Blog Archives

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | A seriously super Saturday (with a little something on a Sunday)

Knock knock, who’s there? It’s Saturday again, duh!

When you’re living for the weekends like I do during national final season, it’s a blessing for this day of the week to come around so quickly. And boy, does it have a lot to love on this occasion. Here’s everything happening tonight: 

  • Croatia Dora, final
  • Estonia Eesti Laul, final
  • Hungary A Dal, semi final 2
  • Iceland Söngvakeppnin, semi final 2
  • Latvia Supernova, final
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, semi final 2
  • Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 1
  • Slovenia EMA, final
  • Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 3
  • Ukraine Vidbir, semi final 2

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Is that all?’. But don’t worry, tomorrow night we also have:

  • Romania Selecția Națională, final

Do the math on this list of NFs, and you’ll find that Saturday + Sunday = FIVE more songs for Tel Aviv. And isn’t it about time? We’ve waited long enough to get into double digits.

I’m not about to preview/predict all of the above NF action, since I don’t want to send you (or myself) to sleep. I will make a quick wishlist for the countries I won’t be covering though, so listen up universe: Croatia can give me Brutalero or Redemption, Estonia Storm, Latvia Somebody’s Got My Lover or Fire, and Slovenia Kaos. Oh, and if Portugal could send Calema through as well as Conan (so I can figure out what the heck I actually think of Telemóveis) that’d be awesome.

Now, if you want to chat in-depth about Hungary, Sweden and Romania, you came to the right place.

 

 

It’s the second last Saturday of A Dal decision-making, after last week’s first semi final saw Acoustic Planet, Bence Vavra, The Middletonz (WOOHOO!) and Petruska (smaller woohoo!) make the final cut. Obviously there’s another hurdle for them to jump over in the final itself – making the all-important top four from which 100% televote will determine the winner – but qualifying to next weekend’s showdown is what everyone wants to do, and those guys have done it. Now there’s just four spots left for the taking, and nine acts after them. Let the (probably heartbreaking) battle begin!

  • Kedves Világ! Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko
  • Kulcs Fatal Error
  • Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
  • A Remény Hídjai Nomad
  • Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
  • Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
  • Holnap Bogi Nagy
  • Forró Ruby Harlem
  • Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér

You guys know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year, and though I’ve lost some favourites along the way (JUSTICE FOR VILÁGÍTÓTORONY!) a few more are still in the running and competing in this semi. On the other hand, some of my least favourites are here too, and I’m hoping they’ll be among the sacrificial songs of the night.

Let’s start with the good stuff and work our way through to what will actually happen in Hungary this week, IMO.

My top four In random order, Hozzád Bújnék, Az Én Apám, Holnap and Madár, Repülj! Gergő Oláh is a perennial top pick of mine, and although Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz a Jó, it is a ballistic missile of a ballad that he – pardon my French in advance – sings the shit out of. My beloved Joci is back with a bang (well, more of a gentle tap on the door, but it’s beautiful and impactful nonetheless) and all the raw emotion required to sell such a unique ethno-ballad. Bogi is also armed with a gentle ballad, and the crystal-clear fragility of her voice takes it to another level (though the melody is worth mentioning too). As for Gergő No. 2, which is nothing like Mambo No. 5…well, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Madár, Repülj! at first, but I LOVE it now. It’s distinctive and dramatic without being throwback or an ultra cutting-edge track, and that makes it interesting.

My prediction Given that we know the results of all the heats and semis so far – an A Dal tradition that I enjoy and dislike at the same time – it makes guessing tonight’s final four qualifiers easier. There are five heat winners in this semi alone, however, with some acts having tied FTW. And in the case of Joci and Bogi, who finished equal 1st in the third heat, you cannot separate them – they both scored the same from the jury and from the public. I’m going to give Joci the edge based on his previous history though (and I better not be jinxing him by doing so). Fatal Error stormed to victory in their heat (somehow) so I’d say they were safe finalists…not that they’ve had to compete against any of tonight’s other acts until now. I’m also thinking that Gergő Oláh and Gergő Szekér have a good chance of advancing, since they also tied for the win in their heat. If there’s a wildcard who makes it out of this semi, I think it will be Bogi in place of Gergő Oláh (heaven forbid) or Joci (heaven forbid even more). But I’m locking in my final four as follows: Fatal Error, Gergő Oláh, Gergő Szekér and Joci Pápai. There’s a whole lot of testosterone there and I am not mad about it.

 

Who would you put money on to make it through to the A Dal final?

 

 

How can we be onto the THIRD Melfest semi already? Granted, the second one was a blur for me since I was busy attending Australia Decides at the time (check out my Aussie NF diary here if you haven’t yet) but I’m still shocked. Maybe it’s because – and I hate to say this – the 2019 comp has been a bit of a non-event, at least in terms of the entries (the hosts/interval acts have been fantastisk). Nothing has jumped out at me so far and screamed ‘Winner!’ of Melfest, let alone of Eurovision. Will that change this week with these seven songs?

  1. Somebody Wants Lovers of Valdaro
  2. Habibi Dolly Style
  3. Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck
  4. Victorious Lina Hedlund
  5. Om Om Och Om Igen Omar
  6. Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson
  7. Norrsken Jon Henrik Fjällgren

Based on snippets, no, that’s not going to change. I’m not saying I hate everything on offer here, but there’s a thread of ‘good but not great’ running through the entire line-up that worries me. And yes, I’m even referring to the much-anticipated Norrsken when I say that. But I’ll give this not-quite-magnificent seven the chance to win me over with cracking live performances.

My top four Somebody Wants, Habibi, Om Om Och Om Igen and Who I Am. The Lovers of Valdaro (feat. the guy who wore the heels in Moldova’s Eurovision 2018 performance) are the wildcards from Svensktoppen Nästa, and though I doubt they’ll outdo SMILO’s record of 5th place in a semi (being the highest finish for a Svensktoppen-chosen act), I am digging the beat and production of their song – it should make a great show opener. Habibi is my guilty pleasure and honestly, has the only chorus I could remember after I first listened to the snippets. I like the deviation from bubblegum pop to a more exotic Middle Eastern flavour for Sweden’s version of The Sugababes (because they change members so often, HA HA HA).

Is It just me, or is that Kim Kardashian in the pink wig?

Omar definitely has the better song of the FO & O boys competing this year (RIP Oscar Enestad from the running) even if it is a mixed-language copycat of Side To Side/In My Cabana/Woman Like Me. Pop music is derivative, that’s just how the cookie crumbles – and I can’t wait to hear this spiced-up version all the way through. Who I Am rounds out my favourites list based on everything but the lyrics, which are so clichéd I have a hard time excusing it. Still, the power-pop style of the song and Rebecka’s vocal abilities are enough to keep me rooting for her.

My prediction This is a hard one. Last week proved that anything is possible and that the odds are not always correct (in a good way – go Malou!) so I’m not even going to use them as a guide for my guesses. I do happen to know that Jon Henrik is sitting pretty at the top and is as guaranteed of a place in the final as one can be, so NO-BRAINER ALERT. I believe in Rebecka’s potential to also go straight to Friends Arena, or to Andra Chansen at least. Dolly Style are in the mix after winning the audience poll, but I can’t imagine – especially after seeing a shot of their staging – that they’ll place in the top two. For me the last spot is for either Omar (hopefully) or more likely Lina based on her pedigree and the Jessica Andersson effect. Victorious ain’t no Party Voice, but it’s just what you’d expect from one third of Alcazar and that might well be enough. To sum up, I think it’s Jon Henrik Fjällgren/Rebecka Karlsson DTF, and Dolly Style/Lina Hedlund to  AC. But feel free to surprise me (again) Sweden.

 

Which acts will go where in this Melfest deltävling? Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

 

Disclaimer: Normally I’d just be discussing Saturday night here, but Romania has inconveniently scheduled their final on a Sunday again (Ester Peony pun not intended, but a declaration of love for her song is coincidentally coming up) and I’ve got to talk about it. In amongst the 12 finalists there is a lot of cookie cutter music, but there’s also a handful of songs so good that I couldn’t stay quiet. Place your bets.

  1. Renegades Linda Teodosiu
  2. Right Now Olivier Kaye
  3. Dear Father Laura Bretan
  4. Skyscraper Teodora Dinu
  5. We Are The Ones Claudiu Mirea
  6. Your Journey Aldo Blaga
  7. On A Sunday Ester Peony
  8. Daina Letiția Moisescu and Sensibil Balkan
  9. Army of Love Bella Santiago
  10. Destin Trooper
  11. Without You (Sin Ti) Dya & Lucian Colareza
  12. Underground Vaida

Selecția Națională isn’t usually one of my go-to NFs, and for those of you who do adore it, sorry – I haven’t suddenly become its number one fan. But like I said, a few SN 2019 songs have caught my attention based on their potential to do very well at Eurovision, and/or how jaw-dropping it was to find them in the Romanian selection to start with.

My favourites Dear Father, On A Sunday, Daina and Army of Love. Laura Bretan is a pocket rocket with form on America’s Got Talent, and watching her semi performance of Dear Father had me shook. There’s something special in this song, and it has great build. Of all my top picks it is my least loved, but it’s the most likely to kick butt on behalf of Romania in Tel Aviv. My most-loved in this line-up is On A Sunday, which is like a musical love child of Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke and Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. It turns out those are good genes to combine. It’s a song so slick and moody, I can’t believe it’s not competing somewhere in Scandinavia. Ester is flawless live and I wish she was more of a contender.

Daina is Romania doing what I miss Romania doing. They could have sent it to Eurovision in 2005, 2011 or 2018 and it wouldn’t have made a difference (not to me, anyway). Will they send it in 2019? Not a chance, but it’s a killer – not filler – addition to the final. Speaking of which…where there’s smoke there’s Fuego, and Bella’s Army of Love is such a Fuego soundalike that the smoke is stinging my eyes. My ears are all for it though, because it is a banger! Empowering lyrics, ethnic instrumentals and a rap verse in Tagalog make for a rip-off I’d welcome into this year’s ESC family with open arms.

My prediction As much as I’d like to believe there are multiple contenders for this NF, I think the winner has already been signed, sealed and delivered straight through the window she’s shattered with one of her sky-high operatic notes. I mean Laura, of course. Personally I’d prefer Bella, but when I watch Laura’s performance there’s more than one point where I think ‘This is unbeatable.’ The song might not be the greatest to my tastes, but she makes it great and gives me goosebumps in the process. I said this about Kate Miller-Heidke last weekend and I’ll say it again now: If this girl doesn’t win I’ll be flabbergasted. If she does, I’ll be grateful that Australia isn’t in the same semi as Romania.

 

 

Whew…aren’t you glad I drew the line at discussing three countries? I’m done now, so if you have any thoughts or predictions for tonight that you need to get off your chest, my comments box is empty and waiting for you to throw stuff into it.

Who’s going to win? Who’s going to get knocked out? Will there be curveballs or will the bookies’ favourites follow through? Wherever it’s happening and whatever your opinion is, I’m ready to hear about it. My response will be more polite if you agree with me though…

See you on the other side of this super Saturday/fun-sized Sunday!

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The third and final Hungarian heat + Melodifestivalen, nu kör vi!

It’s Saturday once again, and you know what that means at this time of year: it’s an NF fest! Believe it or not, the five shows on tonight are nothing compared to some upcoming Saturdays (but more on that later). Here’s what’s happening in a few hours’ time: 

  • Estonia Eesti Laul, Semi Final 2
  • Hungary A Dal, Heat 3
  • Latvia Supernova, Heat 2
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 4
  • Sweden Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 1

My focus today is Hungary and Sweden (apologies to everyone else, but a girl’s got to have priorities) so let’s get straight into it. As always, spill as much tea as you like in the comments re: songs/acts/results/predictions. I’m ready for it!

 

 

Time flies when a national final is as awesome as A Dal 2019…isn’t that what people say? There’s got to be some explanation for how we’ve arrived at the third and final Hungarian heat already. There are only six spots left in the semi finals, with ten acts hoping to take them.

  • Holnap Bogi Nagy
  • Az Én Apá  Joci Pápai
  • Maradj Még Kyra
  • Hazavágyom Leander Kills
  • Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
  • Run Baby Run Monyo Project
  • Help Me Out of Here Petruska
  • Forró Ruby Harlem
  • Barát Salvus
  • Posztolj USNK

My two least favourite songs are listed above, which is a bummer (find out what they are here) but all is definitely not lost! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this heat for a few reasons, and the main one is spelled J-O-C-I P-Á-P-A-I.

Yes, the man who makes magic every time he opens his mouth is back for another crack at representing Hungary – and though it would be out of character for them to send the same person twice (András Kállay-Saunders is not amused), it’s not totally impossible. Or am I just biased because Origo is one of my favourite Eurovision entries ever and I love everything else that Joci has ever recorded? Check out my top picks from this heat and decide for yourself.

 

My favourites

What do you know, I’m starting with Az Én Apam! Plot twist. This is my favourite song competing this evening, and though I’m not going to say it’s as amazing as Origo, it’s just as special and emotional – just in a more understated way. I’m praying for Hungary and the A Dal jury to support it, because if Joci goes the way of Olivér Berkes and gets knocked out immediately, HELL WILL HATH NO FURY LIKE THIS WOMAN SCORNED.

