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MY 500th POST!!! Marking a milestone with the Melodifestivalen Favourites Tag <3

Hej och välkommen to my 500th post! I’m not kidding – there’s no crappy attempts at clickbait from me (this time). I’d say something like ‘Who would’ve thought there was that much Eurovision-related stuff in existence to be written about by someone who aspires to but has no hope of reaching the popularity status of WiwiBloggs?’…but we all know there’s enough discussable Eurovision-related stuff to last a lifetime. Especially when there’s another ESC, JESC and NF season for both every year.

In summary, there’s a 99.9% chance that I’ll be composing Post No. 1000 in about eight years’ time. Hopefully it has a less boring intro than this one.

Anyway, I know we’re in the midst of the 2017 national final season right now (with the German final taking place on Thursday and an action-packed weekend creeping closer), but I thought this milestone of a massive amount of ESC ramblings needed to be acknowledged. And, as my numero uno NF Melodifestivalen started on Saturday – the final of which I’m attending this year and that’s SO EXCITING I SIMPLY MUST USE CAPS LOCK – I’m going to celebrate Melfest-style. Someone hand me my rhinestone-spangled catsuit!

Basically, there’s a fun tag that’s been floating around Facebook lately (at least, in my feed) and it’s as simple as this: you name your favourite Melfest entry for each year that you’ve followed the comp. I thought I’d choose mine according to all the Melfests that have happened while I’ve been (apparently) busy blogging 499 times – 2010-2016. Then I realised that’s the exact period I’ve been following the show for anyway. It’s fate. So here we go…a.k.a. NU KÖR VI!!!

 

PS – As this is a tag, I tag each and every one of you reading this to list your favourite Melfest songs from your years of keeping tabs on the five-week extravaganza. Even if you just joined the party in 2016, let me know which entry was your most-loved last year.

 

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2010 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin

The first Melfest to take place after the birth of Eurovision By Jaz (a birth that was not only painless but actually enjoyable, no drugs required) was fantastisk. Well, the final was – I have to admit, there were some questionable entries in the semis. But damn, Sweden, THAT FINAL! Even so, I can narrow the field down to my personal favourite song faster than most Ukrainian men can run on giant hamster wheels. The hugely successful runner-up of Idol 2004, Darin is my most beloved Swedish soloist in the history of Swedish soloists, and his one and only (to date *crosses fingers*) Melfest entry was the pinnacle of pop balladry in my opinion. If the music doesn’t move you, then check out the wind machine usage, which nearly moved the man himself off the stage and into the wings at supersonic speed. Sadly, it didn’t blow Anna Bergendahl, Salem al Fakir and Eric Saade away and out of the running.

Andra Chansen Kom by Timoteij

 

 

2011 | My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen

I’m going to break some bad news to you right now by saying that *SPOILER ALERT* this is the only time Loreen will appear on this list. Who knows – her 2017 Melfest entry Statements might end up in a Top 10 of mine in the future, but for now, it’s all about Loreen Vol. I. The first time we saw her compete, she made it into Andra Chansen but not out of it (I know…crazy, right?!?). The dance-pop dream with a hint of disco that is My Heart Is Refusing Me, though, was a winner in so many ways: from the catchiness, explosive chorus and overall cool factor to Loreen’s weirdly wonderful red top (I have been trawling op-shops in the hope of finding something similar ever since, and may eventually resort to feeding a plain red sweater into a document shredder). Because this track is more complex and unpredictable than Euphoria, I ever-so-slightly prefer it – and it’s far and away my favourite song served up to us by Melodifestivalen 2011.

Andra Chansen Popular by Eric Saade

 

 

2012 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky

It’s a good question. Why should you start a fire? I guess if you’re out in the wilderness and will freeze to death if you don’t rub some sticks together and get a flame going, then it’s probably a smart idea. But I’ll leave the extenuating circumstances of fire-starting at that, since they have nothing to do with my unconditional love for this song. Lisa, whose songwriting credits include boss-as-a-Billy-bookcase hits for herself and the likes of the Backstreet Boys (we have her to thank for Shape of My Heart), had a tough task topping the ten finalists of Melfest 2012. She ended up finishing second last – which wasn’t that shocking – but I for one think Why Start A Fire? is stunning. A mystical synth riff gives way to lush layers of music and vocals that, when they’ve run their course, make you (and by ‘you’, I mean ‘me) feel relaxed and re-energised – rather than exhausted, because you’ve just listened to something loud and watched a performance with more gimmicks than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms.

Andra Chansen Soldiers by Ulrik Munther

 

 

2013 | You by Robin Stjernberg

At last – the first Melfest year of my blogging career in which my number one competing song went on to win the whole thing! Against all the odds, too. Robin’s NF story is the ultimate underdog tale of a ridiculously good singer who entered what was a pretty weak edition of Sweden’s crowning TV glory (as they were hosting Eurovision in 2013, however, they can be forgiven for not trying too hard to produce an epic host entry). He didn’t manage to go direkt, instead ending up in Andra Chansen and making most of us count him out FTW. Then he did win, making him the first non-direct finalist in the existence of the AC round to do so. And he did it with an awesome, heartfelt pop anthem with one heck of a hook (you-ooh-ooh-ooooooooohhh, in case you were wondering). You also boasts a money note that, when Robin belted it out on the Malmö Arena stage, was powerful enough to produce a pyro curtain. I assume it was his vocal strength that did it, rather than your average pyrotechnics consultant backstage somewhere. Don’t burst my bubble.

Andra Chansen Bed On Fire by Ralf Gyllenhammar

 

 

2014 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen

Speaking of your one true NF love taking the trophy home (along with an ‘Admit One’ ticket to Eurovision) – it happened to me for the second year running in 2014. Undo marked Sanna’s seventh Melfest participation, following mixed results for her in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011. It didn’t take seven of anything to have me hooked though. So much so that, despite having been Team Empty Room when it came to Sanna’s best entry, it wasn’t long before I’d bumped her ’08 runner-up down to the runner-up position on my list (my mental list…I don’t have a physical paper Sanna ranking). Undo, for me personally, is peak pop power ballad perfection. The soft vulnerability of the first verse, the break between the second and last chorus and the finish contrast goosebumpingly (I hereby decree that a proper word even though Spellcheck wasn’t a fan) with the simple but powerful choruses – and Miss Nielsen nailed every note, every time. This may not be a popular opinion, but I definitely think she won Melodifestivalen with her strongest submission. Nothing else would have scored her a bronze medal at Eurovision – not even Empty Room.

Andra Chansen Survivor by Helena Paparizou

 

 

2015 | Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw

It was third time lucky for MZW at Melfest, and the third year in a row that the results went my way. Can anyone really argue that Heroes shouldn’t have won the NF when it went on to win Eurovision? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t try to start something in the comments. The song itself was worthy of winning both contests as far as I’m concerned, being the Avicii-inspired anthem with a karaoke dream chorus that it is. But you can’t mention Heroes and not talk about the visuals that elevated it from great to even greater (and I’m not referring to Måns’ muscles and THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). We all fell in love with the original stick man – who turned out not to be so original in the end, so he got a bit fatter and wore a different hat for the ESC. We followed his journey from being downtrodden and dragged away by a balloon to having the privilege of fist-bumping his older, flesh-and-blood self (who had swapped overalls for THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). And that, plus the slick lighting scheme and choreography, made Heroes a flawlessly-packaged entry that ticked every box, both in Melfest and at Eurovision. I love it just as much now as I did two years ago (!).

Andra Chansen Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone

 

 

2016 | Human by Oscar Zia

These days, with 28 songs competing in Melfest each year, I’m bound to like or love at least 25 of them (Swedish songwriters just know how to float my boat). So did I like or love If I Were Sorry? Yes. Was it my ideal winner/host entry for Sweden in Stockholm? No, to tell you the truth. My votes – if I’d been able to cast any – would have gone straight to Oscar Zia, who started out in the show as a backing vocalist, returned a year later on his own, then made a massive comeback – having come out of the closet and evolved stylistically and hair-stylistically – with Human. You know I love (most) modern power ballads, but when a modern power ballad comes equipped with edge and a moody atmosphere like this one, someone’s going to have to haul me up off the floor where I have swooned. As with Måns, what we saw was just as important as what we heard when Oscar had his technically-third try for the Melfest trophy. Storm clouds and intense, quick camera cuts made the performance memorable without the need for an entire supermarket aisle’s worth of bells and whistles. The whole thing was so magical, it annoys me beyond belief that there’s no watchable video of it accessible in Australia (as far as I can tell). So enjoy – or not – the lyric video I stuck here. Closing your eyes and just listening is still an epic experience, after all.

Andra Chansen Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson

 

 

Whew – think yourselves lucky that I didn’t discover Melodifestivalen in 1991 (I was too busy being a baby). As it stands, my waffling on is…well, off, so it’s time for you to list your own favourites. Which Swedish songs have you cheered for the most over the years? Is there ANYTHING we agree on, or is it true that one person’s treasure is another’s trash? I want answers, people!

 

Until next time (the upcoming NF-antastic weekend)…

 

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LOOKING BACK AT EUROVISION 2016 | 41 personal pinch-me moments from my trip to Stockholm (feat. photographic evidence!)

Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m pleased to announce that yes, I did live to see Christmas Day despite what my lack of blogging over the past few weeks may have suggested (it’s a crazy time of year, and I’m not the best multi-tasker. My bad). I’m back now for the foreseeable future, which is my belated festive gift to you all – one that you may or may not want the receipt for so you can exchange it for (as Softengine would say) something better.

Now, to segue into today’s topic: as we creep closer to the end of 2016, and the most recent Eurovision Song Contest becomes not all that recent, it seems more and more timely that we look back on what was arguably the best edition ever. I’m particularly keen to reminisce since the Stockholm show was my first live one. I’ve also realised that even though I attended as a professional member of the press, and as an obsessive, shrine-possessing, single-minded and slightly rabid fan (it was a Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce sort of situation), I never actually shared that much of my experience here on EBJ. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (links are in the sidebar *she says, dropping a hint so hard it breaks the floorboards*) you’d have seen a selection of photos in May; and if you and I are Facebook friends, you would have seen way too many photos pop up in your feed between then and now. But that’s about it.

WTF, right?

So, in the interest of leveling up as a Fix-It Lady – and before this year’s contest becomes last year’s contest – I’m going to undo your deprivation-induced sad and give up all of my gossip. Everything Eurovision-related and exciting (they go hand-in-hand) that happened while I was in Sweden has been put down in words and pictures for the first time, for you. It might come off as a bit narcissistic, but it’s meant to be an insight into what can go down when the mythical ‘going to Eurovision’ becomes a reality – an expensive but worth-every-krona reality. I hope you enjoy it!

