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The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 3 (The Show + The Results)

Well…I was all set to start this post with a ‘Hey, at least I managed to finish these awards before the 2017 contest came out on DVD!’ (like that would have been an achievement anyway). But MY BAD, missed the boat on that one. So instead, I’ll open with a ‘Hey, at least I managed to finish these awards before my 2017 DVD arrived in the mail!’. True fact.

The reason for my lateness is the same as always: life, its craziness, and the annoying need to prioritise ‘other stuff’ over Eurovision stuff. It sucks, doesn’t it? But I figure that if you love the ESC as much as I do (unconditionally, and with a burning desire not unlike the one Kasia Mós mentions in Flashlight) then you won’t care which contest I’m discussing and when. A.k.a. you won’t mind that I’m still talking about the 2017 show like it happened two weeks ago.

On that note, here’s the last lot of EBJEE trophies for the year feat. the awards for The Show and The Results! You’ll find all of the remaining People’s Choice Awards below too, so if you can remember who/what you voted for (the polls were open back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, after all), then you’ll now be able to see if your picks came out on top.

Enjoy, and let me know who your show/results statuettes would go to in the comments…

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Oleksandr Skichko, Timur Miroshnychenko Winner Volodymyr Ostapchuk

I have to agree with you guys on this one. In a strange turn of events, I personally thought that Timur – who’s co-hosted Junior Eurovision twice – was the weakest host (or at least the most wooden. If you’d touched him on any of the three show nights you’d have gotten a splinter). Oleks was an improvement, but Vova’s role as the class clown (and, I can’t deny, his Disney prince-level good looks) gave him extra appeal.

 

Honourable Mention/s Oleks + Vova’s Eurovision medley (SF2), Jamala – ‘Zamanyly’ (SF1) Winner ONUKA megamix (the final)

I’m a little surprised that ONUKA was the overwhelming winner of this award, but that’s probably my Jamala superfan status skewing my perspective (I would willingly watch her gargle the alphabet). It was no Love Love Peace Peace, but the megamix was another example of Ukraine putting all their best musical feet forward when they had the chance.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jana Burčeska reveals she’s pregnant…then gets proposed to! Winner The Ukrainian butt-flasher takes the shine off Jamala’s new single

Unlike in 2010, when Jimmy Jump crashed Spain’s performance and fooled us all into thinking it was supposed to happen for a good ten seconds, we all knew something was up when one of Ukraine’s own (draped in an Australian flag, which had all of us Aussies dying of embarrassment for a while) put the ass into the class of Jamala’s satellite stage serenade. It was the most iconic OMG moment of the 2017 contest by far.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s The Netherlands Winner Italy

Am I the only person disappointed in the postcards this year? They were both boring and a little bit all-over-the-place. Still, like shopping in a secondhand store, if you take the time to sift through all the crap you will find a few gems. The revelation that Amy Vol is a shoplifter (well, she would be if she didn’t have two sisters stopping her) nearly secured the Netherlands this trophy, but Italy’s group of Gabbanis was unbeatable. If that restaurant was real I’d be booking a table ASAP!

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner Finland

Now I know how Iceland’s DNQ made Greta fans feel last year. Back then, I was all ‘Whatever!’ as someone who thought Hear Them Calling was pretty mediocre. But then Blackbird came along and broke my heart with its failure to make the final. I still don’t get it, and I can imagine myself in the same situation fifty years from now (as I wave my walking stick around wildly and croak stuff like ‘Norma John were robbed!’ at randoms on the street).

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Australia

No country’s qualification this year really, truly shocked me. But (and it physically pains me to say this) after Isaiah’s semi performance, I had serious doubts about Australia going through. I still think I was right to worry, and it gives me heart palpitations knowing that if it wasn’t for the juries, it would have been third time unlucky for us.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Portugal Winner Sweden

It’s safe to say that when we’re making our semi predictions each year, the little list of countries in the ‘Definite’ category always includes Sweden. Even in 2010, the only year they didn’t qualify (which I’m still not over, BTW), they were confidently predicted to make it. In my mind there was no way in the world – this one, or any parallel universes that happen to exist – that Robin Bengtsson was going to miss out on the final. Another Anna Bergendahl he was not.

‘I DID NOT SEE THIS COMING!!!’ said no one ever.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic Winner Lithuania

On the other end of the spectrum lies Lithuania, whose mammoth NF marathon did not produce a surefire success this year. Rain of Revolution was the complete opposite – a for-sure failure that only outdid expectations by NOT finishing last in its semi. Fusedmarc’s night wasn’t the kind that Donny Montell was waiting for.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria’s 2nd, Portugal’s 1st, Sweden’s 5th Winner Moldova’s 3rd

When it comes to Eurovision, the population of Struggletown often includes Moldova. They’ve taken the serious approach before (2007, 2013), and brought the fun (2005, 2008, 2012), but neither had ever taken them higher than 6th place – and that was back in their debut year of ’05. Enter Sunstroke Project (take two). Their performances of party anthem Hey Mamma ticked every box without being try-hard, and whenever I think about the fact that they got such a great result, I want to weep with happiness. I guess Kyiv’s a good luck charm for Moldova!

 

Honourable Mention/s Latvia’s 18th in the semi Winner Finland’s 12th in the semi

What more can I say about this without shaking salt into a blackbird-shaped wound? Finland’s 12th was undeserved because Norma John should have been higher, not lower. Hashtag heartbroken; hashtag sadface; hashtag stop using hashtags outside of social media, Jaz.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Germany’s 25th Winner Spain’s 26th

If the ‘it’ in ‘do it for your lover’ = gallantly volunteer to finish dead last in the final so nobody else has to, then Manel lived up to his song title like a champion. I personally would never launch a hate campaign against DIFYL (in certain contexts, it’s an enjoyable listen) but I knew it was headed for position 26 on the scoreboard. Aurally it’s not a competitive song, and visually it came off tacky and amateurish (not Manel’s fault). The shock value of Spain’s result was zero.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland’s DNQ, Moldova’s 3rd Winner Italy’s 6th

You guys voted, and I can’t deny that you picked a major-league shocker. All those YouTube views! All those OGAE poll points! All those months as bookies’ fave to win! All that pre-show hype! It seemed like Italy had the win signed, sealed and delivered to Francesco’s door before rehearsals even began in Kyiv. Once they did, it was either a win or a solid top 3 result on the cards…wasn’t it? Well, no, as it turned out. Italy was even squeezed out of the top 5, by the same country (Sweden) that nudged 2016 OGAE winner France into 6th last year.

 

 

 

That’s it! I have to say, it’s a relief that I finally get to roll up the EBJEE red carpet for another year and move on to some of the awesome Eurovision entertainment I have planned for you this off season. But first, I want to know what you thought of this third and final awards announcement – and as I said in the intro (scroll up for about a half hour and you’ll find it) which people and places you’d pick as your personal winners. Let’s see if we have anything in common…even if the fact that we’re all Euronerds means we’ve needed to agree to disagree from the very beginning of our fan lives.

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

GRAB THE MOMENT | Vote in the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards People’s Choice polls!

Yes, it’s that time again – when, in the wake of Eurovision and in the midst of PED, a heap of ESC-themed sites feel compelled to hand out some trophies of their own. They may not be fancy, microphone-shaped Kosta Boda glass, but they give every country, artist, backing singer and man with horse mask on the chance of taking one home.

In the immortal words of Martina Bárta, now it’s my turn. The EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards, as they’ve been branded the past few years, are back! But before I give out any awards personally, I need you guys – yes, YOU (I love that shirt, by the way…it’s totally your colour) – to decide on some winners for me. That’s not because I’m too lazy to choose them myself, but because I love having input from anyone who takes the time to read this blog, and I definitely want to know what you thought were some of the highlights and lowlights of Kyiv 2017. So here we are.

This year, there’s not one…not two…not three…*ten minutes later* but TWELVE People’s Choice Awards up for grabs. I’ve tried to keep the nominees as numerous as possible, but if I haven’t listed someone/something that you REALLY want to vote for, leave me a comment and I will count it as a valid vote. The rules? Well, you can only vote once (on any one device, so feel free to hijack all of the phones/computers/tablets in your household) but you can make multiple choices on each poll – so if you’re struggling to decide, for instance, whether Oleks, Vova or Timur was the best host, just vote for all three.

Who says I’m not generous?

You’ve got one week to vote (and to spread the word so all of your Eurofan friends get to have their say too). Now go forth and pick your personal winners!

 

 

Miss Congeniality

She’s friendly, she’s fun, and she’s the female singer of 2017 you’d choose to hang out with above all others. It’s about personality rather than looks for this award (although all of these ladies are beautiful on the outside AND the inside).