X Factor winners USNK are going gangbusters on YouTube with Posztolj (6.7 million views as I type this) which IMO is deserved for anything with ByeAlex’s name attached to it. The song style isn’t my usual “thing” at all but I love it here – the edginess and intensity of the sound against the social media-themed lyrics makes for a cool contrast. Hungary isn’t averse to rap (which I appreciate) and USNK obviously have public vote pulling power, so this seems like an obvious qualifier. Maybe too obvious…

 

Leander Kills are one of 2019’s many repeat NF offenders. Since they couldn’t win A Dal with Élet in 2017, they shouldn’t win with Hazavágyom. Having said that, however, they are in with a damn good chance and I would be able to get on board with them as AWS successors. There’s something joyful and unique about Hazavágyom that I like a lot, and I expect the live performance to match – and of course, to be as competent as yesyes were INcompetent (WHY GOD WHY?!?) last week.

Kyra is serving up some diva power-pop in the form of Maradj Meg, and I am here for it. I’m 50/50 on whether her performance will be as on-point as it needs to be or a car crash (or somewhere in-between) but I’ll think positive until she proves me otherwise.

My other two faves in this heat are Help Me Out of Here – the less infectious but still appealing sibling of Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind – and Barát, with Salvus delivering a classic slice of Hungarian rock that will probably follow in the footsteps of A Remény Hídjai and Kulcs by qualifying.

 

Who’s going through?

I’ve got an okay success rate going for A Dal so far in terms of predictions – 4/6 correct guesses for both heat 1 and heat 2. But I wouldn’t mind going one (or two, ideally) better this week. With the risk of opting for the obvious, I’m thinking it will be Leander Kills, Joci Pápai, USNK, Petruska, Salvus and Mocsok 1 Kölykök (my debatable wildcard) who make it to the semi final stage. In other words, I suspect the girl power level will be very low once the results have come in. If there does happen to be some female fierceness in tonight’s top six, I believe it will be courtesy of Kyra.

 

That’s enough about Eastern Europe for now (no offence). It’s time to talk Scandinavia, specifically Sweden, and more specifically Melodifestivlalen!

 

 

Brace yourselves, people, because Melodifestivalen has hit its first destination for 2019: Göteborg! I’m going to spare you guys another questioning statement about how we can possibly be at this point in time again and how fast the months fly by, et cetera. The fact is that we are here again and I’M SO EXCITED. I hope you are too.

There are returnees aplenty taking part tonight, including two 2017 finalists and (of course) Anna Bergendahl, whose claim to ESC fame I’m not going to mention since I think it’s time to move on (even though it gives her the best comeback narrative of the year). Here they are in running order:

  1. Chasing Rivers Nano
  2. No Drama High15
  3. Not With Me Wiktoria
  4. Mina Bränder Zeana feat. Anis Don Demina
  5. Mina Fyra Årstider Arja Saijonmaa
  6. Hello Mohombi
  7. Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl

On name value, this is not the most thrilling semi for me personally, but the first one is traditionally not supposed to be (Sweden/Christer Björkman believe in saving the best until last, or at least until later). Even so, I have managed to pluck out four favourite songs.

 

My top four

Hello, Hello! Mohombi is bringing his A-game to this semi and I am so keen to see him perform. There’s something about this song I get just from the teaser that suggests it could do more in the comp than a lot of fans expect it to. Factor in staging that echoes Måns Zelmerlöw’s for Heroes and you’ve got an entry worth watching out for.

Hello indeed…one ticket for the bumpy ride, please

Mina Bränder is the good old ‘Swedish-language radio pop song that Jaz likes but nobody else does’ á la Stark last year. As such I expect Zeana and Anis to crash out of this semi, but only after I have bopped along to their three minutes – especially the chorus, which has a strong scent of Melfest 2005 about it.

Neither Chasing Rivers nor Not With Me seem like they’re the best song their artist has competed with, but as expected both are strong. It’s particularly hard to get a feel for Chasing Rivers by only hearing a minute of it, but it has promise. Wiktoria is trotting out all the heartbreak clichés this time, but because Not With Me reminds me a lot of Isa’s I Will Wait and this is Wiktoria we’re talking about, I have to get behind it.

I know this is a top four, but I have to mention Anna’s Ashes To Ashes. It slips into my 5th place based on the jarring similes that make up the lyrics (like a this, like a that…it’s OTT for me, I’m afraid) but the melody is memorable and her voice is as distinctive as it was in 2010. Lycka till.

 

Who’s going direkt?

Nano and Anna Bergendahl. It’s hard to tell just how impactful Chasing Rivers will be from the snippet alone, but I think Nano is enough of a force to be reckoned with to place top two tonight…even if Hold On was too much to live up to. Anna might not get the fairytale ending at Friends Arena that she’s after, but I believe she will be there in March. I’ve seen her stage outfit and she deserves to win this semi based purely on how stunning it is.

 

And who’s off to Andra Chansen?

Wiktoria and Mohombi. If Wiktoria doesn’t go direkt, it’ll be her first time having to fight for a place in the final, but I have a feeling it’ll be her OR Nano to Friends straight away – not both. Mohombi is an artist I was excited about heading into this, but he took me by surprise with the vibe of Hello – I was expecting Bumpy Ride Part II (which wouldn’t have been a bad thing). He did win the rehearsal poll, and if he goes direkt I’ll be psyched…but it’s touch-and-go between the big players in this line-up.

 

Who do you think will advance to the final or to AC from this first Melfest 2019 semi? Place your (hypothetical) bets in the comments below!

 

 

Tel Aviv: Reactions from the week that was

It’s time for me to share my thoughts on what’s happened in the world of Eurovision 2019 since the last time I did the same thing. Three artist announcements and two songs await!

Austria Paenda has been decided as the artist who’ll attempt to top Austria’s surprise 3rd place from Lisbon. She’ll be singing the unreleased Limits, and somehow I’m getting the same feeling from the song title alone that I got from the likes of City Lights – like I just know it’s going to be good. As for Paenda herself…let’s hope she’s more successful than the last blue-haired competitor from that geographical region.

Czech Republic Barbara Mochowa had the voice and (to an extent) the song, but Lake Malawi have something extra – an element of fun and very questionable lyrics – that got them over the line to become the Czech entry for Tel Aviv. We might come to realise this was a mistake, but for me right now I’m pretty pleased about it. Let’s face it, anything that came after Mikolas Josef was going to be a letdown in some way. I would happily have him represent his country every year, particularly if he keeps bangers like Abu Dhabi coming.

Finland My beloved Robin may have turned the ESC ticket down, but world-famous DJ Darude did not. And so Finland brings us the DJ + vocalist combo that we got from Norway in 2017 and Poland in 2018. Fingers crossed Darude and Sebastian Rejman model themselves more after the former than the latter. They’ll present their three potential entries on March 2.

France Against all odds (by which I mean Seemone) Bilal Hassani is France’s chosen one, and I couldn’t be more excited for him – and for myself because Roi is a JAM. I loved his performance in the Destination Eurovision final and I’m glad it was the French public that got their way. Haters back off!

Malta The X Factor concluded with Michela Pace crowned champion and automatic ESC artist for Malta. There’s not much to say at this point other than yes, she can sing, so for Ira Losco’s sake give her a good song.

 

What’s next for NF season?

  • 5/2-8/2 Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Nights 1-4)
  • 8/2 United Kingdom (You Decide, Final)
  • 9/2 Australia (Australia Decides, Final), Hungary (A Dal, Semi Final 1), Iceland (Söngvakeppnin, Semi Final 1), Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Final), Latvia (Supernova, Semi Final), Lithuania (Eurovizijos Atranka, Semi Final 1), Montenegro (Montevizija, Final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 2), Ukraine (Vidbir, Semi Final 1)
  • 10/2 Romania (Selecția Națională, Semi Final 2)

Next Saturday? HOLY CRAP. I’ll be over on the Gold Coast in the Australia Decides audience, so look out for me if you’re watching on TV or online. You’re welcome for the time difference that will allow you to watch our NF without missing any European ones.

 

Until next time (when I’ll review the Aussie songs and much more),

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The French final, another Hungarian heat + my thoughts on Tel Aviv’s latest additions!

Bonjour, my fellow Eurofreaks (a sarcastic thanks to the UK for making me never want to use the word ‘freaks’ ever again). Welcome to a 2019 Super Saturday preview, Jaz-style! This is my first proper NF season rundown for the year, and I may be weeks behind everyone else but I’m also excited to get into it – especially now we’re entering the end-of-January-to-early-March period where there are approximately 65 national finals of varying stages taking place every weekend, with other announcements and reveals in-between. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tonight isn’t the busiest night we’ll have this season, but there is plenty of goodness going down. Specifically: 

  • France Destination Eurovision, the final
  • Hungary A Dal, Heat 2
  • Latvia Supernova, Heat 1
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 3
  • Malta X Factor, final

I’m not following Latvia, Lithuania or Malta very closely at this point (either because there are other things to focus on or I’m plain disappointed in the song selection) so today I’ll be talking all things French and Hungarian exclusively…with a few thoughts on the Class of ESC 2019 so far thrown in at the end. I’ll leave you to keep reading if you want to (please do) and to comment your opinions on what’s happened re: Tel Aviv and what might happen this evening. Meanwhile I’ll be busy deciding whether to watch Destination Eurovision or A Dal, because á la Bucks Fizz I really need to make my mind up.

Let’s go!

 

FRANCE: Is the Destination Eurovision final a three-horse race?

After two semis, a few shock DNQs and one song title switch, voilà – we have arrived at our destination. Destination Eurovision, that is. In a field that isn’t as strong as last year’s (for me, at least), eight songs remain in the fight for the French ticket to Tel Aviv. 

  1. Là-Haut, Chimène Badi
  2. Allez Leur Dire, Silvàn Areg
  3. Sois Un Bon Fils, Doutson
  4. Comme Une Grande, Aysat
  5. Tous Les Deux, Seemone
  6. La Promesse, Emmanuel Moire
  7. Roi, Bilal Hassani
  8. La Voix d’Aretha, The Divaz 

If I could go back in time and get my way with the semi results, things would be different looking at this lineup (Gabriella, Lautner and Ugo would be listed, for starters). But as it stands, all of the songs are enjoyable in their own way and should make for a final worth watching. According to the odds as I type this, Bilal is the most likely winner, closely followed by Seemone and Emmanuel. But who do I think should – and will – win?

 

My favourites

His performance in the first semi wasn’t as flawless or affecting as Seemone’s in the second, but I’m happy to have Bilal in prime position with bookmakers at the moment – Roi is my no. 1 song left in the competition. If there’s anything I could learn to love as much as I loved Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva in 2018, it’s this not-totally-dissimilar track that mixes French and English as fast and fluidly as France’s JESC runner-up Jamais Sans Toi. Bilal is an iconic performer with a great personality, and if he amps things up tonight and gives 110% to his time on stage, then he could easily end up having to keep mid-May free for Eurovision.

I didn’t “get” this until I saw it performed, but La Promesse is now right behind Roi in my ranking á la Francais. It was staged simply but beautifully, and Emmanuel matched the visual beauty with Schwarzenegger-strong vocal game. This is a classic example of a song lifted by a live performance. Dark horse alert!

Seemone is the opposite of a dark horse, and while Tous Les Deux is not the song I’d prefer to see representing France in Tel Aviv, I will be able to climb on the bandwagon if it wins. All this girl has to do is stand there and sing (in sparkly shoes for an added My Little Pony + Wizard of Oz vibe) and the majority of us will buy what she’s selling. You don’t have to be fluent in French to know that this is an emotionally-charged song, and the emotions do appear authentic. I just hope that continues to be the case over time if Seemone does go to the ESC.

Doutson rounds out my favourites with the trés danceable Sous Un Bon Fils. It’s nothing mindblowing and has zero chance of winning, but it’s fun – and cute where mini-Doutson is concerned.

 

Who will win?

Much of this final is made up of a) okay songs performed very well (e.g. Là-Haut and La Voix d’Aretha) and b) good songs that could benefit from a better performance (like Comme Une Grande). The top three favourites are the best of both worlds. I think it’s asking a little too much for Emmanuel to win, unless points are so split between Bilal and Seemone that he does it almost by default. My gut feeling though – and my prediction based on her solid win in the stronger of the two semis – is that Seemone will succeed Madame Monsieur as France’s Eurovision rep. I don’t think she’ll beat Bilal by a huge margin, but by enough to get her crowned fair and square. This means that once again, my personal favourite will be pipped by a song I like, but don’t like as much…still, the pain will be practically nonexistent compared to what I felt when Eva lost to Mercy at the last second (but whatever, I’m TOTALLY OVER IT *sobs*).

 

Now, let’s fly over to Eastern Europe and stay for a while. There’s lots to talk about!

 

HUNGARY: Big hitters in A Dal’s second heat  

 

If you read my last post, you’ll know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year. It’s always a great NF to get into, but there’s a particularly huge percentage of kick-ass music on offer in 2019 (as far as my tastes go, anyway). If you read my last post you’ll also know that I was/am in love with Olivér Berkes’ Világítótorony, which failed to qualify from last Saturday’s heat and broke my heart in the process. I’m sure you’re feeling pretty unhappy about it too, Olivér, so feel free to hit me up if you want someone to share a pity party with.

