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THE TEL AVIV REVIEWS | Round 6 feat. Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova + Portugal

Hello (yet) again, and welcome to (yet) another round of Eurovision 2019 reviews! Rehearsals starting this Saturday – oh to the my to the GOD – is a reminder that time is running out, and if I want to spill all my personally-brewed tea on this year’s entries before the contest begins, I better pick up the pace. So here are five more judged and scored songs for those of you who’ve been enjoying them so far, via Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal.

Check out my thoughts on PÆNDA, Leonora, Michela, Anna and Conan’s (pick the odd one out) contributions to the comp, then share yours in the comments. Love is forever and I’ll love YOU forever if you do.

 

 

Austria was arguably to Eurovision 2018 what Bulgaria was to Eurovision 2016: a country that hadn’t done much for a while coming out of nowhere and shooting up the scoreboard. It was more predictable when Poli did it, but since Cesár Sampson was one of her backing singers maybe we should have predicted his 3rd place (the man has a magic touch). With PÆNDA and Limits being Austria’s follow-up to Nobody But You, I’m curious to see if she can pull off another shockingly high result for Austria. Or if she’ll squat her way to a DNQ like the last blue-haired female soloist to compete in the contest. Or if she’ll wind up somewhere in between. Limits is the sort of song that could do anything. I could justify it finishing in the top five, fifteenth, last in the final or missing out on qualification altogether.

It’s such an introverted song compared to most of the others. I almost feel like we’re intruding listening to it, like PÆNDA should be singing in a soundproof room behind closed doors (and far away from the prying ears of Lake Malawi). Yet that super personal, intimate feel of the song is one of its appealing points. That feeling is threaded all the way through, with vulnerability and genuine emotion at the core of PÆNDA’s high-pitched, delicate vocals. I can’t deny that this is a touching track with loads of musical integrity. But at the same time, it does feel like a bit of a disappointment. While I’m glad Austria didn’t do a Cyprus and carbon copy their 2018 showstopper, I was hoping for more of a statement piece. Limits is pretty same-same for its entire three minutes, and the chorus in particular fails to elevate it to interesting heights. All those bajillion-syllable ‘yous’ feel a little lazy, like nobody could be bothered to fill in the space with anything more complex. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it’s the impression I get from such a repetitive and uneventful chorus.

If Limits was a minute long I’d enjoy it more, but as a full-length song aiming to grab my attention and keep it, it doesn’t work. I do have a sneaking suspicion Austria will be bringing it with their staging this year, however. The potential is definitely there. I’m thinking moody lighting, dreamy LED graphics and a quirky-but-not-too-quirky costume choice. Maybe some dry ice too, if it doesn’t bring back more memories of Rykka and her squatting. I also expect PÆNDA to deliver some beautifully gift-wrapped vocals to our doorsteps. If she does and she is surrounded by aesthetic goodness, the juries will find her hard to resist. Televoters, I’m not so sure. I can’t vote in the second semi, but if I could I’d have other countries in mind. If most home voters are the same, we could be saying adios to Austria on the Thursday night – but until rehearsals and the real thing, I’m not game to make a set-in-stone prediction on this one. I know my Limits.

 

In a line Fragile and beautiful but a bit boring 2018 VS 2019 2018, because there really ain’t nobody but you, Cesár Predicted result SF 7th-12th, GF 11th-17th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

  

Denmark isn’t exactly the luckiest Scandinavian country in the contest these days. Then again, you make your own luck – so they’ve only got themselves to blame for their 2015-2017 string of buh-bow (a.k.a. sad trumpet) moments. Last year they brought out some burly, bearded Vikings and were back on form and back in the top 10. So why did they decide to ditch everything Rasmussen-esque in 2019 in favour of a song that sounds like it was written for a laundry detergent commercial? I’m all for countries bouncing around rather than replicating what brought them success the previous year, but this change of direction is a shock to the system. Not on the same level as Iceland’s change of direction, but a shock nonetheless.

So, Love Is Forever. For some reason I feel differently about this song every time I listen to it. One minute I think it’s cute and I really like the campfire feel, off-the-wall lyrics and language mix. The next, I think it’s way too sugary sweet, it gets on my nerves and I’m a) creeped out by Leonora’s unblinking eye contact down the camera and b) confused by the presence of that giant chair. It is a cute song, and the lyrics are (mostly) original and rhyme super-satisfyingly without resorting to fire/higher/desire – a trademark of co-writer Lise Cabble (who’s written a heap of DMGP and Eurovision hits including New Tomorrow and Only Teardrops). At the same time, it’s so twee that it borders on being more suited to JESC than ESC, right down to Leonora’s outfit – as worn by one of Serbia’s Junior artists in 2017. It certainly can be annoying if I’m not in the mood for it. And yes, it sounds like the audio of an ad where a perfect nuclear family frolics in their manicured garden, with their golden retriever and wearing white linen, in celebration of successfully removing a miniscule stain from said white linen with a revolutionary new laundry product.

Maybe Denmark’s success this year will depend on the mood televoters and jurors are in. Though if everyone else is as nonplussed by the chair as I am – and it has been confirmed that it’s traveling to Tel Aviv – that won’t help. Leonora won’t want people distracted by oversized furniture and her death stare when they could be focusing on an adorable, vocally solid song. Beyond vocally solid, actually. Love Is Forever isn’t the most challenging song to sing, but Leonora works extremely well with what she’s been given and I’m yet to hear her drop a note. I just don’t know about this entry in its entirety. There’s no point where it’s a disastrous car crash, nor is there a moment that makes it worthy of qualifying easily. Basically, it’s borderline. And given that Denmark may have their momentum stolen by the Swedish (meat) ball of joy appearing on stage after them, I’m leaning towards the side of the borderline that results in a DNQ.

 

In a line Cute and charming but a potential cause of diabetes and nightmares 2018 VS 2019 2018. I miss the manly stomping, glorious beards and long flowing locks Predicted result SF 9th-14th, GF 16th-20th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

There’s a handful of countries unexpectedly bringing their A-game to Tel Aviv, and Malta is one of them. The tiny island picked Michela as their artist as part of her X Factor winner prize, eventually pairing her with Chameleon: a creation from the bright minds behind If Love Was A Crime, Beautiful Mess, Nobody But You and Bones. With a back catalogue like that, Malta’s Symphonix song had every chance of being a cracker. I was unprepared for just how awesome it is, especially since it’s nothing like party anthem ILWAC, Kristian’s slick power ballad, gospel force Nobody But You or the otherworldly pop of Equinox.

Sitting comfortably and confidently on the fence between weird and wonderful – meaning it’s both bonkers and packed with mass appeal – Chameleon makes the Maltese entry of the same name that almost was (back in 2016) sound incredibly passé. It’s a tropically-tinged floor filler with a powerful singalong bridge, and a chorus that takes away so much musical build so quickly it stops you in your tracks. I don’t know how such a non-chorus can be so effective, but this one just is. Outside of the chorus, this song is busier than Grand Central Station – but because every bit of it is catchy, memorable and current, it works. I swear Chameleon wouldn’t have been turned down by Dua Lipa in a parallel universe, and I’ve never said that about a Maltese entry before (as a big Dua fan, that’s a thumbs up from me). What also makes me dig this is Michela’s vocal delivery. We haven’t seen her perform it live yet (well, I haven’t) but we know from her X Factor performances that she can sing, and her vocals are soulful with an edgy catch. She makes this song even more interesting.

What else could Malta possibly do to make Christabelle’s DNQ a distant memory? Well, they could hire Loreen’s Euphoria choreographer and the design team behind Jamala’s incredible tree graphic. Wait – they did? Oh, okay then. I think we all know what Euphoria and 1944 have in common. Not that I think Malta is going to win Eurovision with Chameleon or anything…I don’t think it’s quite got the goods to go all the way. But unless an unlikely mistake is made with Michela’s staging (I’m hoping for something as colourful and fun as the music video) or she develops strep throat during rehearsals (touch wood in favour of that NOT happening), they are on track to score their best result since 2013. If all goes according to whatever plans they’ve made, mid-top-10 isn’t out of the question. Malta might be entering a Chameleon, but they’re not blending into the background!

 

In a line A little bit of bizarre and a lot of brilliance makes for a surprise banger 2018 VS 2019 2019 hands down Predicted result SF 4th-6th, GF 5th-9th My score 10 points

 

 

 

 

Moldova are the masters of two things when it comes to Eurovision: being memeable, and finding themselves in the top 10 against the odds (literally). They don’t always bring something weirdly wonderful though, and when they don’t it seems to be a mistake – just compare the results of Hey Mamma and My Lucky Day to Wild Soul and I Want Your Love. It’s with great regret that I announce something you probably already know: Moldova’s fate is sealed this year, and sadly it involves staying in the semis. It’s what Anna wants, right? To STAAAAAAY? Maybe missing out on the final isn’t what she has in mind, but I do not see a scenario in which this song, which I’d describe as a reject from a Céline Dion album circa 1996, goes anywhere.

I should say that Stay is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I manage to enjoy it on some level despite knowing it doesn’t hold a candle to the majority of songs it’s competing against. It’s dated, more melodramatic than a Mexican telenovela, predictable, blatantly borrowed from Swedes all too eager to be rid of it, and would need Céline Dion herself to elevate it to qualifier status. And don’t get me started on the lyrics. MY LORD. Have you ever come across a chorus so by-the-numbers? ‘Stay, until I find a way to be together, forever’s here to stay, no matter what they say, we’ll be together’? S Club 7’s cheesiest love songs didn’t have such lame lyrics in the early 2000s (a time when Stay still would have sounded stale). You must be wondering how it’s possible for me to like it at all, and I’ve actually been wondering the same thing. Granted, 1990s Céline Dion is legendary, and the fact that Stay is that kind of throwback works in its favour with me. I can pick out appealing parts of the melody too – the tune is the least offensive thing about this entry.

Seeing a tiny diamond doesn’t cancel out all of the rough, though. And there are more qualification-stoppers than I’ve already mentioned. Take, for example, Anna seeming to struggle a little singing in English (pronunciation-wise, that is…her vocal strength is A+). It’s times like this I wish Moldova would remember 2013 and how Aliona Moon and O Mie flourished in Romanian. But, like Croatia this year, they’ve decided on English and it puts the cringey lyrics on full display. I do think there is potential here for stellar staging, but it wouldn’t be enough to get Anna to the final. When Switzerland struts in and makes their undeniable mark on the stage straight afterwards, who’s going to remember – let alone want to vote for – Moldova? I’m sorry, but this is a no-hoper for me. Bring back the wack in 2020 please!

 

In a line A cookie-cutter power ballad that belongs in the 90s 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 15th-17th My score 6 points

 

 

 

 

Portugal fell as far as a host country possibly can last year (with the exception of Austria scoring zero points in Vienna…ouch). O Jardim was a stunning song and I still think its last place was undeserved, but at the same time I can see how it happened. The song didn’t stand out, but that will not be a problem for our gracious 2018 hosts this year. Telemóveis is totally bonkers and has nothing in common with O Jardim bar being in Portuguese, unless Cláudia and Isaura stuck spoons to their faces at one point and I just missed it.

I don’t even know how to describe this song, especially since it took me weeks to figure out if I even liked it. It turns out I do – I like it a lot. That’s partly because it’s so original, partly because in spite of that it’s still very Portuguese, and partly because I’m proud of Portugal for being so adventurous. Telemóveis is striking from start to finish and undeniably unforgettable. The first thing that grabs my attention is actually Conan’s vocals, which are smooth as silk but have a haunting quality that makes his native tongue sound particularly nice (I can’t say ‘sensual’ based on his performance, but Portuguese is definitely a sexy language). Thank heavens he can sing, because a song this out-of-the-box would sound so bad if its singer was even slightly off key. The song itself has so many different layers and segments to it and they’re all intriguing. It’s like a mystery to be solved in three minutes, and I can never solve it so I’m left scratching my head…but somehow I’m still satisfied because my ears have had an artistic experience. This really feels above and beyond a lot of the other songs for Tel Aviv, and I don’t mean that in a holier-than-thou way. I just mean that next to more predictable, derivative pop, it’s on another planet. Those dance moves from Conan and his co-star are definitely unlike any I’ve seen on this planet before.

ICYMI because I was making no sense, I’m a big fan of Telemóvéis. I love the music, the vocals, the unpredictable structure and how avant-garde it is. I even love the crazy costumes and even crazier choreography that make it stand out even more. It’s by far the most experimental entry of the year, and again I’d like to applaud Portugal for picking it. I can’t say I have a clue how people outside the Eurofandom will respond. On one hand, Conan is memorable times a million and the song is one of a kind. But the whole package is also strange and potentially inaccessible – and that’s even more obvious given Portugal is performing between Estonia and Greece, two countries armed with very accessible, instant entries. One of three things will probably go down: Portugal will make everyone forget Estonia and fly into the final; Estonia and Greece will make Portugal look too bizarre and prevent them from qualifying; or I’m overthinking things and all three will advance. If you told me I could have a pasteis de nata but only if I picked one scenario, I’d have to go with Portugal missing out. But please, PLEASE prove me wrong, jurors/televoters.

 

In a line A sensational song so arty, it should be on display in the Tate Modern 2018 VS 2019 2019, but I love them both Predicted result SF 8th-12th, GF 8th-15th My score 10 points

 

 

 

 

30 down, 11 to go! I wouldn’t want Eurovision to shrink back down to 20-something entries, but 41 is hard work. It wasn’t difficult for me to rank today’s five, though I did have a few ties to break:

  1. Portugal (10)
  2. Malta (10)
  3. Denmark (7)
  4. Austria (7)
  5. Moldova (6)

Congrats Portugal, and better luck next time Moldova.

Now for an update on my overall ranking if you’re interested, and why wouldn’t you be? Actually, don’t answer that:

  1. Hungary (12)
  2. Switzerland (12)
  3. The Netherlands (12)
  4. Greece (12)
  5. Estonia (10)
  6. Portugal (10)
  7. Norway (10)
  8. Cyprus (10)
  9. Malta (10)
  10. Czech Republic (10)
  11. Belarus (10)
  12. Russia (8)
  13. Romania (8)
  14. Belgium (8)
  15. Armenia (8)
  16. Iceland (8)
  17. Serbia (8)
  18. Albania (8)
  19. Denmark (7)
  20. Lithuania (7)
  21. Croatia (7)
  22. Australia (7)
  23. Austria (7)
  24. San Marino (7)
  25. Moldova (6)
  26. Montenegro (5)
  27. Latvia (5)
  28. Poland (5)
  29. North Macedonia (4)
  30. Georgia (4)

 

Next time I’ll be reviewing Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden – and after that there’s just the Big 5 and Israel to take care of. Follow me everywhere at @EurovisionByJaz so you don’t miss a thing, and be prepared to tell me what you think of them all.

