Didn’t see this coming in the wake of last week’s top 5 performances of 2017 countdown? Well, neither did I. Consider my face officially palmed.
I actually have the awesome Anita from Eurovision Union to thank for inspiring this companion piece to that post: a countdown of the countries that didn’t, in my opinion, get it all right in terms of their song’s staging and/or performance in Kyiv. I’ve deliberately not made this about the five worst performances, since there wasn’t a single country that I’d say got everything wrong (although one came close). Instead, I’ve singled out the elements in a handful of acts – dodgy vocals, horrifying costume choices, bad backdrops etc – that dragged them down…and in the case of a few, may have had a hand in their non-qualifications.
Have your say on the biggest stuff-ups of Eurovision 2017 in the comments. Remember, honesty is the best policy (and there’s no fun in 24/7 sunshine and rainbows, so get critical!).
Oh, BTW – you can (and should!) still vote in the People’s Choice polls of the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. They’ll close in a few days’ time and the results will be revealed soon after that, so do your Eurofan duty while you have the chance!
#5 | Montenegro steers clear of OTT…for worse, not for better
I’m starting with something that was too inoffensive rather than too offensive, especially considering the source. From my very first listen of Slavko Kalezić’s Space, I was expecting to see it on stage in the campest and most fabulous fashion imaginable. I’m talking buff, topless male dancers who had marinated themselves in body glitter in the hours leading up to the show; galaxy-inspired visuals that alternated between dramatic (for the verses) and flamboyant (for the choruses; and plenty of overuse of the core Eurovision elements – wind and fire. I was confident in Slavko’s ability to make this dream of mine come true, given that he was to 2017 what Tooji was to 2012 – only Space didn’t require the reining in of camp that Stay did. So you can imagine my disappointment when he appeared on the Kyiv stage by himself, with only a mediocre costume change and his beloved Rapunzel braid for company. It’s not that he couldn’t command the stage on his own, because he strutted around like a boss and did the hairycopter with full enthusiasm. But when a song so obviously calls for one to go full gimmick on its ass, one should obey. Space needed more colour, more choreography and a crowd (of five other people) to be everything non-Eurovision fans think the contest is. Not so much to give it a shot at qualifying, since that was unlikely to ever happen (sadface), but just to make the most of the saucy, sassy lyrics; the fun, upbeat vibe; and Slavko’s larger-than-life personality.
#4 | Switzerland sugar-coats their staging of Apollo
I’ve got a job for you: take all of the 2017 entries that were chosen via a national final, and compare how they were staged initially to how they were staged at Eurovision. For the most part, you’ll notice that not many changed drastically, and those that did mostly improved on their presentation. Timebelle’s Apollo, then, is the exception and not the rule, because it went downhill between NF season and contest week. In fact, the only way Switzerland went up was by sticking Miruna at the top of a spiral staircase, which she eventually descended anyway (in stilettos, without breaking a sweat or any bones, which does deserve a high five). What we saw and what we heard clashed like crazy. Apollo benefited way more from the dramatic and modern NF staging, which could have been built on for ESC purposes. Yet that was discarded in favour of cheap and predictable background graphics, the inexplicable staircase (Why was it there? What did it add?), and an equally inexplicable yellow dress that I thought was less Beauty and the Beast inspired and more like the repurposed outer layer of a certain big bird who lives on Sesame Street. And let’s not forget more pastel shades than you’d find in the maternity wing of a major hospital. Overall, the look of this would have worked wonders for the right song (minus the tacky backdrop) but it took a good song and made it below-average. If I were Switzerland, I’d be contacting Sacha Jean-Baptiste right now to book her for Eurovision 2018.
