WARNING: Things are about to get very honest.
Just like that, Junior Eurovision is done and dusted for another year – but none of us who tuned in are likely to forget about it that easily.
Sadly, that’s not because Malta outdid their spectacular show from 2014, but because Sunday’s contest was a bit of a shambles from start to finish (on the part of the adults in charge, not the kids competing). With the most rushed artist parade in history; painfully scripted host dialogue that Ben Camille and Valerie Vella stumbled over like they were running through a booby-trapped trail in the dark; camera operators spending more time in full view than out of it, á la Eurovision 2015; a venue that was far too intimate and therefore lacked atmosphere; AND the cherry on top, when Valerie single-handedly destroyed the tension buildup of the voting by blurting out the remaining amount of points, this was the most amateur JESC of all time. The fact that Malta has handled it with ease before makes it that much worse that things went so downhill this year.
Let’s cross our fingers for Tbilisi to take on the challenge with more finesse (which, TBH, wouldn’t be hard) if we happen to head there in 2017. Because, moving on from my endless list of complaints, my congratulations must go out to this year’s winner Georgia: the Ireland of Junior, only Georgia’s on top of their game now, and they don’t dwell on ancient victories which will soon be outnumbered by Sweden’s.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it was JESC 2013 all over again, as a pint-sized brunette in a poofy white dress belted her way to the win with a powerful ballad. But we subbed in Mariam Mamadashvili for Gaia Cauchi this time, and watched her take the first-place trophy out by creating a truly magical moment on the Mediterranean Conference Centre stage. Hers wasn’t a triumph that everybody saw coming – particularly those of us who refrained from viewing the rehearsals – but, much like Italy’s the last time JESC met Malta, it became inevitable and was very much deserved.
Sixteen other stars shone pretty bright on Sunday, too – but not all of them could end the night on a note as in-tune as every single one that came out of Mariam’s mouth. So let’s hit rewind and review what went down from the start of the performances to THE MOST PRECIOUS REPRISE IN EUROVISION HISTORY (as seen above). I promise I’ll try to stay positive about all of it.
FYI…this is a long one, so you might want to grab a cup of tea and/or call in sick to work for the next three days. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Ireland Zena’s start to the show was a nice one, but I found everything about it to be a bit messy (and not in a deliberate, that-totally-works kind of way, like her hair). I didn’t like the addition of an English chorus (clichéd lyrics never win me over). As for her dress…well, now we know what would happen if Yohanna’s Eurovision gown got together with a piñata and had a really ugly baby. So much for staying upbeat, Jaz.
Armenia The bad bits were average, but the good bits were great! Tarber is one of my personal favourites of the year, and it was just as entertaining to watch as it is to listen to. Anahit & Mary’s harmonies weren’t exactly on fleek (as Kisses would say) and I wish they’d been styled more in line with the music video (Mary’s hair in particular). If we’re talking fashion, I also think the costume-reveal outfits would have been more effective as dresses made up of both fabrics the girls started out wearing. But that’s just me being picky. Correct, but picky.
Albania Klesta is so sweet, and she can definitely sing (with more power than one would expect from such a small person). But this fell a little flat, and I think it’s because she couldn’t fill the stage with a presence like Mariam did. Besoj is a beautiful song, but it would work better at adult Eurovision, being sung by someone older and more experienced like Elhaida Dani.
Russia I was having heart palpitations in the lead-up to Sofia’s performance – Water of Life floats my boat like nobody’s business. Overall, it wasn’t as slick and powerful as I was hoping (since I wanted it to win) but I loved the girls’ outfits and choreography. Sofia was a stellar lead vocalist, too.
Malta This song, on the other hand, makes me want to rip my ears off. But I can’t deny that Christina (like everyone else residing in Malta) is one heck of a singer. She nailed every note, and unlike Klesta, had all the charisma she needed to fill the stage despite having no one else up there with her. Expect to see her at MESC the minute she’s old enough.
Bulgaria I’ve made it pretty clear already that I think Lidia is absolutely adorable, and that I plan on adopting her ASAP. Apart from one vocal slip-up, she charmed her way through her performance of Valsheben Den. The last thirty seconds really would have benefited from some backup vocalists supporting her visually instead of just aurally. On her own, she ended up looking very tiny and lonely.
Macedonia I applaud Macedonia for their top-notch vocals, cool choreography, and gorgeous rose gold costumes (I would quite like a catsuit like Martija’s to wear on Christmas Day, but it’s probably not that flattering after excessive amounts of turkey and pudding). Unfortunately, the whole thing would have been more at home in Kyiv next year than it was in Valletta for JESC. Still, an A+ for effort.
Poland I have one word for this: FLAWLESS. ‘Perfection’ also comes to mind. We got a stunning dress, graphics and vocals from Olivia, and in her case, I didn’t mind the last-minute addition of English. My only complaint? Why did the audience not cheer louder and longer for her?
Belarus And the Award for Most Improved Since Initial Selection goes to…Belarus, without a doubt! Alex’s breathless, shouty vocals from back then had clearly been whipped into shape. The whole three minutes was slick, entertaining, and the most Junior an entry can be without going too far. Extra kudos is deserved here for extreme multitasking – I’m not even sure I could get on a hoverboard without breaking something (on my body or someone else’s), let alone sing pitch-perfectly while riding one.
Ukraine A gigantic upside-down umbrella would have been OTT enough…but this was a Ukrainian performance, so why stop there? Throw in a couple of mimes as well. What either of these gimmicks had to do with Sofia’s song I don’t know, so they just left me very confused and distracted. Pretty dress though. She can reuse it for her future wedding.
Italy I’d say that Fiamma’s delivery of Cara Mamma was a cute overload, but it was actually just the right level of cuteness – if it were a bowl of porridge, it would be the one Golidlocks would opt for. Her costume (if you can call it that) was too casual for my liking, but even so, she had me melting into a puddle on the floor because AWWWWW. The simplicity of this after the OTT of Ukraine made it come across even better.
Serbia Whoever hit the hoverboard second was going to be unfavourably compared to the one who hit it first – too bad for Dunja. There wasn’t anything terribly wrong with her performance, though like Lidia, she could have used some backup. She also had the glitteriest case of dandruff I’d ever seen, and I’m still unsure whether I liked that look or not. All in all, Serbia didn’t get the party pumping like they should have.
