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LIGHTS, CAMERA, DUNCAN! | My Eurovision 2019 semi two review

Hello again, and welcome to the space between Eurovision’s second semi and the grand final, when speculation is at an all-time high and so is nervous anxiety (or is that just me now that Australia has climbed to second in the betting odds?). We have ten more qualifiers, and the final line-up is complete right down to the running order. But before I get into that, let’s have a look at the juicy bits from last night’s semi: the performances and the results.

PS – I hope you’re proud of me for producing a short, normal-person introduction for once.

 

The performances: From WTF to OMG

Once again I’ll run all the way down the list of 18 acts, but in order from my least favourite performance to the one that had me picking up my phone to vote (only to realise that I couldn’t vote in this semi…oops). Let me know how you would rank them in the comments.

Moldova For those of us who remember Ukraine 2011, this was the Walmart to Mika Newton’s Chanel. For those who don’t recall that performance, I’m assuming this still came off as soulless, substandard and at times, downright ridiculous (Kseniya trying to mime the “snow art” at double speed would have fooled no one with functioning eyesight). Anna’s vocals were solid, but her dress screamed 1996 senior prom…and Stay is even more dated than that. 

Ireland Well, wasn’t this cute? I’d happily hang out with Sarah and her gal pals at Diner 22, drinking prop milkshakes and lying unhygienically on the counter bemoaning my lost love. Unfortunately it was all a bit amateurish – the high school talent quest act of SF2 that Montenegro provided in SF1. I loved the Roy Lichtenstein-esque pop art backdrops (he happens to be my favourite artist) and I admire Ireland’s commitment to retro, but there was no question about the DNQ Sarah had coming.

Austria I was looking forward to seeing how Limits would come across live: whether it could win me over with its understated beauty, or if I’d be bored by the repetitive chorus that wears me out when I’m listening to the studio version. In the end, Paenda left me somewhere in the middle and somewhat unsatisfied. Her staging was well-executed, but she lost control of her vocals a few times and I found it distracting. This needed to be totally pitch-perfect and she just couldn’t pull it off.

Latvia That Night is another song that makes it hard to stay awake (especially as an Australian watching it performed at 3.30am) and the last minute or so drags beyond belief. That was definitely the case last night, but I have to give credit where it’s due: the staging and setup was lovely, if not engaging or exciting enough. Lead vocalist Sabine was the shining star, glowing like a goddess on camera and delivering silky-smooth vocals. Latvia did the best they could with what they chose.

Armenia Okay…there were some extreme pros and cons here. Positively speaking, Srbuk looked fierce AF and suitably, sang like a woman scorned (scorned but still very much in control of her vocal cords). But the Negative Nancy in me nearly expired when those empty arena shots were spliced in. What was Armenia THINKING? I assumed something had gone wrong and rehearsal footage had been hurriedly inserted to cover for it, when it was a calculated decision all along. WHY?!?

Lithuania There was nothing wrong with Jurij’s performance per se. He looked mighty fine if I may say so, and you’d be hard pressed to nitpick at his vocals. But there was nothing to speak of in the way of staging, and Run With The Lions isn’t an Arcade or a Too Late For Love – a.k.a. a song that can not only survive but thrive with pared-back, lighting-centric staging. The only zing I felt from this was a little one every time Jurij shot one of his alluring looks down the lens. I’m only human!

North Macedonia North Macedonia not stuffing up their staging was proof that miracles can and do happen. Tamara’s vocals weren’t as flawless as I was hoping, but they still had power and passion, and her whole performance was classy and elegant. I’m not one for gigantic faces plastered on backdrops (when will that go out of fashion, FFS?) but I’ll make an exception for the black-and-white photography used here. The pic of Tamara and her daughter at the end was the clincher.

Norway Something was weird about this. It was too dark and not joyful enough, and the stage felt super empty both when KEiiNO were apart at the start and when they joined forces later. Why then, you might ask, don’t I have Norway lower down in my ranking of the 18? The answer is, because I f*%!ing love Spirit In The Sky as a song and it was still enough to satisfy me. I also love the chemistry this trio has, and Alexandra’s overall perfection sight-wise and sound-wise. She’s a queen.

Romania How do you say ‘OTT’ in Romanian? The On A Sunday music video came to life on stage last night and although it was a lot to process, I wasn’t mad about it. And no matter how many kitchen sinks were thrown at this, I couldn’t be distracted from Ester’s crazy-good vocals – she’d never sounded better. She also played her part of the jilted and slightly crazed ex to an Academy Award-winning standard, which may have put some people off but to me was a highlight.

Russia I don’t really know how to feel about this. Sergey is a great guy with superstar stage presence, and he can SING (imagine how fantastic Scream would have sounded if he’d sung it in Russian). But this staging left me cold. I felt like I was supposed to be impressed, but the wow factor of You Are The Only One was nowhere to be found. It’s a strong package, but not a winning one the way I see it. Showering on stage fully clothed can only get you so far.

Denmark Some call this creepy, some call it cute…I call it both at the same time. There was a slight twist on the DMGP performance at play (and either the chair had shrunk a bit or just looked like it had) but mostly it was a carbon copy, including the top-notch vocals and unblinking stare of death from Leonora. I can’t fault this on a small scale, let alone a massive one. Denmark looked extra sweet and light after Romania, and it seemed that worked in their favour.

Croatia Melodramatic, flamboyant and just the kind of thing media outlets will pick up on so they can say ‘That’s SO Eurovision!’, Croatia put on a serious show (that couldn’t be taken too seriously). The story they told was loud and clear, and when the sexy golden angels awarded Roko his wings, I felt the strongest rush of guilty pleasure a person could possibly feel. And I know I’ve banged on about vocals a lot so far, but damn – Roko is a talented teenager. He owned his three minutes.

Albania Personally, I’d have factored more lights, shadows and fire into Albania’s performance. But that aside, HOLY HECK. Jonida is an incredible woman with a powerful, haunting voice that could cut through cement, and a striking sense of style that was on show via that glorious back and gold (or was it blue and white?) dress. I could not love her more, and she poured Jamala-level emotion into Ktheju Tokës. Kudos to her kick-ass backing singers too.

Switzerland To keep talking like the staging expert I am not, I envisioned something different for She Got Me. I was also a little disappointed in the dance break, which wasn’t half as dynamic or energetic as Luca’s dance moves throughout the rest of the song. But whatever – this remains one of my favourites in the contest, and it’s only partly to do with Luca’s biceps. Hearing the audience respond to the choruses made me so excited for Switzerland. Man Fuego is more than fine by me.

The Netherlands The big favourite did not (totally) disappoint. I have reservations about the staging, in particular the piano – and the fact that it takes ages for a close-up shot of Duncan to appear and allow him to connect with us down the camera. But Arcade is a stunning song, and Duncan’s vocals (here she goes again with the vocals!) were gorgeous. I’m not sold on this as a winner – I don’t get The Vibes – but since I said that about Israel this time last year, bring on Amsterdam 2020.

Malta This little island has done big things in Tel Aviv. Chameleon is such a cool song, and the youthful, colourful staging did it justice. Michela didn’t quite exude the confidence of fellow teen Roko before her, but she sang well and looked more and more comfortable as the song went on. While I expected to be impressed by Russia and wasn’t, I didn’t have huge expectations of Malta only to be blown away. Great stuff.

Azerbaijan Sure, Chingiz could have stood on the stage and flossed his teeth for three minutes and I’d still have swooned. But he did much more than that. This was a slick, high-tech performance, elevated by the ethnic bridge and dragged down by that tacky gimmick towards the end. Then again, was it any tackier than supersized CGI Cesár Sampson? Austria didn’t suffer for that, so I suspect Chingiz ascending in a blaze of bargain basement fire won’t impact Azerbaijan’s success.

Sweden If you’re shocked by Sweden’s performance being my fave of the night, you must be new around here. Was it absolutely perfect? I’m going to say no, mainly based on us not getting a good view of The Mamas’ strobe-lighting reveal. But was it joyful and uplifting and expertly-engineered nonetheless? Oh yeah. I just need John to give even more oomph and sparkle in the final, where he rightfully deserves to do very well for himself.

