Didn’t see this coming in the wake of last week’s top 5 performances of 2017 countdown? Well, neither did I. Consider my face officially palmed.
I actually have the awesome Anita from Eurovision Union to thank for inspiring this companion piece to that post: a countdown of the countries that didn’t, in my opinion, get it all right in terms of their song’s staging and/or performance in Kyiv. I’ve deliberately not made this about the five worst performances, since there wasn’t a single country that I’d say got everything wrong (although one came close). Instead, I’ve singled out the elements in a handful of acts – dodgy vocals, horrifying costume choices, bad backdrops etc – that dragged them down…and in the case of a few, may have had a hand in their non-qualifications.
Have your say on the biggest stuff-ups of Eurovision 2017 in the comments. Remember, honesty is the best policy (and there’s no fun in 24/7 sunshine and rainbows, so get critical!).
Oh, BTW – you can (and should!) still vote in the People’s Choice polls of the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. They’ll close in a few days’ time and the results will be revealed soon after that, so do your Eurofan duty while you have the chance!
#5 | Montenegro steers clear of OTT…for worse, not for better
I’m starting with something that was too inoffensive rather than too offensive, especially considering the source. From my very first listen of Slavko Kalezić’s Space, I was expecting to see it on stage in the campest and most fabulous fashion imaginable. I’m talking buff, topless male dancers who had marinated themselves in body glitter in the hours leading up to the show; galaxy-inspired visuals that alternated between dramatic (for the verses) and flamboyant (for the choruses; and plenty of overuse of the core Eurovision elements – wind and fire. I was confident in Slavko’s ability to make this dream of mine come true, given that he was to 2017 what Tooji was to 2012 – only Space didn’t require the reining in of camp that Stay did. So you can imagine my disappointment when he appeared on the Kyiv stage by himself, with only a mediocre costume change and his beloved Rapunzel braid for company. It’s not that he couldn’t command the stage on his own, because he strutted around like a boss and did the hairycopter with full enthusiasm. But when a song so obviously calls for one to go full gimmick on its ass, one should obey. Space needed more colour, more choreography and a crowd (of five other people) to be everything non-Eurovision fans think the contest is. Not so much to give it a shot at qualifying, since that was unlikely to ever happen (sadface), but just to make the most of the saucy, sassy lyrics; the fun, upbeat vibe; and Slavko’s larger-than-life personality.
#4 | Switzerland sugar-coats their staging of Apollo
I’ve got a job for you: take all of the 2017 entries that were chosen via a national final, and compare how they were staged initially to how they were staged at Eurovision. For the most part, you’ll notice that not many changed drastically, and those that did mostly improved on their presentation. Timebelle’s Apollo, then, is the exception and not the rule, because it went downhill between NF season and contest week. In fact, the only way Switzerland went up was by sticking Miruna at the top of a spiral staircase, which she eventually descended anyway (in stilettos, without breaking a sweat or any bones, which does deserve a high five). What we saw and what we heard clashed like crazy. Apollo benefited way more from the dramatic and modern NF staging, which could have been built on for ESC purposes. Yet that was discarded in favour of cheap and predictable background graphics, the inexplicable staircase (Why was it there? What did it add?), and an equally inexplicable yellow dress that I thought was less Beauty and the Beast inspired and more like the repurposed outer layer of a certain big bird who lives on Sesame Street. And let’s not forget more pastel shades than you’d find in the maternity wing of a major hospital. Overall, the look of this would have worked wonders for the right song (minus the tacky backdrop) but it took a good song and made it below-average. If I were Switzerland, I’d be contacting Sacha Jean-Baptiste right now to book her for Eurovision 2018.
#3 | Australia’s hit-and-missed high note
Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy bringing this up in conversation time and time again. However, as patriotic and proud of Isaiah’s work in Kyiv as I am, I can’t deny that when we’re talking about the biggest broadcast boo-boos of the year, that notorious note he aimed for during the semi final HAS to be mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing the guy drop a note while he was singing his heart out on The X Factor last year, so perhaps the grueling rehearsal and media schedule of Eurovision took its toll…or maybe it was a combination of nerves and trying too hard. Whatever the cause, to say that Isaiah failed rather than nailed that note – one accompanied by a pyro curtain, which is the international symbol for ‘This is the moment that’s supposed to win you over and secure your votes’ – would be an understatement. It turned out to be a moment that had me convinced Australia had just lost out on a spot in the grand final instead. Thankfully, because his jury semi performance was more X Factor and less cringe factor, Isaiah did slip through in a still remarkably high sixth place. He then went on to make up for the vocal mishap to end all vocal mishaps on the Saturday night, though it has to be said that the initial pyro note still wasn’t up to scratch. Whenever I watch either of his performances back in the future, my hand will be hovering over the mute button as the two-minute mark approaches.