 

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#1. Picking up the stunning piece of art that is my accreditation badge (it’s hanging on my wall at the moment and I charge people admission to see it, so yes, it’s art).

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#2. Touring the Euroclub the day before the doors officially opened with a bunch of other lanyard-wearing press people (#powerofthebadge).

#3. Trying not to laugh as Sweden perpetuated a major stereotype of itself by outfitting the entire Euroclub – in particular, the upstairs delegation lounge – with IKEA furnishings.

#4. Fangirling for the first of many, many occasions when Euroclub hostesses Velvet (!) and Shirley Clamp (!!!) appeared to chat with us.

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#5. Walking down Drottningatan marveling at the Eurovision bunting strung up between buildings the entire way.

#6. Standing on the Hovet balcony overlooking the Press Centre for the first time, knowing I’d be in it in a matter of minutes without having to sneak past security to get there.

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#7. Witnessing Sergey Lazarev stack it during his first rehearsal, as it happened (which, for someone who usually avoids all rehearsal footage, was a momentous event). I now know the true meaning of a rehearsal.

#8. Attending my first-ever press conference, partly for the novelty and partly because it was Hungary’s and I just wanted to see Freddie in the flesh while pretending to be a serious journalist seeking information. Nailed it.

#9. Laying not only eyes but also fingers on Freddie in what turned out to be a Freddie sandwich with my awesome fellow Aussie Jason from Don’t Boil The Sauce *screams and swoons at the mere memory*.

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#10. Nearly having a heart attack when Phillip Kirkirov popped up at Sergey’s press conference, due to the alarming height of his hair and the permanently surprised look of his eyebrows.

#11. Falling in love – just a little bit – with Sergey once my Kirkirov shock had subsided, since I expected him to be an egomaniac and he was anything but.

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#12. Grabbing a selfie with the most legendary of puppets, Terry Vision (who is teeming with the germs of such names as Tooji, Kaliopi, and Hovi Star, who gave him a going over at the end of the ESC Insight table as I looked on from about a foot away. Life!).

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#13. Admiring Lidia Isac’s hair as she was being interviewed on a purpose-built Press Centre podium.

#14. Discovering that, based on looks, I may be related to Jüri Pootsmann. The DNA results are pending.

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#15. Wearing a Frans t-shirt to Frans’ meet-and-greet, which unfortunately/fortunately, he didn’t notice (would he have laughed? Would he have taken out a restraining order? We’ll never know).

#16. Spying Sandhja in street clothes waiting at Globen station with one of her people. Did not stalk, which took a whole lot of willpower.

#17. Having a lot more to do with Ira Losco than I ever imagined I would, years after watching her do her glitter-blowing thing – then finish second – at Eurovision back in 2002.

#18. Specifically, interviewing her at Warner Music Sweden (no slumming it anywhere less), complementing her shoes, advising her not to do cartwheels on a full stomach, and riding back to Globen in a taxi with her (during which time I may have sold out Samra’s cringey rehearsal vocals, possibly in an attempt to give Ira an ego boost but also because the topic came up in conversation and I had to be honest). BEST AFTERNOON EVER.

#19. Finding out that, because Spotify = no need for physical CDs in Sweden, Warner Music has taken to using discs to furnish their headquarters. I kind of want to do the same thing in my house.

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#20. Crossing the bridge between Hovet and Globen to check out some contest rehearsals in person – namely, Estonia’s, Azerbaijan’s and Montenegro’s. I had never seen the flurry of between-song setup before, so this was an eye-opening experience. My eyes were also opened to how teeny-tiny (or ‘intimate’ if you want to be more diplomatic) the Globe is IRL despite how large it looks on TV.

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#21. Celebrity-spotting in the Press Centre about once every ten minutes. Poli Genova, Petra Mede, Lighthouse X, even Aminata (she’s so small!)…so many Eurostars walked past our desk, it was ridiculous. At one point, I had Minus One behind me, Freddie to my left, and one of the guys from Argo directly opposite. In other words, I was living the dream. Apart from the bit where Freddie didn’t propose to me.

#22. Finding myself being singled out by Joe & Jake during their meet and greet, which basically means I have a photo of them in which they’re looking directly down my lens. Cheers, guys – from ‘the lady in the red shirt’.

#23. Having to tell Nicky Byrne where to look when I was taking a selfie of us. It was a waste of my breath, but I don’t care because HELLO, EX-WESTLIFE MEMBER!

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#24. Joining the rest of the journos attending Jamala’s press conference to vote for which of her rehearsal dresses she should wear for the real deal. In case you were wondering, I put my hand up for the blue one.

#25. Speaking directly to some random dude called Måns Zelmerlöw. It’s on video. No biggie. Skip to 8:25 below if you want to see it, but it’s pretty boring. Aside from the fact that it MADE MY LIFE.

#26. Basking in the ambience of the Euroclub red carpet on Opening Party night by a) taking way too many photos, and b) silently judging the artists’ fashion choices (Zoë yes yes yes, ManuElla no no no).

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#27. Dancing awkwardly but enthusiastically to Barei’s Say Yay! as the woman herself surveyed the crowd from the club’s balcony.

#28. Watching performances from Frans, Dami, Zoë and Poli the same night, introduced by the one and only Christer Björkman (who is Satan to some but more like a god to me).

#29. Returning to the Euroclub the next day for the Australian Embassy party feat. Dami (though the promise of free food and wine was enough to lure me in)…only to end up standing next to Eneda Tarifa and admiring her amazing handbag. Of course.

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#30. Sitting through my first live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in close proximity to the Green Room (close enough to recognise the rear of Stig Rästa and Elina Born’s heads, I might add) and pinching myself pretty much the whole time.

#31. Standing next to Ira Losco’s scorpion dancer at the post-semi qualifiers press conference.

m#32. Feasting my eyes on Christer Björkman’s collection of accreditation passes from Melodifestivalens and Eurovisions past and not-so-past, at the ABBA/ESC Museum. The contest costumes corralled there were also impressive (I can now confirm that Yohanna’s dress is even uglier in real life than it was on screen).

#33. Having an obligatory photo taken with the massive Come Together countdown clock.

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#34. Sitting through another live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in the Globe Arena, in a rather sleepwalky state because HOW WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!?!?

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#35. Experiencing the joy of a jury final mock vote – won by Belgium, if I remember correctly – as Måns and Petra ad-libbed their way through the voting sequence.

#36. Seeing Justin Timberlake perform live not once, but twice, at the jury final and the actual final. I understandably did not see that coming when I left Australia to go to Eurovision, but as a professional boy band enthusiast, it became the cherry on top of the best cake I’ve ever eaten.

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#37. Lynda Woodruff. Need I say more?

#38. Standing in the mass of fans in front of the 2016 stage for the four incredible/back-breaking hours of the final, watching on and waving my flag in a desperate attempt to get my arm on a global television broadcast. I’m not sure if I did, but Dami did me proud and Jamala made all my dreams come true (and made me burst into tears in front of hundreds of strangers).

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#39. Attending Jamala’s post-victory press conference knowing I could watch it back on the DVD later and think to myself ‘I was totally there!’.

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#40. Spending the rest of the (freaking FREEZING) grand final night right by having a last hurrah at the Euroclub until the last possible second – as in 5am, when the staff had to herd us all out onto the street because the doors were closing for good.

#41. Witnessing (before we got kicked out of the club) the Gallagher lookalike from the Young Georgian Lolitaz get tackled to the ground by security, informing his oblivious band mate that the tackle had occurred, and bumping into Thomas G:son on the way out (the photographic evidence of which I still need to chase up). Oh, and then having a burger for breakfast. Hashtag end-of-contest goals!

 

 

And that’s it…I think. So much stuff happened in a short space of time while I was in Stockholm that details are constantly falling out of then climbing back into my brain. But you’ve just read the majority of them, which I hope you enjoyed whether you’ve traveled to twenty contests or are still waiting for your first (it’ll happen!). If you have paid the ESC a visit, I think you’ll agree that the experience is unbeatable. So much so that even if everything surrounding my Eurovision “vacation” (the least relaxing vacation ever) had been rubbish, those three weeks would have kept this year high on my list of life’s best so far.

The only problem is that I’m going to want to repeat it every year, and I’m not sure my bank balance can handle that. It’s definitely not keen on me skipping Kyiv in favour of Melodifestivalen…but too bad, savings. Too bad.

 

I’ll be back again before 2016 turns into 2017 to say hej då to the past twelve months, Eurovision-style (I’m not 100% sure how yet, but I’ll think of something). Until then, make the most of what’s left of December – and use any Christmas leftovers to boost your energy levels for the upcoming national final season!

 

 

xmassig

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…podium-placed trios from Eurovision’s past and present!

‘The top three is the place to be’ – Jaz, 2016. That’s a quote that that must hold truth because it rhymes. And because it just does. I mean, if you entered a contest and neither first nor second was on the cards, third wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize (and there’d probably be an actual consolation prize involved too. Bonus!).

What I’m trying to say is that the upper echelons of the Eurovision scoreboard are the spaces every act wants to be occupying by the end of final night. Making the top 10 is awesome; the top 5, even better. But it’s the bronze, silver and gold positions that everyone aims for, and that have been secured by countless douze-attracting songs since the ESC’s early days.

As such, I thought it was about time to shine the spotlight on the best of the best in that department – at least as far as I’m concerned (as always, you’ll get your chance to disagree with me afterwards). So, with that in mind, here’s a countdown of my favourite top three trios from the entirety of Eurovision history *insert trumpet fanfare feat. dubstep breakdown here*.

By the way, this post was inspired by the Rio Olympics (gold, silver and bronze medals, reaching the “podium”…you get the idea), and yes, it was supposed to be published in August. Oops. Well, if orange is the new black and forty is the new thirty, then I guess October can be the new September. So it’s not even that late, really.

Let’s get into it!

 

 

#10 | Harrogate 1982

Ein Bißchen Frieden by Nicole (Germany), Hora by Avi Toledano (Israel), Amour On T’Aime by Arlette Zola (Switzerland)

pp1A little peace, a little dance and a little love kick off my countdown based on their collective strength. Sometimes less is more (yes, even at Eurovision), and that was extra evident in 1982 when the Bucks Fizz Skirt-Ripping Schtick™ was succeeded by Nicole’s sentimental ballad. That’s not to say that an in-your-face, high energy piece of pop didn’t have its place – it snapped up second, as a matter of fact. Hurray for Hora! Subtlety sandwiched Israel, however, with Germany on top and Switzerland’s Arlette in third. The ranking was right, I reckon.