 

After all that, we were treated to another awesome mash-up of ESC entries; a performance from Shalva Band that warmed even my cold, cynical heart; and previews of Germany, Italy and the UK on the Expo stage (which didn’t change my mind about Germany). Then it was time to find out who would be staying in Tel Aviv for the weekend, and who…well, wouldn’t.

 

 

The results: As expected…for the most part

Despite being the more competitive semi, this was the easier of the two shows to predict – for me, anyway. Correct me if I’m wrong! Ultimately North Macedonia, The Netherlands, Albania, Sweden, Russia, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Malta made it through. The unlucky eight were Armenia, Ireland, Moldova, Latvia, Romania, Austria, Croatia and Lithuania.

New name, new stroke of luck? That might hold true for North Macedonia, who find themselves facing their first final since 2012 on Saturday. I can’t say I’m too surprised, even though Proud isn’t one of my preferred picks of the year and I wouldn’t have voted for it had I been able to vote. Albania was the one I didn’t see coming, but I’m stoked to see them qualify again with a song they didn’t feel compelled to switch into English.

The rest of the top 10 were more or less expected to progress, though Denmark and even Norway were borderline – but Finland aside, we now have a full Nordic house for the final. I had a mini heart attack waiting for Switzerland to be announced, which was no doubt the intention of whoever decided on the “random order” this time round. But my pounding chest would have been nothing compared to what Malta’s Michela was feeling, as she sat through nine countries’ namedrops hoping and praying for her own to be spoken. It was borderline psychopathic making her wait so long, but worth it for what is now an all-time favourite reaction of mine.

Who won this semi? It has to be The Netherlands, though I’m not so sure Duncan would have won both the jury and televote (and I don’t think he’ll do that in the final either). The other end of the spectrum includes Armenia, who have now missed out two years running; Moldova, whose run of fun-driven fortune has screeched to a halt; Romania, also missing out again after their first ever DNQ in Lisbon; and Austria, who will be absent from the final for the first time since 2013. It really was a raw deal sacrificing eight songs in this semi, but those are the rules of the game…and if you’re not good enough, you’ve got to go.

 

Now for a quick word on the running order for the final, which was released pretty rapidly after last night’s qualifiers drew their halves. Opening was realistically between the Czech Republic and Malta (Björkman wouldn’t put Sweden first on a Saturday, nor would he want a replay of Replay being first on stage) and we’re really getting the party started with Chameleon. Albania scores the cursed second slot – a lucky escape for Germany. Russia won’t be thrilled with fifth position, and it looks like we can count them out for the victory they were desperate for. Sweden gets a decent, relatively late first-half spot between North Macedonia and Slovenia, while winner-in-waiting The Netherlands sits pretty in 12th – though that Cyprus/Netherlands/Greece run is intense.

Israel, as we already knew, will kick off the stacked second half which includes Norway, Iceland, Azerbaijan, France, Italy, Switzerland and Australia. My flying fairy queen Kate performs in 25th, the penultimate position previously occupied by Kristian Kostov and Eleni Foureira. And finally, we’ll end the show as we started it: in party mode, this time thanks to Spain.

With all that to contend with, plus about fifty interval acts (Madonna is the tip of the iceberg), it’s going to be a long night – or morning, for me and my fellow Aussies. But it looks like it will be a final worth getting next to no sleep for. The winner may be expected, but 2nd through 25th places (because you know who I think will come last) are up for grabs, and there’s sure to be some shocks when all is said and done.

 

 

That’s all I have to say for now, as we count down the hours to Eurovision 2019’s night of nights. You’ll be able to find my predictions for the show on all of my socials @EurovisionByJaz – so please follow and/or like if you don’t want to miss them (links are in the sidebar).

If you do want to miss them, fair enough. I’m keen to hear yours though, so leave me a comment here, there or anywhere and tell me where you think we’ll be going in 2020. Is Amsterdam inevitable, or is Milan still a possibility? Could Australia be choosing a European country to host on our behalf, or will be back in Sweden next year? Maybe I’m way off the mark and Berlin will be our next destination. Whatever you’re thinking, let me know below.

 

 

Merry Eurovision weekend!

 

 

 

 

THE TEL AVIV REVIEWS | Round 7 feat. Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia + Sweden

Sorry to start off a post with profanity, but SHIT JUST GOT REAL, GUYS. The Eurovision 2019 rehearsals have started! Somebody pinch me. But not too hard, I have a low pain threshold.

Cyprus was the first country to take to the stage on Saturday, and as I type this we’re well into the third day of run-throughs. You may or may not know that I never watch rehearsals (I like the element of surprise) but I do read and listen to rehearsal reviews so I have some idea what’s happening (total surprise is overrated). Even so, you won’t find any rehearsal commentary here on EBJ – my favourites for that are Eurovision Ireland’s live blogs and ESC Insight’s podcasts. What I do have for you today is the penultimate round of my Tel Aviv reviews, feat. Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden, most of whom have already hit the stage in Israel.

You know what to do: keep reading for my thoughts on Chingiz, Darude & Sebastian, Sarah, Zala & Gašper and John’s songs for the contest so close we can taste it – then let me know in the comments who scores what in your opinion. I’ll be waiting!

 

 

 

If there’s one thing about Eurovision 2019 we can be surer of than Montenegro making it no further than Tuesday night, it’s that Azerbaijan will be wanting back in the final after losing their qualification record in Lisbon. It’s practically seeping out of their pores – not that Chingiz has visible pores or any other obvious imperfections. And Azerbaijan isn’t messing around musically: they’ve turned to Bulgarian, Swedish and US songwriters with strong ESC pedigrees this year. Truth was written by, among others, Borislav Milanov (husband of Tamara Gachechiladze and co-writer of If Love Was A Crime, Beautiful Mess, Bones and Malta’s Chameleon); Joacim Persson (also co-writer of Bulgaria’s recent contest contenders plus Chameleon, and Mikolas Josef’s Me Gusta); and Trey Campbell (member of Equinox and co-writer of Bones). Name-dropping of that calibre alone doesn’t ensure a successful trip to Tel Aviv. After all, some of these songwriters were also responsible for Dance Alone and In Too Deep. But it turns out Truth is a banger, with all the equipment to qualify and do reasonably if not incredibly well for Azerbaijan.

I’d summarise it like this: it’s a faster, sci-fi-free version of Bones and a big step up from the competent but cookie-cutter X My Heart. I don’t know about you, but I can definitely hear the bones of Bones in this and would have guessed the same writers were behind it even if I hadn’t known. Truth is actually a little more enjoyable than Bones for me, purely because it’s more uplifting and infectious. The production is cutting-edge contemporary; the lyrics are sparse and simple which makes for great singalong material (like you haven’t already screamed ‘SHUT UP ABOUT IT!’ at the top of your lungs at least once); and as usual, a hint of ethnicity has been stuffed into the package to remind us that this is the Azerbaijani entry. I don’t know how they get away with that, but they do – mugham etc can seemingly be shoehorned into any genre, and in this case it makes what would have been a standard pop song above average. All in all I’m excited about this entry, and I swear that has more to do with the song than with Chingiz being ridiculously attractive.

Interestingly, in 2018 Aisel was a jazz singer trying her hand at dance music, and it didn’t seem to fit. Yet Chingiz, whose area of expertise is flamenco fusion, has taken to dance pop like a well-groomed, gym-toned duck to water. So what could possibly prevent Azerbaijan from returning to their old stomping ground of the top 5? Well, funnily enough I see Truth doing similar things to Bones rather than climbing that high. As much as I do like the song, it’s missing a certain extra something that would make it a cert for a top 10 finish, let alone top 5. But that’s my thinking based on the song alone, and Azerbaijan have always been good game-players when it comes to staging. Truth is a better song than X My Heart without a doubt, so if it’s staged even half as well as that it will be an unstoppable qualifier. From that point, if it is presented in an attention-grabbing way (using some of the excess fluoro body paint from the video perhaps) who knows where it could go. On the other hand, if they ruin it live and disaster strikes, I am ready and waiting to console you, Chingiz.

