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RETRO RANKINGS | My Vienna 2015 Top 40, then and now (six months after show time!)

Hallå och välkommen til…um…okay, so I haven’t advanced particularly far with my Swedish on Duolingo yet (I’m not even sure there’s a lesson entitled “Welcoming People To Another Extremely Exciting Post Here on Eurovision By Jaz Dot Com in Svenska” anyway), but give me some time, and I’ll be så brå you won’t believe it.

In case the above paragraph wasn’t enough of an indication, I’ll spell things out for you: I’m feeling super-Swedish-obsessed at the moment, now that a) I’m actually, 110% heading to Stockholm for ESC no. 61 (*emits a Kaliopi-screech and farts a rainbow of pure joy*) and b) the Melodifestivalen 2016 line-up has been revealed. I’ve got plenty of Melfest madness planned for you over the coming months, so I don’t want to devote an entire post to the 2016 edition now…but I will give you a glimpse of the artists I’m most excited about seeing back in the competition (and boy, there are a ton of them) or entering for the first time:

  • THE RIDICULOUSLY EXCITING Molly Sandén, Mattias Andréasson (with Albin), Lisa Ajax, Panetoz and Oscar Zia. That’s in order of how much my face resembled the heart-eyes emoji when each name was announced. JESC alumni and all-round amazing human Molly is the bookies’ and my #1 pick to win the whole thing at this early stage. This will be her third try, and she’s never been in a better position to out-sing and out-song her rivals.
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Yes, it took me far too many minutes to create this. No, I am not ashamed in any way.

  • THE MODERATELY EXCITING Molly Petterson Hammar, Samir & Viktor, David Lindgren and (a now brunette) Isa. Molly PH has obviously recovered from App-Gate 2015, and it’s great to see her back with a vengeance. I really wish that’s what her song was called for the purposes of a brilliant pun, but it’s actually called Hunger – and it’s been penned by the trio behind MZW’s Heroes.
  • THE INTRIGUING Krista Siegfrids. Aftonbladet didn’t anticipate this one, so how could we common folk have seen it coming? Krista’s supposed to be hosting UMK in Finland next year, so it will be interesting to see how she juggles both commitments, and/or whether the Finnish public see fit to throw their shoes at her for trying her luck in Sweden. Surely they’re too polite to engage in such shenanigans?

That’s that för nu (SOMEBODY STOPPA MIG!!): now, let’s move from Melfest to Eurovij.

Before I start looking forward to Stockholm, I thought it would be timely to look back to Vienna, given that it’s been (just over, but close enough to) six months since Sweden snatched their sixth victory. And what better way to do that than by re-ranking all of the entries from this year’s contest to see, once and for all, how I feel about them now compared to how I felt about them at show time (the last Top 40 I posted was just before Semi Final 1)?

I’ll leave you to tell me if there would have been a better way to commemorate six months since, after you’ve checked out the revised ranking below. If you’re up for it, go and re-calculate your own using everyone’s favourite sorting tool, and post it – or some of it – in the comments. Which songs have grown on you over time, and which ones have started to grate? Let me know down below.

My brand spanking new, end-of-2015 ranking looks like this (with the previous position of each country in brackets):

 

Keep scrolling…

 

Just a bit further…

 

Here it is!

 

#1 | Sweden (=) Don’t act surprised, or reach for a sick bag! I never bought a ticket to ride on the ‘Not Sweden again! ITALY WAS ROBBED’ train, being the massive fan of Mr. Zelmerlöw, avid supporter of Heroes with or without the stick man, and generally Sweden-obsessed freak that I am (I maintain that the whole jury-vote-deciding-winner is the kind of situation where you should hate the game, not the player). I love this song just as much in December as I did in February – only now, I get even more caught up in screaming ‘WE ARE THE HEROOOOOOOOES!!!’ knowing I’ll be seeing Måns reprise it live.

This is a pretty accurate representation of how my face will look when that precious, precious moment arrives.

This is a pretty accurate representation of how my face will look when that precious, precious moment arrives.

#2 | Italy (+1) Six months on, Grande Amore still gives me goosebumps. Will it have that effect á la Lane Moje, my all-time favourite ESC entry, and last a lifetime? Get back to me in a decade or two and I’ll let you know.

#3 | Belgium (+1) Belgium’s fairytale fourth place is something I still pinch myself over – when I’m not doing the robot to the minimalist, cutting-edge sounds of Rhythm Inside, of course. I’m still attempting to master Loïc’s triple pirouette, but I’m happy to crack this track way up for years to come in order to practice.

#4 | Montenegro (+4) Of all Željko’s contest compositions, Adio is the one that took me the longest to fall in love with. But, as you can see, it’s leapt from 8th place to 4th in my Top 40, and I won’t say it’s not going to climb higher in the future. It’s a textbook spine-tingling, haunting, atmospheric Balkan ballad, and if you can put it out of your mind that Knez looks like a circus ringmaster, it’s pretty much perfection in a three-minute package.

#5 | Australia (+12) Making a far bigger leap up my personal leaderboard is my own country’s first – and as we now know, NOT last – entry. Tonight Again was definitely a grower for me. I liked it instantly, but didn’t love it…then Australia came fifth, and I miraculously changed my mind. Actually, the change of mind was more to do with the vibes when I was cheering Guy on in a room full of Aussies. But let’s not dwell on that. It just happened! Do whatcha whatcha whatcha waaaant….

#6 | Spain (+4)

#7 | Israel (+15) Nadav is still my golden boy, and I certainly do enjoy. A lot more, evidently, than I did back in the day (i.e. May). Golden Boy , I have discovered, makes for an epic workout song. Squats suddenly become slightly more bearable when it’s blaring in the background. 

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Nadav captured at the precise moment he realises he doesn’t have time to show you Tel Aviv before he leaves.

#8 | Germany (+1)

#9 | Romania (-4)

#10 | Moldova (+2)

#11 | Latvia (-5)

#12 | FYR Macedonia (-5)

#13 | Slovenia (=)

#14 | Norway (-12) This is a controversial one. Maybe I over-listened to AMLM, which was my second-favourite song once upon a time, or maybe it just lost some of its magic for me. Either way – though I still like it a lot – I can’t hold it in as high a regard as I used to. Does this count as doing something terrible in my “early” youth?

#15 | Azerbaijan (+1)

#16 | Austria (-1)

#17 | Malta (+4)

#18 | Russia (+7)

#19 | Belarus (+8) I’m surprised that this has crept up rather than stayed put. There was never anything about Time that grabbed me with both hands (the hands of Time, obviously) which always irritated me because Uzari and Maimuna are both awesome in their own right, and have both produced far more dynamic and impressive music in the past. But I guess I’m not that irritated after all. And time really is like thunder, a-ahh.

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“To poke or not to poke Uzari with my violin bow so I can be the star of the show…”, Maimuna, 2015.

#20 | Iceland (-1)

#21 | Portugal (+8)

#22 | Albania (+10)

#23 | The Netherlands (-9)

#24 | Estonia (-13) I never felt the feverish love for Stig & Elina’s Eesti Laul landslider that many others did, so this drop doesn’t mean that much. Don’t get me wrong – we’re at #24, and the only songs I’m verging on hating with a passion are #37 through #40. It’s just…to steal the motto of Eurovision 2012 and rephrase it for my own personal use, Goodbye To Yesterday doesn’t light my fire, as such. I wonder if another tragic tear will snake its way down Elina’s cheek over that comment?

#25 | United Kingdom (-2)

#26 | Switzerland (-2)

#27 | Denmark (-7)

#28 | Serbia (+12) Bojana was my bottom-ranked act in May – though I should specify that it had nothing to do with her (she’s a delight, and can we be best friends forever, please?) and everything to do with the cheesy English-language version of Beauty Never Lies. I’m still not overly keen on it (it’s becoming a theme as we creep closer to number 4-0) but I can’t deny that it is a cracker of a dance-floor filler.

#29 | Greece (+5)

#30 | France (+1)

#31 | Georgia (-13)

#32 | Cyprus (+1)

#33 | Ireland (-7)

#34 | San Marino (+4) Is San Marino still in my bottom five? As Michele would say, NO! That’s a major achievement for the republic in itself. This song is total crap, but a part of me sees/hears it as a guilty (so very guilty) pleasure. I love how hard Michele and Anita try to make it something it’s never going to be – i.e. a decent, age-appropriate pop song that people would willingly listen to on a regular basis.

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It’s a shame Anita and Michele didn’t introduce their outstretched palms to Ralph Siegel’s face at high speed, BEFORE he lumped them with ‘Chain of Lights’…

#35 | Poland (-7)

#36 | Hungary (+3)

#37 | Lithuania (-7) This Time  was, is and always will be so full of cheese, you could make a batch of toasted sandwiches with said cheese so big that the Buranovskiye Babushkis and their extended families could feast on them for years without worrying about a dwindling supply. I don’t know about Vaidas’ solo stuff, but Monika’s is infinitely better than this.

#38 | Finland (-1)

#39 | Czech Republic (-4)

#40 | Armenia (-4) I haven’t sat through the recorded or live version of Genealogy’s melodramatic musical mess since their performance in the Viennese grand final. It’s just not my cup of tea (to put it politely) and I think that Not Alone, which preceded Don’t Deny, shows it up massively. I suspect that Iveta Mukuchyan’s entry, which will succeed it, will do the same.

 

 

Are you still awake? If so, congrats on making it all the way through this Top 40! If not, then I guess you’re not reading this right now, so I don’t need to address you (I am going to draw on your face with a Sharpie while you’re snoring, though). Things have changed quite a bit on my end, rankings-wise, so now it’s your chance to shock me with how much you’ve rearranged the field of 2015 in your mind – or on paper – since the contest took place.

 

Come on, spill! How’s your Top 40 looking as we approach the end of twenty-fifteen?

 

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COMING UP It’s been a while since the previous episode, but what better time than now for another Melfest Monday? Then, ever since Australia was granted a precious second shot at Eurovision glory, minds the world over have been whirring trying to come up with the best artist to fly our flag this time. I’m yet to chip in on this discussion, but I’ve been biding my time for a reason. Drop by for a Friday Fast Five in which I’ll reveal my top five fantasy Aussie representatives. I promise ‘Guy Sebastian, again’ isn’t among them.

 

 

The 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Even if it’s nine o’ clock in the morning where you are, just go with the flow, because this is a special occasion.

Yes, oui, and si – the 2015 EBJEES are here! It’s about time, seeing as Eurovision took place over a month ago and the DVD isn’t far from being released (the official indicator that I’ve taken way too long to get these awards going). Today’s ceremony is the first of two, so try not to crease your formalwear. And please pace yourselves with the champagne.