 

Mr. Congeniality

Now it’s time to pick the most personable male artist who charmed both fans and the media in Kyiv. You’d take a road trip with him without hesitation, because you’d be guaranteed a great time and a lot of laughs.

 

Teen Act of the Year

Years and years of experience can come in handy when handling Eurovision…but teenagers can do pretty well for themselves too. All of 2017’s teen acts finished in the top 10, but which one was your favourite?

 

Dancefloor Filler of the Year

Whether you were in the Euroclub, at a Eurovision party or home alone in your pajamas, there had to be at least one song this year that you could NOT resist dancing to – and you’ll be playing it again any time you need to add some life to a future party!

 

Best Music Video

We don’t get preview videos from every single country competing in the contest (this is the one area where Sweden shows weakness) but the bunch we do get often bring their A-game. 2017 was no exception – let’s see which video you think is the best of the best.

Check out all of the nominees here.

 

Best Prop/Gimmick

The Eurovision stage sees more stand-out props and gimmicks than any other, and they (usually) add something special to a performance. Vote for the little – or large – extra something that impressed you the most this year.

 

Best Use of the Backdrop

The sky is the limit these days when it comes to pimping performances via high-def screenage. It’s a missed opportunity if the background isn’t used to a country’s advantage, but there weren’t many missed opportunities in Kyiv! Which backdrop wowed you when you laid eyes on it?

 

Best Performance From the Big 5

There are always musical hits and misses from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – but this award is for the country that stood out on stage when compared to their fellow automatic finalists (the hosts not included).

 

The Host With The Most

It’s a hard job, choosing between three attractive Ukrainian men – but somebody has to do it! Oleks, Vova and Timur took the reins between them this year, but only one can be crowned the Host With The Most. Take your pick.

  

Opening/Interval Act of the Year

We were spoiled this year when it came to pre and in-between song entertainment, with Ukraine trotting out a bunch of its biggest stars – including ESC 2016 winner Jamala three times (fine by me). Without comparing anything to Love Love Peace Peace, decide on your no. 1 performance.

Check out all of the nominees here.

 

OMG Moment of the Year

There were many jaw-on-the-floor occurrences this year, including the moment rehearsal viewers spotted a questionable (a.k.a. penis-like) image front and centre on one of Latvia’s screens (which had to be covered up). Which one had you shaking your head in disbelief?

 

The ‘How Did THAT Happen?’ Award for Most Shocking Result

Speaking of shocking…even the most talented predictor wouldn’t have seen some of the Eurovision 2017 scoreboard placements coming. Some countries defied expectations while others failed when we thought they’d flourish. Choose your personal WTF result below!

 

 

Congrats, your work here is done. Thanks for taking the time to vote…and if you didn’t but you’re still reading this, then GET BACK UP THERE AND DO YOUR DUTY!

Drop by EBJ next week for the full results of the People’s Choice Awards – and find out who won all of the other trophies in the categories of The Artists, The Songs, The Performances, The Show and The Results. Things may kick off a little sooner, so if you want to know exactly when, be sure to subscribe in the sidebar, or follow me on Twitter/Instagram.

 

Until then, stay fabulous!

 

 

 

Jaz on film, JESC split results and a Viennese top 5 – Welcome to 2015!

Yes, ladies and gents…we are now in the year after 2014 and before 2016, and I am scared, confused and excited, in that order. I didn’t get the chance to say auf wiedersehen to 2014 here on EBJ because I’m a disorganised slowpoke; nor did I get to say a big HAPPY NEW YEAR to those of you who inexplicably still read my ramblings even though they’re usually as up-to-date with current ESC-vents as Daria Kinzer was up-to-date with her fashion choices in Düsseldorf. I.e. not very. So…yeah, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I hope you had a fabulous NYE which involved getting your non-fan friends drunk enough so that they actually confessed to enjoying the Qele Qele remix you were playing on repeat. Unless you’re under the legal drinking age in your state/territory in which case I’m sure it was fruit punch all the way, woohoo.

Clearly I’ve been indulging in some “fruit punch” this evening, but let’s push that to one side and crack on with today’s posting. I’m starting 2015 with a wild and untamed ramble, covering multiple Eurovision and Junior Eurovision bases and mostly filled with info that you already know – just to prove that I’m staying the same old Jaz this year (only with a long-promised new-look blog on the horizon). Here’s a summary so you can choose to abandon ship now, or continue on into the murky yet glittery depths…

  • EBJ takes Youtube: Talking all things ESC with Terminal Three!
  • Divide and (not quite) conquer: The JESC split results, revealed
  • What’s good enough for Russia is good enough for San Marino…right?
  • Ladies’ night: The awesome foursome who’ll host contest no. 60
  • The first five Vienna-bound entries: first impressions and rankings!

If you’re still interested? Then let’s get going!

 

EBJ takes Youtube: Talking all things ESC with Terminal Three!

Once upon a time, way back in November – Junior Eurovision weekend, to be specific – I had the pleasure of attending a Eurovision gathering of the club variety (a.k.a. a Euroclub…duh) right here in Perth, highlights of which included a) dancing on a stage with a mass of flag-draped revelers, belting out Fairytale word-for-word, and b) actually being encouraged to judge the fashion choices of others as a decision-maker in a Best Dressed comp.

I must admit though, my absolute highlight of the evening was meeting the boys from Terminal Three – Fraser, Matt and Jason – who have turned their respective ESC obsessions into a schlager-ific Youtube channel. Hashtag Aussie Eurofans are the best Eurofans (in our own minds). In amongst the countdowns, news flashes and other awesomeness of the T3 channel are interviews aplenty, and recently I was lucky enough to be the subject of one!

As much as it pains me to say this, as I am the Queen of Awkward when a camera’s on me (and at most other times) you can watch me chat one-on-one with Fraser below re: the origins of this li’l ole blog, Melodifestivalen, and my undying love for Ott Lepland. Please keep in mind that I’m much funnier, personable and attractive in real life.

I’d like to thank Terminal Three for wanting to interview me in the first place, then taking the time to do it. You can check out everything they have to offer on Youtube, and/or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t deprive yourself of such Eurovisiony goodness!

 

Divide and (not quite) conquer: The JESC split results, revealed

It took some time, but the EBU did finally release the split scores of November’s Junior Eurovision this week. That’s a belated Xmas gift to all of us who now get to spend weeks dissecting the differences, and discussing how irritating it must be to Armenia to find that they were ranked second with both the juries and televoters, but ended up in third place (that’s just how the system works at this point in time, Betty. Besides, bronze ain’t a substance to be sneezed at). Here’s my dinky little version of the results, with a much more professional one feat. all the figures available here.

js14

Firstly, congratulations to both Bulgaria and Italy for winning their respective halves of the vote. I’d consider that almost as good as a legit victory for Bulgaria, whose previous JESC participations have ended very differently. As for Italy, it’s just further proof that they’ll always have power over the juries because they are classy as f%#k. Unlike myself.

Vincenzo didn’t manage to wow the folks at home in the same way he wowed the industry pros. I blame the fact that I wasn’t on European soil and was therefore unable to vote for him until my fingers fell off. I can understand viewers being spellbound by Bulgaria instead, considering a) how magnificent Planet of the Children is and b) how ridiculously adorable Krisia is. Oh, and c) how talented Hasan and Ibrahim are at tickling the ivories.

The jury was more impressed by Federica’s age-defying operatic pipes, ranking her third versus the televoters’ seventh. They also appreciated Sophia Patsalides’ flawless performance (and Cons + chiffon combo) considerably more than the televoters, which is surprising. As is Sweden’s situation – 15th with the fans and 11th with the juries, in spite of the staging and costuming being stronger than Julia’s vocals. I can only assume there were some jury members just as partial to the glittery fringe-fest as myself.

Sympho-Nick may be scratching their heads right now as they attempt to comprehend their 3rd/12th results. Maybe all the jury members went on a group trip to see Frozen at the movies, hated it, and Ukraine’s performance brought back bad memories? Or were the fans won over by the girls’ vocal transformation since the Ukrainian final?

Still, only four countries were seen as equals by jury members and televoters alike: Armenia (2nd), Belarus (8th), Georgia (10th) and Croatia (16th). I guess poor Josie made a breathlessly off-key impression on everyone, whilst nobody could resist Betty’s sunny charms and bendy backup dancers. Fair call.

What do you think of the results? Are you flabbergasted that Krisia & Co topped the televote or would you have seen that coming even with Donny Montell’s crystal blindfold glued to your face? What is up with that disparity between how the televoters and juries saw Ukraine? And how much would you bet on my asking inane questions like these at the end of every section of every post I put up in 2015? Let me know below.

