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WE GOT LOVE, LASERS AND LUCKY DAYS: My highlights and lowlights of Eurovision 2018’s second semi final

Just like that, it’s over: semi final two. We now have our 20 finalists, 6 automatic finalists and a final running order feat. all of them. It’s bittersweet, but there’s still a lot of Eurovision 2018 left to experience – and this contest is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in recent years.

Before we find out for sure whether it will be or not, I need to get a big bunch of thoughts off my chest re: last night’s semi. It was a show I enjoyed a lot more than the first one for some reason (the Australia anticipation was real) and there’s heaps to talk about. So let’s talk!

 

 

THE GOOD 

Their song’s not the strongest, and neither are their vocals – but what Moldova’s DoReDos lacked in above-average sound last night, they more than made up for with an epically-choreographed performance (plus truckloads of charisma and stage presence). Comic timing was crucial to pull the entire three minutes off, and everyone on stage clearly had their watches set to the millisecond. My Lucky Day live is something you can’t look away from, and as such I expect Moldova’s televote on Saturday to be substantial…though in such a competitive year, not as massive as their televote in Kyiv.

I can’t not mention Australia and the sparkly ball of joy that was Jessica Mauboy – I’d have my citizenship revoked and be banished to Siberia. Biased I may be, but I’m (almost literally) bursting with happiness over the show Jess put on. Sure, she had some less than perfect vocal moments, but I actually liked the raw and unpolished way she sounded and moved. She performed professionally, but with enough vulnerability and authenticity to make her come across as relatable and genuine. And I’ve never seen someone hair-flick with so much enthusiasm – no wonder she got whiplash earlier on in the week! I wouldn’t change anything about our performance, and I hope Jess pulls something similar – or even better – out of the bag for the final.

My other main performance highlights were via Hungary, Sweden and Ukraine. AWS went off in the Altice by the look of it, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t attempt a headbang in my lounge room in support of the guys (I broke three windows and a table lamp, but it was worth it). Benjamin Ingrosso was always going to be an anticipated artist of the night for me (long story short ICYMI, I am a fully-fledged Swedophile and a big fan of Benjamin’s). Dance You Off was performed as flawlessly as ever, with the only thing I’d pick on being his choice of sneaker (go back to the Vans, man!). Mélovin’s closure of the semi made sure the run of songs went out with a bang (or technically, a flaming staircase) and he served up all the drama and intense gazes that I was hoping for.

There weren’t any bleeped-out f-bombs dropped, but I couldn’t help loving the postcard blooper reel anyway. We don’t usually get to see the production side of the vignettes that introduce every single song, let alone the parts of the process that don’t go according to plan. Thanks for that, Portugal – and take note, *insert whichever country we’re going to next year here*.

I think we all enjoyed the hosts’ Eurovision dance evolution skit – an original interval act idea if ever I’ve seen one. And speaking of the hosts (all twenty-seven of them), Filomena – who bears a passing resemblance to another ESC legend, Pastora Soler – is proving herself to be the host with the most, outshining the others (whose names I’m afraid I keep mixing up) with her green room antics and commendable attempt at the Loreen crab dance.

Results-wise, I was only really surprised by the first country to be drawn out of the hypothetical hat: Serbia. I didn’t predict Balkanika to qualify, but I’m glad they did, especially after Serbia missed out on a final spot last year. So did Slovenia, who are back in the final for 2018 too (in spite of Lea’s ‘technical malfunction’ gimmick). Russia did what I suspected and failed to advance for the first time – leaving Ukraine as the only country with its 100% qualification record intact (if we’re counting from the introduction of the semi final system). All the other qualifiers were reasonably expected – i.e. they were the 8 I managed to correctly predict. It’s been 8s all round for me this year, which is better than my 6 (!) from 2016; but a 9 in 2019 would be nice. In this case, I had Malta and Romania down as finalists instead of Serbia and Slovenia. But if it helps, I knew The Humans were goners once I’d seen their performance…

 

 

THE BAD

Speaking of Romania…as with Macedonia in SF1, ‘What were they thinking?’ is the phrase that comes to mind here. Goodbye is a great song, IMO, that would have been done justice if ANYTHING other than (what looked like) latex-clad masked mannequins were stuck all over the stage. It was like watching a performance broadcast live from a sex shop (and I didn’t want to know what had been dangled decoratively from the lighting rig). The outcome? An extra goodbye for The Humans, this time to Romania’s 100% qualification record. All bets are off in 2019 with regards to qualification, I’m telling you!

The only other thing I saw as a big downside to this second semi was Latvia’s failure to make it to the final. I kind of knew it was coming (and hadn’t predicted Laura to progress) but Funny Girl is so awesome and she was so kick-ass on stage, a part of me hoped she’d slip through. Let’s hope Latvia can avoid being sent home early (again) next time.

 

 

THE “OTHER”

For whatever reason, I thought the hosts’ script was slightly less AAAAAGGGGHHH this time around. Maybe it’ll be third time lucky and the script in the final will be totally listenable and not make me miss Petra and Måns like crazy. A girl can dream!

Norway – giving us Eurovision song 1500, thank you very much – kicked things off with aplomb, but I felt a little hesitation from Rybak. Maybe the pressure of trying to fill his own shoes has taken a toll, but I wanted him to absolutely let rip and charm the crap out of me like he did at MGP, and he didn’t quite get there. Now he’s safely in the final, perhaps we’ll see that extra gear we know he’s capable of.

