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AWESOME ESC ALMOSTS | My top 10 songs of the 2017 selection season

Just because national final season ended back in March doesn’t mean we should forget about it, right? After all, every year brings with it a fresh batch of boss music for us fans to add to our respective playlists, and the happy-dances danced as a result of that can last forever. AND this is all before Eurovision itself even begins! I think I speak for all of us when I say – as a totally unknown band called ABBA once said – thank you for the music, NF season.

There’s no better way to top off a thanks than with a top 10, in my opinion – so here we are. It might seem like I’m just crazy late in posting this countdown, but now is a good time to pay tribute to the 2017 selection season: firstly, because it’s Thursday and I’m a big supporter of #ThrowbackThursday (check my Instagram if you don’t believe me); and secondly, because it’s not long until the results of this year’s OGAE Second Chance Contest are revealed. It turns out that half of my favourite tracks from the recent run of national finals were chosen to compete in the SCC, so I guess I’m not as alternative as I thought. Damn.

The lone rule for this list? I only allowed myself to pick one song from any particular country – so you’re not about to see Melfest song after Melfest song. Keep reading to find out which Eurovision could-have-beens I fell in love with this season, and how I think they would have fared in Kyiv compared to the songs that actually ended up there. And don’t forget to share your personal favourite songs in the comments!

 

 

#10 | Two Faces by Michéle (Switzerland)

NF result 3rd, Die Entscheidungsshow

Is it better than Apollo? No, but…apples and oranges.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Definitely not, though I like to think it would have been staged better than Apollo.

I’m sorry to have to say this, but I know I’m not the only one who’s come to expect a certain level of sub-standardness when reviewing the Swiss national finalists each year. 2017 was an exception in that the final bunch of songs – bar one – were actually more than mediocre. My favourite, Apollo aside, was pocket rocket Michéle’s Two Faces, which took me by surprise given how mod-pop it is. It’s not a perfect production, and my inner jury’s still out on whether the ‘sugar and salt’ analogy is good or awkward…but damn, this is catchy. And even though it does sound radio-friendly, I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

 

#9 | Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrhjola (Finland)

NF result 8th, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu

Is it better than Blackbird? No, but again it’s hard to compare the two.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Probably not.

If this song was sung in English (or Swedish), it would have been right at home in the Melodifestivalen line-up. That’s a big compliment from me meaning it’s a) slickly produced pop, b) minty-fresh radio material, and c) gets stuck in your head like it’s made of super glue. The fact that it’s in Finnish, though, further set it apart in the UMK field, and adds to the aloof kind of cool it projects. The fusion of country twang and electro sounds is very Avicii, and gives it an automatic x-factor. For me, it was the NF character that speaks its own language (literally) and has little hope of winning, but will inevitably end up on my selection season playlist. There’s at least one of those in every national final.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#8 | I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer (United Kingdom)

NF result Unknown, Eurovision: You Decide

Is it better than Never Give Up On You? No, but it’s less of an identity-crisis song.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope.

You guys know mama loves her female power ballads (when they’re good ones…I am fairly discerning). Why do you think I was such an enthusiastic member of Team Denmark this year? Speaking of blonde powerhouse vocalists, here’s Holly Brewer, who sang the shiz out of the sensational PB that is I Wish I Loved You More. I can admit that this sort of song had its heyday circa 2007, but the genre never stopped floating my boat. I love that IWILYM promises to become something dynamic and explosive, and then delivers – first with big + bold choruses, then with that money note that you KNOW is coming, but it still packs a punch when it arrives. It’s a knockout (and so is Holly, on whom I have a raging girl crush).

 

#7 | Heart of Gold by BQL

NF result 2nd, EMA

Is it better than On My Way ? HELL YEAH!

Would it have done better in Kyiv? HELL YEAH!

BQL (made up of two musos who are apparently blood brothers…who’d have guessed?) broke hearts throughout the Euroverse when they failed to get Slovenia’s golden ticket in 2017 – Slovenia’s fault, obvs. Okay, so their live performance was a little rough around the edges, while Omar Naber’s was flawless (it was another Margaret/Michał Szpak situation). And Heart of Gold itself is a bit all-over-the-place as a song, needing a restructure and a revamp. But like everything created by Maraaya, it has SO much going for it. Simple but effective lyrics, and not one, but about five epic melodies, for example. If it had won EMA and undergone a pre-ESC facelift, wonderful things might have happened to a country that has now chosen two questionable entries in a row.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#6 | One by Ida Una (Denmark)

NF result 2nd, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Where I Am? Not according to moi.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I have to say yes (but I don’t want to).

Here’s a prime example of the safe, sugary pop songs that dominate DMGP – and this one is actually about love and peace (I don’t know if Måns and Petra would approve or be appalled). I’m not normally a supporter of either cookie-cutter music or lame lyrics, but I have totally dug the vibe of Ida Una’s One since day one. The lyrics are the main drawback, because everything else is very Scandi-2017…and how about the insane singalong-ability of the chorus? It turns one word into ten syllables, making it a surefire hook without it being too simplistic. I was pretty convinced this track was going to Kyiv because it’s right up Denmark’s street, and I wouldn’t have minded that result since the song is right up my street too.

 

#5 | Places by Ulrikke (Norway)

NF result 4th, Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Grab The Moment? No, but it’s a close call.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I think it would have finished just outside the top 10, so no.

I wouldn’t willingly swap Grab The Moment – one of my true ESC 2017 loves – for anything. But if I had to for some random reason, I’d have sent Ulrikke’s Places to Ukraine in a heartbeat. That’d be on the condition that Norway totally rethought the MGP staging of the song, which wasn’t nearly ‘tropical beach party WOOHOO’ enough. Places itself, though, is a JAM – a summer jam that I’m being forced to play in winter as I imagine being by the ocean. My buzzwords for this countdown have been ‘current’ and ‘catchy’, and I have to use them again to describe this because it has bucketloads of both. More so than Dansk MGP and Melodifestivalen, Norsk MGP tends to deliver on pop with a bit of edge, and pop that’s very now – not squeaky-clean, sugary or safe. Places is an excellent example of that, I reckon.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#4 | Hold On by Nano (Sweden)

NF result 2nd, Melodifestivalen

Is it better than I Can’t Go On? In some ways, yes. In others, no.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope – I think it would have done the same thing.

As you may or may not know (have I mentioned it often enough? I’m not sure…) I was in the audience for the Melfest final this year – and holy Herreys, it was amazing! I didn’t quite get the happy ending I was hoping for, however, as someone supporting Nano rather than Robin. Don’t get me wrong (Bengtsson lyrical pun intended), Sweden NEVER puts a foot wrong at Eurovision IMO (2009 excepted). But Hold On gets to me in a goosebumpy way that the perfectly-polished I Can’t Go On never did. Maybe it’s because it seems more authentic, or because it’s more dynamic and powerful. Or maybe it’s just a cracking song that appeals a teensy bit more to my tastes. Whatever the case, I can’t help being disappointed that Nano was Sweden’s choice to go to Eurovision, but got pipped at the post anyway.

 

#3 | I Love You by Tayanna (Ukraine)

NF result 2nd, Vidbir

Is it better than Time? Absolutely.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? For sure, providing Tayanna’s throat was in full functioning order at the time.

There were a handful of massively missed opportunities during the 2017 selection season, and sadly, host country Ukraine was responsible for one of them. I can understand how it happened, though. The Ukrainian final was super strong, with Tayanna, Mélovin and Rozhden being my personal standouts – but Tayanna’s incredible power ballad (here I go again with the PB love) was the cream of the crop…prior to that final. Tragically, her vocal ability was compromised by some sort of illness when she needed it most, leading to a performance full of cringe-worthy moments. That’s not the performance above – I had to choose the video of Tayanna at her best since it helps me to daydream about how I Love You would have been one of the best and most wildly-applauded host entries of recent times. Oh, and how it would have given Ukraine a respectable result without forcing another fork-out of contest hosting funds.

 

#2 | Ouch! By LeKlein (Spain)

NF result 3rd, Objetivo Eurovisión

Is it better than Do It For Your Lover? Well, yeah. I’d say ‘What isn’t?’ but that would be unnecessarily cruel to Manel and also not technically true.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? You bet your butt it would have!

EPIC ERROR ALERT NO. 3!!! Call this a controversial call, but if Spain made any mistake at their NF this year (which they did, though when I say ‘Spain’ I mean the Objetivo judging panel) it wasn’t picking Manel over Mirela. It was leaving LeKlein in 3rd, which definitely made me say Ouch! She might not have been everybody’s cup of sangria, but I’m convinced Ouch! was the best option for Spain in 2017, and would have secured them a spot on the left side of the scoreboard (I can say that with authority because there’s no way of proving me wrong). This song is an anthem of rock-electro-pop proportions, with a sense of fun and a simple hook that would have been memorable in the Eurovision final for sure. Unless, that is, I’m the minority and everyone else would have seen an aggressive androgynous woman yelling at them down the camera for three minutes #possible.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#1 | Deák by Spoon 21 (Hungary)

NF result DNQ (semi-final), A Dal

Is it better than Origo? It’s equally epic.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? No.

Funnily enough, I’m glad this song – my favourite find from the 2017 season – didn’t end up at the ESC. Spoon 21’s live performance just wasn’t up to scratch, and that was all to do with vocals. Hungary still would have sent my number one entry of the year if they’d sent Deák instead of Origo, but you’ll never catch me disputing Joci Pápai’s place in the contest. Still, as a song for listening to (ten times a day) Deák is superb. It’s the most K-pop sounding NF song I’ve ever heard, and I love it for that. It’s unique, infectious and gets a zillion cool points just by being in Hungarian. And speaking of cool points, I feel like a cooler person just listening to it – it’s a little bit hipster but mainstream enough to have mass appeal. All in all, it’s a kickass track that proves Spoon 21 – who entered A Dal 2015 with something completely different – isn’t a one-trick pony boy band.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

 

So, how did I do? Do you think any of these songs would have made better Eurovision entries than what we actually got? Which musical masterpieces from A Dal to Vidbir and every NF in-between got you excited this year? If you have something (nice) to say, say it in the comments box below J

I’d better go now – it’s time for daily listen no. 10 of Déak, and I can’t keep Spoon 21 waiting.

 

 

 

 

Talking Eurovision 2017 From Top (Three) To Bottom (Three): James + Jaz’s Big British ESC Chat!

Hey there, Eurovision fam…if there’s anyone out there I can still consider family of the Eurovisual kind. Yes, it is true (Yohanna) – I’ve been blog-gone for a while. But my MIA status had a lot to do with Melodifestivalen, so you’ll forgive me, right?

Basically, in case you didn’t know, I made my second trip to Stockholm (after winging my way to the ESC last year) in March. I went mainly to hit up the Melfest final at Friends Arena, and it was FREAKING BEAUTIFUL.

