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SHOULD’VE KNOWN BETTER: Six 2018 OGAE Second Chance songs that probably should have been ESC entries…

Hey there! Remember me? It’s embarrassing the amount of times I’ve had to reintroduce myself on my own blog due to an accidental vacation, but I’m Jaz – still living, breathing and thinking about Eurovision 24/7 (or 25 hours a day, if Le Freak’s skewed concept of time works better for you). Yet again, “other stuff” has cut short my ESC rambling time lately (so annoying), but I’m back now and ready to try and keep it that way. Did you miss me?

I’m going to assume the answer was HELL YEAH and move on to today’s post. Now, if you’re a Eurofan who has a hard time letting go of songs you wish had won their respective NFs, then the annual OGAE Second Chance Song Contest is for you. I’m definitely the type to fall in love with music from Melodifestivalen, MGP, MESC etc, only to fall to pieces when something else wins. So naturally I jump at the chance to see some of those songs get a second chance at competing in and winning an international contest…even if it’s not quite on the same level as actual Eurovision.

The 2018 OGAE SCC is packed with excellent almosts from the most recent NF season, as well as a few glaring omissions (no Tayanna for Ukraine? Seriously?). If you’re not already familiar with the line-up, check it out here. The winner of this year’s contest – succeeding Sweden who won in 2017 with Mariette’s A Million Years – will be revealed in October. To help pass the time until then, I present to you guys my little list of competing songs that, in hindsight, really shouldn’t need a second chance in the first place. Basically, they should – or at least, could – have made it to Lisbon so they could end up losing to Netta.

Remember, this is a subjective subject. The likelihood of us agreeing on more than one or two songs is lower than Max Jason Mai’s pants by the end of his performance in Baku, but I’m happy to hear your opinions in the comments if you’re nice about mine!

 

 

Who We Are by Rebecca, Norway

Looking Rybak on Melodi Grand Prix 2018 (see what I did there?), it’s obvious that no one could have stopped Eurovision’s most spectacular point-scorer from making his comeback. Rebecca, with this magical power ballad penned by Mørland, came closest – and for all the guilty pleasure I get out of That’s How You Write A Song, I did have my fingers crossed for her at the time. I don’t want to say outright that Norway choosing Rybak over Rebecca was a mistake; after all, he did win his semi final and finish a respectable (for anyone other than a landslide former winner) 15th. But…I can’t help feeling like Who We Are (a song that shared only a title with San Marino’s entry, THANK THE LORDI) could have gone further, at least in the final. In a contest that wasn’t overrun with big belter female ballads, the song’s mix of mournful Scandipop and soaring anthem (with a hint of schlager, a whole bunch of magnetic moments and a kick-ass money note) would have had a parking spot on the scoreboard all of its own, one that meant it wasn’t competing directly with the likes of Fuego or Toy. What I’m saying is that I think Norway could have scored a similar result to 2017 with this one. As it stands, they have a decent shot of winning the OGAE SCC instead, so that’s something.

 

 

Royalty by Feli, Romania

This pick has more to do with Goodbye being the wrong choice than with Royalty being an absolutely amazing song that Romania let go – which is hard for me to say because I am a fan of Goodbye. The thing is, though, it takes an eternity to get going and when it does, it’s not exactly fun – which, in the wake of Yodel It, seemed kind of uncharacteristic for Romania. That ultra slow burn plus a creepy, nonsensical stage show (which I’ve discussed before here) led to Romania losing their 100% qualification record in Portugal. Feli’s Royalty, I’m pretty positive, would not have suffered the same fate. This track is tropical-tinged cocktail of fun from the second it starts, and it doesn’t waste time building up to anything because that’s not what it’s there for. It’s there to create a party atmosphere with a touch of empowerment for all my ladies out there (if we can’t strut out onto the dance floor to this song while kicking all thoughts of our ex-boyfriends to the kerb, then when can we?). Okay, so the staging and costuming would have needed an overhaul to make Feli’s package fit for the ESC, but that’s what the end of March and all of April is for. Vocally it was great, and the potential for greatness in everything else was there too. Missed opportunity alert!

 

 

Out of the Twilight by Sara de Blue, San Marino

Eurovision wouldn’t be the same without the plucky little microstate of San Marino making questionable musical choices every year – but even so, I think most of us wish they’d made the decent choice that was presented to them on a silver platter during 1in360. Dropping in via Austria, Sara de Blue was head and shoulders above all of her competition, even if it was mainly in terms of her FLAWLESS vocals that turned average ballad Out of the Twilight into an above average combo of all things hauntingly beautiful and powerful. It might have sounded a little passé on the Eurovision stage next to stuff like Lie To Me and Dance You Off – but presented in the right way, as an old-school lady ballad performed to perfection, there’s no way it wouldn’t have improved on the result achieved by the infinitely more dated (read: stale as a month-old loaf of sourdough) Who We Are. This is one of those NF winner VS runner-up situations that makes you wonder how on earth the final decision was made, and how sane the people were who made it. But don’t get me started on how the winner was decided at 1in360 (we’d be here all damn day). This isn’t the case with every song on this list, but for Sara’s sake I have to say that Out of the Twilight should have been sent to Lisbon, no question.

 

 

Lo Malo by Aitana & Ana Guerra, Spain

Speaking of countries that make dodgy decisions time and time again…I can think of at least three recent occasions when Spain has had us all shaking out heads in disbelief at what they opted to send to Eurovision – despite a pre-packaged success story being ready and waiting in their NF (which always ends up 2nd or 3rd). 2018 was no exception, with Spaniards so caught up in Amaia and Alfred’s amor that they overlooked an absolute banger Eurovision would have welcomed with open arms. Lo Malo could have been the latest Camila Cabello smash hit, but instead it was sitting pretty at the Operacion Triunfo gala and begging in Spanish to be crowned The One for Portugal. I guess it didn’t beg loud enough to drag attention away from the lovebirds making puppy dog eyes at each other. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-romance (in fact, I read it almost exclusively). But when an ESC NF presents you with a) a sappy ballad and b) a modern pop masterpiece, and asks you to choose one, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO GO FOR THE SECOND OPTION. Aitana and Ana were the duo we all deserved from Spain this year, and the pair who could have propelled the country out of the bottom five in the final. If there’s ever a time for the EBU to bend the September 1st rule, it’s when the upcoming ESC season arrives so we can have Lo Malo in Israel.

 

 

Compass by Alejandro Reyes, Switzerland

If you guys saw my list of NF favourites from the 2018 season, you’ll already know that I love this track, and in spite of being a Zibbz supporter I was hoping for the adorable Alejandro to represent Switzerland. In hindsight especially, this may not have been a bad idea. I’m still reeling from Stones’ failure to qualify, and when it comes to considering whether or not Compass could have done things differently…well, maybe, maybe not. In terms of the type of song I personally would kill to see Switzerland send to the ESC though (not literally, but give it a few years and I just might) this song is peak YASSS. Fresh, catchy, lyrically as unique as what JOWST comes out with and well performed, Compass might have lacked the attitude of the actual winner, but it made up for that with slick production – and a sense of being, to quote Mugatu from Zoolander (which I can’t say I’ve done on EBJ before) ‘so hot right now’. What I mean by that is, Shawn Mendes could have recorded it and teenage girls worldwide would have lapped that shiz up. Not everything at Eurovision needs to have Spotify streaming potential, but my ears prick up when something does…even if it doesn’t make it all the way to the big show.

 

 

Legends by Asanda, United Kingdom  

I know, I know…Asanda needed to up her cardio fitness like crazy before trying to sing and dance her way through Legends live (a problem not shared by SuRie). Had she gone to Eurovision, she also would have been in direct competition with Eleni Foureira and probably lost (another problem not shared by SuRie). Still, if we’re talking about a song that would have made more of a statement in Lisbon than Storm did – stage crasher aside – hers was the one to opt for out of the You Decide line-up. Sky-high on energy, dynamic and radio-friendly, it was pretty much in the middle of the Venn diagram between what the UK should send to Eurovision and what they actually do. I totally understand how SuRie (bless her and her awesome personality + social media game) won through instead, and I’m not saying she didn’t deserve to get the golden ticket. But in a parallel universe, Asanda nailed her vocals at the NF and headed off to join her fellow fierce, dancefloor-owning females in Portugal. Just think – if her stage show had been crashed, her version of ‘the show must go on’ might have involved punching the offending individual in the face, and that would have made great TV.

 

So, do we agree on anything? Which OGAE Second Chance songs for 2018 do YOU think should have made it to Eurovision back in May? Don’t leave me hanging!

 

 

 

 

THE 2018 EBJ EUROVISION EXCELLENCE AWARDS | The Show + The Results

First things first: I know Eurovision ended (what feels like) months ago, and that “awards ceremonies” like this should have too. But if you’re a regular EBJ reader (WHAT A LEGEND) then you’ll be familiar with my lack of multitasking skills, and therefore my inability to blog when other aspects of life get busy.

But my motto is ‘better late than never’, and I do like to (eventually) finish what I start. So at last, here’s the third and final episode of the 2018 EBJEEs – brought to you before I get stuck into some serious off-season filler material. Today’s show is all about…well, Lisbon’s ESC show, as well as the results revealed at the end of it. If you missed me handing out trophies for The Artists + Songs and The Performances, update yourself and then come back to see what I (and you – there’s still a few People’s Choice Awards to go) thought was worthy of an accolade when it comes to the hosts, qualifiers, non-qualifiers, final scoreboard positions and more.

