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Selection Season Day 3: Icelandic, Maltese and Scandinavian action

Do you know what day it is? No, it isn’t some important anniversary that you’ve forgotten about (although, if you missed my birthday last year I’m still not speaking to you. Harumph!). It is, of course, Super Saturday – the first Super Saturday of the selection season. Tonight, both Iceland and Malta wrap up their national finals (which for Malta pretty much means going through the same lengthy process that they did for last night’s semi), Norway gives away three more spots in the MGP final, and host country Sweden kicks off my absolute favourite NF, Melodifestivalen.* Boy, there is going to be a lot of results to squeal about/be horrified by on Sunday morning! That’s if you aren’t planning on watching any of the finals. For those who are otherwise engaged or just need their beauty sleep, and those who will be tuning in, here’s an overview of the SS schedule, with 23% more picks and predictions and no added sugar.

* I know there are even more things happening, but I am just a mere mortal and can’t feasibly cover them all. Sob.  

 

Söngvakeppnin: Who will follow Salomé (and Jónsi)?

Honestly, I haven’t got a heap to say about Iceland at this point. I’ve decided to make Söngvakeppnin one of the finals for which I don’t listen to all the songs and get my hopes up about which one I want to win, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t. This year, I’ll be listening to the island’s rep for the first time with zero expectations…unless it’s Birgitta. There’ll be a few expectations there.

Anyway, this is the field of competitors who’ll be battling it out for a ticket to Malmö:

  1. Ekki Líta Undan by Magni Ásgeirsson
  2. Lífið Snýst by Svavar & Hreindís
  3. Ég á Líf by Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson
  4. Meðal Andanna by Birgitta Haukdal
  5. Til þín by Jógvan Hansen & Stefanía Svavarsdóttir
  6. Vinátta by Haraldur Reynisson
  7. Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir

Lucky number one Magni was the wildcard finalist, so it’s unlikely he’ll win. That’s good news for the others, who now have a 1 in 6 chance of success. Kind of.

And that’s about it from me, apart from a warning I feel I must give you: try not to fall in love with the Icelandic version of the winning song, won’t you? It will no doubt be rewritten in or reverted back to English about five seconds after the reprise. 

 

Malta’s mini ESC

Ah, Malta. Malta and their strange, strange ways. It is a mystery to me why they even have a semi final when they don’t use it to weed out all of the average stuff. Last night, as always, the initial round took place and zapped many people of the will to live with its immense length. 16 of the 24 entries made it through to the final (what an achievement! The odds were in nobody’s favour!) and tonight will be more of the same. Or slightly less of the same, it’s still a ridiculous setup. The less songs there are to choose from, the less chance voters are going to make a mistake, right?

Well, it is what it is, and what it is…well, is, a mammoth final full of artists we’ve seen try to get to Eurovision time and time again – Richard Edwards, Dorothy Bezzina, Claudia Faniello and Amber, to name a few. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them come out on top. But the one I want most for Malmö is Kevin Borg, who tried to represent Malta before he moved to Sweden…and won Swedish Idol. That win means two things – firstly, he can sing and sing well, and secondly, if he goes to Eurovision the Swedish public will probably back him – and that bodes well for a decent Maltese showing. 

Kevin Borg, trying to locate the end of the MESC national final

Kevin Borg, trying to locate the end of the MESC national final

Of course, what I want and what we’ll get are very different things, and since I haven’t had a spare 5364849 hours to listen to all of Malta’s options, anyone could win. I just hope the best choice possible is made.

 

Norsk MGP, semi number three

There are just four places left in the Norwegian final for 2013 – three for tonight’s qualifiers and one for a usually random and undeserving wildcard. This last semi has a bit of everything to choose from: soft-metal, dance, country, pop-rock, tropical hip-hop…you get the picture. I’ve found I can’t trust Norway to choose the best offerings (IMO) when there’s a lot of same-same, so it will be interesting to see where the votes go here.

  1. Utopia by Gothminister
  2. Bombo by Adelén
  3. Sweet and Heavy by Lucky Lips
  4. Awake by Gaute Ormåsen
  5. The Young by Anina
  6. Not Afraid by Winta
  7. I Love You Te Quiero by Sirkus Eliassen

These are the entries I’d be texting my thumbs off for if I could:

Bombo – I knew I was going to love this just from the title, and if you liked Mandinga in Baku you’ll probably love it too. It has more of a dance feel than Zaleilah, but it’s a similarly irresistible fusion of Spanish and English that will get you bum-shaking in no time. Norway has sent ethno-pop to the ESC two years in a row now, and I’d be thrilled if they did it again.