Israel This was another performance in which some parts were great and others were messy, which didn’t give the best overall impression. Shir & Tim’s vocals were okay. They had decent chemistry and nice costumes (as you may be able to tell, I put a lot of stock in what people are wearing). I was hoping this would be presented in a more atmospheric way, which would have made it more memorable.
Australia We Are is weak, and there wasn’t much Alexa could do to elevate it. She sang reasonably well if not perfectly, and her engagement with the camera and the audience proved the worth of her time on The Voice Kids. But, as I expected, I wasn’t left feeling strongly about this in a positive or negative way. It was just…there.
The Netherlands I think I’ll be spelling ‘fun’ k-i-s-s-e-s from now on, because these three were the life of the party! The costumes they eventually chose were atrocious (had they just been renovating and repainting a Barbie Dream House? And why was one of the outfits beige?) but apart from that, this was Junior Eurovision in a psychedelically-patterned nutshell.. The energy was unrelenting, and the vividness of the 80s flashback was extreme (and I wasn’t even born until 1991). I loved every second.
Cyprus I’m still not convinced that George isn’t Sakis Rouvas after seven years of plastic surgery (has anyone seem him since Moscow?), but I am convinced that his performance kicked butt. There was no other pure ethno-pop – with drums! – competing in 2016, so this really stood out.
Georgia Last but not least (literally), was another heart-melter. Mariam had the dress that Fiamma didn’t, and elegantly powered her way through the classically beautiful Mzeo without missing a single note. She made serious magic on that stage, and she didn’t even have to saw someone in half to do it. At this point, the doorway to victory was wide open, and she strolled right through it.
If I had to filter those seventeen down to my top five, I’d go with (in random order) Russia, Macedonia, Poland, Belarus and Georgia. But all of the competing kids did themselves proud.
Speaking of the kids…I have to draw attention to the level of cute on display at this year’s contest. I’ve never wanted to adopt so many children at once in my life, so watch out, Angelina Jolie – your record may be about to be broken.
Now, before we move on from the performances to the voting and results, let’s take a look back at the entertainment between them.
The interval acts
Poli Genova Good golly, Miss Poli! Fiercer than ever and just as adept at doing the chicken dance without looking like a loser, she had the few people who could actually fit into the MCC on their feet.
Destiny Chukunyere Why, oh why wouldn’t they let her sing? Sing live, I mean. She was put to better use as a mime than the kids accompanying Sofia Rol on stage. Pre-recorded vocals aside, Destiny’s reprise of Not My Soul was pretty enjoyable. The other song she performed was…different. And slightly inappropriate at times.
The common song This was more of a cheesefest than a quattro formaggio pizza party for the entire population of Europe. I must be getting old and bitter, because I did not enjoy it at all. The reappearance of extreme miming didn’t help matters.
Jedward Let’s just say that, while their hair may have gotten even higher since their ESC days, the twins’ musical talents haven’t improved much. I never thought I’d say this, but stick to the expert judging, boys!
The voting + the results
The end of a Eurovision event is usually the most exciting part – and with the JESC 2016 voting echoing that of ESC 2016 (which nearly killed me), it was bound to be worth waiting for.
It was, but it also turned out to be confusing in the way it was presented. For starters, we had the child spokespersons reading out the adult jury votes. Then we had the expert jurors announce their scores one by one. Then came the combined points from the kids’ jury, read out by the adult hosts. Given that all of this took place at 2am my time, you can understand how it seemed to be less than straightforward. But it certainly delivered on tension, until Valerie made the slip-up that brought one heck of a crescendo to a screeching halt. After that, this is what we were left with:
- Georgia 239
- Armenia 232
- Italy 209
- Russia 202
- Australia 202
- Malta 191
- Belarus 177
- The Netherlands 174
- Bulgaria 161
- Ireland 122
- Poland 60
- Macedonia 41
- Albania 38
- Ukraine 30
- Israel 27
- Cyprus 27
- Serbia 14
The scoreboard wasn’t a carbon copy of this after the adult jury points had been presented: though many countries stayed put throughout the final two voting segments, the adults ranked The Netherlands 3rd and Belarus 4th, while Italy and Russia would eventually rise up to 3rd from 6th and 4th from 9th respectively.
The adult jury gave their top points to Georgia; the kids’ jury gave theirs to Armenia; and the expert jury gave theirs to Russia. All three ranked Australia 5th, which was the only across-the-board agreement. Some of the most drastic differences of opinion? Russia (top three with the KJ and EJ, 9th with the AJ); Georgia (1st with the AJ, 8th with the EJ); and Malta (2nd with the KJ, 10th with the EJ).
Opinions also differed among the three expert jurors (a.k.a. the two expert jurors and Jedward) – Mads handed his douze to Italy, Christer gave his to Belarus, and Jedward rewarded Russia with their top score.
If we combine the twelve points from both the AJ and the KJ, it leaves us with Georgia scoring 11 sets – the same number of countries that received at least one top score.
Three countries finished in the same position they performed in. Armenia performed second and came second, Russia performed fourth and came fourth, and Cyprus performed 16th and came…you guessed it, 16th! The same thing happened twice last year. Fortunately for Georgia, Mariam bucked the trend by finishing first after performing last. This is the fourth time that has happened in JESC history – the final songs to be performed also won in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The countries that improved on their last results were Georgia, Italy, The Netherlands, Australia, Ireland, Russia, Macedonia and Poland. The countries that did NOT improve were Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine, Malta, Albania, Israel and Cyprus. As for Armenia and Bulgaria…well, they ended up in the exact same positions as last year.
Another “interesting” fact…there were only two songs that were performed without any English lyrics. One won, and the other came last.
If you were wondering what I thought of the final results, then I’ll tell you – there were some shocks and surprises, and a few injustices, but the right entry won…even if it wasn’t my favourite. I always believe that the eventual winner is the true winner, simply because they won according to the rules of the contest. But Mariam’s Mzeo is definitely more of a Waterloo than an I Wanna – i.e. it’s a song I can get on board with, rather than a song I’ll quietly resent for years.