My personal top pick Ein Bißchen Frieden

 

#9 | Brighton 1974

Waterloo by ABBA (Sweden), Si by Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy), I See A Star by Mouth & MacNeal (The Netherlands)

pp2I don’t doubt that the right song and act won Eurovision in Brighton. Anyone who does deserves to be decapitated with a vinyl copy of Arrival, to be honest. But ABBA had some stiff competition snapping at their platform heels back then, in the form of some great songs that have stood the test of time. Gigliola’s comeback Si nearly secured her a second contest win, with its grandiose sophistication proving she wasn’t ‘too young’ anymore. I See A Star is serious fun that didn’t have quite the same earworming ability as Waterloo, but made a wonderful impression nonetheless. All three songs are Seventies gold (ABBA pun possibly intended).

My personal top pick Waterloo

 

#8 | Dublin 1995

Nocturne by Secret Garden (Norway), Vuelve Conmigo by Anabel Conde (Spain), Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (Sweden)

pp3Mystery and drama were the buzz words of the ’95 top three, with Sweden and Spain having one apiece up their respective sleeves and Norway boasting both (massive sleeves were clearly the go back then). I must admit that Vuelve Conmigo, the fan favourite, pales in comparison to the songs that surrounded it on the scoreboard, in my opinion. But that’s not an indication of how inferior I think it is. It’s actually an indication of how deep my love is for Nocturne, and in particular, Se På Mig. Ja, my Swedish bias is still alive and kicking.

My personal top pick Se På Mig

 

#7 | Copenhagen 2014

Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst (Austria), Calm After The Storm by The Common Linnets (The Netherlands), Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden)

pp4Once again, two broadly similar songs were divided by something totally different with Copenhagen’s highest-scoring trio. Austria = a big, Bond-type ballad performed to perfection by a hot woman in a stunning dress. Sweden = a big, electro-tinged ballad performed to perfection by a hot woman in a stunning dress. The Netherlands = the sleeper hit that few of us saw coming until we saw it on the Hallerne stage. To sum up, that’s three awesome songs with charismatic artists and impressive staging elevating them even higher. 

My personal top pick Undo

 

#6 | Rome 1991

Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (Sweden), C’est le Dernier Qui a Parlé Qui a Raison by Amina (France), Kan by Duo Datz (Israel)

pp5If I must momentarily hop off the top-three train at Justification Station for this one, then I’ll do so in numbers. 1 – Carola. 2 – Dreamy, ethnic pop from France with an exotically long title. 3 – Carola. 4 – Duo Datz upping the fun and the size of their shoulder pads. And 5 – CAROLA! Let’s face it (if you’re reading this as a fellow Carola enthusiast, you’ll agree): the entries below hers could be utter crap and she’d still drag up the quality because she’s so fabulous. However, they weren’t. In fact, France’s was so magnifique, it lost to Sweden’s entry on countback rather than by points.

My personal top pick Fångad Av En Stormvind 

 

#5 | Istanbul 2004

Wild Dances by Ruslana (Ukraine), Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović & Ad-Hoc Orchestra (Serbia & Montenegro), Shake It by Sakis Rouvas (Greece)

pp6There’s a clear weak link in this top three for me, and I can’t just Shake It off (#seewhatIdidthere). But the mind-blowing brilliance of the other two entries more or less cancels that out. Ukraine’s first winner (I’m so happy we can say that now) is iconic on Planet ESC for being whip-cracking ethno-pop perfection that stood head, shoulders and skimpy leather outfits above the rest. Apart, of course, from a little thing I like to call MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE EUROVISION SONG WITHOUT QUESTION. Sometimes, I even call it Lane Moje. It’s the pinnacle of Balkan ballads, and I refuse to hear otherwise.

My personal top pick Lane Moje

 

#4 | Riga 2003

Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey), Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium), Ne Ver, Ne Bojsia by tATu (Russia)

pp7One of the most tense voting sequences ever – possibly the most nail-biting in the era of random point-giving orders – took place in 2003, if you can remember that far back in time (I know it seems like five years ago, but it was actually THIRTEEN). Favourites Russia had the least impressive entry of the three fighting for first place, but even when they’re not brilliant, they’re far from bad. In a turn of events echoed in 2016, Russia finished third. Ahead of Ne Ver were the epic Sanomi and the oh-so-Eurovision ethnopop of Every Way That I Can, both of which helped make this a tremendous top three.

My personal top pick Every Way That I Can  

 

#3 | Brussels 1987

Hold Me Now by Johnny Logan (Ireland), Lass Die Sonne in Dein Herz by Wind (Germany), Gente Di Mare by Umberto Tozzi & Raf (Italy)

pp8I’m not about to dispute a win by Mr. Eurovision himself (not to be confused with Mr. Lordi, who prefers distressed leather and hard rock to white suits and power ballads). Hold Me Now is my number one – the only treasure I’ll ever haaaaave – of Johnny Logan’s three ESC winners, no doubt. Still, there was some great stuff mere points behind it. German reggae totally works when Wind are responsible for it, and LDSIDH always has me searching for sunshine and craving piña coladas. Gente Di Mare just makes me admire the effortless class of Italian music.

My personal top pick Hold Me Now

 

#2 | Vienna 2015

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden), A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina (Russia), Grande Amore by Il Volo (Italy)

pp9Last year’s gold, silver and bronze-winning musical masterpieces were another example of vastly different songs fighting for first place. It was dance-pop with an Avicii-esque country twang (SHRN…or at least SHAYA, meaning so hot a year ago) that topped the table, followed by a peace ballad feat. the traditional Eurovision key change, which in turn was followed by the sexiest Italian opera I ever did see. That’s variety, my friends, and I for one LOVED it.

 My personal top pick Heroes

 

#1 | Athens 2006

Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (Finland), Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia), Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

pp91None of these three entries are my favourite of all time, but their overall awesomeness sent them shimmying straight to the top of my list (Lejla is up there with my most beloved Balkan ballads, anyway). Hard Rock Hallelujah was a winner that opened the minds of non-rock lovers and surprised those who didn’t think something so heavy could succeed in the contest. Dima Bilan’s first ESC trip displayed Russia’s talent for fusing R&B with pop (and their talent for stuffing people into pianos). And Lejla…well, let’s just say that Željko Joksimović is capable of working his magic (in a way that would have impressed Koldun) for countries other than just Serbia and/or Montenegro.

My personal top pick Lejla

 

 

That brings me to the conclusion of this countdown – and let me tell you, it’s reminded me in a big way of what it takes to enter top three territory at Eurovision (I was asking for a friend). In case you didn’t get the memo, ‘it’ = stuff like lots of white, whips, horns (the musical and monster kind)…basically, anything lifted from the lyrics of Love Love, Peace Peace. Who would have thought?

Now, since I’ve showed you mine, it’s time for you to show me yours. Which top three entries from ESC history have impressed you the most – a collection of classic chansons, or a more modern first, second and third? Let me know in the comments so I can judge your poor taste as much as you’ve judged mine. It’s more fun if we all get to bring out our inner bitches so they can party together!

 

Until next time,

 

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PS – If you suspected that Stockholm 2016 might make it on to my list, then you should know that I purposefully omitted it. That’s because I didn’t think enough time had passed since Ukraine, Australia (!) and Russia topped the table to determine whether they make up a classic top three; one that holds its own against the rest and will do for years to come. For the record though, it would have made my personal top 5.

 

The 2016 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards: Part 2 (The Performances, The Costumes and The Results!)

I’M NOT DEAD!!! Say yay yay yay! *insert foot shuffle here*

I figured I’d open this post in such a morbid yet somehow still optimistic manner because, as it’s been such a long time since I’ve popped up on my own blog to chat song contests (one in particular), I wanted to confirm that I haven’t been run over by an errant Ukrainian hamster wheel or anything. I’m just slack and/or disorganised. But now I’m BACK and disorganised, which is much better.

Today, it’s time to conclude the EBJEEs for 2016 (sadface/happyface). Better late than never, right? Actually, my motto (as of right this second) is, if you beat the host city announcement, then you’re not too late. And guess what? The EBU is still having a Pitch Perfect-style riff-off (I assume) to determine whether Kyiv, Dnipro or Odessa will be painted Eurovision next May. If they’ve finished up by the time you’re reading this, then I still pipped them at the post. And also, congratulations KyivDniproOdessa! I KNEW you’d be the chosen one. All along. Knewwww it.

Now, let’s unroll that red carpet and find out which performances, costumes and results of Stockholm ’16 are taking home my fancy trophies – plus those you guys handed out by voting in the People’s Choice polls way back when.

 

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THE PERFORMANCES

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Australia

There was only one true, that-totally-makes-sense choice I could settle on when selecting this trophy winner: the winner of the whole contest. Tingles down the spine were just one of many effects Jamala’s triumphant performance had on me personally, and countless others I’ve interacted with. Also afflicting those of us who aren’t cold, unfeeling, soulless robots (JK…but how can you watch her in action and feel nothing?): body-spanning goosebumps, hairs from scalp to shins standing on end (what? It was too cold in Stockholm for me to shave my legs) and extremely leaky eyeballs. Nobody can pour pain into a performance like Jamala, and as such, 1944 – on or off the Eurovision stage – reduces me to a sniveling mass of admiration every time.

 

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia

We tend to see different types of drama at Eurovision: for example, the overblown kind created by an artist with overly-expressive eyebrows and the tendency to wave their arms all over the place until at least one backing singer has a black eye; and the kind helped along by dry ice, interpretive dance and violent lighting schemes. Then there’s Academy Award-winning drama, in which a performer feels every word they utter with every fibre of their being, and conveys that both down the camera and to the crowd. Enter Jamala (again). Everything about her performance, vocally and visually, was dramatic without being overly so, and it all culminated in a (crystal clear, totally in tune) screech that, if the ESC were the Oscars, would have secured her a golden statuette for sure.

 

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Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Australia

Sweden’s win last year ensured that the 2016 contestants would be keen to outdo and/or build on the projection screen concept that Måns’ team so cleverly devised. After all, one winner usually leads to a flood of copycats. A handful of countries pushed the boundaries of technological staging in Stockholm, and at the forefront was undoubtedly Russia. Sure, their stage show was OTT and didn’t really help tell the “story” of You Are The Only One…but I don’t think it was meant to. It was designed to impress the shiz out of us, and it certainly did that. The moment that made it the most innovative – the most unlike anything we’d seen before at Eurovision – was Sergey scaling the screen and then rotating on it, prompting musings of whether he or the prop were the main attraction. It also prompted us to ask ‘He’s still alive, right?’ after that infamous rehearsal fall, but the less said about that, the better. JUST KIDDING – I love talking about it.

siebjee

 

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Winner Bosnia & Herzegovina Honourable Mention/s Hungary, The Netherlands

As we all know, instruments are used as props more than music-makers at Eurovision nowadays. That doesn’t stop them from being used to great advantage. In the case of Bosnia & Herzegovina 2016, the cello has never been sexier. Ana Rucner let loose with her futuristic one (once she’d shed her rather UN-sexy cellophane cape, that is), and it was epic. And what is a Balkan ballad without at least one instrument bringing it to life? I guess we should ask Montenegro, who figured an ice dancer would be a good substitute back in Copenhagen.