Here’s hoping this week’s heat goes more my way (since I’m still trying to tape my poor heart back together). Once again there are six spots up for grabs, with these 10 songs in contention:

  • Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet
  • Szótlanság, Bence Vavra
  • La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie
  • Little Bird, Diana
  • Kulcs, Fatal Error
  • Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy
  • You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu
  • Roses, The Middletonz
  • Ő, The Sign
  • Incomplete, yesyes

Neither of the two songs I straight up dislike are in this heat, so it’s safe to say I’m excited about it. Tonight is also a battle between five-time participant and ESC alum András Kállay-Saunders (as half of The Middletonz) and 2018 runners-up yesyes, to see if there’s room for both of them to qualify. I suspect there is…and if you want to know what else I suspect will happen in this round of A Dal, keep reading.

 

My favourites

I might be in the minority here (and I say might because I actually don’t know) but IMO yesyes has topped 2018’s almost-winner I Let You Run Away with Incomplete. I’ve already professed my love for it in the post I keep mentioning, so I won’t re-ramble here. I’ll just say that it ticks all my boxes, has a definite shot at winning the whole comp and will certainly qualify from this heat.

My next pick is Roses. Urban, original and on-trend, it’s the kind of song that would stand out in any NF. I’m a little worried it will be messy when performed live as opposed to slick and cool like it is in studio, but The Middletonz should be innocent until proven guilty. I’m not sure Roses will sail through to the semis but my fingers are crossed.

Csak 1 Perc and La Mama Hotel are the best of the rest for me. The former screams radio hit and I love it, but again I’m nervous to see whether it will be a success or a fail on stage. La Mama Hotel is rocky and intense and like basically every type of song, makes Hungarian sound so damn good. Insert prayer for these two to make tonight’s top six here!

I’m not too fussed either way about the other six songs, but if I had to pick two more to advance I’d go with Nyári Zápor and Ő.

 

Who’s going through?

I’m even rustier when it comes to predictions than usual, and I had a super hard time with this one. The Hungarian public and jury can vote in mysterious ways, and realistically, almost anything from this heat has the potential to rise or fall. I am confident that yesyes will qualify and either outright win or tie FTW. Following behind in an orderly fashion will be, I’m guessing, The Middletonz, Fatal Error, Diana, Acoustic Planet and Dávid Heatlie. Don’t be surprised if Klára’s too-Disney-for-Disney ballad sneaks through though – it wouldn’t be the first time A Dal has rewarded a song like that.

Who do you think will make the grade in this Hungarian heat? Let me know in the comments while you still can!

 

The ESC 2019 songs and singers so far

My bad – I’ve realised I’m yet to react to ANY of the recently (and some not-so-recently) selected songs and/or artists for Eurovision 2019. Let’s fix that, shall we?

Albania It’s Jonida Maliqi and her amazingly white teeth (seriously, who does her dental work? I need the inside info) who’ll be flying the Albanian flag in Israel. Ktheju Tokës is a promising track with all the grandeur and mysteriousness of a typical Albanian entry, but I’m not sure that it can hit the heights of Mall. I’ll save any further thoughts for the inevitably revamped version.

Belgium Voice graduate Eliot Vassamillet is dropping his dope surname for the ESC and will be aiming to pick up where Blanche left off rather than where Sennek did. The trend has been for RTBF’s acts to do consistently well (Roberto Bellarosa/Loïc Nottet/Blanche) – and since Eliot’s song will be penned by City Lights writer Pierre Dumoulin, I’d say watch out, everyone else. Fun fact: Eliot was born in 2000 and is somehow old enough to be out of nappies and of ESC age. My god, I feel old.

Macedonia She’s been in the background and foreground of a few contest performances in her time, and now Tamara Todevska has been selected to solo for Macedonia. Her 2008 entry is a slightly guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve liked what she entered previous Macedonian NFs with, so I’m thinking this was a good choice. Here’s hoping she can do better than her sister Tijana did back in Copenhagen.

The Netherlands Fairly unknown (not complaining) Duncan Laurence will follow in Waylon’s footsteps for the Netherlands, though hopefully not to the point of wearing a leopard-print pimp coat on stage. What we do know about Duncan is that he’s easy on the eyes, and has a beautiful and distinctive voice at his disposal (thanks to a leaked demo version of a song that may or may not be his ESC entry). I’m quite excited about this guy.

San Marino Was San Marino trolling us all by letting us think the Human Ken Doll was representing them? I don’t really care, I’m so relieved that he isn’t. That left the door wide open for Serhat to come strolling through as he did in 2016, and I feel stupid for not seeing it coming. I don’t know how to feel about this news, but there’s a chance we could get a decent song out of him this time (i.e. one that isn’t the guiltiest of guilty pleasures). That’s what I’m hanging on to.

Spain In a disappointingly non-dramatic outcome, Spain chose Miki and the super-fun La Venda to go to Eurovision rather than risking a televised ‘Why me?!?’ tantrum and subsequent refusal to go from Maria. Overall, I think they made a smart choice. Miki has loads of energy and charisma, looks like Amir back in Amir’s university party days, and is armed with three minutes of Latin-flavoured happiness. I like the song and expect it to grow on me even more, but I think some fans are getting ahead of themselves with the top 5 proclamations.

PS…I’ll slip in a little word here about the freshly-revealed host quartet for 2019. First things first, I am not a fan of the four-host scenario – it puts too many cooks into the Eurovision kitchen and gets messy very easily. But on face value, the four handpicked by KAN – supermodel Bar Refaeli, and TV presenters Erez Tal, Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub – look promising, and like they’ll have a decent dynamic. Rumour has it there’ll be a divide between Refaeli and Tal as the main hosts, and Azar and Ayoub as the green room hosts, so that should help.

 

What’s next for NF season?

  • 27/1 Romania (Selecţia Natională, SF1)
  • 28/1 Czech Republic (ESCZ winner announcement), Eurovision 2019 (allocation draw)
  • 29/1 Finland (artist announcement)
  • 31/1 Estonia (Eesti Laul, SF1)

 

I think I’ve finally said all I had to say for now, so congrats if you got through it. If you have any energy left, head down to that comment box and spill the tea on anything to do with Eurovision 2019, national finals, what you’re watching and expecting tonight and your personal problems if they’re interesting.

 

I’ll see you on the other side of this (sort of) Super Saturday!

 

 

 

A DAL, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN | A love letter to Hungary’s Eurovision 2019 song selection feat. my top 30!

In case you didn’t know, Sweden is my all-time favourite Eurovision country and the one I support unconditionally every year (2009 aside…La Voix was a moment of insanity on their part). But I have to say, there’s another nation nipping at their stylishly-shod heels.

Hungary has gifted three minutes of greatness (in every genre imaginable) to the ESC almost every time they’ve participated, and while I’ve been waiting for them to finally win I’ve kept a close eye on their national final A Dal. And this year, the competition is seriously wow. I mean, if I had to sum up how I feel about it in just a few words, ‘VISZLAT NYASSS!!!’ would do it.

Thankfully I don’t have to limit myself to just a few words, so instead I’m going to devote an entire blog post to how awesome it is. The upcoming A Dal is too good NOT to discuss in detail to the point where you guys are snoring and drooling – so maybe grab some coffee (triple shot) before you check out my thoughts on all 30 entries as we wait for the comp to start on Saturday night. And as always, share your agreements and disagreements in the comments. I’m desperate to know if you’re as impressed by Hungary this year as I am!

 

 

My A Dal douze pointers

Working from best to worst, this is my top 10 in a comp that’s setting the standard for song quality this NF season. If the Eurovision gods are smiling down on me when the A Dal final rolls around, one of these tracks will win it. If not, I may cry a little.

Lighthouse, Olivér Berkes This song does to me what I think Amar Pelos Dois did to a lot of people (but NOT me): it makes me feel feelings that manifest in the form of goosebumps, spine tingles and moist eyes that I may or may not blame on allergies. It’s one of the prettiest piano ballads my ears have ever been exposed to, and Olivér – competing in A Dal for the first time as a soloist and the third time overall – delivers it emotively and with the perfect mix of flawless and rough-edged vocals. I do think the Hungarian version Világítótorony is extra special, so I’m hoping Olivér opts to sing that during A Dal. Either way though, it will be stunning.

Wasted, Barni Hamar Barni might look like he should be competing in a JESC NF, but his song is totally ready for adult Eurovision. Wasted – composed and written Mikolas Josef style by Barni himself – is exactly the kind of cutting-edge, catchy as heck radio pop I always gravitate towards when the A Dal songs are unveiled. I’ve had it stuck in my head for days and I’m not complaining about it. This song is the bomb, and if you love it too, check out Barni’s EP Different on Spotify – the whole thing is in the same musical and lyrical neighbourhood.

Incomplete, yesyes Truth time: I didn’t get the yesyes hype last year, when they finished just behind AWS with I Let You Run Away. With this comeback track, they’ve taken the skeleton of that song and fleshed it out, bringing something to life I can definitely say yesyes to. Incomplete has every box on my douze-point checklist ticked – it’s current, dynamic, edgy, atmospheric and catchy. Plus, the potential for a kick-ass light show to accompany it is sky high, and that tends to make me happy. Watch out for this one, because it could run away (see what I did there) with the win very easily.

Roses, The Middletonz This is the fifth time András Kállay-Saunders has attempted to represent Hungary at Eurovision (with a 1/5 success rate, obviously). This latest try is giving him a pretty good shot at victory in my opinion (as someone whose own success rate at predicting the outcomes of national finals is laughable). Roses is a love it or hate it sort of song, but clearly I love it. What I love most about it is how it’s ever-evolving, shapeshifting in sound constantly throughout the three minutes but in a pattern that you can follow. I’ve never heard a song quite like it before, and neither has Eurovision. Just saying…

Az Én Apám, Joci Pápai My boy is back! I nearly passed out when I heard that Joci, the man behind one of my all-time favourite ESC entries and a string of other amazing songs, was giving A Dal another go. Given Hungary’s tendency to bounce from genre to genre and never send the same act twice, I don’t think we’ll see him at Eurovision 2019 – but they could do a lot worse than sending this heartfelt ethno-folk ballad. It might not be as dramatic as Origo (topping that is impossible) but it’s just as beautiful and arresting in its own way.

Posztolj, USNK As soon as I found out that ByeAlex co-wrote this, I knew I’d soon be professing my love for it on this blog. And here we are! That songwriter credit is the only thing Posztolj has in common with Kedvesem (another favourite ESC entry of mine), but I’m a fan regardless. It serves swag, attitude and grit, and makes me feel cooler than I actually am just by listening to it. USNK, fresh from winning Hungary’s X Factor, obviously have public vote-pulling power too. I don’t think Hungary would be afraid to send this to the A Dal final.

Százszor Visszajátszot, Konyha I’m strangely bummed that I like this so much because it means I have to type out that crazy long title more often (JK…I’ll be copying and pasting). But it’s too good to resist. Hungarian is one of my most beloved musical languages, and this song is a great example of why. It’s slick, it’s neat, and that chorus is infectious times infinity. I also think it works as chill party background music, a song you’d sing along to on the radio in the car AND one that can compete in a contest. That’s no mean feat. 

Maradj Még, Kyra Here’s the powerhouse female pop I knew would be in A Dal somewhere, since this NF leaves no genre stone unturned. Again, because this is Hungary, it’s not straightforward, middle-of-the-road cookie cutter pop we’re talking about here. Maradj Még has bite. It moves from solid verses to an awesome bridge, then on to an epic chorus feat. big vocals and a little EDM influence. I hope to heck that Kyra can deliver this live – if not it will be a mess, but if she can, HECK YES.

Hozzád Bújnék, Gergő Oláh Another returnee, Gergő is in it to win it for the fourth time, and while Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz A Jó (a song that deserved Eurovision and so much more) it’s still top notch stuff. Soaring, powerful and all class, it’s like a talent show winner’s single but actually decent. Gergő will want to be at his vocal best performing this, since it showcases his voice without spotlighting much else (i.e. there’s no bells and whistles to distract from a dodgy vocal). I’m pretty confident he can handle it.

Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy You might see this as a wildcard in my top 10, or at least as a song that wouldn’t be so highly thought of by many other people. But there’s always an underdog in with my favourites, and congrats Gotthy – it’s you this time! I don’t expect Csak 1 Perc to progress too far in A Dal. Unlike Százszor Visszajátszot (copied and pasted) it’s a definite radio song rather than a radio song AND a competition song. But that just means I will be streaming the shiz out of it on Spotify and enjoying every minute.

 

The rest of the best

I’ve listed all my absolute favourites from A Dal 2019 now, but I wouldn’t be devastated if any of these next entries won instead.

Hazavágyom, Leander Kills This is something a bit different from Leander Kills – and it’s damn good different. I prefer epic Élet from 2017, but this ethnic, unique and folksy creation is a song I wouldn’t mind winning the whole thing.

La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie I love the intensity and energy of this one. It passed me by a little when I was first running through the 30, but I’m glad I gave it the attention it deserves.

Ide Várnak Vissza, DENIZ I’m a sucker for a rap/vocal combo (it’s one of the billion reasons I love Origo so much) so what DENIZ is bringing to A Dal is A+. How similar does the vocalist sound to Medina though? Listen to 100 Dage, her collab with Thomas Helmig, and you’ll know what I mean.