I can also live with my far-and-away favourite Russia finishing fourth – the same position my #1 entry reached in 2015. And as I predicted Armenia would come second, I’m not going to complain about that. Underrated IMO were Poland, Macedonia and Cyprus. Overrated was Australia (so if you hear news of me being deported to Greenland, you’ll know why). Then again, the bulk of the points were based on the performances at the jury show on Saturday – and unless you were there in the MCC at the time, you’ll never know how they differed from the televised versions.
So, was this the greatest Junior Eurovision ever? Umm, no. Was it up there (or down there) with the worst? Production-wise and host-wise, yes (in my honest opinion. You’re welcome to disagree). Can Malta do better? Of course, we know that. But what we did get out of the show was seventeen enjoyable performances from seventeen talented acts that must have had Jedward feeling insanely inferior; a voting sequence that had us on the edge of our seats almost until the very last second (DAMMIT, VALERIE!); and an insight into how uncomfortable Christer Björkman is when he’s not in total control of such proceedings.
Oh, and I also got my Tweet read out loud (albeit attributed to a boy named Yaz) so that was a personal highlight.
What were your overall impressions of JESC 2016? Do you think Malta nailed or failed their second attempt at hosting? And how did your favourite songs end up faring in the competition? If there’s something you want to say, I’m listening…a.k.a. monitoring the comments section below.
I’ll be back soon with a few more Junior-themed posts (sorry to those who can’t stand it, but I’m not willing to let go just yet) before launching into some Stockholm flashbacks – after all, it has been SIX MONTHS since the final. Then, it’s on to NF season we go, and this time, I really mean that (in case you hadn’t heard, I’m off to Melodifestivalen in March!).
Basically, I have all the Eurovision you need to get you through the next few months. And then the rest of your life, probably.
Until next time…
Before I had a looksee at my play stats of the Baku 42, I had zero expectations. What with my ever-changing moods and the bias my iPod seems to have towards particular songs when it’s on shuffle mode (I swear those things have minds of their own and will one day rise up and take control of planet Earth) there was no guarantee that the entries I rated the highest a year ago would make equally high appearances on this list. It turns out that, while some of them clawed their way up, songs that I didn’t realise I had a penchant for bumped others way down. I’ll let you decide which are which, as I present to you the 20 entries of 2012 that I’ve listened to most since May.
#1 | Love Unlimited by Sofi Marinova
If you happened to be drinking when you read this, I apologise for the liquid you just spat out all over yourself in shock and/or horror. Then again, if you’ve read me before you should know that I am probably the #1 fan of this song, worldwide. I don’t think Sofi herself loves it as much as I do (although she has had to sing it a billion times, so the boredom must have set in by now). So why have I played it more times than any other of the 2012 entries? Well, I just think it’s incredibly catchy (great to dance wildly to in the comfort of any place where there are no other humans present), I love the mixed languages in the chorus (great for singing along to in the same situation) and I find it super motivating (great for jogging to, etc). What a useful song it is.
#2 | Waterline by Jedward
#3 | Euphoria by Loreen
#4 | Zaleilah by Mandinga
#5 | Kuula by Ott Lepland
#6 | När Jag Blundar by Pernilla Karlsson
I want to compare this to Hungary ’13, being the simple, quiet and pretty but not too well-liked song that it is, that I and a few others I know LOVE. But Kedvesem has actually proved itself more popular than I expected, so you’re on your own, Pernilla. I think this song is really beautiful, well constructed and has a lovely sentiment (having been written by Pernilla’s brother for their mother and all). It gets me all misty-eyed even though I have no idea what she’s singing about because I never bothered to translate the lyrics #mybad. But they say music is the universal language, so if I can get the emotion without knowing what’s being said, that’s acceptable, right?
#7 | Love Me Back by Can Bonomo
#8 | Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou
#9 | Verjamem by Eva Boto
#10 | Be My Guest by Gaitana
#11 | La La Love by Ivi Adamou
Here’s a song I didn’t think douze-worthy at first, but have gotten more and more obsessed with over the last year. It’s a good thing we’ll have this genuine Cypriot gem and the awesome stage show that accompanied it to cling on to while Despina Olympiou takes to the Malmö stage and bores us all to death (more on that in my upcoming reviews). La La Love wound up 16th in the final, which is an excellent result for Cyprus (it’s practically a win, like it would be for Austria, Switzerland, and co) although once it had qualified I was predicting it to do better. Maybe Ivi’s average vocal was to blame; though that didn’t stop Eric Saade from coming 3rd…
#12 | Quédate Conmigo by Pastora Soler
#13 | Standing Still by Roman Lob
#14 | Woki Mit Deim Popo by Trackshittaz
#15 | Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović
#16 | Sound Of Our Hearts by Compact Disco
#17 | We Are The Heroes by Litesound
This, even in its post-NF disco-lite version, is SO much better than the tropical trash (albeit damn catchy tropical trash) Belarus are sending this year. The unfortunate thing is that Alyona will likely be much more successful than Litesound, and then she’ll knock on their doors and point and laugh at them because they “stole” her ticket to Eurovision 2012 and she’ll have gotten her revenge. Or perhaps not. Anyway, back to We Are The Heroes: another song written expressly to motivate me when I’m on the treadmill and this close to bailing. Thanks, guys.
#18 | Nebo by Nina Badrić
#19 | Laŭtar by Pasha Parfeny
#20 | When The Music Dies by Sabina Babayeva
Rounding out my most-played list is Baku’s host entry. I have long suspected that Sabs was referring to Running Scared as the thing that made the music die. But that’s irrelevant. This isn’t my favourite entry from Azerbaijan, but it’s one I’m still liking all these months later. I didn’t think it was going to do as well as it did, but I think we’ve all learnt that the power of Azerbaijan-representing, Swedish-penned ballads cannot be underestimated.
I’ve showed you mine – show me yours? Which entries of last year have you been playing on repeat?
So last night, approximately a hundred years after the rest of the world, Australia got to witness the first semi final from Baku. It took me at least ten minutes to stop hyperventilating (because I was overexcited, not because I was terrified of Montenegro being first up) and start enjoying it all. Despite the fact that the stronger semi and the one with most of my favourites in it is number two, which I’ll see tonight, I did have a good time watching and flag-waving at my party for one (as usual, nobody else in my household showed the least flicker of interest – there is definitely something wrong with them) and I thought that, generally, the performances were strong. Here’s my more detailed take on the first 2012 installment, direct from the land Down Under…
– Montenegro being act 1 turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the song (I mean, the “song”) was over in a flash and made way for Iceland, who I feel were the real competition beginners since Rambo never had a chance of qualifying anyway.
