For most people, today is Tuesday. For some people, it may still be Monday. For other people – the really slack ones who didn’t get the memo that I’d posted this and just happened to stumble across it belatedly (subscribe or stop by my social media to avoid such disasters by receiving new post alerts *SHAMELESS PLUG*) – it could be any old day of the week. But for me, it’s June 28, and that’s kind of a big deal.
Why? Because seven years ago today (!) I decided to inflict my obsession with/ability to talk constantly about Eurovision upon the world, via a blog that would become known as Eurovision By Jaz…since that’s what I decided to call it that day, duh. Back then in 2009, I couldn’t have foreseen that I’d still be running the blog in my own haphazard manner after so much time had passed – let alone off the back of an ACTUAL TRIP to the contest after ten years of frenzied fangirling (I still have to pinch myself on the hour every hour to remind myself that I was in Stockholm). The reason I’m still around is simple, though: I do it for the love. I mean, if I did for popularity and adoration I would’ve lost the will years ago.
Here and now, in case you were wondering, I’m certain that as long as I enjoy chatting all things ESC with you guys, and as long as at least one person out there seems to be a fan of my material (besides me), I’ll be here doing what I do. I.e. criticising contestants’ costume choices and objectifying whoever happens to be the hottest guy of the latest contest line-up (in 2016, I’ve moved on from Måns to Freddie, FYI). If you’re willing to come along for the ride, I can guarantee a safe, yet entertaining and occasionally controversial journey through the years to come.
Before I let loose and blow my own kazoo (not a euphemism), I want to thank anyone who’s reading this intro. If you are, it means you’ve taken the time to drop by EBJ, probably out of habit or to see if it’s your cup of kaffe. You might have been with me from the beginning, be a recent reader, or be someone who’s sick of me already and plans to stick with Wiwi Bloggs exclusively from now on – I don’t mind whichever way. I’m just grateful for your visit and confident that you must be a pretty cool person since you’re attracted to rather than repulsed by the word ‘Eurovision’.
Now, to kick off my 7th birthday (blogday?) celebrations, here’s a substandard graphic I prepared earlier!
I’ve decided to celebrate this milestone with a countdown that’s not your usual countdown. It’s not a Top 10, for starters – it’s actually a Top 7, and (brace yourselves for a theme to emerge here) it will feature my personal top 7 songs that have placed seventh in the ESC since EBJ began. In other words, I’m about to rank, from my least loved to my most loved, the seventh placers of 2010-2016. Given that I started blogging just after Eurovision 2009, Sakis Rouvas Vol. 2 will not be included in this list. But, as I know he’d be devastated to be un-invited so unceremoniously from this partay (and be likely to release a song entitledThis Is (Not) Our Night), I’m going to use him to rate each of the seven entries using a system I like to call ‘The Sakis Head Scale’.
You can see why.
If you’re keen to rate any of the following tracks – or ANY seventh-placed song from Eurovision history, for that matter – using the Sakis Head Scale/conventional 0-12 points (ugh, how normal), head to the comments section below. Alternatively, tweet me @EurovisionByJaz using the hashtag #shareyour7, and tell me which sixth runner-up is your favourite…or least favourite.
Without further ado (you know how I love ado, but I’ll restrain myself on this occasion), let’s kick off the countdown!
#7 | ‘May the winter stay away from my harvest night and day…’
Apricot Stone by Eva Rivas (Armenia 2010)
I fully expect to be pelted with apricot stones and verbal abuse over this one. I wasn’t surprised by Armenia’s lower-end-of-the-top-ten finish in Oslo, but that doesn’t mean I ‘got’ Apricot Stone. It’s not a bad song, per se – but push my buttons, it does not. It reminded me a bit of the Dutch entry two years previously, and that (Hind’s Your Heart Belongs To Me, for anyone having a brain-blank) was dated in 2008. Based on that, I never found the Armenian version very fresh – especially its chorus. And I hate to say this, because I’m totally pro-Rapunzel letting down her hair…but Eva’s super lengthy locks kind of freaked me out.
#6 | ‘Watch my dance, head up high, hands like wings and I’ll fly…’
Watch My Dance by Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike (Greece 2011)
Ah, Greece and their love of fusing rap with…not rap. There has to be some irony in the fact that they blended rap and ethnic sounds better in 2016 than in 2011, yet lost their 100% qualification record this year and finished seventh five years ago. If I remember correctly, a lot of us fans were convinced that Loukas and Stereo Mike (now known as Spotify Mike, most likely) would be Greece’s downfall, and that included me at the time. Nowadays, I like this song more than I did then, but it’s still too intense and too melodramatic for me to play that often – not to mention jarring enough to resemble an edit of a movie put together by a monkey. All in all, I prefer it when Greece takes a lighter approach to their rap fusion entries, á la Rise Up (#ROBBED). Though I’m not unwilling to watch Loukas’ dance, if he’s still after an audience and will be shirtless.
#5 | ‘My life is on a string when I see you smile, our love will last a thousand miles…’
Shine by the Tolmachevy Sisters (Russia 2014)
Here’s a song that I hated when I first heard it, only to find myself humming along shortly thereafter. I guess there’s no shortage of wonders an oversized see-saw can work, particularly when combined with twins who temporarily become conjoined via their ponytails. To be honest, I still don’t think Shine is a great song – it certainly has nothing on the duo’s Junior Eurovision winner Vesinniy Jazz – but there’s something nice about the melody and the way the girls harmonise (as only identical twins can) that had it growing on me even before the giant papier mâché sun was unfolded by a Portuguese national finalist (naturally). In fact, I have it stuck in my head right now.
#4 | ‘I didn’t want to wake you up, my love was never gonna be enough…’
Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa (Estonia 2015)
The song that won Eesti Laul by a landslide last year couldn’t do the same at Eurovision, but 7th? Totally respectable, especially given the unfortunate and unjust outcome of Estonia’s entry in Stockholm. Goodbye To Yesterday is one of many fine feathers in Stig Rästa’s compositional cap, and while it wasn’t up there with my personal douze-pointers in 2015, I can’t deny that it has something special. The dynamic between the two characters in the song’s story makes for a perfect duet, and the song itself is one that feels both retro and fresh. And who could resist a lyric like ‘As I got outside, I smiled to the dog’? Not me, that’s for sure. Or the dog, I’m guessing.
#3 | ‘You shook my life like an earthquake, now I’m waking up…’
LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan (Armenia 2016)
And here we have the latest track to reach the seventh rung of Eurovision’s top 10 ladder – one that makes me hopeful for a future in which cutting-edge, experimental music outnumbers stale cookie-cutter-type stuff in the contest. When a song doesn’t grab me straight away, but intrigues (rather than horrifies) me, I’m happy, because I know I’m going to love it eventually. LoveWave is initially disarming with its spoken-word start, but it makes you wonder where it’s headed and what kind of ground it’s about to break (so to speak). Ultimately, it’s a powerful punch-packer of a track, fronted by the femme fatale figure of Iveta who sells it vocally and visually. You can’t tell me this doesn’t kick Apricot Stone’s ass.
#2 | ‘I am a lonely sailor drinking the night away, my ship is made from hope, she’s searching for your bay…’
Love Me Back by Can Bonomo (Turkey 2012)
The last time we saw Turkey compete in the ESC, they gave me everything I want in my ethno-pop. That includes a) a generous dollop of traditional sounds that set the song apart from its rivals; b) three minutes of fun and frivolity without any ‘this is a novelty act and it can’t be taken seriously’ vibes; and c) back-up dancers who can transform their costumes into a sailboat at a second’s notice. Basically, it’s the whole package. Catchy, unique and easy to sing along to (or yell drunkenly over in the midst of an enthusiastic round of the Eurovision Drinking Game), Love Me Back is also a masterclass in how to make a cultural mark on the contest without alienating anyone…besides people prone to seasickness.
#1 | ‘While the world breaks into pieces, I compose new places and desires which also belong to you…’
L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)
If you hadn’t guessed already, given that only one 2010-2016 7th-placer is yet to be mentioned, Italy takes out the top spot with one of my favourite Eurovision songs of ALL TIME (if your name is Kanye West, don’t bother trying to dispute that). An entry that truly puts the ‘song’ into Eurovision Song Contest, L’Essenziale is lyrically and melodically magic, and comes equipped with a message that doesn’t make your skin crawl thanks to its cheesiness (yes, Russia, it CAN be done without resorting to love love, peace peace). I would marry this song if that were at all possible, I’m so crazy about it. Although, if Marco is available, I’d rather marry him instead. Then he could serenade me with the song whenever I wanted. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Well, I’ve shared my seven – a song for every year I’ve been blogging here at EBJ. Holy Hard Rock Hallelujah! Remember, if you want to do the same, I’d consider it a birthday gift and therefore wouldn’t be offended by the lack of fruit baskets being delivered to my door. You should also feel free to tell me what you thought of my ranking. How would you rearrange it? Was seventh place too good or not good enough for these tracks? Exactly how offended are you right now?
