TWO WEEKS TO GO!!! How we got so close to Eurovision 2019 so fast I’ll never know, but I’m not complaining. The always amusing stand-in rehearsals have started, and within one week the real-deal rehearsals will begin. Maybe then we’ll know who’s actually going to win the thing, because it’s far from being predictable at this point…for me, anyway. You Netherlands/Iceland/Italy superfans out there might disagree.
Speaking of Iceland, they’re one of the countries I’m judging today as I continue cramming in all 41 song reviews before May 14th. They’ll be joined by Belgium, Greece, Poland and San Marino in a majorly mixed bag of tracks, but that was bound to happen when Iceland was involved.
Check out my thoughts on/scores for Eliot, Katerine, Hatari, Tulia and Serhat, then share your own in the comments. Who’s floating your boat and who has your ship sinking?
Sorry about the nautical metaphors…they’re so Lisbon 2018.
2015-2017 had Belgium going from Eurovision strength to strength, like they were on a set of monkey bars and had a hell of a grip as they swung from one rung to the next. It was only a matter of time until they won the whole thing, right? Well, funnily enough it was A Matter of Time that saw them lose grip and fall flat on their face. 12th in their semi last year was their worst result in a while, but now the responsibility is back in the hands of RTBF – the broadcaster that gave us Loïc Nottet, Blanche and two 4th places. Eliot’s Wake Up has even been penned by Pierre Dumoulin, co-writer of City Lights. I feel like Belgium might want to mimic Blanche’s result here, but have they really got the goods to do it?
My first impression was no, and my current impression is still no. I do think Wake Up is a good song with great moments. When it opens with those otherworldly, 1980s-esque synth sounds, it sets us up to believe we’re safe in the hands of something special. For me, that feeling stays strong through the first verse, because it is an excellent one – catchy and complete with a beat that promises an epic chorus. Unfortunately, that’s when things become the opposite of epic. The stellar chorus teased by the start of the song never comes. I know every person on the planet has said the same thing, but doesn’t that ring alarm bells? It seems to be universal that the chorus doesn’t measure up to the rest of the song or make it more exciting, when it should be the part that actually does make you Wake Up (not have a quick nap as you wait for it to be over). Obviously not every single song has a statement chorus, which is fine on Spotify or on the radio – but in a competition, you don’t want to be underwhelming. It’s a shame because everything else about this song is totally whelming! I love the 1980s-meets-2010s feel, (most of) the melody and the lyrics. And I can imagine cool, artistic staging making this memorable in Tel Aviv.
Eliot isn’t a risk-free performer, based on lives we’ve seen so far. He does have a lot of potential though, and can pull off a solid vocal. I just want him to be more confident and more charismatic on stage, and own the song so it doesn’t overshadow him. He has Blanche’s songwriter behind him, but he needs to channel Laura Tesoro when it comes to taking charge of his performance. Belgium is opening the first semi’s second half – a positive – and performing before Georgia, which is also a positive (just not for Georgia). But then comes a string of songs ranging from ‘considerably more interesting than Wake Up’ to ‘I will never forget what I just witnessed as long as I live.’ And that, to quote Blanche (who I’ve mentioned a lot in this review) puts Belgium in the danger zone. I would like Eliot to qualify, but I worry that a Sennek sequel – a.k.a. another 12th place – is in his future.
In a line Slick, sophisticated synthpop with a sadly forgettable chorus 2018 VS 2019 2019, even with that sadly forgettable chorus Predicted result SF 8th-12th, GF 17th-20th My score 8 points
Remember when Greece was the untouchable, golden country of Eurovision? I’m old and do recall those days, but if you were born after 2000 you actually may not. The era was 2004-2011, when they won once, finished in the top three twice and never ended a contest’s final night lower than 9th. Then things took a turn for the (much) worse, from 2014 onwards in particular. Greece did manage to cling on to their 100% qualification record post-2011, until they lost it in Stockholm. THEN, after a bounce-back in 2017, they fell in the semi-finals again last year. So that’s where we’re at now, and I suppose I should stop giving you an unnecessary Greek history lesson and talk about Better Love.
The Duska discussion should start with me saying this is my favourite Greek entry in ages – and it’s not like I’ve hated their recent contributions. Continuing the tradition of bringing a great song when represented by a Greek-Canadian, Greece has got to be onto a good thing with this (you could say they’ve found the secret combination for success *insert canned sitcom laughter here*). Better Love is an amazing track that puts a bunch of other power ballads to shame. It’s well-written, builds musically and melodically, and manages to stick in my head in a way that’s usually reserved for up-tempo dance bangers á la Cyprus and Switzerland. The lyrics are simple and pretty minimalistic, especially in the chorus, making it easy to sing along to. I also like the balance Better Love strikes between sounding original and sounding familiar enough to be accessible – Portugal, on the other hand, might struggle because of their overwhelming originality (but that’s a debate for another day). What I LOVE about this song, and what makes it as magical as it is, is Katerine’s distinctive vocals. They hook me from the moment she says ‘Live for the mess’, which is good advice and I do it all the time where my bedroom is concerned. And when she hits those high notes in the chorus, and the even higher notes in the bridge…wow alert!
The elephant in the room now I’ve mentioned vocals is Katerine’s pre-party performances. They were sketchy from what I heard, but I’m not too worried about that being an issue at Eurovision. That’s because every other live of hers I’ve seen has been flawless; there’s still time for these things to be brushed up; and even vocals that sound awful in an arena or other live venue can sound fine on TV (that I know from my own ESC experience). So Katerine gets the benefit of the doubt from me, and if she does sound good on TV then that’s what will matter in terms of results. Can you tell I’m desperate to defend this entry? Greece has a brilliant song on their hands, and if it sounds good and looks good – recreating the arty/nonsensical video feat. lots of pink tulle might work – they should be back in top 10 for the first time since 2013.
In a line Power ballads don’t get much better than Better Love 2018 VS 2019 2019 Predicted result SF 1st-3rd, GF 6th-11th My score 12 points
Who in the world could have predicted the transformation Iceland would make between 2018 and 2019? Last year they gave us an angelic cinnamon roll (look it up on Urban Dictionary if you need to) performing a love love, peace peace anthem that was about as iconic as a glass of water. This year they have presented us with anti-capitalism, BDSM-dressed performance artists with a penchant for screamo-heavy industrial synthpunk (I think). Holy crap. I feel like Ari is too sweet and innocent to witness Hatari in action. SOMEBODY SHIELD HIS EYES!!! The funny thing is, the Hatari boys seem to be fairly sweet and innocent themselves when they’re doing their day jobs or taking selfies with schoolkids – basically whenever they haven’t been sewn into black latex. But on the stage belting out Hatrið Mun Sigra, it’s a different story. A scary one that shouldn’t be told before bedtime.
I need to tell a story of my own to explain why this song isn’t as appealing to me as it is to a lot of Eurofans. Screamo (if that’s the right term for vocals that require post-performance lozenges) is an off-putting technique and not something I actively listen to, and I know what’s mainly to blame. In general, it’s an assault on the ears…but when I was a kid, I was scarred for life by the credits of a music show we have in Australia called Rage. They don’t freak me out now like they used to, but watch them here and then imagine you’re a child who’s snuck out of their room in 2am darkness to watch music videos on TV only to be terrified back into it fast. I’m telling you this because Hatrið Mun Sigra reminds me a lot of that clip, with all of the aggressive screaming. Though I like the rest of the song, I can’t totally get past the scary parts.
Pushing my fear aside, I get the obsession with this. The industrial style of the music is not unlike Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love, and that’s a plus. The song has a hypnotic beat and a slick sound that I really like, and the contrast between the floaty chorus and the hardcore verses – then how they’re layered over one another at the end – is interesting to say the least! I also get a kick out of a song called ‘Hate Will Prevail’ representing a country who, 12 months ago, implored us to treat each other well, help, heal and ease the pain etc. I just wish Iceland had drawn the same half of the first semi as Montenegro so they could have performed after Heaven (for Christer Björkman’s love of the sawtooth approach and for our entertainment). I have no doubt Hatari will qualify from where they are in the semi, though HMS is not a song juries will flock to – it will be relying on a massive televote on both nights. Can Iceland pull a Poland 2016 and shoot up the final scoreboard after a low jury vote? I think they can. Time will tell…and hate will prevail.
In a line Like skydiving, this is terrifying but enjoyable at the same time 2018 VS 2019 2019 – BDSM trumps bland Predicted result SF 4th-6th, GF 5th-13th My score 8 points
Coincidentally, every country in this round of reviews failed to qualify last year. In most cases that was understandable, and Poland is no exception. Light Me Up is a great Euroclub song that I still listen to on the reg. But whenever I think of Gromee’s snake dance and Lukas’ incredibly inadequate vocals, a shudder runs through my entire body and I have to lie down for half an hour. So it’s a relief now to have Tulia, a group of girls we can rely on to deliver vocally…and to NEVER EVER snake dance. I appreciate Poland going in a different direction this year, right down to internally selecting instead of holding a national final (rumour has it they couldn’t afford one since they’re hosting JESC in November). You certainly wouldn’t catch me dancing to Pali Şie in the Euroclub unless it had been severely remixed.
But – and you might have sensed a ‘but’ coming – although I applaud Poland for trying something new, I can’t get on board with this song. It did help when I learned that Tulia’s vocal technique is a legitimate one where they aren’t supposed to be harmonising. Sadly, that doesn’t stop my untrained eardrums recoiling from the sheer force of what sounds, to me, like yelling. I don’t want to trash Tulia because what they do, they do very well. It’s just not my cup of tea. I know they have plenty of fans who will support them and like the sound of all those voices singing the same notes at the same time, so I don’t feel too guilty. Granted, it’s not just the vocals that I can’t get into. The melody of the song has a spark to it but it never lights a full-on fire (of love) in me like the ominous one in the videoclip. I find the chorus too simplistic, especially when the English lyrics drop. And I think Pali Şie is quite same-same all the way through: it doesn’t lose steam but it doesn’t gain traction and really go somewhere either.
None of the above means I’m not fully prepared for Poland to win me over with their Eurovision performance, by the way. From what I saw at EiC, Tulia slayed those vocals (don’t sue me, Wiwibloggs…that word was necessary) and their costume choice was what I expected – extra polished and extra Polish. We know they won’t be coping with choreography while trying to keep their voices in check, so there’s no reason for them to sound questionable. Visually, ‘ethnic with an edge’ is how I hope for the song to be staged, and if it is I wouldn’t be surprised by a qualification. Should Poland go through, I’ll be happy for them and pleased that Europe (and Australia) embraced something so different. If they don’t, I won’t be mad about not having to hear Pali Şie in the final. My a-Poland-gies.
In a line I’m a harmonies girl in a (usually) harmonised world, and this is too much for me 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 9th-13th, GF 19th-23rd My score 5 points
When Serhat was announced as San Marino’s rep for 2019, I immediately felt like the dumbest person alive for not seeing it coming. Sure, the principality had only recycled Valentina Monetta in the past (unless you count the JESC recycling of Michele Perniola and Anita Simoncini) and it was more likely to be her name they dropped than anybody else’s. But still, Serhat became so iconic back in 2016, he should have been a predictable returnee. It was a matter of when, not if – and here we are with Say Na Na Na, a.k.a. Serhat Strikes Back, a.k.a. the sequel to I Didn’t Know minus monocle. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what to think of this entry and that’s partly because I don’t know how seriously to take it. I’m leaning towards ‘not very’.