 

What’s good enough for Russia is good enough for San Marino…right?

WTF am I talking about, I hear you ask? Sending a couple of ex-JESC contestants to carry the hopes of a nation on their teenaged shoulders, that’s what. While Russia went with a pair of twins who managed to win Junior Eurovision back in the day, San Marino have selected two much less successful teens from different wombs to represent them, neither of whom is Valentina Monetta (obviously she’s not a teen, but it’s so shocking to not have her flying the Sammarinese flag I thought I’d clarify).

croppedAnitaMichele1

Ages combined, they’ll still be younger than most of their competitors in Austria.

Michele Perniola and Anita Simoncini are the sixteen-year-olds in question, as you’ll no doubt know since they were internally selected around the time man discovered fire (as always, I’m on to breaking news with all the speed of a comatose sloth). Both he and she failed somewhat unfairly in JESC in my opinion – Michele finishing 10th out of twelve last year in Kyiv, and Anita and her fellow Peppermints coming second last in Malta. Some might say that doesn’t bode well for the duo, but I disagree. Here’s why:

  • JESC is separate enough from ESC that it shouldn’t affect them negatively, IF they have a good entry that’s grown-up enough for the adult contest. Did the Tolmachevy sisters make the top 10 in Copenhagen because they’d won JESC six years earlier? Nope.
  • We have high-definition proof that both Michele and Anita have stage presence, live vocal abilities and good camera engagement. Plus, they both look super pretty on TV.
  • They’ve experienced the closest thing to a Eurovision rehearsal that isn’t a Eurovision rehearsal by competing in Junior, so they won’t be clueless kids on an adult stage.
  • Age has no bearing on Eurovision success. People went nuts for the Russian grannies, but Engelbert Humperdinck floundered (granted, he didn’t provide everyone with woodfired treats baked on-stage, but the point’s still valid). Meanwhile, Anjeza Shahini, Olta Boka, Safura, Maja Keuc and Roberto Bellarosa have all held their own in adult Eurovision in recent times as teenagers. And there was that nineteen-year-old named Lena who did fairly well for herself in 2010.

I’m not sure why I’m leaping to *insert genius couple name for Anita and Michele here* defence when they haven’t even been subjected to a barrage of hate from the rather opinionated Eurofans…yet. But if you were skeptical when you heard the announcement, why not wait until their entry is debuted and then have a good ol’ bitchfest? Or not. You never know, you might like it. At the very least, it can’t be more immature than The Social Network Song.

 

Ladies’ night: The awesome foursome who’ll host contest no. 60

I use the word ‘awesome’ purely because it rhymes with ‘foursome’, as we won’t know how yay or nay these women are when it comes to hosting duties until the contest comes around. Mirjam Wiechselbraun, Alice Tumler and Arabella Kiesbauer (say that three times fast) are ORF’s choice to head up the proceedings of the 60th contest, with reigning champ and generally exquisite creature Conchita Wurst taking on the role of Green Room host.

ORF_ESC_Mod_small2

This is as close as we’ll ever get to the Spice Girls hosting Eurovision.

Now, I’m all about girl power, but as someone who believes no more than two people should host Eurovision at any given time, I’ve got to label this as excessive. How many people do you need to engage in cheesy scripted banter sporadically over seven hours, really? Sheesh. I am looking forward to seeing Conchita in action though, as I think she’ll make the often awkward interviews with contestants seem effortless – and no doubt she’ll be wearing something amazing when doing so.

 

The first five Vienna-bound entries: first impressions and rankings!

We’ve reached out first milestone in terms of ranking the Class of Vienna, with five entries now decided (more or less). Until we meet again at ten, here’s how I’d stack them up.

  1. Malta – it’s a mess, but a hot one. MESC wasn’t that high-quality this season, and even with the clear amount of work the needs to be done on Warrior, it did stand out, and I can’t help liking it. I hope they don’t swap it for something else. PS – Having a rule that stipulates the winning song can be changed is the stupidest thing ever. Why even hold a national final if that’s the case?
  2. Albania – First listen = forgettable Disney ballad. Second listen = girl crush on Elhaida and sudden appreciation for Diell, which has that Albanian something-something to it that intrigues me. Please don’t switch to English.
  3. Netherlands – It’s good. It’s catchy. But it’s repetitive and I don’t think it’ll sound fresh come May.
  4. Belarus – Not Uzari’s best effort, but I love him and I love Maimuna, so having them both on the ESC stage will be phenom. Assuming no rigging scandals emerge that get them disqualified.
  5. Macedonia – I don’t hate it. It’s going to be a slow-burn grower for me, I reckon.

Feel free to share your Viennese top 5 below. Just keep the swearing to a minimum, won’t you?

 

I’m going to wrap things up now, before you lose the will to live. The thought of the month ahead might pep you up, as there’s more national final action than there might seem at first glance. We’ve got prelims and semis from Lithuania, Cyprus, Hungary and Iceland throughout January, as well as the Georgian final on Valentine’s Day and the Swiss final on the 31st. That’s just the start of the wonderful craziness to come as we barrel down the road towards Eurovision no. 60. I’ll be reviewing and predicting as many NFs as I can, in amongst the top 10s, playlists, country profiles and other random stuff that will make 2015 basically the same as any other year as far as this blog’s concerned. I hope you’ll join me on the ride!

Until next time.

EBJ Signature

 

Copenhagen Chat | My thoughts on the news of the week

Hola, amigos. It’s the middle of the week, and as of now, that means it’s time for me to belatedly weigh in on the Eurovisiony happenings that have made the headlines since it was previously the middle of the week. Although…nothing of note really happened prior to our first Super Saturday, so let’s just go from there.

Quite a lot has gone down since the weekend, and not just in the Land of National Finals. Sure, we’ve now got two more songs for Copenhagen, taking the total to six; and sure, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen has begun and that is SO MUCH YAY!; and sure, Spain has shocked us all by premiering some decent potential entries; but, we also now know who will present the ESC this year – more specifically, all three of them. Discussions of these developments are coming up, but for now, let me say this: please let those hosts put in a better performance than the last trio we had to put up with!

 

The hosts with the most (maybe) are… 

*drumroll*…three people I’ve never heard of! Woohoo!

That doesn’t actually bother me. Some of the most entertaining hosts have been unknown to most of us before they took to the stage – e.g. Jaana and Mikko, Eric Solbakken, and Her Royal Funniness Anke Engelke. So give a great big benefit of the doubt to Lise Rønne, Pilou Asbæk, and Nikolaj Koppel.

1

They look nothing like Ell, Leyla and Nargiz, but can they be less wooden?

Lise, Pilou and Nikolaj are not without credentials. She is a television presenter (handy) who has helmed Dansk Melodi Grand Prix in the past, á la Petra Mede, who hosted Melodifestivalen before Malmö; Pilou is an actor, so he’ll be used to making a script sound like natural dialogue; and Nik (as I am affectionately calling him since now) is a musician and former judge on Denmark’s Got Talent. All that sounds promising, don’t you think? I’ve never been sold by the trio concept, so hopefully this trio can change my mind.

 

Something Better from Finland, and a Swiss star-hunter

Then again, who cares if they don’t? It’s all about the music. Well, more about the music, anyway. And as I mentioned before, Super Saturday gave us two more songs to add to the small pile we already have which will be en route to Denmark in a few months’ time.

Finland’s UMK ended with Softengine’s Something Better on top, beating out fan favourite Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola. As you’ll know if you read my last post, I didn’t follow UMK this year, but I did subject myself to snippets of the competitors before Saturday night. That decision has left me a little disappointed that the result wasn’t the other way around. The mod-rock style of Softengine doesn’t do much for me, whereas I thought Mikko’s song was a downright lovely ditty (or perhaps that’s the senior citizen in me) but time, in addition to healing all wounds and going by so slowly, changes things. Time and multiple listens. I may be proclaiming Something Better my first douze-pointer of the year this time next week.

Meanwhile, the Swiss chose the best of a bad, bad bunch in their Grosse Entscheidungsshow, opting for Sebalter’s Hunter of Stars to fly their flag. On the whole, this is a positive thing – it’s nothing like the lame lady ballad that it beat, and has a certain charm with the whistling and whatnot. I still think Switzerland can so much better though. It’s sad that this is the only half-decent outcome we could have had from them.

Exactly how half-decent is Sebalter? How could we figure that out…wait, I’ve got it! It’s TOP SIX TIME! Here, in a world exclusive, is mine:

  1. Belarus
  2. Ukraine
  3. Albania
  4. Italy
  5. Finland
  6. Switzerland
TEO (or is that Donny Montell) is still on top.

