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From one krazy Kyiv kontest to another? 10 things that happened at Eurovision 2005 that should (or really shouldn’t) happen at Eurovision 2017

* Despite what the excessive use of the letter ‘K’ in the title above might suggest, this post has not been sponsored by the Kardashians. Although, if any of them happen to be reading, a little financial help wouldn’t go astray, Kim/Kourtney/Khloé/Kendall/Kylie/somebody stop me because I’ve klearly gone krazy ~kough~.

 

Aaaaaaand I’m back from an unintentionally long blogging vacation. Say yay yay yay!

Yes, I’m still making that joke. No, you don’t have to like it. Blame Barei for its existence and everybody’s continued use of the damn thing.

To quickly explain my absence, before I move on to the topic of today’s comeback Euro-ramble (in case anyone out there missed me): you know how sometimes you just lose your mojo and don’t really feel like doing anything unless it’s something that you’re not supposed to be doing? And other times you’re so overwhelmed by the general hectic-ness of life, you barely have the energy to keep your eyes open when you fall through your front door let alone create something coherent that other people could/would want to read? Feel free to alter that writer-specific problem to make it identifiable for you, so you can actually say ‘YES!’ to that ‘you know how…’.

Well, I’ve been dragged down by an unfortunate combo of both of those things during the past month or so. It’s like being stuck in a rut that you’re too lethargic to claw your way out of, and it sucks harder than the City of Stockholm’s realisation that a certain Romanian flagpole had to come down.

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It hurts, oh it hurts, really hurts…when life got you like THIS.

But, THANK THE LORDI, those feelings of uselessness and non-productivity have (almost completely) passed – so I guess neither are the feelings Justin Timberlake can’t stop. As such, I’m not going to bore you about them any longer. Just remember: if you’re ever feeling crappy in the same or in a different way, Eurovision will always be there for you, and have your back once you rise like a phoenix out of the ashes seeking rather than vengeance, retribution. To quote a certain and very wise Miss Wurst (a.k.a. her songwriters).

Now, in the interest of making up for lost time + acknowledging a host city announcement that totally passed me by, I’m going to get cracking on the content I had planned before The Dark Days of Non-Blogging commenced. And I’m starting with a nostalgic nod back to the last adult ESC to take place in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine and the “recently” revealed location of Eurovision 2017. Yes, for the fourth time in a row, everybody’s favourite song contest that doesn’t start with an ‘M’ and end with ‘elodifestivalen’ is off to a European capital!

Specifically, the ESC will be hitting up Kyiv on the 9th, 11th and 13th of May next year, as we’re all aware. By then, it will have been twelve years since the contest was last hosted by the city (Junior Eurovision popped up there in 2009 and 2013, but we’re sticking with the senior show as our subject matter right now). As a result, we can expect to see a contest that, by comparison to the 2005 edition, has evolved in a big way. I look forward to assembling sets of screenshots that amusingly illustrate this (which you’ll be able to see here or on Instagram. Follow me @eurovisionbyjaz for guaranteed LOLs).

It’ll certainly be interesting comparing Kyiv 2005 to Kyiv 2017, just as it would be comparing Stockholm 2000 to Stockholm 2016 (come to think of it, why haven’t I done that yet?). After all, Eurovision ain’t the same creature now that it was five years ago, let alone over a decade ago. Still, for every little thing I’ll be happy to see has changed between Ukrainian hostings, there’s something else that will or should make a comeback. For example…

 
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As many countries as possible bringing something traditional to the buffet table – or at least something that fuses an ethnic sound with cutting-edge pop or urban sounds. Many of us have fond memories of the likes of Hungary’s Forogj Világ (I still aspire to nailing that choreography while wearing a super glam one-legged outfit), Serbia & Montenegro’s Zauvijek Moja and Albania’s Tomorrow I Go contributing to the cultural diversity of the 2005 line-up. And that was in the wake of two traditionally-tinged winners in a row. If we had a random repeat of that in a time when the majority of entries don’t even whisper (let alone scream) ‘I was born and bred in *Insert Country of Your Choice Here*’, I wouldn’t mind at all. It’s more likely, though, that there’ll be a flood of songs attempting to emulate the reigning champion instead (I can foresee Ireland entering an avant-garde song called 1996 which tearfully recounts the last time they managed to come out on top).

Helena Paparizou. Speaking of traditionally-tinged winners…I don’t care whether she represents Greece, Sweden (though I do have Oscar Zia at the top of my wish-list for this year’s hosts) or San Marino (My Numero Uno has a nice ring to it) – she’s still got it, and Eurovision needs it! We know Helena is open to giving the show a third shot, and as Kyiv blessed her with such good fortune back in the day, it could be fate for her to make it back to the ESC stage, in the same city. Emphasis on ‘could’. Remember, I’m so far from psychic I only predicted 6/10 qualifiers of Stockholm’s first semi despite being on location and witnessing every single rehearsal *immediately regrets bringing that up again*.