Say Na Na Na is every stale Eurovision cliché possible packed into three minutes, without actually having been lampooned by Love Love, Peace Peace (props to San Marino for entering a throwback and finding a loophole at the same time). It’s cheesy, it’s dated, and if anyone other than Serhat was performing it, they’d be definite DNQ material. But somehow – and I have no idea how – it kind of works. This guy certified himself as the ESC disco king as soon as the original I Didn’t Know was swapped for the remix, and his reign continues with this terrible yet enjoyable track. It’s the guiltiest of pleasures, with lyrics like ‘Don’t forget my number, call me any time, I will always tell you life is beautiful and fine’ (which makes Serhat sound like the least helpful psychologist ever) sending the cringe factor through the roof – while set to such a catchy tune that I can’t help singing along. The chorus in particular is an earworm and a half, and will no doubt have the contest crowd obeying Serhat’s command to say you-know-what.
I think we can all foresee the staging treatment this will get, and if it’s anything like the music video or Serhat’s Stockholm performance, it’ll be a massive step up from last year. The fact that San Marino has been given the pimp slot in SF1 suggests the EBU is happy for them to be our freshest memory. That’s quite the confidence boost. It doesn’t mean qualification is a given – just ask Triana Park – but it’s rare for the last song out to stay in the semis. That, combined with Serhat finishing 12th in 2016, has me shook at the prospect of this actually making the final. I don’t 100% agree that Say Na Na Na should qualify, because it’s far from being one of the best 10 songs in semi one. But Serhat himself? Well, I can’t deny that I’d happily have him qualify just for the hilariousness of it, and as a reward for selling the shiz out of another substandard product.
In a line A throwback track just as wonderfully awful as Serhat’s last 2018 VS 2019 2019, without a doubt Predicted result SF 9th-13th, GF 18th-22nd My score 7 points
25 down, 16 to go! I have no choice but to whip through these reviews faster than John Lundvik down a 100m track in his sprinting days. It is now the end of April, after all (HOW?!?!?).
Here’s the mini-ranking for today’s round:
- Greece (12)
- Belgium (8)
- Iceland (8)
- San Marino (7)
- Poland (5)
And here’s where Greece etc fit in to my overall list at this point:
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- The Netherlands (12)
- Greece (12)
- Estonia (10)
- Norway (10)
- Cyprus (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Belarus (10)
- Russia (8)
- Romania (8)
- Belgium (8)
- Armenia (8)
- Iceland (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Lithuania (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- San Marino (7)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- Poland (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Georgia (4)
Do we have anything in common so far? Is there anyone who doesn’t have Georgia bringing up the rear (sorry Oto)? I’m curious, so let me know in the comments.
Watch out for my Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal reviews later this week, and have your opinions at the ready…
Just as there’s diversity in the musical line-up of every ESC, there’s also diversity in terms of how well each song is performed live. I realise I’m telling you something you already know even if you’re a casual Eurofan (as opposed to a hardcore year-round obsessive, like me and most of the people who put up with my lengthy Eurovision ramblings). But I’m trying to segue into the topic of today’s post, dammit! And that topic is the performances from Lisbon that left a little – or a LOT, in some cases – to be desired.
Bad backdrops, inappropriate props, lacklustre lighting, catastrophic costumes, vomit-inducing vocals…for a handful of countries, things just didn’t come together (STOCKHOLM SLOGAN PUN ALERT). Following on from my way more complementary Top 10 performances of 2018 post, here’s the other end of the spectrum: the biggest mistakes made and/or overall worst performances of the year from where I was sitting (on my couch). I don’t mean any disrespect to the artists mentioned or to their delegations…but sometimes, one’s inner bitch just HAS to come out.
Croatia: (All) lights and (no) shadows
I’m starting off with something small that bothered me about a performance in Portugal. As picky as I know I can be, there are times when a tiny detail drags down staging that would otherwise have seen a country’s contest package all wrapped up with a pretty ribbon on it. Take Croatia, who positioned the beautiful Franka on stage in an equally gorgeous gown (albeit one with a pattern that drew too much attention to her pelvic area) in front of a mic stand, where she proceeded to werk the camera and sass her way through a totally competent rendition of Crazy. So far so good, right? Sure – except Crazy is a moody, sexy boudoir ballad that begged for a moody, sexy lighting scheme (think dark shadows, spotlights and a dash of red), and it did NOT get what it wanted. Without the required combo of Austria, Belgium and Latvia’s lighting, Croatia’s three minutes looked ‘meh’ – almost like Franka was rehearsing and her team still had changes to make. It seems a bit weird that a country can throw everything at their performance one year (and I mean EVERYTHING, Jacques) and then miss the mark twelve months later. Maybe 2019 will be the year Croatia finds a happy medium?
Greece: No drama = no good
Yianna Terzi: another attractive female soloist with excellent dress sense and great hair who delivered on her end of the ESC bargain this year – a.k.a. she put in an applause-worthy, almost studio-perfect performance. It was what happened around and behind her on the Altice Arena stage (by which I mean nothing) that screwed her over. Seriously, I know Greece don’t have a lot of cash to splash on their song contest presentations…but Oneiro Mou is more dramatic than Silvia Night when she didn’t qualify in Athens, and as such deserved less simplistic stage treatment. It was one song that emphasised the lack of in-built LED screens in a bad way, given that I’m guessing Greece couldn’t afford to ship in (nautical pun intended) their own á la Germany and Malta. That’s not to say that the right prop or (again) lighting scheme wouldn’t have helped boost them into the qualification zone. What I’m saying is that as patriotic as they were, Yianna’s white dress and blue hand (presumably intentional, but maybe she was just cold) were not enough. Her song needed drama served up hot, but sadly, I think it was undercooked.
Russia: A mountainous mistake
Raise your hand if you didn’t think I was going to mention this! Obviously I can’t see you guys right now (my mass spying devices are on the blink at the moment) but I don’t think I need to – nobody has their hand in the air. It was awkward, ridiculous, and I must say laughable enough when Russia waved their CGI wand over poor Yulia and turned her into a mountain for the I Won’t Break music video. But did we think they’d come up with something less WTF for the live show? I did, but that may have been wishful thinking. It turns out that disguising a wheelchair (unnecessarily) with a prop mountain live on stage looks even more ridiculous than doing it via a computer generated alp. Also, what does a mountain even symbolise in relation to this song? Probably overcoming obstacles, blah blah blah, but that was not clear (and three minutes doesn’t give viewers a lot of time to analyse potential deeper meaning). It was uncomfortable to watch and literally uncomfortable for Yulia. Add ropey vocals and some random dancers into the mix – who arguably got more screen time than she did – and it’s a) hard to believe that Sergey Lazarev and his impeccable staging = Russia’s last representative; and b) easy to work out why Russia failed to qualify for the first time with this.
Belarus: Gothic horror goes wrong
I’ve said this a billion times before, but I don’t watch Eurovision rehearsals. If I’m getting up at 3am for something, I want it to be a surprise! But I do listen to and read every little rehearsal description from the press centre and on my Twitter feed – total abstinence is impossible. My point is, when I heard what Belarus had in store for the ESC staging of Forever, I was super psyched. On paper, the rose handover, brief game of archery and Alekseev’s gruesome prosthetics sounded OTT, but also OMG YES. If you can’t do stuff like that at Eurovision, where can you? It’s too bad then that in the end, the whole concept came off as a bit of a joke. For starters, Alekseev was shaking so much he could barely pass the rose to the camera guy (and the whole jerky rose rotation was pure cringe). The on-screen petal explosion was timely but tacky. And that bed-of-roses-on-the-back reveal was…well, I still thought it was cool in a gross, ‘WHAT IN THE NAME OF NAVIBAND AM I LOOKING AT?!?’ kind of way. But it wasn’t as effective as I think Belarus wanted it to be…and I definitely couldn’t take it seriously. Many fans might have questioned the light-up space suit Alekseev wore when he won the Belarusian NF, but in hindsight, packing that in his suitcase for Portugal might have been a smart idea.
Romania: The Humans + a bunch of dummies
It still feels strange knowing that Romania lost their 100% qualification record this year – but after the bizarre staging brought to us by The Humans, is it really that surprising? Romania has never misfired so badly before, but that’s what happens when you take a song with the potential to be elevated by an awesome stage show (which is exactly what went down with Moldova) and have it performed in the presence of creepy department store mannequins. There’s a reason horror movies have been made about those things, and since Goodbye isn’t a song that’s supposed to scare the crap out of people, I have to ask…what were they thinking? It didn’t work for Switzerland in 2007 (but at least Vampires Are Alive had a pre-existing creep factor) and I can’t imagine what possessed the Romanian delegation to give it a try. The main purpose those faceless freaks served was distracting us from the performance elements that did work – Cristina’s risqué dress and epic vocal power, for instance. They didn’t help to fill the stage (except with fear) or tell the story of the song, that’s for sure. And to think that last year, cannons that weren’t allowed to be fired and an awkward kiss were Romania’s biggest on-stage issues!
Macedonia: MY EYES!!!
If you hadn’t guessed, I’ve been working my way up to the worst of the worst staging disasters of Eurovision 2018…which is why I haven’t mentioned Macedonia until now. They are the masters of messing up live performances of great songs, and the streak of self-sabotage continued in Lisbon. Eye Cue hit the city armed with a multiple-personality song that needed clever staging – and cool costumes, of course – to pull everything together. Tragically (in a first-world-problem sense), as with Spain last year, it all went wrong in alarming fashion. The fashion, in fact, was the single most horrific thing we were forced to look at, as the otherwise stunning Marija wandered aimlessly around the stage in a bright pink, backwards tuxedo jacket with inexplicable armpit cutouts. When she whipped it off mid-song, I thought a crisis had been averted…only to witness the most unflattering half sweater/half swimsuit monstrosity the world has ever seen. The only saving grace in a performance that was as neat and tidy as the top shelves of my closet (i.e. not at all) was the vocals. Oh, and Marija’s shoes – they were dope. Just not dope enough to save Macedonia from their Barbara Dex destiny…
Which Eurovision performances disappointed/shocked/scared the s%*t out of you enough to become your personal “worsts” of the year? Let me know in the comments below…and from one overly-judgmental person to another, don’t hold back!
Good *insert time of day here*, guys. In a plot twist that everyone saw coming, I’m back with more Eurovision 2018 reviews – and with rehearsals for this year’s contest kicking off NEXT WEEKEND (how did this happen?), I have zero time for one of my traditional rambling intros. Lucky you.
