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SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A results rundown, Malta’s musical half-marathon + the Swedish spectacular starts again!

Welcome to another triple S – Selection Season Saturday! This is the first SSS of what will be a frantic February on the Eurovision NF calendar. Seriously, BRACE YOURSELVES. We do get to ease into things though, with five pan-European heats, semis and finals happening tonight instead of 500 (or what feels like 500. Those Saturdays are still to come).

Those five ESC warm-ups are in Hungary (A Dal Heat 3), Latvia (Supernova semi 1), Lithuania (Eurovizija Heat 4), Malta (MESC final) and *screams* Sweden (Melodifestivalen Heat 1). I cannot believe Melfest is kicking off again – this time last year, I was figuring out what to shove in my suitcase before flying off to Stockholm for the final. I might be watching from afar in Australia this time around, but that doesn’t mean I’m not practically peeing my pants with excitement. In case it’s not obvious enough, I’m a Melfest freak and will definitely be sacrificing all other NFs for Sweden’s over the coming month-and-a-half (unless Dansk MGP turns out to be unmissable). And, naturally, I’m going to discuss Melfest’s first heat/deltävling in detail in this post – plus run my eye over all the pre-Eurovision results and internal selections from the past seven days, AND ramble on about Malta for a while too.

Let’s get started…and finished, so you can hit up my comments box with your opinions + predictions before this evening’s shows get underway.

  

Cyprus stopped the rumour mill turning fast by announcing Eleni Foureira (not Helena Paparizou) as their act for 2018. She’s heading to Lisbon with Fuego, which will be unveiled in March – but it was written by pop powerhouse Alex P, the man behind Yassou Maria by Sarbel, Always by Aysel and Arash, and La La Love by Ivi Adamou. In other words, he’s yet to send a dud track to Eurovision, and my hopes are sky-high for this latest entry. All I know about Eleni at this stage is that she’s tried to represent Greece a handful of times in the past…so if Greece is beaten by Cyprus this year, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves!

The Czech Republic MERCIFULLY chose Mikolas Josef and Lie To Me as their (clearly best-ever) entry on Monday, which eased my French pain a little (I’ll talk about that in second). This song is so catchy, so irresistible, and yes – so inappropriate. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the lyrical content Mikolas will have to rewrite/tweak (Robin Bengtsson can offer advice on how to seamlessly transition from ‘f**king’ to ‘freaking’) to satisfy the EBU. Can he please keep the bamboo bit? It’s brilliant.

Oh, France. Sacre bleu! Okay, so I’m not mad at them for making Mercy by Madame Monsieur the Destination Eurovision winner last Saturday – it’s a great song with a great story to tell. The only reason my heart still hurts is because I was major-league invested in Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva, and to see him put in the flawless performance he did only to get pipped in the public vote put the Eva into devastating. On the plus side, my winner prediction was correct. Woohoo/sadface.

We have an artist and a to-be-heard song from Ireland, with Britain’s Got Talent alum Ryan O’Shaughnessy (who according to Wikipedia is the nephew of Gary O’Shaughnessy, representative of Ireland in 2001…is this the truth?) off to Portugal with Together. I hope it’s not lame like the title would suggest – Ryan’s described it as a power ballad with a gospel feel, which to me sounds like a Sam Smith knockoff (I would not be opposed to that BTW).

 Spain tested all of us who feel uncomfortable when witnessing a PDA by selecting Alfred & Amaia, newly minted #couplegoals, to pick up where Slovenia’s Platin left off in 2004. MWAH. Their song Tu Canción is sweet, and I hope they don’t break up before the contest…if they do, their performance might look more like this:

 

Anyway…

 

 

What would we do without the mammoth, Mediterranean Bank-sponsored Maltese national final in our lives? Granted, it’s not as mammoth as it used to be (and I’m not even sure MedBank are involved these days), but MESC still has its own unique attractions – the cheesy lyrical content, numerous Borgs and Micallefs, and artists who just keep coming back no matter how many times they don’t make it to Eurovision (you know I’m thinking of Deborah C). I wouldn’t want it any other way (so please don’t get offended if you’re Maltese or pro-Malta…I’m just calling things as I see them in an affectionate way, K?).

This year, sixteen acts will be whittled down to one in a single night – brutal! It will probably take the entire night, though. As a sloth in a human suit, I can totally relate to Malta taking things slooooowly. Here’s the line-up for this evening: 

  1. Dai Laga, AIDAN
  2. Rocket, Miriana Conte
  3. Supernovas, Jasmine Abela
  4. Call 2morrow, Matthew Anthony
  5. One Step At A Time, Danica Muscat
  6. Breaking Point, Dwett
  7. Love Renegade, Lawrence Gray
  8. Song For Dad, Richard & Joe Micallef
  9. First Time, Tiziana Calleja
  10. Back To Life, Eleanor Cassar
  11. Beyond Blue Horizons, Rhiannon
  12. Heart of Gold, Brooke
  13. Taboo, Christabelle
  14. Turn It Up, Deborah C
  15. We Can Run, Avenue Sky
  16. Evolution, Petra 

There are actually not that many returnees in this bunch, but Deborah C is worth about five with the amount of times she’s had a bash at the comp. There are a handful of new faces too, and that seems to have come hand-in-hand with some songs that aren’t what we’re used to hearing from our favourite tiny island. So which ones am I hoping will appear on Spotify so I can listen to them because I want to, not because I have to?

 

My top 5

Rocket I feel like I’m at a party for one having this as my favourite, but I reckon it’s underrated. Ultra-catchy, youthful enough for 16-year-old Miriana without sounding like it should be at JESC rather than MESC, and lyrically adequate (as in they make sense and don’t resort to love/above type stuff), it’s got everything going for it. Wouldn’t be out of place in a Melfest semi. 9/10.

