BENDY POLES, PORTUGUESE DEATH DROPS AND NOT-SO-PERFECT STORMS | My take on Tel Aviv’s first semi-final!
Just like that, Eurovision 2019’s semi final numero uno is done and dusted and we have our first ten finalists for the year. As always, the show came and went faster than I thought possible, which wasn’t the worst thing since I was keen to get back to bed after a late night and the unfortunate 3am wake-up. The things we do for Eurovision when the time zone isn’t in our favour…
Anyway, I’m guessing you didn’t drop by to hear me complain about something that I actually don’t mind doing because EUROVISION. So instead, I’ll dive straight in to reviewing the semi from start to finish. Splash!
First, a few asides about the less attention-grabbing stuff that happened:
Show pros The opening vignette feat. mini Netta (cute) and the Toy reprise from grown-up Netta that followed; the dancetastic postcards (Georgia’s may have been my fave); the overall look of the stage and the lushness of the LEDs.
Show NOs The hosts (there’s no Anke/Filomena type among the four) and their banter (pretty cringey); some residual dodgy camerawork; a couple of qualifiers I’ll name and shame later.
Now, let’s talk about the all-important bits and pieces: the performances and the results!
The performances: From not-so-good to great
I was going to run through the 17 in performance order, but then I thought ‘Why not offend as many people as possible by dragging their favourites and complimenting their most disliked entries excessively?’. Just kidding. But this is my personal scale of SF1 acts from ‘fail’ to ‘nailed it’.
Montenegro Poor D mol. They did what they could with Heaven, and if I was reviewing a high school talent comp or an episode of Glee, they’d rank higher. But it’s the biggest song contest on the planet we’re talking about, and this performance was not up to par. Questionable costumes, messy vocal moments and a song that could have been rejected by S Club 7 circa 2001 = not what it takes to make a Eurovision finalist.
Finland Icon status alone also isn’t enough to guarantee qualification, as Darude discovered last night. Look Away wasn’t statement enough to stand out in a field of 17, even though the superstar DJ and Sebastian managed to deliver a three minutes much, much better than those we saw at UMK. Finland just wasn’t meant to make it to Saturday night this year. Blame it on Sebastian’s mind-boggling jeans if it makes you feel better, Darude.
San Marino I’m going to do exactly what Serhat’s been telling me and say na na na to this massive slice of cheese. With I Didn’t Know being the Creepiest Song Ever™, it was no mean feat for him to outdo the ick factor from 2016 – but he did it. This performance was a step up from San Marino’s last year, but the whole thing gave off ‘desperate wedding singer hired out of guilt because he’s related to the bride and really needs the work’ vibes.
Belgium Eliot is a precious cinnamon roll and gave Wake Up an admirable go for someone so young and relatively inexperienced. He was just missing the very fight that he was singing about. Maybe it was nerves, not that he was visibly vibrating with the shakes á la Alekseev or anything. Another handicap was the song itself, which as we all know never really takes off. It couldn’t keep my attention away from Twitter and on my TV screen, I’m afraid.
Estonia I wanted this to be the same combo of charming and slick that saw Storm…well, storm to victory in Eesti Laul (thanks to the televote). But it was very rough around the edges – not quite a hot mess, but edging into that territory. The camera loves Victor and so do I, but he was barely hitting his high notes, something he acknowledged after the show. The green-screen weather is still one heck of an eye-catching gimmick though. Better luck on Saturday.
Georgia I’d heard there was some fierce staging afoot for Georgia, and I was not disappointed. The backdrops added a heap of intensity and atmosphere to the song, and I must say that Oto’s outfit was a huge upgrade from the hand-me-down disaster he was sporting on Georgian Idol. He sang well and connected with the camera like a pro, but as I suspected, what happened on stage wasn’t enough to make Keep On Going top 10 material.
Cyprus Was Tamta’s Replay a solid opener for the semi? Kind of. I was underwhelmed by Cyprus in general, with Tamta putting on a performance worthy of that time Mariah Carey could barely be arsed to get through one televised song and put about 37% enthusiasm into it. Also, the wet-hair-don’t-care/beyond thigh-high boots/crystallised leotard look was all kinds of wrong from where I was sitting. Maybe not Barbara Dex bad, but in that neighbourhood. The song itself saved this.
Slovenia I was worried about how Zala and Gašper’s closed-off intimacy would work on a much bigger stage than that of EMA. Truth be told, I didn’t think it did. The galactical backdrop was beautiful though, and I love Sebi so unconditionally that I’m willing to convince myself that the lack of down-camera connection was different rather than dysfunctional for Eurovision. The highlight has to be Zala’s vocals, which were as hypnotic and otherworldly as ever last night.
Poland Here’s a classic case of a song I’m not a fan of impressing me when performed live. All my traumatic memories of Lukas Meijer’s 2018 vocal car crash faded away, as Tulia treated us to a studio-perfect rendition of Pali Şie feat. a striking twist on traditional Polish costumes. They weren’t the most engaging artists and their singing style would have turned people off no doubt, but they were aurally flawless and my ears will be eternally thankful.
Hungary I’M NOT GOING TO CRY, I’M NOT GOING TO CRY, I’M NOT GOING TO CRY. I won’t mention why I’m holding back tears yet, like you don’t know. Wonderful, wonderful Joci gave me everything I wanted from Az Én Apám, sinister floating man-faces and misplaced fire curtain aside. This song hits me right in the heart and with Joci’s signature performance style (emotional, authentic and quietly powerful) that was always going to be the way when I saw it in this semi.
Belarus Cyprus better be grateful that Belarus drew a different final half, because ZENA – at age sixteen – somehow managed to out-Tamta Tamta. Her vocals were so-so at times, but when the staging is so fun, the choreography is killer and the performer’s personality is bigger than us (heh) who really cares? Not me. I enjoyed everything about this, and hoped it might have done enough to qualify once ZENA had done her Spice Girl kick at the end. Spoiler alert: it did!
Greece This was not the perfect package I was praying for, but I may just be feeling extra critical today after the semi did not turn out how I’d hoped. Thumbs down to the condom-shaped prop and overly-busy staging; thumbs up to the feminine florals and colour palette, and of course to Katerine’s drop-dead gorgeous vocals. Was this the semi winner? Not quite, IMO. But Greece put the kind of effort into Better Love’s presentation that they should have put into Oniro Mou.
Serbia Speaking of gorgeous vocals…Nevena unsurprisingly nailed every single one of Kruna’s notes, big, small and in-between. Her voice is amazing, she is stunning and the whirlpool graphics gave the performance more life and emphasised how high-def this year’s LED screens are (unless they just seem to be super high-quality in the wake of no LEDs in Lisbon). Our girl has sure come a long way, especially in the fashion department, since 2013.
Iceland If you were able to push through the feeling of having all your senses assaulted by Hatari, then you would have loved this as much as I did. It was the national final performance tweaked and refined, with better vocals from Matthias and Klemens, and that was all these guys needed to bring to Tel Aviv. I couldn’t help laughing at the contrast between Iceland in last year’s first semi and Iceland this time around. This is proof that it pays to be adventurous (unless you’re Portugal).
Czech Republic It was party time from the second Lake Malawi’s Albert said ‘Can you hear it?’ and flashed his exceedingly pearly whites right at me. That’s what it felt like, anyway. I have no complaints about this fun, colourful (in a Belgian sort of way) and confident performance. Great camera effects and crystal-clear money notes too. This was like a rejuvenating vitamin B shot, which we all needed after sitting through a block of anti-party songs.
Portugal Before I even talk about last night’s results, I feel compelled to say that PORTUGAL WAS ROBBED. I could have watched Conan and his death-dropping sidekick do their thing all evening, and I really felt like it was on the right side of weird – the lack of cutlery glued to Conan’s face probably helped. Excellent colour scheme, lighting and vocals and an overall feeling of artiness that wasn’t too arty…WTF went wrong? This was dope!
Australia Yes, my favourite performance of the night was from my own country. Bloody oath, mate. You can call it bias, but Kate had me feeling prouder than I’ve ever felt before – and very nervous – as she swung to and fro five metres in the air, living out the ultimate fairy princess fantasy while delivering on-point operatic vocals. Zero Gravity has undergone a glow-up and a half since Australia Decides, and it’s now in contention for a great result this weekend *happy-cries in Australian*.
That was all of the performances, which as I said flew by in what felt like five minutes. I have a few awards to hand out to the star performers and standout visuals of the night:
Best vocals Poland
Best staging Australia
Best costume Australia
Best personality Belarus
Best overall performance Australia
Sorry/not sorry for the Aussie overload. What can I say? I’m feeling phenomenally patriotic. Let me know which performances were your personal favourites (and least favourites…go on, spill some tea!) in the comments.
The results: A lot of predictability plus a few surprises
After the recaps, previews of Israel, Spain and France, more awkward host banter and an inexplicable Bruno Mars cover by Dana International (I would pay to NOT have to hear that again), it was time for us to get some answers. Just who would make it out of this less competitive but still curiously unpredictable semi? In announcement order – which is totally random and not at all engineered to make us sweat – it was Greece, Belarus, Serbia, Cyprus, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Australia, Iceland, San Marino and Slovenia. Belgium, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Montenegro, Poland and Portugal were sent packing.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: no Hungary, and no Portugal. Those were the two eventual DNQ countries that I’d been desperate to see in the final, Hungary in particular. I can understand why Joci’s performance might have been too uneventful for some, but the fact that he’s Hungary’s only non-qualifier since 2009 – after giving them such a great result in 2017 – breaks my heart. I adore him, and Az Én Apám will be sorely missed by me on Saturday night. Portugal, on the other hand, proved too bizarre to make the cut and that makes me mad. Especially when San Marino managed to qualify, which has none of Portugal’s creativity, originality and artistic merit. I try to take the results as they come, but that is a hard pill to swallow.
On the plus side, Australia and the Czech Republic went through – and I’m thinking we may have won this semi. It’s got to be between Kate and Hatari, with Katerine hovering on the edge. Estonia’s qualification had me sighing with relief, and I’m hoping Victor can brush up his vocals for the final and prove he belongs there (it’s all very Isaiah at this point). Belarus and Slovenia were my happy shocks of the night, though ZENA’s reaction was the kind I like to see. Zala and Gašper looked like they’d been given a voucher for a free Subway sandwich or something, not a ticket to the final of the world’s most-watched song contest.
In terms of my predictions – which you’ll be able to find all week on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @EurovisionByJaz – I managed to embarrass myself yet again by predicting 7/10 before the show…and 6/10 after I’d seen the performances. Here’s hoping I can redeem myself when it comes to SF2. How did you do?
That’s a wrap on my semi final one review, guys. If there’s anything you want to say about what went down last night, slide into my DMs comment box and get it off your chest. Were you happy with the results? What were your personal highs and lows? Do you think we saw the 2019 winner in this semi? Like John Lundvik, I wanna know.
I’ll see you on the other side of the second semi, for another post-show discussion. In the meantime, enjoy your Eurovision week as it continues, and as we get one step closer to crowning our next contest champion!
TWO WEEKS TO GO!!! How we got so close to Eurovision 2019 so fast I’ll never know, but I’m not complaining. The always amusing stand-in rehearsals have started, and within one week the real-deal rehearsals will begin. Maybe then we’ll know who’s actually going to win the thing, because it’s far from being predictable at this point…for me, anyway. You Netherlands/Iceland/Italy superfans out there might disagree.
