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JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Ukraine, the UK…and Russia

Happy Eurovision Eve, guys! If it’s still Eurovision Eve Eve when you’re reading this, then Happy That to you too.

As promised, I’m back with the final round of EBJ reviews for this year’s adult contest. It’s down to the wire given that Kyiv’s first semi is so close, and the jury semi even closer (timezone-ally speaking again, it may be over by the time you read this). Plus, there’s still the all-important – and in my case, hilariously inaccurate – predictions to be made, which I may end up posting on social media only (if you don’t see them here, check out my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, all @EurovisionByJaz). So – and I’m saying this to myself – let’s have a little less conversation and a little more action, please!

Read on to find out how my guest juror/mother and I rate the entries from Belgium’s Blanche, Croatia’s Jacques, Israel’s IMRI, Ukraine’s O.Torvald, the UK’s Lucie…and yes, Russia’s Yulia. I couldn’t come this far and then leave her out, even though she’s out of the competition.

Here’s the last seven songs of 2017, according to two extremely intelligent and attractive Australian women.

*tumbleweed blows*

Moving on…

 

 

My thoughts I don’t know what’s gotten into Belgium lately, but they’ve been batting the ball right out of the field with their Eurovision entries – 2013, 2015, 2016 and now 2017 being the gold star examples (the less we say about the creepfest of 2014, the better). Blanche’s City Lights took me by surprise, because for some reason I was expecting her to be assigned some twee, folksy guitar-strummer á la Joan Franka, which is SO not up my street. I don’t know why I expected that – she must just have that look about her. Anyway, I apologise, Blanche. You/your songwriters have given us a skillfully-crafted, cutting edge alt-pop song that’s melancholy in all the right ways. If Kristen Stewart were a song, this would be it: edgy, flat and lacking in emotion, but bizarrely attractive nonetheless. There’s nothing about it I can pick on – even the repetitiveness makes it more hypnotic. Blanche’s voice is way smokier and sultrier than you’d expect from a seventeen-year-old, and it sets off the song perfectly. The contrast between Belgium last year and now (with different broadcasters behind each entry) is huge, and I love them both. The only issue is that there’s one negative difference between Laura and Blanche, and it’s to do with their on and off-stage personalities. Laura, with all of her theatre and TV experience, was a ball of energy and enthusiasm with more charisma than Triana Park’s Agnese has wigs. She charmed the press, audience and home viewers with ease. Blanche is virtually the opposite, as far as I can tell – reserved, quietly-spoken and pretty nervy on stage. Obviously she shouldn’t smile her way through performances of City Lights, since that wouldn’t make any sense. But her uncertainty and lack of emotion at times put what is a fabulous, should-be-a-surefire-hit song right into the danger zone she’s singing about being alone in. That’s why Belgium has dropped considerably in the odds since rehearsals started, and why we could be looking at a (somewhat shocking) non-qualifier here. But, not having seen any rehearsals myself and not knowing what Blanche might muster up for the jury and broadcast shows, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and base my score of 10 points on the song itself.

My mum says… Wow – that’s a voice with depth! I can’t believe it’s coming out of someone so young. It kind of makes Blanche the antithesis of Ireland’s Brendan. Her song is just as impressive as her voice. It doesn’t sound manufactured, and its moody in a way that kept me interested even though it was really repetitive, which is a hard thing to do. Bravo, Belgium! 8 points.

Belgium’s score 9.00

 

 

 