Speaking of which…who’s your most-streamed and most-skipped on Spotify when it comes to Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal? Let me know below.

 

Happy Almost-Rehearsal Week!

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 3 (Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania + Moldova)

Good *insert time of day here*, guys. In a plot twist that everyone saw coming, I’m back with more Eurovision 2018 reviews – and with rehearsals for this year’s contest kicking off NEXT WEEKEND (how did this happen?), I have zero time for one of my traditional rambling intros. Lucky you.

Speaking of you…if you saw the title of this post and decided it was worth a look, then you’re probably wondering what I think of Eugent, Saara, Yianna, Ieva and DoReDos – plus the musical offerings they’re bringing to Lisbon’s mahusive potluck dinner. Keep reading if you want to stop wondering! Then, as always, you can pick your personal fave of the five (scroll for the poll) and share your ranking in the comments. I know you want to…

 

 

My thoughts Way back in ye olde 2017, Eugent’s Mall became the first song to be selected for Eurovision 2018 (if I remember rightly). It’s a typical move for Albania, with Festivali I Këngës always falling during the festive season. The plus side is that Albanian entries have more time to grow on us and/or be reworked; the downside is that sometimes they don’t age like a fine wine so much as like a loaf of bread. So is Mall, all those months later, a drop of something delicious or a stale loaf of sourdough? And why do I constantly compare music to food? I can’t answer that second question TBH, but I can tell you that for me, this song is somewhere in the middle of awesome and awful. I think it’s quite wallpaper-like: imagine this year’s contest as a room, with Israel being the avant-garde statement armchair and San Marino being the ugly, dated fireplace (spoiler alert for my San Marino review) and you’ll know what I mean. Mall is there and it’s competing, but there’s no fire in it as far as I’m concerned, and nothing that really grabs me – even in the chorus, which if no other part does, should be the part of a song that sticks. I definitely don’t hate it, because there’s really nothing to hate. It’s not super-current but it isn’t decades too late either; it’s well-produced and the music is richly-layered, even minus the live FiK orchestra; it’s anthemic and will probably have some arms waving in Altice Arena…basically, I don’t see/hear any major flaws. What I hear actually impresses me the most about Albania, in terms of Eugent’s vocals. They’re flawless, clearer than the crystal Eurovision trophy, and powerfully projected in a way that will fill the spacious Portuguese stage even if he’s standing on it solo (no France 2017 issues are in his future). But excellent vocals aren’t enough in a competition full of great vocalists – many of whom also have standout songs up their sleeves. Mall is not a standout song in my opinion. It’s a decent song with an Albanian essence that suitably qualified Eurofans can detect with a single sniff (which I appreciate that about their entries). And I’m glad Albania is putting faith in their own tongue for the first time since Identitet in 2013. Unfortunately, I doubt it will pay off. I cannot see this qualifying, especially from the first half of death in the semi final of death (the Grim Reaper will be busy on the Tuesday night). Even though Albania will sound brilliant coming right after Iceland (spoiler alert for my Iceland review), I’m anticipating around 16th place in the semi for Eugent.

2017 VS 2018? 2017. Call me controversial, and I’ll take it as a compliment.

My score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts An unfortunate trip to Kyiv last year ended much too soon for Norma John (and if you think I’m over it, THINK AGAIN…and read this post). And so Finland brought out the big guns for Lisbon – perennial competition bridesmaid Saara Aalto, her belter of a voice, and her bucketloads of charisma and stage presence. Let’s be real, we ALL adore this woman. She’s a precious Nordic angel who had to take a turn on The X Factor UK before Finland realised they’d better just internally select her lest she be poached by the Brits. That brings me to my main point re: Monsters. The track is being showered with love by fans and in the fan-voted OGAE poll (no surprises there) but would people be raving about it if someone other than Saara was performing it? The way I see it, the song is secondary in the overall package of the Finnish entry to Saara herself. The country is sending an artist with a song, not an artist AND a song, if you know what I mean (and Norway is in a similar position). I’m not saying Monsters isn’t good enough for her or that it’s not good at all, but it could do more for its singer than it does. Sweden’s Deb duo are the driving forces behind it, and have created a dance-pop almost-banger that isn’t exactly at the forefront of the music scene right now (Ireland sent a vaguely similar song to Malmö, Estonia to Copenhagen). It is catchy, with a strong chorus and a distinctive vocal hook – ‘I ain’t scared no more’ – plus an inspirational message passed on in a way that doesn’t make me feel nauseous (Iceland, pay attention). And you can bet your entire collection of Eurovision merchandise that I’d be burning major calories in the Euroclub with this song as my soundtrack, were I going to Lisbon. Anything that makes you want to move – and not towards the nearest exit to escape it – is good, right? But while I can easily acknowledge the merits of Monsters, I can also easily admit that it’s not one of my favourite songs of the year. I like it but I don’t love it, and I think Saara is capable of more. She’s not going to be the contest winner we thought she’d be back when her name was announced (though why we thought that when she’s finished second so many times, I don’t know). Finland should be back in the final again after sitting it out (involuntarily) for three years, but at this stage I do have them under as borderline in my predictions. Am I letting my lack of enthusiasm cloud my objectivity, or is Monsters legitimately not that amazing? We’ll find out in a few weeks.

2017 VS 2018? Blackbird moves me. Monsters (kind of) grooves me, but I can’t say no to Norma John.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Going full Greece didn’t do the former ESC darling any favours in 2016 – it resulted in the loss of their 100% qualification record. Demy got them back to the final last year with cookie cutter Greek-free dance though (go figure…so why have they opted for something ethnic this year? Answer: because Yianna Terzi could pay the right price. And thank Hellas for that! I love it when any country sends a song to Eurovision that couldn’t be from anywhere else, and it doesn’t happen that often these days. That’s my no. 1 reason to applaud this entry. Reason no. 2 is that Oneiro Mou features the kind of drama Koit and Laura name-dropped in Verona; my way of saying that it’s atmospheric and mysterious (when I pretend I never looked up the lyrics on Google Translate). The verses get a bit of intrigue bubbling as you wonder, when listening for the first time at least, where the song is headed. Then the chorus delivers extra drama – maybe not in the most bombastic  way possible, but in a way that I get a kick out of. If this song wasn’t in Greek, it wouldn’t have half the appeal that it does, so I’m grateful for that too. And Yianna, besides having an incredible head of hair á la Tamara Gachechiladze (no need to turn that volume up, ‘cause it’s already on full blast) is also a well-established, seasoned performer. Ergo, she won’t go all deer-in-the-headlights on stage and will hopefully give us a studio-grade rendition of Oneiro Mou. I say that as someone who’s yet to check out her live vocal chops (I’ve barely had time to brush my own teeth lately, so please excuse that) but I’m assuming she’s got the goods. Greece has made it out of semi finals with weaker songs than this – ICYMI it was NOT love between me and This Is Love, and I’d class that as a weak song that squeaked through. Still, 2016 proved that they’re not infallible, and even in a nautically-themed contest, Greece is unlikely to sail though to Saturday night (HA HA). Like Albania, they’re fighting to emerge from that tough first semi, and I’d say it’s 50:50 – pre-rehearsals – as to whether they’ll make it or not. If the song is staged well (Lights! Dry ice! Wind! Give it the full salon treatment) it’ll help. If not, it might blend into the background, and that would not make for a happy Jaz. The more nationalistic music we get to hear in the final the better.

2017 VS 2018? 2018. Demy didn’t do it for me.

My score 8

 

 

My thoughts I’m going to do those of you out there who love this song a favour and spare you having to read this review: it’s not going to be a positive one. Usually I’d ramble on about what happened to Country X last year and make you wonder how I feel about them this year before releasing the kraken that is my opinion. But I want to get straight to the point with When We’re Old, because it’s part of my personal Infamous Four – a.k.a. the four 2018 entries that I just don’t like. I have a top 15 (all of which I want in my top 10), a next best 5 to 10 songs, then a sizeable ‘OK’ category…but underneath that at #40-#43 lies Lithuania and three other countries that I’m yet to talk about. Ieva is at #40 rather than right at the bottom of my ranking, but she’s in my bad books. Why? Because if Lena Meyer-Landrut was only allowed to sing in her inside voice, and starred in a musical version of The Notebook wherein the soundtrack was composed by a rhyming dictionary and a wheel of vintage cheddar cheese, When We’re Old would be the result. Like Iceland’s Ari, Ieva is lovely inside and out, but she’s singing something that is sickeningly sweet and savoury at the same time. Sugar + cheese = not a nice combo (MORE FOOD ANALOGIES JAZ WTF?!?). Sure, it’s romantic and emotive, but I’m afraid my cold, unfeeling heart refuses to be affected by it (perhaps because I’m currently the most single person on the planet and cannot relate to the sentiment). There’s no doubt the song will grow on me during the contest period, and I might be eating these words by the time May becomes June. As of right now, though, I’m not keen for Lithuania to qualify, even if they have a much better chance of making it in Lisbon than they did in Kyiv (they seem to qualify when I don’t want them to and vice versa, with a few exceptions along the way). Of my Infamous Four, When We’re Old is the only one I can visualise in the final, but it will be my toilet break song if it does (and if I don’t need to go to the toilet when Ieva’s on, I’ll go and sit in there anyway). I’m feeling generous with my scores this year, so don’t be surprised by the number you see below…just know that most of those points are for Ieva, NOT her song.

2017 VS 2018? I have to say Rain of Revolution, because it’s more fun and less limp.

My score 5.5

 

 

My thoughts You can’t discuss Moldova 2018 without talking about Moldova 2017 first (well, I can’t). The Sunstroke Project are a gift from the Eurovision gods, having presented the world with an iconic meme in 2010 only to outdo themselves last year by presenting their country with its best-ever result. The problem is, like Bulgaria and Portugal, they set a standard for their successors that is not easy to meet. Repeat NF offenders DoReDos have Russian powerhouse Phillip Kirkirov in their corner, and that helped snag Sergey Lazarev the bronze position in Stockholm. That’s what this trio needs to live up to – 3rd place – but I don’t think the Phillip effect is going to get them that far. There is a heap of stuff to like about My Lucky Day: the classic Moldovan trumpets and infectious tune; the enthusiasm of the band when they’re performing it (maybe they caught that from the Sunstroke boys?); the NF/probable ESC mirrors (props that fit into the Portuguese LED-less puzzle very nicely); and the overall throwback feel that transports me back to contests from 2008-2010. It’s just a fun, fluffy song. Musical fairy floss, you might say, but it’s just light and sweet enough to make you (by which I mean me) want more. Is it a masterpiece? No, in case you thought I was under the impression it was. Lyrically, the situation could be improved…and even though I’m 26 and not 12, I can’t help thinking that the words ‘number two’ should be avoided by songwriters (maturity level = dangerously low). But because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, I don’t feel like I have to take the lyrics too seriously. Moldova hasn’t quite built on their 2017 success in the way I’d hoped, and like Bulgaria did after Poli in 2016. But when I look at this song without thinking about Hey Mamma and how it compares, I can’t complain much (which is a big deal for me). Top 3 on the scoreboard? Nope. Top 10? Maybe. Final? Almost definitely. They’ve got a guaranteed douze from Romania to help them on their way, and they might get a few votes out of me too.

2017 VS 2018? Will Moldova ever top Hey Mamma? They haven’t this year.

My score 8

 

 

Okay…now that I’ve practically written a novel about each country, the stats are: 15 down, 28 to go! I suddenly feel the need to listen to Blue’s I Can to make me feel like I can get the whole Class of 2018 covered in time.

Here’s my mini-ranking for this round:

  1. Greece (8)
  2. Moldova (8)
  3. Finland (7)
  4. Albania (6.5)
  5. Lithuania (5.5)

So it’s Yianna – by one of her amazingly-textured hairs – who wins this five-way battle. Stay tuned to see where she fits in to my ranking of all 43 songs once the reviews are (FINALLY!) done.

Do we have love for Greece in common, or is it Aalto all the way for you? Maybe you’re reeling from my review of Lithuania because you love it so much. Vote for your favourite below, and share your thoughts/spill your tea in the comments!

 

NEXT TIME Coming up on my Lisbon ‘Hit or S*%t’ list (that’s a working title for next year’s reviews…what do you reckon?) are Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland and Latvia. You won’t want to miss me trying not to be biased when I review We Got Love, so make sure you come back for Round 4.

 

 

 

 

Putting The (Freaking) Beautiful Into The Mess: My five favourite performances of Eurovision 2017

Happy Hump Day, everybody! They say time flies when you’re having fun, but apparently it also flies when you’re in the torturous throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. It’s already been a week and a half since Portugal won their first ever ESC, and to me it actually feels like it’s been longer. Shouldn’t NF season have started again by now?

I just mentioned a bad bout of PED, but I have to admit that mine hasn’t been nearly as bad as usual. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve been pretty busy since final weekend, dealing with all the stuff I didn’t do before the shows because I had nothing but Eurovision on the brain and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. From now until about April 2018, my brain-space will only be 90% occupied by Eurovision – that leaves 10% for everything else, which IMO is plenty.

Obviously I’m not here to talk about anything but the contest, though, and today I’m focusing on the most freaking beautiful performances of 2017, according to moi (because boy, is this a subjective topic). Staging and singing standards were high this year, but there weren’t that many acts that had every single bit of their s%#t together. Here’s my personal shortlist – from no. 5 to no. 1, for maximum soap-opera-cliffhanger suspense – of those that did.