Speaking of Iceland, they’re one of the countries I’m judging today as I continue cramming in all 41 song reviews before May 14th. They’ll be joined by Belgium, Greece, Poland and San Marino in a majorly mixed bag of tracks, but that was bound to happen when Iceland was involved.
Check out my thoughts on/scores for Eliot, Katerine, Hatari, Tulia and Serhat, then share your own in the comments. Who’s floating your boat and who has your ship sinking?
Sorry about the nautical metaphors…they’re so Lisbon 2018.
2015-2017 had Belgium going from Eurovision strength to strength, like they were on a set of monkey bars and had a hell of a grip as they swung from one rung to the next. It was only a matter of time until they won the whole thing, right? Well, funnily enough it was A Matter of Time that saw them lose grip and fall flat on their face. 12th in their semi last year was their worst result in a while, but now the responsibility is back in the hands of RTBF – the broadcaster that gave us Loïc Nottet, Blanche and two 4th places. Eliot’s Wake Up has even been penned by Pierre Dumoulin, co-writer of City Lights. I feel like Belgium might want to mimic Blanche’s result here, but have they really got the goods to do it?
My first impression was no, and my current impression is still no. I do think Wake Up is a good song with great moments. When it opens with those otherworldly, 1980s-esque synth sounds, it sets us up to believe we’re safe in the hands of something special. For me, that feeling stays strong through the first verse, because it is an excellent one – catchy and complete with a beat that promises an epic chorus. Unfortunately, that’s when things become the opposite of epic. The stellar chorus teased by the start of the song never comes. I know every person on the planet has said the same thing, but doesn’t that ring alarm bells? It seems to be universal that the chorus doesn’t measure up to the rest of the song or make it more exciting, when it should be the part that actually does make you Wake Up (not have a quick nap as you wait for it to be over). Obviously not every single song has a statement chorus, which is fine on Spotify or on the radio – but in a competition, you don’t want to be underwhelming. It’s a shame because everything else about this song is totally whelming! I love the 1980s-meets-2010s feel, (most of) the melody and the lyrics. And I can imagine cool, artistic staging making this memorable in Tel Aviv.
Eliot isn’t a risk-free performer, based on lives we’ve seen so far. He does have a lot of potential though, and can pull off a solid vocal. I just want him to be more confident and more charismatic on stage, and own the song so it doesn’t overshadow him. He has Blanche’s songwriter behind him, but he needs to channel Laura Tesoro when it comes to taking charge of his performance. Belgium is opening the first semi’s second half – a positive – and performing before Georgia, which is also a positive (just not for Georgia). But then comes a string of songs ranging from ‘considerably more interesting than Wake Up’ to ‘I will never forget what I just witnessed as long as I live.’ And that, to quote Blanche (who I’ve mentioned a lot in this review) puts Belgium in the danger zone. I would like Eliot to qualify, but I worry that a Sennek sequel – a.k.a. another 12th place – is in his future.
In a line Slick, sophisticated synthpop with a sadly forgettable chorus 2018 VS 2019 2019, even with that sadly forgettable chorus Predicted result SF 8th-12th, GF 17th-20th My score 8 points
Remember when Greece was the untouchable, golden country of Eurovision? I’m old and do recall those days, but if you were born after 2000 you actually may not. The era was 2004-2011, when they won once, finished in the top three twice and never ended a contest’s final night lower than 9th. Then things took a turn for the (much) worse, from 2014 onwards in particular. Greece did manage to cling on to their 100% qualification record post-2011, until they lost it in Stockholm. THEN, after a bounce-back in 2017, they fell in the semi-finals again last year. So that’s where we’re at now, and I suppose I should stop giving you an unnecessary Greek history lesson and talk about Better Love.
The Duska discussion should start with me saying this is my favourite Greek entry in ages – and it’s not like I’ve hated their recent contributions. Continuing the tradition of bringing a great song when represented by a Greek-Canadian, Greece has got to be onto a good thing with this (you could say they’ve found the secret combination for success *insert canned sitcom laughter here*). Better Love is an amazing track that puts a bunch of other power ballads to shame. It’s well-written, builds musically and melodically, and manages to stick in my head in a way that’s usually reserved for up-tempo dance bangers á la Cyprus and Switzerland. The lyrics are simple and pretty minimalistic, especially in the chorus, making it easy to sing along to. I also like the balance Better Love strikes between sounding original and sounding familiar enough to be accessible – Portugal, on the other hand, might struggle because of their overwhelming originality (but that’s a debate for another day). What I LOVE about this song, and what makes it as magical as it is, is Katerine’s distinctive vocals. They hook me from the moment she says ‘Live for the mess’, which is good advice and I do it all the time where my bedroom is concerned. And when she hits those high notes in the chorus, and the even higher notes in the bridge…wow alert!
The elephant in the room now I’ve mentioned vocals is Katerine’s pre-party performances. They were sketchy from what I heard, but I’m not too worried about that being an issue at Eurovision. That’s because every other live of hers I’ve seen has been flawless; there’s still time for these things to be brushed up; and even vocals that sound awful in an arena or other live venue can sound fine on TV (that I know from my own ESC experience). So Katerine gets the benefit of the doubt from me, and if she does sound good on TV then that’s what will matter in terms of results. Can you tell I’m desperate to defend this entry? Greece has a brilliant song on their hands, and if it sounds good and looks good – recreating the arty/nonsensical video feat. lots of pink tulle might work – they should be back in top 10 for the first time since 2013.
In a line Power ballads don’t get much better than Better Love 2018 VS 2019 2019 Predicted result SF 1st-3rd, GF 6th-11th My score 12 points
Who in the world could have predicted the transformation Iceland would make between 2018 and 2019? Last year they gave us an angelic cinnamon roll (look it up on Urban Dictionary if you need to) performing a love love, peace peace anthem that was about as iconic as a glass of water. This year they have presented us with anti-capitalism, BDSM-dressed performance artists with a penchant for screamo-heavy industrial synthpunk (I think). Holy crap. I feel like Ari is too sweet and innocent to witness Hatari in action. SOMEBODY SHIELD HIS EYES!!! The funny thing is, the Hatari boys seem to be fairly sweet and innocent themselves when they’re doing their day jobs or taking selfies with schoolkids – basically whenever they haven’t been sewn into black latex. But on the stage belting out Hatrið Mun Sigra, it’s a different story. A scary one that shouldn’t be told before bedtime.
I need to tell a story of my own to explain why this song isn’t as appealing to me as it is to a lot of Eurofans. Screamo (if that’s the right term for vocals that require post-performance lozenges) is an off-putting technique and not something I actively listen to, and I know what’s mainly to blame. In general, it’s an assault on the ears…but when I was a kid, I was scarred for life by the credits of a music show we have in Australia called Rage. They don’t freak me out now like they used to, but watch them here and then imagine you’re a child who’s snuck out of their room in 2am darkness to watch music videos on TV only to be terrified back into it fast. I’m telling you this because Hatrið Mun Sigra reminds me a lot of that clip, with all of the aggressive screaming. Though I like the rest of the song, I can’t totally get past the scary parts.
Pushing my fear aside, I get the obsession with this. The industrial style of the music is not unlike Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love, and that’s a plus. The song has a hypnotic beat and a slick sound that I really like, and the contrast between the floaty chorus and the hardcore verses – then how they’re layered over one another at the end – is interesting to say the least! I also get a kick out of a song called ‘Hate Will Prevail’ representing a country who, 12 months ago, implored us to treat each other well, help, heal and ease the pain etc. I just wish Iceland had drawn the same half of the first semi as Montenegro so they could have performed after Heaven (for Christer Björkman’s love of the sawtooth approach and for our entertainment). I have no doubt Hatari will qualify from where they are in the semi, though HMS is not a song juries will flock to – it will be relying on a massive televote on both nights. Can Iceland pull a Poland 2016 and shoot up the final scoreboard after a low jury vote? I think they can. Time will tell…and hate will prevail.
In a line Like skydiving, this is terrifying but enjoyable at the same time 2018 VS 2019 2019 – BDSM trumps bland Predicted result SF 4th-6th, GF 5th-13th My score 8 points
Coincidentally, every country in this round of reviews failed to qualify last year. In most cases that was understandable, and Poland is no exception. Light Me Up is a great Euroclub song that I still listen to on the reg. But whenever I think of Gromee’s snake dance and Lukas’ incredibly inadequate vocals, a shudder runs through my entire body and I have to lie down for half an hour. So it’s a relief now to have Tulia, a group of girls we can rely on to deliver vocally…and to NEVER EVER snake dance. I appreciate Poland going in a different direction this year, right down to internally selecting instead of holding a national final (rumour has it they couldn’t afford one since they’re hosting JESC in November). You certainly wouldn’t catch me dancing to Pali Şie in the Euroclub unless it had been severely remixed.
But – and you might have sensed a ‘but’ coming – although I applaud Poland for trying something new, I can’t get on board with this song. It did help when I learned that Tulia’s vocal technique is a legitimate one where they aren’t supposed to be harmonising. Sadly, that doesn’t stop my untrained eardrums recoiling from the sheer force of what sounds, to me, like yelling. I don’t want to trash Tulia because what they do, they do very well. It’s just not my cup of tea. I know they have plenty of fans who will support them and like the sound of all those voices singing the same notes at the same time, so I don’t feel too guilty. Granted, it’s not just the vocals that I can’t get into. The melody of the song has a spark to it but it never lights a full-on fire (of love) in me like the ominous one in the videoclip. I find the chorus too simplistic, especially when the English lyrics drop. And I think Pali Şie is quite same-same all the way through: it doesn’t lose steam but it doesn’t gain traction and really go somewhere either.
None of the above means I’m not fully prepared for Poland to win me over with their Eurovision performance, by the way. From what I saw at EiC, Tulia slayed those vocals (don’t sue me, Wiwibloggs…that word was necessary) and their costume choice was what I expected – extra polished and extra Polish. We know they won’t be coping with choreography while trying to keep their voices in check, so there’s no reason for them to sound questionable. Visually, ‘ethnic with an edge’ is how I hope for the song to be staged, and if it is I wouldn’t be surprised by a qualification. Should Poland go through, I’ll be happy for them and pleased that Europe (and Australia) embraced something so different. If they don’t, I won’t be mad about not having to hear Pali Şie in the final. My a-Poland-gies.
In a line I’m a harmonies girl in a (usually) harmonised world, and this is too much for me 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 9th-13th, GF 19th-23rd My score 5 points
When Serhat was announced as San Marino’s rep for 2019, I immediately felt like the dumbest person alive for not seeing it coming. Sure, the principality had only recycled Valentina Monetta in the past (unless you count the JESC recycling of Michele Perniola and Anita Simoncini) and it was more likely to be her name they dropped than anybody else’s. But still, Serhat became so iconic back in 2016, he should have been a predictable returnee. It was a matter of when, not if – and here we are with Say Na Na Na, a.k.a. Serhat Strikes Back, a.k.a. the sequel to I Didn’t Know minus monocle. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what to think of this entry and that’s partly because I don’t know how seriously to take it. I’m leaning towards ‘not very’.