Awake – this is unassuming, radio-friendly fodder that could get stuck in the semi just as easily as it could slip into the final. But it’s enjoyable to listen to, and in this instance that’s enough for me.

I Love You Te Quiero a Norwegian version of Trackshittaz, anyone? This is another (part) Spanglish gem with a super catchy chorus, and is one of the few almost guaranteed to be as good live as it is in studio. Watch out for these guys.

 So those are my preferences. But (you knew that was coming) I’m predicting advancement for Gothminister, Lucky Lips and Anina this evening, with Anina the only one of the three I wouldn’t mind winning MGP. At the moment, the forerunners are Gromth and Margaret Berger, who won their respective semis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Last year, Tooji placed second in his semi before storming to victory in the final. So if your favourite song didn’t beat all the others, don’t despair.

 

Last, but not at all least: Melodifestivalen!  

If you can hear woo-hooing from wherever you are right now, it’s just me. I am SO pumped for Melfest, and I can’t believe how fast it has rolled around.

melodifestivalen2013ql1_

Semi #1 will be held in Karlskrona, and whilst most of the artists I’m dying to see are in later semis, the lineup is impressive. And here it is.

  1. Skyline by David Lindgren
  2. Burning Flags by Cookies ‘N’ Beans
  3. Paris by Jay-Jay Johanson
  4. Gosa by Mary N’diaye
  5. Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Förlora by Eric Gadd
  6. Heartbreak Hotel by YOHIO
  7. Porslin by Anna Järvinen
  8. We’re Still Kids by Michael Feiner & Caisa

As I write this, it’s mid-afternoon and the full songs are yet to be released, so I’ll have to get back to you with my picks and predictions in a few hours.

A few hours later…

I’m back! And sorry to say, quite disappointed. The first semi of Melfest 2012 was all ‘bam! Bam! BAM!’, the bams naturally representing one awesome song after another. This year, it was more like ‘poof. Poof. Poof?’ However, I don’t believe you can 100% make up your mind on a song by the first listen, so I’ll wait for these to grow on me. The best at this point, for me, are:

Burning Flags this is a side of Fredrik Kempe I don’t think I’ve seen before, but I like it. The chorus is killer (though I don’t get how anyone’s supposed to see those burning flags if their eyes are closed) and the whole thing is generally powerful. I mean, it makes me feel like I could bench press my couch or something.

Gosa no other song in Melfest this year is likely to have the title repeated in it as often as this. It’s tribal, it’s dance, it’s a little bit nuts…I’m sold.

Heartbreak Hotel can I just take a second to say what a beautiful creature YOHIO is? He is a stunning example of androgynous flesh. Anyway, his entry is more hardcore than you’d expect, but far from reaching the hideousness level of Gromth in MGP. The bridge kicks butt.

We’re Still Kids is that Epic Sax Guy I hear backing Michael and Caisa? Unfortunately not, but this song makes me think of him and that’s good enough.

Now, who will go where? In case you’re a Melfest newbie, there are two final tickets up for grabs per semi, as well as two spots in the Andra Chansen (Second Chance) round. And I’m about to tell you who’ll get them. Maybe.

For the final, it’s Cookies ‘N’ Beans (also known as Biscuits ‘N’ Lentils) and YOHIO as far as I’m concerned, but I’m also prepared to be spectacularly wrong. I think we’ll see a Timoteij situation with David Lindgren, who’ll go to Andra alongside Anna Järvinen.

Or will he…because I can never ever be sure.

 

If you’re still there, congrats on making it all the way through this post, and I’m sorry if I sucked more energy out of you than the Maltese semi. There’s just so much happening in ESC-land as we speak, I could ramble on about it for ages. And basically have.

See you on the other side of Super Saturday!

EBJ Signature

 

Belarus, Bellarosa and Sean Banan (again): catching up on the 2013 season

Now that the JESC 2012 season is over, it’s time for another one to begin – namely, the 2013 Eurovision selection season. A lot of stuff has happened since the last time I referred to something Malmö-related and now, and I’m itching to talk about some of it. Not all of it…I mean, unless you’ve got all day. No? Well then.