Hit me up with your top five performances of the year in the comments, and we’ll see if we have any countries in common…

 

  

#5 | Robin Bengtsson’s performance of I Can’t Go On for Sweden

But of course! I’d be concerned for my mental health – and I’m sure you guys would be too – if I’d willingly left Sweden off this list. Just as the two certainties of life are death and taxes, the two certainties of Swedish Eurovision performances are a) they’ll be polished to perfection, and b) they’ll have been that way since we first saw the future ESC rep on stage at Melodifestivalen. There was certainly no need to change Robin Bengtsson’s risky, but super-suave and super-slick staging of I Can’t Go On between Stockholm and Kyiv – although the backdrop was revamped, two dancers were replaced, and a new suit was bestowed the privilege of being wrapped around Robin (FYI, SVT…I would have done that for free). ANYWAY, Robin’s Eurovision performances were as sharp as said suit, and just as entertaining as his first public one from the NF days. What’s to fault? I do now feel inadequate, since I can barely power-walk on a treadmill without tripping over my own feet (let alone strut on one with confidence while singing, et cetera), but that’s just me being pedantic.

 

 

#4 | Salvador Sobral’s performance of Amar Pelos Dois for Portugal

Taking an alternative approach to Sweden’s cool, calculated one paid off for Portugal. Every single time Salvador the Salvadorable took to the ESC stage, he put a slightly different spin on Amar Pelos Dois, via his vocals and unique performance style. That gave his three minute appearances an authenticity and freshness that was so endearing, it made many of us feel like proud parents watching their shy son come into his own at a school talent contest. But don’t get me wrong – his performances were world class, with an emphasis on the ‘class’. Being the only artist to use the satellite stage (Hungary’s violinist doesn’t count), he stood out without the aid of any bells and whistles (I have no problem with pimping out a performance, but we all know APD needed to be pared-back). He’s a spellbinding presence on his own, and with that stunning woodland backdrop behind him, delivered something that was impossible to ignore. There wasn’t anything else on show in 2017 that was quite so dreamy…if we don’t include Robin Bengtsson’s penetrating gaze and Imri Ziv’s biceps.

 

 

#3 | Joci Pápai’s performance of Origo for Hungary

I might be biased on this one, since as you probably know, Origo is my hands-down numero uno song of the year. But even I was worried that Joci would be too nervous on stage, or that the A Dal performance feat. dancer, violinist and suitably aggressive rap sequence wouldn’t translate well to the much bigger IEC stage. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. The intimacy of the performance – an important thing to cultivate considering the personal nature of the song’s story – was retained, but the use of the satellite stage and the fire jets expanded it to Eurovision-size. The colour scheme was perfect, the camera shots clever, and the emotion just as raw and real as it needed to be to not come across as phony (or over-rehearsed). Joci’s costume change for the final was the icing on the cake. The only thing I’d have done differently is toned down the smile on the violinist’s face – I feel like she needed to be more Sandra Nurmsalu and less Alexander Rybak for Origo purposes. Then again, I can’t blame her for smiling her way through a performance this good.

 

 

#2 | Kristian Kostov’s performance of Beautiful Mess for Bulgaria

I had no idea what to expect from Bulgaria this year in terms of staging, but I knew that Beautiful Mess deserved to be presented in an amazing way. What was ultimately done with it was incredible, and gave it all the visual interest it needed without taking away from the song or from Kristian’s beyond-his-years charisma and vocal talents. Geometric shapes and a bleak but totally on-trend monochromatic colour and lighting scheme went hand-in-hand with Kris’s Addams Family-esque clothing choice. Together, those elements made the performance seem so mature it was easy to forget that he’s a kid who only recently turned 17. The choreography was simple, and the shaky camera shots that kicked in halfway through (perhaps inspired by the treatment of Oscar Zia’s Human at Melfest last year) added to the atmosphere. As Kris sings in the chorus, I don’t want nothing more – i.e. I couldn’t have asked for anything better – from Bulgaria’s performance. That’s two years in a row now, and it makes me excited for what they might bring to the party in Lisbon.

 

 

#1 | Sunstroke Project’s performance of Hey Mamma for Moldova

A public service announcement: from now on, we’re all to spell ‘fun’ like this – M-O-L-D-O-V-A. If you were after a Eurovision 2017 performance that ticked every single box, then you’d undoubtedly have found it in the Sunstroke Project’s sophomore stage appearance. It took a great party song and made it a serious contender by doing everything right. The boys and their brides-to-be were entertaining, energetic and vocally solid; their dance moves were quirky, memorable and easy to copy after a few drinks gave you the courage (or was that just me?); and their background graphics were 10/10. They also threw in a handful of bits and pieces that ramped up the fun factor without turning Hey Mamma into a disposable novelty entry – think the backup singers’ costume change, and their synchronised bouquet toss into the audience. Moldova’s semi performance took me by surprise as I didn’t foresee it being my highlight of the night, but it was. And final night wouldn’t have been the same without them, that’s for sure. A third place well earned? You bet your epic sax!

 

 

Now I’ve shown you mine, you can show me yours! Which performances from Kyiv do you think were the most douze-worthy?

 

 

Next time…I hope your poll-taking skills are still sharp from voting in Barbara Dex, because the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards are about to kick off, and I need you to decide who and what should win the People’s Choice trophies! From the Miss and Mr. Congeniality awards to the Dancefloor Filler of the Year, Best Music Video and OMG Moment of the Year honors, it’s up to you to vote in a whole heap of categories and have your say on the best – and worst – of Eurovision 2017. Don’t miss your chance!!

 

 

 

 

Lights and Shadows: Reviewing the good, the bad and the OMG results of Eurovision 2017

Hey guys! This is the kind of post that should have gone up about five minutes after the Eurovision final ended on Saturday, but I have been internet-less (cue Psycho shower scene music) for the whole week up until this point. So please excuse the slowness.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but on the weekend Portugal did something pretty cool by winning that Eurovision final after more than half a century of trying. No biggie.

Okay, okay…like Ron Burgundy, Portugal’s win IS kind of a big deal. And obviously you already know what went down during the show – from Austria’s giant moon to a flag-draped Ukrainian’s moon (of a different kind) and everything before, in-between and after.

The more-than-convincing win by Salvador Sobral with Amar Pelos Dois is one for the ages. Salvador is a quirky and precious gift to humankind (the Michael Cera of Eurovision, if you will) and APD is a stunning song, lovingly crafted by his equally talented sister Luisa. I’m so glad we got to witness the two of them come together (Stockholm 2016 slogan pun not intended, believe it or not) to perform the best ESC winner reprise in contest history:

I’M NOT CRYING. YOU’RE CRYING.

That’s three years in row now that the Eurovision victory lap has moved me to tears, for one reason or another. If the thought of heading to Lisbon next May wasn’t appealing enough, whoever takes the trip (which might include me!) will also get to see at least one Sobral sibling perform live. BRB, off to plaster a sticker on my loose change jar that says ‘PORTUGAL FUND’.

Of course, many of us were expecting to start up an Italy fund over the weekend, if we hadn’t already. While Francesco Gabbani + gorilla hardly crashed and burned, such a steaming hot favourite finishing outside of the top 5 is flabbergasting.

Occidentali’s Karma wasn’t the only song to end the night in an unexpected place. There were plenty of surprises – good and bad – on the semi and final scoreboards…and then the full split results were made public and provided even more open-mouth moments. It’s customary for every Eurovision-related site to pick all of those results apart like a chicken carcass, so that’s what I’m (finally) doing today. Sans the grease that accompanies picking apart an actual chicken carcass. Sorry for the visual, vegetarians.

FYI 1.0: I’m not too bothered about points, because there are (other) Eurovision nerds out there who can crunch numbers with ease (I can’t) and have beaten me to it anyway. I’m more interested in other stats: agreements and disagreements between the televoters and juries; which countries continued to succeed and which countries fell off the ‘We’re Good At Song Contests!’ wagon; who outdid all of their previous results and who hit a brand new low…that sort of thing. If you want to know how many jurors from Eastern Europe gave five or more points to countries in Western Europe (or something like that), you won’t find that info here.

FYI 2.0: I like to ramble. Even if this is your first time visiting EBJ, then this overly-long intro will have made that clear. So before you go on and read this post (which I hope you do ‘coz it’s interesting, I promise), find a comfortable seat and some energy bars to have by your side – or, as Ilinca from Romania says between bouts of yodeling, ‘Get another coffee, get another one to make it through’. Wise, wise Ilinca.

Now let’s look back at the rankings from the semi finals and the final of Eurovision 2017, and see what stands out for better…or for worse.

 

 

Semi final 1

 Split results stats

  • Countries the juries and televoters agreed on were Portugal and Greece, but they both ranked Sweden, Armenia, Iceland and Latvia
  • The biggest differences of opinion were over Australia (2nd J, 15th T), the Czech Republic (7th J, 18th T) and Belgium (13th J, 3rd J). Fortunately for televoters, the juries didn’t manage to keep Blanche out of qualifying range.

 

 Combined results stats

  • Portugal won a semi for the first time this year. Their previous highest qualification came from a 2nd placing in 2008.
  • Moldova’s 2nd place overall equals their best semi result ever – they also finished 2nd the last time the contest was held in Kyiv in 2005.
  • For Sweden, this was the fifth semi final in a row (host years excluded, of course) in which they’ve finished in the top 3.
  • Australia maintained its 100% qualification record – it could be worse with two semi participations – alongside Azerbaijan (slightly more impressive given they’ve participated in nine semis).
  • The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Portugal (they didn’t compete in Stockholm), Moldova and Greece.
  • The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Georgia, the Czech Republic and Latvia.

 

Moldova’s out-of-the-ordinary strong result and Sweden’s predictably excellent one put a smile on my Post-Eurovision-Depression-ravaged face. I’m also pleased with Isaiah’s 6th place, since after his performance last Tuesday I wasn’t sure Australia would even get to the final at all.

I’m not surprised by Georgia’s narrow miss of the final based on the flawless performance Tamara gave during the broadcast. I’m guessing she didn’t miss a beat, note or dramatic arm flourish during the jury show either.

I feel a bit better about losing Blackbird now that we know Finland wasn’t totally disregarded. The juries just found a few other songs that catered more to their tastes (or better met the criteria they were supposed to be searching for).

Latvia’s last place has left me shook. The juries ranking it right at the bottom makes some sense, but I expected the public to go for this particular pimp-slot song in a big way. Then again, I didn’t vote for it, and apparently I wasn’t alone.

 

 

Semi final 2

Split results stats

  • The countries juries and televoters agreed on this time were Bulgaria and Ireland, with Serbia, Switzerland, Macedonia, Lithuania and San Marino ranked closely with both.
  • It was a different story for the Netherlands (2nd J, 9th T), Austria (4th J, 14th T), Malta (8th J, 18th T), Croatia (13th J, 5th T), Romania (15th J, 3rd T) and Estonia (17th J, 6th T). The jury got their way with Estonia, but not with Malta.

 

Combined results stats

  • After qualifying for only the second time ever last year, Bulgaria did it for a third time in style by winning the second semi.
  • Hungary achieved their equal best semi result in history, with Joci doing what Magdi Ruzsa managed in 2007.
  • This semi saw Romania pick up their 100% qualifying record where they left off in 2015.
  • Switzerland may have missed out on a spot in the final for the third time in a row, but 12th place isn’t bad considering they placed dead last in their 2015 and 2016 semis.
  • Despite having a hotly tipped song up their sleeve, Macedonia failed to make it out of the semis for the fifth consecutive year.
  • The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Norway, Romania (after being expelled like a naughty school kid last year), Belarus and Denmark.
  • The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Serbia, Malta and Lithuania. Where’s Donny Montell when you need him?

 

Nothing warms my (formerly cold, unfeeling) heart more than seeing Hungary’s Origo – my favourite entry of 2017 – so high in the combined ranking. I figured Joci’s rap would repel a lot of juries, but they still had him in their top 10.

I was a little surprised to see that Denmark just scraped through, but I’m biased when it comes to Anja and Where I Am. Maybe I should have seen it coming. I’m not shocked that she had more jury appeal than televoter appeal. Claudia Faniello did too, but with worse consequences.

San Marino actually finished far lower than I thought they would. Because a) Valentina and Jimmie put on a good show in spite of the material they were working with, and b) I figured I shouldn’t underestimate a Sammarinese disco song after last year, I’d prepared for them to claw their way into 12th-14th territory. Serhat must be pretty pleased with himself now!

 

 

The final

I’ve noted each country’s jury (J) and televote (T) ranking below in the overall ranking.

Split results stats

  • Just like in the semis, the juries and televoters only agreed on the ranking of two countries – Portugal and Bulgaria (who’d also been ranked first by both in their respective semis).
  • It was a close call for Italy, Azerbaijan, Greece, Israel, Germany, Belarus and Spain, who were all ranked reasonably equally by J and T. The televoters’ way would have seen Austria finish last, but the juries elevated Nathan to 16th place overall (which I’m thankful for, because I couldn’t bear to watch that adorable human fall victim to a total lack of love).
  • The biggest disagreements between J and T were over Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Romania and Hungary. Australia gets the award for the largest gap between rankings, with a jury 4th and a televoting 25th.

 

Combined results stats

  • We all know that the entire top 3 – Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova – achieved their best-ever results on Saturday. Portugal and Moldova also made massive leaps after each failing to even qualify the last time they competed. This time last year, Bulgaria had just reached a best-ever placing of 4th, so well done to Kristian for improving on Poli’s already stellar result.
  • Belgium hit the heights of the top 10 for the third time in a row, and Sweden finished 5th for the second time in a row. Consistent!
  • Australia continued their top 10 trend despite receiving the second-lowest amount of public votes, while Norway found themselves back on the left side of the scoreboard after a non-qualification last year. Prior to 2016, the last time Norway had finished outside of the top 10 was 2012.
  • The Netherlands ended up in 11th place again – Douwe Bob did the same last year. Cyprus came 21st for the second straight year. More consistency!
  • 19 of the 26 finalists were also in the Stockholm grand final. Of those 19, 8 improved on their 2016 final placings and 8 dropped down. The most notable dropper is Poland, who went from 8th then to 22nd
  • In terms of host entries, Ukraine put in one of the worst performances – on the scoreboard, not on the stage – of the last decade. Austria’s 26th place with nul points from 2015 obviously outdoes O.Torvald’s 24th place (with 36 whole points) but those are the only two host entries to sink that low in recent years.
  • Spain found themselves in the bottom 5 again this year, after Barei finished 22nd in 2016. This is the first time since 1999 they’ve come last, though, which might seem surprising since they’ve had such bad luck for so long.
  • Germany, on the other hand, managed to better their last few results despite finishing second last. They trailed the pack of participants in both 2015 and 2016, so Levina shouldn’t be too One box of tissues, tops.