Talk about a beautiful mess…the aftermath of an amazing night.

Okay, so my mum (who came with me and is pretty close to being brainwashed by yours truly into a bonafide Eurofan) and I didn’t have the best view of the stage. But I can now say from experience that crystal-clear stage views are hard to come by in a venue that makes Globen look like Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter. Still – even though we were sitting on the sort of angle that made Robin Bengtsson’s perfect facial features difficult to make out (or make out with, sadface) – it was one of the greatest evenings ever. I’ll definitely be rambling about it more in the future, when the kraziness of Kyiv is over, and sharing some more photos that feature a person who may or may not be Wiktoria because when they’re that blurry, who can know for sure. But for now, I’m just going to apologise for my recent blogging fail (I was in Europe for a month, and the pre-trip prep had me super busy beforehand) and move on to something else.

‘Something else’ = a little story I need to tell you. Soooo, after spending a week and a half in Stockholm feat. literal heaps of snow, I headed off to London for three weeks (missing the London Eurovision Party by ONE DAY, which is the dictionary definition of devastating). There, I managed to meet up with ESC Views co-founder and my formerly online-only friend James, who you might remember from past EBJ Jury review sessions (together we created a crapload of controversy over Finland 2015, and damn, we were proud of it). If not, here’s a refresher:

‘Hej! I’m James, a Creative Writing student at Edge Hill University. I like music, cocktails, writing and making people happy – and Eurovision, of course! I was incredibly excited to host my annual Eurovision party last year, and indoctrinate a load of my non-fan friends with the 2016 line-up. It went well – I even managed to get a couple of them to use the Gerbear sorter thing (which of course required them to have listened to, and formed opinions on all 43 songs…so how’s that for progress!?).’ 

Stolen without permission from James’ Instagram. #noshame

It was awesome meeting him in person, partly since we spent most of our time together discussing Eurovision. I knew this would happen, so I figured a chunk of our conversation/s could be turned into EBJ content. What I had in mind was a written interview, but it turns out that a) I recorded nearly TWO HOURS of ESC 2017–centric chat, and nobody wants to read a transcription of that; and b) I’m far too lazy to transcribe more than a half-hour of audio anyway.

So what I’m offering you now is a podcast-type thing that is nowhere near as professional or logical as a podcast should be. In other words, it’s over an hour of James and I reviewing our current — at the time of recording — bottom and top three songs of the 2017 bunch. If you like listening to people complain about and compliment Eurovision entries, and you’re curious to find out what two obsessed fans are digging and disliking, then click that play button right now!

Oh, but just before you do…a few FYIs. We recorded this in a busy London park pretty close to a main road, so please excuse the traffic and people noises in the background (I’m not techy enough to edit them out, apparently). Please also excuse all the awkward pauses when I’m speaking. I get stage fright as soon as anything is recording me, leading to constant brain blanks that make me sound like a moron. James, you don’t need to worry about — he’s a natural.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy our honest, uncensored opinions on the best and worst music this year’s show has to offer. Don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comments.

*crosses fingers for a fully-functioning embedded audio file*

 

NEXT TIME It’s already April, so the Eurovision 2017 review train really needs to leave the station. Next week I’ll kick things off (with the help of my Melfest-loving mother) by judging Azerbaijan, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Norway and Portugal. Drop by to find out what we think of Dihaj, Anja, Tamara, Joci, JOWST and Salvador. Oh, and their songs. Have your own opinions at the ready too…

 

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2017 | More Melfest magic + A Dal decision time = the tip of the NF iceberg!

It’s true – the Titanic wouldn’t have stood a chance against the massive, metaphorical chunk of ice (or ‘frozen water’ as Agnete likes to call it) that is This Weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio would still have died and Kate Winslet would still have let him go…but we’d all be partying like it’s 2017, because it is, and super-duper busy NF weekends like this one are Awesome with a capital A.

Don’t believe me re: the crazy schedule for Saturday and Sunday? Here’s the evidence:

  • 18/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final two (feat. Daniel Levi, Koit Toome & Laura, Kerli + Liis Lemsalu)
  • 18/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat seven (feat. Edgaras Lubys + Gabrielius Vagelis)
  • 18/2 Slovenia’s EMA – semi final two (feat. Clemens, BQL + Ina Shai)
  • 18/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final three (feat. Robin Bengtsson, Krista Siegfrids + FO&O)
  • 18/2 Ukraine’s Vidbir – semi final three (feat. Payushchie Trusy + Green Grey)
  • 18/2 Hungary’s A Dal – the final (feat. Gigi Radics, Joci Pápai + Kállay Saunders Band)
  • 18/2 Malta’s MESC – the final (feat. Klinsmann, Kevin Borg, Maxine Pace + Richard Edwards)
  • 18/2 Poland’s Krajowe Eliminajce – the final (feat. Martin Fitch, Kasia Mós + Carmell)
  • 19/2 Latvia’s Supernova – the semi final (feat. Lauris Valters, My Radiant You + Triana Park)
  • 19/2 Portugal’s Festival da Canção – semi final one (feat. Golden Slumbers + Rui Drumond)

There you go – CHAOS. Wonderful, wonderful chaos.

As I keep saying, I can’t discuss every single selection show without taking on an army of assistants to type at 200 words a minute for free (any takers?), so it’s time to get picky. Choosing which semis and finals to cover is like choosing a favourite child – not hard if you’re honest with yourself (that’s what my mum said, anyway, when she handed me the ‘No. 1 Kid’ sash and a bouquet of flowers. Don’t tell my brother). Ergo, this was an easy narrow-down for me.

Though three of this weekend’s shows will produce Eurovision entries, I’m only reviewing one of them – Hungary’s A Dal – and, of course, I’m going to take a good look at Melodifestivalen’s third semi too. So let’s get on with it!

 

 

SWEDEN | Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Växjö we go…for Melfest, that is!

You know what they say – another Saturday in February, another Melodifestivalen Deltävling.

This time it’s nummer tre, and I’ve got to say, it’s not a third-time-lucky sort of situation. Meaning this heat is the weakest so far, music-wise. Made up of two returnees and a record high (for 2017, at least) of five debutants, it’s probably going to be the most difficult semi to predict. Which stars will shine for the first or second time, and which will fall?

I have no effing idea.

  1. I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson
  2. Snurra Min Jord by Krista Siegfrids
  3. Kiss You Goodbye by Anton Hagman
  4. Gravity by Jasmine Kara
  5. Boogieman Blues by Owe Thörnqvist
  6. Crucified by Bella & Filippa
  7. Gotta Thing About You by FO&O

melodifestivalen-2017-semi-3-deltavling-3-winner-poll

We’ve got funk pop, dance pop, acoustic pop, country pop, boy band pop and Owe. Lacklustre overall song standard aside (compared to the previous two semis) it’s certainly going to be a variety show – and hopefully one with a happy ending.

 

My top four

  • I Can’t Go On – If Constellation Prize was a romantic seduction song, and I Can’t Go On is the raunchy post-seduction sequel, then should we await the third installment in a trilogy from Robin in 2018 entitled something like It’s Over, You Evil Bitch? Yes or no, Mr. Bengtsson can do no wrong in my eyes. I did expect something better from this collab of Robins (Robin Stjernberg co-wrote the song, and he’s definitely marked his territory) but I suspect this will benefit from being heard and seen in full.
  • Snurra Min Jord – Both of Krista’s Melfest entries have been much more plain-Jane than Marry Me. As with Faller, I do really like this one, but there’s nothing particularly special about it that gives it the edge to make Andra Chansen, let alone the final. But lycka till Krista all the same.
  • Crucified – Is it just me or has this song borrowed half its lyrics from Wiktoria’s Save Me? Regardless, it’s as sweet and light as a sorbet in summertime. Repetitive (and a possible female rip-off of Darin’s Lagom) it may be, but it has an undeniable charm.
  • Gotta Thing About You – I thought I was getting too old for teen boy band fodder, but apparently the flame’s still flickering in my bitter quarter-century old body. This is not a musical masterpiece, but was anyone expecting it to be? The FOOO Conspiracy FO&O fans will eat this up, and that little light-up heart in the corner of the screen will be on the verge of a myocardial infarction.

 

The rest

  • Kiss You Goodbye – And here we have Sweden’s answer to Shawn Mendes. This song can’t hold a candle to Stitches or Mercy, but it’s cute. I like how it begins in an acoustic, alternative kind of way before launching into a more straightforward pop chorus. Also, who is Anton’s dentist?
  • Gravity – I’m not sure if I like this or not. Jasmine has a great voice, great style, and a great name (even if we’re not total name twins since she’s got that ‘e’ on the end) but Gravity seems like a mixed bag of bits and pieces that don’t, ahem, come together to form a cohesive whole. I’m keen to see her perform it live.
  • Boogieman Blues – This is EXACTLY what I thought it was going to be. For those of you who don’t like surprises and do like retro tunes from ageing popstars, this is for you. But it’s not for me.

 

Who’s going direkt? Robin Bengtsson + FO&O. Perhaps this is a predictable prediction – and I’d like things to go in a more jaw-dropping direction – but Melfest is, at times, predictable. SVT hand out the first and final performance spots to the big guns, and said big guns usually find themselves progressing as a result. Robin Bengtsson won his heat over Ace Wilder last year, and he’s got the goods to win again now, but with a weaker song and against weaker competition. FO&O’s song screams Andra Chansen, but there’s nothing else up against it (besides I Can’t Go On) that necessarily has what it takes to nab a place in the final instead. 

Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Anton Hagman + Jasmine Kara. Krista Siegfrids is also in the mix here, but as she placed last in the telling audience poll after yesterday’s rehearsals, I suspect she’ll miss out and finish fifth at the highest. Bella & Filippa are underdogs. Anton and Jasmine, I think, can make enough of an impression and gain enough momentum to score themselves a second chance each – but I’m skeptical of their chances of making it out of AC at this point.

 

What do you think? Do we have an obvious outcome on our hands in Växjö, or will there be an upset feat. some Melfest first-timers? Let me know below.

 

  

HUNGARY | Eight becomes one tonight…but who’ll be The One?   

I’ve been known to proclaim that many selection show finals are worth sacrificing for Melfest, because the music in a Melfest semi often outdoes that of other countries’ finals. But I have to say, I seriously considered ditching Sweden’s third semi in favour of tuning in to A Dal tonight.

By ‘seriously’, I mean ‘for a split second’, because I am a devout Melodifestivalist from way back. However, I will be watching the last episode of A Dal on delay just to experience its pure excellence.

After three heats and two semi finals, thirty songs have been trimmed down to just eight – and IMO, two of these are good, one is very good, and the other five are amazing. How often does that happen? About as often as Loreen releases a studio album.

Here’s the (unordered) line-up of the Hungarian final, which I realise might not seem so sensational to fans less easily-pleased than me.