While you’re letting me know, I’ll be off raising a glass to myself…and, of course, planning seven more years’ worth of Eurovisual entertainment for anyone who currently reads or will someday stumble upon this site. I hope you enjoy what’s to come as much as I’m going to enjoy creating it for you (if the Sakis heads are any indication, I’ll have an epic time).
I’m still alive! Sorry to those of you who thought I was greeting you from beyond the grave, a.k.a. Euroheaven, where you can wear a rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuit and dance to that awesome remix of Qele Qele for all of eternity. It’s been a month since I’ve posted anything (GASP) because life and stuff, and unfortunately I’m still attempting to get mah shiz together. Therefore I’m not up to one of my normal Eurovisiony ramblings that takes you three hours to get through. But I had to make an appearance to prove my continuing and undying love for European song contests, so when the opportunity for a short but sweet posting fell into my lap – or rather, appeared in my Facebook feed – I thought I’d take it. Think of this as a snack between more substantial meals; meals that taste like Eurovision. I’m not 100% sure what that would taste like, but I bet it would be delicious.
ANYWAY…you may have seen this tag floating around your Facebook last week:
‘List 10 Eurovision songs in random order that have stayed with you/impacted your life. Doesn’t have to be highbrow or anything fancy. List what resonates with you and nominate friends.’
I was tagged by Rory from ESC Views, so merci to him, as this was an interesting exercise! Since all of my ESC-obsessed friends beat me to the tag, and as the rest may swiftly unfriend me if I forced anything contest-related on them, I thought I’d take up the challenge here. So here, in chronological order, are the 10 songs I’ve chosen as having stayed with me, and why.
Það Sem Enginn Sér by Daniel (Iceland 1989)
I first listened to this entry after reading about it in Tim Moore’s awesome Nul Points (read it and you will never look at Jemini the same way again) and expected to think it was rubbish, considering the book is about all the ESC competitors unfortunate enough to have scored zero. But I fell in love. Sure, Daniel’s outfit is dodgy even by 80s standards, but there’s something about his manner, and of course, the song itself, that has definitely stuck with me since that first listen.
Olou Tou Kosmou I Elpida by Cleopatra (Greece 1992)
Anything that sounds like a reject from either The Lion King or Tarzan soundtracks does something strange to my insides – I get all warm and fuzzy, and feel all-powerful for a few minutes. That’s the majesty of jungle-esque music. I feel that way listening to Zlata’s Gravity, Moldova’s JESC entry for 2013, Sandra Nurmsalu’s Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad (which should have won Eesti Laul this year and I will never get over the fact that it didn’t) aaaaand this number from Greece.
Nocturne by Secret Garden (Norway 1995)
I have few words…just like Secret Garden. The least lyrical of all Eurovision winners possesses a mystical, haunting beauty that absolutely resonates with me. Coming across this in the early days of my Eurovision fandom, I believe it to be one of the songs that taught me how versatile the contest is; that, despite what the haters harp on about, you can’t pigeonhole ESC entries. Not everything is nonsensical and glitter-encrusted – although I like both of those things too.
Fiumi Di Parole by Jalisse (Italy 1997)
I love this song so much that it was the sole cause of the glass-shattering shriek I let out when I found out Italy were coming back to Eurovision in 2011. Jalisse were the country’s last entrants prior to Düsseldorf, and what a note to take a hiatus on! Like most Italian entries, this has an air of elegance and class that time cannot take away. It gives me so many feels.
My Star by Brainstorm (Latvia 2000)
I hate to say this, but this adorable little tune has probably stayed with me because most of the Latvian entries since have been abysmal (and yes, I’d put I Wanna in that category). Perhaps they tried too hard to replicate the amazing result that this debut brought them? Hashtag curious. Atrocities aside, My Star is so charming, and really stood out from the trashy Europop sent by the likes of Iceland and the UK in 2000. Even though I have no idea what Renars is on about for the most part, I’ve always loved it.
Monts Et Merveilles by Louisa (France 2003)
If anybody knows how to say ‘underrated’ in French, please let me know so I can brandish it about every chance I get in reference to this chanson. I know mid-tempo ballads like this are often labeled as boring, more often than people like me profess love for them…but here I am, doing some of that love professin’, because there’s just something beautiful about this one. It’s got that class that Italy has on lock, although Louisa’s hair incident dented that a bit.
Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović & Ad-Hoc Orchestra (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)
This is my numero uno of all time, so obviously it’s made an impact on me. It’s funny how you can’t always put into words what exactly it is that makes something special for you. It’s not the lyrical content or some association with a particular time in my life that made this one of my picks. I just remember being captured by it, and having to comb the hairs on the back of my neck down after they stood to attention around about the point of the violin solo.
Kuula by Ott Lepland (Estonia 2012)
Ott ‘My Future Husband’ Lepland reminded me how much I love Estonian as a musical language, with his slow-burn ballad from back in Baku. Fittingly given that Kuula = listen, I can’t help but stop and listen when it shuffles on (which has caused some near-death experiences when I’ve happened to be on the treadmill at the time). This is a song that deserves to have attention paid to it IMO.
Kedvesem by ByeAlex (Hungary 2013)
Kedvesem? More like KedveGEM. That may have been a rubbish play on words, but darn it, it’s the truth. This song is a little gem, and the man behind it remains one of my favourite Eurovision discoveries ever. Bless you, ByeAlex. The original mix minus Zoohacker is the pared-back, more emotive version that I can connect with, whereas the Zoohacker remix has the punch that elevates the song to a more infectious level. Both have stayed with me.
L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)
Warning: I’m about to get all deep and meaningful. In this day and age where everybody’s obsessed with selfies and calling their significant others ‘bae’ (VOMIT) and “throwing shade” at the Kardashians, it’s nice to be reminded to get back to the basics of being – what’s essential. That’s essentially (pardon the pun) the message of Marco’s entry, and it gets me every time. Who knows if the guy actually practices what he preaches, but either way, it’s good advice for us all to “take distance from the excesses and from the bad habits” and return to what’s important – be that a person, place, or particularly good lemon meringue pie (an essential in my life for sure).
EBJ extras: Why Do I Always Get It Wrong by Live Report (UK 1989); Keine Grenzen by Ich Troje (Poland 2003); Firefly by Christina Metaxa (Cyprus 2009); This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010); När Jag Blundar by Pernilla (Finland 2012); Silent Storm by Carl Espen (Norway 2014).
Okay, so this wasn’t as short a post as I’d thought. But you know what I’m like, and if you weren’t prepared to spend a considerable portion of your day making sense of the above gushing then you only have yourself to blame.
Whether you’ve done it on Facebook or not, I tag anyone reading this to comment me with the 10 ESC entries that have most impacted you, or stayed with you for reasons you can’t always explain. As Nike would say, just do it!
Yes. Oui. Totes. Five years ago today (a.k.a. five years ago on June 27th…nobody reads this blog for its timeliness) I uploaded my very first and probably most cringe-worthy post.
The story goes that back in 2009, having been forced to create a blog at uni, I decided to start one in the wake of the spectacular Moscow show that wouldn’t feature boring analyses of design theories. It would instead be about said Russian extravaganza, plus all the contests that had come before it and that we were yet to experience. I had been a grade-A Eurovision freak for four years prior, so I had a LOT of feels to express in the form of (hopefully) witty articles, lists, reviews and the like. So, keen to unload, I picked a blog theme that I thought was super sexy at the time, settled on Eurovision By Jaz as my nom de plume because I clearly wasn’t feeling overly creative, and got typing.
Fast forward half a decade, and I’m still here, whether you like it or not! EBJ may not be as wildly popular as certain other blogs that began after it (I’m not bitter…) but it has at least one regular reader (not including myself) and it has given me the opportunity to write for and be interviewed by other Eurovision websites, centre my life around Eurovision almost as much as I’d ideally like to, and connect with peeps in the Eurovision community from all over the world.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth putting in all the effort that I do – most of the time – to make EBJ a place that people want to come to; a place that treats the contest with the respect it deserves without taking it too seriously (i.e. I like to make funnies). Then I’ll get a comment or message from someone who not only read but also enjoyed one of my posts, or who just wants to lavish some love on the blog in general, and I remember why I’ve lasted this long and why I always want EBJ to be the best it can be (even if that’s mediocre). So to anyone who’s ever done that and made my day, or anyone who’s more of a silent type but who read something I’d written from start to finish, thank you/merci/grazie/tack/danke schön. My appreciation is like, THIS big (obviously you can’t see me right now, but I’m stretching my arms out extra wide).