Say Na Na Na is every stale Eurovision cliché possible packed into three minutes, without actually having been lampooned by Love Love, Peace Peace (props to San Marino for entering a throwback and finding a loophole at the same time). It’s cheesy, it’s dated, and if anyone other than Serhat was performing it, they’d be definite DNQ material. But somehow – and I have no idea how – it kind of works. This guy certified himself as the ESC disco king as soon as the original I Didn’t Know was swapped for the remix, and his reign continues with this terrible yet enjoyable track. It’s the guiltiest of pleasures, with lyrics like ‘Don’t forget my number, call me any time, I will always tell you life is beautiful and fine’ (which makes Serhat sound like the least helpful psychologist ever) sending the cringe factor through the roof – while set to such a catchy tune that I can’t help singing along. The chorus in particular is an earworm and a half, and will no doubt have the contest crowd obeying Serhat’s command to say you-know-what.
I think we can all foresee the staging treatment this will get, and if it’s anything like the music video or Serhat’s Stockholm performance, it’ll be a massive step up from last year. The fact that San Marino has been given the pimp slot in SF1 suggests the EBU is happy for them to be our freshest memory. That’s quite the confidence boost. It doesn’t mean qualification is a given – just ask Triana Park – but it’s rare for the last song out to stay in the semis. That, combined with Serhat finishing 12th in 2016, has me shook at the prospect of this actually making the final. I don’t 100% agree that Say Na Na Na should qualify, because it’s far from being one of the best 10 songs in semi one. But Serhat himself? Well, I can’t deny that I’d happily have him qualify just for the hilariousness of it, and as a reward for selling the shiz out of another substandard product.
In a line A throwback track just as wonderfully awful as Serhat’s last 2018 VS 2019 2019, without a doubt Predicted result SF 9th-13th, GF 18th-22nd My score 7 points
25 down, 16 to go! I have no choice but to whip through these reviews faster than John Lundvik down a 100m track in his sprinting days. It is now the end of April, after all (HOW?!?!?).
Here’s the mini-ranking for today’s round:
- Greece (12)
- Belgium (8)
- Iceland (8)
- San Marino (7)
- Poland (5)
And here’s where Greece etc fit in to my overall list at this point:
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- The Netherlands (12)
- Greece (12)
- Estonia (10)
- Norway (10)
- Cyprus (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Belarus (10)
- Russia (8)
- Romania (8)
- Belgium (8)
- Armenia (8)
- Iceland (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Lithuania (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- San Marino (7)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- Poland (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Georgia (4)
Do we have anything in common so far? Is there anyone who doesn’t have Georgia bringing up the rear (sorry Oto)? I’m curious, so let me know in the comments.
Watch out for my Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal reviews later this week, and have your opinions at the ready…
Hello again, and welcome to the second-last round of my Eurovision 2017 reviews! Obviously nothing has changed in my life since I was at university, because I’m still battling to get stuff done by certain deadlines. Just expect a lot of reviews in a short period of time, and everything will be fine (something I’m telling myself at least three times a day at the moment).
There’s just two days to go until the first semi final, and all 42 songs have now been rehearsed on the real-deal stage. We’ve seen our likely winner in action (monkeying around to massive rounds of applause) but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about all of the other songs. So that’s what my mum (she keeps coming back, even though I figured I’d have scared her off by now) and I are up to today.
Keep reading to find out what we think of the songs from Isaiah, NAVI, Svala, Brendan Murray, Slavko Kalezić and Manel Navarro. Spoiler alert: there are some major disagreements involved!
My thoughts A seventeen-year-old fresh from a TV talent show win – which followed an audition during which he forgot his lyrics (for the second year running) – wouldn’t have been my ideal choice for my country’s 2017 Eurovision act. On paper, it doesn’t sound that promising…and me bringing all that stuff up makes me sound mean, I know. But I wanted to make the point that when Isaiah was revealed as our act in March, I had a LOT of doubts that he was ready for such a big-scale show. As it turns out, I think he’s grounded and mature enough, and has gained enough on-stage confidence in the wake of his X Factor victory, to do Australia proud next week. He’s going to do that with a song that may be missing the x factor (ironically) that saw Guy Sebastian and Dami Im smash their respective shots at the contest, but has been a major sleeper hit with me. Don’t Come Easy is a soulful ballad that Sam Smith would totally approve of, and it couldn’t be any more suited to Isaiah’s voice. Lyrically, it could be more suited to his age – it’s hard to buy such tales of woe and heartbreak from a seller who’s still considered a kid in many ways (he can’t legally drink, gamble or complain bitterly about adult responsibilities). But if he can use those epic eyebrows to emote as much as possible, and not just sing the words – even though he’ll sing them terrifically – his age may end up being just a number. Most people watching him belt out the song in front of his own super-sized face (check out some rehearsal footage if you’re confused RN) won’t be worrying about it. I hope the staging doesn’t end up being a worry and lives up to what Australia’s put together the last two years, as both times it has made our songs stronger competitors. Don’t Come Easy has grown on me a lot since I first heard it, and now I find it really sticks in my head and makes me feel some feels (not on a Finland level, but there’s something there). There’s potential in the build of the song to create an explosive moment, like Israel did last year, and I believe we’ve even got a pyro curtain to help that along (just like Hovi did). If it all comes together, then another top 10 result is achievable. I don’t think top 5 is on the cards, but I will be waving my Aussie flag with pride (and probably a sweaty palm) in any case. 8 points.
My mum says… I own and treasure a copy of Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, so the fact that this song could have fit right in to that album’s tracklist will give you a good idea of how I feel about Don’t Come Easy. I really like it! It’s retro in a wonderful way, with powerful music and lyrics that are set off by Isaiah’s incredible (especially for a teenager) voice. There’s a bit of an Adele feel to the soul of the song as well, and yes, you guessed it – I also own all of her albums. Is this a biased review? Nope, because I listened to it without knowing which country it was representing. Now I know, I’m proud. 8 points.
Australia’s score 8.00
My thoughts This song is like a musical version of Nathan Trent – so adorable you can’t help your urge to hug it so tightly it almost suffocates. The difference between the two is that the cuteness of Story of My Life doesn’t totally win me over, even though I acknowledge that it’s there. I think it’s fantastic that we get to hear Belarusian on the adult Eurovision stage for the first time ever thanks to NAVI – and I’m so appreciative of the fact that their entry is one of just four this year to feature 100% non-English lyrics *weeps internally*. I also think the sing-along factor of the song is a real asset, giving it an anthemic quality not often found in folk music. But – and you can call me bitter and/or soulless once I’ve said this – the overall ‘aww!’ vibe of Belarus that a heap of other fans feel, I don’t AT ALL. I wouldn’t skip the song if I was shuffling the 2017 album, but I wouldn’t wait for it to play with bated breath. For the sake of Belarus succeeding in the contest, and for the sake of filling the final with as many foreign languages as possible, I hope NAVI do qualify on Thursday. If they don’t, though, I’ll be okay with it. Overall, SOML is too repetitive and maybe too folksy for my tastes. 5 points.
My mum says… I couldn’t have less of a clue what these two are singing about, but it can’t be anything heavy going – the whole song is light and bright, and I really got into it. I especially like the use of instruments. However, that final stretch of hey-ho shouts went on way too long for my liking. That space could have been filled with something less repetitive, and in turn I’d have been giving this entry more than 6 points!
Belarus’ score 5.5
My thoughts There are some songs you can’t help but cut to the chase with when you’re talking about them. And cutting is an appropriate term to use when talking about Svala’s Paper, which I worship. At least 75% of my devotion to the entry has to do with Svala herself, a.k.a. Iceland’s answer to Gwen Stefani. She’s an age-defying, super-stylish GODDESS of a woman, and I am the personification of the heart eyes emoji whenever I think about her. But Paper also rubs me up in all the right ways. It’s like the cutting-edge, 1980s-inflenced love child of Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love and Aminata’s Love Injected – two songs I love to pieces. It’s ice cold and Svala is the ice queen with impeccably styled hair and makeup, plus bone structure that would have made Michelangelo weak at the knees. Not to say that I’m fixating on her cheekbones when she’s performing such an earworm of an electro-pop ballad (IDK how else to describe it). I’m actually getting lost in the dreamy atmosphere that the 80s synth sound provides, which contrasts beautifully with the slick production. It’s a perfect marriage. My only problem with Iceland this year is Svala being a visual force to be reckoned with, yet she’s singing a song that should bring out a vulnerable side based on the story told by the lyrics. She’s a little too intense, pulled-together and in control to pull off Paper with 110% authenticity. At least, she has been up until this point. From what I’ve seen (like, one photo) and heard (*insert long, long list of Eurovision sites/podcasts here*) of the rehearsals, she still needs to soften to match the emotions present in the song. Even if she does, I’m not that confident in Iceland’s ability to score themselves through to Saturday night. But I reckon this song would be an interesting and very contemporary (feat. a throwback sound that somehow makes it even more modern) addition to the final line-up. After the country’s shock DNQ last year – and failure to make the final the year before that – they seriously need a pick-me-up. I don’t want Svala using her Paper to wipe away tears of post-semi sadness. 10 points.
My mum says… This is far from being the worst entry I’ve heard, but it’s also far from being one of my favourites. I quite like Svala’s voice (though I’m incredibly jealous that she looks so young for her age and am wondering if it’s too late for me to up and move to Iceland) but I’m not a fan of a metaphor based on office supplies. I find the lyrics a bit lame in general. It’s just not for me! 5 points.
Iceland’s score 7.5
My thoughts Ireland – or at least those responsible for their recent Eurovision entries – needs a slap. Either that, or Sweden needs to hurry up and overtake them in the wins department so they’ll have to step up rather than falling back on the old line ‘Oh, but we’ve won the contest more than anyone else!’, which is usually accompanied by an entry of the same mould they were sending in the 2000s…which in turn paid tribute to the songs that won for them in the 1990s. Not much has changed in 2017, as the country’s collective face is still looking like it needs a high five. However…my relationship with Brendan Murray’s Dying To Try (not Trying To Die, thankfully) is love-hate. Here’s what I love: the first minute and a half. The understated start, the echo-y beat that kicks in, the melody, the frailty of Brendan’s voice (Svala needs to borrow some of that) and even the lyrics, which are a little cliché but have been neatly phrased and sparingly used, are all really nice. And, if the songwriters had carried on with another verse similar to the first, then a bigger second chorus that transitioned into an even more explosive final chorus without using a cringingly passé key change, all would be well. Instead, the entire second half of the song is one long, whiny chorus that doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. It’s like they literally couldn’t be bothered to write anything after that first chorus, so they dragged it out in order to fill as many seconds as possible. Except, it hasn’t. There’s an emptiness there as you wait for a second verse that never comes. I mean, who’d mix up a bowlful of cake batter and then only pour half of it into the pan? Ireland, that’s who. It’s a wasted opportunity of a song that could have totally tickled my fancy. I honestly love the first half enough to give it 10 points, but the rest deserves about 3. I’ll settle somewhere in the middle and give Dying To Try 7 points.
My mum says… THIS IS A GUY?? Mind = blown. It’s not like I’ve never heard high-pitched male vocals before, but I was completely convinced I was listening to a lady here. That aside (because it has nothing to do with what I think of the song) it’s a nice ballad with a good beat and a soothing quality. I think that comes both from the music and from Brendan’s voice. This is quite an emotional song – not so much that I’m in need of a tissue or ten, but enough to make me feel something. I like that in my music. I do think that this can be categorised as a forgettable ballad though. Describing something as ‘nice’ often leads down that path. 6 points.