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  • Hosszú Idők by Totova & Freddie Shuman feat. Begi Lotfi
  • See It Through by Gigi Radics
  • Fall Like Rain by Gina Kanizsa
  • Origo by Joci Pápai
  • Seventeen by Kállay Saunders Band
  • Élet by Leander Kills
  • Kalandor by Soulwave
  • #háttérzaj by Zävodi & Olivér Berkes

Hungary clearly has faith in their own language, as Hungarian lyrics make up more than half of what we’ll hear tonight. They should, because a) it’s a gorgeous language, and b) it hasn’t stopped them from succeeding at Eurovision (Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet and Kedvesem, I bow to the both of you). That’s part of what makes this final so great in my eyes, but if you want more details, keep reading for my ranking of all eight finalists.

 

My top eight

  1. Origo – I AM IN LOVE. This track had me hypnotised before I’d even reached the chorus the first time I listened to it, and though I’m trying to accept that it’s probably 2017’s Győz A Jó (the slick, edgy ethno-pop entry that won’t win and will be sadly missed at Eurovision), my hopes of a win are still alive. Infectious and exotic but still on-trend (right down – or up – to Joci’s man-bun), Origo is OMG.
  2. Hosszú Idők – Here we have another song that manages to combine mysterious ethnicity with modern pop. Basically, it’s an ethno-pop power ballad. Though Totova gets slightly screamy performing it live, I can’t deny that it makes a mark, and that I could get on board with it winning even though it’s not my favourite.
  3. See It Through – A Disney ballad straight out of the early 2000s (Christina Aguilera sang it on the Mulan soundtrack, didn’t she?) should not work in 2017. But Gigi is such a showstopping singer with more onstage emotion than an Elina Born who wasn’t woken up, she makes it work. I would advise against the huge hair for the final, without which you’ll have a perfect package, Gigi.
  4. Seventeen – Last year, András and his band destroyed the brilliant Who We Are This year, they’ve done much better lives with a more pedestrian – but still extra-enjoyable – song. The Billie Jean reference is tired, but that’s my only complaint about this polished, well-produced and non-cheesy love song.
  5. #háttérzaj – What musical style doesn’t suit Hungarian? It totally gels in this bluesy, laid-back piano ballad. The only bother I have here is the hashtag title, which begs the question WHY GOD, WHY?!?!?
  6. Élet – Hard rock isn’t often my thing, but the dynamic nature of É let is interesting in a good way. There’s a soft piano intro, subdued verses and powerful choruses, and it’s almost like riding on a slow rollercoaster. There are plenty of ups and downs, but it doesn’t make you nauseous and you’re a little sad when you have to get off.
  7. Kalandor – Eurovision already has a folksy song for the year, and I’m not sure this one has the strength to win A Dal anyway, but it’s nice easy-listening, elevated by the fact that it’s not in English.
  8. Fall Like Rain – While I can acknowledge that this is a good song, I find it quite dated (and there are times when I just want Gina to shut up). I don’t think it’s the best choice Hungary can make in terms of a Eurovision entry, but I like the haunting, spiritual feel and the originality.

 

Now, as A Dal will make one more cut before congratulating a winner, it’s time to think about who’ll make it through the jury voting round – then be paraded in front of the public, who are the ultimate decision-makers (a good way to operate an NF, isn’t it, Spain?).

  

Predicting the top four I’m thinking Totova etc, Joci Pápai, Gigi Radics + Gina Kanizsa. There’s potential bumping space for Kállay Saunders Band or Leander Kills, in which case I think Gigi or Gina will miss out on the final four. But, based on the results of the heats and semis, this should be a safe bet for the top four (not that I’m actually betting. For someone who struggles to get things 50% correct, it’s a bad idea). Totova and guests plus Pápai are shoo-ins.

Who’s in it to win it? It looks like another Freddie (albeit a far less attractive one than 2016’s) will be heading to Kyiv on behalf of Hungary in May, as part of Totova’s posse. Hosszu Idők is a recipe with all the right ingredients to rise to the top, and has had the jury and public support in past weeks that it needs to fly through both stages of the comp tonight. I will be surprised if it doesn’t win.

 

If you’re as hungry for Hungary this year as I am, then you’ll have something to say about A Dal – so spill! Is this ticket to Eurovision Totova’s to lose, or should she be watching her back? Is there any chance András Kállay Saunders will make it to Eurovision again this year (Seventeen for 2017)? Give up your internal gossip in the comments.

 

Of course, if you want to chat about anything else that’s happening in the ESC bubble this weekend, I’m all ears. If you want to have an intense conversation about your personal problems, I may not be the best person to talk to, so stick with Eurovision for now. You can always book an appointment later with the same therapist you saw after Objetivo Eurovisión concluded last weekend…

Enjoy all of the national final action ahead, guys – I’ll see you on the other side when we have three more songs for Ukraine!

 

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SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Talking all things Estonia, Sweden + Spain on the most super-sized NF weekend so far!

Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs! I feel like I can use that as a greeting with some relevance, since France dropped their Eurovision 2017 entry on us earlier in the week, just in time to steal some of Germany’s thunder. Not that Germany had that much to steal in the first place, but more on that in another post (for now, I’ll just say that red, white and blue > red, black and yellow). My point is, any opportunity one gets to throw around some random, stereotypical French should be taken. Oui oui!  

France is just about the only country where there ISN’T any NF action going on this weekend – a weekend so full of finals (and heats, and semis…all the good stuff), there’s not enough room for all of them to trend on Twitter. Feast your soon-to-be-weary eyes on this lot: 

  • 11/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final one (feat. Lenna Kuurmaa, Elina Born + Ivo Linna)
  • 11/2 Ukraine’s untitled NF – semi final two (feat. Kuznetsov + Ilaria)
  • 11/2 Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival – the final (feat. Michele Bravi, Elodie + Alessio Bernabei)
  • 11/2 Hungary’s A Dal – semi final two (feat. Ádám Szabó, Kállay Saunders Band + Roma Soul)
  • 11/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final two (feat. Mariette, Lisa Ajax + Benjamin Ingrosso)
  • 11/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat six (feat. Mia, Sasha Song + Aistė Pilvelytė)
  • 11/2 Spain’s Objetivo Eurovisión – the final (feat. LeKlein, Paula Rojo + Mirela)
  • 12/2 Latvia’s Supernova – heat two (feat. Markus Riva + My Radiant You)
  • 13/2 Israel’s Rising Star – the final (feat. Julietta, Diana Golbi, Beatbox Element + Imri Ziv)

Visit eurovision.tv for all of the live-streaming links. And because it might be lonely and want to have a cup of coffee and a chat with you.

What will you be watching? You’ve got about as much chance of catching everything at once as I do of covering it all here – so I guess we’ll both have to pick our priorities.

To be honest – as if the title of this post wasn’t a giveaway – I’ve already decided where my loyalties lie. So, if you want some verdicts on/predictions for Eesti Laul, Melodifestivalen and Objetivo Eurovisión, you’ve come to the right blog.

Let’s muse about the music!

 

 

Estonia: Elina Born is back as Eesti Laul begins…but is she In Or Out?

It’s a good thing there isn’t a prize for Best Blog Subtitle, ‘cause I wouldn’t be winning any for that one. Blame Elina Born, who went and signed herself up for Eesti Laul as a soloist – for the second time – with a Stig Rästa song that begs to be used in many punny ways (it’s the new That Sounds Good To Me). Girl has said Goodbye To Yesterday and hello to a shot at competing in Kyiv, and her quest begins tonight with the first semi final of Estonia’s always enjoyable NF.

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Of course, she’s not the only act competing this evening, so I shouldn’t devote too much screen space to her alone. Elina will be the second of ten acts to perform, and here’s a rundown of them all: 

  1. Slingshot by Lenna Kuurmaa
  2. In Or Out by Elina Born
  3. Everything But You by Carl-Philip
  4. Suur Ioterii by Ivo Linna
  5. Feel Me Now by Ariadne
  6. Supernatural by Uku Suviste
  7. Hey Kiddo by Laura Prits
  8. Have You Now by Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux feat. Maian
  9. Valan Pisaraid by Janno Reim & Kosmos
  10. Hurricane by Leemet Onno

As usual, Estonia is providing us with an interesting set of songs, many of which take some second or third listens to figure out (it’s a pre-selection of acquired tastes, IMO, which is not a bad thing because it speaks for the complexity of what ERT program the show with). Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of being able to listen more than once – and in some cases, my first impressions are based on snippets (with a Eurotrip three weeks away and other commitments calling, time is like thunder short for me at the moment). Here are the semi one songs that stood out to me with minimal exposure.

My top five In Or Out, Everything But You, Feel Me Now, Supernatural + Have You Now. My favourites from this shortlist would be In Or Out (the trumpeting might be passé, but it’s still enjoyable) and Have You Now (which is obviously an Estonian tribute to The Chainsmokers). There’s nothing super-duper dated – or plain terrible – in the whole semi, though. Not even Ivo Linna is acting his age, musically-speaking.

Predicting the ACTUAL top five Slingshot, In Or Out, Feel Me Now, Hey Kiddo + Have You Now. I won’t say where I pulled this prediction from (in the interest of maintaining some degree of ladylike elegance) but let’s just say it’s unreliable. On the other hand, if it turns out to be 60%-100% right, I’ll claim that I produced it after a careful, educated analysis. K?

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I doubt Elina will be pulling her hair in frustration after tonight…unless that’s how she celebrates too.

 

Do you think Eesti Laul’s off to a good start? Is there someone in this first semi who can do what Juri Pöötsmann couldn’t and get Estonia to the Eurovision final again (without giving the impression that their hobbies include dismemberment, and preserving vital organs in formaldehyde)? Let me know in the comments.

  

 

Sweden: Melfest makes it to Malmö for a big-deal Deltävling 2

That’s right – we’re taking a trip back to Malmö Arena, where those of us who were otherwise engaged during Petra Mede’s Melfest hosting gig may have first laid eyes on her when she owned Eurovision in 2013. Unfortunately, some might say, tonight ain’t about Petra – it’s about the seven acts who all want to follow in Ace Wilder and Nano’s footsteps (I assume) since they lead straight to Friends Arena in Stockholm, and the Melfest final. 

  1. A Million Years by Mariette
  2. Himmel Och Hav by Roger Pontare
  3. Up by Etzia
  4. Vart Haru Varit by Allyawan
  5. Hearts Align by Dismissed
  6. I Don’t Give A by Lisa Ajax
  7. Good Lovin’ by Benjamin Ingrosso

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We’re down one returnee from last week, with Mariette, Roger Pontare and Lisa Ajax in the mix. In Göteborg, just two of the four comeback acts progressed, and with only one real contender standing/dancing in the way of Mariette etc’s direkt and AC spots, can they all make it through? SHOULD they? Melodifestivalen raises some tough questions. Luckily, they’ll be answered later, but I’ll have a go at filling in the blanks in the meantime.

