Bonjour and welcome back to my Tel Aviv Reviews! France isn’t featured in this round, so sorry if the ‘bonjour’ misled you. I was just feeling flamboyant.
As of today I’m ten countries deep into my 2019 judgments, which I hope you guys have enjoyed so far, and told your friends (and friends of friends of friends) about. Now it’s time for me to take on another five competitors: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and North Macedonia. Keep reading for my thoughts on what Roko, Lake Malawi, Victor, Jurij and Tamara are packing in their ESC suitcases as we speak.
Am I feeling the force of North Macedonia’s girl power or is it all about the boys this time? And what’s your opinion on these five entries? There’s only one way to answer the first question – then you can answer the second one in the comments. See you there in about three hours.
Um, Croatia? Eurovision 2008 called and it wants its song back. But it can’t have it, because I’m actually kind of keen on it. The Dream has the mark of Jacques Houdek, the man of many faces, all over it. He co-wrote it, after all, and his lyrical influence is clear in the cliché-crammed English verse and chorus. Jacques did do pretty well at Eurovision himself, however, and one of this song’s other writers has an even stronger pedigree. Charlie Mason co-wrote L’Amoré è Femmina for Italy in 2012, Rise Like A Phoenix for Austria in 2014, and both Beauty Never Lies for Serbia and Here For You for Slovenia in 2015. Between them, Houdek and Mason have never finished lower than 14th in an ESC final. As a duo, you would think they’d be sure to succeed…right?
I’m not so sure. But first, let me try and explain why I actually like this entry against all the odds and my better judgement. There’s an uplifting, stirring atmosphere to it that draws me in, and the fact that it could easily pass as an Olympic Games theme helps (I’m moved by stuff like that, and I really love the Olympics a.k.a. Eurovision with sports). The song builds quickly and trots out a generous share of explosive moments. The melody is pretty simple in general, with the chorus being less of a substantial one and more of a vocal showcase for Roko. And he deserves that showcase, no doubt – this kid is jury catnip, assuming juries aren’t bothered by songs being dated and slightly cringe. Yes, The Dream is a guilty pleasure of mine, but there is a point when it flicks from guilty pleasure to genuine pleasure: the second Roko starts singing in Croatian. Without English-language clichés dragging the song down, it’s much better and makes me wish the all-Croatian version Heroj was competing instead. Still, I’ll take the language mix over full English.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, I can be more objective and say that I am worried for Croatia. I do think The Dream stands out more than Crazy did last year, but all most people will remember about it are Roko’s really subtle angel wings rather than the song itself. It’s too much to ask that the wings be ditched for ESC purposes, with Jacques Houdek loving a good gimmick or six (I’ve obtained a copy of his birth certificate that states ‘OTT’ is his middle name). Plus, dated ballads don’t have a good recent history in the contest, as Omar Naber would confirm. With Croatia stuck in that super-tough second semi, there’s only one member of their bloc nearby to potentially give them a points boost – North Macedonia – and this song just doesn’t have the goods to transcend geography. As someone who doesn’t think The Dream is a nightmare, I wouldn’t mind if Roko reached the final…but even I don’t think he’s going to.
In a line An angelic, vocally impressive power ballad too stale to get out of its semi 2018 VS 2019 2019. I must be feeling nostalgic Predicted result SF 12th-15th My score 7 points
When a country does something amazing at Eurovision out of nowhere, I always hope they’ll surf their wave of success into the following year. Germany did after Lena’s win in 2010, and Bulgaria did it even better after 2016 put them back on the map (RIP, BNT). I’m not sure why I’m talking about Germany and Bulgaria when I’m supposed to be reviewing the Czech Republic…but my point is, CZ had big sneakers to fill after Mikolas Josef gave them their best-ever result, and I was praying they’d bring something just as iconic to Israel. Well, almost as iconic – Lie To Me is basically unbeatable in that department.
I’m relieved to announce that Mikolas’ successors Lake Malawi are setting my camel in the mood for sure. These guys were far and away the smartest choice the Czech Republic could have made in a pretty weak NF (such as it was) lineup. And what they’re bringing to Eurovision is very different to what Mikolas brought, but it’s equally enjoyable and arguably more original. They’re an established band and their experience, rapport and unique style is all on show throughout Friend of a Friend. I cannot help moving to this song á la Jamala, and if I used it as an alarm I’d emerge from REM sleep in two seconds flat, shimmying the entire time. The bouncing beat, memorable chorus and creepy yet somehow endearing lyrics make it irresistible. Speaking of the lyrics, if the line ‘It sounds like you and me when we’re making love’ doesn’t capture your attention then I don’t know what would.
It may have flaws, but I love this entry anyway. It’s cute (when not creepy), fun and competitive without taking itself too seriously. And what makes it even better is, thanks to the straightforward and drama-free Ukrainian NF where Lake Malawi performed as guests, we know the boys can deliver live. The sound great, they look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage, and lead singer Albert has all the energy this song needs (I also really like his Wiggles-chic yellow sweater). Though I don’t have the Czech Republic down as certain qualifiers and wouldn’t bet on Lake Malawi sailing through like Mikolas did, I am quietly confident they will qualify. Friend of a Friend (of a friend of a friend) would make a great grand final opener. Here’s hoping Europe – and Australia, because WOOHOO, we can vote for this – gives the song that opportunity.
In a line A three-minute party I’m happy to RSVP to 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 6th-9th, GF 13th-18th My score 10 points
If you’ve been reading EBJ for a while, you might know how much I love Victor Crone’s Melodifestivalen 2015 entry with Behrang Miri, Det Rår Vi Inte För. I was disappointed back then when it didn’t get out of Andra Chansen, but surprise was what I felt when I heard Victor was entering Eesti Laul this year. I wasn’t as surprised to see him go on and win it as he was, though. It was a televoting triumph, which at least proves that Estonians wanted him to represent them.
Well, they wanted Victor AND the legendary Stig Rästa, who’s partly responsible for the country-to-club anthem that is Storm. I like this song a lot. I like it so much it may be love. There’s something charming about it, even after the beat kicks in, that I can’t get enough of. It’s less laid-back than Goodbye To Yesterday and Stig’s solo EL entry from 2018, Home, but it still has his stamp on it. The melody and music of the verses is strangely soothing, and that’s where Victor’s voice is at its best – but he did a decent job in the Eesti Laul final on those hard-to-handle choruses. Sure, he was sharp in spots, which may account for his lack of jury appeal. But that will likely be tightened up and/or disguised by backing vocalists for Eurovision (no more Lukas Meijer situations, please). I think this is a clever song for a contest because, while I can see how Storm might age fast when you’re listening to it a lot, for first-time listeners it’s very instant and easy to remember. The chorus in particular, with that ‘like this/like this’ rhyme – which tops ‘fire/desire/higher/wire’ – is one big hook. And Storm isn’t a one-trick pony, repetitive as it may be. The dance beat takes care of that, when Mumford and Sons morphs into Avicii and the world breathes a collective sigh of HECK YES.
Combine all of that with the super-cool NF performance, which I’m sure will be replicated at Eurovision, and we have a really solid entry from Estonia. I personally prefer this to La Forza (she says, hoping the backlash won’t be too bad) and I do believe Victor can follow in Elina’s footsteps as far as qualification goes. But as much as I love this and have it in my personal top 10, I can’t see it reaching the actual top 10. Still, the performance is so attention-grabbing Estonia shouldn’t be forgotten even in a 26-song final, unless they end up opening it. And I’d happily be wrong with my prediction if it means Estonia ends up on the left side of the scoreboard again.
In a line A hoedown and dance party in one very appealing package 2018 VS 2019 2019, as nervously mentioned Predicted result SF 4th-7th, GF 14th-19th My score 10 points
Let’s all be honest with each other for a second: who didn’t think Monika Marija would end up singing for Lithuania this year? Girl had not one but two great songs in Eurovizijos Atranka (unfair, but at least she delivered with both) and even when she withdrew Criminal and paid the price for it – literally – Light On remained a safe bet for the win. Then again, this NF season was full of surprises, so it shouldn’t have been shocking when Jurijus/Jurij Veklenko won instead. Run With The Lions did pop out when I was previewing the Lithuanian final, but being preoccupied with other countries I didn’t actually listen to the whole song until it had been crowned.
When I did, I was pleasantly surprised. You never quite know what to expect from Lithuania, given that their recent ESC history reads like a book with chapters alternating between evocative literary fiction and a 50 Shades of Grey disaster. But Jurij is closer to Ieva than Fusedmarc with this proficient, atmospheric piece of power-pop. Obviously it lacks the emotion and honesty of When We’re Old, and it is pretty cookie cutter (it has that ‘pumped out on a factory production line and eventually paired up with an appropriate artist’ vibe) but I don’t mind too much. Co-writer Ashley Hicklin is also responsible for Belgium’s Me and My Guitar and Mother, plus a bunch of music from miscellaneous NFs over the years, and for me this is one of his best Eurovision-related efforts. It has a great melody and flow, and I think the verses, pre-chorus and chorus itself are all equally catchy – even if the overall effect is not exactly exciting.
It’s true that the vanilla flavour of Run With The Lions puts it in the danger zone (so I guess you’re not all alone, Blanche). I’d say it has a better chance of replicating Lithuania’s 2017 result than their successes in 2016 and 2018, and that’s because it just isn’t competitive enough. Is it a great radio song? Yes. Would it make a great addition to a road-trip playlist? You bet. Is it as suited to an Olympics montage as Croatia’s entry? Maybe even more so. But none of that means it can step up and fight for qualification rights. And as much as I hate to keep mentioning this, Lithuania is in that intimidating second semi, between Malta and Russia no less. It’s a bit like the Iceland-Estonia-Portugal sandwich in semi one, only Estonia may benefit from being the most accessible song in that run…while Lithuania separating two equally accessible but more memorable songs is unlikely to do them any favours. I suspect Run With The Lions will be forgotten and miss out on the final. And to be honest, as much as I do enjoy it, I can’t argue that it’s strong enough to deserve a spot on the Saturday night. It’s good, but not great.
In a line A competent and catchy anthem not impressive enough to survive SF2 2018 VS 2019 2019, because When We’re Old never won me over Predicted result SF 12th-14th My score 7 points
North Macedonia is a land that likes recycling ESC artists. They don’t do it constantly but often enough, with Kaliopi, Karolina and now Tamara taking multiple bites of the apple (the fact that they’ve never convinced Elena Risteska to come back for seconds both mystifies and upsets me). It seems they also like recycling songs, because there’s a striking similarity between Proud and Greece’s 2015 entry One Last Breath. Tamara may not be farting tears like Maria Elena, but her ballad smells strongly of Greece’s Viennese schmaltz. That song isn’t a favourite of mine, so it’s safe to say I’m not a lover of Proud either.
In all honesty, I was hoping for Let Me Love You minus Vrčak and Adrian. That, I would have loved. This is the complete opposite – it’s not up-tempo or trashy in a good way. Instead it’s competent, powerful and packed with money notes…and totally boring. Harsh, but in my head that’s the truth. I get the message Tamara’s trying to send and how the song is supposed to be an empowering feminist anthem (written mostly by men). But I feel like empowering feminist anthems should be uplifting, whereas this one is mournful and depressing. The lyrics don’t seem to match the tone of the song either: ‘Don’t bother being proud or recognising your self-worth because we’re all going to die someday and there’s no point’ would be more fitting words. I will say that Tamara does the material justice with her vocals, but the overall feel is old-fashioned and derivative. In my opinion, of course. I know there are plenty of people loving this.
I also know I’m not alone in disliking it, so the question is this: does North Macedonia have enough people who are Proud of them to help them progress? With countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Malta, Russia, Norway and the Netherlands in SF2 to vote for, I can’t see a sizeable televote rolling in for Tamara. I can see the juries taking to her, but there are better packages on offer for them too – including the Netherlands just before North Macedonia and Azerbaijan straight after. Then there’s the curse that’s seen them miss out on the final several times despite finishing 10th (thanks to some stupid rules of yesteryear) or finish 12th so frequently it’s sparked conspiracy theories. Clearly if they finished 10th this year they wouldn’t miss out, but they’ve always qualified on the cusp – no higher than 9th – and haven’t qualified at all since 2012. I’m not confident this is the entry that’s going to change that. I guess the staging might save it…oh wait. This is (the country formerly known as) Macedonia. Never mind.