TEO (or is that Donny Montell?) is still on top.

Okay, so Seb is still on the bottom in my books, and I’m still totally on Team Cheesecake (which is surprisingly still the Belarusian entry). But with 30+ songs yet to be picked or premiered, this ranking is bound to change. Hit me with your personal top six in the comments, and the ensuing disagreements will no doubt keep us occupied until the weekend.

 

Melfest: it’s well and truly on!

It’s safe to say that Sweden is back. Maybe not back in a ‘we’re ready to win again, bitches’ kind of way, but definitely in a way that makes last year’s Melfest sound even worse than it actually was (bar Robin Stjernberg and a select few others). Saturday’s first semi turned out to be less predictable than I was expecting, with only one of the big favourites being voted straight to the final.

I’m talking, of course, about YOHIO, who no doubt won the night (but hopefully won’t win the whole thing) with To The End. But it wasn’t the Eurovision royalty that is Helena Paparizou who followed him – she was relegated to Andra Chansen alongside Linus Svenning’s beautiful Bröder. Newcomer/stand-in for Amandine Bourgeois in Malmö, Ellen Benediktson, scored the other ticket with Songbird. I have to admit, despite the Helena love I share with many other ESC fans, I consider this a victory for all the artists who think they haven’t got a chance against those who have been there and done that. Go Ellen!

I'm not entirely sure which is which...

I’m not entirely sure which one’s which…

With the wins must come the losses, and four songs are now out of Melfest ’14 for good. Only one of those had the power to bring a tear to my eye, and that was Alvaro Estrella’s Bedroom. Say what you want about a bad performance – I thought it was a-ok, and that the song was easily the best of the night. I mean, if Eric “I’ll smash a ton of glass to distract you from the fact that I’m not a very good singer” Saade can win Melfest, why couldn’t his former backup dancer qualify? Sob. The good news is that Bedroom has topped the Swedish iTunes charts, and that I intend to send the song into a radio station anonymously to try and elevate it to Gangnam Style status in Australia. Wish me luck.

What did you think of Melodifestivalen’s first installment?

 

Spanish surprises: the national final five

Following France’s shockingly impressive lead, Spain released the select group of songs that will be vying to represent them sometime in the near future (a date would be nice, Spain). I’ve given them all a listen, and on the spectrum of prospective entries, they collectively sit closer to the likes of Sweden than of Switzerland – a.k.a. hooray!

  • Más (Run) by Brequette
  • Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo by Jorge González
  • Estrella Fugaz by La Dama
  • Seguir Sin Ti by Raúl
  • Dancing In The Rain by Ruth Lorenzo

I’m not saying these are the strongest songs on the planet, but they do take me back to those days when Spain sent ethno-pop year after year, and did well with it. Generally, the selection is poppy and generic, but there’s always room for poppy and generic songs to succeed at Eurovision. I reckon Spain has a chance here, if not to hit the heights of Pastora Soler, to at least improve on last year’s fail.

I’ll wait for a date before I think about reviewing them properly, but at the moment, my picks are Brequette, Jorge and Ruth. How about you?

 

Super Saturday #2 – what’s on?

There’s only one more song to look forward to this Saturday, but Malta’s NF is only the beginning of the action. Olympics fans like myself would add the start of the Winter Games in Sochi to the list of comps worth watching (it’s basically the Eurovision of the sporting world) but for those who are interested in the ESC only, look out for…

  • MESC. That’s Malta’s Eurovision Song Contest. After a semi final on Friday which will, inexplicably as ever, only send 6 of 20 songs packing, 14 will be left to battle it out for the win. There’ll be two former JESC contestants taking part (assuming they both advance, and let’s face it – the odds are in their favour) but the only one I’m gunning for is Daniel Testa. His song One Last Ride has Eurovision written all over it, and not in a cheesy way. However, there is some fierce competition he’ll have to push out the way to make it…can he do it?
  • Melodifestivalen semi final 2. A veteran of this NF, Sanna Nielsen is back for what seems like her millionth shot at representing Sweden, and this could be the one that gets her all the way. She’ll be joined by Martin Stenmarck (who was beaten by Helena Paparizou and many others in Eurovision ’05) singing in Swedish, and my personal gem Panetoz. Check out their hit Danza Pausa and then tell me you’re not excited to hear what they’ve come up with!
  • Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin semi final 2 and Hungary’s A Dal heat 3. I admit to knowing nothing about either of these at this point, so whether they’re worth watching is up to you.

 

I’ll be back on Saturday to preview and predict MESC and Melfest, and complain about what an agonizing decision it is choosing between multiple national finals AND the Olympics. There’s something for you to look forward to.

Ahem. In the meantime, don’t forget to rank and ramble about results down below. If you don’t…well, I’ll be sad.

 

 See you Saturday!

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Selection Season Day 2: The Danish final, another MGP semi + the mystery of the 2013 host

Finally, and I mean FINALLY, after what seems like the longest wait in history, we have a national final taking place. That’s a one-off, decision-making NF without any further, irritating ado. In a day or so, Denmark will have chosen their entry for 2013, and the winning artist can then start making plans for the long, perilous journey to Malmö…taken by train in about seven minutes (assuming the starting point is Copenhagen. But even if it isn’t, it won’t exactly be a long-haul trip).

Also on the agenda this weekend is Norway’s second semi final, which we now know will feature the Eurovision champion to end all champions, Alexander Rybak. Unfortunately he’s only participating as a songwriter, which was not the impression given by eurovision.tv when they announced ‘the return of Rybak’, exclamation mark. But his taking part at all is exciting news.

Also ALSO coming up is the announcement we’ve all been hanging out for: the revelation of Eurovision 2013’s master (or mistress) of ceremonies. But I’ll save my thoughts on that for somewhere down below, among all of the above. Let’s go.

 

Dansk Melodi Grand Prix: it’s on!

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You know it! Because I just said it! Anyway, the general consensus on the Danish prospectives this year has been ‘meh’, but I must be too easily pleased since I think they’re a strong bunch. Sure, some are way better than others, but there isn’t any one I would hate to go to Eurovision. A few I’d have to come to terms with, but nothing I’d shriek and then faux-faint over.

If you’re yet to hear the ten, you can listen to them here: http://dr.dk/melodigrandprix/Artikler/ 2013/sangene.htm. Then why not get back to me on which one you want to see in Sweden?

In the meantime, here are my verdicts.  

1. Jeg Har Hele Tiden Vidst Det by Frederikke Vedel of the two Danish-language songs in the lineup, this is the best. It’s not even factoring among the favourites to win, but I think it’s one of the best things going. I like the fact that it doesn’t immediately say ‘HEY! LOOK AT ME! I’m yet ANOTHER dance track!’, instead taking a minute or so to develop into one, kind of like Donny Montell’s Love Is Blind but in a more contemporary way. I doubt it will go anywhere in DMGP, but it will be going onto my iPod (which is really a more prestigious honour anyway).

2. Human by Brinck – Denmark’s choice of ’09 returns with a less try-hard entry written and composed by himself, and I am a fan. I love Brinck’s voice, and I think it’s more suited to this sweet, catchy, almost folky song that reminds me of Sjonni’s Friends Coming Home than it was to Believe Again, which I did like, but that he struggled a little with vocally. The lyrics are just about cliché-free which I really appreciate. I think we could have our first returnee in this guy, and if the song is reworked a bit to give the latter choruses more punch, it could do quite well in Malmö.  

 3. I’m Not Alone by Kate Hall – for something unoriginal and a little dated, this is pretty good. It has all the elements that make for a decent pop song – it’s catchy, repetitive enough to get stuck in your head but not overly so, the chorus goes bang, and there’s a money note. Having said all that, I don’t love it, and I don’t think it’s as strong as either of the songs that come before it. If Kate pulls off the live performance she could do well, but I think she’s too déjà vu to come out on top.  

 4. Rejs Dig Op by Louise Dubiel – I hate to keep on comparing these songs to other ones, but this reeks of Some Nights by Fun., which I was never that gone on. It is quite rousing, and I like the militaristic sound, but I feel like the whole thing could get boring fast. Although there is potential for a cracking stage show, with drummers and fancy costumes…in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Louise appears on stage dressed in Soluna Samay’s cap and epilets. But no, I still don’t want it to go to Eurovision most of all.