Speaking of you…if you saw the title of this post and decided it was worth a look, then you’re probably wondering what I think of Eugent, Saara, Yianna, Ieva and DoReDos – plus the musical offerings they’re bringing to Lisbon’s mahusive potluck dinner. Keep reading if you want to stop wondering! Then, as always, you can pick your personal fave of the five (scroll for the poll) and share your ranking in the comments. I know you want to…
My thoughts Way back in ye olde 2017, Eugent’s Mall became the first song to be selected for Eurovision 2018 (if I remember rightly). It’s a typical move for Albania, with Festivali I Këngës always falling during the festive season. The plus side is that Albanian entries have more time to grow on us and/or be reworked; the downside is that sometimes they don’t age like a fine wine so much as like a loaf of bread. So is Mall, all those months later, a drop of something delicious or a stale loaf of sourdough? And why do I constantly compare music to food? I can’t answer that second question TBH, but I can tell you that for me, this song is somewhere in the middle of awesome and awful. I think it’s quite wallpaper-like: imagine this year’s contest as a room, with Israel being the avant-garde statement armchair and San Marino being the ugly, dated fireplace (spoiler alert for my San Marino review) and you’ll know what I mean. Mall is there and it’s competing, but there’s no fire in it as far as I’m concerned, and nothing that really grabs me – even in the chorus, which if no other part does, should be the part of a song that sticks. I definitely don’t hate it, because there’s really nothing to hate. It’s not super-current but it isn’t decades too late either; it’s well-produced and the music is richly-layered, even minus the live FiK orchestra; it’s anthemic and will probably have some arms waving in Altice Arena…basically, I don’t see/hear any major flaws. What I hear actually impresses me the most about Albania, in terms of Eugent’s vocals. They’re flawless, clearer than the crystal Eurovision trophy, and powerfully projected in a way that will fill the spacious Portuguese stage even if he’s standing on it solo (no France 2017 issues are in his future). But excellent vocals aren’t enough in a competition full of great vocalists – many of whom also have standout songs up their sleeves. Mall is not a standout song in my opinion. It’s a decent song with an Albanian essence that suitably qualified Eurofans can detect with a single sniff (which I appreciate that about their entries). And I’m glad Albania is putting faith in their own tongue for the first time since Identitet in 2013. Unfortunately, I doubt it will pay off. I cannot see this qualifying, especially from the first half of death in the semi final of death (the Grim Reaper will be busy on the Tuesday night). Even though Albania will sound brilliant coming right after Iceland (spoiler alert for my Iceland review), I’m anticipating around 16th place in the semi for Eugent.
2017 VS 2018? 2017. Call me controversial, and I’ll take it as a compliment.
My score 6.5
My thoughts An unfortunate trip to Kyiv last year ended much too soon for Norma John (and if you think I’m over it, THINK AGAIN…and read this post). And so Finland brought out the big guns for Lisbon – perennial competition bridesmaid Saara Aalto, her belter of a voice, and her bucketloads of charisma and stage presence. Let’s be real, we ALL adore this woman. She’s a precious Nordic angel who had to take a turn on The X Factor UK before Finland realised they’d better just internally select her lest she be poached by the Brits. That brings me to my main point re: Monsters. The track is being showered with love by fans and in the fan-voted OGAE poll (no surprises there) but would people be raving about it if someone other than Saara was performing it? The way I see it, the song is secondary in the overall package of the Finnish entry to Saara herself. The country is sending an artist with a song, not an artist AND a song, if you know what I mean (and Norway is in a similar position). I’m not saying Monsters isn’t good enough for her or that it’s not good at all, but it could do more for its singer than it does. Sweden’s Deb duo are the driving forces behind it, and have created a dance-pop almost-banger that isn’t exactly at the forefront of the music scene right now (Ireland sent a vaguely similar song to Malmö, Estonia to Copenhagen). It is catchy, with a strong chorus and a distinctive vocal hook – ‘I ain’t scared no more’ – plus an inspirational message passed on in a way that doesn’t make me feel nauseous (Iceland, pay attention). And you can bet your entire collection of Eurovision merchandise that I’d be burning major calories in the Euroclub with this song as my soundtrack, were I going to Lisbon. Anything that makes you want to move – and not towards the nearest exit to escape it – is good, right? But while I can easily acknowledge the merits of Monsters, I can also easily admit that it’s not one of my favourite songs of the year. I like it but I don’t love it, and I think Saara is capable of more. She’s not going to be the contest winner we thought she’d be back when her name was announced (though why we thought that when she’s finished second so many times, I don’t know). Finland should be back in the final again after sitting it out (involuntarily) for three years, but at this stage I do have them under as borderline in my predictions. Am I letting my lack of enthusiasm cloud my objectivity, or is Monsters legitimately not that amazing? We’ll find out in a few weeks.
2017 VS 2018? Blackbird moves me. Monsters (kind of) grooves me, but I can’t say no to Norma John.
My score 7
My thoughts Going full Greece didn’t do the former ESC darling any favours in 2016 – it resulted in the loss of their 100% qualification record. Demy got them back to the final last year with cookie cutter Greek-free dance though (go figure…so why have they opted for something ethnic this year? Answer: because Yianna Terzi could pay the right price. And thank Hellas for that! I love it when any country sends a song to Eurovision that couldn’t be from anywhere else, and it doesn’t happen that often these days. That’s my no. 1 reason to applaud this entry. Reason no. 2 is that Oneiro Mou features the kind of drama Koit and Laura name-dropped in Verona; my way of saying that it’s atmospheric and mysterious (when I pretend I never looked up the lyrics on Google Translate). The verses get a bit of intrigue bubbling as you wonder, when listening for the first time at least, where the song is headed. Then the chorus delivers extra drama – maybe not in the most bombastic way possible, but in a way that I get a kick out of. If this song wasn’t in Greek, it wouldn’t have half the appeal that it does, so I’m grateful for that too. And Yianna, besides having an incredible head of hair á la Tamara Gachechiladze (no need to turn that volume up, ‘cause it’s already on full blast) is also a well-established, seasoned performer. Ergo, she won’t go all deer-in-the-headlights on stage and will hopefully give us a studio-grade rendition of Oneiro Mou. I say that as someone who’s yet to check out her live vocal chops (I’ve barely had time to brush my own teeth lately, so please excuse that) but I’m assuming she’s got the goods. Greece has made it out of semi finals with weaker songs than this – ICYMI it was NOT love between me and This Is Love, and I’d class that as a weak song that squeaked through. Still, 2016 proved that they’re not infallible, and even in a nautically-themed contest, Greece is unlikely to sail though to Saturday night (HA HA). Like Albania, they’re fighting to emerge from that tough first semi, and I’d say it’s 50:50 – pre-rehearsals – as to whether they’ll make it or not. If the song is staged well (Lights! Dry ice! Wind! Give it the full salon treatment) it’ll help. If not, it might blend into the background, and that would not make for a happy Jaz. The more nationalistic music we get to hear in the final the better.
2017 VS 2018? 2018. Demy didn’t do it for me.
My score 8
My thoughts I’m going to do those of you out there who love this song a favour and spare you having to read this review: it’s not going to be a positive one. Usually I’d ramble on about what happened to Country X last year and make you wonder how I feel about them this year before releasing the kraken that is my opinion. But I want to get straight to the point with When We’re Old, because it’s part of my personal Infamous Four – a.k.a. the four 2018 entries that I just don’t like. I have a top 15 (all of which I want in my top 10), a next best 5 to 10 songs, then a sizeable ‘OK’ category…but underneath that at #40-#43 lies Lithuania and three other countries that I’m yet to talk about. Ieva is at #40 rather than right at the bottom of my ranking, but she’s in my bad books. Why? Because if Lena Meyer-Landrut was only allowed to sing in her inside voice, and starred in a musical version of The Notebook wherein the soundtrack was composed by a rhyming dictionary and a wheel of vintage cheddar cheese, When We’re Old would be the result. Like Iceland’s Ari, Ieva is lovely inside and out, but she’s singing something that is sickeningly sweet and savoury at the same time. Sugar + cheese = not a nice combo (MORE FOOD ANALOGIES JAZ WTF?!?). Sure, it’s romantic and emotive, but I’m afraid my cold, unfeeling heart refuses to be affected by it (perhaps because I’m currently the most single person on the planet and cannot relate to the sentiment). There’s no doubt the song will grow on me during the contest period, and I might be eating these words by the time May becomes June. As of right now, though, I’m not keen for Lithuania to qualify, even if they have a much better chance of making it in Lisbon than they did in Kyiv (they seem to qualify when I don’t want them to and vice versa, with a few exceptions along the way). Of my Infamous Four, When We’re Old is the only one I can visualise in the final, but it will be my toilet break song if it does (and if I don’t need to go to the toilet when Ieva’s on, I’ll go and sit in there anyway). I’m feeling generous with my scores this year, so don’t be surprised by the number you see below…just know that most of those points are for Ieva, NOT her song.
2017 VS 2018? I have to say Rain of Revolution, because it’s more fun and less limp.
My score 5.5
My thoughts You can’t discuss Moldova 2018 without talking about Moldova 2017 first (well, I can’t). The Sunstroke Project are a gift from the Eurovision gods, having presented the world with an iconic meme in 2010 only to outdo themselves last year by presenting their country with its best-ever result. The problem is, like Bulgaria and Portugal, they set a standard for their successors that is not easy to meet. Repeat NF offenders DoReDos have Russian powerhouse Phillip Kirkirov in their corner, and that helped snag Sergey Lazarev the bronze position in Stockholm. That’s what this trio needs to live up to – 3rd place – but I don’t think the Phillip effect is going to get them that far. There is a heap of stuff to like about My Lucky Day: the classic Moldovan trumpets and infectious tune; the enthusiasm of the band when they’re performing it (maybe they caught that from the Sunstroke boys?); the NF/probable ESC mirrors (props that fit into the Portuguese LED-less puzzle very nicely); and the overall throwback feel that transports me back to contests from 2008-2010. It’s just a fun, fluffy song. Musical fairy floss, you might say, but it’s just light and sweet enough to make you (by which I mean me) want more. Is it a masterpiece? No, in case you thought I was under the impression it was. Lyrically, the situation could be improved…and even though I’m 26 and not 12, I can’t help thinking that the words ‘number two’ should be avoided by songwriters (maturity level = dangerously low). But because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, I don’t feel like I have to take the lyrics too seriously. Moldova hasn’t quite built on their 2017 success in the way I’d hoped, and like Bulgaria did after Poli in 2016. But when I look at this song without thinking about Hey Mamma and how it compares, I can’t complain much (which is a big deal for me). Top 3 on the scoreboard? Nope. Top 10? Maybe. Final? Almost definitely. They’ve got a guaranteed douze from Romania to help them on their way, and they might get a few votes out of me too.
2017 VS 2018? Will Moldova ever top Hey Mamma? They haven’t this year.
My score 8
Okay…now that I’ve practically written a novel about each country, the stats are: 15 down, 28 to go! I suddenly feel the need to listen to Blue’s I Can to make me feel like I can get the whole Class of 2018 covered in time.
Here’s my mini-ranking for this round:
- Greece (8)
- Moldova (8)
- Finland (7)
- Albania (6.5)
- Lithuania (5.5)
So it’s Yianna – by one of her amazingly-textured hairs – who wins this five-way battle. Stay tuned to see where she fits in to my ranking of all 43 songs once the reviews are (FINALLY!) done.
Do we have love for Greece in common, or is it Aalto all the way for you? Maybe you’re reeling from my review of Lithuania because you love it so much. Vote for your favourite below, and share your thoughts/spill your tea in the comments!
NEXT TIME Coming up on my Lisbon ‘Hit or S*%t’ list (that’s a working title for next year’s reviews…what do you reckon?) are Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland and Latvia. You won’t want to miss me trying not to be biased when I review We Got Love, so make sure you come back for Round 4.
Happy Eurovision Eve, guys! If it’s still Eurovision Eve Eve when you’re reading this, then Happy That to you too.
As promised, I’m back with the final round of EBJ reviews for this year’s adult contest. It’s down to the wire given that Kyiv’s first semi is so close, and the jury semi even closer (timezone-ally speaking again, it may be over by the time you read this). Plus, there’s still the all-important – and in my case, hilariously inaccurate – predictions to be made, which I may end up posting on social media only (if you don’t see them here, check out my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, all @EurovisionByJaz). So – and I’m saying this to myself – let’s have a little less conversation and a little more action, please!
Read on to find out how my guest juror/mother and I rate the entries from Belgium’s Blanche, Croatia’s Jacques, Israel’s IMRI, Ukraine’s O.Torvald, the UK’s Lucie…and yes, Russia’s Yulia. I couldn’t come this far and then leave her out, even though she’s out of the competition.
