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SUNDAY SHORTLIST | My top six tracks from Benjamin Ingrosso’s Identification

Have you been trapped in a basement for the past month or so? Maybe you just don’t follow Swedish darling and Eurovision 2018 wonder boy/televote non-magnet Benjamin Ingrosso on social media (the less dramatic option). Either way, you might’ve missed the build up to and eventual release on Friday of Benjamin’s first proper album: a.k.a. Identification.

I, as a tragic Ingrosso fangirl from way back, missed nothing. I’d been clinging on to the pre-release song teasers on Instagram like Salvador Sobral clinging on to the hope that he wouldn’t have to hand the ESC winner trophy to a fast-food-and-fireworks song like Toy (i.e. desperately). I dropped everything to read Scandipop’s comprehensive preview (luckily I wasn’t holding anything fragile, expensive or living at the time), and shook my fist super threateningly at Central European Time for dictating that the album would be released while I was at work. No prizes for guessing what I did the second I got home on Friday…

It’s now been a few days since Identification dropped, and since then I’ve played it more or less nonstop. As a result, I’m beyond ready to review it for anyone who’s interested – but rather than rambling on endlessly about all 12 tracks (which I could, because every single one is DOPE) I’ve decided to pick out my favourite six songs from the album and ramble on about those, and only those.

Behind the naturally cool-as-heck cover art of Identification is Benjamin’s latest single I Wouldn’t Know, Melodifestivalen winner/Eurovision entry/greatest song ever Dance You Off, and ten other slickly-produced pop songs – all co-written by the man himself – ranging from emotional ballads and hazy dream-pop to dancefloor bangers. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the best of that brilliant bunch according to Jaz. You wouldn’t be here reading this if you didn’t want my opinions, right?

 

In album tracklist order…

 

Behave

It would have been easy to make Dance You Off the Identification opener, but I’m glad Benjamin didn’t – not when this absolute BANGER was waiting in the wings, equipped to get things started in style. Ingrosso’s trademark falsetto leads to a chorus so infectious, you’ll feel like wearing a surgical face mask and bathing in antibacterial sanitiser after hearing it. Subject-wise the song is almost like a Dance You Off prequel, with Benjamin taking us to the club where he’ll eventually dance this girl off the floor because she’s become a bitch (his side of the story) – only on this occasion, they’re meeting for the first time and she’s looking mighty fine…hence why he can’t make his eyes behave. Honestly, he could have based this song’s lyrics on his desire to judo chop Big Bird from Sesame Street and I’d still rate it. As it is, I’m placing a mental bet on Behave being the follow-up single to I Wouldn’t Know.

 

I Wouldn’t Know

Speaking of which, here’s I Wouldn’t Know in all its summer-soaked glory – track no. 2 of the album and one of my highlights without a doubt. If this song seems to sound like LA (which it totally does) that’s Benjamin’s excessive time spent in the city creeping in to his music. It’s a pretty upbeat song considering it’s about someone who’s just not that into him (are all these songs about the same person? If so, she must be seriously high-maintenance). Every time I hear the retro, sun-bleached intro, I feel like I’ve been transported to the land of palm trees and shopping streets where Julia Roberts is not welcome until she’s made the full transition from hooker with a heart of gold to Richard Gere’s sophisticated arm candy (and yes, that is a compliment). Cruisy vibes and overall catchiness make this a perfect addition to any holiday roadtrip playlist. Also, ‘Tell me what it’s like to love someone who gives a damn about you, ‘cause I wouldn’t know’? Sick burn, Benjamin.

 

I’ll Be Fine Somehow

This breakup ballad has none of the danceable qualities of Behave or the ironic happy feels of I Wouldn’t Know, but it’s equally awesome in its own way. It reminds me a little of Benjamin’s first grown-up single Fall In Love, only it’s slower and sounds more like it was influenced by R&B. It tells a typical story that we can all identify with (album title pun not intended, but I’ll roll with it). That includes a little list of the pros and cons of the relationship split in question, summed up in the chorus with this lyric: ‘I miss the way that you feel but I won’t miss the way I felt’. Excuse me while I melt into a puddle of feelings on the floor! My only complaint about this song is that it’s too short. As we Eurovision fans are well aware, three minutes isn’t always sufficient song-wise, and I’ll Be Fine Somehow is over before I’ve had the chance to reflect on all of the horrendous aspects of my love life. I suppose I could just play it ten times in a row…

 

So Good So Fine When You’re Messing With My Mind

This is what happens when you put Benjamin’s late 80s/early 90s influences in a blender with a bunch of top-tier pop songs and a big scoop of protein powder. Oh, and a profanity bleep for every chorus that only draws more attention to the d-word. There’s no kale or chia seeds in there, but that just makes for a more appetising smoothie. If Dance You Off didn’t do anything for you but you’re still hoping for an Ingrosso track that will make you move, this would be my suggestion – the chorus alone is impossible to sit still to. Coming a close second in the ‘Best of SGSFWYMWMM’ stakes is the fact that every part of the song is interesting and has a unique selling point, but all parts compliment each other like it ain’t no thang (or, to use normal person words, effortlessly). Like Behave, this song would make a great follow-up single to I Wouldn’t Know. HINT HINT.

 

Spotlights

You can hear the Los Angeles in this one too. Spotlights is basically Benjamin justifying his place in the music industry – and in the spotlight, obviously – in the face of haters who think he’s only where he is in his career thanks to the Wahlgren-Ingrosso legacy (this is something the Kardashians should consider doing if they can gather enough material). And this justification is boxed up in jazz-pop package that Bruno Mars would be proud of. My highlight within-a-highlight here has to be the second verse, because the rhymes are so, so satisfyingly neat. ‘See I was only fifteen, labels didn’t want me, they saw me on the TV, said I didn’t have a story, so I had to prove it, did it with my music, when I become a star they’re gonna say they always knew it’ = bomb wording if ever I’ve seen it. I don’t mind if Benjy’s career did get a boost from that hyphenated family name, because it eventually led to this song’s existence in my life and presence on all of my summer party soundtracks.

 

Dance You Off

Well, duh! I like to think of Dance You Off as the last official track of Identification, with Happiness being an acoustic tack-on that makes for a nice encore rather than a great grand finale. Fortunately, this song helps Benjamin go out with a bang. You guys know what it sounds like – I don’t need to describe it to you. Will that stop me though? Um, no. The late 80s/early 90s atmosphere is thick, the Michael Jackson influences are clear, and no matter how many times I listen to this track (or watch the mind-blowing performance) I will NEVER understand why the voting Eurovision public responded to it so negatively. It goes without saying that I exclude myself from that narrative, since I voted for Sweden and only Sweden back in May (well, there may have been a few messages sent for Mikolas Josef, but you get my drift). Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. Dance You Off is the gift that keeps on giving, televoting points or *sniff* hardly any televoting points.

 

 

Okay – that’s my top six tracks covered, so I’ll press pause on the ramble. But I do want to say one more thing: if you’re yet to give this album a go, get on it ASAP (wherever you usually listen to music digitally). It’s far from being a collection of Dance You Off clones, so if that wasn’t your cup of cocoa but you are a pop lover, you’re still likely to find something Benjamin Ingrosso-branded to enjoy.

I’m going to cheat and recommend two more tracks in addition to my favourite six: No Sleep (which sounds like it was recorded under water with the supervision of The Weeknd, and the result is glorious) and Good Intentions (another one to make you feel like you’re in sunny LA drinking cocktails at a beach party). But, in case you hadn’t guessed, I love this entire album and wouldn’t tell you to avoid any of it.

 

If you have given Identification a run-through, tell me which tracks floated your boat in the comments. How many stars would you give it? It’s pretty obvious that I’d give it the full five.

Now I’ve got to go play it again, because it’s been several hours and I’m having withdrawals.

 

Until next time (when I’ll write about something in a less sickeningly complimentary way),

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…national final songs of the 2018 season + a playlist of ALL my favourites!

Is it just me who feels like we had a handful of Eurovision 2018 entries five minutes ago and were impatiently waiting for the rest to be locked in? And yet, somehow, the selection season is actually over. We have our 43, and that’s been the situation for a few weeks now.

It’s kind of sad, but there is a bright side – besides another contest being on the cards in the foreseeable future. Before looking back at Kyiv 2017 and looking SIX WEEKS (!) ahead to Lisbon 2018, we now get to glance over at this latest NF season and say ‘How you doin’?’ in a suggestive Joey Tribbiani way to all of the awesome new music we discovered throughout January, February and March (and maybe a little in December too). And today I’m finally ready to present you with my personal list of absolute favourites.

For some reason, I didn’t let myself have total free-rein fun with it (I may be my own boss, but it turns out I’m a strict one). There were conditions. DUN DUN DUN!!!

  1. This is an obvious one, but I couldn’t choose a song that won the NF it competed in, even if it was my favourite in the field. Once that happens, the song stops being an NF song and becomes a Eurovision entry, after all.
  2. Secondly, I only let myself choose one song per country, so don’t think you’re about to see me fawn over ten Melfest tracks in a row – it hasn’t happened. It would have been more like 3x Swedish songs, 3x Norwegian, 3x French and 1x token from somewhere else anyway.

Based on these rules, I’ve put together my top 10 and I’m pretty pleased with it. But, since this year offered up so much great stuff, if you make it to the end of this post – or just cut out the middle man and scroll straight through – you’ll find a playlist of my top 10 plus ALL of my other ‘best of the rest’ songs from this season. Feel free to tell me what excellent taste I have in the comments (or at least be polite when you’re criticising it). And don’t forget to leave a list of your NF favourites from 2018 too – I want to know what stood out to you and what you might have preferred to hear/see in Portugal over what will be. Because I’m nosy *hopes it’s part of my charm*.

Now, let’s get into the list!