Moldova recruiting a grandmamma to beat on her own personal drumma – i.e. Moldova making the same kind of splash they made with their debut entry Boonika Bate Doba. That might involve bringing Zdob și Zdub back once more or finding a fresh face to fly their flag. Either way, Moldova needs to rethink their Eurovision approach if they want to get out of the semis and shoot up the Saturday scoreboard next year, and taking some cues from when they’d just started out could work wonders in that department. If nothing else, they should remember that ZșZ didn’t debut by literally tearing their (fake) hair out, or accidentally leaving their delegation lanyards on during the broadcast.

Andorra and Monaco. Okay, so we’ve already had word that neither of these ’05 competitors will be showing up in Kyiv, and that’s not surprising. But let’s branch out by saying that ANYONE who joined the party back then but has since elected to stay home watching Netflix in their pajamas – i.e. Turkey – should put some fancy clothes on and come the heck back to the contest.

Finally, a fashion-oriented hope from someone who can’t help devoting a large chunk of time to critiquing costume choices: can we please see evidence of evening gown game that matches 2005 in terms of sheer (not literally…or maybe literally) lustworthiness? I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who salivated over Shiri Maimon’s ‘grandma’s sofa meets glamorous soiree’ getup back in the day. Malta’s Chiara, Monaco’s Lise Darly and The Netherlands’ Glennis Grace also deserved A-grades in the evening-style stakes (by 2005 standards). 2016, by contrast, was more about flesh-flashing, jumpsuits and whatever it was that Nina Krajlić was wearing (does ANYONE have an explanation for that?). Okay, so there were a handful of red carpet-worthy dresses to swoon over in Stockholm – Dami Im’s and Ira Losco’s being my personal favourites. But there can always be more, in my opinion., as long as a greater number of evening gowns doesn’t equate to a greater number of lame lady ballads.

 

And now *turns table draped in crystal-encrusted fabric*…

 

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The reigning champion taking to the stage with an industrial-sized blowtorch and singeing the eyebrows off a few dozen audience members in the process. As comical as it would be to see Jamala work that into a reprise of 1944, I love her winning entry because it isn’t a laughing matter. An oversized flaming gun would detract from the sentiment and seriousness of the song just a teensy bit, don’t you think?

Bulgaria sending a track that could be the theme of a soft porn movie centred on the ESC (something that should NEVER exist…though if it did, you can guarantee that Serhat would play a starring role). Especially one that oh-so-inventively rhymes ‘Lorraine’ with ‘rain’, ‘pain’ and ‘again’. After their criminally good – best ever, in fact – result with Poli this year, I think they’ve got the power to pull a Belgium and bring us two excellent entries on the trot. They 110% have the power to not be accused of plagiarism, á la 2005.

Portugal (because at this point, they’ve said they’ll be in Kyiv) suffering from an extreme case of ‘FOR THE LOVE OF MR. GOD, WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE FIX THOSE DAMN MICS!’. A performance free of technical hitches was not to be for 2B in 2005, but with all the extravagant futuristic stuff we saw on stage in Stockholm, supplying the artists with fully functioning microphones shouldn’t be an issue in this day and age. Should it? Perhaps I’ve jinxed Portugal just by musing about this.

Serbia & Montenegro, obviously. Replace the ampersand with an actual ‘and’, and that gives us two countries who’ll most likely set foot on Ukrainian soil next May. But we’re definitely not going to see them hooking back up and giving Bosnia & Herzegovina a run for their money in the excessive-syllable stakes. Is that a shame? Were they better together? Not necessarily. And hey, the likelihood of an extra Balkan ballad in the ESC field has increased since 2006. Montenegro has been the weakest link since the split, with a few semi qualifications being the closest they’ve come to matching Serbia’s win and their various other successes. But when Montenegro is on point, they are a force to be reckoned with (Moj Svijet and Adio are masterpieces, no question). So while we won’t see them skipping around the 2017 stage hand-in-hand with Serbia, there’s the potential of both countries sending epic songs to the competition. Of course, whoever takes Željko Joksimović captive and demands he compose for them will have the upper hand.

Sweden sending a song that includes the lyrics ‘Fred the limo driver’s asking polite: “Leaving Las Vegas tonight?”’. It’s not that I don’t care about Fred the limo driver’s thoughts and feelings (and despite Las Vegas being one of Sweden’s less successful entries of the 2000s, I still get a kick out of it) – it’s just that he won’t crack a mention in 2017. Sweden has moved past that kind of lyrical content. Basically, Christer Björkman will be on the hunt for another Eurovision winner after two whole years between trophy acquisitions (oh, the pain!), and name-dropping hired help does not a winning song make.

 

So those are the things, off the top of my head, that I’m hoping/I know we will and won’t witness when Eurovision descends on Kyiv next May. More will come to me between now and then, I’m guessing. I apologise in advance.