The award for throwing everything possible at a performance has to go to Malta – they clearly took cues from Croatia 2017. Just when you thought nothing else could fly out of or appear on the stage surrounding Christabelle, it doggone did. The Chanel rule of removing one thing might have done them some good, but nonetheless I’m a little surprised they didn’t qualify.

Oh, Slovenia. To me, the ‘Oh shit, the music’s cut out!’ trick was a bad move in an otherwise top-notch performance – but apparently, I am wrong. It’s going to be even more cringeworthy when repeated on Saturday, but I’ll try and focus on what happens before and after that to console myself. At the end of the day, I’m happy to have Lea and her drop-crotch jumpsuit still in the game.

 

 

A WORD ON THE FINAL’S RUNNING ORDER… 

It didn’t take long for Christer Björkman and crew to unveil their 26-song masterpiece (let’s face it, the man’s had a lot of practice). Here’s what we have to look forward to this weekend:

First half Ukraine, Spain, Slovenia, Lithuania, Austria, Estonia, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, Serbia, Germany, Albania, France

Yep, it’s ballad central compared to the big-hitter other half. But you can tell Christer and co. did their best to create a varied line-up. Ukraine is an unconventional opening song, but I’m not against it. The most up-tempo, high energy tracks – Norway and Serbia – were put aside to be interspersed with all the slow stuff, which is understandable. France scores the lucky 13th slot, and gets to perform as late as possible in this half. Fantastique!

Second half Czech Republic, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Bulgaria, Moldova, Sweden, Hungary, Israel, Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus, Italy

Mikolas Josef has the honour of getting the real party started (potentially with an ill-advised flip) and will be setting all of our camels in the mood (whatever the heck that means). Followed, in time, by Australia, Finland, Moldova, Sweden, Israel and Cyprus, he’s one of many favoured acts putting forward a banger in this half of the show. Will it all be too much with one after the other? Will Cyprus do what the odds suggest and win after not having to outshine anyone bar Italy? We’ll find out (too) soon. I think the voting sequence this year could see douze points going all over the place, though – or at least to a handful of different countries.

 

 

That’s all I wanted to comment on re: SF2, so now it’s your turn. What did you think of the show and the countries that came out of it smiling? And, who do you think will win the whole thing? Let me know in the comments as we count down to the final…and the inevitable, soul-sucking fog of depression that follows it (I like to end things on a positive note).

 

I’ll see you soon – don’t forget to check out my social media @EurovisionByJaz before the final for predictions, and during for funniness!

 

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 4 (Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland + Latvia)

Hello again, and welcome to yet another round of Eurovision 2018 reviews! With two weeks to go until semi numero uno (I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE IT), I’m slowly but surely getting there with these musical judgments. You can bet your brand new ESC board game that I will have all 43 songs covered by then. #womanonamission.

Here’s a spoiler alert for this latest round: it was a big-hitter for me, with three of the five songs currently chilling in my top 10. Who out of Jessica, Madame Monsieur, Iriao, Ryan and Laura am I talking about? Keep reading to find out. And, as always (you must be sick of me mentioning this) vote for your personal favourite in today’s poll.

Now, in true Melodifestivalen style, NU KÖR VI!!!

Yeah…probably should have saved that segue for the round with Sweden in it. My bad.

               

 

My thoughts I can’t believe this is the fourth time I’ve had the chance to review my own country’s Eurovision entry – totally objectively, of course. Okay, maybe not totally. As soon as I got the opportunity to be biased with Guy in 2015, I instantly understood how easy it is to support a song that you may not normally be crazy about, so long as it’s your country that’s sending it. Don’t Come Easy was a prime example, but Isaiah’s follow-up artist Jessica Mauboy – technically a Eurovision returnee – is packing a song in her suitcase for Portugal that I honestly like a lot. I’m psyched to see Jess back in the contest and actually competing this time, after voting for her to win Australian Idol using my Nokia 3310 (in between playing Snake) way back in 2006. And though she’s dabbled in different genres during her music career, with We Got Love she’s found a perfect fit for her voice and personality. The song is three minutes of pure happiness that radiates out of her every time she performs it. It might be a song that’s obviously trying to tick Eurovision boxes, but in this case that’s not a bad thing, because it’s a) energetic enough to be irresistible on the Euroclub dancefloor; b) armed with simple, one-size-fits-all lyrics and an often-repeated title that sticks; c) the proud owner of a dangerously catchy chorus; and d) got a money note that has ‘Vote for me in 3, 2, 1, NOW!’ written all over it. It’s the kind of song that wouldn’t be out of place at an Olympics opening ceremony (and really should have been performed at the Commonwealth Games a few weeks ago) – a.k.a. it’s ultra uplifting and unifying. Could it be any more of an ESC anthem? And am I irritating you with my gushing yet? Well, don’t worry. I know I said the song was a perfect fit for Jess, but it isn’t a perfect song. We Got Love got flaws, and the biggest of the few I can find is those ambiguous lyrics. While an asset in terms of allowing the masses to relate to them and interpret their meaning individually, they are pretty aimless and clearly weren’t written with a specific situation in mind. They don’t tell a story, so there won’t be one to tell on stage. Then again, we have story songs from the Czech Republic and France, for example, that ARE about particular situations (very different ones) so what’s wrong with a three-minute, generalised but positive mantra? I do think Australia 2018 packs a punch, and in a weaker year than 2017, when we miraculously managed to make the top 10 (I know Europe still hates us for that), Jess should be there or thereabouts. If Sacha Jean-Baptiste can stage something upbeat anywhere near as well as she stages dark, moody stuff, I don’t see why Australia can’t grab a spot in the 4th-6th range. And who knows…if all goes according to plan, then repeating our 3rd place from JESC 2017 might be a strong possibility. Or maybe I’m deluded but endearingly patriotic?

