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BOO-ROVISION!!! A spooky song contest soundtrack to help you have a horrifically happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, Eurofreaks!

If you’re an ESC fan who doesn’t mind a good scare, then this is your lucky day…if you scare super easily, because all I’ve done is prepare a playlist of contest entries that evoke the most frightening time of the year. In comparison to the most blood-curdling, heart-pounding experience I’ve had today (waiting in the online queue for Melodifestivalen tickets, which I scored two of with surprising ease *screams like a banshee*) the following is pretty tame. Still, whether you’re celebrating Halloween with a group of guys and ghouls, or by yourself with a scary movie on your screen, here’s some Eurovision music to set the mood switch of your evening to ‘Suitably Macabre’. Enjoy, or a zombie will eat your brains.

 

boorovision

 

A Monster Like Me, Mørland & Debrah Scarlett (Norway 2015)

Brujería, Son de Sol (Spain 2005)

Taken By A Stranger, Lena (Germany 2011) You can’t tell me you’ve never had a nightmare that either faintly resembled this performance, or was a carbon copy of it. Happy-clappy ESC of yore it is not.

When Spirits Are Calling My Name, Roger Pontare (Sweden 2000)

L’Enfer Et Moi, Amandine Bourgeois (France 2013)

Minn Hinsti Dans, Paul Oscar (Iceland 1997)

Hour of the Wolf, Elnur Huseynov (Azerbaijan 2015)

Hard Rock Hallelujah, Lordi (Finland 2006) Use the words ‘scary’ and ‘Eurovision’ in the same sentence, and even an anti-fan will think of Lordi…though I personally think the scariest thing about the band must be the smell when they remove all of that latex after a show.

Nocturne, Secret Garden (Norway 1995)

Takes 2 To Tango, Jari Sillanpää (Finland 2004)

Nomads In The Night, Jeronimas Milius (Lithuania 2008)

Work Your Magic, Koldun (Belarus 2007)

Birds, Anouk (The Netherlands 2013)

Day After Day, Elnur & Samir (Azerbaijan 2008) Angels, devils, the spillage of an ambiguous red liquid…Azerbaijan went all out for Halloween in ’08. I’m assuming that was the event they thought they’d been invited to, anyway.

One Last Breath, Maria Elena Kyriakou (Greece 2015)

Running Scared, Ell & Nikki (Azerbaijan 2011)

Better The Devil You Know, Sonia (United Kingdom 1993)

Suus, Rona Nishliu (Albania 2012)

Black Smoke, Ann Sophie (Germany 2015)

Ghost, Jamie-Lee Kriewitz (Germany 2016) Singing about a spooky staple and looking like a long-lost member of Dolly Style – while surrounded by a fake but somewhat eerie forest – Jamie-Lee practically personified Halloween in Stockholm. She could easily have attended a costume party this weekend as herself.

Deli, Mor ve Ötesi (Turkey 2008)

Hope Never Dies, Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta (Czech Republic 2015)

I Feed You My Love, Margaret Berger (Norway 2013)

Wild Soul, Cristina Scarlat (Moldova 2014)

Vampires Are Alive, DJ Bobo (Switzerland 2007) Did you think I’d forgotten this? As if! It’s integral to celebrating Boo-rovision. If you can only force your party guests to listen to one creepy contest classic before they run screaming into the night, make it this masterpiece.

 

Well, that’s about all I’ve got in my brain box until next Halloween, with regards to the scary side of our favourite song contest.  Also, my Jamie-Lee costume for 2017 is going to take an entire year to put together, so I’ve got to stop doing this and get on to gluing that.

I’m hoping (though not expecting) that this playlist was terrifically terrifying, so let me know below if you peed your pants with fear at all while you were checking it out. Just a simple yes or no will do – I don’t need any more info than that.

Plus, to reduce the chance of me haunting you dressed in a bed sheet with eye holes cut out of it, comment me your answer to this question: if you were off to a Boo-rovision Halloween party, which ESC act would you dress up as?

 

Until next time *coffin creaking closed just because*…

 

hsig

 

 

REVIEWS | The EBJ Jury Judges Eurovision 2016 (Part 3)

It’s creeping ever closer, people! If you don’t know what I mean by ‘it’, then I have to question why you’re reading this blog. For those who do know, you’ll also be aware that the Eurovision 2016 stage is taking shape inside the Globe Arena, and that means more reviewing must be done before it resembles the diagrams we oohed and aahed over a little while ago. It’s still mostly scaffolding at this point – but there’s no time to waste! Let’s say hej to today’s judges, and to the countries they’ll be discussing in this third installment of reviews.