Heart of Gold As much of a Wiktoria Lay Me Down tribute as this is, there’s a reason we all fell head-over-heels for that. Some of the same country-pop charm pops up here, as does the weirdest lyrical concept in history – ‘You’re a pack of wolves with a heart of gold’. WOT?!? Still, sometimes all I need to enjoy something is an infectious tune, and HOG’s got one. 8.5/10.

Call 2morrow I can’t believe I’m rooting for a song with a painfully 2000s number in the title. I mean, I literally messaged this exact phrase to my friends on my Nokia 3310 when I was 13. But regardless, the song itself is surprisingly un-Malta and on the right side of alt-pop to appeal to me. Points added for ‘Does your body still remember my bed’; points off for the use of the word ‘cuddle’. 8/10.

Song For Dad This is so corny and so cheesy, I’ve taken to calling it a musical quesadilla. But I am a big fan of Mexican food, so that doesn’t mean I’m totally turned off by Richard & Joe’s familial love-fest (just partially turned off by the clichéd lyrics re: standing by someone’s side when times get tough and blah blah blah *reaches for a sick bag*). The folksy feel and melody are pretty palatable, and I’m always a sucker for Richard’s singing voice. 7.5/10.

Taboo Firstly, I’ve got to say it: this is not Christabelle at her best. Secondly I’ll say that she’s still decent, even without a song on par with the sensational Rush from 2015. Clunky, mixed-metaphor lyrics (a trend for MESC 2018 apparently) and a dated dubstep breakdown do not stop Taboo from being one of the most memorable and modern tracks competing tonight. 7.5/10.

 

Predicting the winner

MESC is often an easy nut to crack when it comes to predicting the outcome, but an occasional curveball (plus my strangely amateurish prediction skills…only been doing it for 12 years, guys) zaps my confidence a bit.

My top three educated guesses for the win are Jasmine Abela (we share a name! I have to show her some love), Richard & Joe and Brooke, with Christabelle trailing behind because I just don’t see Taboo as winner material. If I were a betting woman, I’d be dropping my cash on Brooke. It seems like it might be third time lucky for her.

Will Malta gravitate towards Jasmine’s power ballad, Richard & Joe’s sugar overload or Brooke’s expensive and heavy aortic pump (Heart of Gold has more of a ring to it, I’ll admit) OR will I be wrong for the first time this selection season? Tune in to the MESC 2018 final from 21:00 CET here to find out – and while you’re waiting for the show to start (assuming you’re a weirdo who’d willingly sacrifice a Melfest semi for MESC) let me know who your tip is to represent Malta in Lisbon below.

 

 

If anyone tries to tell you that Melodifestivalen ISN’T the cream of the NF crop, they are a) delusional, b) lying, or c) have their own opinion which is totally fine, each to their own etc. But my favourite selection show has always been Melfest, and my unconditional love was strengthened even more by my final visit in 2017 (FYI I will be mentioning it every chance I get this season). Needless to say, even though I already said it in the intro, I am pumped like a bicycle tyre for the six-week extravaganza to start again. Tonight’s first heat will see seven acts – including vintage Eurovision legend Kikki Danielsson – go head-to-head in Karlstad for two final places and two second chances.

  1. Patrick Swayze, Sigrid Bernson
  2. My Turn, John Lundvik
  3. All The Feels, Renaida
  4. Livet På En Pinne, Edward Blom
  5. Osby Tennessee, Kikki Danielsson
  6. Solen Lever Kvar Hos Dig, Kamferdrops
  7. Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso

The Eurofan community has been mouthing off about the “weakness” of this heat (based, might I add, on audio snippets and rehearsal glimpses) but my motto is that first impressions never last. Besides, it only takes one amazing song to succeed or even win Eurovision – which isn’t SVT’s first priority at this stage anyway. The priority is to put on another ratings-magnet variety show for us all to dissect on Twitter. One step at a time, people.

I do feel like the best of Melfest 2018 is yet to come, but I’ve warmed up to a lot of the songs in this heat despite that. Have you? Speak up in the comments!

 

My top 4

Dance You Off Benjamin’s Melfest debut last year was an awesome one IMO, and if I were ten years younger I would 110% have a poster of him on my wall. DYO sounds more like Good Lovin’ than his post-Melfest 2017 singles did, and that’s fine because he can do no wrong. I’m very keen to see his performance, which has been choreographed by Robin Bengtsson’s treadmill consultant.*

*I made this job title up, but WHAT A CAREER THAT WOULD BE!

Based on his song title, Benjamin won’t be doing this on stage.

Solen Lever Kvar Hos Dig It’s like Jamie-Lee Kriewitz took up residence on Kamferdrops’ face and just stayed there, isn’t it? That aside, there’s something dreamy about this track that makes me want to hear more. It’s schlager, 2018-style. In the club. With sequined tracksuits.

My Turn A good power ballad can do wonders, and this sounds like it could be a darn good PB. It stands out for the right reasons even in the slot of death (which is more like a lot of grievous bodily harm in a seven-song show).

All The Feels Well, at least there’s not a hashtag shoehorned into the title as well. When you have all the feels, I guess you just have to express it through song – and Renaida’s expression is nicely in keeping with the Dua Lipa/Zara Larsson badass lady pop genre.

 

So, who’s going direkt til final? Benjamin Ingrosso + John Lundvik. Benjamin was the hot fave for this heat (pun actually not intended) but it was John who won the audience poll post-rehearsals. I thought he was being underrated, so that’s a relief. If he and Mr. Ingrosso do go direkt, I’ll be happy.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Edward Blom + Kamferdrops. Edward sounds like he’s putting on the kind of Broadway-esque, “humorous” performance usually put on by the host/s before the actual competition starts, and since I think it’s ridiculous I wouldn’t put it past Sweden to send it to AC. Kamferdrops, my spidey senses tell me, could be left out of the top four entirely, but nobody’s really fighting for fourth place, so I’m having a wishful guess. Otherwise it could be Renaida squeaking through.