– Speaking of Iceland, their dramatic three minutes was a definite highlight, mainly because there were many close-up shots of Jónsi over which I could freely drool because I was by myself.
– Rona Nishliu’s performance for Albania was my favourite of the night. As you may or may not know, I initially hated Suus, but made a swift and unexplained turnaround after I saw the preview video. The live staging did not disappoint, as it was minimal enough to keep the focus on Rona and her insanely amazing voice (seriously, someone needs to put a straight jacket on that thing. It is CRAZY). Her intensity and emotion was all there, and her costume was just as weird and wonderful as I’d been hoping for…although that stray dreadlock did gross me out a little.
– I’ve never seen a moonwalking bagpiper before, so thanks for that, Romania. I wonder if he’ll go on to enjoy the same fame and hilarious Youtube remixes of the epic Moldovan sax guy of Year Oslo?
– Cyprus put on a great show. I loved their outfits, I loved their choreography, and I loved the book-stack prop (once the commentator had informed me that’s what it was. I thought it was a pile of brick pavers at first). I can’t say I loved Ivi’s vocal, but she was far from dreadful. She pulled it off.
– Ireland’s water fountain – the second most literal prop being used this year after Donny Montell’s blindfold – was put to very good use. It was certainly a more fluid mover than either of the Jeds.
– I don’t actually have many of these to talk about. I will say that I wish Austria had incorporated more popo into their act. There was too much pole dancing in my opinion, and not enough shaking of bottoms. Yes, I am a twenty-year-old female who advocates sexist lyrics and accompanying dance moves. You got a problem with that?
– I also feel that the whole show went by very quickly. Eurovision often does, because time does fly when you’re having fun as people who like to talk in clichés say, but I think there was a genuine rushed feeling about it all. The transitions between acts were blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rapid, and the digital enveloped were opened so fast that, has they been real, they would have caused more than a few paper cuts.
– There was no interval act during my broadcast, and I was curious as to whether that was the case in Baku, or if the Australian broadcaster SBS had cut it out. Either way, I was disappointed.
LE SHOCKS AND SURPRISES
– For some reason I expected Anke Engelke to welcome us to Azerbaijan. Last year she made the steadfast hosting script genuinely entertaining, which Leyla, Nargiz and Ell couldn’t quite manage. They looked pretty, though.
– I was pleasantly surprised by the Crystal Hall’s involvement in introducing each country. Whoever came up with the idea to light it up to resemble all 18 national flags deserves a high five.
– Greece’s Aphrodisiac worked very well in the arena – better than it worked in the shopping centre that housed their national final, anyway. I always forget what an impact the traditional music, and the traditional dancing, and the slightly less traditional skimpy dress of the quintessential Greek frontwoman has when you stick it all on a stage in front of thousands of excitable and/or drunk fans.
– Two performances I didn’t expect to enjoy/am ashamed to admit I did came from San Marino and Russia. I don’t know why I liked San Marino’s. Valentina can sure sing, but the costumes were frightening and made no sense, and we all know the song is as high-quality as something a dog would do on the lawn – but I liked it. Go figure. Russia, on the other hand, I suppose is easier to justify. As I predicted, the Babushki received the biggest round of applause of the night, probably because they managed to sing, dance and bake at the same time (and they’re so cute!) Plus, now we know where they found the time to cook those pies for everyone in the press room: during their first rehearsal.
In order of callout, the lucky ten qualifiers were Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Hungary, Denmark, Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Russia and Ireland. This was an easier semi to predict, so I can’t really gloat about getting 8/10 correct. I didn’t think Hungary or Albania would make it, but I’m glad they did – especially in Albania’s case.
I’m very happy for Cyprus. They’re one of those countries that often try so hard but never get anywhere, so I’m thrilled they’ve booked a place for Saturday night.
It did give me great pleasure also to see the powers that be make Jedward sweat it out, and wonder if they were in fact as popular as they thought. I don’t think we would have seen quite as many cartwheels (an amount that puts Donny’s lone one-hander to shame) had they been announced earlier.
To finish off, I’ll just mention the results of the unofficial Australian vote, conducted at www.sbs.com.au/eurovision. Unsurprisingly, it was the grannies who took out the top spot, followed by Ireland and Denmark. Rounding out our top 5 were Iceland and Cyprus. We may well have agreed with Europe, although I can’t imagine that the Babushki scored highly enough with the juries to win the semi. Time will tell who triumphed, who just slipped in and who just missed out…
That’s about all I’ve got to say re: Semi #1, which I suppose was quite a lot. When it comes to Eurovision I can go on for days, so you should count yourself lucky this post wasn’t that excessive. I’ll be back tomorrow with a wrap-up of the second semi, so please don’t tell me who the winner is when I’m still getting over the fact that “Insert Country Name Here” didn’t qualify. In the meantime:
What were your highlights/lowlights of Semi 1???
Aphrodisiac/ Eleftheria Eleftheriou
The good stuff: After three years of sending middle-aged men, giant staplers and a university lecturer in a baseball cap to Eurovision (though not at the same time) Greece has reverted back to the tried-and-tested formula of a (most-likely) scantily clad young woman singing a generic but infuriatingly catchy pop song with a bit of bouzouki thrown in for adequate measure. This decision is fine by me! I’ve really missed the Helena Paparizou/Sarbel/Kalomira-esque entries that Aphrodisiac is clearly modeled after, even though in 2012 they may sound passé. Every time I hear this song, I can picture an awesome stage show that features traditional line dancing and slick choreography, and maybe a costume reveal. Then again, with the Greek economy in such a shocking state, Eleftheria may be forced to run around the stage in a hessian sack whilst her lone backing singer makes shadow puppets.