 5. We Own The Universe by Daze – here we have a new-generation Aqua with a song penned by Euphoria’s very own Peter Böstrom and Thomas G:son. I know a lot of people thought Euphoria was 1990s, but wait until you hear this, one of the most 90s-sounding songs I’ve ever heard. I’m afraid that just won’t fly in 2013, not with me and hopefully not with the Danish public and jury. I enjoy a bit of nostalgia as much as anyone, but please, let’s keep the stuff we grew up with firmly in the national finals.

 6. Stay Awake by Simone Egeriis – Simone came 3rd in DMGP a few years ago, and now she’s the apparent favourite to win. I’m not entirely sure why. Her song isn’t bad by any means (I’m into the jungle vibe, and may have to wear some animal print for any subsequent listens) but I don’t reckon it’s up there with the best of them. She won a singing competition, so I’m assuming she can hack it live, but I just can’t see her storming to victory. And that has nothing to do with me being jealous that she can sing and is both prettier and younger than me. Nothing at all…

 7. Invincible by Jack Rowan feat. Sam Gray – another dance song? Who would’ve guessed? This one is much more ‘now’ than the previous, but somehow has less substance. Again, it’s far from terrible (and I’d love the UK to snaffle it up as their entry post-MGP as Sam Gray is a Brit) but it doesn’t stand out in the sea of almost identical songs dominating global radio. In a club, totally audio, it would go off. At Eurovision, not so much. Still, as I said, it would make a solid, modern entry for the UK. Ya listening, BBC?

 8. Only Teardrops by Emmelie de Forest – speaking of not standing out…well, actually this does. Mainly because it’s in the Danish selection and not the Irish selection. Yes, it’s very Celtic, and as much as I hate to repeat myself (repeat myself repeat myself) it sure is rousing. If it did win, I think it would surprise first-time listeners at the big show who would probably expect a depressing, violin-laden ballad about Emmelie being able to do nothing but sob into her pajamas because her boyfriend dumped her. It’d probably get votes just for being something else.

 9. Beautiful To Me by Albin – radio-friendly, album-filler material that neither disturbs nor offends. This is possibly the weakest of the lot, but it’s still decent in my opinion. There isn’t a whole lot more to say about it, other than that it won’t trouble the top three (unless it miraculously does, in which case forget I said anything. As I will reiterate in a moment, I suck at predicting DMGP).

 10. Unbreakable by Mohamed – and the award for Best Dance Pop Song Hands Down goes to…this guy! His song has that something that Invincible is missing, if not the something that could make it an ESC winner so soon after Loreen. It’s up there with Simone’s as a favourite, and this time I get it. But I’m not sure about a landslide for Mohamed either. Unbreakable sounds like the sort of thing that could easily come second. But if the staging is steered clear from anything too edgy and intimate a la Euphoria, and his vocal is top-notch (as he’s another reality-tv alumni, it should be) he could be The One.

 

Whew. So that’s the ten, and one of them will be flying the Danish flag in May. This is how things will work: 50% public voting and 50% jury voting (what a genius system!) will determine the top three songs. Those three will proceed to the super-final, and another round of voting will decide the winner.

In terms of the trio I want to see there, these are my picks: Unbreakable, Human and Jeg Har Hele Tiden Vidst Det. But in terms of what will actually happen…well, you now know that I have a history of totally misjudging what the Danes will go for. Still, it’s a new year and that means another chance to stuff things up, so here goes.

I’m feeling Brinck, Louise and Mohamed for the super-final, with Louise in 1st, Mohamed in 2nd and Brinck bringing up the rear. Keep in mind that is not at all my ideal situation. I just have a funny feeling about that Louise. And as I said, whichever song I like the best/predict to win often comes second.

What are your thoughts? Who would be Denmark’s best chance of success on close ground?

 

Norsk Melodi Grand Prix, Vol. II  

Thankfully, this semi is a lot stronger than the first one, which seemed to amateur hour. But is that thanks to Alexander Rybak, or is he only the bomb when he’s composing and performing?

  1. Det Vakje Mi Tid by Martin Blomvik
  2. I’m With You by Annsofi
  3. On Hold by Shackles
  4. No One by Hank
  5. Ulvetuva by Fjellfolk
  6. Shine With Me by Haji
  7. I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger

Annsofi’s is the song Rybak wrote, and it’s okay, but nothing earth-shattering. It reminds me of the depressing second half of his debut album Fairytale. But with his name stamped all over it, it’s sure to get a place in the final.

My favourites would have to be:

Det Vakje Mi Tid – I am not ashamed to admit that I LOVE this one. It’s dance pop, but not the standard kind. It’s super current, electro, slickly produced, and will be amazing if Mr. Blomvik can nail it live – a big ask considering the production on it, but…innocent until proven guilty, people. Or in this case, talented until there’s a massive onstage fail, people.

On Hold – This is another electro number, which will never qualify in a million years because none of the catchy, radio-friendly girl pop I adore in MGP ever does. I think the verses are a little stronger than the choruses, but in general it’s a song well done.

I Feed You My Love – This was not what I was expecting from a wispy blonde girl called Margaret, but I was far from disappointed. It’s intense, gritty, rock-ish and awesome, and the contrast between that and her look is vair interesting. She’s a big contributor to this semi kicking the butt of the last one.

 

Now, I must bring to your attention the fact that I managed to (accidentally) predict the qualifiers of last weekend’s show, so the pressure’s on to do it again. I’m listening to my gut, and it’s telling me in no uncertain terms that Annsofi, Hank and Margaret will be the lucky ones. If I’m wrong, my gut will be severely reprimanded, unless I’m wrong in the sense that my three favourites make it. Then I will be too busy dancing on my kitchen table to do anything else.

Which of Norway’s offerings would make you want to bump and grind on top of furniture? A.k.a. which are your favourites?

 

Who will be the host with the most?

And will they be able to outshine Anke Engelke? Half of those questions will be answered this Monday (!) when SVT reveals the lone wolf who will get to say those magical three words (that’s ‘Good evening, Europe!’ not ‘I love you’. That would be weird) to an audience of many in a few months’ time.

I think less can be more when it comes to the hosts, so the fact that it’s back to one after years of three doesn’t bother me. Three really was a crowd. The thing is, with the weight of scripted comedy and multi-lingual intros on one person’s shoulders, it has to be a really, really good person. Naturally, rumors of who it could be have been going around from the second of the single-host announcement, with everyone from Eric Saade (all the teenage girls on the planet) to the Swedish chef from The Muppets (me on Twitter) getting a mention. But it seems there’s one personality we all want, so here’s hoping SVT give us what we want and put the fabulous Sarah Dawn Finer in charge.

This is the only face I want to see staring back at me when I'm watching Eurovision this year.

This is the only face I want to see staring back at me when I’m watching Eurovision this year.

SDF has it all – she’s entertaining, fluent in multiple languages, an experienced hostess, and has a LMAO-worthy alter ego called Lynda Woodruff. Plus, she’s notably absent from hosting Melodifestivalen AND is apparently booked up for the entire first half of 2013…except for May. Coincidence? I think/hope not! Still, I wish it wasn’t too late to start a petition to get her the job.

The only equal alternative would be ABBA (counting them as one person, of course. They could stand on each other’s shoulders) which will never happen. But, if it turns out to be some random dude or dudette no-one outside Scandinavia has heard of, we should give them the benefit of the doubt, for they could be the next Anke. Like Lena, she came out of nowhere.

 

That’s the wrap for this evening, so I guess I’ll see you on the other side of DMGP and NMGP. Let me know what you’re thinking re: those finals, and who you’d like to see fronting Eurovision 2013. Please??

EBJ Signature

 

Bottoms up! | The EBJ-ESC drinking game

Bonjour!  Today I have another post for you that really doesn’t require an opening ramble from yours truly. It does, however, require some clarification.

I am in no way advocating excessive drinking via this post, or underage drinking, if that applies to you. It’s not like I’m a raging alcoholic or anything (which means I can no longer use that as an excuse for the ridiculous things that often appear on this blog). I mean, my brother bought me a four-pack of Southern Comforts last Christmas and three of them are still sitting in the fridge, so I’m not expecting you to raid your parents’ liquor cabinet just to play along with this game. If you want, you can drink juice, or milk, or coffee. Or you could substitute the drinking for something else entirely – moonwalking would be my suggestion.

Whatever your choice, the idea is that a lot of things take place during Eurovision that can be fun to look out for, and acknowledge somehow. Keeping an eye out for them can be a way to spice up ESC parties (at my parties, which are always for one, this comes in very handy) or just liven up a night in glued to a past contest on DVD. At this time of the year, it’s something to tide you over as you wait impatiently for Amsterdam and/or Malmö.