 

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Winner Russia’s projection screen Honourable Mention/s Armenia’s multiple Ivetas

The first People’s Choice Award on this occasion is very well deserved, I’ll admit. Like you guys did, I’ll also give kudos to Russia for putting maximum effort into their entry this year, despite it not paying off to the extent they’d have liked. After all, that screenus maximus was nothing if not an attention-grabber, and it was used very calculatedly to try and outdo the Heroes staging that started it all (that’s not an assumption. I sat and heard Philipp Kirkirov say so during the first Russian press conference). There are a number of ways You Are The Only One could have been performed to amplify it as an entry, but this method gave it a serious ‘wow’ factor.

 

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Winner Bulgaria Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan, Belgium

Any country that makes the chicken dance cool again (slash cool for the first time in history) should receive a high five at least. Bulgaria assigned the chorus of If Love Was A Crime its own set of moves that quickly became irresistible in terms of attempting to copy them (or was that just me?). Sassy, fun and a little bit off-the-wall – just like Poli herself – they helped make Bulgaria’s appearance in this year’s contest extra memorable.

 

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Austria, France, Latvia

In a time when you can back your act with pretty much anything (a naked hologram of yourself frolicking with wolves, for instance), it’s hard to haul yourself to the top of the heap. Ukraine’s collection of colours, textures and trees (well, just the one tree), however, did just that. It complemented the story and dynamics of 1944 so perfectly, I can’t personally look past it. That tree “exploding” out of Jamala at the song’s climax is one heck of an iconic image.

jbebjee

 

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Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan

The likes of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan are famous for throwing everything and the kitchen sink – sometime, several kitchen sinks – at their Eurovision performances. To prove that point, note that only one of them didn’t  in 2016 (and note how it worked in their favour). Russia takes this trophy home, though, for putting on a show so in-your-face, it practically screamed ‘VOTE FOR US! WE WANT TO WIN! WE DON’T NEED AN OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATER THIS TIME!’. Factor in the lack of correlation between the lyrics of YATOO and what we saw Sergey getting up to on stage, and you’ve got OTT for the sake of OTT. That’s, like, the highest level of OTT.

 

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Winner Bulgaria, Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Armenia, Russia

To win Eurovision, you need a cohesive package in which all aspects are on point. If having that up your sleeve doesn’t ensure a podium placing, it should at least drag you away from the depths of the dreaded bottom five. That’s what happened to Ukraine and Bulgaria this year – a win for the first time in over a decade and a best-ever result. Excellent vocals? Check. Brilliant songs? Yep. Perfect costumes? You know it. Setting the scene by pimping the stage? Of course. Both countries had it all going on.

 

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Winner Poland’s baffling televote boost Honourable Mention/s Justin Timberlake is announced as an interval act

As someone who was standing in the thick of it i Globen, I can confirm that thousands of jaws required picking up off the floor in the wake of Poland’s leap from last place to the top ten. Of all the stuff we didn’t see coming re: the 2016 contest, this was the most unpredictable – despite Poland’s apparently domineering diaspora (which didn’t help them during the Polish slump period of 2004-2011). But, whether you love, hate or ‘meh’ Color of Your Life, you have to admit that this particular leaderboard leapfrog made for a priceless Eurovision moment (and GIF).

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria

Is Laura Tesoro a cyborg programmed to be constantly cheery and have unflagging energy? I think so. Has she ever been to a party and not been the life of it? As if! Can I have a smidgen of her sparkling personality if there’s any to spare? I’ll leave it to her to answer that question.

 

THE COSTUMES

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Winner Australia Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan, Malta

Call me biased if you want to, but I feel like I’m just stating the obvious when I say that the Steven Khalil-designed, diamonte-encrusted creation Dami Im donned for her performances was STUNNING. The arm bling and sparkly stilettos slathered frosting on a look that said ‘This is what Glinda the Good Witch would wear to her wedding.’ It is also what I would like to wear to my wedding. Or to the supermarket. Whichever aisle I happen to walk down first, basically.

dibdebjee

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Finland  

It’s not often that a costume single-handedly destroys a country’s chances of contest success. The last time that happened was also in Sweden, when Moje 3’s circus clown couture clashed with Ljubav Je Svuda’s good-and-evil concept, untying what could have been a neatly-wrapped package and making a mess instead. Fast forward three years, and Jamie-Lee allowed the same thing to happen to her, refusing to sacrifice – or even tone down/adapt – her love of manga style for the sake of Ghost. A song that good deserved visuals that would have told its story – not detracted from it completely, leading to a discordance that couldn’t be ignored.

jlwdebjee

 

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Winner Slovenia Honourable Mention/s Armenia

Most of this year’s artists kept their goodies in the jar, if you know what I mean (and I’m guessing you do). Slovenia’s ManuElla wasn’t one of them. Rather than opting for the military-themed, backing singer-assisted costume reveal from ye olden national final days, she decided to take care of everything concerning revealing all on her own. The result was…well, boobage that the brain behind Trijntje Oosterhuis’ slashed-to-the-waist number might consider risqué. I’m not here to shame a fellow female, but wouldn’t an outfit that was less of an anatomy lesson and more ‘blue and red’ have made more sense?

 

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Winner Bulgaria Honourable Mention/s Poland, Spain

An undercut that kicks butt was all it took for our favourite Bulgarian to take out this award. Good golly, Miss Poli – you OWN that half-and-half hairstyle like nobody else. I can’t wait to see what you do when you get bored of it. Maybe we’ll find out when Eurovision 2021 rolls around?

 

THE RESULTS

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Winner Måns Zelmerlöw Honourable Mention/s Petra Mede 

It was the Very Intelligent People (as Petra likes to label her fans) versus the Månsters for this People’s Choice category, and – somewhat shockingly – the latter were the force to be reckoned with. I guess the fact that MZW did double duty as Eurovision’s reigning champ/chief repriser and an all-singing, all-dancing, all-charming co-host gave him a slight edge over Queen Petra.

 

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Winner ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ Honourable Mention/s The fashion show of flags

I DID NOT FORESEE THIS. I thought ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ had passed us all by without making any impact whatsoever. It’s not like it was a masterpiece of musical theatre that poked the right amount of fun at the ESC while warning future competitors to steer clear of clichés. I mean, nobody even requested that it be released as a single!

Hashtag sarcasm. Hashtag ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ is amazeballs and we all know it.

 

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Winner Iceland Honourable Mention/s Estonia

Estonia’s failure to qualify may have upset me the most (I have permanent tear tracks on my face from the flood that ensued when Jüri was left behind in semi 1…sob!) but Iceland missing out shocked me to my very core. I was never the biggest fan of Hear Them Calling, but I was 110% convinced it would sail through to the final in spite of Sergey Lazarev’s performance overshadowing Greta’s. I still can’t believe Iceland was beaten by San Marino. Come to think of it, I can’t believe ANYONE was beaten by San Marino.

 

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Winner Georgia Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic

Midnight Gold was gold as far as I’m concerned, and I’m not a massive psychedelic rock fan by any means. I wanted it to qualify more than Danny Saucedo wanted to win Melodifestivalen 2012, but I didn’t think it actually would. As it turns out, I was wrong, and that’s fine by me. Go Georgia!

 

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Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Australia

Even if Russia hadn’t been the pre-contest favourite (and during-contest favourite), the thought of them failing to qualify this year would have been a ridiculous one. The thought of Russia not qualifying any year is ridiculous, really – but Sergey was a standout on stage, as we always knew he would be.

 

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Winner San Marino Honourable Mention/s Montenegro

I’m still in shock that Serhat came what can only be described as ‘far too close’ to progressing from Tuesday to Saturday night. But, at the end of the day, he still didn’t make it, and that’s what the Eurovision gods had long since ordained (the 12th place was their version of a belated April Fools’ joke, I assume).

 

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Israel

You guys chose the transformation of Laura Tesoro as the worthy winner of this trophy. Belgium certainly upped the ante and glitteriness of her performance between NF and IF (international final, obviously), transforming it from something that looked at home on an intimate stage to something that filled a massive one – and filled Globen with masses of energy and positive vibes.

ltebjee

 

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Australia, Denmark

Sorry/not sorry, haters…but I’m so dedicated to Team Jamala, I hold conversations exclusively in 1944 lyrics (I can’t wait to go trick-or-treat doorknocking at Halloween and greet homeowners with the likes of ‘When strangers are coming, they come to your house, they kill you all’. How suitably scary!). As such – and because Her Holiness had so much of herself, and so much of her family’s heartbreaking true story invested in her Eurovision entry – I am adamant that Ukraine won fairly, squarely and deservedly. They earned the absolute shiz out of that triumph.

 

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Winner Estonia Honourable Mention/s Italy

In a semi final that had the words ‘San Marino’ printed in the program, the country that would finish in last place should have been easy to predict. Even when Serhat put on something of an endearing performance *she admits reluctantly*, it seemed like Finland’s Sandhja was going to step into seventeenth instead. What I did not expect was for poor, poor Estonia to fall as flat as possible and end up rock bottom. NOT COOL, EUROPE…and not at all deserved.

 

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Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Denmark  

Everyone else on the planet knew what those who voted for Lighthouse X during DMGP didn’t: that the trio didn’t have a hope in heck of qualifying from a Eurovision semi. They were charming enough to avoid finishing last on the Thursday night – and they didn’t use constipation as inspiration for their choreography, á la Rykka – but they lacked the fire (not even Azerbaijan-level pyro would have saved them) and the x-factor to proceed any further. No crystal ball was needed to foretell that outcome.

 

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Winner Poland Honourable Mention/s San Marino

The bulk of ‘It Should Have Been Margaret!’ t-shirt wearers were stopped in their tracks when Michał was catapulted from the lowest of scoreboard lows to the upper echelons of the top 10, all thanks to the televoting. That moment was many things – shocking and impressive among them – but easily explainable? Nope. I find it hard to believe that Polish diaspora is that influential, and even though I really liked Color of Your Life, I’m also confused by the possibility of such an outpouring of voter-at-home love…especially when the juries completely dismissed Poland. COLL was not a song that made you go ‘Yep, the televoters will LOVE that, but the juries’ll hate it.’ If anything, I’d have had it the other way round. To sum up, *insert giant question mark here*.