My final command? Take your seats, because the awards in the categories of The Artists and The Songs are about to be handed out. The results of four People’s Choice Awards will also be revealed, so sit back, relax, and see if your favourites came out on top. Oh, and please excuse the messy formatting at times (technology is not my friend today).

Lights, camera, action!

 

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THE ARTISTS

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  • Dominic Muhrer (The Makemakes)
  • Gianluca Ginoble (Il Volo)
  • Guy Sebastian
  • Ignazio Boschetto (Il Volo)
  • Måns Zelmerlöw
  • Piero Barone (Il Volo)
  • Stig Rästa
  • Uzari
  • Vaidas Baumila

Winner Måns Zelmerlöw Honourable Mention/s: Gianluca Ginoble

Okay…so I’m biased. But I find it hard to believe that anyone of any sexual persuasion could look at the shots below and not be affected by the muscular physique, penetrating gaze and strangely alluring meadow of chest hair belonging to our reigning Eurovision champion. Can you buy a flat-pack Måns at IKEA? If not, why not, Sweden? Get on it, and make sure you include the leather pants. hhmzw

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  • Ann Sophie
  • Edurne
  • Elhaida Dani
  • Elina Born
  • Marjetka Vovk (Maraaya)
  • Mélanie René
  • Nina Sublatti
  • Polina Gagarina
  • Tamar Kaprelian (Genealogy)

Winner Edurne Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie, Elina Born

For the second year in a row, Spain takes the Hottest She trophy home. I don’t know if there’s something in the water over there or if it’s just a coincidence, but either way, Edurne is my número uno girl crush of this year’s contest. I guess it’s not just gentlemen who prefer blondes, on this occasion. hsedn

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  • Dominic Muhrer (The Makemakes)
  • Elnur Huseynov
  • Gianluca Ginoble (Il Volo)
  • Ignazio Boschetto (Il Volo)
  • John Karayiannis
  • Václav Noid Bárta

Winner Gianluca Ginoble Honourable Mention/s Dominic Muhrer

Each year, I award a gong in honour of the previous year’s winner (so expect one for 2016 in the form of The Butt-Hugger Award For Best-Fitting Trousers). In light of that, how could I bypass a beard-themed award this year? Gianluca’s carefully cultivated stubble wasn’t quite as perfect as Miss Wurst’s, but it upped his sex appeal by a factor of five hundred. Plus, it made him look older than his twenty years, meaning I didn’t feel like such a cougar thinking he was a tasty morsel.

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  • Essaï Altounian (Genealogy) 2%
  • Guy Sebastian 33%
  • Il Volo 16%
  • John Karayiannis 16%
  • Måns Zelmerlöw 16%
  • Václav Noid Barta 18%

Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Václav Noid Barta

The people have spoken – and by ‘the people’, I mean you guys, and me, because of course I snuck in a cheeky vote of my own. The first of eight People’s Choice Awards goes to Guy Sebastian, which doesn’t shock me even though I *may* not have voted for him (#teammånsineveryrespectalways). Guy didn’t put a foot wrong with the press from the moment he set foot on Viennese soil, in turn endearing himself to all of us watching interviews and press conferences from home. Even pre-ESC, he was flashing that megawatt smile and working his easy charm at Eurovision In Concert and the like. Way to maintain the Aussie rep of friendliness and approachability, Guy!

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  • Ann Sophie 1%
  • Bianca Nicholas (Electro Velvet) 5%
  • Bojana Stamenov 18%
  • Elhaida Dani 1%
  • Marjetka Vovk (Maraaya) 24%
  • Marta Jandová 32%
  • Polina Gagarina 14%
  • Trijntje Oosterhuis 5%

Winner Marta Jandová Honourable Mention/s Marjetka Vovk

 When it comes to the lady of 2015 you guys would want to hang out with, the reasonably clear choice was Marta – and it’s obvious why! Václav’s partner in crime isn’t suffering from a shortage of personality, whether she’s onstage whipping her heels off or offstage joking and laughing with anyone who crosses her path. If she ever posts a personal ad looking for a new best friend, I’ll respond to it for sure. Me and a million others.

 

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  • Anti Social Media
  • Bojana Stamenov
  • Eduard Romanyuta
  • Guy Sebastian
  • Måns Zelmerlöw
  • Nadav Guedj

Winner Nadav Guedj Honourable Mention/s Bojana Stamenov, Guy Sebastian

You might have been expecting me to hand this one to a more seasoned professional. But, at sixteen years old and without the stage experience of most of the other nominees, Nadav can command a stage and pump up a crowd with ease. I’ve got to concede that he’s a natural; that he was born to be on the stage. It’s just a matter of whether that birth took place in 1998 as alleged, or 1988, which seems like the more realistic option.

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  • Elnur Huseynov (return of the screeching angel of ’08)
  • Genealogy (six singers + six continents)
  • Guy Sebastian (Aussie representation in Austria)
  • Maraaya (headphones here to stay)
  • Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini (from JESC to ESC)

Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini

 Australia, competing legitimately in Eurovision? Puh-lease. At least that’s what was thought when the EBU announced it was happening and we all assumed it was a prank. But it wasn’t, and it did happen, with Guy Sebastian at the helm. What better talking point to have associated with an act? Side note: Aussies were threefold on the Stadthalle stage (not counting Guy’s backing group members): think Mary-Jean O’Doherty lending her operatics to Armenia with Genealogy, Katrina Noorbergen songwriting and backup-singing for Russia, and Guy. Obviously.

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  • Loïc Nottet
  • Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini
  • Molly Sterling
  • Nadav Guedj

 Winner Loïc Nottet Honourable Mention/s Molly Sterling, Nadav Guedj

 Not only was he the highest-scoring teenager of them all this year, but Loïc proved himself to be perhaps the most talented one too – co-writing Rhythm Inside and choreographing the accompanying stage show in his capacity as dancer as well as singer. The guy (man? Boy? Kid?) is too cool for school, and one to watch as he continues to build his career.

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  • Australia’s smooth movers
  • Belgium’s all-white troupe
  • France’s drummer boys
  • Hungary’s peace preachers
  • Israel’s dirty dancers
  • FYR Macedonia’s MERJ
  • Moldova’s hot cops
  • Montenegro’s classy choir

Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Australia, Israel, Montenegro

It’s easy to give the main artist all the credit for pulling off a great performance. But the vocal support and energy backup singers and/or dancers provide rounds out a performance, and is often invaluable. I’m sure Loïc was grateful for his five double-threats who, dressed all in white, both contrasted with and complemented him as the main artist. They even took over when things got overwhelming and he had to have a mid-song nap on the floor. That’s a top-notch support system right there.

THE SONGS

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  • A Million Voices (sounds like What If by Dina Garipova)
  • Heroes (sounds like Lovers On The Sun by David Guetta)
  • One Thing I Should Have Done (sounds like More Than Words by Extreme)
  • Still In Love With You (sounds like the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ theme)

 Winner Heroes Honourable Mention/s One Thing I Should Have Done

First things first: I think the claims of plagiarism against Heroes are ridiculous. But every year, there’s one entry that cops flak for being a “carbon copy” of something else (as in it’s slightly similar in the way that certain genres just ARE) and in 2015, that entry was our winning one. I’m giving it this award based on the attention those plagiarism claims received in the press – not because I think Heroes is a rehashed version of Lovers On The Sun (a song which annoys the crap out of me, if truth be told).

 

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  • Amanecer, Spain 23%
  • A Million Voices, Russia 4%
  • Beauty Never Lies, Serbia 6%
  • Golden Boy, Israel 11%
  • Grande Amore, Italy 17%
  • Here For You, Slovenia 9%
  • Heroes, Sweden 25%
  • Tonight Again, Australia 6%

 Winner Heroes Honourable Mention/s Amanecer

 Fanwank entries may be drooled over by hardcore ESC fans in the contest lead-up, but they have been known to crash and burn (Kate Ryan’s Je T’adore being the obvious reference point here). Your choice for Fanwank of the Year, however, met pre-show expectations that it was a potential winner by…well, winning. Runner-up Amanecer, on the other hand, was a bit more Je T’adore.

 

 

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  • A Monster Like Me, Norway
  • Autumn Leaves, FYR Macedonia
  • Heroes, Sweden
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • Love Injected, Latvia
  • N’oubliez Pas, France
  • Playing With Numbers, Ireland
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom

 Winner A Monster Like Me Honourable Mention/s Love Injected, N’oubliez Pas

The alternative (but boring) title of this award = Best Lyrics. How much merit a song’s lyrics have is super subjective, so keep that in mind as I say that Norway’s lyrics were my favourite, in a year where there were many interesting and insightful words put to music. The words of AMLM are quite sparse and simple, but their moodiness and ambiguity (for heaven’s sake, Mørland, put us out of our misery and tell us what you did in your early youth!) sends shivers down my spine. Debrah’s verse is the highlight.

 

 

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  • A Million Voices, Russia
  • A Monster Like Me, Norway
  • De La Capăt (All Over Again), Romania
  • Grande Amore, Italy
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • N’oubliez Pas, France
  • Playing With Numbers, Ireland

 Winner Grande Amore Honourable Mention/s A Million Voices, A Monster Like Me

 In such a ballad-heavy contest, at least we had some darn good ones to compensate for the depressing, dated ones. This was a tough category, but I have to single out Grande Amore as having the most ballady goodness. Drama, oomph, popera and gorgeous Italian (not to mention gorgeous Italian men) came together to create a crowd-pleaser and a half that ended up raking in televotes like nobody’s business. No other ballad featured more spine-tingling AND explosive moments.

 

 

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  • Adio, Montenegro
  • Amanecer, Spain
  • Golden Boy, Israel

 Winner Golden Boy Honourable Mention/s Adio, Amanecer

 It’s not as if there was a truckload of ethno-pop to choose from *sniff*….but fortunately, Israel delivered everything I desire in the genre straight to my front door. Golden Boy is a fun-packed floor-filler (though not THE floor-filler of the year IMO, as you’ll see in a second) that takes full advantage of irresistible Middle-Eastern sounds in order to get us all rump-shaking.

 

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  • Beauty Never Lies, Serbia
  • Golden Boy, Israel
  • Here For You, Slovenia
  • Heroes, Sweden
  • I Want Your Love, Moldova
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom
  • Tonight Again, Australia

 Winner Tonight Again  Honourable Mention/s Golden Boy

 Call me overly-patriotic if you like…but I can assure you, this winner is at least 67% based on my objective opinion of which song would take a Euroclub from boredom central to buzzing in no time. If you were in the arena, feel free to smugly inform me that Israel or Serbia had way more people on their feet and flailing their limbs about. Meanwhile, I’ll be figuring out which dance move is best suited to the lyric ‘tonight’s so good’.