In a line A dreary, dated ballad that does nothing for me 2018 VS 2019 2018, warts and all (and by warts I mean horrendous costumes) Predicted result SF 11th-14th My score 4 points
And another round bites the dust! Time flies when you’re having fun being both overly-complimentary and brutally honest, believe me.
Let’s have a look at the standings from today.
- Estonia (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Lithuania (7)
- Croatia (7)
- North Macedonia (4)
I don’t see any of these songs as douze-worthy, but high fives go to Estonia and the Czech Republic for coming close. With all of the above five factored in, here’s my overall ranking so far:
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- Estonia (10)
- Cyprus (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Romania (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Lithuania (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Georgia (4)
How does it compare to yours, and what would you score the songs I’ve reviewed this round? Let me know below and I’ll love you forever, Leonora-style (but sans the staring).
Next time I’ll be judging Armenia, Belarus, the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, so get your thoughts on those guys together and be prepared to share. There’s a few big hitters in that bunch and I may have some unpopular opinions on them…be warned*.
*Or I may be pulling your leg and actually have very predictable opinions. You’ll have to check out Round 4 to find out. Subscribe in the sidebar or follow me on my socials @EurovisionByJaz so you don’t miss it!
Good *insert time of day here*, guys. In a plot twist that everyone saw coming, I’m back with more Eurovision 2018 reviews – and with rehearsals for this year’s contest kicking off NEXT WEEKEND (how did this happen?), I have zero time for one of my traditional rambling intros. Lucky you.
Speaking of you…if you saw the title of this post and decided it was worth a look, then you’re probably wondering what I think of Eugent, Saara, Yianna, Ieva and DoReDos – plus the musical offerings they’re bringing to Lisbon’s mahusive potluck dinner. Keep reading if you want to stop wondering! Then, as always, you can pick your personal fave of the five (scroll for the poll) and share your ranking in the comments. I know you want to…
My thoughts Way back in ye olde 2017, Eugent’s Mall became the first song to be selected for Eurovision 2018 (if I remember rightly). It’s a typical move for Albania, with Festivali I Këngës always falling during the festive season. The plus side is that Albanian entries have more time to grow on us and/or be reworked; the downside is that sometimes they don’t age like a fine wine so much as like a loaf of bread. So is Mall, all those months later, a drop of something delicious or a stale loaf of sourdough? And why do I constantly compare music to food? I can’t answer that second question TBH, but I can tell you that for me, this song is somewhere in the middle of awesome and awful. I think it’s quite wallpaper-like: imagine this year’s contest as a room, with Israel being the avant-garde statement armchair and San Marino being the ugly, dated fireplace (spoiler alert for my San Marino review) and you’ll know what I mean. Mall is there and it’s competing, but there’s no fire in it as far as I’m concerned, and nothing that really grabs me – even in the chorus, which if no other part does, should be the part of a song that sticks. I definitely don’t hate it, because there’s really nothing to hate. It’s not super-current but it isn’t decades too late either; it’s well-produced and the music is richly-layered, even minus the live FiK orchestra; it’s anthemic and will probably have some arms waving in Altice Arena…basically, I don’t see/hear any major flaws. What I hear actually impresses me the most about Albania, in terms of Eugent’s vocals. They’re flawless, clearer than the crystal Eurovision trophy, and powerfully projected in a way that will fill the spacious Portuguese stage even if he’s standing on it solo (no France 2017 issues are in his future). But excellent vocals aren’t enough in a competition full of great vocalists – many of whom also have standout songs up their sleeves. Mall is not a standout song in my opinion. It’s a decent song with an Albanian essence that suitably qualified Eurofans can detect with a single sniff (which I appreciate that about their entries). And I’m glad Albania is putting faith in their own tongue for the first time since Identitet in 2013. Unfortunately, I doubt it will pay off. I cannot see this qualifying, especially from the first half of death in the semi final of death (the Grim Reaper will be busy on the Tuesday night). Even though Albania will sound brilliant coming right after Iceland (spoiler alert for my Iceland review), I’m anticipating around 16th place in the semi for Eugent.
2017 VS 2018? 2017. Call me controversial, and I’ll take it as a compliment.
My score 6.5
My thoughts An unfortunate trip to Kyiv last year ended much too soon for Norma John (and if you think I’m over it, THINK AGAIN…and read this post). And so Finland brought out the big guns for Lisbon – perennial competition bridesmaid Saara Aalto, her belter of a voice, and her bucketloads of charisma and stage presence. Let’s be real, we ALL adore this woman. She’s a precious Nordic angel who had to take a turn on The X Factor UK before Finland realised they’d better just internally select her lest she be poached by the Brits. That brings me to my main point re: Monsters. The track is being showered with love by fans and in the fan-voted OGAE poll (no surprises there) but would people be raving about it if someone other than Saara was performing it? The way I see it, the song is secondary in the overall package of the Finnish entry to Saara herself. The country is sending an artist with a song, not an artist AND a song, if you know what I mean (and Norway is in a similar position). I’m not saying Monsters isn’t good enough for her or that it’s not good at all, but it could do more for its singer than it does. Sweden’s Deb duo are the driving forces behind it, and have created a dance-pop almost-banger that isn’t exactly at the forefront of the music scene right now (Ireland sent a vaguely similar song to Malmö, Estonia to Copenhagen). It is catchy, with a strong chorus and a distinctive vocal hook – ‘I ain’t scared no more’ – plus an inspirational message passed on in a way that doesn’t make me feel nauseous (Iceland, pay attention). And you can bet your entire collection of Eurovision merchandise that I’d be burning major calories in the Euroclub with this song as my soundtrack, were I going to Lisbon. Anything that makes you want to move – and not towards the nearest exit to escape it – is good, right? But while I can easily acknowledge the merits of Monsters, I can also easily admit that it’s not one of my favourite songs of the year. I like it but I don’t love it, and I think Saara is capable of more. She’s not going to be the contest winner we thought she’d be back when her name was announced (though why we thought that when she’s finished second so many times, I don’t know). Finland should be back in the final again after sitting it out (involuntarily) for three years, but at this stage I do have them under as borderline in my predictions. Am I letting my lack of enthusiasm cloud my objectivity, or is Monsters legitimately not that amazing? We’ll find out in a few weeks.
2017 VS 2018? Blackbird moves me. Monsters (kind of) grooves me, but I can’t say no to Norma John.
My score 7
My thoughts Going full Greece didn’t do the former ESC darling any favours in 2016 – it resulted in the loss of their 100% qualification record. Demy got them back to the final last year with cookie cutter Greek-free dance though (go figure…so why have they opted for something ethnic this year? Answer: because Yianna Terzi could pay the right price. And thank Hellas for that! I love it when any country sends a song to Eurovision that couldn’t be from anywhere else, and it doesn’t happen that often these days. That’s my no. 1 reason to applaud this entry. Reason no. 2 is that Oneiro Mou features the kind of drama Koit and Laura name-dropped in Verona; my way of saying that it’s atmospheric and mysterious (when I pretend I never looked up the lyrics on Google Translate). The verses get a bit of intrigue bubbling as you wonder, when listening for the first time at least, where the song is headed. Then the chorus delivers extra drama – maybe not in the most bombastic way possible, but in a way that I get a kick out of. If this song wasn’t in Greek, it wouldn’t have half the appeal that it does, so I’m grateful for that too. And Yianna, besides having an incredible head of hair á la Tamara Gachechiladze (no need to turn that volume up, ‘cause it’s already on full blast) is also a well-established, seasoned performer. Ergo, she won’t go all deer-in-the-headlights on stage and will hopefully give us a studio-grade rendition of Oneiro Mou. I say that as someone who’s yet to check out her live vocal chops (I’ve barely had time to brush my own teeth lately, so please excuse that) but I’m assuming she’s got the goods. Greece has made it out of semi finals with weaker songs than this – ICYMI it was NOT love between me and This Is Love, and I’d class that as a weak song that squeaked through. Still, 2016 proved that they’re not infallible, and even in a nautically-themed contest, Greece is unlikely to sail though to Saturday night (HA HA). Like Albania, they’re fighting to emerge from that tough first semi, and I’d say it’s 50:50 – pre-rehearsals – as to whether they’ll make it or not. If the song is staged well (Lights! Dry ice! Wind! Give it the full salon treatment) it’ll help. If not, it might blend into the background, and that would not make for a happy Jaz. The more nationalistic music we get to hear in the final the better.
2017 VS 2018? 2018. Demy didn’t do it for me.
My score 8
My thoughts I’m going to do those of you out there who love this song a favour and spare you having to read this review: it’s not going to be a positive one. Usually I’d ramble on about what happened to Country X last year and make you wonder how I feel about them this year before releasing the kraken that is my opinion. But I want to get straight to the point with When We’re Old, because it’s part of my personal Infamous Four – a.k.a. the four 2018 entries that I just don’t like. I have a top 15 (all of which I want in my top 10), a next best 5 to 10 songs, then a sizeable ‘OK’ category…but underneath that at #40-#43 lies Lithuania and three other countries that I’m yet to talk about. Ieva is at #40 rather than right at the bottom of my ranking, but she’s in my bad books. Why? Because if Lena Meyer-Landrut was only allowed to sing in her inside voice, and starred in a musical version of The Notebook wherein the soundtrack was composed by a rhyming dictionary and a wheel of vintage cheddar cheese, When We’re Old would be the result. Like Iceland’s Ari, Ieva is lovely inside and out, but she’s singing something that is sickeningly sweet and savoury at the same time. Sugar + cheese = not a nice combo (MORE FOOD ANALOGIES JAZ WTF?!?). Sure, it’s romantic and emotive, but I’m afraid my cold, unfeeling heart refuses to be affected by it (perhaps because I’m currently the most single person on the planet and cannot relate to the sentiment). There’s no doubt the song will grow on me during the contest period, and I might be eating these words by the time May becomes June. As of right now, though, I’m not keen for Lithuania to qualify, even if they have a much better chance of making it in Lisbon than they did in Kyiv (they seem to qualify when I don’t want them to and vice versa, with a few exceptions along the way). Of my Infamous Four, When We’re Old is the only one I can visualise in the final, but it will be my toilet break song if it does (and if I don’t need to go to the toilet when Ieva’s on, I’ll go and sit in there anyway). I’m feeling generous with my scores this year, so don’t be surprised by the number you see below…just know that most of those points are for Ieva, NOT her song.
2017 VS 2018? I have to say Rain of Revolution, because it’s more fun and less limp.
My score 5.5
My thoughts You can’t discuss Moldova 2018 without talking about Moldova 2017 first (well, I can’t). The Sunstroke Project are a gift from the Eurovision gods, having presented the world with an iconic meme in 2010 only to outdo themselves last year by presenting their country with its best-ever result. The problem is, like Bulgaria and Portugal, they set a standard for their successors that is not easy to meet. Repeat NF offenders DoReDos have Russian powerhouse Phillip Kirkirov in their corner, and that helped snag Sergey Lazarev the bronze position in Stockholm. That’s what this trio needs to live up to – 3rd place – but I don’t think the Phillip effect is going to get them that far. There is a heap of stuff to like about My Lucky Day: the classic Moldovan trumpets and infectious tune; the enthusiasm of the band when they’re performing it (maybe they caught that from the Sunstroke boys?); the NF/probable ESC mirrors (props that fit into the Portuguese LED-less puzzle very nicely); and the overall throwback feel that transports me back to contests from 2008-2010. It’s just a fun, fluffy song. Musical fairy floss, you might say, but it’s just light and sweet enough to make you (by which I mean me) want more. Is it a masterpiece? No, in case you thought I was under the impression it was. Lyrically, the situation could be improved…and even though I’m 26 and not 12, I can’t help thinking that the words ‘number two’ should be avoided by songwriters (maturity level = dangerously low). But because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, I don’t feel like I have to take the lyrics too seriously. Moldova hasn’t quite built on their 2017 success in the way I’d hoped, and like Bulgaria did after Poli in 2016. But when I look at this song without thinking about Hey Mamma and how it compares, I can’t complain much (which is a big deal for me). Top 3 on the scoreboard? Nope. Top 10? Maybe. Final? Almost definitely. They’ve got a guaranteed douze from Romania to help them on their way, and they might get a few votes out of me too.