Everything else: My one major bone to pick with this has to do with the lyrics. It is three minutes of cliché after cliché about minds and times and dancing and falling and all that tired old jazz. Don’t get me wrong, I’d never expect a song like this to be all poetic and deep. I just think another half-hour or so at the writing desk could have produced some slightly more original lyrics for us all to sing along to.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
Sound of Our Hearts/ Compact Disco
[You’ll have to imagine a photo of Compact Disco being here, because my PC has another case of Irefusetouploadthispictureitis]
Best lyric: ‘Harmony can be achieved, just find some way to get connected…’
The good stuff: Firstly, claps for Hungary for coming back after failing to meet expectations last year (although Kati Wolf’s hairdo defied all expectations, and the laws of gravity). This year, they’ve made an interesting choice which could get them a decent result or go absolutely nowhere. Personally, I’m a fan, and I hope it at least gets them out of their semi. It’s a nice, solid pop-rock number with a well-executed chorus which screams “SING ALONG TO ME!”
Everything else: There’s not a lot to do to it – I mean, you can’t really dance to it, and waving a flag/glowstick/pair of underpants would get tedious with that tempo. Because of that, I don’t know how well it will go down in the arena.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
Never Forget/ Greta Salomé & Jónsi
The good stuff: I feel like Iceland want to win bad this year, and I’m wishing them the best of luck (how amazing would a Reykjavik Eurovsion be?) Greta and Jónsi – a.k.a. His Royal Hotness, who has already stepped on the ESC stage, back in 2004 – could well make it happen with this epic effort that makes the best use of violins since Rybak’s Fairytale. Plus, it has one of the best videos of this year’s contest. If they don’t bring the aurora borealis with them to Baku I’ll be crushed.
Everything else: I knew it was coming. After the Icelandic final, the winning song is always put back into English (if that was the original language) or is translated into it for whatever reason. But that doesn’t stop me from missing Mundu Eftir Mér, which had a little extra magic, just like Aftur Heim (which became Coming Home) in 2011, and many previous Icelandic entries. The English version in this case is at the better end of the scale, but I just don’t feel quite as strongly about it.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.
The good stuff: This isn’t that bad considering it has been passed over more than once, allegedly, by other artists, including Eric Saade (if he’d gone to Düsseldorf with it, he wouldn’t have proved quite as Popular. Get me?). Can Jedward improve on last year’s 8th place with it, though? I’m not so sure. It’s an inoffensive poppy number that the twosome will undoubtedly throw all their energy (which is about 100x the amount that us regular folk possess) into performing, while their hard-working backing singers throw all their energy into making John and Edward sound like their vocals are up to scratch. I like the whole watery metaphor going on in this too, although I don’t think any woman would like to go down as ‘the big one’.
Everything else: It’s both tiring and tired to have the twins back in Eurovision with no respite. At least Zdob şi Zdub gave us a break! Since they’re back with an entry that’s more album-filler than contest winner (especially in comparison to Lipstick) I think they’ll struggle to make the top 10. Europe might be over seeing double.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.
The good stuff: This is such a charming little ditty. I realise that using the word ‘ditty’ ages me about fifty years, but it fits Time so nicely. It’s a strange choice of song for Eurovision, but it definitely stands out from the rest in the way Malcolm Lincoln’s song did inOslo. First-time listeners will hang around to hear where it goes. The mix of Hebrew and English works well. All in all, the song wouldn’t be out of place on [Australian indie radio station] Triple J.
Everything else: With a preview video reminiscent of Daniel Diges’ for Algo Pequenito, let’s hope the Israeli Jimmy Jump doesn’t get any stage-invading ideas. Then again,Ukraine’s 2011 video was also set at the circus, so perhaps Izabo will hire a sand artist to accompany them.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.
Beautiful Song/ Anmary
The good stuff: Songs that tell you something usually tell you wrong – think We Are The Winners (yeah, not quite) or That Sounds Good To Me (which sounded good to nobody). But I’ve got to admit, lyrics aside, Anmary’s Beautiful Song doesn’t fall too short of being just that. It’s almost like a slower, more melodious version of Alejandro by Lady Gaga, only this songstress is too sensible to wear those ridiculous lobster claw shoes (which says a lot). I really like the way the song develops. If the lyrics were different and not acted out just so it’s clear how silly they are, I’d say Latvia made a great choice.
Everything else: Unfortunately, Anmary was born in distant 1980 when Irish Johnny Logan won, so the lyrics tell us. If only she’d been born in 1979, because ‘Milk & Honey with Gali Atari’ is much harder to fit into a song. Also, what is up with that wide-eyed look this women adopts when she’s singing (at least in the NF performance I saw)? I can only assume she was engaged in a staring contest with somebody in the audience. It’s safe to say you won, Anmary…you can blink again.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
NEXT TIME: Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro and the Netherlands – it’s your time to be criticised and/or praised!
It’s the final weekend of February, folks, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be run off our feet with songs for Baku – amazingly, March is going to be the mad month. The next few days will be breezy, with just three songs on the way. A little on that, plus the most recent results and the usual Melodifestivalen ramble are on today’s menu, so get stuck in!
Austria, Ireland and Turkey want us to shake our bottoms to the waterline if we love them back?
Apparently, yes. In an outcome that nobody could have foreseen (sarcasm alert), Jedward won the Irish national final last night with Waterline. Also last night, in an outcome that many of us would have predicted, Trackshittaz (the duo fans have been obsessed with since their crazy-amazing NF entry Oida Taunz almost made it to Düsseldorf) won the Austrian selection with Woki Mit Deim Popo. Finally, mid-week, Can Bonomo presented his song for Turkey (and Europe) Love Me Back, and I can safely say we all knew that was coming.
I’m pretty pleased with these three choices. I came to terms with Jedward representing Ireland again the millisecond I knew they were trying again; as we are all aware, they + their gravity-defying hairdos = unbeatable. Waterline is a good enough song to make me think less of the likelihood that they were picked because they are Jedward, which is a bonus; however I don’t think it’ll make the twins a certainty to qualify, as Lipstick did last May.
Austria’s song is basically three minutes of two guys telling anyone who’ll listen to shake their rear end/booty/derriere etc – and not even very politely. But for some reason it works. It’s what I would call quality novelty (a good song with a sense of humour) and I hope it goes further than others of the same mould have done in the past (i.e.InCulto’s Eastern European Funk) because I’m loving it.