 

On Portugal’s win…was Amar Pelos Dois my favourite entry this year? No. Do I agree with everything Salvador said in his spontaneous slash controversial victory speech? No, but that’s more to do with the way he said it (and he’s easily defendable on that front). Am I happy that he and Portugal won the contest last weekend? HECK YEAH!!! Simple, beautiful and emotional – and yes, more about feeling than fireworks, although fireworks are fine – this winning song will be a timeless classic.

Bulgaria and Moldova achieving their best-ever results makes me do a happy dance every time I think about it (so I’d better avoid attending funerals for a while #inappropriate). Kristian’s placing was expected, but the Sunstroke Project outdid even their own expectations, I suspect. I feel strangely like a proud mother (as opposed to the hard-to-impress kind they sang about).

5th place (again) for Sweden is solid if not sensational. They had some tough competition to take out this year, and winning was never a realistic possibility. But they get to hold on to their Eurovision powerhouse title for at least another year.  

Poor Italy. After all of that buildup and so much time spent as the bookies’ fave to win, they didn’t even make the top 5. After seeing Francesco’s performance, I got the impression it wasn’t a winner, but I still thought top 3 was going to happen for him. Nope. Interestingly, France won the OGAE vote last year, like Italy did this year, and also went on to finish 6th. Spooky.

It proved to be a non-event with the juries, but Hungary’s Origo – my beloved #1 song of the year – was thankfully boosted into the top 10 by the televoters (including me…it got about 15 of my 20 votes). Since their 2011 comeback, Hungary has qualified for the final every year and has finished in the top 10 three times. Not too shabby.

On the other hand, Australia was virtually ignored by televoters but adored by the juries. I don’t really understand either response, but I can’t help being thrilled in my own biased way that we made the top 10 yet again.

I figured France was a goner after Alma appeared on stage last looking very lonely and not leaving much of an impression behind her. But 12th? Tré bien! The song definitely deserved that left-side finish, even if the staging left something to be desired.

I thought Israel might do a little better, but I think we all saw Spain’s wooden spoon coming – even before Manel sealed the deal with that cringeworthy vocal fail. I think he’s sweet, and he doesn’t deserve the hate he got before the contest and will probably get now – but I also hope Spain learns a lesson from his lack of success.

 

 

Lastly…the comeback acts, then versus now

Kyiv was a more successful contest for:

  • Sunstroke Project 22nd in 2010/3rd in 2017

…and that’s it! The trio should be particularly grateful for their success, because every single other returning artist had a worse result than they did when they last competed.

  • Koit Toome 12th in 1998/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017
  • Laura Põldvere DNQ (20th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017*
  • Omar Naber DNQ (12th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (17th in semi) in 2017
  • Valentina Monetta 24th in 2014/DNQ (18th in semi) in 2017

*I’m calling Laura’s result this year worse because with Suntribe in 2005, she beat five other countries. This year, she only beat four.

 

 

Okay…I THINK I’ve gotten all of my scoreboard-related thoughts out of my system. Parabéns if you made it all the way through, and parabéns to Portugal for being the cherry on top of a contest with such discussable ingredients. I mean, EVERY Eurovision has an aftermath worth having in-depth conversations about that really confuse everyone outside of the ESC bubble. This one, though, will easily keep us going until the 2017/2018 national final season starts – or until Junior Eurovision in November, if that floats your Naviband-esque boat (it keeps mine extremely buoyant, BTW. Yes, I’m a JESC fangirl).

On that note, if there’s a result or ranking you’re burning to comment on, you’re in the right place. Did Eurovision 2017 pan out how you thought it would, or has it SHOCKED YOU TO YOUR VERY CORE and given you Koit Toome face?

 

Whatever you’re thinking, type it down below. I’m not willing to shut up about this contest until Lisbon’s (maybe) so let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.

 

Until next time – when I’m planning on counting down my top 10 performances of Eurovision 2017 – muitas felicidades!

 

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Armenia, Austria, Finland, Moldova, San Marino + Slovenia

Good day sir/madam/whoever is reading this from wherever in the world! I’m flattered you’ve taken the time to drop by EBJ, given all of the rehearsal goodness going down at Kyiv’s International Exhibition Centre that can be enjoyed vicariously through social media (believe me, I’ve been doing my bit in an attempt to quash my ‘Last year I was in the Press Centre at Eurovision and this year I am not’ depression).

It’s hard to comprehend that it’s May already, and that the pre-show prep is in full swing. Rehearsals for the first half of the second semi are taking place as I type this, and I’m eagerly (and sweatily #nerves) awaiting the turn of a few of my favourites. If you are too and you’re after a distraction, then look no further – you’ve found it!

I have three rounds of 2017 reviews left to squeeze in before the ESC hits our TV screens, and today it’s the moment of truth for *drum roll* *realises you’ll already have seen the title of this post* *shrugs*:

  • Armenia’s Artsvik with Fly With Me
  • Austria’s Nathan Trent with Running On Air
  • Finland’s Norma John with Blackbird
  • Moldova’s Sunstroke Project with Hey Mamma
  • San Marino’s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson with Spirit of the Night
  • Slovenia’s Omar Naber with On My Way

As always, my mum has given her verdict on these six songs too…and boy, was there some serious disagreement this time. We actually haven’t spoken a word to each other since I played them for her.

So much for ‘come together’.

Anyway, keep reading to find out how we rated these entries, and feel free to share your feelings about them in the comments – love, hate or tolerate!

 

 

 

My thoughts If you remember what I said when reviewing Serbia, you can skip the next sentence because it’ll be pretty much the same criticism (not to say I hate either song. I don’t). I’d just like to reiterate my warning to all competing Eurovision countries that if you make us all wait until the very last minute before lifting the cloche off your song for the year, we’ll be expecting something phenomenal. So, even if said song is a solid 8/10, it won’t seem that good because you’ve let our expectations pile up like a Jenga tower taller than Jonatan Cerrada’s stilt dancer. Enter Armenia, who did exactly that by being the final country out of 43 to unveil their contribution to the Kyiv contest. If I’d personally heard Fly With Me in February, I might have thought more of it than I do now and wouldn’t have been at all disappointed by it. Rest assured, if you think this song is the best thing since the introduction of the semi-final system, I’m only a tiny bit disappointed. It’s just not a fantastic ethno-pop banger in my opinion, so much as a weird combination of classic Eurovision ethno-pop circa 2005 and the bass (?) guitar from Eneda Tarifa’s Fairytale. I like how exotic and interesting it is, and the ‘fly with me’ hook towards the end – when Artsvik ramps things up vocally – leaves a pretty powerful impression. This is another song, though, that doesn’t seem to have a solid identity. It’s like a coconut fell on its head while it was on holiday in Hawaii, and now it can’t remember its name, age or occupation. It offers up a bunch of different body parts that are disjointed when put together, just enough to be noticeable but not so much that the disjointedness actually becomes an intriguing gimmick (á la Icebreaker). As a result, I can’t decide exactly how I feel about it. I don’t know about you, but if I’m confused about something I’m not very likely to support it (e.g. by voting). Artsvik’s rehearsals have been very well received, so we can expect Fly With Me to be elevated when performed live – as Armenia’s entries often are – but since the song’s still a question mark for me, I still have to hand out an indecisive, ‘Do I like it or not?’ score of 6 points.

My mum says… I have mixed feelings about this too, but the biggest portion of the mix is dislike. I do get a kick out of the hypnotic beat, and I think the music is varied and very interesting to listen to…but everything else is too disjointed and old-fashioned for me. If it had become more cohesive and modern after the first thirty seconds, I’d score it better, but it carried on how it started (just getting more shouty as it went along). I don’t think I ‘get’ it. 3 points.

Armenia’s score 4.5

 

 

 

My thoughts If this was the Eurovision Adorableness Contest, Austria would be an Italy-level favourite right now. Nathan Trent is the most precious person on the planet – as far as I can tell from his press/profile videos without knowing him personally – and that’s the sort of thing that should shine through when he’s on stage, hopefully singing the shiz out of the equally sweet Running On Air. How could anyone hate this song? It’s a prime piece of feel-good inspo-pop (if that term catches on, I want full credit) that just avoids being cheesy, thanks to Nathan sounding more like a smooth R & B singer than an overly-keen finalist on The X Factor performing their potential winner’s single. The low-key, contemporary-sounding verses really show off his voice, while the catchy – if slightly passé-sounding by comparison – chorus is so easy to sing along to, it’s practically impossible to resist. Although the entry doesn’t have the same energy as Belgium’s did last year, What’s The Pressure is what it reminds me of because it’s three minutes of pure happiness that could turn any frown upside down. We need a few tracks like that to give us a break from the intensity of Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, et cetera: all of the countries who’ve taken a more heavy-going approach (in song style, subject matter or both). Running On Air is fun without being too fluffy, full of affirmations but not in an eye-rolling way, and has its own little space in this year’s line-up that lets it stand up and shout from the top of a mountain (somewhere in the Alps, obviously) ‘I’M HERE AND I AM JUST AS LOVABLE AS LOIN D’ICI!’. Seriously, if Nathan doesn’t make it to the final it will be just as heartbreaking as when I watched a shattered Jüri Pootsmann slink out of the green room in Stockholm, followed by a borderline suicidal Stig Rästa. It cannot happen! Except…it could. I don’t have Austria down as a dead cert to qualify, as they’re on stage second after Serbia and before Macedonia (in the middle of girl power on full blast, in other words). But my fingers will be crossed for Nathan, being a guy with a mid-tempo easy listener, to make his presence felt when sandwiched between two more in-your-face female pop numbers. If he can’t, I will make myself available for post-semi comfort hugs if he’s willing to fly to Australia to receive them. 8 points.

My mum says… Austria is a lot easier for me to love than Armenia – musically, that is, as I’m sure both countries are beautiful in their own way. I really liked this song. It sounds very mainstream compared to a lot of the other entries (it could be a Maroon 5 album track) but I’m not such a snob that I’d let that deflate my enjoyment! I see this as simple, straightforward pop that I’m imagining will have bucketloads of mass appeal. 8 points.

Austria’s score 8.00

 

 

My thoughts When you consider that Finland could have sent a song about “loving yourself” (in the privacy of one’s own home, hopefully), a song about kissing someone else’s paradise (also in the privacy of one’s own home, PLEASE GOD) or a song featuring the lyric ‘What would the X-Men do if they came to the rescue?’ (which they very nearly did, as Zühlke’s Perfect Villain finished second), it’s nothing short of merciful that they chose Norma John’s Blackbird instead. Remove all of those questionable UMK entries from the equation, though, and Blackbird remains an absolutely beautiful song, and easily one of the best ballads – if not THE best ballad – competing in Kyiv. It reminds me so much of Norway’s A Monster Like Me from 2015, which will always hold a special place in my heart as a piano ballad so powerful, it had me reaching for something to wipe my wet eyes with every time I heard it. I’m not saying the two songs sound particularly alike, but they have the same pared-back, minimalist lyrical content; the same musical interlude which sort of needs the singer/s to do something during it, but it’s still stunning when they just stand there awkwardly; and yes, that same haunting and emotional quality that makes me want to weep. Whenever Leena (not Norma, as you might expect) launches into the chorus with her crystal-clear-plus-a-hint-of-fragility voice, unleashing that ‘Now you remind me of something I’ll never have’ line upon an unsuspecting world, I turn into a tsunami of tears (and I haven’t even been jilted recently, so I hate to think what state this song would put me in if I was freshly heartbroken). There’s a shiver down my spine and goosebumps all over my body too, and you know what the last song to have that effect on me was? 1944. Before you accuse me of being delirious in thinking that Norma John have mad Francesco Gabbani-defeating skills and will win the contest, that’s so NOT what I’m thinking. I know Finland isn’t going to do what Ukraine did last year, since lightning doesn’t strike twice – not two years in a row at Eurovision, anyway. But Blackbird’s ability to move me makes it special. It deserves to do well in the comp in a way that Sing It Away (an easy song to sacrifice) couldn’t. This song, IMO, is not disposable – it’s integral to have in the final. 10 points.

My mum says… It’s not often that music manages to choke me up, but Blackbird is so beautiful, and so beautifully melancholic, I nearly had to wipe away some tears. It’s so different to all of the other ballads I’ve heard – more subdued and less dramatic, but somehow even more emotional. Leena’s voice is just perfect for expressing all of that emotion, and she has an Adele-like way of making you feel what she’s feeling, even if you’re not experiencing it first-hand. It’s stunning. 10 points.

Finland’s score 10.00

 

 

 

My thoughts EPIC SAX GUY IS BACK!!! The man who inspired the most famous Eurovision meme in the history of memes is returning to the contest with his fellow Sunstroke Project boys, but sans guest vocalist Olia Tira this time. That’s not news to anyone reading this, I’m guessing, but I do know something you don’t know: exactly how I feel about Hey Mamma. But don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. To put it simply, I love it. It’s so different to 2010’s Run Away – i.e. very light-hearted and lots of fun, as opposed to intense and fast-paced – that it’s hard to compare the two, but I personally prefer Hey Mamma. Trying to win over one’s in-laws is a struggle that so many people can associate with, and the fact that Moldova has produced a song that brings some humour and happiness to the situation is worth a round of applause. I’ve also found myself clapping for the insanely catchy verses and chorus, plus the inclusion of not only another top-notch sax riff, but a violin riff too. Oh, AND another copy-worthy dance that accompanies the sax riff (feat. less groin thrusting this time). Clearly, this entry shares some ingredients with Run Away, as do the songs of repeat artists that came before the Sunstroke Project (Paula Seling & Ovi, for example) – I mean, when a formula proves fairly successful, why pinball in a totally different direction on your next try? But this is everything we know and love about the boys in a new and improved package. A controversial opinion? Probably, if you think this song is garbage. But the ESC needs light and shade to make it more exciting, and Moldova – not for the first time – aren’t taking things too seriously, song-wise. Instead, they’ve given us all a Euroclub banger that will also be a banger played at Club Le Jaz’s Loungeroom (and in unrelated news, if you’re currently in Kyiv for Eurovision purposes, I hate you with a passion). Everyone needs some saxual healing from time to time. We’ll have to wait and see if the results reflect that, or if Moldova will fail to get out of their semi for the fourth year running. Even if they don’t qualify, if nobody forgets to remove their accreditation badge for the broadcast it’ll be a step up from 2016. 10 points.