 

What do you think? Can you predict how Sweden will vote, or are you as unsure as I am?

  

 

NF UPDATE: WHAT’S NEXT?

Here’s what’s on offer in the lead-up to the next Super Saturday.

  • Sunday 4/2 Romania: (Selecția Națională semi 3), Switzerland (Entscheidungsshow final)
  • Tuesday 6/2 Italy (Sanremo night 1)
  • Wednesday 7/2 Italy (Sanremo night 2), United Kingdom (You Decide final)
  • Thursday 8/2 Italy (Sanremo night 3)
  • Friday 9/2 Italy (Sanremo night 4), San Marino (1in360 night 1)

Which show are you most excited for?

 

 

Well, I reckon I’ve said enough for one night. Aren’t you glad I didn’t review every NF of the evening? My typing fingers sure are.

I’m off now to get my traditional power nap before that pesky alarm goes off at 3am (livin’ that unfortunate time zone life as always). Don’t forget to join yours truly on Twitter then so we can try to out-zinger each other (Vocals! Costumes! Props! Results! David Lindgren’s antics! There’s so much stuff to critique) – just follow me @EurovisionByJaz. It’s going to be a fun one, guys!

 

Until then,

 

 

 

THE BELARUSIAN NF IS TONIGHT?!?!? + Malta’s mammoth, Mediterranean Bank-sponsored semi final

I have a confession to make: I had no idea that Belarus’ national final was taking place tonight.

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For some reason (I’m inclined to blame Malta holding their semi and final over two consecutive days in order to confuse me) I was convinced they were choosing an act to follow in Uzari & Maimuna’s footsteps TOMORROW night. So, naturally, I had planned to forgo posting about Malta’s semi final so I could combine a prediction for both the MESC final and the Belarusian equivalent into one ridiculously long ramble on Saturday. SO, I’m not exactly prepared for what I’m about to do – hammer out a brief analysis of the ten songs competing to represent The Land of Koldun this evening, and take a look at Malta’s twenty-song-long semi while I’m at it. That being the case, there’s no Time (HEHEHE) to waste. Let’s go.

 

BELARUS: It’s Time to select a song for Stockholm!

Yes, I used the Time joke twice in a very short space of sentences. There’s only a matter of Time before it becomes totally irrelevant, so one simply must squeeze it in as many Times as possible.

But I’m done now. I think.

Hey, here are the prospective Belarusian entries for 2016!

  1. Flame by Alexey Gross
  2. Glory Night by Sasha Zakharik
  3. Not Alone by Valeriya Sadovskaya
  4. Radiowave (Ne Shodi s Uma) by Radiovolna
  5. Turn Around by The EM
  6. Heta Ziamlia by Navi
  7. How To Fly by Alexander Ivanov
  8. Pray For Love by Anastasiya Malashkevich
  9. Running To The Sun by Kirill Yermakov
  10. My Universe by NAPOLI

 

 

Overall, I’m pretty disappointed in this bunch. It only takes one great song to win Eurovision, but it seems to me that Belarus have none – which makes me wonder why they even bothered with their lengthy live audition process and all of the other jazz leading up to this point (and why they should bother with the stuff that’ll come after, such as rehearsing and remixing and turning up at Globen). That might sound harsh, but this final is lacklustre at best, and physically painful to preview at worst. At least, in my opinion. If you think it’s the new Melodifestivalen in terms of its epicness, power to you (but seriously, book yourself into an insane asylum stat).

I’ve selected some highlights (using the ‘high’ loosely) and collated them into a short list which I believe is traditionally titled a ‘Top 5’.

  1. Running To The Sun Lyrically questionable, but contemporary and catchy, this one’s my pick of the bunch. But I wouldn’t waste any douze points on it. If it wins, I’d be keen to see what was done with it between now and May.
  2. My Universe This is NAPOLI’s weakest attempt to represent Belarus, but because it reminds me a bit of Zlata “Goddess Amongst Us Mere Mortals” Ognevich’s Gravity, I can get on board with it.
  3. Turn Around It’s a man-band with a melancholy ballad! The boys from The EM are like a very sad Eastern European Jedward, who plumb the depths of depression and duckface a LOT in the Turn Around music video. Part of me loves it, part of me wants to play them a succession of YouTube cat videos to get them to cheer the heck up.
  4. Radiowave If this wasn’t so incredibly repetitive, it would be my favourite.
  5. Heta Ziamlia The only non-English track competing, this is cute, and would be something different for Belarus to send to the ESC (laters, melodrama). The ‘ooh-ooh’ bits are irritating though.

So who’s going to win, and does anyone really care when the standard is so crap? OF COURSE THEY DO, AND STOP BEING NEEDLESSLY MEAN, JAZ! This is the trio of tracks I can see scuffling at the top of the scoreboard for the ticket to Stockholm:

  • Flame Although I didn’t put this in my Top 5, I do think it’s a credible and rather majestic number (and I’m not just saying that because I personally know one of the lyricists, and want it to win for her sake). It’s first up in the running order, and I think it could end the night in first position too.
  • Pray For Love I can’t stand Anastasiya’s voice – talk about nails down a chalkboard. But she’s done well for herself in the past with a song that was far worse than this one, so I can’t discount her.
  • Running To The Sun Yes, I’m biased. This is my personal fave, so obviously I consider it the best of the bunch and a possible winner.

PS – I’d like to slip My Universe in as a prediction too, just in case. So consider that done.