 

 TODAY’S EBJ JURORS
jmj

By now, you guys should know where to meet and greet the EBJ Jury, so I won’t tell you again (well, maybe just one more time. Hint: scroll up!). James, Martin and myself are about to complement and criticise the life out of Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and San Marino – or, as I like to call them (because we’re all best buddies), Eneda, Jüri, Jamie-Lee, Donny, Douwe Bob and Serhat. Who’ll be our favourite, and will any country other than the predictable one be our LEAST favourite? Settle down with some popcorn and find out now!

 

 

Albania

James Okay, I feel like I’m going to be in the minority here when I say I actually think the revamp has improved Albania’s song this year…instrumentally, at least. Fairytale 2.0 sounds a lot more professional than Përrallë did – the only issue I have is that Eneda’s new vocal somehow sounds like she recorded it right after waking up from a three-hour nap, and quite fancied getting straight back to bed as soon as she was done. I’m hoping she really attacks it live because even with its lucky running order position, it’s gonna need a LOT of extra energy if it’s to stand ANY chance of making it to Saturday night. The English lyrics aren’t brilliant, I must admit, but that’s never been an issue in the past *cough, undo my sad, cough*. As a song though, I do enjoy listening to Fairytale, and the hook does stick with me. I’d be happy to see Albania in the final with this.

Martin Swapping from Albanian to English, along with losing forty-five seconds of the FiK version of Fairytale, is going to lead to yet another non-qualification for Albania – much in the same way as it did for Hersi in 2014. What was a powerful and passionate emotional rollercoaster with lots of interesting nuances in Tirana has now lost it all and become a repetitive low-key ballad that no longer holds my attention.

Jaz Albania seem to have forgotten fast that a fully-Albanian language entry gave them their best-ever Eurovision result. Obviously, it’s well within their rights to sing in whatever language they like – but I can’t help feeling that ANY language other than English would have helped Eneda’s Fairytale retain the mystery and intrigue that it initially had (and in doing so, you might say, made it a Fairytale with a happy ending). Like Martin, I can’t say that this song, in its English incarnation, is anything special – whereas it was when it was known as Përrallë. Language gripes aside, I still rate the gritty, rocky sound (and how it contrasts with Eneda’s/Kate Winslet’s ladylike styling), and the melody and construction of the choruses is still interesting (we’re rarely on the receiving end of cookie-cutter stuff from Albania). But, without the air of ‘Ooh, what’s this all about then?’ that the original version of the song created, I cannot see this qualifying. Not unless a handful of other countries stumble and fall flat on their faces, that is.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 5
  • Fraser 5
  • James 5
  • Jaz 6
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 2
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 8
  • Wolfgang 6

Albania’s EBJ Jury score is…5.33

 

 

Estonia 

James Aagh, Estonia. I genuinely still don’t know what I think of Play yet. It’s definitely one of the most original songs in this year’s line-up, and it’s fresh and relevant whilst oozing the kind of timeless classiness that Estonia are so good at of late. The thing I’m not so sure about is Jüri’s voice – if the song had been written a couple of semitones higher, it would be in a much more comfortable place for him. This is something I’m all too familiar with from trying to record covers myself – literally, if someone from his team could just whack the karaoke version into Audacity and change the pitch up a bit, everything would be fine! He still sings it perfectly well, of course, but there’s not a single point in the song where he has the chance to break out of that sludgy lower register and show off the full extent of his vocal capabilities, and the overall effect is far too dark, in my opinion. Yes, I know it’s MEANT to be like that, but I don’t think it really works. Especially live – the melody is so low that it blends in with the track and obscures a lot of the meaning, which is a shame since the lyrics are one of the song’s highlights. I still think it’s got a pretty good shot at qualifying, though, and it’s definitely going to stand out, one way or another.

Martin With a passing nod to the vocal style of Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy, Jüri brings chic and coolness to Eurovision with a very laid-back and confident performance, together with a song that builds nicely and has a memorable chorus. Play just lacks a ‘wow’ moment that would definitely confirm a final place, and a possible top half finish for Estonia. Because of that, this could be one of the ‘better’ casualties of this year’s semi finals.