And, if you agree or disagree with literally anything, tell me in the comments!

 

  

 

Winner Filomena Cautela

The reason I decided this award should continue to be People’s Choice in 2018 was not because I wanted to see who’d win it based on public opinion – it’s because I wanted to see how much of an Alexander-Rybak-in-Moscow-style win it would give to Filomena. Providing some comic relief from the cringe that was the hosts’ script, she may not have been up there with the Anke Engelkes and Petra Medes of the contest MC world…but Filomena was definitely the star attraction of the Real Housewives of Lisbon.

Even Elina knew the best host answer was a no-brainer.

 

 

Winner SuRie’s stage invasion Honourable Mention/s Australia loses the televote, Sweden finishes 2nd with the juries…then 23rd with the public

You guys chose SuRie’s performance – well, the part of it that was way more memorable than intended, anyway – as the jaw-dropper of jaw-droppers for 2018, and I’m not about to argue. For the second year running at the ESC, an absolute queen was interrupted while doing her thing. Fortunately (like Jamala), SuRie carried on afterwards like nothing had happened. The stage invasion actually seemed to put more energy and fight into her than she’d had during her uneventful initial few minutes.

 

 

Winner Czech Republic Honourable Mention/s Iceland, Ukraine

Confession: At this point, I can barely remember any of the postcards. It has been a while since I’ve seen them, but at the end of the day I just don’t think they were very memorable. I do remember, however, Mikolas Josef jumping around looking like a living, breathing Mardi Gras float (and/or a piñata) – and to be honest, totally pulling it off. That in itself deserves an award.

 

 

Winner Switzerland Honourable Mention/s Armenia, Latvia

Armenia’s DNQ might have hurt me more, but in the wake of the semi final performances I was definitely more surprised that Switzerland didn’t squeeze through. Zibbz nailed Stones on the night, and I think they knew it – so much so that Corinne’s reaction to their non-qualification was apparently as iconic as Moran Mazor’s in 2013 (only with fewer tears and more rage).

 

 

Winner Ireland Honourable Mention/s Serbia

After four years of being stuck in the semis, I did not think the luck of the Irish would get the Emerald Isle to the final this time around either. In fact, right up until I saw Ryan perform Together live – and heard the crowd reaction to his dancers – I was convinced Ireland wasn’t going anywhere. What can I say? Sometimes you’re more than happy to stand corrected.

 

 

Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Cyprus, Czech Republic

Forget the lack of televoting love for the Swedes this year – regardless of that, they remain one of the most successful Eurovision countries of the 2010s, and if you thought there was any chance Benjamin Ingrosso wouldn’t qualify this year for Sweden, you must have been off your fika. I can’t see another 2010 disgrace being allowed while Christer Björkman is in command.

 

 

Winner Iceland Honourable Mention/s Macedonia, San Marino

Poor Iceland didn’t have a chance this year, and we all knew it (I don’t know if Ari knew it and decided to make the most of the experience despite that or not). A song like Our Choice would have struggled in 1995, so it was beyond stale in 2018 – a problem not shared by Paper last year, and that didn’t make it through either. Here’s hoping Iceland can break their DNQ streak in Israel.

 

 

Winner Czech Republic’s 6th place Honourable Mention/s Cyprus’ 2nd place

I may have gushed over the Czech 2017-2018 glow-up on multiple occasions, but can it ever be discussed enough? When you come out of nowhere with such an iconic, contemporary hit-potential BANGER, you deserve to hit the heights of the top 10 for sure. A spot in the top 5 would have been preferable for Lie To Me, but for a country with a previous PB of dead last in the final, 6th on the Saturday night is an amazing outcome.

 

 

Winner Australia’s 20th place Honourable Mention/s Portugal’s 26th place

I’ve admitted before that Jess Mauboy’s semi performance was far stronger than the final version (DAMMIT) but I will never understand how we lost the televote, which led to that unfortunate, could-be-worse-but-still-ain’t-good 20th. If Isaiah managed to make the top 10, Jess should have at least been on the left-hand side of the scoreboard! The fact that she wasn’t even close is a tragedy Shakespeare could have penned a play about.

 

 

Winner Spain’s 23rd place Honourable Mention/s Israel’s 1st place

The problem with Spain using Operación Triunfo to select their Eurovision entry this year was that everyone was too busy shipping Alfred and Amaia to think about choosing a song that would thrive in an international song contest. The pair didn’t have months to win over Europe with their love story – they only had three minutes, and it was never going to be enough.

 

 

Winner Italy’s 5th place Honourable Mention/s Australia’s 20th place

I’m glad to find out that I’m not alone in my still-lingering shock over Italy’s placing. It’s not that I think it was undeserved – if you read my 2018 reviews, you’ll remember that I grew to love Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente (around about the same time I learnt how to spell it properly). I just thought Italy was no more or no less impressive than France live on stage at the final, and I expected both to finish in that 10th-15th range. But Eurovision curveballs are a big thing these days, so maybe it was so unlikely I should have seen it coming.

Was Ermal pleasantly surprised or putting his gracious loser face into practice? We’ll never know.

 

 

That’s it – the 2018 EBJEEs are finally done and dusted! Did your favourites take home the People’s Choice Awards? Which parts of Lisbon’s show and results would score these trophies if you were in charge?

 

 

 

 

THE 2018 EBJ EUROVISION EXCELLENCE AWARDS | The Performances

Hello there. Remember me? After the longest ad break in history (and after breaking my vow to finish these awards by the time the Eurovision 2018 DVD was released, OOPS), I’m finally back with the second EBJEE presentation segment.

This time, the trophies re: all things performance-wise will be presented, including three more People’s Choice Awards. That means everything from drama levels to dance moves, money notes and costume choices is about to be honoured by yours truly (and by you truly…I had no part in deciding the People’s Choice winners, obviously). So without any more ado than I’ve already adone, let’s get this party started!

 

 

 

Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Belarus, Ukraine

Okay, so you’re not going to find Rasmussen and his bearded stagefellows on Coronation Street or the Bold and the Beautiful (for starters, their acting skills are too superior). But they went beyond the small screen and straight onto the silver screen with the cinematic level of drama they served up in Lisbon. Intense smouldering stares, manly stomping and a fake snowstorm that whipped all that hair back and forth majestically…what more could you want? If a Scandinavian hipster version of Pirates of the Caribbean was ever produced, this is what it would look like.

 

 

Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Italy

I asked you guys to vote for the most totes emosh (DID I JUST TYPE THAT?!?) three minutes of Eurovision 2018, and you delivered by crowning Michael Schulte’s tribute to his late father the winner of this tearjerking People’s Choice trophy. I’m not about to argue, even though I didn’t “feel it” with You Let Me Walk Alone until the ESC performance rolled around, feat. backdrop photos and lyrics that made the message extra clear. But hey, all the feels were present and accounted for when it mattered most.

 

 

Winner Estonia Honourable Mention/s Armenia

This gong goes to a performance that had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, goosebumps popping up on my arms and of course, tingles shooting up and down my spine. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Elina Nechayeva’s haunting delivery of La Forza came straight to my doorstep in Chillsville and affected me from top to toe. At one point I actually thought I was having an aneurysm and considered calling an ambulance, but then I realised it was just the glass-shattering notes messing with my middle ear.

 

 

Winner Honourable Ukraine Mention/s Ireland, Norway

Who knew a piano could be so multifunctional until Mélovin gave us that stellar live demonstration? It’s handy for anyone musical who can only afford to live in a tiny studio apartment to know that there’s an instrument that can double as a bed. What a space-saver! Mélovin, of course, was using it more as a coffin (or according to the artist himself, as a uterus from which he was birthed in a matter of seconds…seriously). But each to their own.

 

 

Winner Moldova’s human storage cabinet Honourable Mention/s Estonia, Sweden, Ukraine

Here’s another People’s Choice Award I’d struggle to argue with. Moldova (or ‘Russia 2.0’, as they were known this year) clearly have no qualms about sourcing stage props at Ikea: first it was the mirrors from the Moldovan NF, then the super-sized cabinet they lugged to Lisbon. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It often happens that the simplest things are the most effective, and DoReDoS proved that spectacularly.

When one door closes, another one opens…frantically, in Moldova’s case.

 

 

Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Cyprus, Denmark

Speaking of Moldova…it wasn’t just the furniture they used that made My Lucky Day so successful. The DoReDoS doppelgangers played a big part in that too. What would this performance have been without them? An extra enthusiastic high five goes to the guy who had to swap his shoes for heels at one point (I’m not ashamed to admit I have still have leg envy).

 

 

Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Cyprus, Moldova

I gave this award to Sweden last year, and I’m doing it again for a similar reason. Both Robin Bengtsson (and his backing dancers) and Benjamin Ingrosso didn’t just bust a move on or around a stage prop, but with a stage prop – and both performances were flawless. In Benjamin’s case, he was working in harmony with lighting, and transported us to an ultra-cool nightclub where sneakers are in the dress code and slick dance moves are mandatory.

 

 

Winner Norway Honourable Mention/s Italy

The cartoon instruments, question marks and soccer balls etc scribbled on screen by Norway added an element of cute to Alexander Rybak’s performance that made it seem all the more appropriate for Junior Eurovision – but I wouldn’t have ditched them from his adult Eurovision stage show. Without that little extra something, That’s How You Write A Song live wouldn’t have been quite so memorable (marginally…it still would have had Eurovision’s biggest runaway winner ever fronting it, after all).