2017 VS 2018? 2018…though so far, I’ve been 100% biased and loved all of our entries.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts Once upon a time, I thought and hoped I’d be reviewing Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva as France’s Eurovision 2018 entry. I also thought I’d NEVER move on from Eva losing out to Mercy at the last minute as it did at the Destination Eurovision final. But time heals all (NF-related) wounds, and now I’m ready to talk about Madame Monsieur’s meaningful electro alt-pop ballad as another success in the string of magnifique French songs sent to Eurovision since 2016. Mercy stood out from the early stages of Destination, even though it was a selection show full of great music, and I couldn’t say I was shocked when it went on to win. It’s one of the most cutting-edge tracks heading to Lisbon, written by Emilie and Jean-Karl themselves and oozing classic French confidence, sophistication and minimalism. I’d compare it to Italy in that it’s an effortlessly classy message song; but being way less wordy than Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente – plus more in line with what streams successfully on Spotify – makes it more accessible. As message songs go, it’s also found the balance between making a statement and avoiding doing so in a sugary, overly-sentimental way (á la Running from Hungary in 2014). Baby Mercy’s story is just that, anyway: a story rather than a controversial political statement that should be banned from the competition (ya hear that, Mercy haters and 1944 naysayers?). Subject matter aside, this is just a really cool song – the kind I’d use to try and brainwash my non-Eurovision obsessed friends into becoming fans without them even realising it. It might be down-tempo and lacking in a big, showy ‘moment’, but it makes an impact in other ways. There’s something in it for Salvador Sobral types who need their music to be meaningful, something for established ESC fans looking for style and a memorable melody, and something instant that should capture the attention of first-time listeners during the final. Then we come back to Emilie and Jean-Karl who have a backstory (they’re married!), are ridiculously good-looking, and perform this song perfectly with just the right amount of emotion – in all black with red accents, of course, because the French don’t do OTT. My sole complaint re: this as a package deal is that the ‘Merci, merci’ chant at the end is a slight waste of song time (I’d have cut it in half and squeezed in another chorus). But that’s hardly a dealbreaker. I love this song regardless, and even though it’s not in my top five at the moment, it’s firmly in my top 10 (sitting at no. 7 FYI). It would be fantastique for Madame Monsieur to at least fare as well as Alma on the Lisbon leaderboard. If they can own the stage better than she did, I don’t see why the actual top 10 (as opposed to my top 10) shouldn’t have a place for France. Either that or they’ll flop and finish 22nd. Europe/Australia, have some mercy for Mercy!

2017 VS 2018? France is constantly kicking goals these days, but for me this tops Requiem.

My score 10

 

 


My thoughts If you liked Klapa s Mora in Malmö (they represented Croatia with Mižerja, ICYMI) then you’re bound to like Iriao and Sheni Gulistvis – more than someone who wanted to slapa the Klapa boys across the face, anyway. It’s a similar brand of all-male ethnic ballad that does have its supporters, but will struggle to catch enough votes in its butterfly net to qualify. Now, I was a Mižerja fan, but that had some pop elements to it so it wasn’t alienating. Sheni is fully wedged in its niche genre pigeonhole, and as much as I respect that and am happy to have something unique and cultural in the 2018 contest, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t hate it, but I don’t enjoy listening to it, and that’s why it’s drifted down to the #41 position in my current ranking. It sounds like a cover of an ancient national anthem, and doesn’t have any of the power and/or touch of bat-shit craziness that we’ve come to expect from Georgia. I do find them hit-and-miss at adult Eurovision, whereas I adore them at Junior Eurovision – a contest they completely ‘get’. And if they were sending their JESC 2017 runner-up Music of the Heart to Portugal (give Grigol Kipshidze a fake ID and rip up the EBU rulebook and they’d be good to go), I‘d be dropping a great big douze on top of Georgia right now. Sadly, I can’t do that for Iriao, and I can’t connect with what they’re bringing to the table. I’m pretty sure that Georgia will have to sit out of the final for the second year in a row…but I haven’t seen Sheni performed live, and I do think there’s a chance that the boys can create a magic moment on stage. Still, I doubt a flawless vocal performance will be enough. I don’t want a DNQ to put Georgia off sending ethnic, Georgian-language (this is their first fully-Georgian ESC entry) songs though. This particular one may not my cup of cocoa, and may not have the mass appeal it needs to make the final (in my opinion), but the next one might be more appealing – while staying true to tradition.

2017 VS 2018? 2017. When a rip-off Bond theme is done right, I dig it.

My score 5.5

 

 