 

In a line A well-produced banger with bite that gives us an excuse to yell ‘SHUT UP!’ 2018 VS 2019 2019, and that’s the Truth Predicted result SF 5th-7th, GF 11th-14th My score 10 points

 

 

 

 

Finland’s national final UMK was another one-act, three-song affair this year. But instead of the delightful Saara Aalto we got notorious 90s DJ Darude plus singer/actor Sebastian – and people were EXCITED. About Darude, anyway (no offence, Sebastian). I can’t say I was over the moon personally, but that’s because Robin Packalen said thanks but no thanks to YLE before they approached Darude. How do you say ‘devastated’ in Finnish? Mr. Sandstorm was a prize pick on face value though, I’ll admit. And as someone who has enjoyed Eurovision’s recent DJ/vocalist combos, I was looking forward to what Finland would present us with.

Unfortunately that turned out to be three versions of the same song, and that song was straight out of the decade when Darude had his biggest hit. I’m all for a throwback, but in this case it was a contemporary dance track I wanted…not something that could have been released as a single straight after Sandstorm in 1999. Look Away was the best option out of UMK despite the trio of songs being pretty damn interchangeable, and believe it or not I do actually like it. I don’t think it’s a good song for a contest in the final year of the 2010s, but I would dance my ass off to it in the Euroclub were I going to Eurovision this year (if you are, please bust a move on my behalf). I don’t even know why I like it when it’s so monotonous and depressing, but I guess the melody works for me – that pre-chorus is especially catchy. Plus there’s an intense atmosphere to the song in general that gives it a je ne sais quoi. But even I have to acknowledge the issues with this. It is dated, it is forgettable, and the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. ‘How can we go to sleep at night, and lay there in our beds, when we know what’s going on with the world today’ is passable in a Boggie-style ballad, but in a dance track it just sounds wrong (not to mention cheesy). I’m sure a lot of time and effort went into producing this song and into writing the lyrics, but it all seems a bit basic.

Another problem is that the whole ‘DJ at desk accompanied by solo male singer in leather jacket and/or hat’ schtick is, at Eurovision, clearly declining in quality. Norway nailed it in 2017; Poland had a good song last year but massacred the live performance; and now we have Finland failing to tick boxes in the song and performance departments. God knows how horrendous the 2020 attempt will be, because in 2019 it’s uninspiring to listen to and to look at. Sebastian’s vocals are far from polished, and that ‘Let’s all slow-clap with our hands in the air like we’re at a music festival!’ move is painful to watch. I didn’t mind the LED box the guys had on stage with them at UMK (complete with dancer) but it wasn’t enough to elevate Look Away. I really think Finland will struggle to qualify with this, which is a shame when the Darude name-drop was so well received. It’s just that there are easily ten more memorable, more enjoyable entries in the first semi. In my opinion, this one doesn’t have the fight to get to final night.

 

In a line Dated dance music with a message and not much hope 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 12th-16th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

 

Poor Ireland. They’ve been desperately clinging on to ‘We’ve won Eurovision seven times!’ since 1996, which makes me wish Sweden would get a move on and win at least once more to shut them up. Yet they’ve never got a proper grip on what makes the ESC tick in the televoting era. There have been glimmers of hope in the form of Jedward, Ryan Dolan (before he finished dead last in the 2013 final), and Ryan O’Shaughnessy. But there’s been no streak of success, no formula found and no left-hand side of the scoreboard for the Emerald Isle since 2011. Now, in 2019, could 22 possibly be the magic number that takes them back to their glory days of not being able to stop winning?

To be blunt, no. Sarah McTernan’s song is too problematic for that. But first, some positives, because I do like this song. There’s something really charming about the retro Hairspray vibe it gives off, and it gets stuck in my head a lot because it’s so easy to sing and hum along to. The lyrics are simple and cute, and they aren’t annoying despite rhyming to an excessive extent (I think every possible rhyme for ’22’ was deployed apart from the childish and inappropriate one I know you’re thinking of right now too). The song is pretty simple in general, but that also makes it accessible – and stops it from being an assault on the senses like a bunch of other attention-demanding 2019 entries. It is funny that, like Finland, the music and tempo here doesn’t seem to match the subject matter. Sarah’s missing her ex even though she tries to move on with other people, but she’s telling us that over a sunny, boppy and poppy style of music and melody. Somehow, it works better for Sarah than it does for Darude and Sebastian. Maybe that’s because she’s more personable and believable, and can sell this song as well as anybody could. She sings it capably too. I’m a fan of her voice.

There isn’t anything else like this competing in Tel Aviv, so Ireland does stand out. There’s a passing resemblance to Serbia’s 2011 entry Čaroban too that might explain my attraction to it…though 22 is obviously Čaroban’s less energetic, more introverted and very distant cousin. And it’s time to get realistic about its chances, because as sweet as it is and as much as I wish it had the legs to leap into the final, I don’t think it’s meant to be. When I said 22 was problematic, I meant mainly in terms of it not being “extra” enough. It’s one of those songs that’s enjoyable while it’s playing, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Basically, it’s a non-event, at least in the context of a highly competitive song contest. I doubt many people will find it impactful enough, 16 performances later when the voting opens, to remember – let alone vote for. And on top of that, in the land of conspiracy theories, Ireland is the EBU’s SF2 sacrificial lamb: a.k.a. they’ve been positioned second in the running order, like Montenegro in SF1. After Armenia’s power and passion, this entry will seem flatter than a soda with the lid left off. It’s safe to say Irish win no. 8 isn’t en route yet.

 

In a line Retro-flavoured, romance-themed pop with loads of charm but no oomph 2018 VS 2019 2018, a song that deserved better Predicted result SF 13th-16th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

 

There’s always one country that takes you by surprise during national final season, and Slovenia managed to surprise me not once, not twice, but three times this year. First I was shocked when Raiven didn’t win EMA; then I was thrown by the actual winner being a song I didn’t remember hearing when I previewed the Slovenian snippets (having had no time to listen to them all in full); THEN I was totally taken aback when I watched Zala and Gašper’s performance of Sebi without knowing what to expect. To be honest, any expectations I did have weren’t high based on Slovenia’s unsteady quality levels at Eurovision lately. Maybe that’s why I was absolutely blown away by this entry from my very first encounter with it.

This song is stunning. Gobsmackingly gorgeous, with a backdrop of romance far more realistic than that of 2018’s ESC ‘it’ couple Amaia and Alfred (who broke up shortly after the contest, ICYMI). Zala and Gašper are coupled-up creatives immersed in their own world on stage, performing to each other rather than to the camera or the crowd – which could be a disadvantage, but I’ll discuss that when I’ve listed the many pros of this track and duo. It takes them two seconds to build up an intimate atmosphere, but I don’t feel like I’m interrupting something because I’m too busy a) appreciating the uncommon performance style, and b) being distracted by the otherworldly beauty of Sebi. This song takes me to another place, almost putting me in a trance. It’s dreamy and ethereal and should really be backing a montage of fantastical landscapes filmed by a drone. There’s a coldness to it that isn’t the clinical, off-putting kind, and it draws me in. I’m also drawn to the monotonous, hypnotic sound, and find that it’s the lyrical structure – sparse in the verses and steady in the chorus – that gives the song life in the absence of key changes and big notes. Everything about this is authentic to the artists, in keeping with Sebi (the title line of the chorus translates to ‘stay true to yourself’). The song is in the mould of the music Zala and Gašper usually make – it’s not like they wrote it in the quest to create the ideal Eurovision song. For that, I am grateful.

In a world that’s just, Slovenia would outrank the likes of Russia (the ultimate tryhard song of the year) and I’d love to see it rewarded for its originality and all of its other goodness. But I have a horrible feeling Sebi might be my Qami of 2018: an amazing song dragged down by a performance too many people think is dull. The fact that Zala and Gašper perform to each other exclusively is unusual, and while I think that is part of what makes them unique, I also think it could be their undoing. That, plus the subdued nature of the song and the lack of explosive moments that attract televotes. My fingers are crossed that the juries, at least, see the musical merit and integrity in this. I know I’m not the only one who thinks Slovenia is sending something magical to Tel Aviv and deserves to be in the final again. If you do too and you can vote in the first semi, make sure you support Slovenia so we can both see them on the Saturday night (and don’t end our Tuesday night in tears).