My mum says… Ohhhhh no. Not a fan! This sounds like a song that was written in ten minutes after the composers forgot they had a deadline for it, and it’s really obvious. It comes across so…naff. My favourite part was when it finished, and I’ll be happy to not hear it start ever again – even though the look on Jaz’s face when I told her this was a look that could kill. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so they say. 2 points.

Moldova’s score 6.00

 

 

 

My thoughts If a genie ever appears in front of me and grants me three wishes, I’m convinced I’ll just wish for the same thing three times to make 110% sure that it happens. That thing would be for some random, Eurovision-appreciating Sammarinese resident to win the lottery, and be able to bankroll San Marino’s contest participations until Ralph Siegel has fallen off the perch and cannot physically (or spiritually, fingers crossed) do it. That has to be the explanation for his constant creation of half-baked, cringe-worthy songs that have been composed by the numbers from an instruction book called ‘How To Write A Song That Sounds Like It Was Recorded In 1978 And Yet Would Still Have Been Regarded As Bollocks Back Then.’ Obviously, Serhat took the reins in Stockholm and, with a group of other misguided music “professionals”, produced something remarkably similar to a Siegel song – but at least it had entertainment value! Spirit of the Night, performed by the artist ESC fans most associate with San Marino and an artist no one has ever associated with San Marino, has none. It’s just a big wheel of cheese feat. approximately sixteen unnecessary key changes and a lyrical “conversation” that makes me want to go one better than Vincent Van Gogh and cut both of my ears off to save me from ever having to hear it again. Valentina Monetta – and no doubt Jimmie Wilson too – is so much better than this, yet NONE of her four (!) entries have shown her musical talents off to their fullest. She’d be far more suited to singing the Czech song, or something like it, in Italian. But the Monetta-Siegel saga continues. My favourite thing about San Marino 2017 is the dynamic between ValMon and Jimmie, who seem to have a great time together and can somehow perform this horror show with genuine enthusiasm (something I’ve managed to pick up on despite the waves of secondhand embarrassment that wash over me every time I see the two in action). I’d be happy for them to qualify, if there was some way they didn’t have to take Spirit of the Night through as well. But with the rules being as they are, I give this duo full permission to stay behind in the semi final. 2 points.

My mum says… Actually, maybe Moldova isn’t so bad after all. Not when compared to this THING, anyway. All right, so the singers are enthusiastic, and do their best to get us all on board with the spirit of the night (speaking of, was this song’s writer drunk on some sort of spirit when he decided it qualified as a semi-decent song suitable for public exposure?). But apart from that, I can’t find any redeeming features here. It’s like the theme from a terrible 1970s movie that no amount of popcorn could make worth watching. Sorry, San Marino, but what an epic fail! 1 point.

San Marino’s score 1.5

 

 

 

My thoughts Omar’s one of two artists making their Eurovision comeback in Kyiv after first participating in the same city in 2005. Like Estonia’s Laura, he’s been chipping away at a second shot at representing his country between then and now, but it wasn’t his time (again) until 2017…though many would say it should have been BQL’s time this year. But that’s another story for the post-contest conversations about which countries effed up royally in retrospect. Omar’s pulled a Sunstroke Project by taking something more uplifting and less intense than his previous entry to this contest – but on this occasion, I don’t think it’s for the better. On My Way is no Stop, which I think we can all agree (and I accept no opposition to this) was ROBBED a place in the ’05 final. However, if we pretend that never existed for the sake of viewing On My Way objectively, it’s not a bad man ballad. Sure, it’s dated – Omar’s openly said that he wrote it a decade ago and has been saving it (perhaps hoping that this sort of song would come back into fashion, which sadly for him it hasn’t). But I feel far more positively about it than most other fans do. I like how symphonic and soaring it is, especially in the chorus: it’s just as big and bombastic as you’d expect. I don’t like how clichéd and overly-simplistic the lyrics are, considering they’re the mind child of someone who’s lived in London for years and speaks fluent English. But the decent melody and Omar’s flawless vocal delivery (the star attraction) distract me from that lyrical dumb-down. I feel like I can compare the whole vibe of this entry to Ott Lepland’s Kuula, though that was far superior in every way. But the grand man ballad style and stage presentation of this song are cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately, Slovenia seems to be lost without Maraaya (hence the BQL mention) and seem destined for another DNQ. At the very least, they’ll scrape into the final and end up with a right-side score after that. 7 points.

My mum says… Okay, Omar – if you want to be on your way, I’m happy to help you along. I’ll even be a temporary bellboy and carry your bags. Anything to get you moving out of hearing range! As powerful as this song might be, I wanted it to stop pretty soon after it had started, because it just goes on and on (and on some more) in an “inspirational” way that would make it fit right in on an episode of Glee featuring a performance at a high school graduation. Eurovision, not so much. Well, not in terms of fitting in enough to win voters over, anyway. 1 point.

Slovenia’s score 4.00

 

 

There go another six songs into the ‘Reviewed Like A Boss’ pile! This is where they ended up:

  1. Finland (10.00)
  2. Austria (8.00)
  3. Moldova (6.00)
  4. Armenia (4.5)
  5. Slovenia (4.00)
  6. San Marino (1.5)

I’d shed a tear over Finland winning this round, but I think I’ve used up enough boxes of tissues over Blackbird (plus I need to save some crying energy for Norma John’s performances next week). Austria follows not too far behind, and Moldova not too far behind them. Armenia and Slovenia – after being dragged down by Mrs. Jaz – finish in the lower-middle range, which I don’t think will happen for either of them in the actual contest (take from that what you will). San Marino, suitably, is as far behind here as Ralph Siegel is behind the times when it comes to writing a good pop song.

Next time, we’re zipping around Europe – and a little further afield – to bring you potentially bitchy opinions on Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro and Spain. What do two different generations of Australians think of Isaiah? And more importantly, how will my MOTHER react to the most pornographic song in Eurovision history (which is obviously Montenegro’s, not Australia’s)? You’ll have to come back to get the answers to those questions. Keep an eye on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (or subscribe over there –>) to be the first to know when I’ve posted. Your feeds and inboxes are already being bombarded with Eurovision anyway, so it can’t hurt…

 

 

Happy Almost-ESC Week!

 

 

 

 

REVIEWS | The EBJ Jury Judges Eurovision 2016 (Part 6)

Hej there! You have made the excellent decision to drop by Jaz HQ to be debriefed on six more Eurovision 2016 entries – or at least, to be informed of how a small group of ESC fanatics feel about them. If you don’t mind some cattiness (‘cause the claws are out today) then you won’t regret it!

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURORS

 mnj

Martin, Nick and I are about to have our say on Armenia, Australia, Ireland, Malta, Moldova and Slovenia – a.k.a. Iveta, Dami, Nicky, Ira, Lidia and ManuElla. Once you’ve heard us out, and seen how the entire EBJ Jury scored these countries, have your own say in the comments. Which is the best song of this bunch?

 

 

Armenia

Martin This is a bold departure from normal Eurovision fare! LoveWave has an unusual spoken start, and is slow-paced throughout with its musical fusion of Western pop and Armenian ethnicity. It’s a difficult song to work out on first listen, and that might be Armenia’s failing this year – for them to qualify, everything hinges on Iveta’s vocals being perfect live and the staging being excellent.

Nick Believe it or not, this is my favorite Armenian entry of the past five years. Think about that low standard for a second. LoveWave has a lot of interesting parts – mainly the music and the structure – but it never coalesces like it should. Part of that has to do with the disconnection between the ethnic tones used for the verses, and the voice-heavy chorus. The pacing also feels off, and I feel like the whole package would work a lot better with a few more BPM. Otherwise, the lyrics are an absolute shambles, probably the worst this year; and I haven’t heard Iveta live, so I don’t know what to expect. Hopefully something entertaining, unintentionally or otherwise, because my god, is the spoken word intro going to be jarring.

Jaz I had sky-high expectations of Iveta Mukuchyan based on her previous form, and to be honest, I still don’t know if she met those with LoveWave. There are moments in this song that make me think ‘This is the weirdest thing I have ever heard’, and others that make me think ‘This is genius!’. The intro is a bizarre, and a beginning that doesn’t lure you in is rarely a positive musical attribute. Still, it did have me hanging around to see what happened next when I first listened to it, and it will probably have the same effect on fans hearing the entries for the first time on the night/s. Once the song settles into itself, it gives off some sexy vibes (thanks in large part to Iveta’s husky vocals), and it’s evident that it missed its calling as a single from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. It’s full of textures and layers and incomprehensible lyrics (which do add a sense of mystery to it all), and the combo of traditional Armenian instruments and the R & B style most evident in the chorus actually works quite well. On the whole, I have to applaud the song for daring to be different. If Armenia has devised a stunning stage concept to accompany LoveWave – the mileage they got out of Don’t Deny on the basis of superb staging suggests it’s likely – then this will make an impression. I do think it takes itself more seriously than it should, but with a slick performance to distract us all from that fact/opinion, a smidgen of OTT self-importance won’t matter.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 4
  • Fraser 4
  • James 5
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 6
  • Nick 2
  • Penny 12
  • Rory 12
  • Wolfgang 6

Armenia’s EBJ Jury score is…6.44

 

 

 Australia

Martin Australia are definitely in it to get at least a respectable placing in Stockholm, but there’s something missing that means that this will not win Eurovision. Dami can definitely sing (she’s vocally superb with an amazing range) and the song is lyrically interesting (it tells a great story) but for me, Sound Of Silence just lacks that winning spark.

Nick Dami Im! You have no idea how excited I was when she was confirmed as the entrant for Australia. I was so prepared for Super Love 2.0, and procuring an Aussie flag for Stockholm. Then the song came out, and ‘disappointed’ was an understatement. Mid-tempo synth-pop for such a colorful artist was a terrible match, and not even Dami’s charisma can save this dirge of a song. The only way I can think to describe it is by using the dominant color in the video: grey. Lyrically grey, musically grey, just… grey. And while last year’s Tonight Again annoyed the pants off me, at least it had some spunk.

Jaz I know it isn’t Thursday (not while I’m typing this, anyway) but I’d like to #throwback to this time last year when I gave Guy Sebastian’s Tonight Again a mediocre review. The purpose of this throwback? To point out that, as I didn’t get a kick of any kind out of that song until Eurovision was actually upon us, you should take what I’m about to say regarding Dami’s Sound of Silence with a whacking great grain of salt. This song – our sophomore effort, which was always going to be interesting in one way or another – is slightly above-average. That’s my not-at-all-glowing review, I’m afraid. I’m not a huge Dami fan, and the fact that she wasn’t Delta Goodrem made her entry unveiling even more tainted with my bitterness. There is no doubt that she can belt out a wannabe-powerhouse track like SOS, and it is a song that allows her to make the most of her vocal abilities. But it’s trying so hard to be on par with a Sia smash hit that it seems desperate, and falls short. Melodically, it’s lovely to listen to, and it certainly fulfils the brief of Contemporary Female Ballad That Is Not An Embarrassment To The Entire Continent of Australia. But the chorus, which should be the selling point, is weakened by unnecessary repetition. Are you telling me that the writers couldn’t have spared a few extra minutes to think up a few additional lines that rhymed with ‘silence’? Violence, defiance, appliance (an ode to a panini press would have been a first at Eurovision)…the list goes on. It smacks of laziness to me. Like a beautifully-crafted movie scene tossed onto the cutting room floor in favour of a crappy, purposeless one, the repetition of the initial chorus lines is a missed opportunity to have created something more masterful. Still, Dami will work with what she’s got, and her fashion sense (slash the fashion sense of her stylist) is so on fleek, I cannot wait to see what she’ll wear for an occasion like this (it’ll be more like a sculpture than actual clothing, I’m sure). And you can bet your behind that I’ll be cheering like crazy for her, and crossing my fingers that she slips through from semi to final. I just wish my driving force was a love for the song, rather than a love for my country and a will for us to qualify.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 6
  • Fraser 10
  • James 3
  • Jaz 6
  • Martin 8
  • Nick 2
  • Penny 8
  • Rory 7
  • Wolfgang 8

Australia’s EBJ Jury score is…6.44

 

 

Ireland

Martin Nicky Byrne is getting the hang of singing Sunlight live, and I think that his self-belief will play a huge part in how well it does. If he nails the vocals on semi night, this will be an easy qualifier to the final and could revive Ireland’s interest in the ESC. ‘Sun <pause> light’ is earworm central in my opinion – a definite toe-tapper, hooking you in from the start and keeping you listening to the end. I think this up-tempo pop song will hit the spot with televoters, at least.

Nick This lot of songs is gonna make me sound like a grump, but actually, this is my dead last place for Stockholm. Everything about this screams desperate, from the wannabe 2013 Avicii composition to the recycling of 90s “heart-throb” Nicky Byrne to screech-er, I mean, sing it. And it’s not like Ireland hasn’t tried this approach before: just look at 2013’s Only Love Survives. Also, look where that finished – dead last after barely scraping into the final. Still, at least that was peppy and energetic. Sunlight makes me want to close the curtains and throw on a sleeping mask.

Jaz The boyband fangirl inside me (who is so dominant, a member of the Backstreet Boys flies out of my nose every time I sneeze) may have screamed internally when ex-Westlifer Nicky was announced as the Irish representative. You don’t want to know what I would have done if the whole band had reunited for Eurovision. As it stands, we got one fifth, and his song Sunlight is more or less everything you’d expect from a former boyband-mate’s solo singles (if they aren’t Justin Timberlake). It’s catchy and radio-friendly, and I do enjoy it – but it’s not lyrically or stylistically challenging at all. It’s not bad, by any means; but it’s so safe and friendly, like a perpetually happy Labrador who won’t leave you alone, that it irritates me. Ireland gave douze points to Latvia last year in the final, yet they didn’t take any musical inspiration from the edgy Love Injected – something that they clearly liked a lot. I expect everything about this entry to be vanilla in Stockholm, from the staging to the result it gets. Nicky is performing between the powerhouse ladies from Serbia and FYR Macedonia, who don’t necessarily have better songs (in my opinion) but who will almost definitely overshadow him. That’s bound to happen when you just don’t bring it.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 3
  • Fraser 7
  • James 3
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 10
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 6
  • Wolfgang 3

Ireland’s EBJ Jury score is…5.22

 

 

Malta

Martin Yep, it was definitely the right decision to change songs for Malta! Walk On Water makes full use of Ira’s amazing vocal ability and range, combining it with a much more contemporary sound that is radio-friendly enough to stay in voter’s memories far past Eurovision. Her visual appeal won’t hurt Malta’s chances either. An upgrade to finalist and mid-table respectability at least for Ira.