 

 

#10 | Astronaut by Liam Tamne

Unplaced in Eurovision: You Decide (United Kingdom)

I know many of you will want to throw a pie at my face (or in this case, perhaps a plate of bangers and mash) for suggesting that ANYTHING in the You Decide lineup was better than Asanda’s Legends. Don’t get me wrong…that was dope, and in my opinion was probably the best choice the UK could have made for Lisbon (sorry/not SuRie). But while my head knew that much, my heart was with Liam and his Astronaut. Apart from taking the space metaphors a little too far at times, this song appeals to me in every way – from the modern and atmospheric production to the pretty melodies and Liam’s crystal-clear falsetto. In fact, the only thing that really bothers me is the line ‘take your body into space’, which sounds like a threat a serial killer would make to a bound-and-gagged victim after consuming a tray of hash brownies. But (bizarrely) that’s not a deal breaker. You can be my astronaut for sure, Liam (in a platonic way because I know you have a husband).

 

#9 | Signals by Karui

Unplaced, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (Denmark)

When Karui didn’t even get a look in to the super final of DMGP this year, it didn’t come as a surprise. She may have turned in a stellar, soulful performance, but Signals is just not the kind of song Denmark would ever choose to send to Eurovision. As a consolation prize, though, it’s totally the kind of song I get a kick out of, and I plan to listen to it on the reg until I find a 2019 Danish reject to replace it. The song is like a less urban version of All My Friends by Snakehips, with bare-bones verses and hypnotic choruses that run smooth like a chocolate fondue (why do I always end up comparing music to food?). It’s the perfect backing track to a low-key house party or a romantic rendezvous – not, I have to admit, a great song to enter in a competition, which is another reason why I didn’t crumple dramatically to the floor when it didn’t go anywhere in DMGP. I still want to hear more stuff like this from Denmark in the future, even if it only serves to end up on a Spotify playlist of mine post-show.

 

#8 | Ptica by BQL

2nd, EMA (Slovenia)

Okay, so it might have been BQL with Promise that technically came second in EMA…but the semi-final Slovenian version of this song is miles better. In any language, it’s no Heart of Gold (which 110% should have gone to Kyiv despite the boys being more performance-ready this year) but it has the Maraaya Midas touch, and that’s enough to warrant it a spot on my best of the rest list. I just love the cruisy vibe, the acoustic-pop sound, and OF COURSE the light-up guitars (it’s like Poli Genova personally oversaw the instrument-pimping process). Honestly, if BQL return for a third try at representing Slovenia next year with a song less impressive than this, it HAS to be their time. Maybe the musical love child of Heart of Gold and Ptica would do the trick? You’re welcome for the musical inspiration, Maraaya.

 

#7 | Lelya by Tayanna

2nd, Vidbir (Ukraine)

If there’s one thing we learnt from NF season 2017, it’s that Tayanna can SING…unless she’s got a throat infection. Fortunately she made a triumphant comeback to Vidbir this year, switching from a big dramatic ballad to a fast-paced retro pop banger in the process. As you’ll know if you tuned in to see her in action, she sang so studio-perfectly while dancing her ass off that she had to fend off accusations of lip-syncing on live TV. But she’s not fake – just fierce AF. And so is Lelya, with a catchy chorus and unrelenting energy that helped Tayanna hang on to her 2nd place from a year earlier. I would have preferred her to go to Eurovision on home soil with I Love You (what a host entry that would have been!) and I’m happy with Under The Ladder as Ukraine’s song for Lisbon, but Lelya would have been a worthy entry too. BTW…I’ve linked Tayanna’s semi performance above because, even though she was vocally flawless both times, I really did not like the oversized pantsuit she wore in the final. Seriously.

 

#6 | My Turn by John Lundvik

3rd, Melodifestivalen (Sweden)

Why are the Melfest performances geoblocked on YouTube? In Australia, anyway. It’s a travesty, is what it is. But I digress. If you read the Selection Season posts that led up to this one (which you totally would have because you just can’t get enough of me, AMIRIGHT?!?) then you might have noticed I transitioned from thinking My Turn was cheesier than a board of brie and camembert, to thinking that it was magnificent (while continuing to acknowledge the cheese). It’s not like it’s Our Choice cheesy (Iceland has a lot to answer for). It’s more of a ‘I just won Idol circa 2002 and this is my uplifting, inspirational winner’s single! Yay for me!’ situation. But it just works. It has all the moments it needs to give me goosebumps, right down to the explosive money note that we all knew would be accompanied by a fire curtain before we even saw John perform it on the Melfest stage. And speaking of which, he performs it so well with so much confidence, it’s hard to hate. Who knows, he may not believe a word he’s singing, but he makes me believe that he does. It so is your turn, John…just not to win Melodifestivalen, obviously.

 

#5 | Delirium by Isabell Otrębus

9th, Krajowe Eliminajce (Poland)

There’s something about Isabell that isn’t that appealing to Poland – this year in particular, when her NF outing ended with second-last place. I’ll admit that Delirium is a better song to listen to than to watch being performed (making it less than ideal to send to a contest where visuals are as crucial to a successful package as the song). But that’s what I’m ranking here anyway – songs that I have already or will be Spotifying the shiz out of over the next few months/years/centuries (because Delirium gives me enough life to guarantee I’ll live beyond 100). This song is better, I reckon, than Isabell’s 2017 Krajowe entry Voiceless. That was good, but Delirium is great. It’s not quite a pop music masterpiece, but pretty close – everything about it is contemporary, the production (Swedish, surprise surprise) is slick, and the chorus is simple but super catchy. If I’m honest, I would have preferred Poland to send it to Lisbon over Light Me Up, but I also know full well that Gromee and Lukas will fare better than Isabell would have. So I’ll just accept what actually happened, and continue to press play on this whenever the mood takes me (which is about every half an hour).

 

#4 | Poison (Ari Ari) by Tamar Kaprelian

DNQ, Depi Evratesil (Armenia)

Initially, I was under the impression that this was the ONLY song Armenia should send to Eurovision this year. Then they went and kicked Tamar to the curb at the semi-final stage of Depi Evratesil (THE NERVE!) and chose Qami…which I ended up falling in love with because it gives me all the Renaida-style feels. But rest assured that a) I’m still mad about the Poison rejection, and b) I will never forget what an epic piece of ethno pop it is. And that’s not just by comparison to Genealogy’s Face The Shadow, which was dire. In a parallel universe – and with some staging changes plus a boost from backing vocalists – this would have been an ESC return that gave an entire continent a bad case of the earworms. I mean, that chorus is stickier than super glue!  Overall, the song is three minutes of Tamar playing Princess Jasmine in the Armenian production of Aladdin, and hers is an Arabian night I want to relive over and over again. Ari ari-lly love this.

 

#3 | Scandilove by Ida Maria

Unplaced, Melodi Grand Prix (Norway)

I have to start by saying that I had a hard time choosing my Norway song for this list. I had no doubt there’d be one, I just didn’t know whether it would be Talk To The Hand, Who We Are or Scandilove (and narrowing it down to those three was tricky enough. #firstworldproblems). Ultimately I opted for Scandilove because it’s the Mean Girls of music: endlessly quotable, totally iconic and SO much fun. If you don’t believe me on that first point, allow me to present you with the following lyrical gems: ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion, it’s fucking freeeeezing’; ‘You’re in Scandinavia, biatch’, and of course, ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’ (though I’m still not sure exactly what that entails). The whole thing is so weirdly wonderful, a part of me wishes Norway had taken a non-Rybak risk and bestowed Europe with such a magical gift of song in May. Especially since Ida performed it so perfectly (when I was expecting a car crash) and with all the energy, attitude and costume game we could have hoped for. 1990s Spice Girl pop and 2010s too-cool-for-school Scandi pop – with a sprinkling of ridiculousness – join forces here, and the result is amazing.

 

#2 | Compass by Alejandro Reyes

2nd, Die Entscheidungsshow (Switzerland)

Now I’m getting into the songs that I not only wanted to win, but nearly got my way with (which is me saying that this song and my #1 both finished second in their respective NFs). I do think Stones is a good song, and that Switzerland was sensible in picking it. But if I’d had the picking power over there (I cannot imagine a scenario in which this would be the case, but just roll with me) I would have gone with Compass in a heartbeat. I was impressed by Switzerland having a potential Eurovision song that was so damn now, it could be the latest thing Shaun Mendes fangirls are freaking out over (rarely something you find in a Swiss NF). Still, I would have dug this like a hole in the sand even if it had been competing in Melodifestivalen surrounded by similarly current radio hits. It’s easy-listening but still has energy; the lyrics are interesting, neatly rhymed and non-cliché; and the chorus is stripped-back (word-wise) but memorable. As a package, Compass comes gift-wrapped in fancy paper with a big fat bow on top. And, as an added bonus, Alejandro is a beautiful sight to behold and can deliver himself to my door gift-wrapped (or not) any time.

 

#1 | Eva by Lisandro Cuxi

2nd, Destination Eurovision (France)

Eva feels nothing but a heartache…and I was the same when Lisandro was beaten at the last minute by Madame Monsieur in France’s 2018 NF. As with Norway, there was a handful of French possibles that could have ended up on this list, and they did all end up on the playlist you’ll find below (including Emmy Liyana’s OK ou KO and Nassi’s Rêves de Gamin). But I had to make Lisandro’s Eva my number one NF song of the season because not only do I love love LOVE it, it’s also the one song that destroyed me when it finished second, not first. It didn’t help that it looked like it was going to win until, as I said, the last minute (oh, the pain!). But enough about that, since it didn’t win and I’ve now accepted that. As a standalone song outside of a competition, to me Eva is everything. It’s moody, mixes languages without interrupting lyrical or audio flow, tells a story, goes hard on hypnotic beats and power, and is generally an R & B banger that stood out to me from the moment I heard a snippet of it. Lisandro’s smooth-as-silk vocals are the cherry on top of the croissant. More than ever, I wish we could make an exception to the September 1st rule and wheel this one out to represent France in 2019, but the best I can hope for is that Lisandro tries again with a song that’s equally good, or better (if such a thing even exists).

 

 

So that’s the cream of the crop for me…but about the rest? Well, here they are alongside my top-tier NF favourites.

 

How long would your personal playlist be? Would any of my top 10 picks make it into your top 10? Write me a sentence or a story in the comments and let me know!

 

I’ll be back soon with another pre-Portugal post, and then it’ll be time for the EBJ reviews to kick off (the only time I wish Eurovision wasn’t currently a 40+ country contest is when I have to write about every single entry). Watch out for those, and/or subscribe (in the sidebar), and/or follow me on your standard social media platforms @EurovisionByJaz, for new post alerts. Oh, and ESC-related thoughts complimented by GIFs. What more could you want?