 

My top four

    • A Million Years – Is this better than Don’t Stop Believing? I don’t think so, but it’s similarly  intriguing and contemporary. The lyrics are a little cliché, and that ticks me off as a writer who goes out of their way to avoid clichés. I really need access to the complete package before I make my mind up about Mariette 2.0. Potential for greatness is here, though.
    • Vart Haru Varit – This is Adrijana’s Amare with a male singer and a slight increase in mass appeal. It’ll probably make just as much of an impression as Amare did (i.e. none whatsoever) but dang it, I love Swedish hip-hop!
    • I Don’t Give A – In case you missed the barely detectable F-bomb (times ten) in Lisa’s sequel to My Heart Wants Me Dead, yes, it exists (#sarcasm). It’s not necessary in a song that lacks the Zara Larsson attitude and style I was expecting. Still, expletives aside, there’s pros a-plenty to be found in I Don’t Give A. The pop ballad style lets Lisa show off her amazing vocals, and all in all it’s very ‘now’. Well, I think it is. I’m not too tuned in to what the youths of today are into *returns to knitting an intricate sweater for my dog*.
    • Good Lovin’ – Maybe I’m biased, given that I practically had a heart attack when my beloved (in a platonic way as he’s a bit too young for me) Benjamin was announced as a Melfester for 2017…but THIS KICKS BUTT. It’s everything I want in a pop song and more. It also manages to be both what I was expecting, and something completely different. Slick, smooth, and well-sung. Så brå.
benjamin-ingrosso-lyrics-text-good-lovin-melodifestivalen

His mum’s done Melfest four times, so I think fabulousness (and great hair) must be in his genes.

 

The rest

  • Himmel Och Hav – I actually toyed with having Roger in my top four thanks to the great atmosphere and ethnicity of this track. As someone who never fell hard for When Spirits Are Calling My Name, I could learn to like this more than that. GASP!
  • Up – I know this isn’t culturally similar to Kizunguzungu, but it’s easy to compare the vibes of the two. I can’t see Etzia sharing SaRaha’s success in a) going through to Andra Chansen, and b) getting out of it. Up is catchy, but pretty pedestrian overall.
  • Hearts Align – This is okay. It’s fine. The performance and costuming choices will be the biggest talking point though. No chance of direkt for Dismissed, methinks.

 

On that note, it’s time to make a few predictions. Last week I somehow managed to be 100% correct, so I’m going to do my best not to ruin that this time. 

Who’s going direkt? Mariette + Lisa Ajax. Based on such data as Facebook likes, Mariette seems to be the Nano of this week’s show (swap the man bun for dreadlocks and the difference is undetectable) in that the heat is hers to lose. Lisa’s song might divide voters (unless the f-word is on par with ‘darn it!’ in Sweden) but I have no doubt she’ll nail it live, and it’s big enough to leave a lasting impression. The swearing actually makes the song more memorable, I must say.

Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Benjamin Ingrosso + Dismissed. I desperately want Ingrosso to go straight through, but girl power is likely to pip him at the post. Fourth place could go to Roger Pontare if Sweden is still feeling his flow, but I suspect it might go to Dismissed as Hearts Align screams Andra Chansen to me.

 

In the immortal words of Elaiza, is it right or is it wrong? Do you think you know who’ll go where when the results of Deltävling 2 are revealed? Tell me more!

 

  

Spain: Which of the six singers will fill Barei’s dancing shoes?

Si, amigos – Objetivo Eurovisión is back, albeit without Brequette (maybe 2018 is your year, queen). The line-up is much more diverse than it was in 2016, which makes the outcome harder to predict. But we can’t complain about variety and (reasonable) quality all round…can we?

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  1. Do It For Your Lover by Manel Navarro
  2. Ouch! by LeKlein
  3. Lo Que Nunca Fue by Paula Rojo
  4. Spin My Head by Mario Jefferson
  5. Momento Critico by Maika
  6. Contigo by Mirela

I don’t know about you, but I can clearly divide up these six songs: there’s two that I absolutely adore, two that I quite like, and two that I wouldn’t miss if I never heard them again. And I have no idea whether Spain will think along the same lines, or choose a song that has no chance of reversing their Eurovision fortunes. One thing’s for sure – I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat while waiting for them to make up their collective mind.

 

My top six

  1. Ouch! – This song is ridiculously sublime. I can’t take LeKlein’s screams of ‘ouuuuuuuch’ seriously (she sounds exactly like me whenever I stub my toe on something) but I love everything else about her potential ESC entry. I love the grammatically awkward lyrics, the melody of the verses, the power and anthemic quality of the chorus, the polished production…it’s all very bueno. Now, if only she could carry it off live without numerous unstable vocal moments…
  2. Contigo – It’s no Nada Es Comparable A Ti (not only my fave NF effort from Mirela, but one of my fave NF songs ever) but then again, it’s not supposed to be. It’s an instantly infectious, ethno-pop triumph that needs to be a World Cup theme ASAP. The lyrics might be rubbish (I speak zero Spanish and have not yet Google-translated them) but who cares? Sometimes you just want to get up and dance and have a good time – a fiesta then a siesta – without considering the meaningfulness of lyrical content. Contigo is perfect for that purpose.
  3. Spin My Head – I feel like having your head spun up (as opposed to around) would be painful, but Mario seems to be welcoming it. Again, this isn’t going to win any awards for substance, but I would wave my hands in the air like I just didn’t care to it in a club (or in the supermarket. Whenever, wherever, as Shakira would say). The Spanglish chorus is decent when it could have been a disaster.
  4. Do It For Your Lover – Speaking of Spanglish, here’s a mixed-language version of The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. That’s not a negative, but I do wish Manel was offering up something more original. I also wish ‘do it for your lover’ wasn’t repeated nearly THIRTY times in three minutes. What is ‘it’, anyway?
  5. Momento Critico – Maika is not a woman I’d want to mess with, so in case she ever reads this, I’m going to point out the positives of her Objetivo song. It’s unashamedly rocky. It has attitude. It’s somewhat memorable (although I have forgotten how it goes now that I think about it. But I know I thought it was kind of memorable). It’s not bad. Please don’t come at me with an industrial-sized blowtorch, Maika.
  6. Lo Que Nunca Fue – Boring. Sweet and cute and charming in a countrified way, sure, but this leaves no impression on me whatsoever. It’s totally forgettable, and if there’s a hook in it, I can’t hear it. All of this means it’ll probably win.

 

Who SHOULD win LeKlein or Mirela. Yes, they’re my personal top picks, but I genuinely believe they have the best odds out of the six of making Spain’s trip to Ukraine worth it. I’m not saying they’re Eurovision winners, but if either one wins tonight and takes advantage of the gap between now and the contest (to revamp and maybe take a few singing lessons) anything’s possible. 

Who WILL win I want to scream ‘SEND HELP!’ on this one, because I cannot decide. I’m not even convinced that one of my preferred two will win. I’m going to rule out Maika and Mario. Paula and Manel are my dark horses. The failure of Maria Isabel’s ethno-pop to get far last year gives me doubts about Mirela…so that leaves LeKlein. She’s already proven she appeals to the public (winning the Eurocasting round is why she’s in OE) and if she produces a more polished live rendition of Ouch! tonight, she could win this too. Or not, and I’m just wishful thinking.

 

In a shocking turn of events, I want to know what you think about the Spanish show. What’s good, what’s bad and what’s even worse in your opinion? And, more importantly, who’s going to win? You’ve got a 1 in 6 chance of getting it right!

 

Whatever you’re watching this evening (or tomorrow morning, if you’ve also been screwed over by your time zone), I hope to see you on Twitter for some 140-character or less fun times. We Eurofans know how to party, even if it’s just on social media.

 

May the best songs win (or qualify)!

 

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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)…

 

2015sig

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Melodifestivalen madness + six Swiss songs, one winner!

In case you hadn’t noticed, today’s Saturday – but not just any old Saturday. It’s the first Saturday of February, and that means that a big ball of national final brilliance is about to bounce down on the basketball court that is the Eurovision selection season.

Did that make sense? All I meant was that Frantic February™ is here, and I’m freaking excited about it. I’m guessing you are too if you’re reading this!

What’s even more exciting than a busy Saturday night for NFs is an entire weekend of pre-ESC song contests, and that’s exactly what we’re getting. But be warned: with mostly heats and semis taking place over the next two days, only one more Eurovision entry will be chosen.

Here’s this weekend’s schedule:

  • 4/1 Hungary’s A Dal – heat three (feat. Benjámin Pál + Gigi Radics)
  • 4/1 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat five (feat. Sasha Song, Edgaras Lubys + Mia)
  • 4/1 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final one (feat. Boris René, Dinah Nah, Charlotte Perrelli + Ace Wilder)
  • 4/1 Ukraine’s untitled NF – semi final one (feat. SKAI, Monochromea + Arsen Mirzoyan)
  • 5/1 Latvia’s Supernova – heat one (feat. Katrīna Cīrule + Lauris Valters)
  • 5/1 Switzerland’s Die Entscheidungsshow – the final (feat. Ginta Biku + Timebelle)

You guys know I’m a one-woman band who cannot physically cover all of the above, so I’ve got to be more selective than SVT’s Melfest screening process. Right here, right now, I’m singling out the national finals from Sweden (obviously) and Switzerland (believe it or not) to review and predict. Let’s get into it!

 

 

How Swede it is: Marvellous Melodifestivalen has arrived!  

Like every other epic event that takes place each year (e.g. Eurovision, Junior Eurovision, September 1st when most people carry on as normal but the collective ESC fandom sits up a little straighter) Melodifestivalen comes around very slowly – but once it’s here, it feels like we were discussing the start of the previous year’s edition five minutes ago.

And so, right on cue, the Holy Grail of national finals (in my Sweden-obsessed opinion) is back for 2017. Based on what’s being served up in tonight’s first semi – which will go live from Gothenburg’s Scandinavium in just a few hours – it’s back with a bang. That makes for an extra happy Jaz, since I’ve booked myself a butt-space in Friends Arena for the final. IS THIS EVEN MY LIFE?!?!?

Talking about tonight, though…opening the comp is one of the surprise successes of ’16, Boris René. Closing will be newcomer Nano. In-between the two are Dinah Nah, Charlotte Perrelli, Ace Wilder and many, many more. Well, actually just two more, but I’m too hysterical to not exaggerate. Who’s with me?

 

Semi Final 1: 

  1. Her Kiss by Boris René
  2. Amare by Adrijana
  3. One More Night by Dinah Nah
  4. Road Trip by De Vet Du
  5. Mitt Liv by Charlotte Perrelli
  6. Wild Child by Ace Wilder
  7. Hold On by Nano

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Pretty much all bases (aces of bases?) are covered in this kick-off heat, with retro-pop, hip-hop, dance, acoustic, straight-up pop and EDM on offer. Who will rise to the occasion, scoring themselves a ticket direkt till finalen or to Andra Chansen…and who will fall at the first hurdle? It might take some serious song scrutinisation to figure that out (after which I’ll still be super-duper wrong).