Who would you like to see fly the Belarusian flag this year? Does Alexey ignite your Flame, or are you hoping it’s Sasha’s Glory Night? Maybe you’re thinking that Alexander Ivanov should learn How To Fly to Arlanda airport (though I truly hope you’re not). Let me know below!

 

MALTA: One mammoth semi + one mammoth final = MESC 2016

Another year, another MESC, and still nobody’s explained to me why Malta goes to the trouble of holding a semi final when they only ditch six songs at the end of it. CUT THE FIELD IN HALF, FOR THE LOVE OF IRA LOSCO!

Speaking of our beloved Ira…she’s back in the mix for 2016, fourteen years after her very successful, should-have-won-it trip to Eurovision in Tallinn. She’ll open tonight’s semi with one of her two entries, and be followed by eighteen other acts. If you’re tuning in, you’re in for a loooooong night. But it just wouldn’t be MESC otherwise.

Here’s the line-up, for anyone requiring a refresher:

  1. Chameleon (Invincible) by Ira Losco
  2. Falling Glass by Corazon
  3. Light Up My Life by Stefan Galea
  4. Empty Hearted by Domenique
  5. I Love You by Dario Mifsud Bonnici
  6. Under The Sun by Daniel Testa
  7. The Flame by Jessika
  8. Alive by Jasmine Abela
  9. Flashing Lights by Raquel Galdes
  10. Golden by Brooke
  11. Lighthouse by Kimberley Cortis
  12. Right Here With You by Sarah Crystal
  13. Frontline by Danica Muscat
  14. Kingdom by Christabelle
  15. Little Love by Franklin Calleja
  16. Fire Burn by Dominic
  17. That’s Why I Love You by Ira Losco
  18. You’re Beautiful by Lawrence Gray
  19. Young Love by Maxine Pace
  20. All Around The World by Deborah C

 

 

Now THAT’s more like it. It’s not the best musical battleground ever to have existed, but there’s hardly anything that I’d describe as dreadful listed above. I’m going to save my Top 5 ranking for tomorrow’s pre-final post (assuming all my favourites qualify. The odds are in their favour) but I will say that Ira, Corazon (gasp!) and Deborah C (double gasp!) have made the grade.

For now, I’ll have a bash at predicting which six songs WON’T be seen and heard again on Saturday night.

  • Light Up My Life There is plenty of generic dance pop on offer, but this is the blandest example.
  • Empty Hearted I quite like this one, but I can see it struggling.
  • I Love You This ain’t bad either, but there’s always one or two DNQs that I don’t get.
  • Flashing Lights Raquel failed to qualify last year with a much better song at her disposal. This one does nothing for her unique vocals.
  • Frontline This is actually one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. Nothing more needs to be said.
  • You’re Beautiful Well, thanks, Lawrence…but as it turns out, flattery won’t get you everywhere.

It’s a tough task, deciding which of Malta’s marathon runners won’t make it to the finish line. If you’ve selected your own six, get on down to the comments section and put them in writing! You know I’m an extremely nosy human and want to know what you think about anything and everything at all times.

 

Now, I’m going to say goodbye (I have some more face-palming re: my Belarus mistake to indulge in) but I’ll be back in about twenty-four hours with a verdict on the fourth member of the Eurovision 2016 family – i.e. Belarus’ song – plus a review, ranking and prediction of the MESC final. If you’re watching one of tonight’s NFs (or you’ve cloned yourself and plan to watch both), enjoy. And remember, selection season is only just beginning!

 

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Super Saturday 2.0: MESC, Melfest, and a little Sochi on the side

Bonjour, and welcome to Super Saturday the Second! This one’s not going to be quite as super as last week’s, if you classify “super” by the amount of final decisions for Copenhagen being made. Seven days ago we had picks from Finland and Switzerland, whereas this evening, reigning JESC champ Malta is the sole selector of a 2014 entry.

Don’t curl up into a ball and sob helplessly, however – there’s plenty of action elsewhere to make this weekend one of the happening kind. From Sweden’s Sanna Nielsen making her 7th attempt to represent her country, to last year’s Hungarian runner-up looking to push one place ahead, this may not be THE night (as far as Kurt Calleja is concerned) but it’s certainly a decent night.

Before I get on to further NF discussion, I have to mention another competition taking place in Europe at the moment. It’s just a little insignificant thing called the Winter Olympics…I don’t know if you would’ve heard of it. Ha. Ha. ANYWAY, the Games have begun, and that was cemented with last night’s/this morning’s spectacular opening ceremony (depending on where you are, it could have taken place at any given time) in Sochi. Now, I say spectacular, but I must admit to falling asleep towards the end of the athlete parade. During the ceremony for London 2012, I only made it to Lithuania before passing out, so I consider making it past Ukraine this time a major achievement. What I can remember up until that point was pretty epic, though – not only was a Russian flag constructed out of people on the stadium floor, but they made it wave. Bravo.

Eurovision takes priority over the Olympics tonight, but I’m still keen to catch as much figure skating, ski jumping and luging as possible without creating a Jaz-shaped indentation in my couch. If you’re not feeling MESC or Melfest, maybe you’ll end up tuning in too. For those winter sports un-enthusiasts, I’ll quit the Sochi talk now and move on to the aforementioned Super Saturday action from around the continent.

 

Malta’s mini-ESC reaches its climax

Last night, six artists were sent packing in Malta’s largely pointless semi final (either kick out a decent amount or don’t bother, guys!) including two-time Eurovision rep and million-time MESC attempter Fabrizio Faniello. To be honest, that wasn’t a great loss. Nor were the five others that now have zero chance of winning tonight.