Nick Oh, Ira…another artist who made me think Year Stockholm was going to be better than it turned out to be (although there are a lot of variables at play there). So much of her non-Eurovision related stuff is fantastic, but I was never a fan of her 2002 entry, nor her initial 2016 entry, Chameleon. Then they dragged in the Swedes to write her a new song, and I can’t say it’s a vast improvement. I almost feel like they were too inspired by the first song and wrote something that just blends in everywhere without standing out. It’s competent and will be well-performed, I’m sure. But it’s so uninspiring, it almost drives me to the point of madness. But even that is too strong an emotion to be associated with this.

Jaz Of all 2016’s returning artists, Ira Losco was the most successful in her initial attempt to take home the Eurovision trophy. The fact that it took her so many years to give it another go says to me that she felt like she could be in it to win it this year – after all, nobody wants to come back after a lengthy period and fall flat on their face. Those thoughts, if she had them, would have been in relation to Chameleon – a song that won’t be heard in Stockholm, unless someone spins it at the Euroclub. Walk On Water, the replacement, is a superior song on the whole (although I did think Chameleon’s chorus had something special). It’s more cohesive and less chaotic; considerably more contemporary; and packs more of a punch. The chorus is repetitive, but it builds rapidly and really hammers (or perhaps Molly Pettersson-Hammars) home the title and concept of the song. There’s nothing I don’t like about it, except for the fact that I can easily imagine co-writer Molly PH singing it better (and as she’s singing backup for Ira, we could have a vocal catfight on our hands). It’s great that Ira has a more powerful song than 7th Wonder this time, as that was a bit of a vocal wet blanket. Apparently her performance will be quite technologically advanced (will she actually walk on water? A.k.a. is Ira Losco actually Jesus?) but I hope she takes us back to ’02 by pulling another glitter pouch out of her pocket.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 4
  • Fraser 10
  • James 10
  • Jaz 8
  • Martin 10
  • Nick 3
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 3
  • Wolfgang 10

Malta’s EBJ Jury score is…7.22

 

 

Moldova

Martin A standard Euro Club-sounding dance track, Falling Stars would be the sort of song that a DJ might put on as filler before a killer tune is played. To be fair to Lidia, this was the best Moldovan entry on offer at the national final, and it’s not bad – but it’s not that memorable either, unless you want to remember her slightly weird vocal style and range being all over the place. Another non-qualification for Moldova beckons.

Nick Just FYI, this song sounds amazing as a nightcore. Sadly, the regular version can’t measure up, although it does top the segment of songs I dislike, so that’s nice. Lidia’s a good vocalist, but there’s just something missing here. Maybe just a key change or a money note, but there’s nothing that Falling Stars builds to, except perhaps the chorus? But if that was the intent, then the stars in question aren’t so much falling as they are being tossed. Other than that, the lyrics are surprisingly clean, which could really describe this entire entry: too polished for its own good.

Jaz Anything Moldova came out with this year would have seemed like the epitome of elegance compared to the sleazy display of law enforcement provided by Eduard Romanyuta. But you know what? I LOVED the sleazy display of law enforcement. It was trash-tastic and tackier than super-glue, but it took me back to the early 2000s and made an epic semi 1 starter while it was at it. But enough about Moldova 2015 – it’s Moldova 2016 I’m supposed to be reviewing. Falling Stars is one of the few straightforward dance tracks competing this year, which suggests that most other countries have moved on from the trend. And, for every compliment I can send its way, there’s a ‘but’ waiting in the wings. The song will stand out genre-wise, but it sounds a bit stale (circa 2011). The chorus is strong, but leads to Lidia resembling a wailing banshee (there’s no room for any deviation from the correct key there). Overall, it’s fun and fluffy while it’s playing, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Let’s just call it musical fairy floss, coloured blue and yellow in honour of it being another Swedish cast-off. If it wasn’t for the double-glazed donuts and hot buttered popcorn on offer from elsewhere in Europe, Moldova would come off a lot better.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 4
  • Fraser 2
  • James 8
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 3
  • Penny 5
  • Rory 4
  • Wolfgang 8

Moldova’s EBJ Jury score is…5.11

 

 

Slovenia

Martin Last year’s EMA was a perfect storm. This year, it was a car crash! What a plummeting drop from one of the best pop entries last year (Here For You), down to the mess that is Blue and Red, with ManuElla trying to be Taylor Swift but ending up being Phoebe from ‘Friends’. Why do I say that? The lyrics of the song, combined with her vocal ‘talents’, border on that almost-comedic sitcom level and the staging is amazingly clichéd, with erratic hand and body movements along with telegraphed facial expressions. Words also fail me regarding the dress reveal  – she should have gone the whole hog and worn a blue and red halved dress to ‘put the cherry on the cake’. A probable last-placed semi finalist.

Nick What? A Taylor Swift renaissance piece? Out of Slovenia? What could’ve been a complete disaster (and IS a complete disaster, in the eyes of most) has actually turned out to be one of the year’s biggest charmers! Okay, so a lyric like ‘blue is blue, and red is red’ definitely isn’t winning any songwriting awards, but it fits the air of naïveté that the song so beautifully creates. The 2009-esque country/pop banjo instrumental and admiral outfit don’t go together at all, but it somehow works, like an eclectic fever dream of leftover high school theatre props. ManuElla herself is a surprisingly fitting performer and lends herself to the role demanded by the song. The slight retooling from the initial NF version has added an unnecessary starter, but other than that, it’s a nice strengthening of a song that’s comfortably in my top 10. I’d like to hope that Slovenia could pull out a stunning live and shock everyone by qualifying to the final, but I won’t hold my breath.

Jaz Nope. Just nope. I like Taylor Swift as much as the next person, and I actually miss her country bumpkin days. But even I know that neither the world nor Eurovision needs a poor imitation of Taylor ‘2007’ Swift. Everything about ManuElla’s performance is amateurish, including the costume reveal (and I normally can’t resist one of those), and don’t even get me started on how crazy I’m driven by the childish lyrics of Blue and Red. ‘Blue is blue and red is red’…yeah, thanks for the art lesson, lady. While some countries have really stepped up their game between 2015 and 2016, Slovenia has dropped the ball so violently that it is now lodged in the core of the Earth. Literally the only thing ManuElla has in common with Maraaya is the initial ‘M’. I will commend her for bringing variety to the contest, but seeing as the Netherlands have a country song up their sleeve too – and it’s an infinitely better one – even that’s difficult for me to do. Surely this cheese-fest isn’t making it to Saturday night?

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 10
  • Fraser 10
  • James 5
  • Jaz 2
  • Martin 3
  • Nick 6
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 7
  • Wolfgang 2

Slovenia’s EBJ Jury score is…5.78

 

 

With those six songs sliced, diced and served up on a silver platter, we have a winner – albeit a winner out of a very low-scoring round. 

  1. Malta (7.22)
  2. Armenia/Australia (6.44)
  3. Slovenia (5.78)
  4. Ireland (5.22)
  5. Moldova (5.11)

Forget water – Ira Losco will be walking on air after taking this one out (well, she would be if a) she knew about it, and b) the EBJ judgments were of any actual importance). How high can she go in Stockholm? She has the potential to impress, but only time (or perhaps rehearsals) will tell how much. Slovenia, Ireland and Moldova, on the other hand, failed to impress the EBJ Jury. Are we psychic enough to have predicted a few non-qualifications here? In a few short weeks, we’ll find out!

Next time, the final round of reviews will see two Aussies and an Irishman walk into a bar, and…hang on. That’s the joke version. It will ACTUALLY see two Aussies and an Irishman free their thoughts on Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, FYR Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine. There is a good chance I’ll be posting that installment from Stockholm (or at least from my AU-SE transit location, Dubai) so it’ll be pretty exotic and awesome and you better check it out or I’ll spread unfortunate rumours about you at the Euroclub.

 

Until then…

 

2015sig

 

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 6)

Greetings, glitterbugs!

Ugh. Can you tell I’m running low on salutations again?

If you haven’t already defected to Wiwi Bloggs in disgust, welcome back to the Viennese Verdicts. As the first semi final of Eurovision 2015 is mere days away *hyperventilates into a brown paper bag for a second* there’s no time to waste in getting these reviews out and about (i.e. finished). This is Part 6 of 8, and today I’ve rounded up German and Australian ESC experts to help me critique Israel, Hungary, Germany, Moldova and Azerbaijan.

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv7 Wolfgang Schmidt: You met German-born-and-bred Wolfgang – a.k.a. Wolf – back in Part 3 of the Viennese Verdicts. He’s a massive ABBA fan (as is my other guest juror for today) with an impressive history as a Eurovision addict. Altogether he’s attended four contests: Birmingham 1998, Copenhagen 2001, Düsseldorf 2011 (just a hop, skip and awkward Lena dance step away from his hometown) and Malmö 2013, and the Birmingham show was his favourite. You know what they say…you’re always fondest of your first!

Andrew Pentecost: Andrew is from Sydney, Australia. He doesn’t know how long he’s been aware of Eurovision, but it probably started not long after ABBA’s win with Waterloo. Andrew was a huge ABBA fan from about 1975, and they’re still his favourite pop group forty years later. After ABBA introduced Andrew to Eurovision, he discovered that, along with pop music, Eurovision also offers Balkan rhythms, popera, a smörgåsbord of languages and dodgy accents, costumes and frocks, choreography and all sorts of other delights. Some of his favourite songs come from the ‘golden age’ – Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son  by France Gall, Eres Tú by Mocedades, L’Oiseau et L’Enfant by Marie Myriam, Boom Bang-A-Bang by Lulu, and Un Jour, Un Enfant by Frida Boccara. More recent favourites include Fairytale by Alexander Rybak, Energy by Nuša Derenda, and Invincible by Carola. And let’s not forget the show’s hosts – Andrew’s all-time favourite was the stupendous Petra Mede from 2013, who managed to combine Nordic humour, elegance and flawless English language skills into the ultimate package. Andrew and his partner Richard believe they’ve been watching the contest on Australia’s SBS together for more than twenty years – it’s bigger than Christmas and birthdays in their household. Last year they attended Eurovision in Copenhagen, and in 2015 they’re off to Vienna. A highlight of the last two years has been making all sorts of friends – people from every corner of the world who are equally mad about Eurovision!

Jasmin Bear: Surprise, surprise – it’s me again! I bet you’re about as shocked right now as you were when you found out Australia was participating in Eurovision 2015. That’s assuming you’re very easily shocked.

 

 

Nadav, Boggie, Ann Sophie, Eduard and Elnur are no doubt on the edge of their seats, waiting to hear our verdicts. So I won’t make them sweat onto the upholstery any longer! I must warn them, and you, however, that one of today’s judges was difficult to impress…

 

 

ISRAEL

Golden Boy by Nadav Guedj

Israel

Wolfgang: The Israeli entry this year sounds more Turkish than a lot of Turkish entries of the past ten years. It is a very ethnic and catchy song that seems like an ear-worm summer smash to me. And hey, who would have thought that the guy singing this song is only sixteen years old? He already has the voice and appearance of at least a 23-year-old, doesn’t he? I hope Israel will qualify in Vienna with this ‘golden boy’ after their 2011-2014 disasters. They really deserve a qualification this year. And with this song, I also see a good placement in the final – let’s say 10th to 14th on the scoreboard. 7 points.

Andrew: Nadav is handsome beyond his years. Like many young people, he tries to do too many vocal runs for my taste, but he is a strong singer with a distinctive vocal quality that’s a bit like Guy Sebastian’s. The song itself is an odd mix of styles. The verses do absolutely nothing for me but I quite like the Eastern feel of the chorus. Pop music for me is all about vocal quality, melody, emotion and rhythm, which means I rarely listen to the lyrics…but the lyrics to this song are so atrociously corny that I cringe when I hear them. 1 point.

Jaz: Poor Israel hasn’t had the best run over the last few years (although only one of their DNQs really puzzled me – Moran Mazor’s, whose choice of outfit also puzzled me). Via their Next Star competition, they’ve selected an artist who undoubtedly has star quality, plus the potential to undo their semi-final-related-sad (excuse my tendency to drag any topic into Sanna Nielsen territory). Nadav, as we’ve all acknowledged, is clearly a man in his mid-twenties masquerading as a teenager for some reason (at least, that’s what I’ll believe until I’ve seen his birth certificate). This “kid” is a great fit for the fusion of urban and traditional sounds that is Golden Boy. Whether those sounds fit together or not, I’m not so sure. I love the Justin Timberlake vibe of the verses, and the unashamedly ethnic chorus, but the flow from one to the other isn’t so smooth. And I have to agree with Andrew on the lyrics – some of them are awful. Still, I don’t think that will hold Israel back too much. The song is instant, modern (for the most part) and, crucially in a contest bursting with ballads, a dancefloor filler (I defy anyone in the Stadthalle or at home to stay seated when Nadav hits the stage). The lack of ethnicity among his rivals’ entries makes him stand out too. I’m not putting any money on Golden Boy breaking Israel’s streak of bad luck, but I really hope it does. 7 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 5.00

 

 

HUNGARY

Wars For Nothing by Boggie

Hungary

Wolfgang: This song really says nothing to me! It sounds like it was from ‘before yesterday’ and it is absolutely non-catchy. To me, it is one of the most boring entries this year. And lyrically speaking, it is the other side of the A Little Peace medal – I am sure that the Ukraine would give their douze to this song this year, but unfortunately they are not competing. I already see a Dina Garipova performance straight from the IKEA lamp department coming up, with the backing singers joining Boggie hand-in-hand at the last minute. Oh, how sweet…not! One point for the beautiful blue dress + one for her voice + no points for the song = 2 points!

Andrew: I rarely enjoy the songs and artists sent to Eurovision by Hungary, and sadly, 2015 is no exception. A pleasant guitar instrumental leads into a very low-key, repetitive ballad that simply doesn’t build to anything. The main vocal is weak and often off-key and the harmonies are also poor. This is an utter nul-pointer in my opinion.