 

My top four 

In performance order, BTW.

    • Her Kiss – This is less contemporary than Put Your Love On Me (RIP litter box) but you can’t tell me that it wouldn’t shoot straight to #1 on the charts if Bruno Mars was behind it. Don’t underestimate Boris’ ability to bring it into the now via an energetic and charismatic performance.
    • Amare – Adrijana’s debut won’t be everyone’s cup of kaffe, but I have a thing for the Swedish language in an urban, rap-oriented context. It just works, hence why I loved Behrang Miri’s Det Rår Vi Inte För and why I love this.
    • Wild Child – At 34, Ace is technically a wild woman. She’s also not the strongest of singers, so perhaps it’s a good idea for the verses of this song to be spoken/shouted. Surprisingly, I’m digging the sound of Wild Child so much, it may turn out to be my favourite of her three Melfest entries to date. They’ve all been different, but have always had real ‘Ace’ attitude, and this is no exception.
    • Hold On – SVT know just when to throw a curvy enough curveball to convince us that they aren’t that predictable after all. It was assumed that the last song on stage would be Ace’s, but they’ve made it Nano’s instead…and I TOTALLY GET IT. It gives me goosebumps, even before the beat kicks in and the chorus explodes. Sure, it’s very reminiscent of Feel The Love by Rudimental, but you know what? That song is the bomb, and I think this one is too.
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He’s my current favourite, but can Nano ‘Hold On’ to his status as the bookies’ favourite and win his heat?

 

The rest

  • One More Night – I’m a little disappointed in Dinah, because this song is right out of Dance Tracks for Dummies (whereas Make Me La La La was in a league of its own). It’s still catchy and well-produced though, and her hair is still pink enough for me to forgive her. Hashtag hair heaven.
  • Road Trip – This is Samir & Viktor meets JTR, and I can get on board (pun intended) with that combo. It’s silly but not too silly, so rather than being a novelty song, it’s a fun contender. And it does make me want to go on a road trip, so…mission accomplished, I guess.
  • Mitt Liv – I don’t get all the hate on this one. No, it’s not bringing us the Charlotte Perrelli we know and love (and once were a little scared of. Remember 2008?) but I think there’s something charming and calming about her stripped-back, not-in-it-to-win-it approach to Melfest this time. There’s a song just like Mitt Liv in basically every Deltävling 1, and it never goes anywhere – but that doesn’t mean it’s horrendous.

  

‘No more stalling’, I can hear you guys saying. ‘We know what you think of the songs, but where the heck are they headed?’. Well, friends, here are my attempts at predicting exactly that. Prepare to laugh until you’re gasping for breath.

 

Who’s going direkt? Ace Wilder and Nano. I haven’t picked Ace because she’s a predictable finalist – she’s not really, since for all I know Sweden is sick of her popping up and yelling at them. I just don’t think she should be under-hyped, and Wild Child is a standout in this semi in terms of instant, infectious pop music. Nano has the advantage of performing in a position that has only proven unlucky for two acts since the introduction of the semi system to Melfest. He also has a sensational song up his sleeve that may leave Ace Wilder in second place of the seven.

Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Boris René and De Vet Du. Boris will do a great job of setting the tone for the evening with the irresistible Her Kiss, and I’m fairly confident (or am I just hoping because I LOVE him?) that he can mimic his AC -> final journey this year. De Vet Du are a classic ‘Not Quite Direkt Material But Good Enough For A Second Chance’ act. Need I say more?

 

I will be saying more during the show, so visit me on Twitter (hint hint) to check out my (hopefully hilarious) comments, and to see my updated predictions after all seven songs have been performed. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Melfest’s first semi? Which two acts will be the first to book their own bit of butt-space in the Friends Arena green room, and who’ll have to fight their way out of AC to get there? Let me know down below.

 

That’s Saturday’s most exciting event taken care of. YES, I SAID IT. If you want to argue about it:

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Now, let’s wing our way over to Switzerland and see what they have in store for us on Sunday evening.

 

 

An (almost) all-female final for Switzerland…but which woman will win?

The Spice Girls would be psyched about the Swiss NF (‘the Swiss NF’ is easier to type and pronounce than Die Entscheidungsshow, let’s face it) because it is positively packed with girl power! The boys backing up Timebelle’s lead vocalist Miruna are it on the non-female front.

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  1. The Fire In The Sky by Nadya
  2. Cet Air Là by Ginta Biku
  3. Two Faces by Michèle
  4. Gold by Freschta
  5. Exodus by Shana Pearson
  6. Apollo by Timebelle

I hate to say this, but I always have low expectations of Switzerland. They can be relied on to choose the cream of a very average crop, but the fact that their line-ups are so frequently sub-par is disappointing.

Thankfully, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the standard in 2017. There’s one song I’m not keen on, but the other five range from good to great to ‘SHUT UP AND TAKE MY DOUZE POINTS.’

 

My top 6  

  1. Apollo – Timebelle’s last Entscheidungsshow entry Singing About Love was a super cute pop-rock number, but I like this pop ballad better. Is it the most original thing I’ve ever heard? Nope. Jessie J might have released something very similar five years ago. Still, it ticks all the boxes for a song of this style, and the tried-and-tested formula still works. It’s extremely enjoyable.
  2. Two Faces – It’s about time someone tried to get to Eurovision with a song about baking sweeteners and table seasonings! Okay, so there’s more to Michèle’s song than sugar and salt. Including a bit of a youthful, edgy, Zara Larsson vibe. The cool factor is high and the originality is too.
  3. Cet Air Là – This is such a mish-mash of genres, languages and time periods, it should be a disaster. But, unnecessary la la las aside, I really like it. The ethnic instrumental parts make it exotic, and the French chorus is like a sexier Loin D’ici. Eurovision 2006 meets Eurovision 2017.
  4. Gold – Adele called, and she wants her B-side back, Freschta. That’s not an insult, because I like this too. I’m simply saying that it’s no Someone Like You or Hello. But I appreciate Gold for what it is, which I’m going to label ‘rawthentic’.
  5. Exodus – Shana’s song is 80% decent, 20% not-so-much. Majority rules. And I definitely wouldn’t say no to a dance if it came on in the (Euro) club.
  6. The Fire In The Sky – This one’s too dated and melodramatic for my taste. Georgia let something like it win their NF, but I’m hoping Switzerland doesn’t follow in their dreary footsteps.

Measuring the quality of this final in Melfest terms, I’d say that it’s not as across-the-board awesome as the semi we looked at before (Sweden is no stranger to producing heats that outdo the concluding chapters of other countries’ NFs). But Switzerland have three or four excellent potential Eurovision entries at their disposal. Which one – if any – will they go for?

It’s time to decide.

 

Who SHOULD win Timebelle or Michèle. I’d also be interested to see Ginta on the ESC stage (she’d stand out, that’s for sure). For mass appeal and the best shot at success though, Timebelle is the smart option. For the sake of sending something cool and unique to Ukraine, that’s where Michèle fits in. The ball’s in your court, Switzerland. Hit it in whichever direction you want!

Who WILL win Timebelle. What can I say other than I think their timebelle has come? I think Michèle may be too offbeat FTW. My underdog pick is Freschta.

 

In your mind, who should and will go to Kyiv on behalf of Switzerland? Will Rykka’s squatting make an unwanted comeback when they get there (it’s no Macarena, but it may have caught on)? The comment box is waiting for your opinions, and so am I! I’m not curious – I’m just plain nosy.

 

I’m exhausted after all that rambling, so I’d better go have a power-nap before Melodifestivalen starts (at the perfectly civilised hour of 3am my time…but I willingly set my alarm earlier than anyone ever should at this time of year). Whether you’ll be joining me watching that magnificent beast get underway, or you’re tuning into Hungarian, Lithuanian or Ukrainian shows instead, have fun. I’ll see you when Frantic February’s first weekend is over and we have even more stuff to ramble about!

 

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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

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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?
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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,

 

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SUPER SATURDAY #5 | Thoughts on the new tracks of 2016 + my top 28 + Swedish second chances!

The title of this post pretty much says it all – besides letting you know that I actually haven’t got the time to review and predict the Estonian or Polish finals. I do have time to pass judgment on the songs that have become Eurovision entries since last Saturday, however. And to unveil my first official ranking of the year. AND to put Melodifestivalen’s Andra Chansen round under the microscope to see if I can guess who’ll walk away with the four performance slots in next weekend’s final. So all of the above is what I will do – right here, right now.

Well…in a minute.

Just so you know I know what’s going on in the Eurovision bubble over the next few nights, here are my traditional bullet points.

Tonight:

  • Estonia’s Eesti Laul – the final (will there be a Stig and Elina-style runaway winner? I suspect not)
  • Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the semi final (believe it or not, the end is in sight)
  • Poland’s Krajowe Eliminacje – the final (Edyta, Margaret, or neither to Stockholm?)
  • Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the Andra Chansen round (eight must become four)

Sunday night:

  • Romania’s Selecția Națională – the final (Mihai Traistariu’s chance to redo Eurovision)

Monday…sometime:

  • Macedonia present their song for Kaliopi (and she’s got her own big shoes to fill)

Now, let’s talk about the select stuff I have the chance to cover.

 

The songs and artist selections of the week, summed up in a sentence

Because ain’t nobody got the freedom for a full-length analysis – not with the week we’ve had.

  • LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan (Armenia) I don’t know if I’m impressed or disappointed by this unstructured, ethnically-tinged vehicle for Iveta’s raspy vocals.
  • Dami Im (Australia) She’s no Delta Goodrem (sadface), but X Factor champ Dami has the talent and dress sense to stand out in Stockholm – the only missing piece is a spectacular song.
  • Sing It Away by Sandhja (Finland) This reminds me of Belgium’s entry, but I prefer Laura to Sandhja (though I am glad Finland didn’t send Saara Aalto).
  • J’ai Cherché by Amir Haddad (France) Oui, oui and OUI.
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He’s more than all white as far as I’m concerned.