#3 | Australia’s hit-and-missed high note
Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy bringing this up in conversation time and time again. However, as patriotic and proud of Isaiah’s work in Kyiv as I am, I can’t deny that when we’re talking about the biggest broadcast boo-boos of the year, that notorious note he aimed for during the semi final HAS to be mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing the guy drop a note while he was singing his heart out on The X Factor last year, so perhaps the grueling rehearsal and media schedule of Eurovision took its toll…or maybe it was a combination of nerves and trying too hard. Whatever the cause, to say that Isaiah failed rather than nailed that note – one accompanied by a pyro curtain, which is the international symbol for ‘This is the moment that’s supposed to win you over and secure your votes’ – would be an understatement. It turned out to be a moment that had me convinced Australia had just lost out on a spot in the grand final instead. Thankfully, because his jury semi performance was more X Factor and less cringe factor, Isaiah did slip through in a still remarkably high sixth place. He then went on to make up for the vocal mishap to end all vocal mishaps on the Saturday night, though it has to be said that the initial pyro note still wasn’t up to scratch. Whenever I watch either of his performances back in the future, my hand will be hovering over the mute button as the two-minute mark approaches.
#2 | Albania dresses Lindita up for a wacky wedding…WTF?!?
I could complain until the cows come home about all of the questionable costuming choices made by the 2017 delegations. Belgium? Should have worn the jumpsuit from the flag parade. Poland? Shouldn’t have worn white. Israel? What were they thinking putting him in a shirt when shirtless clearly would have been the best way to go? But right at the top of the heap – though at the bottom of the pile in terms of suitable sartorial selections – is undoubtedly Albania. I don’t know what kind of performance Lindita’s ‘Vegas showgirl meets drunken 3am Vegas bride’ outfit would be appropriate for, but it was just plain ridiculous when paired with World. I don’t get the thought process behind it, assuming there was one. It proved to be such a distraction that I couldn’t even concentrate on Lindita’s mind-blowing vocals, which hadn’t been an issue when she won Festivali I Këngës with the song formerly known as Böte. Unfortunately, this look wasn’t a one-off, as she wore something equally frightening (in nude, not white) on opening ceremony night. She obviously felt pretty and powerful on both occasions – she doesn’t strike me as a person who’d wear what she was told if she wasn’t 100% happy about it – but in my eyes, a black bin liner would have been a better choice both times. You know, like the one Croatia’s Nina Badrić wore back in 2012.
#1 | Spain’s…well, everything
Many of us fans felt sure about two things prior to this year’s contest. One, that Italy would walk it, and two, that Spain would finish dead last. We may have been wrong about the former, but the latter did its predicted duty. Poor Manel – he had a terrible time at Objetivo Eurovisión thanks to The Mirela Incident, and then couldn’t prove anyone wrong by defying our ESC expectations of him. You might wonder why, if you’re unacquainted with both Do It For Your Lover and his rendition of it in Ukraine. Well, the song was weak to start with – great for roaring down the road in a convertible on a summer’s day en route to the coast, but too much of a repetitive flatliner to stand up in a song competition. It could have been saved by some genius stage concept, who knows…but Spain had the total opposite up their hibiscus-patterned shirt sleeve. The surfer idea was good in theory, but the execution was on par with High School Musical 2, if High School Musical 2 had been lumped with a production budget of $100. Low-quality graphics – including a Kombi van that kept on rocking without any danger of anyone knocking, an overhead shot of Manel and his band on surfboards that they just didn’t pull off, and a general air of over-casualness – made the package pretty unappealing. The fact that it was an entire verse before anyone turned around to face the camera/audience was also a turn-off. And just when we thought Spain might scrape enough points to NOT finish 26th, Manel’s voice decided to re-break at a pivotal moment, which sealed the deal. I’m sorry for seeming extra bitchy about this (you must be craving sunlight after all this shade I’ve thrown) but I’m being cruel to be kind. Both Manel and Spain deserve a LOT better.
Do you agree with any of my picks, or do you think I’M the one making the mistakes? Which competing countries of Eurovision 2017 made the wrong decisions when it came to putting on the best possible show?
Next time…you’ve voted (I hope) and now the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award winners – People’s Choice + my personal choices – can be made public. First up, I’ll be handing out (pretend) trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs – followed by The Performances, The Show and The Results. The celebration of Kyiv’s bests and worsts will continue, and you’d be as crazy as Lindita Halimi’s costume designer if you missed it!
The Songs of Eurovision 2017 So Far: First impressions, 2016 vs 2017, my top five + vote for your favourite!
Happy First of February, everybody! As scary as it is that a full four weeks of 2017 have already gone by – it’s practically a permission slip for us all to Get Frighten like Lolita Zero – February is an exciting month on the Eurovision calendar, so maybe we should all “get excite” instead.