 

 

Winner Israel Honourable Mention/s Belarus, Finland

It’s often said that less is more, but at the ESC more is more just as frequently. We bounced from a bare-bones winner in 2017 to the opposite in 2018 with Netta – not the performer who threw the absolute most at their stage show, but the most successful one to make things flamboyant. Lights, lucky cats, crazy costumes, clucking backup dancers, explosions…just the basics for Israel’s three minutes.

 

 

Winner Cyprus Honourable Mention/s Denmark, Ukraine

When it comes to the most perfect package deals of this year’s contest – where vocals and visuals were so on point you could practically cut yourself – nobody was as flawless as Cyprus. Armed with a Swarovski crystal-studded catsuit, a quartet of dancers almost as fierce as herself and a slick Sacha Jean-Baptiste staging concept, Eleni did no wrong. She proved to everyone skeptical of her abilities to perform live (I used to be) that she’s worth the hype.

 

 

Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Italy, United Kingdom

Germany’s was the highest-scoring performance of the Big 5, and you guys clearly agreed that their 4th place was earned with this People’s Choice pick. To be honest, I think all of the automatic qualifiers put their best possible foot forward this year, which didn’t pay off all round. But Germany won’t be worrying about that when they can just sit back and languish in their success.

 

 

Winner Eleni Foureira Honourable Mention/s Amaia, Saara Aalto

I’ve already mentioned Eleni’s catsuit in passing, but as ladies’ costumes in Lisbon go it’s worth an award all of its own. Leaving just enough to the imagination, combining crystals with leather and being just as hot as Fuego called for, this outfit couldn’t have been better (cat) suited for Cyprus in 2018. It should be displayed in the Louvre in close proximity to the Mona Lisa. Or at least in the Eurovision section at Stockholm’s ABBA Museum.

 

 

Winner Benjamin Ingrosso Honourable Mention/s Cesár Sampson

I have a bias towards anything and everything Scandinavian, including the fashion – so don’t be surprised by this pick. As unsure as I still am re: Benjamin’s shoe choice, he did pull the look off. Plus, the positives of his toned-down-from-Melfest jacket selection and the decision to actually wear said jacket like a normal person this time outweighed any negatives.

 

 

Winner Marija Ivanovska (Eye Cue) Honourable Mention/s Vanja Radovanović

There was no competition here, really. I’m struggling to think of another fashion disaster from the entirety of ESC history as momentous as this one from Macedonia. Neither of Marija’s outfits even sound good on paper – a shiny pink tuxedo jacket feat. armpit cutouts worn backwards, followed by a wildly unflattering knitted playsuit? NOPE. As gorgeous as she is, nobody could make those work. A Barbara Dex Award well deserved.

 

 

Winner Elina Nechayeva Honourable Mention/s Saara Aalto

There hasn’t been an ESC female vocal as consistently faultless and hauntingly beautiful as Elina’s since Jamala’s, so I had to hand this trophy her way. ‘DAMN, GIRL!’ are the words that come to my mind every time she opens her mouth. What she can do with her vocal cords is beyond belief, and I’m 50% amazed, 50% jealous (she’s two months younger than me, FFS).

 

 

Winner Eugent Bushpepa Honourable Mention/s Sevak Khanagyan, Waylon

I don’t know how you solve a problem like Maria (musical theatre reference alert) but I do know how you fill an arena like Eugent: by singing your ASS off. This guy can project his powerful voice for miles without seeming to break a sweat, and I could listen to him do it all day long. Even among the numerous other strong male voices of the year, he stood out.

 

 

Winner Amaia y Alfred Honourable Mention/s Equinox, Iriao

I’m sensing this could be a controversial choice (as controversial as I get, anyway). Alfred, I’ll admit, is the weak link in this pair, but I actually like how his raw-edged vocal blends with Amaia’s delicate, high-clarity diamond of a voice. They were never fighting each other for the spotlight (which happened a bit with Equinox), instead balancing each other out.

 

 

Winner Elina Nechayeva Honourable Mention/s Örs Siklósi (AWS), Netta

Estonia’s opera diva strikes again! You know someone’s impressive when there’s not one, not two, but a whole bunch of mind-blowing notes peppering their performance. I don’t think I need to justify this one any further.

 

 

Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Germany

Every national final winner has at least two months between their crowning moment and Eurovision to pimp their performance and polish any questionable vocals. Some don’t change a thing when they really should, some don’t because they don’t need to…and then there’s countries like Moldova, who (with that Russian input) took a perfectly adequate NF stage show and transformed it into something none of us will forget in a hurry. DoReDoS said that body talk is magic, but so was their performance.

 

 

That’s all for today, peeps…but what do you think of the winners? Which Portuguese performances deserved these EBJEE trophies in your eyes? Let me know below – then prepare yourselves for the final (very late) lot of my Eurovision awards for the year, feat. The Show and The Results!

 

 

 

 

THE 2018 EBJ EUROVISION EXCELLENCE AWARDS | The Artists + The Songs

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! I realise it may not be evening at all when you’re reading this, but for the sake of the glamorous awards ceremony I’m trying to hold, can we pretend it is? Yes? Awesome. Welcome to the first episode of the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards for 2018!

Like Jessica Mauboy, I know…I know what you must be thinking. Namely, ‘Um, Eurovision awards season is over, isn’t it? Y U so late, Jaz?’. Well, FYI my too-late marker is when the official contest DVD comes out – so as long as I beat that release date, I reckon it’s all good. And that gives me another few weeks to get my awards over with, so I’m actually early when you think about it.

Maybe don’t think about it.

Anyway, I’m guessing you didn’t drop by for a discussion about my questionable timing. You came for the EBJEE artist and song gongs to be handed out, including a bunch of the People’s Choice Awards that you guys have been voting for all week, right? In that case, I won’t make you wait any longer. Let’s get this show on the road! 

 

 

 

 

Winner Eleni Foureira Honourable Mention/s Elina Nechayeva, Franka

She does say she’s got the fire, and who am I to argue when Eleni is always putting her money where her (amazing) mouth (that I am super jealous of) is? Girl’s got plenty of other appealing attributes – she sings, she dances, she rolls with it when her comments become memes – but it’s her Mediterranean, top-to-toe, hot-as-heckness that’s most noticeable. I need hair, makeup and workout regime advice from Foureira ASAP, so I too can become fuego.

 

 

Winner Mikolas Josef Honourable Mention/s Cesár Sampson, Waylon

This might be a controversial call to make, but come on…who doesn’t love a hot nerd? Sure, Mikolas’ dorky persona is purely for onstage purposes, but I dig the guy with the glasses + braces just as much as the male model with 20/20 vision we see offstage. When you think about it, he’s like Superman switching into Clark Kent mode – only Mikolas uses his specs to tap into the geek chic trend (rather than to conceal a superhero alter ego). I have no problem with this.

 

 

Winner SuRie Honourable Mention/s Saara Aalto, Jessica Mauboy

Kicking off the People’s Choice Awards this year was the prize for most personable female performer, and I’m not at all disappointed that you guys chose SuRie. Who wouldn’t want to be her best friend? With that being unlikely (I haven’t seen a BFF advertisement anywhere) following her on Twitter is an easy way to bring some light into your life. She is hilarious. If we don’t see her at Eurovision solo again, let’s hope we see her giving Belgium more backup support in the future – she’s clearly their good luck charm!

 

 

Winner Cesár Sampson Honourable Mention/s Ari Oláfsson, Mikolas Josef

This one took me by surprise, I must say – Cesár did come across more reserved than Mikolas and less adorable than Ari (but who isn’t?). Still, he didn’t put a foot wrong with the media or fans in Lisbon, took part in some awesome jam sessions with other artists, and made friends with even more. Plus, like SuRie, his social media appeal is just as attractive as his face (I am currently living for his Instagram captions). Bonus: because he won this award I get to say…Hail Cesár!

 

 

Winner Jessica Mauboy Honourable Mention/s Alexander Rybak, DoReDos

Maybe you had your doubts about how well Jess carried off her (in particular, grand final) performance of We Got Love. I’d understand. But if you didn’t watch her on stage – in her element and clearly in her happy place – and feel some joy and enthusiasm yourself, then WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!? I have no doubts that Miss Mauboy was meant to be a performer, and I could watch her singing, smiling and dancing so hard she gets whiplash all day long.

 

 

Winner Benjamin Ingrosso Honourable Mention/s Ari Oláfsson

He didn’t feel the love from the people in the actual contest (myself excluded…my fingers are still sore from frantically voting for Sweden) but Ingrosso tops the public vote here, and that’s an okay consolation prize. When it comes to 2018’s under-21 club, Benjamin out-scored and out-performed the other members by a mile, handling the pressures of the experience like someone who’s been in the spotlight for more than a decade should. Grattis!

 

 

Winner Crazy Honourable Mention/s Lie To Me

This award usually goes to a song that sounds a whole lot like another one, but not so much that it could be pinned down for plagiarism. Crazy wasn’t booted out of the ESC on that basis, but the fact is that the instrumentals of the song ARE the same ones used in a Romanian (arguably inferior) song released just prior to Franka’s. When the double-up was exposed, a chicken-or-egg debate followed – but the EBU decided Franka was good to go and wouldn’t be disqualified (even though she eventually was…from her semi!).  All’s well that ends well, I guess.