#2 | Albania dresses Lindita up for a wacky wedding…WTF?!?
I could complain until the cows come home about all of the questionable costuming choices made by the 2017 delegations. Belgium? Should have worn the jumpsuit from the flag parade. Poland? Shouldn’t have worn white. Israel? What were they thinking putting him in a shirt when shirtless clearly would have been the best way to go? But right at the top of the heap – though at the bottom of the pile in terms of suitable sartorial selections – is undoubtedly Albania. I don’t know what kind of performance Lindita’s ‘Vegas showgirl meets drunken 3am Vegas bride’ outfit would be appropriate for, but it was just plain ridiculous when paired with World. I don’t get the thought process behind it, assuming there was one. It proved to be such a distraction that I couldn’t even concentrate on Lindita’s mind-blowing vocals, which hadn’t been an issue when she won Festivali I Këngës with the song formerly known as Böte. Unfortunately, this look wasn’t a one-off, as she wore something equally frightening (in nude, not white) on opening ceremony night. She obviously felt pretty and powerful on both occasions – she doesn’t strike me as a person who’d wear what she was told if she wasn’t 100% happy about it – but in my eyes, a black bin liner would have been a better choice both times. You know, like the one Croatia’s Nina Badrić wore back in 2012.
#1 | Spain’s…well, everything
Many of us fans felt sure about two things prior to this year’s contest. One, that Italy would walk it, and two, that Spain would finish dead last. We may have been wrong about the former, but the latter did its predicted duty. Poor Manel – he had a terrible time at Objetivo Eurovisión thanks to The Mirela Incident, and then couldn’t prove anyone wrong by defying our ESC expectations of him. You might wonder why, if you’re unacquainted with both Do It For Your Lover and his rendition of it in Ukraine. Well, the song was weak to start with – great for roaring down the road in a convertible on a summer’s day en route to the coast, but too much of a repetitive flatliner to stand up in a song competition. It could have been saved by some genius stage concept, who knows…but Spain had the total opposite up their hibiscus-patterned shirt sleeve. The surfer idea was good in theory, but the execution was on par with High School Musical 2, if High School Musical 2 had been lumped with a production budget of $100. Low-quality graphics – including a Kombi van that kept on rocking without any danger of anyone knocking, an overhead shot of Manel and his band on surfboards that they just didn’t pull off, and a general air of over-casualness – made the package pretty unappealing. The fact that it was an entire verse before anyone turned around to face the camera/audience was also a turn-off. And just when we thought Spain might scrape enough points to NOT finish 26th, Manel’s voice decided to re-break at a pivotal moment, which sealed the deal. I’m sorry for seeming extra bitchy about this (you must be craving sunlight after all this shade I’ve thrown) but I’m being cruel to be kind. Both Manel and Spain deserve a LOT better.
Do you agree with any of my picks, or do you think I’M the one making the mistakes? Which competing countries of Eurovision 2017 made the wrong decisions when it came to putting on the best possible show?
Next time…you’ve voted (I hope) and now the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award winners – People’s Choice + my personal choices – can be made public. First up, I’ll be handing out (pretend) trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs – followed by The Performances, The Show and The Results. The celebration of Kyiv’s bests and worsts will continue, and you’d be as crazy as Lindita Halimi’s costume designer if you missed it!
FYI, I’m going to stop apologising for the unintentionally large gaps between my posts. If I don’t, you’ll never want to read anything I manage to produce anyway, because you’ll be so sick of everything starting with ‘I’m soooooooooorrrrrrrryyyyyyyy!’. Know that I will get the job done eventually, though. I may be a slowpoke in most areas of life, but I have blogged pretty religiously for almost five years now *insert gasps of shock and awe here*. Just assume that all the posts I say are coming in the next few days will actually come in the next few weeks, and you’ll never be disappointed.
Let’s move on to le subject of this post now. It’s been over a month since the Wurstmeister (© Jaz 2014, because I know you’ll want to steal it) rose like a lace-clad phoenix to the top of the Eurovision scoreboard; but with sporadic JESC selections and the enigma of the 2015 host city making up the bulk of current affairs, we have to keep chatting all things Copenhagen.
One of those ‘things’ is which countries made the right choices for Denmark, which countries so did not, and which had a plethora of dope songs to pick from. In retrospect it’s easier to justify exactly who made mistakes or could have ended up in a similar position with a different entry, and you can bet your autographed copy of Valentina Monetta’s Guide To San Marino-oh-oh-oh that I want in. So, I’m revealing my top 10 songs from the national final season – which I believe should have been sent, or could have been sent for an equally impressive/unfortunate result – right now.
