so. It’s great to see a country go out on a limb instead of playing it safe. There is no doubt that this stands out from start to finish, and not just because Netta has her vocal looper in tow. The music is inventive, the lyrics are clinically insane but iconic as heck (I don’t know exactly what ‘taking my Pikachu home’ means, but I’m on board with it) and the energy is unrelenting. This is the kind of song that makes me wish more than ever that I was going to Eurovision this year so I could mosh to it. Toy has spawned memes and merchandise, not to mention an epidemic of clucking chicken impressions (a vaccine is currently in development) and that impact can’t be ignored. However, as I said, the song is not keeping my boat especially buoyant, if you know what I mean (translation: it doesn’t float my boat as much as a lot of other entries do). I can praise its originality until the end of time, but I couldn’t honestly say I’ve fallen in love. That might be why I’m not convinced of Israel’s winning chances – I’d prefer plenty of other songs to win. Still, I genuinely see road blocks for Toy to get over that were not in the pathway of Fairytale and Heroes, for example. I said it about the Czech Republic and I’ll say it again about Israel: As much as I want a fun-filled banger of a winner, I can’t imagine a song with lyrics like Toy’s winning the whole contest. And I have to wonder if, because the majority of people going crazy over this are firmly in the Eurovision bubble, first-time listeners/viewers will react to it in the same hugely-positive way. It could be an assault on the senses live on the big stage (not that I’d advise Israel to go for tasteful and understated. That’s fine for France but a mismatch for them). If not Israel to win though, then who? My ideal situation would be for a country we haven’t focused on that much to step up their game during the rehearsal period and say ‘I have ARRIVED!’ – partly because I hate a predictable winner; partly because I want a song I love to win, not a song I like. But majority rules. If the Eurovision roadshow is meant to go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem in 2019, that’s where it will go and I will have to live with it.
2017 VS 2018? You might question my sanity, but I honestly prefer I Feel Alive (and not just because Imri is a beautiful creature/hopefully not a stupid boy).
My score 7.5
My thoughts Macedonia had a similar contest experience to Italy last year in terms of being hyped and then missing the expected mark. Dance Alone was fanwank material that wouldn’t have been so highly regarded if Sweden had sent it, but because it came from Macedonia it was a pleasant surprise. Only the overwhelming love from fans (excluding me since I was never that into it) didn’t transfer into ESC success, and FYROM failed to even qualify. Is the same story being written for Macedonia as we speak? Lost and Found is a somewhat surprisingly high-quality song that has been hyped and showered with affection, but may struggle to make it out of its semi. What’s the difference, aside from the fact that, as far as I know, neither member of Eye Cue is a) pregnant, or b) about to get engaged during a global television broadcast? It is a very different song, of course – there are actually two or three different songs within this one song – and it’s probably going to be staged in a less off-putting way than Dance Alone on the basis that Lost and Found is a warmer, more fun song. Every segment of it, like a ripe orange, is delicious and appealing; but also like an orange (I hope you didn’t think I’d stopped with the food metaphors) as a whole it is messy. We’ve got infectious reggae-pop in the verses, which follows on from the soft acoustic-style opening lines repeated throughout, which in turn leak into the upbeat dance chorus (I think it’s the chorus, anyway). They’re all catchy, all lyrically blessed and all sung beautifully by vocalist Marija – I LOVE her voice, and she’s already proven it’s like honey live. On one hand, I like how Lost and Found dips in and out of different styles, packing so much into its three minutes it’s like a lunchbox overflowing with tasty snacks. On the other hand, I’m disappointed that a song with the potential to be epic had it been cohesive is anything but cohesive. I’m still not sure if it works as a whole or not. It can’t be compared to the last entry to change things up in-song to such an extent – Icebreaker by Agnete – because that changed tempo rather than genre. The changes Macedonia makes aren’t as arresting, but are more confusing. I want Eye Cue to qualify, but at this point where I’m yet to make any official, posted-on-social-media-for-the-world-to-laugh-at predictions, I’m on the fence, and it’s hurting my brain (and my backside…it’s an uncomfortable fence) trying to answer the will-they-or-won’t-they question. So I won’t answer it right now. I’ll just say that if Macedonia does get to the final, I’m foreseeing a lower left-side placing at best.
2017 VS 2018? 2018. They’ve lost their grip on genre, but found some incredible pieces of pop.
My score 8.5
My thoughts San Marino is always a fun country to review for all the wrong reasons. They’re also a country that puts me to the test in terms of not being too insulting. Don’t be shocked to hear that I’m being tested yet again in 2018 with Jessika (via Malta) and Jeni B (via Germany). Look, I really like these girls: they’re friendly, personable and seem to be enjoying their ESC journey (which will be a pretty short one) so far. I’m happy for them to have the chance to do something so cool, especially Jessika who’s been rejected as a Maltese representative about 75 000 times and was obviously desperate to get to Eurovision (can’t blame her). But the bottom line for me is that Who We Are is TERRIBLE. To think that the Loin D’ici Straubs were partially responsible for bringing it to life is horrifying. It sounds like something the winner of Popstars might have released as a winner’s single circa 2001, but it couldn’t have been called current back then. I actually have no idea which decade this song would have been fashionable in. The sound-alike Heroes chorus is the only common trait between this and a song with the calibre to win the contest, and Jeni B’s rap is the worst rap I’ve ever heard. That’s not because she’s a bad rapper but because the lyrics she’s being forced (there must have been gunpoint involved at some stage) to rap are from Cringe City. I can’t decide if the worst part is ‘If they dissin’ you on Twitter, don’t get sad don’t be bitter’, or ‘If they say so, get in the car, rev it up and be a star.’ To say ‘What is this, Junior Eurovision?’ would be doing JESC a disservice. Okay, so the anti-bullying message is worth a round of applause – I fully support that. And, believe it or not, I don’t hate this as much I used to, but that in itself is something I hate. I did NOT want this to be a grower. It hasn’t grown beyond being the 42nd song in my top 43, but there was a time when it was right at the rear, and if it can creep up once it could creep up again. Someone should make a horror movie about a situation like this. I can see the tagline now: Who We Are Is Coming To Get You, And Jeni B Won’t Stop Until She Knows YOU Know That Jess Over Here Is A Special VIP *screams bloody murder*. To sum up, the Who We Are I wanted at Eurovision 2018 was from Norway; I don’t think anyone asked for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we have San Marino in the Euro family…but good Lordi, they need to find a way to slay. Safe to say I’m confident they’re staying behind in the semi.
2017 VS 2018? When Valentina is an option, always choose Valentina.
My score 3
31 down, 12 to go! Here are the standings now I’ve scored today’s six songs:
- Czech Republic (12)
- Macedonia (8.5)
- Israel (7.5)
- Belgium (7)
- Germany (5)
- San Marino (3)
No lie – Mikolas wins this round by a big margin. I know I’ll get some gasps for sticking Israel in the middle, but honesty is the best policy, right? Unless you’re Benjamin Ingrosso, but that’s a discussion topic for another day.
If you’re on Team Israel or you want to show your love for any of the other songs on the program today, you know what to do.
NEXT TIME If you’ve been keen for me to judge Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Serbia, Slovenia or the United Kingdom, then the wait is over! One is in my top 10, another is anything but, and the rest are the filling in the sandwich. Come back later this week to find out which is which.
JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands + Poland
Hello again, and welcome to another episode of me putting the Eurovision 2017 entries I adore up on a pedestal, and tearing the ones I hate to shreds. Fun times (unless you love the songs I can’t stand)!
Another six songs are up for some serious judging today, via me and – once again – my mum. Being the crazy lady that she is (it’s hereditary), she has voluntarily come back to have her say on The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland. So are you ready, Martina, Koit & Laura, Levina, Fusedmarc, O’G3NE and Kasia? Too bad if you’re not, because it’s time for you to be reviewed in 3, 2, 1….now.
My thoughts I’d never complain about a contest that has a lot of musical variety – after all, forty-plus ballads/dance tracks/Hard Rock Hallelujah rip-offs wouldn’t be fun to watch or listen to (or be much fun for the producers trying to create an entertaining running order). So in terms of that, a nice little jazzy number from the Czech Republic helps with the whole ‘celebrating diversity’ motto of the 2017 comp. But that doesn’t stop My Turn from being the most boring song in the line-up by a mile. I just don’t think it has a lot to offer – the melody isn’t very catchy or exciting, there’s nothing about it that stands out and makes it memorable (I’m actually struggling to recall how the verses go right now) and I’m not a massive fan of Martina’s voice either – though I expect she’ll sound pretty much studio-perfect on the Kyiv stage. Speaking of the stage…not even an Azerbaijan 2013 level of staging genius would pimp out this entry enough to push it into the qualification zone, IMO. Dead last in the semi isn’t a dead cert, but it’s hard to imagine the juries or televoters lavishing attention on My Turn when there’s the likes of Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois (for the former) and I Can’t Go On and City Lights (for the latter) surrounding it. Then again, I didn’t think the Czech Republic would qualify last year, so I’ll prepare to stand corrected just in case. 4 points.
My mum says… This is a bit naff. It’s got a nice chorus and seems simple to sing along to, but I get the feeling two or three run-throughs would be enough for me to get bored of hearing it! Martina has an unusual voice – I wasn’t sure if it was a female or male voice at first, and I guess that makes things interesting. But the bottom line is that I won’t be too bothered if don’t hear her song again anytime soon. 4 points.
The Czech Republic’s score 4.00
My thoughts I’ll get right to the point on this one: if Koit and Laura’s duet accurately depicts what being lost in Verona is like, then drop me off there without access to Google Maps! I LOVE this song, just as much as Koit’s 1998 entry Mere Lapsed and a million times more than the weak-as-water Let’s Get Loud by Laura’s Suntribe in 2005. Verona seems to borrow sounds from three or four different decades – mostly the 1990s and the 2000s – which doesn’t leave it feeling super fresh, but the infectiousness of all of its elements, the instant hook and the fact that it wasn’t written in the traditional A-B-A-B-C-B song structure (the song is as lost as Koit and Laura, but in a good way that keeps you wondering where it’ll end up) wins me over anyway. It’s a little dated, but in a way that works – more nostalgic than stale. The singers themselves sound great together and when they’re doing their solo duties, but their chemistry leaves a bit to be desired. It might have been the Eesti Laul staging that was a little off, but I hope there’s not a Chanée and N’evergreen situation happening behind the scenes…or a reverse scenario in which Koit and Laura are great mates IRL, but can’t channel the necessary emotions to give an authentic, appropriately-tortured performance. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, because we haven’t (correct me if I’m wrong) seen a live version of Verona since it won the NF. It’s done well in the OGAE poll so far which makes me happy, but that’s not always a reliable indication of what will succeed in the actual show. Still, I think Estonia – after a shocking trip to Stockholm that saw Jüri Pootsmann finish last in the first semi – has the power to propel themselves into the final, and onto that sought-after left side of the scoreboard with this pairing. 10 points.
My mum says… Once I stopped wondering why ‘two silly boats in the sea’ had been considered a wise lyrical choice by Verona’s writers (after Jaz informed me that the lyric is ‘two SAILING boats’, which I must admit makes more sense) I started to enjoy Estonia’s entry. I wouldn’t say it’s fantastic, but I like the sound, the beat, and the way Koit and Laura’s voices complement each other. It’s definitely more than musical wallpaper, so I think it should do well in competition. 6 points.