 

In a line Three minutes of otherworldly, goosebump-inducing gorgeousness 2018 VS 2019 2019, 2019, 2019!!! Predicted result SF 7th-12th, GF 12th-18th My score 12 points

 

 

 

 

   

It has been PAINFUL waiting so long to review this song. If you’re wondering why, then you obviously don’t know about the massive country crush I’ve had on Sweden since I became a Eurovision fan. I support them unconditionally at the contest (2009 being the exception) and two out of my three ESC/NF experiences have been in Stockholm. I also have a lot of affection for John Lundvik, the third male soloist in a row to win Melodifestivalen after making the final the previous year. So if you were hoping for a review that stuffed, basted and roasted this year’s Swedish entry, I apologise (without much sincerity). On the other hand, if you want someone to sing Sweden’s praises with heavy-handed bias, I’m your gal.

Too Late For Love was the song John was meant to win Melfest with. Not My Turn last year, and not Bigger Than Us which was his initial choice for the comp. This was The One, and if his history-making jury scores in March weren’t proof of that then I don’t know what is. This entry is three minutes of glorious, gospel-powered joy, whether you’re listening to it in studio or watching John and his amazing group of backing vocalists bring it to life on stage. I love (because it’s definitely not too late for it) how the song ebbs and flows. It quickly builds onto the simplistic first verse with the pre-chorus/chorus, before winding things back abruptly for the second verse, which some people think takes the wind out of its sails but I think makes you pay attention. Then it’s all up from there with the bold backing vocals and John’s big money note, before that awesome ending that asks ‘Is it?’ (a rhetorical question that we’re under no obligation to answer). There are so many moments in the song and performance that beg for votes, and not in desperate way: that aforementioned whopper of a note, the lighting used to bathe John in gold just as he starts singing about the sun etc, the simple but effective “backing singer reveal”…the list goes on. The whole thing is full of life, spirit and happiness, making those sun/light/spark metaphors fit right in. And it’s much warmer and more likeable than Dance You Off, as hard as that is for me to admit (I still think that televote score was a travesty). I do feel like Sweden learned something from last year’s stumble.

Ja, I have a blind spot where Sweden is concerned, but my vision isn’t totally obscured. I’m not trying to say Too Late For Love is the greatest song ever written or that it’s performed more genuinely than anything else in the 2019 contest. That’s not true. But I believe Sweden has a fantastic package deal for us. They have a song that’s engaging, uplifting and catchy; an artist who’s ridiculously attractive, charismatic and vocally flawless; and staging (if their promised changes for the ESC aren’t too dramatic) that’s all about O’G3NE-approved lights and shadows rather than props or gimmicks. It’s definitely the most “honest” entry they’ve had since 2016, which should help them score some televotes. It still has all the boxes ticked when it comes to jury criteria, though – and I’d say it’s one of only a few entries that should rank highly with both the public and the professionals. Or is that my bias talking? I don’t know. What is certain is that John is competing against himself, since there’s no question Sweden will qualify and be up against the UK in the final. I’d bet on Swedish John outscoring UK John. Not to first place, but he hopefully won’t be too far behind.

 

In a line Sweden doing what Sweden does best, but on a more relatable level 2018 VS 2019 This is not a choice I’m prepared to make unless my life depends on it Predicted result SF 3rd-5th, GF 4th-8th My score 12 points

 

 

 

 

That’s all, folks. I mean, that’s all of the semi-finalists for 2019 reviewed. Holy Hatari! I have no memory of doing all 35, but apparently it’s true. I literally have it in writing.

Here’s a look at today’s leaderboard:

  1. Sweden (12)
  2. Slovenia (12)
  3. Azerbaijan (10)
  4. Ireland (7)
  5. Finland (7)

And here’s the usual update on my full ranking, for the one person who cares (it may or may not be me): 

  1. Sweden (12)
  2. Hungary (12)
  3. Switzerland (12)
  4. Slovenia (12)
  5. The Netherlands (12)
  6. Greece (12)
  7. Estonia (10)
  8. Azerbaijan (10)
  9. Portugal (10)
  10. Norway (10)
  11. Cyprus (10)
  12. Malta (10)
  13. Czech Republic (10)
  14. Belarus (10)
  15. Russia (8)
  16. Romania (8)
  17. Belgium (8)
  18. Armenia (8)
  19. Iceland (8)
  20. Serbia (8)
  21. Albania (8)
  22. Denmark (7)
  23. Ireland (7)
  24. Lithuania (7)
  25. Finland (7)
  26. Croatia (7)
  27. Australia (7)
  28. Austria (7)
  29. San Marino (7)
  30. Moldova (6)
  31. Montenegro (5)
  32. Latvia (5)
  33. Poland (5)
  34. North Macedonia (4)
  35. Georgia (4)

Well, after weeks of Hungary sitting on top I have a new and unsurprising winner. Grattis Sverige! Stay tuned for the final round of reviews to find out whether France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Spain or the UK can take that top spot for themselves. I promise the verdicts will be posted by the end of this week – definitely before Eurovision Week (the greatest week of the year and the highlight of all our calendars) begins.

In the meantime, enjoy watching and/or hearing about the rehearsals as they continue, and as we get that much closer to crowning the next king/s or queen/s of Eurovision.

 

PS – Don’t forget to rank Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden in the comments so we can have a catfight over who has taste and who clearly doesn’t…

 

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | Previewing + predicting the Melodifestivalen final!

‘CONGRATULATIONS, I HAVE ARRIVED!’ said Melodifestivalen as she strutted into Stockholm this week. After five Saturdays of competition – not the best competition we’ve ever had, but a competition with winners and losers nonetheless – 28 songs have become 12, and we’re about to find out who will represent Sweden at Eurovision 2019.

With reigning champ and future Grammy winner (and I’m not talking about the Swedish Grammis) Benjamin Ingrosso starting the show alongside BFF Felix Sandman, multiple ESC winners making an appearance, and the välkommen return of Lynda Woodruff, we’re in for a treat tonight without even mentioning the competing songs. It’s the last national final night of the season, and I say bring it on. Are you with me? Yes? Then DÅ KÖR VI!!!

 

 

Norrsken (Goeksegh) Jon Henrik Fjällgren

Torn Lisa Ajax

Hello Mohombi

Victorious Lina Hedlund

On My Own Bishara

Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl

Chasing Rivers Nano

Hold You Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO

I Do Me Malou Prytz

Too Late For Love John Lundvik

Not With Me Wiktoria

I Do Arvingarna

 

Well, Christer Björkman wanted a variety show, and what Christer wants, Christer gets (obviously, when he’s the commander-in-chief of such things). We have joik, big ballads, R & B, schlager, country, anthemic pop, bubblegum pop, dansband and a touch of gospel all in one running order. That’s some serious bang for our buck!

Let’s run down the list and I’ll throw in my thoughts on quality, appeal and winning chances along the way. Add yours to the mix in the comments.