Ireland’s score 6.5
My thoughts I never, not even in my wildest dreams, imagined that we would someday have an entry competing in Eurovision that could be considered camper than Deen’s In The Disco and Zoli Ádok’s Dance With Me combined. But Montenegro has given us the gift of Slavko’s Space, and I am SO here for it. It’s like a highly sexualised Alcazar made it to the contest with the help of a sponsor that manufactures hair extensions. What about that description makes it a bad thing? Nada, people. This is a BANGING disco-dance track that somehow doesn’t seem dated and lame like San Marino’s – possibly because it’s right up Slavko’s flamboyant street, and he owns the shit out of it. He whips his hair back and forth (I’m hoping it doesn’t fly off into the audience during the broadcast…or am I?), struts like it’s an Olympic event and has me lip-syncing along with the most outrageously pornographic lyrical metaphors I’ve ever encountered in a Eurovision song (mainly because the line ‘I trample in your arse’ from Slovenia’s 1999 song turned out to be a misheard lyric). I enjoy every second of every minute, even if I feel like my pleasure should be guilty. Generally speaking, I want Eurovision to evolve and be much less of what skeptics think it is (i.e. all novelty, cheese and the worst word ever – ‘kitsch’), but at the same time, I love that Space brings a touch of schlager back to the show. We’ve got plenty of edgy, deadpan entries this year – think Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland and Latvia – plus a classic ESC ballad from Portugal. So Montenegro are bringing some variety along with a suitcase exclusively reserved for body glitter (I assume). Uptempo, catchy and oh-so-danceable, this is the song that’s most making me miss the Euroclub. I would have busted some memorable moves to it on that dance floor, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I can also tell you that it probably won’t qualify, as sublime is likely to beat ridiculous (with the exception of Romania). As I can see that coming from a mile away, I won’t be too upset about it. But I’ll console myself anyway by playing it on full blast at every opportunity, until my neighbours file a complaint regarding excessive noise and sexual innuendos. Bring it on! 10 points.
My mum says… It’s hard to stay focused on how catchy the tune of this song is when the lyrics are so suggestive. That’s an understatement, really – Slavko seems to be less about suggesting than explaining in detail. Just when I thought ‘When you look this f*%$ing beautiful’ was the most controversial (almost) Eurovision line I’d ever heard! I could be convinced to dance to Space, but for the most part I can’t get past the ridiculous, R-rated lyrics. 5 points.
Montenegro’s score 7.5
My thoughts I’m not going to mention the words ‘Mirela’ or ‘contigo’ in this review (apart from mentioning them to say I won’t be mentioning them) because I think it’s about time we all moved on from The Spanish NF Incident of 2017. Manel Navarro is the one rehearsing in Kyiv right now, and Do It For Your Lover is the song representing Spain this year – that’s all there is to it. Speaking of which, there’s not a lot to this song apart from some simple charm, a cruisy surfer vibe and the most repetitive chorus since Ivi Adamou’s ‘La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la loooove.’ Those three things don’t add up to something spectacular, but I have to admit to liking this more than most other people I come across. Any music that sounds perfect for playing while on a road trip, with the windows down and no responsibilities to speak of for a few days, is bound to appeal to me to a certain extent. DIFYL ticks about 60% of my boxes – it’s inoffensive without being too bland, but it doesn’t push any boundaries either, and that repetition of the title (in case we forgot it, it was declared that Manel would repeat it 947 times in three minutes) is pretty irritating. As a result, I enjoy the Spanish-language verses more than any other part of the song. Manel’s aesthetic is casual street busker, which isn’t the sort of thing that does super well at Eurovision: Douwe Bob was a more polished exception. With his song failing to light a fire even for me, the odds are against him to strum his way out of the final’s bottom five. It might be time for Spain to revaluate their approach to the ESC on several levels, unless Manel shocks us all and defies our expectations. I can’t picture it, but I could live with it for sure. 6 points.
My mum says… Well, you can tell where this one comes from, and I like that about it. The Spanish parts are nice, easy-listening material, and I sort of wish that English didn’t feature at all in the song. It’s when that kicks in that things get monotonous. I especially dislike the stutter effect stuck in after each chorus. There needs to be more to a song than Do It For Your Lover has at its disposal to win me over completely. 6 points.
Spain’s score 6.00
That’s our six taken care of for this round…and here’s the ranking:
- Australia (8.00)
- Iceland (7.5)
- Montenegro (7.5)
- Ireland (6.5)
- Spain (6.00)
- Belarus (5.5)
Naturally, I’m HORRIFIED that Australia topped the list. Not. Congrats go to Iceland for not being far behind, and commiserations to Belarus for being very far behind. Lucky for them that this scoring couldn’t have less bearing on the actual contest results.
There’s six more sets of scores for the mini EBJ jury to hand out, and then the full ranking will be revealed! Drop by on Monday to check out our thoughts on Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Trust me, you don’t want to miss my mother’s reaction to a man duetting with himself.
In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s tracks. What do you think will happen to them this week as the competition gets going? I want all the dirt. You guys know how nosy curious I am.
Get (even more) excited – Eurovision is nearly here!!!
Understatement Time: These reviews are slightly late. Let’s just say that I’ve suddenly realised how many To-Dos I have to cross off my list before I fly to Sweden’s capital on Friday night (!). Now, I’m left with three episodes of the EBJ Jury judgments to cram in before my departure. So here’s the first of those three.
TODAY’S EBJ JURORS
Mrs. Jaz, Wolfgang and I are ready to review Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland, Israel, Latvia and the United Kingdom – otherwise known as Samra, Laura, Greta, Hovi, Justs and Joe & Jake (they should form a supergroup…their names sound great together). Are you ready to join us? If so, read on and find out what we have to say – and how the entire EBJ Jury scores these six songs.
Mrs. Jaz Hmm. As someone who likes songs that are a little bit quirky, I wouldn’t go into raptures over this one. It’s very commercial, and it would fit right in on the radio at the moment, but that’s because it sounds like it was plucked off a musical factory conveyor belt – in Sweden, apparently. Samra’s voice is lovely, but without any trace of an accent, I had no idea which country she was representing (since the music doesn’t give any clues away either). This could have been Australia’s entry, for all I knew! I guess I’m saying that I would have liked to hear some ethnicity in there, especially as I’m told Azerbaijan usually do throw some traditional instruments into the background of their songs. That would have added more authenticity to Miracle too, which would have allowed me to connect with it as a consumer. As it stands, I can’t.
Wolfgang This miracle, so to speak, came at the last minute in a moment when I least expected one. Sometimes there are songs that need some time until I like them much, but then there are songs that I love from the very first moment. Samra’s entry belongs in the latter category. And although it is again a song composed by Swedish songwriters, and produced by Swedish producers, Miracle really has something special to me: the song is beautiful and catchy, the lyrics are great and Samra’s voice sounds amazing in the video/studio version. I only hope she will hold that standard and do an equally amazing live performance in her semi on the ESC stage. Then maybe a ‘miracle’ could happen for Azerbaijan in Stockholm. For one of my favourites this year I give 12 points and lots of love!
Jaz Azerbaijan, turning up at Eurovision with a song written by Swedes? MADNESS…said no one ever. When you think about it, Azerbaijan (or Azurjerbin, as I pronounce it in my head in honour of Lynda Woodruff) is the most predictable participant in the entire contest. Every year, they wait until March to drop a perfectly-polished Scandipop song on us, hoping we’ll think it’s the bomb dot com. And, against all my better judgement, Samra’s Miracle is verging on being explosive material in my book. I know I should hate the fact that it’s so derivative and one-dimensional; that it’s not risky or challenging or ethnically Azerbaijani in any way. I mean, we’ve just found out that it not only sounds like a Melodifestivalen reject – it IS a Melodifestivalen reject, for Christer Björkman’s sake! But, while those aspects of the entry do play on my mind, the song is so engineered-to-enjoy – melodically, lyrically and structurally – that I can’t fight the feelings of love that overwhelm me when I listen to it. It reminds me a lot of Lisa Ajax’s Melfest entry My Heart Wants Me Dead, which I would say was superior, but that I also love – it’s the partly middle-eastern, partly WTF computer-generated noises that run throughout, mostly. The chorus is soaring, impressive and instantly memorable, worming its way into your head when you’ve only heard it once. Samra’s vocal – in studio – is as smooth as silk and/or a baby’s bum, whichever simile you prefer…and let’s not ignore the fact that she is stunning to look at. Stick her on stage (possibly on a podium) in a spotlight and a wind-machine-friendly dress, and you have the recipe for a visually and aurally appealing package that will certainly maintain Azerbaijan’s 100% qualification record. A solid result in the final isn’t out of the question, but I’m wondering if this is too “perfect” to have the impact to push it into the top 10. Winning, I’m sure, will have to wait at least another year. Who wants to head back to Baku in 2018?
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 6
- James 7
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 6
- Nick 5
- Penny 8
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 12
Azerbaijan’s EBJ Jury score is…7
Mrs. Jaz Now THIS is up my street – a song that has me yelling ‘Somebody get me some roller skates and take me back to the disco era, ASAP!’. I don’t know how it would go getting radio airplay and climbing up the charts outside of Belgium, but I do know I really like it. What’s not to like? It’s catchy and high on energy, and unwaveringly uplifting. The cherry on top is the fact that the intro sounds like Another One Bites The Dust. When you’ve got Queen in your corner, you’re all set.
Wolfgang It’s not about Laura Tesoro – she surely is a nice artist and has a voice (not THE voice, in my opinion), but it’s all about her song What’s The Pressure that does not appeal to me. I normally like funky and soulful songs a lot, but in this case she seems to be too young and inexperienced for the song. In the Belgian national final, her vocals sounded so try-hard that I got the impression the song’s simply too difficult for her vocal abilities. On the other hand, Laura is a powerhouse, and knows how to perform on stage well. Maybe her performance will help to compensate for some weak vocals, or one or two wrong notes. But I guess the ‘pressure’ will be very high for her to qualify to the final this year, with so many stronger competitors. In my opinion, it will be an ‘Iris’ year for Belgium in Stockholm. I don’t see this entry going anywhere.