What we’ve been left with is one of the best line-ups Malta’s had in ages, featuring some very un-Malta-like stuff. I don’t say that to be offensive – it’s just that Malta has this way of cramming their NFs with middling pop songs and ballads with awfully cliché lyrics, and in 2014, there’s much less of that. Awesome.

In order of performance, this is the final fourteen:

  1. Lovetricity by Christabelle
  2. Some Kind of Wonderful by Wayne William
  3. Brand New Day by Davinia
  4. City Lady by Ryan Paul Abela
  5. Love Will Take Me Home by Franklin
  6. One Last Ride by Daniel Testa
  7. Let The Sunshine In by Sophie Debattista
  8. Oblivion by Chris Grech
  9. Until We Meet Again by Deborah C
  10. Hypnotica by Jessika
  11. Take Me by Pamela
  12. Coming Home by Firelight
  13. Because I Have You by Amber
  14. Pin The Middle by De Bee

I feel like it’s either going to be one of the fan favourites that wins, or some random song that nobody rated. I’ll do the best I can to predict it right; but first, my preferences for Denmark are…

One Last Ride yes, I have been overly excited since I found out Daniel, of JESC fame, was aiming for adult Eurovision. But believe me when I say my adoration only clouds my judgment of his song a tiny bit. OLR is the business, people! Great verses, a great chorus, catchy, well performed, and exactly what I was referring to when I said ‘un-Malta-like’.

Will the hands that belong to this face carry the Maltese flag this year? I sure hope so!

Will the hands that belong to this face carry the Maltese flag this year? I sure hope so!

Hypnotica is it a copy of Euphoria? No. Is it highly original? Well, no. But this dance track has sucked me in, probably using the hypnotic forces Jessika is singing about.

Coming Home it’s Mumford and Sons meets Americana country, and the results are pretty darn good. Apart from the risk of Sjonni’s Friends suing Firelight for stealing their song title, I don’t see any problems with this going to Copenhagen.

Take Me Pamela is one of the fan favourites, and it’s not hard to see, or hear, why. Her song is a very pretty ballad, and it got me despite the fact I was initially desperate not to like anything that wasn’t Daniel Testa-endorsed.

Lovetricity some would call this the poor man’s Hypnotica, but I call it an equally catchy dance song that hasn’t got a chance of beating Hypnotica.

Now, who is actually going to score their way to Scandinavia? Based on (mostly) non-biased calculations, I predict one of Hypnotica, One Last Ride, Take Me, Let The Sunshine In, Brand New Day and Coming Home. I didn’t mention Sophie Debattista’s or Davinia’s songs earlier, but they sound to me like they have a shot. Also JESC alumni, Sophie’s participated in MESC before, but she’s got a better song this time. Davinia, on the other hand, came 3rd last year with an amazing song, and hasn’t come up to her own standard with this one in my opinion. But she’s another favourite, so I can’t discount her.

I believe Malta will end up sending something decent, wherever the votes go. What do you think? Who’s going to succeed the singing doctor that was Gianluca?

 

Melodifestivalen semi 2, ready to roll

Everyone’s (I may be generalising on that one) favourite NF continues this week, having traveled from Malmö to Linköping. There are big guns and intriguing unknowns (to me, at least) in this second semi, including Sanna Nielsen, who should get some kind of Melfest lifetime achievement award, and Swedish X Factor finalists J.E.M, who are made up of a girl, a guy, and another girl who looks like Moran Mazor. Here’s the rolecall:

  1. Love Trigger by J.E.M
  2. Hallelujah by The Refreshments
  3. Glow by Manda
  4. Efter Solsken by Panetoz
  5. I Am Somebody by Pink Pistols
  6. Undo by Sanna Nielsen
  7. Set Yourself Free by Little Great Things
  8. När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
It’s largely a group affair this week, with only three acts flying solo.

It’s largely a group affair this week, with only three acts flying solo.

You can listen to all eight here.

I had a feeling this semi was going to be better than the last, so I couldn’t wait to hear the songs. Now that I have, I will say it’s definitely more consistent than the last – there’s nothing worse than average in there. Here are the songs I rate most.

Efter Solsken Panetoz didn’t disappoint me, coming up with pretty much bang on what I expected of them. That, by the way, was effortless, fun rap-pop with a tropical tinge that makes me feel like I’m partying it up in Barbados or the like.

I Am Somebody I don’t know how to describe this exactly; nor am I sure whether the two women in this group are actually women (not that it matters). It’s electro rock-ish, moody, atmospheric, and catchy, which automatically makes it a good song in my mind.

Undo Could this be the one that gets Sanna to the ESC? I’m not sure, but it’s my favourite song of the semi. It’s predictable in the way it develops, but so pretty I don’t care. I love the lyrics. An A-grade vocal will be needed to elevate, but I think she can deliver.

När Änglarna Går Hem Martin’s hairstyle isn’t the only thing that’s changed since he represented Sweden in ’05. This song is nothing like Las Vegas, which is a good or bad thing depending on how you felt about that. I liked Las Vegas, but I rather like this too, and I’m enjoying hearing him sing in Swedish.

As for who’ll actually advance, I’m thinking it’s Sanna and The Refreshments to the final tonight, with Little Great Things and Martin going through to Andra Chansen. Sanna is a force to be reckoned with in present company, and if she didn’t go straight through it would be a shock. The Refreshments aren’t my cup of tea, but they’re a Swedish institution, and every time a song with a hint of rockabilly competes in Melodifestivalen, it tends to go somewhere. Little Great Things and Martin just give off an AC vibe – though I may be hoping to be wrong about them if it means Panetoz takes one of their spots.

I was 50% right about semi 1 (who saw Ellen Benediktson coming?) so don’t be surprised if this prediction pans out completely wrong. Make yours down below, or, if you’re reading this after the fact, let me know what you think of the results!