Holnap, Bogi Nagy If you’re looking for a female equivalent of Olivér Berkes – or a female-led song that’s simple, pretty and emotive like Lighthouse – here’s your girl and here’s your song. It’s far from being in Lighthouse’s league, but it’s a really nice ballad and Bogi’s vocals are practically angelic.

Help Me Out of Here, Petruska I loved Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind, and for me this one doesn’t quite measure up to that. But the Paul Simon Graceland vibes put me in a good mood.

Barát, Salvus The early 2000s called, but they can’t have this Christian rock-esque number back because I want and need it here in 2019.

A Remény Hídjai, Nomad Mid-tempo soft rock is on the vanilla side of things for me, and this is no exception. But vanilla is still appealing! Hungarian sounds boss in this genre like it does in EVERY GENRE IN EXISTENCE.

Ő, The Sign This is a weird song, and most of it is taken up by ‘Őőőőőőőőőőőőőő.’ But, even though it may not maximise the 180 seconds it has to work with, I find it so soothing and pleasant to listen to that I still like it a lot.

Frida, Rozina Pátkai ’Ethereal’ is a word I don’t use very often when I’m talking music, but it’s fitting for this track. I wish it had more x-factor to take it to the next level, but that’s a small pet peeve and I’m still impressed by it.

Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet I didn’t like this much based on the teaser, and I still think the guitar parts are way too throwback. But the rest is easy-listening enjoyment all the way, and it puts a smile on my resting bitchface.

Little Bird, Diana There’s one thing stopping me from ranking this way higher, and it’s Diana’s voice – it just grates on me. That aside, Little Bird is an awesome addition to A Dal this year. I’m hoping I’ll find the vocals more agreeable live.

 

I’m undecided…

I need some more alone time with these songs to see how I really feel about them, but there’s something appealing about them all.

Madár, Repülj!, Gergő Szekér I think I like this. It’s original and dramatic, no doubt, but a bit messy. Chaotic messy, not artfully messy like Gergő’s hair.

Szótlanság, Bence Vavra I’ve listened to this as often as I’ve listened to everything else, and I cannot remember how it goes. Yet when I do press play, I always think ‘Yeah, this isn’t bad!’. Go figure.

Egyszer, Mocsok 1 Kölyök I don’t feel any fire from this in terms of competing FTW, however I wouldn’t skip it on a shuffling playlist. The 90s grunge feels are strong.

You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu There’s usually a carbon copy of this song in A Dal (it reminds me particularly of Fall Like Rain from a few years back) and I’m never a big fan. This time it’s a guilty pleasure for me, though. The lyrics are beyond cliché, but the melody is nice and overall I find it a relaxing listen.

Kulcs, Fatal Error I have to be in the right mood to listen to this, otherwise the noisiness and frantic pace send me into meltdown mode. If I am in the right mood, I will headbang until I need a chiropractor.

Someone Who Lives Like This, László Váray Would I miss this if it wasn’t invited to the party? No, but I don’t mind it being on the guest list.

Kedves Világ!, Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko Okay, nothing special. I welcome every song that’s in Hungarian though.

 

Thank u, next

Loving or liking 28 out of 30 in this lineup is what made me want to write this ramble in the first place – but yes, there are a few songs I don’t like.

Forró, Ruby Harlem The style of this is not my bowl of goulash at all, and I find the chorus super irritating.

Run Baby Run, Monyo Project The verses aren’t bad but the chorus (another song-ruining one) is so repetitive and monotonous, it gives me a headache.

 

 

And that’s every single song on offer in A Dal this year from my perspective. I love so many that I’m guaranteed to get heartbroken during the heat and/or semi stages, but I’m confident we’ll get a great winner and Eurovision entry from Hungary in the end. Stay tuned to EBJ for my predictions when the time is right…

 

Which potential Hungarian ESC entries are you excited about at the moment? Is A Dal 2019 as dal-ightful in your opinion as I think it is? Let me know below!

  

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 1 (Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + the Netherlands)

Hello there! I bet you thought this day would never come – the day when I’d finally get my Euroshiz together and do what every other ESC website has been doing for a month.

REVIEWS!!!

Okay, so you might have known I’d kick things off eventually if you’re familiar with my sloth-like tendencies (never visit this blog for breaking news, because it won’t be breaking by the time I talk about it). Now that there are four weeks to go until Lisbon’s first semi final, though, you’re about to be flooded with my verdicts on all 43 songs competing in Eurovision 2018. It’s a review tsunami, so strap on your lifejackets and take a big breath!

For Round 1, my high-tech random selection process – in which I copy-pasted a list of the countries, closed my eyes and pointed at it 43 times – resulted in Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands being the fortunate first group to be judged (you’ll have to wait a while for the lucky last). So if you want to see how I rate Sevak, Eleni, AWS, Christabelle and Waylon, you came to the right place.

Check out my reviews, vote for your favourite of today’s five, and share your thoughts in the comments. Pretty please?

 

 

My thoughts If you’d told me a few months ago that Tamar Kaprelian would not be representing Armenia at Eurovision this year, I would have had a very melodramatic meltdown. Poison (Ari Ari) is an ethnopop masterpiece after all (Disagree? CASH ME OUSSIDE, HOW BOW DAH?!?) and when I listened to the snippets of everything else Depi Evratesil had to offer, I didn’t hear anything as awesome. As Donny Montell knows, love is blind…but it also made me deaf to the potential of eventual winning song Qami. I honestly can’t even recall hearing a snippet of Sevak’s power ballad – the first all-Armenian language song sent to adult Eurovision – even though I definitely did. Yet all it took was one look at/listen to his national final performance for me to forget about Poison (almost – a banger is always a banger) and fall head-over-heels for Qami. ‘Wind’ as it translates to – and it’s a safe assumption that he’s talking about the force of nature, not the aftermath of a particularly spicy vindaloo – ticks every box on my mental checklist for epic ballads. It’s a slow burner that starts off subtly before exploding at the end of the second chorus (kind of like the 0-100k/ph dynamism of Aram Mp3’s Not Alone). It’s haunting and mysterious. The melody is stunning, and the repetition of the title gives us non-Armenian speakers something to latch on to. Plus, the contrast between the delicate first half and Sevak’s vocal and visual strength (there’s wearing your heart on your sleeve and then there’s wearing your abs on the outside of your shirt) makes the overall package vulnerable and powerful at the same time. I know a lot of fans aren’t as psyched about this one as I am, but every year there’s one song I adore that not many other people seem to (and it can either bomb, or kick butt in the actual contest like Origo last year). I do think there is room for Qami to do some butt-kicking in Lisbon, this not being a ballad-heavy year and Sevak having the kind of song that could be a mind-blower if it’s staged right. But that’s more of a hope and prayer than a prediction, so don’t hold me to it!

2017 VS 2018? 2018, hands down (sorry, Artsvik).

My score 12

 

 

My thoughts Speaking of ethnopop masterpieces…enter Cyprus! Strutting in wearing a catsuit and a pair of sky-high heels, of course. Last year I was pleasantly surprised by Hovig’s Gravity, which was constantly compared to Rag & Bone Man’s Human – familiarity doesn’t breed contempt with me, I guess. I’m mentioning the comparison because once again, Cyprus has delivered a great pop song that happens to fit neatly into the mould of one I’ve heard before – in this case, a bunch of songs from Helena Paparizou’s back catalogue. Is there anything wrong with that? Umm, NO. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud originality, and Lisbon is lucky to have it in the form of Israel, Ukraine etc. But even a Paparizou album filler would be welcome at Eurovision, and since we can’t have the queen herself performing one (though she did record a version), Eleni and her Fuego are the next best thing. I love this, and it was an instant love strengthened by the fact that ‘You got me pelican fly fly flying’ is legitimately one of the lyrics. That IS original! I feel like this song was engineered especially to appeal to ethnopop tragics like myself because, in that department, it does everything right. Simple, neatly-rhymed verses + a chorus made up of hooky melodies and yeahs (which can be exchanged for ohs) + a memorable riff played on a traditional instrument = this, and every other ethnopop entry ever. Basically, it’s Aphrodisiac (Greece 2012) with a 2018 magic wand waved over it. With the product placement from the music video out of the question for the live ESC performance, and Eleni sure to be looking as hot as the fire she’s singing about, my only concern is how she’ll sound. The lives of hers I’ve checked out have been fine – albeit feat. some heavy lifting from backing vocalists – but I have heard she isn’t the most reliable live performer. Still, if Jedward can sing seemingly in tune (with their backup vocalists’ mics turned way up) then anyone can. And if someone can point me in the direction of proof that Eleni is actually a top-notch singer and convince me that I shouldn’t be worried, they’ll get a gold star. I really want this to be Cyprus’ fourth finalist in a row, not their first DNQ since 2013.

2017 VS 2018? This is like choosing a favourite child. NOPE. Not happening.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts You’ve got to give Hungary credit for never sending the same song to Eurovision twice. Their bounce-around approach has, since their 2011 comeback, given us dance pop, electro rock, an acoustic alt-ballad, EDM, a charity song, anthemic rock and an ethnopop slice of heaven (Joci Papái was my favourite last year and is still a true musical love of mine). In 2018 we’re getting something different again with hardcore(ish) rock/metal/I’m clearly not an expert on the genre of AWS’ Viszlát Nyár but it sounds intense to me. It’s certainly the most hardcore, rocky song competing in Lisbon, and while that will help it stand out, such songs don’t always go over well at the ESC (I can’t imagine juries going nuts over this). The fact is that the demographic AWS are aiming at is not found, in droves at least, in the Eurovision audience (if someone did a Venn diagram to demonstrate it, the two fan bases would have a pretty tiny overlap area). I’m definitely not the kind of person who would readily abandon their pop sensibilities for anything involving screaming to music. So you might be surprised to learn that I actually like this. Like, not love (á la Origo, which I said I’d marry in my review last year if I could) but yes, I dig it. It reminds me a little of Dead By April’s Melodifestivalen entry Mystery, which I was obsessed with back in 2012 – it features the same mixture of soft moments and intense, scream-your-lungs-out moments that a) make it dynamic, and b) stop it from totally alienating people who aren’t regular purveyors of hard rock. As always, Hungarian sounds alluring and mysterious as the language of choice (is there a genre it doesn’t work with?), especially in the verses. Overall, Viszlát Nyár might be well outside my top 10 for the year, but there are only two or three songs I dislike and this is not one of them. I’m a big supporter of Hungary in the contest and I do hope AWS give the country their 8th consecutive qualification…but I think it could be a tough task. The best comparison song would be Softengine’s Something Better, which did very well for Finland in 2014 but was a lot more accessible (and the screaming was confined to the last twenty seconds or so). I don’t expect Hungary to perform as impressively as that if they do make the final, and TBH, I’ll live if they don’t. Still, it would be nice to have some rock on hand to spice up the best Saturday night of the year.

2017 VS 2018? It’s a no-brainer – Origo all the way.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Not for the first time – they did it last year too – Malta is sending an artist to Eurovision who’s tried to represent them before with a better song than the one they’re actually getting to go with. In Christabelle’s case, 2015’s Rush really should have been her Eurovision song, but it finished 2nd in MESC that year (Saddy McSadface). And so, three years later, we’ve ended up with Taboo, a mostly Maltese production feat. input from Thomas g:Son (shocking). I’ve developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with this song, though now I think about it, those words are probably too strong – ‘like-dislike’ would be more accurate. Basically, there are parts of it I really like and others that I really don’t. First, the negatives: it may not be as lyrically lame as past Maltese entries, but it’s all over the place with metaphors and similes, making it fairly nonsensical and the message confusing (apparently it’s about mental health struggles, ICYMI). The chorus in particular bugs me like crazy – it seems like the songwriters wanted it to be meaningful, but it turned into a mess of words that happen to rhyme with ‘animals’ (criminals, miracle, *my brain explodes*). The dubstep break is my other main gripe with Taboo, just because it feels passé and could have been left out to no great loss. Positives-wise, there’s good energy, a hypnotic beat, a contemporary-sounding melody, and an overall approving nod for Malta choosing something like this. And I have to mention the MESC performance, which was OTT but very cool at the same time…even if it might be hard to replicate on Lisbon’s LED-less stage. To her credit, Christabelle is a likeable performer with a decent voice, providing she’s not running a marathon or doing star jumps constantly during a performance (code for ‘don’t make her move too much, Team Malta!’). I think Taboo has a better chance of qualifying to the final than Claudia’s Breathlessly did last year – that proved us all right when it went nowhere. But in semi two, where five or six countries could easily advance from the first half alone, Malta’s odds are 50-50, and the shock value will be minimal whether they qualify or not. Unfortunately they’re performing just three songs before Sweden, and Benjamin is armed with an uptempo song accompanied by a slick, impressive stage presentation – much like Malta, but better. And with Sweden being almost a dead cert to qualify, if one of the two is going to be sacrificed to the DNQ gods, it will be Malta.