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A shipload of songs for Portugal, Norway’s Grand Prix + the pointy end of Melfest!

It is with great regret – and to be honest, a little relief – that I say hey to you guys on the last Super Saturday of the 2018 ESC NF season. It feels like five minutes ago that the season started, and all of a sudden we’re in the thirties with our set-in-stone song tally and just days away from having a full house (and using the good old sorting tool to its full potential). The positive part of this, though, is that we are now just TWO MONTHS away from the main event.

No, not my birthday…that’s in September. I’m talking about Eurovision, obviously. Isn’t that all I ever do on this blog?

Before the spotlight hits Lisbon, there is more business to take care of. This is a sedate Saturday when you compare it to the last three or four – but the two finals taking place tonight are big ones. 

  • Norway (Melodi Grand Prix final)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen final)

Yep – it’s an all-out Scandifest! And even though I’m mad about it denying me the chance to be on Twitter throughout Melfest if I want to watch MGP afterwards sans spoilers (why did they have to be on the same night, for the love of Loreen?!?) I’m also very, very excited. And very, very keen to get on with talking about a) everything that happened last week re: Portugal’s participating songs, b) Melodi Grand Prix, and c) my beloved Melfest (to think I was in Friends Arena for the final a whole year ago!). So I’ll get straight into it.

 

 

After a drip-drop few months of the NF season (Safura pun intended), all of sudden we are DROWNING in songs (albeit drowning in an enjoyable way).

It all started with the results of last Saturday’s finals, which saw five songs selected in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Poland and San Marino. The role call = La Forza by Elina Nechayeva, Monsters by Saara Aalto, Our Choice by Ari Oláfsson, Light Me Up by Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer, and Who We Are by Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening (a Maltese/German production for San Marino, of course). My least favourite of this bunch by far is Who We Are (and if Norway chooses a much, MUCH superior Who We Are tonight, San Marino will be even worse off) while my top pick of the night was La Forza. I’ll tell you why – assuming I still feel the same way – when the EBJ reviews for 2018 kick off. #cliffhanger.

Sweden’s Melodifestivalen stage has made its last pre-Stockholm pit stop, and the final line-up is complete (obviously, since it’s happening tonight…I’m just mentioning it now). Quashing their competition in each of the four Andra Chansen duels last Saturday were Margaret, Renaida, Felix Sandman and Mendez, paving the way for a Schwarznegger-strong final. For more on that, including my winner prediction, keep reading.

We have our host entry at long last, with Portugal choosing Cláudia Pascoal and her fairy floss hair to defend their Eurovision title with O Jardim. It’s a seriously slow burner of a song, and I definitely need time to figure out how I feel about it – but my first impression is good. Not good enough to make me think Portugal will successfully defend their first-ever win, however.

Later in the week, just when we thought the flood of songs had stopped, in surged Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia and Ireland, unveiling entries by artists that had been locked in for a long time (Belgium in particular). It’s no surprise that most of my attention was on my own country’s entry (no. 4…who would have thought), but I’m actually not going to say anything about Jessica Mauboy’s We Got Love at this stage. Do I love it? Do I hate it? YOU’LL NEVER KNOW MWAHAHAHAHA until later on when I’ve formed a proper and objective opinion. Sorry, not sorry.

If I could describe the others in one word, though, Cesár Sampson’s Nobody But You would be ‘smooth’, Aisel’s X My Heart  ‘underwhelming’, SENNEK’s A Matter of Time ‘interesting’, Franka’s Crazy ’jazzy’, I guess (and I’m glad Croatia isn’t in the same semi as Latvia, because I love Funny Girl and I don’t want two similar songs clamouring for the same points) and Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together ‘sweet’. Stay tuned for those 2018 reviews when I’ll say a lot more than that about all 43 entries.

 

Now it’s time to talk about some potential entries. Let the Scandifest begin!

  

 

We’ve known the artists and the songs for a good few months – and now, it’s finally time for Norway’s MGP to pit them against each other live and narrow ten down to one. And those ten are, in case you needed a refresher:

  1. You Got Me, Stella & Alexandra
  2. Talk To The Hand, Aleksander Walmann
  3. Scandilove, Ida Maria
  4. Light Me Up, Nicoline
  5. I Like, I Like, I Like, Tom Hugo
  6. Stop The Music, Charla K
  7. Tengo Otra, Alejandro Fuentes
  8. Moren Din, Vidar Villa
  9. Who We Are, Rebecca
  10. That’s How You Write A Song, Alexander Rybak

I don’t know about you, but I reckon this final is pretty freaking beautiful, to quote Robin Bengtsson *struts on treadmill and tries to type at the same time*. You did good, Norway – even if Alexander Rybak isn’t adding a surefire hit to the mix as many of us assumed he would.

Here’s my rundown of the songs that are hits, and those that missed the mark (in my opinion, obviously…feel free to disagree in the comments).

 

My favourite four (a.k.a. Jaz’s personal super final)

Who We Are In the wake of A Monster Like Me, Mørland brings us another musical masterpiece via Rebecca. It’s a power ballad that moves to morph into Sanna Nielsen-style schlager before each chorus, but (plot twist) doesn’t. The lyrics are familiar but not clichéd or a cheesefest, and each part of the song is as memorable as what comes before it – there’s no relying on a strong chorus to carry everything else. AMAZING. This is the MGP song leading the odds at the moment, and if Rebecca can deliver it close to studio-perfect tonight, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing her on an even bigger stage in May. 9.5/10.

Talk To The Hand I was surprised to see JOWST and Aleksander Walmann so keen to give Eurovision another shot so soon – surprised, but psyched. This time Aleksander is the only billed artist, but we still get to experience JOWST’s brilliant lyrics (Grab The Moment won the EBJ Award for Best Lyrics of 2017, ICYMI). And it’s another catchy, cutting-edge pop track, with a faster pace than the Kyiv 10th-placer. I love it. It’s so much fun, and I will be Spotifying the shiz out of it whether it wins or not. 9.5/10.

‘Talk to the hand coz the face ain’t listening…and also coz I’m in the middle of servicing my car.’

Scandilove Speaking of fun…oh my Lordi, this is a party starter. At first I thought it was ridiculous, but all it took was a second listen to get me thinking it was ridiculously epic. It’s unbelievably catchy, bubblegum as heck, and hilariously quotable – ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’, ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion’ and ‘It’s fucking frEEEzing’ are the tip of the iceberg. Sure, it could be an absolute train wreck when performed live, but Ida is innocent until proven guilty. 9/10.

Tengo Otra Who would have thought that the Despacito effect would pop up in Norway’s national final? Or Sweden’s, for that matter? Well, believe it or not, it has – and I’m fine with that when it gives us songs like this. I have no idea what Alejandro is singing about (I’d have better luck if he’d gone with Norwegian) but his melody is exotic and makes me want to dance until sweat is pouring off me and I have to excuse myself to go and down an entire pitcher of sangria. 8.5/10.

 

The leftovers (a.k.a. the stuff that’s still good, just not great)

That’s How You Write A Song Artist-wise, this is the big one. Song-wise, this is the musical equivalent of a trashy TV movie that’s so bad it’s good. What’s not good is how inaccurate the lyrical instructions are (I think there’s a little more involved in the songwriting process than you’re letting on, Alexander) but who cares when the violin riff is so fantastically cheesy? Fairytale this song is not, but it is my guiltiest guilty pleasure of the whole NF season. 8/10.

Moren Din Up until now, the creepiest mother-related song in the Eurovision bubble was Belgium’s 2014 entry from Axel Hirsoux. Enter Vidar, who wants to get it on with someone else’s (I must stress that) mum and is not shy about making that public knowledge by singing about it on national TV. Subject matter aside, the song is folksy fun and I quite like it – all the more as it’s the only Norwegian-language song competing in MGP this year. 7.5/10.

‘Is that your mum over there? Your grandma? You know what, I’m not fussy.’

Stop The Music This is a strange name for a song, but I can’t even make a stupid joke about it along the lines of ‘I wish they had stopped the music’ (HAHAHA not) because it’s a nice song. As ballads go, it’s not the cookie-cutter kind, and I appreciate that. 7.5/10.

You Got Me Holy Haba Haba – Stella’s back! And she’s got her groove back too by the sounds of it (I owe you a congratulatory handshake if you got that reference). Her duet with Alexandra – as opposed to Alexander, Aleksander and Alejandro – is full of energy and packs a decent punch with the chorus, but it doesn’t exactly set my Scandipop-loving soul on fire. 7/10.

Light Me Up This is probably the most nondescript song of the ten. It’s good for radio play or the movie soundtrack of a John Green adaptation, but it’s too lacklustre to compete in a contest. There’s no fight in it. Sorry, Nicoline. 6.5/10.

I Like, I Like, I Like Now here’s a song title I can joke about! It’s not that I don’t like, don’t like, don’t like Tom’s track (though TBH, calling it I Like x1 would have been totally fine) – it’s just one of the few weak links here, and I’d be shocked to see it progress to the super final unless the live performance is miraculously mind-blowing. 6/10.

  

Making my predictions (a.k.a. embarrassing myself)

Traditionally, the four spots in the Melodi Grand Prix super final/gold final/whatever they’re calling it in 2018 are filled by a few predictable betting favourites, plus a few left-field options that few saw coming (and by ‘few’, I mean ‘me because I’m not very perceptive’). I’m not even sure I would have anticipated Grab The Moment making the cut last year if I’d followed MGP (I was busy swanning around Stockholm at the time). So, I’ve thought long and hard about who I think the final four will be this time…

…which didn’t help at all.

That means it’s stab-in-the-dark time, y’all! And I’m taking a stab at Aleksander Walmann, Vidar Villa, Rebecca and Alexander Rybak being the final four. If Walmann fades into the background after performing in the dreaded second slot, or Vidar isn’t the curveball I suspect he might be (remember En Godt Stekt Pizza?) we could see Ida Maria (if Norway’s feeling frisky) or Stella & Alexandra stepping up instead. Rebecca and Rybak are more or less already there, as far as I’m concerned, but don’t make me bet anything on it.