Love Me Back may not be one of those songs that everybody loves (like the ones Latvia’s Anmary will be singing about in Baku, I suppose) but I sure do! Just like Can, it’s a little off-the-wall and it’s just repetitious enough – not too much. The chorus is so catchy, and the traditional Turkish elements make it nice and ethnic. Will Can sing his way into the final after Yuksek Sadakat’s shock failure to do so last year? I reckon he Can. Ha, ha.
Trouble in Belarus…
With any possible upsets in Ukraine yet to occur, it looks like the award for the Most Inconclusive National Final will be going to Belarus this year. I can’t say I’m disappointed by that, since the initial winner has been disqualified in favour of the original runner-up, who just happened to be my favourite. You do have to feel a bit sorry for Alyona Lanskaya, who was under the impression she’d be heading off to Baku in a few months (hopefully she hadn’t started packing yet) only to discover that investigations into Eurofest had found her/her posse guilty of something or other (vote rigging? Being in possession of a depressing ballad?). And so it is that the second-placers, Litesound, will step up to represent the country with a much better song (in my not-so-humble opinion) called We Are The Heroes. That is, unless they too are given the boot for some reason. What is up with Eastern European NF debauchery?
Finland, the Netherlands and Slovenia – it’s decision time!
The Finnish final is Saturday and those of the Netherlands and Slovenia are on Sunday. You know all that, right? What you don’t know (but may have guessed given my recent history) is that I have not reviewed all of the potential entries there because I like surprises.
I am allowing the Dutch to not surprise me, however. I’ve had a listen to the final six on their list – listen to the snippets here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZwAdAgdB3o – in order to give you a prediction. I have to admit I expected to be underwhelmed. There is some strange phenomena that makes the Netherlands kick butt when it comes to Junior Eurovision, but quite frankly suck at the Big ESC. The latter hasn’t always been the case, but take a look back at their last decade in the contest and you’ll see a trend.
To cut a short story even shorter, it turns out I was underwhelmed.
But I won’t moan on about that. Let’s just take a look at the contenders, who have been paired up to face off in duels (and not in a wizardy, Harry Potter way). The winner of each will proceed to the Super Final, and one of them will become the ultimate fighting champion! A.K.A the winner of the whole thing.
The show: Duel 1 is between Chocolatte by Rafaëlla Paton and You and Me by Joan Franka; Duel 2 will see Children of the World by Kim de Boer vs. Take Me As I Am by Ivan Peroti battle it out; and Duel 3 has pit We Can Overcome by Pearl Jozefzoon and Undercover Lover by Tim Douwsma against each other.
My prediction: I think it’ll be Rafaëlla vs. Ivan vs. Tim in the Super Final. I want Tim to win, but considering the deciding jury includes Afrojack, I’d say Rafaëlla’s got the edge. I won’t be devastated if she does win; I’m just not sure Europe’s ready yet for another song about confectionery.
Melodifestivalen: the last semi
It may be the last, but the epic journey to find Sweden’s hopeful is far from over – we still have Andra Chansen and the final to look forward to. This is the last lot of new songs to review for MF 2012 though, and that brings a tear to my eye (yes, I love the Swedish preselection that much). I’m going to miss counting down to 9pm (my time) when the songs are released and I can decide how much I adore/despise them!
- The Girl by Charlotte Perrelli
- Allting Blir Bra Igen by OPA
- Land of Broken Dreams by Dynazty
- Don’t Let Me Down by Lotta Engberg & Christer Sjögren
- Goosebumps by Hanna Lindblad
- Kyss Mig by Axel Algmark
- Why Start A Fire by Lisa Miskovsky
- Amazing by Danny Saucedo
My picks: The Girl, Goosebumps, Why Start A Fire and Amazing.
ESC veteran Charlotte said herself that The Girl was stronger than Hero, which won MF in 2008. In a way, she has sort of reinvented herself with a different sound (still schlager but not 110%) and a different look, which I must say is making her look both more feminine and less like a creature of the beyond. The song is my least favourite of my top four, but it should make for a show-stopping opener (that so does not make sense).
Goosebumps is a brilliant, well-thought out number with great variety between the verses and choruses. I’m not usually a fan of pop-rock, which is how I’d describe this, but I guess it’s an exception because I’m hoping to see it go straight to the final.
Why Start A Fire is not what I imagined it would be – thankfully it’s better. I don’t rate it’s chances of moving on but for me it deserves to.
Danny Saucedo – can you do any wrong? I love everything he does, and if I was still of the acceptable age to have posters on my bedroom wall he would be above my bed. Amazing is everything In The Club was last year, and look how close that came to victory. Many have touted this as Danny’s year, so will Amazing, with its infectious sound and super-cool dubstep dance break, deliver the goods required to make that true? My fingers are crossed.
My predictions: Being as objective as I can be, I’m guessing Hanna and Danny will get to the final, with Charlotte and Dynazty getting an andra chansen.
Thanks for sticking around for another looooooong post. As always, I shall spare you another tomorrow if you join me on Twitter/Facebook for lots of single-sentence reactions to the action of this evening. Until then, ponder this: will this be the weekend that produces the winner of Eurovision 2012? I don’t think we’ve heard The One yet, so it could happen…
Sometimes it’s stressful being a Eurovision fan.
Right now we are in the eye of a storm of national finals and song presentations, and I know I, as a blogger wanting to review and discuss as much as possible, am getting a little swept up in the flood of…wait, flood? I don’t know where I’m going with that weather analogy. My point is that it’s hard to know what to focus on at the moment – Turkey is in the process of presenting their song as you read; Austria and Ireland’s NFs are scheduled for Friday; Finland chooses on Saturday as Sweden holds their fourth semi; and for the Netherlands and Slovenia, it’s decision time on Sunday…and that’s only me looking as far as the weekend.
I’m going to (try to) accept that I can’t cover it all, which isn’t all bad because it makes some song selections a total surprise to me, rather than a disappointment when I discover the entry I was rooting for didn’t make it (which happens too often for my liking). So today I’m making the Emerald Isle my sole focus, as well as asking for your opinion on a small matter of 0% importance but 100% fun.* Let’s get to it!