Jaz Estonia has pulled a Latvia this year, selecting a song written by their 2015 representative to fly their flag (I’ll be swapping the countries around and saying the same thing about Latvia when the time comes). While I’d put Love Injected on par with Heartbeat in the ‘How freaking awesome is this?’ department, I’d actually rank Goodbye To Yesterday a little lower than Jüri’s Play. That’s not because I hate GTY (I don’t, although it never topped my rankings) but because I LOVE Play. Jüri + this song = a performance by a more well-groomed and more intense version of Hozier, and it is soaked with smoky retro sophistication. This kid (I can call him that since he’s younger than me and my mental age is akin to that of a teenager) might look angelic, but when he’s on stage, those of us watching him aren’t sure whether he wants to skin us alive or if he’s just really, really in the zone. I like the fact that he’s so ‘in character’ as he works his way through a song that literally hits all the notes that Bond-inspired vintage-vibe pop should. Of all the throwback songs that will be showing up in Stockholm this year (‘all’ meaning, like, three or four) this is the most well-executed IMO, and it almost serves as a prequel – or sequel, depending on how the listener writes the story – to GTY, as an added bonus. Though I doubt Jüri will squeeze out a single tear á la Elina Born at Eurovision, I don’t doubt his ability to take Stig’s song to the final…and perhaps secure Estonia another top 10 result as well.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 12
  • Fraser 6
  • James 5
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 7
  • Nick 4
  • Penny 8
  • Rory 6
  • Wolfgang 5

Estonia’s EBJ Jury score is…7

 

 

Germany

James I should absolutely adore this. It’s got that modern synth-pop sound with a waif-like female lead vocal, which I usually really dig…but something about Ghost just doesn’t click with me. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments – I like the bridge, for example, and the chords in the ‘lonely in a crowded room together’ line. But on the whole, that chorus is such an anti-climax, isn’t it (please say somebody agrees with me?). It’s still a decent enough song, but I guess I just feel a bit miffed every time I hear it because I feel like it could have been soooooo much better! I hope it grows on me, and it probably will when I get the CD and actually let myself play all the songs to within an inch of their lives…but until then, it’s mid-table at best for me. Sorry, Germany.

Martin Melancholic lyrics, an atmospheric score and hauntingly powerful vocals were all at odds with the visual package of an 18-year-old girl obsessed with manga outfits! ‘The Voice of Germany’ was totally the focus of the national final performance of Ghost and rightly so. Jamie-Lee’s simple but sublime delivery of this entry could be the sleeper hit this year in Stockholm. One of my favourites – it’s my number 4 at this stage.

Jaz I don’t want to get overly-attached to Jamie-Lee and her Ghost, given what happened in the wake of me latching on to Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke (I’m beginning to think I’m a bad luck charm). But…this song is brilliant! Hashtag fail on the ‘keep your distance’ thing! I’m no musical expert – which you may find hard to believe – but I think that technically-speaking, this is one of the best songs competing in this year’s contest. The background music is almost church hymn-like, which adds a pleading but accepting tone to the words pouring out of Jamie’s mouth; while the steady beat makes the whole thing hypnotic. As a package, the music and lyrics are fresh and edgy, and Eurovision needs those adjectives. However, what we see rather than hear is where Germany has gone wrong. I know Jamie-Lee loves her K-pop and her Harajuku-inspired outfits (in other words, Gwen Stefani would adore her) – but not only does her choice of costume detract from a song it just isn’t suitable for, it also makes for a jarring combination of a mature, emotionally-charged song being performed by someone who looks distinctly Junior Eurovision, and therefore far too young to have an understanding of what she’s singing about. Jamie, sans stuffed-toy-covered wardrobe, does have the maturity required to pull this off despite her young age, and her vocal talents are undeniable. But dressing the way she does, she’d be better off joining Dolly Style when one of their current members inevitably departs, or performing a song that is as fun, cute and playful as she looks. To people not named Jaz, the contrast between Ghost and Jamie’s sartorial selections might make her stand out positively from her 25 fellow finalists – but I think, as much as I admire her passion for and loyalty to her look, keeping it for Eurovision is a big risk. I do love the song though…

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 8
  • Fraser 5
  • James 5
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 10
  • Nick 12
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 4
  • Wolfgang 10

Germany’s EBJ Jury score is…7.78

 

 

Lithuania

James Okay, yes, this has ‘Melfest Reject’ written all over it, but you know what? I don’t mind at all. One thing I really look for in Eurovision now is relevance. As I’m hosting a Eurovision party for all my non-fan friends, I get really excited when there are songs that sound like they’d fit right into the UK charts or radio playlists right now, because then I can point at the screen and go ‘SEE? EUROVISION’S NOT SHIT!’ and smile smugly as all my friends listen and can’t help but agree, because songs like Lithuania’s match their own tastes and would do so well if released by someone more well-known over here. So yeah, well done Lithuania! Ever since Attention, which I ADORED, they’ve really upped their game at Eurovision, and I’m enjoying their commitment to giving Europe the very best that their country can offer! Another thing though – have you heard any of Donny’s more recent music? Because damn, boy, he’s so much better now than when he sang that god-awful thing at the ESC in 2012! He’s got a really slick Troye Sivan/The Weeknd kind of vibe going on (think Aminata/Loïc Nottet if you want a contest reference) and it really suits his voice and style. I sort of wish he’d entered something more like that for Eurovision, but meh – I’ve Been Waiting… is more than good enough as it is!