Sorry for the cheese. I just wanted my 5th anniversary/birthday to come with a heartfelt speech, as all milestone celebrations should. Now it’s out of my system, I can tell you how I plan on marking this event, a month overdue. Today’s post will be the first of five to look back on all the contests I have witnessed as a blogger, from Oslo 2010 to Copenhagen 2014. I wanted to pick out some of the bests and worsts during this period that have made it memorable, and not just in terms of music.
I’m beginning in a pretty predictable place, but as I’ve only established my top 10 ESC entries of all time, not from a particular span of time, I figured it would be interesting for me and for you (anyone not interested wouldn’t be reading this, right?) if I sussed out which entries of the Years EBJ I really love most. So I did. Yeaahh.
These are my top 10 Eurovision songs that were selected and sent in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014. While you check them out, I’ll be deliberating over whetheror not to go all the way down Pathetic Street and bake myself a party cake (which I wouldn’t be doing with the help of Aarzemnieki since they’ve got like, NO clue at all). Enjoy?!?
#10 | I know that if the sky would fall, I’d survive it all, because of you…
You by Robin Stjernberg (Sweden 2013)
Melodifestivalen, my most beloved national final in the land, was pretty rubbish last year. Understandably rubbish – after all, hosts Sweden had no desire to win on home soil. I’m betting all they wanted was not to be embarrassed in front of millions of people. There were two or three (five at a push) entries in Melfest ’13 that would have granted them that wish, and underdog Robin’s You was one of them. I love this song because it’s a different and interesting pop song, plus a perfect platform to show off Mr. Stjernberg’s epic range. It has an authenticity to it that the more relaxed attitude towards host entries gives, and while that didn’t catapult it to success, it gave Sweden a respectable enough placing sans embarrassment.
#9 | Nije ljubav stvar, da bih ti je vratio…
Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (Serbia 2012)
The day that Željko – the man behind my all-time ESC favourite Lane Moje – was announced as Serbia’s representative for Baku was one of the happiest I can remember (sad, I know). It was always going to be difficult for him to meet the standard he’d set on multiple past occasions with his second entry as artist/composer, and I have to admit, Lane Moje reigned supreme. But Nije Ljubav Stvar is a stunner of a Balkan ballad (a genre I am partial to) that puts as much emphasis on instrumentation as it does on lyrics, and slow-burns to an impressive crescendo. It is as mysteriously beautiful as everything ZJ produces. How about getting Serbia back in the game for show #60, my man?
#8 | Între soare si ploi se nasc mii di culori, dar noi vedem doar nori…
O Mie by Aliona Moon (Moldova 2013)
As much as I mourned the loss of the line ‘The Maya were not so wrong, it’s the end of the world…’ the Romanian version of this entry is lovely (and far less questionable, grammar-wise). Even if it was in Klingon I would love it. Who would have guessed that Pasha Parfeny of the trumpets and leather aprons could compose such an elegant, classy and ultimately explosive – in a good way – ballad? Not to mention appear onstage with Aliona and resist the temptation to do any ridiculous dancing. Props to you, Pasha.
#7 | I don’t know where to run from reality…
Love In Rewind by Dino Merlin (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2011)
Here’s another man from the Balkans who impressed me once at Eurovision prior to doing it again years later. A younger, partnered-up Dino who was yet to discover the joys of a tartan jacket performed Putnici in Jerusalem, which I’ve always found intriguing (Balkan artists do mystery better than Agatha Christie). It wasn’t a ‘typical’ ESC song, and neither was Love In Rewind, which Dino brought to the table in Düsseldorf. It’s not an easy song to describe, but I can pick out the elements that made me fall in love with it – for example, its charm, ethnicity, bouncy tempo and all-round infectiousness. The only unfortunate thing is I suspect the success of a man on the wrong side of young and fresh might have given the BBC the idea of recruiting Engelbert.
#6 | Undo my sad, undo what hurts so bad…
Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden 2014)
Yeah, this is happening. Accept it. My love for Queen Sanna should have been apparent to y’all way before this point, so I’m sure you won’t mind my gushing just a teensy bit more re: Undo. The fact that I was invested in this woman before she even cropped up for stab seven in Melfest, flipped out when she won and cried when she debuted in the first semi in Copenhagen = a slight bias, but I genuinely believe Undo is her best effort to get to Eurovision – and hey, it worked! While some call it clinical and cliché, the tinkling piano, electronic influences and Sanna’s crystal-clear vocal gets me every time. And despite my role as a senior sergeant in the Grammar Police, I will be using ‘undo my sad’ as a legitimate phrase on a regular basis.
#5 | Che da sempre sei per me l’essenziale…
L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)
I throw the word ‘catchy’ around a lot when describing songs I like, because it’s a heavily-weighted piece of criteria for me. I don’t often get all deep and meaningful with ‘emotional connections’ and stuff like that. However, I get the big-time feels from the (probably unreliable internet) translation of this classy Italian number. Italy has put forward four very different but equally worthy entries since they made their big comeback, but this is the one I’ve loved most because not only is it catchy (in a down-tempo, arm-waving kinda way) but I connect with it on that emotional level. #obscureyetcheesy.
#4 | I’m done tipping on my toes…
This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)
You don’t need a magnifying glass to see why this didn’t qualify based on the performance – and yet, I still weep a little inside whenever I think about it (while wearing my Anna-brand party dress and Converse in a poor imitation). I LOVE this song. Lyrically, it makes no sense, but it just sounds so pretty, and Anna’s voice has a huskiness to it that makes it rough around the edges – a.k.a. less cookie-cutter than some other Swedish entries. I can see why so many people thought it had a winning chance.
#3 | Ne jednom, ne dvaput, tri puta me…
Ovo Je Balkan by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)
I feel like this should be a guilty pleasure, but at the same time I’m not embarrassed to proclaim my love to the world (my 2010 crush on Milan and his ridiculous haircut, however, MUST stay between you and me). How could anyone resist those trumpets and Balkan Balkan Balkans? NOT ME!! Everything about this is fun and loud and effortlessly ethnic…in fact, it really speaks for itself.
#2 | Mert nekem nincs most más, csak a kedvesem, az én kedvesem…
Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix) by ByeAlex (Hungary 2013)
Hungary is fast becoming one of my favourite competitors, and a country I’m watching based on suspicions that a Eurovision in Budapest ain’t too far away. Since they joined Italy in making a 2011 comeback, it’s been bam after bam after bam (the bams of course representing quality entries) and for me, nothing bammed more than last year’s Kedvesem. It packs a quiet punch, but the extra impact given by the Zoohacker remix – as beautiful as ByeAlex’s original version is – is undeniable. It was love at first listen for me and this unique masterpiece.
#1 | Sa kuula, ka südamel on hääl…
Kuula by Ott Lepland (Estonia 2012)
I didn’t know quite how enamoured I was with this until I couldn’t rank anything above it – at least, nothing from 2010 onwards. And before you say it, no, my judgment has not been clouded by my unconditional, unwavering and as yet unrequited love for Ott (believe me, one of these days you will be calling me Mrs. Lepland). To some, Kuula is dull, but to me, it’s a stunner that shows off both Ott’s epic vocal capabilities and the beauty of the Estonian language. I love that it ends where it begins: softly, having built up to a crescendo in-between. Just…sigh.
So now you know which songs have made me the happiest kind of fan since EBJ got off the ground, whether you wanted to or not (mwahahaha). As your birthday gift, try not to object to my taste too aggressively when you tell me your top songs from recent history down below.
The next post in my 5th anniversary series will naturally cover the entries that make me want to rip my ears off, or at least plug them up with whatever’s lying around, so look out for that. I promise the gaps between postings will become less mahusive from now on.
Thanks again for being here, whether you’ve stuck by me for years or you’re a newbie who’s yet to realise what you’ve got yourself in for. Viva la ESC ramblings!
Until next time…
I hope you guys like bargains, because today you’re getting two top 10 lists for the price of one. Woohoo?!
Here’s the deal: in my last post – a hilarious (cough) recap of Eurovision 2013 – I promised the next one would be a countdown of my favourite moments from Malmö, expanding on those I included in the recap. Unfortunately, I’ve been forced to semi-break that promise and squish that top 10 into another top 10 due to the general chaos of life at the moment, and also my warped idea of how much I could cram into the few weeks that remain before Copenhagen kicks off.
So, firstly, in condensed form, here are my top 10 moments* of the contest that was:
*“Moments” in this instance refers to anything from actual, brief moments to long, drawn-out moments i.e. entire performances. I’m not so strict with the definitions on this blog.