Estonia’s score 8.00
My thoughts Let’s do the math: in the past two years, Germany has sent two absolute gems to Eurovision, only to f%*k up the staging of both (to different degrees) and fall utterly flat in the final. If that’s the way the universe is working, then by rights Levina’s Perfect Life should be staged flawlessly and be super-successful on the scoreboard…even though it’s a bit of a snoozefest. Of course, Deutschland could just as easily be heading for their third wooden spoon on the trot (undeserved in each case) which would mainly upset me because Levina seems like an awesome person whose (perfect) life should be filled with sunshine and rainbows and puppies. Plus, the girl can sing. It’s just too bad that the song she ended up winning Unser Song with is a non-event. It starts out as a Titanium homage – which teases you with the prospect of it turning into a proper dance banger – only to veer off into plod-along territory and stay there. It’s almost like Perfect Life doesn’t know what type of song it wants to be, so it’s ended up as a compromise between a ballad and a club track that’s too down-tempo to compete with other in-betweeners like Sweden and Macedonia. I can’t realistically see anyone picking up their phone and taking the time to vote for it, and I also don’t think it’s going to stand out as something spectacular that the juries would freak out about. That doesn’t bode well for Germany. They really need to find their groove again, or have a Belgium-style turnaround. Try it in 2018, okay? 6 points.
My mum says… This is more my style. I was mouthing the words of the chorus by the end, and when that happens without me even realising, I know I’ve found a favourite – or at least a song I wouldn’t change stations on if it came on the radio. Perfect Life is definitely radio-friendly. I like Levina’s voice and the lyrics, plus the fact that she’s obviously happy with her lot. I think many of us could learn some lessons from her…or at least from whoever came up with the song’s concept. 7 points.
Germany’s score 6.5
My thoughts I think we know which country Georgia passed the bonkers baton on to after last year! Funnily enough, I’d probably be saying the same thing if Get Frighten had won in Lithuania. What we’ve got instead is less novelty but way more untamed, and it’s nothing like the Game of Thrones-inspired military march song I thought Fusedmarc would present me with, back before I heard Rain of Revolution for the first time (it just goes to show that you can’t judge a song by its title). I’m not even sure how to categorise this entry, which is almost a positive attribute when you consider how ‘different’ that makes it. Part electropop, part funk with a rocky edge, it’s not as offensive to me as it seems to be to most other Eurofans – I really like the beat and melody of everything leading up to the choruses, and the chorus itself has a pretty high sing-along factor. I also dug the staging of the song at Eurovizijos, and if they’ve decided to keep those visual effects for Eurovision, they’re sure to look epic on that LED-laden stage. But vocalist Viktorija lets a little too loose with her big notes, and that equals a messy listen (those screechy ‘YEAH YEAH’ bits being the main culprit). And it has to be said – by me, apparently – that she gives off some crazy vibes (in a psychotic, escaped mental patient sort of way, which ain’t ideal). The overall package is something that, once unwrapped, I wouldn’t try to return for store credit…but I can understand why other people would. So I’m safely predicting Rain of Revolution to go absolutely nowhere in its semi, which is a shame after Donny ‘Modern ESC Legend’ Montell did so well for Lithuania in 2016. 5 points.
My mum says… Lithuania’s taking us all back to the 80s whether we like it or not, by the (literal) sound of it. I’m not sure I do like it. Rain of Revolution is a song that seemed like it was going to become something better than what it began as, but it never did. I’ll give a few ticks of approval for the nostalgic feel and the energy of the beat, but that’s it. 5 points.
Lithuania’s score 5.00
My thoughts O-M-G3NE, I was excited when these ladies were announced as the Dutch reps for the year (as they’re JESC alums, I followed their Voice journey and have watched their audition for the show about 500 times). They’d been rumored before and their selection was bound to happen sooner or later, but I was happy to have it sooner. That, of course, was prior to Lights and Shadows being chosen and then released. So did I change my mind when it came out? Well, no…although I do think the trio have been saddled with a song that’s far too focused on being a vehicle for their voices rather than a current, competitive contest song. There’s a lot of emotion attached to O’G3NE’s entry because a) it was co-written by their father, and b) it was co-written by their father about their seriously ill mother. That should allow them to really feel what they’re singing rather than just parrot the lyrics pitch-perfectly, which they can do without trying anyway – their harmonies are incredible. However, heartstring-tugging aside, the song is a throwback with Wilson Phillips comparisons that won’t stop cropping up. IMO that’s not totally terrible, since I get a kick out of the rousing 90s feel of it. And even though it’s a very wordy song, I find it pretty easy to sing along to, and very catchy. It definitely stands out, and last but not least, we can bet on the performance being flawless, with the vocals being the shining beacon of jury bait. I just don’t know if it’s going to be a big success, a flop, or finish somewhere in between the two. I wanted O’G3NE to come strutting in to the contest with a surefire hit – i.e. a killer pop song circa 2017 (not 1997) that highlighted their vocal abilities without sacrificing musical fabulousness. I can’t say they’ve done that (DAMNIT!), but there’s a lot I do like about Lights and Shadows. And I’m still excited to have this girl band back in the Eurovision family. 7 points.
My mum says… Sigh. I could happily listen to these girls harmonising all day long. When they’re harmonising to Lights and Shadows, I instantly get the Wilson Phillips feelings that I’ve been told loads of others have too. There’s also a bit of B*Witched in here, making the song/singer combination very 90s indeed. That girl group style is one I usually enjoy, and this is no exception. Though I’d be surprised to hear something like it on the radio, I’d willingly play it again for my own listening pleasure. 10 points.
The Netherlands’ score 8.5
My thoughts Poland has been pretty hit-and-miss with me since they came back from their Eurovision vacation in 2014 (with a bang). There actually seems to be a pattern forming with my attitude towards their entries: My Słowianie, yes; In The Name of Love, not so much; Color of Your Life, yes. Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, let me cut to the chase: I’m not a huge fan of Flashlight. I had a favourite in the Polish NF that I thought had a better chance of winning (Isabell’s Swedish-written, Kygo-esque Voiceless, FYI) so Kasia took me by surprise when she won instead, with what’s a perfectly okay, gothic and melodramatic ballad. It’s just not the sort of ballad that rubs me up the right way. I feel like it would have fit in better at Kyiv in 2005, though it also reminds me of Lithuania’s Nomads in the Night which popped up three years later in Belgrade. I wish it reminded me more of Poland’s entry that year from Isis Gee, which IS the sort of ballad I prefer. Flashlight has a reasonable chorus – I wouldn’t call it catchy, however it does have some staying power – but I honestly can’t remember how any other part of it goes, and I’ve listened to it just as often as I’ve listened to the likes of Cyprus and Montenegro – two far more instant songs. It’s not memorable or modern enough for me, and I suspect for the contest in 2017 either. I wouldn’t give it zero chance of qualifying, because it might well go through…but if so, I expect it will die in the final. On the plus side, I’m guaranteed to love whatever Poland sends to Milan the as-yet-unidentified host city of Eurovision 2018. 5 points.
My mum says… It’s funny how something so dramatic can fall so flat! This didn’t do anything much for me, and I’m having trouble thinking of the melody too. It sounds like it’s trying to be something spectacular, but it never hits the heights to make that happen. Kasia’s voice is another great one that I’d say deserves a better song to show it off. 5 points.
Poland’s score 5.00
Aaaaand we’re done for the day! The ranking for this round of reviews looks like this:
- The Netherlands (8.5)
- Estonia (8.00)
- Germany (6.5)
- Poland (5.00)
- Lithuania (5.00)
- Czech Republic (4.00)
Forget two heads being better than one – three is obviously better than two, if O’G3NE’s win over Koit and Laura is any indication (though that was mainly my mum’s influence). You’ll have to hang around until all 42/43 (will I review Russia? I’m not sure at this point) songs have been crossed off the to-do list to find out which country will top our full ranking…and which one will bring up the rear. After that, Eurovision itself will decide whether terrible taste runs in my family or not.
Next time on Jaz Judges Eurovision 2017, I’m rolling out the red carpet for Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta and Switzerland. Drop by if you don’t want me to dance alone! And before that, as always, leave your thoughts + feelings on today’s reviews in the comments. Do you think the Netherlands will do the best out of this bunch in Kyiv, or does OGAE poll darling Estonia have the edge? Perhaps we’ll find ourselves in Prague next year and you’ll be saying ‘I told you so’. Let us know below!
It’s creeping ever closer, people! If you don’t know what I mean by ‘it’, then I have to question why you’re reading this blog. For those who do know, you’ll also be aware that the Eurovision 2016 stage is taking shape inside the Globe Arena, and that means more reviewing must be done before it resembles the diagrams we oohed and aahed over a little while ago. It’s still mostly scaffolding at this point – but there’s no time to waste! Let’s say hej to today’s judges, and to the countries they’ll be discussing in this third installment of reviews.
By now, you guys should know where to meet and greet the EBJ Jury, so I won’t tell you again (well, maybe just one more time. Hint: scroll up!). James, Martin and myself are about to complement and criticise the life out of Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and San Marino – or, as I like to call them (because we’re all best buddies), Eneda, Jüri, Jamie-Lee, Donny, Douwe Bob and Serhat. Who’ll be our favourite, and will any country other than the predictable one be our LEAST favourite? Settle down with some popcorn and find out now!
James Okay, I feel like I’m going to be in the minority here when I say I actually think the revamp has improved Albania’s song this year…instrumentally, at least. Fairytale 2.0 sounds a lot more professional than Përrallë did – the only issue I have is that Eneda’s new vocal somehow sounds like she recorded it right after waking up from a three-hour nap, and quite fancied getting straight back to bed as soon as she was done. I’m hoping she really attacks it live because even with its lucky running order position, it’s gonna need a LOT of extra energy if it’s to stand ANY chance of making it to Saturday night. The English lyrics aren’t brilliant, I must admit, but that’s never been an issue in the past *cough, undo my sad, cough*. As a song though, I do enjoy listening to Fairytale, and the hook does stick with me. I’d be happy to see Albania in the final with this.
Martin Swapping from Albanian to English, along with losing forty-five seconds of the FiK version of Fairytale, is going to lead to yet another non-qualification for Albania – much in the same way as it did for Hersi in 2014. What was a powerful and passionate emotional rollercoaster with lots of interesting nuances in Tirana has now lost it all and become a repetitive low-key ballad that no longer holds my attention.