My thoughts There are only a few duos competing at Eurovision 2017, but Croatia’s is the most notable given that it’s a duo made up of Jacques Houdek…and Jacques Houdek. Yes, we have a man duetting with himself in the contest, via a song that isn’t so much well-blended popera as it is pop-opera with a definitive divide between the two. And it is HILARIOUS. Hilariously terrible, that is. Things don’t get off to a good start when Jacques opens with some wannabe inspirational (i.e. retch-worthy) spoken lyrics that even the most warm-hearted person would find hard to take seriously. It’s not exactly downhill from there – that, IMO, is the worst part of the song – but when cheesy lines give way to Pop Jacques and Opera Jacques fighting for attention, it’s time to laugh (because it’s absolutely mental) or cry (because it’s a Disney-fied disaster). No other song so strongly begs the question ‘What were they thinking?’ than My Friend. Yet apparently, it works well enough on stage to be in contention for qualification. Whenever I hear or see someone say that, it makes me wonder if I’ve woken up in my worst nightmare. I think the only aspect of Croatia’s entry deserving of a place in the final is Mr. Houdek himself, because he’s a top bloke with bucketloads of talent (I can’t deny that he nails both the Jekyll and Hyde vocal segments of his song). Apart from that…no. Just no. I take a little sugar in my coffee, but I don’t fill the entire cup with an unpleasant combo of white and raw, if you know what I mean. That would be way too sickly. 2 points.

My mum says… Oh my gosh. If the TV show Touched By An Angel was ever made into a musical, this would be the theme song. Not that I’d know that for sure, because I would NOT be buying tickets to see it. Is ‘abysmal’ too harsh a word to describe this song? I mean, the voices are good – great even, when you realise that they’re both coming out of the same person – but everything else is…ugh. 2 points.

Croatia’s score 2.00

 

 

 

My thoughts It’s still hard to comprehend the fact that Greece lost their 100% qualification record last year. You’d think that would be the kick in the pants they needed to reclaim their Eurovision glory days of 2004-2013, when they could hardly keep themselves out of the top 10. The announcement of Demy as their artist confirmed that, and I was excited. Then along came the three candidate songs, one of which she’d end up singing in Kyiv…and they were all utterly average and totally uninspired. This Is Love, a dance track that feels half 2000s ESC and half cookie-cutter club hit, was the best option, I’ll give them that. But all it does is satisfy the requirements for an okay pop song. It takes zero risks, feels super familiar (like it’s a Frankenstein creation of other dance songs stitched together) and doesn’t feel lyrically original. It’s not offensive, but I have no reason to fall head over heels in love with it (hence why I’ve taken to calling it This Isn’t Love in my head). It’s just there, in the line-up, not measuring up to a good 75% of the other entries. If anything can save it – and I suspect it will be saved – it’s Demy and the staging. I’m pretty confident that will get Greece back into the final, and for all I know, back into the top 10. That’s not a result I’d rejoice in, though, as much as I love Demy. She’s better than this song, and I expected something much stronger. Hashtag disappointed! 5 points.

My mum says… I have to admit, I’ve already forgotten how This Is Love goes, but when I was listening to it I was pretty bored. I feel like Greece did try to start a fire with it, but there’s just no spark. I wasn’t even moving to the music – danger alert! Demy has a nice voice, but her stage performance will have to be incredible to make up for the weaknesses in her song. 3 points.

Greece’s score 4.00

 

 

 

My thoughts It’s convenient that my random selection resulted in Israel being reviewed right after Greece, since they’re so stylistically similar. It makes it even easier for me to say that I Feel Alive is miles ahead of This Is Love in every department (in my opinion, of course). And no, that’s not because Imri has the power to melt me into a human puddle of swoonage with one brief, smoldering gaze. I’m not (quite) that shallow, guys! I just think it’s a far better and far more original song. It’s definitely more current-sounding, and I like how even though each part of the song is different, the whole thing is cohesive and the energy/intensity level never wavers. It’s also great to have a bit of ethnicity shoehorned in via the instrumental break. Overall, I find this entry very catchy and danceable, and we need some of that to break up the ballads that are a bit hard to dance to if you’re alone á la Jana Burčeska. Unfortunately, there’s a question mark over Imri’s ability to pull off a pretty tricky (if my in-shower attempts are any indication) vocal. He has enough stage presence (and muscle tone) to win people over, and as he’s sung backup for Israel the past two years in a row, he can handle the Eurovision experience in general. But can he hit those high notes? Notes that could be Jemini-level awful if he doesn’t nail them? If he wasn’t doing double duty as a singer and dancer – because I’m guessing there’s some choreography for him to work with – he’d have a better shot. But I’m worried. He has the honour of closing the second semi final, and he needs to leave a good impression behind if he wants to be the lucky charm that helped Israel make the final in 2015 and 2016. I’m not sure, but I hope that he can do it. I Feel Alive would be a cracking song to have on the Saturday night. 8 points.