#10/ The Kedvesem clapalong – It wasn’t the easiest song to sing along to, so the audience in the Malmö Arena showed their appreciation for Hungary’s entry in a different way. Just the fact that they had that appreciation made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
#9/ Moldova’s magnificent money note – Pastora Soler left big stilettos to fill, and while Aliona didn’t totally fill them in terms of length, she certainly did in impact. How that voice can emerge from such a delicate person I will never know.
#8/ One hell of an Urban Orchestra – The second semi final saw a troupe of dancers transformed into human instruments, followed rather randomly by BMX stunts. Things don’t have to make sense to be awesome (which you have to accept if you’re a Eurovision fan).
#7/ Petra’s trip into Eurovision past – Ms. Mede proved herself up there with the Ankes of the hosting world by venturing into ESC history. She lost her patience with Udo Jürgens and accused Linda Martin of being Johnny Logan’s drag persona, and it was brilliant.
#6/ Astronauts and cyborgs and overall epicness…oh my! – Who See’s performance for Montenegro was a huge highlight for me, because it was executed with excellence that I didn’t expect. The boys were entertaining and Nina was fierce and vocally on her game.
#5/ Carola’s fall from grace – During the completely wonderful ‘Swedish Smörgåsbord’ interval act, the legendary ESC champ Carola opened her mouth to bust out Fångad Av En Stormvind, only to be swept off the satellite stage by a stormwind of the machine variety. This was 100% unscripted, of course.
#4/ Azerbaijan’s glass case of emotion – Virtual high five for the Anchorman reference *smack*! Farid’s glass box was one of the best props/staging concepts of recent memory, IMO. Put that on stage with Jemini and Cry Baby could have come top 5 easily.
#3/ A parade of pop stars – The artist parade is something usually reserved for Junior Eurovision, and I’ve always loved it there. Incorporating one into the adult comp was a nice move on SVT’s part, and I hope we see it again in the future.
#2/ Roberto Bellarosa jumps for joy – This really was a moment. A short but very sweet moment, in which Belgium’s boy wonder sang his last note, then proceeded to do this, which was EVERYTHING.
#1/ A Swedish dream team – I have to bestow the honour of Moment Numero Uno on the interval act of Darin and Agnes, and you’ll know why if you’ve been reading me for a while. It’s because it was my dream come true. I love Agnes, but Darin is my absolute favourite male artist on the planet, and he made it to Eurovision. Technically.
Sorry to rush through that without any build-up or suspense, but up next I have the main top 10 for today’s post, which is full of both of those things. It’s been over a year since all the songs were locked in for the 2013 contest, and between then and now, my rankings of those songs have changed many, many, many…*ten minutes later* many times. But as I haven’t actually sat down and figured out just how much in ages, I figured now would be an interesting time to do so.
I’m not going to go through the entire Class of Malmö here and now; instead, I’m going to hand out some very belated points to my newfound top 10 – my current favourite entries from the contest just past. Have your own votes at the ready and let me know where they would go if you could distribute them today.
Here are the results of Jaz’s mental vote:
1 point goes to…
Greece with Alcohol Is Free by Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis
You can’t help loving this song, even as time goes on and you become aware that the alcohol is in fact NOT free – and downright expensive if you’re in Scandinavia. It’s an effortless ethnic party for three minutes, kilts and moustaches included, and appeals to me much more than the cliché Paparizou rip-offs that Greece has been guilty of sending in the past.
2 points go to…
Azerbaijan with Hold Me by Farid Mammadov
I didn’t like this much at first. It was doing so well with the bookies, and I was just thinking three letters: W, T and F. But – and this has nothing to do with the awesome stage presentation – I’ve come around. This is a ballad with a lot of impact, in and outside of the choruses. It’s a great addition to my personal Shower Karaoke Collection (the shower is my personal glass box, after all).
3 points go to…
Israel with Rak Bishvilo by Moran Mazor
Damn, there were some good ballads last year! Rak Bishvilo was one of the most dramatic ones, with this intensity to it that builds and builds until Moran’s epic crystal-shattering note, well, shatters some serious crystal. It is repetitive, but when the melody is so lovely, it doesn’t matter much.
4 points go to…
Sweden with You by Robin Stjernberg
Yep, I still love me some Robin. The ESC’s most recent host entry went from being my favourite in Melodifestivalen to one of my top songs before, during and after the main event, and it’s still up there despite a few other songs developing an edge recently. I see You as an atypical Swedish entry and quite a unique song in general, which I really appreciate.
5 points go to…
Montenegro with Igranka by Who See
The reason I was so worried about this live was because it’s so awesome in studio, as a song by itself. I’m not a huge fan of dubstep, but it’s a genre that’s still refreshing to see in Eurovision, and it made for an über cool contribution from Montenegro. It is divisive, which probably explains its failure to qualify in Malmö, but I’m definitely someone who loves it rather than hates it.
6 points go to…
Ukraine with Gravity by Zlata Ognevich
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be “going” to Denmark for Eurovision 2014. But as someone who never felt anything much for Only Teardrops, a part of me wishes we were going to Ukraine. Gravity would have made an excellent winner, being so majestic and soaring and reminding me that I should watch The Lion King again. I’m basically still as impressed by it as I was a year ago.
7 points go to…
Moldova with O Mie by Aliona Moon
Oh look, it’s another ballad. This one shares many similarities with Israel’s – it’s a little repetitive but still stunning, not in English which makes it all the more magical, and demands a lot from the lung capacity of the singer. It gets more points from me because…well, I don’t know. Melodically speaking, I guess it just appeals to my ear more. PS – My mother also likes this a lot.
8 points go to…
Norway with I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger
This was the edgiest and one of the most current entries of the year, and had lyrics that we all enjoyed musing over the possibly saucy subtext of (‘I have the future on my tongue’…hello!). Some people didn’t enjoy the backing track of grinding metal, but I loved that too. All in all, it’s intense, catchy and unique, and a side of Norway that I want to see more of in the future.
10 points go to…
Hungary with Kedvesem by ByeAlex
I fell in love with this song from the first time I heard it, shortly after it won A Dal kind of unexpectedly. I’ve been raving on about it a lot recently, what with the Malmö nostalgia everywhere at the moment, and I’m not stopping now, because it is that awesome. The original, non-Zoohacker version is the ultimate in beautiful simplicity, but the remix gives the song the bit of pep required to elevate it even higher in my opinion. Plus, Hungarian is one of my favourite musical languages and it sounds particularly lovely in this instance.
And finally, 12 points go to…
Italy with L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni
I haven’t changed my mind on Italy much since they chose their last entry. I still think this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard (for real) and that Marco is one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen (also for real, and irrelevant). It’s a ballad with integrity; one with real meaning to it, which I feel every time I listen to it despite sometimes forgetting the literal English translation. Marco’s performance at Eurovision wasn’t completely spellbinding – I’m not sure he’s capable of taking anything totally seriously – but the song is so magic it didn’t matter. And he’s so delicious I can forgive him.
And with the douze doled out, let’s recap.
Those are my most-loved songs of Eurovision 2013, and it wasn’t all that hard to separate them from the rest. I guess time, in addition to healing all wounds and going by so slowly, also makes you surer of what you like.
You know what comes next, right?
Hit me up, peeps – what’s your 2013 top 10, a year after the show?
NEXT TIME: Just when you thought it was time to move on from NF season, think again! I’m about to reveal the best could-have-beens of the 2014 season. That’s as far as I’m concerned, of course. #JoinUs #JoinMe and see if we have any in common.
Yes, you read that title correctly. It has been just over two months since the final of Eurovision 2013, and that means it’s also been two months since my hopes of having an unexpected winner were destroyed by a girl with bed hair and bare feet, and two months since we were all plunged into a deep depression at the over-ness of it all. What with that anniversary and the revised dates of the 2014 contest, there isn’t a mahusive wait until Copenhagen/miscellaneous Danish city attempts to outdo the pared-back but still impressive spectacle put on by Sweden in May. So…yay!!
Two months, or eight weeks as I like to call it on special occasions, is a time period in which opinions can change drastically, as I discovered when I decided to redo my top 39 recently. Up until then, I’d only done it once, and to be accurate that was a little while before Eurovision. All this time later, I was über curious to see how extra listens and seeing the performances had changed my rankings, and the outcome was so shocking and astounding that I felt compelled to show it to y’all. So here is my revised top 39 for 2013, complete with explanations of the most WTF shifts in opinion. Keep in mind as you read it that I may have been exaggerating when I used the words ‘shocking’ and ‘astounding’, and let me know below which entries have shot up or come crashing down in your eyes (or ears).