  • Pioneer by Freddie (Hungary) Hot singer + hit song = something that could be powerful on the Eurovision stage, and very successful for Hungary on the scoreboard.
  • Made of Stars by Hovi Star (Israel) If a song could be on the soundtrack of a West End musical, but a) isn’t, and b) isn’t Bohemian Rhapsody, then I’m not particularly interested.
  • Nessun Grado Di Separazione by Francesca Michielin (Italy) Classy, effortless Italian pop is a grande amore of mine, and this song is no exception (but please, please sing in Italian, Francesca!).
  • Heartbeat by Justs (Latvia) This is just/Justs brilliant, and features one of the most latch-able choruses of the year so far – Aminata, you’ve done it again.
  • Falling Stars by Lidia Isac (Moldova) The studio version, I’m keen on; the live version…well, Lidia positions herself right in the heart of screechy territory.
  • The Real Thing by Highway (Montenegro) This scares me and kind of appeals to me at the same time, but I expect it to perform terribly in its semi final.
  • Slow Down by Douwe Bob (The Netherlands) Bob’s style isn’t my bottle of Heineken, but even I can hear that Slow Down is a good example of folk/country that will do a decent job of leaving the Walk Along incident in its dust.
  • Icebreaker by Agnete (Norway) It’s incredible how Norway is managing to send two different songs to Eurovision 2016 without breaching any rules or regulations.
  • You Are The Only One by Sergey Lazarev (Russia) Sky-high expectations not met by a song that could have been lifted straight out of Eurovision 2006.
  • Blue and Red by ManuElla (Slovenia) You’ve got to do better than a Taylor Swift: 2008 Edition impersonator to impress me, Slovenia – what a step down from Here For You.

If you were wondering where the songs I’ve summed up here would factor in to a ranking including the rest, you’ll find that just below. If you weren’t, then feel free to skip to the Swedish section.

 

It’s here, and it’s uncertain! My first ranking of the 2016 season, revealed

I did put a ranking together a few days ago (not for publication’s sake but out of curiosity) and it was considerably different to the one below. What can I say? I’m fickle. This latest and first-to-be-publicised list includes all of the songs confirmed for Stockholm AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT – so Malta, who are still deciding whether Ira Losco should be a Chameleon or something else (I like to think they’ve got a backup track entitled Komodo Dragon waiting in the wings) is not included.

And so, for anyone who cares, this is my current top 28:

  1. Ukraine
  2. Hungary
  3. Italy
  4. France
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Belgium
  8. Germany
  9. Spain
  10. Moldova
  11. Ireland
  12. Denmark
  13. Albania
  14. Georgia
  15. Cyprus
  16. Armenia
  17. Iceland
  18. United Kingdom
  19. Switzerland
  20. Russia
  21. Montenegro
  22. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  23. Netherlands
  24. Israel
  25. Finland
  26. Belarus
  27. Austria
  28. Slovenia
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I have a ridiculously photogenic top three on my hands, if I say so myself…

With fifteen songs still to be premiered or picked, there’s a lot of room for movement in all of our lists. But I want to know who’s topping yours at the moment…and who’s sitting un-pretty on the bottom. Let me know in the comments, and I (might) send you a gift basket.

 

Meanwhile, in Sweden: It’s time to give out the last remaining final tickets!

 Andra Chansen, the stage of Melodifestivalen that’s as fun to pronounce as it is to watch, has arrived. And, like last year (but not the year before that), there are four places left in the Friends Arena final for tonight’s competitors to fight for.

SVT, as usual, have paired up the eight songs placed 3rd and 4th in the semi finals, ensuring that none of those who went to AC together will be up against each other again. In the process, they’ve come up with some duels that can only be described using the letters W, T and F. And that makes a few of them hard to predict. Let’s take a closer look.

 

Duel 1: Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz VS Hunger by Molly Pettersson Hammar

panmol

I’ll start with a confession: I would have bet my entire trip to Stockholm on Panetoz being pit against Boris René tonight (but I’m glad I didn’t). Don’t get me wrong – I’m relieved that both acts now have a shot at progressing from AC. But if SVT wanted to ensure the Melfest final was a variety show, they shouldn’t have given up an opportunity to eliminate one of two songs in a very similar vein. But ANYWAY, back to the duel that IS about to take place…this is a tough one. There are two very different artists and styles butting heads here. Panetoz are the masters of fun, energy, and transferring all of the above to the audience. Molly’s got a hunger, but I’m not sure it’s a hunger to win – there’s something lacking in her performance package (perhaps some of the Panetoz fun and energy). It isn’t vocal ability – she’s certainly got the monopoly on that in this duel. My personal winner is Panetoz, and I think they might have Molly cornered…but it’s not a given.

Who I want to win Panetoz

 Who WILL win Panetoz

 

 

Duel 2: Rik by Albin & Mattias VS Put Your Love On Me by Boris René

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Here we have two repetitive songs up against each other. As much as I adore Albin and Mattias as artists, I have to admit that Rik is repetitive in an annoying, couldn’t-they-think-of-anything-else-to-fill-three-minutes kind of way, whereas it’s purely the chorus of Put Your Love On Me that uses the five title words and basically nothing else. Boris’ song and performance have so much more to offer, and he’s the clear winner of the second duel in my opinion.

Who I want to win Boris René

 Who WILL win Boris René

 

 

Duel 3: I Will Wait by Isa VS Kizunguzungu by SaRaha

isaraha

This is perhaps the weirdest pairing of the evening (Molly PH versus Isa? No? Okay then). I’m a big fan of both songs, but I think Isa may be trying too hard to get somewhere. Vocally (and physically), she’s can’t measure up to the lofty standards I Will Wait sets for her. SaRaha, on the other hand, owns Kizunguzungu, and is clearly completely comfortable and in her zone with Afro-pop. It’s not too intense, and she’s not straining to belt it out – which is the opposite impression I get from Isa. I think SaRaha’s ease and confidence (plus her sensational Spotify stats) will see her through to the final tonight.

Who I want to win Isa…SaRaha…I DON’T KNOW!!!

 Who WILL win SaRaha

 

 

Duel 4: Rollercoaster by Dolly Style VS Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor

dolsam

Ah, finally! A duel that makes sense. Almost-novelty against almost-novelty. We need to get rid of one of these acts/songs, and I think Rollercoaster will be the one to get the silver platform boot. The force that is Samir & Viktor shouldn’t be underestimated, despite the fact that they didn’t manage to go direkt this time around. Their fans will be out to compensate for that “injustice” by systematically destroying Dolly Style via a tsunami of televotes. I can totally live with that.

Who I want to win Samir & Viktor

 Who WILL win Samir & Viktor

 

 

Sadly (seriously, have some tissues at the ready) that’s all I’ve got time for, folks. After all, a good-quality pre-Melfest nap must take priority over not napping.

As always, leave your thoughts on any recent or imminent Eurovisual happenings down below. And – this is not optional – enjoy this second-last Saturday of national final season while it lasts!

 

Until next time…

 

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SUPER SATURDAY #4 | New entries, first impressions + A Dal, Melodi Grand Prix and Melfest!

Välkommen to the fourth and final Super Saturday of February!

There are a few more national final-filled weekends to come, but this is the last that we can honestly label as ‘Super’, ‘Frantic’, or in extreme cases, ‘So *Insert F-Bomb Here* busy, I can’t *Insert F-Bomb Here Also* handle it, so I’m off to live in an uninhabited cave in the Himalayas’. Enjoy!

Here’s what’s on the menu tonight. I hope you’re hungry.

  • Finland’s UMK – the final
  • Hungary’s A Dal – the final
  • Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the eighth show
  • Moldova’s O Melodie Pentru Europa – the final
  • Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix – the final
  • Slovenia’s EMA – the final
  • Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the fourth semi final

And, of course, there’s an after-dinner mint on Sunday, if you can squeeze it in:

  • Latvia’s Supernova – the final

As usual, I’m not certifiably insane enough to tackle talking about every NF taking place tonight, so I’m picking a few favourites to review and predict – specifically, Hungary, Norway, and *completely unnecessary drum roll* Sweden. If you’re keen to check out what I have to say re: their line-ups, and would like to know who I think will win/qualify, read on. If not, what are you even doing here? This is what goes down on EBJ. Would you like someone to drop by your house unexpectedly only to criticise the wallpaper and the cleanliness of your toilet?

I DIDN’T THINK SO.

But I digress. Let’s kick things off with some thoughts on the songs that have become Eurovision entries since last Saturday.

 

STOCKHOLM SHENANIGANS: The Class of 2016, plus five

Plus five featuring some damn good songs at that. Four of the following tracks triumphed at national finals held last weekend, and during the week just gone; one was revealed in the wake of the artist’s internal selection. I’ll let you figure out which is which, because it’s extremely obvious and you already know anyway and man, I need to get some sleep after this.

  • Alter Ego by Minus One (Cyprus) I probably wouldn’t have picked this as a G:son creation had I known squat about the identity of its songwriters. That’s not a good or bad thing. I mean, clearly, this is no Euphoria, but it’s not supposed to be – it’s supposed to be a Minus One song, and it does work in that way. However, although the chorus is catchy, I don’t know how far Alter Ego will carry Cyprus.
  • Ghost by Jamie-Lee Kriewitz (Germany) Jamie-Lee, who could have competed in JESC until recently (and currently dresses like she should) is taking her Voice of Germany winner’s single to Stockholm, and ich liebe es. I’d like her to ditch the K-pop costume for Eurovision since it doesn’t suit the song at all, but apart from that, she’s got a voice (THE voice, in fact) and song to grab Germany a result they won’t be ashamed of.
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Jamie-Lee, ready for action in her ghost-busting gear.

  • Hear Them Calling by Greta Salóme (Iceland) In a plot twist that no one saw coming, the favourite to win Söngvakeppnin WON Söngvakeppnin. Pick those jaws up off the floor, people! I have three things to say about this: 1) The staging is boss, and no, it’s not a do-over of Heroes (‘inspiration’ is very different to ‘imitation’); 2) The song is quirky and folksy in a beautifully Icelandic way; and 3) Why did they have to ruin that beauty by switching to English?
  • 1944 by Jamala (Ukraine) I’m still receiving therapy due to the trauma I experienced watching the Ukrainian final, and part of the treatment involves my doctor telling me over and over again that JAMALA WON IT! Sure, I could have come to terms with The Hardkiss or NuAngels taking the ticket, but I’m thrilled that in the end (when it finally, mercifully came), the incredible Jamala and the emotion-heavy-yet-edgy 1944 were on top. Let’s hope nothing more than the title and a few lyrics – if anything – have to be altered to fit the EBU’s rules and regs.
  • You’re Not Alone by Joe & Jake (United Kingdom) If you follow me on Twitter (HINT HINT) you’ll already know how I felt about the UK final – the first held since 2010. If not, then I’ll recap in a more polite way by saying it wasn’t of the highest possible quality. Off to Eurovision is one of the two or three (at a push) songs that I didn’t despise, so that’s good news. What isn’t good news is it’s also a song that sounds like it should be in the background of something – a heartwarming movie montage or a compilation of teamwork-oriented Olympic moments. But I’ll give it time to grow. PS – Joe’s cute. Call me even though I just insulted your song?

 

What do you think of the latest songs to be selected? Is there a Eurovision winner among them? While you’re deciding, I’m going to leave the pre-existing entries behind and move on to the possible entries from Hungary, Norway, and our hosts Sweden.