 

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  • Aina Mun Pitää, Finland
  • Face The Shadow, Armenia
  • One Last Breath, Greece
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom
  • The Way You Are, Denmark

 Winner Face The Shadow Honourable Mention/s Aina Mun Pitää

 Based on the ratio of how much I hated it when I first heard it (and every time I listened to it up until I witnessed Genealogy’s live performance) to how much I actually almost kind of enjoy it now, Armenia wins this one. If you read my previous post (which of COURSE you did!) then you would have seen Face The Shadow on my list of the best-performed songs of 2015 – and it was the performance that was solely responsible for changing my opinion of the song.

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  • Face The Shadow, Armenia
  • Golden Boy, Israel
  • Hope Never Dies, Czech Republic
  • Tonight Again, Australia

 Winner Tonight Again  Honourable Mention/s Face The Shadow

 Don’t get me wrong – I reckon the debut Aussie entry is a great song in studio, and a perfect radio track. But it does ascend to superb status when it’s live. Guy is an artist who always appears to be having a ball on stage, and that’s the kind of attitude Tonight Again needs to make it a party-anthem…and to distract us from the fact that it is quite repetitive.

 

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  • Autumn Leaves, FYR Macedonia
  • Here For You, Slovenia
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • Time, Belarus
  • Unbroken, Iceland
  • Walk Along, The Netherlands

 Winner Here For You Honourable Mention/s Hour of the Wolf, Walk Along

 Speaking of perfect radio tracks, here’s one Slovenia prepared earlier! Here For You is an audio dream, but for me personally, Maraaya were unable to keep it from being overly static – and therefore devoid of enough energy – on the stage. This wasn’t a major issue in the Slovenian NF, but was a definite problem on the less intimate ESC stage.

 

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  • Amanecer, Spain 20%
  • A Monster Like Me, Norway 26%
  • De La Capăt (All Over Again), Romania 13%
  • Face The Shadow, Armenia 2%
  • Grande Amore, Italy 13%
  • Love Injected, Latvia 9%
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom 4%
  • Time, Belarus 13%

 Winner A Monster Like Me Honourable Mention/s Amanecer

 Norway’s unconventional dinner party triumphs over Spain’s CGI everything in this People’s Choice Award – and as I gave my vote to Mørland and Debrah, that’s fine by me. The only bad thing about their glamourous-yet-messy video, in which the duo is cool, calm and collected in the midst of chaos, is that it makes me mourn the loss of a similar atmosphere in Norway’s stage performance. I’m not saying they should have emptied KFC buckets over each other’s heads or anything; but a gloomier, retro-glam look would have upped Monster’s cred as a live song.

 

 

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  • Albania
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Slovenia

 Winner Lithuania Honourable Mention/s Italy, Slovenia

 To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with any of the postcards this year (though the concept of them was cute). But how can I not acknowledge how badass Vaidas and Monika were in taking a literal leap of faith together for the sake of a This Time intro? While other acts were frolicking in fields with wild horses and dancing down Austrian avenues, those two were putting their trust in a cable that could have snapped at any moment (in my mind). One word, two syllables: bravo.

 

And that’s Part 1 *insert round of applause here*! I’m going to wrap things up before you lose 100% of the feeling in your popo, but I will be back later in the week to reveal the winners of The Performances, The Costumes and The Results EBJEEs.

Don’t miss it, especially if you want to check out the remaining People’s Choice results. And even more especially if you don’t want me to feel sad and lonely and stuff #guilttrip.

Let me know what you think of the winners above, and tell me which awards you’d like to be able to vote for next year. I can promise more polls with more nominees in 2016!

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EBJ’s Top 10…performances of Eurovision 2015

Hej hej! Welcome to the filler post that’s supposed to make you drool with anticipation as you await the results of my 2015 Eurovision Excellence Awards.

Don’t worry; their arrival is in the offing. In the meantime, if you haven’t voted in the People’s Choice polls yet, I would la la love you to do so while you still can. The polls are sitting pretty in my previous post, where they’ll be open for another few days (UPDATE: They’ve now closed!!!). Many of the results are close at this point, so your vote could determine who wins and who goes home empty-handed. As our beloved Queen Loreen would say, you got the power.

Before you head off to use it, though (and thanks so much if you already have…douze points for you!) why not hang around here for a bit and check out today’s countdown?

The forty songs performed in Vienna over three nights have been narrowed down to ten: my top ten of the lot, based on how well they were staged and sung, how aesthetically pleasing they were, and how insignificant the shocking camerawork became in light of all of the above.

 

As taking forty down to ten is a tough task (even with a few badly-staged, badly-sung entries among that forty) I’m allowing myself some Honourable Mentions to start:

Moldova If Moldova had tried to disguise I Want Your Love as a classy, contemporary affair, there would have been a global eye-roll epidemic. Fortunately, Eduard and his team acknowledged how trashy and 2000s the song is via a heavily-choreographed, sleazy dance routine performed by “police” hot off a porn set. I don’t care what anyone says – we NEEDED this in Eurovision 2015.

Montenegro Željko Joksimović was part of Adio in spirit (and as songwriter) if not on stage, with his influence extending to the use of every Balkan ballad trope imaginable during Knez’s performance. In this case, I’m more than happy to embrace the clichés, because I’ve long been a sucker for Balkan ballads and their atmospheric ensemble-based stagings…especially when Željko’s engineered them.

Russia I can’t deny that Polina gave a win-worthy performance in the final, helped along by her all-white resemblance to Dima Bilan back in ’08 (except his neckline was even more plunging than hers). But, more so than the costumes or the backdrops, it’s the emotion and energy she put into conveying the message of A Million Voices that I applaud here. Polina clearly invested every fibre of her (pure and angelic) being into her performance, and the fact that she semi-crumbled at the end endeared her effort to me all the more. You go, girlfriend.

 

And now, let’s get to the really, really good stuff (and pretend I didn’t just say ‘You go, girlfriend’): my top ten performances of the year.

When compiling this list, I thought back to how strong my desire was to clap after each performance, rather than bury my head in my hands. I also tried to recall whether my eyes were glued to the TV screen for three minutes straight (á la Sweden) or if I was tempted to tear them out after ten seconds because I NEVER EVER WANT TO SEE ANYONE WEAR ANYTHING LIKE THAT AGAIN, TRIJNTJE!

This is the end result.

 

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#10 | Game of Thrones meets Eurovision…and it’s a perfect match

Genealogy’s performance of Face The Shadow for Armenia

Game of Thrones with a ton of (subliminal) ads for Cadbury Family Blocks thrown in, that is. Armenia’s medieval-esque and very purple outfits – which may or may not have been retrieved from the depths of Inga’s wardrobe and repurposed, based on their resemblance to her and her sister’s 2009 costume choice – added to an equally purple and well-executed performance that took my pre-show perception of Face The Shadow and completely reversed it. Once performed live, the chaos of the studio version – in which all six singers attempted to outdo each other at every opportunity – disappeared, making way for screen shots that almost literally walked us through Essaï, Mary-Jean, Stephanie, Inga, Tamar and Vahe’s solos. On top of that, the migraine-inducing melodrama of that studio version came off as more of a theatricality, and one that worked very well outside of the recording booth. I still feel like Genealogy would have been more at home in a West End production of The Phantom of the Opera than at Eurovision…but their performance made me want to retract most of the snarky comments I made when reviewing Armenia a few months ago – and that deserves praise.

 

#9 | How do you say ‘OTT’ in Spanish?

Edurne’s performance of Amanecer for Spain

After a pretty lengthy period of simplistic staging choices, it was only a matter of time before Spain regurgitated every unused costume reveal, backdrop, dance move and wind machine gust from the past five years all over the Eurovision stage. We’ll never know whether less would have been more where Amanecer is concerned, but I personally don’t mind never finding out – because Edurne’s action-packed, meme-worthy performance harked back to the ultra-gimmicky days of the contest, and I couldn’t help loving it. Si, it was OTT, but not in a tacky, trashy way (Moldova had the tackiness and trashiness all to themselves). To put it in Eurovision terms, if Silvia Night’s Congratulations performance in ’06 was a petulant child, then Edurne’s Amanecer performance was the same child nine years later – more mature, but now at the party-girl stage of life when all she wants to do is rip off the demure cloak she wore out of the house to appease her parents, revealing a flashy dress that enables her to be manhandled by a half-naked dancer up in the club. Or in this case, up on the Stadthalle stage in front of thousands of flag-waving fans. Something else I commend about Spain’s show is the fact that Edurne didn’t let the myriad of backdrops, or the machine-made wind, or any of the other stuff that was happening to/around her, outshine her. She retained her status as star of the show the entire time. I guess when you’re that stunning, it’s easy to do.

 

#8 | Before I leave, you can definitely show me Tel Aviv!

Nadav Guedj’s performance of Golden Boy for Israel

I mean that in a ‘because you guys are the collective kings of fun’ kind of way, as opposed to an ‘I have the hots for a sixteen-year-old which, as I am in my twenties, is creepy, even though said teenager looks older than me’ kind of way (I swear I don’t). Without question, Israel was the life of the Eurovision party in Vienna, and all it took was simple but bang-on staging of the energetic floorfiller that is Golden Boy. All the song needed was a cool lighting scheme, men who could move, and – something I didn’t visualise pre-ESC but now can’t imagine sacrificing – some sweet-as-heck metallic sneakers. And Israel delivered on all three of those counts. They also gave us a teen talented beyond his years, who worked the stage like a pro and made millions of people watching at home leave the butt-shaped crater in their couches behind in order to shake the butt that made the indentation. I was doing no such thing when I was sixteen, being too busy carrying out my grand plan to win over the guy I liked by never looking at or speaking directly to him, which worked a treat. Not. ANYWAY, there was nothing not to enjoy about Nadav’s moment in the spotlight – including his literal moment in the spotlight during Golden Boy’s ballad-like intro, also perfectly staged – which is why it’s going down as one of my top ten performances. As long as I can keep pretending the cringe-tastic ‘Do you like my dancing?’ lyric doesn’t exist, I’ll be re-watching it on repeat.