My new and improved top ten
- Italy (+4) – I’m still head-over-heels in l’amore with this, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s easily my favourite of the three entries Italy has sent since their comeback, and if they want to impress me next year they should start preparing yesterday. Considering they don’t seem that bothered about impressing at Eurovision (but manage to anyway) they’ll probably wait a while longer.
- Hungary (+1)
- Moldova (+4)
- Sweden (-3)
- Germany (-3)
- Montenegro (+25) – Yep, you could say Igranka made a substantial leap upwards in my rankings. You know, ‘cause it did. I had high hopes for it on description alone, only to hear it and think ‘What The Fudge?’. But a few listens later (away from the raunchy music video), I got it, and now I want to be taken to the party. I can’t promise I’ll dress up as an astronaut, though.
- Norway (-1)
- Ukraine (-4)
- Ireland (+6)
- Azerbaijan (+27) – Another extra-large jump was made by The Land That Brought Us Running Scared, Shudder Shudder. I won’t deny it: the man in the box and all that jazz played a part in changing my mind about the song. That presentation took Hold Me to another level, and when I listened to it after the event, I was still feeling positive.
- Belgium (-3)
- Serbia (-1)
- Israel (+8)
- Lithuania (-4)
- Greece (+14) – I must have been in a bad place when Koza Mostra were chosen to go to Malmö. A place where it’s impossible to see how fun-derful they are. Now I see them as musos that embody Greece at their best; that is, their best when they don’t have a fierce female in a super-short dress performing an up-tempo ethnopop song representing them. Alcohol Is Free is off-the-wall, very Greek and more complex than you’d think (hint: it ain’t all about free alcohol).
- Croatia (+19)
- Albania (-3)
- United Kingdom (-6)
- Macedonia (-10)
- Russia (+18) – You don’t have to hate me for this, because I’m hating myself enough for all of us. I still despise the lyrics in all their OTT, clichéd grossness, but the melody got to me in the end. Dina also sold the sentiment quite well on stage, which made it feel slightly less forced. She has a great voice (in fact, she’s THE voice in Russia) so let’s hope it’s put to less nauseating use in the future.
- Romania (+4)
- Estonia (-3)
- Georgia (+7)
- San Marino (+8)
- Slovenia (+8)
- Spain (-6) – I still feel more or less the same about this as I did two months ago, and the only reason it’s gone down in my rankings is because a bunch of other songs have gone up. It’s a sweet little ditty (BRB, just got to give my grandmother her terminology back) and it works better purely as a listening song, not as a competition song, so 26/39 is in no way a slap in ESDM’s collective face from me.
- Netherlands (+7)
- Denmark (-4)
- Switzerland (-12)
- Malta (-4)
- Armenia (+5)
- France (-19) – I still have a sneaking regard for this, as a lover of the retro style and French language (don’t you just love that ‘toxique’?) but again, it was sent packing to the lower end of my 39 by all the entries that I suddenly became enamoured with. Having said that, it isn’t something I’ll have on repeat.
- Iceland (-17)
- Austria (-16)
My (un)lucky lasts
- Latvia (-7)
- Finland (-14)
- Bulgaria (-10)
- Belarus (-15) – Solayoh has finally begun to grate on me, and with the excitement of Eurovision over, I’m recalling how much I hate the way the Belarusian selection panned out. It was a pretty pointless exercise, and THEN somebody decided to go back in time and nab a Helena Paparizou B-side to make up for it. FYI, it didn’t. As of now, I’m officially back to missing Rhythm of Love.
As usual, at this point, there isn’t a single entry I could claim to hate. Sure, I’m disliking Solayoh at the moment, but if it were a person I wouldn’t want to strangle them with a feather boa – I’d probably just shake my fist in their general direction. Cyprus, the only song that didn’t shift positions in my rankings between May and now, is only at the bottom because it sends me to sleep. But who knows what will happen after another few months have gone by. You may see Cyprus and Belarus catfighting for my #1 position.
Hashtag AS IF.
How’s your top 39 looking now compared to way back when? Which entries have grown on you the most and which ones have begun to get a little…*yawn*…tired?
Hello there. Long time, no new Eurovision rambling from yours truly. Well, it’s been just over a week, but in blog time that’s an eternity, so I apologise to anyone who cares. I do this, as Krista ‘Ding Dong’ Seigfrids would say, for you-ah, for you-ah, for you, yeah, I do it for youuuuu. Or as Robin ‘I won Melfest?’ Stjernberg would say, for you-ooh-ooh-oohoohooh-oh-ohhhhhh.
OH DEAR GOD, SOMEBODY STOP ME!
Thanks. So, today it’s finally time for me to hand out the first of my awards for the best and worst of all things Eurovision 2013. I realise it’s a bit odd to say they’re for excellence and still rate the bad stuff (costumes etc) but if you think about it, one of the artists who did badly in some way was the most excellent at doing badly in that way. I’m just trying to figure out which one.
Part 1 is devoted to the best and worst of this year’s artists and songs – from the most attractive performers (’cause I’m shallow like that) to the biggest personalities, most unoriginal entries and more. Let the ceremony begin! Oh, and let me know who your winners would be down below. Mine are highlighted in bold.
Ilias Kozas (Koza Mostra)
Jonas Gygax (Takasa)
He may belong in an insane asylum (judging from his behaviour during interviews and the now infamous ‘crotch readjustment’ incident of the jury final) but Marco Mengoni, the San Remo-winning Italian stallion, is also insanely attractive – and when you’re objectifying people by handing out “trophies” to the best-looking, that’s what counts. He can fly to Australia and act like a total space cadet in my company any time.
Natalie Horler (Cascada)
Nevena Božović (Moje 3)
If you’re a female and you’ve never secretly hoped that Zlata has bad breath or a problem with flatulence, because NOBODY can be as beautiful and talented and generally perfect as she is, then you’re a better person than I am. I’ll push my jealousy to one side for a second to say this: she is a stunner. If she and Marco Mengoni ever had a love child (never gonna happen, back off Ognevich etc etc) it would be ridiculously gorgeous. Or alternatively, hideous because two lots of super-hot genes coming together might cancel out the attractiveness.
Gor Sujyan (Dorians)
This was a tough category, what with 2013 being a year full of animated brows, all jostling for our attention. But the hypnotic quality of Andrius’ pair secures him the disco ball. I’m pretty sure he got into the final by using them to put the jury members and TV viewers into a trance, during which time they were compelled to vote Lithuania. That weird trip-effect halfway through the performance was just a distraction.
Ralfs Eilands (PeR)
Perhaps I’m biased because I love Robin to pieces (‘Pieces’ coincidentally being the title of his new album, to be released on June 26th, hashtag shameless plug) but I reckon he was the nicest guy to set foot on Malmö soil during Eurovision week. His priceless reaction of shock at winning Melodifestivalen carried through to the big show, as he was constantly thrilled and amazed just to be there. He was charming with all 468, 952 members of the press he had to speak to (so I hear), taught Australian commentator Sam Pang how to wrestle, and went out of his way (literally; he ran in the wrong direction) to greet fans at the opening party. What a top bloke.
Natalie Horler (Cascada)
Sara Jovanović (Moje 3)
Okay, so Krista and her entourage/bridal party may have been a bit loud at times, and prone to disturbing the relative peace of artist interviews-in-progress…but underneath that noise was someone genuinely excited to be representing her country and someone who wants to make friends with everyone she comes into contact with. Despite her negative result in the final, I’ll bet she and her team spent the plane trip home ding-donging up and down the aisles.
In this case, it’s ‘Born EntertainerS’. I’m not including Agathonas as one of the said entertainers, despite how much I love his moustache fondling. It’s just that Koza Mostra, as a fivesome, kind of outshine him in the energetic, crowd-revving, kilt-wearing stakes. I reckon you could hire these guys to perform at a party specifically for people who are bored by everything, and within ten seconds those people would be dancing on tabletops with various items of clothing tied around their foreheads.
Alyona Lanskaya (the two-time NF winner who finally made it)
Birgit (expecting on the ESC stage)
Elitsa & Stoyan (return of the drum-tastic Bulgarians)
Gianluca Bezzina (the singing doctor)
Moran Mazor (chic geek)
Valentina Monetta (from social networks to sophistication)
Miss Monetta takes out this award, and not just because she came straight back to the contest without even a coffee break in between. It’s because she went from ‘inappropriately dressed thirty-something forced to gyrate around singing about cybersex and googling, giggling, gaggling (whatever that is)’ to ‘mature, talented chanteuse with excellent Italian ballad-cum-disco-number and adequately floaty outfit.’ We all wondered whether the Social Network stigma would ruin her second chance, or if she’d be able to shake it off; though she didn’t manage to make the final, I think she well and truly proved that Crisalide Valentina is the real Valentina.