 

Norrsken (Goeksegh), Jon Henrik Fjällgren This isn’t my favourite of Fjällgren’s three Melfest entries. In fact, it’s my least favourite – number one, Jag Är Fri, was peak joik for me. But there’s always something magical about what he brings to the buffet, and as usual he is the most distinctive act in the final. And he serenades a reindeer, so there’s that. While I do think Norrsken will be a good opener – and as much as I’d love Sweden to send something ethnic to Eurovision again – I don’t think it will win, and I’ll be surprised if it takes out a top three place like both of JHF’s previous entries have done. 7/10

Torn, Lisa Ajax I hate to repeat myself (I repeat, I hate to repeat myself) but here’s another artist on their third try who has an inferior song up their sleeve instead of being third time lucky. I know people will be outraged that I prefer both My Heart Wants Me Dead and I Don’t Give A to Torn, BUT I JUST DO OKAY?!?!? Having said that, this is a solid song – but it’s too repetitive, Lisa never seems to nail the big attention-grabbing note, and her styling doesn’t suit the song or the staging. All these little missteps worry me. 7/10

Hello, Mohombi A decent percentage of the Swedish population + me = the biggest (and perhaps only) fans of this. I’ll admit that Mohombi’s falsetto in the first semi final wasn’t exactly flawless, but besides that I think this entry is getting too much hate. The staging is cool and entertaining, without copycatting Heroes too much; the song is contemporary, dynamic and catchy; and Mohombi is very telegenic (that’s me trying to say he’s hot without actually saying he’s hot). Wave a magic wand over those wavery vocals, my friend, and this will be a package you can be proud of. 9/10

 

Victorious, Lina Hedlund The Party Voice of 2019 is without a doubt this track, and because there’s no way it’s going to win tonight (or even come close), I’m happy to have it add something classically Swedish and a little bit Alcazar to the final. It might come off even more dated than it is right after Hello, but Lina sells it like her life depends on the commission and looks incredible doing it. I know 40 isn’t ancient, but I don’t look half as stunning as she does and I’m still years away from turning 30. You go, girlfriend. 7/10

On My Own, Bishara The Mohombi Effect strikes again, with Bishara being another act I would have sent DTF á la Sweden, but who has been the topic of a heap of hate talk. That’s all kinds of wrong for starters, since he’s only 16 and this is his very first stage/broadcast experience. I think he’s done brilliantly so far, and shown star quality that might see him return to Melfest when his career’s matured. This is a great debut, the lyrical content VS age debate aside (I do agree – there’s no way Bishara should be saying stuff like ‘I don’t know how to live without you baaaaby’ when he’s barely LIVED). Personally, I’m hoping Spotify streams and the ‘Aww!’ factor suggest a top five finish for On My Own. 9/10

Ashes To Ashes, Anna Bergendahl Nobody has a better narrative heading into this final than Sweden’s only Eurovision non-qualifier. Her 2010 rise and fall feels like it happened yesterday, but it’s been almost a decade – and Anna was worth the wait. Ashes To Ashes is far from being a favourite of mine from these last songs standing, but the themes of redemption and resurrection ring so true with her story that I can’t help getting behind it. And I love the stage foliage and Anna’s amazing sparkly catsuit feat. cape. If she ever gets invited to the Academy Awards for some reason, an outfit repeat will be necessary. 7.5/10

 

Chasing Rivers, Nano Before the first semi, it seemed ridiculous to think that 2017’s televote winner wouldn’t make the final straight away…but here we are, with Nano only scoring his ticket to Friends through Andra Chansen. I actually think this song is on par with Hold On in terms of musical kick-assery. But Nano himself has been off his game for both performances so far, producing average vocals and lacking the down-camera charisma of Mohombi/Bishara/Wiktoria etc. His fate wasn’t to come back and win, clearly. I do hope he joins the three-timer club though – he’s definitely got more to give than this. 8/10

Hold You, Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO It took me a while to warm to this – maybe my standards were too high as a huge fan of both Hanna and LIAMOO. Whatever the case, I have warmed. At this point it’s in my top three of the evening, and I do believe it would make a worthy winner. Hanna is perfection in every department (vocally on point, engaging and drop-dead gorgeous…kind of like myself *flips hair*) and while LIAMOO did fade into the background a bit during the semi performance, rehearsal footage suggests he’s stepped it up and made sure this pairing is a force to be reckoned with. The song is great, the staging is simple but effective, it has broad appeal…all in all, I’d say Hold You is the biggest challenger FTW if we put aside the odds-on favourite (who I’ll get to in a minute). 9/10

I Do Me, Malou Prytz There’s a string of awesome songs in this lineup that starts with Hold You and ends with Not With Me. Am I about to say that I Do Me is the exception? To quote Malou’s stylistic inspiration Cher Horowitz, as if! This is actually right up there in my Melfest 2019 ranking, and I’m still pleasantly surprised it went direkt. It’s so much fun to watch and listen to while marveling at the fact that Malou is younger than Bishara (mind = blown). I adore everything about it and would happily have it win the comp in my fantasy land. 9/10

 

Too Late For Love, John Lundvik It’s not too late for me to love you, Lundvik, because I always have. Granted, I’d never heard of him before he was announced as a 2018 participant (except in passing re: that Royal Wedding thing) but he arrived last year and has somehow managed to arrive in an even bigger way this year. My Turn was a top-notch (albeit talent show winner) ballad, but trying something upbeat has paid off for John, and in my mind will most likely earn him an engraved plaque on that godawful Melfest trophy. The warmth, charisma and joy he and his backing singers are bringing to the comp is second to none. 9/10

Not With Me, Wiktoria I have a major girl crush on Wiktoria. More so on her hair than anything else (which Bilal Hassani has shown me I could purchase for the right price) but I do think she’s altogether beautiful and talented, and that Not With Me is another quality comp contribution from her. There’s nothing I don’t like about it, unless you count the lyrical clichés which I think are canceled out by her impassioned performance, sleek styling and of course, the Ruth Lorenzo rainfall. I mean, how are you supposed to be properly heartbroken if it isn’t pouring down? Girl is singing in the rain and it is working for me. 9.5/10

I Do, Arvingarna Hasse Andersson…Owe Thornqvist…Rolandz…and now Arvingarna. These guys are occupying the traditional throwback space in this final, and I have no complaints. Songs like I Do would be sorely missed from Melfest (by me, at least) if they never popped up. And since we know this isn’t going to threaten for the win, what’s the harm in shamelessly bopping to dansband pop performed by four middle-aged men with millennial hair? Sounds like a nice way to round up the competitive part of the night to me. 6/10

 

 

Who I want to win

To cut a long story short…oh god, I CAN’T cut it short! I’ve just realised how many acts/songs are standing out to me, even though I know some of them aren’t possible winners. If I was held at confetti-cannon-point and forced to choose three, I’d go for Wiktoria, Hanna & LIAMOO and John Lundvik…and then I’d overpower my captor so I could mention Mohombi too, with Bishara and Malou as wildcard backups.

I do want to say that, while I was desperate for Dance You Off to win last year because it had The One written all over it (I may have shed a tear when my dream came true) I don’t feel the same sort of fire about anything in this year’s final. I have feelings, but not feelings so strong that I’m going to cry with happiness again. Maybe next year.

 

Who WILL win

At this point, it does seem like we have a clear winner in John Lundvik. He’s far and away favourite with the bookmakers and has been sitting pretty on top of the Swedish Spotify Top 50 for weeks. I can’t imagine the international juries – from Australia, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Israel, Portugal and the UK – leaning heavily in any other direction. John has so much personality and his performance feels so genuine (but still polished), who wouldn’t be won over? I’m convinced that it’s not a question of will he win, but how much will he win by. And if I’m right (it does happen occasionally), I’ll be satisfied, if not fangirling like crazy, when it comes to Sweden’s entry for Tel Aviv.

Side note: John representing Sweden as a performer AND the UK as a songwriter would be a first for anyone from anywhere. Take that, Željko ‘I can only host and be a songwriter at the same time’ Joksimović!

 

Having said that, he’s not totally untouchable – and if the juries do go in a different direction, and/or the Swedish public’s opinions are widely spread, Hanna & LIAMOO could sneak through and top the table. I wouldn’t put it past Wiktoria or even Anna Bergendahl to pull a shock win out of their nonexistent hats either.

Ultimately, I am sticking with Too Late For Love as my official prediction. And I’ve had a crack at guessing the rest of the results. Laugh at me if you must.

  1. John Lundvik
  2. Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO
  3. Bishara
  4. Wiktoria
  5. Anna Bergendahl
  6. Mohombi
  7. Jon Henrik Fjällgren
  8. Lisa Ajax
  9. Malou Prytz
  10. Lina Hedlund
  11. Nano
  12. Arvingarna

 

 

That brings me to the end of my last Selection Season post for the year. It’s been a hectic but enjoyable season packed with plot twists, contenders and Ukrainian controversy, and I’ll miss it.