2017 VS 2018? Will Moldova ever top Hey Mamma? They haven’t this year.
My score 8
Okay…now that I’ve practically written a novel about each country, the stats are: 15 down, 28 to go! I suddenly feel the need to listen to Blue’s I Can to make me feel like I can get the whole Class of 2018 covered in time.
Here’s my mini-ranking for this round:
- Greece (8)
- Moldova (8)
- Finland (7)
- Albania (6.5)
- Lithuania (5.5)
So it’s Yianna – by one of her amazingly-textured hairs – who wins this five-way battle. Stay tuned to see where she fits in to my ranking of all 43 songs once the reviews are (FINALLY!) done.
Do we have love for Greece in common, or is it Aalto all the way for you? Maybe you’re reeling from my review of Lithuania because you love it so much. Vote for your favourite below, and share your thoughts/spill your tea in the comments!
NEXT TIME Coming up on my Lisbon ‘Hit or S*%t’ list (that’s a working title for next year’s reviews…what do you reckon?) are Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland and Latvia. You won’t want to miss me trying not to be biased when I review We Got Love, so make sure you come back for Round 4.
JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands + Poland
Hello again, and welcome to another episode of me putting the Eurovision 2017 entries I adore up on a pedestal, and tearing the ones I hate to shreds. Fun times (unless you love the songs I can’t stand)!
Another six songs are up for some serious judging today, via me and – once again – my mum. Being the crazy lady that she is (it’s hereditary), she has voluntarily come back to have her say on The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland. So are you ready, Martina, Koit & Laura, Levina, Fusedmarc, O’G3NE and Kasia? Too bad if you’re not, because it’s time for you to be reviewed in 3, 2, 1….now.
My thoughts I’d never complain about a contest that has a lot of musical variety – after all, forty-plus ballads/dance tracks/Hard Rock Hallelujah rip-offs wouldn’t be fun to watch or listen to (or be much fun for the producers trying to create an entertaining running order). So in terms of that, a nice little jazzy number from the Czech Republic helps with the whole ‘celebrating diversity’ motto of the 2017 comp. But that doesn’t stop My Turn from being the most boring song in the line-up by a mile. I just don’t think it has a lot to offer – the melody isn’t very catchy or exciting, there’s nothing about it that stands out and makes it memorable (I’m actually struggling to recall how the verses go right now) and I’m not a massive fan of Martina’s voice either – though I expect she’ll sound pretty much studio-perfect on the Kyiv stage. Speaking of the stage…not even an Azerbaijan 2013 level of staging genius would pimp out this entry enough to push it into the qualification zone, IMO. Dead last in the semi isn’t a dead cert, but it’s hard to imagine the juries or televoters lavishing attention on My Turn when there’s the likes of Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois (for the former) and I Can’t Go On and City Lights (for the latter) surrounding it. Then again, I didn’t think the Czech Republic would qualify last year, so I’ll prepare to stand corrected just in case. 4 points.
My mum says… This is a bit naff. It’s got a nice chorus and seems simple to sing along to, but I get the feeling two or three run-throughs would be enough for me to get bored of hearing it! Martina has an unusual voice – I wasn’t sure if it was a female or male voice at first, and I guess that makes things interesting. But the bottom line is that I won’t be too bothered if don’t hear her song again anytime soon. 4 points.
The Czech Republic’s score 4.00
My thoughts I’ll get right to the point on this one: if Koit and Laura’s duet accurately depicts what being lost in Verona is like, then drop me off there without access to Google Maps! I LOVE this song, just as much as Koit’s 1998 entry Mere Lapsed and a million times more than the weak-as-water Let’s Get Loud by Laura’s Suntribe in 2005. Verona seems to borrow sounds from three or four different decades – mostly the 1990s and the 2000s – which doesn’t leave it feeling super fresh, but the infectiousness of all of its elements, the instant hook and the fact that it wasn’t written in the traditional A-B-A-B-C-B song structure (the song is as lost as Koit and Laura, but in a good way that keeps you wondering where it’ll end up) wins me over anyway. It’s a little dated, but in a way that works – more nostalgic than stale. The singers themselves sound great together and when they’re doing their solo duties, but their chemistry leaves a bit to be desired. It might have been the Eesti Laul staging that was a little off, but I hope there’s not a Chanée and N’evergreen situation happening behind the scenes…or a reverse scenario in which Koit and Laura are great mates IRL, but can’t channel the necessary emotions to give an authentic, appropriately-tortured performance. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, because we haven’t (correct me if I’m wrong) seen a live version of Verona since it won the NF. It’s done well in the OGAE poll so far which makes me happy, but that’s not always a reliable indication of what will succeed in the actual show. Still, I think Estonia – after a shocking trip to Stockholm that saw Jüri Pootsmann finish last in the first semi – has the power to propel themselves into the final, and onto that sought-after left side of the scoreboard with this pairing. 10 points.
My mum says… Once I stopped wondering why ‘two silly boats in the sea’ had been considered a wise lyrical choice by Verona’s writers (after Jaz informed me that the lyric is ‘two SAILING boats’, which I must admit makes more sense) I started to enjoy Estonia’s entry. I wouldn’t say it’s fantastic, but I like the sound, the beat, and the way Koit and Laura’s voices complement each other. It’s definitely more than musical wallpaper, so I think it should do well in competition. 6 points.
Estonia’s score 8.00
My thoughts Let’s do the math: in the past two years, Germany has sent two absolute gems to Eurovision, only to f%*k up the staging of both (to different degrees) and fall utterly flat in the final. If that’s the way the universe is working, then by rights Levina’s Perfect Life should be staged flawlessly and be super-successful on the scoreboard…even though it’s a bit of a snoozefest. Of course, Deutschland could just as easily be heading for their third wooden spoon on the trot (undeserved in each case) which would mainly upset me because Levina seems like an awesome person whose (perfect) life should be filled with sunshine and rainbows and puppies. Plus, the girl can sing. It’s just too bad that the song she ended up winning Unser Song with is a non-event. It starts out as a Titanium homage – which teases you with the prospect of it turning into a proper dance banger – only to veer off into plod-along territory and stay there. It’s almost like Perfect Life doesn’t know what type of song it wants to be, so it’s ended up as a compromise between a ballad and a club track that’s too down-tempo to compete with other in-betweeners like Sweden and Macedonia. I can’t realistically see anyone picking up their phone and taking the time to vote for it, and I also don’t think it’s going to stand out as something spectacular that the juries would freak out about. That doesn’t bode well for Germany. They really need to find their groove again, or have a Belgium-style turnaround. Try it in 2018, okay? 6 points.
My mum says… This is more my style. I was mouthing the words of the chorus by the end, and when that happens without me even realising, I know I’ve found a favourite – or at least a song I wouldn’t change stations on if it came on the radio. Perfect Life is definitely radio-friendly. I like Levina’s voice and the lyrics, plus the fact that she’s obviously happy with her lot. I think many of us could learn some lessons from her…or at least from whoever came up with the song’s concept. 7 points.
Germany’s score 6.5
My thoughts I think we know which country Georgia passed the bonkers baton on to after last year! Funnily enough, I’d probably be saying the same thing if Get Frighten had won in Lithuania. What we’ve got instead is less novelty but way more untamed, and it’s nothing like the Game of Thrones-inspired military march song I thought Fusedmarc would present me with, back before I heard Rain of Revolution for the first time (it just goes to show that you can’t judge a song by its title). I’m not even sure how to categorise this entry, which is almost a positive attribute when you consider how ‘different’ that makes it. Part electropop, part funk with a rocky edge, it’s not as offensive to me as it seems to be to most other Eurofans – I really like the beat and melody of everything leading up to the choruses, and the chorus itself has a pretty high sing-along factor. I also dug the staging of the song at Eurovizijos, and if they’ve decided to keep those visual effects for Eurovision, they’re sure to look epic on that LED-laden stage. But vocalist Viktorija lets a little too loose with her big notes, and that equals a messy listen (those screechy ‘YEAH YEAH’ bits being the main culprit). And it has to be said – by me, apparently – that she gives off some crazy vibes (in a psychotic, escaped mental patient sort of way, which ain’t ideal). The overall package is something that, once unwrapped, I wouldn’t try to return for store credit…but I can understand why other people would. So I’m safely predicting Rain of Revolution to go absolutely nowhere in its semi, which is a shame after Donny ‘Modern ESC Legend’ Montell did so well for Lithuania in 2016. 5 points.
My mum says… Lithuania’s taking us all back to the 80s whether we like it or not, by the (literal) sound of it. I’m not sure I do like it. Rain of Revolution is a song that seemed like it was going to become something better than what it began as, but it never did. I’ll give a few ticks of approval for the nostalgic feel and the energy of the beat, but that’s it. 5 points.
Lithuania’s score 5.00
My thoughts O-M-G3NE, I was excited when these ladies were announced as the Dutch reps for the year (as they’re JESC alums, I followed their Voice journey and have watched their audition for the show about 500 times). They’d been rumored before and their selection was bound to happen sooner or later, but I was happy to have it sooner. That, of course, was prior to Lights and Shadows being chosen and then released. So did I change my mind when it came out? Well, no…although I do think the trio have been saddled with a song that’s far too focused on being a vehicle for their voices rather than a current, competitive contest song. There’s a lot of emotion attached to O’G3NE’s entry because a) it was co-written by their father, and b) it was co-written by their father about their seriously ill mother. That should allow them to really feel what they’re singing rather than just parrot the lyrics pitch-perfectly, which they can do without trying anyway – their harmonies are incredible. However, heartstring-tugging aside, the song is a throwback with Wilson Phillips comparisons that won’t stop cropping up. IMO that’s not totally terrible, since I get a kick out of the rousing 90s feel of it. And even though it’s a very wordy song, I find it pretty easy to sing along to, and very catchy. It definitely stands out, and last but not least, we can bet on the performance being flawless, with the vocals being the shining beacon of jury bait. I just don’t know if it’s going to be a big success, a flop, or finish somewhere in between the two. I wanted O’G3NE to come strutting in to the contest with a surefire hit – i.e. a killer pop song circa 2017 (not 1997) that highlighted their vocal abilities without sacrificing musical fabulousness. I can’t say they’ve done that (DAMNIT!), but there’s a lot I do like about Lights and Shadows. And I’m still excited to have this girl band back in the Eurovision family. 7 points.
My mum says… Sigh. I could happily listen to these girls harmonising all day long. When they’re harmonising to Lights and Shadows, I instantly get the Wilson Phillips feelings that I’ve been told loads of others have too. There’s also a bit of B*Witched in here, making the song/singer combination very 90s indeed. That girl group style is one I usually enjoy, and this is no exception. Though I’d be surprised to hear something like it on the radio, I’d willingly play it again for my own listening pleasure. 10 points.