Glorious (sounds like Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia)
L’Enfer Et Moi (sounds like Rolling In The Deep by ADELE)
Samo Shampioni (sounds like Water by Elitsa & Stoyan)
Solayoh (sounds like Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou)
Something (sounds like Mr. Brightside by the Killers)
Tomorrow (sounds like Hey Soul Sister by Train)
Last year’s Greek entry sounded at least five years old, and this year’s Belarusian entry, which was more or less a carbon copy, actually turned out to be five years old (read: stale as a bread crust left behind in the pantry for six months). As catchy as it is, it’s that lack of originality and dated-ness that makes me want to never hear the “word” ‘solayoh’ ever again. But my congratulations to Alyona’s songwriters (if they’re still alive…they did write it all those years ago) are sincere. You guys really deserve this award for creating a song so structurally and melodically similar to another one that hadn’t even been thought of at the time.
I Feed You My Love
A fanwank song is one that a big percentage of ESC lovers go crazy over, that may or may not have been written expressly to appeal to said lovers and that may or may not succeed in the contest itself. Waterfall was (and still is) a ballad stuffed with Eurovision-specific clichés, and had many people booking hotel rooms in Tbilisi for May 2014 before Eurovision week had even begun. Unfortunately for Georgia (and the people who’d booked in to a hotel with a no-refund policy) taking a chance on a fanwank didn’t pay off.
Contigo Hasta El Final
Et Uus Saaks Alguse
The first time I listened to Hold Me, I was all like ‘Errgh. Yawn. But dammit, Azerbaijan is going to win again with another average song!’ Then a few months went by, and the contest rolled around and the guy in the box happened…and I suddenly became one of the people who wouldn’t have minded if Farid had won, excepting the fact that going back to Baku so soon would have been a tad same-same. As annoying as it is, I love this song as of now. Can we go back to 2011 and make it win in place of Running Scared?
Besides Birds, L’Essenziale was the only subtle, lyrical ballad in the above sea of big, brash belters. That’s not why it’s my personal ballad of 2013 – I love an in-your-face ballad as much as the next person (assuming that next person is a fan of them). I just think it’s beautiful in its simplicity. But it is also lyrically and musically on a different level to most of the others, and I really appreciate that. Are those empty words coming from someone whose main requirement for a good song is catchiness? Maybe. But non mi importa.
Contigo Hasta El Final
Pred Da Se Razdeni
Sadly, the ethno-pop of this year was hard to find, and you could argue that some of the above don’t technically fit into the category. Namely my winner, which is ethno-rock if you want to be picky. You don’t? Great, I’ll carry on then. Identitet is the kind of rock song that appeals to people who aren’t usually rock fans, much like the Turkish rock from Mor ve Ötesi and MaNga (who are responsible for two of my favourite Eurovision songs like, ever). There’s something about it – the melody, those tinges of ethnicity perhaps – that I really like. It’s more instant than Contigo Hasta and more cohesive than Pred Da Se Razdeni, the two songs that I’d name as runner-ups.
Alcohol Is Free
Only Love Survives
Straight Into Love
IMO, Cascada gave us the Macarena of Year Malmö – the up-tempo track that more or less prizes you out of your seat and marches you over to the nearest open space so you can give in to the overwhelming desire you have to shake your thing. Sure, you might not be able to do so at the top of a staircase with a wind machine at your beck and call, but whatever. As Lady Gaga so wisely once said, ‘just dance’. You know you want to.
Ukraine threw everything, and I mean everything, at their music video this year, which is so unlike them (ha ha ha). There were CGI unicorns, butterflies, flowers that gave birth to Zlatas, diamonds falling from the sky (not a good thing unless you have a reinforced steel umbrella)…and that’s just to name a few. But the OTT was OMG. The ‘all or nothing’ attitude Ukraine has with regard to Eurovision paid off this time. I’m only disappointed that they didn’t utilise hologram technology to get a unicorn on stage.
Well, that concludes this half of the 2013 EBJAEEs. I hope you enjoyed yourself. If you did, you may want to come back in a few days for the final instalment, which will be commending the yays and nays of the performances, costumes and results from Malmö. Plus, you can find out if your favourite won the People’s Choice Award for All-Rounder of the Year. You wouldn’t want to miss that! I’ll save you a front-row seat, shall I?
In the meantime…
Did I make the right decisions? Who/what would you hand these trophies to?
Happy Friday, ladies and gents! You may have noticed that I’ve redecorated EBJ since your last visit. I’m now officially Sweden-ised, feeling festive and ready to paarrtaaaay *insert visualisations of streamers flying every which way here*. And it’s about time too – it is May, a.k.a. Eurovision Month, and this IS the second episode of my Malmö Reviews. Gee whiz.
So now’s the time to prepare yourself for my verdicts on Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel AND Italy (#outofbreath) because here they are. Oh, and stay tuned to see my rankings of these entries (and to show me yours).
Et Uus Saaks Alguse by Birgit Õigemeel
IMO: We can debate until the cows come home about Estonia choosing Birgit The Safe Option over the scary hairy dudes and the amazing Grete Paia, but the reality is, Birgit is the one going to Malmö, and she’s taking her diet Kuula with her. Diet Kuula? Geddit? Not so much? Well, my point is that it’s another year and we have another Estonian ballad – but unlike last year’s, which was mesmerising in so many ways (and had a lot of drama and power) this one’s kind of bland. I’ll put it this way: Kuula was, to me, all 31 of Baskin-Robbins’ ice-cream flavours combined in one sundae, with lashings of hot fudge sauce and sprinkles. Et Uus is 97% fat-free vanilla frozen yoghurt. Having said all of that and convincing you that I detest Birgit’s ballad, I actually don’t. It’s pleasant, and I enjoy listening to it. But that’s all. It’s three minutes of niceness, with no real hook or crescendo.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
Marry Me by Krista Siegfrids
IMO: I did not like this song when I first heard a snippet via a recap of all the UMK finalists. Then I heard the full version after it won, and fell in love with it (I probably would have married Krista at that point). THEN, it started to get on my nerves a little bit. So where am I now? Somewhere in-between enjoying it, and being annoyed by it, that’s where. As much as I loved the Finnish entry last year, it’s nice to have something as brash and fun from Finland as När Jag Blundar was sweet and subdued. Everything about this is loud, from the punchy chorus to the bridal party’s outfits, and I’m glad for that. What would be the point in toning down an entry like this, one that could pass as a Katy Perry B-side? It’s not the OTT-ness that irritates me; in fact, I can’t put my finger on exactly what is responsible for that (Krista’s constant demand for me to put a ring on it, perhaps). But I guess I can settle for a love-hate relationship with Marry Me. That should prepare me for a real marriage, right?
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
L’enfer Et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois
IMO: Can I picture Amandine performing this in a smoky, slightly sleazy underground club in Paris, wearing a feather boa and not much else? Oui oui. It is trés French, or at least very stereotypically French – classy, chic, a little bit retro and a little bit seedy. This is just the kind of thing that, besides the Harlem Shake and dance anthems that all sound exactly the same, the global music charts are full of right now, in the wake of the aforementioned Adele. I’m not the biggest fan of this style of music myself, but this particular song has its charms. The French language has never sounded better for starters, and despite the slow tempo, it uses the three minutes well to build into something interesting. All in all, it’s better than what I was expecting, and it’s more instant than Anggun’s entry last year. But it’s not right up there with the best of 2013 pour moi . PS – apologies for all the primary school French I crammed into this paragraph.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Waterfall by Sophie & Nodi
IMO: I’d never tried Georgian cheese before this, and now I have I can say that it’s not too bad. Certainly not as overpowering as Russian cheese, if you know what I mean. Waterfall (the cheese in question) is another cliché-ridden ballad from reigning ESC champ Thomas G:son, with lyrics you can see coming from a continent away even with a Donny Montell-brand blindfold on. It seems to have been written expressly for suckers who can’t help feeling buoyed by that chorus, and that money note, even though they know full well the whole thing is contrived and unoriginal. Suckers like me. But with the inevitable floaty dress for Sophie, well-timed pyrotechnics and flawless vocals the duo will provide (I’m thinking it must be illegal in Georgia to be a bad singer) the other ballads better watch out. Some say this could be a dark horse to win, and as someone who’d love to witness a Georgian Eurovision, I could come to terms with that.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Glorious by Cascada
IMO: The German national final was über strong this year, but it was always going to be Cascada’s to lose. I’m glad they didn’t, because they were the best pick for another Eurovision success for Germany. Glorious is straight-up dance, which is what Cascada is known for, and it is genuinely glorious (lacking the irony of one of their previous hits Evacuate The Dancefloor, which was clearly constructed to ensure the dancefloor would be packed) if familiar, what with the Euphoria plagiarism claims and all. But that’s just dance music. This is just the kind of infectious number that will lift the roof off Malmö Arena in a way no other entry of 2013 can, so I hope Natalie and her DJs are prepared to pay for damages. I also hope Glorious doesn’t bomb against the odds. It’s having a hard time contesting Denmark and Ukraine and the like as a favourite to win, but if all goes according to plan it should hit the highs of the top 10, which is nothing to be sneezed at. Side note: can someone please come to my house and surgically remove the German flag from my hand when the final is over? I’m gonna be gripping that real tight.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!