As for the winner, I do think Rebecca will do it if a) her live vocals are up to scratch, and b) the staging hasn’t been stuffed up and does Who We Are justice. That means the music video should definitely NOT be replicated on stage, as cool of a concept as it is.

 

What do you think? Am I crazy for not naming Rybak the runaway winner, or is there someone I’ve overlooked? Who do you want to represent Norway in Lisbon? Let me know below.

 

 

It’s here. After five cities, four semis and one second chance round, Melodifestivalen has arrived in Stockholm, and the capital is prepping for a final that has turned out to be pretty fantastisk considering the overall, weaker-than-usual standard of this year’s competition. 12 songs remain, and outside of victories on the Spotify charts, only one can win. So who’s going to Eurovision?

  1. Everyday, Mendez
  2. All The Feels, Renaida
  3. A Bitter Lullaby, Martin Almgren
  4. My Turn, John Lundvik
  5. Party Voice, Jessica Andersson
  6. Last Breath, LIAMOO
  7. Shuffla, Samir & Viktor
  8. For You, Mariette
  9. Every Single Day, Felix Sandman
  10. In My Cabana, Margaret
  11. Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso
  12. Fuldans, Rolandz

That golden ticket to the ESC is still up for grabs. There’s no crystal-clear winner forging ahead far enough to make betting on them worthwhile (at least for a scaredy cat with a fragile bank account balance like me). Benjamin is leading the odds and won the audience poll; Felix is topping the charts and gaining more support by the second; Mariette or John Lundvik could still surprise; and LIAMOO might be a miracle worker who raps his way to first place.

A lot is going to come down to who Sweden votes for now that the best songs are in direct competition, and what the international juries take to as well (so we probably won’t see Samir & Viktor shuffla in Lisbon). Before I make my best possible winner prediction, I want to run down the full list of tonight’s twelve songs: not in performance or even alphabetical order (gasp!) but by how much I want them to win. Tell me if you feel the same – or not – in the comments.

 

Nej, tack…the songs I DON’T want to win Melfest 2018

A Bitter Lullaby I think there is a place for this in the final, and as long as it isn’t first place (which is about as likely as San Marino winning Eurovision this year) I can make peace with it being there. The song has grown on me since listen no. 1, but I still see it being too vanilla to get Sweden a result on par with what they’re accustomed to. 6.5/10.

Party Voice Melfest wouldn’t be Melfest without a touch of schlager, and since Jessica is one of only four females competing tonight, Party Voice is representing schlager and girl power in Stockholm. But, like Christer Björkman, I do NOT want a song like this winning through to the ESC and setting Sweden back 15-20 years. Again, it’s not going to happen…but I just want to make my feelings clear (while dancing like a mother). 7/10.

For You It’s not Mariette’s fault that she had so much pressure on her to produce a clear Melfest winner. Nonetheless, she didn’t. I think she’s almost out of contention for the win (if she couldn’t do it with A Million Years, she shouldn’t be able to with For You). The song and the performance are good, but missing the x factor. 7/10.

‘I think I deserve a high five for not falling off this pyramid, don’t I?’

Fuldans I can’t be mad that Rolandz went direkt – didn’t we all see it coming? They are officially the Owe Thornqvist of 2018, right down to being handed performance slot 12 in the final. As with Boogieman Blues, I’d be lying if I said I got zero enjoyment out of Fuldans. Knowing it shouldn’t and won’t come anywhere near winning means I’m not worrying about it much. 6/10.

 

The songs I could get on board with (or should I say ‘All Aboard’ with?)

Everyday This is a bop. So much so that I can forgive the line ‘We were always meant to be’ (seriously, couldn’t they come up with anything else?). The chorus is possibly the catchiest of the year, and the colourful, frivolous staging contrasts well with Mendez’ all-black ensemble. 8/10.

All The Feels Fiercest, most flawless female in the final alert! I’m so thankful Renaida made it out of Andra Chansen so we get to witness her smash it on stage again. All The Feels is addictive, contemporary and perfectly choreographed. The odds aren’t in its favour to win, but if it did I would be happier than Nathan Trent after a lottery win. 8.5/10.

Shuffla They’re leading the pack on Spotify – and it’s understandable – but as with Rolandz, it will be the international juries who drag Samir & Viktor down a scoreboard they might have topped if Sweden had 100% of the power. I’m not super keen on a Shuffla win, so that’s okay with me. Still, imagine the energy this would bring to Eurovision, and how jättebra it would be to have Sweden send a song in Swedish for the first time since 1998! 7/10.

They might not win over the juries, but they could be up for a Colgate advertising campaign.

Every Single Day Comparing this song – and Felix himself – to Frans’ win with If I Were Sorry is easy. I ended up loving and supporting that in Stockholm (right down to wearing Frans’ face on my t-shirt) and I can see myself doing the same thing if the Sandman becomes the second-ever winner to come out of Andra Chansen. At this point, though, I like this song, but love others. 8/10.

 

The songs I want to win

My Turn How did I go from labeling this as a total by-the-numbers cheeseboard to adoring it when I’ve only listened to it once since semi 1? Your guess is as good as mine. But there’s something about the melody, power, and John’s beautiful face that’s worked magic on me. Don’t underestimate this one! 9/10.

Last Breath I get that rap isn’t for everyone, but it’s what LIAMOO does best and that makes his performance of Last Breath authentic and moving. The staging is simple but complementary, and the song is dynamic thanks to the uplifting chorus that gives rap-haters a break from the more intense verses. As Sanna Nielsen would say, I’m in love. 9/10.

In My Cabana But of COURSE. I don’t care if Margaret sings like a drunk pack-a-day smoker (although she has come a long way from her Polish NF performance of Cool Me Down). This song is the bomb dot com – a tropical-reggae-pop banger with numerous insanely catchy bits. Oh boy, oh boy. 9.5/10.

‘FYI, when I say ‘go ape’, that’s not an invitation for Francesco Gabbani’s man in a monkey suit to come party with me.’

Dance You Off Last but not least, it’s my boy Benjamin with a slick R & B/dance track and the most epic staging I have ever seen. Together they’re an ESC-ready package that I’ll be cheering for tonight so loudly I’ll wake up everyone else in my house, and you’ll probably hear me even if you’re in Friends Arena. 9.5/10.

 

Predicting the winner, with sweaty palms (and sweaty other places)

I’m going to keep this (kind of) short. Realistically, I think there are four songs that are in it to win it – My Turn, Last Breath, Every Single Day and Dance You Off. As I said before, Samir & Viktor will be dragged down by the international juries, whereas I think Swedish love for Mariette will be decreased now there are stronger songs and performances in play.

Last Breath is too divisive to win, in my opinion – as much as I’d enjoy that. My Turn is probably not current enough. That leaves a likely top two of Benjamin and Felix (who have a bromance going on that Shakespeare would write a sonnet about if he were alive today) and I’m having trouble deciding what’s more likely: the song I actually want to win winning (Dance You Off ) or an Andra Chansen qualifier winning again (Every Single Day). All I feel 100% confident in saying is that Sweden will be sending their fourth guy in a row to Eurovision (so could we please get some girl power á la Sverige in 2019?).

That being said, YOU HAVE TO MAKE AN ACTUAL PREDICTION, JAZ!!! So, for the win, I’m settling on *drumroll*…

Felix. Because I don’t want to jinx Benjamin, but also because I got this feeling inside my bones (Justin Timberlake knows).

 

Who’s your pick to fly the Swedish flag in Lisbon? Do we agree, or do we have to agree to disagree?

  

NF UPDATE: What’s Up Next (The Last NF of the Season, Noooooooooo!)

    • 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)

And we still have song reveals from Bulgaria, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia and Russia to look forward to. Are we spoiled or what?

 

I think I’d better stop the Scandifest now since I could probably publish all of the above as an encyclopedia-thick novel (that nobody would want to read). I hope you enjoy Melfest or MGP if you’re watching one/both tonight, and that you don’t decide to be Eurovision Satan and DM me spoilers from Norway on social media. Have a heart!

 

Until next time, when the real ESC countdown begins…

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | Nine more songs, an Estonian decision + Swedish second chances!

Holy guacamole, guys! If you thought the last four or five Saturdays were busy when it came to the ESC NF calendar…then you’re not entirely wrong, they totally were. But this Saturday is on another level, because we’re about to find ourselves with five more songs for Lisbon. FIVE, I TELL YOU!!! THAT’S FOUR MORE THAN ONE!!!

In addition – and I won’t use aggressive all-caps on you this time – Lithuania is edging ever closer to the end of Eurovizija (so they say, but I’ll believe it when I see it) and Sweden’s penultimate Melfest show has arrived. Nights like this are exactly why ‘Super Saturday’ was coined, and I am pumped. Are you?

Here’s a rundown of the evening:

  • Estonia (Eesti Laul final)
  • Finland (UMK final)
  • Iceland (Söngvakeppnin final)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 8)
  • Poland (Krajowe Eliminacje final)
  • San Marino (1in360 final)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen Andra Chansen round)

As usual, I’m going to review everything major that went down in ESC terms this week, and I’ll also be talking Estonian eventfulness and Swedish shenanigans (that’s Eesti Laul and Melodifestivalen, for those of you who’d prefer I speak like a normal person). Sorry if you were hoping for a UMK (Monsters please), Poland (Delirium please), etc ramble. Maybe next year, if my time management skills have become superhuman by then!

 

 

Let’s rewind to last Saturday, which saw Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Slovenia and Ukraine take their picks for Portugal. Enrolling in the Class of 2018 were: AWS with Viszlát Nyár; Laura Rizzotto with Funny Girl; DoReDos with My Lucky Day; Lea Sirk with Hvala, Ne!; and Mélovin with Under The Ladder. Along the way we lost BQl and Tayanna, who’ve now finished second two years running in EMA and Vidbir respectively – but it wasn’t for nothing. My favourite choice of last Saturday night was Latvia’s (as they continue to bring it for the fourth year in a row…we’ll see if they get rewarded this time). Having not had the time to follow Supernova at all this season, I had no idea what to expect when I checked out Laura’s winning performance. Afterwards, all I could think was ‘Wow!’ – so you could say it took me (pleasantly) by surprise.