 

#7 | Where there’s smoke, there’s Nina

Nina Sublatti’s performance of Warrior for Georgia

Let’s be honest: there were a lot of lady ballads in Eurovision this year. Countless women in floor-sweeping gowns were either a) wilting away at their microphones because the flame of their loins had departed, or b) demanding in a very shouty manner that we all come together and build a bridge and pray for peace and whatnot (thanks, but no thanks). So it’s a relief that Georgia gave us some grunt factor in the form of a fierce-as-F-word, gothic goddess in black leather hotpants and thigh-high boots – a.k.a. Nina Sublatti. At twenty years of age, Nina held her own on a sizeable and very smoky stage (she didn’t even bat a kohl-covered eyelid when the Dry Ice Overload Incident took place during the final). Girl eyeballed the camera, strutted around in those amazing boots (sorry to keep mentioning them, but they’re a 10 on the Maja Keuc scale of lust-worthy footwear) and generally hypnotised me into staring at her the entire time she was doing her femme fatale thing. She didn’t need anyone else accompanying her on stage, and I get the feeling the same applies to her everyday life – she’s the epitome of a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man. It’s quite possible that I’m a little bit in love with her, actually. But pushing that aside, I think that Georgia staged Warrior impeccably. A striking backdrop, a dark and sexy choice of costume, dry ice for atmosphere and Nina herself was all that the performance needed to succeed.

 

#6 | Lights! Camera! Completely unjustified nul points!

Ann Sophie’s performance of Black Smoke for Germany

From one saucy, black-clad woman to another…let’s talk about Ann Sophie and her Eurovision rendition of Black Smoke. And this time, I’m going to get straight to the point: I LOVED this performance. Fans who didn’t like the song beforehand and were still annoyed about the Andreas situation may not have felt the same way watching it, and I’ll admit that as I did rate Black Smoke quite highly in the contest lead-up – and wanted poor, downtrodden Ann Sophie to surpass expectations (which didn’t quite pan out) – I’m probably biased. But you tell me something that was über-wrong with Germany’s three minutes, and I’ll tell you that you’re crazy. Everything about it was simple, seductive and sophisticated – and no, I haven’t forgotten about the butt-centric shots that dominated the first verse. What can I say? The woman has a behind that deserves camera time, and the fact that she spent thirty seconds with her back to the audience was at least a unique and memorable approach to stage choreography. It was hardly off the charts wackiness-wise when compared to some of Belgium’s choreography (which *spoiler alert* will be discussed again shortly). Ann Sophie’s style and charisma were equally on point, and her voice wasn’t half as nasally as it had been at the German national final. On top of that, the use of the giant lights as props was inspired, and totally in keeping with the slightly retro flavour of Black Smoke. All in all, Germany’s was a slick and entertaining performance in which every visual element was nailed and the artist played their part in adding pizzazz. Neither the televoters nor the juries thought that zero points was a fair score here, so I blame the current combined voting system for a failure that will haunt my dreams for years to come.

 

#5 | Three (handsome, Italian) heads are better than one

Il Volo’s performance of Grande Amore for Italy

Il Volo, of course, had sung Grande Amore live at Sanremo in order to win the main section of the comp – but after hearing the song for the first time via the cinematically-themed video and falling in love with it, I decided not to seek out the live version. Rather, I’d wait until Eurovision time to see if the boys would blow me away as I expected them to. Obviously, since I’m talking about them on a list of my favourite Viennese performances, they did. They really, really did. All they had to do was stand on the stage in front of that majestic and oh-so-Italian backdrop in dapper suits, and nail their solo vocals and harmonies, and the power of the song would do the rest. A little partnership between the lighting/graphics and the explosive launch into the choruses added to the drama, and that wink from Gianluca down the camera cemented the sex appeal and charisma of this popera entry. Comparisons to the stuffy and straight-laced Sognu should have ended there, but people refuse to stop pitting Italy 2015 against France 2011…even now that we know Italy won the televote and finished third overall (seriously, STOP IT!). Effortless, classy and with an Italian stamp on their performance like always, Italy more than made up for Emma’s scoreboard slump of 2014. And gave me some epic goosebumps. Brr.

 

#4 | Did we pick the right Guy for the job? Too right, mate!

Guy Sebastian’s performance of Tonight Again for Australia

No list of this nature written by an Australian would be complete without our debut performance on it. In fourth place is Guy Sebastian, whose talent, personality and posse of backup dancers/singers had the whole of the arena on their feet (from what I could see on screen) and dismissing the ‘WTF?’ factor of Australia being invited to compete. Tonight Again is the kind of song that works better live, when the performer can feed off the energy of the audience – and in this case, where smooth-as-honey vocals like Guy’s sound sweetest. From his first note, the crowd made the noise that indicated they knew they were in for a fun time (fun being extremely welcome after a ton of down-tempo songs that simply could not be twerked to), and when the trumpets kicked in, there was no looking back. The 3D and 2D street lights served as an eye-catching and appropriate part of simple but effective staging – i.e. staging that was far from boarding Spain’s OTT train, but not at all boring. My absolute favourite thing about our debut was this: watching it unfold in a room full of other Aussies, all of us waving our flags and singing along to every word, while dancing in the uncoordinated kind of way one does at 4 o’ clock in the morning. For the first time, I felt the patriotic spirit that those of you in regularly-competing countries must feel when you’re supporting your entry for the year (assuming you like it and aren’t embarrassed to get behind it). If we’re not invited back, then I’ll always have that memory and feeling to hold on to (sorry for the cheese, but this was a special event, and I’m getting kind of emotional thinking about it *sniff*).

 

And now, for the top points…er, I mean, performances. Or perhaps both?

Yes.

Eight points go to…

 

#3 | Affected, detected, reflected and injected

Aminata’s performance of Love Injected for Latvia

I am proud to say I’m someone who approved of Love Injected when it won the Latvian NF. But not even I foresaw how epic Aminata’s Eurovision performance, and eventual result, would be. I mean, this is Latvia we’re talking about – their contest history includes the world’s campest pirates, Johnny Logan name-dropping and songs about cake-baking. In the post-2000 years, I’ve often had low expectations of them…but that’s changed. Watching barely-five-foot Aminata attempt to fit through backstage doorways in that giant red puffball of a dress, I was skeptical. But with that dress, and the girl in it, being the focal point of the presentation, magic was made. The colour scheme and lighting were seamlessly integrated with the theme and hypnotic beats of the song, and the camerawork here was among the best of the lot. The real drawcard, though, was Aminata herself. Like Conchita, she remained in the same spot for the entirety of her performance, but managed to belt out Love Injected with a whopping amount of power, and emote using only her facial expressions and arm movements. Note-perfect every time and totally present and absorbed in the moment, she had so much to do with Latvia providing another spine-tingler. Overa-a-a-a-all (couldn’t resist) they impressed me big time, brought up my heart rate, and achieved a result that was more Brainstorm than Beautiful Song.

 

Ten points go to…

 

#2 | Lord of the dance, and the leather pants

Måns Zelmerlöw’s performance of Heroes for Sweden

Oh, Sweden – you did it again! Á la 2012, the ESC powerhouse’s out-of-the-box thinking led to an innovatively-staged performance that was unique in the field, and deservingly took out Eurovision’s top honours. The extent to which Sweden takes Melodifestivalen and Eurovision seriously is evident in how well-packaged their entries are from the very first time you see them live – when they’re just potential Swedish representatives competing in a Melfest semi. Changes to the stick man aside, the Heroes that turned up in Vienna was shot-for-shot, move-for-move the same as the Heroes that had won Melfest in Stockholm. And there’s nothing wrong with that – why strive to improve on perfection? Sure, there were a few minor tweaks that did just that: e.g. the colour scheme becoming monochromatic, which, as Måns said, gave the visuals a crispness they didn’t have before. That was the cherry on top of a precision-iced cake. Although I’d seen Måns interacting with cartoon Måns (who’s not as handsome but is adorable nonetheless) a million times before he did so at Eurovision, I was compelled by the staging every time. MZW  was selling something I already wanted to buy, so the fact that a) his vocals were top-notch, b) his engagement with the audience and camera was as pro as always, and c) he was still rocking those leather pants *swoons pathetically* was an added bonus. Just because every element of a performance has been thought through and rehearsed to within an inch of its life doesn’t mean said performance will become stale. It can still be fresh, with the right frontman…or in this case, the right frontmåns.

 

And now, the moment you’ve waded through my ramblings for. The douze points for my personal favourite performance of the year go to…

 

#1 | Black + white + rap pap pap tonight!

Loïc Nottet’s performance of Rhythm Inside for Belgium

Belgium has been a hit-and-miss kind of contest competitor lately. After Roberto Bellarosa’s surprise success in Malmö, Axel Hirsoux’s failure to qualify in Copenhagen must have taken the wind out of their sails (while not surprising the majority of us who were creeped-out by Mother). This year, with Francophone broadcaster RTBF in charge again, Loïc Nottet was internally selected – and what a brilliant selection it was. Loïc – who we mustn’t forget is only nineteen years old – proceeded to co-write a cutting-edge pop song and choreograph a cool routine for some all-white backing singers. The rest, as they say, is history. Belgium’s best result since 2003 was thanks to a song and performance unlike anything we’d heard or seen on the Eurovision stage before, which is mainly why I voted for it. Simple shapes, bizarre but complementary dance moves and a minimalist, monochromatic colour scheme united as Loïc let rip with a killer vocal. Unusual camera shots, and an intensity from The Voice Belgique runner-up that would be hard for an artist twice his age to muster, added to the intrigue, making Belgium’s performance pretty impossible to forget. The whole thing was strange yet satisfying, and gelled in a way that some other performances didn’t. I couldn’t tear my eyes away, having been a fan of Rhythm Inside from the start and then been blindsided by a level of awesomeness in its presentation. I want to see more of this in Eurovision as we journey on into the show’s seventh decade. Maybe that would prove that the older the contest gets, the cooler it gets – you know, like your grandmother who goes bar-hopping, listens to heavy metal and takes hang-gliding lessons.

 

 

That’s my countdown concluded, peeps. I’ve said my (very long) piece, so now it’s your turn. Which ten performances of Eurovision 2015 will you be watching over and over until a distraction comes along in the form of Eurovision 2016? Let me know below. I’m as curious as always!

 

NEXT TIME Dust off your tuxedoes, fluff out those tulle skirts, and red-carpet-proof your footwear – the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence have arrived! Well, the first installment has, anyway. You’re cordially invited to sit front-row as the trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs are handed out. Four of the People’s Choice winners will be revealed as well, so you won’t want to miss this ceremony.

 

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VIENNA 2015 | It’s the final countdown, so let’s pick a winner (and squeeze in a review of semi two)!

Welcome to Eurovision final Saturday, random person or regular reader (I think I have at least one of those…)!!! This day has the ability to be both the best and worst of the year, depending on just how much you love Eurovision. If you’re head over heels like me – and I’m going to assume you are – then you have to be prepared to be extremely excited one minute, and extremely depressed the next. The 60th contest is nearing its conclusion, and that brings with it Loreen-levels of euphoria as well as the kind of unshakeable sadness that Anita and Michele must have felt when they found out they were going to be lumped with a Ralph Siegel song. We feel you, guys.