Jaz I would have felt sorry for whoever succeeded Loïc Nottet as Belgium’s representative. The shoes he left behind for Laura (who turned out to be that ‘whoever’) to fill were inhumanly large – Bigfoot might have been a better choice, but he wasn’t shortlisted for Eurosong unfortunately (though can’t you just see him hip-thrusting through a Thomas G:son dance banger?). I personally would have preferred Adil Arab to be the successor in question, which you might think is setting the tone for the remainder of this review. However, I am a fan of Laura and What’s The Pressure. I was more of a fan back when she was selected, and all Eurovision 2016 had to its name was a handful of songs. As time went on and the entry forms were filled out by twenty, then thirty, then forty-plus countries, Belgium’s follow-up to Rhythm Inside wore a little thin, and sounded kind of pedestrian. But while it is pedestrian in terms of quality, it’s also pedestrian in terms of pace – as in, you can power-walk your butt off (sorry for all the bum references I’m making today) to it as it trumpets along. There’s a heap of energy on show, and a sense of fun that Laura manages to project every time she’s performing it. It does suffer from ‘Haven’t I Heard That Somewhere Before?’ Syndrome – in this case, I hear a fusion of Uptown Funk and Sax – but that recognition factor might actually work in Laura’s favour. She’s closing semi two, so if any of us are flagging by the time the end draws near, she’ll pump us up again – but that could be her only purpose. WTP can easily be compared to Finland’s Sing It Away in that it’s a pretty dispensable party track. It doesn’t really fight for a final place, so if it gets one, I suspect it will be due to a 9th or 10th place in the semi rather than a top five. I don’t think last year’s brilliant Belgian result was a fluke, but I do think they need to rediscover the formula that made such an impression on the juries and voters…because Laura will struggle to do the same.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 8
- James 5
- Jaz 8
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 8
- Nick 2
- Penny 7
- Rory 12
- Wolfgang 2
Belgium’s EBJ Jury score is…7.1
Mrs. Jaz *makes face that suggests I’ve just waved dog poo under her nose* *which I didn’t* After what was a promising start, this fell flat. It descended into far too many mentions of ‘hear them calling’ for my liking – jeeze, we get it, lady! Consequently, the chorus seemed to come around much faster than it actually did. The song – which I assumed was titled Hear Them Calling, on a hunch – is catchy, but in a mediocre, doesn’t-go-anywhere kind of way. Is catchy mediocrity a thing? If not, it is now. I’m sorry, but if this came on the radio and I’d already heard it on there once, I’d be quick to change stations before I suffered an acute attack of the yawns.
Wolfgang The Icelandic national final appeared to me like a Lame Lady Ballad contest this year, which I was not really impressed by. So I would say that Greta Salóme’s song was the best of a weak bunch, but is still good enough for Eurovision to leave an impression. What I like about the song is the country style, and that it’s really dynamic and up-tempo. But what makes the difference on the Eurovision stage is its amazing performance that reminds me strongly of those ‘Shadowland’ performances of the PILOBOLUS dance theatre artists. And that’s something I really enjoy watching! This could become the Mika Newton performance of 2016, from which we still remember the beautiful work of the sand artist (while we have almost forgotten Mika and her song). But remember: Mika came 4th in the grand final of Eurovision 2011 in Düsseldorf. Maybe this will be THE surprise performance of the year in Stockholm?
Jaz Yes, Greta’s back, blah blah blah…I kind of wish she’d reunited with Jónsi for her return, though, even if he’d just sat on the side of the stage looking like the chiselled descendant of a Viking god that he is. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Greta. I’m going to cut right to the chase and say that her solo effort Hear Them Calling outdoes Never Forget – but NOT its Icelandic version. In turn, as Raddirna, this song had an extra something special that it now lacks. Plus, it seems ten times more repetitive in English (how many times does she say ‘hear them calling’ during the three minutes? It’s like the new ‘Why-ay-ay-ayyyy’). I also dislike the Mumford and Sons-style folksiness of the song – it’s been done to death. I’d say it actually died circa 2014. Let’s be honest (well, those of us who don’t think the song is all that, anyway): it’s all about the staging with this one. I have to give a curt nod to Iceland for taking the concept of projections and not just copycatting Heroes (the clear inspiration) but playing with shadows instead – there is a lot of light and shade in Greta’s performance, literally. That moment where she leans back and “smoke” billows out of her like she overdid it at an Indian curry buffet the previous evening is a golden one. Now, I know using visuals to win over your audience is exactly what Sweden did to win Eurovision 2015 – but to me, Heroes was a better and more modern standalone song than Hear Them Calling. The package was more complete. Iceland still has a decent shot at qualifying and maybe squeezing onto the left-hand side of the scoreboard with what they’ve got, but because that is a) an obvious attempt to capitalise on Sweden’s offering of last year, and b) overshadowed (so to speak) by better and edgier entries, the chances of Reykjavik 2017 are very slim.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 10
- James 12
- Jaz 7
- Martin 12
- Mrs. Jaz 5
- Nick 10
- Penny 8
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 7
Iceland’s EBJ Jury score is…8.6
Mrs. Jaz Aah…the beauty of simplicity. So much modern music is so noisy, full of stupid noises and vocal manipulations. This, on the other hand, is a pure and simple piano ballad that managed to be anthemic without being in-your-face about it. The music doesn’t overshadow the vocals, meaning I could understand what Hovi was saying (and though some of it was silly, I liked it). I can imagine couples all over Israel and beyond using this song as their ‘first dance’ wedding song, assuming Ed Sheeran becomes passé in the near future. It’s very nice indeed.
Wolfgang It seems to me that sun, moon and star metaphors are booming this year in the Eurovision lyrics. The Israeli entry is a classic example of a lame lady ballad that wants to ‘shine’ (a little light?) – only done by a male artist. As with Belgium, there is nothing wrong with Hovi Star: he has a great voice and a wide vocal range that is a bit comparable to Adam Lambert, IMO. So the only thing he needs for Eurovision would be a better song. Made of Stars to me is so cliché in an awful way, and it sounds dated, not contemporary. The build of the song resembles somehow the ‘drama queen’ ballad by Conchita from 2014, only this one goes nowhere and suddenly ends when you expect more to come. But what I find really cheesy and annoying are the lyrics: ‘A million faces tied in chains, you ride a black horse in the rain.’ Honestly, did they let the songwriters of the last three Russian entries write these lines? To sum it up, the song’s very cliché, the lyrics are terrible, and I don’t see a qualification for Israel this year. Not with that song!
Jaz If ever there was a shoo-in to win the prestigious EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award in the category of Mr Congeniality, Hovi Star is it (and a bit). I don’t even know this guy, and I LOVE him. He is, to me, the Tooji of 2016 – so personable and fabulous, you want to be his BFF after watching a thirty-second vox pop. And damn, he’s got great hair! My main mission in Stockholm is to touch it so I can then relay back to you guys what it feels like (Schwarzkopf-misted silk, I’m sure). I could go on forever about how much I want to hang out with Hovi, but I suppose I should devote some page space to Made of Stars. It’s not as fabulous as he is, but I think it’s beautiful in its simplicity. Initially, Israel were sending a big, brash, theatrical production that had Adam Lambert written all over it – and if you read my review of the now (sadly) disqualified Romania, you’ll know I detest OTT drama at Eurovision. Granted, that version of Made of Stars had a strong identity; but the revamp/reshape has toned down the drama and allowed the spotlight to shine on Hovi’s vocals. The lyrics, nonsensical as they can be, are lovely to listen to – ‘thunder and lightning, it’s getting exciting’, they are not – and the pared-back piano backing is equally so. Overall, though it’s not as powerful as it could have been, I’m very fond of this. I think, given Hovi’s performance skills and the star-related possibilities of his staging (the drones from the music video probably won’t be making an appearance, but still) Israel could do better than many expect, but I’m not convinced they even have the legs to qualify. Nonetheless, I will be watching on in rapt fascination when Hovi’s time comes…while fashioning a long-distance hair-stroking device out of toothpicks.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 8
- James 2
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 7
- Penny 6
- Rory 6
- Wolfgang 4
Israel’s EBJ Jury score is…6.5
Mrs. Jaz I think I liked this. That’s probably a strange thing to say, but I honestly couldn’t make up my mind about it. Pros: Great music. A nice voice to accompany that music. A beat that mimics a pulse (totally by coincidence, right?). Generally of a better standard than the Icelandic song. Cons: It didn’t jazz up in the way that I thought it was going to (you could say the Heartbeat flatlined). It might prove to be a bit forgettable seeing as it’s opening its semi. Other observations: I reckon I need repeat listens to learn to love Latvia.
Wolfgang Here we have the ‘Aminata’ song #2, following on from the very successful Latvian entry of 2015 by going for the same success package again in 2016. I must admit that I like this year’s Latvian song and artist much more than last year’s. Justs really is a great vocal performer, and his song is by far catchier than last year’s injected love. What I like most about the song is its up-tempo beat that gives me good vibes and really works well with Justs’ strong, slightly scratchy voice. The only thing I would criticise is the performance, where nothing much happens on stage (at least not in the NF performance). At the moment it all looks like Andrius Pojavis for Lithuania in 2013. So, if the stage performance is improved, including lots of heartbeats, then it will be another top 10 result for Latvia this year. I’m sure this song will leave a great impression on a lot of televoters. Or will we head to Riga again next year?
Jaz Latvia made an excellent decision when they opted to send a song to Eurovision 2016 that was written by their very successful 2015 representative. Aminata knows how to create a song that’s less cookie-cutter and more cutting-edge, cool and contemporary – the kind of thing that makes skeptical, non-ESC-obsessed viewers think ‘Hey, this is actually pretty awesome!’. And for that, I salute you, Miss Savadogo. Justs and his Heartbeat are everything I want to see competing in the contest in 2016. The song is a little alternative in sound and makes me feel like a much more epic person just(s) listening to it, but it’s still hugely accessible for mainstream pop lovers. The chorus, like Azerbaijan’s, is incredibly hooky, and though it does feel like the titular word has been said a few too many times by the end, it is the core of the song – that plus the pulsing beat that drives it. The verses are minimalist in the most appealing of ways, and the synthy string of notes that punctuates them adds an extra piece of ear candy to the concoction. Something else I love about this entry is the contrast between how Justs looks, and how he sounds. He looks like he could be cast as Edward Cullen in a Twilight reboot, but he sounds like…well, Hungary’s Freddie, if Freddie wasn’t as throaty. That ultra-innocent face clashes beautifully with the grunt in his voice. All in all, there is nothing I dislike about Latvia – again – and so much that I love. As a result, I’m hoping for an Aminata-level finish at least. But they’ll have to both pimp and nail their staging to increase their chances. Hey, even if they don’t…wow. I can’t believe we’ve gone from Cake To Bake to THIS in two years.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 7
- James 6
- Jaz 12
- Martin 8
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 10
- Penny 8
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 8
Latvia’s EBJ Jury score is…7.4
Mrs. Jaz I like this! Yes, the UK is my homeland, but before you call me biased, know that Jaz didn’t tell me this was the UK song until after I’d given my verdict. And if I’d had to guess its origin, I probably wouldn’t have opted for the UK based on my past listening experiences anyway (Bonnie Tyler…Engelbert…the 1920s schtick from last year). You’re Not Alone is a little 80s-inspired, so we have skipped forward a few decades. Still, it’s radio-ready for the 00s too. It instantly got into my head and had me singing along, which has to be helpful for both Eurovision and karaoke nights. I feel quite proud of this, actually. I hope it does well – or at least that it doesn’t do too badly. It deserves a decent result.
Wolfgang This year the BBC started their biggest competition EVER to find the right song and artist(s) for Eurovision 2016, including almost every organisation in the British music industry that is of importance. And the result for their national final was six not-too-overwhelming songs sung by no-names. So that was all ‘Big Mouth’, and then baking only little bread again. But, among the songs there was light and shadow, and I’m glad that one of the better ones won the NF. Joe & Jake are fresh, cool guys who match well together on stage. They have a contemporary song that is a strong grower to me, and both of their voices have a very good live quality. So even if the song’s not too impressive, the guys are charming and good-looking, and they could spread some energy and fun to the Eurovision audience. I guess it won’t be enough for a top 10 placement for the UK in Sweden, but I expect a better result than last year – somewhere in the top 20. This year I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a good UK result.