Over in Sweden, the fourth and final semi of Melodifestivalen ended with direkt qualifications for Mariette (shocking) and Rolandz (*sigh*), plus Andra Chansen tickets for Felix Sandman and Olivia Eliasson. It wasn’t a jaw-dropper of a show by any means – Mariette was the favourite, Rolandz obviously is the Owe Thornqvist of 2018 (as I suspected) and Felix will probably get to the final via the scenic route – and it doesn’t look like this week’s AC round will see any major surprises either…OR WILL IT?!? More on that later on in this post.

The NF action didn’t all go down on Saturday: Sunday night was Armenia and Romania’s turn to crown a couple of champions. Armenia could have gone any which way after pre-Depi Evratesil fave Tamar Kaprelian didn’t even advance to the final – and they opted for the first song performed on the night, Qami by Sevak Khanagyan. Now, I do want to keep my poker face on as much as possible until I officially review the entries for Lisbon, but I just have to say that I totally forgive Armenia for letting Tamar go (i.e. we may have lost a bop, but we’ve gained a GORGEOUS ballad in its place). As for Romania, who settled on Goodbye by The Humans…well, I think I need some grow time on that one. The lack of yodeling is something we’ll all have to get used to.

The week ended with two ‘ta-da!’ moments – a.k.a. on Friday, Cyprus and The Netherlands unveiled their entries at last. Eleni Foureira’s Fuego is the ethnopop banger I’ve/we’ve all been waiting for, and once again I think Cyprus has the competitive edge over Greece (I’m still not over Gravity finishing lower than This Is Love last year. JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED). Waylon’s Outlaw In ‘Em – revealed as his Eurovision pick after five consecutive nights of musical possibilities – is not an ethnopop banger (shocking). Instead it’s a full-on, no-holds-barred twang-a-langin’ country anthem in which he is sporadically possessed by Jon Bon Jovi circa 1987. I’ll leave you to wonder (until review time) whether that’s a pro or a con as far as I’m concerned.

 

 

I wanted to talk a little bit about Eesti Laul, which isn’t an NF I usually follow from go to whoa – I’ve barely had time to glance at it this year – but it can always be relied on to spit out some really interesting songs that would never be mistaken for Melfest rejects (they’re just so inherently Estonian somehow).

A few semi finals ago there were 20 potential successors to Koit & Laura’s Verona in play; now, 10 remain (DUN DUN DUN!) and tonight is the night for Estonia to name the best one (hopefully, although we all have a different opinion of which one that is) winner.  

  1. Young, Karl Kristjan & Karl Killing feat. Wateva
  2. Sky, Eliis Pärna & Gerli Padar
  3. Knock Knock, Nika
  4. Thousand Words, Sibyl Vane
  5. Home, Stig Rästa
  6. Laura (Walk With Me), Vajé
  7. La Forza, Elina Netšajeva
  8. (Can’t Keep Calling) Misty, Frankie Animal
  9. Drop That Boogie, Iiris & Agoh
  10. Welcome To My World, Evestus

The top three in the odds are Elina, Stig and Vajé (well, they were when I wrote this), but are any of those acts in my personal top three? Short answer: yes. Long answer: keep reading.

 

My favourites

La Forza I initially listened to this after hearing Eurofans left, right and centre raving about it, and I didn’t feel it much at first (probably because my expectations were higher than Elina’s glass-shattering soprano notes). But a few listens later, my skin is goosebumping during the chorus. Elina’s performance looks and sounds like nothing else in Eesti Laul 2018, and nothing else in Eurovision 2018 at this point. She is stunning, vocally flawless, and the wearer of a skirt bigger than Aliona Moon’s and just as arresting.

Home Ott Lepland did it to me in 2012, and now it’s Stig who’s making me want to fly to Tallinn ASAP and propose to him on the spot. What a romantic! As always, I’m surprised to see him back in the comp considering he looks like he stumbled across it by accident but decided to just roll with the punches. That aside, I adore this song. It’s sweet and heartfelt without being gag material (FYI, Stig, this is me telling you that I’m currently free for GoT viewings).

‘Why didn’t you wake me up? Game of Thrones was on!’.

Young This is too cute, gosh darn it! One of the Karls even has BRACES, for heaven’s sake (I think it’s one of the Karls…there are a lot of cooks in this kitchen and I’m confused). No, it’s not the most distinctive song on the planet (and it won’t win tonight) but it’s fresh and fun, which gets a YAASSS from me.

 

Who’s going to win it?

I don’t want to discount anyone and look stupid later (which has already happened a handful of times this selection season), but in my mind the most likely winners are Stig and Elina (not to be mistaken for the Stig and Elina duo of 2015). And I can narrow it down even further than that, because I just don’t think Home is powerful enough to outshine La Forza – though that depends on what Estonia is looking for. Stig gets the authentic, singer-songwriter vote; Elina has the ‘wow!’ moments (La Forza is one long ‘wow!’ moment in itself, actually). I’m thinking it’ll be wow over ‘aww!’ this time.

Oh, and to cover my butt…my underdog winner prediction would be Sibyl Vane or Frankie Animal.

 

What do you think? Who’s getting on the plane to Portugal on behalf of Estonia, and will their microphone work once they get there?

 

 

Kristianstad is the name (does Sweden has a Kostovstad tucked away somewhere?) and Andra Chansen is the game, people. The eight songs that finished 3rd and 4th in their respective Melfest semis throughout February will be chopped in half tonight, with four acts to join Benjamin Ingrosso, John Lundvik, Samir & Viktor, LIAMOO, Martin Almgren, Jessica Andersson, Mariette and *takes a breath* Rolandz in the final. The AC round is often made up of both the obvious and the WTF (results-wise), making it well worth watching even if you’re impatient for the final to just get here already.

Speaking of things just happening already, I’m going to get straight into the duels and share my thoughts on who I’d like to win, and who probably will.

 

Duel 1: In My Cabana, Margaret VS Cuba Libre, Moncho

First up, two songs that both make me want to go on holiday to a tropical island. Given that Moncho couldn’t have been paired with Mendez for a duel, In My Cabana VS Cuba Libre is the next best thing. There should be a clear winner here – i.e. if Margaret doesn’t walk away with victory in this battle, then there will be something very weird going on in the world (or at least on Planet Eurovision). Then again, I never expected Moncho to get to Andra Chansen in the first place…so I shouldn’t underestimate him again. Still, it’s GOT to be Margaret.

Who should win (IMO) Margaret

Who WILL win Margaret

 

Duel 2: All The Feels, Renaida VS Never Learn, Olivia Eliasson

Here we have a female soloist in black and fluorescent sports-chic, singing a slick and modern dance-pop song, versus a female soloist in black and fluorescent sports-chic, singing a slick and modern dance-pop song. Well, you can’t say Renaida and OIivia aren’t evenly matched. Having both in the final wouldn’t make a lot of sense, although I do like both songs. But Renaida is the superior performer – her energy and confidence sell All The Feels at a price I’m more than willing to pay, whereas Olivia struggled to perform Never Learn with conviction. I do think this could be the most closely-fought duel of the night considering how similar the options are – sometimes it’s a lot easier choosing between pizza and cake than choosing between pizza and pizza.

Who should win (IMO) Renaida

Who WILL win Renaida

 

Duel 3: Every Single Day, Felix Sandman VS Songburning, Mimi Werner

We all have our painful AC duels – the ones that are bittersweet because we love both songs and want them both to score a spot in the final. This is mine for the year, in case you hadn’t guessed. I love Felix and his Frans impersonation (Felix is totally sorry, though) plus the bare-bones staging that made the whole thing feel genuine. And yep, I also love Mimi’s country cracker that was staged to perfection (colour scheme, backup drummers and fire curtain were all on point) even if her vocal was wobbly at times. Oof. At the end of the day, my heart (the one in my chest, not the on-screen Melfest app one that drives me INSANE) says Felix a little louder than it says Mimi. Based on his impressive Spotify stream count (it’s more like a flood) and Mimi’s lack thereof, I’d say we’ll be seeing Mr. Sandman in Stockholm next Saturday.

Who should win (IMO) Felix

Who WILL win Felix

 

Duel 4: Patrick Swayze, Sigrid Bernson VS Everyday by Mendez

Sunny slice of Scandipop goes head-to-head with Latin pop summer song – but who comes out on top? I have been back and forth on this one more times than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms. My personal preference is Mendez, but Sigrid and the effervescent Patrick Swayze have grown on me since the Karlstad semi. And I just don’t know what will win out in the end! SEND HELP.

Who should win (IMO) Mendez

Who WILL win Mendez…or Sigrid. One of the two for sure.

 

I’ve showed you mine, now you have to show me yours! Who would you bet on to make it out of Andra Chansen tonight?

 

 

NF UPDATE: What’s up next?

  • 4/3 Portugal (Festival da Canção final)
  • 10/3 Norway (Melodi Grand Prix final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen final)
  • 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)

 

We are so close to the end of national final season, which is sad – but there’s something satisfying about having a freshly-full house of Eurovision entries to talk about. May the best songs win this weekend (the best according to me, that is, because I’m selfish and want things to go my way musically), and may you enjoy whatever you choose to watch!

 

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A five-song Super Saturday + Melfest’s final semi final

Greetings, guys! Here we are again, staring down the barrel of the glitter-filled cannon that is another Super Saturday (a phrase meaning nothing to non-Eurofans but so much to the rest of us). NF action on the agenda tonight is coming live from:

  • Hungary (A Dal final)
  • Latvia (Supernova final)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 7)
  • Moldova (O Melodie Pentru Europa final)
  • Slovenia (EMA final)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen semi 4)
  • Ukraine (Vidbir final)

Yes, you read that right – we get not one, not two, not three, not even four, but FIVE (bet you didn’t see that coming) Eurovision entries this evening. That’s in addition to the last standard Melfest semi before the Stockholm final; and another heat in the long, long, loooooong line of Lithuanian Eurovizija episodes (will it ever end?).

As I have to be picky, I’m shining my conversational spotlight on Sweden and Ukraine only for this post – but before that, let’s take a look at the results/song reveals from the week that was.

