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SELECTION SEASON 2017 | More Melfest magic + A Dal decision time = the tip of the NF iceberg!

It’s true – the Titanic wouldn’t have stood a chance against the massive, metaphorical chunk of ice (or ‘frozen water’ as Agnete likes to call it) that is This Weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio would still have died and Kate Winslet would still have let him go…but we’d all be partying like it’s 2017, because it is, and super-duper busy NF weekends like this one are Awesome with a capital A.

Don’t believe me re: the crazy schedule for Saturday and Sunday? Here’s the evidence:

  • 18/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final two (feat. Daniel Levi, Koit Toome & Laura, Kerli + Liis Lemsalu)
  • 18/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat seven (feat. Edgaras Lubys + Gabrielius Vagelis)
  • 18/2 Slovenia’s EMA – semi final two (feat. Clemens, BQL + Ina Shai)
  • 18/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final three (feat. Robin Bengtsson, Krista Siegfrids + FO&O)
  • 18/2 Ukraine’s Vidbir – semi final three (feat. Payushchie Trusy + Green Grey)
  • 18/2 Hungary’s A Dal – the final (feat. Gigi Radics, Joci Pápai + Kállay Saunders Band)
  • 18/2 Malta’s MESC – the final (feat. Klinsmann, Kevin Borg, Maxine Pace + Richard Edwards)
  • 18/2 Poland’s Krajowe Eliminajce – the final (feat. Martin Fitch, Kasia Mós + Carmell)
  • 19/2 Latvia’s Supernova – the semi final (feat. Lauris Valters, My Radiant You + Triana Park)
  • 19/2 Portugal’s Festival da Canção – semi final one (feat. Golden Slumbers + Rui Drumond)

There you go – CHAOS. Wonderful, wonderful chaos.

As I keep saying, I can’t discuss every single selection show without taking on an army of assistants to type at 200 words a minute for free (any takers?), so it’s time to get picky. Choosing which semis and finals to cover is like choosing a favourite child – not hard if you’re honest with yourself (that’s what my mum said, anyway, when she handed me the ‘No. 1 Kid’ sash and a bouquet of flowers. Don’t tell my brother). Ergo, this was an easy narrow-down for me.

Though three of this weekend’s shows will produce Eurovision entries, I’m only reviewing one of them – Hungary’s A Dal – and, of course, I’m going to take a good look at Melodifestivalen’s third semi too. So let’s get on with it!

 

 

SWEDEN | Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Växjö we go…for Melfest, that is!

You know what they say – another Saturday in February, another Melodifestivalen Deltävling.

This time it’s nummer tre, and I’ve got to say, it’s not a third-time-lucky sort of situation. Meaning this heat is the weakest so far, music-wise. Made up of two returnees and a record high (for 2017, at least) of five debutants, it’s probably going to be the most difficult semi to predict. Which stars will shine for the first or second time, and which will fall?

I have no effing idea.

  1. I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson
  2. Snurra Min Jord by Krista Siegfrids
  3. Kiss You Goodbye by Anton Hagman
  4. Gravity by Jasmine Kara
  5. Boogieman Blues by Owe Thörnqvist
  6. Crucified by Bella & Filippa
  7. Gotta Thing About You by FO&O

melodifestivalen-2017-semi-3-deltavling-3-winner-poll

We’ve got funk pop, dance pop, acoustic pop, country pop, boy band pop and Owe. Lacklustre overall song standard aside (compared to the previous two semis) it’s certainly going to be a variety show – and hopefully one with a happy ending.

 

My top four

  • I Can’t Go On – If Constellation Prize was a romantic seduction song, and I Can’t Go On is the raunchy post-seduction sequel, then should we await the third installment in a trilogy from Robin in 2018 entitled something like It’s Over, You Evil Bitch? Yes or no, Mr. Bengtsson can do no wrong in my eyes. I did expect something better from this collab of Robins (Robin Stjernberg co-wrote the song, and he’s definitely marked his territory) but I suspect this will benefit from being heard and seen in full.
  • Snurra Min Jord – Both of Krista’s Melfest entries have been much more plain-Jane than Marry Me. As with Faller, I do really like this one, but there’s nothing particularly special about it that gives it the edge to make Andra Chansen, let alone the final. But lycka till Krista all the same.
  • Crucified – Is it just me or has this song borrowed half its lyrics from Wiktoria’s Save Me? Regardless, it’s as sweet and light as a sorbet in summertime. Repetitive (and a possible female rip-off of Darin’s Lagom) it may be, but it has an undeniable charm.
  • Gotta Thing About You – I thought I was getting too old for teen boy band fodder, but apparently the flame’s still flickering in my bitter quarter-century old body. This is not a musical masterpiece, but was anyone expecting it to be? The FOOO Conspiracy FO&O fans will eat this up, and that little light-up heart in the corner of the screen will be on the verge of a myocardial infarction.