Martin Donny gives this entry everything – it’s definitely memorable, it’s a standout high-tempo pop song that is performed superbly well, and it makes full use of his onstage charisma and good looks. Is the song’s title also a good omen for Lithuania? Donny could well be singing ‘I’ve been waiting for this night’ over the credits of the Eurovision final as his country’s first winner.

Jaz How does a pasty, preppy dude whose hobbies include strumming an imaginary guitar and wearing comical bejeweled blindfolds transform into a buff, bronzed and blonde (for the most part) crowd-captivator? Why not ask Donny Montell? He’s done just that between 2012 and 2016. Don’t get me wrong – Love Is Blind was the bomb, and Donny has always been a showman and a half, who can dance and sing simultaneously to a degree that probably makes Eric Saade very depressed indeed. But it’s great to see that Donny has evolved as an artist, and that he didn’t try to make an ESC comeback by repeating his approach of four years ago. I’ve Been Waiting For This Night is a bog-standard dance anthem, but the catchy chorus coupled with Donny’s charisma elevate it to above-average. Not since Kurt Calleja’s This Is The Night have we witnessed an entry that sets the tone for the show so perfectly (although Tonight Again did a darn good job of that in Vienna, I must say). Needless to say, the Globen audience (which will include me!), plus everyone watching on TV will be partying it up-up-up-up-up-uuup Loreen-style thanks to Lithuania. I am expecting them to qualify, and I will be complaining very loudly if they don’t. Oh, and I’ll also be starting a petition to get Donny to drop the Anglicised stage name and revert back to his much cooler birth name. ‘Donny’ worked with Love Is Blind. ‘Donatas’ is the artist IBWFTN deserves.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 3
  • Fraser 10
  • James 6
  • Jaz 8
  • Martin 8
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 3
  • Wolfgang 10

Lithuania’s EBJ Jury score is…6.55

 

 Netherlands 

James Anyone who knows me will know that I absolutely love Calm After The Storm. So I guess when we worked out that by sending Douwe Bob, The Netherlands were going to be trying country music again, I was cautiously optimistic. And then I heard the song. Yeah, no. It’s the kind of thing that would only feel at home around the track 12 mark on disc two of some cheap ‘Driving Anthems’ compilation: the kind my Dad would play on long car journeys circa 2004. As a result, Slow Down just makes me think of those car journeys as a kid and I get a weird second-hand travel-sickness from it and…yeah, I just really don’t like it. The chord pattern, the instrumentation, the tone of the whole thing – it’s supposed to make you feel happy, but by the third line I just want to Sellotape Bob’s smug little mouth shut so he ‘can’t go on’ (see what I did there? Eh, eh?). Can I just stop listening to this and go listen to Calm After The Storm again instead please? That was such a special song. This is not.

Martin Country & western returns to Eurovision courtesy of the Netherlands yet again – it’s always about the lyrics, as this genre can sound like every other C & W track you’ve ever heard. Slow Down is well sung, and Douwe Bob is personable and handsome…but the steady pace and sound of the song won’t stand out in Stockholm. Another possible ‘good’ non-qualifier for me.

Jaz I have to agree with both James and Martin on this one, in terms of the fact that Douwe Bob’s Slow Down is achingly average – and it certainly doesn’t recapture the magic of Calm After The Storm (though you can’t blame the Netherlands for trying to in the wake of the Trijntje incident). The song’s not bad (we’ll come to one that is almost undeniably so in a minute). But, as much as I enjoy the cruisy pace and general jauntiness of it, plus Bob’s insistence that we chillax bro – and his vocal, which is super-smooth with a rough retro edge that I find strangely attractive – the entry as a whole just doesn’t ‘do’ much for me. Therefore, I have no choice but to file it away with the likes of Finland and the Czech Republic. I can’t imagine that the staging for this will be epic enough to make Douwe Bob the second coming of the Common Linnets, because even on its own, their song had the x-factor. Still, he should serve us up a nice, clap-friendly three minutes on stage (and if he lets that rose tattoo poke out of his shirt, you may hear me wolf-whistling amidst the applause). That should at least ensure that he won’t be bottom of his semi. Qualification isn’t out of his reach, but it’s definitely not in the bag.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 7
  • Fraser 6
  • James 3
  • Jaz 6
  • Martin 7
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 10
  • Rory 3
  • Wolfgang 3

The Netherlands’ EBJ Jury score is…5.55

 

 