 

 

And that, my fellow Eurovision freaks, is that! My collapsible table of trophies is empty, and it’s time to roll up that red carpet for another year. I hope you enjoyed the 2016 edition of the EBJEEs in some respect, because I definitely enjoyed bringing it to you (even if it took a little longer than I’d initially planned).

Stay tuned to le blog over the coming weeks if you’re interested in the OGAE Second Chance Contest, the Olympics, random album reviews and lookalikes – I’ve got content concerning all of the above in the pipeline for August (and it IS all ESC-related, I swear).

While you’re waiting for that, why not tell me what you thought of today’s award winners? Did your People’s Choice votes go to waste, or did you get your way? Which performances, costumes and results of Eurovision 2016 do you think deserve some extra credit? Let me know below. I live for your feedback!

Well, I don’t live for it…but I like it.

 

Until next time,

 

2015sig

 

 

SUPER SATURDAY #6 | Välkommen to the most momentous of Melodifestivalen moments!

It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life. After five Saturdays of frenetic and not-so-frenetic (in the case of After Dark) app voting, wanton wind machine usage, and results that made us say ‘Um…really?’, Melodifestivalen 2016 has reached its final stage…literally.

The traveling circus has set up shop in Stockholm (as Eurovision will in a matter of months) and the original line-up of 28 – if we’re including the booted Anna Book – has been narrowed down to 12 (presumably, the others have been fed to the lions by now). It is exciting, anticipating this imminent last installment, but it’s also depressing to imagine life after Sweden’s 2016 ESC entrant is named and famed. Seriously, what did we do in those dark days prior to Deltävling 1? I don’t know, but we’re going to have to start doing it again as of Sunday *sniffs pathetically with head buried in latest edition of Scan magazine*.

For now, though, let’s forget about things that are not Melfest-related, and focus on what’s ahead of us – i.e. things that ARE Melfest-related. When I say that, I mean it – I’m choosing to forgo discussing such things as 1) Australia’s second-ever adult ESC entry, and 2) Lithuania also selecting their song this evening, to give the Swedish selection the attention it deserves. I expect my honorary Swedish citizenship, hand-signed in glitter pen by Christer Björkman, to arrive in the post any day now.

As Ace Wilder would say, don’t worry – I’ll get back to Dami Im and (probably) Donny Montell in due course. But just nu, let’s preview and predict one of the greatest and most competitive Melfest finals in recent history!

 

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  1. Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz
  2. My Heart Wants Me Dead by Lisa Ajax
  3. We Are Your Tomorrow by David Lindgren
  4. Kizunguzungu by SaRaha
  5. Human by Oscar Zia
  6. Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder
  7. Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
  8. Youniverse by Molly Sandén
  9. Put Your Love On Me by Boris René
  10. If I Were Sorry by Frans
  11. Save Me by Wiktoria
  12. Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor

 

That’s certainly a good-looking, good-listening programme. And that’s not even factoring in the star-powered interval act SVT have planned for us (more on that later). There are so many songs and acts I want to see succeed this evening, and only a few I wouldn’t be devastated to see fail. You can find out which are which without further ado. 3, 2, 1, review!

 

Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz

My verdict I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – these guys make me so happy, and all they have to do is exist (and ideally, release some music every now and then). It’s no surprise that I was jumping for joy when they emerged victorious from their Andra Chansen battle last weekend. Håll Om Mig Hårt is weaker than 2014’s Efter Solsken, but it’s still the same brand of effervescent, crowd-pleasing tropical pop, and there could be no better opener for tonight’s final. Will it win? Of course not. Will it even come close? Nope. But will we enjoy it whether we want to or not? Obviously.

My ranking 7th

Predicted ranking 12th

Would it work at Eurovision? No

 

My Heart Wants Me Dead by Lisa Ajax

My verdict Stringing toilet paper from the ceiling has never looked so glamorous! No, Lisa didn’t get the best of deals when SVT were budgeting to cover staging costs. But that doesn’t stop MHWMD from being a killer pop ballad performed with aplomb by Sweden’s 2014 Idol champ (marinated in on-trend metallics). I love everything about this song, bar the lack of more dynamic staging. Zara Larsson would be proud to have this track in her repertoire.

My ranking 6th

Predicted ranking 9th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

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Toilet-papering houses is so last year…arenas are where it’s at.

 

We Are Your Tomorrow by David Lindgren

My verdict David is the epitome of an Eric Saade-endorsed manboy. He’s adorable, in other words. But how he managed to go direkt yet again is a mystery to me, particularly when his song is just so…nice. Nice, competent and reasonably catchy, but nothing more. There’s no real substance to it, and it’s not going to be a contender now we’ve reached the pointy end of the comp. Sweden might have an affinity with this guy, but the international juries won’t – and even Swedish voters have the likes of Frans and Robin on hand to choose over David this time. Which is fine…I’m happy to console him when he fails miserably.

My ranking 11th

Predicted ranking 11th

Would it work at Eurovision? No

 

Kizunguzungu by SaRaha

My verdict Yes, this is Waka Waka + Aleo + Haba Haba in a tidy three minute capsule; and yes, despite the African overtones, it’s Swedish pop-by-numbers right down (or should I say, right up?) to the key change. But it’s also so high-energy and so much fun that I’m irresistibly drawn to it. Plus, I am yet to find a better word than ‘kizunguzungu’ emerge from 2016. You do give me kizunguzungu, SaRaha…as a result of too much DAMNED DANCING.

My ranking 9th

Predicted ranking 7th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

 

Human by Oscar Zia

My verdict Cards on the table: this is my favourite. And I can’t help thinking it would be the best Melfest-turned-Eurovision song Sweden could possibly pick tonight, even if there’s little to no chance they’ll actually pick it. Oscar isn’t the world’s best vocalist, but his charisma, the power of Human, and the Academy Award-worthy cinematography of his staging (camera shots have never been used so effectively) compensate for that. He looks like a 50s film star on stage, but the rest of his entry is totally contemporary – and together, it’s a magic combo. Still, it’ll be a miracle of Paula and Ovi proportions if he manages to win.

My ranking 1st

Predicted ranking 8th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

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Oscar: clearly a fan of T-Bird-meets-funeral chic.

 

Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder

My verdict Way back when Ace was the outright favourite to win Melfest, I wanted to love her comeback entry so I wouldn’t mind when she walked away with the victory. A lot has changed since then, including the fact that there’s a new kid on the block who’s likely to pip her at the post. What hasn’t changed is my attitude towards Ace herself – I still find her as unlikable as I did in 2014, when she was the devil to Sanna’s angel as they both perched on Melfest’s padded shoulders. I do, however, love Don’t Worry. But I don’t think it’s a winner. Simple as that.

My ranking 8th

Predicted ranking 2nd

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

 

Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson

My verdict It’s apt that Robin sings ‘You’re a star’ in the chorus of Constellation Prize (I still can’t wrap my head around that title) because he was the star of semi final one. Armed with a harmonica that he was definitely playing *wink* and eyes that could convince me to do pretty much anything (one lingering look, and I’d beat Frans to robbing a bank and the post office too), Robin charmed us all then, and he’ll be doing the same tonight. I hope he nabs a great result, if topping the table is out of the question (which is isn’t, necessarily). If he can hypnotise the international juries with those peepers, AND rank highly with the Swedish public, he could be the second Robin to represent Sweden on home soil. Stranger things have happened.

My ranking 2nd

Predicted ranking 3rd

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

 

Youniverse by Molly Sandén

My verdict Molly can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. She is flawless, and proved it when she put in a final-worthy performance a few weeks back. Granted, Youniverse is not the landslide-win type of song I was expecting given that Molly and her man-candy Danny Saucedo co-wrote it, but it still kicks butt. This is a tough year, and it will be an uphill struggle rather than an easy stroll for Molly to take it out. I’d be ecstatic if she did, but she might need to try a few more times to find the perfect formula – and/or drop by when the competition’s not so fierce.

My ranking 3rd

Predicted ranking 4th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

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Like we believe ALL of that wind is coming from the fans, Molly…

 

Put Your Love On Me by Boris René

My verdict Whether in a little box or a litter box (once you’ve heard that, you can’t un-hear it) Boris has my heart for sure. This is my jam of the year so far, and I’m stoked we get to experience the pure joy of it once again in the final. Proving that you don’t need showy staging to have get places, Boris uses the fancy footwork from his football past to full advantage, and that helps make him a worthy participant tonight. I’m sad to say that he’ll probably end up in the bottom six of the twelve – but he should be proud to have made a successful Melfest debut, and in doing do, put a smile on the face of everyone who isn’t a soulless robot. Go ahead, Boris – putcha love on me!

My ranking 5th

Predicted ranking 10th

Would it work at Eurovision? No

 

If I Were Sorry by Frans

My verdict If we’re destined to have a runaway winner, it will be Frans. Having topped the Spotify and Sverigetopplistan charts and been the odds-on favourite since his semi performance, he’s on the right track to outwit, outplay and outlast much bigger names, which I’m quite pleased about (it makes Melfest less predictable in a way, and means it’s still a launching pad for relative unknowns/former child stars). There is a charm and authenticity to If I Were Sorry – an air of ‘no, we’re not trying too hard for once’ – that we last saw in Robin Stjernberg’s You, and that makes it dangerous. I know it’s not hugely popular outside of Sweden, but I think it will be a cool choice if it does what’s expected. But…will the non-Swedish jury members warm to it, or just think ‘WTF?’.

My ranking 4th

Predicted ranking 1st

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

 

Save Me by Wiktoria

My verdict Contrary to IIWS, Save Me is all about what happens to/on Wiktoria on stage. The girl is an amazing singer, and I want her hair chopped off and glued to my scalp stat (in a non-creepy way) but without those incredible body projections, she would need someone to save her. Don’t get me wrong – I am a fan of this song (it’s the kind of thing I imagine Taylor Swift would have been releasing right now if she’d remained within the realms of country music). But I’d be far less keen to sit through it if Wiktoria simply stood and sung, sans the series of projections. With those in her corner, I’m expecting her to debut successfully by squeezing into the top 5.

My ranking 10th

Predicted ranking 5th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

wiktoria-star1-jpg

After Melfest, Wiktoria will be installed in Sweden’s national art gallery as a permanent exhibition.