The Netherlands’ score 8.5
My thoughts Poland has been pretty hit-and-miss with me since they came back from their Eurovision vacation in 2014 (with a bang). There actually seems to be a pattern forming with my attitude towards their entries: My Słowianie, yes; In The Name of Love, not so much; Color of Your Life, yes. Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, let me cut to the chase: I’m not a huge fan of Flashlight. I had a favourite in the Polish NF that I thought had a better chance of winning (Isabell’s Swedish-written, Kygo-esque Voiceless, FYI) so Kasia took me by surprise when she won instead, with what’s a perfectly okay, gothic and melodramatic ballad. It’s just not the sort of ballad that rubs me up the right way. I feel like it would have fit in better at Kyiv in 2005, though it also reminds me of Lithuania’s Nomads in the Night which popped up three years later in Belgrade. I wish it reminded me more of Poland’s entry that year from Isis Gee, which IS the sort of ballad I prefer. Flashlight has a reasonable chorus – I wouldn’t call it catchy, however it does have some staying power – but I honestly can’t remember how any other part of it goes, and I’ve listened to it just as often as I’ve listened to the likes of Cyprus and Montenegro – two far more instant songs. It’s not memorable or modern enough for me, and I suspect for the contest in 2017 either. I wouldn’t give it zero chance of qualifying, because it might well go through…but if so, I expect it will die in the final. On the plus side, I’m guaranteed to love whatever Poland sends to Milan the as-yet-unidentified host city of Eurovision 2018. 5 points.
My mum says… It’s funny how something so dramatic can fall so flat! This didn’t do anything much for me, and I’m having trouble thinking of the melody too. It sounds like it’s trying to be something spectacular, but it never hits the heights to make that happen. Kasia’s voice is another great one that I’d say deserves a better song to show it off. 5 points.
Poland’s score 5.00
Aaaaand we’re done for the day! The ranking for this round of reviews looks like this:
- The Netherlands (8.5)
- Estonia (8.00)
- Germany (6.5)
- Poland (5.00)
- Lithuania (5.00)
- Czech Republic (4.00)
Forget two heads being better than one – three is obviously better than two, if O’G3NE’s win over Koit and Laura is any indication (though that was mainly my mum’s influence). You’ll have to hang around until all 42/43 (will I review Russia? I’m not sure at this point) songs have been crossed off the to-do list to find out which country will top our full ranking…and which one will bring up the rear. After that, Eurovision itself will decide whether terrible taste runs in my family or not.
Next time on Jaz Judges Eurovision 2017, I’m rolling out the red carpet for Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta and Switzerland. Drop by if you don’t want me to dance alone! And before that, as always, leave your thoughts + feelings on today’s reviews in the comments. Do you think the Netherlands will do the best out of this bunch in Kyiv, or does OGAE poll darling Estonia have the edge? Perhaps we’ll find ourselves in Prague next year and you’ll be saying ‘I told you so’. Let us know below!
It’s creeping ever closer, people! If you don’t know what I mean by ‘it’, then I have to question why you’re reading this blog. For those who do know, you’ll also be aware that the Eurovision 2016 stage is taking shape inside the Globe Arena, and that means more reviewing must be done before it resembles the diagrams we oohed and aahed over a little while ago. It’s still mostly scaffolding at this point – but there’s no time to waste! Let’s say hej to today’s judges, and to the countries they’ll be discussing in this third installment of reviews.
By now, you guys should know where to meet and greet the EBJ Jury, so I won’t tell you again (well, maybe just one more time. Hint: scroll up!). James, Martin and myself are about to complement and criticise the life out of Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and San Marino – or, as I like to call them (because we’re all best buddies), Eneda, Jüri, Jamie-Lee, Donny, Douwe Bob and Serhat. Who’ll be our favourite, and will any country other than the predictable one be our LEAST favourite? Settle down with some popcorn and find out now!
James Okay, I feel like I’m going to be in the minority here when I say I actually think the revamp has improved Albania’s song this year…instrumentally, at least. Fairytale 2.0 sounds a lot more professional than Përrallë did – the only issue I have is that Eneda’s new vocal somehow sounds like she recorded it right after waking up from a three-hour nap, and quite fancied getting straight back to bed as soon as she was done. I’m hoping she really attacks it live because even with its lucky running order position, it’s gonna need a LOT of extra energy if it’s to stand ANY chance of making it to Saturday night. The English lyrics aren’t brilliant, I must admit, but that’s never been an issue in the past *cough, undo my sad, cough*. As a song though, I do enjoy listening to Fairytale, and the hook does stick with me. I’d be happy to see Albania in the final with this.
Martin Swapping from Albanian to English, along with losing forty-five seconds of the FiK version of Fairytale, is going to lead to yet another non-qualification for Albania – much in the same way as it did for Hersi in 2014. What was a powerful and passionate emotional rollercoaster with lots of interesting nuances in Tirana has now lost it all and become a repetitive low-key ballad that no longer holds my attention.
Jaz Albania seem to have forgotten fast that a fully-Albanian language entry gave them their best-ever Eurovision result. Obviously, it’s well within their rights to sing in whatever language they like – but I can’t help feeling that ANY language other than English would have helped Eneda’s Fairytale retain the mystery and intrigue that it initially had (and in doing so, you might say, made it a Fairytale with a happy ending). Like Martin, I can’t say that this song, in its English incarnation, is anything special – whereas it was when it was known as Përrallë. Language gripes aside, I still rate the gritty, rocky sound (and how it contrasts with Eneda’s/Kate Winslet’s ladylike styling), and the melody and construction of the choruses is still interesting (we’re rarely on the receiving end of cookie-cutter stuff from Albania). But, without the air of ‘Ooh, what’s this all about then?’ that the original version of the song created, I cannot see this qualifying. Not unless a handful of other countries stumble and fall flat on their faces, that is.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 5
- James 5
- Jaz 6
- Martin 5
- Nick 2
- Penny 6
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 6
Albania’s EBJ Jury score is…5.33
James Aagh, Estonia. I genuinely still don’t know what I think of Play yet. It’s definitely one of the most original songs in this year’s line-up, and it’s fresh and relevant whilst oozing the kind of timeless classiness that Estonia are so good at of late. The thing I’m not so sure about is Jüri’s voice – if the song had been written a couple of semitones higher, it would be in a much more comfortable place for him. This is something I’m all too familiar with from trying to record covers myself – literally, if someone from his team could just whack the karaoke version into Audacity and change the pitch up a bit, everything would be fine! He still sings it perfectly well, of course, but there’s not a single point in the song where he has the chance to break out of that sludgy lower register and show off the full extent of his vocal capabilities, and the overall effect is far too dark, in my opinion. Yes, I know it’s MEANT to be like that, but I don’t think it really works. Especially live – the melody is so low that it blends in with the track and obscures a lot of the meaning, which is a shame since the lyrics are one of the song’s highlights. I still think it’s got a pretty good shot at qualifying, though, and it’s definitely going to stand out, one way or another.
Martin With a passing nod to the vocal style of Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy, Jüri brings chic and coolness to Eurovision with a very laid-back and confident performance, together with a song that builds nicely and has a memorable chorus. Play just lacks a ‘wow’ moment that would definitely confirm a final place, and a possible top half finish for Estonia. Because of that, this could be one of the ‘better’ casualties of this year’s semi finals.
Jaz Estonia has pulled a Latvia this year, selecting a song written by their 2015 representative to fly their flag (I’ll be swapping the countries around and saying the same thing about Latvia when the time comes). While I’d put Love Injected on par with Heartbeat in the ‘How freaking awesome is this?’ department, I’d actually rank Goodbye To Yesterday a little lower than Jüri’s Play. That’s not because I hate GTY (I don’t, although it never topped my rankings) but because I LOVE Play. Jüri + this song = a performance by a more well-groomed and more intense version of Hozier, and it is soaked with smoky retro sophistication. This kid (I can call him that since he’s younger than me and my mental age is akin to that of a teenager) might look angelic, but when he’s on stage, those of us watching him aren’t sure whether he wants to skin us alive or if he’s just really, really in the zone. I like the fact that he’s so ‘in character’ as he works his way through a song that literally hits all the notes that Bond-inspired vintage-vibe pop should. Of all the throwback songs that will be showing up in Stockholm this year (‘all’ meaning, like, three or four) this is the most well-executed IMO, and it almost serves as a prequel – or sequel, depending on how the listener writes the story – to GTY, as an added bonus. Though I doubt Jüri will squeeze out a single tear á la Elina Born at Eurovision, I don’t doubt his ability to take Stig’s song to the final…and perhaps secure Estonia another top 10 result as well.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 6
- James 5
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Nick 4
- Penny 8
- Rory 6
- Wolfgang 5
Estonia’s EBJ Jury score is…7
James I should absolutely adore this. It’s got that modern synth-pop sound with a waif-like female lead vocal, which I usually really dig…but something about Ghost just doesn’t click with me. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments – I like the bridge, for example, and the chords in the ‘lonely in a crowded room together’ line. But on the whole, that chorus is such an anti-climax, isn’t it (please say somebody agrees with me?). It’s still a decent enough song, but I guess I just feel a bit miffed every time I hear it because I feel like it could have been soooooo much better! I hope it grows on me, and it probably will when I get the CD and actually let myself play all the songs to within an inch of their lives…but until then, it’s mid-table at best for me. Sorry, Germany.
Martin Melancholic lyrics, an atmospheric score and hauntingly powerful vocals were all at odds with the visual package of an 18-year-old girl obsessed with manga outfits! ‘The Voice of Germany’ was totally the focus of the national final performance of Ghost and rightly so. Jamie-Lee’s simple but sublime delivery of this entry could be the sleeper hit this year in Stockholm. One of my favourites – it’s my number 4 at this stage.
Jaz I don’t want to get overly-attached to Jamie-Lee and her Ghost, given what happened in the wake of me latching on to Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke (I’m beginning to think I’m a bad luck charm). But…this song is brilliant! Hashtag fail on the ‘keep your distance’ thing! I’m no musical expert – which you may find hard to believe – but I think that technically-speaking, this is one of the best songs competing in this year’s contest. The background music is almost church hymn-like, which adds a pleading but accepting tone to the words pouring out of Jamie’s mouth; while the steady beat makes the whole thing hypnotic. As a package, the music and lyrics are fresh and edgy, and Eurovision needs those adjectives. However, what we see rather than hear is where Germany has gone wrong. I know Jamie-Lee loves her K-pop and her Harajuku-inspired outfits (in other words, Gwen Stefani would adore her) – but not only does her choice of costume detract from a song it just isn’t suitable for, it also makes for a jarring combination of a mature, emotionally-charged song being performed by someone who looks distinctly Junior Eurovision, and therefore far too young to have an understanding of what she’s singing about. Jamie, sans stuffed-toy-covered wardrobe, does have the maturity required to pull this off despite her young age, and her vocal talents are undeniable. But dressing the way she does, she’d be better off joining Dolly Style when one of their current members inevitably departs, or performing a song that is as fun, cute and playful as she looks. To people not named Jaz, the contrast between Ghost and Jamie’s sartorial selections might make her stand out positively from her 25 fellow finalists – but I think, as much as I admire her passion for and loyalty to her look, keeping it for Eurovision is a big risk. I do love the song though…
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 5
- James 5
- Jaz 10
- Martin 10
- Nick 12
- Penny 6
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 10
Germany’s EBJ Jury score is…7.78
James Okay, yes, this has ‘Melfest Reject’ written all over it, but you know what? I don’t mind at all. One thing I really look for in Eurovision now is relevance. As I’m hosting a Eurovision party for all my non-fan friends, I get really excited when there are songs that sound like they’d fit right into the UK charts or radio playlists right now, because then I can point at the screen and go ‘SEE? EUROVISION’S NOT SHIT!’ and smile smugly as all my friends listen and can’t help but agree, because songs like Lithuania’s match their own tastes and would do so well if released by someone more well-known over here. So yeah, well done Lithuania! Ever since Attention, which I ADORED, they’ve really upped their game at Eurovision, and I’m enjoying their commitment to giving Europe the very best that their country can offer! Another thing though – have you heard any of Donny’s more recent music? Because damn, boy, he’s so much better now than when he sang that god-awful thing at the ESC in 2012! He’s got a really slick Troye Sivan/The Weeknd kind of vibe going on (think Aminata/Loïc Nottet if you want a contest reference) and it really suits his voice and style. I sort of wish he’d entered something more like that for Eurovision, but meh – I’ve Been Waiting… is more than good enough as it is!
Martin Donny gives this entry everything – it’s definitely memorable, it’s a standout high-tempo pop song that is performed superbly well, and it makes full use of his onstage charisma and good looks. Is the song’s title also a good omen for Lithuania? Donny could well be singing ‘I’ve been waiting for this night’ over the credits of the Eurovision final as his country’s first winner.