January just ended with the presentation of Kyiv’s logo and slogan (‘slogo’ to those of us who don’t have time for excess syllables):
It isn’t the most attractive logo (or the greatest slogan) in ESC history as far as I’m concerned (the colour scheme in particular is pretty drab). However, it has the potential to look slick in show-motion, as part of the postcards, and plastered all over posters/lanyards/t-shirts/toilet paper (an untapped item of merchandise that could, ahem, wipe the floor with the rest). So shall we give it a chance to shine – or not – before we throw it in the trash via salty Twitter sessions? Yes? Okay then.
In other end-of-January news, the allocation draw for the semi-finals took place yesterday, and has divided all of the non-automatic finalists into either the Tuesday or Thursday night shows. This doesn’t mean that much at the moment. Still, I’m happy to have Sweden in the first semi alongside Australia (despite the fact that they’re obviously tough competition) because we’re pretty friendly, and unless it’s third time unlucky and Australia sends something diabolically bad to Ukraine, we’re likely to get a little boost of points from last year’s hosts. If we don’t, the entire country will have a mob of angry Aussies (or perhaps just me) to answer to.
With the theme art unveiled and the allocation draw done and dusted, we can now move on to the millions (slight exaggeration) of national finals mapped out for this month – including the magnificent Melodifestivalen, which starts this Saturday. For now, though, there are five seen-and-heard songs in the race to be the next 1944…and that’s such a neat little number, I’ve got to take advantage of it. So here, have some opinions on the fabulous (and not-so-fabulous) five songs chosen to date for the 2017 contest. And stick around to the (possibly bitter) end to vote for your favourite before five becomes…more than five. #mathsskillz.
Bonjour, Albania, Belarus, Finland, Georgia and the United Kingdom. I’m about to criticise you like crazy.
Botë by Lindita Halimi (Albania)
When discussing Albania at the moment, we’re fully aware that the song we’re talking about now is probably not the song we’ll be talking about in a month or two. That’s because Lindita and her crew are currently revamping it and preparing for its English-language unveiling (not because the Botë writers are going to pull a Diell on us and actually force her to find a different song to sing in Kyiv). In its at-this-second state, Botë is classic Albania – a big, brassy power ballad in possession of a mysterious beauty. Even if any of that changes when the final version is presented, Lindita will still sing the absolute crap out of it without breaking a sweat. If she doesn’t qualify to the ESC final, I feel like someone’s going to get punched (not by me, but by her. The girl is fierce).
My current score 8 points.
Better than Fairytale? As one of the few living and breathing fans of Fairytale, I’m not 100% certain, but I think Lindita trumps Eneda. She’d definitely beat her in the boxing ring.
Historyja Majho Žyccia by NAVI (Belarus)
Like Finland, Belarus chose wisely from their NF line-up when they could easily have made a dreadful decision (in my opinion…which as always, is the right one). NAVI’s brand of fun folk-pop is wrapped up in a neat, cheerfully-decorated package with Historyja Majho Žyccia. Even though it will stay in Belarusian (which makes me want to do a little ethnic/highly embarrassing dance of joy) we’ll all be able to sing along to the various heys and hos that up the cute factor throughout. I’m not head-over-heels in love with this song – it could be the genre, which isn’t my favourite, or just a missing bit of pizzazz – but I like it a lot, and I’m interested to see how it performs at Eurovision.
My current score 7 points.
Better than Help You Fly? This is like comparing 1944 with Wadde Hadde Dudde Da (don’t try to tell me that Stefan Raab masterpiece isn’t stuck in your head now). Basically, it’s a tough call, but I’m saying yes.
Blackbird by Norma John (Finland)
I was holding out a little hope that this track would win UMK, but until I saw the performances, I assumed Emma had it in the bag. Or that Finland would think ‘f%#k it’ and pick Günther & D’Sanz. Fortunately, they pleasantly surprised me by doing neither of those things. Blackbird has plenty of people pretending to puke whenever it’s mentioned, but for me, it has a bit of the magic of A Monster Like Me plus the raw emotion of Silent Storm. That amounts to something special, if not spectacular. Some pre-ESC crafting of the staging concept should elevate it to semi top ten status, but it’s early days and most of Norma John’s competition is a question mark. They might blend into the background, or make a statement with their subtlety. If you ask me, it’s Option B!