My thoughts What is it with Ireland associating relationships with death? Last year we had Dying To Try, and now Ryan is lamenting that he ‘thought we’d be together ‘til we die’. RTÉ should be sourcing songs for the next Romeo & Juliet film adaptation. What they should also be doing is taking a good long look at their Eurovision approach, because they still haven’t moved on from their 1990s glory days – and holding onto that isn’t helping them find favour in the 2010s. I was a Brendan supporter last year, and despite what I just said I am a fan of Ryan’s Together. I just think Ireland needs a firework set off under their backside, but more on that later. For now, I want to chat about the pros of this year’s effort, not the cons. It’s a really nice song – easy-listening, soothing, a little bit sad…a song you’d hole yourself up in your bedroom to blast during a breakup grieving period. The lyrics are simple feat. metaphors that actually make sense (yes, it IS possible), and Ryan’s voice is made for this sort of guitar-driven, singer-songwriter ballad – which it should be, since he co-wrote it. I think the vibe and melody of the verses and pre-chorus are stunning. It’s only when the chorus arrives that things start to unravel, because it’s the musical equivalent of a deflated balloon (thankfully Ireland had a fully-inflated one in Kyiv). Again, the lyrics are good, but overall the chorus is weaker than every other part of the song when it should be the star of the show. As a result, I feel like Together goes nowhere. That’s made much more painful by the fact that a powerful, statement chorus would have made a good song great, yet what we have is a good song being dragged down by one weak spot. Even so, this song has the potential for a Tom Dice (or more likely, Paradise Oskar) result. Especially if Ryan is as enchanting (if you’ll let me get away with such flowery language) on stage as I’ve heard he is from EiC etc attendees. It’s far from a cert though, and that brings me back to my irritations over Ireland never truly fixing what’s broken. When’s the last time people were Israel 2018 excited about an Irish entry? It’s as if those responsible for choosing them think it’s only a matter of time (Sennek pun intended) before everything old is new again and songs that would have won at Eurovision in 1994 start doing it all over again. Like Denmark – but to an extreme degree – Ireland sends safe, vanilla songs that are more inside the box than Azerbaijan’s trapped alter-ego man from 2013. Year after year after year! Yeah, I’ve liked what they’ve done the past two years, but neither Dying To Try nor Together were/are potential winners or guaranteed to qualify. Where’s the spark? The x factor? Not in Ryan’s chorus, that’s for sure – but there is a glimmer of hope in the rest of his song. We’ll soon see whether that’s going to pay off or not.

2017 VS 2018? Ireland was a guilty pleasure for me last year – #TeamBalloon!

My score 7.5

 

 

My thoughts Being Aminata-short on time this NF season, I didn’t get the chance to follow Supernova – so when I cleared three minutes in my schedule to listen to show winner Laura being a Funny Girl, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would the song be on the same level as Love Injected/Heartbeat/Line, or would it be a jokey, lighthearted (and potentially lame) entry as the title suggested? As it turned out, the title was a herring as red as Laura’s NF dress. There’s nothing funny about Funny Girl, and I mean that as a compliment. My honest first reaction was ‘Wow!’. This song is soulful, sexy and sad all at once, and Laura’s performance was too (with added hair flicks for maximum sass). The situation of not being taken seriously by a boy who Netta Barzilai would definitely call stupid is explored using simple but original lyrics, a musical style that’s both on-trend and throwback, and a dramatic chorus that begs for a seductive lighting scheme (I don’t think the emphasis on lights, not LEDs, on the Lisbon stage will affect Latvia at all). There’s also an atmosphere of tension, frustration and desperation built up throughout Funny Girl that feels raw and genuine on every listen. Basically, I’ve been impressed by Latvia for the fourth year running. Laura’s one of our annual American accents at Eurovision, and her extensive musical education in the US shows in an awesome song that she wrote and composed herself, and in her competent, confident live performances. Although there’s nothing I don’t love about her overall package, I have to admit that Latvia slipped down a little in my ranking through selection season, as songs I liked even more were chosen and already-established entries grew on me. They’ve also slipped down the scoreboard over the past few years, with Aminata’s 5th followed by a 15th from Justs…then a big drop to a DNQ and last place in 2017 with Triana Park (I’m still mad). I do have high hopes that Laura can do better than a semi wooden spoon. There’s a good six or seven countries accompanying her in the second semi that are dead certs or at least very likely to qualify – leaving three or four spots open. I think she’s capable of snatching one, but could finish 11th or 12th as easily as 9th or 10th. Will I be as heartbroken as Funny Girl Laura if it’s another DNQ for Latvia? Pretty much. Particularly if it’s revealed that she finished 11th and Russia went through in 10th…but that’s another story.

2017 VS 2018? Laura gave me goosebumps on listen no. 1, so 2018 it is.

My score 8.5

 

 

That’s all for today, folks – and the stats are now 20 down, 23 left. Told you I was getting there. It might be like an arthritic sloth completing a marathon, but that’s part of the Jaz charm, right?

Here’s this round’s leaderboard:

  1. Australia (10)
  2. France (10)
  3. Latvia (8.5)
  4. Ireland (7.5)
  5. Georgia (5.5)

Look, I’m sorry/not sorry, but I HAD to put Jess on top when it came to choosing between Australia and France. I’d probably be deported for being unpatriotic if I didn’t. If it makes you feel any better, it was like choosing between a deep-dish pizza and another deep-dish pizza – i.e. very difficult and almost too close to call.

Do you have a few favourites here that you couldn’t possibly narrow down to one? If not, and you know exactly where your loyalties lie, this question will be a lot easier for you to answer.

 

NEXT TIME It’s full steam ahead with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal and Ukraine. I have some strong feelings about all of them, so drop by again to see if they’re happy-dance kind of feelings…or the punch-a-hole-in-the-wall kind. Subscribe in the sidebar and/or follow me on social media @EurovisionByJaz to make sure you never miss a post!

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAST FIVE | The Aussie artists I’m desperate to see in Stockholm!

If speculating which artist will – or should – succeed Guy Sebastian as Australia’s Eurovision representative was a fiesta for the online Euroverse, then I am seriously late to the party. But that’s not unusual. And, technically, it’s never going to be too late to muse about that until the actual artist’s name is announced sometime in the new year.