 

But wait – there’s more!

There always is. Azerbaijan and Belgium will have their own bits and bobs going on Sunday night, but because they are in super-early stages, let’s put them aside and focus on tonight.

In addition to MESC and Melfest, you can also tune in to:

  • Semi final 2 of Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin
  • Heat 3 of Hungary’s A Dal (this is where you’ll find Gigi Radics, runner-up of A Dal 2013, singing for a spot in the final.)
  • Show 9 of Lithuania’s Eurovizijos Dainu Konkursa

You’re spoilt for choice, really. Once again, I’ll be sleeping through the action, saving my energy for the Melodifestivalen final, so whatever you watch, enjoy it a little extra on my behalf.

 

I’ll see you on the other side of Saturday, where I’m sure there’ll be plenty to talk about.

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Copenhagen Chat | My thoughts on the news of the week

Hola, amigos. It’s the middle of the week, and as of now, that means it’s time for me to belatedly weigh in on the Eurovisiony happenings that have made the headlines since it was previously the middle of the week. Although…nothing of note really happened prior to our first Super Saturday, so let’s just go from there.

Quite a lot has gone down since the weekend, and not just in the Land of National Finals. Sure, we’ve now got two more songs for Copenhagen, taking the total to six; and sure, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen has begun and that is SO MUCH YAY!; and sure, Spain has shocked us all by premiering some decent potential entries; but, we also now know who will present the ESC this year – more specifically, all three of them. Discussions of these developments are coming up, but for now, let me say this: please let those hosts put in a better performance than the last trio we had to put up with!

 

The hosts with the most (maybe) are… 

*drumroll*…three people I’ve never heard of! Woohoo!

That doesn’t actually bother me. Some of the most entertaining hosts have been unknown to most of us before they took to the stage – e.g. Jaana and Mikko, Eric Solbakken, and Her Royal Funniness Anke Engelke. So give a great big benefit of the doubt to Lise Rønne, Pilou Asbæk, and Nikolaj Koppel.

1

They look nothing like Ell, Leyla and Nargiz, but can they be less wooden?

Lise, Pilou and Nikolaj are not without credentials. She is a television presenter (handy) who has helmed Dansk Melodi Grand Prix in the past, á la Petra Mede, who hosted Melodifestivalen before Malmö; Pilou is an actor, so he’ll be used to making a script sound like natural dialogue; and Nik (as I am affectionately calling him since now) is a musician and former judge on Denmark’s Got Talent. All that sounds promising, don’t you think? I’ve never been sold by the trio concept, so hopefully this trio can change my mind.

 

Something Better from Finland, and a Swiss star-hunter

Then again, who cares if they don’t? It’s all about the music. Well, more about the music, anyway. And as I mentioned before, Super Saturday gave us two more songs to add to the small pile we already have which will be en route to Denmark in a few months’ time.

Finland’s UMK ended with Softengine’s Something Better on top, beating out fan favourite Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola. As you’ll know if you read my last post, I didn’t follow UMK this year, but I did subject myself to snippets of the competitors before Saturday night. That decision has left me a little disappointed that the result wasn’t the other way around. The mod-rock style of Softengine doesn’t do much for me, whereas I thought Mikko’s song was a downright lovely ditty (or perhaps that’s the senior citizen in me) but time, in addition to healing all wounds and going by so slowly, changes things. Time and multiple listens. I may be proclaiming Something Better my first douze-pointer of the year this time next week.

Meanwhile, the Swiss chose the best of a bad, bad bunch in their Grosse Entscheidungsshow, opting for Sebalter’s Hunter of Stars to fly their flag. On the whole, this is a positive thing – it’s nothing like the lame lady ballad that it beat, and has a certain charm with the whistling and whatnot. I still think Switzerland can so much better though. It’s sad that this is the only half-decent outcome we could have had from them.

Exactly how half-decent is Sebalter? How could we figure that out…wait, I’ve got it! It’s TOP SIX TIME! Here, in a world exclusive, is mine:

  1. Belarus
  2. Ukraine
  3. Albania
  4. Italy
  5. Finland
  6. Switzerland
TEO (or is that Donny Montell) is still on top.

TEO (or is that Donny Montell?) is still on top.

Okay, so Seb is still on the bottom in my books, and I’m still totally on Team Cheesecake (which is surprisingly still the Belarusian entry). But with 30+ songs yet to be picked or premiered, this ranking is bound to change. Hit me with your personal top six in the comments, and the ensuing disagreements will no doubt keep us occupied until the weekend.

 

Melfest: it’s well and truly on!

It’s safe to say that Sweden is back. Maybe not back in a ‘we’re ready to win again, bitches’ kind of way, but definitely in a way that makes last year’s Melfest sound even worse than it actually was (bar Robin Stjernberg and a select few others). Saturday’s first semi turned out to be less predictable than I was expecting, with only one of the big favourites being voted straight to the final.

I’m talking, of course, about YOHIO, who no doubt won the night (but hopefully won’t win the whole thing) with To The End. But it wasn’t the Eurovision royalty that is Helena Paparizou who followed him – she was relegated to Andra Chansen alongside Linus Svenning’s beautiful Bröder. Newcomer/stand-in for Amandine Bourgeois in Malmö, Ellen Benediktson, scored the other ticket with Songbird. I have to admit, despite the Helena love I share with many other ESC fans, I consider this a victory for all the artists who think they haven’t got a chance against those who have been there and done that. Go Ellen!

I'm not entirely sure which is which...