This is where we are as I type this: 13 countries have fallen at the semi stage, and 27 remain in contention to succeed Conchita and give one of their broadcasters a very expensive coup. By the end of the evening, 26 of these participants will have lost (an unfortunate way to put it, perhaps, but technically true) and one will have won the opportunity to take the snazzy glass microphone home and display it on their mantelpiece (after Instagramming an “artistic” shot of it, of course). It’s time to take a punt at just which country and act that will be – and to take a guess at where all 26 losers will end up.

Before I get to that, it’s time for a quick (don’t take that too seriously coming from me) rundown of the second semi final, held two days ago and already reviewed by everyone else. What can I say? Being fashionably late is my trademark.

 

Semi final two was not vastly different to the first, except in song quality – I thought it was clearly the stronger one. Our three hosts were slightly less wooden, Conchita put them all to shame yet again with her easy charm and radiant glow (I think I love her a little bit), and the postcards continued to be precious. The 17 performances were what made the difference, so let’s focus on those.

These were the ten qualifiers, in performance order:

  • Lithuania I like cheese as much as the next person (assuming the next person doesn’t have an intolerance to dairy) but This Time is too cheesy even for me. Lyrically and performance-wise, this was dripping with the stuff. I found it artificial, not cute. Not that it matters, because it qualified anyway.
  • Montenegro Never underestimate the power of Željko Joksimović! The Balkan tropes were out and proud during this performance, and if Knez had been wearing a Željko mask, nobody would have picked up on it (and the cardboard would have looked more realistic than Knez’s actual face).
  • Norway I adore this song so much I’d marry it if I could. But the colour scheme – the warm lighting and the white outfits – doesn’t embrace the darkness and moodiness of the song, and prevents Norway’s overall package from being a slick one in winning contention. The harmonies were lovely as ever, though.
  • Israel Nadav really IS the king of fun! One of the few floor-fillers in this year’s contest, Israel got the party started at last and qualified for the first time in five years. They also provided us with frequent shots of some golden shoes that Herreys would die for.
  • Latvia Speaking of qualifying for the first time in a long time…Aminata used her incredible voice and artfully flailing arms to full advantage, taking Latvia into the final after six years of DNQs.
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Who knew that all Latvia needed to succeed was a decent cactus impression?

  • Azerbaijan Well, there wasn’t a big Perspex box involved here (always a disappointment) but I’d watch and listen to this performance any day over last year’s Azeri snoozefest. The dancers are verging on distracting from Elnur’s vocal – a big selling point of the entry.
  • Sweden Call me biased, what with my unconditional love for Sweden and Måns’ leather pants and all, but this was perfection. It was a carbon copy of the Melodifestivalen performance give or take a cone-headed cartoon man, sure, but why fix what ain’t broken? Possible winner status = cemented.
  • Cyprus Two words: surprisingly good. I didn’t rate this song too highly in studio, but John was engaging and vocally on his game. Not to mention the fact that he rocked specs on stage in the way of 2007 champ Marija Šerifović. I give a big tick to Cyprus’ use of the background too.
  • Slovenia I wanted Maraaya to wow me, but sadly, they did not. The combination of Marjetka’s ever-present headphones and her standing pretty statically the whole time made the performance quite introverted and not very energetic (in spite of the efforts of the air violinist). I still really like the song though, and clearly I’m not the only one.
  • Poland The prettiest staging of the night. I am a little surprised this advanced, but it proves that Poland can opt for the opposite of busty butter-churners and still get somewhere. And yet I still miss the busty butter-churners…

 

Now, my thoughts on the seven non-qualfiers (also in performance order, because it just works, okay? Get off my back!):

  • Ireland All is absolutely forgiven for Ireland’s shocking staging of Heartbeat in Copenhagen after this. Molly was always going to be a borderline qualifier if she qualified at all, and it just didn’t happen for her on Thursday. But I really enjoyed her time on stage – or playing the piano in the middle of a forest. I couldn’t tell which.
  • San Marino That’s what I did when I wasn’t laughing at Michele’s opening ‘No!’. Nothing, not Michele’s sass or Anita’s pretty dress, could have saved this from being bottom of the heap. I hope you’re happy, Ralph.
  • Malta I think the reworked version of Warrior is what let this down – it just fell flat in the stadium (from a TV viewer’s perspective, anyway) and had little lasting impact. Amber herself looked and sounded better. Malta made great use of the background, but that’s not enough.
  • Portugal Like Sertab Erener when she got her heel stuck in the Istanbul stage vent, Portugal was going nowhere fast. Leonor also looked and sounded decent, but she looked strangely angry during the choruses.
  • Czech Republic As several people told me I would, I didn’t mind this live. Marta and Václav have great chemistry on and off stage, and if they’d been in a theatre mid-way through The Phantom of the Opera, they would have received a standing ovation (the theatrical equivalent of a sure place in the final). It would have been great for the Czech Republic to earn their first final place, but it wasn’t to be. Gee, I hope Marta didn’t take off her shoes and throw them at Václav in anger. Oh wait…
  • Iceland The poofy dress may have worked for me in the end, but it wasn’t enough of distraction from the shrill vocal and the fact that Unbroken is one long chorus. Iceland will miss the final for the first time since 2007, and María will be throwing away her tin of gold body paint.
  • Switzerland Melanie Réné was probably my non-qualifier of the night. I’ll admit that Time To Shine is an anticlimactic song, but this performance took me by surprise. Loved the costume, loved the drummers, loved the lighting scheme (I’m big on lighting this year). Job well done, Switzerland.

 

In terms of predictions, I managed to call 9/10 again – Iceland being my downfall this time (the Nordics have not been kind to me). It turns out that there’s only enough room in the final for golden shoes, not golden feet (and extreme, off-key repetition). I failed to predict Poland as a qualifier, but I’m happy enough to see them go through.

How did you go with your predictions? Prepare to spill all as you venture on into my guesses for the outcome of the grand final – coming to you live from Vienna in a matter of hours!

 

finaleeeee

The running order

Slovenia, France, Israel, Estonia, United Kingdom, Armenia, Lithuania, Serbia, Norway, Sweden, Cyprus, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Greece, Montenegro, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Hungary, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Albania, Italy

It seems the theory that a producer-orchestrated running order will always result in the most entertaining and varied string of songs isn’t a reliable one – at least when the producers leave some of the draw to chance. With a heap of ballads pulling the second half out of the hat, ORF have had no choice but to compile a very down-tempo latter part of the proceedings. We’d better all choreograph some interpretive dance moves suitable for Hour of the Wolf, because after Golden Boy, Still In Love With You and Tonight Again, there’s more or less NOTHING to woki our popos to.

Slovenia should set a good tone for the show, however, and Israel will elevate the energy levels as we head into a long home stretch. If reports on the UK’s rehearsals are to be believed, it will be a positive to get their performance out of the way early on. Sweden can win from a reasonably early 10th slot if they’re meant to – Austria did it in 2014 from 11th. I hope discussion on Australia finally making its ESC debut in the 12th slot won’t overshadow the next country on stage, Belgium, who could be in store for their best result in a very long time.

Funky Germany’s scored a decent position between two ballads, but I suspect Ann Sophie will struggle anyway. Latvia, on the other hand, might benefit from being in a similar situation. Love Injected is nothing if not a standout song, and preceding Poland will probably suffer as a result. The final six songs will be hard to stay awake for, if I’m honest. Albania, I hope, will pep us all up enough so that we can be blown away by Italy, who will close the 2015 contest (I’m not 100% happy about them being last, but I can understand ORF’s reasoning).

Like I said and like we all know, the song that’s meant to win will win from any position, which means there’s still hope for Italy. But it doesn’t look like we’re going to have a repeat of 2003 here, when Turkey won after performing 4th (sorry, Estonia!). We might well have a repeat of 2003 in terms of voting though – back then, Turkey beat Belgium by 2 points, who in turn beat Russia by a single point. My fingers will be crossed for a nail-biter finish in that vein.

 

Highlights of the night: my expectations

Justifying myself in brief, Twitter-esque form, these are the countries I’ll be hanging out to see in action:

  • France An army of drummers that doesn’t breach the six-person rule? I’m intrigued, France.
  • Israel It may have been Pink who wanted to get the party started on a Saturday night, but it’s Nadav who’ll be the party-starter on this occasion.
  • United Kingdom Will Electro Velvet salvage a shambles, or will this be car crash television? I’m morbidly keen to find out.
  • Norway Because no matter how unsuitable I think the mise en scène is, A Monster Like Me is one of my goosebump songs. I actually don’t know what would happen to my body if they’d nailed the lighting and costuming.
  • Sweden The favourite. MY favourite. Need I say more?
  • Australia Uh, hello! I never thought the day would come that I could cheer my own country on in the ESC. I cannot wait for this moment.
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‘Do whatcha whatcha whatcha want…as long as that’s voting for Australia!’

  • Belgium This is just…so freaking cool. Bravo, Belgium!
  • Austria The cheer received by the host country is always up there with my favourite final moments. I don’t expect this to be any exception.
  • Montenegro It’s a Balkan ballad. There’s mountains in the background and minimalist dressing in the foreground. This was made for me!
  • Latvia Like Belgium’s, Latvia’s song is weird in the best possible way. Love Injected, and Aminata’s interpretation of it, is spellbinding. This could be a surprise success.
  • Spain I hear everything except the kitchen sink (though I’m not convinced they haven’t swathed that in sequins and secreted it somewhere on stage) has been thrown at Edurne’s performance, and I can’t say I’m not keen to find out if it’s true – and if it works.
  • Italy We have to wait a long time to see Il Volo smoulder their way through Grande Amore, but I have no doubt it’ll be worth it.

 Let me know which acts you’re most looking forward to down below.

 

So, who’s going to take the trophy home?

I still believe this is an open year, despite one country in particular rising up the ranks and overtaking one of the long-standing bookies’ favourites. I don’t think we have a clear-cut champ just yet…but I reserve the right to change my mind once the votes start coming in and everyone rushes to book a hotel room in Sochi for May 2016.

No matter how biased it may seem, I cannot discount Australia as a potential winner – even based on novelty value alone. We have a good position in the first half, and Guy Sebastian is fronting a catchy, energetic pop song that will be remembered even if it’s just by association – like, ‘Hey! Let’s vote for the Australian song!’. The juries will give him a boost thanks to his impressive vocals. I don’t necessarily think Tonight Again deserves to win, but would I complain if it did? Um, no. I’d be screaming my head off, actually.