 

 

Finland finished off Saara Aalto’s song reveals on Friday (well, kind of…track three was actually leaked by UK media before YLE had a chance to go ‘Ta-da!’). Queens is the name, and another competent pop song is the game – but I’m not totally into playing. In my opinion – and please pardon the approaching pun – it’s third in line to the throne of being Finland’s 2018 ESC entry. I’m saying that before we’ve seen Saara smash the trio of songs out live on stage, of course, and when she does on March 3rd it could change everything. But for now, solely based on studio versions and video clips, it’s Monsters all the way for me. How about you?

We have a winner in Germany, and it comes in the form of Michael Schulte and You Let Me Walk Alone. A ballad not-so-subtly focused on the death of his dad, it’s engineered (in the nicest way possible) to be a tearjerker. Basically, it’s to music what The Fault In Our Stars is to cinema. But I either have dried-out tear ducts or a bitter, empty soul, because the song does zip to me. It’s pleasant – I feel that much – but I can’t see myself making the effort to vote for it in May. I can see a slightly better result than that achieved by Levina’s Perfect Life, but if Michael didn’t have German auto-finalist status in his corner, I’m not sure he’d qualify from a semi.

Anyone who was hoping for a Balkan ballad this year got it this week from Montenegro: yes, the same country that sent the iconic and super-sexual Slavko Kalezić to Kyiv. Vanja Radovanović and Inje couldn’t be more of a contrast to Slavko and Space (Vanja doesn’t even have a hair extension to whip around in a helicopter-like fashion…how will we cope?!?). It’s sombre and down-tempo, and not quite up there with a Željko Joksimović creation. Even so, I’m happy to have it add variety to the Lisbon line-up.

Serbia has gone full Serbian on us – which I welcome with open arms – and chosen Nova Deca by Sanja Ilić and Balkanika. This is the kind of song that popped up at contests circa 2004-2010, but I wouldn’t say it was dated – it’s more of an ultra-ethnic throwback to Eurovisions of the past. A fusion of modern and traditional sounds will usually get a gold star (or at least an approving nod) from me, but I think Nova Deca and I need to spend more time together to see what I’m prepared to give it. I’ve literally listened to it once!

Over in Sweden, Melodifestivalen proved it’s not always predictable by throwing a spanner in the works of everyone who thought Mendez and Dotter would walk the Malmö show (i.e. me). Jaws dropped worldwide as Dotter didn’t even make the first cut, Mendez only reached Andra Chansen alongside Moncho, and schlager reigned supreme (Christer Björkman’s worst nightmare) as Jessica Andersson became the first female to go direkt in 2018. Oh, and Martin Almgren made the final too (but I may have been asleep when that happened). This plot twist makes predicting the last semi final a tough task…in a first world kind of way.

 

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to talk more about Melfest (#seguechampion).

 

  

It’s hard to believe that we’re already approaching the pointy end of Melfest for the year. It’s been a lacklustre one to date, so there was one big question hanging in the air and being feverishly tweeted out by flabbergasted Eurofans: had the best songs been saved for last? There was, after all, one song in particular tucked away in heat 4 that was supposed to be The One.

So IS IT? *insert dramatic cliffhanger music here*.

  1. Icarus, Emmi Christensson
  2. Mitt Paradis, Elias Abbas
  3. Break That Chain, Felicia Olsson
  4. Fuldans, Rolandz
  5. Never Learn, Olivia Eliasson
  6. Every Single Day, Felix Sandman
  7. For You, Mariette

Overall, there are more songs I like in this semi than there have been in any of the others. But the best one (IMO) isn’t as good as the almost-best we’ve had in semis of past years – and that’s a good indication of a sub-standard Melfest. But it is what it is, so let’s focus on the positives for a while. Well, my positives.

 

My top 4

Mitt Paradis Cookie cutter tropical dance pop it may be, but that genre is a crowd-pleaser…and a Jaz pleaser. Elias is bringing the first of two Swedish-language songs to the table for this semi, and I prefer his by miles.

Break That Chain I’m calling this a guilty pleasure, because I feel like I shouldn’t like it since nobody else does. Sure, it could have been a mid-tempo lady ballad from any time between 2004-2013, but that’s part of the appeal. I was expecting Felicia to be starring in the sequel to Make Me No. 1 (her first Melfest entry from, coincidentally, another weak year) so props to her for surprising me.

Every Single Day Felix has gone from FO&O to Frans (ish) in the space of a year, and though I loved and still love Gotta Thing About You (in spite of some ridiculous lyrics), I’m impressed by how different this solo sound of his has turned out to be. I do feel like I need to hear the full song to decide whether it’s good or great, but the snippet is promising.

For You *cliffhanger music from earlier makes a comeback* So is Mariette 3.0 also Mariette, winner of Mello 2018? I’m not convinced. She’s already lost her top spot in the odds to Benjamin Ingrosso, which doesn’t bode well for a supposed runaway winner. Yet I do think For You is one of the best songs on offer tonight, and an almost-definite direkt qualifier. Extra points for not resembling Niamh Kavanagh’s It’s For You in the slightest.

Is this the mug shot…ah, I mean PROMO shot, of a winner?

 

So, who’s going direkt til final? Mariette + Rolandz. The former because it’s an easy prediction to make (then again, so was Mendez last week), and the latter because it’s something I don’t want to happen but can see happening á la Owe Thornqvist in 2017. If it’s not a cringeworthy man band joining Mariette in the final, it could be one of the solo boys – most likely Elias given Felix’s shock 6th place in the rehearsal audience poll.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Elias + Felix. I can’t bring myself to say that Felix might go nowhere and feel some of Dotter’s pain in the process, so AC it is (I am prepping for the worst though). If he slips further down, it might make way for Emmi or Olivia. BYE, FELICIA is sadly on the cards.

 

What do you think? Will a curveball be thrown again this week at Melfest, or are we back to knowing exactly what’s going to happen?

 

  

Flying east to Ukraine, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for…right? Yes or no, last year’s hosts are about to pick their song for Portugal. After two semis, six possibilities remain, and the standard is as high as the Vidbir finals of 2016 and 2017 (ICYMI, I thought those finals were awesome). It’s almost a do-over of last year anyway, with multiple familiar faces taking another shot at representing Ukraine. 

  1. Beat of the Universe, Kadnay
  2. Lelya, Tayanna
  3. Heroes, The Erised
  4. Waiting, Laud
  5. Forest Song, Vilna
  6. Under The Ladder, Mélovin

Is there a dud here? I don’t think so.

 

My top 3

Lelya Tayanna’s I Love You from last year would have become one of my most beloved host entries ever, had she not come down with a super ill-timed, voice-ruining sickness. As far as I know she’s healthy this time round, and ready to deliver another flawless, sassy and energetic performance of Lelya, which shows off her incredible vocals without sounding like she’s having a screaming match with herself. The chorus of this song is catchy on an alarming level. 9/10.

Under The Ladder Like Tayanna, Mélovin has come back to Vidbir with a song that’s not as good as his last, but is still Eurovision-worthy. It’s his performance that really makes Under The Ladder something special, but the interesting lyrics and easy-to-chant-while-a-bit-drunk ‘oh-oh-oh’ bits make it a decent standalone song. 8/10.

Beat of the Universe This one’s more hardcore and unique than Lelya or Under The Ladder, and though I suspect it wouldn’t do as well at the ESC as they would, nothing else like it is likely to end up in Lisbon (which could give it an advantage). It’s a little bit Imagine Dragons and a little bit Marvel movie soundtrack. Those are good things, by the way. 7.5/10.

 

Thoughts on the rest

Heroes What, no leather pants or cartoon stick men with balloons? Shame. This Heroes is no Eurovision winner – and probably no Ukrainian representative either – but I can see/hear how it got this far. If the Vidbir final was an album, it’d be considered for a single release rather than kept back as filler. 7/10.

Waiting Like Heroes, this is not likely to be ESC-bound. I wouldn’t complain about Laud proving me wrong though, after my Tayanna/Mélovin grieving period was over. 7/10.

Forest Song I’d give this a solid 6/10, even though it’s my least favourite of the six. If Emmelie de Forest ate a special brownie from an Amsterdam coffee shop, Vilna and her musical stylings would be the result. 6/10 (as I said).

  

Who’s going to win this thing? O. Torvald were not on my radar this time last year, so I don’t want to assume anything…but Mélovin’s televote in his semi was substantial to say the least. Tayanna’s was surprisingly humble, and I don’t think any of the songs that haven’t competed against Under The Ladder yet are strong enough to beat it. The jury could shift things, obviously, and I can see Tayanna or Kadnay edging a win if they also grab a bigger percentage of the televote than before. But a lot has to work in their favour – and NOT in Mélovin’s – to make that happen. To sum up, I’m saying Mélovin will take it!

 

I’ve been pretty hit and miss this NF season with predictions (what else is new) so feel free to help me out in the comments. Who do think will go to Portugal on behalf of Ukraine, and who do you want to see get there?

 

NF UPDATE: What’s up next?

  • 25/2 Armenia (Depi Evratesil final), Romania (Selecţia Naţională final)
  • 27/2 San Marino (1in360 final)

 

That’s all I’ve got time for, folks (sad but true). I’ll be back next Saturday – hopefully with a less hasty post, having had about thirty seconds to put this one together – to review the latest highlights of the selection season and discuss the shows still to come, feat. big hitters Eesti Laul, UMK, Norsk MGP and Melfest (duh).

Right now though, I’m going to attempt to fit eight hours of sleep into the few hours left before my NF alarm goes off. FYI, I’ve set it to play Tamar Kaprelian’s Poison in tribute to what could have been a cracking piece of ethnopop among the Class of ’18. Sadface.

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | More ESC entries, multiple announcements + Melfest moves on to Malmö!

Hej och välkommen to another Super Saturday! The Eurovision calendar of events is fuller than Linda Wagenmakers’ skirt this weekend, and I refuse to even think about how it compares to my social calendar (not that I need one when there’s so much NF action keeping me occupied). We may only be getting the gift of one more entry for Lisbon tonight, but there are loads of semi finals going on and paving the way for a full house of songs. The fact that 2018 entries are trickling in at the moment just means we have time to make up extra beds and pull together a sufficient snacking platter.