So, on that note, I HAVE MUSED! As it’s Friday, I’m about to present my shortlist of Aussie acts who’d be sensational in Stockholm to you – accompanied by gushing justifications, of course – as another Fast Friday Five.* Some of them made it onto my previous, pre-Australian participation list; others I didn’t even know existed back then. Altogether, they’re an eclectic mix (by my standards) and I reckon SBS should keep their names handy as they muse themselves. But I’m über biased in saying that.

Have your own suggestions for ‘Straya at the ready, because my comments section just told me it’s dying to hear them – and I’m pretty curious too!

 

*I may have slipped a sixth pick in, hoping you wouldn’t notice. And I’ve just realised that explicitly drawing your attention to that now has eliminated all chance of you not noticing. Eh, whatever. My blog, my rules.

 

arg

 

Birds of Tokyo

Think…Lovebugs, Compact Disco, Voltaj

Who? BoT are a five-piece alt-rock band from Perth, Western Australia (as am I…boy, this city is just PACKED with talented people!) and they’re probably the most stereotypically anti-ESC artists on this list. You won’t catch them whipping off their trousers to reveal sequined hotpants halfway through a gig, or busting any Loreen-esque contemporary moves on stage – but I would be very interested to hear what they’d come up with for the contest. I think what we could expect from them is a simple-but-effective stage show (á la Softengine’s last year) and a very authentic, quality rendition of something that could be labelled ‘rock-pop fusion with an edge’.

Must-hear tracks Anchor, Plans, Lanterns

 

 

Cyrus

Think…Nadav Guedj and John Karayiannis, if they miraculously procreated

Who? Last month, 19-year-old Cyrus Villanueva was crowned winner of the X Factor Australia’s seventh season – thanks, I’m pretty sure, to my feverish, fangirl-induced voting in his favour. This dude can sing absolutely anything flawlessly, and that would certainly be beneficial to ranking highly in the jury voting at Eurovision. He’s multi-talented, playing the guitar and the piano (sadly, not at the same time); bounces between soulful ballads and silky-smooth r & b without batting an eyelid; and has all the charisma required to create a connection with a big crowd. If X Factor judge Guy Sebastian puts in a good word for him, who knows – we could be seeing him hit the stage in Stockholm. Fun fact: Cyrus’ debut single Stone was co-written by Bobby Andonov, who represented Macedonia in Junior Eurovision 2008. IT’S A SIGN!

Must-hear tracks Stone, and his X Factor performances of Wicked Game and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

 

 

Delta Goodrem

Think…Sophia Nizharadze, Sanna Nielsen, Polina Gagarina

Who? I’ve always referred to her as Australia’s Sanna, and that’s precisely why I’m dying to see Delta ooze her overwhelming goddess-ness in the Globen. She’s been a superstar since the early 2000s, playing Nina Tucker on Neighbours before carving out a piano-pop career for herself and winning more ARIAs (which are basically the Aussie Grammys, in case you didn’t know) than anyone could fit in a standard display cabinet. She’s currently a coach on The Voice Australia, and also sat in one of the red spinny chairs on The Voice Kids – on which Bella Paige finished second. We know My Girls, partly penned by Delta, went to Sofia with Bella, so the logical next step is for Delts to step up and demand to go to Sweden, right? If she did there what she does best – perch behind a piano looking stunning and belting out a heartfelt/powerful ballad – Down Under could be dangerous.

Must-hear tracks Wings, Believe Again, Dancing With A Broken Heart 

 

 

Samantha Jade

Think…Nadine Beiler, Elhaida Dani

Who? In case you didn’t know, I’m a reality TV tragic – so, surprise surprise, here’s another X Factor winner who I think would be the business on the Eurovision stage. Samantha was mentored all the way into winning position on the show in 2012 by none other than Guy Sebastian (again, and who could also give her some valuable tips on winning over Europe) and she has reigned supreme as our premier pop princess (Kylie Minogue, in the World of Jaz, is the queen, not the princess…albeit a rather overrated queen *gasp*) ever since. I’m pretty convinced she attended the Ani Lorak Academy of Singing and Dancing Simultaneously and Excelling At Both Without Breaking A Single Bead of Sweat at some point, and she can put on a serious SHOW. Sam’s got power and playfulness, and that’s a great combo for an ESC audience to get from an artist.

Must-hear tracks Shake That, Firestarter, Sweet Talk 

 

 

Troye Sivan

Think…a toned-down, chilled-out Loïc Nottet

Who? 20-year-old Troye is another muso who’s practically my next-door neighbour (meaning I could drive to his house without running out of petrol if I knew his exact address and was a complete creep) and he is SHRN to the max, having just dropped his first full-length album Blue Neighbourhood (which I think even Tanja would agree is amaziiiing). He sang and acted as a kid, but he’s best known for his Youtube videos, which have amassed him a tiny THREE MILLION subscribers to date. His sound is dreamy, electro, slick and unique, and I’d love to see someone so relevant and on fleek (I’m talking about a Youtuber…I had to use that terminology) yet so interesting represent Australia, in the wake of the pro-alternative Belgian and Latvian successes of 2015.

Must-hear tracks Wild, Happy Little Pill, Fools

 

 

+ Bonus Pick: Jessica Mauboy

Think…Hannah Mancini, Zlata Ognevich

Who? I have to mention J.Maubz because it JUST MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. After her appearance in an alfoil dress on the Copenhagen stage, it might actually have made too much sense to send her to Vienna. But now that more time has passed, and another Eurovision has taken place since we last saw her attend one in any capacity, sending Jess would be a very sensible decision. Maybe this time she could wear a dress made out of baking paper (Croatia already did the bin bag thing four years ago, and plastic wrap probably isn’t suitable for family television)? Whatever it’s yay or nay to that idea, she’d be a top-notch ambassador for Australia on a global stage – and with a song that suits her vocal range better than Sea of Flags, she’d blow us all away.