Italy outclassed all others in the OGAE vote, and while that doesn’t always signal impending success, it’s not devoid of clout. I wish Il Volo were performing prior to the point where viewer fatigue will set in, but I’m convinced they will make a big impression even as the last act on stage. Even if they f%#k up completely, I’m going to vote for them.

Russia has come out of nowhere to be a danger to the holy trinity of Sweden, Italy and Australia, who sat on top of the odds list for months. Polina is currently second-favourite to win, and though I will be disappointed if she does – not because it’s Russia, but because the song and performance don’t do much for me – I won’t be shocked. Russia won Eurovision seven years ago with a white-clad singer, and there’s a real chance they could do the same again. Polina definitely looks better in that dress than Dima Bilan would.

2015-05-18t200623z2072020018lr2eb5i1jucmirtrmadp3music-eurovision

I can’t deny that Russia is on the white track to win.

My last pick for a probable winner has to be the favourite, Sweden. Måns is almost guaranteed to give Sweden another podium finish, but with Polina snapping at his heels (in a very ladylike manner) the landslide win a lot of us expected is no longer likely. I still believe he has a fighting chance, and I hope the nineteen or so votes I’ll be texting his way will contribute to that. LYCKA TILL SVERIGE!

What’s that? You also want a dark horse? Well, since I aim to please, here’s one: Belgium *insert dramatic soap opera music here*. Loïc, like Polina, has upset the apple cart of pre-contest favourites, having overtaken Australia. He’s sitting in fourth position behind Sweden, Russia and Italy, and this excites me greatly. A Belgian win is a lot to ask, but there is something masterful about the package of Rhythm Inside – the precision, the quirk, how cutting-edge it is – that speaks to me. This is memorable for all the right reasons, and I would LOVE Eurovision to have a winner that’s so out-of-the-stereotypical-box. But if it’s not to be, and Loïc ends up snugly in the top 10 or even the top 5, that will also be worth celebrating.

 

Top half VS bottom half of the table: Who’ll finish where?  

If you’re up for predicting the entire final scoreboard from #1-#27, points included, I’m not going to stop you. I am going to stop myself, however. That could only end in disaster. Instead, I’ll have a stab at predicting which countries will finish on the left side of the scoreboard (i.e. at or close to the top of the table) and which countries won’t be so lucky, as Zdob şi Zdub would say.

Top half Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden

Bottom half Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom

No doubt they’ll be one or two countries that succeed against the odds, but I’ve given up on trying to figure out who they are. Given up or run out of time, one of the two.

 

 

On that note, like Nadav Guedj, I’ve gotta go, bye-bye. I’m off to a cinematic live screening of the final tonight/tomorrow morning, and I’m taking a gigantic flag cape with me (it’s an all-occasion kind of garment, but I thought it would do alright for this). I’m sorry to have rushed this post, but life is hectic at the moment, and to be honest, the occurrence of the ESC isn’t helping! But I’m more than happy to give it some priority time.

I’ll be back, as always, to dissect tonight’s results and discuss any fallout with you guys. In the meantime, hit me up with your predictions. Where is Eurovision headed in 2016? Who’s going to score jaw-droppingly well, and who’s going to fall flat at the final hurdle? Will we get the tense-as-heck voting sequence we’ve been waiting for? Tell me what you think in the comments.

 

Until Eurovision no. 60 comes to an end…

nsig

 

3, 2, 1…60! My first semi-final predictions (plus an updated pre-ESC Top 40)

There’s only one way to sum up how I’m feeling right now.

emae

As I write these words, the first semi final of Eurovision 2015 is mere hours away, with the jury semi already over. It genuinely feels like I was saying the same thing about Eurovision 2014 about a month ago. I don’t know about time being like thunder, but it sure moves freaking fast!

Pushing that frightening thought aside, I can tell you that I am more excited to set my alarm for 2.30am Wednesday than I ever thought I could be. I won’t tell you a whole lot more before I get into my predictions for the first semi, because I’ve still got flags to plaster all over my living room and show snacks to send someone else out to buy for me (because I’m too hyped-up to be let out in public).

A two-part disclaimer re: this post’s predictions, which cover the results, possible jaw-droppers and general other Eurovisiony occurrences:

  • You may or may not be aware that my foresight is dreadful. Unless something is blatantly obvious, I will rarely see it coming (just check out my 2014 prediction post if you want proof. So please make allowances for this when you’re checking out my thoughts.
  • You also may or may not be aware that I NEVER watch the Eurovision rehearsals – nor have I listened to any of this year’s entries for about seven weeks. I have my reasons for this, but the former does make it very hard to guess what’s going to happen. My predictions are based on what I’ve heard about the run-throughs, and the few photos I’ve seen so far.

I think that’s all I need to gab on about for now, so let’s dive in to my amateurish assumptions regarding the outcome of semi final numero uno!

PS – I’ve also taken the liberty of letting you know who I’m voting for, as I support my favourites for the very first time. If you want to throw stuff at me after reading that bit, you’ll need to have quite the arm. I know my next-door neighbours, and you’re not any of them.

 

sf1pred

The running order

Moldova, Armenia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Estonia, FYR Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Belarus,  Russia, Denmark, Albania, Romania and Georgia.

I’m fairly confident that I’ve predicted this correctly. Then again, this is ME we’re talking about *checks the appropriate Wikipedia page for the 127th time just to be sure*.


The results

My top 10 prediction

Because making a fool of myself by listing qualifiers randomly isn’t enough.

  1. Russia
  2. Estonia
  3. Georgia
  4. Belgium
  5. Armenia
  6. Greece
  7. Romania
  8. Denmark
  9. Hungary
  10. Albania

I don’t want to accept this – purely because the song’s not up there with my favourites – but Russia has pulled off one perfect rehearsal after another, if the reactions of the press are to be believed. In this semi, Polina has the potential to be a formidable force.

russia

Polina doesn’t want coloured powder thrown at her tonight – she wants your votes. And it’s highly likely she’ll get them.

I’m not convinced Estonia still has the steam to come out on top here, but they should do well anyway.

I desperately want Belgium to get through, and I think they will. But as what they’ve chosen to put on stage has divided observers, I don’t think Loïc will come too close to winning the semi.

I had Armenia down as a DNQ when their live performance was a question mark, but it seems they’ve managed not to transfer the chaos from the studio version of Don’t Deny Face The Shadow to the live version. The power of all those personalities and voices, plus a decent stage show, should see them qualify safely.

Greece is, well, Greece. One Last Breath may be a bore, but I hear they’ve staged it well, and Maria Elena is great at what she does – impersonating Céline Dion. Not so great, however, that she’ll end up mimicking Switzerland’s 1988 victory or anything.

Since they’ve been so successful in the years post-comeback, it’s hard to imagine a final without Hungary in it. Boggie is a borderline qualifier as far as I’m concerned, but I’m putting her down as a finalist because a) to reference The Common Linnets, she’ll be the calm after Serbia’s storm, and that in itself could be arresting; and b) the juries will lap her song up like its water and they’ve just been wandering through the desert sans liquid for a week. The Aussie jury in particular is on the hunt for a ‘social cause’ (bleurgh) and Wars For Nothing is nothing (like the wars) if not that.

I feel like Albania will slip in to the top 10, but just. Serbia has the potential to snatch that 10th spot though.

 

My fantasy top 10

A.k.a. the result we’ll never get in a million years, unless I happen to become all-powerful within the next few hours.

  1. Belgium
  2. Romania
  3. FYR Macedonia
  4. Moldova
  5. Estonia
  6. Georgia
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Belarus
  9. Denmark
  10. Russia

Go on, have a good old laugh about this. I know it’s wishful thinking of the most ridiculous kind.

 

My bottom six prediction 11. Serbia, 12. The Netherlands, 13. Finland, 14. Belarus, 15. Moldova, 16. FYR Macedonia

Bojana’s voice and presence for Serbia – plus the last thirty seconds of Beauty Never Lies – could carry her through, but Elhaida Dani also has a big voice and a more consistent, cohesive song. Hence I’m bumping Serbia into ‘close, but no cigar (or Saturday night)’ territory.

Trijntje has swapped her boob-baring gown for something more demure and less MY EYES, MY EYES!! But I reckon she’ll struggle nonetheless.

nether

‘What did you say about my stylist running with scissors?’

Finland could sail through, but I’m not convinced people’s heads will stop reeling in time to decide whether they liked Aina Mun Pitää or not. I’m intrigued to see how it does jury-wise.

I was going to tip the sleazefest that is Moldova to advance, having had a gut feeling that Eduard might scrape through for a while now. After all, last year’s rather sleazy (and cheesy) Belarusian Cheesecake had no trouble getting out of its semi. And the fact that Moldova are not incorporating hair removal into their choreography this year bodes well. But now I’m ignoring my gut (probably a mistake) and falling in line with the crowd who think the Moldovan package is trash dressed up in trampy police outfits. Please note that if they do qualify, I will say ‘I told you so!’ even though I technically didn’t.

 

If there’s a shock result…because there’s always something I don’t see coming, no matter how hard I try to see it beforehand. In the case of semi one, the shocker could be a country with a 100% qualification record losing that record – I’m referring to Greece or Romania, as I’ll choke on my kvass if Russia trips up in this department. I’m not saying this IS going to happen – as you’ve seen from my predictions above, I don’t think that’s the case at all.

But but but, if a gasp-worthy outcome is on the cards, there is a chance it could.  Neither Greece nor Romania have sent songs that scream ‘qualifier!’, for different reasons – Greece because it’s a prehistoric ballad, Romania because it’s understated (it’s hard to believe Voltaj are representing the same country that gave us angle grinding, round pianos and Cezar). But, by the media’s reckoning, both One Last Breath and De La Capăt have been well-staged and performed during rehearsals, and even if they hadn’t been, one or neither advancing would equal much drama and debate, methinks.

How about this: what if Finland win the first semi? If PKN made it to the final, that in itself wouldn’t make my eyes bug out of my head. But if I later found out they’d topped it, well…then my eyeballs would know no bounds.

My third and final jaw-on-the-floor moment would involve FYR Macedonia qualifying. I am Beyoncé-level crazy in love with Autumn Leaves, but it was always a song on the fence in terms of qualification. Now Daniel’s rehearsed and things have (apparently) been particularly beige and not particularly cohesive, I’m fearing the worst. Therefore, if he does manage to nab the 9th or 10th spot post-voting, I will be flabbergasted. Flabbergasted in a hysterically happy kind of way (i.e. I will alternate between collapsing on the floor clutching my chest, and moonwalking up and down my hallway).

 

Who’s most likely to…

…get the biggest round of applause? Serbia and Russia.