 

Belarus ready for Eurofest 2012

Knowing they aren’t likely to win Eurovision next year, Belarus evidently decided they’d try and win the competition for First Confirmed Malmö Entry instead (to Switzerland’s annoyance). Either that or they’re just making sure there’s enough time to thoroughly investigate and then dethrone their initial winner for cheating. Whichever. The point is that their national final is tonight. Hashtag woohoo!

The field is 10-strong this year, and its fairly high standard puts other line-ups to shame (to Switzerland’s further annoyance). Here are my thoughts on the entries, in running order. Only one – or possibly two since this is Belarus – will be vying for the ESC trophy in May.   

1. I Wonder How You by Vitaly Voronko – The lyrics are silly, his voice and English pronunciations are strange and the song is seriously 90s…but I really (guiltily) like it. It’s just as summery and catchy as it is dated and off-the-wall. I know it has less chance of winning than Jessy Matador in a Dana International lookalike contest, but it’s already won a place on my iPod.

2. I Love Your Charming Eyes by Max Lorens – Aaaaaannd the award for Most Ridiculous Song Title of Eurofest 2012 goes to…this guy! If you love my charming eyes that’s great, but don’t write a song about it because that expression is used by absolutely no one and does not work lyrically. Also, Max sounds like he’s straining to get every word out, and I don’t think a burst blood vessel would be conducive to him winning. Having said all of the above, I do like this song.

3. Rhythm of Love by Alena Lanskaya – Say hello to the best song of the bunch, in my opinion (if you don’t want my opinion, I have no idea why you’re reading this blog). It’s a real shame Alena is still tainted by the whole winning-then-being-disqualified-due-to-rigging thing of last year, because this is a song that actually deserves to win. It’s a polished dance number with a whiff of Love Unlimited, and something unexpected from the woman who made me want to kill myself with her last entry.

4. Letter to Mother by Yan Jenchak – a typical Eastern European ballad very close to crossing the border into Blandsville USA. It’s not quite as depressing as Alena’s would-be-winner, but I’m in the mood for something livelier to go to Malmö, aren’t you?

5. Incredible Girl by Bever Band – I don’t know how I feel about these wacky, almost-novelty songs that crop up in every second national final. I do know that I prefer them when the singer has not been living on a diet of gravel and sandpaper for the last ten years, as Mr. Bever Band apparently has.

6. Catch Me Again by Daria – This is a sweet and sunny song with a retro vibe which for some reason reminds me of Satellite. It’s nice enough – certainly the happier, livelier sound I was looking for – but it doesn’t really impress me.

7. Secret by Uzari – This guy was responsible for one of my favourite songs in Eurofest last year, and again, I’m liking what he has to offer. This song is quite unusual, mystical even (it makes me think Lord of the Rings) and it seems to be better live than in studio, which would obviously be good for Eurovision purposes.

8. One Way Love by Alexey Gross – This song could easily have been ripped from Dima Bilan’s back catalogue, which is fine by me because I am a big Dima fan. The lyrics aren’t too clichéd (‘start’ isn’t rhymed with ‘heart’ in the chorus. Shocker!) and his English isn’t too accent-heavy. I would be happy if this won.

9. Save Me by Nuteki – As much as I liked Litesound, please can we not have another soft-rock entry from Belarus so soon? I’d call this one ‘inoffensive’ which is code for ‘yawn-worthy’. There’s nothing terrible about it, but nothing inspiring or original either.

10. Get Out of My Way by Satsura – I am so naming one of my kids Satsura. And if I don’t have any, I’m going to name someone else’s kid Satsura. That’s how much I love that name, but do I love the song? I think I could. It’s dance, but with toughness. Being the last song out and following on from r & b and rock may work for it.

My top five: I Wonder How You, Rhythm of Love, Secret, One Way Love and Get Out of My Way. There’s a 50% chance one of them will go to Sweden, and if that happens I will be a happy fan. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be Alena. As far as I know she had nothing to do with the rigging of her song last year, and now that she’s come back with something better and different she deserves the chance to make it all the way to Eurovision.

So who will win? If Belarus want the best shot at success, they’ll go for Alena, Daria or Uzari. I suspect the victor will be Bever Band (unfortunately), Daria, or Nuteki. In just a few hours, we’ll know for sure.