2017 VS 2018? 2018 fo sho. I’d rather break the taboo than be breathless.

My score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts The first question to ask someone who’s about to hear Outlaw In ‘Em for the first time is ‘How do you feel about country music?’. If their answer is ‘Not good’, then they won’t be giving it douze points, or anything close. Waylon’s solo Eurovision entry is without a doubt the countriest country song I’ve ever come across. Every lyric, every guitar lick – even the title – is dripping in the genre, and makes me feel like an idiot (or should I say ‘good for nothin’ varmint’?) for not wearing a cowboy hat. Of course, as soon as the song’s over, normal cowboy-hatless life resumes. I have to say, I do enjoy a country song or 65, but I’m more of an easy-listening cruisy country fan, as opposed to a rip-roarin’, honky-tonkin’, gun-totin’ type. In that sense, you can understand why I much prefer Waylon feat. Ilse deLange (a.k.a. The Common Linnets) with Calm After The Storm to this entry. The fact that Outlaw is so darn country – to the point where it’s about to fall off a cliff edge into Cheesy Canyon – is a turn-off for me, even though I appreciate the go hard or go home mentality (a half-assed country-tinged track for Waylon? No sirree). It reminds me of Achy Breaky Heart too much to take seriously, only it’s too fast to boot-scoot to. I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t want all of y’all to challenge me to a stand-off just yet. I’m not totally, 110% anti-Outlaw. On the plus side, I like the lyrics: unlike Malta, the theme here is clear and consistent; and the rhyming is beautiful, which makes the overall package sound neat. The song is unique (in this competition, anyway) and definitely memorable. And Waylon is a great performer even when he’s not locking eyes with Ilse – in Portugal he’ll be making eyes at the camera instead, and I’ll imagine he’s staring straight into my soul (in a sexy way, not a demonic way). Will he end up staring down the barrel of qualification, though? The betting odds say heck yes, but I have to wonder if this song is going to be too divisive. It does come to life more on stage than in studio, so I can see it meeting expectations on the night/s that count most. Yet the mass appeal needed for a win isn’t there, and I can’t see a Common Linnets result in Waylon’s future either.

2017 VS 2018? 2017. Girl power and incredible harmonies > full-on country extravaganza.

My score 6.5

 

 

And that, guys, is Round 1 done and dusted. Five down, 38 to go in less than four weeks.

SEND HELP.

Then, when you’ve dialed 911/000/whatever your country’s equivalent is on my behalf, you can take a look at today’s mini-ranking:

  1. Armenia (12)
  2. Cyprus (10)
  3. Hungary (7)
  4. Malta (6.5) 
  5. The Netherlands (6.5)

So it’s Sevak who takes the top spot, which is obviously not a shock to me because I already knew how I felt about these five songs (let me hear you say ‘DUH!’). Now the question is, can Qami hold on to the #1 position as the EBJ 2018 reviews continue? You’ll have to stay tuned – and subscribed, hint hint – to find out. Opt in for new post email alerts in the sidebar, or find me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram (all @EurovisionByJaz) to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

Before I sign off and in turn stop begging you to follow me on social media, I do have another question:

 

NEXT TIME The Lisbon reviews are just revving up…and if I want to get them finished before Eurovision happens, I need to get a move on. Drop by on the weekend when I’ll sit myself down on the EBJ judging panel to critique Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania, and Spain!

 

Until then,

 

 

 

Putting The (Freaking) Beautiful Into The Mess: My five favourite performances of Eurovision 2017

Happy Hump Day, everybody! They say time flies when you’re having fun, but apparently it also flies when you’re in the torturous throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. It’s already been a week and a half since Portugal won their first ever ESC, and to me it actually feels like it’s been longer. Shouldn’t NF season have started again by now?

I just mentioned a bad bout of PED, but I have to admit that mine hasn’t been nearly as bad as usual. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve been pretty busy since final weekend, dealing with all the stuff I didn’t do before the shows because I had nothing but Eurovision on the brain and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. From now until about April 2018, my brain-space will only be 90% occupied by Eurovision – that leaves 10% for everything else, which IMO is plenty.

Obviously I’m not here to talk about anything but the contest, though, and today I’m focusing on the most freaking beautiful performances of 2017, according to moi (because boy, is this a subjective topic). Staging and singing standards were high this year, but there weren’t that many acts that had every single bit of their s%#t together. Here’s my personal shortlist – from no. 5 to no. 1, for maximum soap-opera-cliffhanger suspense – of those that did.

Hit me up with your top five performances of the year in the comments, and we’ll see if we have any countries in common…

 

  

#5 | Robin Bengtsson’s performance of I Can’t Go On for Sweden

But of course! I’d be concerned for my mental health – and I’m sure you guys would be too – if I’d willingly left Sweden off this list. Just as the two certainties of life are death and taxes, the two certainties of Swedish Eurovision performances are a) they’ll be polished to perfection, and b) they’ll have been that way since we first saw the future ESC rep on stage at Melodifestivalen. There was certainly no need to change Robin Bengtsson’s risky, but super-suave and super-slick staging of I Can’t Go On between Stockholm and Kyiv – although the backdrop was revamped, two dancers were replaced, and a new suit was bestowed the privilege of being wrapped around Robin (FYI, SVT…I would have done that for free). ANYWAY, Robin’s Eurovision performances were as sharp as said suit, and just as entertaining as his first public one from the NF days. What’s to fault? I do now feel inadequate, since I can barely power-walk on a treadmill without tripping over my own feet (let alone strut on one with confidence while singing, et cetera), but that’s just me being pedantic.

 

 

#4 | Salvador Sobral’s performance of Amar Pelos Dois for Portugal

Taking an alternative approach to Sweden’s cool, calculated one paid off for Portugal. Every single time Salvador the Salvadorable took to the ESC stage, he put a slightly different spin on Amar Pelos Dois, via his vocals and unique performance style. That gave his three minute appearances an authenticity and freshness that was so endearing, it made many of us feel like proud parents watching their shy son come into his own at a school talent contest. But don’t get me wrong – his performances were world class, with an emphasis on the ‘class’. Being the only artist to use the satellite stage (Hungary’s violinist doesn’t count), he stood out without the aid of any bells and whistles (I have no problem with pimping out a performance, but we all know APD needed to be pared-back). He’s a spellbinding presence on his own, and with that stunning woodland backdrop behind him, delivered something that was impossible to ignore. There wasn’t anything else on show in 2017 that was quite so dreamy…if we don’t include Robin Bengtsson’s penetrating gaze and Imri Ziv’s biceps.

 

 

#3 | Joci Pápai’s performance of Origo for Hungary

I might be biased on this one, since as you probably know, Origo is my hands-down numero uno song of the year. But even I was worried that Joci would be too nervous on stage, or that the A Dal performance feat. dancer, violinist and suitably aggressive rap sequence wouldn’t translate well to the much bigger IEC stage. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. The intimacy of the performance – an important thing to cultivate considering the personal nature of the song’s story – was retained, but the use of the satellite stage and the fire jets expanded it to Eurovision-size. The colour scheme was perfect, the camera shots clever, and the emotion just as raw and real as it needed to be to not come across as phony (or over-rehearsed). Joci’s costume change for the final was the icing on the cake. The only thing I’d have done differently is toned down the smile on the violinist’s face – I feel like she needed to be more Sandra Nurmsalu and less Alexander Rybak for Origo purposes. Then again, I can’t blame her for smiling her way through a performance this good.

 

 

#2 | Kristian Kostov’s performance of Beautiful Mess for Bulgaria

I had no idea what to expect from Bulgaria this year in terms of staging, but I knew that Beautiful Mess deserved to be presented in an amazing way. What was ultimately done with it was incredible, and gave it all the visual interest it needed without taking away from the song or from Kristian’s beyond-his-years charisma and vocal talents. Geometric shapes and a bleak but totally on-trend monochromatic colour and lighting scheme went hand-in-hand with Kris’s Addams Family-esque clothing choice. Together, those elements made the performance seem so mature it was easy to forget that he’s a kid who only recently turned 17. The choreography was simple, and the shaky camera shots that kicked in halfway through (perhaps inspired by the treatment of Oscar Zia’s Human at Melfest last year) added to the atmosphere. As Kris sings in the chorus, I don’t want nothing more – i.e. I couldn’t have asked for anything better – from Bulgaria’s performance. That’s two years in a row now, and it makes me excited for what they might bring to the party in Lisbon.

 

 

#1 | Sunstroke Project’s performance of Hey Mamma for Moldova

A public service announcement: from now on, we’re all to spell ‘fun’ like this – M-O-L-D-O-V-A. If you were after a Eurovision 2017 performance that ticked every single box, then you’d undoubtedly have found it in the Sunstroke Project’s sophomore stage appearance. It took a great party song and made it a serious contender by doing everything right. The boys and their brides-to-be were entertaining, energetic and vocally solid; their dance moves were quirky, memorable and easy to copy after a few drinks gave you the courage (or was that just me?); and their background graphics were 10/10. They also threw in a handful of bits and pieces that ramped up the fun factor without turning Hey Mamma into a disposable novelty entry – think the backup singers’ costume change, and their synchronised bouquet toss into the audience. Moldova’s semi performance took me by surprise as I didn’t foresee it being my highlight of the night, but it was. And final night wouldn’t have been the same without them, that’s for sure. A third place well earned? You bet your epic sax!

 

 

Now I’ve shown you mine, you can show me yours! Which performances from Kyiv do you think were the most douze-worthy?

 

 

Next time…I hope your poll-taking skills are still sharp from voting in Barbara Dex, because the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards are about to kick off, and I need you to decide who and what should win the People’s Choice trophies! From the Miss and Mr. Congeniality awards to the Dancefloor Filler of the Year, Best Music Video and OMG Moment of the Year honors, it’s up to you to vote in a whole heap of categories and have your say on the best – and worst – of Eurovision 2017. Don’t miss your chance!!

 

 

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Azerbaijan, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Norway + Portugal

Pryvit, Europeople.

That’s right – we have to say hej då to the ‘hej!’ greetings that preceded Stockholm 2016 (at least temporarily…as someone still learning Swedish, expect me to throw around random words á la Svenska on a regular basis, no matter which country is hosting the show). It’s time to hop on board the Ukrainian bandwagon! That’s because we’re less than a month away from the first semi final of Eurovision 2017 (!!!) which, at the time of typing, will still be held in Kyiv. Sans Russia, surprise surprise.

So now I’ve said hello accordingly, there’s some important business to take care of: FINALLY kickstarting my song reviews. Sadly, I haven’t had time to pull together an EBJ Jury for 2017, having just been sightseeing, Melfesting and eating too much cake in Europe for a month (which I will be using as an excuse for not achieving stuff until approximately October). But guess who offered to help me out by listening to and passing judgment on all 43 42 competing entries?

MRS. JAZ! Yes, my mum is back on EBJ,  just after traveling with me to Melfest and then requesting a copy of the 2017 album with genuine enthusiasm (like I said in my last post, the brainwashing is going swimmingly, guys). So get ready to hear verdicts on the Class of 2017 from someone who may have seen Robin Bengtsson strut his freaking beautiful stuff in the flesh twice, but hadn’t heard any of the other competing entries before reviewing them. She’s got the fresh perspective, I’ve got the constant comparisons to last year on lock. Let’s get going!

First up…well, the title says it all. Read on to find out if Dihaj, Anja, Tamara, Joci, JOWST and Salvador managed to impress both a hardcore ESC fan and a first impression-ist.

 

 

My thoughts Say whatever you want about Azerbaijan at Eurovision (be it good or bad; be you polite or potty-mouthed) – you can’t deny that they’re dangerous. They’ve never failed to qualify for the final, and despite a dip in results recently, more than 50% of their time in the contest has been spent sitting pretty in the top five. So will it be a sky-high finish or another slump for Dihaj’s Skeletons: a song that makes a big move away from Melodifestivalen discard Miracle? If it were up to me, Azerbaijan would definitely be back on the left side of the 2017 scoreboard – and I mean WAY up on that side. This song kicks butt! It’s everything I was hoping for from the often experimental Dihaj – interesting, edgy, moody and current – but still has a Sia-esque, accessible pop sound, making it less divisive and giving it more mass appeal. The verses, pre-chorus and chorus itself blend together brilliantly; yet each one has its own distinct vibe without any weak links letting the team down. And is the whole thing catchy or what? The lyrics (particularly in the chorus) make zero sense, if you can even interpret them in the first place – my first impression was ‘I’m a skeleton…and I love my minions’ – but that doesn’t bother me at all. Factor in Dihaj’s quirky sense of style, powerful-but-raspy vocal and Azerbaijan’s tendency to make staging their bitch, and you’ve got the formula for something that, annoyingly, won’t reach the ranks of Running Scared or Always…but totally deserves a top ten finish. 10 points.

My mum says… Oh yes – I liked this straight away (so it was a good start to the marathon of listening I’ve gotten myself in for). Dihaj has a great voice with great range, and took me on a bit of a musical journey reminiscent of an exotic, mysterious Contiki tour. The song is catchy for sure, but not in a commercial ‘How many times have we heard this before?’ kind of way. It sounds like it’s going to have a heck of a stage show to go with it at Eurovision. Well, that’s what I’d be hoping for, anyway! 8 points.