Serbia has one of the only up-tempo songs in this semi at their disposal – at least for the final stretch of their three minutes – and Bojana will have a big, triumphant finish that I’m sure the fans in the Stadthalle will go crazy over. I would, if I was there (can you hear the sound of my heart breaking?) even though Beauty Never Lies is literally my least favourite entry right now, as you’ll see when I unveil my updated Top 40 below. Curse that painful English version that’s cheesier than a wheel of Switzerland’s finest!

ser

Craploads of silver material? Check. Flags? Check. White snuggies with built-in neck braces? Check.

And, to answer the question I know you have in mind – no, I don’t think Russia’s going to get booed this year. Polina is so angelic, and by all accounts, her performance is so on point, that I will be surprised if anyone in the audience lets loose with a big, fat, B-O-O.

 

…sing best live? Genealogy, Loïc Nottet, Maria Elena Kyriakou, Polina Gagarina, Elhaida Dani…I could go on.

There is a wealth of wonderful singers in the Viennese lineup, but in terms of the live voices I’m most enthusiastic to hear in action, I’ll be waiting for Genealogy, Loïc and Polina.

 

…sing worst live? Moldova.

Let’s not pretend otherwise. I don’t know how far Eduard has come since his woeful-yet-winning NF performance, but he won’t stand up vocally next to…well, more or less ALL of the singers taking to the stage after him. Fortunately, I Want Your Love isn’t an LLB (lame lady ballad, in case you’re new and don’t know that’s a thing now) that relies on a stunning vocal to elevate it. Nothing is going to retrieve this from the trash chute, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

…make the best use of the background? Romania.

I predict this because, singing mostly in Romanian, Voltaj need to use the visuals as much as possible to convey their message to those of us who don’t understand Romanian and/or who don’t already know the story of the song. I believe they’re making a good attempt at that.

 

…have the most boring stage show? The Netherlands, Hungary and Denmark.

I know not every country can have men in hamster wheels rolling around among giant wooden horses trapped in glass boxes, while rainbow sparks rain down and the wind machine is switched up to MAX, and then the wind blows some of the rainbow sparks into the audience and someone’s flag catches fire, and then the stadium starts burning and everyone has to evacuate, and the stadium ends up as a pile of black rubble littered with smoking cardboard cut-outs of Nina Sublatti.

Ahem. My point is, it’s unnecessary for every performance to have bells and whistles attached. It’s unlikely that Trijntje, Boggie or Anti Social Media are going to do anything but stand still and sing and pretend to play their instruments. There might be a bit of walking around involved, but that’ll be it. ASSUMPTION ALERT!!!

 

…have the best costume/? Georgia.

I’m cheating here, as I have seen Nina’s getup – a badass version of Maja Keuc’s leather-and-metallic look from Düsseldorf. Or perhaps the new-and-improved edition of Molly Smitten-Downes’ backup singers’ costumes. Either way, it’s perfection.

georgia

Nina, ready to take flight and land on a scarecrow straight after her performance.

 …have the worst costume/s? The Netherlands.

Yes, Trijntje (how did I end up having to type that name so many times during this post?) has changed her dress, thank the Lordi. But we can’t just forget about the original ensemble that looked like it had been personally designed for her by Freddy Krueger. And what’s with the veil? This is Eurovision, not Derby Day at the races. Or a funeral, for that matter.

 

So, where are my votes going?

Having been given the chance to vote in Eurovision for the first (and “only”) time, I’m not going to waste it. I’ll reveal to you now in list form who I’m supporting, so you can blame me if X country goes through against your wishes, and so I can refer back to it at 4.30 tomorrow morning when I’m too delirious to remember who I wanted to vote for.

This list aligns with the aforementioned fantasy top 10, but I’m saving my votes for the first five countries on it: Belgium, Romania, FYR Macedonia, Moldova and (possibly) Estonia. I say ‘(possibly) Estonia’ because I’m not as attached to Goodbye To Yesterday as I am to the other four songs. Plus, I don’t think Stig & Elina need my help as much as the others do.

 

Last but not least, it’s ranking time! 

It’s tradition to revise one’s Top 40 just before the contest kicks off…isn’t it? I’m gonna say it is. And so, I present to you my updated pre-ESC ranking, with numeric proof of how much it’s changed over the last few months.

tfu

Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

And with that out-of-place Taylor Swift reference, I pronounce this post over, ladies and gents! I can’t wait to join y’all for the first semi final, watching live and – if you’re a fellow Australian, or if you’ve just never bothered to vote before – voting for the first time.

I probably won’t be taking to social media during the show, because I want to focus 110% on what’s happening on my TV screen (the voting period excepted, of course) so this is peace out from me until we have our first ten finalists. Besides the seven already booked in to Saturday night. You know what I mean. I’ll be back before semi two to review the performances and results of semi one, and make some more unreliable predictions. Yay?

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoy the show…unless you’re in Vienna and are attending the contest, in which case I hope you have a horrible time (though I’ll retract that if you promise to send me a postcard and/or a lock of Måns Zelmerlöw’s chest hair). Let me know below what your plans are for the evening/afternoon/morning (bloody time zones!) plus your predictions for this first Eurovision 2015 installment. Who’s going through and who’s going home? Place your bets now.

 

See you on the other side of the semi!

 

nsig

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 4)

Being all about that bass is so passé. Right now, at least within the Eurovision sphere, it’s all about those Eurovision 2015 reviews. That’s why I barely let you finish reading one installment before I publish another. Case in point: this is Part 4. Yep, we’re halfway through already!

Under the musical microscope today are Sweden, the UK, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Romania; and on the EBJ Jury today are an Australian, another Australian, and me – also an Australian. Pay careful attention to how our points stack up, because that might give you an insight into where the Aussie points will go come May 19th, 21st and 23rd. Or not. Actually, that’s very unlikely. Forget I said anything, okay?

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv4

Mrs. Jaz: She’s back! Louisa Baileche lookalike and mother of me, Mrs. Jaz refused to stop her review count at five. Hang on a second…no, that was me. I refused to let her stop at five. Anyway, she’s joining the EBJ Jury for the second and final time today to offer opinions from a non-fan, outside-of-the-bubble perspective. How she rates the entries from Sweden etc could be a gauge as to how they’ll fare in the final (if they make it that far) when all of the casual viewers drop by and vote for the songs that make the best first impressions.

Fraser McEachern: “Hello Europe, this is Fraser from Adelaide calling! As one half of the the record-breaking escTMI Eurovision review show (well, in our minds anyway) I have loved the Eurovision Song Contest since I first laid eyes on it back in 1998. I recall turning the TV channel over to see Dana International performing Diva, and from that moment, I was hooked – and I haven’t missed a contest since! My love for Eurovision culminated in Loreen’s 2012 win, which led escTMI to attend the show in Malmö in 2013. We loved it so much that this year, we’re heading to Vienna to join in the fun all over again. My favourite Eurovision songs of all time tend to be the same ones, just in different positions. At the moment, #1 is Invincible by Carola, #2 is Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler, #3 is Je N’ai Que Mon Âme by Natasha St-Pier, #4 is Je T’adore by Kate Ryan, and #5 is Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst. As I said, these change regularly. However, there have been many brilliant songs (and remixes) over the years that I have become addicted to!”

escTMI on YouTube | escTMI on Facebook | Follow Fraser on Twitter

Jasmin Bear: “Yes, it’s me again. Just face it, I’m not going anywhere! I’m also not going to tell you a Fascinating Eurovision-Related Story Masquerading As A Regular Bio today, as I’m still trying to figure out which one I should publish next: a) a tale of all the times I thought I heard a Eurovision song playing in a shop but it turned out to be something else, and the ensuing disappointment; or b) a three-hundred-word mini essay weighing up the pros and cons of Dana International’s Gaultier fixation. They’re both so very scintillating, I can’t choose between them.”

 

 

We’re a fabulous trio, as far as I’m concerned (in fact, I think we should form an Alcazar-esque pop threesome and represent Australia at Eurovision next year, should the opportunity arise). I’m sure you’ll let us know if you agree or disagree with that once you’ve checked out our views on Måns, Electro Velvet, Loïc, Marta & Václav and Voltaj (and their songs, obviously). Let’s get started!

 

 

SWEDEN

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw

Sweden

Mrs. Jaz: The first thing I thought when this song twanged into gear was ‘Have Mumford & Sons defected to Sweden for some reason?’. The folky/country intro reminds me very strongly of their kind of music. Then, things swiftly took a poppier turn and became anthemic and uplifting. This song boasts great choruses with a slick production sound and simple but effective lyrics that had me singing along by the second run-through. The remaining lyrics aren’t the world’s greatest, but that hardly matters when every other aspect is much more than mediocre. The staging visuals take the package up a notch, and I have to admit, the visual of Måns (he has a great voice and everything, but LEATHER PANTS!) helps too…7 points.

Fraser: I had big expectations of Måns in the lead-up to his performance in Melodifestivalen, and for the first few seconds of Heroes, I thought ‘Crap! What has he done? It’s a country song!’. Moments later, I realised he was just channeling the Avicii-esque sound that is big across the world at the moment, and that it’s a hook to get us into the fabulous pop song that follows. ‘We are the heroes of our time’ speaks volumes to a bit of a trend in Eurovision songs of late focusing on positive messages (think Rise Like A Phoenix and this year’s Beauty Never Lies) which I think will help it resonate with the voting public. If it doesn’t, Måns’ leather pants and background animations surely will! I love this song and I have a feeling it will do exceptionally well in the contest. DOUZE POINTS!!!

Jaz: BACK OFF, MUM. I SAW HIM FIRST. Ahem. Forget me being biased about Australia – it’s when I start talking about Sweden that my impartiality goes flying out the window with the greatest of ease. Despite my lack of Swedish roots, I feel particularly attached to the home of Melodifestivalen, and cannot help supporting them no matter what they send to Eurovision. Fortunately, for the past five years running Sweden has chosen my favourite Melfest entry to represent them in the ESC – so my fervent flag-waving has been out of genuine appreciation for their song. And lo and behold, they’ve just done it for the sixth time in a row. Just when I thought Sanna Nielsen’s 7th-time-lucky win couldn’t be equaled in terms of how much it excited me, Måns Zelmerlöw goes and triumphs on his third Melfest attempt. I’ve been a Måns fan since the Cara Mia days, but I always felt like that song, and its follow-up Hope and Glory, were a bit too schlager to succeed in a contest that was outgrowing that style. Not to mention the fact that they required dance moves that came at the expense of Måns’ vocals. Heroes is different. It’s more dynamic, more accessible (i.e. not overstuffed with schlager) and more of an anthem. Plus, the intriguing countrified intro is not only trendy, but gives Måns a chance to focus on his vocals (with a little attention reserved for the cartoon man). And his vocals absolutely soar on this infectious track that is ideally suited to raising the roof off an arena. His entry has everything going for it, even with the controversy over the graphics (which the delegation seems to be taking as a chance to make the staging even better) and Eurovision 2015 is Sweden’s to lose as a result. DOUZE POINTS!!!