San Marino

James Okay…is this a joke? Like, genuinely, I hope this is a joke, because if not, it’s just plain embarrassing. I cannot comprehend how one country can send so many palpably half-arsed entries in such a short space of time. I completely understand that San Marino are strapped for cash, and since Ralph Siegel has stopped bankrolling their entire Eurovision operation (hallelujah!) they’ve adopted the approach of nominating artists who can pay their own participation fee. So that essentially means they’ve got the pick of, oh, I don’t know, EVERY SLIGHTLY RICH ARTIST IN THE ENTIRE CONTINENT – hey, actually no, THE ENTIRE WORLD…and they’ve sent THIS. Was this really the best they could do? The original was dire, but by trying to squash Serhat’s badly-written, cringey, lopsided spoken words (that is not singing. I’m sorry, but no) into a DISCO TRACK, they’ve somehow managed to make it even worse. The beat itself, well, erm, Baccara called and they want that back ASAP. But dear lord, Serhat’s voice is the most grating thing in the entire Stockholm line-up! My dog has a bigger vocal range than he does. I’d literally rather spend three minutes listening to her barking right in my ear for her daily Dentastick, and deal with the copious amount of drool that accompanies such a request, than listen to any track with Serhat’s voice on it. Look at his face and then Google the troll face, and tell me they’re not distant cousins at the very least. This HAS to be a pisstake, right? It goes without saying that they haven’t got a hope in hell of qualifying, and if they do – ESPECIALLY if they take the place of someone like Gabriela from the Czech Republic – then there is something very, very wrong with this contest. Come on, San Marino. Sort yourselves out for next year, I beg you!

Martin The Turkish Leonard Cohen meets Studio 54! What would have been a very creepy monotone delivery of a set of ‘obsessive’ lyrics by Serhat is now tempered by some decent female backing, and the light and breezy disco beat that somehow makes this work. I Didn’t Know isn’t great (that’s an understatement!) but at least it’s now bearable to listen to. And, it’s no longer my worst entry this year (just).

Jaz I’ll be honest, and I think many of you will agree with me on this: I’ve never had particularly high expectations of San Marino’s Eurovision entries. Whether they’ve been armed with Siegel’s stash of cash or not, I’ve never been on the edge of my seat waiting for them to produce something on par with an Italian effort (I’m not a Valentina Monetta fan either, which doesn’t help). Even so, the sheer awfulness of I Didn’t Know has sent my jaw straight to the floor countless times since it was unveiled in its original, non-disco form. Like James, I was sure San Marino were trolling us when they presented the song to the public – how else could you explain the so-stale-it-was-growing-stuff track that sounded more like a recording of an audio book gone wrong than a song, or the laughable accompanying video clip that could have been lifted from an SNL sketch? But sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, I Didn’t Know was given the Donna Summer treatment, and OH DEAR GOD. This is what media outlets and non-fans will latch on to when they want to make a mockery of the contest. They won’t ignore it in favour of discussing Latvia or France – they’ll zone directly in on Serhat and his Seventies nightmare (thanks a lot, San Marino/Turkey). Based superficially on his appearance, I had hoped for a trumpet-backed, updated version of Mambo No. 5 from this guy, which would have been a bit of fun. But what we got instead more closely resembles something you’d step in by mistake at the local dog park. In the words of His Majesty Michele Perniola (whose 2015 entry is suddenly sounding like musical genius by comparison), NO. 

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 8
  • Fraser 5
  • James 0
  • Jaz 1
  • Martin 4
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 2
  • Rory 1
  • Wolfgang 0

San Marino’s EBJ Jury score is…2.44

 

 

Duh duh duh…another six bite the dust! This third round of reviews has produced the lowest-scoring set of songs so far – but it did include San Marino, so we should have anticipated that. Here’s today’s top six: 

  1. Germany (7.78)
  2. Estonia (7)
  3. Lithuania (6.55)
  4. The Netherlands (5.55)
  5. Albania (5.33)
  6. San Marino (2.44)

I tip my hat (the hat I’m not actually wearing) to Jamie-Lee Kriewitz for taking out the top spot on this occasion. You go, girlfriend. Where will she finish in the grand scheme of the EBJ Jury’s Top 43? We’ll all find out in a few weeks’ time.

Coming up, two Eurofans from the US of A will join me to pass judgment on Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Denmark, Montenegro and Spain. There’s bound to be some hits and misses among them, so make sure you drop by to witness the humorous differences of opinion (it’s always amusing when someone rips a song to shreds and someone else takes offence and they have an argument which results in the destruction of a longtime friendship, don’t you think?).

Sense the sarcasm, guys.

While you’re waiting for me to hit publish on that post, let the EBJ Jury know what you think of today’s tracks. Does Germany’s Ghost get you going, or will it just get you going to the kitchen to put the kettle on? Is San Marino’s sixth place deserved or totally uncalled for? Comment and score these songs for yourself down below – we’d all love to hear from you!