Now we enter what is both a boring and exciting time of the Euroyear: the lead-up to Eurovision itself. I’ll be here on the reg, looking back on the NF season and dropping my ESC 2019 reviews. Before that though, follow me on my socials – Twitter especially, @EurovisionByJaz – so we can watch and commentate on Melfest together.

 

Happy End-of-Selection-Season!

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | A four-song Saturday + an A Dal analysis + more Melodifestivalen

In news that will shock no one, it’s Saturday. It’s almost like it comes around every seven days or something! Wild.

On this particular Saturday, ESC NF traffic is pretty high. If you don’t believe me, take a look at tonight’s event list:

  • Denmark Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, final
  • Hungary A Dal, final
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, final
  • Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 2
  • Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 4
  • Ukraine Vidbir, final

Not too shabby, is it? DMGP is shockingly mediocre this year (and so is Melodifestivalen, if I’m honest…what’s up Scandinavia?) but a final is always exciting, and the likes of Hungary and Ukraine are on hand to rescue us from the Scandi-crisis. I’m going to cover a bit of both today – a high and a not-so-high via A Dal and Melfest.

What can I say? I’m always going to make Sweden one of my priorities. But first, Hungary!

 

 

This is it! A Dal is at its most anticipated point, now that 30 songs have become eight with one disqualification along the way (for which Gergő Oláh must be very grateful). Here are the lucky last songs standing:

  • Nyári Zápor Acoustic Planet
  • Szótlanság Bence Vavra
  • Holnap Bogi Nagy
  • Kulcs Fatal Error ­
  • Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
  • Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér
  • Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
  • Roses The Middletonz

It’s a great final lineup, even if it is missing a few of my favourites (on the other hand, the few songs I disliked have also been disposed of). Before I take a stab at guessing the winner and Hungary’s representative at Eurovision 2019, I want to review what’s left while I still have the chance. From my least-loved songs all the way up to my FTW faves, this is my top eight.

Kulcs kicks off my list…at the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it. I’d just file it away under ‘Songs That Are A Lot Like Viszlat Nyár But Not As Good’, and to me that’s not the sort of song Hungary should send to Tel Aviv (particularly so soon after Viszlat). Fatal Error are a little too frantic and noisy for me to rank them any higher.

Next up I’ve got Nyári Zápor, which has surprised me by a) getting this far in the comp, and b) scoring so well with the jury. It’s a nice, feel-good song that I’m happy to listen to in the car or while I’m housecleaning (I vacuum 47% faster accompanied by music, FYI) but I don’t get the hype coming from A Dal’s panel of music pros. Am I continuing to underestimate Acoustic Planet when I say that if they make the “super final” stage tonight I’ll be surprised? Probably.

Szótlanság is another song I thought would have been eliminated by now, but I have to give props to its (performance) props and Bence’s solid vocals. Apart from that I feel like it’s pretty anonymous compared to most of the other songs – Madár, Repülj! and Roses, for instance, are way more distinctive. But it’s still a decent track.

Heading into my top five and the songs I wouldn’t mind seeing in Israel, here’s Holnap. This flew under the radar pre-performance, only to impress a lot of us once brought to life by Bogi. I’m keeping a close eye on it and wouldn’t count it out of winning contention. It’s a simplistic but beautiful ballad, and the fragility of Bogi’s voice is captivating. She doesn’t need to swing from a hoop suspended six feet off the ground to grab attention…but that actually adds value and interest without cheapening a classy song.

Gergő Oláh is lucky to be in the final at all after Hozzád Bújnék replaced Petruska’s Help Me Out of Here earlier this week. I wanted him there all along, so I can’t help being happy that he’s making up the numbers. Of the two traditional ballads in this eight, Hozzád is the more dynamic and powerful one, and Gergő belts it out without breaking a sweat. He won’t win with it, but that’s okay because until he tops Gyóz A Jő I don’t really want him to.

It’s top three time now, and my (hypothetical) bronze medal goes to Gergő No. 2 with Madár, Repülj!. I was confused by this song at first because it’s all over the place structurally and stylistically, but those are the same things I’ve come to appreciate about it. If it goes to Eurovision, it’s sure to be a standout no matter what else is it’s up against. Side note: Gergő is super cute and I want to fly to Hungary expressly to run my fingers through his hair. Is that weird?

Funnily enough, I’ve ranked what I think is the best song in this final 2nd overall (you’ll get an explanation in a minute). I’m talking about Roses, easily the best effort from András Kalláy-Saunders in A Dal since Running. This song is contemporary, radio-friendly, original and has more hooks than a fishing supplies superstore. To top it off, I thought it might be disastrous when The Middletonz performed it live, but they NAILED it. Sadly it hasn’t had a heap of jury support, but the public vote has been strong – so if they manage to make the top four tonight a win isn’t out of the question.

Last but obviously not least is Az Én Apám. This is a sentimental favourite of mine because it’s Joci Pápai and I could not adore this guy more. His song might be more understated than Roses – and basically everything else left in the comp besides Holnap – but there’s something spellbinding about Joci’s musical style, vocals and authenticity on stage that makes my heart beat faster. And if you Google the lyrical translation of Az Én Apám (non-Hungarian speakers) and don’t experience some feels, why the heck not?!? To sum up, Joci’s sequel to Origo in terms of A Dal entries was always bound to be my most-loved track of the NF.

So there you have it. Unfortunately, I have no say in the actual results tonight. All I can do is predict them, which is the logical next step, so here goes.

Being methodical and looking at the scores from the heats helped me guess last week’s qualifiers pretty accurately, so I’ve done the same this time with the semi scores. If you do it too you’ll end up with these guys as your frontrunners:

  • Joci Pápai 36 jury, 9 televote = 45
  • Acoustic Planet 37 jury, 8 televote = 45
  • Gergő Szekér 34 jury, 9 televote = 43
  • Bence Vavra 34 jury, 8 televote = 42
  • Bogi Nagy 34 jury, 8 televote = 42

Joci is in prime position despite receiving a slightly lower jury score than Acoustic Planet. Because his public vote score was higher, if both acts make it into the final four with 100% televote deciding the winner, Joci will have the edge. Gergő is a safe bet to accompany Joci and/or Acoustic Planet to that last decider, having had jury AND televote appeal at each point of the process.

This is where it gets tricky. Bence and Bogi can’t be separated based on their semi results, except to say that Bence placed equal 2nd in his semi while Bogi placed 3rd (but that just speaks to a more competitive second semi). And we shouldn’t assume that another act entirely – and I’m thinking of The Middletonz when I say this – won’t rise in the jury’s eyes on this occasion and score themselves a spot in that all-important four. If Roses does do it, the public backing is there (with a 9 on the televote in its semi) to potentially win. As annoying as it is, however, the jury is more likely to roadblock it while paving the way for something they’ve liked better previously.

Let’s get down to business. I’ve made my decision (after way too much INdecision) and this is the top four I’m going with:

  • Joci Pápai
  • Acoustic Planet
  • Gergő Szekér
  • Bogi Nagy

Once the A Dal jury input becomes irrelevant and it’s all about that public vote, there’ll probably be a battle between the male soloists. My heart wants Joci to win again and take his magical self to Tel Aviv, but my head is saying it’s Gergő who’s going. And you know what? I won’t have any complaints about that. In fact, if Hungary chooses a song that isn’t Kulcs/Nyári Zápor/Szótlanság, I’ll have the opposite of resting bitch face – and if they choose Roses/Az Én Apám/Madár, Repülj!, I’ll have a new no. 1 in my Eurovision 2019 ranking so far.

But yes, I’m officially predicting victory for Gergő Szekér. How about you?

 

 

 

Moving on to the last straightforward Melfest semi now, and…well, it’s been an underwhelming edition of the show to say the least. I’m easily pleased as Eurofans go and have liked most of the entries. But at the same time, there’s been hardly anything to love with a passion and literally nothing that has made me sit up, take notice and proclaim it The One for 2019.