Jaz Albania seem to have forgotten fast that a fully-Albanian language entry gave them their best-ever Eurovision result. Obviously, it’s well within their rights to sing in whatever language they like – but I can’t help feeling that ANY language other than English would have helped Eneda’s Fairytale retain the mystery and intrigue that it initially had (and in doing so, you might say, made it a Fairytale with a happy ending). Like Martin, I can’t say that this song, in its English incarnation, is anything special – whereas it was when it was known as Përrallë. Language gripes aside, I still rate the gritty, rocky sound (and how it contrasts with Eneda’s/Kate Winslet’s ladylike styling), and the melody and construction of the choruses is still interesting (we’re rarely on the receiving end of cookie-cutter stuff from Albania). But, without the air of ‘Ooh, what’s this all about then?’ that the original version of the song created, I cannot see this qualifying. Not unless a handful of other countries stumble and fall flat on their faces, that is.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 5
- James 5
- Jaz 6
- Martin 5
- Nick 2
- Penny 6
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 6
Albania’s EBJ Jury score is…5.33
James Aagh, Estonia. I genuinely still don’t know what I think of Play yet. It’s definitely one of the most original songs in this year’s line-up, and it’s fresh and relevant whilst oozing the kind of timeless classiness that Estonia are so good at of late. The thing I’m not so sure about is Jüri’s voice – if the song had been written a couple of semitones higher, it would be in a much more comfortable place for him. This is something I’m all too familiar with from trying to record covers myself – literally, if someone from his team could just whack the karaoke version into Audacity and change the pitch up a bit, everything would be fine! He still sings it perfectly well, of course, but there’s not a single point in the song where he has the chance to break out of that sludgy lower register and show off the full extent of his vocal capabilities, and the overall effect is far too dark, in my opinion. Yes, I know it’s MEANT to be like that, but I don’t think it really works. Especially live – the melody is so low that it blends in with the track and obscures a lot of the meaning, which is a shame since the lyrics are one of the song’s highlights. I still think it’s got a pretty good shot at qualifying, though, and it’s definitely going to stand out, one way or another.
Martin With a passing nod to the vocal style of Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy, Jüri brings chic and coolness to Eurovision with a very laid-back and confident performance, together with a song that builds nicely and has a memorable chorus. Play just lacks a ‘wow’ moment that would definitely confirm a final place, and a possible top half finish for Estonia. Because of that, this could be one of the ‘better’ casualties of this year’s semi finals.
Jaz Estonia has pulled a Latvia this year, selecting a song written by their 2015 representative to fly their flag (I’ll be swapping the countries around and saying the same thing about Latvia when the time comes). While I’d put Love Injected on par with Heartbeat in the ‘How freaking awesome is this?’ department, I’d actually rank Goodbye To Yesterday a little lower than Jüri’s Play. That’s not because I hate GTY (I don’t, although it never topped my rankings) but because I LOVE Play. Jüri + this song = a performance by a more well-groomed and more intense version of Hozier, and it is soaked with smoky retro sophistication. This kid (I can call him that since he’s younger than me and my mental age is akin to that of a teenager) might look angelic, but when he’s on stage, those of us watching him aren’t sure whether he wants to skin us alive or if he’s just really, really in the zone. I like the fact that he’s so ‘in character’ as he works his way through a song that literally hits all the notes that Bond-inspired vintage-vibe pop should. Of all the throwback songs that will be showing up in Stockholm this year (‘all’ meaning, like, three or four) this is the most well-executed IMO, and it almost serves as a prequel – or sequel, depending on how the listener writes the story – to GTY, as an added bonus. Though I doubt Jüri will squeeze out a single tear á la Elina Born at Eurovision, I don’t doubt his ability to take Stig’s song to the final…and perhaps secure Estonia another top 10 result as well.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 6
- James 5
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Nick 4
- Penny 8
- Rory 6
- Wolfgang 5
Estonia’s EBJ Jury score is…7
James I should absolutely adore this. It’s got that modern synth-pop sound with a waif-like female lead vocal, which I usually really dig…but something about Ghost just doesn’t click with me. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments – I like the bridge, for example, and the chords in the ‘lonely in a crowded room together’ line. But on the whole, that chorus is such an anti-climax, isn’t it (please say somebody agrees with me?). It’s still a decent enough song, but I guess I just feel a bit miffed every time I hear it because I feel like it could have been soooooo much better! I hope it grows on me, and it probably will when I get the CD and actually let myself play all the songs to within an inch of their lives…but until then, it’s mid-table at best for me. Sorry, Germany.
Martin Melancholic lyrics, an atmospheric score and hauntingly powerful vocals were all at odds with the visual package of an 18-year-old girl obsessed with manga outfits! ‘The Voice of Germany’ was totally the focus of the national final performance of Ghost and rightly so. Jamie-Lee’s simple but sublime delivery of this entry could be the sleeper hit this year in Stockholm. One of my favourites – it’s my number 4 at this stage.
Jaz I don’t want to get overly-attached to Jamie-Lee and her Ghost, given what happened in the wake of me latching on to Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke (I’m beginning to think I’m a bad luck charm). But…this song is brilliant! Hashtag fail on the ‘keep your distance’ thing! I’m no musical expert – which you may find hard to believe – but I think that technically-speaking, this is one of the best songs competing in this year’s contest. The background music is almost church hymn-like, which adds a pleading but accepting tone to the words pouring out of Jamie’s mouth; while the steady beat makes the whole thing hypnotic. As a package, the music and lyrics are fresh and edgy, and Eurovision needs those adjectives. However, what we see rather than hear is where Germany has gone wrong. I know Jamie-Lee loves her K-pop and her Harajuku-inspired outfits (in other words, Gwen Stefani would adore her) – but not only does her choice of costume detract from a song it just isn’t suitable for, it also makes for a jarring combination of a mature, emotionally-charged song being performed by someone who looks distinctly Junior Eurovision, and therefore far too young to have an understanding of what she’s singing about. Jamie, sans stuffed-toy-covered wardrobe, does have the maturity required to pull this off despite her young age, and her vocal talents are undeniable. But dressing the way she does, she’d be better off joining Dolly Style when one of their current members inevitably departs, or performing a song that is as fun, cute and playful as she looks. To people not named Jaz, the contrast between Ghost and Jamie’s sartorial selections might make her stand out positively from her 25 fellow finalists – but I think, as much as I admire her passion for and loyalty to her look, keeping it for Eurovision is a big risk. I do love the song though…
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 5
- James 5
- Jaz 10
- Martin 10
- Nick 12
- Penny 6
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 10
Germany’s EBJ Jury score is…7.78
James Okay, yes, this has ‘Melfest Reject’ written all over it, but you know what? I don’t mind at all. One thing I really look for in Eurovision now is relevance. As I’m hosting a Eurovision party for all my non-fan friends, I get really excited when there are songs that sound like they’d fit right into the UK charts or radio playlists right now, because then I can point at the screen and go ‘SEE? EUROVISION’S NOT SHIT!’ and smile smugly as all my friends listen and can’t help but agree, because songs like Lithuania’s match their own tastes and would do so well if released by someone more well-known over here. So yeah, well done Lithuania! Ever since Attention, which I ADORED, they’ve really upped their game at Eurovision, and I’m enjoying their commitment to giving Europe the very best that their country can offer! Another thing though – have you heard any of Donny’s more recent music? Because damn, boy, he’s so much better now than when he sang that god-awful thing at the ESC in 2012! He’s got a really slick Troye Sivan/The Weeknd kind of vibe going on (think Aminata/Loïc Nottet if you want a contest reference) and it really suits his voice and style. I sort of wish he’d entered something more like that for Eurovision, but meh – I’ve Been Waiting… is more than good enough as it is!
Martin Donny gives this entry everything – it’s definitely memorable, it’s a standout high-tempo pop song that is performed superbly well, and it makes full use of his onstage charisma and good looks. Is the song’s title also a good omen for Lithuania? Donny could well be singing ‘I’ve been waiting for this night’ over the credits of the Eurovision final as his country’s first winner.
Jaz How does a pasty, preppy dude whose hobbies include strumming an imaginary guitar and wearing comical bejeweled blindfolds transform into a buff, bronzed and blonde (for the most part) crowd-captivator? Why not ask Donny Montell? He’s done just that between 2012 and 2016. Don’t get me wrong – Love Is Blind was the bomb, and Donny has always been a showman and a half, who can dance and sing simultaneously to a degree that probably makes Eric Saade very depressed indeed. But it’s great to see that Donny has evolved as an artist, and that he didn’t try to make an ESC comeback by repeating his approach of four years ago. I’ve Been Waiting For This Night is a bog-standard dance anthem, but the catchy chorus coupled with Donny’s charisma elevate it to above-average. Not since Kurt Calleja’s This Is The Night have we witnessed an entry that sets the tone for the show so perfectly (although Tonight Again did a darn good job of that in Vienna, I must say). Needless to say, the Globen audience (which will include me!), plus everyone watching on TV will be partying it up-up-up-up-up-uuup Loreen-style thanks to Lithuania. I am expecting them to qualify, and I will be complaining very loudly if they don’t. Oh, and I’ll also be starting a petition to get Donny to drop the Anglicised stage name and revert back to his much cooler birth name. ‘Donny’ worked with Love Is Blind. ‘Donatas’ is the artist IBWFTN deserves.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 3
- Fraser 10
- James 6
- Jaz 8
- Martin 8
- Nick 5
- Penny 6
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 10
Lithuania’s EBJ Jury score is…6.55
James Anyone who knows me will know that I absolutely love Calm After The Storm. So I guess when we worked out that by sending Douwe Bob, The Netherlands were going to be trying country music again, I was cautiously optimistic. And then I heard the song. Yeah, no. It’s the kind of thing that would only feel at home around the track 12 mark on disc two of some cheap ‘Driving Anthems’ compilation: the kind my Dad would play on long car journeys circa 2004. As a result, Slow Down just makes me think of those car journeys as a kid and I get a weird second-hand travel-sickness from it and…yeah, I just really don’t like it. The chord pattern, the instrumentation, the tone of the whole thing – it’s supposed to make you feel happy, but by the third line I just want to Sellotape Bob’s smug little mouth shut so he ‘can’t go on’ (see what I did there? Eh, eh?). Can I just stop listening to this and go listen to Calm After The Storm again instead please? That was such a special song. This is not.
Martin Country & western returns to Eurovision courtesy of the Netherlands yet again – it’s always about the lyrics, as this genre can sound like every other C & W track you’ve ever heard. Slow Down is well sung, and Douwe Bob is personable and handsome…but the steady pace and sound of the song won’t stand out in Stockholm. Another possible ‘good’ non-qualifier for me.