 

Until next time,

 

2015sig

 

 

SUPER SATURDAY #4 | New entries, first impressions + A Dal, Melodi Grand Prix and Melfest!

Välkommen to the fourth and final Super Saturday of February!

There are a few more national final-filled weekends to come, but this is the last that we can honestly label as ‘Super’, ‘Frantic’, or in extreme cases, ‘So *Insert F-Bomb Here* busy, I can’t *Insert F-Bomb Here Also* handle it, so I’m off to live in an uninhabited cave in the Himalayas’. Enjoy!

Here’s what’s on the menu tonight. I hope you’re hungry.

  • Finland’s UMK – the final
  • Hungary’s A Dal – the final
  • Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the eighth show
  • Moldova’s O Melodie Pentru Europa – the final
  • Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix – the final
  • Slovenia’s EMA – the final
  • Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the fourth semi final

And, of course, there’s an after-dinner mint on Sunday, if you can squeeze it in:

  • Latvia’s Supernova – the final

As usual, I’m not certifiably insane enough to tackle talking about every NF taking place tonight, so I’m picking a few favourites to review and predict – specifically, Hungary, Norway, and *completely unnecessary drum roll* Sweden. If you’re keen to check out what I have to say re: their line-ups, and would like to know who I think will win/qualify, read on. If not, what are you even doing here? This is what goes down on EBJ. Would you like someone to drop by your house unexpectedly only to criticise the wallpaper and the cleanliness of your toilet?

I DIDN’T THINK SO.

But I digress. Let’s kick things off with some thoughts on the songs that have become Eurovision entries since last Saturday.

 

STOCKHOLM SHENANIGANS: The Class of 2016, plus five

Plus five featuring some damn good songs at that. Four of the following tracks triumphed at national finals held last weekend, and during the week just gone; one was revealed in the wake of the artist’s internal selection. I’ll let you figure out which is which, because it’s extremely obvious and you already know anyway and man, I need to get some sleep after this.

  • Alter Ego by Minus One (Cyprus) I probably wouldn’t have picked this as a G:son creation had I known squat about the identity of its songwriters. That’s not a good or bad thing. I mean, clearly, this is no Euphoria, but it’s not supposed to be – it’s supposed to be a Minus One song, and it does work in that way. However, although the chorus is catchy, I don’t know how far Alter Ego will carry Cyprus.
  • Ghost by Jamie-Lee Kriewitz (Germany) Jamie-Lee, who could have competed in JESC until recently (and currently dresses like she should) is taking her Voice of Germany winner’s single to Stockholm, and ich liebe es. I’d like her to ditch the K-pop costume for Eurovision since it doesn’t suit the song at all, but apart from that, she’s got a voice (THE voice, in fact) and song to grab Germany a result they won’t be ashamed of.
1_ESC_Vorentscheid_Jamie_Lee_Kriewitz__2_

Jamie-Lee, ready for action in her ghost-busting gear.

  • Hear Them Calling by Greta Salóme (Iceland) In a plot twist that no one saw coming, the favourite to win Söngvakeppnin WON Söngvakeppnin. Pick those jaws up off the floor, people! I have three things to say about this: 1) The staging is boss, and no, it’s not a do-over of Heroes (‘inspiration’ is very different to ‘imitation’); 2) The song is quirky and folksy in a beautifully Icelandic way; and 3) Why did they have to ruin that beauty by switching to English?
  • 1944 by Jamala (Ukraine) I’m still receiving therapy due to the trauma I experienced watching the Ukrainian final, and part of the treatment involves my doctor telling me over and over again that JAMALA WON IT! Sure, I could have come to terms with The Hardkiss or NuAngels taking the ticket, but I’m thrilled that in the end (when it finally, mercifully came), the incredible Jamala and the emotion-heavy-yet-edgy 1944 were on top. Let’s hope nothing more than the title and a few lyrics – if anything – have to be altered to fit the EBU’s rules and regs.
  • You’re Not Alone by Joe & Jake (United Kingdom) If you follow me on Twitter (HINT HINT) you’ll already know how I felt about the UK final – the first held since 2010. If not, then I’ll recap in a more polite way by saying it wasn’t of the highest possible quality. Off to Eurovision is one of the two or three (at a push) songs that I didn’t despise, so that’s good news. What isn’t good news is it’s also a song that sounds like it should be in the background of something – a heartwarming movie montage or a compilation of teamwork-oriented Olympic moments. But I’ll give it time to grow. PS – Joe’s cute. Call me even though I just insulted your song?

 

What do you think of the latest songs to be selected? Is there a Eurovision winner among them? While you’re deciding, I’m going to leave the pre-existing entries behind and move on to the possible entries from Hungary, Norway, and our hosts Sweden.