What’s off the top, in the middle or at the bottom of your brain when it comes to your hopes for the 2017 contest? How would you like the upcoming Ukrainian show to differ from the last, and what are you praying happens again? If your answer to the latter is ‘Ruslana’s blowtorch routine!’, then I suppose I can get on board with that, even if Jamala DOES incorporate it into a new and “improved” presentation of 1944. I mean, she is an utter queen who can do no wrong, so I’m sure she’d pull it off.

 

Until next time (which will be in the not-too-distant future, I promise)…

 

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Vote, vote, vote for the winner! Of Melodifestivalen, that is…

Hello there. So, in my last post, I promised that Melodifestivalen madness would take over my next ramble, with a poll AND a top 10 focused on what is the most Eurovision-like national final around. I intend to keep that promise, however…now that the Melfest final is full up for another year, I couldn’t resist getting my poll on early, for reasons such as a) I don’t want to be the absolute last person to do it; b) I want to give you guys more time to vote; and c) I seriously need help predicting the winner of this year’s comp, and I figured this might help with that. I’ll add my Top 10 Melfest entries of the last five years into this post later in the week, but right now, let’s get our poll awn, y’all!

I’m asking you – yes, you (love that shirt, by the way) – this very important question. This isn’t about who should win Melfest in your opinion; it’s about who you believe will sing their way into the good graces of Sweden and the international juries and head off to Copenhagen in May.

Consider your choice carefully…the correctness of my upcoming prediction depends on it!

Spread the word and get your friends, family, mailman, newsagent and that creepy guy staring at you on the bus to vote for the likely winner. Le results will be revealed prior to Saturday’s final (duh!) so get in while it still makes sense.

BRB…voting myself.

 

Discussing, predicting and March-ing on with another Super Saturday!

Yes, it’s now March. But let’s not dwell on that flabbergasting fact, because this year appears to be going just as fast as the last and that scares me. Instead, let’s get straight on to the good stuff: NF talk! This is the first Super Saturday of this month, as I see it.

 

The end of Eesti Laul 

I’ll admit, I’m a pretty sad panda because I did not follow Eesti Laul in detail this year. This national final is becoming a revered one in the Eurovision community, over and above the old classics such as Melodifestivalen (still my favourite, in case you were wondering) and always produces multiple gems that get mentioned like they’re going out of style in every ‘what could have been’ post on the whole internet. Last year, for example, EL gave the world Grete Paia’s electronic epic Päästke Noored Hinged. It also gave birth to the web phenomenon – and the stuff of nightmares – that is Winny Puhh, but the less said about them, the better sleep I’ll get tonight.

The horror of the one time I watched this performance will never leave me.

The horror of the one time I watched this performance will never leave me.

What I’m trying to say is that whilst EL may not be perfect, it seems to be consistently interesting and never boring, and so I’m making a vow right now to follow it in 2015 like it’s Ott Lepland and I’m in full stalker mode. As things stand, I’ve listened to three of the ten songs in tonight’s final line-up; a.k.a. 5, 9 and 10 in the running order below.  

  1. Laule Täis Taevakaar by Brigita Murutar
  2. Für Elise by Traffic
  3. Search by Norman Salumäe
  4. Resignal by Wilhelm
  5. Supernoova by Lenna
  6. Maybe-Maybe by Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band
  7. Siin Või Sealpool Maad by Maiken
  8. Tule Ja Jää by Kõrsikud
  9. Amazing by Tanja
  10. Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu

I listened to Lenna’s because she’s Eurovision alumni (as part of Vanilla Ninja and representing Switzerland, mind you) and had a wonderful song in EL a couple of year ago. I wasn’t too impressed this time, unfortunately. I listened to Tanja’s because a ton of people were saying how amazing it was (pardon the pun) and calling her out as the favourite very early on, and I was curious. Again, I was let down.

As you’ll know if you’ve read my last few posts (the reward for which is my gratitude and a possible free dinner if we ever meet in the flesh) I listened to Sandra’s because SHE IS FLAWLESS AND I WILL LOVE HER UNTIL THE END OF TIME. Also, on a saner note, I was interested to hear something solo from her post Urban Symphony. It was third time lucky with EL 2014, because I fell in love with Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad instantly. It’s uplifting, it’s infectious, and Estonian has never sounded so pretty. Therefore, without having heard any competition that would be worthy of beating her, I am backing her FTW tonight. She’s doing wonders in popularity polls the whole web over, and whilst that may have something to do with her previous ESC benchmark, I’m hoping it also bodes well for her result. Her song is more than good enough to justify her return to Europe’s biggest and most bespangled stage.

Do you think Sandra has what it takes, or is there someone I’m missing from Eesti Laul?

 

Who will be given a second chance in Sweden?