 

 

Winner Czech Republic Honourable Mention/s Ireland, Slovenia

This trophy goes to the country that didn’t exactly make waves in Kyiv…but fast-forward 12 months to Lisbon, and they strutted in with a tsunami of awesome. Slotting into that scenario perfectly was the Czech Republic, who in the years PM (Pre-Mikolas) had only made the final once (in 2016, when they came last). Enter Josef (who Czech TV once wanted to send to Eurovision with My Turn…*shudder*) and the banger that is Lie To Me, and all of a sudden Czechia had Neville Longbottomed…right into 6th place, their best result ever. Let’s hope they can keep it up in Israel.

 

 

Winner A Matter of Time Honourable Mention/s Funny Girl, Stones

I have to say – and I do it as a former English major with a penchant for decent song lyrics – there was a ton of great wording to be heard in Lisbon, which ain’t the case with every contest. The lyricists of Sennek’s A Matter of Time (including Sennek herself) may have lacked the originality of my 2017 Best Lyrics winner JOWST, but they made up for it with sophisticated, mysterious and tightly-rhymed lyrics. My favourite line, FYI, has to be ‘Sometimes it seems we’re at the wrong station, looking for a deadly combination’. It’s macabre, and I love it.

 

 

Winner Who We Are Honourable Mention/s Our Choice, Toy

For the record, the only nominees here I mentally filed under ‘Worst’ rather than ‘Weirdest’ are Our Choice and Who We Are. I chose Who We Are over the Icelandic cheesefest because…well, need I say more than ‘It’s me Jenny B’? The most awful rap in music history was surrounded by lame lines, but the cringe factor in those thirty seconds alone could not be overshadowed. Props go to Jenifer for rapping such trash convincingly, but she deserves better.

 

 

Winner You Let Me Walk Alone Honourable Mention/s Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

This is a very objective award – obviously, we’re all going to have different entries that we weren’t fans of at first but grew to appreciate later. My big one for 2018 came from Germany via Michael Schulte, who somehow won me over with his flawless, impassioned and well-staged performance in the final…despite me ranking YLMWA 40th of the 43 at one point. I should know by now that first impressions never last. I mean, I don’t even skip San Marino on shuffle now (!!!).

 

 

 

Winner Toy Honourable Mention/s Monsters, Tu Canción

Some fanwanks – songs that the devoted Eurofan community goes crazy like Croatia for, pre-contest – deliver in the end (á la Heroes) while others do not (á la Occidentali’s Karma). This year’s biggest fan favourite Toy, a song that had the potential to bomb even after winning the OGAE poll and topping the betting odds for months, ultimately did add another first to its collection. My way of congratulating Netta is to give her this award, because TBH I was convinced Israel 2018 would be to the scoreboard what Italy was last year – a fave that (slightly) flopped.

 

 

Winner Fuego Honourable Mention/s Dance You Off, Lie To Me

We had no shortage of butt-shaker songs this year (so expect 2019 to be bursting with ballads), but the one that had y’all burning the most calories was Cyprus’ Fuego, by the looks of it. This song now has a permanent place on my ESC party playlist, so I’m not about to question the tastes of my readers. I would question the sanity of anyone who can stay seated after Eleni’s first sultry mention of the song title though.

 

 

Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic, Malta

Here’s another public-voted prize for Sweden to make me feel better about their TRAVESTY of a televote at Eurovision. I should clarify – and you’ll know this if you checked out my Best Video nominee playlist – the Dance You Off video nominated for this award was the original, pre-ESC version. But how cool is a) the new version, and b) the fact that we got two MVs from a country that often gives us zero? Watch the winning video below for a hit of slick retroness.

 

 

Winner My Lucky Day Honourable Mention/s Higher Ground, La Forza

Some songs come to life when performed live, despite sounding a little flat when coming out of a speaker. Thanks to the genius staging of My Lucky Day, a mediocre song became a mind-blowing musical number that deserved its top 10 place based on the degree of performance difficulty alone. I like this song so much more when I’m watching it than when I’m listening to it.

 

 

Winner Lost and Found Honourable Mention/s A Matter of Time, Forever

And then…there are the songs that just didn’t work live, because the staging was a fail, the singer wasn’t up the task, or the song was just better to hear than see. On those first and last counts, no other country belly-flopped harder than Macedonia. And what makes Lost and Found’s live disaster so much worse is that Eye Cue were armed with such awesome material to start with. Yeah, the song is messy, but messy in an interesting, unique way that could have been staged (and styled) to its advantage. Since it wasn’t, I’d much rather blast it in the car and pretend the performance never happened.

 

  

That’s all for now, folks – but what do you think of the 2018 EBJEEs so far? Did your favourites take home the People’s Choice Awards? Which artists and songs would score these trophies if you were handing them out? Let me know below – and stay tuned for the second EBJEE episode feat. all things performance-related!

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOTE FOR THE WINNERS! Have your say in the 2018 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards

***UPDATE: The People’s Choice polls are now CLOSED. Thanks for voting, and stay tuned for the results!***

 

Good day to you, sir/madam! We might be slipping into the ESC off-season (when the contest landscape is bare except for an occasional tumbleweed blowing through), but for now ‘tis still the season to be jolly – I mean, we’re not done dissecting Eurovision 2018 yet. Well, I’m not. You can’t have a love affair that passionate end and then move on in a matter of weeks.

This time of year is traditionally reserved for handing out post-show accolades, so naturally my version of Eurovision awards is coming back with a vengeance. Yes, it’s EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards time again. And as usual, I’m starting the proceedings by letting you decide the winners of a whole bunch of trophies (trophies not designed by Kosta Boda, but designed by me using MS Paint because I’m sadly lacking in PhotoShop). So flex those voting fingers and prepare to pick your favourites in the categories of The Artists, The Songs, The Show and The Results. I’m counting on you to crown some alternative Lisbon champions – after all, it makes less work for sometimes-lazy me.

Vote while you can…the People’s Choice polls are now open!

 

 

Miss Congeniality

Last year’s winner Alma

She’s friendly, she’s fun, and she’s the female singer of 2018 you’d choose to hang out with above all others. It’s about personality rather than looks for this award (though all of these ladies are beautiful on the outside AND the inside).

 

Mr. Congeniality

Last year’s winner Nathan Trent

Now it’s time for you to pick the most personable male artist who charmed both fans and the media in Lisbon. You’d take a road trip with him without hesitation, because you’d be guaranteed a great time and a lot of laughs!

 

The Young Achiever Award

Last year’s winner Kristian Kostov 

Age ain’t nothing but a number, and it definitely doesn’t stop those with a little less life experience taking on Eurovision. Which member of Portugal’s 21-and-under club impressed you the most on and/or off the stage?

 

Dancefloor Filler of the Year

Last year’s winner Hey Mamma

Whether you were in the Euroclub, at a Eurovision party or home alone in your pajamas, there had to be at least one song this year that you couldn’t resist dancing to – and will be playing again any time you need to add some life to a future party.

  

Best Music Video

Last year’s winner Belgium

We don’t get preview videos from every single country competing in the contest, but the bunch we do get often bring their A-game. 2018 was no exception, so let’s see which video you think is the best of the best! If you need a refresher, check out all of the nominees here.

 

The Salvador Sobral Award for Performance With The Most “Feelings” 

***NEW AWARD*** 

Music isn’t fireworks, it’s feelings – at least, that’s what 2017’s Eurovision winner told us. Emotion on the Eurovision stage is easy to find, whether it’s happiness, sadness, anger or something else entirely. Which artist from Lisbon’s line-up had their heart well and truly on their sleeve, and made you feel all the feels too?

 

Best Prop/Gimmick

Last year’s winner Azerbaijan

The Eurovision stage sees more stand-out props and gimmicks than any other, and they (usually) add something special to a performance. Vote for the little – or large – extra something that made you say ‘Wow!’ this year.

 

Best Performance from the Big 5

Last year’s winner United Kingdom

There are always musical hits and misses from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – but this award is for the country that stood out on stage when compared to their fellow automatic finalists (the hosts not included).

 

The Host With The Most

Last year’s winner Volodymyr ‘Vova’ Ostapchuk

Having not one, not two, not even three…but FOUR female hosts this year was intense. But hey, it gives us a lot of choice when choosing the one that stood out from the others. Go forth and name a name from the 2018 hostess squad!

 

OMG Moment of the Year

Last year’s winner The Ukrainian butt-flasher crashes Jamala’s performance

There were many jaw-on-the-floor occurrences this year, and not just during the performances – the rehearsals and results provided some WTF moments too. Which one saw you shocked to your very core…or compelled you to take to Twitter in total disbelief?

 

The ‘How Did THAT Happen?’ Award for Most Shocking Result

Last year’s winner Finland’s DNQ

Speaking of shocking…even the most talented predictor wouldn’t have seen some of the Eurovision 2018 scoreboard placements coming. Some countries defied expectations while others failed when we thought they’d flourish. Choose your biggest personal surprise below!

 

 

Aaaaaaaand *drumroll* your duty is done! Thanks for having your say, and stay tuned for the presentation ceremonies of the 2018 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. There are plenty more trophies to be handed out in addition to the People’s Choice gongs, and you won’t want to miss out on knowing who’s taking them home to display proudly on a spotlit pedestal with a velvet rope around it (that’s not too much to ask, is it?).