My mum says… Here’s a song that had my foot tapping very quickly. That’s a good sign for me, because I react to music how I react to books: if it doesn’t grab me and make me feel something fast, I’ll give up on it. I Feel Alive is very catchy, and I love the instrumental bit that sounds a bit like an Irish jig (don’t worry, I know it isn’t). I’m keen on stuff like that! And I’m told Imri is a beautiful sight to behold, so it sounds like Israel has the total package. 7 points.

Israel’s score 7.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I know I shouldn’t be dwelling on stuff that happened during national final season, but I’m still convinced that Tayanna’s I Love You would have been one of the best host entries in Eurovision history. It’s heartbreaking that she ended up sick prior to the Ukrainian final and barely managed to sing her way through the whole song when it mattered the most. In that sense, I can see how O.Torvald won instead. Their final performance, elevated by some gruesome but awesome prosthetics that took Time literally in a jaw-dropping way, was fantastic. Sadly, that’s not the staging they’re using for the ESC (I guess it’s not that suitable for what’s considered a family show) so they’re relying more or less on song alone to get the job done. The ‘job’ being ‘host entry that scores enough points to not be an embarrassment, but doesn’t put Ukraine in danger of having to host again in 2018’. I have a feeling a right-side scoreboard finish is in the band’s future, though. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy to have rock in the competition. Time stands out just because of its genre, and I think it’s got a lot going for it, apart from adding variety to the grand final. But I don’t think it’s memorable enough to thrive on simplistic staging, and I can’t see it outdoing Sweden’s 2013 result with Robin Stjernberg. In fact, I’m predicting it will finish lower than that – in the 16th-20th range – in spite of the support it’ll get from the crowd, being the host entry and all. Ukraine shouldn’t suffer the indignity that Austria did on home soil in 2015, but it’s very unlikely they’ll do what Sweden did last year and finish in the top five. O.Torvald’s musical rivals are too hard to handle. 6 points.

My mum says… I don’t know why, but this reminds me of a B-side to a 1980s ballad. The music’s interesting, but I didn’t like much else. It’s quite a dramatic change from Jamala, so at least Ukraine aren’t creatures of habit. 3 points.

Ukraine’s score 4.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I’m not as partial to Emmelie de Forest as a lot of other people. Only Teardrops is far from being one of my favourite ESC winners, and I much prefer Anja Nissen’s Where I Am to the song de Forest co-wrote for her DMGP appearance last year. My point is, when I heard she was responsible for a Eurovision: You Decide song, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. Never Give Up On You quickly won me over, however, because I loved how bare-bones it was at the NF, with hardly any instrumentation backing it and no beat that kicked in when it seemed obvious that a beat would kick in (when Lucie hits her big note towards the end). But apparently I’m fickle AF, as I then decided the song would benefit from some sort of driving beat to give it some oomph. When the revamp was unveiled feat. just that….you guessed it, I found myself preferring the original version. The ESC version has a bit of an identity crisis – it’s halfway between understated piano ballad and soaring power ballad, with an electronic influence creeping in that does make it contemporary, but ultimately sounds wishy-washy. The UK are in danger of becoming musical wallpaper once again – but if reports on their stage presentation are to be believed, they might have hauled themselves out of trouble at the last minute. From the photos I’ve seen, they’ve gone for a gold-heavy, art-deco theme that I wouldn’t have imagined suiting the song, but it looks like the camera will love it. If it does suit the song, then this entry could be a very well-wrapped package. The song is certainly up Lucie’s alley, as it caters for both her pop side (as an ex-X Factor contestant) and her theatrical side (as a past and future star of Legally Blonde: The Musical). I’d love to see her do well, but there are better ballads that are 99% likely to make it to the final and be in direct competition with her – think Finland and Portugal. And it is the United Kingdom we’re talking about. I’m always doubtful. But you can’t say they haven’t taken the contest seriously this year, or put in the level of effort required to succeed. 7 points.