Jaz How does a pasty, preppy dude whose hobbies include strumming an imaginary guitar and wearing comical bejeweled blindfolds transform into a buff, bronzed and blonde (for the most part) crowd-captivator? Why not ask Donny Montell? He’s done just that between 2012 and 2016. Don’t get me wrong – Love Is Blind was the bomb, and Donny has always been a showman and a half, who can dance and sing simultaneously to a degree that probably makes Eric Saade very depressed indeed. But it’s great to see that Donny has evolved as an artist, and that he didn’t try to make an ESC comeback by repeating his approach of four years ago. I’ve Been Waiting For This Night is a bog-standard dance anthem, but the catchy chorus coupled with Donny’s charisma elevate it to above-average. Not since Kurt Calleja’s This Is The Night have we witnessed an entry that sets the tone for the show so perfectly (although Tonight Again did a darn good job of that in Vienna, I must say). Needless to say, the Globen audience (which will include me!), plus everyone watching on TV will be partying it up-up-up-up-up-uuup Loreen-style thanks to Lithuania. I am expecting them to qualify, and I will be complaining very loudly if they don’t. Oh, and I’ll also be starting a petition to get Donny to drop the Anglicised stage name and revert back to his much cooler birth name. ‘Donny’ worked with Love Is Blind. ‘Donatas’ is the artist IBWFTN deserves.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 3
- Fraser 10
- James 6
- Jaz 8
- Martin 8
- Nick 5
- Penny 6
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 10
Lithuania’s EBJ Jury score is…6.55
James Anyone who knows me will know that I absolutely love Calm After The Storm. So I guess when we worked out that by sending Douwe Bob, The Netherlands were going to be trying country music again, I was cautiously optimistic. And then I heard the song. Yeah, no. It’s the kind of thing that would only feel at home around the track 12 mark on disc two of some cheap ‘Driving Anthems’ compilation: the kind my Dad would play on long car journeys circa 2004. As a result, Slow Down just makes me think of those car journeys as a kid and I get a weird second-hand travel-sickness from it and…yeah, I just really don’t like it. The chord pattern, the instrumentation, the tone of the whole thing – it’s supposed to make you feel happy, but by the third line I just want to Sellotape Bob’s smug little mouth shut so he ‘can’t go on’ (see what I did there? Eh, eh?). Can I just stop listening to this and go listen to Calm After The Storm again instead please? That was such a special song. This is not.
Martin Country & western returns to Eurovision courtesy of the Netherlands yet again – it’s always about the lyrics, as this genre can sound like every other C & W track you’ve ever heard. Slow Down is well sung, and Douwe Bob is personable and handsome…but the steady pace and sound of the song won’t stand out in Stockholm. Another possible ‘good’ non-qualifier for me.
Jaz I have to agree with both James and Martin on this one, in terms of the fact that Douwe Bob’s Slow Down is achingly average – and it certainly doesn’t recapture the magic of Calm After The Storm (though you can’t blame the Netherlands for trying to in the wake of the Trijntje incident). The song’s not bad (we’ll come to one that is almost undeniably so in a minute). But, as much as I enjoy the cruisy pace and general jauntiness of it, plus Bob’s insistence that we chillax bro – and his vocal, which is super-smooth with a rough retro edge that I find strangely attractive – the entry as a whole just doesn’t ‘do’ much for me. Therefore, I have no choice but to file it away with the likes of Finland and the Czech Republic. I can’t imagine that the staging for this will be epic enough to make Douwe Bob the second coming of the Common Linnets, because even on its own, their song had the x-factor. Still, he should serve us up a nice, clap-friendly three minutes on stage (and if he lets that rose tattoo poke out of his shirt, you may hear me wolf-whistling amidst the applause). That should at least ensure that he won’t be bottom of his semi. Qualification isn’t out of his reach, but it’s definitely not in the bag.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 6
- James 3
- Jaz 6
- Martin 7
- Nick 5
- Penny 10
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 3
The Netherlands’ EBJ Jury score is…5.55
James Okay…is this a joke? Like, genuinely, I hope this is a joke, because if not, it’s just plain embarrassing. I cannot comprehend how one country can send so many palpably half-arsed entries in such a short space of time. I completely understand that San Marino are strapped for cash, and since Ralph Siegel has stopped bankrolling their entire Eurovision operation (hallelujah!) they’ve adopted the approach of nominating artists who can pay their own participation fee. So that essentially means they’ve got the pick of, oh, I don’t know, EVERY SLIGHTLY RICH ARTIST IN THE ENTIRE CONTINENT – hey, actually no, THE ENTIRE WORLD…and they’ve sent THIS. Was this really the best they could do? The original was dire, but by trying to squash Serhat’s badly-written, cringey, lopsided spoken words (that is not singing. I’m sorry, but no) into a DISCO TRACK, they’ve somehow managed to make it even worse. The beat itself, well, erm, Baccara called and they want that back ASAP. But dear lord, Serhat’s voice is the most grating thing in the entire Stockholm line-up! My dog has a bigger vocal range than he does. I’d literally rather spend three minutes listening to her barking right in my ear for her daily Dentastick, and deal with the copious amount of drool that accompanies such a request, than listen to any track with Serhat’s voice on it. Look at his face and then Google the troll face, and tell me they’re not distant cousins at the very least. This HAS to be a pisstake, right? It goes without saying that they haven’t got a hope in hell of qualifying, and if they do – ESPECIALLY if they take the place of someone like Gabriela from the Czech Republic – then there is something very, very wrong with this contest. Come on, San Marino. Sort yourselves out for next year, I beg you!
Martin The Turkish Leonard Cohen meets Studio 54! What would have been a very creepy monotone delivery of a set of ‘obsessive’ lyrics by Serhat is now tempered by some decent female backing, and the light and breezy disco beat that somehow makes this work. I Didn’t Know isn’t great (that’s an understatement!) but at least it’s now bearable to listen to. And, it’s no longer my worst entry this year (just).
Jaz I’ll be honest, and I think many of you will agree with me on this: I’ve never had particularly high expectations of San Marino’s Eurovision entries. Whether they’ve been armed with Siegel’s stash of cash or not, I’ve never been on the edge of my seat waiting for them to produce something on par with an Italian effort (I’m not a Valentina Monetta fan either, which doesn’t help). Even so, the sheer awfulness of I Didn’t Know has sent my jaw straight to the floor countless times since it was unveiled in its original, non-disco form. Like James, I was sure San Marino were trolling us when they presented the song to the public – how else could you explain the so-stale-it-was-growing-stuff track that sounded more like a recording of an audio book gone wrong than a song, or the laughable accompanying video clip that could have been lifted from an SNL sketch? But sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, I Didn’t Know was given the Donna Summer treatment, and OH DEAR GOD. This is what media outlets and non-fans will latch on to when they want to make a mockery of the contest. They won’t ignore it in favour of discussing Latvia or France – they’ll zone directly in on Serhat and his Seventies nightmare (thanks a lot, San Marino/Turkey). Based superficially on his appearance, I had hoped for a trumpet-backed, updated version of Mambo No. 5 from this guy, which would have been a bit of fun. But what we got instead more closely resembles something you’d step in by mistake at the local dog park. In the words of His Majesty Michele Perniola (whose 2015 entry is suddenly sounding like musical genius by comparison), NO.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 5
- James 0
- Jaz 1
- Martin 4
- Nick 1
- Penny 2
- Rory 1
- Wolfgang 0
San Marino’s EBJ Jury score is…2.44
Duh duh duh…another six bite the dust! This third round of reviews has produced the lowest-scoring set of songs so far – but it did include San Marino, so we should have anticipated that. Here’s today’s top six:
- Germany (7.78)
- Estonia (7)
- Lithuania (6.55)
- The Netherlands (5.55)
- Albania (5.33)
- San Marino (2.44)
I tip my hat (the hat I’m not actually wearing) to Jamie-Lee Kriewitz for taking out the top spot on this occasion. You go, girlfriend. Where will she finish in the grand scheme of the EBJ Jury’s Top 43? We’ll all find out in a few weeks’ time.
Coming up, two Eurofans from the US of A will join me to pass judgment on Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Denmark, Montenegro and Spain. There’s bound to be some hits and misses among them, so make sure you drop by to witness the humorous differences of opinion (it’s always amusing when someone rips a song to shreds and someone else takes offence and they have an argument which results in the destruction of a longtime friendship, don’t you think?).
Sense the sarcasm, guys.
While you’re waiting for me to hit publish on that post, let the EBJ Jury know what you think of today’s tracks. Does Germany’s Ghost get you going, or will it just get you going to the kitchen to put the kettle on? Is San Marino’s sixth place deserved or totally uncalled for? Comment and score these songs for yourself down below – we’d all love to hear from you!
Until next time,
There are just three weeks until the final of Eurovision 2015, people. THREE WEEKS! We do, of course, have the equally important/exciting semi finals to look forward to prior to that, which doesn’t give me much time to devise a detailed schedule and allocation chart that dictates the destinations of my precious votes. I’d better get on that ASAP.
With this rapidly diminishing amount of pre-ESC days, I don’t have any time to waste when it comes to churning out the rest of the Viennese Verdicts. The past few days have been momentous ones, what with Loïc Nottet’s message for EBJ (check it out, if you haven’t yet – it’s short but sweet) and the royal baby birth and stuff, but none of that compares to the momentousness of this fifth installment of reviews. This time (Lithuanian pun 100% intended) it’s the turn of Malta, Georgia, Albania, Lithuania and Spain to be judged by a few familiar faces.
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Rory Gannon: You met Ireland’s own Rory (if you hadn’t already met him) waaaaay back in Part 1. He’s the beauty and brains behind a Eurovision blog that is just as fabulous as he is – and I say that of my own volition, not because he paid me to. You can find said blog ESC Views here, and/or like the ESC Views Facebook page here.
Matt Kelly: Aussie Matt, hailing from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as it’s often known) also laid his Eurovision-branded cards on the table in Part 1. He’s one of the stars of YouTube’s escTMI review show, so he’s well-schooled in doling out compliments and criticisms to Eurovision participants. You can subscribe to escTMI’s YouTube channel here and/or like their Facebook page here.
Jasmin Bear: As they say, I’m here all week…if by ‘week’, one means FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY, MWAHAHAHAHA!!! Even though my links are blatantly promoted over in the sidebar, I have no qualms about promoting them even more blatantly here. So, that being said, feel free to like the EBJ Facebook page here, follow me on Twitter here, and/or follow me on Instagram here.
The three of us are ready to marvel over and moan about what Amber, Nina, Elhaida, Vaidas & Monika and Edurne are taking to the Austrian capital. Are you?
Warrior by Amber
Rory: Umm…Malta? We just don’t really get on, do we? I wanna break up. It’s not you, it’s me…actually no, it is you. I’m sorry, but I am not a fan of your song. Can anyone actually understand what Amber sings in the live version of Warrior? If you can’t be understood, what’s the point in even sending the song? At least they’ve worked on the pronunciation aspect of it – the fact that she kept calling the past ‘the pest’ really did p**s me off! 4 points.
Matt: The original Warrior, Amber’s has all the elements of a modern Eurovision song – violins, big drums, powerful vocals, and a positive message of hope. I personally feel that this song is old hat now, as it was one of the first songs chosen all the way back in November. But I’m sure Amber will bring it to life again in Vienna. 10 points.