Alcohol Is Free by Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis
IMO: Greece, Greece, Greece – you’ve done it again. This country can barely afford to post a letter to Malmö, let alone send a troupe of kilt-wearing rockers and Agathonas of the Impressive Moustache there direct. Yet that’s what they’re doing, and it will undoubtedly keep up their 100% qualification record. Alcohol Is Free is a breath of fresh air after the incredibly clichéd Aphrodisiac, and has a better shot at getting Greece back into the top 10. I’m not totally backing it, as there are plenty of entries I’d rather root for; however I do think it’s a lot of fun, and an up-tempo song that uses traditional instruments usually gets my tick of approval. It was a good idea to have the title in English, and then have that title make up the entire chorus. Even though alcohol isn’t free anywhere that I know of, 99% of us will be unable to resist chanting ‘alcohol, alcohol, alcohol is freeeeee’ in time with the guys. Scientific fact. The 1% that don’t will be unconscious from consuming too much “free” alcohol.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Kedvesem by ByeAlex
IMO: It could happen anytime, anywhere, with anything or anyone. You don’t know it’s going to until it does, and then BAM! You’re a goner. No, I’m not talking about being hit by a bus. I’m talking about falling in love, because I am officially head-over-heels for the Hungarian entry this year…and believe me, I did NOT see it coming. There’s something about this humble little song that gets me every time, and there’s nothing forced or sugary about it. I think Hungarian is beautiful and mysterious when set to music (especially if you don’t bother to Google a lyric translation) so that’s part of it. The extra punch given by the Zoohacker remix was much appreciated also. It’s an enigma, Kedvesem. I’m not 110% sure why I adore it, but I just do. They say you know when you know, and I know, so that’s enough! It’s just unfortunate that my favourite Hungarian entry since they rejoined the contest in 2011 is also the least likely to qualify. I wouldn’t care if it came last in the final. Just to see it get to Saturday night would be a major highlight. Make it happen, my European friends.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!
Ég á Líf by Eythor Ingi
IMO: This wasn’t the most exciting song Iceland could have chosen, but there is something special about it. It could be that Eythor chose to keep it in Icelandic, which is another mysterious musical language. Big ups for that, because the switch from Icelandic to English in recent years has been a huge mistake. It could also be that anthemic quality that gets me feeling all patriotic and emotional, Olympic medal ceremony-style. Who knows. The thing is, that something special doesn’t elevate this ballad to Yohanna status, although the overall appearance is similar (it’s the hair). What could lift it is a superb stage show, with emphasis on lighting and background. I wouldn’t mind the Aurora Borealis being brought back for another spin either.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan
IMO: How sweet it is to have our first Jedward-free year out of three! This post-twin effort from Ireland blows their 2012 entry out of the water (line) as far as I’m concerned. For one thing, it’s not some random song that was offered to and rejected by a bunch of artists before eventually being picked up for Eurovision. It is a slickly produced dance track co-written by Mr. Dolan himself and complex enough to avoid Euphoria comparisons. I’m really loving it, and I expect the stage show to appeal to me just as much. What could ruin Ryan’s chances is his vocal unreliability. I actually haven’t been able to bring myself to watch a live performance of his, because I love the song so much and don’t want to mark it down because of a rubbish live vocal. Some have said he did fine at Eurovision in Concert, whilst others were less impressed, so I’m just going to give him the benefit of my own doubt until semi final 1. He’s sandwiched between two ballads, one of which is incredibly yawn-worthy, so he should stand out. I will be praying for Ireland to prove that they don’t need a pair of hyperactive siblings to get somewhere.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Rak Bishvilo by Moran Mazor
IMO: Now for someone who will have no trouble singing like a champ – the bespectacled, boob-baring Moran from Israel (whose specs and chest may distract from the vocal performance, but still). Her ballad is one of the better ones going to Malmö. It’s pretty but dramatic, and you can hear the emotion behind it. However (yes, there are however’s) it is quite repetitive – after what seems like the 300th ‘rak bishvilloooo’, it’s like, ‘it’s only for him, we get it!’. And it is lacking in wow factor, which sound-alike Milim did have. I think it’s almost great, a major improvement on last year’s song that I despised, but not Israel at their absolute best.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
L’essenziale by Marco Mengoni
IMO: I wonder if I can I complete this review without drawing attention to how insanely attractive Marco Mengoni is? Oops, instant fail. Oh well! I like his SanRemo-winning entry almost as much as I like looking at him. It reminds me a bit of Alessandro Casillo’s É Vero, which competed in SanRemo 2012 but was ineligible for ESC selection since Alessandro was only 15…which made me sad because I LOVED that song. So thank you Mr. Mengoni, for bringing some of that to the big show. L’essenziale in its own right is pure class (how unusual coming from Italy. Not.) and for me, one of the best ballads competing. The rawness of Marco’s voice gives authenticity to the emotion within, which should make for an honest and convincing performance, during which I will do my utmost to focus on the song instead of that beautiful, beautiful face. I’m not sure L’essenziale won’t get lost in the final, because it is a simpler, less instant song than most. But I hope it makes it to the left side of the scoreboard at least.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Ciao Italy, and hello rankings! This is how I rate these entries against each other:
- Hungary 12
- Germany 12
- Ireland 10
- Italy 10
- Greece 7
- Iceland 7
- France 7
- Georgia 7
- Finland 7
- Israel 6
- Estonia 6
Now you try?
What are your thoughts on my thoughts this time around? How do you rate the songs from Estonia to Italy?
NEXT TIME: You’ll never guess…more reviews! Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Romania and Russia better brace themselves, ’cause I’m about to get all judgmental on their bee-hinds.
Once upon a time, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom were known collectively in ESC Land as the Big 4, presumably because they were big and there was four of them. Actually, it was because they were European superpowers responsible in large part for keeping Eurovision going, and as such have been rewarded with automatic entry into the final since the year 2000…and because there was four of them.
Fast forward to 2011, when Italy joined the exclusive Big club after an extended vacation from the contest, taking the total up to five (and as we all know, all the best groups have five members. The Backstreet Boys, *N SYNC, the Spice Girls…need I say more?). But then include the ever-present host country in the final lineup, and you’ll find the current total is six. It’s the Big 6 of 2013 that I want to ramble on about today.
Confused? I’m with you. To make myself clearer to you and to myself, what I mean is:
For the purposes of this post, I’m officially declaring the host country one of the Big countries, despite the fact that as always, they’ll be relegated back to semi-final status next year (unless they win again. It could happen, guys). Also, for the purposes of not driving you insane with this wordy intro, I’m just going to start the main event of rambling now. You’ll get the idea.
Thoughts on the final six
For me personally, the automatic finalists have been slowly but surely lifting their game over the last few years, and I think again in 2013 we have a strong group for the semi-final qualifiers to compete with. In alphabetical order (my favourite kind) they are:
France (L’enfer Et Moi) – I was expecting some maudlin, depressing, obscure ballad from France from the second the song title was announced, but as it turns out, that’s what we got from the Netherlands instead. I’m so pleased this is more in the retro vein of L’amore é Femmina. It’s catchy but sophisticated, and doesn’t make me want to jump off a cliff in the slightest.
Germany (Glorious) – Been there, said that about this one. But I’m all too happy to say it again: bravo, Deutschland, bravo. This country is going from strength to strength, and made a clever choice in picking a song that’s great in studio, but goes off like nobody’s business in a live, arena setting. What could be more perfect for Eurovision than that?
Italy (L’essenziale) – I feel I should say bravo to the Italians as well, especially since it’s an Italian word. I was hoping Marco’s Sanremo winner would be the one to go to Malmö, but after what happened last year, I didn’t want to assume. But it is! Yay, etc. Say what you will about Italy, you can’t deny that they always stay classy, and for me this classy ballad is one of the best on offer.
Spain (Contigo Hasta El Final) – This was initially, and still is, the weakest of the six IMO. However (before those of you on Team ESDM start cramming as many expletives into the comment box as possible) it’s grown on me a lot since my first listen. I’m finding the chorus quite sing-along-able now, and I do like the way things keep changing.