EBJ Jury Score: 10.33

 

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Still In Love With You by Electro Velvet

Programme Name: Eurovision 2015 (C) BBC - Photographer: Sarah Dunn

Mrs. Jaz: Aaaand straight to the 1920s we go, with a song that would definitely be on the soundtrack of a movie entitled Flappers Go Mental. To quote Kath and Kim (hoping that someone outside of Australia will get the reference) this is different, it’s unusual! I won’t say it’s noice too, although the love story is cute, if a little too sweet and mushy at times. I like how unashamedly retro the song is, and the fact that it’s been infused with some contemporary sounds. But even so, that cosmic-sounding bit caught me off guard – it’s a weird inclusion. As a duet, Bianca and Alex work well together as they Charleston and scat their way through some amusing lyrics. This entry isn’t perfect, but it’s endearing and energetic, and the UK expat in me is giving it 6 points.

Fraser: Unlike with Sweden, my expectations for the UK are always low. They are so erratic with the quality of the songs they send, it’s just plain confusing. Enter Electro Velvet – wow! I had my toes tapping and my spirit fingers shaking (I’m not scatting for anyone). The video is rich and fun, and I have enjoyed the unique sound each time I have listened to it. Today, however, I’ve found the recorded version on Spotify, and it sounds like they have slowed it down by a third. I can only hope this is not what they will perform in Vienna [UPDATE: Fortunately, it isn’t]. I’ll give them some points for trying, but it’s all a guess until we get to see it performed live. 6 points.

Jaz: The first time I heard this song, I literally facepalmed. I thought the 1920s theme was cringey, the scatting was awful, and that no song that makes mention of ‘nasty diseases’ should ever have the chance to take to the Eurovision stage. All in all, I was pretty close to grabbing the UK by the shoulders and shaking them violently, while politely enquiring at the top of my lungs as to what the bloody hell they were thinking, voluntarily choosing to have this nightmare represent them on an international stage. But then I listened to it again, and don’t ask me how or why, but I found myself digging the ridiculous trip back in time. It is bonkers, but it definitely livens up a contest full of songs on the opposite end of the spectrum – i.e. down-tempo and vanilla. Alex and Bianca look and sound great together (I’m choosing to ignore the reports of lacking chemistry from those who’ve watched the pair’s live performances) and I love the parts they play that correspond with the lyrics. Competing against angsty, moody duos such as Stig & Elina and Mørland & Debrah Scarlett, Electro Velvet’s effervescence will be welcomed. Having said that, I do like the Estonian and Norwegian entries more than Still In Love With You, and I suspect both of those countries will leave Vienna with a better placing than the UK’s. But first impressions never last, and as I really like this song now, I hope it gets somewhere on the scoreboard. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.67

 

 

BELGIUM

Rhythm Inside by Loïc Nottet

Belgium

Mrs. Jaz: I’ve been informed that I’m the 987426th person to say that this is very Lorde – but there’s nothing wrong with that! There is so much to enjoy where this entry’s concerned. The music and lyrics are really good, and the overall ‘sound’ really draws you in and takes you on an interesting journey. I wanted to keep listening (not the case with some of the others I’ve heard) and I would be happy to listen to it again. It’s my favourite of all the songs Jaz has forced me chosen for me to review! 10 points.

Fraser: Wow, wow and wow! I can completely understand why Loïc did so well on The Voice in Belgium. This song is not normally my sort of thing, but I really like it. He has soul and sauciness in his voice, and teamed with this song, I think he will be able to deliver some really good points for his country. Even if he doesn’t, we will keep watching the video – it’s hot! 10 points.

Jaz: Belgium is one of those countries that fail to impress year after year, making the majority of us think ‘Why bother?’ (or, in last year’s case ‘Why Mother?). Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they strike gold and send something epic. They most recently did so in 2013, putting their faith in teenage The Voice winner Roberto Bellarosa, who was duly rewarded with a place in the final, then a result that was one of the best Belgium had seen in a long time. In 2015, they’ve selected…well, a teenage alum of The Voice. And Loïc Nottet, as the alum is known, is peddling a freaking fantastic song, just like Roberto – only Rhythm Inside is superior to Love Kills. This is one of a bunch of this year’s songs that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio right now, and not just on mainstream stations. It’s a little alternative, but it still possesses so much of what attracts me to a pop song  – infectiousness, pared-back verses that contrast with big choruses, lyrics that may make little sense but are in no way lame or cheesy…it’s all there. And, like Fraser, I am left with no questions as to why Loïc had such a great run on The Voice. His pipes are as unique and enjoyable to listen to as his song. He may be just nineteen years old, but so was Lena when she won Eurovision in 2010 (and do I even have to mention Sandra Kim?). I’m not saying Belgium’s going to win the contest. That would be a huge ask, even if Loïc locked Måns in the Stadthalle basement on final night. All I’m saying is that I reckon their song is the bomb, and so is their artist – and that’s a recipe for success. I desperately want this to make the final, and as the overall package is stronger than the one Belgium put forward in Malmö (and with this being a weaker year than 2013) if they do qualify, a top 10 finish is within their reach. That, for Belgium, is more or less a win anyway. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 10.00

 

 

CZECH REPUBLIC

Hope Never Dies by Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta

Czech Republic

Mrs. Jaz: Well, this is all terribly, terribly dramatic, isn’t it? What a trés tragique, OTT ballad it is. In spite of all that drama, it didn’t really do anything for me – I spent most of the three minutes waiting for the END of the three minutes, which I’m guessing isn’t a promising sign in terms of potential Eurovision success. Just thinking about it makes me want to yawn, actually. I know they’re trying to tell us that hope never dies, but mine definitely did! I hope someone’s in the wings come contest time, ready to drag this pair off stage with one of those giant hooks reserved for drunk, off-key karaoke singers. 3 points.

Fraser: This is stating the obvious, but it’s very musical theatre. I love musicals, but I don’t really like this one. I don’t think their voices work well together – his is so deep and manly, hers is less so. Not for me, sorry. Czech Republic, you won’t be troubled in 2016. 4 points.

Jaz: The Phantom of the Opera is heeeeeeeere…competing in Eurovision 2015, apparently. He’s buffed up, gotten some ink and no longer requires his white mask, but based on the melancholy, theatrical sound of Hope Never Dies, it’s him, alright. Now, don’t get me wrong: I too love musicals, and the actual Phantom of the Opera soundtrack is as good as they come (thanks to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber). But this song is so painfully ESC circa 2005, and so over-dramatic, that it doesn’t compare favourably. I do like it more at this point than I did after my first listen, but there’s no aspect that really grabs me. Nothing makes me love it. The Czech Republic hasn’t returned to Eurovision with the bang I was hoping for, so I think they’ll remain one of the weakest-performing participants when the 60th contest has concluded. It’s a shame, as it may dissuade them from trying again next year. Still, I won’t be sorry to see them left behind in their semi-final. 4 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 3.67

 

 

ROMANIA

De La Capăt (All Over Again) by Voltaj

Romania

Mrs. Jaz: Nice…very nice. This makes for a soothing listen, and I got a lot of emotion from it without having a clue what the subject matter was. I was curious about the topic at hand though, so I was pleasantly surprised by the language switch. The English part may not communicate the intended meaning explicitly (I’ve been schooled on that meaning by a certain someone) but it gave me a better understanding, and I think it will help the non-Romanian speakers of Europe connect with the song too. 8 points.

Fraser: I don’t mind this one. It’s a nice, mid-tempo song that will do something around the middle of the field in the contest. It doesn’t really go anywhere as a song, but it’s nice enough to hum along to. I am happy that they appear to be singing mostly in Romanian in the competition, then the end in English with that hint of ESL in his voice! 8 points.

Jaz: I’ll get straight to the point (which is something I rarely do): I’m in love with this. As soon as I heard Voltaj were the favourites to win the Romanian final, with a song that had already been a domestic hit, I had to give it a listen. After all, that was the case when Mandinga won the same NF in 2012, and Zaleilah was amazing. I had high hopes for what was then known as De La Capăt, and they were exceeded. This song is beautiful. You definitely don’t need to speak Romanian to know that there’s a message here; or to enjoy how nicely the song’s been constructed, with a lovely minimalism to the verses. You wouldn’t think Romania would go for minimalism of any kind based on the ostentatious entries they’ve been selecting recently – Miracle, It’s My Life, and even Zaleilah – but it’s great to see them opt for a change of pace. I’m very glad Voltaj are taking a bilingual version of their song to the ESC, rather than the fully-English one. Both versions are surprisingly good, but Romanian is so well-suited to music (and native tongues are so sparing in this year’s contest) that I think they made a good choice. With Romania’s 100% qualification record, I’d have no worries about Voltaj making it out of their semi if it wasn’t for one thing – lead singer Călin’s vocals, specifically during the national final. Considering how long his band has been around, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was having an off night. If so, and the staging is simplistic enough to allow the song to shine, Romania should find themselves in the final. Unfortunately, though, I’ll be surprised if De La Capăt (All Over Again) outdoes last year’s tacky, try-hard Miracle. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 8.67

 

 

Well, that’s another round of highs and lows taken care of. But just how high were the highs, and how low were the lows? Here’s a recap in case you’ve got an incredibly short memory, and/or you’re too lazy to scroll back up and check.

  1. Sweden (10.33)
  2. Belgium (10.00)
  3. Romania (8.67)
  4. United Kingdom (6.67)
  5. Czech Republic (3.67)

Congratulations and jubilations go to Sweden, sitting pretty (so very pretty, ifyaknowwhatimean) on top of this party of five. Commiserations go to the Czech Republic, whose 5th place here will probably be hailed as a raging success after they’ve finished 16th in their semi final (having beaten nobody but San Marino).

Drop by again in a few days’ time as Matt – Fraser’s escTMI co-host – and Rory from ESC Views return to review Malta, Georgia, Lithuania, Albania and Spain. If you’re lucky, I might throw in that mini essay I mentioned earlier too.

In the meantime, why not revisit the first three installments of the Viennese Verdicts?

  • Part 1 feat. Russia, Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia
  • Part 2 feat. The Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland
  • Part 3 feat. Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia

And don’t forget to let the EBJ Jury know how you’d rank today’s scrutinised songs. Sweden may be on top with us, and in the betting odds – but who’s your favourite of the five?

 

nsig