Jaz I have to agree with both James and Martin on this one, in terms of the fact that Douwe Bob’s Slow Down is achingly average – and it certainly doesn’t recapture the magic of Calm After The Storm (though you can’t blame the Netherlands for trying to in the wake of the Trijntje incident). The song’s not bad (we’ll come to one that is almost undeniably so in a minute). But, as much as I enjoy the cruisy pace and general jauntiness of it, plus Bob’s insistence that we chillax bro – and his vocal, which is super-smooth with a rough retro edge that I find strangely attractive – the entry as a whole just doesn’t ‘do’ much for me. Therefore, I have no choice but to file it away with the likes of Finland and the Czech Republic. I can’t imagine that the staging for this will be epic enough to make Douwe Bob the second coming of the Common Linnets, because even on its own, their song had the x-factor. Still, he should serve us up a nice, clap-friendly three minutes on stage (and if he lets that rose tattoo poke out of his shirt, you may hear me wolf-whistling amidst the applause). That should at least ensure that he won’t be bottom of his semi. Qualification isn’t out of his reach, but it’s definitely not in the bag.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 6
- James 3
- Jaz 6
- Martin 7
- Nick 5
- Penny 10
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 3
The Netherlands’ EBJ Jury score is…5.55
James Okay…is this a joke? Like, genuinely, I hope this is a joke, because if not, it’s just plain embarrassing. I cannot comprehend how one country can send so many palpably half-arsed entries in such a short space of time. I completely understand that San Marino are strapped for cash, and since Ralph Siegel has stopped bankrolling their entire Eurovision operation (hallelujah!) they’ve adopted the approach of nominating artists who can pay their own participation fee. So that essentially means they’ve got the pick of, oh, I don’t know, EVERY SLIGHTLY RICH ARTIST IN THE ENTIRE CONTINENT – hey, actually no, THE ENTIRE WORLD…and they’ve sent THIS. Was this really the best they could do? The original was dire, but by trying to squash Serhat’s badly-written, cringey, lopsided spoken words (that is not singing. I’m sorry, but no) into a DISCO TRACK, they’ve somehow managed to make it even worse. The beat itself, well, erm, Baccara called and they want that back ASAP. But dear lord, Serhat’s voice is the most grating thing in the entire Stockholm line-up! My dog has a bigger vocal range than he does. I’d literally rather spend three minutes listening to her barking right in my ear for her daily Dentastick, and deal with the copious amount of drool that accompanies such a request, than listen to any track with Serhat’s voice on it. Look at his face and then Google the troll face, and tell me they’re not distant cousins at the very least. This HAS to be a pisstake, right? It goes without saying that they haven’t got a hope in hell of qualifying, and if they do – ESPECIALLY if they take the place of someone like Gabriela from the Czech Republic – then there is something very, very wrong with this contest. Come on, San Marino. Sort yourselves out for next year, I beg you!
Martin The Turkish Leonard Cohen meets Studio 54! What would have been a very creepy monotone delivery of a set of ‘obsessive’ lyrics by Serhat is now tempered by some decent female backing, and the light and breezy disco beat that somehow makes this work. I Didn’t Know isn’t great (that’s an understatement!) but at least it’s now bearable to listen to. And, it’s no longer my worst entry this year (just).
Jaz I’ll be honest, and I think many of you will agree with me on this: I’ve never had particularly high expectations of San Marino’s Eurovision entries. Whether they’ve been armed with Siegel’s stash of cash or not, I’ve never been on the edge of my seat waiting for them to produce something on par with an Italian effort (I’m not a Valentina Monetta fan either, which doesn’t help). Even so, the sheer awfulness of I Didn’t Know has sent my jaw straight to the floor countless times since it was unveiled in its original, non-disco form. Like James, I was sure San Marino were trolling us when they presented the song to the public – how else could you explain the so-stale-it-was-growing-stuff track that sounded more like a recording of an audio book gone wrong than a song, or the laughable accompanying video clip that could have been lifted from an SNL sketch? But sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, I Didn’t Know was given the Donna Summer treatment, and OH DEAR GOD. This is what media outlets and non-fans will latch on to when they want to make a mockery of the contest. They won’t ignore it in favour of discussing Latvia or France – they’ll zone directly in on Serhat and his Seventies nightmare (thanks a lot, San Marino/Turkey). Based superficially on his appearance, I had hoped for a trumpet-backed, updated version of Mambo No. 5 from this guy, which would have been a bit of fun. But what we got instead more closely resembles something you’d step in by mistake at the local dog park. In the words of His Majesty Michele Perniola (whose 2015 entry is suddenly sounding like musical genius by comparison), NO.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 5
- James 0
- Jaz 1
- Martin 4
- Nick 1
- Penny 2
- Rory 1
- Wolfgang 0
San Marino’s EBJ Jury score is…2.44
Duh duh duh…another six bite the dust! This third round of reviews has produced the lowest-scoring set of songs so far – but it did include San Marino, so we should have anticipated that. Here’s today’s top six:
- Germany (7.78)
- Estonia (7)
- Lithuania (6.55)
- The Netherlands (5.55)
- Albania (5.33)
- San Marino (2.44)
I tip my hat (the hat I’m not actually wearing) to Jamie-Lee Kriewitz for taking out the top spot on this occasion. You go, girlfriend. Where will she finish in the grand scheme of the EBJ Jury’s Top 43? We’ll all find out in a few weeks’ time.
Coming up, two Eurofans from the US of A will join me to pass judgment on Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Denmark, Montenegro and Spain. There’s bound to be some hits and misses among them, so make sure you drop by to witness the humorous differences of opinion (it’s always amusing when someone rips a song to shreds and someone else takes offence and they have an argument which results in the destruction of a longtime friendship, don’t you think?).
Sense the sarcasm, guys.
While you’re waiting for me to hit publish on that post, let the EBJ Jury know what you think of today’s tracks. Does Germany’s Ghost get you going, or will it just get you going to the kitchen to put the kettle on? Is San Marino’s sixth place deserved or totally uncalled for? Comment and score these songs for yourself down below – we’d all love to hear from you!
Until next time,
Ugh. Can you tell I’m running low on salutations again?
If you haven’t already defected to Wiwi Bloggs in disgust, welcome back to the Viennese Verdicts. As the first semi final of Eurovision 2015 is mere days away *hyperventilates into a brown paper bag for a second* there’s no time to waste in getting these reviews out and about (i.e. finished). This is Part 6 of 8, and today I’ve rounded up German and Australian ESC experts to help me critique Israel, Hungary, Germany, Moldova and Azerbaijan.
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Wolfgang Schmidt: You met German-born-and-bred Wolfgang – a.k.a. Wolf – back in Part 3 of the Viennese Verdicts. He’s a massive ABBA fan (as is my other guest juror for today) with an impressive history as a Eurovision addict. Altogether he’s attended four contests: Birmingham 1998, Copenhagen 2001, Düsseldorf 2011 (just a hop, skip and awkward Lena dance step away from his hometown) and Malmö 2013, and the Birmingham show was his favourite. You know what they say…you’re always fondest of your first!
Andrew Pentecost: Andrew is from Sydney, Australia. He doesn’t know how long he’s been aware of Eurovision, but it probably started not long after ABBA’s win with Waterloo. Andrew was a huge ABBA fan from about 1975, and they’re still his favourite pop group forty years later. After ABBA introduced Andrew to Eurovision, he discovered that, along with pop music, Eurovision also offers Balkan rhythms, popera, a smörgåsbord of languages and dodgy accents, costumes and frocks, choreography and all sorts of other delights. Some of his favourite songs come from the ‘golden age’ – Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son by France Gall, Eres Tú by Mocedades, L’Oiseau et L’Enfant by Marie Myriam, Boom Bang-A-Bang by Lulu, and Un Jour, Un Enfant by Frida Boccara. More recent favourites include Fairytale by Alexander Rybak, Energy by Nuša Derenda, and Invincible by Carola. And let’s not forget the show’s hosts – Andrew’s all-time favourite was the stupendous Petra Mede from 2013, who managed to combine Nordic humour, elegance and flawless English language skills into the ultimate package. Andrew and his partner Richard believe they’ve been watching the contest on Australia’s SBS together for more than twenty years – it’s bigger than Christmas and birthdays in their household. Last year they attended Eurovision in Copenhagen, and in 2015 they’re off to Vienna. A highlight of the last two years has been making all sorts of friends – people from every corner of the world who are equally mad about Eurovision!
Jasmin Bear: Surprise, surprise – it’s me again! I bet you’re about as shocked right now as you were when you found out Australia was participating in Eurovision 2015. That’s assuming you’re very easily shocked.
Nadav, Boggie, Ann Sophie, Eduard and Elnur are no doubt on the edge of their seats, waiting to hear our verdicts. So I won’t make them sweat onto the upholstery any longer! I must warn them, and you, however, that one of today’s judges was difficult to impress…
Golden Boy by Nadav Guedj
Wolfgang: The Israeli entry this year sounds more Turkish than a lot of Turkish entries of the past ten years. It is a very ethnic and catchy song that seems like an ear-worm summer smash to me. And hey, who would have thought that the guy singing this song is only sixteen years old? He already has the voice and appearance of at least a 23-year-old, doesn’t he? I hope Israel will qualify in Vienna with this ‘golden boy’ after their 2011-2014 disasters. They really deserve a qualification this year. And with this song, I also see a good placement in the final – let’s say 10th to 14th on the scoreboard. 7 points.
Andrew: Nadav is handsome beyond his years. Like many young people, he tries to do too many vocal runs for my taste, but he is a strong singer with a distinctive vocal quality that’s a bit like Guy Sebastian’s. The song itself is an odd mix of styles. The verses do absolutely nothing for me but I quite like the Eastern feel of the chorus. Pop music for me is all about vocal quality, melody, emotion and rhythm, which means I rarely listen to the lyrics…but the lyrics to this song are so atrociously corny that I cringe when I hear them. 1 point.
Jaz: Poor Israel hasn’t had the best run over the last few years (although only one of their DNQs really puzzled me – Moran Mazor’s, whose choice of outfit also puzzled me). Via their Next Star competition, they’ve selected an artist who undoubtedly has star quality, plus the potential to undo their semi-final-related-sad (excuse my tendency to drag any topic into Sanna Nielsen territory). Nadav, as we’ve all acknowledged, is clearly a man in his mid-twenties masquerading as a teenager for some reason (at least, that’s what I’ll believe until I’ve seen his birth certificate). This “kid” is a great fit for the fusion of urban and traditional sounds that is Golden Boy. Whether those sounds fit together or not, I’m not so sure. I love the Justin Timberlake vibe of the verses, and the unashamedly ethnic chorus, but the flow from one to the other isn’t so smooth. And I have to agree with Andrew on the lyrics – some of them are awful. Still, I don’t think that will hold Israel back too much. The song is instant, modern (for the most part) and, crucially in a contest bursting with ballads, a dancefloor filler (I defy anyone in the Stadthalle or at home to stay seated when Nadav hits the stage). The lack of ethnicity among his rivals’ entries makes him stand out too. I’m not putting any money on Golden Boy breaking Israel’s streak of bad luck, but I really hope it does. 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 5.00
Wars For Nothing by Boggie
Wolfgang: This song really says nothing to me! It sounds like it was from ‘before yesterday’ and it is absolutely non-catchy. To me, it is one of the most boring entries this year. And lyrically speaking, it is the other side of the A Little Peace medal – I am sure that the Ukraine would give their douze to this song this year, but unfortunately they are not competing. I already see a Dina Garipova performance straight from the IKEA lamp department coming up, with the backing singers joining Boggie hand-in-hand at the last minute. Oh, how sweet…not! One point for the beautiful blue dress + one for her voice + no points for the song = 2 points!
Andrew: I rarely enjoy the songs and artists sent to Eurovision by Hungary, and sadly, 2015 is no exception. A pleasant guitar instrumental leads into a very low-key, repetitive ballad that simply doesn’t build to anything. The main vocal is weak and often off-key and the harmonies are also poor. This is an utter nul-pointer in my opinion.