It’s really, really hard to say. The penultimate installment of Melodifestivalen takes place tonight in Lidköping, with eight songs fighting for the last two positions in next weekend’s finale. In the past, when the Andra Chansen eight have been paired up in duels from the start, it’s been easier to guess at what the outcome might be. These days, the process is as follows: half the songs will be knocked out after a round of voting, and the remaining four will then be paired up in duels. The winners of those duels will go to the final and attempt to do a Robin Stjernberg – or at least an Anton Ewald (Anton himself, already in the final this year, will be attempting to do a Loreen…I think). So, that said, here are the songs we’re all racking our brains over:

  1. Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
  2. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  3. Love Trigger by J.E.M
  4. All We Are by State of Drama
  5. En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
  6. När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
  7. Survivor by Helena Paparizou
  8. Echo by Outtrigger

It’s a strong show for the most part – Linus, Helena and Outtrigger, for example, were among my favourites in their respective semis. The math/rules dictate that I’m going to lose at least one song I’d love to see go through, and most likely more, so I’ll be all like 😀 if I get my way on one.

But who I want and who will actually get that precious second shot are two very different things. After much deliberation, and with a feeling of wrong-ness still lurking inside me, this is how I believe things will go down.

After the first round of voting: 

  1. Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
  2. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  3. Love Trigger by J.E.M
  4. All We Are by State of Drama
  5. En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
  6. När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
  7. Survivor by Helena Paparizou (sorry, Helena fans…I just have this feeling)
  8. Echo by Outtrigger
I think AC could be the end of the line for Helena.

I think AC could be the end of the line for Helena.

After the duels: Martin and Outtrigger. Martin’s the only AC contestant to have graced the heights of Swedish iTunes, which shows that Sweden are liking him a lot. Outtrigger’s semi performance of a damn good song was disturbing yet fascinating, and tonight should be the same.

So for me, it’s a former ESC entrant and a straightjacket-loving rock band filling those final spots. What about you…who will the lucky two be? And/or, who do you want them to be?

 

Getting Lithuania’s Attention, and is Romania a done deal?

Also on the agenda for this evening is Lithuania’s artist selection (because they chose their song a week ago. I don’t get it either) and the one-off Romanian final that is Selecția Națională. I purposely haven’t listened to Attention, the Lithuanian entry, because I’m waiting to see what final form it takes. Nor have I listened to any of the Romanian possibles, since I chose their NF as one of my surprises. Nope – I haven’t even let myself play Paula & Ovi’s Miracle, which really is a miracle. With such a lack of stuff to say here, I can ask one big question: do Paula & Ovi have the Romanian representation all sewn up? Many fans seem to think they do, and that TVR even bothering to hold their final is pointless. I’d like to think that P & O wouldn’t be chosen because of who they are in favour of a better entry – but then again, I’m finding it hard to extend that thinking to Estonia, so why should I expect that of a whole country? At the same time, it’s exciting to think that the duo that did so well back in Oslo could be back at the big show and hungry for an even better placing.

I’m so confused! Help me out if you’re clued in on the Selecția selection. Would Miracle deserve to go to Eurovision no matter who was performing it?

 

Ireland, Azerbaijan and France: past and future entries

To finish off, here are my thoughts on the NF just gone, and the two to come on Sunday.

  • Ireland chose their entry after a show that brought out Linda Martin’s inner psycho, and it’s Heartbeat by Can-linn feat. Kasey Smith. I don’t want to give a mahusive verdict pre-review, so I’ll just say it’s not a bad choice. It’s current, has a little Irish stamp on it, and the live performance seems to be more effective than the studio, which matters. I’ll see how I feel in a month or so.
  • Azerbaijan’s Böyük Səhnə ends tomorrow night, presumably with an effortlessly good pop song performed by a super-attractive guy or girl who can smoulder down the camera like nobody’s business. The person will also have some other day job or talent that makes them awesome, such as being a lawyer, speaking three languages including that of the Eurovision host country, or being a master of capoeira. It’s just Azerbaijan’s way.
  • France’s winning song will also be revealed Sunday, and I’m expecting it to be Ma Liberté or Moustache. I want TwinTwin like cray-cray, but I won’t be devastated should Joanna and the work of art that is her hairdo be the chosen ones.
It's not hard to tell which one of them wants the moustache...

It’s not hard to tell which one of them wants the moustache…

 

So that’s basically all the action of this weekend, which should keep you satisfied. Next week brings more, however. Monday, we discover just who’s representing the UK and with what (which may actually be worth looking forward to if the BBC are to be believed) and Wednesday, Mei Finegold’s song for Israel will be picked. In amongst that, I’ll be back with a themed post in honour of Melodifestivalen. Not only will you have the privilege (ha ha) of voting in my own personal ‘So, like, who’s gonna win Melfest?’ poll, but I’ll also be revealing my top 10 Melfest entries of the last five years (because the last 10+ was JUST. TOO. HARD!). Have your own lists at the ready so we can compare notes. Please?

EBJ Signature

 

Mediocrity, Melodifestivalen and UMK: Welcome to February!