Jaz I don’t know what I should have expected to hear from the UK after the bonkers-ness of Still In Love With You, but I am relieved it’s something less laughable (and bonus, there’s no mention of disease in the lyrics this time!). Two good-looking lads whose names conveniently both begin with ‘J’ (the superior initial for first names, obviously) sporting an anthem that it’s impossible to do the Charleston to? That’s got to be good, right? It is good – but I wouldn’t describe You’re Not Alone as ‘great’. It’s pleasant to listen to, but it reeks of the kind of song that backs a movie trailer or montage of some kind. If the Rio Olympic organisers are after a song that can soundtrack ‘The Top 10 Team Efforts of the XX-whatever Olympiad’, then they should look no further than Joe & Jake’s. My problem with this entry as a whole is that, while there’s nothing to complain about, there’s nothing to get excited about either. I don’t feel anything when I listen to it. Belgium brings a smile to my face; Latvia gives me goosebumps; this gives me nul points. And yet, I cannot physically fault it, because I wouldn’t describe it as ‘boring’ either! HELP ME. I am looking forward to ogling Joe when he’s on stage, and then pretending I wasn’t when accused shortly thereafter because he’s younger than me and I’m not ready to be classified as a cougar yet. So there’s that. If too many people are feeling the way I’m feeling (about the UK’s song, not about the big box of cutesicles that is Joe), then I can’t see this escaping the 15th-20th zone in the final. That makes me a little sad for the boys, but the Eurovision experience will be a brilliant one for them at this stage of their careers anyway.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 8
- James 3
- Jaz 7
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 8
- Nick 6
- Penny 5
- Rory 10
- Wolfgang 7
The UK’s EBJ Jury score is…6.7
And, as usual, we have a winner! And a loser. Things did NOT go my way this time…
- Iceland (8.6)
- Latvia (7.4)
- Belgium (7.1)
- Azerbaijan (7)
- United Kingdom (6.7)
- Israel (6.5)
Congratulations to Greta, who can take the nonexistent trophy for this round of reviews back to Reykjavik and display it oh-so-proudly on her mantelpiece. Commiserations to Hovi, who would have finished much higher if I had all the power here (who’s stupid idea was it to recruit a jury, therefore relinquishing the majority of my precious power?). Remember, all of this score-giving and number-crunching is going towards the compilation of the EBJ Top 43*, which I’ll be publishing from Stockholm (which means it’ll be an exotic Top 43).
Yes, I said 43. We took the time to review Romania a few weeks ago, and I think we owe it to Ovidiu to keep him in our ranking. Even if he is rather low in it.
In a few days, the penultimate part of this series will see Armenia, Australia, Ireland, Malta, Moldova and Slovenia critiqued by an American, an Englishman and moi. Check in then to find out how high or low my patriotism level is running at the moment (i.e. what I think of Dami’s Sound of Silence).
To quote Outkast (as a new way of greeting y’all) hey ya! A week ago I promised to be back mid-week reporting on whatever happened that Saturday night, which didn’t quite work out…as in it didn’t work out at all. I blame technical difficulties and a serious case of Olympic fever. Still, I’m here now when it really counts, on another Super Saturday. Though I think we’re all using the term ‘super’ loosely on this one, because there isn’t a heap going on. We are getting one entry for Copenhagen, plus more Melodifestivalen, however, and that’s worth getting excited about.
In addition to rambles about that NF action, I’ll also be glossing over some of the news of the past seven days – again, of which there hasn’t been that much. But rest assured there’s always something happening in the Land of Eurovision. It’s just sometimes you need a magnifying glass, search party, metal detector and sniffer dog to find it.
Here’s what I managed to track down this week.
The titular newsy roundup
Because what else would I call this segment?
- Malta: MESC 2014 finished in style last weekend, with Malta’s answer to Mumford & Sons (a.k.a. Firelight) scoring the ticket to Denmark with Coming Home. Forget coming home – I’m still coming to terms with the fact that they aren’t Daniel Testa with One Last Ride (who, as I suspected he might, ended the night in the top three). With the way things turned out, I don’t think our favourite tiny island will be hosting JESC and adult Eurovision consecutively, but I do like this entry. Yes, comparisons to other songs can be so easily drawn with it, and yes, the performance in the final came off a bit messy…but the former may actually help Firelight (a sense of familiarity rarely hurts) and the latter shouldn’t be an issue come May.
- Sweden: Unsurprisingly, Sanna Nielsen sailed through to the final of Melodifestivalen at the pointy end of Saturday’s second semi with the lovely Undo (it’s been stuck in my head all week). Somewhat surprisingly, my beloved Panetoz nabbed the remaining spot with Efter Solsken, the only Swedish-language song in the final at the moment. It’s times like that when I’m happy to be a hopeless NF predictor. Joining Helena Paparizou and co in Andra Chansen was reality show alumni J.E.M, and winner of Melfest 2005 Martin Stenmarck, whose song and performance bore no resemblance to that of Las Vegas (yay or nay, depending which way you look at it). It was a pretty good result all round.
- Romania: Paula Seling & Ovi may be in it to win it (again) in their home country, but it turned out to be a thumbs-down from fellow former rep Mihai Trăistariu, whose ballad I’m Sorry would have been a strong contender in the NF. Despite telling us all back in Athens that he’d return (via Tornero, of course) he’s not going to in 2014. Torner-NOOOO!
- Belarus: Cheesecake is still going to Copenhagen (at this stage) but TEO has suffered a Valentina Monetta. Just as her Facebook became a social network, so too has his Google Maps undergone de-branding. The Google lyric has had to be changed as per the ESC rulebook, which is a bit of a shame as I liked how specific TEO was about his means of escape, but it doesn’t make a huge difference.
- Russia: Okay, so this isn’t exactly current ESC news, but there is a contest connection. If you’ve been watching the Olympic figure skating (as I have, until ridiculously late at night/early in the morning) you may have seen the legendary Evgeny Plushenko injure himself during the warm-up for the men’s singles comp, and withdraw about a minute later, bringing his career to an abrupt end. It was über unfortunate to say the least. But the man has given us decades of graceful yet manly routines, including the one that, let’s face it, sealed the deal for Dima Bilan in Belgrade (see, there IS a connection!). So I hereby embed that very performance into this post in a tribute to the incomparable Mr. Plushenko. Watch with mute on if you must.
I may have used the word ‘news’ loosely when it comes to all of the above, but the less time we spend mulling over that, the better. Moving on…
Iceland – it’s time to decide!
That’s right – Thor’s Eythor’s reign is over. Iceland will hopefully be weeding the next Yohanna out of their six-strong field tonight after several weeks of Söngvakeppnin semis. I’ll admit (because you’d soon realise anyway) that I haven’t been following Söngvakeppnin at all this year. Each NF season, I’m selective about what I do follow and what I leave as a total surprise, and in 2014, I want a surprise from Iceland. With any luck, it’ll be a good one. If you’ve been paying attention, let me know. Is this a top-notch bunch of finalists?
- Þangað Til ég Dey by F.U.N.K.
- Amor by Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir
- Lífið Kviknar á Ný by Sigríður Eyrún Friðriksdóttir
- Von by Gissur Páll Gissurarson
- Eftir Eitt Lag by Greta Mjöll Samúelsdóttir
- Enga Fórdoma by Pollapönk
Looking at this list, I’m struck by two things: a) why don’t more Icelanders use stage names? It would make life much easier for the rest of us; and b) they all look promising somehow. You can’t judge a song based on its title or who’s singing it, but there’s something about stuff like Amor and Pollapönk (which I swear was a magical creature featured in the Harry Potter books) that gets me excited. As I’m in the dark save for my attraction to song and human titles, I’ll leave it up to Iceland to make the best decision.
Although…I can’t help having a stab at predicting the winner based on words alone. I’m getting vibes from Eftir Eitt Lag, guys. If it doesn’t win, I’m getting my vibe detector serviced.
Third time lucky for Sweden’s Melfest?
Now onto an NF I have been following and can talk about with some level of authority! Woohoo! Melodifestivalen continues this week in the city of Göteborg, and like the past two weeks, this semi’s line-up consists of a good mixture of old favourites, returnees and newbies, namely:
- Echo by Outtrigger
- Red by EKO
- Yes We Can by Oscar Zia
- Burning Alive by Shirley Clamp
- All We Are by State of Drama
- En Enkel Sång by CajsaStina Åkerström
- Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder
- Around The World by Dr. Alban & Jessica Folcker
In terms of quality, it’s definitely third time lucky for Sweden. For the first time, I’ve had trouble picking my top 4, and whilst that means there will be casualties tonight, it also means Melfest is back on form. Exclamation mark!
After much internal debate, here are my personal favourites:
Red – I have to wonder if EKO have a thing for Margaret Berger, because this song has echoes of I Feed You My Love for sure. Is that a problem? Um, no. Not at all.
Yes We Can – Oscar Zia is precious (think a snack-size Eric Saade) and his song is like all the High School Musical soundtracks rolled into one, only without all the cheese. Cute, catchy, and most likely endorsed by Barack Obama, it gets my stamp of approval.
Busy Doin’ Nothin’ – Nothin’ but giving us a great, current addition to the line-up, that is. This dance-fest (with a slight country edge) is pretty ace, Ace.
Around The World – Dr. Alban was big in the 90s, so it’s not surprising that his entry brings Ace of Base to mind. It also brings to mind OMG I LOVE IT PLEASE LET IT QUALIFY.
You know what comes next: predictions. It is a tough ask, guessing Melfest. Unless there’s two runaway standouts, how do you draw the line between what ought to go straight to the final and what deserves a second chance? That’s a serious question. Please, would somebody let me know?
To the final: Outtrigger and Oscar Zia
To Andra Chansen: Ace Wilder and Shirley Clamp
With only one more batch of Melfest entries left unheard, we could already be acquainted with the winner. I don’t think the same goes for Eurovision itself. There’s the possibility of success, but not victory, amongst the teensy group of entries chosen. Could the winning song come from Iceland? Sweden, after a year’s break? Or maybe even Hungary, heading towards the climax of A Dal with semi finals on tonight and tomorrow? All will be revealed…well, in May. But the coming month will give us all the options, at least.
Enjoy what this evening brings, fellow ESC-ers, and leave me your thoughts on pretty much anything below 🙂
Do you know what day it is? No, it isn’t some important anniversary that you’ve forgotten about (although, if you missed my birthday last year I’m still not speaking to you. Harumph!). It is, of course, Super Saturday – the first Super Saturday of the selection season. Tonight, both Iceland and Malta wrap up their national finals (which for Malta pretty much means going through the same lengthy process that they did for last night’s semi), Norway gives away three more spots in the MGP final, and host country Sweden kicks off my absolute favourite NF, Melodifestivalen.* Boy, there is going to be a lot of results to squeal about/be horrified by on Sunday morning! That’s if you aren’t planning on watching any of the finals. For those who are otherwise engaged or just need their beauty sleep, and those who will be tuning in, here’s an overview of the SS schedule, with 23% more picks and predictions and no added sugar.
* I know there are even more things happening, but I am just a mere mortal and can’t feasibly cover them all. Sob.
Söngvakeppnin: Who will follow Salomé (and Jónsi)?