Jaz: Up until Hungary opted for Boggie this year, I was convinced that they were on track to win Eurovision within the next couple of years. Ever since their comeback in 2011, they’ve impressed me – their 2013 and 2014 entries were especially epic by my standards. But when your least favourite song of an entire national final lineup ends up winning that national final, you start to lose faith…and boy, have I lost my faith. I’m not saying that if Kati Wolf (whose A Dal entry remains on top of my could-have-been list for 2015) had been representing Hungary instead, they would have won in Vienna, or anything. I’m just saying that an up-and-coming country has let itself down here. In Copenhagen, Hungary gave us a powerful message song that was moody, gritty and contemporary. Wars For Nothing is a message song, but that’s about all it has in common with Running. I don’t find it powerful or particularly contemporary – lame and limp are the words I’d use to describe it. There are rare moments when I think I’m warming to it, but then I think about the likes of Sweden, Italy and Norway, and things are swiftly put into perspective. Boggie is a nice vocalist and a lovely person inside and out, but I’m just not interested in buying what she’s selling. 3 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 1.67
Black Smoke by Ann Sophie
Wolfgang: I feel like I should say something nice now, but unfortunately I can’t! It is no secret that I am not a big fan of Ann Sophie. I belonged to Team Andreas, which means I voted (more than once) for Heart of Stone, which was the best song in the German national final, IMO. I also like that he is not the polished superstar on stage, who plays perfectly with the camera and does an impressive show. But when you hear him sing, you understand why he won The Voice of Germany. Coming back to Ann Sophie, I must admit that I like Black Smoke a lot more than Jump The Gun (her second USFÖ entry). What can save us in the contest is that we don’t have a lame lady ballad like a lot of other countries, but a song that is much catchier. Also, Ann Sophie is a ‘Rampensau’ when she performs, meaning she kicks ass and rocks the stage. Maybe she can keep us awake after the sixth lame ballad in a row. I don’t have high expectations concerning the scoreboard this year – I think we can be very satisfied with a result between 15th and 20th place in the final, same as Elaiza last year. 5 points.
Andrew: After the cringe-worthy drama of the televised final, Germany is sending Ann Sophie to Vienna as their plan B. I really like this song, and Ann Sophie’s interesting, quirky voice. I plan to support her by cheering loudly in the Stadthalle, and I hope she’ll end up in the middle of the scoreboard. 3 points.
Jaz: If ever there was a prime example of a happy accident, THIS is it. If not to all of us fans (sorry, Wolfgang) then to me. There was nothing wrong with Andreas Kümmert and his Heart of Stone, aside from the fact that the song could have been lifted from a Phil Collins album released twenty-five years ago…but did I love it? Nope. Do I love Black Smoke? Yes I do! There was something about the song that captured me from my very first listen. It’s radio-friendly pop without being generic and cliché, it’s got a hint of retro funkiness to it that adds appeal, and both the verses and the chorus are equally catchy. The lyrics may not be genius (unless you compare them to Israel’s) but I really like those too – they’re simple but effective. I even covet the black-and-white ensemble and giant gold Pac-Man earrings Ann Sophie was wearing the night she “won” the right to represent Germany. It’s all good in my opinion, sans the bad that is the awkward position this girl has been put in as Germany’s choice by default. But, if she can carry the class and conviction she put into her reprise directly after the Andreas Incident (that’s got to win some kind of award for Best TV Drama) through to Eurovision, she’ll be fine. As much as I enjoy Black Smoke, I can’t see it scoring über-well in the final, but let’s hope Ann Sophie can claw her way a little closer to the top 10 than Elaiza managed to last year. Perhaps some of my one-off Australian votes will help her get there. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
I Want Your Love by Eduard Romanyuta
Wolfgang: My first impression was ‘What was that???’. The second time I watched it, I thought it was a fun entry. On the third play, I laughed my guts out. Sorry, but I can’t take this song and this little boy seriously. His name sounds like a ridiculous stage name and him singing ‘I want your love’ simply sounds so funny that I always have to laugh about it. Not that I’m a great fan of Moldovan entries anyway, but this year I’d wish Aliona Moon or Natalia Barbu back on stage. Can we change that, please? This entry is just not good enough to qualify – I’ll scream aloud if that happens. DNQ!!! One very gentle and polite point.
Andrew: Well, Ukraine did manage to send a singer to Vienna after all – except Eduard will be representing tiny Moldova rather than his homeland. When his hair is not long and lank, he’s quite a cute young man, but his live vocals are nothing to write home about, and he has a strong accent when he sings in English. I find the chorus to this song reasonably catchy in a predictable, boy band kind of way. The lyrics are corny and the video clip is horrendously juvenile. Another nul-pointer.
Jaz: Somebody please tell me where to buy a t-shirt with ‘GUILTY PLEASURE’ emblazoned on it, because I’m going to need one to wear while Eduard is doing his best Eric Saade impression (i.e. putting 95% of his energy into his dance moves, 4% into smoothing his hair and that measly leftover 1% into his vocals) as the opening act of semi final one. This song is total trash, and I LOVE it. Yes, it’s something I would expect to find on my Greatest Hits of N*SYNC album, but the reason I own that album is because I am a boy band tragic from way back who will never stop listening to the Backstreet Boys’ back catalogue. I Want Your Love is the kind of song I was waiting for as the Viennese ballads kept on coming. The performance, on the other hand…well, let’s just say that if it was someone’s face, it would need serious plastic surgery. If Eduard can pull a Ruslana and find the balance between singing and dancing, then do both to the best of his ability; and if the presentation is less 2000s street and more cutting-edge, then Moldova could surprise everyone who isn’t me by qualifying. Another pleasant surprise would be if Eduard chopped his hair off for ESC purposes. At least that way, the Viennese paparazzi wouldn’t mistake him for Edurne. Either way, I’m giving him 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 3.67
Hour of the Wolf by Elnur Huseynov
Wolfgang: Yes, you have read right: it’s the hour of MOI! How can I not love this song, just by its title? I must admit, my expectations of Elnur were very low after hearing he would be going to Eurovision for the second time this year, because I am a hater of his first “heaven and hell” opera, Day After Day. That was so awful that it still belongs on my list of worst-ever Eurovision entries. But this year it’s all totally different! The first time I heard this song it gave me goosebumps, and it is a song that gets better with each and every listen. In the meantime, I really love it! But on the other hand, Azerbaijan has gone for another secure number here by again choosing a song from Swedish songwriters and producers, which is a bit boring now. Nevertheless, this song is material that winning songs were made of in the past, and maybe if he comes barefoot in a white suit, anything can happen! This is my favorite of all the songs I’ve reviewed. 10 points.
Andrew: Azerbaijan seem to have developed a formula of using songs that have been written by composers and lyricists from countries like Sweden and Greece. This year they continue on that well-worn path. Some may enjoy this song, but I am tired of Azerbaijan’s formulaic approach and I wish they would send us some music with genuinely local melodies and rhythms. Hour of the Wolf is pleasant but rather bland. It is sung in heavily-accented English, but the vocal performance is excellent, as I would expect of Elnur. 1 point.
Jaz: Dilara’s Start A Fire sparked absolutely no flame in me last year (see what I did there?). In fact, just thinking about it now is making me drowsy, so I’ll get right on to how much of an improvement Hour of the Wolf is on that borefest. Sure, it’s another ballad with marginal Azerbaijani input, but that’s where the resemblance ends for me. This song is beautiful – almost Sam Smith-like – and although I’m yet to see a live performance (on purpose) I believe it will be a stunner in that context. The verses are well-constructed and the choruses are big without being too shouty. As a whole, this is a song that builds up to something explosive and perfectly complements Elnur’s impressive vocal range. Speaking of the man who really sells this song: Elnur is not the same person who was half of his country’s debut duo back in 2008. The angel wings and copious amounts of body glitter are gone, and a mature, even more powerful vocalist who is now The Voice of Turkey has taken his place. Song and singer have merged into something special here – something that has made me more willing to support Azerbaijan than ever before. I know I should be more critical of their tendency to turn to other countries for musical aid, but in this case, I just can’t. I never said I had principles. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.00
And there you have it! That’s five more down, and ten to go – with ten days until Eduard and his long blonde locks step onto that rather sexy Austrian stage (the finished product is, as Cascada would say, glorious) and hopefully start this year’s contest off with a fiery bang rather than a pathetic puff of smoke.
Let’s take a look at today’s rankings:
- Azerbaijan (7.00)
- Germany (6.00)
- Israel (5.00)
- Moldova (3.67)
- Hungary (1.67)
So the Land of Fire is in the lead here and now…but where will Elnur end up in the EBJ Jury Top 40? Within the next week, you’ll find out. First, though, there are a quarter of this year’s entries left to review.
Next time, the stars and stripes, the Union Jack and the Blue Ensign – that’s the American, British and Australian flags, in case you were wondering – will be waving in the wind as the jury judges Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. You know you won’t want to miss what we say about the year’s most controversial entry (she says, hoping you’ll find that tempting enough to make a return visit).
While you’re waiting, let us know how you rate Azerbaijan, Germany, Israel, Moldova and Hungary, and how you’d rank them. If you don’t, well…nothing much will happen. But if you do, you’ll get a virtual high-five.
Ermahgerd, people. The time has come. Aram Mp3, Sanna Nielsen and the rest of the gang have or are about to touch down on Danish soil (Basim, I assume, was already on Danish soil) and REHEARSALS HAVE BEGUN! *Insert endless string of exclamation marks here*
It’s all becoming real now, isn’t it? I’m getting to the excitement level where I’m too pumped up to fall asleep at night, so I should be in great shape by the end of next week when the TV broadcasts kick off in Australia. I’m thinking I’d better go and fashion some sort of scaffolding device for propping my sleep-deprived eyes open, so while I’m doing that, you can do what you came here to do: check out Part 2 of my Copenhagen Reviews. Here’s how I rate Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel and Italy.
Three Minutes To Earth by The Shin & Mariko
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: No
IMO: Last year, Georgia did their best impression of Azerbaijan when they purchased a Swedish-made ballad for Eurovision purposes. It didn’t get them as far as they were hoping, so it’s no wonder they’ve headed off in a totally different direction for 2014. Now, how to describe this direction…well, it’s Georgian, for one thing, and that I can appreciate after last year. But it is also completely bonkers. The first time I heard Three Minutes To Earth, I literally had no words. After a few hours minutes I managed to come up with something like ‘What…I…what..even…IS it?’. I couldn’t fathom how The Shin & Mariko had come up with such a ridiculous mish-mash of folk and rock and jazz and notes that sound like they’re out of tune even though that’s how they’re supposed to be, and considered it worthy of taking to a continental song contest. I put Georgia straight at the bottom of my rankings and refused to listen to the song again for weeks. Then, I braved it so I could review it fairly, and suddenly found myself more intrigued than horrified and confused. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still slightly bewildered, and I’m under no illusions of how this is going to fare in the comp. But – and call me crazy if you must – the second listen proved fruitful in making me see that this is an actual song, albeit a bizarre one. Those ‘skydivers, space jumpers’ parts (or whatever the line is) are quite infectious. The other main drawcard for me is Mariko’s voice, assuming she sounds the same live as she does in studio. It’s an unusual voice reminiscent of Platin’s (Slovenia ’04) Diana, but I like it. That’s not a lot of appeal to go on, but I have to congratulate Georgia on sending an entry that represents their country, not another statistic that can be added to Thomas G:son’s biography.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.