* I won’t be asking for your opinion on my silly introductions. I know they’re rambly and boring, but I also know I have a compulsive need to tack them on to every single post…
Ireland’s Eurosong: is it a given?
As all of us who are not Amish know, Jedward are back for another bash at ESC glory (INSERT SQUEAL/GROAN HERE DEPENDING ON YOUR FEELINGS TOWARD IRELAND’S MOST FAMOUS TWINS). You would think that would make Ireland’s national final redundant, because surely there’s nobody Jedward can’t steamroll over with their catchy pop and ability to sound as if they can sing when in fact they can’t. If you do think that, you’re probably right. But I’m still hoping for an upset by a certain lady who also has some previous Eurovision experience.
There are five songs competing to represent Ireland on Friday night. Here they are, in running order:
- Mistaken by Celtic Whisper & Maria McCool
- Mercy by Donna McCaul
- Here I Am by Andrew Mann
- Language of Love by Una Gibney & David Shannon
- Waterline by Jedward
I don’t know what to think about Mistaken. It’s nicely ethnic and not too dated, but there’s something about Maria’s voice that irritates me – it’s almost like the song was recorded a few minutes after she’d had an asthma attack and was still recovering. Plus, the first half minute or so sounds like a parody of every Irish entry of the 90s.
As for Mercy by Donna McCaul – well, here is a previous ESC entrant who has actually chosen to return with a better song (not that it was hard to improve on Ireland’s 2005 song Love? which Donna performed with Joe). Apart from the questionable lyric “you stole the key to my brain”, I really like this one. It’s dance, it’s catchy, and it has a key change. There’s not much more you could ask for.
We know from previous experience (a.k.a. Bosnia and Herzegovina 2010) that fair to middling soft rock can qualify in Eurovision, which gives hope to Andrew Mann and Here I Am on the off chance he wins the final (by which I mean if Jedward and Donna are killed in a nasty shoulderpad incident). When compared to the four other potential Irish entries, this one ranks pretty high, but I don’t know how far it could go at the big show; although I would say it’s more fair than middling, and a lot better than B & H in Oslo.
Language of Love is…um. I think Una and David need to be sent the memo that all of this NF chaos is leading up to Eurovision 2012 and not a benefit concert circa 1992. If dated music and lame, clichéd lyrics were what the contest was looking for, the UK would have won two years ago. In case anyone’s forgotten, they did quite the opposite.
Finally we come to Waterline. It’s no Lipstick, although if Jedward come back again in 2013 I’m sure I’ll describe their song as being ‘no Waterline’. It’s up there with the best in this selection, but I just feel that the obvious desire to win has disappeared due to the album-filler qualities this song possesses. It’s catchy pop again and I’m sure it’ll win by a landslide (the votes will flood in…get it?) but it’s not going to do what Lipstick could not at Eurovision.
My top five:
- Here I Am
- Language of Love
My prediction: I would so love Donna to prove that Jedward can be beaten, but despite the fact I believe her song to be better than theirs, I just can’t see it happening. They’re by far the biggest stars of the bunch and they are performing last. It’s inevitable. I am, however, willing to eat my words if Jedward somehow lose the ticket to Baku to someone else.
So who could win the ESC right now?
I haven’t had much opportunity to gauge what fans are thinking of the 2012 songs so far. Are there some obvious favourites? Is it a ‘blech’ year at this point? I MUST KNOW! A-hem. What I mean to say is, please vote below and let me know what you’re thinking. Which country has what it takes?
COMING UP: Another Saturday post with my thoughts on Turkey, Austria and Ireland, plus previews and predictions for Melodifestivalen and more!
While the rest of us celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday by taking romantic walks in the park, having candlelit dinners or, if you are single like me at the moment…doing pretty much the same thing as any other day, Poland marked the occasion by selecting their Eurovision entry! The artist is Magdalena Tul, and the song is Jestem:
I don’t know about you, but I’m almost over the moon with this decision. I say almost because it isn’t one of those songs that I hear every year and think, ‘THAT is the one.’ But for Poland, one of the contest’s unluckier countries, this is good! Often they gravitate towards something left of field like Finland, but I think this is their best entry since 2008. It reminds me, as does the Maltese song, a little of All About You from 2010. In fact a few of the songs selected so far seem to be taking inspiration from last year, a trend which is usually limited to the winner (especially after Lordi – rock was all over the ’07 and ’08 contests). What do you think of Jestem?
There’s been a fair amount of disappointment so far where the 2011 songs are concerned, which I can understand. There hasn’t been anything too spectacular chosen so far, with just a few general favourites cropping up in comments, polls and blogs in the ESC cybersphere. I have to keep telling myself that in the last few years at this time, I’ve been disappointed, only to have the songs grow on me. I will most likely be in love with most of these by May, as fickle as I am. So don’t get depressed just yet, ladies and gents – there’s still hope. And besides, most of the countries who can always be relied upon to produce something brilliant haven’t chosen yet. Russia, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia…I’m talking to you (did anyone else suddenly get Jakob Sveistrup’s song from Kyiv in their head just then?).
Anyway, no amount of dashed hopes have prevented many fans from doing up a top ten of the songs heard so far. So today I’m going to be a sheep and do my own (in Technicolour!). Of course, now it’s a top eleven…but let’s not be too pedantic.
At this mid-February point, I would give:
12 points to: Ireland
10 points to: Norway
8 points to: Netherlands
7 points to: Poland
6 points to: Romania
5 points to: Iceland
4 points to: Albania
3 points to: Malta
2 points to: Switzerland
1 point to: Belgium
0 points to: Finland (Please note: I don’t dislike this song enough to give it zero points, not really. But for the purposes of doling out eleven lots of points, that is what it gets because I like it the least)
Shortly there’ll be a bunch more songs for us all to slot in to our favourites lists amongst which will hopefully be something that sounds like a winner. Since the last time I left you with the upcoming events on the Düsseldorf calendar, things have changed, and there’s more action towards the end of this week than I initially thought (although I did get most of my details from a certain free encyclopedia, so don’t take the following as gospel).
This Friday, the 18th, look out for: Germany’s Unser Song für Deutschland final; Turkey’s song selection; Slovakia’s selection; and Spain’s final.