My current score 10 points.
Better than Sing It Away? As a party-starter/dancefloor-filler, nope. In every other department, yep.
Keep The Faith by Tako Gachechiladze (Georgia)
Tako nearly made it to Moscow in 2009 as part of the peeps that brought us We Don’t Wanna Put In. To be honest, I’d rather listen to that disco-flavoured, thinly-veiled dig at Russia’s main man than this melodramatic, been-done ballad. When you’re watching a song being sung, and you’re thinking about how sparkly the singer’s dress is and how voluminous her hair is and where you can buy a lipstick in that exact shade because it’s gorgeous…but not about the song itself as it kind of sends you to sleep, that’s bad news. And that, my friends, was me watching Tako do her thing at the Georgian final. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so I know Keep The Faith has its fans. I’m just not one of them at this point.
My current score 5 points.
Better than Midnight Gold? No way. Bring back the drug references and epileptic lighting sequences.
Never Give Up On You by Lucie Jones (United Kingdom)
Was it my number one (like, the only treasure I’ll ever have) choice of the six You Decide songs? Not before the comp. But I’ve got to admit, this song has grown on me very rapidly after only a few listens and a look at Lucie’s pared-back performance from Friday night (in which she sang like a songbird, wore an amazing velvet dress and reminded me a little bit of Lena circa 2010 if Lena had taken a Valium before stepping onto the Oslo stage). It’s an almost-exceptional, well-worded minimalist ballad that Emmelie de Forest has co-created here – and may I remind the haters that every single song she’s written that has made it to the ESC has won the contest? True fact.
My current score 10 points.
Better than You’re Not Alone? Definitely. Joe + Jake were a much less hyperactive and more sensible-haired version of Jedward, which can only be a good thing – but Lucie is a step in a more successful direction.
For those of you who made it through all of the above, here’s my top five:
- United Kingdom
How long will it be before somebody, if anybody (*sneezes in a very timely fashion with a ‘SWEDEN!’ instead of an ‘AACHOO!’*) steamrolls over the UK and parks in my personal top spot?
I have no idea.
Here’s an easier question to answer:
If you want to justify your poll pick or say something snarky about a song you don’t like (this is not a bitchiness-free zone, so go ahead), drop by the comments below. Also, feel free to send your personal top five my way so we can compare our rankings while secretly wondering why the heck each of us has THAT song in first/last place.
Until Saturday, when the clouds part and a heavenly glow covers Gothenburg because it’s Melfest Semi One Day (can’t you hear the angels warming up their vocal chords in anticipation?)…
Hi. I’m Jaz, I’m twenty-three years old, and I think I need to be admitted to national final rehab after the week I’ve had.
No, I haven’t been watching every single NF of 2014/15 back-to-back, only leaving the me-shaped crater in my mattress to get food and let the other occupants of my household know that I’m still alive. That would be crazy!
What I have done is listen to almost every single song entered in a 2014/15 national final, on and off for quite some days, in order to determine my favourites of the season. Subtract the reasonable-sized bunch I was already acquainted with (mostly those hailing from Scandinavia) and you’ll see how that’s a much less crazy thing to do. Still, I need the rehab. Just to make sure I’m re-energised enough to haul my butt out of bed for 3 x 3am Eurovision installments next month (!).
Those of you not currently receiving NF-induced therapy get to enjoy the fruits of my labor today, as I present my top 10* national final songs of the season just gone – plus the thirty-odd others that I would recommend you add to your must-hear playlist, if you haven’t heard them yet.
Hit me up with your personal preferences in the comments, and let me know if there are any gems I should give a second chance to (or third, or fourth…I’ve had an intensive time, guys).
* If I’m honest, it’s actually a top 11 (as if you wouldn’t have noticed). I got to the point where the prospect of relegating one more song to the ‘rest of the best’ pile was causing me physical pain, so I decided to throw the rulebook out the window and adopt the attitude of ‘my blog, my rules!’. And my rules dictate that a top 11, in a time of need, is a-ok. And now I’ll shut up and get on with said top 11.