Jaz: Amber was approximately two attempts at representing Malta away from becoming the Sanna Nielsen of the island (though that’s the situation for most Maltese artists, let’s face it) when she finally won MESC last year. When she steps onto the Stadthalle stage in a few weeks’ time, she’ll be in the unusual position of having performed on the Junior and adult Eurovision stages within six months – not because she’s in the same boat as San Marino’s Anita Simoncini, but because Malta understandably repurposed the JESC stage for their national final use. None of this has anything to do with Amber’s Warrior, of course – I just like going off on tangents. I’m constantly changing my mind when it comes to my personal winner of the Warrior face-off, as I like both. I have to say, though, Malta has impressed me with their choice of representative for the third year in row. Granted, MESC 2014 wasn’t an NF to end all NFs, but Amber stood out to me from my first listen of the line-up. There’s something about the style of Warrior that I get a kick out of, even though it isn’t the most finely-crafted, cohesive power ballad I’ve ever heard. And speaking of power – Amber has it in spades when she launches into that big chorus. She just needs to ensure she’s in key to make it explosive in a good way. I did actually prefer the song before it was reworked, and I’m still irritated by the ‘con-quer-er-errrr’ bit (it almost puts ‘uh-uh-uh-un-dooooooo’ to shame) but that’s the majority of what I’d pick on re: Malta 2015. There are plenty of songs that are superior, but I like this enough to give it 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.33
Warrior by Nina Sublatti
Rory: So I told you that I wasn’t a fan of Malta, but to be honest, Georgia wins the Warrior battle hands-down. I mean, the song beforehand was strong, but it’s really packing a punch now. Seeing as they’ll be closing the first semi, I see no reason why Nina won’t do incredibly well. It’s crazy, addictive, hypnotic…if only Georgia (plus Belgium….and the Netherlands) was in the second semi!! 10 points.
Matt: The other Warrior, Nina’s song is the ESL emo version. I wanted to like it – it’s dark and unusual. But the lyrics are so bad. Did she use Google Translate to write them? I can’t sing along to a chorus that has ‘still stucked in my mind’ as one of its lines. And I still don’t know what ‘oximated’ means, but it’s good to know that Nina’s ‘not a shabby’. It’s hard to believe this song was reworked by the Eurovision legend Thomas G:son. Surely he should’ve fixed the mistakes…but no, this song is going to Vienna with all of the original, bad lines. I feel like it’s a missed opportunity, and that’s just frustrating. 5 points.
Jaz: This was the standout song in the Georgian final, and it’s also the best song Georgia has sent to Eurovision in a long time. That doesn’t mean I’m about to lavish it with douze points (spoiler alert: I’m not) but it does mean I find a lot of positives in it. The lyrics, in terms of that little thing called ‘making sense’, are not one of those positives (like Matt, I am appalled by the use of ‘stucked’…subtract two letters, and it would be fine) but honestly, I’d rather listen to interesting lyrics like these than lame, cheesy ones that rhyme ‘love’ with ‘above’ or ‘dove’, or even worse, ‘love’. This song is edgy and hip (no matter how uncool my use of ‘hip’ might make it) and rather alternative by Eurovision standards. There are a few songs in that vein competing in Vienna – Belgium, Latvia, etc – and I’m digging them all. When it comes to originality, this Warrior has the battle in the bag, and the juries should reward it for that at the least. Nina’s an intense performer for a nineteen-year-old, which I blame on the heavy makeup that makes her look at least twenty-five. Her experience participating in and winning Georgian Idol will be beneficial as she rides the Eurovision merry-go-round – probably not all the way to the top, but hopefully to the upper mid-table of the final scoreboard. PS – For everyone still wondering, ‘oximated’ means ‘reaction with, or conversion into an oxime.’ So I guess we’ll continue to wonder, then. 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.67
I’m Alive by Elhaida Dani
Rory: Ohhhhhh Albania, you always have the best sense. Well, most of the time (we still have to talk about Rona’s hair). I am incredibly happy that they actually ditched Diell in favour of I’m Alive. This song actually shows off Elhaida’s versatile vocal range – and my god, it is an UP-TEMPO SONG! This calls for a celebratory Verka Serduchka dance around the stage. Well done, Albania. You’ve learned from your mistakes! 8 points.
Matt: I’m Alive is a really contemporary ballad, and it’s a million light years away from the awful, outdated song Elhaida was originally going to sing. Talk about dodging a bullet. I could imagine Beyoncé or the like singing this, and it doing well on mainstream radio. A seasoned talent show veteran, Elhaida will deliver amazing vocals on stage, and has the stage presence that will sell the song to the audience. I think this will do well. 8 points.
Jaz: So I guess I’m alone in preferring Diell, then (I got the raw deal in Albania’s surprise song exchange). The composers of Elhaida’s Festivali I Këngës winner deciding to withdraw the song from Eurovision is almost as inexplicable a move as Andreas Kümmert saying danke, but nein danke, to representing Germany. But while in Germany’s case, the unexpected turn of events worked in my favour, in Albania’s…it really didn’t. There is nothing horrendously wrong with I’m Alive. In fact, it’s a darn good eleventh-hour song (something you could also say about Australia’s). It’s more contemporary and uplifting than Diell, not to mention more energetic. Plus, it allows Elhaida to be a bit more playful with her undoubtedly impressive vocals. All of that makes it a welcome addition to the contest. But I just don’t get the hype. I find the repetition in the chorus quite irritating, and despite the inclusion of that big belter of a note towards the end (which is very Jessie J-esque) the song doesn’t travel to as epic of a place as I’d like it to. I haven’t seen Elhaida perform this live, but I did watch her winning FiK performance – and based on the way she sung the pants off Diell, her Eurovision performance has the potential to change my mind. But until then, I’m not 100% sold. 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.33
This Time by Vaidas & Monika
Rory: Ehhhh…I’m not really sure what to say about Lithuania this year. I’m happy that they’re finally sending something that will appeal to the masses, but performing first on the night might be a little bit of a hindrance to them, to say the least! As a sidenote, how nice is their video, though!!? Vaidas…phwoar! 6 points.
Matt: When I was a kid I always assumed that Grease’s John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were a couple, due to their fantastic on-screen chemistry. I feel the same about Monika and Vaidas. They are so cute together, and I believe that their song of love comes from the heart (to avoid another disappointment, I’m not going to research whether they are a couple or not). The song itself is simple and catchy, but nothing too amazing. My prediction is that the audience will feel some love for this, but not enough to get them to the top. I think they’ll probably end up in the middle of the pack. 7 points.
Jaz: If you’re hoping I’m going to say ‘Aww, isn’t this cute!’, well, I’m not. Nor am I going to say ‘Ugh, isn’t this revolting!’. I’m somewhere in the middle, as it happens. I’m not totally feeling Vaidas and Monika’s love, but I’m not totally averse to it either. This Time, for me, is a poor man’s version (or more accurately, a poor but very peppy man’s version) of Firelight’s Coming Home, which in turn wasn’t going to win any awards for Best Original Song. It’s formulaic and verging on being sickly sweet (that “impromptu” kiss has already worn thin with me) but I don’t feel like it’s a song you can hate with a passion. It’s extremely catchy, after all, and the chemistry between Vaidas and Monika is up there with the most genuine of the year. They always appear to be enjoying themselves on stage, and enjoying performing with each other – in spite of the fact that they aren’t a couple (sorry to burst that bubble, Matt, but who knows…they might be by the time Eurovision’s over!). I guess I’m more of a fan of Lithuania’s performers than Lithuania’s song. This Time is serviceable pop, but it doesn’t excite me enough to consider voting for it. 5 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
Amanecer by Edurne
Rory: I’m afraid I’m going to have to go against the grain here and say that I don’t like Amanecer. Sure, it’s really catchy in the chorus (that e-e-e-o-o is addictive), but for me that’s all it is – just a bit of repetition. I feel like RTVE really overhyped the promotion of the song, and it’s just a bit of a letdown (I have a feeling that Kit Kat won’t have to give a free bar to everyone who retweeted that Tweet back in January!). *opens arms and braces self for the onslaught of tomatoes*. 3 points.
Matt: I think I have ballad fatigue. Amanecer was written by the same team who wrote 2012’s winning song Euphoria, so I was expecting a lot. While it’s a nice song, it’s no Euphoria, or Quédate Conmigo. It drifts along pleasantly for three minutes and then finishes. That’s it. Edurne is an amazing performer, though, and I’m sure she’ll bring it to life when she takes to the stage in May. 7 points.
Jaz: I’d like to journey back in time to Copenhagen 2014, and remind you that my opinion of Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing In The Rain was as follows: I knew it was good, but I felt very little attachment to it. I didn’t love it, and it definitely didn’t give me the energy required to wave a flag for it (although I was happy to see Spain back in the top 10). Leaping back through the space/time continuum to 2015, and enter Edurne. Amanecer is not only my new favourite word of all the words, but also a song that I do feel a connection with. That may have something to do with the girl crush I have developed on Edurne, but I genuinely do like her song a lot. I agree that it was overhyped – after the pre-release fervour, it could have been a masterpiece and still failed to meet expectation. But for me, it has the drama and atmosphere and Spanish-ness that I didn’t find in Dancing In The Rain. If Edurne is anything like her fellow countrywoman Pastora Soler, she will help Amanecer hit new heights when she gets to Eurovision by delivering a blistering vocal performance. Hopefully she’ll also bring us a hint of the wildness from the music video. Unfortunately that can not entail a live tiger being onstage, so a faux tigerskin cape that Edurne can whirl around everywhere might be called for. Cape or no cape, I think Spain’s entry has as much potential to make the top 10 as it does to end up mid-table, strangely enough. So much will depend on how this goes down in the jury and televised finals. I would be satisfied with Amanecer outdoing Dancing In The Rain, but I won’t be betting on that happening. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.67
And there you have it! Another five reviews are done and dusted, and not without disagreement. Ultimately, the two Warriors won the day. Well, one of them did, but there wasn’t much between Nina and Amber.
- Georgia (7.67)
- Malta (7.33)
- Albania (7.33)
- Spain (6.67)
- Lithuania (6.00)
Despite our differing opinions, on average, the EBJ Jury ranked these countries fairly closely together. I suspect that’s a trend that won’t continue in Part 6 of the Viennese Verdicts, when I ask an American and an Englishman to help me review Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. You won’t want to miss the fireworks that combination could cause.
In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s songs. Do you believe Rory’s right, and that Georgia wins the Warrior-off without question? Or do you think Matt’s on the money and Amber will definitely resurrect her Warrior at Eurovision? Maybe you actually agreed with something I said *gasp*. Whatever you’re thinking, we want to hear it!*
*To a point…I mean, don’t hurl abuse at us or anything. Save your curse words up in case the EBJ Jury gives a unanimous douze points to Finland.
Love is Blind/ Donny Montell
The good stuff: Who says disco is a no-no? Well, probably many, many people in this day and age. But I don’t pay any attention to those people, not any more – Donny has ignited in me a new appreciation for the genre. His song begins in a ballad-esque way, with the first chorus hinting at what’s to come. Then BAM! With a discarded blindfold and a cartwheel, Love is Blind is off into Disco Heaven. Sure, from then on it’s a big wedge of vintage cheese, but I’ve always been a savoury girl. Donny himself has it all – he can dance, he can sing, he’s probably wanted by the 2012 Lithuanian Olympic gymnastics team, and he’s not too unfortunate to look at. And so I’ll be hunting through my parents’ wardrobe for some flares and platform boots (and I might even find some of my mum’s) to don(ny) for Lithuania’s three minutes in the spotlight.
Everything else: Here’s a random question – why did Donatas Montvydas decide to adopt a rather Irish-sounding stage name? For all I know his real name means Donut Mountain, and that was the motivation, but to my non-Lithuanian understanding ears, ‘Donatas’ has a lovely ring. I’d say it was an attempt to snag more votes fromIreland, but he’s been Donny for years.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
Crno I Belo/ Kaliopi
The good stuff: Kaliopi, as you may or may not know, failed to advance from Eurovision 1996’s version of a semi final. Will she have better luck this time around, representing a country notorious for just missing out? We’ll soon see. This woman is a huge star in former Yugoslavia. She’s also got a powerful, gravelly voice to rival Nina Badrić’s, and that voice is well suited to this rocky number that has grown on me a lot since my first listen. I find the first part, which is the less rocky part, more listenable, but at least it goes somewhere (not unlike Lithuania) when it makes the transition. I’m expecting a well-rounded performance from Macedonia.