My mum says… This is very nice. I like a ballad that’s powerful without being too loud and screamy, and this definitely falls into that category. I can imagine Lucie in a long, flowy dress with the (fake, wind machine-generated) wind in her hair as she channels all of her emotion into it. Her voice is gorgeous, and it’s not hard to picture her on the West End stage…or the Eurovision stage, for that matter. I’ll have my fingers crossed for the UK, because I don’t want to have to pretend I wasn’t born there! 7 points.

The United Kingdom’s score 7.00

 

 

 

My thoughts I don’t like the way Russia’s departure from Eurovision this year played out, on the Russian or Ukrainian ends. But try as I might, I can’t help being relieved that Flame Is Burning won’t be competing in Kyiv and won’t be taking a spot in the final away from a higher-quality song. Sorry to be so blunt, but OMG, I HATE IT. Maybe that’s partly because it came from Russia, and every time they (try) and send an “inspirational” preaching-for-peace ballad to the contest, it makes my skin crawl. That doesn’t just apply to Russia, though…see my Croatia review for proof. Anyway, just as a song, if you don’t think about its origins, it’s awful. Lame lyrics, a lacklustre melody and a style that went out of style about 25 years ago do not make for something I’d voluntarily listen to. The other problem is Yulia’s thickly-accented English, which makes it hard to understand anything she’s singing (although you could look at that as a blessing). With a better song in Russian, her talents would be put to way, way better use – which, with any luck, is what’ll happen next year if Russia re-involve themselves and send her. So, the moral of my story is, I won’t miss Flame Is Burning, just like I didn’t miss Romania’s Moment of Silence last year. I’ll just feel super sorry for their performers. 1 point.

My mum says… I don’t hate this like Jaz does (which made her jaw drop about a kilometre) but it’s nothing outstanding, that’s for sure. If it was competing, it sounds like it would be forgotten five minutes after it was performed. That’s not the key to Eurovision success, is it? And her accent is so strong, it’s distracting. 2 points.

Russia’s score 1.5

 

 

I can’t believe I get to say this, but that’s it – 43/43 reviewed! The ranking for this round looks like this:

  1. Belgium (9.00)
  2. Israel (7.5)
  3. United Kingdom (7.00)
  4. Ukraine (4.5)
  5. Greece (4.00)
  6. Croatia (2.00)
  7. Russia (1.5)

Belgium (pretty unsurprisingly) takes out the nonexistent trophy, with Israel and the UK hot-ish on their heels, and the others not even lukewarm. But did Belgium do enough to top the full EBJ Jury ranking? Watch this space to find out.

How would you rank the songs we reviewed today? Would Belgium be your number one too, or is there something else floating your boat? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll probably be making another appearance here pre-semi 1, but in case I don’t, I want to wish all of you a very merry contest experience! I’m looking forward to a low-key one myself, after a few years of not watching from my couch, but I will be on Twitter, typing away through all of the live shows. Maybe I’ll meet you there? It’s going to be freaking beautiful!

 

 

 

 

The Songs of Eurovision 2017 So Far: First impressions, 2016 vs 2017, my top five + vote for your favourite!

Happy First of February, everybody! As scary as it is that a full four weeks of 2017 have already gone by – it’s practically a permission slip for us all to Get Frighten like Lolita ZeroFebruary is an exciting month on the Eurovision calendar, so maybe we should all “get excite” instead.

January just ended with the presentation of Kyiv’s logo and slogan (‘slogo’ to those of us who don’t have time for excess syllables):

eurovision_song_contest_2017_logo-1

It isn’t the most attractive logo (or the greatest slogan) in ESC history as far as I’m concerned (the colour scheme in particular is pretty drab). However, it has the potential to look slick in show-motion, as part of the postcards, and plastered all over posters/lanyards/t-shirts/toilet paper (an untapped item of merchandise that could, ahem, wipe the floor with the rest). So shall we give it a chance to shine – or not – before we throw it in the trash via salty Twitter sessions? Yes? Okay then.