 

 

HUNGARY: A Dal not dal at all as it reaches its conclusion

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There’s no doubt about it: when you have an eight-song final, and only one of those eight songs is crap, that’s the dictionary definition of a brilliant show. Of course, that’s seven very good songs and one rubbish one in my opinion…but that’s the only one that matters to me.

Just kidding. I care what you think, person reading this! So how does this final look/sound to you?

  • Trouble In My Mind by Petruska
  • Győz a Jó by Gergő Olah
  • Who We Are by Kállay Saunders Band
  • Uncle Tom by Mushu
  • Why by André Vásáry
  • Pioneer by Freddie
  • Már Nem Szédülök by Parno Graszt
  • Seven Seas by Olivér Berkes & Andi Tóth

Based on the impressive content of their recent NFs, Hungary has convinced me they’re on track to win Eurovision within the next five years. I don’t think we’re off to Budapest quite yet, but I think they’ll be back in the final for the fifth time running in May – and who knows how high a rung they could reach on the scoreboard then? If they want back on the left-hand side (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) here are my recommendations in the form of a personal top four:

  • Pioneer This is the kind of music Eurovision needs more of: gritty, powerful, meaningful pop-fusion performed by chiseled Hungarians who I sincerely hope are single. I realise that’s quite specific (and shallow) so let’s just make it an ESC requirement for Hungary on this occasion.
  • Győz a Jó Ethnic R & B feat. sand? That’s a surefire recipe for success, as I have now discovered thanks to Gergő. This song is far superior to his last A Dal entry in my mind, because it has it all. And any man who can pull off a bright red suit with ease deserves a round of applause.
  • Who We Are Never mind Ira Losco – it’s András who’s the true chameleon. This is his third appearance in A Dal, and once again, he’s visually and aurally unrecognisable. That man-bun is the stage equivalent of Clark Kent removing his spectacles. Together with his band (as they are so named) he’s delivering multi-faceted and very cool pop-rock straight to our door, and I’m keen on it.
  • Trouble In My Mind THIS IS SO CUTE. Cute in a grown-up, totally-ready-to-charm-Europe kind of way. That is all.

I’m pretty confident that one of the above four will win tonight. Petruska and Freddie won their respective semis, so it’s probably down to those two FTW – but a last-second surprise isn’t out of the question. There’s an outside chance for András Kállay Saunders, his band, and his practically non-existent singlet (not complaining) to win, and I can see Seven Seas sneaking into contention as well. This should be a final well worth watching, no matter the outcome.

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The top is pointless, Andras. Just take the damn thing off *pulls out camera*.

So…are you going to make an official prediction, or not? Hold your horses! I’m getting there. I think the top four, determined by the in-studio jury, will be comprised of Petruska, Kallay Saunders Band, Freddie and Gergő (alternatively, Olivér/Andi could pop up instead of KS Band or Gergő). I think – and hope – we’ll see Freddie in Stockholm. But if Petruska pips him at the post, I won’t be mad. How could I feel any resentment whatsoever towards that precious bearded face?

 

Okay…I think now’s a good time to talk about something else. But if you have a less awkward tip/expectation for A Dal 2016, let me know below.

 

 

NORWAY: Melodi Grand Prix, Norsk Edition (but did Dansk do it better?)

Um, YES THEY DID. What happened, Norway? MGP 2015 was epic, even though it may not have produced an ESC winner. MGP 2016 is…well, I don’t want to say bad, but it’s definitely in that ballpark. We’ve actually got a reverse Hungary situation here – ten songs, and I’d only define three or four as being halfway decent. Hashtag harsh but true.

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  1. Laika by The Hungry Hearts feat. Lisa Dillan
  2. Into The Fire by Stage Dolls
  3. Traces by Stine Hole Ulla
  4. Stand Up by Makeda
  5. Anyway by Pegasus
  6. Feel Da Rush by Freddy Kalas
  7. Afterglow by Laila Samuels
  8. History by Elouiz
  9. Anna Lee by Suite 16
  10. Icebreaker by Agnete

Norway’s super final will also see four songs advance to a second round of voting, as per usual, so I’ll go ahead and single out my preferred super finalists (though to be honest, I’m finding it hard to care that much).