Honestly, I haven’t got a heap to say about Iceland at this point. I’ve decided to make Söngvakeppnin one of the finals for which I don’t listen to all the songs and get my hopes up about which one I want to win, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t. This year, I’ll be listening to the island’s rep for the first time with zero expectations…unless it’s Birgitta. There’ll be a few expectations there.
Anyway, this is the field of competitors who’ll be battling it out for a ticket to Malmö:
- Ekki Líta Undan by Magni Ásgeirsson
- Lífið Snýst by Svavar & Hreindís
- Ég á Líf by Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson
- Meðal Andanna by Birgitta Haukdal
- Til þín by Jógvan Hansen & Stefanía Svavarsdóttir
- Vinátta by Haraldur Reynisson
- Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir
Lucky number one Magni was the wildcard finalist, so it’s unlikely he’ll win. That’s good news for the others, who now have a 1 in 6 chance of success. Kind of.
And that’s about it from me, apart from a warning I feel I must give you: try not to fall in love with the Icelandic version of the winning song, won’t you? It will no doubt be rewritten in or reverted back to English about five seconds after the reprise.
Malta’s mini ESC
Ah, Malta. Malta and their strange, strange ways. It is a mystery to me why they even have a semi final when they don’t use it to weed out all of the average stuff. Last night, as always, the initial round took place and zapped many people of the will to live with its immense length. 16 of the 24 entries made it through to the final (what an achievement! The odds were in nobody’s favour!) and tonight will be more of the same. Or slightly less of the same, it’s still a ridiculous setup. The less songs there are to choose from, the less chance voters are going to make a mistake, right?
Well, it is what it is, and what it is…well, is, a mammoth final full of artists we’ve seen try to get to Eurovision time and time again – Richard Edwards, Dorothy Bezzina, Claudia Faniello and Amber, to name a few. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them come out on top. But the one I want most for Malmö is Kevin Borg, who tried to represent Malta before he moved to Sweden…and won Swedish Idol. That win means two things – firstly, he can sing and sing well, and secondly, if he goes to Eurovision the Swedish public will probably back him – and that bodes well for a decent Maltese showing.
Of course, what I want and what we’ll get are very different things, and since I haven’t had a spare 5364849 hours to listen to all of Malta’s options, anyone could win. I just hope the best choice possible is made.
Norsk MGP, semi number three
There are just four places left in the Norwegian final for 2013 – three for tonight’s qualifiers and one for a usually random and undeserving wildcard. This last semi has a bit of everything to choose from: soft-metal, dance, country, pop-rock, tropical hip-hop…you get the picture. I’ve found I can’t trust Norway to choose the best offerings (IMO) when there’s a lot of same-same, so it will be interesting to see where the votes go here.
- Utopia by Gothminister
- Bombo by Adelén
- Sweet and Heavy by Lucky Lips
- Awake by Gaute Ormåsen
- The Young by Anina
- Not Afraid by Winta
- I Love You Te Quiero by Sirkus Eliassen
These are the entries I’d be texting my thumbs off for if I could:
Bombo – I knew I was going to love this just from the title, and if you liked Mandinga in Baku you’ll probably love it too. It has more of a dance feel than Zaleilah, but it’s a similarly irresistible fusion of Spanish and English that will get you bum-shaking in no time. Norway has sent ethno-pop to the ESC two years in a row now, and I’d be thrilled if they did it again.
Awake – this is unassuming, radio-friendly fodder that could get stuck in the semi just as easily as it could slip into the final. But it’s enjoyable to listen to, and in this instance that’s enough for me.
I Love You Te Quiero – a Norwegian version of Trackshittaz, anyone? This is another (part) Spanglish gem with a super catchy chorus, and is one of the few almost guaranteed to be as good live as it is in studio. Watch out for these guys.
So those are my preferences. But (you knew that was coming) I’m predicting advancement for Gothminister, Lucky Lips and Anina this evening, with Anina the only one of the three I wouldn’t mind winning MGP. At the moment, the forerunners are Gromth and Margaret Berger, who won their respective semis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Last year, Tooji placed second in his semi before storming to victory in the final. So if your favourite song didn’t beat all the others, don’t despair.
Last, but not at all least: Melodifestivalen!
If you can hear woo-hooing from wherever you are right now, it’s just me. I am SO pumped for Melfest, and I can’t believe how fast it has rolled around.
Semi #1 will be held in Karlskrona, and whilst most of the artists I’m dying to see are in later semis, the lineup is impressive. And here it is.
- Skyline by David Lindgren
- Burning Flags by Cookies ‘N’ Beans
- Paris by Jay-Jay Johanson
- Gosa by Mary N’diaye
- Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Förlora by Eric Gadd
- Heartbreak Hotel by YOHIO
- Porslin by Anna Järvinen
- We’re Still Kids by Michael Feiner & Caisa
As I write this, it’s mid-afternoon and the full songs are yet to be released, so I’ll have to get back to you with my picks and predictions in a few hours.
A few hours later…
I’m back! And sorry to say, quite disappointed. The first semi of Melfest 2012 was all ‘bam! Bam! BAM!’, the bams naturally representing one awesome song after another. This year, it was more like ‘poof. Poof. Poof?’ However, I don’t believe you can 100% make up your mind on a song by the first listen, so I’ll wait for these to grow on me. The best at this point, for me, are:
Burning Flags – this is a side of Fredrik Kempe I don’t think I’ve seen before, but I like it. The chorus is killer (though I don’t get how anyone’s supposed to see those burning flags if their eyes are closed) and the whole thing is generally powerful. I mean, it makes me feel like I could bench press my couch or something.
Gosa – no other song in Melfest this year is likely to have the title repeated in it as often as this. It’s tribal, it’s dance, it’s a little bit nuts…I’m sold.
Heartbreak Hotel – can I just take a second to say what a beautiful creature YOHIO is? He is a stunning example of androgynous flesh. Anyway, his entry is more hardcore than you’d expect, but far from reaching the hideousness level of Gromth in MGP. The bridge kicks butt.
We’re Still Kids – is that Epic Sax Guy I hear backing Michael and Caisa? Unfortunately not, but this song makes me think of him and that’s good enough.
Now, who will go where? In case you’re a Melfest newbie, there are two final tickets up for grabs per semi, as well as two spots in the Andra Chansen (Second Chance) round. And I’m about to tell you who’ll get them. Maybe.
For the final, it’s Cookies ‘N’ Beans (also known as Biscuits ‘N’ Lentils) and YOHIO as far as I’m concerned, but I’m also prepared to be spectacularly wrong. I think we’ll see a Timoteij situation with David Lindgren, who’ll go to Andra alongside Anna Järvinen.
Or will he…because I can never ever be sure.
If you’re still there, congrats on making it all the way through this post, and I’m sorry if I sucked more energy out of you than the Maltese semi. There’s just so much happening in ESC-land as we speak, I could ramble on about it for ages. And basically have.
See you on the other side of Super Saturday!
It’s nearly February, so naturally we’re about to experience our first mad weekend of national finals. Among the 1, 784, 322 events taking place on Saturday is the final of Söngvakeppnin 2013 – a.k.a. the decision show for Iceland – and whilst that isn’t the most exciting thing on the agenda (I have to hand that gong to the first semi of Melodifestivalen) I felt it was only appropriate to remind y’all of Iceland’s Eurovision history, before they add another stat to it. With a massive amount of luck, the song they choose this year will be absolutely amazing and pave the way for Reykjavik 2014. I for one am desperate to see the contest there in my lifetime.
Anyway, it’s time to switch the spotlight on *metaphorical switchy noise*
ICELAND: THE STATS
1986 – 16th with Gleðibankinn by Icy
2 – 1999, 2009
2nd – 1999, 2009
Top 10 finishes
Top 10 success rate
Top 5 finishes
Top 5 success rate
Wooden spoons (last places!)
1 – 1989
Semi final qualifications
Qualification success rate
My favourite entry
Is It True by Yohanna (2009). This was perfection, so long as we’re talking about everything but Yohanna’s dress (which looked like haphazardly stitched-together dishrags garnished with raggedy pom-poms). The song is one of my favourite ESC ballads ever, her voice was/is incredible, and the fantastical backdrop used the frigging massive LED screens of the stage to full, atmospheric advantage. That note (you know, THAT note) gives me chills every time.
My least favourite entry
Tell Me! by August & Telma (2000). Okay, A & T, I’ll tell you – your song is rubbish. Iceland has had some amazing entries over the years, but it’s like they lifted this one straight out of the Book of Eurovision Unoriginality. It’s just…nothing. At least Israel’s entry was so bad it was entertaining. PS – the English lyrics are dreadful.
More of the memorable
Það Sem Enginn Sér by Daníel (1989) – I do not understand how this not only came last, but scored a big fat zero too. I love this song! Sure, his outfit wasn’t great, but this was the 80s, and I don’t think anyone had the right to discriminate against someone else for their “fashion” choices.
Minn Hinsti Dans by Paul Oscar (1997) – another fan recently reminded me of this one. The song’s catchy, but the most striking thing about it is the staging. I bet you’d never seen a Eurovision participant sitting on a couch and suggestively stroking their own thighs before this (or if you had, I bet it wasn’t onstage…).
All Out of Luck by Selma (1999) – having a rubbish day? Listen to this and I promise you’ll be feeling better within seconds. I can’t say the same for Selma’s other entry, but it’s best we just don’t go there.
Congratulations by Silvia Night (2006) – if we’re talking Iceland and stuff that’s memorable, Miss Night has to be included. Her performance was like Britney Spears in drag and on crack.
This Is My Life by Euroband (2008) – I was surprised this didn’t do better in the final. Still, it got there, unlike a certain other TIML.
Coming Home by Sjonni’s Friends (2011) – the sad story behind Sjonni’s friends and not Sjonni himself going to Düsseldorf overshadowed how good the song really was. The Icelandic version, as always, is the best.
Their best stage show
This Is My Life. It was the choreography that made the performance pop. I especially like the “reveal” of Regina when she appears to sing her verse, and the little combination right before the money note.
Their best costume/s
Selma (2005). Okay, so we are ‘going there’ after all, but not to dissect the song, so it’s okay. I’m a woman of simple tastes – I like burnt orange, I like the MJ one-glove look, and I like sparkly things – particularly when you can hot glue gun them to your head. So it’s no wonder I’m a fan of the playsuit and accessories worn by returnee Selma in Kyiv.
Their best vocalist/s
Yohanna, without a doubt. I think I may actually be in love with her voice, and if I could marry it, I would. And before you say anything, yes, I know that’s creepy.
As I said, I’m hanging out for an Icelandic Eurovision, and since I haven’t listened to any of the potential entries for 2013 (not even Birgitta’s – that’s taken serious restraint) I haven’t given up hope. The fact that Yohanna is now out of the race doesn’t bother me, as much as I love her, because I did listen to her song and it’s safe to say she’s gone downhill since her runner-up Is It True? and her last NF song Nótt. But I guess we’ll always remember her as one of those who nearly nabbed the victory for Iceland (had it not been for a few hundred points, Oslo 2010 wouldn’t have been). Anyway, whatever wins this weekend would have to be absolutely shocking to be the worst thing Iceland has sent, so I’m staying positive.
Please don’t tell me if I shouldn’t bother.
You know the drill – let me know what you think about Iceland in the ESC!