I’m actually concerned that Sweden could be looking at a 2013-esque result off the back of last year’s televoting disaster. The upper right side of the ESC scoreboard would be a win for some countries, but not for a country that has only finished outside of the top 10 once and won twice in the last eight contests. But I might just be getting ahead of myself.

Let’s look at tonight’s seven. For all I know, The One is right here:

  1. Stormbringer Pagan Fury
  2. Känner Dig Anton Hagman
  3. Torn Lisa Ajax
  4. I Do Arvingarna
  5. On My Own Bishara
  6. Kärleken Finns Kvar Ann-Louise Hanson
  7. Too Late For Love John Lundvik

It’s a deltävling full of familiar faces, with Anton and Lisa already having competed against each other in the 2017 final. Lisa came out on top then, and I’ll tell you if I think she’ll do the same now or not after I’ve mentioned my personal favourites from this semi.

My top four Too Late for Love, Torn, On My Own and Känner Dig. I knew John Lundvik and Bishara (with Benjamin Ingrosso backing him as a songwriter) would be my 4th semi highlights as soon as their names were announced. That’s because I loved Lundvik last year; and because Bishara is adorable in every way, and as an Ingrosso fangirl from way back their collab was made for me. Lundvik going uptempo and Bishara sticking with what works for his voice/image is working for me so far.

Benjamin Ingrosso is back! Is it just me or does he look a little different?

Lisa Ajax is another artist I’ve cheered for previously in Melfest, and though I prefer I Don’t Give A to this latest entry (which you can tell was originally meant for Loreen), I think Torn could be more successful for her. It’s a moody ballad with sparse verses and a belter of a chorus, and I’m curious to see how she handles it live. There won’t be any toilet paper hanging from the roof or useless but pretty raincoats this time, that’s for sure!

And yes, I enjoy a bit of Anton Hagman even if nobody else does. I mean, if he butchers Känner Dig tonight we can just hit mute and look at him, right?

So, who’s going direkt? John Lundvik and Bishara. But take this with a grain of salt because I actually have NO IDEA. Turning to either the odds or the rehearsal poll (which was topped by these two) isn’t helpful when you consider how wrong those indicators have been for the last few shows. I think this prediction is more of what I want than what I’ll get – but Lundvik is a safe bet and the most likely to go DTF. Bishara could be too JESC, or could score well with tweens, teens, mums and grandparents all over Sweden. Based on rehearsal reports I’m not convinced Lisa will have more mass appeal than he does.

Who’s getting a second chance?  Arvingarna and Lisa Ajax with the possibility of a Pagan Fury curveball. Arvingarna has their Melfest/ESC history and nostalgic brand of musical Prozac to stand on, and I think they could actually squeeze straight in to the final…but I’ll leave them with AC. Lisa could blow everyone’s minds or underwhelm, and that’s the kind of risky business that deserves a compromise (though I’d happily have her in the final in a way that Wiktoria would not). If one of these guys only gets as far as 5th place, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stormbringer slip in to Andra Chansen instead.

 

 

And that concludes this monster of a prediction post in which I didn’t actually do much predicting. It’s not always the fun part, to be honest.

Let me know what YOU think will happen tonight, anywhere and everywhere in Europe. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @EurovisionByJaz, for catty selection show comments and first impressions of the songs for Tel Aviv as they come along. I’ll follow back if you like to talk about Eurovision and send me some freshly-baked cookies!

 

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A results rundown, Malta’s musical half-marathon + the Swedish spectacular starts again!

Welcome to another triple S – Selection Season Saturday! This is the first SSS of what will be a frantic February on the Eurovision NF calendar. Seriously, BRACE YOURSELVES. We do get to ease into things though, with five pan-European heats, semis and finals happening tonight instead of 500 (or what feels like 500. Those Saturdays are still to come).

Those five ESC warm-ups are in Hungary (A Dal Heat 3), Latvia (Supernova semi 1), Lithuania (Eurovizija Heat 4), Malta (MESC final) and *screams* Sweden (Melodifestivalen Heat 1). I cannot believe Melfest is kicking off again – this time last year, I was figuring out what to shove in my suitcase before flying off to Stockholm for the final. I might be watching from afar in Australia this time around, but that doesn’t mean I’m not practically peeing my pants with excitement. In case it’s not obvious enough, I’m a Melfest freak and will definitely be sacrificing all other NFs for Sweden’s over the coming month-and-a-half (unless Dansk MGP turns out to be unmissable). And, naturally, I’m going to discuss Melfest’s first heat/deltävling in detail in this post – plus run my eye over all the pre-Eurovision results and internal selections from the past seven days, AND ramble on about Malta for a while too.

Let’s get started…and finished, so you can hit up my comments box with your opinions + predictions before this evening’s shows get underway.

  

Cyprus stopped the rumour mill turning fast by announcing Eleni Foureira (not Helena Paparizou) as their act for 2018. She’s heading to Lisbon with Fuego, which will be unveiled in March – but it was written by pop powerhouse Alex P, the man behind Yassou Maria by Sarbel, Always by Aysel and Arash, and La La Love by Ivi Adamou. In other words, he’s yet to send a dud track to Eurovision, and my hopes are sky-high for this latest entry. All I know about Eleni at this stage is that she’s tried to represent Greece a handful of times in the past…so if Greece is beaten by Cyprus this year, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves!

The Czech Republic MERCIFULLY chose Mikolas Josef and Lie To Me as their (clearly best-ever) entry on Monday, which eased my French pain a little (I’ll talk about that in second). This song is so catchy, so irresistible, and yes – so inappropriate. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the lyrical content Mikolas will have to rewrite/tweak (Robin Bengtsson can offer advice on how to seamlessly transition from ‘f**king’ to ‘freaking’) to satisfy the EBU. Can he please keep the bamboo bit? It’s brilliant.

Oh, France. Sacre bleu! Okay, so I’m not mad at them for making Mercy by Madame Monsieur the Destination Eurovision winner last Saturday – it’s a great song with a great story to tell. The only reason my heart still hurts is because I was major-league invested in Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva, and to see him put in the flawless performance he did only to get pipped in the public vote put the Eva into devastating. On the plus side, my winner prediction was correct. Woohoo/sadface.

We have an artist and a to-be-heard song from Ireland, with Britain’s Got Talent alum Ryan O’Shaughnessy (who according to Wikipedia is the nephew of Gary O’Shaughnessy, representative of Ireland in 2001…is this the truth?) off to Portugal with Together. I hope it’s not lame like the title would suggest – Ryan’s described it as a power ballad with a gospel feel, which to me sounds like a Sam Smith knockoff (I would not be opposed to that BTW).

 Spain tested all of us who feel uncomfortable when witnessing a PDA by selecting Alfred & Amaia, newly minted #couplegoals, to pick up where Slovenia’s Platin left off in 2004. MWAH. Their song Tu Canción is sweet, and I hope they don’t break up before the contest…if they do, their performance might look more like this:

 

Anyway…

 

 

What would we do without the mammoth, Mediterranean Bank-sponsored Maltese national final in our lives? Granted, it’s not as mammoth as it used to be (and I’m not even sure MedBank are involved these days), but MESC still has its own unique attractions – the cheesy lyrical content, numerous Borgs and Micallefs, and artists who just keep coming back no matter how many times they don’t make it to Eurovision (you know I’m thinking of Deborah C). I wouldn’t want it any other way (so please don’t get offended if you’re Maltese or pro-Malta…I’m just calling things as I see them in an affectionate way, K?).

This year, sixteen acts will be whittled down to one in a single night – brutal! It will probably take the entire night, though. As a sloth in a human suit, I can totally relate to Malta taking things slooooowly. Here’s the line-up for this evening: 

  1. Dai Laga, AIDAN
  2. Rocket, Miriana Conte
  3. Supernovas, Jasmine Abela
  4. Call 2morrow, Matthew Anthony
  5. One Step At A Time, Danica Muscat
  6. Breaking Point, Dwett
  7. Love Renegade, Lawrence Gray
  8. Song For Dad, Richard & Joe Micallef
  9. First Time, Tiziana Calleja
  10. Back To Life, Eleanor Cassar
  11. Beyond Blue Horizons, Rhiannon
  12. Heart of Gold, Brooke
  13. Taboo, Christabelle
  14. Turn It Up, Deborah C
  15. We Can Run, Avenue Sky
  16. Evolution, Petra 

There are actually not that many returnees in this bunch, but Deborah C is worth about five with the amount of times she’s had a bash at the comp. There are a handful of new faces too, and that seems to have come hand-in-hand with some songs that aren’t what we’re used to hearing from our favourite tiny island. So which ones am I hoping will appear on Spotify so I can listen to them because I want to, not because I have to?