Madonna once said “Time. Goes. By. So. Slowly.” You can hear it for yourself on that dodgy yet somehow appealing song she did a few years ago that sampled ABBA. But let me tell you, she was a lying harlot, because literally one minute ago it was New Year’s Eve (well, not literally…but bear with my exaggeration) and now, it’s freaking February! I’ve had to change my calendar already, and that is not what I call a leisurely passing of time.  

On the plus side, February is going to make up for the pathetic showing January put on, national final-wise. The next four weeks are packed with preselections, beginning with this Super Saturday we’re about to experience. That means I won’t be posting the retro ranking I promised at the end of my last post just yet, but I plan to squeeze it in amongst all of the NF reviews and predictions that are coming your way via moi this month.

Firstly, it’s time to check out the main events of this evening, direct from Finland, Switzerland, and (saving the best for last) Sweden. Get excited, guys!

 

Who will Finnish first in the Finnish final?

UMK-2014

During its warm-up period of advancements and eliminations, Finland’s UMK has sent a whopping FOUR WHOLE SONGS packing. Eight remain in with a chance to succeed Team Ding Dong in Copenhagen.

  1. Something Better by Softengine
  2. Hope by Hanna Sky
  3. God/Drug by MIAU
  4. Going Down by Lauri Mikkola
  5. Shining Bright by MadCraft
  6. Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola
  7. Top of the World by Clarissa feat. Josh Standing
  8. Selja by Hukka Ja Mama

Up until yesterday, I hadn’t listened to any of the Finnish songs, wanting to make the result a brand-new discovery. But having heard only good things about the finalists (bar the odd snarky comment) I couldn’t resist stopping by Youtube and feasting my ears on one of those handy recap videos made up of thirty-second snippets.

My verdict? Well, any seasoned ESC fan knows you can’t judge a song by one listen of an excerpt. That’s why I’m still holding out hope that I’m more impressed by the full song that wins than I was by any of the snippets. Don’t get me wrong, there was some promising stuff in there – but you UMK followers out there had me thinking I was going to be blown away by each and every one, darn you.

The songs that did appeal to me on snippet alone: God/Drug, Sängyn Reunalla and Top of the World. I’ve seen some of these crop up in the fandom (i.e. on social media/in blog comment sections) as favourites, and there’s a 50% chance one of them will win, so…happy face?

Truth is, I don’t have the authority to predict UMK 2014. But since I distinctly remember saying ‘meh’ to a snippet of Marry Me this time last year, that may be irrelevant.

Those in the know – what do you think? Who’s got the goods to represent Finland in Denmark?

 

Swiss-appointment in Die Grosse Entscheidungsshow  

Moving on to tonight’s second final, I must give you a warning: prepare yourself for a rather bitchy Jaz.

In all my history as an NF follower, I have never been impressed by the Swiss line-up, but I’ve always been able to console myself with the few musical gems present. Unfortunately, things have taken a turn for the even worse this year, because Switzerland is bringing us what I believe to be the worst national final line-up of ALL. TIME. I don’t even think Kanye West would interrupt me to disagree.

I actually miss Piero and his music stars. Oh dear god.

This year’s final is making me miss Piero and his music stars. Oh dear god!

For years I’ve been wondering what Switzerland’s problem is. Why have we been getting stuff on a par with The Wiggles’ Big Red Car year after year, save a couple of brief, shining examples of semi-decent music? This year, each Swiss broadcaster even had to go through an ‘Expert Check’ stage to whittle down their submitted list of songs to the best of the best (or so we were led to believe) and yet, the six songs remaining are a woeful bunch, IMHO. Perhaps the ‘experts’ in question thought their role was to sniff out any signs of potential Eurovision success and destroy them. If so, that misinterpretation has left us with these:

  1. Au Paradis by Christian Tschanz – gravelly-sung, inoffensive (read: boring) guitar pop. The only saving grace is that, since it’s in French and I hardly know any, I have no idea if the lyrics are up to the cringe-worthy standard of the English-language entries.
  2. Together Forever by 3 For All – okay, so the accordion riff is catchy, but everything else, title and group name included, is pure Swiss cheese. It makes me sicker than the thought of Engelbert Humperdinck in a mankini.
  3. La Luce Del Cuore by Nino Colonna – not awful, but forgettable. The kind of song that wouldn’t make it past the first evening of San Remo.
  4. I Still Believe by Yasmina Hunzinger – I hope you’re hungry, ‘cause here’s another hunk of Swiss cheese! This is 2014, and I think it’s beyond time for the rubbish ballads about believing and achieving and having faith and uniting as one to be shelved. Or preferably, binned.
  5. Une Terre Sans Vous by Natacha & Stéphanie – this actually borders on being nice, but that doesn’t stop it from being bland. If it goes to Copenhagen, expect it to be everybody’s toilet break song.
  6. Hunter of Stars by Sebalter – last but not least, a more alternative version of boring guitar pop. Some of the lyrics make no sense, which I happen to prefer over lyrics that encourage us to join hands and all that crap. Send this, Switzerland. Why not?