Sweden (You) – Again, I think you’ll all know how I feel about this here host entry. How do you say ‘it’s the bomb’ in Swedish?
UK (Believe In Me) – I still think this is headed the way of Humperdinck, but I’m much more into it that I was the Hump’s song. The country feel is actually endearing, and the verses are as strong as the choruses. If Bonnie’s voice holds out for the jury and live final, maybe she can get on to the left side of the scoreboard. Just maybe.
So if I were to rank these six, it would look something like this:
Really, there’s not much between the top or bottom three as far as I’m concerned. I’m actually impressed by this lot as a whole. But these are just my thoughts, which will probably translate in no way to the actual results. Speaking of which…
How will they do?
It ultimately comes down to the song/performance combo, how well or how badly these finalists do. Perhaps there’s a bit of the unfamiliarity factor in there to explain why they’ve had a hard time (the Big countries more so than the hosts). For the voters who don’t already know the songs, the semi-finalists get more of an opportunity to win them over. And maybe it’s a bit about when they perform in the running order. But despite all that, with a really good song and a good performance, anything is possible (just ask Lena).
Just for the heck of it, let’s have a looksee at how the Big countries have fared recently. Here are the results from 2007:
17. Finland (hosts)
6. Serbia (hosts)
Not so good, right? The host country did the best on both occasions. Now compare those to more recent results from 2011 and 2012 (including Italy).
10. Germany (hosts)
4. Azerbaijan (hosts)
Again, the host country did pretty well, as did the returnee Italy. France and the UK are the only Big countries to have missed out on a top 10 placing in the last few years, albeit narrowly (with Blue’s 11th in Düsseldorf and Jessy Matador’s 12th in Oslo).
If that trend continues this year, Amandine and Bonnie will be left out, but I think Spain will be pushed not to join them. I suspect that Germany, Italy and Sweden all have a good shot at making the top 10, with Germany being the only one I can see winning. If they did, that would make an incredible two wins in four years, as well as four top 10 placings in a row, for a country that struggled like crazy in the pre-Lena years just to get off the bottom of the scoreboard.
What do you think? Could this be a year when all of the finalists make the top 10? Or will their change in fortune come to an abrupt end in Malmö?
Holy sequined hotpants! It’s my first top 39!
As promised, and eagerly awaited by you, right?
Okay, you can stop laughing. Before I ask your opinion on the best of the Big 6, here’s how they fit in to the bigger picture, as of this second. Because I could change my mind at any moment.
- United Kingdom
- San Marino
How’s your personal top 10 looking right now?
POLL TIME: Take your pick…
To finish off this rather strange post, I’m dying to know:
Results will be published next week, and if you vote for the eventual favourite, you win absolutely nothing, because I am poor! But you can give yourself a good pat on the back.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time, when I may or may not be switching the EBJ spotlight onto one of the Big countries in particular. It’s going to be eccellente, signore e signori…
Hey there. Welcome to post #301, or the post in which I promise I won’t tell you what number post it is every time I write one (not until #400, anyway…mwahaha!).
As of today, we have all our entries for Malmö. Yay! The lucky last was Italy’s, which is unsurprising considering how much Italy loves to make Eurovision wait for everything as if they don’t care about it. I listened to Marco’s L’essenziale back when it won the Sanremo festival, not expecting it to be the eventual entry, but I’m happy with the choice. Whether or not it can outdo Raphael Gualazzi’s smooth jazz remains to be seen.
Now, with 39 of 39 songs chosen, there has been official preview videos emerging left, right and centre. Giving them a once-over, I couldn’t help being reminded of some I’ve seen in the past. I’m not talking about the music videos that turn out to be recorded performances from the national finals. I mean the actual, separate ones that display a little more effort than that. Sure, some of those are equally as boring – but others are pretty darn awesome. Here’s a list of my personal favourites from the last few years, including a few from 2013.
Unsubstantial Blues by Magdi Rúsza (Hungary 2007)
Here’s a tip: if you ever want to spice up an otherwise cliché music video, why not play it backwards? In this case, some clever clogs has already done it for you, but has fortunately left the music running in the right direction. Magdi-in-reverse is extremely angry with her boyfriend for no apparent reason, but decides to clean up her apartment in the manner of an Olympic discus champion before discovering that actually, she does have a reason to be cheesed off at the guy. The right way round, he’s a cheating so-and-so and she’s reacting perfectly normally. BEEN DONE. The rewind? Smart stuff.
Mamo by Anastasia Prikhodko (Russia 2009)
There’s no mama in this video that I can locate, but there are a lot of Anastasias, in bejeweled warrior-princess outfits Ruslana would be proud of. There’s also more elaborate settings, yards of chiffon and fancy digital effects than you can poke a rhinestone-encrusted microphone stand at. This is how to go OTT to your advantage.
Butterflies by 3+2 (Belarus 2010)
This is all fairly standard for the first few minutes. 3+2 are perched on a stage, performing with their backs to an empty house (?) and looking not at all flustered by the fact that their entry was changed approximately ten minutes earlier. Then, there’s the small matter of all five of them spontaneously combusting into bunches of butterflies, just at the right moment. Magic. I think we all wondered how they were going to recreate it live in Oslo, and even though they couldn’t quite manage it, they did an applause-worthy job with the girls’ remote-control evening gowns.
Playing With Fire by Paula Seling & Ovi (Romania 2010)
This is like Star Wars meets Die Hard meets God knows what else – and yes, Paula and Ovi do play with fire in it too (albeit briefly). Somehow, dancing cyborgs don’t look out of place in amongst the virtual game play, grand architecture and ridiculously tight catsuits. It’s a jumble of all sorts, but I like it.
Taken By A Stranger by Lena (Germany 2011)
I’m no expert, but I sensed high production values on this one from the get-go. It’s all dark and mysterious which is in keeping with the song, and it really emphasises Lena’s transition from awkward teenager dancing by herself in a room (a la Satellite) to slightly older femme fatale who smashes mirrors with no regard for the seven years of bad luck that will obviously come as consequence. I have to admit, that side of her in this video had me developing a teensy little girl crush.
Suus by Rona Nishliu (Albania 2012)
Here’s a video that seems to make no sense whatsoever, but since many would argue that neither does Suus (or Rona’s decision to adorn herself with one of her own dreadlocks in Baku) we should forgive it. I think she looks very elegant in what looks like an abandoned art gallery, with her fancy dress/box and a couple of kids drawing on the walls without getting into trouble (and that’s how we know it’s make-believe). The whole thing is very distinctive, just like her Eurovision performance.
La La Love by Ivi Adamou (Cyprus 2012)
I’m a little obsessed with fairytales – the book kind, as opposed to the Alexander Rybak kind – so I got a kick out of Cyprus’ inspiration for Ivi’s video last year. With such a current-sounding song they could have gone with an entirely different concept. But I think this worked, and so did Katy Perry’s people because they clearly stole the idea for her Wide Awake video (just kidding. Don’t sue/kill me). Ivi makes a great princess. You know, I reckon I may have a girl crush on her too. Then again, this video could have had her dressed in a garbage bag and miming from the bottom of a dumpster, and she’d still look stunning. Damn her.
Never Forget by Greta Salomé & Jónsi (Iceland 2012)
I have mentioned this video before, but I couldn’t have a list of the best MVs that didn’t include it. You know how they say it’s all about location, location, location? Well, they do. And this video is three majestic minutes of proof. If we were forced to watch a young Jónsi following a young Greta up and down the aisles of a 24/7 mini-mart, it wouldn’t be so amazing (in fact, it’d be crap). But with the snow, and the mountains, and the breathtaking Aurora Borealis…sigh. Take me there right now.
Ég á Líf by Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson (Iceland 2013)
There’s something about the Icelandic landscape that can make even the rudimentary filleting of a fish look glamorous, as it does in this other visual gem from the Land of Björk. It combines beautifully shot live-action footage of the golden-locked Eyþór being in a boat and stuff, with adorable animated sequences that are up for interpretation (it probably doesn’t help that I haven’t read an English translation of the lyrics). My thinking is he just wants someone to fish with. Don’t we all.
Gravity by Zlata Ognevich (Ukraine 2013)
Ukraine has thrown pretty much everything (including the kitchen sink) at their video this year – that is, if the kitchen sink is full of CGI unicorns. It’s a grand production that really needs to be watched with the song on mute, because if it isn’t, the bombardment of both becomes overwhelming. Still, I have to applaud those responsible for making a serious effort. And it does amuse me, the thought of Zlata standing in front of a green screen and pretending to fondle the muzzle of a fantastical creature.
What’s your favourite ESC music video, and why?