Azerbaijan’s score 9.00

 

 

My thoughts For many Eurofans, The Voice Australia winner Anja was the “real” winner of DMGP 2016. With the Emmelie de Forest creation Never Alone finishing second (shockingly), I don’t think any of our jaws hit the floor when she was announced as a returnee to the comp this year. She changed genre and the all-around vibe of her performance with the all-Aussie Where I Am, which hasn’t completely paid off in the Eurovision bubble (according to some, this entry is yet another hashtag fail for Denmark). But I disagree as much as I possibly could. I LOVE THIS SONG! Love, love, love it. Sure, the pop ballad style may be slightly passé, but there’s something – and by that, I mean everything – about Where I Am that makes it my dream pop ballad. The melody is extraordinarily earwormy, the layers of instrumentation (with an ever-so-slight electronic influence) are contemporary, and Anja’s powerful delivery is unparalleled. She can sing the pants off an entire arena without even trying (so make sure you don’t go commando if you’re heading to Kyiv), and that does elevate a song that I’ll admit would be more pedestrian if sung by a lesser vocalist. And it has to be said that, as always, she looks stunning while she’s doing it (GIRL CRUSH ALERT). Can you tell the whole Danish package is parked up my street? The Australian-ness of it all is an added bonus. My only dilemma is, which flag do I wave if both Australia and Denmark make it to the final? I know I’ve got two hands, but one is reserved for the national flag of my favourite song’s country. I suppose the Aussie one covers both bases, whether Denmark likes it or not. Anyway, I digress. I’m giving Anja DOUZE POINTS!!!

My mum says… If you told me to describe how I feel about this one in two letters, I could do it. I’m not sure why you would, but my point is that the letters would be O and K. It’s no more than nice, and I feel like I’ve heard it before – which I don’t feel at all with Azerbaijan (and I like to hear something different). If I was Denmark, I’d be worried about being forgotten in the 42. As me, I’m just not too keen to listen to this one again anytime soon. It’s not horrible, but I don’t feel the love from above. 5 points.

Denmark’s score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts Let’s be honest – the standard of the Georgian NF was pretty mediocre this year. That being the UNDENIABLE TRUTH (assuming you agree with me) then it’s safe to say that Tako/Tamara, who almost made it to Moscow in 2009, was probably the optimal option to send to Kyiv. Sadly, however, that is the biggest compliment I can bestow on Keep The Faith, which ironically makes me lose faith in Georgia as a Eurovision country that can bring it on. 2016’s Midnight Gold was bat-shit crazy and I bloody loved it, but this bargain basement Bond ballad sucks the soul out of me. Lyrically, it could be lamer, given the overall concept of the song (which is like ‘Let’s take Polina Gagarina’s Million Voices and turn it into a melodramatic musical marathon fit for The Phantom of the Opera!’) but Tamara’s constant droning of ‘keep the faaaaaaith’ almost makes me wish they’d gone full cheese when writing it. It just goes on and on, and then on some more, until you’re expecting her head to explode from the pressure. Don’t get me wrong, because I don’t loathe this song with a passion (which I’m guessing sounds like a lie after all the hate I’ve let loose so far). It’s not in my bottom three. Simply put, though, I don’t like it. Like Anja, Tamara has a powerful set of pipes up her glittery sleeve, but in this case I don’t think they make the song any better. This is all my opinion, of course, which I’m entitled to as much as you’re entitled to metaphorically slap me while screaming ‘TBLISI 2018!!!’…so if you’re Team Georgia, I tip my hat to you. But I won’t be joining you on the playing field. You’ll find me sitting on the sidelines blasting Midnight Gold instead. 3 points.

My mum says… For something so dramatic, there’s a lack of x-factor and general satisfaction here. It may have been a better fit for a Broadway musical than a song contest. It promises more than it delivers, even though there’s an obvious crescendo reached…maybe Tamara’s voice isn’t quite strong enough for the song? She certainly wants it to be, and I admire her for going for it and really attacking her performance. But I don’t think her aggression is the way to win Eurovision. 4 points.

Georgia’s score 3.5

 

 

My thoughts There was a time when I thought I’d never move on from the traumatic loss of Spoon 21 at A Dal’s semi-final stage. Sure, their live performance of Deák was pants, but the song was/is peak electropop – and who’s to say the band couldn’t have made Ryan Dolan-level progress between the NF and the ESC anyway? True as that may be, it’s Joci Pápai and Origo heading off to Kyiv on Hungary’s behalf…and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Consider my poker face gone and my entire deck of cards on the table, folks, because this is my favourite song of the contest. I am in love with it, and would totally propose to it if that was a socially acceptable thing to do (apparently you can marry the Eiffel Tower, but not a three-minute Eurovision song). It’s haunting and hypnotic from beginning to end, with the mix of Hungarian (one of my most-loved musical languages) and Romani (which, like the song’s subject matter, highlights Joci’s heritage) making it extra-exotic, and allowing him to tell his story as authentically as possible. The rap is also a cool addition, seeming like an outlet for Joci to vent his frustrations and emotions in an unrestrained way that doesn’t happen in the lead-up. Every element of Origo flows smoothly into the next, with the slick production and ethnic riff making it current yet still one of the most original (pun intended) entries of the year. I understand that it’s a divisive song, but I think it was an adventurous choice for Hungary to make, and I love that it represents multiple facets of their music scene by marrying the old and the new. Whether that will work in their favour or not remains to be seen, but I’ll be praying that it does. DOUZE POINTS!!!

My mum says… As a disclaimer, Jaz didn’t tell me how she felt about this song before I offered up my own opinion (she doesn’t even tell me which country each one is from before she forces me to I voluntarily listen to them). As it turns out, though, I love it too! It actually gave me goosebumps. Beautiful instrumentals, great atmosphere and something I can’t put my finger on that just makes me want to hear it again – and hear more of what Joci can do. Origo gets 12 points from me!

Hungary’s score 12.00

 

 

My thoughts When it comes to the MGPs, I think Denmark had the superior line-up in 2017 (which is definitely not the norm). Norway only had a few songs that had the potential to give them the final finish at Eurovision that Agnete’s could not. Luckily, though, they picked one. Grab The Moment is an effortlessly ‘now’ pop song that takes advantage of the universe’s unquenchable thirst for music with weird noises and vocal samples in the background (which JOWST manages to pull off live). It’s familiar enough, style-wise, to feel comfortable, but original enough to not provoke any cries of ‘PLAGIARISM!’; and the chorus is so damn hooky, it could catch a great white shark without even breaking the ocean’s surface. I liked the song straight away because it’s not a challenging listen. All it asks from you is to have some fun (and not in an out-of-tune Tereza Kerndlová kind of way) and it makes that very easy to do. No, it doesn’t have what it takes to win Eurovision, and I’m not even confident it will sail to the final. But I personally am more than ready to grab the moment – and enjoy every moment JOWST and Aleksander are on stage. 8 points.

My mum says… This one’s definitely catchy, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I feel like if I listened to it two or three more times in a row, I wouldn’t like it much more – it would start to annoy me instead! I’m not a fan of the lyrics, and I don’t hear anything that makes it stand out from the crowd. It’s not terrible, but all I can say is ‘next, please’. 5 points.

Norway’s score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts Montenegro’s taking us back to 2003, San Marino to 1977 and Portugal to 1956 for Eurovision 2017 – go figure. Two of those three throwbacks I’m on board with (stay tuned to the rest of the reviews to find out which time warp I DON’T want to do again) and Salvador’s is one of them. Why Amar Pelos Dois is so high in the betting odds is a bit of a mystery to me, but I can’t bring myself to trash what is a delicate, soaring and very vintage ballad that is powerful because it isn’t, if that makes sense. We haven’t heard a song so ‘classic ESC’ compete for a long time, and as such, it’s hard to say whether it will prove the bookies right or not. I do think Salvador can win televoters over with his adorkable charms, though, and perhaps the juries with both the song and his understated, pitch-perfect delivery of it. I feel like I want Portugal to do well more than I want Amar Pelos Dois itself to succeed (because there are plenty of other songs that I prefer) but there won’t be one without the other. So, in amongst my fistfuls of Hungarian, Danish, Swedish and Australian flags, you might just find a teeny little Portuguese flag come Eurovision week. 7 points.

My mum says… I quite like this one, as old-fashioned as it is. I can imagine it being performed in a smoky jazz club (in spite of the lack of jazz) in the 1950s, with nothing but a man, a few supporting instrumentalists and some dry ice on the intimate stage. I don’t think it would win the contest in this day and age in a fit (as a layperson) but it has to make for a nice contrast against the countries coming equipped with all the bells and whistles Customs will allow into Ukraine, doesn’t it? 7 points.

Portugal’s score 7.00

 

 

That’s the six songs for today taken care of! Now, with Round One done, the leaderboard looks like this:

  1. Hungary (12.00)
  2. Azerbaijan (9.00)
  3. Denmark (8.5)
  4. Portugal (7.00)
  5. Norway (6.5)
  6. Georgia (3.5)

Congratulations (and celebrations, etc) go to Joci for his impressive win. Sure, he only had to impress two people to make the number one spot, but I was pretty convinced my mum would think Origo was oriNOOOOOOO.

Can Hungary keep a hold of the metaphorical crown with 36 countries’ songs still to be scrutinized? TBH, if I keep going with only two jurors, he probably will. Lucky the final EBJ ranking doesn’t count towards anything official. OR DOES IT?!?

No, it doesn’t.

Waiting in the wings to be reviewed in Round Two are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland – i.e. lots of girl power feat. Koit Toome and that guy from Fusedmarc. Don’t forget to drop by to see if anyone ends up with a douze…or the opposite. As Koit and Laura would say, prepare for dramAAaaAA.

In the meantime, let me (and my mum) know what you think of the songs we’ve reviewed this time. Do you agree with any of our opinions, or should we be ashamed of ourselves for countless reasons? Don’t leave the comments box lonely 😦

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

There you go – CHAOS. Wonderful, wonderful chaos.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

I have no effing idea.

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

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

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

 

My top four

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

 

The rest

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

  

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

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

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

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

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

adf17

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

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

 

My top eight

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

 

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

  

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

2015sig

 

 

REVIEWS | The EBJ Jury Judges Eurovision 2016 (Part 4)

Welcome to the halfway point of my quest to cram 43 Eurovision 2016 reviews into a far-too-short space of time! It’s been quite a rush so far (literally), and today, six more songs are under the scrutiny of my esteemed panel of ESC experts. But first, in case you’ve forgotten which countries came before this bunch, and/or what choice comments the EBJ Jury made about them, here’s your midway reminder:

  • Part 1 Croatia, France, Greece, Poland, Romania and Russia (reviewed by Rory from Ireland and Wolfgang from Germany)
  • Part 2 Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland (reviewed by Mrs. Jaz and Fraser from Australia)
  • Part 3 Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, San Marino (reviewed by James and Martin from the UK)

Now we can move on to exposing the identities of Part 4’s jurors and countries, whether they like it or not. I’m sure they would, though. It is an honour AND a privilege to be associated with me, after all.

*AWKWARD SILENCE*

 

 TODAY’S EBJ JURORS

 npm4

It’s an almost all-American panel making the judgment calls this time. Nick, Penny and I are about to ramble on (and on some more, in my case) about Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Montenegro and Spain. Dalal and Deen (AND Ana Rucner, AND Jala), Poli, Lighthouse X, Freddie, Highway and Barei are undoubtedly dying to hear our verdicts – so let’s get going!

 

 

Bosnia

Nick Ah, Balkan melodrama – one of my favorite Eurovision offerings. Bosnia & Herzegovina’s returning to the contest with flair, a fair amount being brought by the ever-exuberant Deen. His 2004 entry is actually a pretty big miss with me, so I’m happy he’s brought along this troupe of supporting characters, as Ljubav Je is a decent hit with me. The song grows nicely and it all flows pretty well together, until Jala comes in to mess things up (but in a good way). If the rap wasn’t there, the song would stagnate and have no good way of developing after that. Jala drives it home into the final chorus, and his is probably my favorite part of this entry. Also worth noting is the use of full Bosnian in this song, making it one of only three to go entirely non-English this year – and it’s the best of the three (sorry not sorry, Austria and FYR Macedonia). I do worry that it’s too contrived for the ESC, and that its big downfall will be that it doesn’t go down the standard Balkan ballad route, but I’m happy they took a chance with it. Let’s see if Europe rewards them.

Penny When BHRT announced that their 2016 song was going to involve a mash-up of styles, part of me was expecting a really bad mash-up of six songs fused together. After listening to Ljubav Je for the first time, it sounded like someone crossed Zauvijek Moja (Serbia & Montenegro 2005) with Jas Ja Imam Silata (FYR Macedonia 2010). I like Ana’s cello solo paired up with the drums, the gradual build-up of the song, and how Jala’s rap part fits in with everything else. I don’t have any idea what he’s saying, but at least he starts at the right point and does a syllable count before adding in his part so it doesn’t sound as jarring as a lot of people say. So, yay – the Balkan ballad quota of the year has been filled. But at the same time, I think I might be getting tired of the formula, because I can’t find that ‘magical’ aspect in the verses, despite them being performed well. Also, I’m still trying to get over the fact that Deen’s face has morphed into an Easter Island moai head (sorry, Deen).