So yeah, you could say I’m disappointed in the Swiss. Last year’s Grosse Show at least had the likes of Carrousel, Jesse Ritch and Melissa raising the bar. This year, I can’t express enthusiasm for any particular song to win, and that makes me sad.

I can say who I think will win, and that’s 3 For All, Yasmina or Sebalter. Do you agree? Am I being too negative, or do you think Switzerland should just stay home and think things over this year?

 

Saturday’s saving grace, straight from Sweden

My Swiss rant is out of the way, so let’s get on to the good stuff. Melodifestivalen has arrived!

Call it a cliché, but Melfest has long been my favourite NF. The standard is always high (unless they’ve won Eurovision the year before) and it always attracts a great mixture of big names and relative unknowns. Last year Melfest provided my top ESC-related moment of the year when Robin Stjernberg emerged from Andra Chansen and won. I’ll never forget the look on his face when it dawned on him what had happened.

You could say Robin was taken by surprise...

You could say Robin was taken by surprise…

Winning saw him represent Sweden in Malmö Arena last May, and fittingly, that’s the location of tonight’s first semi final, which will begin and end with two of the aforementioned big names.

The eight competing songs were released earlier this evening. Here’s the running order.

  1. To The End by YOHIO
  2. Aleo by Mahan Moin
  3. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  4. Casanova by Elisa Lindström
  5. Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella
  6. Songbird by Ellen Benediktson
  7. Bygdens Son by Sylvester Schlegel
  8. Survivor by Helena Paparizou   
They're a handsome bunch, but are their songs as attractive?

They’re a handsome bunch, but are their songs as attractive?

It’s all about the soloists tonight, but – let’s not kid ourselves – mainly YOHIO and Helena. They may be getting a lot of love, but they’ll also be judged harshly on their previous efforts, YOHIO for Melfest 2013 and Helena for Eurovision 2001 and 2005. Did To The End and Survivor impress, or did the newer-comers leave the old-timers in their dust? Well, here’s my top 4.

Aleo this ain’t no cookie-cutter ethno-dance track, which means it’s not as instant as the Allez Ola Olés of the world, but I like that it keeps veering into unexpected places.

Bröder I expected heavy metal and death growls from the pierced and tattooed Linus (yes, I know what they say about books and covers and judging and whatnot) but this is actually really nice. There are heavier parts that allow him to get rough, but generally it’s quite nice. There’s some emotion in there that got me.

Bedroom hands down my favourite of the semi, this is a ridiculously catchy dance track that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio anywhere, if it weren’t for the risqué subject matter. I really hope this goes through, but that depends a lot on whether Alvaro can pull off a decent live vocal. If he can’t, it could be a train wreck.

Survivor how could I say no to Helena? Again, I had expectations that were defied, because this is not a schlager-scented club banger. It’s more of a pop ballad, with a strong chorus and verses. It doesn’t scream “WINNER!” but it should do her well.

Now, for prediction time…half of these semi-finalists will advance in some way as normal – the top two to the final, and the third and fourth-placers to Andra Chansen (which, as we now know, is not at all a sign they can’t possibly go on and win). This seems like an easy semi to predict as far as the finalists go, but we’ll see how what happens. This is what my gut is telling me:

To the final: YOHIO and Helena.

To Andra Chansen: Linus and Alvaro.

I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the favourites got bumped to Andra. Melodifestivalen has been both incredibly predictable and shockingly random in the past. Either way, it’s good to hear the show back at the usual standard, as indicated by this first lot of entries. I don’t think SVT will be in it (a.k.a. Eurovision) to win it again just yet, but it seems they’d like a stronger result than last year’s.

 

The tasty leftovers: what else is happening tonight?

This is a Super Saturday and a half, folks. Finland, Switzerland and Sweden aside, here’s what you can be watching while your non-Eurovision fan friends go out and socialise.

Heat 1 of Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin

Heat 2 of Hungary’s A Dal

Semi 1 of Latvia’s Dziesma

Show 8 of Lithuania’s Eurovizijos Dainu Konkursa

For a comprehensive list of what’s on, when, and where you can tune in, visit the guide over at Wiwi Bloggs. 

 

No matter what you choose as your Saturday night viewing, I hope you enjoy it. And don’t go too hard – the rest of February’s weekends will be just as busy, so you’ll need some energy for those. I know I’ll have a great time posting this ASAP then going to bed because I can’t be bothered getting up at 3am to watch a wonderful but highly predictable Melfest semi (which would be my NF of choice, obvs). Maybe I’ll dream of the day Switzerland becomes an ESC force to be reckoned with? 

 

What are you watching tonight? Who should win where? And, if you’re reading this post-Saturday night…OMG, what was up with that result?