Although, it wasn’t just me who compiled this list, guys…I had major help from Rory over at ESC Views (which just celebrated its 1st birthday *blows kazoo enthusiastically*) who discussed the subject with me at length until we’d settled on the possibilities from every single country. Thanks for a great conversation, Rory. I hope this list at least partially does your opinions justice!
Let’s count backwards from #10…
#10 | Finland
Could have chosen Kertakäyttösydän by Jasmin Michaela (unplaced in UMK)
It is true that I ended up enjoying Something Better – so much so I completely stopped complaining that ‘something better’ was exactly what I wanted – and I realise that 11th place is nothing to be ashamed of (unless you’re Azerbaijan, so that 22nd must have hit real hard!). But my soft spot for a couple of other UMK entries meant I would have enjoyed seeing other songs in Copenhagen. One such song was Jasmin Michaela’s, which could have signaled another year of Fun Finland had it not been inexplicably knocked out in the semis. Kertakäyttösydän would have been an equally quirky, but less novelty and much more Finnish successor to Marry Me; not to mention a precisely choreographed, trendy and vocally impressive one. Basically, Jasmin would have repped her country in style, and that could have taken her to 11th place.
Rory says: Jasmin should have gone. She had amazing vocals, and okay, the visual performance was a little out there…but she should have at least qualified!
#9 | Spain
Could have chosen Más (Run) by Brequette (2nd in Mira Quién Va A Eurovisión)
Sí, they could have! And they very nearly did, with Ruth’s victory the narrowest of the whole NF season. A lot of parallels can be drawn between Ruth and Brequette, including the fact that both are female belters of the highest order, who arrived at the Spanish final armed with powerful ballads. But Brequette’s Más was more contemporary and less cliché-Eurovision than Dancing In The Rain. Though I see those aspects as pluses, they may have been reason enough to rob Spain of their second 10th place in three years. Still, I think Más would have been a worthy entry, and who could say for certain that even with the right staging and draw etc, it couldn’t possibly have done as well as DITR?
Rory says: I love Más but I love Ruth…maybe Ruth could have sung Más?
#8 | Greece
Could have chosen Petalouda Stin Athina by Crystallia (3rd in Eurosong)
I’m glad they didn’t, as I will fawn over any up-tempo song with trumpeting in it. But the only other decent song in the Greek line-up IMO did come courtesy of Crystallia, who was flawless in her rendition of a very Greek ballad/national anthem. Petalouda would have been distinctive in a year of little ethno-pop, and would have qualified at the least, this being Greece we’re talking about. It wouldn’t have taken much for it to best 20th place once in the final. With Crystallia, I suspect we would have seen a similar or slightly better result to that of the boys with the oh-so-freaky flow (STILL not over it).
#7 | Norway
Could have chosen Heal by Mo (3rd in MGP)
Silent Storm remains a sentimental favourite of mine, and I don’t want to imply that Norway made a wrong choice this year. But, had Carl fallen too deep into his own void (judging by the lyrics, it’s a big one) and been unable to surface in time for Eurovision, Mo would have made a top replacement. You could compare Heal to Vilija’s Attention if you were looking for hypothetical competition, both of which would have been in the same semi, but I still believe it would have been Norway winning out over the less slick and more divisive Lithuania. With no other songs like it in the final – and those awesome dance moves Mo busts out – Heal could well have done what Silent Storm managed to do. Alternatively, it could have done some of the crashing and burning that Mo sings about…but as nobody will ever know, I defy you to prove that would have been the case.
#6 | Malta
Could have chosen One Last Ride by Daniel Testa (3rd in MESC)
This song is one of the most un-Malta-like songs to come out of their final in years. Scribble out the giveaway ‘Testa’ (it screams ‘HEY! I’M MALTESE!’ like Micallef and Debattista, et cetera) and it could have been lifted from NMGP, DMGP, Melfest…any one of a number of other finals famed for, shall we say, more modern offerings. It’s an instant, stadium-suitable pop song with a lil’ box ‘o’ cutesicles at the helm, and when you combine that with the fact that it wouldn’t have been compared with the Dutch and Swiss entries – as Coming Home was, and in the end it was beaten fair and square by both of those songs – it’s plausible that Daniel could have broken the curse of JESC contestants alongside the Tolmachevy Sisters, by qualifying and succeeding in the final.
#5 | Romania
Could have chosen Hearts Collide by Anca Florescu (4th in Selecția Națională)
Ignore the shocking camera work, bare-bones presentation and misplaced ball gown (this song calls for a Getter Jaani-style party frock, stat) and imagine that Paula and Ovi gave everyone else a shot by bowing out of the Romanian NF, and Hearts Collide = the clear choice. It’s only a could-have rather than a should-have because I don’t think it’s necessarily stronger than the power of Paula and Ovi. Not even they managed to escape from the 11th-13th-place rut that Romania and Moldova are constantly stuck in. Anca would probably have been similarly placed, but she would absolutely have been selected based on her song and talents, not her name.