ME: It’s Saturday again?
YOU: Yes…it tends to come around every seven days or so.
ME: Very funny. Did you know sarcasm is the lowest form of humour? I think you…
YOU: Just get on with the darn post, woman!
Alright. You didn’t have to be so rude. Anyway, it is Saturday again, and this time it’s an evening of three finals. That means three more songs to add to the slowly but surely growing list for 2012. Plus, it’s semi time in Sweden, which as you may know is one of my favourite topics of conversation. So let us converse!
I(celand) am Hungary for another song…
You may be disappointed or relieved to discover that I have virtually nothing to say about the Icelandic and Hungarian finals. Having listened religiously to all the songs from every NF so far, I decided to leave these two unheard so the winning songs are a total surprise – something I plan to do a few more times during the season.
My ears were exposed to one song from Iceland by Greta Salomé & Jonsi (man candy of Eurovision ’04) which was rather interesting, and with another before-seen artist in the mix (Regina from Euroband) I reckon something good should come from the country. Let’s hope there’s no horrible-but-all-consuming sob story detracting from the entry this time around.
And let’s all cross our fingers for Hungary to produce another qualifier while we’re at it.
Norsk MGP comes to a close
This is the first year I’ve followed NMGP with as much devotion as Melodifestivalen, and I’m glad I did because Norway produced a lot of songs that add to the bank of gems that didn’t make the ESC. Of course, there is one song still to make the ESC, but only one…and it’s something from down below:
- Stay by Tooji
- High on Love by Reidun Sæther
- Sailors by Lise Karlsnes
- Ola Nordmann by Plumbo
- Crush by Malin
- Somewhere Beautiful by Nora Foss al-Jabri
- Don’t Touch The Flame by The Carburetors
- Things Change by Peter Øien & Bobby Bare
- Sammen by Yaseen & Julie Maria
- Make It Better by Tommy Fredvang
My picks: For some reason Norway didn’t tailor their qualifiers 100% to my taste (???). If they had, I’d be commanding you all to root for Rikke Normann’s Shapeshifter (you will regret leaving that behind, Norwegians!). MGP 2012 has produced a decent final line-up however, and my picks of the bunch are Stay, Crush, Somewhere Beautiful and Sammen…although High on Love and Make It Better aren’t far behind. The song that would win the whole thing in a place called Jaz’s Perfect World – a.k.a. if I could decide on behalf of an entire country – is Stay, which I think could do wonders at Eurovision despite the Saade Effect. Or maybe because of the Saade Effect? There’s something to ponder, if you are very, very bored.
My prediction: Usually – not ALWAYS, but usually – it’s one of the songs that won a semi that wins the final of a selection process. If that’s the case, Norway’s representative in Baku will be Plumbo, Nora, or (heaven forbid – how did they get to the final?) Peter & Bobby. I’m definitely feeling in my gut a victory ahead for Plumbo or Nora, but if not, then it’ll be Reidun. I don’t know how you’re feeling about this final, but for me, if the winner is not The Carburetors/Peter & Bobby I will be pleased. The odds are in my favour – how are they looking for you?
Melodifestivalen: Volume II
Listening to the semi final songs for MF is always my Saturday night highlight. Semi #2 is especially exciting due to a certain genetically blessed blonde quartet (it’s Timoteij, in case you weren’t sure) who plucked/strummed/fiddled their way into many a fan’s heart in Melodifestivalen 2010 with Kom. Will they better the 5th place they got back then or will it be a shock early exit? We’ll know soon enough. In the meantime here’s their competition – tonight’s line-up:
- Soldiers by Ulrik Munther
- Baby Doll by Top Cats
- I Din Himmel by Sonja Aldén
- Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt
- Stormande Hav by Timoteij
- Shout It Out by David Lindgren
- Det Går För Långsamt by Mimi Oh
- Ge Aldrig Upp by Thomas Di Leva
My picks: Soldiers, Aldrig Aldrig, Stormande Hav and Det Går För Långsamt.
Ulrik is going to be hard to beat. Combine his vocal talents with this catchy track and a face that could melt even Jon Ola Sand’s heart (is he genuinely of Eurovision age? He could easily pass as a primary-schooler) and you’ve got a package that practically screams ‘straight to the final’. I’ll be thrilled if Soldiers gets there because it’s better than I expected. Not ground-breaking, but going somewhere.
Aldrig Aldrig is a song that could do with a harder punch in the chorus, but I’m still liking it because it has just the right amount of schlager and dance.
I may be into Stormande Hav because I adore everything Timoteij have ever recorded, but I realise it’s no Kom and was never going to be, so when I say I love it I mean it. The folk-pop combo works every time when these girls get their hands/vocal chords on it, and apparently it’s a magic formula that can handle a sprinkling of dance beat. Bravo.
Det Går För Långsamt is another song with a chorus not as good as the verses promise, but I personally am not too fussed. It’s enjoyable and catchy, which is what I expect from Melodifestivalen entries for the most part.
My prediction: It’s a tough one to predict, but who says I have to be right? Thankfully nobody, or else I’d be in trouble. I’m going to say that Ulrik and Timoteij will get the golden tickets to the final, with Sonja and Andreas moving on to Andra Chansen.
That’s that. Apart from a semi final in Lithuania (I apologise for my lack of will to cover that as well) what you’ve just read is all the action that will take place around Europe tonight. Join me on Twitter, Facebook and pretty much everywhere else in the online universe tomorrow so we can discuss, dissect and possibly trash the fresh entries…and so much more.
The Eurovision world is a very busy one, and so whenever one is occupied with other things (things they would rather not be occupied by…unimportant things like university assignments) and is out of the loop for a few days, there is a LOT of developments to wade through. Luckily, I am more than willing to wade through them, if you are willing to excuse the miscellaneous massiveness of this post!
First on the agenda is the…
OGAE Second Chance Contest 2011
The results of this were announced last week. If you’re not familiar with the OGAESCC (as I affectionately call it) then get yourself over to Wikipedia pronto and bone up! It’s a fab-tastic annual event that gives the national final songs that missed out a chance to win something. Or just lose all over again. Either way, I’m always excited to see what went down.
This year’s winner – prepare to be surprised in no way – was the lovely Yohanna from Iceland with Nótt, a song that many thought was robbed of winning the Icelandic final this year. I wonder if this makes up at all for her narrow 169-point defeat in Moscow? It at least has to be a decent birthday present for her, as she turns 21 on Sunday. On behalf of everyone here at EBJ (i.e. me) I’d like to wish her a Happy Birthday. If you don’t come back to Eurovision soon, Yohanna, you’ll be dragging yourself onstage in a zimmer frame. I, of course, am allowed to say that, being a whole year younger than she is.
A-hem. ANYWAY, here is the Top 10 of the 2011 OGAESCC. Check out the full results at the official site, or my old favourite free encyclopaedia that rhymes with ‘Sikivedia’.
- ICELAND/ Yohanna/ Nótt
- SWEDEN/ Jenny Silver/ Something In Your Eyes
- ITALY/ Modà feat. Emma/ Arriverà
- DENMARK/ Le Freak/ 25 Hours A Day
- ISRAEL/ Chen Aharoni/ Or
- GREECE/ Nikki Ponte/ I Don’t Wanna Dance
- NORWAY/ Helene Bøksle/ Vardlokk
- SPAIN/ Lucia Pérez/ Abrázame
- GERMANY/ Lena/ Push Forward
- SLOVENIA/ April/ Ladadidej
Not bad, not bad…but if I were the judge, my Top 10 would have looked a little more like this:
- ISRAEL/ Chen Aharoni/ Or
- GREECE/ Nikki Ponte/ I Don’t Wanna Dance
- ICELAND/ Yohanna/ Nótt
- POLAND/ Anna Gogola/ Ktos Taki Jak Ty
- IRELAND/ Nikki Kavanagh/ Falling
- NORWAY/ Helene Bøksle/ Vardlokk
- FYR MACEDONIA/ Martin Srbinoski/ Ram Tam Tam
- AUSTRIA/ Trackshittaz/ Oida Taunz!
- SWEDEN/ Jenny Silver/ Something In Your Eyes
- SLOVENIA/ April/ Ladadidej
This is where it’s all happening, with just over 7 weeks until the show in Armenia. So what’s ‘it all’?
– San Marino has withdrawn, taking the number of participants down to 13. Personally, I am crushed by this development. Let’s hope, as is rumoured, they’ll be sending a kid along to the 2012 JESC.
– The 2012 JESC which will be in the Netherlands? Yep, that’s the one! For the second time, the Dutch have won the right to host mini-Eurovision. Congratulations to them, but I was kind of hoping for somewhere new, like Malta (a bit out the question since Malta aren’t even participating at the moment).
– 2012 may be the second year in a row that the winning country has hosted the contest the following year, if my ‘THAT’S THE ONE’ radar is working properly. I reckon Rachel and Ik Ben Een Teenager can take it all the way! With all the songs selected and only 1 unheard, I think a lot of JESC fans will begin to make their predictions. Look out for my prediction special in November to see if I change my mind…
– Speaking of a full house of entries, Latvia, Moldova, and Sweden finalised the list earlier in the week, choosing Moondog by Amanda Bašmakova, No-No by Lerica, and Faller by Erik Rapp respectively. All I will say about those at this point (sans Latvia) is that the level is pretty darn high this year, a fact that both pleases me and irritates me (how many kids in Europe can sing and write songs anyway….pfft).
– Lastly, the draw for the running order has taken place, and Russia will open the show whilst Belgium will close it. In between them is Latvia, Moldova, Armenia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Ukraine, Macedonia, Netherlands, Belarus, Sweden, and Georgia.
Believe it or not, some selections are already underway, and you can check out all the details at your portal of choice – ESC Daily, the official site…etc. I won’t rehash it all. However, I will take a look at the bigger picture, so far.
To everybody’s amusement, Slovakia have once again decided to not decide on their 2012 participation. I suspect they won’t be able to help themselves in the end – and by end, I mean the minute before the confirmation time. There are some countries that just thrive on torturing us fans who want to see enough for two semi finals so we don’t have to go back to one measly prelim.
I have the feeling Italy will be another torturer. They were welcomed back in Düsseldorf with open arms, so I think they will be in Baku, but they’re bound to keep us waiting. If you follow me on Twitter, you would already know this. Hint hint.
As of now, 31 countries have confirmed, including the Big Five minus France, as well as this year’s returning countries Austria and Hungary, who are obviously pepped up after both managing to qualify. Tentative selection dates are also coming through, and amazingly, February is not looking as manic as usual at the moment. Albania and Switzerland will pick in December, as normal – just why they feel the need to beat everyone else, I don’t know (I mean, Albania, Christmas Day? Really?) with the Bulgarian, Danish, Maltese and Slovenian finals set for January.
I want to draw special attention to the absence of Serbia from the list of confirmed participants. Having withdrawn from JESC, they better not be considering doing the same for big Eurovision, because if they did I would…I would…well, I would be very upset. Serbia’s one of my favourite ESC countries, always bringing something interesting to the table.
Well, I think that’s all there is to ramble on relentlessly about. Next week, there’ll be another Time-Warp Tuesday for you (who will I pick? Not even I know yet) as well as my first ever album review! Yay! It’s a pretty spectacular CD from someone who did pretty well in Eurovision a few years back….
See you then!