In other end-of-January news, the allocation draw for the semi-finals took place yesterday, and has divided all of the non-automatic finalists into either the Tuesday or Thursday night shows. This doesn’t mean that much at the moment. Still, I’m happy to have Sweden in the first semi alongside Australia (despite the fact that they’re obviously tough competition) because we’re pretty friendly, and unless it’s third time unlucky and Australia sends something diabolically bad to Ukraine, we’re likely to get a little boost of points from last year’s hosts. If we don’t, the entire country will have a mob of angry Aussies (or perhaps just me) to answer to.

With the theme art unveiled and the allocation draw done and dusted, we can now move on to the millions (slight exaggeration) of national finals mapped out for this month – including the magnificent Melodifestivalen, which starts this Saturday. For now, though, there are five seen-and-heard songs in the race to be the next 1944…and that’s such a neat little number, I’ve got to take advantage of it. So here, have some opinions on the fabulous (and not-so-fabulous) five songs chosen to date for the 2017 contest. And stick around to the (possibly bitter) end to vote for your favourite before five becomes…more than five. #mathsskillz.

 

ffsf

 

Bonjour, Albania, Belarus, Finland, Georgia and the United Kingdom. I’m about to criticise you like crazy.

 

 

Botë by Lindita Halimi (Albania)

When discussing Albania at the moment, we’re fully aware that the song we’re talking about now is probably not the song we’ll be talking about in a month or two. That’s because Lindita and her crew are currently revamping it and preparing for its English-language unveiling (not because the Botë writers are going to pull a Diell on us and actually force her to find a different song to sing in Kyiv). In its at-this-second state, Botë is classic Albania – a big, brassy power ballad in possession of a mysterious beauty. Even if any of that changes when the final version is presented, Lindita will still sing the absolute crap out of it without breaking a sweat. If she doesn’t qualify to the ESC final, I feel like someone’s going to get punched (not by me, but by her. The girl is fierce).

My current score 8 points.

Better than Fairytale? As one of the few living and breathing fans of Fairytale, I’m not 100% certain, but I think Lindita trumps Eneda. She’d definitely beat her in the boxing ring.

 

 

Historyja Majho Žyccia by NAVI (Belarus)

Like Finland, Belarus chose wisely from their NF line-up when they could easily have made a dreadful decision (in my opinion…which as always, is the right one). NAVI’s brand of fun folk-pop is wrapped up in a neat, cheerfully-decorated package with Historyja Majho Žyccia. Even though it will stay in Belarusian (which makes me want to do a little ethnic/highly embarrassing dance of joy) we’ll all be able to sing along to the various heys and hos that up the cute factor throughout. I’m not head-over-heels in love with this song – it could be the genre, which isn’t my favourite, or just a missing bit of pizzazz – but I like it a lot, and I’m interested to see how it performs at Eurovision.

My current score 7 points.

Better than Help You Fly? This is like comparing 1944 with Wadde Hadde Dudde Da (don’t try to tell me that Stefan Raab masterpiece isn’t stuck in your head now). Basically, it’s a tough call, but I’m saying yes.

 

 

Blackbird by Norma John (Finland)

I was holding out a little hope that this track would win UMK, but until I saw the performances, I assumed Emma had it in the bag. Or that Finland would think ‘f%#k it’ and pick Günther & D’Sanz. Fortunately, they pleasantly surprised me by doing neither of those things. Blackbird has plenty of people pretending to puke whenever it’s mentioned, but for me, it has a bit of the magic of A Monster Like Me plus the raw emotion of Silent Storm. That amounts to something special, if not spectacular. Some pre-ESC crafting of the staging concept should elevate it to semi top ten status, but it’s early days and most of Norma John’s competition is a question mark. They might blend into the background, or make a statement with their subtlety. If you ask me, it’s Option B!

My current score 10 points.

Better than Sing It Away? As a party-starter/dancefloor-filler, nope. In every other department, yep.

 

 

Keep The Faith by Tako Gachechiladze (Georgia)

Tako nearly made it to Moscow in 2009 as part of the peeps that brought us We Don’t Wanna Put In. To be honest, I’d rather listen to that disco-flavoured, thinly-veiled dig at Russia’s main man than this melodramatic, been-done ballad. When you’re watching a song being sung, and you’re thinking about how sparkly the singer’s dress is and how voluminous her hair is and where you can buy a lipstick in that exact shade because it’s gorgeous…but not about the song itself as it kind of sends you to sleep, that’s bad news. And that, my friends, was me watching Tako do her thing at the Georgian final. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so I know Keep The Faith has its fans. I’m just not one of them at this point.