Rory says: I loved Anca!
#4 | Belgium
Should have chosen Need You Tonight by Yass (4th in Eurosong)
The first ‘should have’ on this list – i.e. the first big mistake – comes from Belgium, and can be 95% blamed on Ruslana. The main point I want to get across here is that humble Frenglish guitar pop should ALWAYS triumph over what sounds like the opening theme of The Young and the Restless’ Mother’s Day special. It’s not that I don’t appreciate Axel’s talents, or his appreciation for the woman who gave birth to what I can only assume was an impressively-sized baby. It’s just that OH DEAR GOD THE CREEPINESS AND MELODRAMA! And neither Yass nor his hopeful song for Belgium had creepiness or melodrama. He had good looks, a great falsetto and a guitar (and the man-with-guitar thing kinda worked for Belgium in the past) and his song was a charmer that did not once mention anybody’s mother, if my rusty school French isn’t failing me. Accompanied by an intriguing interpretive dance routine, and some (literally) colourful drumming, á la the NF, Need You Tonight would have served Belgium a lot better – and obliterated the ick factor.
#3 | Latvia
Should have chosen Stay by Samanta Tina (3rd in Dziesma)
I’ve got the guilts, saying that Latvia made a non-ideal decision. Taking the rights of representation away from Aarzemnieki (if only in my mind) is like telling a puppy it’s too ugly to play with all of the other puppies. However, if we’re talking results, Samanta Tina pulling a Sanna and finally getting to Eurovision would have been the best way for Latvia to go. Dziesma was pretty woeful this year, with the eventual top three a bit of a step up. But as I don’t ‘get’ Dons, and taking Aarzemnieki’s fate into consideration, Samanta got my vote as the best hope of the trio. Copenhagen was better for Cake To Bake’s cuteness (and Jöran’s charisma) but Latvia’s shocking qualification record wasn’t. The drama, epic light show and amazing outfit that Samanta would have accompanied her dance track with would have given Latvia a better chance of changing that.
Rory says: Latvia always pick the wrong song to go to Eurovision. Samanta should have gone to Copenhagen.
#2 | France
Could have chosen Ma Liberté by Joanna (2nd in Les Chansons D’Abord)
Seeing as Twin Twin couldn’t have ended up further from the win win, you may think France should have sent Joanna. But as a Moustache-aholic, I can’t bring myself to admit that. Besides, somebody has to come last in the final, so that doesn’t automatically mean that somebody should never have been chosen in the first place. If France had selected Joanna though…well, I don’t believe theywould have come last, and I think they would have scored more than two measly points. The case for Ma Liberté? It would have worked better in the arena and on TV than Moustache; as a ballad, it wouldn’t have been performed right after/directly overshadowed by major player Undo; and it would have had broader appeal, with the possibility of Joanna’s big vocal wooing anyone who didn’t like her song.
#1 | Estonia
Should have chosen Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu (5th in Eesti Laul)
Many people would have viewed Sandra as a predictable choice for Estonia this year, in spite of Tanja’s status as favourite. I know I thought Miss Nurmsalu had Eesti Laul all sewn up, and not just because she’s ESC alumni (and a perfect angel sent from heaven to make us and our wayward bangs look average). From my first listen of her solo attempt to get to the contest, I was in love. Quite a few months later, I’m just about ready to propose marriage to it. This song is pure energy, joy, light, and a host of other cheesy nouns. It’s also instant, irresistible and distinctive, with the same Lion King-esque majesty that secured Zlata Ognevich’s Gravity the bronze medal in Malmö. I am 110% sure that Estonia’s failure to choose Sandra – i.e. placing her 5th even after she’d won her semi – was the biggest mistake of the whole NF season. With her, Estonia would have been dangerous; perhaps not for Conchita, but for Sanna, Aram Mp3 and Kalláy-Saunders. There’s no way they would have been sent packing prior to Saturday night.
Rory says: SANDRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
And that, my friends, is that! Please keep in mind that all of the above is a mixture of two opinions only, and not the be-all and end-all of which countries could and should have taken a different approach to Eurovision 2014. If you happen to disagree (or if, by a miraculous chance, you don’t) get it off your chest in the comments below. Just don’t use too many swear words if you can *&%#$ing help it.
Next on my agenda: the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence, AT LAST. They’re taking place so post-ESC, they themselves should win an award for being the most belated of the year. I’m keeping the People’s Choice polls open for a few more days, so if you haven’t voted yet, do it here. Thanks to everybody who has voted so far, though – you’ve exceeded my expectations.
Swing by in a few days’ (weeks?) time to check out the results, plus all the winners I’ve selected.