Here’s the last seven songs of 2017, according to two extremely intelligent and attractive Australian women.
My thoughts I don’t know what’s gotten into Belgium lately, but they’ve been batting the ball right out of the field with their Eurovision entries – 2013, 2015, 2016 and now 2017 being the gold star examples (the less we say about the creepfest of 2014, the better). Blanche’s City Lights took me by surprise, because for some reason I was expecting her to be assigned some twee, folksy guitar-strummer á la Joan Franka, which is SO not up my street. I don’t know why I expected that – she must just have that look about her. Anyway, I apologise, Blanche. You/your songwriters have given us a skillfully-crafted, cutting edge alt-pop song that’s melancholy in all the right ways. If Kristen Stewart were a song, this would be it: edgy, flat and lacking in emotion, but bizarrely attractive nonetheless. There’s nothing about it I can pick on – even the repetitiveness makes it more hypnotic. Blanche’s voice is way smokier and sultrier than you’d expect from a seventeen-year-old, and it sets off the song perfectly. The contrast between Belgium last year and now (with different broadcasters behind each entry) is huge, and I love them both. The only issue is that there’s one negative difference between Laura and Blanche, and it’s to do with their on and off-stage personalities. Laura, with all of her theatre and TV experience, was a ball of energy and enthusiasm with more charisma than Triana Park’s Agnese has wigs. She charmed the press, audience and home viewers with ease. Blanche is virtually the opposite, as far as I can tell – reserved, quietly-spoken and pretty nervy on stage. Obviously she shouldn’t smile her way through performances of City Lights, since that wouldn’t make any sense. But her uncertainty and lack of emotion at times put what is a fabulous, should-be-a-surefire-hit song right into the danger zone she’s singing about being alone in. That’s why Belgium has dropped considerably in the odds since rehearsals started, and why we could be looking at a (somewhat shocking) non-qualifier here. But, not having seen any rehearsals myself and not knowing what Blanche might muster up for the jury and broadcast shows, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and base my score of 10 points on the song itself.
My mum says… Wow – that’s a voice with depth! I can’t believe it’s coming out of someone so young. It kind of makes Blanche the antithesis of Ireland’s Brendan. Her song is just as impressive as her voice. It doesn’t sound manufactured, and its moody in a way that kept me interested even though it was really repetitive, which is a hard thing to do. Bravo, Belgium! 8 points.
Belgium’s score 9.00
My thoughts There are only a few duos competing at Eurovision 2017, but Croatia’s is the most notable given that it’s a duo made up of Jacques Houdek…and Jacques Houdek. Yes, we have a man duetting with himself in the contest, via a song that isn’t so much well-blended popera as it is pop-opera with a definitive divide between the two. And it is HILARIOUS. Hilariously terrible, that is. Things don’t get off to a good start when Jacques opens with some wannabe inspirational (i.e. retch-worthy) spoken lyrics that even the most warm-hearted person would find hard to take seriously. It’s not exactly downhill from there – that, IMO, is the worst part of the song – but when cheesy lines give way to Pop Jacques and Opera Jacques fighting for attention, it’s time to laugh (because it’s absolutely mental) or cry (because it’s a Disney-fied disaster). No other song so strongly begs the question ‘What were they thinking?’ than My Friend. Yet apparently, it works well enough on stage to be in contention for qualification. Whenever I hear or see someone say that, it makes me wonder if I’ve woken up in my worst nightmare. I think the only aspect of Croatia’s entry deserving of a place in the final is Mr. Houdek himself, because he’s a top bloke with bucketloads of talent (I can’t deny that he nails both the Jekyll and Hyde vocal segments of his song). Apart from that…no. Just no. I take a little sugar in my coffee, but I don’t fill the entire cup with an unpleasant combo of white and raw, if you know what I mean. That would be way too sickly. 2 points.
My mum says… Oh my gosh. If the TV show Touched By An Angel was ever made into a musical, this would be the theme song. Not that I’d know that for sure, because I would NOT be buying tickets to see it. Is ‘abysmal’ too harsh a word to describe this song? I mean, the voices are good – great even, when you realise that they’re both coming out of the same person – but everything else is…ugh. 2 points.
Croatia’s score 2.00
My thoughts It’s still hard to comprehend the fact that Greece lost their 100% qualification record last year. You’d think that would be the kick in the pants they needed to reclaim their Eurovision glory days of 2004-2013, when they could hardly keep themselves out of the top 10. The announcement of Demy as their artist confirmed that, and I was excited. Then along came the three candidate songs, one of which she’d end up singing in Kyiv…and they were all utterly average and totally uninspired. This Is Love, a dance track that feels half 2000s ESC and half cookie-cutter club hit, was the best option, I’ll give them that. But all it does is satisfy the requirements for an okay pop song. It takes zero risks, feels super familiar (like it’s a Frankenstein creation of other dance songs stitched together) and doesn’t feel lyrically original. It’s not offensive, but I have no reason to fall head over heels in love with it (hence why I’ve taken to calling it This Isn’t Love in my head). It’s just there, in the line-up, not measuring up to a good 75% of the other entries. If anything can save it – and I suspect it will be saved – it’s Demy and the staging. I’m pretty confident that will get Greece back into the final, and for all I know, back into the top 10. That’s not a result I’d rejoice in, though, as much as I love Demy. She’s better than this song, and I expected something much stronger. Hashtag disappointed! 5 points.
My mum says… I have to admit, I’ve already forgotten how This Is Love goes, but when I was listening to it I was pretty bored. I feel like Greece did try to start a fire with it, but there’s just no spark. I wasn’t even moving to the music – danger alert! Demy has a nice voice, but her stage performance will have to be incredible to make up for the weaknesses in her song. 3 points.
Greece’s score 4.00
My thoughts It’s convenient that my random selection resulted in Israel being reviewed right after Greece, since they’re so stylistically similar. It makes it even easier for me to say that I Feel Alive is miles ahead of This Is Love in every department (in my opinion, of course). And no, that’s not because Imri has the power to melt me into a human puddle of swoonage with one brief, smoldering gaze. I’m not (quite) that shallow, guys! I just think it’s a far better and far more original song. It’s definitely more current-sounding, and I like how even though each part of the song is different, the whole thing is cohesive and the energy/intensity level never wavers. It’s also great to have a bit of ethnicity shoehorned in via the instrumental break. Overall, I find this entry very catchy and danceable, and we need some of that to break up the ballads that are a bit hard to dance to if you’re alone á la Jana Burčeska. Unfortunately, there’s a question mark over Imri’s ability to pull off a pretty tricky (if my in-shower attempts are any indication) vocal. He has enough stage presence (and muscle tone) to win people over, and as he’s sung backup for Israel the past two years in a row, he can handle the Eurovision experience in general. But can he hit those high notes? Notes that could be Jemini-level awful if he doesn’t nail them? If he wasn’t doing double duty as a singer and dancer – because I’m guessing there’s some choreography for him to work with – he’d have a better shot. But I’m worried. He has the honour of closing the second semi final, and he needs to leave a good impression behind if he wants to be the lucky charm that helped Israel make the final in 2015 and 2016. I’m not sure, but I hope that he can do it. I Feel Alive would be a cracking song to have on the Saturday night. 8 points.
My mum says… Here’s a song that had my foot tapping very quickly. That’s a good sign for me, because I react to music how I react to books: if it doesn’t grab me and make me feel something fast, I’ll give up on it. I Feel Alive is very catchy, and I love the instrumental bit that sounds a bit like an Irish jig (don’t worry, I know it isn’t). I’m keen on stuff like that! And I’m told Imri is a beautiful sight to behold, so it sounds like Israel has the total package. 7 points.
Israel’s score 7.5
My thoughts I know I shouldn’t be dwelling on stuff that happened during national final season, but I’m still convinced that Tayanna’s I Love You would have been one of the best host entries in Eurovision history. It’s heartbreaking that she ended up sick prior to the Ukrainian final and barely managed to sing her way through the whole song when it mattered the most. In that sense, I can see how O.Torvald won instead. Their final performance, elevated by some gruesome but awesome prosthetics that took Time literally in a jaw-dropping way, was fantastic. Sadly, that’s not the staging they’re using for the ESC (I guess it’s not that suitable for what’s considered a family show) so they’re relying more or less on song alone to get the job done. The ‘job’ being ‘host entry that scores enough points to not be an embarrassment, but doesn’t put Ukraine in danger of having to host again in 2018’. I have a feeling a right-side scoreboard finish is in the band’s future, though. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy to have rock in the competition. Time stands out just because of its genre, and I think it’s got a lot going for it, apart from adding variety to the grand final. But I don’t think it’s memorable enough to thrive on simplistic staging, and I can’t see it outdoing Sweden’s 2013 result with Robin Stjernberg. In fact, I’m predicting it will finish lower than that – in the 16th-20th range – in spite of the support it’ll get from the crowd, being the host entry and all. Ukraine shouldn’t suffer the indignity that Austria did on home soil in 2015, but it’s very unlikely they’ll do what Sweden did last year and finish in the top five. O.Torvald’s musical rivals are too hard to handle. 6 points.
My mum says… I don’t know why, but this reminds me of a B-side to a 1980s ballad. The music’s interesting, but I didn’t like much else. It’s quite a dramatic change from Jamala, so at least Ukraine aren’t creatures of habit. 3 points.
Ukraine’s score 4.5
My thoughts I’m not as partial to Emmelie de Forest as a lot of other people. Only Teardrops is far from being one of my favourite ESC winners, and I much prefer Anja Nissen’s Where I Am to the song de Forest co-wrote for her DMGP appearance last year. My point is, when I heard she was responsible for a Eurovision: You Decide song, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. Never Give Up On You quickly won me over, however, because I loved how bare-bones it was at the NF, with hardly any instrumentation backing it and no beat that kicked in when it seemed obvious that a beat would kick in (when Lucie hits her big note towards the end). But apparently I’m fickle AF, as I then decided the song would benefit from some sort of driving beat to give it some oomph. When the revamp was unveiled feat. just that….you guessed it, I found myself preferring the original version. The ESC version has a bit of an identity crisis – it’s halfway between understated piano ballad and soaring power ballad, with an electronic influence creeping in that does make it contemporary, but ultimately sounds wishy-washy. The UK are in danger of becoming musical wallpaper once again – but if reports on their stage presentation are to be believed, they might have hauled themselves out of trouble at the last minute. From the photos I’ve seen, they’ve gone for a gold-heavy, art-deco theme that I wouldn’t have imagined suiting the song, but it looks like the camera will love it. If it does suit the song, then this entry could be a very well-wrapped package. The song is certainly up Lucie’s alley, as it caters for both her pop side (as an ex-X Factor contestant) and her theatrical side (as a past and future star of Legally Blonde: The Musical). I’d love to see her do well, but there are better ballads that are 99% likely to make it to the final and be in direct competition with her – think Finland and Portugal. And it is the United Kingdom we’re talking about. I’m always doubtful. But you can’t say they haven’t taken the contest seriously this year, or put in the level of effort required to succeed. 7 points.
My mum says… This is very nice. I like a ballad that’s powerful without being too loud and screamy, and this definitely falls into that category. I can imagine Lucie in a long, flowy dress with the (fake, wind machine-generated) wind in her hair as she channels all of her emotion into it. Her voice is gorgeous, and it’s not hard to picture her on the West End stage…or the Eurovision stage, for that matter. I’ll have my fingers crossed for the UK, because I don’t want to have to pretend I wasn’t born there! 7 points.