My current score 5 points.

Better than Midnight Gold? No way. Bring back the drug references and epileptic lighting sequences.

 

 

Never Give Up On You by Lucie Jones (United Kingdom)   

Was it my number one (like, the only treasure I’ll ever have) choice of the six You Decide songs? Not before the comp. But I’ve got to admit, this song has grown on me very rapidly after only a few listens and a look at Lucie’s pared-back performance from Friday night (in which she sang like a songbird, wore an amazing velvet dress and reminded me a little bit of Lena circa 2010 if Lena had taken a Valium before stepping onto the Oslo stage). It’s an almost-exceptional, well-worded minimalist ballad that Emmelie de Forest has co-created here – and may I remind the haters that every single song she’s written that has made it to the ESC has won the contest? True fact.

My current score 10 points.

Better than You’re Not Alone? Definitely. Joe + Jake were a much less hyperactive and more sensible-haired version of Jedward, which can only be a good thing – but Lucie is a step in a more successful direction.

 

 

For those of you who made it through all of the above, here’s my top five:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Finland
  3. Albania
  4. Belarus
  5. Georgia

How long will it be before somebody, if anybody (*sneezes in a very timely fashion with a ‘SWEDEN!’ instead of an ‘AACHOO!’*) steamrolls over the UK and parks in my personal top spot?

I have no idea.

Here’s an easier question to answer:

 

If you want to justify your poll pick or say something snarky about a song you don’t like (this is not a bitchiness-free zone, so go ahead), drop by the comments below. Also, feel free to send your personal top five my way so we can compare our rankings while secretly wondering why the heck each of us has THAT song in first/last place.

 

Until Saturday, when the clouds part and a heavenly glow covers Gothenburg because it’s Melfest Semi One Day (can’t you hear the angels warming up their vocal chords in anticipation?)…

 

 

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SELECTION SEASON 2017 | You Decide in the UK + UMK!

Hello there, you stunning creatures! No, I haven’t dived off the deep end (yet). It’s just that, well…didn’t you know that when One Direction sang ‘that’s what makes you beautiful’, they were talking about obsessing over Eurovision? It gives us all a constant, pregnancy-esque glow, except the only thing we’re pregnant with is excitement about all the NF action of the moment.

Speaking of which, let’s get straight into discussing it. We’ll start with what’s happening this weekend: 

  • 27/1 The United Kingdom’s You Decide – the final (feat. Olivia Garcia + Lucie Jones)
  • 28/1 Finland’s Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu – the final (feat. Alva, Emma + Norma John)
  • 28/1 Hungary’s A Dal – heat two (feat. Kállay Saunders Band, Zoltán Mujahid + Ádám Szábo)
  • 28/1 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat four (feat. Alanas Chošnau + Audrius Janonis)

It’s not quite as crazy as some upcoming weekends will be, but there’s definitely enough to keep us happy (and/or complaining bitterly) until the same time next week. I’m going to filter my focus down to the goings-on in the UK and Finland, tonight and tomorrow respectively.

3, 2, 1, GO!

 

 

The UK’s songs for Europe: A step up or a stack down the stairs? You Decide…

udecide17

See what I did there? I hope so, because without trying to be offensive, I think even Corinna May saw what I did there.

Yep, it’s You Decide that will decide this year’s UK entry, yet again. But in the meantime, all of us fans have been deciding what we think of the line-up – with a different opinion coming from anyone who’s asked. A lot of people seem to be describing the overall quality, variety and fun factor of Danyl, Holly, Lucie, Nate, Olivia and Salena (who should just form a band called ‘We All Sound Super British’ already) as beige, via Pantone colour charts. As someone who’s rather fashion-focused (i.e. I never get tired of critiquing Eurovision costumes), I’m going to try something slightly different:

An accurate representation of (L-R) You Decide 2016, You Decide 2017, and (fingers crossed) You Decide 2018.