 

EBJ’s top 10…random favourites from Eurovision artists

For the first time in a looooooooong time, here’s a post that doesn’t require an intro. The title pretty much says it all, don’t you think?

 

#1 / Dyshi by Serebro (Russia 2007)

This has got to be one of my favourite songs of all time, possibly because the lyrics make no mention of anyone tasting anyone else’s “cherry pie” but probably because it’s got a haunting quality that gives me goosebumps every time. One of the singles from Serebro’s debut album Opiumroz (one of the few albums I own on which no song needs to be skipped over) what makes it particularly memorable is the video, which is beautifully shot…but seriously random.

 

#2 / Mechtateli by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006/2008)

Here’s another Russian pop ballad that, I have to admit, could sound less like Dyshi. What can I say? I have a type. It’s the almost-title track from Dima’s most recent album, coincidentally (or not) another one that requires no skip button. For those of us who would argue that the guy is at his best when singing in Russian, it could also be Exhibit A in the case for.

 

#3 / Skorpion by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)

* The version below is shortened. Give the full one a listen if you haven’t before – you won’t regret it!

Italian may be regarded as the world’s most musical language, but I’ve got a soft spot for Estonian. When it’s sung by the amazingly/annoyingly talented Sandra Nurmsalu and backed by pretty much every string instrument ever created, the magic reaches a whole new level. Skorpion is the second single US released post-Moscow, and it’s the same blend of classic and contemporary that got them to 6th place back then.

 

#4 / Broken Angel by Arash (Azerbaijan 2009)

Arash swapped Aysel for Swedish singer Helena Josefsson on this track, which was more of a homage to his Iranian ethnicity than his more distant Azeri. For me this song is better than Always, though it would no doubt have done worse at Eurovision (mainly because it doesn’t scream ‘I need to be danced to by very flexible women in revealing Lycra!’). Side note: Arash calls Malmö home, so here’s hoping he crops up somewhere in the contest next year.

 

#5 / Hasta Que Me Ames by D’Nash (Spain 2007)

If you wanted to like Spain’s entry in Helsinki, but found it too shouty and/or too Spanish, I have two things to say to you. Firstly, what is wrong with you? That entry kicked butt. Secondly, this song may be more to your liking being by the same quartet of hot men, just with a more mainstream boyband sound. I imagine a music video would feature them wearing white and dancing energetically yet mournfully on majestic cliff tops.

 

#6 / Vysoko by Julia Savicheva (Russia 2004)

More proof of Russia’s talent for producing haunting ballads, coming right up! I never thought that much of Julia’s Eurovision entry, but once she’d stopped dancing with clumsy men who’d obviously fallen into a massive paint puddle, her musical stylings suited me better. This song would make a great backing track for a Russian tourism campaign.

 

#7 / Solo by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)

I was torn between including this, from Milan’s debut album of the same name, or the more recent Perje – a Balkan ballad in the Željko Joksimović mould – but ended up going for the upbeat one since there’s been so many ballads already (I have a weakness). Solo makes Milan out to be a bit of a ladies’ man, which is hard to believe given that haircut, but it also makes me want to shake my thing. Sometimes that’s all you need.

 

#8 / Moon of Dreams by Ruslana (Ukraine 2004)

I thought Ruslana, champion of Eurovision and human rights, could do no wrong. That was until she decided that teaming up with T-Pain was a good idea. Overly-autotuned rappers aside, it’s another cracker that doesn’t stray too far from her formula of ethno-R-and-B-pop. Nor does the video give any indication that she’s ever strayed from using Xena Warrior Princess as her style icon.

 

#9 / Baby It’s Over by Helena Paparizou (Greece 2001/2005)

Helena is arguably the second-most glamorous lady in ESC history (nobody out-glamours Dana International) as well as a supremely successful recording artist. This track comes from her epic Greatest Hits and More album, and if it’s the first you’ve heard of her since she won the contest, you may be surprised at the lack of Greek-ness involved. Unsurprising is the radio-friendliness.

 

#10 / Break of Dawn by Eric Saade (Sweden 2011)

Speaking of radio-friendly fodder, here’s something from Sweden’s favourite manboy before he was Popular. The song’s excellent, if you like this sort of thing (which I do) but the video is even better, because Eric does more ‘intense face’ in the few minutes of running time than anyone I’ve ever seen. You can’t say the guy’s not talented.

 

Got any  favourite random songs from ESC artists? Let me know below…

 

Eurovision Challenge: Day 11

Artist/band you now love because of Eurovision

Almost there:

Helena Paparizou (Greece 2001/2005) – e.g. Light In Our Soul, Heroes and Baby It’s Over

Dima Bilan (Russia 2006/2008 – e.g. Not That Simple, Safety and Dreamers)

Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010 – e.g. Solo, Face and Perje)

Mika Newton (Ukraine 2011 – e.g. Anomaliya, Lunapark and Moscow Calling)

 

But my most loved is:

Serebro (Russia 2007)

Sigh…Russians just know how to do pop music. I’m not sure about Serebro’s tendency to get naked/all over each other in every video clip, Tatu-style, but their music more than makes up for that. Their first album OpiumRoz is one of the few I have that I love every song on, and it looks like their upcoming second one, which is more dance-inspired, will be the same.