The United Kingdom’s score 7.00
My thoughts I don’t like the way Russia’s departure from Eurovision this year played out, on the Russian or Ukrainian ends. But try as I might, I can’t help being relieved that Flame Is Burning won’t be competing in Kyiv and won’t be taking a spot in the final away from a higher-quality song. Sorry to be so blunt, but OMG, I HATE IT. Maybe that’s partly because it came from Russia, and every time they (try) and send an “inspirational” preaching-for-peace ballad to the contest, it makes my skin crawl. That doesn’t just apply to Russia, though…see my Croatia review for proof. Anyway, just as a song, if you don’t think about its origins, it’s awful. Lame lyrics, a lacklustre melody and a style that went out of style about 25 years ago do not make for something I’d voluntarily listen to. The other problem is Yulia’s thickly-accented English, which makes it hard to understand anything she’s singing (although you could look at that as a blessing). With a better song in Russian, her talents would be put to way, way better use – which, with any luck, is what’ll happen next year if Russia re-involve themselves and send her. So, the moral of my story is, I won’t miss Flame Is Burning, just like I didn’t miss Romania’s Moment of Silence last year. I’ll just feel super sorry for their performers. 1 point.
My mum says… I don’t hate this like Jaz does (which made her jaw drop about a kilometre) but it’s nothing outstanding, that’s for sure. If it was competing, it sounds like it would be forgotten five minutes after it was performed. That’s not the key to Eurovision success, is it? And her accent is so strong, it’s distracting. 2 points.
Russia’s score 1.5
I can’t believe I get to say this, but that’s it – 43/43 reviewed! The ranking for this round looks like this:
- Belgium (9.00)
- Israel (7.5)
- United Kingdom (7.00)
- Ukraine (4.5)
- Greece (4.00)
- Croatia (2.00)
- Russia (1.5)
Belgium (pretty unsurprisingly) takes out the nonexistent trophy, with Israel and the UK hot-ish on their heels, and the others not even lukewarm. But did Belgium do enough to top the full EBJ Jury ranking? Watch this space to find out.
How would you rank the songs we reviewed today? Would Belgium be your number one too, or is there something else floating your boat? Let me know in the comments.
I’ll probably be making another appearance here pre-semi 1, but in case I don’t, I want to wish all of you a very merry contest experience! I’m looking forward to a low-key one myself, after a few years of not watching from my couch, but I will be on Twitter, typing away through all of the live shows. Maybe I’ll meet you there? It’s going to be freaking beautiful!
Hello! Or, if you don’t mind me greeting you in the languages of the countries being reviewed today: zdravo, bonjour, xαίρετε, cześć, buna and Привет!
Don’t worry…I won’t do that every time.
Yes, it’s finally ESC 2016 review time here on EBJ (they’ve arrived just as unfashionably late as I do to all professional and social events). If you haven’t met the jury members who will be joining me on the quest to critique and compile a full ranking of all 43 entries, head to the ‘Välkommen Aboard!’ page above, or click here if you’re too lazy to look for it. You may as well get to know the people about to rip your favourite songs to shreds a little better.
Although all of the jurors will be scoring all of the entries this year, only three of us will actually be reviewing each time (if you’re hopping off the train at Complication Station right now, I apologise). And so…
In this first installment of reviews, Rory, Wolfgang and I will be taking a look at/listen to Croatia, France, Greece, Poland, Romania and Russia – a.k.a. Nina, Amir, Argo, Michał, Ovidiu and Sergey. There are some hyperbolic highs and some low, low lows among the songs of these countries and artists – but which is which, and according to whom? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out.
Let’s get started!
Rory Croatia, you’ve sent some beautiful acts to Eurovision – Doris Dragović and Daniela to name but a couple – but in recent years, you’ve given us some of the most…”interesting” songs around, with a rapping granddad, ‘SALIBRAYYYYY’, and Nina Badrić dressed in an assortment of bin bags! So where have you been hiding potential like this? I am so smitten with Lighthouse, it’s unbelievable. Nina is a proven live singer, what with her experience on The Voice of Croatia, and although her look doesn’t exactly fit the typical Eurovision style, the song is easily going to make up for that. When I listen to the song, I can immediately think of the staging and how it’s going to look, with the cameras and everything. It’s a strong, Balkan song that for once didn’t come from the nostril of Željko Joksimović! This should easily sail through to the final (get it? I’m keeping up with the nautical theme!) and make it into the top 10 – and maybe it’ll give HRT the incentive to make The Voice into a national selection, so they can keep sending individual and adaptable artists to Eurovision.
Wolfgang I’m very happy that Croatia is back in Eurovision again this year, with an outstanding voice and a wonderful song. Nina’s voice is hauntingly brilliant, and the music reminds me of some of the good Irish entries of the 90s. It sounds original, a little Celtic and folky, and it is quite different to a lot of the other female electronic ballads we have this year. In addition to this, Lighthouse gives me the same vibes that some of Enya’s songs give me every time. Plus, it is a contemporary song in the likes of Faded by Alan Walker, which is a huge hit all over Europe this spring. I’m very excited about the staged “lighthouse” that we will hopefully see during her performance. Croatian ladies are the best at Eurovision…well, mostly (Severina not included). Great choice this year, Croatia, and lots of luck from Germany!
Jaz I’ve been through quite the thought process where this comeback track from Croatia is concerned. The first time I heard it, I detected traces of Emmelie de Forest, and that turned me right off (I’m not Only Teardrops’ biggest fan). On my second listen, I suddenly warmed to the Cranberries-meets-Corrs Celtic pop sound, because it’s a nostalgic throwback to the 90s while still feeling contemporary. The third time around, I realised just how much the chorus of Lighthouse mimics the chorus of Swedish superstar Zara Larsson’s Uncover (which I love) and mused to myself, ‘Is THAT what’s making this “now”?’. I won’t go on to tell you how I felt after every single subsequent play of the song, but I will tell you what I think of it at this point (since that’s the whole purpose of these reviews). As much as I’m irritated by the frail, ethereal sound of Nina’s voice, and as much as I detest songs that use lighthouses as metaphors in their lyrics (all the talk about light guiding people safely home and whatnot makes me want to deliberately steer my metaphorical ship into a cliff face so I don’t have to hear it any more), I do like this. The lyrics aren’t as lame as they could be; the pounding beat is hypnotic; the key change is impressive; and Nina does have the kind of vocal chops that suit a song of this genre. So, while Croatia may not be fielding my favourite song of the year (why they’re so high in the betting odds is a mystery to me) I am quite keen on Lighthouse.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 4
- James 10
- Jaz 7
- Martin 7
- Nick 4
- Penny 12
- Rory 12
- Wolfgang 10
Croatia’s EBJ Jury score is…8.67
Rory I’ve enjoyed the majority of French songs from the past few years (the exception being Sognu – what was that utter mess?!?) and this year is no different! Unhappy with their constant string of undeservedly low results, France has finally sent something that can actually be seen as radio-friendly! I enjoy the indie tones of J’ai Cherché, and the bilingual aspect of it means it will be a lot easier for the song to make a connection with a wider audience. However, this could end up being a double-edged sword, as the wrong sort of staging could ruin their chances. It’s been done before (Anggun, I’m looking at you…why GYMNASTS, of all things?). I’m not sure how it’s going to be on stage, as previous performances have been very bare and stripped back, but I’m open to being surprised. As long as Amir gives a strong performance, France will definitely be out of the bottom five!
Wolfgang I am a big fan of la France and their musical genre Variété Francaise-loving artists, like Patrick Fiori, Garou and Mickaël Miro. The French Eurovision artist for 2016, a.k.a. Amir, belongs in this category too, and he has got an excellent song in his luggage for Stockholm. J’ai Cherché is very catchy and contemporary, and it could be THE Eurovision summer hit of this year (at least I would love to hear it more often). As with Croatia, I am really happy that France has come again with a great song after four years of suffering over a ‘lowlight’ vocal performance, a horrible alternative song, a crazy fun entry and a boring lame lady ballad last year. But this year, France is back in the game, and it could become their Eurovision year. No other city in Europe can use such a big event like the ESC than Paris at the moment. Hopefully they go all the way with Amir – that would make me happy. Douze points d’Allemagne!
Jaz If there’s a Team ‘France Has Totally Been Robbed of Higher Rankings in Recent Eurovision Years’, then I’m on it. L’Amour Á La Française, Divine, Allez Ola Olé and Moustache all should have had more success than they did in my opinion (although in some cases, I get why they didn’t). I don’t want that same fate to befall J’ai Cherché, because I truly believe that if it doesn’t hit the heights of the top 10 in Stockholm, there will officially be something very wrong with the world (or some possible irregularities in the jury and/or televoting figures). Amir’s ESC effort is everything I appreciate about French pop wrapped up securely in a three-minute package, without being stereotypical (though that doesn’t give him the space to appear onstage sporting a Breton t-shirt and beret). It’s folk-inspired, but not stale like an old baguette; it’s fun, but takes itself seriously at the same time; it blends French and English seamlessly, making it the poster song for bilingual success at this year’s contest; and it’s irresistibly catchy (karaoke, anyone?). And then there’s Amir’s rugged French handsomeness, which is far removed from my beloved Måns Zelmerlöw’s clean-cut and beautifully buff exterior, but is somehow (almost) equally appealing. Basically, what hasn’t this entry got going for it? C’est magnifique, Mesdames et Messieurs…just don’t eff up the staging, France.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 10
- Fraser 10
- James 8
- Jaz 12
- Martin 10
- Nick 8
- Penny 10
- Rory 10
- Wolfgang 12
France’s EBJ Jury score is…10
Rory Believe it or not, this is first Greek Eurovision entry since Secret Combination that I’ve actually enjoyed *braces for the onslaught of ‘WHY DIDN’T YOU LIKE OPA?!’ comments*. Of course, I’m definitely partial to a bit of ethnicity, but if there’s a lack of authenticity, then you’re just as well to be Rodolfo Chikilicuatre! Argo has created a song that on first listen is quite…odd, but as it goes on, you start to get drawn into it, and by the end, you do feel yourself swaying with the off-beat rhythms. When I listen to Utopian Land, I get echoes of Björk’s Náttúra, which in itself is four minutes of off-beat rhythms and headbanging. I love the ethnicity of this song, and I think it’s a perfect way of describing Greek traditional-pop music. However, with the negative reception the song has received, I feel like people might not get on board with it, and Argo’s Utopian Land may become a DYStopia! I really hope not though.
Wolfgang Now we come to the “Land of Utopia” a.k.a. this year’s Greek entry. I am really biased about this song. On the one hand, I like the instruments used, and the sound is quite catchy, ethnic and original. But on the other hand, I don’t like the rap/spoken parts in the verses much, and the chorus is too repetitive for my ears. The next thing that strikes me is the terrible English the entry is sung in. Why don’t the artists sing in Greek instead of bad English? I’m absolutely not sure if Greece is able to qualify this year in their semi, since the quality of the songs is generally much higher compared to Vienna. I still like Argo’s artful video clip that reminds me a bit of Run, Boy, Run by Woodkid, which is amazing. And the song’s obviously better than the Dion-esque LLB from last year!