 

 

 

 

SATURDAY SHORTLIST | The six biggest staging bloopers of Eurovision 2018

Just as there’s diversity in the musical line-up of every ESC, there’s also diversity in terms of how well each song is performed live. I realise I’m telling you something you already know even if you’re a casual Eurofan (as opposed to a hardcore year-round obsessive, like me and most of the people who put up with my lengthy Eurovision ramblings). But I’m trying to segue into the topic of today’s post, dammit! And that topic is the performances from Lisbon that left a little – or a LOT, in some cases – to be desired.

Bad backdrops, inappropriate props, lacklustre lighting, catastrophic costumes, vomit-inducing vocals…for a handful of countries, things just didn’t come together (STOCKHOLM SLOGAN PUN ALERT). Following on from my way more complementary Top 10 performances of 2018 post, here’s the other end of the spectrum: the biggest mistakes made and/or overall worst performances of the year from where I was sitting (on my couch). I don’t mean any disrespect to the artists mentioned or to their delegations…but sometimes, one’s inner bitch just HAS to come out.

 

 

Croatia: (All) lights and (no) shadows

I’m starting off with something small that bothered me about a performance in Portugal. As picky as I know I can be, there are times when a tiny detail drags down staging that would otherwise have seen a country’s contest package all wrapped up with a pretty ribbon on it. Take Croatia, who positioned the beautiful Franka on stage in an equally gorgeous gown (albeit one with a pattern that drew too much attention to her pelvic area) in front of a mic stand, where she proceeded to werk the camera and sass her way through a totally competent rendition of Crazy. So far so good, right? Sure – except Crazy is a moody, sexy boudoir ballad that begged for a moody, sexy lighting scheme (think dark shadows, spotlights and a dash of red), and it did NOT get what it wanted. Without the required combo of Austria, Belgium and Latvia’s lighting, Croatia’s three minutes looked ‘meh’ – almost like Franka was rehearsing and her team still had changes to make. It seems a bit weird that a country can throw everything at their performance one year (and I mean EVERYTHING, Jacques) and then miss the mark twelve months later. Maybe 2019 will be the year Croatia finds a happy medium?

 

 

Greece: No drama = no good

Yianna Terzi: another attractive female soloist with excellent dress sense and great hair who delivered on her end of the ESC bargain this year – a.k.a. she put in an applause-worthy, almost studio-perfect performance. It was what happened around and behind her on the Altice Arena stage (by which I mean nothing) that screwed her over. Seriously, I know Greece don’t have a lot of cash to splash on their song contest presentations…but Oneiro Mou is more dramatic than Silvia Night when she didn’t qualify in Athens, and as such deserved less simplistic stage treatment. It was one song that emphasised the lack of in-built LED screens in a bad way, given that I’m guessing Greece couldn’t afford to ship in (nautical pun intended) their own á la Germany and Malta. That’s not to say that the right prop or (again) lighting scheme wouldn’t have helped boost them into the qualification zone. What I’m saying is that as patriotic as they were, Yianna’s white dress and blue hand (presumably intentional, but maybe she was just cold) were not enough. Her song needed drama served up hot, but sadly, I think it was undercooked.

 

 

Russia: A mountainous mistake

Raise your hand if you didn’t think I was going to mention this! Obviously I can’t see you guys right now (my mass spying devices are on the blink at the moment) but I don’t think I need to – nobody has their hand in the air. It was awkward, ridiculous, and I must say laughable enough when Russia waved their CGI wand over poor Yulia and turned her into a mountain for the I Won’t Break music video. But did we think they’d come up with something less WTF for the live show? I did, but that may have been wishful thinking. It turns out that disguising a wheelchair (unnecessarily) with a prop mountain live on stage looks even more ridiculous than doing it via a computer generated alp. Also, what does a mountain even symbolise in relation to this song? Probably overcoming obstacles, blah blah blah, but that was not clear (and three minutes doesn’t give viewers a lot of time to analyse potential deeper meaning). It was uncomfortable to watch and literally uncomfortable for Yulia. Add ropey vocals and some random dancers into the mix – who arguably got more screen time than she did – and it’s a) hard to believe that Sergey Lazarev and his impeccable staging = Russia’s last representative; and b) easy to work out why Russia failed to qualify for the first time with this.

 

 

Belarus: Gothic horror goes wrong

I’ve said this a billion times before, but I don’t watch Eurovision rehearsals. If I’m getting up at 3am for something, I want it to be a surprise! But I do listen to and read every little rehearsal description from the press centre and on my Twitter feed – total abstinence is impossible. My point is, when I heard what Belarus had in store for the ESC staging of Forever, I was super psyched. On paper, the rose handover, brief game of archery and Alekseev’s gruesome prosthetics sounded OTT, but also OMG YES. If you can’t do stuff like that at Eurovision, where can you? It’s too bad then that in the end, the whole concept came off as a bit of a joke. For starters, Alekseev was shaking so much he could barely pass the rose to the camera guy (and the whole jerky rose rotation was pure cringe). The on-screen petal explosion was timely but tacky. And that bed-of-roses-on-the-back reveal was…well, I still thought it was cool in a gross, ‘WHAT IN THE NAME OF NAVIBAND AM I LOOKING AT?!?’ kind of way. But it wasn’t as effective as I think Belarus wanted it to be…and I definitely couldn’t take it seriously. Many fans might have questioned the light-up space suit Alekseev wore when he won the Belarusian NF, but in hindsight, packing that in his suitcase for Portugal might have been a smart idea.

 

 

Romania: The Humans + a bunch of dummies

It still feels strange knowing that Romania lost their 100% qualification record this year – but after the bizarre staging brought to us by The Humans, is it really that surprising? Romania has never misfired so badly before, but that’s what happens when you take a song with the potential to be elevated by an awesome stage show (which is exactly what went down with Moldova) and have it performed in the presence of creepy department store mannequins. There’s a reason horror movies have been made about those things, and since Goodbye isn’t a song that’s supposed to scare the crap out of people, I have to ask…what were they thinking? It didn’t work for Switzerland in 2007 (but at least Vampires Are Alive had a pre-existing creep factor) and I can’t imagine what possessed the Romanian delegation to give it a try. The main purpose those faceless freaks served was distracting us from the performance elements that did work – Cristina’s risqué dress and epic vocal power, for instance. They didn’t help to fill the stage (except with fear) or tell the story of the song, that’s for sure. And to think that last year, cannons that weren’t allowed to be fired and an awkward kiss were Romania’s biggest on-stage issues!

 

 

Macedonia: MY EYES!!!

If you hadn’t guessed, I’ve been working my way up to the worst of the worst staging disasters of Eurovision 2018…which is why I haven’t mentioned Macedonia until now. They are the masters of messing up live performances of great songs, and the streak of self-sabotage continued in Lisbon. Eye Cue hit the city armed with a multiple-personality song that needed clever staging – and cool costumes, of course – to pull everything together. Tragically (in a first-world-problem sense), as with Spain last year, it all went wrong in alarming fashion. The fashion, in fact, was the single most horrific thing we were forced to look at, as the otherwise stunning Marija wandered aimlessly around the stage in a bright pink, backwards tuxedo jacket with inexplicable armpit cutouts. When she whipped it off mid-song, I thought a crisis had been averted…only to witness the most unflattering half sweater/half swimsuit monstrosity the world has ever seen. The only saving grace in a performance that was as neat and tidy as the top shelves of my closet (i.e. not at all) was the vocals. Oh, and Marija’s shoes – they were dope. Just not dope enough to save Macedonia from their Barbara Dex destiny…

 

 

Which Eurovision performances disappointed/shocked/scared the s%*t out of you enough to become your personal “worsts” of the year? Let me know in the comments below…and from one overly-judgmental person to another, don’t hold back!

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S THE (GRAND) FINAL COUNTDOWN! My top 10 performances of Eurovision 2018

It’s been less than two weeks since Israel won Eurovision, but to me it actually feels like longer – which makes it even more shameful that it’s taken me all this time to pick out my favourite performances of Portugal’s contest just past.

In my defence, it wasn’t an easy decision! Competition was fiercer than Eleni Foureira’s catsuit-and-stilettos combo this year, especially due to the no-LED policy of the stage design which meant countries had to get extra creative when chasing the wow factor. Better late than never, though, I’ve made my choices (just like Ari Oláfsson told me to). And, in reverse order as always, because I like to whip up a fresh batch of suspense every time I do a top 10 countdown, here they are. Let me know what our agree/disagree ratio is in the comments below…

 

 

#10| Ukraine (Mélovin with Under The Ladder)

When Eurovision meets Ukraine, the result is usually OTT – but up until 2018, it had been a while since the country lived large in terms of their contest staging (1944 and Time didn’t exactly slap you in the face with such subtle items as hamster wheels and half-naked centurions). So it was nice to see Ukraine changing up their recent less-is-more approach for a) a vampiric-looking artist slowly rising from the hellish interior of his grand piano; b) said artist removing a layer of clothing halfway through the song, which in this case looked a lot more badass than when Alexander Rybak did it; and c) yeah yeah FIRE!!! When you think about it, Mélovin’s performance could have been even more flamboyant – but he seemed to know just when to stop to give it the specific level of drama and Gothic glamour it needed. Under The Ladder on the Lisbon stage was as confident and cohesive as we’ve come to expect from Ukraine, whether they’re keeping things simple or kicking their staging up a notch or two (hundred).