An accurate representation of (L-R) You Decide 2016, You Decide 2017, and (fingers crossed) You Decide 2018.

That sums up my general attitude towards the tracks. I’m not peeing my pants with excitement over them (probably not a bad thing), but in my opinion, they’re not half as bland and boring as their 2016 counterparts, of which Joe and Jake were definitely the most interesting choice. Here they all are in we-have-no-running-order-yet order:

  • Light Up The World by Danyl Johnson
  • I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer
  • Never Give Up On You by Lucie Jones
  • What Are We Made Of by Nate Simpson
  • Freedom Hearts by Olivia Garcia
  • I Don’t Wanna Fight by Salena Mastroianni

All six are semi-decent songs (some more than others) performed by perfectly good (in studio, at least) singers, all of whom have appeared on The X Factor (nothing wrong with that – TV talent shows dot the background of bajillions of ESC artists these days). I feel confident in saying that there isn’t a Eurovision winner among them, but it’s too early to predict what the UK may be capable of besides clawing their way back to the top of the scoreboard for the first time since 1997. Let’s take things, as Maria Olafs would say, one step at a time, and see who produces a live performance that scores them an automatic spot in the Eurovision 2017 final.

 

My top 6

  1. I Wish I Loved You More – I know this sort of pop power ballad has been done to death and is pretty passé in 2017…but I still enjoy it! This particular example is catchy, climactic and not too lyrically clichéd. 10 points.
  2. Freedom Hearts – There’s something about this that makes me feel like it needed another week or two of tweaking by the writers/producers. But it’s still good. Kind of like an updated (or sequel to) Children of the Universe. 8 points.
  3. Never Give Up On You – We can’t discuss this one without mentioning co-creator Emmelie de Forest. It’s not quite what I expected from her, but there’s appeal in the pared-back production and heartfelt delivery from Lucie. I still want some drums and strings to drop in and elevate the last chorus. 8 points.
  4. I Don’t Wanna Fight – If there were ever a movie musical starring Dua Lipa as a Miss Universe contestant demanding world peace, this would be her swan song. Miraculously, that kind of works for me (although the lyric ‘only love survives’ HAS to be a bad ESC-related omen for Salena). 7 points.
  5. What Are We Made Of – I hated this after my first listen, but giving it another go led to me liking it as much as I like the average John Legend piano ballad – which is a reasonable amount. 6 points.
  6. Light Up The World – Musically and melodically, I enjoy this. Lyrically, it makes me want to go on some sort of King Kong-like rampage. It’s 2017…when will the cheese be binned? It’s well past its use-by date. 5 points.

 

Now my verdicts are in, the usual questions can be answered. Firstly, this one:

Who SHOULD win Holly, Olivia or Lucie. Basically, because they’re my favourites. If Holly can deliver a vocal that even comes close to her studio version, it will be amazing – her live could really lift IWILYM to a higher level. Olivia and Lucie have the most original songs up their sleeves, and that should be rewarded.

Now for this question, which will cement my status as The Crappiest Predictor in the World™ (although I did guess Belarus correctly last week. It scared me a little).

Who WILL win Olivia or Lucie. They’re top two with the bookies (Lucie first, Olivia second) but I typed their names before I checked the You Decide odds. That’s because their songs stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of giving off winner vibes. Freedom Hearts is a good example of a contemporary pop anthem, mature enough for the ESC but youthful enough to suit sixteen-year-old Olivia. Never Give Up On You has the de Forest advantage, which may or may not matter to the juries and voters, but it gives the song a certain calibre. It stands out as the most stripped-back and sentimental song of the six too. I’ll be surprised if it isn’t one of these ladies who gets the UK’s golden ticket.

In the interests of not fence-sitting for once, here’s my number one pick FTW.

 

Who’s yours? Which of these X Factor exes has got the goods to go all the way to Kyiv…and how far can they go once they get there?