 

Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor

My verdict I’m happy to hear that these boys will be as close to nakna as possible on primetime television tonight. Why not venture all the way down Trash Avenue? After all, it would be un-Samir & Viktor-like to show restraint (and not nipples). These two are the weakest singers in the field, and Bada Nakna is no Groupie. As a result, they won’t be heading back to Stockholm for ESC purposes unless they’re hitting up the Euroclub. That’s expressly why we should just sit back and enjoy the final song to be performed tonight…in all its moist, shirtless, pantless glory.

My ranking 12th

Predicted ranking 6th

Would it work at Eurovision? No

 

 

Okay…so that likely took you as long to read as it will take the Mello final to start, happen and finish. But that’s SVT’s fault for having so many songs competing. In summary, my predicted scoreboard (minus any actual scores, because I don’t want to make that much of a fool of myself) looks like this:

  1. Frans
  2. Ace
  3. Robin
  4. Molly
  5. Wiktoria
  6. Samir & Viktor
  7. SaRaha
  8. Oscar
  9. Lisa
  10. Boris
  11. David
  12. Panetoz

I do think that ultimately, Frans will be our winner for 2016. But his is not necessarily an open-and-shut case kind of victory like Måns’ of twelve months ago. Back then, MZW had the sort of mass appeal that won him both the international jury vote and the televote. But in 2014, Sanna Nielsen placed second in the jury vote and won the televote; and in 2013, Robin Stjernberg did the opposite, winning the jury vote and placing second with the Swedish public. My point is (yes, I have one!) that Frans will most likely win the televote, but if he’s placed second or lower with the juries, he may not win the whole shebang. It’s hard to guess which act the juries would opt for instead, but you could argue that the likes of Ace, Robin, Molly and Oscar have more mass appeal, and might be more easily “gotten” by non-Swedes. And if the points/percentages are right, we could see a close call feat. Frans with a metaphorical silver medal round his neck.

So who, if anyone, has the best chance of toppling the favourite? Ace or Robin, with Wiktoria as an outsider. I’d love to say that Oscar – my main Melfest man – could hit the heights required to score an ESC ticket, but it seems there’s too much in the way (third time lucky in 2018, perhaps?). There really are a ton of great songs in this final, and too few top five places (five, funnily enough) to be allocated accordingly. Samir & Viktor should come last in my opinion, but they won’t. Any other act really doesn’t deserve that dishonour. I’ve predicted Panetoz because, as wonderful as they will be as the show’s opening act, I think the fun will fizzle out come voting time when Swedish voters get serious (and I don’t think the juries will rank them particularly highly either). I get the impression they’ll just be happy to be there, having made it this far though.

What do you think? Are there some shocks and surprises in store for us in Sweden, or will Melfest turn out to be massively predictable after all? Place your bets, people!

 

Now, to finish off, I’m going to bask in the ambience of Europe’s most epic NF for a little longer as I identify what I’m most looking forward to seeing and hearing in Friends Arena in a few hours’ time:

  • Oscar Zia in action I haven’t laid eyes on his kick-ass performance since his semi-final (though I have snuck in a few plays of Human in studio) so I’m dying to see it again. I do think we’re human, and I would like to take a look once again, Oscar.
  • Molly lost in her Youniverse Because who wouldn’t want to watch the Mollmeister do what she does best and generally be all of our beauty and talent goals in flesh-and-blood form? Anyone else also hoping Danny will show his beautiful face on this occasion?
  • Lynda Woodruff’s triumphant return SHE’S BACK! I can’t get enough of Sarah Dawn Finer, as herself or in character as the EBU’s most incompetent employee. The big question is, will she work in a mention of Azerjaiben?
lynda_woodruff

Oh, how I’ve missed that stunningly attractive face!

  • The Melfest medley of a lifetime SDF again. Magnus Carlsson. Nanne Grönvall. Anton Ewald. BWO. These are just some of the artists from Melfests of yesteryear who’ll be taking to the stage to reprise their entries while we wait for the votes to be tallied. I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT. Interval acts don’t usually have me peeing my pants at the prospect of witnessing them, but this one’s different. Sorry for the over-share.
  • The moment vi har ett resultat I don’t want to hear Gina Dirawi utter that phrase for the last time, but I do want to suffer through the agony of the voting sequence. Remember, it’s the kind of process we’ll be seeing at Eurovision, so think of the drawn-out tension as a dress rehearsal for May.

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaand I’m done. There is more I could say on the subject of M to the E to the L to the O to the…well, you get the idea. But then I’d need to print it, bind it and market it as serious bedtime reading, and that’s too much hassle.

Speaking of bedtime…I’d better go have my last pre-Melfest power nap. I might see you on Twitter later for the main event, but if not, enjoy your Saturday whether you’re watching Melfest, watching Lithuania’s Eurovizijos (?) or doing something else entirely (???). We have so few Eurovision entries left to be picked/premiered, so let’s hope we get a few great ones tonight!

 

Until next time,

 

2015sig

 

 

Another Supersized Serving of Scandipop: My Top 50 Melodifestivalen Entries, 2006-2015! (#30-#11)

Hej there! With a brief break between semi allocation draws, slogan/logo (slogo?) announcements and national finals upon us, there’s finally time for me to continue the countdown of my favourite Melfest entries ever…excluding all editions of the show between 1959 and 2005. As I mentioned in part one, narrowing the possible picks down to those performed within a ten-year period is hard enough – there’s no way I was going to put myself (or you) through the ordeal of compiling an all-time Top 50. So here we are, at the penultimate point of my 2006-2015 version: #30-#11.

Once again, I’ve made a playlist of all the tracks featured below, if you want to check that out. If you just want some method to justify the madness, then read on as I reveal…

 

mfc2

 

#30 | Där Och Då Med Dig by Emelie Irewald (2015) This one flew under the radar at Melodifestivalen 2015, finishing in an unfortunate sixth place in the second semi. That was unsurprising when you consider that the main talking point of the entry, pre-show, was Emelie’s status as ex-girlfriend of Danny Saucedo (perhaps association with him is a bad luck charm? BREAK THE CURSE, MOLLY SANDÉN!). Even I was more interested in that gossip than the possibility that her song could be anything special. But come performance time, failure to qualify and all, Där Och Då Med Dig (There and Then With You) had me hypnotised. Haunting, melancholy in an intriguing manner and refreshingly subdued, it left a real impression on me – even though I was yet to Google Translate the lyrics at that point (if you haven’t, spoiler alert: they’re heartbreaking).

 

#29 | The Boy Can Dance by Afro-Dite (2012) 

 

#28 | Temple of Love by BWO (2006) Now we’re getting vintage (according to the parameters of this list, at least)! BWO had many a shot at representing Sweden at Eurovision – four, to be exact. But Temple of Love was the song that resulted in their most successful attempt. I’m in total agreement with that stat, because I reckon it was by far their best entry of the lot. It’s not lyrically substantial, á la Emelie’s song, but that’s not what BWO do best. Schlager-influenced dance bangers that get butts moving are their forte, and Temple of Love is nothing if not one of those. It’s up-tempo, infectious and a ton of fun – not to mention epic to sing along to when you may or may not be a teeny bit drunk (don’t ask me how I know that).

 

#27 | Like Suicide by Christian Walz (2011) 

 

#26 | Alla by Sofia (2009) Melodifestivalen 2012 would bring us traditional Greek sounds combined with Swedish-language lyrics in the form of OPA!’s Allting Blir Bra Igen…but back in ’09, we got Greek on Greek – with some rock thrown in for good measure – from Sofia (who is Swedish, but just has a thing for Greece. As an Australian with a thing for Sweden, I ain’t gonna pass judgment). And, pardon the pun, this song really does rock. I love how high-intensity it is, how much energy it whips up despite being mid-tempo, and how great the Greek (as odd as it was to hear in the Melfest line-up) sounds over music that’s traditional-meets-modern. Sofia comes across as the ultimate power woman when she belts out the anthem that is Alla, and I want to join the army that I assume she started up back then. How does ‘Private Jaz, reporting for duty!’ sound?

 

#25 | Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (2014) 

 

#24 | Baby Goodbye by EMD (2009) You guys know how much I love boy bands – so, when the swarthy Swedish trio known individually as Erik, Mattias and Danny hit up Melfest, I was in my element. Featuring the success guarantee that is whistling, a thumping mid-tempo beat, and a structure that allows each member of the group to have a solo moment, Baby Goodbye sums up everything that was great about Melodifestivalen as the 2000s drew to a close. It’s slick, catchy, a little retro, and boasts the kind of killer chorus that can make you forget you’ve heard plenty of similar songs in the past (because you’re so focused on singing along enthusiastically, you can’t think about anything else).

 

#23 | Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (2011) 

 

#22 | Empty Room by Sanna Nielsen (2008) Six years and two further entries away from FINALLY representing Sweden at Eurovision, Sanna had a crack with what is arguably one of the best ballads ever associated with…well, anyone or anything (yes, I am prone to exaggeration). The Rapunzel-esque hairdo didn’t do our girl many favours, but nobody tackles an emotional, piano-driven, heartstring-tugger like she does. Dressed in the post-breakup colour of choice and relying on nothing but her pipes to impress, Sanna sang her way to second place with a song that is just as dynamic – and just as effective as a vehicle for her voice – as Undo. Do I prefer Empty Room to Undo, then? Well, you’ll have to wait and see. I will say that it is, without doubt, up there with the best of her seven entries.

 

#21 | Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt (2012)

 

#20 | Echo by Outtrigger (2014) Yes, you read that right. Hard rock is hard to come by in Melfest, but when it does make an appearance, I tend to gravitate towards it like a moth to an aggressive, head-banging flame. This song allows me to let out all of my frustrations, which include but are not limited to La Voix making it to the ESC in 2009, and people being mad at Sweden for winning the contest last year instead of being mad at the scoring system. But Echo isn’t just three minutes of screaming and general noise – there is a cracking tune that accompanies all of the guitar-shredding. Rock on (a phrase only uttered by people who do not do so on a regular basis)!

 

#19 | Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (2015) 

 

#18 | Efter Solsken by Panetoz (2014) I love Panetoz’ Melfest debut for the same reason I love their first major hit Dansa Pausa – because it’s what sunshine and happiness and rainbows would sound like if they went on a vacation together to a tropical island. Everything about this track makes me smile, from the irresistible beat, to how adorable Swedish sounds layered over it. Sometimes I like my music to be deep and meaningful and angst-ridden; but when I don’t, I turn to stuff like this and think to myself ‘Hakuna matata!’. The fun and escapist nature of this group’s music makes me very excited to hear their entry for 2016.