About tonight…

  • Estonia (Eesti Laul semi 2)
  • Hungary (A Dal semi 2)
  • Iceland (Söngvakeppnin semi 2)
  • Latvia (Supernova semi 3)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 6)
  • Montenegro (Montevizija final)
  • Slovenia (EMA semi)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen semi 3)
  • Ukraine (Vidbir semi 2)

If that list doesn’t offer something for every Eurofan, then I’ll denounce my unconditional love for Lane Moje. It’s so long that little old lonesome me can’t possibly talk about it all. So, in keeping with shows I’ve already covered this season and shows I’m waiting until later to discuss, I’ll only be talking about a) what’s happened in the world of Eurovision 2018 over the past seven days, and b) Melodifestivalen (duh, says the Swedophile) in this post. I know what you’re thinking…

…but the day I both become Superwoman and stop considering Melfest the pinnacle of national finals, I’ll let you know.

 

 

We may not have welcomed too many tracks into the family this week (as I said, they’re trickling through like treacle this NF season) but a heap of stuff has happened regardless. Don’t believe me? Well, the proof is in the pudding, a.k.a. in the following rundown of bits and pieces.

The newest of brand-new songs heading to Lisbon (at this stage) is from Belarus, with Alekseev oh-so-predictably winning Eurofest with Forever on Friday night. Despite visually stunning staging, the “revamp” of the song has really just served to make him sound like he’s performing the original version wrong, and I’m not 110% convinced we will see/hear him sing it in May. But Belarus would be smart to keep him as their artist – and even smarter to show him off to his full advantage with the Russian version of Forever (if possible) or a totally different, non-English song altogether.

Denmark gave us a fabulous beard and a Viking anthem last weekend, as redheaded Rasmussen stormed to Dansk Melodi Grand Prix victory. Even though Higher Ground doesn’t sound remotely 2018, it’s very Eurovision and a definite statement piece – unlike some of the bland, wallpapery songs Denmark could have chosen this year and HAVE chosen in the past. Still, that second semi of death beckons, and it’s a question mark whether or nor the Danes will survive it.

Artist announcements – some with songs, some without – were fired out of the cannon at a rapid rate this week. Croatia is sending Franka Batelić with Crazy (which I’m sensing we’ll hear sometime between now and mid-March); Greece, after a mess of an NF lead-up that has resulted in no NF at all, has opted for Gianna Terzi and Oneira Mou (which is Greek-chic and 10x better than This Is Love IMO); Israel crowned Netta Barzilai the champ of Rising Star (which in addition to stars, rose questions re: vocal manipulation and how much of it Netta will be permitted to do in Portugal); and Macedonia revealed that Eye Cue will represent them with Lost and Found (let’s hope the song’s better than the band name). Planet Eurovision is a busy place to be in February, that’s for sure, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Finland’s second song for Saara Aalto, Domino, premiered on Friday in the wake of the well-received Monsters. Pros: it’s a pretty modern power ballad that Saara handles with ease. Cons: the lyrics are made up of one cliché after another (the wrecking ball simile has got to go). Monsters is the best option so far, but if Domino is the worst YLE has to offer, Finland deserves a high five *smack*.

After approximately 65 years, Italy’s Sanremo festival concluded with Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro taking home top honours and accepting the invitation to go to Eurovision. Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente is not set in stone as the competition song though – back in 2012 Nina Zilli swapped out Per Sempre for L’Amore É Femmina (I was not a happy camper), and a swap may well happen again. So the moral of this story is, maybe don’t include Italy in your rankings just yet.

Semi number two of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen saw an expected result: Samir & Viktor + LIAMOO direkt, Margaret + Mimi Werner to Andra Chansen. Boy, do we need some girls in that final ASAP! I am happy that for the first time ever, I predicted a Melfest heat completely correctly, but that’s probably testament to how see-through the semi was. My favourite was LIAMOO, so DTF = woohoo, but I must say that Mimi’s staging was beyond brilliant. I love you John Lundvik, and I’m a let you finish, but Mimi Werner had the BEST FIRE CURTAIN OF ALL TIME.

 

Now, speaking of Melfest…it’s time to talk about tonight’s deltävling tre.

 

Sweden’s traveling stage has been set up in ESC 2013 headquarters this week – Malmö Arena. Sadly Petra Mede won’t be popping up from underneath it in a John Paul Gaultier creation, but what WILL happen is…*unnecessary drum roll* seven more songs will be sung in a fight for a top 4 finish. And here they are:

  1. A Bitter Lullaby, Martin Almgren
  2. Stark¸ Barbi Escobar
  3. Cubra Libre, Moncho
  4. Party Voice, Jessica Andersson
  5. Min Dröm, Kalle Moraeus & Orsa Spelmän
  6. Cry, Dotter
  7. Everyday, Mendez

To all those saying that this is the worst edition of Melodifestivalen ever…well, I can see where you’re coming from. It certainly doesn’t measure up to any of the years I’ve been following it like the crazed fan I now am (2011 onwards) with just one semi left to lift the overall standard (unlikely). But I have no doubt that the March 10 final at Friends Arena is going to go off – there are four very good songs there already, after all; four to come; and four others to emerge from AC, which will be the best of the rest. And it only takes one song to kick butt at Eurovision, so let’s have some faith in Björkman (even if you can’t stand him, you can’t deny his ability to engineer excellent Swedish results) until it’s proven we shouldn’t, K?

 

My top 4

Cry Firstly, I just want to say how much I loved Dotter in Practical Magic (and that Academy Award? You go, girlfriend). Okay, so maybe she and Nicole Kidman ARE different people (have they ever been seen in the same room at the same time?). But they’re both very talented, and Dotter has the most intriguing snippet of the seven this week. The originality factor isn’t very high, however, since the comparisons to this are obvious.

I can’t be the only one actually seeing double…

Party Voice Mello wouldn’t be Mello without a touch of schlager, and Jessica Andersson is the perfect woman to serve it up – with a side of EDM, no less. It’s a big change from her last shot at getting back to Eurovision (long shiny dress + ballad) but for the better (or for the equally good). I have my ears at the ready to hear her party voice.

Everyday Apparently this is The One of the semi – the one Björkman wants us all to fawn over. I’m a little surprised – is it that special? – but I do like the sound of it, predictable lyrics (you and me/meant to be…no thanks) aside. It taps into the Latin pop trend nicely, and the chorus is catchy and fun.

Stark I’m on my own with this one, but it really stands out to me as a dance track with a melancholy feel. Of the three Swedish-language songs competing in Malmö, it’s my top pick.

 

So, who’s going direkt til final? Mendez + Dotter. This prediction goes against betting odds and the weekly audience poll, but I’m afraid I don’t get the DTF appeal of Martin. And I desperately want some womanly representation in that final! Mendez will sail through, but I really think Cry is the song that deserves to get a golden ticket.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Martin + Jessica. No, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dotter is bumped down to AC by Martin regardless of what I just said, but A Bitter Lullaby screams second chance. I’ll be mad if Jessica’s journey ends pre-AC, unless it’s because of Barbi…but that’s not happening.

 

What do you think? Will we get some much-needed girl power delivered to the Melfest final tonight, or will it be dudes direkt yet again?

 

NF UPDATE: What’s next?

  • 18/2 Portugal (Festival de Canção semi 1), Romania (Selecţia Naţională semi 5)
  • 19/2 Armenia (Depi Evratesil semi 1)
  • 20/2 Serbia (Beovizija final)
  • 22/2 Armenia (Depi Evratesil semi 2), Germany (Unser Lied Für Lissabon final)

 

And that’s my cue to leave, ‘cause it’s traditional pre-3am power nap time. Whether you’re gearing up for the NF of your choice by sleeping or not (which depends where you’re living in relation to CET), do whatever you’ve got to do and enjoy what you’re going to watch. The selection season’s going so fast, we have to appreciate it while we can!

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | Three more ESC entries, Denmark decides + Melfest goes to Göteborg!

God kväll good, national-final-watching people! I hope you’re having a fun NF season so far, despite it turning out to be one where pre-show faves do not follow through. This is the second Super Saturday proudly brought to us by February, and there’s so much happening I’m going to have to cut off my own introductory ramble and get on with chatting about my personal highlights ASAP.

Here’s everything going down this evening:

  • Denmark (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix final)
  • Estonia (Eesti Laul semi 1)
  • Hungary (A Dal semi 1)
  • Iceland (Söngvakeppnin semi 1)
  • Italy (Sanremo final)
  • Latvia (Supernova semi 2)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 5)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen semi 2)
  • Ukraine (Vidbir semi 1)

Whew! The superhuman multi-taskers among us are rejoicing right now as they cook a six-course dinner, knit a sweater and recite Shakespeare simultaneously. You can find all of the streaming links to tonight’s shows right here courtesy of Wiwibloggs (bless their little sequined socks).

Surprise, surprise – my plans involve tuning in to Melfest. But in this post, I’m talking about some other stuff too (just not all of the above because I don’t want to put your will to live to the test). The latest song selection news from Eurovision HQ + Dansk MGP + that Swedish semi = what you’re (hopefully) about to read. Sit back, relax and enjoy…or hyperventilate with rage when I declare undying love for music you hate and bitch about music you love.

 

 

Malta chose to break a taboo (HA HA HA not) last weekend by choosing Christabelle – apparently 4th time’s the charm – to go to Eurovision. Her performance was pretty kitchen sink (as in, every “firework” Salvador Sobral could possibly frown upon was thrown in to up the song’s ante) but there’s potential in Taboo itself, and enough time pre-Portugal to bring the staging more in line with…whatever the heck the song is trying to say (I can’t say I got the mental health message without explanation, but DID YOU SEE THE PANTHER?!?).

Over in Sweden – Karlstad, specifically – Melodifestivalen kicked off in uncharacteristically mediocre style, I’m sad to say (scroll down to see if I think things are looking up this week). Shocking nobody, John Lundvik (feat. fire curtain) and Benjamin Ingrosso (feat. one of the greatest stage setups in entertainment history – Malta, take note) went direkt to Friends Arena. Renaida and Sigrid Bernson will fight for a final place at Andra Chansen. Grattis, guys!