So let’s get the tiding underway. Here’s my version of a timeless activity that may or may not result in you collapsing on the floor with your underpants on your head. It’s the Eurovision Drinking (or moonwalking) Game!

 

The rules are as follows: 

During the performances, drink whenever…

…the performance number is incorporated into the staging via costume, or any other means

It was lucky 13 for Dima Bilan in 2006

…ribbons/cords/bungees turn the lead performer into a human maypole  

…there is a costume reveal

…there is a faux costume reveal (when it looks like a reveal is about to take place, but it doesn’t)

…an act performs in the final dressed differently to how they were in their semi

Anjeza Shahini: so many dresses, so little time

…the wind machine blows someone’s hair into their face and they have to fix it

…someone rips into an epic solo on a guitar that is clearly unplugged

… a backing singer is positioned very awkwardly on the stage

…Martina Majerle sings backup for anyone who’ll have her

The world’s busiest backing singer Martina for Croatia in 2003, Slovenia in 2007, Montenegro in 2008, and Slovenia again in 2011 and 2012

…the floor/green room comes (accidentally) into shot

 

In-between, drink if…  

…there’s an audience shot and someone looks like they really don’t want to be there

…there’s an audience shot and someone doesn’t realise the camera is on them until the last millisecond

…there’s an audience shot where a bunch of people are dressed up like the Swiss vampires, or Verka Seduchka, or any other relevant personality

…Lys Assia makes a cameo appearance

 

When the hosts are doing their thing, drink whenever…

…there is an awkward pause between them when nobody knows who’s supposed to speak next

…Australia gets a special mention

…they cross to Svante Stockselius and he is adorable

…they cross to Jon Ola Sand and he is awkward

…they change outfits 

Maria Menounos found a novel way to wear all her bridesmaid dresses again

 

During the qualification announcements, drink if…

…Greece qualify

…the Netherlands don’t

…a cameraman gives a qualifier away by filming them right before they’re announced

The psychic cameraman strikes again

…one of the artists who qualifies manages to look totally unenthusiastic about it

 

When it’s crunch time, drink whenever…

…a spokesperson stuffs up their presentation of points in any way, shape or form

…a spokesperson who represented their country a hundred years ago feels the need to perform an impromptu rendition of their entry instead of just presenting the points

…a spokesperson sings a bit of whichever song they’re giving points to

…the host country gets douze points

If you look very closely, you can see Turkey celebrating behind that GIANT CAMERA IN YOUR FACE!

…the winner is overcome during the reprise and misses out most of their lyrics

 

Okay, so there are a lot of rules. Maybe you could print this out and stick it on your wall? Or you could just tell me what you would add to the list.

 

Which of these ESC occurrences would you drink for, and did I miss any? Let me know below…

 

My big, fat, sweet as candy JESC 2011 wrapup!

Another year, another Junior Eurovision Song Contest over, and another shock victory. Anyone following me on Twitter last night (or anyone ON Twitter last night) would be aware of how flabbergasted the majority of fans were by Candy’s 5-point win over the Netherlands’ Rachel – Georgia’s second win in four years. There’s a ton of stuff to discuss and dissect re: Last Night, and as I have finally become fully awake after watching the contest which for me was This Morning, I’m chomping at the bit to do so. So, let’s talk about a brilliant but baffling JESC…

WARNING: This may be the longest post I have ever written here at EBJ. In fact, I could probably bind it and submit it as my uni PHD. But if you, like me, are suffering from Post-Eurovision Depression right now, I hope the sheer size of it will aid you in your recovery. Feel free to print it off and make it into a book yourself. Ha ha.

 

The performances

  • RUSSIA: What a great number to kick off the show with! I can see why those lucky people-on-the-ground-in-Yerevan-whom-I-am-insanely-jealous-of thought rehearsals, for Katya, were a little pointless. I wasn’t sure about the all-white theme going on when BAM! the backing dancers turned around to reveal a rather clever heart motif on their backs. Does that count as a costume reveal? Well, whether it does or doesn’t, it added some extra interest to an already polished and professionally performed act.
  • LATVIA: I was pleasantly surprised by Amanda’s performance, even though it featured her lonesome self and nothing else (a.k.a. no frolicking puppies) as I’d expected. I found myself spellbound for the almost-three minutes. And no, I was not by her mouth gear (although she and Dorijan Dlaka should consider getting together sometime). Apart from one wobble, Amanda was in control of her high notes – i.e. the entire song. It’s ironic that Meness Suns is so high that dogs would probably bolt away at the sound of it.
  • MOLDOVA: I would say this was the most perfectly packaged performance of the night. Everything was there – the voice, the costume, the props, the charisma, the scooter Lerica must have borrowed off Katya when she decided not to use it for her own stage show…Moldova had it all. Still, I feel they would have benefited from a couple of backing dancers (maybe also borrowed from Katya) as Lerica looked a bit odd leaping around the stage by herself. She also looked a bit odd pulling handkerchiefs out of a bag, but then she’s not a magician, so I’ll let her off on that one.
  • ARMENIA: Dalita got the biggest round of applause of the night, being the Armenian representative and all, but she deserved it simply for her vocals which were infinitely better last night than in the national final. Despite the throwback to Scooch, I enjoyed the aeronautical shebang. I mean, at least nobody held up a giant lollipop and asked ‘Would you like something to suck on for landing, sir?’ which would have both been blatant plagiarism and an inappropriate allusion for an under-16 to make.
  • BULGARIA: No leathers? Ah, such disappointment! But when it came to the important things, like, I don’t know, the song and the vocals, I wasn’t left disappointed at all. Supergeroy was an early favourite of mine and I thought it worked great on the big stage. I take it Bulgaria drew choreography inspiration from the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man. Before he’d been oiled up by Dorothy, of course.
  • LITHUANIA: Gorgeous. It’s not a word that crops up often in my vocabulary, but it’s so fitting for what Paulina did last night. I can’t believe she’s only 10 years old! It makes me hate her talented self a little bit, but then she smiles and she’s so cute and I can’t hate her anymore. It’s very confusing.
  • UKRAINE: Speaking of all things confusing, I know a lot of people  were confused as to how Ukraine ended up so low in the table again, especially since Evropa had been backed by bookies and fans (including me) to be a contender for the trophy in a way that Mii Litak never was. But I have to say that Kristall’s vocals were the worst of the night, and unfortunately she can’t excuse that by saying her voice was breaking, unlike the artist who followed her. Kudos for the outfits and her song-writing abilities though.
  • MACEDONIA: As discussed in my prediction post, trouble had been afoot (or should I say, athroat) for Mr. Dlaka through no fault of his own. However there was only one part of the chorus that his vocal chords objected to; the rest sounded fine. The performance was also better than I’d thought it would be, thanks to some nice costumes and choreography. Another point of interest: was that umbrella the same one used for the JESC 2007 postcards? If so, there is some serious black market prop-swapping going on here that the EBU should be investigating…
  • NETHERLANDS: What can I say? Uh-MAYZING! I have a whole list of highlights from this performance alone, including the jackets that rivaled those of Ralf Mackenbach & Co in the awesome department, and the always versatile scaffolding. Plus, Rachel’s hair stayed in position the whole time, just as I’d predicted. It really was a winning act. Well, it should have been.
  • BELARUS: I guess there’s something about good ballads that gets me. I was as spellbound by Lidiya as I was with Amanda and Paulina. I think she has the best live voice of the three, and I can see why she was also a favourite to win. Her violinists reminded me of those people who paint themselves metallic and then stand around on the street hoping you’ll throw money at them.
  • SWEDEN: Erik is another epic vocalist, and I loved his performance despite the presence of the most unnecessary guitarist ever seen on a Eurovision stage. It was definitely a lot more dynamic than last year, and deserved a top 5 finish in my (slightly biased as it was one of my favourites) opinion.
  • GEORGIA: I have a confession to make. I had been a fully paid-up member of the ‘Candy Music = Crappy Music’ Club right up until last night. But I have to admit that when it came to the crunch, Candy impressed me, and I did have a dance to their disco number. The outfits were great, the wacky hair (no afro wigs in sight!) was, well, wacky, and the girls sang really well (particularly Mini Christina Aguilera on the left). Like Moldova, Georgia had it all. I still didn’t want them to/think they would win…but I’m starting to think they deserved to.
  • BELGIUM: Lucky last! Femke is adorable, and the Valentine’s Day theme going on was equally cutesy. I can’t really fault any of it, mainly because I feel like insulting Femke would be akin making a fur coat out of a litter of kittens. You just can’t hurt something so sweet and innocent, can you?

 

What about the rest?