 

#17 | Keep On Walking by Salem Al Fakir (2010)

 

#16 | My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (2011) Record-breaking, game-changing Euphoria has already made it onto this list, which may surprise you whether you’d forgotten or not. That’s right – I have a higher regard for the song that initially introduced us to Loreen (assuming we missed the 2004 season of Idol Sverige) than her Melfest/Eurovision winning one…though I love them both. I think MHIRM is a little more interesting and a little less straightforward (genre-wise) than Euphoria. It seamlessly blends elements of electro, dance and disco music to produce something that is poppy, but has a definite edge. And you’ve got to give props to Loreen for pulling off the ‘I stopped by Sesame Street, skinned a Muppet and am now wearing it as a coat’ trend.

 

#15 | Try Again by Dilba (2011) 

 

#14 | In The Club by Danny Saucedo (2011) I’ve always thought that Mr. Molly Sandén tried too hard to win on his second solo shot at Melfest – meaning that Amazing, while impressive, didn’t 110% live up to its title. I much prefer Danny’s first foray in the comp without the E and the M of EMD by his side. Not only did In The Club perfectly illustrate how the guy can sing and dance simultaneously without letting one or both skills suffer as a result (not something you can say about his vanquisher Eric Saade) but it also had super crowd-pumping power. Unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure of moonwalking to this in a club (Swedish pop>mindless trance, but too few playlist programmers are aware of that). However, I have done it up and down each hallway in my house, and it was an awesome party for one, let me tell you! #tragicandiknowit

 

#13 | This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010) 

 

#12 | Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandèn (2012) I’ll keep this short and sweet, since I’ve already professed my love for WAIC in a Melfest Monday post. Molly’s one of many returnees to the Swedish NF this year, and she’s going to have to go above and beyond to equal the magnificence of Why Am I Crying? I’m confident she can do it, what with her recent releases being the bomb and all. But I’ll always have a room in my heart rented out to her 2012 entry, due to its display of emotional fragility AND strength, touches of tinkling piano, and steady build to an explosive final chorus well worth waiting for.

 

#11 | Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015) 

 

The Melodifestivalen/Eurovision reigning champ brings us to the end of this Scanditastic™ episode of the countdown, sadly (or not, depending on the level of enjoyment you derived from reading my ramblings). The most important installment is still to come, and it won’t be immediately – there’s some NF nattering to do first. So, to save all of your fingernails from being bitten off in suspense, I’ll drop some hints about my Top 10. Guess some or all of the featured songs/acts, and I’ll honour you with your own personal round of applause!

  • The Top 10 features Melfest entries from 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. More specifically, two from 2010; four from 2012; one from 2013; and three from 2014.
  • Two bands are included – one all male, the other all female. They’ve got VERY different sounds, but they’re both instrumentally inclined. My top 3, however, is made up purely of soloists.
  • Two Melfest winners – and therefore, Eurovision entries – made the final cut.
  • How my Top 10 placed (if they made it to their respective finals): #10 = 9th, #9 = 7th, #8 = 1st, #7 = DNQ, #6 = DNQ, #5 = 1st, #4 = 5th, #3 = 3rd, #2 = DNQ, #1 = 4th

Now’s the time for you to prep your own Melfest Top 10, if you’re keen on counting down with me. If you’re extra, EXTRA keen, I välkommen your #30-#11 lists in the comments below. Do we have any picks in common, or am I the only one with decent taste in music?

JK. I have terrible taste in music. And I’m totally okay with that.

 

See you sometime before Spain make their selection for Stockholm!

 

2015sig

 

 

MELFEST MONDAY | Good golly, Miss Molly!

Where + when Stockholm, 2012

What Why Am I Crying?, written by Molly Sandén, Aleena Gibson and Wendy Wagner, and performed by Molly Sandén

 

 

Molly ‘Perfection and a Person I Want To Switch Lives With’ Sandén (as I refer to her on a regular basis) has been welcomed back into the open arms of Melodifestivalen for 2016 (hug it out, M & M) and no doubt she’s hoping it’ll be third time lucky for her, as it was for Måns Zelmerlöw last March. MZW had his second shot at representing Sweden in 2009 – the same year Molly made her first appearance with Så Vill Stjärnorna, just three years after flying the blue-and-yellow flag at Junior Eurovision in Bucharest. Back then, a still-blonde, sixteen-yearold Molly qualified direkt til Globen with her Sanna Nielsen-esque ballad, but finished dead last in the final, far behind MZW and EMD (her future man candy Danny Saucedo being the ‘D’).

She had some seriously tough competition that night, and stepping over them all in order to take the trophy home was never going to be an easy task. It seems she needed some more time to develop into an adult artist capable of clawing her way to the top. And so, three years later, Miss Sandén stepped onto the Melfest stage for the second time – sporting dark hair, dressed in head-to-toe black and very high heels, and trying her luck with…well, another very Sanna Nielsen-esque ballad (that’s not a bad thing…I’m merely pointing out that a musical pattern was forming there). This time, armed with the heartstring-tugger that was/is Why Am I Crying?, she was more of a contender.

After winning her semi, she went on to perform in the penultimate position in the final, in the Globe Arena once again and just before Danny Saucedo took to the stage solo for the second year running (he was still her future boyfriend then, and I can’t help thinking that this is where the sparks really began to fly. Someone should make a movie about their love story, stat!). That final performance was all kinds of perfect (not all kinds of everything), and not because Molly put in a 110% pitch-perfect vocal. She didn’t, actually, but the catches in her voice – which was still as beautiful and powerful as ever, overall – made what could have been a clinical, going-through-the-motions performance feel far more authentic and emotional. Given that Molly’s relationship with the previous year’s Melfest champ Eric Saade ended in early 2012 (let’s just say the girl has a type), it’s not hard to understand how she was able to channel so much heartbreak into three minutes.

What also made her second attempt at representing Sweden such an admirable one was the simplicity of the staging. Back in 2009, things had been too pared-back, if anything – but this time, shadowy lighting, a bit of a breeze from the old wind machine (OF COURSE) and some multi-Molly visual effects ensured that an intimate atmosphere was created, and that no aspect of the performance could be described using the letters O, T and T. Basically, we witnessed the most effective way of treating a song like Why Am I Crying? – something we’d see again with Sanna’s Undo two years later. Sandwiched between the aggressive noisiness of Björn Ranelid and Sara Li’s Mirakel, and the flashy, futuristic stage show of Danny’s Amazing, Molly stood out purely because she didn’t…if you know what I mean.

picture-1

Another Molly depicts what I’m sure all of your faces look like at this precise moment.

ANYWAY, that fact didn’t help her win the competition, but she greatly improved on her initial result with her eventual fifth place, narrowly missing out on fourth to David Lindgren (who she’ll battle against again next year if they both qualify from their semis). As we all know, it was a different intimate performance that won Melfest 2012 and went on to win Eurovision – Loreen’s. It couldn’t have been Molly’s or anybody else’s time with the Queen of the Crab-Dance in the mix.

But – and this is where this post has been leading – the combination of singer, song and beatable rivals might just be right for the Mollster in 2016. My reasoning? Well, for starters, her career is peaking as we speak, and her music has never been better (Freak? Hit. Phoenix? Hit. Like No One’s Watching? Hit. Satellites? HIT!!!). So much so that I’ll set fire to my entire Eurovision merchandise collection if her third Melfest entry Youniverse is anything less than THA SHIZ.

In addition, the song’s been written by Molly and Danny as a pair (as well as some other guy who’s clearly a third wheel) which makes it the closest thing to a Manny (or Dolly?) duet that we’re going to get in the near future. Both artists have proven their talent for penning great tracks in the past, so that ups my expectations of Molly’s chances.

And, when you look at her Melfest track record – last, then halfway up the leaderboard – it’d be a logical leap for her to finish first in the March final. She’s never been in a better position to win, and as the likes of Sanna and Måns would tell her, if you keep trying, the time will be right on one occasion or another.

Even if it’s the seventh.

That’s my thinking…but where are you at? Will Molly make it back to the Globe as Sweden’s host entrant for Eurovision 2016? Should she have had that chance back in 2012, or even 2009? Do you reckon she’s stepped things up with Youniverse, or is Why Am I Crying? too hard to top? If you have anything to say about this Sandén sister – even if it’s re: Ace Wilder being far superior (umm, I don’t THINK so!) – then get those fingers busy by commenting below!

 

2015sig

 

 

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.
Mollyll

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. 

Israel-Nadav-first-rehearsal-eurovision-2015

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?

 

2015sig

 

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.

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…Swedish entries of all time (#10-#6)

Don’t pretend you didn’t see this coming. I bet even Corinna May saw this coming.

What? I’m allowed one insensitive joke a month, and that was September’s.

Anyway, here’s the deal: I love Sweden, you love Sweden (I assume…who doesn’t?), we all love Sweden – in some respect. If le love isn’t related to their fashion, furniture or food (oh hej there, meatballs with lingonberry jam on the side!) then it has to be for Sverige + Eurovision. I mean, even if Scandipop makes you want to pull a Van Gogh and you’d much rather treat your ears to some Balkan ballads or saucy Spanish salsa, you have to admire the Swedish attitude towards the ESC. Not to mention (though I am about to mention it) their dead-serious approach to competing in it, one that has seen them win the contest twice since 2012.

Overall – out of 55 participations – the hosts of Eurovision 2016 have added a trophy to their song contest cabinet six times, and have finished inside the top ten THIRTY-SEVEN times. That’s a whole lot of Eurovisual goodness right there, and I’m about to count down my favourites of the lot. Ja, it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned top ten…Swedish-style.

But, because I’m a soap opera fan and therefore love a good cliffhanger (and because I’m trying not to overwhelm you guys with one momentous post after another) I’m going to reveal my top ten Swedish ESC entries like, ever, in two separate posts. Today, I’m counting down my 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th and 6th-favourite songs, so if you want to find out which ones made it into the top five, you’ll have to stay tuned to EBJ. Sorry.

Also, since I’m yet to attain psychic abilities, I’d love you to hit me up with your personal favourite Swedish entries in the comments (but feel free to keep me waiting for your #1 like I’m making you wait for mine).

If you need a reminder of what you’re choosing from, then check this out:

 

 

And now, let the countdown begin. Tre, två, ett, go!

 

 

#10 | 1963

En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund

I mentioned this entry in a previous post, not long after Sanna Nielsen performed it “alongside” Monica as part of her Melodifestivalen hosting/entertaining duties this year. That duet was spellbinding, and I couldn’t help revisiting the original performance (once my spine-tingles had subsided) to remind myself how En Gång I Stockholm (Once In Stockholm) stood up sans Sanna – particularly given that, back in ’63, it had finished equal last. That, my friends, is a travesty. The song, minus Miss Nielsen, is still lovely. It may not be as hypnotic or mystique-packed as Denmark’s winner Dansevise (which I also adore) but it does have a) a wistful quality emphasised by Monica in her performance, and b) a melody that’s so soft and beautiful you could practically blow your nose on it. I’m often an advocate for songs that exit Eurovision in last place, so naturally, this one’s a standout of the 1963 contest för mig.