 

#9 | Israel (Netta with Toy

If it’s controversial to not have Netta right at the top of a ranking like this, then so be it. I didn’t vote for Israel this year and I can’t claim that Toy is the winning song I would have preferred (let’s just say that I was hoping to be trawling through Air BnB apartments in Limassol right about now). But I can’t argue with the punch this performance packed, thanks mostly to Netta herself and not so much to her dancers, who made the whole thing look more novelty than it actually was. Miss Barzilai, though, even without her looper, was a force to be reckoned with. Every facial expression, hand gesture and note was there; the attitude and sass were sky-high just as they should have been; and it was easy to believe that any guy stupid enough to cross her would be sorrier than Frans realising he really was sorry. Netta sold her song like her life depended on it, with her oriental outfit and backdrop adding an exotic touch to the appealingly bonkers proceedings (and not, IMO, falling into the category of cultural appropriation). The Altice Arena audience went crazy for this, and even on TV it was obvious why.

 

#8 | Austria (Cesár Sampson with Nobody But You

Starring in this year’s episode of ‘Surprising Eurovision Third-Placers’ was Austria’s Cesár, who contributed a jury vote-winning rendition of Nobody But You to the grand final line-up. While I didn’t see that overwhelming jury love coming, I did get some spine-tingles from his performance: one that proved he could more than cope with the transition from backing singer to main artist. Commanding the stage – and a spectacular hydraulic platform – completely solo, he made it hard for me to look away from him (or even blink, lest I miss a shot of his impressive arm musculature). Austria also added a mix of shadowy and golden lighting that perfectly suited the song and its soul vibes; a bit of crowd interaction in the second half to up the human connection with Cesár; and, tapping into a trend that was way overused in 2017, the sole giant selfie of the year…which was great apart from the fact that super-sized Cesár was wearing a different shirt to flesh-and-blood Cesár. But that’s a mildly irritating detail I can overlook, based on how boss every other aspect of this performance was.

 

#7 | Denmark (Rasmussen with Higher Ground)

Like Sweden (a country you should expect me to mention later on in this list) Denmark rarely changes much about their staging between their national final and Eurovision. Unlike Sweden, a lot of the time they need to but just don’t. Fortunately, 2018 was not one of those years – and some credit needs to be given to the ship-inspired Lisbon stage for that. Performing a seafaring Viking song, Rasmussen must have thanked his lucky stars when he discovered how neatly Higher Ground fit in to the concept of the ESC this year. Sure, a ship wasn’t the first thing you thought of when you looked at the stage, but just knowing how appropriate Denmark’s package would appear in the year of ‘All Aboard!’ gave them a boost. Sails, snow, stomping, blue lighting, beards, and a manufactured breeze were all Rasmussen needed to create the ideal atmosphere for Higher Ground – and what came out of the oven once all of those ingredients had been combined and baked was gobbled up by televoters. They ranked Denmark first in the second semi, and in the top five in the final. That’s definitely higher ground than the Danes managed to reach in Kyiv!

 

#6 | Estonia (Elina Nechayeva with La Forza)

I’ve said this in a previous post, but there was a time when I thought Estonia didn’t need to stick Elina in a ridiculously expensive projection dress to make a statement. La Forza and her insanely impressive operatic talents would do the trick on their own, right? Well, we’ll never know for sure – but what I now know for certain is that The Dress: Eurovision Edition (forget about some wedding guest getup that’s black and blue/white and gold) turned Estonia’s appearance at Eurovision 2018 into a showstopper. What helped to make the performance all the more dynamic were the close-up shots of Elina during the soft, mystical verses (just to hammer home how stunning she is) interspersed with wider shots and aerial shots during the explosive choruses – those showing off the dress projections to maximum advantage. If I was being ultra picky (as I enjoy being sometimes) I would have liked the lighting scheme and projections to be totally celestial – more cool colours to take us all to a galaxy far, far away. But a bit of red lighting here and there and some psychedelic dress swirls didn’t prevent me from being speechless at the end of this three minutes.

 

#5 | Australia (Jessica Mauboy with We Got Love)

Okay…before you scream at your screen that I must have walked Rasmussen’s plank and drowned in a sea of my own insanity, hear me out. Firstly, I’m Australian and am therefore totally biased when it comes to our handful of ESC entries and my unconditional defense of them. Secondly, when I name Jessica’s performance as one of my favourites of the year, I’m referring more to the stronger semi-final version than the nervy final version. And thirdly, whatever your opinion on her vocals, that dress (which we now know finished 2nd in the Barbara Dex vote) or the characteristically dark Sacha Jean Baptiste staging, you have to admit that Jess is a ray of sunshine who invested every fibre of her energy into her time on stage and brought light to those overly-moody surroundings. I felt so proud (and a little bit teary) after her Thursday night performance – and part of that was to do with the freedom, rawness and authenticity that came from the dreamtime dance moves and a vocal that was a rough diamond rather than a crystal-clear one-carat diamond. Jess did what she does best by bringing her personality on stage as a prop, and I really enjoyed watching her as a result.

 

#4 | Moldova (DoReDos with My Lucky Day)

Discarding a cool NF staging concept in the hope of wowing people at the ESC with an even cooler concept is risky. Moldova took that risk, ran with it, and ended up providing us with an impeccably-timed slapstick-chic performance that elevated an okay song to sensational status. Try and find a flaw in DoReDos’ Eurovision creation and I will dispute whatever you come up with, because it had it ALL. Eye-catching costumes (in Moldovan flag colours, of course)? Check. Boatloads of stage presence and charisma from all three band members and their backing squad? Check. An oversized Ikea cabinet put to better use than anything with doors has been before? Check! Putting paid to the stereotype that men can’t multitask – and proving that women absolutely can – the trio sang, danced and dashed in out of those doors without missing a beat or looking like it was any sort of struggle. In a day and age of the easily distracted (myself included) keeping all eyes on you for 180 seconds can be difficult – but My Lucky Day live in Lisbon was entertainment well worth the price of admission.

 

#3 | Czech Republic (Mikolas Josef with Lie To Me)

From being stuck on a hospital gurney with a neck brace on to turning out a performance like this – only to go on and top it in the final? Mikolas, I salute you. For a horrifying few days early on in rehearsal week, we weren’t sure whether the Czech Republic would even get to compete in the contest with their best entry ever. But the Eurovision gods were smiling down on us (that, and Mikolas did what doctors told him to do). He got through his semi show in more restrained style than he would have liked before pulling out all of the acrobatic stops on the Saturday night – moves that capped off a super-fun, well-choreographed, part-music video/part-live performance feat. SWAG. There is nothing I would change about the Czech staging, although I wouldn’t have complained if a hologram camel had materialised at some point. The highlight – besides Mikolas landing the flip and not ending up back in the emergency room – has to be the butt wiggle/floss/backpack combo after the second chorus. That was genius, and in keeping with the saucy subject matter. I can fully understand why plenty of these greedies want to eat Mikolas’ spaghetti (apologies if I just said something super rude…I honestly don’t know).

 

#2 | Cyprus (Eleni Foureira with Fuego)  

There’s a reason Eurofans still talk about Ani Lorak all the time, despite Shady Lady finishing as the Eurovision runner-up TEN YEARS AGO (!). Ani was a crazy-hot woman in an amazing outfit who, backed by a posse of equally attractive dancers, strutted her way through a top-notch pop song to rapturous applause from the audience. Does that sound familiar? Does it sound…fuego, perhaps? I think so. Eleni came to Portugal armed with an ethnopop banger that had all the best elements of Shady Lady in its staging, and also threw back to Secret Combination and Qele Qele (Greece and Armenia’s ’08 entries that finished 3rd and 4th respectively). I loved being reminded of those other fierce women who’d showed the ESC who was boss back in the day, while being treated to a song that was modern enough to work in 2018. Eleni looked incredible, danced like a woman possessed, and whipped her hair back and forth in amongst fake and real fire while wearing that sparkly catsuit you wouldn’t want to have to pee while sewn into. I’m not going to lie…I wanted to BE her. If we must have successful 2018 entry copycats in 2019, can they please be Fuego + Foureira copycats?

 

#1 | Sweden (Benjamin Ingrosso with Dance You Off)

As we arrive at my no. 1 personal pick for Eurovision performance of the year, it will either be a massive plot twist (because you’re new here and were partly responsible for Sweden’s low televoting score) or a predictable ending (because you know how obsessed with Sweden and how big a fan of Benjamin’s I am). Whatever the reason for that lack of love from the public, it was not a problem for me – someone in awe of the glow-up between Benjamin’s 2017 and 2018 Melodifestivalen performances, and then continually impressed by the Dance You Off performance that was copy-pasted to the ESC (why would you mess with something that slick?). I don’t know why people have an issue with Swedish performances being the same every time, at Melfest and in every Eurovision rehearsal. When you put that much effort in to a stage show – even though Benjamin’s was relatively simple, just extremely effective – and rehearse the crap out of it, why shouldn’t it be flawless by the time it’s going to be on TV? I love this song and I love how it was staged, unconditionally. Jean Baptiste who?

 

 

I’ve showed you mine…now show me yours! Which Eurovision performances floated your boat the most this year?

 

 

 

 

RESULTS REVIEW | Facts and figures from the perplexing point-y end of Portugal’s first ESC

Well, Eurovision 2018 is over (NOOOOOOOO!!!) and we have a winner (obviously…what an anticlimax it would be if we didn’t). In case you somehow missed the entire voting sequence and haven’t been online since Italy’s final note, that winner was Israel. Netta’s Toy did what the odds had suggested she would do up until Cyprus’ Fuego overtook it last week – but she clucked her way into first place anyway, and you can’t say we don’t have the most original and unique Eurovision winner in a long while on our hands.