Is It Right by Elaiza
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: No
IMO: Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Robin Stjernberg coming from Andra Chansen to win Melodifestivalen 2013 wasn’t the highlight of my year for nothing. Elaiza’s underdog tale began when they beat out hefty competition to win the wildcard round of the German national final earlier this year. They then joined another truckload of artists in the televised rounds, most of whom were as well-known as they were not, only to progress to the final stage and pip perhaps the most established artist of the lot at the post. That deserves a round of applause *claps enthusiastically*. But I suppose the question is, does the trio’s winning song? My answer would be yes – to a certain degree. What I mean is, whilst I don’t LOVE Is It Right (nor do I love the lack of question mark in the title) there is something about it that I do rather like. It’s pop with a country feel, which wouldn’t go astray as the latest Taylor Swift single making radio rounds all over the place, and it plods along with a charm that I can’t pinpoint. It’s a bit repetitive and doesn’t have a huge amount of impact in comparison to other entries on offer, but it is catchy and karaoke-friendly, and the instrumentation is great. I really feel like this is a song true to its artists, and that they feel comfortable performing it. It’s not so much an arena-ready number as a lounge café gig track, kind of like Soluna Samay’s Should’ve Known Better or Anna Rossinelli’s In Love For A While. In that sense, the more at home Elaiza is when performing it, the better, because it wouldn’t work trying to be something it’s not. Stay true, ladies.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Rise Up by Freaky Fortune feat. Riskykidd
Better than 2013: Can’t…answer that…Too…hard!
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a sucker for a trumpet riff. Such instrumental inclusions into songs are the main reason I still go crazy for Ovo Je Balkan and Be My Guest, to name just a few examples. Greece, doing Eurovision in their normal effortless style, have put rap and some smooth verses to a dance beat and thrown in one of those trumpet riffs for Copenhagen, and the result is right up my street. Yes, I know this isn’t the height of originality, but how many songs are these days? All I know is that it makes me happy and makes me want to dance, and so I’ll be going for the Greeks this year despite the lack of free alcohol. Of course, my opinion on Rise Up has not at all been swayed by the through-the-roof hotness level of the three guys fronting it. Both Freaky Fortune and Riskykidd are welcome to turn up at my door and propose to me any day. But like I said, my love for them has nothing to do with my love for their song. It’s my personal dance anthem of the year, and I think it has the potential to work brilliantly in the Hallerne. On that note, however, I haven’t seen/heard a live performance of what is a tricky song to nail outside of the studio. Apparently their national final performance was a little cringe-worthy, so I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. But by all accounts, the boys had improved a ton by Eurovision In Concert and were on lists of the evening’s highlights everywhere. I just hope they’ve improved even more since then, and have figured out how to translate the performance successfully from poky TV studio to gigantic, flashy stage. This is Greece, so we can expect to see them in the final – but I want them to really deserve their place there. THEN I’ll decide which one of the three I’m going to marry.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Running by Kalláy-Saunders
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: After three years of being pretty awesome (2013 actually being totally awesome…KEDVESEM FTW WOOHOO et cetera) Hungary have brought something very good to Eurovision once again. Who do they think they are, Italy? Impressing has become almost routine since they made their comeback with Kati Wolf. Kalláy-Saunders has tried to represent Hungary in the past, and it’s with his best song that he’s finally won through, in my opinion. Running has so much going for it – it’s current and catchy, the tempo’s always changing to great effect, and it’s as far from contrived fluff about peace and love as you can get. That last point is proving a sore one with a lot of fans, I’ve noticed. People are having issues with the sensitive subject matter being raised in a forum like Eurovision, some going so far as to say it isn’t ‘right’. I don’t understand that mentality. A song about child abuse is just as suitable for a song contest as one about baking a cake, especially if you classify a ‘song’ as something with meaning. The subject isn’t being trivialised or used just to pull in votes. Who are we to say that it doesn’t have a greater purpose, and that it’s not important to András? As long as the entry continues to be treated as tastefully as it has been so far, I have no problem with it. It’s a damn good song, pure and simple. Subject aside, my fingers are crossed that Kalláy can nail his vocal when it counts. I don’t recall his NF performance being terrible, but the chorus of this song in particular is demanding. If all else fails, some overly-tight underwear should take care of those high notes.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
No Prejudice by Pollapönk
Better than 2013: Yes
Top 10 material: No
IMO: I’m not going to go on and on about how it was a mistake for Iceland to switch to English as they have so many times in the past, and that I now like their song less as a result…partly because you’ve all heard that rant a million times, and partly because I am enjoying the English version having grown accustomed to it. Pollapönk and No Prejudice signal the return of fun Iceland, and I missed fun Iceland. In addition to fun, this entry is retro and so deliberately uncool it is cool. It reminds me of something us Australians would hear on Triple J (a radio station that prides itself on playing home-grown and alternative music, rather than Rihanna then Avicii then Rihanna then Avicii then…) which wouldn’t always be a positive thing as I’m not the biggest fan of indie stuff (Europop and K-pop are my main areas of interest) but in this case, I’m all like YAY! I welcome the tracksuits and beards and sing-along chorus to Copenhagen, even if nobody else does. How the guys will go in the show is up for debate – I’m not convinced they’ll qualify, but it’s been a while since Iceland hasn’t, and in that time there has been 50/50 chances. Will they go through unexpectedly Lithuanian-style, or will they be too vintage and too purposely naff for European tastes? Time will tell. If I were on the jury or within voting range, I’d have to give this the thumbs up.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.
Heartbeat by Can-linn feat Kasey Smith
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: No
IMO: And welcome to the first installment of Here’s A Perfectly Good Song That I Just Can’t Get Into! I’m your host Jaz, and tonight I’ll be telling you all about how…well, all about how this year’s Irish entry is not exactly speaking to me. I don’t really need to say anything else, but I will. Ireland’s national final (such as it was) was rather dull – you know that’s the case when all anyone can talk about is Linda Martin’s sharp tongue and death glare. Only two of the songs on offer were halfway reasonable as far as I’m concerned, and one of them was the eventual winner Heartbeat. The problem is that ‘halfway reasonable’ doesn’t cut it when compared with such classifications as ‘freaking amazing’. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with this. The Celtic flavour is pleasant, the chorus is well-written, Kasey’s a good vocalist and lovely to look at…but it’s missing something. Something that would give it punch, impact, elevate it to a level that makes me go ‘THAT is in the final for sure.’ At this point, I’m not sure at all. And to be honest, I’m not that bothered whether it qualifies or not. I do like it, and I want to get excited about it but I just can’t. Hey, that reminds me of another Celtic-flavoured song from recent history that I knew was good but could never connect with! What was it called? Oh yeah – Only Teardrops. Does that mean Ireland is going to elbow the competition out of the way and claim the top prize a la Emmelie? Stranger things have happened. Then again, Ireland isn’t even close to being a favourite in the odds, so that would be a very strange turn of events.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
Same Heart by Mei Finegold
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: A lot of tears have been shed since Israel failed to make the final in Malmö, 99% of which came from Moran Mazor as soon as the realisation of failure dawned. Like other countries that didn’t do as well as they’d hoped back then, Israel have taken a different approach now, choosing Mei internally and putting three of her songs to a vote. Same Heart came out on top, and it’s faring well with fans and in the just-about-concluded OGAE vote. With me…well, I hate to repeat myself, but yet again, this is a good song I don’t get. I prefer it over Heartbeat because it has more impact and drama, and more of a hook. I also enjoy the mix of English and Hebrew since the Hebrew hasn’t been thrown in as an afterthought. But the overflow of adoration for the song surprised and continues to surprise me, and now I’m wondering if Mei has a chance to make Jerusalem the hosts of the 60th ESC. That’s something I never considered purely based on my own opinion. Though it wouldn’t be my favourite winning song by any means, I would be interested to see how Israel would handle the contest sixteen years after they last had the honour. I’m also quite keen to see the live performance of Same Heart for the first time come semi final 2. Judging by how strongly Mei’s intensity and lyrical attack comes across through the music video, I’d expect her to be a powerful presence on the stage. Her TV talent show pedigree could indicate that her live vocal will be top notch too, but it’s not a certainty – the likes of Jedward and Ivi Adamou put paid to the myth that you have to be able to sing to have participated in a singing competition. More than anything, I hope Mei’s performance wins me over and makes me see what all the fuss is about. Just in case it is Jerusalem for 2015.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
La Mia Cittá by Emma
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: No matter what Italy sends these days, whether I love it straight away or not, I always consider it high class. You can guarantee you’ll never see anything tacky or, to be blunt, crap, tarnishing the Italian brand at Eurovision. Emma’s La Mia Cittá continues the trend, smacking of the same-but-different magic that’s sent all of Italy’s entries since their 2011 comeback rocketing into the top 10. It wasn’t love at first listen for me and this song, so for a while I was wishing Emma could somehow sing her SanRemo winner of 2012, Non è L’inferno, in Copenhagen, because that had the same spellbinding quality of my beloved L’Essenziale. What she is actually singing sounded like an album filler track. But a few listens later, and voila! I was sold. I already loved everything about Emma herself – her attitude, raw voice and daring haircut high on the list – and I was always super excited that she was going to Eurovision, but now I think her entry is worth a fist pump too. It’s a solid one, catchy and energetic, and bound for glory of some sort. The woman can do ballads and rock equally well, but I think the rock really suits that catch in her voice (and that haircut). The outfits that she models in her video clip are crazy wonderful, and if she doesn’t wear something similarly ridic for the final I will be very disappointed. Even if she wears pajamas, you’d have to expect another top 10 result for Italy on the night. I’m not saying it’s a done deal, but like Azerbaijan, they just seem to do it with ease. Rock on, amici.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.
Another eight down, some number I don’t even want to consider left to go! Now it’s time for the traditional mini-ranking of all the countries I’ve just critiqued.
I didn’t give out any douzes this time, but there’s at least one more set to come before I type the last word on my review of the UK and all 37 are done. If we’ve ever crossed paths before you’ll probably know who’s definitely getting a 12, but in case we haven’t, I’ll give you a clue. Actually, no I won’t because I have to go and pick up some stuff from IKEA.
The rehearsals will continue in the Hallerne over on Eurovision Island, and I’ll be back later this week with Part 3 of the Copenhagen Reviews, feat. Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Portugal. Until then…
What do you think of the entries from Georgia-Italy? Name your personal winners, losers and growers below!
Happy Saturday, ladies and gents. It’s that magical day of the week yet again, when if Europe was a suitcase and national finals were items of clothing, you’d have to sit on that suitcase just to zip it up. There are bits and pieces happening all over the continent tonight, from Hungary to Estonia to Italy, where the Italian representative is about to be tapped on the shoulder. And those are just the countries I’m not covering in this post! Read on to see what I did bother to discuss, and let me know what you want to happen this weekend.
The last few days of Eurovision, in brief
– Not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR more 2013 entries have been premiered/chosen in the last few days, and annoyingly, since I did that poll on who would win at this point (but more on that in a minute). The first to come out was Straight Into Love from Slovenia, which actually went straight into my pile of entries that aren’t bad, but aren’t great. We’ll see if it’s a grower.