 

#9 | 2015

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw  

YES, I’M GOING THERE. In case you weren’t aware that I’m mad about Måns, and that I couldn’t be happier that the Eurovision circus is heading back to Sweden so soon, well…become aware now. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Heroes is a great song, and no, it’s not a David Guetta rip-off (an homage, perhaps, but a carbon copy? Puh-lease). It checks a ton of boxes on my list of epic ESC entry criteria: it’s catchy, contemporary and energetic; it successfully fuses together two different musical genres; it builds to a climax worth waiting for; the lyrics don’t put my gag reflex to the test; and it’s karaoke-friendly. What more could one want? Well, apart from a mind-blowing staging concept that puts all the competition to shame. Oh wait – Heroes had that too! Aurally and aesthetically, this entry is a prime example of Sweden’s ability to go above and beyond without breaking a sweat.

 

#8 | 1996

Den Vilda by One More Time

If songs that make you desperate to frolic in a lush forest with a myriad of woodland creatures are your thing, then I’m guessing you’re a fellow fan of this entry from ’96. If not, why not? This track is gorgeous and timeless. I can’t say the same about the power suit OMT’s Nanne donned for the show (Eurovision performance or marketing meeting? Who can tell the difference based on that outfit) but lack of flowing chiffon aside, Den Vilda as a package is pure, pared-back perfection. Though the verses sound very similar to the choruses, they don’t sound too similar, meaning you’re/I’m easily drawn in by the melody without suffering from any repetitive-itis. Everything (except the chiffon, because there isn’t any) just flows. This is a classic case of magnificent minimalism.

 

#7 | 2012

Euphoria by Loreen

If you want more evidence of Sweden’s ability to say N-O to O-T-T and still succeed, it’s right here. There’s no question why Loreen holds the record for the most sets of douze points received by a Eurovision winner. Euphoria was, is and always will be the bomb dot com. For me, it’s just as impressive now as it was when it topped the Melfest scoreboard three years ago (!), in terms of both sound and staging. The slick production, maximum-energy beat and infectious ‘up-up-up-up-up-uuuup’ hook are all as wonderful as Loreen’s crab scuttle*, and came together in a performance so uniquely staged, it was groundbreaking. This entry will forever be filed under ‘Unforgettable’ in the Eurovision archives, and perhaps replace ye olde Bucks Fizz skirt-rip in the ‘Eurovision in a nutshell!’ clip compilations trotted out by the media at every opportunity.

* CAN’T…RESIST…THE GIF…

Loreen_s_Crab_Dance

 

#6 | 1983

Främling by Carola

Sixteen-year-old Carola is my favourite version of Carola (although I’m happy to be fångad in her invincible stormvind any time) and she was clearly living her best life on the Munich stage, with her bouffant hairdo and weird-ass shirt that seemed to have a Dalmatian-giraffe on it (what WAS that?). Her vocal chops have always been insanely good, as this performance of the dated-but-still-magical Främling proves. The song gave Carola chance after chance to sing her heart out, and she grabbed each and every one. She also got to do a bit of strutting, because that’s the logical move to make when one is commandeering such a funky, oh-so-80s pop song. STRUT, CAROLA, STRUUUUUUT! The ‘why’ of why Främling is a favourite of mine pretty much boils down to one word: catchy. Främling is freaking catchy! It gets stuck in my head on the reg, but I never get tired of it, since it’s so peppy and all. Here’s to that continuing for many years to come *clink*.

 

 

That’s the end of this chapter, Eurovisionaries (I did warn you I was going to leave you in the lurch). I’m still polishing – and possibly reordering – my top five Swedish contributions to our beloved song contest, so you’ll have to sit tight for a few days until all is revealed.

As I asked you so nicely in the intro, please leave me many, many comments feat. the what and why of your top-ranking ESC entries from Sweden…and/or make a guess as to which ones have squeezed into my top five. Guess correctly, and you win a big bag full of my admiration!

 

Until next time…

 

2015sig

 

 

SEEING DOUBLE? All the doppelgangers of Eurovision 2015 (finally) exposed!

SURPRISE!!! Just when you thought I’d become so bogged down in the depths of Post-Eurovision Depression that I’d lost the will to blog and legged it to go live in an underground cave in Siberia where I’d never hear the words ‘Good evening, Europe!’ uttered again *draws breath*, here I am.

It’s been so long since my previous post, I don’t think we had a host city for Eurovision 2016 when it went up. But, as everyone on the planet is now aware, we are Stockholm-bound, baby! Sweden’s capital has gotten the gig, and the Globe Arena (which also housed the contest in 2000) will be the centre of the action next May whilst looking as much like a giant golf ball as ever.

Speaking of things that look like other things…welcome to today’s post, which is a) an extravaganza of lookalikes, and b) my last post to be purely focused on ESC no. 60 for a while (at least a week, I promise). I’ve done a LOT of doppelganger posts in the past, and as they’ve been pretty popular – and as I spotted quite a few familiarities in the forty faces of 2015 – I saw no reason not to add another one to the EBJ archives.

In the words of Mr. Eurovision himself – that’s three-time winner Johnny Logan, for the uninitiated – what’s another year? Let’s take another wander down Lookalike Lane. Prepare to be not as impressed by the following as I’m implying you should be!

 

Ladylike lookalikes

Aminata looks like American actress Zoe Saldana

1aminata
The only notable difference here is that Aminata’s eyebrow game is a heck of a lot stronger. I guess Hollywood’s beauty salons aren’t all that.

 

Ann Sophie looks like American actress/comedian Ellie Kemper

2annsophie
The same megawatt smiles AND the same preference for parting their hair on the left? Case closed – these two are totally sisters from different misters.

 

Boggie looks like Kate Middleton (a.k.a. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge)

3boggie
I swear this isn’t just a convenient pairing of photographs…but if you’re not buying it, you’d have to at least agree that Boggie looks more like Kate’s sister than her actual sister does. PS – note the shared penchant for pearl jewelry.

 

Edurne looks like Israeli model Bar Refaeli

4edurne1
This being the case, Edurne should expect Leonardo DiCaprio to make a move on her any day now.

 

Edurne (also) looks like Australian model and ex-Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins

4edurne2
Si, it’s true – Edurne somehow manages to resemble two people who in turn look nothing alike. In this case it’s a fellow blonde, blue-eyed bombshell who routinely pulls out the ‘I’m checking my hair for lice’ pose when participating in a photo shoot.

 

Dudes with doppelgangers

Daniel Kajmakoski looks like Harry Potter star Tom Felton

5daniel
I’m telling you, it’s something about the head shape. And/or the gradually receding hairline that will see both Daniel and Draco Malfoy become bald within the next five years.

 

Eduard Romanyuta looks like Australian singer/songwriter Conrad Sewell

6eduard
If you like your men with flowing blonde locks (but Thor’s too buff for your taste) then here’s two I prepared earlier. No word yet on whether or not Conrad likes to be tailed by scantily-clad cops at all times, á la Eduard.

 

Loïc Nottet looks like One Direction’s Harry Styles

7Loic
Okay, so this isn’t the most astounding lookalike I’ve ever come up with. But squint at the photo above whilst chopping an onion, and you might see the similarities that I do. And while you’re doing that, I’ll be internally debating whether Loïc or Harry has better hair.

 

Måns Zelmerlöw looks like Australian acting export Hugh Jackman

8mans
Fast-forward fifteen years, and Måns will be a dead ringer for Hugh (who was trained up as an actor on my university campus, by the way…don’t say I never provide you with fun facts). This, of course, will make him Hugh JackMåns.

 

Stig Rästa looks like One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson

9stig
Here’s another 1D comparison that, if I’m honest, isn’t the last you’ll encounter in this post. Stig may have chopped and changed his coiffure for Eurovision purposes (there is a 99% chance that isn’t the actual reason, but just roll with it) but such spontaneity is what makes him beautiful (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?).

 

Vaidas Baumila looks like Australian actor Josh Lawson

91vaidas
I’m not going to lie. I’m proud of this one. From the strong jaw to the stubble, and (most) of the stuff in between, feasting your eyes on these two faces at once is to truly be seeing double. Except for the fact that it isn’t. But it’s close enough.

 

Band members separated at birth

Il Volo’s Gianluca Ginoble looks like One Direction’s Zayn Malik + American singer Nick Jonas

92gianluca
Hey, I’m allowed one love-child lookalike (and one final 1D reference). Gianluca might be a better singer than Zayn and Nick combined (which is not so much a dig at them as it is a massive compliment to GG) but he’s just as attractive as their faces would be combined.

 

Il Volo’s Piero Barone looks like Eurovision 2007 winner Marija Šerifović

93piero
And Piero’s my pick for hottest third of Il Volo? I guess that means I’ll settle for Marija in the event that he and I aren’t meant to be.

 

The Makemakes’ Florian Meindl looks like American actor Oliver Hudson

94florian
Question this one, and I will refer you to an optometrist immediately.

 

The Makemakes’ Markus Christ looks like Scottish actor James McAvoy

95markus
In case you didn’t notice, there were two famous faces attached to the less famous faces of Austria’s 2015 entrants. If anyone can come up with a dead ringer for lead singer Dominic, then the trilogy will be complete!

 

Voltaj’s Calin Goia looks like former tennis champ Andre Agassi

96calin
Both of these guys groom their facial hair in the same way (though Calin’s is more refined) and neither have any hair on their scalp that requires grooming. The evidence of their blood relativity is right there in front of you, people.

 

 
Well, that’s my list of lookalikes exhausted. This post was requested (a very, very long time ago) by Wolfgang from Germany. If there’s a type of post you’d like to see more often on EBJ, a theme you want to suggest for a Top 10, an edition of the ESC you want me to Retro Rank…anything at all I can put together for you, then let me know in the comments, via the Contact Jaz page, or on social media. I promise I’ll make it happen ASAP, not because I’m short on ideas (believe me, my backlog of Eurovisual ramblings-in-waiting is bigger than Rona Nishliu’s dreadlock beehive) but because I want to make sure my content is the kind you guys will come back for.

Without me having to bribe you, that is.

If you’re up for commenting down below without a payoff, then answer me this: did I actually identify all of Vienna’s doppelgangers, or are there others yet to be exposed? Which 2015 artists had you wondering if a famous face had been recruited by a country for competition purposes?

 

Until next time…

 

nsig