  • Afterglow Laila’s song is my hands-down favourite, because it isn’t any of these things: Bon Jovi-inspired; a cheesy, overly-theatrical operatic ballad; a cheesy, soppy mid-2000s ballad; or a poor tribute to Meghan Trainor (all of which appear elsewhere in the running order). Plus, it’s actually good in its own right. It’s a true Scandinavian ballad, and if she can nail her live vocal, it will be magical on stage.
  • Feel Da Rush The pleasure is all guilty. This is part Sean Banan, part Kygo, and though I know I should hate the sum of those parts…I just can’t.
  • Icebreaker I’m convinced that this is literally two different songs that were accidentally mixed in the studio, and Agnete was just like ‘Okay then.’ The complete change in genre and tempo from verse to chorus isn’t cohesive at all. And yet…Icebreaker has appeal. A little advice for the writers/producers: if it was a dance track through and through, I’d love it.
  • Anna Lee Stereotypical half-arsed boy band fodder appeals to the boy band fanatic – surprise, surprise! Suite 16 have a song up their perfectly-pressed sleeves that we’ve all heard before (about three times on One Direction’s debut album alone). Does that lack of originality bother me? Not that much. Not when they’re above most of their competition regardless.

And the winner will be…one of the following, as far as I can see: Afterglow or Anna Lee. Still, Norway isn’t a country to shy away from throwing a curveball (cue throwback to the pizza song making the super final last year and Karin Park missing out) so we can expect at least one ridiculous song – Laika or Feel Da Rush – to reach the final four, and potentially win (but probably come third). My guess for that four is Feel Da Rush, Afterglow, Anna Lee and Icebreaker, with Traces possibly slotting in instead of Feel Da Rush if Norway is in a serious mood. But I’m sticking with the ‘A’ songs when it comes to the winner. With fingers crossed.

Which song from MGP 2016 do you think could bring Norway the success I’m not sure they’re craving come May?

 

 

SWEDEN: Melodifestivalen’s fourth (semi) final showdown!

It’s hard to believe, but ja – we’ve arrived at the end of Melfest’s semi stage. We’ve become accustomed to the last semi featuring some big hitters and a possible winner of the whole thing, and 2016 is no exception.

  1. Runaways by Eclipse
  2. Rollercoaster by Dolly Style
  3. Du Tar Mig Tillbaks by Martin Stenmarck
  4. Killer Girl by Linda Bengtzing
  5. If I Were Sorry by Frans
  6. Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz
  7. Youniverse by Molly Sandén
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Dolly Style clearly didn’t get the dress code memo.

I wouldn’t say Deltävling 4 is as eyeball-bulgingly awesome as Deltävling 3 was, but…MOLLY! I’ve been waiting for this evening’s seventh song since we found out Youniverse would BE this evening’s seventh song. In case you weren’t aware, I am a massive Molly Sandén fan, and I’ve been basking in the ambience of her status as favourite alongside Ace Wilder for months. So, now that the almost-full versions of tonight’s competing songs have been released, how does she stack up? And, how do the other six artists stack up to her?

Take my ideal qualifiers as an answer to those questions.

My top four

  • Youniverse Sure, Molly could fart into her microphone for three minutes and I’d fawn all over it, but thankfully, this is a few million steps up from that. Another sllickly-produced, ethereal pop number in a string of the same from her, it should win semi 4 comfortably.
  • If I Were Sorry You don’t have to be sorry, Frans (not that he is). This is charming, Ed Sheeran-type easy listening at its almost-best. I’m not 100% sold on the repetition of the title, but I’ve already put a deposit on everything else.
  • Rollercoaster Against my better judgment, I enjoyed this. It’s not a carbon copy of Hello Hi, which is good – this is a little more grown up (OMG, Dolly Style has evolved!). It’s still sweet and fluffy though, like a stick of cotton candy. And FYI, I have no clue which one is the original group member either.
  • Håll Om Mig Hårt Panetoz can do no wrong. Their brand of infectiously happy tropical pop wins me over every time. Efter Solsken was better, but it left the boys with big shoes to fill, and they’ve made a good effort.

So, who’s going direkt? Molly and Frans. The former because, well, duh. The latter because it’s what my unreliable gut is telling me. Do not place a bet based on my tips, for heaven’s sake.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Dolly Style and Linda Bengtzing/Panetoz. I feel like there’s going to be a real fight for fifth place tonight, and though it pains me to say so (as I want them to go as far as possible) I do think Panetoz might struggle and lose out to Linda.

 

This is the last opportunity for two songs to go straight to the Friends Arena final in a fortnight. Am I right about which two it will be? Do you have a different take on this semi’s seven? Say so in the comments, my fellow Melfester.

 

 

Alright. That’s enough of my nonsensical, sleep-deprived rants about musical competitions for now. I’m off for my traditional pre-Melfest nap that hopefully won’t turn into a full night’s sleep resulting in me missing Melfest (oh, the horror!). Maybe I’ll see you on Twitter in a few hours’ time? If not, I’ll see you once we’ve added six more songs to the stack marked ‘Eurovision 2016’.

 

Happy NF Viewing!

 

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