 

The rest

  • Kiss You Goodbye – And here we have Sweden’s answer to Shawn Mendes. This song can’t hold a candle to Stitches or Mercy, but it’s cute. I like how it begins in an acoustic, alternative kind of way before launching into a more straightforward pop chorus. Also, who is Anton’s dentist?
  • Gravity – I’m not sure if I like this or not. Jasmine has a great voice, great style, and a great name (even if we’re not total name twins since she’s got that ‘e’ on the end) but Gravity seems like a mixed bag of bits and pieces that don’t, ahem, come together to form a cohesive whole. I’m keen to see her perform it live.
  • Boogieman Blues – This is EXACTLY what I thought it was going to be. For those of you who don’t like surprises and do like retro tunes from ageing popstars, this is for you. But it’s not for me.

 

Who’s going direkt? Robin Bengtsson + FO&O. Perhaps this is a predictable prediction – and I’d like things to go in a more jaw-dropping direction – but Melfest is, at times, predictable. SVT hand out the first and final performance spots to the big guns, and said big guns usually find themselves progressing as a result. Robin Bengtsson won his heat over Ace Wilder last year, and he’s got the goods to win again now, but with a weaker song and against weaker competition. FO&O’s song screams Andra Chansen, but there’s nothing else up against it (besides I Can’t Go On) that necessarily has what it takes to nab a place in the final instead. 

Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Anton Hagman + Jasmine Kara. Krista Siegfrids is also in the mix here, but as she placed last in the telling audience poll after yesterday’s rehearsals, I suspect she’ll miss out and finish fifth at the highest. Bella & Filippa are underdogs. Anton and Jasmine, I think, can make enough of an impression and gain enough momentum to score themselves a second chance each – but I’m skeptical of their chances of making it out of AC at this point.

 

What do you think? Do we have an obvious outcome on our hands in Växjö, or will there be an upset feat. some Melfest first-timers? Let me know below.

 

  

HUNGARY | Eight becomes one tonight…but who’ll be The One?   

I’ve been known to proclaim that many selection show finals are worth sacrificing for Melfest, because the music in a Melfest semi often outdoes that of other countries’ finals. But I have to say, I seriously considered ditching Sweden’s third semi in favour of tuning in to A Dal tonight.

By ‘seriously’, I mean ‘for a split second’, because I am a devout Melodifestivalist from way back. However, I will be watching the last episode of A Dal on delay just to experience its pure excellence.

After three heats and two semi finals, thirty songs have been trimmed down to just eight – and IMO, two of these are good, one is very good, and the other five are amazing. How often does that happen? About as often as Loreen releases a studio album.

Here’s the (unordered) line-up of the Hungarian final, which I realise might not seem so sensational to fans less easily-pleased than me.

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  • Hosszú Idők by Totova & Freddie Shuman feat. Begi Lotfi
  • See It Through by Gigi Radics
  • Fall Like Rain by Gina Kanizsa
  • Origo by Joci Pápai
  • Seventeen by Kállay Saunders Band
  • Élet by Leander Kills
  • Kalandor by Soulwave
  • #háttérzaj by Zävodi & Olivér Berkes

Hungary clearly has faith in their own language, as Hungarian lyrics make up more than half of what we’ll hear tonight. They should, because a) it’s a gorgeous language, and b) it hasn’t stopped them from succeeding at Eurovision (Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet and Kedvesem, I bow to the both of you). That’s part of what makes this final so great in my eyes, but if you want more details, keep reading for my ranking of all eight finalists.

 