Jaz The last time Greece sent a group to Eurovision, everything about it was epic (and that’s if we’re talking about Koza Mostra, OR if you’d define Freaky Fortune feat. Riskykidd as a group). But the standard of their songs and their success on the scoreboard have both taken a hit lately, and I have to admit, I’m very ‘hmm…’ about Utopian Land. As with a whole bunch of 2016 songs, there are things I like and dislike about this one. I don’t mind the rap, since it tends to sound particularly badass in Greek; the chorus is somewhat catchy; and the ethnicity Argo is bringing to the table is appealing, given how little national identity can be heard among their fellow competitors. But overall, it’s a non-dynamic, non-event kind of entry, with lame English lyrics and far too much repetition. So I’m leaning towards a thumbs-down more than a thumbs-up, and I really think Greece will struggle to qualify with it (i.e. they’ll probably squeeze through in 10th place). You never know – it could be staged in such a way that it stuns us all into silence (and then we’d hear that sound that Dami Im’s on about). But I don’t think Greece can afford the amount of trampolines, confetti cannons and state-of-the-art projections required to make THAT happen.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 3
- James 3
- Jaz 5
- Martin 7
- Nick 8
- Penny 5
- Rory 10
- Wolfgang 4
Greece’s EBJ Jury score is…5.67
Rory SHOCK HORROR! MARGARET’S NOT GOING TO EUROVISION! It came as a shock to most Eurovision fans that Conchita’s Polish second-cousin-twice-removed Michał Szpak managed to triumph over Margaret – and Edyta Górniak – to win Krajowe Eliminacje. I have to say, I was expecting Margaret to win as she CLEARLY had the best song of the nine. But with Michał going instead, I’m not as disappointed as I thought I would be. His live vocals have shown that he can actually sing, and his look will easily make him stand out from the crowd. My one problem is that Color of Your Life is a ballad. A ballad in the first half of a semi that’s filled with other ballads. If it was more like Cool Me Down, it would help him be more individual and outstanding. I feel like this will bomb on the night, because it’ll get lost. If it does end up qualifying, we’ll probably see it in the same realms as Monika the year before. Poland, you should have sent Margaret.
Wolfgang To be honest, I wanted Poland’s greatest living singer – Edyta Górniak – for Eurovision 2016, and Margaret was my number two from the Polish national final. And it looked like there was a fight between those two female artists. But in the end, Michał Szpak won the ticket to Stockholm, to my surprise I must admit! But after just a few listens I am now totally won over by this song. It is a beautiful and timeless classic entry that easily could have been in any other ESC in the past. Every time I listen to Color of Your Life it grows on me and gives me goosebumps. The only thing I would change is Michał’s jacket – he looks like a circus ringmaster in it. He needs something cooler for his stage performance, but everything else is awesome, including his HAIR! I love it! I hope Poland will qualify. BTW, the “color(s) of my life” are midnight blue and orange. Man, I feel so Dutch this year.
Jaz Honestly, I’m more upset that Poland didn’t bring us My Słowianie the sequel for 2016 than upset that Margaret didn’t win their national final. Michał and his majestic mane can’t be compared to Cleo and Donatan (well, mainly just Cleo), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of butter-churning and heaving bosoms, he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve by offering us the sentimental (but not sickly-sweet), sing-along friendly semi-power ballad that is Color of Your Life. I’d say the same thing about this song’s lyrics as I did about Greece’s – they’re cringingly cliché at times (‘…ask your heart who you really are’…seriously? No originality points for you, Mr. Szpak). But that’s where I stop complaining on this one. I actually like it a lot, when I’m listening to it (when I’m not, I forget how much I enjoy it). There’s something about the chorus that speaks to me, saying ‘DAYUM, girl, that melody is super-smooth!’. And I take those words on board. I am concerned that Michał only gives us two choices when it comes to informing him what color/colour our lives are (neither of which are technically colours anyway), but I guess going through every hue in the Pantone range would have taken far longer than three minutes. So, will he bomb or be THE bomb in Stockholm? Fail or succeed, black or white? Given that I assumed Poland wouldn’t qualify last year, I’ll wait for the ESC version of his live performance prior to predicting that. But I’d happily see the country make their third consecutive final with this.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 7
- James 3
- Jaz 7
- Martin 8
- Nick 2
- Penny 6
- Rory 5
- Wolfgang 10
Poland’s EBJ Jury score is…6.22
Rory And so, from the songs I love/don’t mind to one I loathe. I didn’t really pay attention to the Romanian national selection, but what I gathered from it was two things: that Mihai will never do Eurovision again, and that Ovidiu Anton won…and I have to say, why this? It’s rock for starters, which is something I don’t listen to in the first place. Secondly, in the chorus, when he shouts ‘take a moment of SIIIILEEENCE’, he goes so off-key that dogs could probably hear his screams! I’m sorry Romania, but in the last few years you’ve given me no joy whatsoever in the songs you’ve picked. It’s just…..bleugh, for me. I’m sure it’ll qualify, just because it’s Romania and they have that 100% qualification record, but it’s gonna be like Miracle and finish nowhere near where people expect it to. Sorry! Maybe you should have a Moment of Silence for the places that Romania will never reach with this.
Wolfgang To get straight to the point with Romania in one word: HORRIBLE! Just horrible! I hate everything about the song and its stage performance. And I’m still not over Florena or Mihai not winning the Romanian national final. There was such a great line-up in Selecția Națională. I liked 6 of the 12 entries from their semi final much, and two others were quite good. But Romania took the decision out of the remaining entries I did not like. To me, that was the ‘supergau’ of this year’s national final season, even worse than Denmark. The song sounds completely dated to me like something that Belarus, Georgia or Russia would have sent in the early 2000s. And that theatrical performance à la ‘Lord of the Rings’ joined by a “Lord of the Dance” is so awful, I did not enjoy watching it. And why did they call it Moment of Silence? It’s so loud, there won’t be a single moment of silence for the whole three minutes (unless you push the mute button). To me, it looks and sounds like a formulaic Meat Loaf tribute. Normally I like Romanian entries at Eurovision much, but this year they belong to my bottom five songs, and I instantly hope they won’t qualify with this terrible song. For me, it’s one of the clear non-qualifiers of 2016 and a BIG ZERO from me. That’s absolutely not what I want to see on Eurovision stage.
Jaz The minute I discovered Moment of Silence was representing Romania, I asked myself ‘Would I like this if it was the closing song of the first act of a Phantom of the Opera-type musical with a residency on the West End?’. The answer is no, but at least it would belong in that environment. As a Eurovision entry, I like it even less. Pompous, melodramatic and dated dirge performed by a gaggle of Game of Thrones extras is not the kind of thing I wave a flag for. I adored De La Capăt, so this is a real step south for Romania as far as I’m concerned. I’d even rather have Paula and Ovi (plus cameo from computer-generated Paula) back for a third try than sit through Ovidiu’s “moment of silence” (as Wolfgang pointed out, that’s hardly am accurate description of the song). In spite of all of the above, I’m a generous judge and I wouldn’t give Romania nothing, points-wise. But if we were handing out fruit baskets or gift vouchers, it’d be a different story.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 2
- James 0
- Jaz 2
- Martin 7
- Nick 3
- Penny 7
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 0
Romania’s EBJ Jury score is…3.22
Rory *BRACE YOURSELVES FOR A RANT!!* And so we come to the worst one of the lot for me (though not in the whole group of songs – that’s reserved for Rykka and Serhat!). I feel incredibly let down by Sergey Lazarev’s Eurovision effort. In the teaser he published a couple of days before the public release of You Are The Only One, I was impressed by the video production, the high-tech studio, and most of all, the intro to the song, which hinted at it being an alternative, emphatic, atmospheric song (which is right up my alley). Then the song was released…and it was schlager. SCHLAGER. WHY SCHLAGER!?!?! I was left cringing for three minutes, and at the end, I was like ‘Ehh…just eh…I don’t…WHAT!?”. I loathe this sort of 90s Eurodance beat; it’s so outdated, and though people can hate me for all eternity, I’m going to agree with Christer Björkman and say that schlager should be left in the 90s/00s where it belongs. Music has changed, Russia. So should you. And yes, Sergey is very good-looking, but that doesn’t make up for the song, OKAY?! *sigh…rant over*.
Wolfgang I can’t say that I’m disappointed with the Russian entry this year, because Russia meets my expectations exactly with Sergey Lazarev, sending one of their biggest national stars again. Of course, it all smells like the (formulaic) ‘Dima Bilan’ winning package from 2008. The ingredients here are almost the same: you take a big national star, some internationally-recognised songwriters and producers, a hit-like song that sounds so Swedish (more than any song from Melodifestivalen this year) and a performance that almost looks like a Måns Production (but isn’t!). And ready is the Eurovision soup! Let’s face it: Russia are trying very hard this year. They want to win again, under all circumstances and no matter what the cost. But do I want them to win? The answer is ‘No’! The good thing about Russia’s entry this year is that they don’t annoy me again with another ‘love, peace and understanding’ message song (lesson learned?) and Sergey’s video clip is really stunning to watch. If he manages to stage only about 30% of what we see in his video with his acting and live singing abilities, then it can easily be the winning performance of the grand final. On the other hand, the song lacks any kind of emotion for me. It’s formulaic, radio-friendly, sterile and very stereotypical, and it does not touch me at all. Obviously it will be a clear qualifier and yet another top five placement, but here I would go for 3rd or 4th place and hopefully not the no. 1! And another last thing that strikes me: the running gag in Germany about the Russian entry is that the performance will be “sehr gay” this year, and I would add “faux gay” to it. Well, that is what Russians are probably known for at the Eurovision, but it always means a lack of authenticity, and that’s not win-worthy in my opinion.
Jaz If you’d asked me to review You Are The Only One right after my first listen, I would have let rip (kind of like Rory did). After all, I had been expecting something that sounded as cutting-edge as Sergey’s video clip looks, rather than a stale throwback to Eurovision circa 2006 (and let me remind you that a man with a mullet, also from Russia, managed to come second that year). Meanwhile, everyone else was drooling over the song and/or Sergey’s various shirtless shots, which made me wonder whether there was something wrong with me, or with them. The solution? Taking another listen to the song – a.k.a. giving it an andra chansen. And, well…I suddenly saw the light. Or at least, why the bookies universally had and still have Russia in their top spot. I’m not denying that YATOO is dated, and that the songwriters could have written it more into 2016 if they wanted to keep up with the Latvias of the contest. But damn, did they know what they were doing anyway. This is precisely thought-out, clinical and slickly-produced schlager dance, and it is dangerous. If Sergey’s vocals are shipshape, and his staging is as eye-catching as that video (and we know that Russia always have their staging under control), he will certainly be the ‘only one’ to beat. There’s a power in the unrelenting energy and instant chorus of the song that makes it memorable, even in studio – and when paired with visuals that give it a perfectly-packaged kind of feel (á la Heroes) it becomes one step of a winning recipe. Oh, and thank the Lordi it’s not another preachy peace ballad!
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 12
- James 6
- Jaz 10
- Martin 8
- Nick 6
- Penny 7
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 7
Russia’s EBJ Jury score is…7.44
And just like that – after several hours of feverish reading on your part – we’re done for the day. And, with all of the above said and done, the leaderboard currently looks like this:
- France (10)
- Croatia (8.67)
- Russia (7.44)
- Poland (6.22)
- Greece (5.67)
- Romania (3.22)
That makes France the très convincing champion of this round…but it’s early days. Can Amir hold on to the top spot? Only time, plus 37 more reviews, will tell!
What do you think of the Part 1 reviews and rankings? Who took the words right out of your mouth, and who should wash theirs out with soap for daring to defile an amazing song? Which of today’s six countries deserves douze points in your opinion? Let us know below.
In the next episode of EBJ Jury judgments, a trio of Aussies (#accident) – including none other than my mother – will have their say on Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. It’s going to be interesting, to say the least! Come together and join us because we are one?