Must-hear tracks This Ain’t Love, Can I Get A Moment?, Never Be The Same 

 

 

And, with that cheeky mention of the Maubster, I’m done…for now. I’m constantly finding ideal reps for Australia – and plenty of other countries – popping into my head when I’m supposed to be concentrating on non-ESC stuff, so there might be a part deux coming to you in the near future. I can say for sure that I’m currently putting together a top 10 featuring ten (SAY WHAT?!?) random Aussie songs from the past and present that I’d love to have seen and heard on the Eurovision stage, if a) Australia had been allowed to participate pre-2015, and b) SBS made me their first port of call when looking for entry inspiration. So, if you enjoyed this post, you might like that one too *she hopes*.

I’ll be back next week with a Time-Warp Tuesday, but before that, I’d love you to donate a click to the poll below. Which of my five six picks for Australia to send to Stockholm do YOU think is the best fit for the job?

 

Now you’ve done that, it’d be plain wrong if you didn’t fill me in on your personal picks for Australia – or anywhere else, if that’s easier – to send to the contest in May. What are you waiting for, Christmas?

Fair enough…it is only a week away!

 

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It’s time to #JoinUs! Predictions and expectations for Eurovision 2014 (plus my latest top 37)

I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach, and since I didn’t have anything nerve-wracking to do today, it meant one thing and one thing only: IT’S EUROVISION TIME!!! Well, kind of. As I write this intro, the first semi final is mere hours away, although I won’t be seeing it until Friday night. The Australian TV broadcast kicks off then and continues over the weekend, and it’s a ritual for me to wait for it rather than haul myself out of bed to watch the contest live via a very unreliable stream. I’m not even buying my Eurovision food until tomorrow (my snacks of choice this year being sugared popcorn and Redskins) which is also when my internet blackout starts in a quest to avoid spoilers. It’s hard work, but I’ve managed successfully in the past, not counting the year I found out the winner about an hour before the final was screened here (circa 2010). So I won’t be blogging until at least after I’ve seen the first semi, but I will definitely be back. Feel free to comment or interact with me any time, because it’s up to me to avoid any virtual contact until the coast is clear.

My last post before the winners and losers of tonight’s first semi final are known (I still can’t believe today’s the day!) is a mix of rankings, predictions, expectations and hopes for everything concerning Eurovision 2014. I’ve been so busy with uni lately that a lot of this was written last-minute, so I apologise if that’s super obvious, or if it doesn’t sound like I’m that excited about the ESC being upon us. Believe me, I am – it’s my driving force to get as much study out of the way as possible so I can enjoy THE best weekend of the year. On that note, I’ve got many riveting readings to do tonight, so I’ll get down to business right now. First up, it’s ranking time!

 

My pre-contest top 37 revealed!

This is my second full ranking of the year (I did my first a month or so ago here on the blog) and to make life easier and more accurate, I used this sorter that’s been circulating around the web for a while now. Here are the results, complete with stats showing how each country has moved up, down or not shifted at all since I last ranked.

  1. Sweden (+1)
  2. Greece (+1)
  3. France (-2)
  4. Hungary (+4)
  5. Montenegro (+15)
  6. Armenia (-1)
  7. Poland (+2)
  8. Belarus (-4)
  9. Norway (+1)
  10. Denmark (-4)
  11. United Kingdom (+3)
  12. Moldova (+11)
  13. Italy (-1)
  14. Iceland (-7)
  15. Portugal (+10)
  16. Estonia (-5)
  17. Lithuania (+12)
  18. Germany (-3)
  19. Slovenia (+3)
  20. Malta (-2)
  21. Spain (-2)
  22. Albania (-9)
  23. Belgium (+14)
  24. Ukraine (=)
  25. The Netherlands (-8)
  26. Israel (+2)
  27. Latvia (-11)
  28. Russia (+6)
  29. Ireland (-3)
  30. Switzerland (=)
  31. Azerbaijan (-4)
  32. Austria (+1)
  33. Romania (-12)
  34. Georgia (+2)
  35. Finland (-4)
  36. Macedonia (-4)
  37. San Marino (-2)

As you can see, there’s been some serious jumps in both directions. Feel free to let me know below which countries’ songs have made major leaps either way in your rankings, and/or what your pre-contest top 10 looks like.

Now, without further ado/rankings…let the predictions begin, show by show!

 

Semi Final 1

Who will qualify Armenia, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, Moldova, the Netherlands and Hungary

I’m not convinced Russia’s perfect qualification record will be broken, but based on the song and the purported Curse of the JESC Alumni, I’m not convinced they’re a given either. It’s in the bag for Armenia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Hungary as far as I’m concerned, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see others in place of the rest. There are a ton of ‘maybes’ this year! 

Who I want to qualify Armenia, Latvia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Portugal, Montenegro and Hungary

I’m desperate for Montenegro to go through, but after hearing nothing but negative comments about their choice of gimmick (when they shouldn’t have chosen anything) their chances may be dashed. Latvian and Portuguese qualifications would each be sweet in their own way.

Who is most likely to…win the semi Armenia. As far as I know without bothering to check, Aram remains the bookies’ favourite FTW, and as the first semi final’s opening act he’s likely to blow us all away and make sure nobody forgets about him. Other countries in the mix to win would be Hungary (if the subject matter doesn’t prevent it) and Sweden (a prediction made on behalf of biased Jaz of Team Sanna).