 

Belgium backs Bellarosa

RBBFor the second year in a row, Belgium has been quick to internally select a seventeen-year-old brunette as their representative (which worked so well for them in 2011). This time, it’s The Voice Belgique himself, Roberto Bellarosa. Everything apart from Roberto being a dude is looking very similar to last year, which worries me because, despite the promising pick of Iris, we ended up with the dreariest national final ever which resulted in the dreariest entry of Baku 2012. But I for one am willing to give them the chance to redeem themselves. Roberto has a lot going for him – he can sing (duh), he’s young and relatively fresh, and he’s a good-looking guy (kind of like a preppy Eric Saade) which I have to acknowledge despite being too old to think so. I just hope he’s more Tom Dice than Iris.

If the three songs he’ll be performing at the December 16th final are modeled after any of Belgium’s JESC entries, or his debut single Je Crois, that will be great. But even if he comes out and coughs into a vocoder for three minutes he’ll probably do better than Iris when he gets to the big show. Power to him.

 

The Melodifestivalen line-up complete

Everyone’s favourite national final (fact) and the one that will choose the host entry – and therefore the entry that will receive the wildest round of applause – has published the names, song titles and composers taking part in 2013. As usual, there are more recognisable names than not, and I cannot wait for things to kick off in February. You’ve probably seen the list, but here are the names I’m most excited about.

Yohio – despite being a Swedish teenager, everyone thinks he’s an Asian pop starlet.

David Lindgren – returning with the promisingly named Skyline.

Sean Banan – I loved him last year, bananas/bums and all. He’ll bring some slightly offensive fun to the program.

Tone Damli – she lost to Alexander Rybak in Norway’s 09 NF and recently duetted with Eric Saade. She’s got a partner for this too, and I’m already seeing her in the final.

Martin Rolinski – the former lead singer of Melodifestivalen pros BWO. If we can’t have them, maybe we can have the second-best thing.

Amanda Fondell: all white with being in Melodifestivalen

Robin Stjernberg – Eric Saade’s former bandmate and runner-up of Swedish Idol in 2010.

Amanda Fondell (left) – and who beat Robin in Idol? Amanda. This girl has a really unique voice and her winner’s single All This Way (co-written by Darin, another runner-up, MF entrant and one of my favourite artists) is amazing.

Ulrik Munther – another returnee I loved last year. He came third and must be hoping to do better with a song co-composed by himself and Thomas G:son.

If you’re an MF fan, let me know who you’ll be rooting for come show time.

 

Malta’s list of choice

Shockingly, next year’s Maltese final will not include Fabrizio Faniello. He entered, of course, along with all the other singers on the island who enter every time, but was booted out at the last stage to make way for such repeat offenders as Danica Muscat, Richard Edwards, Racquela and Klinsmann. Those ladies and gents have all put forward good songs over the last few years, so I don’t mind the Fabrizio sacrifice too much.

The one name that I’m happiest to see made the cut is Kevin Borg, who participated in the 2006/07 finals before moving to Sweden and winning Swedish Idol in 2008. Malta is going to be an easier nut for him to crack than Sweden in terms of getting to the ESC, and I would love to see him there.

 

Cyprus is in, and they’ve got a name

Or have they? In the space of a few days, Cyprus went from possible withdrawal to confirmation, and an alleged internal selection was quick to follow. Giorgos Papadopoulos has been bandied about as their choice for 2013, but without an official statement, and most worryingly, without his name appearing on the ESC 2013 Wikipedia page, it’s far from carved in stone. As long as they’re going to be at the contest, I don’t mind who they send.

 

Who’s in and who’s out

So far, we have approximately 16 countries per semi final which is nothing to sneeze at. But with Portugal, Poland and Slovakia out and money troubles plaguing others (including Greece) this could be a more intimate Eurovision than SVT envisioned. I am surprised we’ve got as many as we do at this point, though, what with the scandalous running order situation. I’m guessing Greece will find a way to make it to Malmö (if they start now they could walk there instead of paying for flights) and with any luck we’ll have 40 confirmations in the near future.

 

I know all of the above is old news, but JESC month was a busy one and I just didn’t have time to discuss anything else (life can get so hectic sometimes). Thanks to Belarus, selection season is about to get underway, so it’s well and truly back to big Eurovision. At least for now, mwahahahahaha!

 

What’s been your favourite bit of 2013 news so far? Who do you think will win the Belarusian final tonight?