I love Opium, Skazhi Ni Molchi and Like Mary Warner (to name a few) but my favourite (and one of my favourite songs EVER!) is Dyshi, or Breathe.

 

The winner takes it all…but what happens next???

Here’s a few questions for you: do you keep up to date with the careers of any Eurovision winners? Are you still listening to their music? Have you become enough of a fan to like them on Facebook? Or have you forgotten all about them (shame on you)?

My answers vary, so I decided to do a little more research to see how some of the last decade’s champions have fared since they earned enough douze points to earn them a place in the history books (the ESC history books, that is: the most interesting history books out!). Here’s what I discovered…

 

Sertab Erener

Sertab in Riga, 2003; and her latest album Rengarenk

Winner of: 2003 (Riga, Latvia) with Every Way That I Can

Since her win, Sertab has released 6 albums and 11 singles. Her winning song went to #1 in Turkey, Sweden and Greece, but she has made limited chart appearances in the last few years – despite such prolific musical activity. Her singles that have topped the charts are Here I Am (2003) and Bu Böyle (2009), which both made it in Turkey. Sertab’s last official release was Açik Adres in 2009, which reached #3 there.

My pick for Sertab: Here I Am http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8atJYRVFWmc&ob=av2e

Listen to her latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ke8xhFUr7k

 

Ruslana

Ruslana in Istanbul, 2004; and her latest album, Wild Energy

Winner of: 2004 (Istanbul, Turkey) with Wild Dances

Since exchanging her Xena, Warrior Princess leather for…well, more leather, Ruslana has released 4 albums and 12 singles. Her winning song went to #1 in Greece, Ukraine and Belgium, and #2 in Turkey. The majority of her releases since have been Ukrainian singles and have charted consistently, with Ring Dance with the Wolves (2005), Skazhy Meni (2005), Dyka Enerhiya (2006), Vidlunnia Mriy (2008) and Moon of Dreams (2008) all reached the #1 position. Her latest release is Wow (2011) which peaked at #7.

My pick for Ruslana: Moon of Dreams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFkJLhgyQag&feature=related

Listen to her latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFEDBrgYbkM

 

Helena Paparizou

Helena in Kyiv, 2005; and her latest album, Greatest Hits and More

Winner of: 2005 (Kyiv, Ukraine) with My Number One

Helena has released 5 albums, 22 singles and numerous EPs since triumphing in Kyiv. Her chart successes have been almost countless! Her winning song went to #1 in Greece and Sweden and she has barely been out of the top 10 in Greece since. Lately, she hasn’t charted charts as solidly as she did in the few years post-win, but nonetheless continues to be a hugely popular artist. She’s topped the charts in Greece and Cyprus with Mambo! (2005), and in Greece with Heroes (2006), Fos (2007), Mazi Sou (2007), To Fili Tis Zois (2007), Porta Gia Ton Ourano (2008), I Kardia Sou Petra (2008) and Baby It’s Over (2011). Her latest single is Love Me Crazy.

My pick for Helena: Baby It’s Over, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jBuniWjsgw&feature=fvwrel

Listen to her latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEmFeyaS9GQ

 

Dima Bilan

Dima in Belgrade, 2008; and his latest album, Dreamers

Winner of: 2008 (Belgrade, Serbia) with Believe

Dima has produced 3 albums and 10 singles since ripping his shirt open in Serbia. Believe failed to make an impact on the charts, only just making the Top 30 in Sweden, and slipping in to the Top 100 in Belgium and Germany. Several of his other singles have reached #1 in Russia. His latest album, Dreamer features a duet with singer Anastacia, and the title track was the latest to be released in March 2011.

My pick for Dima: Changes, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tayy4Hiyn28&feature=related

Listen to his latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3cd0OkaPP0

 

Alexander Rybak

Alexander in Moscow, 2009; and his latest album, Visa Vid Vindens Angar

Winner of: 2009 (Moscow, Russia) with Fairytale

Alexander’s record victory saw him catapulted to the top spot in Norway, Ireland, Russia, Finland, Greece, Sweden and Denmark, as well as making the Top 10 in the UK (an honourable achievement for a modern Eurovision entry!) and charting in Australia. He’s since released 3 albums and 7 singles. His first single after Eurovision, Funny Little World, went to #1 in Norway, but his latest Swedish-language single Resan Till Dig has failed to chart anywhere, unfortunately. Still, Alex scored a whopping great legion of loyal fans alongside his whopping great score in Moscow.

My pick for Alexander: Fela Igjen (feat. Opptur), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaH-VAC-fxs

Listen to his latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elj2rrnqY7Q