My favourites, from A Dal to UMK (and quite a few finals in-between)!
Counting backwards for maximum suspense levels.
#11 | I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (DNQ, Sweden)
In what shall henceforth be known as The Swedish App Fiasco of 2015, lady-in-red Molly failed to even make the second chance round of Melodifestivalen, allegedly due to first-time-use issues with the voting app. Up until my ears were exposed to eventual winner Heroes, I was convinced the Land of Abba had let their best chance of Eurovision success go in this scandalous manner. Now, though I couldn’t be happier about Måns heading to Vienna, I still see/hear this song as a retro-flavoured masterpiece, performed with a level of diva-ness that Dana International could only dream of reaching.
#10 | Nefelibata by MNTHA (4th, Latvia)
Tracks like this – i.e. weird alt-pop songs – aren’t normally my cup of tea, but for some reason, I’m drinking them down like there’s no tomorrow at the moment. MNTHA’s high-pitched vocal on Nefelibata (which apparently means ‘cloud-walker’) adds delicacy to a song that makes you wonder where it’s going, even when you’re listening to it for the third time in a row. It’s an attention-grabber of the non-OTT kind, and I appreciate that very much.
#9 | S’të Fal by Lindita Halimi (3rd, Albania)
You might not expect feverish EDM to come out of Festivali I Këngës. Even if you did, you might not expect it to get such a good result. Lindita Halimi pulled out all the vocal gymnastic tricks she could muster (but failed to pull a pair of pants out of her wardrobe or use a hairbrush) and ended up bringing both of those things to the sometimes-stuffy FiK with S’të Fal. I really like the pace of this song, how edgy it is, how it builds, and how surprisingly well it works with a live orchestra.
#8 | Wechselt Die Beleuchtung by Laing (Result unknown, Germany)
You can always rely on Germany (‘always’ meaning ‘for the previous four or five years’) to provide a national final full of interesting, atypically-Eurovision (per the stereotypes) entries. The superior of the two songs Laing threw into the Unser Song Für Österreich ring, this one is dark, moody, and also cutting edge. It lends itself beautifully to the German language and comes armed with an über cool performance feat. a costume reveal and…desk lamps. Translate the title of the song, and that addition will make sense.
#7 | Human Beings by Karin Park (Result unknown, Norway)
The woman behind Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love decided to have a bash at representing Norway as singer and songwriter this year, and it made for a triumph – if not results-wise, then in musical magnificence. Who knew a song with such sentiment behind it could be so lacking in cheese? Human Beings has the same kind of cold beauty that captured Europe’s votes when M. Berg oozed it on the Malmö stage (sorry for that mental image). It’s a Karin Park trademark. How Human Beings didn’t make the MGP super-final is beyond me.
#6 | Glück by Alexa Feser (Result unknown, Germany)
What do you know, here’s Germany popping up in my top 10 11 again! And ich liebe es big time. I would like to direct all people who believe German to be a harsh language to Exhibit A: This Song, if Laing’s didn’t already convince them otherwise. Glück, which according to Google Translate = ’good fortune’ (which means it probably actually translates to ’unripe bananas’ or something) is slow-burn piano pop at its finest – pretty, calming and authentic.
#5 | Frozen Silence by Fahrenhaidt (DNQ, Germany)
I swear, this is the last German national finalist I’m going to prattle on about. Yoda would say hauntingly beautiful this is, but I’m going to say that it’s hauntingly beautiful – so I guess Yoda and I are in agreement. Like Nefelibata, Frozen Silence isn’t a big, brash, in-yo-face number, but it draws you in and holds your attention nonetheless. This could have been a spellbinder on the stage in Vienna (though in the scheme of things, I’m grateful for the more up-tempo Black Smoke).
#4 | Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (DNQ, Sweden)
I’ve been listening to this more or less non-stop since it got booted from Melfest – in favour, mind you, of a performance that incorporated a selfie stick (though in Samir & Viktor’s case, it was technically a groupie stick). Rap interspersed with vocals isn’t to everyone’s taste, but something about this – the anthemic atmosphere, the drums, the hilarious way Behrang says ‘ehhh’ at the beginning, perhaps – gets me every time. I find it particularly powerful when I’m struggling with a workout, as it has an amazing ability to push me towards the finish line. #forreals.