Jaz: Up until Hungary opted for Boggie this year, I was convinced that they were on track to win Eurovision within the next couple of years. Ever since their comeback in 2011, they’ve impressed me – their 2013 and 2014 entries were especially epic by my standards. But when your least favourite song of an entire national final lineup ends up winning that national final, you start to lose faith…and boy, have I lost my faith. I’m not saying that if Kati Wolf (whose A Dal entry remains on top of my could-have-been list for 2015) had been representing Hungary instead, they would have won in Vienna, or anything. I’m just saying that an up-and-coming country has let itself down here. In Copenhagen, Hungary gave us a powerful message song that was moody, gritty and contemporary. Wars For Nothing is a message song, but that’s about all it has in common with Running. I don’t find it powerful or particularly contemporary – lame and limp are the words I’d use to describe it. There are rare moments when I think I’m warming to it, but then I think about the likes of Sweden, Italy and Norway, and things are swiftly put into perspective. Boggie is a nice vocalist and a lovely person inside and out, but I’m just not interested in buying what she’s selling. 3 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 1.67

 

 

GERMANY

Black Smoke by Ann Sophie

Germany

Wolfgang: I feel like I should say something nice now, but unfortunately I can’t! It is no secret that I am not a big fan of Ann Sophie. I belonged to Team Andreas, which means I voted (more than once) for Heart of Stone, which was the best song in the German national final, IMO. I also like that he is not the polished superstar on stage, who plays perfectly with the camera and does an impressive show. But when you hear him sing, you understand why he won The Voice of Germany. Coming back to Ann Sophie, I must admit that I like Black Smoke a lot more than Jump The Gun (her second USFÖ entry). What can save us in the contest is that we don’t have a lame lady ballad like a lot of other countries, but a song that is much catchier. Also, Ann Sophie is a ‘Rampensau’ when she performs, meaning she kicks ass and rocks the stage. Maybe she can keep us awake after the sixth lame ballad in a row. I don’t have high expectations concerning the scoreboard this year – I think we can be very satisfied with a result between 15th and 20th place in the final, same as Elaiza last year. 5 points.

Andrew: After the cringe-worthy drama of the televised final, Germany is sending Ann Sophie to Vienna as their plan B. I really like this song, and Ann Sophie’s interesting, quirky voice. I plan to support her by cheering loudly in the Stadthalle, and I hope she’ll end up in the middle of the scoreboard. 3 points.

Jaz: If ever there was a prime example of a happy accident, THIS is it. If not to all of us fans (sorry, Wolfgang) then to me. There was nothing wrong with Andreas Kümmert and his Heart of Stone, aside from the fact that the song could have been lifted from a Phil Collins album released twenty-five years ago…but did I love it? Nope. Do I love Black Smoke? Yes I do! There was something about the song that captured me from my very first listen. It’s radio-friendly pop without being generic and cliché, it’s got a hint of retro funkiness to it that adds appeal, and both the verses and the chorus are equally catchy. The lyrics may not be genius (unless you compare them to Israel’s) but I really like those too – they’re simple but effective. I even covet the black-and-white ensemble and giant gold Pac-Man earrings Ann Sophie was wearing the night she “won” the right to represent Germany. It’s all good in my opinion, sans the bad that is the awkward position this girl has been put in as Germany’s choice by default. But, if she can carry the class and conviction she put into her reprise directly after the Andreas Incident (that’s got to win some kind of award for Best TV Drama) through to Eurovision, she’ll be fine. As much as I enjoy Black Smoke, I can’t see it scoring über-well in the final, but let’s hope Ann Sophie can claw her way a little closer to the top 10 than Elaiza managed to last year. Perhaps some of my one-off Australian votes will help her get there. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.00

 

 

MOLDOVA

I Want Your Love by Eduard Romanyuta

Moldova

Wolfgang: My first impression was ‘What was that???’. The second time I watched it, I thought it was a fun entry. On the third play, I laughed my guts out. Sorry, but I can’t take this song and this little boy seriously. His name sounds like a ridiculous stage name and him singing ‘I want your love’ simply sounds so funny that I always have to laugh about it. Not that I’m a great fan of Moldovan entries anyway, but this year I’d wish Aliona Moon or Natalia Barbu back on stage. Can we change that, please? This entry is just not good enough to qualify – I’ll scream aloud if that happens. DNQ!!! One very gentle and polite point.

Andrew: Well, Ukraine did manage to send a singer to Vienna after all – except Eduard will be representing tiny Moldova rather than his homeland. When his hair is not long and lank, he’s quite a cute young man, but his live vocals are nothing to write home about, and he has a strong accent when he sings in English. I find the chorus to this song reasonably catchy in a predictable, boy band kind of way. The lyrics are corny and the video clip is horrendously juvenile. Another nul-pointer.

Jaz: Somebody please tell me where to buy a t-shirt with ‘GUILTY PLEASURE’ emblazoned on it, because I’m going to need one to wear while Eduard is doing his best Eric Saade impression (i.e. putting 95% of his energy into his dance moves, 4% into smoothing his hair and that measly leftover 1% into his vocals) as the opening act of semi final one. This song is total trash, and I LOVE it. Yes, it’s something I would expect to find on my Greatest Hits of N*SYNC album, but the reason I own that album is because I am a boy band tragic from way back who will never stop listening to the Backstreet Boys’ back catalogue. I Want Your Love is the kind of song I was waiting for as the Viennese ballads kept on coming. The performance, on the other hand…well, let’s just say that if it was someone’s face, it would need serious plastic surgery. If Eduard can pull a Ruslana and find the balance between singing and dancing, then do both to the best of his ability; and if the presentation is less 2000s street and more cutting-edge, then Moldova could surprise everyone who isn’t me by qualifying. Another pleasant surprise would be if Eduard chopped his hair off for ESC purposes. At least that way, the Viennese paparazzi wouldn’t mistake him for Edurne. Either way, I’m giving him 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 3.67

 

 

AZERBAIJAN

Hour of the Wolf by Elnur Huseynov

Azerbaijan

Wolfgang: Yes, you have read right: it’s the hour of MOI! How can I not love this song, just by its title? I must admit, my expectations of Elnur were very low after hearing he would be going to Eurovision for the second time this year, because I am a hater of his first “heaven and hell” opera, Day After Day. That was so awful that it still belongs on my list of worst-ever Eurovision entries. But this year it’s all totally different! The first time I heard this song it gave me goosebumps, and it is a song that gets better with each and every listen. In the meantime, I really love it! But on the other hand, Azerbaijan has gone for another secure number here by again choosing a song from Swedish songwriters and producers, which is a bit boring now. Nevertheless, this song is material that winning songs were made of in the past, and maybe if he comes barefoot in a white suit, anything can happen! This is my favorite of all the songs I’ve reviewed. 10 points.

Andrew: Azerbaijan seem to have developed a formula of using songs that have been written by composers and lyricists from countries like Sweden and Greece. This year they continue on that well-worn path. Some may enjoy this song, but I am tired of Azerbaijan’s formulaic approach and I wish they would send us some music with genuinely local melodies and rhythms. Hour of the Wolf is pleasant but rather bland. It is sung in heavily-accented English, but the vocal performance is excellent, as I would expect of Elnur. 1 point.

Jaz: Dilara’s Start A Fire sparked absolutely no flame in me last year (see what I did there?). In fact, just thinking about it now is making me drowsy, so I’ll get right on to how much of an improvement Hour of the Wolf is on that borefest. Sure, it’s another ballad with marginal Azerbaijani input, but that’s where the resemblance ends for me. This song is beautiful – almost Sam Smith-like – and although I’m yet to see a live performance (on purpose) I believe it will be a stunner in that context. The verses are well-constructed and the choruses are big without being too shouty. As a whole, this is a song that builds up to something explosive and perfectly complements Elnur’s impressive vocal range. Speaking of the man who really sells this song: Elnur is not the same person who was half of his country’s debut duo back in 2008. The angel wings and copious amounts of body glitter are gone, and a mature, even more powerful vocalist who is now The Voice of Turkey has taken his place. Song and singer have merged into something special here – something that has made me more willing to support Azerbaijan than ever before. I know I should be more critical of their tendency to turn to other countries for musical aid, but in this case, I just can’t. I never said I had principles. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.00

 

 

And there you have it! That’s five more down, and ten to go – with ten days until Eduard and his long blonde locks step onto that rather sexy Austrian stage (the finished product is, as Cascada would say, glorious) and hopefully start this year’s contest off with a fiery bang rather than a pathetic puff of smoke.

Let’s take a look at today’s rankings:

  1. Azerbaijan (7.00)
  2. Germany (6.00)
  3. Israel (5.00)
  4. Moldova (3.67)
  5. Hungary (1.67)

So the Land of Fire is in the lead here and now…but where will Elnur end up in the EBJ Jury Top 40? Within the next week, you’ll find out. First, though, there are a quarter of this year’s entries left to review.

Next time, the stars and stripes, the Union Jack and the Blue Ensign – that’s the American, British and Australian flags, in case you were wondering – will be waving in the wind as the jury judges Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. You know you won’t want to miss what we say about the year’s most controversial entry (she says, hoping you’ll find that tempting enough to make a return visit).

While you’re waiting, let us know how you rate Azerbaijan, Germany, Israel, Moldova and Hungary, and how you’d rank them. If you don’t, well…nothing much will happen. But if you do, you’ll get a virtual high-five.

*smack*

 

nsig

 

The Final Super Saturday: Discussing the songs of the week and the songs still to come!

Bonjour. It’s been a week since my last post, which at this point in time means approximately 1 345 599 things of significance have happened within the Eurovision bubble. So let’s get straight on to discussing the chaos of the past seven days, plus the action coming your way this weekend and beyond.

 

Since we last spoke…

…a lot of countries have chosen for Copenhagen. Quite a few of them premiered entries for the artists they picked what feels like years ago, with the rest emerging from national finals on top. Here are my initial thoughts on a bunch of the last week’s selections/revelations, in alphabetical order (the best kind!).

Firstly, the NF winners:

  • Denmark: It’s a Cliché Love Song that will represent the home country, with the adorable Basim in the driver’s seat. Damn, it’s catchy, with those shoobi-doobis. Denmark made the right decision out of the three songs that made the DMGP super-final. Bring on the Bruno Mars comparisons, because both Bruno and Basim are awesome.
It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Bruno Mars! Oh wait. It's actually Basim.

Just to clarify, this is a photo of Basim…NOT Bruno Mars.

  • Germany: Speaking of right decisions…Is It Right? Yes, it is. Wildcard act Elaiza took out Unser Song Für Dänemark on Thursday with that aptly titled track, and after recapping the other songs Germany could have chosen, I think they made the best choice. That’s not a compliment, considering how weak the lineup was IMO. Are Germany losing the plot again? Where is Stefan Raab when you need him?
  • Greece: The hosts of 2006 have come up with another slice of trumpeting fun in Rise Up by Freaky Fortune feat. Riskykidd. The pros? It’s trumpeting fun (as aforementioned), it made me want to shake something, and all three of these guys are hot. The cons? Apparently the live performance was laughably bad. I haven’t had the guts to see it for myself yet, but I hope either a) that’s not true, or b) they can sort it out by May-time.
  • Sweden: First off, the Melfest final was the first and only one I plan to watch live this season, and it was AMAZING. There was a strong field in the end despite some major casualties in the semis. It was thought to be Ace Wilder’s for the taking, and I would have enjoyed that, having prepared myself for Sanna Nielsen to lose yet again. But Team Sanna rejoice, because she finally came out on top! It was a narrow victory plagued by technical difficulties, but she’s got the trophy at last, and she’s off to the ESC. Undo is stunning as far as I’m concerned, and it’s definitely in my top 3 heading into this last big weekend of national finals.
Forget 'third time lucky.' Sanna's all about lucky number seven.

Forget third time lucky; Sanna’s all about lucky number seven.

And now, the song premieres:

  • Armenia: Aram Mp3’s entry Not Alone is the latest to have been publicised, with Aram himself being one of those acts announced back when most of us were still in nappies. Was it worth the wait? Well, after one listen, I can say I rather like it. It starts off a little repetitive and humble, but builds into something dramatic. The contrast is good. All in all (right now) it’s a definite step up from the Lonely Planet double-denim gang.
  • Georgia: Three Minutes To Earth by The Shin & Mariko has been released, and it’s…interesting. ‘Interesting’ in this instance of course means ‘confusing and painful and makes me miss off-the-shelf Swedish ballads.’ Just, no.  
  • Montenegro: Sergej Četković will sing Moj Svijet in Denmark, which is a very nice Balkan ballad that actually makes me miss Serbia a little less because it’s very Serbia-like. It also reminds me a bit of Korake Ti Znam, which qualified against the odds. I’m not convinced Montenegro can get to the final for the first time with this, though. It could be too nondescript.
  • The Netherlands: The Common Linnets have gone country with The Calm After The Storm, which will be a refreshingly peaceful three minutes on stage. I find country music very soothing, so even though this entry isn’t particularly dynamic, I’ve taken to it straight away, which didn’t happen to me with Birds.
  • San Marino: Valentina version 3.0 was a personal letdown. Maybe (Forse) is unlikely to make it third time lucky for her. I like it less than both of her previous entries, neither of which I was ever that keen on. Boring and dated are the key words here.

 

Tonight: four more songs?

I put a question mark on the end of that because Azerbaijan is involved this evening, and based on reputation, they could keep us all hanging on their song choice for longer than scheduled. Dilara Kazimova won her country’s final a few weeks ago with an original song, which could or could not be the song she takes to Eurovision. I haven’t listened to that song (Impossible) in case I hate it and it’s picked, or love it and it’s not picked, etc. But this is Azerbaijan we’re talking about – I’m not eager to go to Baku again just yet, but you can never discount them because they know how Eurovision is successfully done.