I’m not entirely sure which one’s which…

With the wins must come the losses, and four songs are now out of Melfest ’14 for good. Only one of those had the power to bring a tear to my eye, and that was Alvaro Estrella’s Bedroom. Say what you want about a bad performance – I thought it was a-ok, and that the song was easily the best of the night. I mean, if Eric “I’ll smash a ton of glass to distract you from the fact that I’m not a very good singer” Saade can win Melfest, why couldn’t his former backup dancer qualify? Sob. The good news is that Bedroom has topped the Swedish iTunes charts, and that I intend to send the song into a radio station anonymously to try and elevate it to Gangnam Style status in Australia. Wish me luck.

What did you think of Melodifestivalen’s first installment?

 

Spanish surprises: the national final five

Following France’s shockingly impressive lead, Spain released the select group of songs that will be vying to represent them sometime in the near future (a date would be nice, Spain). I’ve given them all a listen, and on the spectrum of prospective entries, they collectively sit closer to the likes of Sweden than of Switzerland – a.k.a. hooray!

  • Más (Run) by Brequette
  • Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo by Jorge González
  • Estrella Fugaz by La Dama
  • Seguir Sin Ti by Raúl
  • Dancing In The Rain by Ruth Lorenzo

I’m not saying these are the strongest songs on the planet, but they do take me back to those days when Spain sent ethno-pop year after year, and did well with it. Generally, the selection is poppy and generic, but there’s always room for poppy and generic songs to succeed at Eurovision. I reckon Spain has a chance here, if not to hit the heights of Pastora Soler, to at least improve on last year’s fail.

I’ll wait for a date before I think about reviewing them properly, but at the moment, my picks are Brequette, Jorge and Ruth. How about you?

 

Super Saturday #2 – what’s on?

There’s only one more song to look forward to this Saturday, but Malta’s NF is only the beginning of the action. Olympics fans like myself would add the start of the Winter Games in Sochi to the list of comps worth watching (it’s basically the Eurovision of the sporting world) but for those who are interested in the ESC only, look out for…

  • MESC. That’s Malta’s Eurovision Song Contest. After a semi final on Friday which will, inexplicably as ever, only send 6 of 20 songs packing, 14 will be left to battle it out for the win. There’ll be two former JESC contestants taking part (assuming they both advance, and let’s face it – the odds are in their favour) but the only one I’m gunning for is Daniel Testa. His song One Last Ride has Eurovision written all over it, and not in a cheesy way. However, there is some fierce competition he’ll have to push out the way to make it…can he do it?
  • Melodifestivalen semi final 2. A veteran of this NF, Sanna Nielsen is back for what seems like her millionth shot at representing Sweden, and this could be the one that gets her all the way. She’ll be joined by Martin Stenmarck (who was beaten by Helena Paparizou and many others in Eurovision ’05) singing in Swedish, and my personal gem Panetoz. Check out their hit Danza Pausa and then tell me you’re not excited to hear what they’ve come up with!
  • Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin semi final 2 and Hungary’s A Dal heat 3. I admit to knowing nothing about either of these at this point, so whether they’re worth watching is up to you.

 

I’ll be back on Saturday to preview and predict MESC and Melfest, and complain about what an agonizing decision it is choosing between multiple national finals AND the Olympics. There’s something for you to look forward to.

Ahem. In the meantime, don’t forget to rank and ramble about results down below. If you don’t…well, I’ll be sad.

 

 See you Saturday!

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Selection Season Day 3: Icelandic, Maltese and Scandinavian action

Do you know what day it is? No, it isn’t some important anniversary that you’ve forgotten about (although, if you missed my birthday last year I’m still not speaking to you. Harumph!). It is, of course, Super Saturday – the first Super Saturday of the selection season. Tonight, both Iceland and Malta wrap up their national finals (which for Malta pretty much means going through the same lengthy process that they did for last night’s semi), Norway gives away three more spots in the MGP final, and host country Sweden kicks off my absolute favourite NF, Melodifestivalen.* Boy, there is going to be a lot of results to squeal about/be horrified by on Sunday morning! That’s if you aren’t planning on watching any of the finals. For those who are otherwise engaged or just need their beauty sleep, and those who will be tuning in, here’s an overview of the SS schedule, with 23% more picks and predictions and no added sugar.

* I know there are even more things happening, but I am just a mere mortal and can’t feasibly cover them all. Sob.  

 

Söngvakeppnin: Who will follow Salomé (and Jónsi)?

Honestly, I haven’t got a heap to say about Iceland at this point. I’ve decided to make Söngvakeppnin one of the finals for which I don’t listen to all the songs and get my hopes up about which one I want to win, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t. This year, I’ll be listening to the island’s rep for the first time with zero expectations…unless it’s Birgitta. There’ll be a few expectations there.

Anyway, this is the field of competitors who’ll be battling it out for a ticket to Malmö:

  1. Ekki Líta Undan by Magni Ásgeirsson
  2. Lífið Snýst by Svavar & Hreindís
  3. Ég á Líf by Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson
  4. Meðal Andanna by Birgitta Haukdal
  5. Til þín by Jógvan Hansen & Stefanía Svavarsdóttir
  6. Vinátta by Haraldur Reynisson
  7. Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir

Lucky number one Magni was the wildcard finalist, so it’s unlikely he’ll win. That’s good news for the others, who now have a 1 in 6 chance of success. Kind of.

And that’s about it from me, apart from a warning I feel I must give you: try not to fall in love with the Icelandic version of the winning song, won’t you? It will no doubt be rewritten in or reverted back to English about five seconds after the reprise. 

 

Malta’s mini ESC

Ah, Malta. Malta and their strange, strange ways. It is a mystery to me why they even have a semi final when they don’t use it to weed out all of the average stuff. Last night, as always, the initial round took place and zapped many people of the will to live with its immense length. 16 of the 24 entries made it through to the final (what an achievement! The odds were in nobody’s favour!) and tonight will be more of the same. Or slightly less of the same, it’s still a ridiculous setup. The less songs there are to choose from, the less chance voters are going to make a mistake, right?