Yes, this man could easily win his semi...and possibly the whole contest.

Yes, this man could easily win his semi…and possibly the whole contest.

Lose the semi San Marino. Valentina has by far the most boring song in the lineup, and I can’t imagine anything about it, even with staging and costume taken into account, that would attract votes in mass.

Get the biggest round of applause Belgium. Axel is the male, Belgian equivalent of Susan Boyle, is he not? There are multiple “moments” in Mother that just strike me as golden opportunities for rapturous applause that drowns out whatever gushing declaration of love for his mum Axel makes next.

Sing best live Belgium again. Say what you will about their entry – this is a man with one heck of a set of pipes. I’d also have to single out Sweden, because Sanna’s vocal is always on point. The clarity of her voice sends shivers down my spine, for cereal.

Axel: focusing on singing, not creepy stalkers.

Axel: focusing on singing, not creepy stalkers.

Sing worst live Armenia. Before you say anything that could be misconstrued as a death threat, hear me out. I’m only pegging Aram as a possibility because his song requires both soft, subtle notes and big, BAM IN YOUR FACE shouts/notes, and as I’m yet to hear him sing live, I don’t know how well he handles that combination. I have heard Ukraine’s Maria was ropey in rehearsals, so she may also be up for this title. 

Make the best use of the background Montenegro. All they need is to model their graphics after the Moj Svijet video clip and I’ll be swooning.

Have the most boring stage show The Netherlands. Boring isn’t necessarily bad; there are some songs that shouldn’t be accompanied by tons of pyro and a twenty-foot Hell Machine, or intricate choreography. Calm After The Storm is one of them. There will not be much going on aside from guitar-strumming and staged eye contact.

Have the best costume/s Moldova. Think back to any Moldovan entries past and you’ll find they’ve got the ‘weird yet wonderful’ outfit market cornered. Don’t let Cristina’s hideous neon lace number from the opening party fool you – they’ll be style and edge aplenty in her stage selection. And probably a hairstyle that could win awards for architectural excellence.

Cristina with her trophy for 'Best Costume That Can Double As An Art Installation.'

Cristina is on track for the ‘Best Costume That Can Double As An Art Installation’ award.

Have the worst costume/s Albania. It’s safe to say that Hersi won’t have a dreadlock wrapped around her neck (unless she borrowed one of Rona’s for the occasion) but judging by some of the outfits I’ve seen on her up until now, what she wears on her big night may not be the most stylish of outfits. In fact…she likes lace and Peter Pan collars. Maybe she’ll wear Cristina’s hideous neon lace number? Sorry, Hersi and fans of. You’re more than welcome to prove me wrong.

 

Semi Final 2  

Who will qualify Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Finland, Belarus, Macedonia, Greece, Slovenia and Romania

Once again, there are some definites and more possibles in this bunch. I’m expecting Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Greece and Romania to sashay into the final with no troubles, but the other spots could go to any combination of countries. The likes of Macedonia and Belarus could just as easily get left behind as they could make it through. 

Who I want to qualify Malta, Israel, Norway, Poland, Austria, Lithuania, Belarus, Switzerland, Greece and Slovenia

I would LOVE the Slavic girls to be there on Saturday night, but I can’t see it based on what I’ve been calling the ‘Igranka effect’ – if that didn’t make the final, why would this? The one time I want Lithuania to do their trick of surprisingly qualifying, it doesn’t seem to be on the cards. 

Who is most likely to…win the semi Greece or Romania. My personal preference is for Greece (refer to my bagging of Romania in my last lot of reviews to see why) but I feel like either country could dominate with their high-energy songs and acts.

Paula & Ovi's pulling power could win Semi 2 for Romania.

Paula & Ovi’s pulling power could win Semi 2 for Romania.

Lose the semi Lithuania. That’s if they don’t qualify against the odds like they’ve done more than once in the past. I just think there’s so much that doesn’t work with Attention, mostly based on what I’ve heard regarding the visual aspects, that it could easily end up floundering in last place. 

Get the biggest round of applause Austria. Conchita’s song is massive, as is her voice and her stage presence. I’ll grow a perfectly-shaped beard if the crowd doesn’t go crazy for her.

Sing best live Conchita. As I said and as we all know, she’s a powerful vocalist who handles money notes and key changes with ease. Unless she’s worn out her chords this week, she shouldn’t fail to impress.

Sing worst live Vilija. Again, I haven’t heard her sing live, so this is more or less down to the possibility. Consider my benefit of the doubt given, though.

vilija-mataciunaite-64109082-620x330

It is hard to concentrate on vocals when you’re in this position.

Make the best use of the background Finland. Something flashy would definitely spice up a performance in which the band will be in one place the whole time.

Have the most boring stage show Ireland. This song is so mid-tempo, I’m not sure what kind of stage act would work with it. It’s too bad if I turn out to be right about this, because the song doesn’t really go anywhere and some Ukraine-esque score-boosting props or dancers would give it a better chance of success.

Have the best costume/s Poland. Even those of us who haven’t seen Cleo & co’s fashion choices for the contest will know what they are. The mixture of traditional costume and, well, skimpier stuff, goes well with the fusion of folk and modern sounds that is My Słowianie. My runner-up would be Slovenia, as I have seen Tinkara’s dress and it looks amazing. The Slovenian girls always do!

The embroidery machine exploded, but it was worth it.

The embroidery machine exploded, but it was worth it.