 

 

Finland: ready to find Sandhja’s (hopefully) more successful successor
umk17

As I said in a previous post, I don’t trust UMK to crown a champ who’s the best possible Eurovision rep for Finland. Sandhja herself caused an upset by beating out fan favourites Saara Aalto and Mikael Saari…and look what happened as a result. The Finns have been ESC semi final stayers for two years now, and what they’ve got going on in the UMK 2017 line-up is 50% songs that could change that, and 50% songs that will have them missing out on the final for the third time in a row. Can you guess which are which, IMO?

  • Circle of Light by Emma
  • Arrows by Alva
  • Love Yourself by Günther & D’Sanz
  • Reach Out For The Sun by Anni Saikku
  • Caveman by Knucklebone Oscar & The Shangri-la Rubies
  • Blackbird by Norma John
  • Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrjölä
  • My Little World by Club Le Persé
  • Perfect Villain by Zühlke
  • Paradise by My First Band

I’ll drop some heavy hints with my ranking + mini-reviews.

 

My top 10

  1. Helppo Elämä – This is weird in a wonderful way. I love that the lyrics are native language (Finnish is so whimsical-sounding, it immediately adds interest to anything from songs to conversations about compost), and I love the overall production and sound. 10 points.
  2. Blackbird – Simple and beautiful. The chorus brings actual tears to my eyes. 8 points.
  3. Arrows – I know I’ve already mentioned Maria Olafs once in this post, but I have to do it again. This is Unbroken updated for 2017, but it far better on the grounds that it isn’t half as repetitive. 8 points.
  4. Reach Out For The Sun – I can’t remember how this goes, but I know I quite like it, even though it never escalates into a statement piece. 7 points.
  5. Paradise – I’d rate this higher if the lyrics weren’t so unnecessarily suggestive (and at times, nonsensical). I don’t want to be left alone with any of these guys. 7 points.
  6. Circle of Light – The final installment in the Only Teardrops trilogy (part two was Hear Them Calling) is the fan favourite, but it’s not my thing and I feel like it’s past its prime. 6 points.
  7. Perfect Villain – I think Eurovision has moved on from stuff like this, but I have to applaud the lyrical originality. It’s so thought-provoking. I mean, what WOULD the X-Men do? 6 points.
  8. Love Yourself – Nope. 3 points.
  9. Caveman – Double nope, and not even close to wunderbar. 2 points.
  10. My Little World – How many nopes have you got time for? 1 point, because the chorus isn’t totally obscene.

How does your ranking stack up to mine? Do you despise the three (!) novelty entries, or are you hoping one of them comes out on top. It wouldn’t shock me if one of them did.

 

Who SHOULD win Norma John or Alva. As much as I personally would love to see Lauri on the Eurovision stage, Blackbird and Arrows would make for better, more successful ESC entries. Norma John would bring the bare-bones emotion (á la Never Give Up On You from the UK) while Arrows would be a sweet sorbet for us to enjoy between bigger, louder and more serious songs.

Who WILL win Emma or My First Band. These are the acts that topped the UMK pre-vote, so I’m not game to discount either of them, even though I’m convinced that Finland could pick any of the ten possibles depending on which way the wind blows on the night (sorry to any Finns reading this – I’m not suggesting that you’re fickle, but UMK seems to be). If Circle of Light takes the prize, I suspect it will be more Hear Them Calling than Only Teardrops at the big show, but it’s too soon to say so for sure. Peer pressure – and yes, those pre-vote results – pushed me into calling My First Band as likely victors, despite THOSE LYRICS. They make the song more disturbing than Serhat’s I Didn’t Know, which is really saying something. But hey – that’s a gimmick in itself, right?

Ultimately, I’m going to side with Emma-lie de Finland Forest.

 

Do you think Finland will be safe in the circle of light, or heading off to paradise? Or neither? Make your predictions public now to be in with a chance of saying ‘I told you so!’.

 

 

That’s all I have to say on the UK and UMK for now, but when the shows are over, another conversation can start. When I say ‘conversation’, I of course mean an all-out war of words between those of us who love the winning songs and those of us who wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot-pole. There’s something to look forward to!

Have fun tuning in to your NF/NFs of choice this weekend. If there’s anything you want to say about them, before, during and after, then hit up the comment box down below 🙂

 

Hyvästi!

 

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