#3 | Crossroads by Satin Circus (2nd, Finland)
This. One. HURT. I thought Satin Circus had UMK ’15 in the bag with their irresistible pop-rock singalong song for le youth…but alas, PKN pipped them. Crossroads came a close second to Aina Mun Pitää, and as a result, I can’t listen to it without tearing up and wailing ‘If only!’. But I continue to listen to it anyway, because it is the bomb, and in my Eurovision fantasies it goes down an absolute treat in Austria. Tonight we CAN be young!
#2 | Fjaðrir by SUNDAY (5th, Iceland)
Every year, Iceland passes up the chance to send something that’s more Björk than bland; i.e. a piece of quirky pop perfection that even the haters would have to admit is unique. This year, SUNDAY’s Fjaðrir (or Feathers, in its slightly-less-awesome English incarnation) was that sacrifice. I freaking LOVE it – it’s weird and mystical and so contemporary it shouldn’t even exist yet (I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that, so don’t ask). The song makes much better use of its three minutes than Unbroken does, and she-SUNDAY’s voice is perfect for the style. Brilliant stuff.
#1 | Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf (Result unknown, Hungary)
Leaving What About My Dreams? – and her poofy-haired, satin-clad self – behind, Kati Wolf made a triumphant return to A Dal in 2015…at least as far as I’m concerned. The A Dal judges were more like ‘whatevs’ when it came to the crunch, failing to put the Wolfster and her emotive ballad through to the final four. Ne Engedj El (Don’t Let Me Go) would have been my ideal representative for Hungary though, because, unlike Boggie’s cry for peace that leaves me cold, I can feel the feelings Kati invests in it – feelings that were well-portrayed in her performance.
The rest of the best (according to moi)…
Get these babies on your music machine of choice STAT, people. Unless you hate them all, in which case just do your own thing. Whatever. I can’t help you improve your terrible taste.
AUSTRIA: Absolutio by Johann Sebastian Bass (5th)
BELARUS: Supernova by Janet (14th)
CYPRUS: Stone In A River by Hovig (4th)
DENMARK: Suitcase by Anne Gadegaard (2nd), Tæt På Mine Drømme by Julie Bjerre (3rd), Manjana by Babou (5th)
ESTONIA: Burning Lights by Daniel Levi (2nd), Superlove by Elisa Kolk (3rd), Exceptional by The Blurry Lane (8th)
FINLAND: Hold Your Colours by Solju (4th), Ostarilla by Shava (8th), Mustelmat by Siru (DNQ), Love It All Away by Eeverest (DNQ)
HUNGARY: Fire by Ív (Result unknown), Mesmerize by Passed (Result unknown), Gyémánt by Vera Tóth (DNQ), Ősz Utca by Gergő Szakács (DNQ)
ICELAND: Fyrir Alla by Cadem (6th), Aldrei of Seint by Regína Ósk (DNQ)
ITALY: Fatti Avanti Amore by Nek (2nd), Adesso e Qui (Nostalgico Presente) by Malika Ayane (3rd)
LATVIA: Take Me Down by Markus Riva (2nd)
MACEDONIA: Brod Što Tone by Tamara Todevska (2nd)
MALTA: Rush by Christabelle (2nd), Breakaway by Glen Vella (3rd), Stop Haunting Me by Raquel (DNQ)
NORWAY: Next To You by Jenny Langlo (Result unknown)
ROMANIA: Superman by Lara Lee (7th), Chica Latina by Aurelian Temișan feat. Alexa (9th)
SWEDEN: Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2nd), Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (12th), Där Och Då Med Dig by Emelie Irewald (DNQ)
That’s all of the NF-ness I’m going to provide for now, ladies and gents. But rest assured that after Vienna, I’ll be taking a look at which national finalists could – and maybe should – have been sent to Eurovision, based on the results of the songs that were (á la this post from last year).
Don’t forget to tell me your standouts of the 2014/15 NF season. I’ll open up my can of DO IT NOW, FOR THE LOVE OF LORDI!!! if I have to.
Until next time…