It was bound to be one of the betting front-runners that won in Switzerland – and unfortunately for Alejandro Reyes (my personal pick), it was Zibbz – the grungier doppelgangers of Madame Monsieur – with Stones. I can’t fault them even though I was Team Compass, so that’s a good sign. It’s still too early to tell how the brother-sister duo will do in a more competitive environment than the six-song Entscheidungsshow.

The United Kingdom sacrificed legendary Asanda to the NF favourite gods and opted to send SuRie’s Storm to the ESC instead. My choice would have been Liam and Astronaut, so I wouldn’t have been totally thrilled anyway…but I wish Asanda’s vocal issues (easily fixable by letting her stand still for five seconds) could have been overlooked. Legends would have been LIT in Lisbon. Storm, on the other hand, is a little bit wallpaper. Competent and kind of catchy, yes – but not exactly a voting sponge at this stage (i.e. not likely to suck up the points it needs to succeed).

Malta, Switzerland and the UK now join Albania, the Czech Republic, France and Spain in the exclusive group of 2018 entries finalised so far. Head over to my Instagram stories to check out my top 7 while it lasts (@eurovisionbyjaz, of course) and let me know how your current ranking compares in the comments.

 

 

I always get excited about DMGP, despite the fact that it’s usually vanilla when compared to the sprinkle-encrusted sundaes delivered by the likes of Estonia, Hungary and Sweden (normally). I guess even average Scandipop has a way with me – and besides, there’s always something above-average ready to represent Denmark (it just never actually wins the right to do so).

The ten-strong line-up for DMGP 2018 looks like this:

  1. Riot, Ditte Marie
  2. Starlight, Anna Ritsmar
  3. Higher Ground, Rasmussen
  4. Boys On Girls, Sannie
  5. Angels To My Battlefield, Sandra
  6. Unfound, Lasse Meling
  7. Standing Up For Love, CARLSEN
  8. Signals, Karui
  9. Holder Fast I Ingenting, Rikke Ganer-Tolsøe
  10. Music For The Road, Albin Fredy

For me, 2017>2018 (there’s a lot of like-worthy stuff this year, whereas I loved multiple tracks in 2017) but I’ve seen disagreement on that already. Artist-wise, we’re looking at a few familiar faces (Ditte Marie, Albin Fredy), a 90s hitmaker in Sannie, and someone who doesn’t look old enough to be awake past 7pm, let alone gunning to go to Eurovision (that’s Anna).

I’ll quickly make my feelings clear re: the songs that didn’t make my top 3 before getting into those podium places, for anyone interested… 

Starlight Seriously, how old is Anna? I feel like we should be questioning Denmark’s child labour laws every time I see her. Song-wise, she’s offering something cutesy and twee that somehow irritates me and soothes me at the same time. It could do very well tonight. 7.5/10.

Boys On Girls I wanted to feel intense 90s nostalgia listening to this, but Sannie a.k.a. Whigfield let me down a little. There’s a couple of DMGP songs weakened by anti-climactic, overly-repetitive choruses, and this is a prime example. 7/10.

Angels To My Battlefield This isn’t terrible, but it is the most forgettable song of the lot. How it’s in the top half of the odds, I have no idea (maybe it’s going to win and make my jaw hit the floor á la Soldiers of Love. Eek). 5/10.

Unfound Lasse is to DMGP what Max Cinnamon was to Destination Eurovision: adorable and armed with a guitar. This is a super-cute Shawn Mendes-esque track that’s not likely to go anywhere (but I will have a bop for one in my bedroom while I watch it being performed). 8.5/10.

Standing Up For Love How freaking Danish is this?!? CARLSEN manage to be both the female version of Lighthouse X and one of Europe’s many O’G3NE tribute acts, and if there were ever a song that screams ‘Denmark at Eurovision 90% of the time!’ Standing Up For Love is it. I want to hate it, but I kind of love it. Dammit. 9/10.

Holder Fast I Igenting And here’s the token Danish-language song that DMGP is not complete without – think Tæt På Mine Drømme (2015), To Stjerner (2016) and Vesterbro (2017). Unfortunately, Rikke’s song is not nearly as good as those were/are. It’s beige. 6/10.

Music For The Road Just when we thought Avicii’s Hey Brother was no longer a musical inspiration to anyone, enter Albin! It’s hard to resist the infectious country twang and catchy chorus he’s provided us with. 8/10.

And now, having saved the best (as far as I’m concerned) until last…

 

My top 3

Signals Did I love this instantly because it reminds me of this? Maybe, but regardless, something so unconventional (for Denmark) popping up here (in Denmark) threw me in a good way. Solange Knowles could come out with Signals and nobody would raise an eyebrow. There’s no way it’s winning or even coming close though. The musical territory is too unsafe for Denmark. 9.5/10.

Riot Ditte Marie has delivered a third pop banger to DMGP’s doorstep, after 2011’s 25 Hours A Day (with Le Freak) and 2012’s Overflow. Okay, so Riot isn’t breaking any genre boundaries, but it’s slick and catchy, and makes you want to move (not out of the room so you can’t hear it any more). The title is repeated a hundred times too many throughout, but I can forgive that. 9/10.

Higher Ground Roger Pontare has possessed Rasmussen, right? Except Rasmussen has more hair on his face than Roger has on his head. This song is majestic, atmospheric…and yeah, about a decade or so too late to be on-trend at Eurovision. But I wouldn’t be mad if Denmark sent it in Lisbon’s direction. 8.5/10.

  

Predicting the super finalists + the winner

I am SO BAD at calling DMGP, it’s become a tradition for me to be spectacularly wrong. So here we go again!

In random order, my prediction for the super final – in which the top three songs post-vote face off against each other FTW – is Anna Ritsmar, Rasmussen and CARLSEN. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, bet any money on this.

When it comes to the ultimate winner, I was going to go with Anna, but then I remembered the Anne Gadegaard Incident. Will the folksy pop number get its revenge this time? I’m not sure. Rasmussen is the one I think people would be most satisfied with, so that’s probably out. CARLSEN are so stereotypically Denmark-goes-to-Eurovision that they shouldn’t be underestimated.

So CARLSEN it is! *prepares for prediction fail no. 4975*

Now, if you’re still awake, let’s switch Scandinavian countries. 

 

 

Ja, it’s true – Melfest got off to a less-than-impressive start last week. But this second deltävling is shaping up to be a little (if not a lot) better. At this rate we’ll be back to expected levels of epic by the time the roadshow hits Örnsköldsvik…OR WILL WE?? Insert dramatic soap opera cliffhanger music here and keep on wondering.

Here’s this week’s lucky seven: 

  1. Shuffla, Samir & Viktor
  2. Allting Som Vi Sa, Ida Redig
  3. Det Finns En Väg, Jonas Gardell
  4. In My Cabana, Margaret
  5. Titta Vi Flyger, Stiko Per Larsson
  6. Songburning, Mimi Werner
  7. Last Breath, LIAMOO

There are three names that really stand out here: Samir & Viktor, who are always loveable (bada nakna or not) and might have their best chance yet of going to Eurovision; Margaret, who missed out on representing Poland in 2016 with the iconic Cool Me Down; and LIAMOO, who won Swedish Idol in 2016 (coincidentally covering Cool Me Down along the way). Mimi Werner, too, is worth nothing as a fan fave who didn’t quite make the Andra Chansen grade on her last attempt.

The big question is – in a parallel universe where I have a massively inflated ego – are any of those guys my favourites of this heat? As Ace Wilder would say: don’t worry, it’s alright. I’m about to tell you.

 

My top 4

Last Breath Just as I knew Benjamin Ingrosso would be my favourite in heat 1, I was sure LIAMOO would top my ranking for heat 2. My pre-established fangirling for the guy makes me biased, I know, but in all honesty I am digging (the snippet of) Last Breath like I’m looking for buried treasure. Clearly rap doesn’t turn me off.

In My Cabana I can’t believe I’m vouching for a song staged using a toilet, but here we are. This is exactly what I was expecting it to be – a.k.a. the love child of Cool Me Down and Camilla Cabello’s Havana. Do I have a problem with that? Umm, no.

Margaret won’t be laughing if someone uses her prop toilet by mistake.

Shuffla Not a fan of Groupie? Have no desire to Bada Nakna? Well, you might still enjoy Shuffla, because it’s totally different to Samir & Viktor’s previous Melfest entries. There is trumpets, dance beats aplenty and a 1920s undertone that adds interest. I approve.

Songburning TBH, Mimi is here by default since the other three songs in this heat are pretty dire. That doesn’t mean Songburning has no redeeming features though – it’s just as charming as Ain’t No Good, actually, if the snippet is any indication. (Country) girl power!

 

So, who’s going direkt til final? Samir & Viktor + LIAMOO. As much as I’d like LIAMOO to prove his favourite status right by winning this semi, I suspect Samir & Viktor might do the deed instead – but he should be safely in the final anyway.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Margaret + Mimi. This is what I’m hoping, at least. If anyone else slips in to an AC slot it will be Ida Redig, but I’m not convinced Allting Som Vi Sa has enough of an x factor to move beyond 5th place. There is a clear top 4 here in my eyes.

What do you think? Tell me if you agree with my Melfest guesses – or if we’ll have to agree to disagree – in the comments.

 

NF UPDATE: What’s next? 

  • 11/2 Romania (Selecția Națională semi 4)
  • 13/2 Israel (Next Star final)
  • 16/2 Belarus (Eurofest final), San Marino (1in360 night 2)

But let’s deal with the craziness of tonight first…

 

 

THAT IS IT!!! I’m done – and to think I only discussed two of the 17 000 shows taking place tonight. I’m obviously all about the Scandis at the moment, but I fully respect your right to turn elsewhere for your NF fix. Let’s meet up on Twitter later (I’m @EurovisionByJaz, ICYMI) to compare notes and debrief after result-induced traumas. In the meantime, if you have anything to say about this Super Saturday, the EBJ comment box is always open!

 

Until NEXT Super Saturday (or a possible sneaky Valentine’s Day post…whichever comes first),

 

 

 

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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