Happy Friday, ladies and gents! You may have noticed that I’ve redecorated EBJ since your last visit. I’m now officially Sweden-ised, feeling festive and ready to paarrtaaaay *insert visualisations of streamers flying every which way here*. And it’s about time too – it is May, a.k.a. Eurovision Month, and this IS the second episode of my Malmö Reviews. Gee whiz.
So now’s the time to prepare yourself for my verdicts on Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel AND Italy (#outofbreath) because here they are. Oh, and stay tuned to see my rankings of these entries (and to show me yours).
Et Uus Saaks Alguse by Birgit Õigemeel
IMO: We can debate until the cows come home about Estonia choosing Birgit The Safe Option over the scary hairy dudes and the amazing Grete Paia, but the reality is, Birgit is the one going to Malmö, and she’s taking her diet Kuula with her. Diet Kuula? Geddit? Not so much? Well, my point is that it’s another year and we have another Estonian ballad – but unlike last year’s, which was mesmerising in so many ways (and had a lot of drama and power) this one’s kind of bland. I’ll put it this way: Kuula was, to me, all 31 of Baskin-Robbins’ ice-cream flavours combined in one sundae, with lashings of hot fudge sauce and sprinkles. Et Uus is 97% fat-free vanilla frozen yoghurt. Having said all of that and convincing you that I detest Birgit’s ballad, I actually don’t. It’s pleasant, and I enjoy listening to it. But that’s all. It’s three minutes of niceness, with no real hook or crescendo.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
Marry Me by Krista Siegfrids
IMO: I did not like this song when I first heard a snippet via a recap of all the UMK finalists. Then I heard the full version after it won, and fell in love with it (I probably would have married Krista at that point). THEN, it started to get on my nerves a little bit. So where am I now? Somewhere in-between enjoying it, and being annoyed by it, that’s where. As much as I loved the Finnish entry last year, it’s nice to have something as brash and fun from Finland as När Jag Blundar was sweet and subdued. Everything about this is loud, from the punchy chorus to the bridal party’s outfits, and I’m glad for that. What would be the point in toning down an entry like this, one that could pass as a Katy Perry B-side? It’s not the OTT-ness that irritates me; in fact, I can’t put my finger on exactly what is responsible for that (Krista’s constant demand for me to put a ring on it, perhaps). But I guess I can settle for a love-hate relationship with Marry Me. That should prepare me for a real marriage, right?
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
L’enfer Et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois
IMO: Can I picture Amandine performing this in a smoky, slightly sleazy underground club in Paris, wearing a feather boa and not much else? Oui oui. It is trés French, or at least very stereotypically French – classy, chic, a little bit retro and a little bit seedy. This is just the kind of thing that, besides the Harlem Shake and dance anthems that all sound exactly the same, the global music charts are full of right now, in the wake of the aforementioned Adele. I’m not the biggest fan of this style of music myself, but this particular song has its charms. The French language has never sounded better for starters, and despite the slow tempo, it uses the three minutes well to build into something interesting. All in all, it’s better than what I was expecting, and it’s more instant than Anggun’s entry last year. But it’s not right up there with the best of 2013 pour moi . PS – apologies for all the primary school French I crammed into this paragraph.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Waterfall by Sophie & Nodi
IMO: I’d never tried Georgian cheese before this, and now I have I can say that it’s not too bad. Certainly not as overpowering as Russian cheese, if you know what I mean. Waterfall (the cheese in question) is another cliché-ridden ballad from reigning ESC champ Thomas G:son, with lyrics you can see coming from a continent away even with a Donny Montell-brand blindfold on. It seems to have been written expressly for suckers who can’t help feeling buoyed by that chorus, and that money note, even though they know full well the whole thing is contrived and unoriginal. Suckers like me. But with the inevitable floaty dress for Sophie, well-timed pyrotechnics and flawless vocals the duo will provide (I’m thinking it must be illegal in Georgia to be a bad singer) the other ballads better watch out. Some say this could be a dark horse to win, and as someone who’d love to witness a Georgian Eurovision, I could come to terms with that.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Glorious by Cascada
IMO: The German national final was über strong this year, but it was always going to be Cascada’s to lose. I’m glad they didn’t, because they were the best pick for another Eurovision success for Germany. Glorious is straight-up dance, which is what Cascada is known for, and it is genuinely glorious (lacking the irony of one of their previous hits Evacuate The Dancefloor, which was clearly constructed to ensure the dancefloor would be packed) if familiar, what with the Euphoria plagiarism claims and all. But that’s just dance music. This is just the kind of infectious number that will lift the roof off Malmö Arena in a way no other entry of 2013 can, so I hope Natalie and her DJs are prepared to pay for damages. I also hope Glorious doesn’t bomb against the odds. It’s having a hard time contesting Denmark and Ukraine and the like as a favourite to win, but if all goes according to plan it should hit the highs of the top 10, which is nothing to be sneezed at. Side note: can someone please come to my house and surgically remove the German flag from my hand when the final is over? I’m gonna be gripping that real tight.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!
Alcohol Is Free by Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis
IMO: Greece, Greece, Greece – you’ve done it again. This country can barely afford to post a letter to Malmö, let alone send a troupe of kilt-wearing rockers and Agathonas of the Impressive Moustache there direct. Yet that’s what they’re doing, and it will undoubtedly keep up their 100% qualification record. Alcohol Is Free is a breath of fresh air after the incredibly clichéd Aphrodisiac, and has a better shot at getting Greece back into the top 10. I’m not totally backing it, as there are plenty of entries I’d rather root for; however I do think it’s a lot of fun, and an up-tempo song that uses traditional instruments usually gets my tick of approval. It was a good idea to have the title in English, and then have that title make up the entire chorus. Even though alcohol isn’t free anywhere that I know of, 99% of us will be unable to resist chanting ‘alcohol, alcohol, alcohol is freeeeee’ in time with the guys. Scientific fact. The 1% that don’t will be unconscious from consuming too much “free” alcohol.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Kedvesem by ByeAlex
IMO: It could happen anytime, anywhere, with anything or anyone. You don’t know it’s going to until it does, and then BAM! You’re a goner. No, I’m not talking about being hit by a bus. I’m talking about falling in love, because I am officially head-over-heels for the Hungarian entry this year…and believe me, I did NOT see it coming. There’s something about this humble little song that gets me every time, and there’s nothing forced or sugary about it. I think Hungarian is beautiful and mysterious when set to music (especially if you don’t bother to Google a lyric translation) so that’s part of it. The extra punch given by the Zoohacker remix was much appreciated also. It’s an enigma, Kedvesem. I’m not 110% sure why I adore it, but I just do. They say you know when you know, and I know, so that’s enough! It’s just unfortunate that my favourite Hungarian entry since they rejoined the contest in 2011 is also the least likely to qualify. I wouldn’t care if it came last in the final. Just to see it get to Saturday night would be a major highlight. Make it happen, my European friends.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!
Ég á Líf by Eythor Ingi
IMO: This wasn’t the most exciting song Iceland could have chosen, but there is something special about it. It could be that Eythor chose to keep it in Icelandic, which is another mysterious musical language. Big ups for that, because the switch from Icelandic to English in recent years has been a huge mistake. It could also be that anthemic quality that gets me feeling all patriotic and emotional, Olympic medal ceremony-style. Who knows. The thing is, that something special doesn’t elevate this ballad to Yohanna status, although the overall appearance is similar (it’s the hair). What could lift it is a superb stage show, with emphasis on lighting and background. I wouldn’t mind the Aurora Borealis being brought back for another spin either.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan
IMO: How sweet it is to have our first Jedward-free year out of three! This post-twin effort from Ireland blows their 2012 entry out of the water (line) as far as I’m concerned. For one thing, it’s not some random song that was offered to and rejected by a bunch of artists before eventually being picked up for Eurovision. It is a slickly produced dance track co-written by Mr. Dolan himself and complex enough to avoid Euphoria comparisons. I’m really loving it, and I expect the stage show to appeal to me just as much. What could ruin Ryan’s chances is his vocal unreliability. I actually haven’t been able to bring myself to watch a live performance of his, because I love the song so much and don’t want to mark it down because of a rubbish live vocal. Some have said he did fine at Eurovision in Concert, whilst others were less impressed, so I’m just going to give him the benefit of my own doubt until semi final 1. He’s sandwiched between two ballads, one of which is incredibly yawn-worthy, so he should stand out. I will be praying for Ireland to prove that they don’t need a pair of hyperactive siblings to get somewhere.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Rak Bishvilo by Moran Mazor
IMO: Now for someone who will have no trouble singing like a champ – the bespectacled, boob-baring Moran from Israel (whose specs and chest may distract from the vocal performance, but still). Her ballad is one of the better ones going to Malmö. It’s pretty but dramatic, and you can hear the emotion behind it. However (yes, there are however’s) it is quite repetitive – after what seems like the 300th ‘rak bishvilloooo’, it’s like, ‘it’s only for him, we get it!’. And it is lacking in wow factor, which sound-alike Milim did have. I think it’s almost great, a major improvement on last year’s song that I despised, but not Israel at their absolute best.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
L’essenziale by Marco Mengoni
IMO: I wonder if I can I complete this review without drawing attention to how insanely attractive Marco Mengoni is? Oops, instant fail. Oh well! I like his SanRemo-winning entry almost as much as I like looking at him. It reminds me a bit of Alessandro Casillo’s É Vero, which competed in SanRemo 2012 but was ineligible for ESC selection since Alessandro was only 15…which made me sad because I LOVED that song. So thank you Mr. Mengoni, for bringing some of that to the big show. L’essenziale in its own right is pure class (how unusual coming from Italy. Not.) and for me, one of the best ballads competing. The rawness of Marco’s voice gives authenticity to the emotion within, which should make for an honest and convincing performance, during which I will do my utmost to focus on the song instead of that beautiful, beautiful face. I’m not sure L’essenziale won’t get lost in the final, because it is a simpler, less instant song than most. But I hope it makes it to the left side of the scoreboard at least.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Ciao Italy, and hello rankings! This is how I rate these entries against each other:
- Hungary 12
- Germany 12
- Ireland 10
- Italy 10
- Greece 7
- Iceland 7
- France 7
- Georgia 7
- Finland 7
- Israel 6
- Estonia 6
Now you try?
What are your thoughts on my thoughts this time around? How do you rate the songs from Estonia to Italy?
NEXT TIME: You’ll never guess…more reviews! Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Romania and Russia better brace themselves, ’cause I’m about to get all judgmental on their bee-hinds.
So last night, approximately a hundred years after the rest of the world, Australia got to witness the first semi final from Baku. It took me at least ten minutes to stop hyperventilating (because I was overexcited, not because I was terrified of Montenegro being first up) and start enjoying it all. Despite the fact that the stronger semi and the one with most of my favourites in it is number two, which I’ll see tonight, I did have a good time watching and flag-waving at my party for one (as usual, nobody else in my household showed the least flicker of interest – there is definitely something wrong with them) and I thought that, generally, the performances were strong. Here’s my more detailed take on the first 2012 installment, direct from the land Down Under…
– Montenegro being act 1 turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the song (I mean, the “song”) was over in a flash and made way for Iceland, who I feel were the real competition beginners since Rambo never had a chance of qualifying anyway.
– Speaking of Iceland, their dramatic three minutes was a definite highlight, mainly because there were many close-up shots of Jónsi over which I could freely drool because I was by myself.