– Cyprus’ entry for Despina Olympiou came next, and I must say that An Me Thimase (‘If you remember me’) is a very appropriate title. I have loved what Cyprus have sent to Eurovision the last four years (they were robbed of a place in the final for two of them) but it seems for 2013, it’s bye-bye brilliance and hello snoozefest. Hashtag shame.
– Germany came to the rescue by not-so-surprisingly choosing Cascada and Glorious to go to Malmö. That song is ridiculously catchy, and goes off when it’s performed live (handy for an ESC song, I find). With a few vocal tune-ups from lead singer Natalie, and the immediate sacking of whoever made her wear those pathetic strips of material, there could easily be another top 10 result on the cards for Germany. That is if Glorious doesn’t reek so much of Euphoria that nobody votes for it, apart from the UK who will undoubtedly give it their douze. It doesn’t bode too well that when I sing it in my head, it goes ‘tonight we can be…euphoooooooria’.
– Last but not least was Shine by Natália Kelly, the winner of last night’s Österreich Rockt Den Song Contest, a.k.a. the Austrian final. She beat out four average contenders with her own average albeit sweet song, which was performed well, but the whole feeling was underwhelming. There’s got to be some changes made before Nat and her delegation pack their bags for Sweden, particularly in the costume and key change departments.
– On to ‘that’ poll. Minus Cyprus, Germany and Austria (one of which would definitely have affected the results had it been there) you guys decided that if Eurovision was held right now, we’d be looking ahead to Oslo 2014, or possibly Some Other Random Norwegian City 2014. I Feed You My Love topped the list with 45% of your votes, followed by Denmark’s Only Teardrops on 35% and Malta and Switzerland on 10%. There are still a lot of songs to come, but who knows; you may be right about Margaret.
Eirodziesma comes to an end
Who’s been following the Latvian NF this year? Not me, that’s who. With other things happening at the same time, such as Melfest and life, it’s been impossible. But I have listened to snippets of the 12 songs competing in tonight’s final, and as a result I’m not really wishing I had tried harder.
There were only one or two (three at a push) that grabbed me. The main worry is that none of those sounded better to my ears than Beautiful Song (!) but then again, you can’t compare a song you’ve been listening to in full for the last year with twenty seconds of one you’ve never heard before. So you probably shouldn’t take notice of anything I’m saying right now. Or possibly ever.
Anyway, these are the Latvian finalists:
- One by Niko
- Fool In Love by Dāvids Kalandija & Dināra
- When You Are With Me by Antra Stafecka
- Sad Trumpet by PER
- The One by Pieneņu Vīns
- I Am Who I Am by Marta Ritova
- Higher and Higher by Liene Candy
- I Need A Hero by Samanta Tīna
- Cold Heart by Ieva Sutugova
- Love by Headline
- Upside Down by Sabīne Berezina
- Here We Go by PER
My favourite excerpts were from One, Sad Trumpet (what happened to that poor trumpet?), I Need A Hero, Love and Here We Go. PER, who have a greater chance of winning than anybody else with double the amount of competing songs, also have two of the best songs on offer. But Niko’s One is the one – pardon the pun and the rhyming – that caught my attention most of all. Coincidentally performing in slot 1, he’ll hopefully make enough of an impression so that he’s not forgotten about when the time comes to vote.
Like most other NFs, Latvia’s will be decided by a 50/50 jury and public vote blend. Even if I can figure which way the jury will go, I can rarely figure out the public, so your uneducated guess is as good as mine when it comes to who’s going to win. If you happen to be educated (i.e. have been keeping up with Dziesma and know who the favourites are) feel free to predict the outcome for me.
Now, onto a show I do know something about…
Melodifestivalen – lucky (semi) number three?
I don’t think I need to reiterate how average Melfest has been so far. It’s been easy for middling songs to get to the final purely because they were less crap than the others. If something doesn’t give and one of the songs already in the final represents Sweden in May, it could be an embarrassing evening on home ground. Just because they don’t want to win again doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try at all!
At the moment, we’re halfway through the semi finals, and I was certain things would start looking up with a line-up like this:
- Alibi by Eddie Razaz
- Island by Elin Petersson
- En Riktig Jävla Schlager by Ravaillacz
- Dumb by Amanda Fondell
- In And Out of Love by Martin Rolinski
- Hon Har Inte by Caroline af Ugglas
- Falling by State of Drama
- Heartstrings by Janet Leon
Thankfully, this semi is stronger – not by a mile, but by enough to give me hope that the last one will knock all of our socks off. These are my picks:
Alibi – this is one of about 189473829 entries in this year’s competition written by the Euphoria team of G:son and Boström, and I think it’s the best so far. The chorus is predictable but still decent, and the verses have bite.
Dumb – I love Amanda Fondell, and was so excited when she was announced as one of the Swedish 32. Granted, this is the weakest song I’ve heard from her, but I quite like the dark, almost Western vibe it gives off.
In And Out Of Love – it’s sad to think that Sweden is probably past voting for songs like this…that is, songs like the ones entered by BWO with Martin as frontman. It’s schlager-y (but not in a horrifyingly dated way) and it’s catchy, so I like it. I’m easily pleased.
Falling – generic pop-rock about the usual stuff, but it’s good enough for me. Did I mention I am easily pleased?
So, the time has arrived to humiliate myself by predicting the opposite of what will actually happen re: advancement to the final and to Andra Chansen. Based on my opinion of the songs as well as what people have been saying (what? Everyone needs a bit of guidance sometimes!) I’m going to say…
…Caroline and Janet to the final, and Eddie and Amanda to AC. Knowing I’m oh-so-wrong just typing it.
What do you think? Who on Earth is going where?
One thing I can correctly predict is that we’ll find out for sure in a few hours’ time. Until then, merry guessing and streaming, y’all. May the best songs win their heats and finals!
Hello everyone, and Happy Valentine’s Day, blah blah blah. I’ve decided to take a break from sifting through the sack of cards and gifts I got from secret admirers in the post to talk Eurovision (what a sacrifice) and since there is quite a lot of talking to do, I’m going to get straight into it.
Random news of the week…
…from Bulgaria: there I was thinking that the announcement of the Bulgarian artist would be of no interest to me whatsoever because I wouldn’t have a clue who they were and would still have to wait to hear the song to form an opinion, when BAM! BNT revealed that they’d rounded up their most successful representatives ever to try and turn Bulgaria’s luck around. Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov (who must be looking pretty rough these days. She’s probably okay) drummed their way into 5th place back in 2007, which is far and away Bulgaria’s best result in ESC history since that was the only time they’ve appeared in the final. This exciting turn of events (for those of us who liked their entry Water, that is) is the result of that super-massive survey BNT put out last year to get “the people’s” opinion on what they should send to Eurovision to get the best result possible. All I can say is, thank you people! And may we see more epic drumming and chain-mail outfits when the guys step on stage in Malmö.
…from Finland and Norway: two blonde bombshells, two very different songs, and at least one satisfied customer came out of Saturday’s double decision. As expected, Margaret Berger blitzed Bombo to take out the 2013 Melodi Grand Prix in Oslo, whilst over in Finland, Krista Siegfrids won over the public and jury by asking them to marry her. Let’s just hope they don’t accidentally marry Margaret instead, who was also wearing a white dress. How embarrassing. I really like both of these entries, but Margs would get my vote, if I could give one. Oh wait, I can! And you can too. Find out how at the end of the post, if you make it that far.
…from San Marino: this is technically news of last week, I think, but up until now I haven’t had a chance to mention it. Yes, she of The Social Network Song will be singing for San Marino again, which no doubt sent some of you into a state of shock, unable to log in to Facebook for hours. I reckon Valentina deserves another chance though, singing a more age-appropriate and generally less bonkers song, because she actually can sing. Fingers crossed we get that from Crisalide, which sounds über promising to me. If it’s good, the only problem Miss Monetta will have to face is getting people to take her seriously only a year after she uttered both ‘cybersex’ and ‘so you wanna make love with me?’ on the ESC stage.
…from Sweden: speaking of ESC stages, SVT have released an artist’s rendition of sorts of the Malmö stage from above. It didn’t take long for the criticism to start rolling in, which I find ridiculous because you can’t exactly judge what the thing will look like IRL from a 2D illustration. Be patient, guys. When the real stage gets built and it sucks, then you can go to town trashing it.
Valentine’s Day? No, it’s Unser Song Für Malmö Day!
And thank heavens for that. There’s always at least one country picking their entry on V-Day, which I really appreciate because I get to talk about that instead of the fact that yet again, I coincidentally have no Valentine *weeping noises*. This year, it’s Germany, straying from the Unser Star format for the first time in a while. It’s Unser Song in 2013, and I am pleased to say it looks like that song will be a good one. Here’s the line up.
- Meerstern, Sei Gegrüßt by Die Priester feat. Mojca Erdmann
- Change by Finn Martin
- Little Sister by Mobilée
- Heart On The Line by Blitzkids mvt.
- Lalala by Betty Dittrich
- The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory
- Craving by Saint Lu
- Nackert by LaBrassBanda
- Elevated by Nica & Joe
- Lieblingslied by Mia Diekow
- One Love by Söhne Mannheims
- Glorious by Cascada
There are only one or two rubbish numbers in there, so the odds for another gold-star worthy pick from Germany are high. Personally, I’m hoping for one of these:
The Righteous Ones – I LOVE this. In fact, this song can be my Valentine, because it is brilliant (and would never cheat on me). It’s an 80s-inspired synth-pop-electro-rock masterpiece with knobs on, and it’s my favourite of the lot.
Glorious – okay, so you can easily compare this with Euphoria (gloooooorrious/ euphooooooorrria – come on) and a million other songs, but damn, it is catchy. Cascada are pretty well known internationally, and that would give them an edge of sorts if they won USFM.
Change – this is decent pop with a nice sentiment, and less of the fanfare that’s sure to come with the previous two songs.
Little Sister – Lena Meyer-Landrut had no hand in this, but it sounds like she could have. Infectious indie-pop may not do as well at Eurovision when she’s nowhere to be seen, but it could be worth a try.
Craving – How many cigarettes/bowls full of sandpaper does it take to get that voice? That’s not a joke, it’s a serious question. Raspy Saint Lu has a unique entry up her sleeve that’s really growing on me.
I think it’s going to be Blitzkids, Betty, Ben or Cascada coming out on top tonight. What do you think? Who could keep Germany in the top 10?
Österreich Rockt Den Song Contest
Do they? Do they really? Because I’m seeing Austria boring the song contest rather than rocking it, with a selection like this.
Feels Like Home by Yela
Rise Above The Night by Falco Luneau
Back To Fantasy by The Bandaloop
Shine by Natália Kelly
Give Me A Sign by Elija
Tomorrow night, these five will battle it out to represent Austria in May, if they can stay awake long enough to perform after hearing each other. Feels Like Home is cruisy but very forgettable. Rise Above The Night is just plain forgettable. Back To Fantasy is the most exciting of them all, about a 6 on the Scale of Excitement. Shine isn’t bad, but is (yet again) forgettable and has a super awkward key change. Give Me A Sign is my favourite, and yet I still can’t remember how it goes.
Bring back Trackshittaz!
Or in the event that that’s not possible, give the victory to The Bandaloop or Elija. That is all.
POLL TIME: have your say!