 

My top 5

Rocket I feel like I’m at a party for one having this as my favourite, but I reckon it’s underrated. Ultra-catchy, youthful enough for 16-year-old Miriana without sounding like it should be at JESC rather than MESC, and lyrically adequate (as in they make sense and don’t resort to love/above type stuff), it’s got everything going for it. Wouldn’t be out of place in a Melfest semi. 9/10.

Heart of Gold As much of a Wiktoria Lay Me Down tribute as this is, there’s a reason we all fell head-over-heels for that. Some of the same country-pop charm pops up here, as does the weirdest lyrical concept in history – ‘You’re a pack of wolves with a heart of gold’. WOT?!? Still, sometimes all I need to enjoy something is an infectious tune, and HOG’s got one. 8.5/10.

Call 2morrow I can’t believe I’m rooting for a song with a painfully 2000s number in the title. I mean, I literally messaged this exact phrase to my friends on my Nokia 3310 when I was 13. But regardless, the song itself is surprisingly un-Malta and on the right side of alt-pop to appeal to me. Points added for ‘Does your body still remember my bed’; points off for the use of the word ‘cuddle’. 8/10.

Song For Dad This is so corny and so cheesy, I’ve taken to calling it a musical quesadilla. But I am a big fan of Mexican food, so that doesn’t mean I’m totally turned off by Richard & Joe’s familial love-fest (just partially turned off by the clichéd lyrics re: standing by someone’s side when times get tough and blah blah blah *reaches for a sick bag*). The folksy feel and melody are pretty palatable, and I’m always a sucker for Richard’s singing voice. 7.5/10.

Taboo Firstly, I’ve got to say it: this is not Christabelle at her best. Secondly I’ll say that she’s still decent, even without a song on par with the sensational Rush from 2015. Clunky, mixed-metaphor lyrics (a trend for MESC 2018 apparently) and a dated dubstep breakdown do not stop Taboo from being one of the most memorable and modern tracks competing tonight. 7.5/10.

 

Predicting the winner

MESC is often an easy nut to crack when it comes to predicting the outcome, but an occasional curveball (plus my strangely amateurish prediction skills…only been doing it for 12 years, guys) zaps my confidence a bit.

My top three educated guesses for the win are Jasmine Abela (we share a name! I have to show her some love), Richard & Joe and Brooke, with Christabelle trailing behind because I just don’t see Taboo as winner material. If I were a betting woman, I’d be dropping my cash on Brooke. It seems like it might be third time lucky for her.

Will Malta gravitate towards Jasmine’s power ballad, Richard & Joe’s sugar overload or Brooke’s expensive and heavy aortic pump (Heart of Gold has more of a ring to it, I’ll admit) OR will I be wrong for the first time this selection season? Tune in to the MESC 2018 final from 21:00 CET here to find out – and while you’re waiting for the show to start (assuming you’re a weirdo who’d willingly sacrifice a Melfest semi for MESC) let me know who your tip is to represent Malta in Lisbon below.

 

 

If anyone tries to tell you that Melodifestivalen ISN’T the cream of the NF crop, they are a) delusional, b) lying, or c) have their own opinion which is totally fine, each to their own etc. But my favourite selection show has always been Melfest, and my unconditional love was strengthened even more by my final visit in 2017 (FYI I will be mentioning it every chance I get this season). Needless to say, even though I already said it in the intro, I am pumped like a bicycle tyre for the six-week extravaganza to start again. Tonight’s first heat will see seven acts – including vintage Eurovision legend Kikki Danielsson – go head-to-head in Karlstad for two final places and two second chances.

  1. Patrick Swayze, Sigrid Bernson
  2. My Turn, John Lundvik
  3. All The Feels, Renaida
  4. Livet På En Pinne, Edward Blom
  5. Osby Tennessee, Kikki Danielsson
  6. Solen Lever Kvar Hos Dig, Kamferdrops
  7. Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso

The Eurofan community has been mouthing off about the “weakness” of this heat (based, might I add, on audio snippets and rehearsal glimpses) but my motto is that first impressions never last. Besides, it only takes one amazing song to succeed or even win Eurovision – which isn’t SVT’s first priority at this stage anyway. The priority is to put on another ratings-magnet variety show for us all to dissect on Twitter. One step at a time, people.

I do feel like the best of Melfest 2018 is yet to come, but I’ve warmed up to a lot of the songs in this heat despite that. Have you? Speak up in the comments!

 

My top 4

Dance You Off Benjamin’s Melfest debut last year was an awesome one IMO, and if I were ten years younger I would 110% have a poster of him on my wall. DYO sounds more like Good Lovin’ than his post-Melfest 2017 singles did, and that’s fine because he can do no wrong. I’m very keen to see his performance, which has been choreographed by Robin Bengtsson’s treadmill consultant.*

*I made this job title up, but WHAT A CAREER THAT WOULD BE!

Based on his song title, Benjamin won’t be doing this on stage.

Solen Lever Kvar Hos Dig It’s like Jamie-Lee Kriewitz took up residence on Kamferdrops’ face and just stayed there, isn’t it? That aside, there’s something dreamy about this track that makes me want to hear more. It’s schlager, 2018-style. In the club. With sequined tracksuits.

My Turn A good power ballad can do wonders, and this sounds like it could be a darn good PB. It stands out for the right reasons even in the slot of death (which is more like a lot of grievous bodily harm in a seven-song show).

All The Feels Well, at least there’s not a hashtag shoehorned into the title as well. When you have all the feels, I guess you just have to express it through song – and Renaida’s expression is nicely in keeping with the Dua Lipa/Zara Larsson badass lady pop genre.

 

So, who’s going direkt til final? Benjamin Ingrosso + John Lundvik. Benjamin was the hot fave for this heat (pun actually not intended) but it was John who won the audience poll post-rehearsals. I thought he was being underrated, so that’s a relief. If he and Mr. Ingrosso do go direkt, I’ll be happy.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Edward Blom + Kamferdrops. Edward sounds like he’s putting on the kind of Broadway-esque, “humorous” performance usually put on by the host/s before the actual competition starts, and since I think it’s ridiculous I wouldn’t put it past Sweden to send it to AC. Kamferdrops, my spidey senses tell me, could be left out of the top four entirely, but nobody’s really fighting for fourth place, so I’m having a wishful guess. Otherwise it could be Renaida squeaking through.

 

What do you think? Can you predict how Sweden will vote, or are you as unsure as I am?

  

 

NF UPDATE: WHAT’S NEXT?

Here’s what’s on offer in the lead-up to the next Super Saturday.

  • Sunday 4/2 Romania: (Selecția Națională semi 3), Switzerland (Entscheidungsshow final)
  • Tuesday 6/2 Italy (Sanremo night 1)
  • Wednesday 7/2 Italy (Sanremo night 2), United Kingdom (You Decide final)
  • Thursday 8/2 Italy (Sanremo night 3)
  • Friday 9/2 Italy (Sanremo night 4), San Marino (1in360 night 1)

Which show are you most excited for?

 

 

Well, I reckon I’ve said enough for one night. Aren’t you glad I didn’t review every NF of the evening? My typing fingers sure are.

I’m off now to get my traditional power nap before that pesky alarm goes off at 3am (livin’ that unfortunate time zone life as always). Don’t forget to join yours truly on Twitter then so we can try to out-zinger each other (Vocals! Costumes! Props! Results! David Lindgren’s antics! There’s so much stuff to critique) – just follow me @EurovisionByJaz. It’s going to be a fun one, guys!

 

Until then,