– Rona Nishliu’s performance for Albania was my favourite of the night. As you may or may not know, I initially hated Suus, but made a swift and unexplained turnaround after I saw the preview video. The live staging did not disappoint, as it was minimal enough to keep the focus on Rona and her insanely amazing voice (seriously, someone needs to put a straight jacket on that thing. It is CRAZY). Her intensity and emotion was all there, and her costume was just as weird and wonderful as I’d been hoping for…although that stray dreadlock did gross me out a little.
– I’ve never seen a moonwalking bagpiper before, so thanks for that, Romania. I wonder if he’ll go on to enjoy the same fame and hilarious Youtube remixes of the epic Moldovan sax guy of Year Oslo?
– Cyprus put on a great show. I loved their outfits, I loved their choreography, and I loved the book-stack prop (once the commentator had informed me that’s what it was. I thought it was a pile of brick pavers at first). I can’t say I loved Ivi’s vocal, but she was far from dreadful. She pulled it off.
– Ireland’s water fountain – the second most literal prop being used this year after Donny Montell’s blindfold – was put to very good use. It was certainly a more fluid mover than either of the Jeds.
– I don’t actually have many of these to talk about. I will say that I wish Austria had incorporated more popo into their act. There was too much pole dancing in my opinion, and not enough shaking of bottoms. Yes, I am a twenty-year-old female who advocates sexist lyrics and accompanying dance moves. You got a problem with that?
– I also feel that the whole show went by very quickly. Eurovision often does, because time does fly when you’re having fun as people who like to talk in clichés say, but I think there was a genuine rushed feeling about it all. The transitions between acts were blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rapid, and the digital enveloped were opened so fast that, has they been real, they would have caused more than a few paper cuts.
– There was no interval act during my broadcast, and I was curious as to whether that was the case in Baku, or if the Australian broadcaster SBS had cut it out. Either way, I was disappointed.
LE SHOCKS AND SURPRISES
– For some reason I expected Anke Engelke to welcome us to Azerbaijan. Last year she made the steadfast hosting script genuinely entertaining, which Leyla, Nargiz and Ell couldn’t quite manage. They looked pretty, though.
– I was pleasantly surprised by the Crystal Hall’s involvement in introducing each country. Whoever came up with the idea to light it up to resemble all 18 national flags deserves a high five.
– Greece’s Aphrodisiac worked very well in the arena – better than it worked in the shopping centre that housed their national final, anyway. I always forget what an impact the traditional music, and the traditional dancing, and the slightly less traditional skimpy dress of the quintessential Greek frontwoman has when you stick it all on a stage in front of thousands of excitable and/or drunk fans.
– Two performances I didn’t expect to enjoy/am ashamed to admit I did came from San Marino and Russia. I don’t know why I liked San Marino’s. Valentina can sure sing, but the costumes were frightening and made no sense, and we all know the song is as high-quality as something a dog would do on the lawn – but I liked it. Go figure. Russia, on the other hand, I suppose is easier to justify. As I predicted, the Babushki received the biggest round of applause of the night, probably because they managed to sing, dance and bake at the same time (and they’re so cute!) Plus, now we know where they found the time to cook those pies for everyone in the press room: during their first rehearsal.
In order of callout, the lucky ten qualifiers were Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Hungary, Denmark, Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Russia and Ireland. This was an easier semi to predict, so I can’t really gloat about getting 8/10 correct. I didn’t think Hungary or Albania would make it, but I’m glad they did – especially in Albania’s case.
I’m very happy for Cyprus. They’re one of those countries that often try so hard but never get anywhere, so I’m thrilled they’ve booked a place for Saturday night.
It did give me great pleasure also to see the powers that be make Jedward sweat it out, and wonder if they were in fact as popular as they thought. I don’t think we would have seen quite as many cartwheels (an amount that puts Donny’s lone one-hander to shame) had they been announced earlier.
To finish off, I’ll just mention the results of the unofficial Australian vote, conducted at www.sbs.com.au/eurovision. Unsurprisingly, it was the grannies who took out the top spot, followed by Ireland and Denmark. Rounding out our top 5 were Iceland and Cyprus. We may well have agreed with Europe, although I can’t imagine that the Babushki scored highly enough with the juries to win the semi. Time will tell who triumphed, who just slipped in and who just missed out…
That’s about all I’ve got to say re: Semi #1, which I suppose was quite a lot. When it comes to Eurovision I can go on for days, so you should count yourself lucky this post wasn’t that excessive. I’ll be back tomorrow with a wrap-up of the second semi, so please don’t tell me who the winner is when I’m still getting over the fact that “Insert Country Name Here” didn’t qualify. In the meantime:
What were your highlights/lowlights of Semi 1???
Aphrodisiac/ Eleftheria Eleftheriou
The good stuff: After three years of sending middle-aged men, giant staplers and a university lecturer in a baseball cap to Eurovision (though not at the same time) Greece has reverted back to the tried-and-tested formula of a (most-likely) scantily clad young woman singing a generic but infuriatingly catchy pop song with a bit of bouzouki thrown in for adequate measure. This decision is fine by me! I’ve really missed the Helena Paparizou/Sarbel/Kalomira-esque entries that Aphrodisiac is clearly modeled after, even though in 2012 they may sound passé. Every time I hear this song, I can picture an awesome stage show that features traditional line dancing and slick choreography, and maybe a costume reveal. Then again, with the Greek economy in such a shocking state, Eleftheria may be forced to run around the stage in a hessian sack whilst her lone backing singer makes shadow puppets.
Everything else: My one major bone to pick with this has to do with the lyrics. It is three minutes of cliché after cliché about minds and times and dancing and falling and all that tired old jazz. Don’t get me wrong, I’d never expect a song like this to be all poetic and deep. I just think another half-hour or so at the writing desk could have produced some slightly more original lyrics for us all to sing along to.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
Sound of Our Hearts/ Compact Disco
[You’ll have to imagine a photo of Compact Disco being here, because my PC has another case of Irefusetouploadthispictureitis]
Best lyric: ‘Harmony can be achieved, just find some way to get connected…’
The good stuff: Firstly, claps for Hungary for coming back after failing to meet expectations last year (although Kati Wolf’s hairdo defied all expectations, and the laws of gravity). This year, they’ve made an interesting choice which could get them a decent result or go absolutely nowhere. Personally, I’m a fan, and I hope it at least gets them out of their semi. It’s a nice, solid pop-rock number with a well-executed chorus which screams “SING ALONG TO ME!”
Everything else: There’s not a lot to do to it – I mean, you can’t really dance to it, and waving a flag/glowstick/pair of underpants would get tedious with that tempo. Because of that, I don’t know how well it will go down in the arena.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
Never Forget/ Greta Salomé & Jónsi
The good stuff: I feel like Iceland want to win bad this year, and I’m wishing them the best of luck (how amazing would a Reykjavik Eurovsion be?) Greta and Jónsi – a.k.a. His Royal Hotness, who has already stepped on the ESC stage, back in 2004 – could well make it happen with this epic effort that makes the best use of violins since Rybak’s Fairytale. Plus, it has one of the best videos of this year’s contest. If they don’t bring the aurora borealis with them to Baku I’ll be crushed.
Everything else: I knew it was coming. After the Icelandic final, the winning song is always put back into English (if that was the original language) or is translated into it for whatever reason. But that doesn’t stop me from missing Mundu Eftir Mér, which had a little extra magic, just like Aftur Heim (which became Coming Home) in 2011, and many previous Icelandic entries. The English version in this case is at the better end of the scale, but I just don’t feel quite as strongly about it.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.
The good stuff: This isn’t that bad considering it has been passed over more than once, allegedly, by other artists, including Eric Saade (if he’d gone to Düsseldorf with it, he wouldn’t have proved quite as Popular. Get me?). Can Jedward improve on last year’s 8th place with it, though? I’m not so sure. It’s an inoffensive poppy number that the twosome will undoubtedly throw all their energy (which is about 100x the amount that us regular folk possess) into performing, while their hard-working backing singers throw all their energy into making John and Edward sound like their vocals are up to scratch. I like the whole watery metaphor going on in this too, although I don’t think any woman would like to go down as ‘the big one’.
Everything else: It’s both tiring and tired to have the twins back in Eurovision with no respite. At least Zdob şi Zdub gave us a break! Since they’re back with an entry that’s more album-filler than contest winner (especially in comparison to Lipstick) I think they’ll struggle to make the top 10. Europe might be over seeing double.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.
The good stuff: This is such a charming little ditty. I realise that using the word ‘ditty’ ages me about fifty years, but it fits Time so nicely. It’s a strange choice of song for Eurovision, but it definitely stands out from the rest in the way Malcolm Lincoln’s song did inOslo. First-time listeners will hang around to hear where it goes. The mix of Hebrew and English works well. All in all, the song wouldn’t be out of place on [Australian indie radio station] Triple J.
Everything else: With a preview video reminiscent of Daniel Diges’ for Algo Pequenito, let’s hope the Israeli Jimmy Jump doesn’t get any stage-invading ideas. Then again,Ukraine’s 2011 video was also set at the circus, so perhaps Izabo will hire a sand artist to accompany them.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.
Beautiful Song/ Anmary
The good stuff: Songs that tell you something usually tell you wrong – think We Are The Winners (yeah, not quite) or That Sounds Good To Me (which sounded good to nobody). But I’ve got to admit, lyrics aside, Anmary’s Beautiful Song doesn’t fall too short of being just that. It’s almost like a slower, more melodious version of Alejandro by Lady Gaga, only this songstress is too sensible to wear those ridiculous lobster claw shoes (which says a lot). I really like the way the song develops. If the lyrics were different and not acted out just so it’s clear how silly they are, I’d say Latvia made a great choice.
Everything else: Unfortunately, Anmary was born in distant 1980 when Irish Johnny Logan won, so the lyrics tell us. If only she’d been born in 1979, because ‘Milk & Honey with Gali Atari’ is much harder to fit into a song. Also, what is up with that wide-eyed look this women adopts when she’s singing (at least in the NF performance I saw)? I can only assume she was engaged in a staring contest with somebody in the audience. It’s safe to say you won, Anmary…you can blink again.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
NEXT TIME: Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro and the Netherlands – it’s your time to be criticised and/or praised!
These days, it’s countries like Greece who always find themselves in the top ten (how terrible for them). But once upon a time – or to be more specific, the period between 1987 and 1999 – it was the UK constantly nabbing one of those coveted positions, believe it or not (with their recent “luck”, it would be easier not to).
If you can think back that far in time, here’s a little trivia question for you. In 1995, Royaume Uni still managed to squeeze into the top ten with an entry that would be doomed in today’s contest. Did this particular entry:
a) Have the same name as the group performing it, which is never a promising sign?
b) Feature such deep, meaningful and poetic lyrics as ‘I know we’re really makin’ love now’ and ‘I saw you had flavour and I wanted a taste of this sweet thing’? (How romantic).
c) See the artists take to the stage wearing more tartan than you’d find at a kilt festival, and not in an acceptable, kilt kind of way?
d) Make Eurovision ghetto by being 95% crap? (I mean rap, obviously. There’s only a one-letter difference. I was bound to make a typo).
e) Do all of the above…and so much more?
If you answered ‘e’, congratulations! And also, commiserations, because apparently you haven’t been lucky enough to banish the horror that was Love City Groove by, yes, Love City Groove, from your mind. It’s hard to digest the fact that seventy-six points were notched up by these guys, enough to get them to number ten (albeit alongside Malta), in a contest where today, not even The World’s Greatest Boy Band* can claw their way up that high, position-wise. Times sure have changed…
*Not an official accolade bestowed upon Blue, unbelievably.