My top eight

  1. Origo – I AM IN LOVE. This track had me hypnotised before I’d even reached the chorus the first time I listened to it, and though I’m trying to accept that it’s probably 2017’s Győz A Jó (the slick, edgy ethno-pop entry that won’t win and will be sadly missed at Eurovision), my hopes of a win are still alive. Infectious and exotic but still on-trend (right down – or up – to Joci’s man-bun), Origo is OMG.
  2. Hosszú Idők – Here we have another song that manages to combine mysterious ethnicity with modern pop. Basically, it’s an ethno-pop power ballad. Though Totova gets slightly screamy performing it live, I can’t deny that it makes a mark, and that I could get on board with it winning even though it’s not my favourite.
  3. See It Through – A Disney ballad straight out of the early 2000s (Christina Aguilera sang it on the Mulan soundtrack, didn’t she?) should not work in 2017. But Gigi is such a showstopping singer with more onstage emotion than an Elina Born who wasn’t woken up, she makes it work. I would advise against the huge hair for the final, without which you’ll have a perfect package, Gigi.
  4. Seventeen – Last year, András and his band destroyed the brilliant Who We Are This year, they’ve done much better lives with a more pedestrian – but still extra-enjoyable – song. The Billie Jean reference is tired, but that’s my only complaint about this polished, well-produced and non-cheesy love song.
  5. #háttérzaj – What musical style doesn’t suit Hungarian? It totally gels in this bluesy, laid-back piano ballad. The only bother I have here is the hashtag title, which begs the question WHY GOD, WHY?!?!?
  6. Élet – Hard rock isn’t often my thing, but the dynamic nature of É let is interesting in a good way. There’s a soft piano intro, subdued verses and powerful choruses, and it’s almost like riding on a slow rollercoaster. There are plenty of ups and downs, but it doesn’t make you nauseous and you’re a little sad when you have to get off.
  7. Kalandor – Eurovision already has a folksy song for the year, and I’m not sure this one has the strength to win A Dal anyway, but it’s nice easy-listening, elevated by the fact that it’s not in English.
  8. Fall Like Rain – While I can acknowledge that this is a good song, I find it quite dated (and there are times when I just want Gina to shut up). I don’t think it’s the best choice Hungary can make in terms of a Eurovision entry, but I like the haunting, spiritual feel and the originality.

 

Now, as A Dal will make one more cut before congratulating a winner, it’s time to think about who’ll make it through the jury voting round – then be paraded in front of the public, who are the ultimate decision-makers (a good way to operate an NF, isn’t it, Spain?).

  

Predicting the top four I’m thinking Totova etc, Joci Pápai, Gigi Radics + Gina Kanizsa. There’s potential bumping space for Kállay Saunders Band or Leander Kills, in which case I think Gigi or Gina will miss out on the final four. But, based on the results of the heats and semis, this should be a safe bet for the top four (not that I’m actually betting. For someone who struggles to get things 50% correct, it’s a bad idea). Totova and guests plus Pápai are shoo-ins.

Who’s in it to win it? It looks like another Freddie (albeit a far less attractive one than 2016’s) will be heading to Kyiv on behalf of Hungary in May, as part of Totova’s posse. Hosszu Idők is a recipe with all the right ingredients to rise to the top, and has had the jury and public support in past weeks that it needs to fly through both stages of the comp tonight. I will be surprised if it doesn’t win.

 

If you’re as hungry for Hungary this year as I am, then you’ll have something to say about A Dal – so spill! Is this ticket to Eurovision Totova’s to lose, or should she be watching her back? Is there any chance András Kállay Saunders will make it to Eurovision again this year (Seventeen for 2017)? Give up your internal gossip in the comments.

 

Of course, if you want to chat about anything else that’s happening in the ESC bubble this weekend, I’m all ears. If you want to have an intense conversation about your personal problems, I may not be the best person to talk to, so stick with Eurovision for now. You can always book an appointment later with the same therapist you saw after Objetivo Eurovisión concluded last weekend…

Enjoy all of the national final action ahead, guys – I’ll see you on the other side when we have three more songs for Ukraine!

 

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

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

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

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

 

The ones that got away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The ones I would have enjoyed at Eurovision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The rest of the best

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

Unbreakable by Mohamed (Denmark, 2nd)

Stay Awake by Simone (Denmark, 3rd)

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

Colliding Into You by Diandra (Finland, 3rd)

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

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

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

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

Needing You by Kevin Borg (Malta, 2nd)

Runaways by Boris Covali (Moldova, 2nd)

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

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

Dame Tu Voz by ESDM (Spain, 3rd)

Heartbreak Hotel by YOHIO (Sweden, 2nd)

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

 

Some less successful favourites from the season

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

Secret by Uzari (Belarus, 8th)

Human by Brinck (Denmark, unplaced)

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

Enough by Elina Born (Estonia, 8th)

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

Lalala by Betty Dittrich (Germany, 8th)

One by Niko (Latvia, 6th)

Fantasy by Danica Muscat (Malta, unplaced in semi)

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

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

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

 

Overwhelmed? Let me help…

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

#1 Päästke Noored Hinged by Grete Paia

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

#2 Úgy Fáj by Gigi Radics

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

#3 Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir

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

#4 Bombo by Adelén

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

#5 The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory

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

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

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

#7 Emilia by Electric Fence

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

#8 Human by Brinck

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

#9 Secret by Uzari

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

#10 Betrayed by Davinia Pace

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

 

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

 

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