 

 

HUNGARY: A Dal not dal at all as it reaches its conclusion

1

There’s no doubt about it: when you have an eight-song final, and only one of those eight songs is crap, that’s the dictionary definition of a brilliant show. Of course, that’s seven very good songs and one rubbish one in my opinion…but that’s the only one that matters to me.

Just kidding. I care what you think, person reading this! So how does this final look/sound to you?

  • Trouble In My Mind by Petruska
  • Győz a Jó by Gergő Olah
  • Who We Are by Kállay Saunders Band
  • Uncle Tom by Mushu
  • Why by André Vásáry
  • Pioneer by Freddie
  • Már Nem Szédülök by Parno Graszt
  • Seven Seas by Olivér Berkes & Andi Tóth

Based on the impressive content of their recent NFs, Hungary has convinced me they’re on track to win Eurovision within the next five years. I don’t think we’re off to Budapest quite yet, but I think they’ll be back in the final for the fifth time running in May – and who knows how high a rung they could reach on the scoreboard then? If they want back on the left-hand side (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) here are my recommendations in the form of a personal top four:

  • Pioneer This is the kind of music Eurovision needs more of: gritty, powerful, meaningful pop-fusion performed by chiseled Hungarians who I sincerely hope are single. I realise that’s quite specific (and shallow) so let’s just make it an ESC requirement for Hungary on this occasion.
  • Győz a Jó Ethnic R & B feat. sand? That’s a surefire recipe for success, as I have now discovered thanks to Gergő. This song is far superior to his last A Dal entry in my mind, because it has it all. And any man who can pull off a bright red suit with ease deserves a round of applause.
  • Who We Are Never mind Ira Losco – it’s András who’s the true chameleon. This is his third appearance in A Dal, and once again, he’s visually and aurally unrecognisable. That man-bun is the stage equivalent of Clark Kent removing his spectacles. Together with his band (as they are so named) he’s delivering multi-faceted and very cool pop-rock straight to our door, and I’m keen on it.
  • Trouble In My Mind THIS IS SO CUTE. Cute in a grown-up, totally-ready-to-charm-Europe kind of way. That is all.

I’m pretty confident that one of the above four will win tonight. Petruska and Freddie won their respective semis, so it’s probably down to those two FTW – but a last-second surprise isn’t out of the question. There’s an outside chance for András Kállay Saunders, his band, and his practically non-existent singlet (not complaining) to win, and I can see Seven Seas sneaking into contention as well. This should be a final well worth watching, no matter the outcome.

2016_01_30_A_Dal_masodik_elodonto-076-800x480

The top is pointless, Andras. Just take the damn thing off *pulls out camera*.

So…are you going to make an official prediction, or not? Hold your horses! I’m getting there. I think the top four, determined by the in-studio jury, will be comprised of Petruska, Kallay Saunders Band, Freddie and Gergő (alternatively, Olivér/Andi could pop up instead of KS Band or Gergő). I think – and hope – we’ll see Freddie in Stockholm. But if Petruska pips him at the post, I won’t be mad. How could I feel any resentment whatsoever towards that precious bearded face?

 

Okay…I think now’s a good time to talk about something else. But if you have a less awkward tip/expectation for A Dal 2016, let me know below.

 

 

NORWAY: Melodi Grand Prix, Norsk Edition (but did Dansk do it better?)

Um, YES THEY DID. What happened, Norway? MGP 2015 was epic, even though it may not have produced an ESC winner. MGP 2016 is…well, I don’t want to say bad, but it’s definitely in that ballpark. We’ve actually got a reverse Hungary situation here – ten songs, and I’d only define three or four as being halfway decent. Hashtag harsh but true.

norway-2016-melodi-grand-prix-artists

  1. Laika by The Hungry Hearts feat. Lisa Dillan
  2. Into The Fire by Stage Dolls
  3. Traces by Stine Hole Ulla
  4. Stand Up by Makeda
  5. Anyway by Pegasus
  6. Feel Da Rush by Freddy Kalas
  7. Afterglow by Laila Samuels
  8. History by Elouiz
  9. Anna Lee by Suite 16
  10. Icebreaker by Agnete

Norway’s super final will also see four songs advance to a second round of voting, as per usual, so I’ll go ahead and single out my preferred super finalists (though to be honest, I’m finding it hard to care that much).

  • Afterglow Laila’s song is my hands-down favourite, because it isn’t any of these things: Bon Jovi-inspired; a cheesy, overly-theatrical operatic ballad; a cheesy, soppy mid-2000s ballad; or a poor tribute to Meghan Trainor (all of which appear elsewhere in the running order). Plus, it’s actually good in its own right. It’s a true Scandinavian ballad, and if she can nail her live vocal, it will be magical on stage.
  • Feel Da Rush The pleasure is all guilty. This is part Sean Banan, part Kygo, and though I know I should hate the sum of those parts…I just can’t.
  • Icebreaker I’m convinced that this is literally two different songs that were accidentally mixed in the studio, and Agnete was just like ‘Okay then.’ The complete change in genre and tempo from verse to chorus isn’t cohesive at all. And yet…Icebreaker has appeal. A little advice for the writers/producers: if it was a dance track through and through, I’d love it.
  • Anna Lee Stereotypical half-arsed boy band fodder appeals to the boy band fanatic – surprise, surprise! Suite 16 have a song up their perfectly-pressed sleeves that we’ve all heard before (about three times on One Direction’s debut album alone). Does that lack of originality bother me? Not that much. Not when they’re above most of their competition regardless.

And the winner will be…one of the following, as far as I can see: Afterglow or Anna Lee. Still, Norway isn’t a country to shy away from throwing a curveball (cue throwback to the pizza song making the super final last year and Karin Park missing out) so we can expect at least one ridiculous song – Laika or Feel Da Rush – to reach the final four, and potentially win (but probably come third). My guess for that four is Feel Da Rush, Afterglow, Anna Lee and Icebreaker, with Traces possibly slotting in instead of Feel Da Rush if Norway is in a serious mood. But I’m sticking with the ‘A’ songs when it comes to the winner. With fingers crossed.

Which song from MGP 2016 do you think could bring Norway the success I’m not sure they’re craving come May?

 

 

SWEDEN: Melodifestivalen’s fourth (semi) final showdown!

It’s hard to believe, but ja – we’ve arrived at the end of Melfest’s semi stage. We’ve become accustomed to the last semi featuring some big hitters and a possible winner of the whole thing, and 2016 is no exception.

  1. Runaways by Eclipse
  2. Rollercoaster by Dolly Style
  3. Du Tar Mig Tillbaks by Martin Stenmarck
  4. Killer Girl by Linda Bengtzing
  5. If I Were Sorry by Frans
  6. Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz
  7. Youniverse by Molly Sandén
semi-final-4-gavle-30-s-clips-melodifestivalen-2016

Dolly Style clearly didn’t get the dress code memo.

I wouldn’t say Deltävling 4 is as eyeball-bulgingly awesome as Deltävling 3 was, but…MOLLY! I’ve been waiting for this evening’s seventh song since we found out Youniverse would BE this evening’s seventh song. In case you weren’t aware, I am a massive Molly Sandén fan, and I’ve been basking in the ambience of her status as favourite alongside Ace Wilder for months. So, now that the almost-full versions of tonight’s competing songs have been released, how does she stack up? And, how do the other six artists stack up to her?

Take my ideal qualifiers as an answer to those questions.

My top four

  • Youniverse Sure, Molly could fart into her microphone for three minutes and I’d fawn all over it, but thankfully, this is a few million steps up from that. Another sllickly-produced, ethereal pop number in a string of the same from her, it should win semi 4 comfortably.
  • If I Were Sorry You don’t have to be sorry, Frans (not that he is). This is charming, Ed Sheeran-type easy listening at its almost-best. I’m not 100% sold on the repetition of the title, but I’ve already put a deposit on everything else.
  • Rollercoaster Against my better judgment, I enjoyed this. It’s not a carbon copy of Hello Hi, which is good – this is a little more grown up (OMG, Dolly Style has evolved!). It’s still sweet and fluffy though, like a stick of cotton candy. And FYI, I have no clue which one is the original group member either.
  • Håll Om Mig Hårt Panetoz can do no wrong. Their brand of infectiously happy tropical pop wins me over every time. Efter Solsken was better, but it left the boys with big shoes to fill, and they’ve made a good effort.

So, who’s going direkt? Molly and Frans. The former because, well, duh. The latter because it’s what my unreliable gut is telling me. Do not place a bet based on my tips, for heaven’s sake.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Dolly Style and Linda Bengtzing/Panetoz. I feel like there’s going to be a real fight for fifth place tonight, and though it pains me to say so (as I want them to go as far as possible) I do think Panetoz might struggle and lose out to Linda.

 

This is the last opportunity for two songs to go straight to the Friends Arena final in a fortnight. Am I right about which two it will be? Do you have a different take on this semi’s seven? Say so in the comments, my fellow Melfester.

 

 

Alright. That’s enough of my nonsensical, sleep-deprived rants about musical competitions for now. I’m off for my traditional pre-Melfest nap that hopefully won’t turn into a full night’s sleep resulting in me missing Melfest (oh, the horror!). Maybe I’ll see you on Twitter in a few hours’ time? If not, I’ll see you once we’ve added six more songs to the stack marked ‘Eurovision 2016’.

 

Happy NF Viewing!

 

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SUPER SATURDAY (AND SUNDAY) #3 | Two new 2016 tracks, controversial contest changes and a few fantastic finals!

It’s that time again, guys. Another February weekend is upon us, and it’s another frantic one. BRILLIANT! *dances on her own á la Robyn*.

Without further ado, let’s whip out that NF calendar and see what’s on the program for today and tomorrow.

This evening:

  • Estonia’s Eesti Laul – the second semi final (go, Grete Paia, go!)
  • Finland’s UMK – the third semi final (with three more final tickets up for grabs)
  • Hungary’s A Dal – the second semi final (can returnees Passed…well, pass?)
  • Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin – the final (it’s Greta Salomé’s for the taking)
  • Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the seventh show (for god’s sake, Lithuania, just get on with it!)
  • Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the third semi final (SAY YAY YAY YAY)

On Sunday night:

  • Latvia’s Supernova – the semi final (feat. fan favourite Justs)
  • Ukraine’s Still-Untitled NF – the final (it’s going to be an epic showdown)

Okay, so it’s not quite as crazy as last weekend. But I’m hoping it won’t be as disappointing, either (Ukraine, I’m looking at you. Don’t do a Denmark). For today’s reviews and predictions, I’m narrowing my scope and focusing purely on the goings-on in Sweden and Ukraine – and throwing in some thoughts on the songs and shocks of the week while I’m at it.

Let’s get cracking.

 

 

STOCKHOLM UPDATE: Two more entries make eleven + the stage is set + point changes + Poli = spontaneous combustion

Whew! This week has been bigger than Linda Wagenmaker’s tent dress when it comes to ESC 2016 news, with song presentations, artist announcements and voting revamps all bombarding us within a short space of time. For those of you still standing there shaking your heads and wondering what the heck is going on, here’s a recap of the most newsworthy headlines from the week just gone.