Have the worst costume Lithuania. Again, I’ve seen it, and although it’s nothing on the likes of Moje 3’s candy-coloured monstrosities from Malmö, it’s not good. Actually, come to think of it, one of those ridiculous dresses might have worked for Vilija…

 

The Grand Final

The lineup, IMO Armenia, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, Moldova, the Netherlands, Hungary, Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Finland, Belarus, Macedonia, Greece, Slovenia, Romania, Germany, Italy, Denmark, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. In a totally random, non-producer engineered order, of course. NOT.

Who will win Oh, how I wish that was an easy question to answer! Apart from the fact that I totally don’t, because this is one of the most open contests I’ve ever experienced and that makes it extra exciting. Still, I’ve had such a hard time predicting the winner that I could only narrow my long list of potentials down to five. In alphabetical order, here they are:

Armenia – Not Alone is the favourite, and you can’t discount the favourite! I’m still having trouble visualising the credits rolling over it (which is apparently a good indication of a song’s winning chances) but it certainly has impact and grabs attention.

Azerbaijan – Because come on, it’s Azerbaijan. They have a comparatively unique ballad up their sequined sleeve, a strong voice in Dilara, and what sounds like great staging as always.

Could Dilara take us back to Baku so soon?

Could Dilara take us back to Baku so soon?

Estonia – Amazing itself is close enough to Euphoria that it would be a questionable winner, but it’s accessible and instant, and the presentation will stick in people’s minds no matter where it crops up in the running order. Don’t forget that history often repeats…

Israel – I didn’t see this one’s success in the OGAE vote coming, so I’m attempting to see a possible contest win coming. Mei’s a powerful performer with a very competent pop song that has edge. She could drive straight up the middle of the scoreboard with consistent 6s, 7s and 8s.

UK – I’m hoping Molly has a real shot, and we’re not all getting ahead of ourselves like we did with Blue. The difference here is that not only is the song good, the performance will likely be too. If I Can reached 11th with that messy performance, COTU could do a lot better. And I mean a LOT.

Eating your microphone is no way to win Eurovision, Molly.

Eating your microphone is no way to win Eurovision, Molly.

Who will make the top 10 Again, in alphabetical order, my guess is Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Malta, Sweden and the UK.

This list perhaps features too many cliché top tenners, when in recent years there’s been a few surprise acts making it this far. But they’re a surprise for a reason – it’s hard to predict them!

Who will be left at the bottom Finland or the Netherlands, assuming they both get to the final. I just feel that their songs could be the kind that get overshadowed when the going gets tough. Otherwise, France or Germany are possibilities. I adore Moustache and like Is It Right quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean either will capture anyone’s mood. The chances of predicting this correctly are very slim, so I’m just going with random feelings here.

Where the final six will end up I’m foreseeing two of the auto-finalists in this year’s top 10 – Denmark and the UK. Molly may end up anywhere from 1st-6th position, while the host act will likely be in the 5th-8th range. I think Italy will narrowly miss out on the top 10 in about 11th or 12th place, followed by the too-typical Spain in 13th-16th. As mentioned just before, I reckon France and Germany could be (undeservedly) down the bottom end of the scoreboard – in the 18th-26th area.

 

A few bonus bits

Here are some extra predictions/hopes etc that didn’t fit in anywhere else. Enjoy?!?

The five countries I want to succeed the most Greece, Montenegro, Poland, Sweden and the UK, all for different reasons and with the knowledge that it’s not going to happen for all of them.

Five things I’m excited for

  • Seeing the stage in action – it’s like a giant dissected Rubik’s Cube, and that is freaking awesome.
  • Watching the postcards – we’ve all been getting our #MyEurovisionFlag on in the leadup to Copenhagen, and now in the postcards, each artist will be doing the same. Props go to whoever came up with that idea (which does remind me a teensy bit of Belgrade ’08).
  • Cheering on the Australian entry – Jess Mauboy is representing us, if only in the second semi’s interval act, and I can’t wait to wave a flag for her! I know she’ll do us proud, and it’ll be great practice for when the EBU finally let Australia participate for real. Hashtag IN MY DREAMS.
Jess already knows her way around a wind machine, so she'll be fine.

Jess already knows her way around a wind machine, so she’ll be fine.

  • Knowing the qualifiers – this year has been incredibly hard to predict, and it will be a relief to finally know which of the many maybe songs are to become finalists.
  • Nail-biting my way through the final voting – with such an open year on our hands, the voting sequence has the potential to be the most tense we’ve seen in a very long time. As stressful as that will be, I say bring it on.

Five cities I’d love to see host the 60th contest

  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Manchester, England
  • Paris, France
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Warsaw, Poland

Lugano, Switzerland would also be neat, 2015 being a big Eurovision anniversary and all…any chance you can make that happen, Sebalter? Hypnotise the continent into voting for you via your superior whistling skills!

 

I think that about covers everything. It’d want to, considering I’ve rambled on for the equivalent length of an encyclopedia. It’s very late where I’m at, and I’m falling asleep on my keyboard (the impressions it’s leaving in my face are extremely attractive) so I’m off to sleep through the start of Eurovision 2014 before commencing my spoiler-watch. On behalf of me, myself and I, I wish you the merriest of Eurovisions, whether you’re watching live or you’re waiting for something better (by which I mean a TV broadcast, not the Finnish entry to come on). May the best song win, whatever that may be, but above all, let the show exceed all of our expectations and make for hours of flag and TEAM SANNA 4EVERRRRRRR banner-waving. Or is that just going to be me?

 

Get in while you still can, people! Give me your tips for qualifiers, the winner and everything in-between. Or, if the results have been and gone, tell me what I can do next year to improve on my terrible predicting skills…