Jaz Eurovision without a Balkan ballad would be like Melodifestivalen without schlager (yes, even in 2016): just plain weird. So I’m very thankful to my old mates B & H – plus Dalal, In-The-Disco-Deen, Ana Rucner and Jala – for delivering us from the evil of an atmospheric powerhouse-less contest. With Ljubav Je, they have also delivered us a Balkan ballad with a difference – namely, the rap. I can’t confess to having missed that element in Montenegro’s masterpiece Adio last year, but nor am I one of those people who think ‘rap’ puts the R-A-P in ‘crap’. The combo of ethnic and urban sounds that this song serves up is an interesting one, and I do think it works – the rap toughens up the classical beauty of the cello, while Dalal and Deen stay true to the step-by-step guide I’m sure exists entitled ‘How To Perform A Balkan Ballad’ (though it is a bit sad to see Deen removing all traces of 2004 hip-thrusting from his routine). And Jala’s entrance is more of an appealing surprise than a jarring one, in my opinion. BUT…not all Balkan ballads are created equal, and this is no Adio, Lejla or Lane Moje. It’s not even close. The overall feel is by-the-numbers and slightly half-hearted, and it doesn’t give me any goosebumps as the best of the BBs do. Still, I reckon this is an entry that will thrive live on the big stage, with all bells and whistles in place. It’s likely to be far more impressive and multidimensional then, when all memories of the low-budget video clip have (hopefully) been banished from our minds.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 4
  • Fraser 4
  • James 4
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 5
  • Wolfgang 8

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s EBJ Jury score is…5.44

 

 

Bulgaria

Nick Another returning B country, Bulgaria’s also trotting out a returning artist: fandom queen and (debatably) wronged 2011 NQ Poli Genova. Her song was the last to be revealed this year, and dare I say, it was worth the agonising wait. If Love Was a Crime definitely sounds like it comes from the Balkans, but it’s got a smartly-applied layer of Swedish gloss that doesn’t distract from the intended sound (hear that, Cyprus?). The build-up into a drop using the chorus is an undeniably modern choice – especially for Eurovision – and it was even smarter to write in a Bulgarian-language hook that’ll get stuck in everyone’s heads come May. My main concern with this entry is that it’ll be really hard to stage in a way that highlights the song rather than holding it back. It’s not got that many opportunities for choreography, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Bulgarian delegation (one not known for stage direction) will do. Otherwise, I have no doubts that this will be one of the standout tracks of the year.

Penny First off, there’s a flute solo. Given what’s happened to other songs with flute solos (e.g. Lane Moje, Molitva and Only Teardrops), Poli’s probably in good company and should qualify. Throw that in with one of the most Ohrwurm-y refrains of the year, and she could get into the top half of the final. I wonder how many people will get ‘O, daj mi ljubovta’ simply by seeing the words printed on the screen or hearing Poli sing the song once. The song feels really light-hearted and fluffy in the verses, but then she gets to ‘If love was a crime, we would be criminals,’ and I can’t help but connect with the words despite them sounding really cheesy (thanks, S.O. whom I haven’t seen since November because of scheduling issues and constant technical difficulties). There’s also something really nice about the way she pronounces ‘miracles’ and ‘criminals’ in the song that I don’t know to describe…but it’s kind of like in songs that shove too many syllables into one line to show that there’s so much emotion/back story that it wouldn’t fit if it stayed in syllable count. So yes, I’ll be waving white-green-red in front of my laptop during ESC week.

Jaz All paths were leading to Poli Genova representing Bulgaria this year: her super-successful turn as 2015’s JESC host, her…ah…um…okay, so maybe there was just the one path. But it was still a logical choice for BNT to make – and a choice that was incredibly well-received by the fan community. I haven’t seen a single negative word Facebooked, Tweeted or Instagrammed about Poli, and the reaction to her second ESC entry If Love Was A Crime (the prequel to Frans’ If I Were Sorry, I presume) has been almost as positive. And why wouldn’t it be? This is a song that does pretty much everything right, ticking all boxes without being a goody two-shoes about it. Lyrically, the verses and pre-chorus are a little weak – I mean, I get that ‘If love was a crime, we would be criminals’ is a necessary evil in a song that hypothesises what would happen if love was, in fact, something you could get arrested for indulging in…but it’s such a predictable line. Still, I can’t criticise much else about this track. It’s contemporary (complete with weird non-human noise in the background), energetic, ultra catchy (particularly when Poli launches into the Bulgarian chorus, which even non-Bulgarian speakers can latch on to with ease) and memorable, mainly thanks to that hook. Factor in Poli’s proven ability as a live performer who always seems to enjoy herself on stage, and you’ve got Bulgaria’s best chance of a celebration-worthy result in a long time – perhaps EVER, given that their highest placing in history is 5th. I did say ‘perhaps’ – girl is going to have to fight for it. But, huge success in the offing or not, Bulgaria deserves a round of applause (and a round of drinks) for pulling Poli and not-Na-Inat-2.0 out of their hat.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 6
  • Fraser 10
  • James 12
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 7
  • Penny 10
  • Rory 12
  • Wolfgang 6

Bulgaria’s EBJ Jury score is…8.67

 

 

Denmark

Nick Once again, Denmark’s choice of a seemingly run-of-the-mill boyband entry over an annoying female fanwank proved to set the fandom alight for no reason, as the superior song was picked. With either Simone or Anja hopping across the Øresund to Sweden, Denmark would be much further down on my list (especially with the latter, who’d occupy space 43 easily), so Lighthouse X is my personal savior. That being said, Soldiers of Love is still a pretty bland song that occupies the same area of the pop landscape as the Irish song this year. However, it does it so much better than Sunlight, and it ends up that Soldiers of Love is actually the song that shines. The music is written to be catchy and punchy, the occasional riffs on piano standing out in that aspect; and there’s a nice flow to it. It’s also one of the few entries this year that stands out more live than in studio, as the group’s voices add an extra layer that’s lacking in the studio version. Hopefully Europe will hear the difference in quality and send this boyband nouveau song through from semi two.

Penny Remember last year, when Norway’s Mørland said he did something terrible in his early youth? After DMGP, a lot of people would probably say that he stole a time machine, formed a band, went to the year 2016, entered Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, and angered every fan who wanted Simone or Anja Nissen to win. I’m just kidding, but does anyone else think one of the Lighthouse X guys looks like Mørland? While this was a bit of a surprise winner at the time and a tad cheesy (somewhere around sharp cheddar), I’ve warmed up to them and found myself singing along to the refrain of Soldiers of Love every time they show up. It’s cheery, makes me smile after having to endure multiple exams, and – as proven by their DMGP performance – they can pull it off live.

Jaz I know I should leave the past in the past and move the heck on, but you say ‘Denmark 2016’ and I say ‘How DARE you remind me of the most painful heartbreak I have ever experienced during a national final season?’. The hours I spent sobbing into my pillow (and whoever else’s pillow I came across during the grieving process) weren’t due to Anja Nissen’s so-close-but-so-far DMGP defeat, but to Simone’s shockingly distant third place (which left a heart-shaped hole in my chest…if only metaphorically). I simply did not see Lighthouse X coming – or the fact that their name is pronounced ‘Lighthouse Ten’ (Roman Numerals are rarely the first thing on my mind). I suppose I should have, since they satisfy every requirement in the Danish rulebook of selecting a Eurovision entry: they’re a generically good-looking act offering a competent but not-at-all risky or exciting pop song, and that (somehow) always gets the Danes voting in droves (possibly because that’s the bulk type of song they have to choose from, thanks to DR). Usually, it works for them at the ESC – qualifications, comfortable results, and an occasional win thrown in for adequate measure – but last year, it backfired. Yet we’re still getting more of the same! Having said all of that, I do like Soldiers of Love, and how easy on the eye the Lighthouse trio is. They look pretty and sound pretty singing a song that does most of the things it should in all the right places. The chorus is melodically strong and uplifting, even if every line of it is a cliché (you might even say it’s a cliché love song. Oh, the irony!). But…does it light my fire? Nope. I want it to melt my marshmallows, but all it does is brown them ever-so-slightly. Basically, it’s perfectly fine, and therefore very vanilla. Denmark might be all for safety first, but when countries think outside the box, that’s when they’re truly competing.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 2
  • Fraser 8
  • James 3
  • Jaz 8
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 8
  • Rory 4
  • Wolfgang 4

Denmark’s EBJ Jury score is…5.22

 

 

Hungary

Nick When I came to ranking these songs, I wanted to listen to the nightcore (sped-up and pitched-up) versions of each one to ease myself into the process. Usually, I end up liking those a little more, and Pioneer was no exception. In saying that, I still wanted the song to be over less than halfway through. Moving on to the regular live performance was even worse, as the one featured on the official channel had Freddie mumbling and screaming off-key on the A Dal stage. The song is a noisy mess that has no flow and clichéd motivational lyrics. It also does that horribly annoying thing where the singer draws out a word for no reason other than to fit the rhyme: see ‘real’ in the second line of the chorus. I’d almost appreciate the brashness of the music if everything else was done tactfully enough to let it shine…but as it stands, this is an absolute mess of an entry that should see Hungary out of the final for the first time since their return. Better luck next year.

Penny I couldn’t remember what this song sounded like until listening to over forty Top 43 ranking videos. And although I can now remember what (part of) it sounds like, I don’t understand how it’s in almost everyone’s top 10. The whistling in the verses and the grit in Freddie’s voice sounds nice, but Pioneer is a plodder and doesn’t do much for me. Sorry Freddie, but I’ll probably be getting food while you’re performing so I’m not hung(a)ry. The glow sticks and swirly background do remind me that I need to visit my local science museum though.

Jaz The A Dal final was full of fabulous potential Hungarian entries. For starters, none of them reminded me of Boggie or Wars For Nothing. Then we had the quirky hipster sing-along song from Petruska, epic ethnopop from Gergő Olah, and achingly cool alt-rock from Kalláy Saunders and his band. Rising to the top of them all in the end, though, was Freddie’s Pioneer, an early favourite. For me, there was something about this song from the start – something unique and raw that I was drawn to. The rawness, I guess, was mainly emanating from Freddie himself, who is far from being a smooth operator in the vocal department (that’s a compliment re: his gravelly voice, by the way). As the performer, he adds an authentic rough edge to a song that is an anthem á la Denmark’s, but without the cheese. I love everything about it – the minimalist construction, the whistling, the extremely powerful chorus that is bound to be explosive on the Eurovision stage…and how can I fail to mention the walking, talking hunk of eye candy that is Freddie (yes, I’m shallow. Get used to it). I’ve been saying for a few years now that Hungary are likely to win the contest sometime soon, and though it’s unlikely that 2016 is ‘soon’, I stand by those comments with Pioneer in mind. Also, Freddie, if you’re reading…yes, I am single, and waiting for your call. WINKFACE EMOJI.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 7
  • Fraser 6
  • James 5
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 8
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 2
  • Wolfgang 12

Hungary’s EBJ Jury score is…6.33

 

 

 Montenegro

Nick Okay, can we take a minute to recognise ‘I see you inside me’ as one of the creepiest lyrics of this year? In fact, my biggest hang-up with this entry is the vaguely stalkerish imagery that’s present throughout the song. Musically, I’m a big fan of the acid rock/dubstep crossover, but the lyrics and vocals throw me off. Deep voices aren’t usually my thing to begin with, and they’re especially not when I’m being crooned at with such lyrics as ‘I’m gonna run, gonna feel good.’ Assuage me of fears that does not, and it really harms what could’ve been a strong entry. Montenegro’s track record – one that astonishingly includes a song like The Real Thing, 2013’s Most Wrong Entry™ Igranka – tells me that they’ll probably meet the same fate they did when the contest was last in Sweden. However, this time, I’ll probably be a little less bitter about losing them.

Penny Montenegro has decided: two years of Balkan ballads was nice, but there’s more to the ex-Yugo music scene. It looks like that means it’s time to send an entry closer to Who See’s than Knez’s. When I first heard The Real Thing after its presentation, all I could think was, ‘What IS this noise?’ – and that it sounded like a bunch of random people who all wanted to play their instruments as loudly as possible. As of so far, the only lyrics I can understand are still ‘Inside you’ and ‘Feel it; I’m the real thing, yeah.’ It’s not my favorite genre, and I still need to put in effort and energy to focus on the song, but it doesn’t deserve the bottom-three hate that it seems to get in YouTube rankings. Also, I’m still really confused as to what this “real thing” that Highway talk about is. Does it mean that they’re real people? Or are they just not hiding their identities?

Jaz In stark contrast to the previous two acts, Montenegro is sending a group to Stockholm who are NOT incredibly attractive (in my opinion). Why does that matter? Well, it doesn’t – I just thought I’d mention it to remind you that it’s not just what’s inside that counts, especially at Eurovision (and to remind you that I’m a judgmental jerk and proud of it). Anyway…the song! After the 2015 Montenegrin masterpiece that was Adio, we’ve been given what is allegedly The Real Thing – and though I know which one I prefer, I have to applaud Montenegro for showing variety, and Highway for staying true to their style (otherwise, they’d be performing a song called Not Exactly The Real Thing). Like Penny, I don’t agree with everyone who has Highway right at the rear end of their rankings. I’d even go so far as to say that I enjoy this track. It’s Georgia 2.0 for me: I don’t know why I like it exactly, and it’s not in the genre ballpark that I normally hang out in, but I’m on board nonetheless. If we compartmentalise it, we’ve got a) verses that are actually very well-produced and current, b) a chorus that is noisy, yes, but was made for rocking out to, and c) a guitar riff that sticks. It’s surprisingly cohesive when strung together for three minutes. I’m not seeing it through rose-coloured glasses here – I know it’s not going to go anywhere. But in spite of that, it floats my boat. No lifejacket required!