Bosnia & Herzegovina, back with a bang? Ljubav Je by Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner & Jala (try saying that sentence three times fast when drunk. Or when sober – it won’t really make a difference) was premiered last night, but did it meet expectations? Well, that depends on what your expectations were. Personally, I was hoping for some Balkan drama, and I would say I got it. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen here – specifically, two vocalists, a violinist and a rapper – and they all came together (SLOGAN JOKE) to film a video clip on par with Mihai Traistariu’s Paradisio in terms of tackiness (though this one probably cost five Euros as opposed to 15 000). But…I like this track. It’s bringing ethnicity to a field that is, so far, lacking in sounds that say ‘This is where we come from’. I suspect Ljubav Je will be bigger and better on stage than it is in studio, but we’ll have to wait and see how it travels. One thing’s for sure: it’s hard to associate 2016 Deen with the hip-thrusting, bleached-blonde Deen from 2004. Are we sure it’s the same person?

deennt

Hair today, gone tomorrow…well, gone twelve years later.

Georgia’s Midnight Gold: Nika Kocharov & the Young Georgian Lolitaz officially have their tune for the contest too, and it’s…un-Eurovision, to say the least. But I have to say, I’m digging it! It’s very reminiscent of Australian alt-rock, which is not normally a genre I enjoy – but there’s something cool about Georgia’s take on it. It will do horribly at Eurovision (no Midnight Gold or any-other-time gold for Nika and his pals) but I’m happy to do some lethargic head-banging to it nonetheless.

Stockholm’s stage design, revealed: Ja – and it’s a whopper! This year’s stage has been met with overwhelming approval, with many fans citing an aversion to Vienna’s as their reason for loving Stockholm’s so much (which is a little mean, IMO). I reckon the giant, geometric performance platform will look ultra-impressive in real life. Plus, it’ll apparently allow the artists to move “within” an LED backing wall, which will be interesting and/or painful if done incorrectly.

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Round is out, and angles are in. (Photo Credit: SVT)

Chasing a nail-biting conclusion, the EBU approve a massive voting overhaul: Less popular with fans was the announcement that contest voting – or at least, the method of presenting points – will change in a massive way by taking inspiration from Melodifestivalen. Basically, the jury points will be handed out as usual, with spokespersons doing their 8, 10 and 12 duties. But later on, our gracious and good-looking hosts Måns and Petra (#Måntra) will proceed to award the collective televoting points, from lowest to highest, to each country. On the surface, I love the idea – after all, it keeps the winner secret until the last possible second, meaning there can be no more early exclamations of ‘It’s no longer possible for any other country to win!’ (which I only just finished complaining about over on ESC Insight). But, as with anything, there are pros and cons to the change. Both have been explored in more detail than I could dream of by the folks at Insight (who are not paying me to promote them, by the way) so hit that article up if you want the whole picture.

Poli Genova doing her duty for Bulgaria, again: To nobody’s surprise, Junior Eurovision 2015 hostess and Eurovision 2011 alumni Poli is back for a second crack at escaping her semi final. I think the majority of us agree she should have qualified in Düsseldorf, so now’s her chance to get revenge. On whom, I’m not quite sure. But she’s amazing, so let’s hope her song is the same.

 

Speaking of amazing music…let’s move on to Sweden and Ukraine, the locations of this weekend’s best NF installments as far as I’m concerned.

No offence to Iceland, or anywhere else, intended.

 

 

SWEDEN: Melfest’s next stop = Norrköping!

It’s hard to believe we’re at the halfway point of the six-week Melfest saga already. And, due to the recent Molly Sandén Incident (a.k.a. Leakgate), we’ve already heard snippets or full versions of every competing song for 2016. We’ve heard the host entry, in some capacity. Which song will have that title bestowed on it remains a mystery – especially in the lead-up to a semi as strong as this evening’s. I’m just saying, don’t put all your savings down on Ace or Molly S just yet.

Deltävling 3 looks like this:

  1. Kizunguzungu by SaRaha
  2. You Carved Your Name by Swingfly feat. Helena Gutarra
  3. Weight of the World by Smilo
  4. Kom Ut Som En Stjärna by After Dark
  5. My Heart Wants Me Dead by Lisa Ajax
  6. Put Your Love On Me by Boris René
  7. Human by Oscar Zia
melodifestivalen-artister-norrkoping-650x340

Aw, they all look so happy. Well, some of them do.

The first comment I have to make is this: ‘Kizunguzungu’ is my new favourite word. I have absolutely no idea what it means – if anything – but SaRaha is having it given to her by the object of her affection, so I’m guessing it means ‘an expensive, diamond-studded Rolex’ or something like that. Or, you know…the other thing.

But I’m not here to deliver a sex talk, so let’s move on to my second, less smutty comment: this semi is TOO DAMN GOOD. There are more than four songs I want to see advance, and knowing that’s impossible is driving me crazy. #firstworldmelfestfanproblems. I’m pretty convinced that, while one ticket till final is more or less taken by a certain someone who may or may not be performing in slot seven, the other – and the two second chances – could be anybody’s.

These are the songs I’d like to see fighting over places one to four:

  • Weight of the World The Svensktoppen Nästa winners always bring something special to Melfest, and they’re NEVER rewarded for it. I sincerely hope Smilo are the exception, because their blend of tropical house (their words, not mine) and Avicii-style folk-dance is the bomb. I really love this. It may not be a great performance piece, though.
  • My Heart Wants Me Dead I’ve been familiar with Lisa ever since her unsuccessful JESC bid a few years back, and I’m so happy she’s popped up in Melfest. Her song is a little bit Selena Gomez, a little bit Zara Larsson, and 100% killer. She won over the Swedish public on Idol…can she do the same tonight?
  • Put Your Love On Me Not bad for a footballer! If Panetoz sung in English, this is just the kind of thing I’d expect them to come out with, and that’s a huge plus. The chorus is repetitive, but when a song’s this irresistibly catchy, who cares? Not me.
  • Human Last, but not least (he is, in fact, my favourite) is the beautiful creature that is Oscar Zia. His second attempt to represent Sweden comes with a maturity that was lacking in his last Melfest entry Yes We Can. Human is a contemporary, ear-catching power ballad that will end tonight’s performances with a bang, and a ticket to the final. Watch out, Ace/Molly S.

PS – I also love the joyous Afro-pop of Kizunguzungu. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anything that could have made the cut for The Lion King soundtrack is guaranteed to be up my street.

So, who’s going direkt? I DON’T KNOW!!! Besides Oscar, of course. Him aside, I need major help. I’m leaning towards SaRaha or Lisa, but this is such a tough semi, I can’t split them – and there’s always the chance of someone else sneaking through (apart from After Dark). I don’t want to sit on the fence, so I’ll be brave and say Oscar…and SaRaha.

Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Swingfly and Lisa? Smilo and Lisa? This bit’s just as hard to predict. I think Smilo’s song is stronger than Swingfly’s, but a precedent has been sent for Svensktoppen wildcards to fail at the first hurdle. I’m going to stick with Swingfly and Lisa.

 

What do you think? This semi is the most competitive yet, so we’re likely to see another surprise (such as Isa’s failure to go straight to the final last week). Who’s off to Friends Arena, who’s getting a second chance, and who’s going home to consume copious tubs of ice cream in the wake of a crushing defeat?

 


UKRAINE: Six sensational songs must become one…so who IS the one?

It’s not as clear-cut a final as you might think.

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Based on the results of the two semi finals, the frontrunners are Jamala and SunSay. But, with staging and costuming supposedly being ramped up for Sunday’s show (how The Hardkiss are planning on upping their costume game, I don’t know) – and the desire to win burning feverishly in the six acts’ bodies (I assume) – anything is possible. Ukraine can choose between very good and superb when it comes to the cream of their crop. That’s these guys:

  1. Every Monday by Brunettes Shoot Blondes
  2. Higher by NuAngels 
  3. Helpless by The Hardkiss
  4. 1944 by Jamala
  5. Love Manifest by SunSay
  6. We Do Change by Pur:Pur 

THEY’RE ALL SO GOOD. There’s nothing here that I would turn my nose up at in the context of this NF – but there are songs that would make better Eurovision entries than others, and songs I personally prefer.

My top three 1944, Higher and Helpless. As I said when I reviewed the first semi, I hated Jamala’s song in 2011, but she has blown me away this time around. 1944 is stunning. Poignant and unique, it blends 90s sounds with now sounds to create something that’s sentimental in the least nauseating way possible. And her vocal? Wow. I have no other words. NuAngels and The Hardkiss don’t even measure up, but they do have great songs up their sleeves. Higher is as catchy as heck, and the anti-Cezar nature of the ladies’ voices is a talking point (I think they took outfit advice from Cezar, funnily enough). As a package, this entry could serve Ukraine well at Eurovision. The Hardkiss have an intense, melancholy-but-powerful ballad in Helpless, which is wonderfully dramatic (it needs to be used to back a movie trailer, stat). If they make it to Eurovision, they’d have the potential to pull an Alyosha, should the scene be suitably set.

Who should win? Yes, I have three favourites – but the fairest of them all is Jamala, by a mile. This final has the potential to devastate me like Denmark’s did, should she not win. 1944, though kind of controversial in subject matter, is hauntingly beautiful and incredibly alluring (no bells, whistles or fire curtains are required to make it stand out). Nothing else in this final stacks up in terms of substance or style. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and in this case, I think Jamala lost out back in 2011 so she could come back with 1944 in 2016 (if that made any sense) and win her way to the ESC with zero cheese involved. Make it happen, Eurovision gods…or even Kanye West will cower in terror at the sheer force of my tantrum.

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How could anyone say no to that face?

Who will win? It’s between Jamala, SunSay and NuAngels, I’m thinking. The former two acts won their respective semis, but should voters and jurors be divided when the pair go head-to-head, NuAngels could be the ones to nab the bulk percentage of points (making them this week’s Lighthouse X, only female and in possession of a more memorable song). Ultimately, my heart and head say Jamala. But is that wishful thinking? You tell me.

 

Seriously, tell me. If you have any hopes, dreams or expectations for this weekend’s NF results – and not just concerning the NFs I’ve rambled about today – let me know below. Is Greta Salomé a shoo-in to win in Iceland? Could Melfest’s fan favourite (and mine) Oscar Zia stumble and end up in Andra Chansen? Spill, people. You know you want to.

 

I’m going to say goodbye for now, but if you want to catch up with me on Twitter tonight (during Melfest) and tomorrow night (during the Ukrainian show), tweet me @EurovisionByJaz. I can’t guarantee any particular country’s outcome, but I can guarantee hilarious banter. That’s just as good, right?

 

Until next time…

 

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