I’ll talk more about what I think of Israel’s win, my favourite performances and much more (and I’ll be holding the annual EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence) later on. The first order of business though, now that the show is done and dusted, is to check out the results. I’ve taken a look at the overall and split results from both semi finals and the grand final and pulled out some of the most interesting *she hopes* facts and figures, successes and fails and other observations for your reading pleasure *she hopes some more*.

Let me know what caught your eye, shocked you and made you cry tears of joy (or sadness…Eurovision is an emotional time) where the 2018 scoreboard is concerned in the comments!

 

 

SEMI FINAL 1  

Image credit: escxtra.com (because I couldn’t be bothered making my own when this brilliant one was already in existence).

 

THE OVERALL RESULTS

Israel won a semi final for the first time with Netta. Also qualifying more successfully than ever before were Cyprus (previous best 5th) and the Czech Republic (previous best 9th).

That second-ever qualification for the Czech Republic’s came far more comfortably than their first. In 2016, they slipped through in 9th, but Mikolas managed to fall only behind the two big bookies’ favourites, Israel and Cyprus – even without doing a backflip.

Ireland’s 6th place in the semi equals their highest qualification, achieved by Jedward 2.0 in 2012.

It was Finland who just snuck in to the top 10, out-scoring Azerbaijan by 14 points. A qualification is a qualification (and you deserved it, Saara!) but 10th is the lowest position Finland has qualified in.

In terms of my predictions (as seen on Instagram), I correctly predicted that the Czech Republic would qualify 3rd, Estonia 5th and Bulgaria 7th. Happy accidents happen, guys!

 

THE SPLIT RESULTS

Like in 2016 but unlike 2017, the televoters and jurors did NOT rank the same country first. Portugal won both votes last year, but Cyprus steamrolled the televote this year, finishing only 6th with the juries. Israel, on the other hand, won the jury vote but finished 4th with televoters – below Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Estonia (all of whom Netta obviously beat in the final).

The biggest differences between the televote and jury vote in the first semi concerned Finland (7th T/15th J), Greece (10th T/16th J) and Belgium (16th T/9th J).

Greece would have qualified under a 100% televote; Belgium and Switzerland deserved to be in the final according to the juries.

The only countries to be ranked in the same positions by both voting groups were Azerbaijan, Armenia, Macedonia and Iceland in 12th, 14th, 18th and 19th respectively. No agreeing to disagree there!

 

 

SEMI FINAL 2

Image credit: escxtra.com (again…I hope they don’t mind/notice).

 

THE OVERALL RESULTS

Alexander Rybak may not have won Eurovision again, but he is now the first person to win a semi final twice. That’s how you kick some butt! Maybe he’ll come back in another nine years and win a third SF?

The countries that qualified better than ever before this time were…well, none of them. All of this semi’s qualifiers have made it through in a higher position in the past (apart from Norway, of course).

Sweden has now qualified in the top three songs of the last six semis they’ve participated in. Of those six, five finishes – including Benjamin’s – were in the top two.

Denmark sailed into the final (pun intended) in the top five for the first time since 2013. There’s magic in them there beards, I tell ya!

As it turns out, it was Hungary who was lucky to make the final from SF2, beating out Romania by just 4 points.

I (miraculously) predicted that Norway would win this semi, Sweden would come 2nd and Moldova would come 3rd. I also thought Ukraine would finish 4th, which they did in the televote. Does that count? Am I psychic yet?

 

THE SPLIT RESULTS

Again, two different countries took the fancy of the televoters and juries – in this case, Denmark won the televote (!) and Sweden won the jury vote. Can you score points like a Scandinvian, ALL NIGHT LONG?!?!? Denmark ranked only 12th with the juries though, while Sweden dropped to 6th with televoters (not my fault – Benjamin got more than half of my 20 votes).

The most drastic differences between the televote and jury vote on Thursday night were with Denmark (as I just mentioned, 1st T/12th J), Hungary (5th T/13th J), the Netherlands (12th T/4th J), Latvia (15th T/6th J) and Malta (18th T/5th J).

Poland would have qualified under a 100% televote; Malta, Latvia and Romania, meanwhile, would have made it to Saturday if the juries had all the power.

Both parties were on the same wavelength with Slovenia, Montenegro and San Marino, whom they ranked 9th, 14th and 16th respectively.

 

 

THE FINAL   

Image credit: escxtra.com (ICYMI).

 

THE OVERALL RESULTS

Winner Israel netted 529 points in total, with 42 countries able to give them points – a little less than Ukraine’s 534 (with 41 countries available) from 2016, and a LOT less than Portugal’s 758 (with 41 countries available also). 2018’s competition was clearly more open than the two that preceded it.

Toy is Israel’s 4th winning song and first since 1998. They also won in 1978, so I guess we know who’ll be crowned champion in 2038.

Cyprus’ strut straight into 2nd place makes for their best result, having competed (mostly on, not so much off) since 1981 and only reached the heights of 5th in the BE era (Before Eleni). I have to say it: YEAH YEAH FIRE!

Four years after their epic win with Conchita Wurst, Austria pulled a bit of a (tall) dark (and handsome) horse move by finishing in 3rd. This marks the first bronze medal ranking for Austria in their ESC history. Hail Cesár indeed.

Germany surprised many of us (i.e. me) with a stunning 4th-place finish. This comes after an über-awful run of results that left them languishing in 21st, 18th, 27th, 26th and 25th from 2013-2017. Could they be the new Belgium?

Italy’s (again, surprising) top five finish adds a 6th top 10 finish to the collection they’ve amassed since their 2011 comeback. Power to the message song!

As expected – once Mikolas Josef got out of hospital – the Czech Republic outdid any contest outcome they’ve had before by a million miles. Qualifying once in 2016 and finishing last in the final was their personal best until Saturday night. A substantial televote allowed them to leapfrog into 6th place, no lie (HA HA HA), and I feel strangely like a proud mother despite having no Czech ancestry whatsoever.

Sweden found themselves in the top 10 for the fifth year running, though not in their usual style (I’ll get back to that). Estonia, meanwhile, made it after DNQs in 2016 and 2017. Moldova dropped to 10th from last year’s 3rd, but since that’s two top 10 results on the trot (Hey Mamma being their first song to hit those heights since 2007), I don’t think DoReDos will be unhappy with that.

Albania’s commendable 11th place came mostly via the jurors who clearly rewarded Eugent’s INCREDIBLE vocals. I’m fine with that – the man is a powerhouse, and I’m proud of Albania for qualifying and then grabbing a really decent spot after all was said and done.

Alexander Rybak must have come back to the ESC with the intention of winning again, but that was always going to be the toughest of tasks. What ultimately happened was that Norway became the first country to win a semi final, then finish outside of the top 10 in the final. Hey, at least it’s another milestone for Rybak…just not the kind he was hoping for.

I can’t not be a little devastated for Australia and my girl Jess Mauboy, after we ended the evening with our worst result ever. But we still qualified comfortably, and Jess did an amazing job in the final (that I think deserved a better deal, but I’m biased). She left nothing in the tank, and the crowd LOVED it.

We’re all aware of the Eurovision Curse of Number Two, but Saara Aalto’s personal curse of a similar nature struck again in Lisbon – only this time, she wasn’t just behind the winner, but just ahead of last-placed Portugal. Ouch. I’d predicted Finland to wind up mid-table, so that’s a bit of a shocker. But maybe they threw a bit too much at the staging and people didn’t know where to look (a problem shared with Malta).

 

THE SPLIT RESULTS  

We had a clear televoting winner and a nose-ahead jury winner this year. Eventual all-around champ Israel snatched the public vote preference from Cyprus by a 64-point margin, finishing third with the juries; and Austria (the most pleasant surprise of the night) pipped Sweden by 18 points with the professionals…despite ending up with the 13th-highest televote.

Sadly for our hosts Portugal, the one thing televoters and jurors agreed on during the final was that O Jardim should be ranked last. I’m not quite sure how the heck that happened – I thought Claúdia was mesmerising, and not just because her hair had reached new and extreme levels of pinkness. Whatever went wrong, Portugal can now join the unfortunate club of countries who have dropped as far down the scoreboard as possible from one contest to the next (but if it helps, at least they weren’t slapped with a big fat zero á la Austria 2015).

Inconsistencies between the televote and jury vote were all over the place in the final, and in a big way. The most notable differences, from least OMG to most OMG were re: Austria (13th T/1st J), Australia (26th T/12th J), Italy (3rd T/17th J), Denmark (5th T, 20th J), Ukraine (7th T/26th J), and Sweden (23rd T/2nd J). Australia’s televote bomb and Sweden’s whopping difference of 21 places between televote ranking and jury ranking were the revelations that had my jaw on the floor. I have no explanation for those, and I am NOT AMUSED.

 

 

Which scores and split results caught you by surprise, and which ones were exactly what you were expecting? Let me know below!