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 8
  • Fraser 1
  • James 1
  • Jaz 8
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 5
  • Rory 1
  • Wolfgang 0

Montenegro’s EBJ Jury score is…3.78

 

 

Spain

Nick It’s a sign of the times: Spain’s finally thrown off the Spanish and is going full English for the first time. Putting aside my disappointment at Eurovision’s continued slide into linguistic homogeny, I must admit that this song lends itself well to the language, although that’s just my backhanded way of saying it’s kind of anonymous. Barei’s the undoubted star of the show in this entry, as her exuberance onstage adds so much to what’s otherwise a drop in the bucket of up-tempo, feel-good songs. That’s not to say the song doesn’t have its positives – the verses are nicely orchestrated and the English lyrics aren’t as cringey as they could’ve been. But it is lacking a distinctly Spanish flair that Barei’s making up for. Whether that will deliver Spain a better result than Edurne’s shriekfest (that was overrated at 21st, if you ask me) is up for debate, but I have a suspicion this year’s result will tend more toward Pastora Soler territory.

Penny While I’m a little disappointed that there won’t be any Spanish in the contest this year, this entry is already an improvement on 2015’s, since a) Barei can hit all the notes and b) her song feels a bit more ‘honest’ (as in, she seems to be telling her own story instead of someone else’s). It’s also really nice to have the one flashmob song of the contest, given that Barei’s been doing that dance for every single performance and in almost every interview; and that Say Yay is really catchy and easy to sing along to. Then again, how hard is learning ‘Say yay, yay, yay’, or ‘Sing it, la, la, la, la’? However, while I’d definitely sing and dance along if someone else played the song, I don’t know if I’d actively search for the song since the backing music makes it sound like it’s something my dentist would play, or one of six (yes, six) songs that would play over the bakery radio at work (I will confirm that this sounds way better than dental drills or the oven buzzer though).

Jaz Like A Dal, this year’s Spanish final was packed with awesome potential ESC entries. I would say Barei was among that bunch with Say Yay!,  but she wasn’t my first, second, third or even fourth choice to represent her country. I have no problem with her – she’s a great singer with a interesting catch in her voice, and she brims with personality and energy on stage. Plus, on the whole, Say Yay! is a modern, effervescent dance number that practically prohibits you from standing still. However, there’s an aspect of it that screams ‘background music’ to me – maybe it’s the largely instrumental chorus. Whatever the source, I just don’t feel like it makes enough of a statement as a standalone song to win Eurovision. There’s no doubt it has the ability to do well for Spain, particularly when pedaled by someone who sells it like Barei does. But overall, I find it a little wallpaper-like. It’s there, and it’s nice, but I’m not going to be paying that much attention to it when there’s opulent statement furniture elsewhere in the room.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 1
  • Fraser 12
  • James 7
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 10
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 6
  • Wolfgang 6

Spain’s EBJ Jury score is…6.78

 

 

And we have a runaway winner! Of this round, that is. Shockingly, it isn’t Montenegro. 

  1. Bulgaria (8.67)
  2. Spain (6.78)
  3. Hungary (6.33)
  4. Bosnia & Herzegovina (5.44)
  5. Denmark (5.22)
  6. Montenegro (3.78)

Bulgaria takes this one out in impressive fashion – but will they do the same (or even remotely similar) at Eurovision itself? Are we totally off the mark relegating Spain to second place? Has my undying love for boybands influenced my decision on Denmark, or would you agree that it’s bland, but not bad? I have so many questions, and you can provide the answers in the comments below. If you don’t, the chances of Ani Lorak returning to the ESC will decrease by 33.33%.

Speaking of returnees…next time, my mother and Germany’s very own Wolfgang will be back to have their say on Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland, Israel, Latvia and the United Kingdom. You might be surprised by the songs that go down well with those two. Then again, you might not – it depends on how easily you’re surprised. Either way, don’t forget to drop by!

 

2015sig

 

 

SUPER SATURDAY #5 | Thoughts on the new tracks of 2016 + my top 28 + Swedish second chances!

The title of this post pretty much says it all – besides letting you know that I actually haven’t got the time to review and predict the Estonian or Polish finals. I do have time to pass judgment on the songs that have become Eurovision entries since last Saturday, however. And to unveil my first official ranking of the year. AND to put Melodifestivalen’s Andra Chansen round under the microscope to see if I can guess who’ll walk away with the four performance slots in next weekend’s final. So all of the above is what I will do – right here, right now.

Well…in a minute.

Just so you know I know what’s going on in the Eurovision bubble over the next few nights, here are my traditional bullet points.

Tonight:

  • Estonia’s Eesti Laul – the final (will there be a Stig and Elina-style runaway winner? I suspect not)
  • Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the semi final (believe it or not, the end is in sight)
  • Poland’s Krajowe Eliminacje – the final (Edyta, Margaret, or neither to Stockholm?)
  • Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the Andra Chansen round (eight must become four)

Sunday night:

  • Romania’s Selecția Națională – the final (Mihai Traistariu’s chance to redo Eurovision)

Monday…sometime:

  • Macedonia present their song for Kaliopi (and she’s got her own big shoes to fill)

Now, let’s talk about the select stuff I have the chance to cover.

 

The songs and artist selections of the week, summed up in a sentence

Because ain’t nobody got the freedom for a full-length analysis – not with the week we’ve had.

  • LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan (Armenia) I don’t know if I’m impressed or disappointed by this unstructured, ethnically-tinged vehicle for Iveta’s raspy vocals.
  • Dami Im (Australia) She’s no Delta Goodrem (sadface), but X Factor champ Dami has the talent and dress sense to stand out in Stockholm – the only missing piece is a spectacular song.
  • Sing It Away by Sandhja (Finland) This reminds me of Belgium’s entry, but I prefer Laura to Sandhja (though I am glad Finland didn’t send Saara Aalto).
  • J’ai Cherché by Amir Haddad (France) Oui, oui and OUI.
maxresdefault

He’s more than all white as far as I’m concerned.

  • Pioneer by Freddie (Hungary) Hot singer + hit song = something that could be powerful on the Eurovision stage, and very successful for Hungary on the scoreboard.
  • Made of Stars by Hovi Star (Israel) If a song could be on the soundtrack of a West End musical, but a) isn’t, and b) isn’t Bohemian Rhapsody, then I’m not particularly interested.
  • Nessun Grado Di Separazione by Francesca Michielin (Italy) Classy, effortless Italian pop is a grande amore of mine, and this song is no exception (but please, please sing in Italian, Francesca!).
  • Heartbeat by Justs (Latvia) This is just/Justs brilliant, and features one of the most latch-able choruses of the year so far – Aminata, you’ve done it again.
  • Falling Stars by Lidia Isac (Moldova) The studio version, I’m keen on; the live version…well, Lidia positions herself right in the heart of screechy territory.
  • The Real Thing by Highway (Montenegro) This scares me and kind of appeals to me at the same time, but I expect it to perform terribly in its semi final.
  • Slow Down by Douwe Bob (The Netherlands) Bob’s style isn’t my bottle of Heineken, but even I can hear that Slow Down is a good example of folk/country that will do a decent job of leaving the Walk Along incident in its dust.
  • Icebreaker by Agnete (Norway) It’s incredible how Norway is managing to send two different songs to Eurovision 2016 without breaching any rules or regulations.
  • You Are The Only One by Sergey Lazarev (Russia) Sky-high expectations not met by a song that could have been lifted straight out of Eurovision 2006.
  • Blue and Red by ManuElla (Slovenia) You’ve got to do better than a Taylor Swift: 2008 Edition impersonator to impress me, Slovenia – what a step down from Here For You.

If you were wondering where the songs I’ve summed up here would factor in to a ranking including the rest, you’ll find that just below. If you weren’t, then feel free to skip to the Swedish section.

 

It’s here, and it’s uncertain! My first ranking of the 2016 season, revealed

I did put a ranking together a few days ago (not for publication’s sake but out of curiosity) and it was considerably different to the one below. What can I say? I’m fickle. This latest and first-to-be-publicised list includes all of the songs confirmed for Stockholm AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT – so Malta, who are still deciding whether Ira Losco should be a Chameleon or something else (I like to think they’ve got a backup track entitled Komodo Dragon waiting in the wings) is not included.

And so, for anyone who cares, this is my current top 28:

  1. Ukraine
  2. Hungary
  3. Italy
  4. France
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Belgium
  8. Germany
  9. Spain
  10. Moldova
  11. Ireland
  12. Denmark
  13. Albania
  14. Georgia
  15. Cyprus
  16. Armenia
  17. Iceland
  18. United Kingdom
  19. Switzerland
  20. Russia
  21. Montenegro
  22. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  23. Netherlands
  24. Israel
  25. Finland
  26. Belarus
  27. Austria
  28. Slovenia
top3

I have a ridiculously photogenic top three on my hands, if I say so myself…

With fifteen songs still to be premiered or picked, there’s a lot of room for movement in all of our lists. But I want to know who’s topping yours at the moment…and who’s sitting un-pretty on the bottom. Let me know in the comments, and I (might) send you a gift basket.

 

Meanwhile, in Sweden: It’s time to give out the last remaining final tickets!

 Andra Chansen, the stage of Melodifestivalen that’s as fun to pronounce as it is to watch, has arrived. And, like last year (but not the year before that), there are four places left in the Friends Arena final for tonight’s competitors to fight for.

SVT, as usual, have paired up the eight songs placed 3rd and 4th in the semi finals, ensuring that none of those who went to AC together will be up against each other again. In the process, they’ve come up with some duels that can only be described using the letters W, T and F. And that makes a few of them hard to predict. Let’s take a closer look.

 

Duel 1: Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz VS Hunger by Molly Pettersson Hammar

panmol

I’ll start with a confession: I would have bet my entire trip to Stockholm on Panetoz being pit against Boris René tonight (but I’m glad I didn’t). Don’t get me wrong – I’m relieved that both acts now have a shot at progressing from AC. But if SVT wanted to ensure the Melfest final was a variety show, they shouldn’t have given up an opportunity to eliminate one of two songs in a very similar vein. But ANYWAY, back to the duel that IS about to take place…this is a tough one. There are two very different artists and styles butting heads here. Panetoz are the masters of fun, energy, and transferring all of the above to the audience. Molly’s got a hunger, but I’m not sure it’s a hunger to win – there’s something lacking in her performance package (perhaps some of the Panetoz fun and energy). It isn’t vocal ability – she’s certainly got the monopoly on that in this duel. My personal winner is Panetoz, and I think they might have Molly cornered…but it’s not a given.

Who I want to win Panetoz

 Who WILL win Panetoz

 

 

Duel 2: Rik by Albin & Mattias VS Put Your Love On Me by Boris René

albbor

Here we have two repetitive songs up against each other. As much as I adore Albin and Mattias as artists, I have to admit that Rik is repetitive in an annoying, couldn’t-they-think-of-anything-else-to-fill-three-minutes kind of way, whereas it’s purely the chorus of Put Your Love On Me that uses the five title words and basically nothing else. Boris’ song and performance have so much more to offer, and he’s the clear winner of the second duel in my opinion.

Who I want to win Boris René

 Who WILL win Boris René

 

 

Duel 3: I Will Wait by Isa VS Kizunguzungu by SaRaha

isaraha

This is perhaps the weirdest pairing of the evening (Molly PH versus Isa? No? Okay then). I’m a big fan of both songs, but I think Isa may be trying too hard to get somewhere. Vocally (and physically), she’s can’t measure up to the lofty standards I Will Wait sets for her. SaRaha, on the other hand, owns Kizunguzungu, and is clearly completely comfortable and in her zone with Afro-pop. It’s not too intense, and she’s not straining to belt it out – which is the opposite impression I get from Isa. I think SaRaha’s ease and confidence (plus her sensational Spotify stats) will see her through to the final tonight.

Who I want to win Isa…SaRaha…I DON’T KNOW!!!

 Who WILL win SaRaha

 

 

Duel 4: Rollercoaster by Dolly Style VS Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor

dolsam

Ah, finally! A duel that makes sense. Almost-novelty against almost-novelty. We need to get rid of one of these acts/songs, and I think Rollercoaster will be the one to get the silver platform boot. The force that is Samir & Viktor shouldn’t be underestimated, despite the fact that they didn’t manage to go direkt this time around. Their fans will be out to compensate for that “injustice” by systematically destroying Dolly Style via a tsunami of televotes. I can totally live with that.

Who I want to win Samir & Viktor

 Who WILL win Samir & Viktor

 

 

Sadly (seriously, have some tissues at the ready) that’s all I’ve got time for, folks. After all, a good-quality pre-Melfest nap must take priority over not napping.

As always, leave your thoughts on any recent or imminent Eurovisual happenings down below. And – this is not optional – enjoy this second-last Saturday of national final season while it lasts!

 

Until next time…

 

2015sig