  • The stage: It did bear more than a passing resemblance to the Sydney Opera House, but the incorporation of the logo made it more Armenian. I think the latter alone would have simplified the stage for the better.
  • The hosts: Who knew Penelope Cruz had an identical Armenian twin sister? Or perhaps it was Kim Kardashian disguising herself as Penelope Cruz’s twin (she is Armenian, after all). Anyway, she and the other guy did pretty well at the whole hosting thing. And they only changed outfits twice, rather than the 6148 times viewers are accustomed to.
  • The postcards: Sweet, but also sad. Burning houses with Chihuahuas inside? Broken bones? Not entirely festive, fun subjects, are they?  
  • The interval acts: Very impressive! Molly Sandén was as talentless and hideous as ever, and I don’t know what Eric Saade sees in her. Not. She was beautiful, and the remixed performances of Qele Qele and Mama were really well done also. I’m not a remix fan by any means, but those were good ones. Everyone’s already made the Riverdance comparison (I’m surprised it wasn’t trending on Twitter) so I won’t.
  • The Australian douze points: What a cool way to introduce the whole ‘we don’t want any children to be upset by a lack of votes so we have to give them all some point to start with’ concept! I’m only annoyed that I wasn’t asked to do it instead of that random kid who was a bit too enthusiastic for my liking. There’s always next year…

All in all, Armenia did a great job, and I’d love to see what they would do with big Eurovision. If they revert back to sending genius songs like Anytime You Need and Qele Qele rather than Boom Boom types that are in a genre all of their own, hosting that could be a real possibility in the near future.

 

The voting and the results

  • As usual, the voting was a nail-biting experience, and as Jill & Lauren were doing their bit at the end, I was frantically calculating the Netherlands’ final score, knowing they’d get 12 points from Belgium. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, but again the Dutch have proved their prowess in JESC with a silver medal.
  • I had had a feeling that if Rachel didn’t win, something unexpected would happen – that is, for the second year in a row the host country would be the previous winning country, OR an underdog would take the whole thing out. Lo and behold…
  • Poor Katya! Back in ’09 she tied for second place, and now she’s come back wanting to win, and instead tied for third place. Technically, she finished fourth, as Belarus got 3x douze to her 2. Please try your luck at Eurovision 2013, Katya – at least you’re less likely to tie there.
  • Another tie that’s harder to break was that between Latvia and Macedonia. Maybe it’s better to come last with someone else, rather than on your own? I also must point out that I predicted these two to be at the bottom. As that’s about the only thing I got right, I plan to gloat a LOT.
  • Belarus, Belgium, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ukraine all managed to equal or better their 2010 results, whilst it was a slip down for Armenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia.
  • Here’s the final scoreboard, in case you missed it:
  1. Georgia, 108
  2. Netherlands, 103
  3. Belarus, 99
  4. Russia, 99
  5. Armenia, 85
  6. Moldova, 78
  7. Belgium, 64
  8. Bulgaria, 60
  9. Sweden, 57
  10. Lithuania, 53
  11. Ukraine, 42
  12. Macedonia, 31
  13. Latvia, 31

 

And now, for some awards…

Best vocals: Belarus, Georgia, Moldova

Worst vocals: Ukraine

Best performances: Georgia, Moldova, Netherlands

Best costumes: Armenia, Belgium, Georgia

Best choreography: Belgium, Macedonia

Strangest choreography: Bulgaria

Best props: Macedonia, Netherlands 

Most pleasant surprises: Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova

Biggest letdown: Ukraine

Deserved to do better: Sweden

Biggest heart-melters: Belgium, Lithuania

Most likely to win Eurovision: Russia, Sweden

 

Hello. If you’re reading this, you made it to the end of this obnoxiously long post and are still (semi) conscious. I hope you laughed, cried and found it life-changing – but as there is a 99.9% chance you did not, all I really hope is that you’ve enjoyed JESC month here at EBJ. From now on, the focus shifts to Baku; after all, the Swiss final is next weekend! I’ll be keeping my eye and delivering my verdict on that, the other NF’s, developing news and all else concerned with the 2012 contest, as well as bringing you some thrilling (ahem) top 10 lists and editorials. Before that, I suppose I’d better think about reverting the blog back to the standard design. But, always reluctant to let things go, I think I might leave it for now and go and watch Junior Eurovision 2011 once more.

 

EBJ’s top 10…hosts of the last decade

1. 2007  in Helsinki, Finland: Jaana Pelkonen & Mikko Leppilampi

I’m pretty sure these two wrote Hosting Eurovision In A Genuinely Comedic, Enthusiastic, Engaging and Professional Way Without Making The Home Viewers Want To Thrust Their Fists Through The TV Screen: For Dummies. Bravo, and douze points!

 2. 2010 in Oslo, Norway: Nadia Hasnaoui, Haddy N’jie & Eric Solbakken

There’s always a shining beacon among a trio of hosts and in Oslo it was Eric, who provided some much-needed comic relief by donning a Milan Stanković wig and InCulto hotpants (I’m still wondering where you buy those), among other things. But the ladies were faultless, despite begging the question, “Why so serious?”.

3. 2004 in Istanbul, Turkey: Meltem Cumbul & Korhan Abay

I’m still not entirely certain that Mr. Abay was alive back then, but he did a pretty good job of compeering alongside Miss Cumbul. I particularly liked their banter about George Clooney and Pamela Anderson (the resemblance is uncanny!).

4. 2011 in Düsseldorf, Germany: Anke Engelke, Judith Rakers & Stefan Raab

If it’d been Anke on her own, she’d be at the top, but as it is she can thank Judith (who I’m sure is a great news presenter but at the ESC had all the enthusiasm of Norway when they discovered they hadn’t qualified) and Stefan (who needed to be surgically removed from his guitar) for dragging her down to 4th place.

 5. 2002 in Tallinn, Estonia: Annely Peebo & Marko Matvere

There’s little I love more than hosts presenting a pre-shot fantasy sequence of themselves singing an ode to their ‘love’ and laughing gaily when one catches the other in a face pack. Amazingly 2002 gave me exactly that. Very sweet.

6. 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia: Jovana Janković & Željko Joksimović

These two weren’t bad, but I reckon they should stick to their day jobs if Eurovision lands inSerbia again in their lifetime.

7. 2005 in Kyiv, Ukraine: Maria “Masha” Efrosnina & Pavlo “Pasha” Shylko

If you look up ‘Painfully scripted dialogue’ in the dictionary, there’s a toothy photograph of this duo underneath it.

8. 2006 in Athens, Greece: Maria Menounos & Sakis Rouvas

Great show, Greece. Not so good = the presenters. Did Maria know what Eurovision was before she was asked to host it? I’m not sure. Her partnership with Greek god Sakis was a bit of a shambles in any case, with plenty of stumbles to go round and a cringe-worthy lip-sync from his end.

9. 2009 in Moscow, Russia: Natalia Vodianova & Andrey Malahov/ Alsou & Ivan Urgant

Alsou and Ivan were perfectly adequate hosts, but they pale in comparison to the horror show (or lust-fest, whichever you prefer) that was the Supermodel and the Sleaze of the Semi Finals. Shudder.

10. 2003 in Riga, Latvia: Marie N & Renars Kaupers

I’m sorry, but if I’m watching the ’03 contest and there’s a wall nearby, it’s usually less than a minute after Marie and Renars emerge that I’m driven up it. I wasn’t a huge fan of (read: I really hated) the former’s winning song, so it was easy to turn my nose up at her hosting skills. But I loved Renars in Brainstorm! Perhaps that’s the kind of fronting he should stick to.

 

Just to let you fellow Eurovisionaries know: I’ve made it my mission to blog all year, every year, which can be a tough ask when there’s little happening on the ESC/JESC fronts. But I do have a bunch of random posts lined up, so I thought I’d do up a little schedule to keep you informed of when to expect them, if you’re interested. Remember, it’s two or more a week in twenty-eleven!

Tuesdays: Time Warp Tuesday

Fridays/Saturdays: A random feature, rant, news update or top 10

And of course, a surprise post anytime if I feel like it!

Stay alerted by following EBJ on Twitter, liking on Facebook (links in the sidebar) and/or subscribing (link at the bottom of the page).

Beating hearts and the curious case of Lena’s return

THE day we fans have been waiting for has arrived! Or arrived a little while ago/hasn’t arrived yet, depending on what part of the world you happen to be in. Anyway, the theme art and slogan of Düsseldorf 2011 is out and about thanks to NDR, for us all to judge mercilessly! Hooray!