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

THE GOOD 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

THE BAD

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

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

 

 

THE “OTHER”

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

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

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

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

 

 

A WORD ON THE FINAL’S RUNNING ORDER… 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

FUEGO, FASHION FREAKSHOWS AND FAILS: The good, the bad and the “other” of Eurovision 2018’s first semi final

Not only has Eurovision 2018 arrived – it’s begun with a bang, as 10 semi-finalists became bonafide finalists and 9 poor non-qualifiers (including one angry Swiss woman in a hat, so I heard) were sent packing last night in Lisbon. There’s a lot to talk about and a lot of opinions to be aired, and I’m about to talk and air mine for anyone who’s interested!

BTW, if you were wondering why my qualifier predictions didn’t pop up here on EBJ pre-semi, it’s because I posted them on my Instagram and Twitter. If you want to see how accurate I was (before I mention it later in this post) and don’t want to miss my predictions for the second semi – or the final – make sure you follow me socially @EurovisionByJaz. All the links are in the sidebar.

Now, let’s have a chat about the yays, the nays and everything else that caught my attention during yesterday’s first semi final.

 

 

THE GOOD

I’ll start with perhaps Portugal’s biggest triumph as a first-time hosting nation: the visual delivery of the 2018 theme/concept/slogan. I was already shipping a Eurovision with a nautical overtone (though those terrible puns from Daniela nearly put me off entirely) and I wasn’t disappointed with the beautiful intro/interval graphics and postcard transitions.

Also tapping into the theme was the stage – obviously. As a non-rehearsal watcher, last night was the unveiling of it in action for me, and I have to say the design and lighting setup was impressive. It looked LIT AF, in fact (pardon the pun/irritating Gen Z slang). I did end up missing the LEDs a fair bit, but I’ll get to that.

Onto the cream-of-the-crop performances now, and the first to get me on my feet was my second favourite, the Czech Republic and to think there was a chance Mikolas might have had to withdraw only a week ago! It’s a Paula and Ovi miracle (definitely not a Samra miracle) that he got off the hospital gurney and back into his braces with time to spare. You could tell he was treading carefully, but with the backing dancers providing the gymnastics and Mikolas himself compensating with backpack-loads of attitude, no enjoyment was lost for me. I would have voted the SHIZ out of this if I could have (and I’m flexing my texting fingers for the final, Mr. Josef…don’t you worry).

Israel, as I expected, did not come across as the winner we thought it would be up until recently (it’s just too motherbucking bonkers). But Netta is absolutely adorable, and I’m filing her performance under my highlights because the replication of Toy’s vocals live – without the infamous looper – was surprisingly slick and almost studio-perfect. Best hairstyle of the night by far, too: Princess Leia plus My Little Pony is a good combo.

The most impressive three minutes on that impressive stage, in my opinion (like I’d be typing out anyone else’s opinions), belonged to Estonia. Wow, wow and more wow. I didn’t think Elina needed that crazy expensive dress clashing with her undeniable vocal talent, but it turns out I would have missed it if it wasn’t there. She is stunning, the vocals were exquisite, and I think the dress projections were worth Estonia’s spending spree. It helped score them their first qualification since 2015, after all. As for a win now they’re in the final…I’m not convinced, but this certainly stands out (and Elina literally stands about six feet over everyone else).

The touching, pan-European Amar Pelos Dois do-over defrosted even my icy, unfeeling heart – but any tears that sprung up in my eyes could have come at the sight of a) Svala, after I’d just seen Our Choice be the biggest glow-down in ESC history, or b) Norma John, which triggered the memory of Finland’s shock DNQ last year. Or maybe even Kristian Kostov, because he’s so damn dope and so much cooler than I will ever be. I don’t begrudge (much).

Now, on the results…after all my see-sawing when trying to predict the SF1 qualifiers, I ended up not being shocked at all, after revising my guesses mentally once all 19 performances were through. I got 8/10 Qs correct (I’d anticipated Azerbaijan and Greece rather than Albania and Ireland) which was good news for me (I didn’t humiliate myself! YAY!!!). And I also felt that the results made sense. Albania and Ireland definitely deserved to make the final – Eugent on those powerful, flawless vocals alone. As for Azerbaijan, who have now lost their 100% qualification record – well, I saw it coming after a okay performance of an okay song from Aisel. Maybe that will teach the land of (yeah yeah yeah) fire to rely on sound-alike Swedish productions.

 

 

THE BAD

Here’s something I knew months ago: four hosts is too many. Something else I suspected that was confirmed last night: a script not written by Edward af Sillén is massively inferior to a script Sweden’s 2018 commentator did pen. Contrived, clichéd, and packed with jokes that nobody of sound mind would find funny, this script (and the people reading it…sorry, ladies) will not go down in history as one of the contest’s best. Fortunately, we’re really here for the music and results announcements that nearly push us over the edge, and Portugal has delivered on both of those fronts so far.

Belgium’s three-year run of success came to a screeching halt after Sennek turned out a reasonable but not spectacular performance of A Matter of Time. I never connected with this song on the same level as Rhythm Inside, What’s The Pressure and City Lights – I didn’t feel that it had as much to offer. It wasn’t the car crash I semi-expected live, but girl was NERVOUS and it showed (and not in a vulnerable, ‘We MUST vote for her!’ way á la Blanche). Also…WTF was she wearing? I can only assume it’s an oversized lampshade from Ikea’s upcoming collection that she borrowed from work. Yikes.

The aforementioned Kristian Kostov left Bulgaria with big shoes to fill, and I don’t think Equinox was up to the task. Sure, they qualified, but I found their performance of Bones overly cold and a little uninteresting – visually boring too, which is unusual for a Sacha Jean-Baptiste creation. Bulgaria aren’t winning Eurovision 2018, and I’ll be very surprised if Equinox come close to Kristian’s second place.

When it comes to ‘What were they thinking?’ moments, Macedonia gave us the whole enchilada.  Aimless wandering and a ridiculous costume that was then ripped off to reveal an even more ridiculous (and very distracting) one equaled staging that made a messy-sounding song look messy as well. If Marija had put her tuxedo jacket on the right way round and kept it on, some dignity would have been retained, but…oh dear.

Just because my jaw wasn’t on the floor during the results doesn’t mean I wasn’t heartbroken by a few DNQs. Armenia – my bronze favourite of the year – hit the hardest, even though I understand why the televote wouldn’t have been strong enough for Sevak. I do think we’ll see that the jury vote for Armenia was stronger, but even so there wasn’t enough going on during his performance to make it exceptional (the vocals were exceptional, though).

I was also disappointed by Switzerland not making it. Zibbz produced such a cracking performance of Stones that I expect to see them in 11th – 12th or 13th at the lowest – when all the stats come out post-final. Apparently Corinne was raging in the green room after her country’s name didn’t leave any of the hostesses’ lips, and I can’t say I blame her. You let it out, Coco.

  

 

THE “OTHER”

As impressed as I was by the overall look of the Altice Arena stage and the flexibility of the lights, I felt that the lack of LEDs was clear in the stage not looking as different for each performance as it usually would. Some countries – Austria and Cyprus, for example – transformed the stage, but for the most part it felt like 19 acts competing on the same platform with the same background, rather than 19 unique ‘looks’ being created. I appreciate what RTP was trying to do by scrapping built-in screens, but it backfired a bit. I’d like to see them back in 2019.

It’s not that often we see artists failing to mask their nerves on stage, but there were a couple of obvious shaky hands last night – and neither of the people those hands belonged to managed to make it to the final. I’m talking about Alekseev and Sennek, who I couldn’t help feeling sorry for. I’m surprised Alekseev kept his hold on that rose for as long as he had to. Maybe he listened to Hey Ya by OutKast as part of his pre-performance routine and decided to ‘shake it like a Polaroid picture’. You never know.

There were a handful of performances that I felt were missing something – something that, if heard or seen, might have elevated them to exceptional. For Belarus, I’d say it was the original version of Forever. The less dramatic piano-heavy revamp took away a big chunk of impact, and made the performance feel like it was lumbering along. For Croatia, I wanted darker, moodier lighting and a spotlight on Franka to up the glamour and sex appeal (not that she herself needs much help in those areas *fans self*). And for Austria, the only thing I’d pick on is the unseen backing singers. I think Cesár needed them to strut out onto the platform behind him for the final chorus (like he did when singing backup for Poli Genova in 2016) to make the stage feel less empty and remind us that the gospel backing wasn’t coming from some mysterious disembodied choir.

As we all know, Cyprus was the one to overtake Israel in the odds a few days ago, and while Eleni’s performance was as fiery as Fuego needed it to be (and let’s get this out of the way – she is as HOT AS HELL, and I say that as a straight woman) I’m having trouble seeing it as a winner. I don’t think we’re quite going to get to Cyprus next May, though I am willing to stand corrected if it means a second sun-and-sea contest in a row (one I might actually be attending).

 

 

That’s all I’ve got to say on Lisbon’s first semi final at this point – I’m actually amazed I word-vomited this much after a basically sleepless night (the 3am wake-ups are worth it, but they’re hard work). Let me know in the comments what you thought of the show, how your predictions panned out and how many of your favourites you’ll get to see compete on Saturday night.

One down, two to go! Eurovision 2018 is still in its early stages y’all, and I am PSYCHED! Half of the second semi’s points will be handed out tonight in the jury show: excitement. It’s an unpredictable year: excitement. Anything could still happen…MASS EXCITEMENT. Seriously, I’m in need of some tranquilisers here (and I wish I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, because AS IF I’ll be able to concentrate on anything not related to Eurovision right now).

 

Anyway…I’ll see you after semi 2 for more post-show verdicts!