Everything else: Like many of this country’s entries, Crno I Belo lacks a certain special something that makes it a shoo-in to qualify. It’s good, but not great. It’s memorable, but not overly so. I guess, as Hera Björk would say, it’s missing je ne sais quoi. Maybe that will change when we come to the live show, with costume and staging coming into play.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.
This is The Night/ Kurt Calleja
The good stuff: Poor Fabrizio Faniello again failed to win a third ticket to Eurovision this year, but his fans will be pleased to know he’ll be there in spirit. Kurt’s TITN is not only a reincarnation of 2001’s Estonian winner – it also bears more than a passing resemblance to Faniello’s entry of the same year, Another Summer Night. For all I know, Malta 01 and Malta 12 were composed by the same people (the tiny island is forced to recycle artists and songwriters all the time). In its own right, it’s a summery, fun song with a catchy chorus (who doesn’t love a bit of ‘eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh’?) that won’t be lighting any fires (the Azerbaijani tourist bureau will be disappointed) but should be mildly entertaining to watch on the night.
Everything else: This is the cheesiest entry of 2012 – sorry, Donny Montell – a fact ESC haters might latch on to when they launch their annual ‘Eurovision is crap’ campaigns. I think that is mainly thanks to the lyrics, which are on the Greece level of clichéd-ness. Also, as Maltese entries often do when they aren’t performed by Chiara, it’s lacking in something that would make it outstanding. I’ll be surprised if it qualifies.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.
Lăutar/ Pasha Parfeny
The good stuff: Bravo, Moldova, bravo. I am actually slow-clapping right now. This song is so much fun! It’s everything I look for in a Eurovision song (or listen for, I suppose): it’s infectious, it’s happy, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but it’s not a novelty song, it’s ethnic, you can dance and sing along to it…the list goes on and on. I’m expecting it to go down fantastically in the Crystal Hall, and likewise in my lounge room.
Everything else: Is there anything else I can say? I’ve pretty much laid all of my cards on the table. Although I should mention that, as you can see below, I haven’t given this the douze. That’s because, as much as I love it, there are a bunch of songs that just edge it out of my top 10 of the moment. I think the 2012 field is a strong one, and pretty much everything in my top 30 is much-loved, so Pasha, if you’re reading this, a) you must be desperate for stuff to do, and b) don’t be disheartened by the tenner!
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.
Euro Neuro/ Rambo Amadeus
The good stuff: If I had to pick out one redeeming feature, I’d say the chorus. As much as the ‘eero neero’ irritates, it is part of the most listenable section of the song. As a result, the final thirty or so seconds are not eardrum-shrivelingly bad. Another positive, I guess, would be that Rambo lived up to expectation with the song. Having listened to some snippets of his back catalogue (I can’t bring myself to say ‘past hits’) when he was announced as Montenegro’s representative, I expected a song exactly like this – a.k.a. Man Rambling Incoherently To Music For The Longest Three Minutes You’ll Ever Experience (Oh My God, He’s Opening Eurovision 2012!).
Everything else: Oh my God, he’s opening Eurovision 2012! That will surely be the strangest first act in a long time, if not ever. I’m sure you’ve figured out how I feel about this, but I’ll reiterate: it’s three minutes (though it seems more like 180 seconds) of a man rambling incoherently to music, about God knows what – or as Aisha would say, about what, only Mr. God knows. What is with Montenegro? If they withdrew from the contest because they weren’t getting anywhere, only to come back with a prime example of why they never got anywhere, then it was probably a waste of time.
Winner, loser or grower: Loser – 1 point.
You and Me/ Joan Franka
The good stuff: For the first time in forever, the Dutch song has been labeled one to watch – that is, one that could possibly win the contest this year – and all thanks to a former The Voice contestant with ridiculously chiseled cheekbones and a penchant for Native American headwear. Joan’s You and Me is a charming, up-tempo, almost country-style song about her cougarish childhood tendencies (hello, she was five and he was three!). It reminds me a bit of Switzerland last year – it’s sweet, humble, and a little quirky. I hope it doesn’t suffer Switzerland’s 2011 fate in qualifying and then flagging in the final, but surely a ticket out of the semi alone would be like Christmas coming early for the Netherlands, who haven’t qualified since 2004 and who came dead last in their Düsseldorf semi.
Everything else: I want this, more than any other song, to do well – or at least to get somewhere. But I wonder if it isn’t one of those all or nothing entries that will either rake in the votes and blitz into the top 10, or fail miserably (kind of like Italy last year, and France last year if you count what people were saying before the contest). If you’re living in Europe (but not the Netherlands) please send a vote Joan’s way. Can’t you imagine how great it would be for them to be announced as one of their semi winners?
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.
NEXT TIME: I shower a lot of love (and a smattering of ‘what were they thinking?’) on Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino and Serbia!
A busy week has/still is leading up to a ripper weekend in a faraway land I like to call EurovisionNationalFinalville. Who’d have thought that Mad March would take over from Frantic February as the craziest four weeks on the ESC pre-selection calendar? There’s so much happening I don’t even have time to finish this senten
Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Spain and Slovakia: my thoughts
This past week has been one of few surprises* (on the national final front, anyway), with Lithuania selecting the odds-on favourite for Baku, Spain picking their song for Pastora Soler from a choice of three (ergo, nothing too shocking there) and Italy deciding that si, Nina Zilli will perform her San Remo Song Festival entry in the final come May 26th. Estonia’s choice was again, unsurprising, but that may be because I didn’t manage to have a listen to all of the finalists and so could not honestly say ‘OMG, what HAPPENED? Whatshername Thingie’s song was soooooooo much better!’ or something like that. What I didn’t expect of these countries was to be generally thrilled with their decisions.
* Slovakia actually announcing their entry & entrant when they said they would was a bit of an unforeseen event. Perhaps the age of us all making fun of their ever-changing mind is over?
Estonia (Kuula by Ott Lepland): You can go ahead and say this is boring, it’s going nowhere, blah blah blah, but I won’t care. I am a ballad-loving lady – under most circumstances – and I sure love this one. There’s something about the chorus that is truly spine-tingling (and no, I wasn’t sitting on a fuse box when I listened to it), and I think it might be part due to the language, so my fingers are crossed for it to remain in Estonian. The last time Estonia sent a song in their native tongue, it came 6th, whereas their last few entries, both in English, have flopped…is that an indication of what’s to come?
Italy (Per Sempre by Nina Zilli): And so the bleating begins about what is ‘too good for Eurovision’. What haters don’t realise (considering the only Eurovision they know saw Bucks’ Fizz, Verka Seduchka and Dustin the Turkey battling it out for the trophy) is that nothing is too good for the contest. Obviously there are some songs too bad for it, a fact that all but several countries each year seem to be aware of. Sure, Per Sempre is a classy, classic song without a whiff of schlager or bouzouki, but it’s actually very Eurovision – it just harks back to an older era. That’s not to say it’s dated. I like to think of it as being a compromise between the classic and the contemporary, with the Penelope Cruz-esque Nina giving it some extra spice.
Lithuania (Love is Blind by Donny Montell): Donny – who I thought was an Irish immigrant, but actually uses a stage name – entered the Lithuanian selection in 2011 with Best Friends, a duet with Sasha Son that IMO should have won. Fast forward twelve months and Donny’s got himself a solo spot in the big show; although he sounds so much like Sasha they may as well be doing another duet. My thumbs are up for his song, which starts off as a ballad before becoming a funky disco tune to which, as Donny is testament to, you can do one-handed cartwheels. However they are down for that blindfold. I get the symbolism, but D, you look more ridiculous than Eric Solbakken in his Milan Stanković wig.
Spain (Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler): In my years of Eurovision watching, I have enjoyed some of the Spanish songs, but never enough to manufacture and then wave a flag to support them. Well, folks, consider me a changed woman, because in 2012 I will be donning the red and yellow and yelling ‘Viva la Spagna!’ at the top of my lungs until my parents tell me to shut up, at which point the flag will make an appearance, because I LOVE this song. It’s one of exceptional quality that starts humbly, but builds into an anthemic, powerful, punch-packing ballad sung perfectly by the phenomenal Pastora. It’s amazing how she sung so well at the NF, seemingly without worrying about wardrobe malfunctions (if you check out the dress she wore at the weekend you’ll know what I mean). I’m fully prepared for you all to trash this since I have just gabbed on for an eternity about how much I adore it, by the way.
Slovakia (Don’t Close Your Eyes by Max Jason Mai): The OCD part of me is not happy with the rest of me reviewing Slovakia after Spain, but this one is hot off the press (at the time of writing, that is). Just a few hours ago, the Slovak broadcaster announced Max as the artist and DCYE as the song that will represent them this year. The reaction has been positive so far, but I’m not sold – on the song, anyway. It’s mainstream soft-rock, not unpleasant to the ear, but lacking that special, catchy something. Max, on the other hand, is very, very pleasant to the ear…and the eye. Call me shallow, but I bet there’s a gajillion ladies and gents who will agree with me, and on their behalf I plan to start a petition to get him to perform topless.
Russia: will they pull out the big guns or the grannies?
Like Melodifestivalen, Russia’s national final has become a two-horse race, but instead of Loreen-and-Danny, the names have way more syllables. In news that made me squeal in a frightfully girlish manner, Dima Bilan is back with ½ of Tatu, Yulia Volkova, by his side in a bid to take on Eurovision for the third time. I know some of you will be sick of Dima and every other artist who just won’t leave the contest alone, but I’m a huge fan of his, so I’m hoping it won’t be much of a challenge for him and his lady friend (presumably one of many) to kick some Russian butt tonight (I have also heard a snippet of the song and it’s right up my street).
I am aware of nana power, however. Without wanting to offend the other finalists, the only real Dima/Yulia competition* comes in the form of a gang of grannies who won many fans over in the 2010 NF, mainly, I assume, because they were grannies. Though the song did have something…anyway, Buranovskiye Babushki are back, and I reckon they could do some damage to Dima’s chances.
* If someone other than Dima/Yulia or the grannies should win, I apologise in advance, and commend them for beating such heavyweights. You go girl/boyfriend!
My top two-nine
Normal people would wait until tomorrow and then do a top 30, but as you would have gathered if you’re a regular reader, I am not normal (not when it comes to Eurovision). Already I’m finding it hard to separate the good ones from the other good ones, so much so that those I love go pretty much from #1 to #18.
My top 10 is full of ballads, including one that has succeeded in knocking Norway(sorry Tooji) off the premier spot. Take a look and let me know which songs are your favourites at the moment.
Coming up: Super Saturday!
Not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR countries – Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Sweden – will select on Saturday, with Sunday bringing us the NF from Moldova. Naturally all that is very exciting, but for me, the most exciting events are Zeljko Joksimovic’s song presentation in Serbia and Sweden’s grand finale. I’m planning to stay up to the wee hours of the morning and watch Melodifestivalen live for the first time. Anyone else crazy enough?
Please tune in (or log in…I suppose that would be more appropriate?) on Saturday for my thoughts and predictions on all of the above. I promise they’ll be worth a look!
Which country are you excited to see select this weekend?
PS – I almost forgot to mention Armenia’s withdrawal from the competition today. I’m sure most of us are saddened but not surprised by this news…let’s hope the country will be back and ready to win in 2013.
I don’t think this warrants an introduction! 13 songs, 13 HILARIOUS (cough) reviews. Here’s part one: A to L!!!
Dalita/ Welcome to Armenia
The good: Ah, Armenia. Or should that be, ah-menia? They are one reliable country when it comes to Eurovision, big and small (even if, occasionally, they can only be relied upon to use up Europe’s entire supply of red pleather on a giant boxing glove). This year, they have again gone with a novelty entry, but I think this one will actually work for them. Song-wise, I love it. It’s catchy, accessible (in sound and combination of Armenian and English), and has that nice ethnic edge that can lift a run-of-the-mill pop song to a douze point level. I know the ‘say yes, say no’ refrain is driving some fans crazy, but I’m into that too!