Have you been wondering who would win Eurovision if it was held right now? Me neither, but I did do this poll last year, and I figured it was time to do it again. So…
Thanks for voting (assuming you did. If you didn’t, DO IT NOW!). I’ll bring you the highly predictable results this weekend, along with other stuff that is 99.4% likely to include Melodifestivalen. Until then…
Hello there. Have you missed my little words of welcome over the past few weeks? No? Fair enough. Unfortunately for you, I just wanted to say a few things before I get into the last lot of 2012 reviews for EBJ.
Firstly, I cannot believe this is the last lot, because that means it’s almost ESC o’ clock, and I can’t believe that either. Where has the last year gone?
Secondly, I hope you enjoyed all six previous installments in one way or another. This was my first time doing pre-contest reviews rather than retrospective ones, and I think I might be doing it again in 2013. And you better like it!
Now, on with the important stuff:
When the Music Dies/ Sabina Babayeva
The good stuff: Azerbaijan has the Midas touch when it comes to Eurovision. They may have only been competing in the contest for four years, but in that time they have never missed out on a top 10 placing, having been in the top 5 the last three years running. For the last couple of contests they’ve succeeded so with radio-friendly, r & b influenced pop ballads, and in 2012, it seems that the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is behind their first entry on home soil. When the Music Dies is a good, solid example of that Top 40 stuff the Azeris do so effortlessly, and I would say it’s easily a better song than Running Scared. Regardless of its final position, you can expect it, and its stunning singer Sabina (Azerbaijan has no shortage of attractive ladies, does it?) to get a massive round of applause.
Everything else: When you’ve won the ESC and the time comes for you to host it, you don’t have to be too picky with your own entry. What’s the point in sending a winner two years in a row? Unfortunately, I feel that this ‘we really don’t care’ attitude is evident in the very effortlessness of WTMD. I don’t mind a country that focuses more on perfecting their show than their entry, as many do, but the fact that Azerbaijan will probably make the top 10 as usual with a song that, IMO, deserves to finish around 14th or 15th, irritates me.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.
Echo (You and I)/ Anggun
The good stuff: Whoever can predict what sort of song France is going to send each year deserves a croissant-shaped medal. Some countries have a formula and they stick to it, but the French will apparently try anything once to see how it goes, making them ridiculously unpredictable. I don’t even know how to describe Anggun’s Echo (echo, echo, echo…). The best I can do is say it’s a Frenglish mash-up of military, Gaga, and 80s pop that leaves me unsure of my own opinion. The staging could be as interesting/strange as the song (and, ironically, the stage itself – have you SEEN that thing?) so I’m looking forward to see how much so.
Everything else: I’m confused by this song, and as a Eurovision obsessive I’ve listened to it more than a few times. What does that mean for the seasonal fans who tune in for the contest and tune out straight after (who I’m told make up a significant portion of the televoters)? Surely they won’t get it instantly enough, which means fewer votes and another year of less-than-impressive results for France. I can’t imagine the juries regarding it too highly either. Then again, maybe I’m the only one who’s a bit lost here. If you “get” it, please let me know.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.
Standing Still/ Roman Lob
The good stuff: Here’s another song that has made the transition from ‘hmm…’ to ‘mmm!’; from ‘I’m unsure’ to ‘I want MORE!” Basically, I wasn’t sold at first, but now I’m loving it. The Unser Star für… format has done wonders for Germany over the last few years in discovering both new artists (some of whom are recyclable) and new songs. I think the best song and singer possible were chosen in 2012. Roman’s cute as a gingham button and Standing Still is a lovely ballad that’s less in-your-face than some of the others on offer. It was co-written by Jamie Cullum, a rather famous British jazz artist (he has his own Wikipedia page and everything!) who takes pride of place on my mum’s CD shelf, so it’s got cred too.
Everything else: That first time I heard this, I thought it sounded very much like an Idol/X Factor winner’s single. There’s nothing particularly wrong with those – in fact, they usually sell by the truckload – but they can be a little bland. I personally (no longer) find this song bland, but if other people do, Germany may make a return to the bottom of the scoreboard. I really don’t want to see that happen, ladies and gents, so if you have a conscience and don’t want to hurt Roman’s feelings, vote for him!
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points
L’amore é Femmina (Out of Love)/ Nina Zilli
The good stuff: It seems that Amy Winehouse is living on in sassy Italian songstress Nina, or at least in her entry. Here we have a retro, swinging, big band-type song that’s much more accessible than Italy’s 2011 effort, but is still likely to tickle the juries’ fancy. L’amore wasn’t originally Nina’s song – her San Remo Song Festival gem Per Sempre was the first pick, and although I was a huge fan of that, I think they made the right choice in switching. If I had to use one word to sum up Italy at Eurovision, it would be ‘classy’, and as classy as Per Sempre was, what is going to Baku is classy AND fun…a potentially winning combination.
Everything else: I did prefer this song in 100% Italian. It’s not that it doesn’t work in Italinglish hybrid form, but the transitions are too random for my liking. A final chorus in English may have been better. Regardless, I’ll be surprised if a right-side finish is on the cards for this one.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
Quedate Conmigo/ Pastora Soler
The good stuff: I’m sure y’all know I love this song (though you probably didn’t know I sometimes talk like Miley Cyrus). I’ve been praying to the Eurovision gods that Spain would send something like it for years now, which they’ve had the chance to do multiple times – e.g. with Mirela in 2009, and Coral in 2010. Not by coincidence, their songs and Pastora’s were all written by Thomas G:son, the superstar songwriter from Sweden who has two entries in the contest this year (he must be euphoric about that). He has a way of making songs with ‘moments’ that give you goose bumps, and in Quedate Conmigo the moment comes when Pastora lets rip on an epic, key-changing note before the final chorus. This lady is likely to deliver the best female vocal of 2012, on a ballad that I’ll be waving a flag for like nobody’s business.
Everything else: Surely Spain is waiting to do a Germany– that is, suddenly win Eurovision and then bask in the successful aftermath. I wish it would happen, but this is Spain we’re talking about. Despite the fact that a dramatic, brilliantly performed ballad has a better chance at success than a cheesy, I’m-on-a-cruise-ship number á la Lucia Perez’s, this country does not have the touch or the bloc support. For me, it’s top five, but forEurope…well, only Mr. God knows at this point.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!
Love Will Set You Free/ Engelbert Humperdinck
The good stuff: Ah, the Hump – another man who made it onto my mum’s CD shelf. It was great to have another big name announced as the UK’s rep this year, although the actual name may be big enough to tongue-tie the commentators. The Hump checks quite a few boxes on the checklist of Eurovision desirability: he’s internationally famous, can sing like a champ, and has the ‘Aww!’ factor that will probably get Russia’s grannies to the final. His song is a classy number produced by a strong songwriting team, and should ease us nicely in to the final. The chorus is my favourite part, mainly because the “follow your heart” lyric reminds me of Thumbelina, which I may or may not still own on VHS and may or may not watch like, once a month.
Everything else: I was told I’d grow to love this, but ESC week is almost upon us and it’s still too boring to seduce me. As we all know, 2012 is the Year of the Ballad, and without the drama or superstar backup of My Time – the last UK ballad to succeed in the contest – I think this song will get lost. Being drawn to open the final was probably better for the Brits than, say, in the midst of a half, but I don’t think any performance position will give LWSYF a leg up past mid-table.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 5 points.
NEXT TIME: My 2012 prediction special will let you know exactly what will happen I think will happen over the course of the best three nights of the year…before I am forced into internet quarantine. So much for Australia being the ‘lucky country’…sigh.
I may be slightly obsessed with Ukraine’s last entry, but I honestly love Mika’s costume and want it for my own wardrobe (although I’m not sure where I’d wear it. At the supermarket, perhaps?) – unlike that of her sand-drawing companion Kseniya, who was apparently going for the ‘Bride of Dracula’ look. I love nude shades, feathers and mullet dresses, so when all three combined in this outfit I was never going to turn my nose up. Especially when the feathers were used for shoulder pads. Sartorial genius.
I never thought I’d praise someone for wearing Perspex-platformed, thigh-high stripper boots, but here we are. Having said that it was the mini-dress manufactured (presumably) from Maja’s mother’s old fry pan that earned her the #2 position. How she managed to sit down in the green room without causing herself serious injury, I’ll never understand.
Before I say anything else, let me just mention that no, the backing vocalist to Nina’s left is not pregnant. The ability for the ladies’ 60s shifts to make them appear withchild is the only downside to them I can think of, because the other 99% of the time they are just too cute: retro printed perfection, with Nina standing out just the right amount.
A year ago I despised Estonia’s choice of costume, mainly because I was in love with Getter’s national final dress and was heartbroken when it evidently didn’t make it into her suitcase for Düsseldorf. But a lot can change in 12 months (including trends – Peter Pan collars are totally in right now). Fun, cutesey, colourful and voluminous enough to conceal magic wands, handkerchiefs and probably a rabbit in a hat as well.
[This image refused to show up. If you need a refresher, you’ll have to Google. Apologies!]
These were voted the worst costumes of 2011 in the annual Barbara Dex Awards, but I completely disagree. I mean, sure, I haven’t seen that much quilled ribbon since the International Card-Making Convention, but you have to admit that anyone who’d staple the stuff to a black bin liner and wear it in front of millions deserves a virtual pat on the back. Striking and appropriate.
The mullet dress strikes again, only this time it’s not alone. The Slovakian twins could have worn snuggies on stage and still looked stunning, but they went for something more in keeping with the ESC dress code, and though it didn’t get them to the final, it got them a place on this list (not quite what they’d hoped for, but it’s something).
Not many people can carry off a jumpsuit, but Lena is the queen of simple black, and besides the fact that this outfit made her look freakishly long and thin in the body (if you’re reading this Lena, I only said that out of body envy) she worked it. Bonus points for the amazing shoes.
‘Russia: Making Azerbaijan’s use of lights in Safura’s costume back in Oslo look second-rate since 2011’. It’s a wordy and very specific tourist slogan, but it could work. It’s also a good thing Russia made the final last year, because if they hadn’t, we never would have gotten to see the magic A-L-E-X, which for some reason was ditched for the semi in favour of plain ol’ lights. Leather jackets have never been so awesome (or likely to burst into flames).
It’s not just hair that this Irish twosome take to new heights; shoulder pads too became victims in their quest for ultimate volume in Germany. Jedward may have looked like they skinned Dorothy’s ruby slippers in order to achieve such shiny redness, but it was worth it. Top this in Baku, boys!
There are two main reasons why I loved Dana’s dress. Firstly, it was chosen by the public – anyone who cared had the chance to go online and vote for their favourite Gaultier creation, and this flappy green arrangement proved the most popular (BTW, I was one of those who did care). Secondly, it took me back to my pre-school days of paper weaving, which is always a fun thing to reminisce about (although not as much as making jellyfish out of polystyrene cups and cellophane).
EBJ extras…Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the worst outfits of 2011:
Armenia – taking the boxing theme a little too far for my liking.
The UK – blue suits for Blue = not so good an idea.
Croatia – not one, not two, but three hideous outfits.
Moldova – what was the deal with those “hats”?
The Netherlands – yawn.
What do you think? Who got it right and who got it oh-so-wrong when it came to the fashion of 2011?