Well, it is what it is, and what it is…well, is, a mammoth final full of artists we’ve seen try to get to Eurovision time and time again – Richard Edwards, Dorothy Bezzina, Claudia Faniello and Amber, to name a few. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them come out on top. But the one I want most for Malmö is Kevin Borg, who tried to represent Malta before he moved to Sweden…and won Swedish Idol. That win means two things – firstly, he can sing and sing well, and secondly, if he goes to Eurovision the Swedish public will probably back him – and that bodes well for a decent Maltese showing. 

Kevin Borg, trying to locate the end of the MESC national final

Kevin Borg, trying to locate the end of the MESC national final

Of course, what I want and what we’ll get are very different things, and since I haven’t had a spare 5364849 hours to listen to all of Malta’s options, anyone could win. I just hope the best choice possible is made.

 

Norsk MGP, semi number three

There are just four places left in the Norwegian final for 2013 – three for tonight’s qualifiers and one for a usually random and undeserving wildcard. This last semi has a bit of everything to choose from: soft-metal, dance, country, pop-rock, tropical hip-hop…you get the picture. I’ve found I can’t trust Norway to choose the best offerings (IMO) when there’s a lot of same-same, so it will be interesting to see where the votes go here.

  1. Utopia by Gothminister
  2. Bombo by Adelén
  3. Sweet and Heavy by Lucky Lips
  4. Awake by Gaute Ormåsen
  5. The Young by Anina
  6. Not Afraid by Winta
  7. I Love You Te Quiero by Sirkus Eliassen

These are the entries I’d be texting my thumbs off for if I could:

Bombo – I knew I was going to love this just from the title, and if you liked Mandinga in Baku you’ll probably love it too. It has more of a dance feel than Zaleilah, but it’s a similarly irresistible fusion of Spanish and English that will get you bum-shaking in no time. Norway has sent ethno-pop to the ESC two years in a row now, and I’d be thrilled if they did it again.

Awake – this is unassuming, radio-friendly fodder that could get stuck in the semi just as easily as it could slip into the final. But it’s enjoyable to listen to, and in this instance that’s enough for me.

I Love You Te Quiero a Norwegian version of Trackshittaz, anyone? This is another (part) Spanglish gem with a super catchy chorus, and is one of the few almost guaranteed to be as good live as it is in studio. Watch out for these guys.

 So those are my preferences. But (you knew that was coming) I’m predicting advancement for Gothminister, Lucky Lips and Anina this evening, with Anina the only one of the three I wouldn’t mind winning MGP. At the moment, the forerunners are Gromth and Margaret Berger, who won their respective semis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Last year, Tooji placed second in his semi before storming to victory in the final. So if your favourite song didn’t beat all the others, don’t despair.

 

Last, but not at all least: Melodifestivalen!  

If you can hear woo-hooing from wherever you are right now, it’s just me. I am SO pumped for Melfest, and I can’t believe how fast it has rolled around.

melodifestivalen2013ql1_

Semi #1 will be held in Karlskrona, and whilst most of the artists I’m dying to see are in later semis, the lineup is impressive. And here it is.

  1. Skyline by David Lindgren
  2. Burning Flags by Cookies ‘N’ Beans
  3. Paris by Jay-Jay Johanson
  4. Gosa by Mary N’diaye
  5. Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Förlora by Eric Gadd
  6. Heartbreak Hotel by YOHIO
  7. Porslin by Anna Järvinen
  8. We’re Still Kids by Michael Feiner & Caisa

As I write this, it’s mid-afternoon and the full songs are yet to be released, so I’ll have to get back to you with my picks and predictions in a few hours.

A few hours later…

I’m back! And sorry to say, quite disappointed. The first semi of Melfest 2012 was all ‘bam! Bam! BAM!’, the bams naturally representing one awesome song after another. This year, it was more like ‘poof. Poof. Poof?’ However, I don’t believe you can 100% make up your mind on a song by the first listen, so I’ll wait for these to grow on me. The best at this point, for me, are:

Burning Flags this is a side of Fredrik Kempe I don’t think I’ve seen before, but I like it. The chorus is killer (though I don’t get how anyone’s supposed to see those burning flags if their eyes are closed) and the whole thing is generally powerful. I mean, it makes me feel like I could bench press my couch or something.

Gosa no other song in Melfest this year is likely to have the title repeated in it as often as this. It’s tribal, it’s dance, it’s a little bit nuts…I’m sold.

Heartbreak Hotel can I just take a second to say what a beautiful creature YOHIO is? He is a stunning example of androgynous flesh. Anyway, his entry is more hardcore than you’d expect, but far from reaching the hideousness level of Gromth in MGP. The bridge kicks butt.

We’re Still Kids is that Epic Sax Guy I hear backing Michael and Caisa? Unfortunately not, but this song makes me think of him and that’s good enough.

Now, who will go where? In case you’re a Melfest newbie, there are two final tickets up for grabs per semi, as well as two spots in the Andra Chansen (Second Chance) round. And I’m about to tell you who’ll get them. Maybe.

For the final, it’s Cookies ‘N’ Beans (also known as Biscuits ‘N’ Lentils) and YOHIO as far as I’m concerned, but I’m also prepared to be spectacularly wrong. I think we’ll see a Timoteij situation with David Lindgren, who’ll go to Andra alongside Anna Järvinen.

Or will he…because I can never ever be sure.

 

If you’re still there, congrats on making it all the way through this post, and I’m sorry if I sucked more energy out of you than the Maltese semi. There’s just so much happening in ESC-land as we speak, I could ramble on about it for ages. And basically have.

See you on the other side of Super Saturday!

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