Everything else: Aside from the costumes that are suitable but still bring back frightening memories of Scooch? Well, there’s the issue of a live vocal that is less than impressive, judging by the footage I have seen. I don’t take pleasure in being mean to children (not always, anyway) but it has to be said that Dalita is dodgy live. Hopefully, with preparation pre-Yerevan and maybe some clever backing vocals (which can work wonders, can’t they Jedward?) she can pull off a performance that’s kinder on the ear than her national final one, and closer to the super studio version.
The verdict: It’s no Mama, but it still ticks all my boxes. I give it 10 points.
Lidiya Zabolotskaya/ Angely Dobra
The good: I like the way this song becomes something unexpected – from the first verse it sounds like it’s going to be a straight ballad, and then the beat kicks in. Lidiya’s quite the little vocalist, which is also nice, and it’s likely that she won’t appear onstage in a gold velvet smoking jacket á la Daniil Kozlov, which can only be good news. I also love the sound of Russian-family languages in ballads – it just works.
Everything else: This is a ‘vanilla’ kind of song that could easily get lost among its contemporary competitors, like the Netherlandsand Sweden, unless it’s performed really well and something very interesting is done on stage. Maybe it’s time for Belarus to not succeed in JESC – they have an impressive history, with 2 wins and 3 top five finishes in 8 participations, so this could well be a year for them to take a break from doing well…as involuntary as that may be.
The verdict: I like it, but I can’t love it, so I’m giving it 6 points.
Femke/ Een Kujse Meer
The good: There have been plenty of good retro and bad retro songs at JESC over the years – strangely, mostly from the Netherlands and Belgium. Luckily for the latter, I am acknowledging this as one of the good. Whistling is popular in music at the moment and here it is used to maximum advantage. Combined with the beat, it makes for a charming 2-and-a-half minutes that makes me wonder (as I do for many of the countries) why Belgium can’t send songs like this to adult Eurovision. Last year, Russianearly won JESC with a cutesy retro number. Do I think Femke has the potential to do the same? Yeah yeah!
Everything else: Ever since I read on Femke’s contestant profile that this entry was inspired by Eliza Doolittle’s Pack Up, I can’t help but feel it’s a little too derivative. Sure, I didn’t notice the similarities as first – but now I can’t NOT notice. Although, I do enjoy Pack Up…so maybe I’m just being picky on this one. Would it be even pickier to say that her fringe needs a restyle, pronto?
The verdict: It’s déjà vu, but in a good way, so I’m giving it 10 points.
Ivan Ivanov/ Supergeroy
The good: Every year there’s a song that I think is awesome, but not many other people do – the most famous instance being in May with Mika Newton’s Angel. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Bulgaria’s song hasn’t been too popular with fans so far, and as I think it is Fabulous with a capital F, it looks like I’ll be waving a solitary flag for Ivan. Yes, I think it’s a cracker! I accept that it’s very mainstream and American in sound, but I think that, combined with the native language lyrics, makes for a strong song that Bulgaria should be proud of (and should find a way to send to Baku with an older singer!).
Everything else: I don’t care what anyone else says, Ivan is totally Alex Sparrow Junior! Supergeroy has something in common with Get You as well; it’s the type of song you could do a backflip in the middle of. Not that I plan to, as excited as I will be on the night. But if your lounge room is big enough, then go ahead.
The verdict: Supergeroy is super to me! Douze points!
Candy/ Candy Music
The good: I had to think hard about this. Georgia are really hit-and-miss for me in ESC and JESC, and when I compare this to their hit songs like Odelia Ranuni, finding redeeming features is difficult. If Lady Gaga released a disco song, this could be it (having said that, even if Gaga released a seventeen-minute recording of herself snoring it would go straight to the top of the charts). Plus I’m sure this will get some people dancing. Somewhere.
Everything else: Please let Candy take inspiration from Katy Perry for their stage show, and dance their way around giant Styrofoam licorice and cupcakes! That would be heaven in comparison to ANYTHING resembling the music video to this song. Two words: AFRO WIGS.
The verdict: Hmm = 4 points.
Amanda Bašmakova/ Meness Suns
The good: I hated this the first time I heard it, but I have to say it’s turning out to be a grower. It’s certainly an unusual song, and in that it stands out from the other 12. Amanda’s another good live performer from what I’ve seen, so we won’t have to worry about that side of things.
Everything else: I still think this will be in the bottom two or three. It’s a risky song to take to Junior Eurovision, because it’s quite plodding, the chorus isn’t incredibly catchy and I’m not sure what can be done onstage to complement it, especially considering the subject matter. Do not, I repeat, do NOT dress up in a dog suit, Amanda!
The verdict: Weird, and a little bit wonderful. 5 points.
Paulina Skrabytē/ Debesys
The good: Sigh. Another song that I seem to be alone in my affection for. I’m a sucker for a good ballad and I think this is a prime example. It’s very floaty and summery, and I love the sound of her voice (I also love her national final dress. I wonder if it’s manufactured in me-size?). I don’t think this entry will do very well, but that won’t stop me from singing along…just as soon as I learn the words.
Everything else: Paulina’s performance position is almost slap-bang in the middle, and I don’t think that will help her. Also, I would consider a change of footwear before the final. Converse sneakers on blonde females (especially when paired with a dress) do not work well at Eurovision – just ask Anna Bergendahl.
The verdict: Lovely enough to deserve 10 points.
Whew! Seven down, six to go – but you’ll have to wait until next week for those. In the meantime, comment me, because I thrive on disagreement!
What do you think of songs A to L???
Well, the Australian broadcast of semi final 1 has finished and my jaw is still on the floor and not likely to elevate back to its normal position any time soon. Not only did my least favourite song and the one I deemed “most likely to fail dismally” qualify (that would be Lithuania), but Turkey DID NOT.Turkey. Did. Not. Make. The. Final. My mind is officially blown.
But it’s okay, because Eurovision is well and truly here and I’m excited! As I’d been avoiding rehearsal photos and videos I had little idea what the arena and the acts would look like, and for the most part, I was impressed. The stage is amazing, the postcards are very sweet, and the Green Room – despite being more 80s than Kati Wolf’s hairdo – was quite fabulous. The hosts, “comedian” Anke, Judith and Stefan, didn’t really do it for me, I have to say. But they’ve got two more nights to impress…which will naturally be their priority.
I’m pretty exhausted from flag-waving and squealing inadvertently when a randomly exciting thing happened, so I won’t go into too much detail about this semi. So…highlights:
– Norway’s Stella charming her way through Haba Haba, a song that renders Prozac redundant. She is TOO adorable, and though I’m not surprised she didn’t end up qualifying (thanks to the cuuuuurssse of number twoooooooo! And several other factors) I reckon she’ll still be dancing her way up the aisles of the plane to Scandinavia in her poofy dress.
– The humbler songs from Switzerland and Finland both doing a Tom Dice and making magic happen live. I didn’t rate these too highly just on listens, but both Anna and Paradise Oskar (call me?) turned out really engaging, first-rate performances, and they well and truly deserve their places in Saturday’s final. I actually thought it would be one or the other that made it…but it looks like Mr. Dice started something 12 months ago!
– Some evil person in the EBU saving Iceland for last when the magic envelopes were opened. I was backing Sjonni’s Friends all the way in this semi, but by the time we got to the last open spot I had pretty much abandoned hope that it belonged to them. Suffice to say that when that little blue and red flag appeared onscreen, I screamed/yelped in such a way that I almost choked on my own voice. HOORAY FOR ICELAND!
And now le lowlights:
– Armenia and Turkey (hmm, I think I may have already mentioned them at some point) having their perfect qualifying records sucked unceremoniously down the drain. I really thought they were shoo-ins. I just hope they aren’t too bitter – I can see a Tonya Harding situation kicking off. Who knows what damage a 10-foot boxing glove or a steel hamster ball could do to one of the artists who did get to the final?
– Um…that was about it really.
Right, let’s go over the results: in order of announcement, Serbia, Lithuania, Greece, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Switzerland, Hungary, Finland, Russia and Iceland will be seen again in the final. That means I was 60% right in my predictions which is not quite as spectacular as 2010, but I’ll take it! Of these I think Switzerland, Hungary and Russia are all in with a chance of a top 10 finish, though I don’t see a winner there.
And here’s a little something extra: in Australia, the ESC broadcaster SBS lets us have our own online voting to make up for our lack of input in the actual show, and I thought I’d fill you in on the results of that. You might be surprised…Greecetopped the poll with more than 10 000 votes, followed by Serbia, Iceland, Turkey and Portugal. Yes, I said Portugal. It seems Down Under we have rather different taste to you guys in Europe! Finland, Croatia, San Marino, Hungaryand Poland finished up our favourites, with Lithuaniabringing up the rear, scoring a relatively paltry 955 votes. You can be certain that none of those came from this Aussie fan. You can check out the full results here: http://www.sbs.com.au/eurovision/.
Well, I’m off to get some beauty sleep in preparation for tomorrow night’s semi final (I’ll see it just a few hours before the final starts). I can’t wait to see what shocks that will bring. I CAN wait to spend the whole of Sunday avoiding news updates and social media, bit what can you do? So don’t spoil anything, ladies and gents – just enjoy whatever chapter of ESC 2011 you’re up to!
This week has been a busy one so far, as national finals go, and watch out, because it’s about to get a whole lot busier!
Every year, Eurovision has a weekend of selection madness, marked down on every fan’s calendar as the one to watch. In 2011, it’s the 25th to the 27th – a.k.a. tomorrow to Sunday! Tonight, the previously AWOL Austria, and the always reliable Turkey, choose/reveal their entries; Saturday will see Latvia, Estonia, Moldova, Serbia, Denmark and Ukraine finish up their finals; and Sunday it’s Slovenia and Macedonia’s turn. Will one of these countries produce the winner?
It’s a question I ask, because I’m confident in saying that the winner has not been heard yet. I’m 100% sure it won’t be Bulgaria or Lithuania, the two countries who have picked over the last couple of days:
There you have Poli Genova, a woman who has tried and failed to represent Bulgaria before, this time getting her chance with the rock-ish anthem Na Inat. The first thing I thought when I watched her performance was ‘isn’t that [Swedish superstar of awesomeness] Robyn?’ which doesn’t say much for the song. However, being a woman, I was multitasking at the time, listening to the song as well as comparing Poli to someone else (and brushing my teeth/painting my fingernails/whipping up a five-course buffet). And I actually do like the entry, not as much as Miro’s from 2010, but still enough to make me feel a little better about the lack of high-level songs floating around in the Düsseldorf stratosphere at this point. As I said before, it’s rock-ish, not strictly head-banging material, but still schlager-free (which could be good or bad considering your musical taste), and I think the chorus is quite catchy. It’s another one of those songs that doesn’t quite hit the heights – missing a certain je ne sais quoi, as Hera Bjork would say – but I’m going to say it has a decent chance of qualifying, particularly if it gets a good draw, Poli pulls off the live performance as she did Wednesday evening, and the Bulgarians figure out something interesting for the onstage aesthetics.
A song I feel has considerably less potential is Lithuania’s, C’est Ma Vie, by Evelina Sašenko:
It seems the opinions are seriously divided on this one – people love it and think it’s going all the way, or, like me, they wish they were deaf when they hear it. I just don’t like it – its screechiness, how dated it sounds….not my thing. No disrespect to the people who love it, of course. Evelina does have a powerful voice, so that’s a plus.
Speaking of division, here’s three categories I’d put the songs so far selected into. I suspect my opinions may not be common ones….
12 points (the good): Georgia, Norway, Poland, Iceland, Netherlands, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Ireland, Romania
5 points (the average): Albania, Finland, Switzerland, Malta, Spain, Italy
0 points (the just plain bad): Lithuania, Belgium, Germany
As you can see, my favourites are the majority, something I didn’t expect as it seems I have been less than impressed more often that not. There’s a triple threat lurking in my category of worsts, which hopefully will still be a trio by the time Sunday’s finals are over and done with! There has to be some stellar songs that come out of the ten selections ahead of us over the next couple of days, right?
Cross your fingers, and enjoy the weekend!!!