Before I went and took a look, I had to remind myself that, much like many of the songs of 2010, the theme/slogan of last year made a less-than-impressive impression on me initially. But by May, I was sold. Luckily, I found myself loving this on sight:

Apparently it was inspired by Lena, and her totes Gen-Y expression of love for the voters in last year’s final (aka making a heart with her hands). It’s neon which makes it a little bit retro ‘80s, but it’s still a contemporary design, and will open up a huge amount of options for the postcards and other graphics. I am a bit disappointed with the black background, but only because the majority of DVD spines are black and a coloured one on my shelf would brighten things up a bit – so I think that may be a slightly pedantic flaw. And what colour background makes neon look better than black? Answer: none. Point of these last few sentences? None.

“Feel your heart beat!” is the slogan, which does complement the design, but also makes me a little nauseous from the amount of cliché it packs into just four words. I feel that this may be another one of those unnecessary slogans, much like “Confluence of sound” in 2008, which didn’t really feature in the show much, perhaps because it just wasn’t that great – whereas I think last year’s “Share the moment!” was a brilliant one that encapsulated what Eurovision is about. The ’09 contest (which featured one of my favourite ever designs) did not have a slogan, like many a contest before it, which I think would have worked here. The design is representative of enough that it could have stood on its on two (metaphorical) feet.

The presentation of the theme art is yet more evidence that the 56th Eurovision Song Contest will be epic: in addition, there are three more countries participating than last year; Italy, Hungary, Austria and San Marino are all returning to the fold after varying lengths of hiatus; the wonderful Stefan Raab is one of three hosts with the most; it’s taking place in Düsseldorf, a quirky and artsy city we’re all keen to familiarise ourselves with; and Dino Merlin is representing Bosnia (not only does he have an awesome surname, but he was responsible for one of my favourite entries of ’99 and I’m certain he’ll bring something great to the Guildo-green velvet-covered table).

But there is one aspect of the 2011 edition, another representative, in fact, that both pleases and irritates me, resulting in a severe case of curiosity as to why it is to be. I’m sure you’ll know by now from the title of this post that I am referring here to the aforementioned Lena Meyer-Landrut, reigning champion of the Eurovision world and a girl who makes me feel very inferior as a fellow nineteen-year-old. Though not to the extent of those darn Junior Eurovision children.

About two seconds after her fingers first made contact with the trophy, the announcement was made that she would once again represent Germany, on home soil the following year. This will make her the first winner to do so since the Dutch Corry Brokken defended her title in 1958 – only to end up equal last. There’s been many an artist return the year after their non-victorious participation to have another crack, but far fewer have attempted this. I suppose I should explain the reasons I’m in two minds about it.

I’m happy because:

–          The riotous applause received by the home country’s entrant every year is one of my favourite parts of Eurovision, and if that entrant happened to be the reason the contest was in that country…well, I’m guessing there’ll be hand burns aplenty in the final when Lena walks onstage, from the enthusiastic-ness of the clapping.

–          It will be interesting to see what song is picked for her to sing. I actually can’t imagine another song like Satellite that both suits Lena’s voice to a tee and is a worthy Eurovision song, but it’s possible.

I’m not so thrilled because:

–          This presents a problem where the traditional and much-loved reprise is concerned, another of my favourite parts. It would be extremely awkward for her to open the final, only to have to hurry backstage and make another appearance as a contestant. It would be totally weird, for her and for us viewers! But if there isn’t a reprise, I’ll be disappointed. I was thinking that the organisers could rope in some past German representatives (Nicole, Dschinghis Khan, Texas Lightning…the whole gang) to perform a version of the song. But once again, that would be slightly/totally weird. Even more so than Zeljko Joksimović’s double role in 2008 as co-host and songwriter.

–          I actually can’t imagine another song like Satellite that both suits Lena’s voice to a tee. Yes, this is what I said I was happy about, but what if it ISN’T possible? What if it’s a really dreadful song and their decision to send her again backfires? There’s no way the Germans want to win two years in a row – unless they actually have some of those elusive money trees handy – but nor do they want to be embarrassed by a bad showing in their moment of glory. If they bring a Satellite doppelganger or album filler, this could easily happen.

So I have my own pros and cons, but now I’d like to put it to you, my dear fans (Ha. Ha.). Take a look at this:

Auf wiedersehen.

Düsseldorf dribs and drabs

I could just as easily have titled this post ‘A hodge-podge of miscellaneous developments that relate to the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest but wouldn’t necessarily collate together nicely in the same category’, but of course, that would have been altogether too clunky and uninteresting…much like this introduction.

So, first on the mixed-lolly bag agenda is the selection of 2011’s very first entry. It comes from Switzerland (obviously, you would already know that), more specifically Anna Rossinelli, with the song In Love For A While.

I had a feeling I was going to be disappointed when I got up this morning to check who had won, which wasn’t surprising since I only really liked three of the choices – and even that was pushing it. Duke, one of those three, came next-to-last, Aliose took seventh, and my favourite, The Colors & Ilira, got bronze. The winning song I had to Youtube again because I couldn’t remember how it went, which was not a good omen. And that’s what I think is going to be the whole problem with it next year. It’s a bit of Train’s Hey Soul Sister, a bit of Colbie Callait’s Bubbly and, as one comment on the video pointed out, a whole lot of I’m Yours by Jason Mraz, but all of those songs are more memorable than this! I’m hoping it’s a grower, like Russia was last year for me – I despised it at first, then by the time the contest was over I was loving it. Generally, I think In Love For A While is too modest to make any ESC headway (i.e. qualify from the semi final), though that will depend on what songs it is up against and maybe how it is visually presented. At the very least, we have proof that Anna can cut it live, so we won’t have another Kristina Pelákova on our hands…or should I say ears? Sorry, Kristina, but we all know its true. At the moment I give the song 5/10 for being halfway between rubbish and awesome.

Moving on – in brilliant news for European fans and rich people (and heart-breaking news for moi), tickets for the 2011 final go on sale today. All 35 000 of them. The prices are remarkably low even for the better seats, so if you are a fan and live in Germany YOU HAVE NO EXCUSES NOT TO GO!!! *cries due to having to stay at home on the couch during May next year*. Good luck if you’re after some – I hear they usually sell out within an hour.

The rumour mill is rapidly turning over who the duty of hosting in Düsseldorf could fall to. Wikipedia reports that Stefan ‘Wadde hadde dudde da?’ Raab and Anka Engelke will be the dynamic duo, the former of which pleases me no end as I love Raab and his gold lamé flares from 2000. I’m not familiar with Engelke aside from what Wikipedia has told me, so basically I don’t know her at all. Who would you have host the 2011 contest? Heidi Klum? David Hasselhoff? Let me know down below.

I am also thrilled by the participant tally at the moment: 41, which means two more than this year (yay!). Every country that participated in 2010 except Slovakia will be back, as well as Italy, Austria and….SAN MARINO! It’s so great to have them back again after their brief 2008 appearance with Complice, a song I loved. We are still waiting on confirmation from Hungary and Montenegro, which would level the total with that of 2008, a Eurovision record, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for two yeses. I think us Eurovisionaries have been given enough good news to last us a lifetime with Italy etc, so perhaps asking for more countries to say oui to Germany is asking too much.

Finally, now the Swiss national final is finito, the upcoming Albanian and Romanian finals are the focus. The Albanian one takes place on Christmas Day (why???) with Romania following suit on the 31st (once again – why??? Do they not want anyone to watch/vote?). As I mentioned in the last post there are way too many Albanian songs listed in random order for me to single out any to listen to, but I have gone through the better organised options for Romania, and I am tré impressed! I’d be especially happy to see one of the following take to the contest stage:

Adi Cristescu – One By One – I just love this, it makes me feel happy for some reason.

Leticia – Dreaming of You – A bit country, a bit pop. All good.

Blaxy Girls – It’s So Fine – This is unusual, and not as good as their entry last year, Dear Mama. But it’s still very catchy, especially with the trumpet bits.

Claudia Pavel – I Want U To Want Me – Apart from the slightly-too-frequent repetition of the title, this is a great ballad.

Rallsa – Take Me Down – I would describe this as the long-lost sibling of DJ Take Me Away from Bulgaria two years ago, in that it is a clubby song with 10% singing and 90% music. But that music is irritatingly infectious. Woooow.

Mihai Alexandru feat. B-Body & Soul – Bang Bang – This is another club song in the vein of We No Speak Americano. I think it’s better than Rallsa’s, however.

So there’s your assorted 50¢ lolly bag, folks. I hope future posts to be less random for both of our sakes. Anyway, with those two national finals approaching there is plenty more to talk about, although surely we’ll all be too busy on Christmas and New Year’s Eve to pay much attention to who wins.

Yeah right!