And on Saturday the 19th: Latvia’s Eirodziesma second chance round; Estonia’s Eesti Laul 2nd semi-final; Sweden’s Melodifestivalen 3rd semi-final; Croatia’s Dora 5th semi-final; Italy’s San Remo final; Lithuania’s 3rd semi-final; and Georgia’s selection.
From there, it’s full steam ahead on our way to the most chaotic Saturday evening in ESC history! It’s going to be a busy, busy night, so I suggest you spend the next fortnight preparing. No exaggeration – you’ll need it!
83 days to go!!!
It’s Eurovision 2011’s first Super Duper Saturday (I took the liberty of adding that duper as I am rather excited). But before we can bask in the downpour of goodness that is February 12th, there are a few other things that I need to take care of. Namely the main attraction of last night’s selections: The Irish final!
It has been a subject of much discussion over the last month or so, to a much greater extent than usual. This is partly (okay, totally) thanks to the participation of everyone’s favourite twins-who-have-been-on-the-X-Factor-and-sung-with-Vanilla-Ice, Jedward, with their song Lipstick. They, alongside Nikki Kavanagh, had been the favourites to win from the word go.
And they TOTALLY DID!
There has been very mixed results over their win, with seemingly no middle ground – Lipstick is either despised by ESC fans or adored. As for me? I’m quite chuffed. I’ve always thought that J-Ward were made to be in Eurovision, and what do you know – here they are. Their vocal performance on The Late Late Show wasn’t the best, but I’m confident they can polish up prior to Düsseldorf and deliver something at least passable. I love the song more with every listen.
As my silly Internet wouldn’t let me post last night (so annoying as I had a pre-Ireland piece ready to go), I’ll finish off my Emerald Isle update with part of that post – just my brief opinions on the five competitors. Notice that I got the first three in the right order…I feel so intelligent!
=1. Jedward – Lipstick – I couldn’t decide if I liked this better than Nikki’s or not…they are quite different. And I do like it, very much in fact. I was one of those people who kind of wanted to hate it. But it is SO DAMN CATCHY and electro and Schlager and other adjectives.
=1. Nikki Kavanagh – Falling – Someone on Youtube mentioned that this song reminds them of Drip Drop, by Safura. I can see why that is so, as Falling has an r & b, slickly produced, American sound that is reminiscent of Azerbaijan’s 2010 entry. I loved that, and I love this. Nikki has an amazing voice…just like her lovely cousin Niamh!
3. Don Mescall – Talking With Jennifer – This was a lot better than I’d expected. I really liked it, although I don’t think it hit the heights necessary for it to win. It could have been a track of The Script’s latest.
4. Bling – Shine On – I have absolutely no idea whether I like this song or not. It’s strange.
5. Vard Sisters – Send Me An Angel – Bore. Ring. Drearier than Lena’s efforts in Unser Song für Deutschland. May have won in ’92 or ’93 just because it was Ireland. FOR JOHNNY LOGAN’S SAKE, PLEASE DON’T LET THIS WIN!!!
PS – Azerbaijan has picked its artists. They are Eldar and Nigar. Need I say more?
No. So, on we go to Super Duper Pooper Scooper Saturday, in what has to be my most garbled post ever. Tonight, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Croatia and Lithuania are all holding semi finals, whilst Iceland, Norway, Finland, Malta and Belgium all pick their entries for two zero one one. I’ll leave it to you to wade through the semis…although I have to say one thing in relation to Latvia: go Lauris go! Go Lauris go! Goooooooooooooooooooo Lauris!!!
And actually quite a lot to say on Sweden’s 2nd semi final. I don’t believe it to be as strong as the first, but there is still some great stuff in there. Highlights for me are Elektrisk by Anniela, which is a nice, catchy pop song; Like Suicide by Christian Walz, which isn’t half as depressing as it sounds, and could well be 2011’s Keep On Walking; and Loreen’s My Heart Is Refusing Me, which is my favourite at this point. It’s a bit similar to Danny Saucedo’s winner from last weekend, but I still hope it qualifies. I found my biggest disappointment in Elisabeth Andreasson, who I had pictured charging out on stage in a sparkly cocktail dress and belting out a stomping diva-worthy schlager hit. Instead, she’s belting out what I imagine the Swedish national anthem sounds like. Still, I think she may get to the second chance round on pedigree.
I’m going to say (probably incorrectly) that Christian Walz and Sanna Nielsen will make the final, while Elisabeth and Loreen proceed to Andra Chansen.
Right, next up, I’ll say a few words on the finals, beginning with….
ICELAND/ Will Yohanna win? Probably. Does she deserve to? Of course! Nótt is a really nice song, and I desperately want her to get the chance to redeem herself sartorially.
NORWAY/ Will Stella Mwangi win? Probably. Does she de…okay, okay, I’ll give you some variation in syntax as a special treat. I have made it abundantly clear how much I want Aste & Rikke or Hanne Sorvaag to win MGP, but I just have a feeling that Stella will haba-haba her way into the top spot. I do like her song, but I would find it odd to be for Norway. I mean, that style of music is the LAST thing you would associate with Norway. I predict Sie Gubba will be last.
FINLAND/ I am a terrible Eurovisionary. I have been so caught up in whirlwind blogging and other activities that I have totally forgotten about the Finns this year! I haven’t listened to any of the contenders, so the winner will be a total surprise to me, which is good in that I can’t be disappointed. There is one prediction I can make for Finland, however – and that is, that someone WILL win.
MALTA/ Raquela’s song, If I Could Do It All Again, is stunning, and I really hope she wins. It’s a really climactic, powerful ballad that avoids the cheese that Thea Garrett’s song last year was dripping in. Fabrizio Faniello, Malta’s most prolific Eurovision chaser, made it to the final with a song that different to his 2006 entry, I Do, which is not promising when you remember how he ended up that night in Athens. But I do think it is better than that song. I wouldn’t be unhappy to see him win.
BELGIUM/ C’est La Musique!!!
I really must dash now. I know I skimmed the surface of most of the upcoming events, but I’ve been gallivanting around the countryside all day, have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow, and am knackered. I will, nonetheless, be back on the morrow with the results of this monumental night. I’d be jumping up and down with ectstatic-ness if I wasn’t so *yawn*…ah…tired….zzzzzzzzzzzzz.