One country that’s had trouble in that area is Moldova, who seem to be cursed with not quite hitting the heights of the top 10 when they qualify to the final, often alongside neighbours Romania. Their final – O Melodie Pentru Europa – takes place tonight, and as is often the case, I suspect I’m going to like what comes out of it a lot more than I like what came out of the Romanian final (which was no Miracle for me). I haven’t followed their selection this year, mainly because of my current time deficiency (thanks a lot, university) so I’m sorry I can’t say anything about how epic/crappy/both the line-up is for 2014. But Moldova usually gives us a bit of quirk, and I have loved them the last couple of years. Fingers crossed they pick another weird and wonderful song from this selection:

  1. One And All by Diana Staver
  2. Energy by Doiniţa Gherman
  3. Perfect Day by Boris Covali
  4. I’m Yours by Tatiana Heghea
  5. Frozen by Lucia S
  6. Vis by Margarita Ciorici & Metafora
  7. Dragostea Divină by Ana Cernicova
  8. Forever by Edict
  9. Never Stop No by FLUX LIGHT
  10. Urme De Iubiri by Aurel Chirtoacă
  11. Fragmente by Paralela 47
  12. Hallelujah by Diana Brescan
  13. Follow Your Dreams by Mikaella
  14. Your Recovery by Curly
  15. Wild Soul by Cristina Scarlat
  16. The Way I Do by Felicia Dunaf

 

Also tonight, it’s the final of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix…another one I haven’t had time to follow (if you came to this post for reviews and predictions, I really am sorry). I’m not convinced there are any Adeléns or Margaret Bergers amongst the group left standing, with the few snippets I’ve heard being quite dull (aside from Mo’s song, which isn’t the peak of originality but still appeals). But innocent until proven guilty, right? I.e., the potential for a great entry is there until a rubbish one wins. Here are the tracks Norway have to choose from:

  1. Ain’t No Love (In This City No More) by El Cuero
  2. Sole Survivor by Elisabeth Carew
  3. Taste of You by Knut Kippersund Nesdal
  4. Needs by Dina Misund
  5. Heal by Mo
  6. High Hopes by Linnea Dale
  7. Hit Me Up by Charlie
  8. Silent Storm by Carl Espen
  9. Sing by Oda & Wulff
Who's going to win? And would they look as good in this dress as the Bergster?

Who’s going to win? And would they look as good in this dress as the Bergster?

I know one big favourite is Silent Storm, also one of the snippets I listened to that bored me. But you can’t judge a song on a snippet, so if he’s the one, I’ll give him a chance to grow. Those of you who’ve listened to more than previews, let me know below who’s going to represent Norway this year!

 

While you’re at it, feel free to tell me the same re: Portugal. Festival da Canção comes to an end tonight, and let’s hope the result is a triumphant return for a country who took a year’s vacation from the ESC. Surprise, surprise, I haven’t heard a single Portuguese offering yet, so the winner will be a total mystery to me until I press play on their victorious performance. I remember Catarina Pereira from a few years ago, and her status as a former runner-up could give her a boost this time. She’s back with another Andrej Babić creation, and some questionable footwear according to Twitter. We’ll see how she and the others go.

  1. Ao Teu Encontro by Rui Andrade
  2. Mea Culpa by Catarina Pereira
  3. Nas Asas Da Sorte by Zana
  4. Sonhos Roubados by Raquel Guerra
  5. Quero Se Tua by Suzy

All I can say is good luck to everyone…so long as they’ve got a decent song to offer!

 

What’s left of the N-Fs?

Not much at all, people! Post-tonight, there’s only one actual televised final left, and that belongs to Belgium. Eurosong concludes Sunday night, and will hopefully be worth all the pre-final casting and filtering programs. The winning song will have to be damn good to rival my killer love for Love Kills, which I maintain kicked butt. The fact that it got Belgium out of the semis and almost within top 10 range is testament to that. Will the burst of confidence from that result carry through to another impressive (by Belgian standards) showing? I for one am hoping so.

Belgium aside, there are only two countries remaining without complete entries. Austria will allegedly reveal Conchita Wurst’s song on Tuesday, which I’m not exactly enthusiastic for. I can’t imagine it will be anything but a stereotypical Eurovision schlager anthem, and even if it wasn’t, it’s too hard to take someone who looks like an unshaven Kim Kardashian seriously. I admire Miss Wurst in many ways, but I just don’t believe she’s going to do Austria any favours in terms of results.

Conchita is a thing of beauty, but she's also bizarre.

Conchita is a thing of beauty, but she’s also bizarre.

That leaves Russia – controversial Russia. Everything bar music aside, I’m intrigued as to whether they will actually send JESC 2006 champs the Tolmachevy Twins to the contest, as initially stated. I got super excited at that prospect, only to have it snatched away shortly after the fact, so I’m on edge at the moment. I have this feeling we can expect a good effort from Russia, or at the very least something less cheesy than What If (a song with peace-advocating lyrics that now seem rather ironic). Not that it would be difficult to contribute something less cheesy than that.

 

When Russia finally makes its decision (and providing Azerbaijan have also) that’s it. We’ll have our Class of ’14. That’s when the real fun – namely arguing about who’s going to win/qualify, why your taste sucks and mine is fabulous, and lamenting the loss of many amazeballs national finalists – can begin! We’re less than eight weeks away from the first semi final, if you can believe that, and there are a lot of nostalgic (aah, Malmö!) and prediction-based (TwinTwin for the winwin!) things to cram in to that time frame. Join me for the frenzy, won’t you?

In the meantime, enjoy the last Super Saturday of the season.

EBJ Signature

 

PS – I almost forgot to mention THE best news of the week. Australian peeps, get excited, and everyone else, get jealous. This year our broadcaster SBS is holding a televised Eurovision quiz show called The Eurovision Quiz Contest (shocking). Details are still a bit fuzzy (i.e. I’m not sure how many parts there’ll be) but filming starts this weekend, and we can expect the show to be on TV around Eurovision time. YAY! I’m so excited for this, and once again proud of SBS for giving Eurovision the limelight it deserves. If it turns out you can watch the show online internationally, I’ll post the link ASAP so y’all non-Aussies can check it out.

 

JESC Month | Reviewing the Class of Kyiv (Moldova-Ukraine)

Bonjour, and welcome to the second half of my JESC 2013 reviews! Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, San Marino, Sweden and hosts Ukraine have been judged like there’s no tomorrow by moi, and the verdicts are here for you to be outraged by. Trust me, you’re going to be fearing for my sanity by the time you’ve read Ukraine. As it turns out, there are two douze pointers in this group, and one is controversial. But what is Eurovision without controversy?

Let’s agree to disagree on these six songs…

 

MOLDOVA

Cum Ša Fim by Rafael Bobeica

MoldovaSounds like: It should accompany Zlata Ognevich’s Gravity on the Lion King soundtrack

The good: I feel like there’s always one song in every Eurovision event that I love, and everyone else hates (which is probably not the case…said songs must have at least one other fan on the planet). This JESC year, that song comes from Moldova. I didn’t fall instantly in love with Cum Ša Fim – hearing it for the first time via the grainy video from the national final, where bad acoustics reigned supreme and the judges looked bored out of their minds, was bound to have a negative effect. But despite the poor start á la Roberto Bellarosa’s Love Kills, I heard potential, and when I gave the studio version a spin, that’s when I fell in love. I find it so majestic and uplifting (even if the Romanian/English mish-mash makes no sense), particularly when the choir joins in with the second chorus. It has a tribal kind of vibe that really does remind me of Gravity. I love the music, the melody, the structure, and even Rafael’s glass-shattering vocal – and if I’m alone in that, then I’ll just have to cheer extra enthusiastically for him to compensate.

Everything else: I do understand why this isn’t a popular choice (the screeching! The dodgy English bits! Et cetera!). It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of entry, and with the consensus leaning towards ‘hate’, I’m thinking Moldova’s in for a poor showing, point-wise. Still, if Rafael can keep that voice under control and thrive in the grander setting of the contest, which is more suited to a grand song like this, then there’s hope for a little more. At the very least, then we can say he pulled a Bellarosa – a.k.a. improved dramatically from NF to Eurovision and ended up 12th!

The verdict: Everyone else’s trash is my treasure. DOUZE POINTS!

JESC chances: I am predicting this as the one to come last. Hashtag sadface.

 

THE NETHERLANDS

Double Me by Mylène & Rosanne

NetherlandsSounds like: the theme of a cartoon chronicling the lives of Jedward

The good: I thought I knew how I felt about this before re-listening for this review. It had been a while, and the last time I’d heard it, it was beginning to annoy me. But I guess it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, because I’m not annoyed anymore. This song takes Mylène & Rosanne’s twin situation and runs with it, and the result is some serious fun. Yes, it is repetitive, but it’s the happiest darn thing on offer this year and I can’t help smiling as the girls shout ‘SPIEGELBEELD!’ at me for the billionth time. Every part of the song is infectious, and the chorus sticks like super glue. I even have a guilty fondness for the cheesy English parts – “Mirror, mirror, in the frame, we are just the same!” Half of me hopes the twins will stick with the cheerleader theme for JESC, because it was eye-catching with the pom-poms and lockers and stuff; the other half hopes for something new, but just as entertaining. I’m rarely not entertained by the Netherlands when it comes to Junior (the opposite applies for the ESC, unfortunately).

Everything else: Like Jedward, it’s uncertain whether this duo can actually sing, or if they’re just shouting into their mikes and the backing singers are making it listenable. I’m not sure if anyone will care that much, but 90% of the time, the winner/s of Junior Eurovision have been excellent vocalists, so to all of y’all who want the Netherlands to win, beware.

The verdict: Until I get annoyed again, 10 points.

JESC chances: I’ll be surprised if a top 5 result passes them by.

 

RUSSIA

Mechtay by Dayana Kirillova

RussiaSounds like: JESC in a neat, two-minute-something package

The good: Yeah, we’ve heard this type of song in mini-vision before. On multiple occasions, in fact. I don’t want to be sucked in so easily to something so clichéd, but I’m afraid that I am loving this entry. It goes back in time from Lerika’s very contemporary predecessor, and you know where it’s going from start to finish, but it’s so catchy I find myself ignoring both of those facts. In Monday’s running order draw, Dayana drew herself the desired performance slot of 12th (hopefully she’s not a nervous waiter) and I think Mechtay will go off as a show-closer. I can see it now – she strikes her final pose amidst fountains of pyrotechnics and various oversized props, and the crowd goes wild. Russia does pretty well in the contest, and maybe, just maybe, Dayana could win it for them for the first time.

Everything else: Then again…this might be all too ‘been there, heard that’ to be winner. Topping the scoreboard usually requires something more unique. As Russia isn’t my absolute favourite this year, I don’t mind either way. Success may also depend on Dayana’s ability to rise to what is a song that starts off in a fairly high-key, and gets higher from there. We know she can do it, but if she over-rehearses, the vocal that counts may resemble the sound of a cat being bathed against its will. Nobody wants to listen to that.

The verdict: No points for originality, but 10 for the rest.

JESC chances: Unless I’m mistaken (which is highly likely), 1st-4th.

 

SAN MARINO

O-o-O Sole Intorno A Me by Michele Perniola

San MarinoSounds like: the theme song of an Italian sitcom about bumbling police officers. Why do so many JESC entries sound like they belong on TV shows?

The good: First of all, San Marino in Junior Eurovision? *fist pump* I was surprised when they were announced as country number twelve (I had been expecting a return from Lithuania or Latvia) but I love debuts, and it’s going to be great to hear Italian on the JESC stage again. Ladies-man-in-the-making Michele is bringing his brand of sunny pop-rock to Kyiv, and despite its flaws, it’s a pretty strong starting point. I like how it begins all humble with the softer vocal, before the drums kick in and Michele ramps up the o-o-o’s. Those three syllables are very catchy, adding to a chorus that’s already sing-along paradise. The verses are quite nice too, and the Italian throughout (with no deviation into English just for the sake of it) makes the whole thing more sophisticated. All in all, Sole Intorno is a pleasant listen, and I think it strikes a good balance between being young and being mature.

Everything else: My main problem here is that the song takes so long to get going and offer us anything more than the o’s, that there isn’t enough time left at the end for it to build into something. It almost seems to be over before it’s begun. That doesn’t bother me a huge amount, but I think the song could have used that humbleàhigh energy structure in a more time-effective way, as we’ve heard before with entries like Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav and Zo Verliefd. Also, it is far from current in sound – but I suspect that won’t affect it either way, because it isn’t being belted out by a middle-aged guy with a mullet. Kids can get away with dated stuff.

The verdict: It’s not amazing, but it’s a little irresistible. 8 points.

JESC chances: I’m uncertain, but I’d love San Marino to succeed. 5th-9th.

 

SWEDEN

Det Är Dit Vi Ska by Elias Elffors Elfström

SwedenSounds like: Tell The World I’m Here by Ulrik Munther

The good: Alexander Rybak, for some unknown reason, has decided to ditch the violin and disguise himself (not very well) as a 13-year-old boy to represent Sweden in JESC. He may as well have, anyway. Elias here bears an uncanny resemblance to Eurovision’s champion of champions, and he’s given me another reason to love his country in the contest (as if I needed one…SVERIGE FTW!). Det Är Dit Vi Ska is grown-up in the tradition of Swedish JESC songs, and has a similar kind of depth behind it as Lova’s song did last year. Also like Mitt Mod, this song isn’t an instant hit, but rather a slow burner, and took me a couple of listens to appreciate. It’s opening the show on Saturday, and I think it’ll make an excellent opener in its own way. Maybe it won’t get the audience hyped up like the Netherlands or Macedonia would do, but it will work. For me, this isn’t Sweden’s absolute best work, but it’s strong, and the music and melody are beautiful.

Everything else: There’s an elephant in the room, and it can’t sing for peanuts. Elias is a weak vocalist based on his Lilla Melodifestivalen outing, and this is not a song that requires a ‘just good enough’ vocal to be pulled off. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he can emulate Ryan Dolan by pleasantly surprising us all. Or at least emulate Jedward by recruiting some backing singers willing to do most of the heavy lifting.

The verdict: Solid, anthemic and meaningful. 10 points.

JESC chances: I can’t imagine a stellar result, or a dreadful one. 6th-10th.

 

UKRAINE

We Are One by Sofia Tarasova                        

UkraineSounds like: Ukraine aren’t trying too hard not to win again!

The good: Because the cost of hosting JESC doesn’t necessarily fall on the winning country (though it has in recent years) you don’t often see the hosts running on 50% in order to spare themselves another expense. IMO, Ukraine wouldn’t mind terribly topping the scoreboard again with this dance track, which manages to stand out from the sea of songs in the same genre thanks to a few interesting features. I’ve been a big fan of it from the beginning. I think the production level is high, and that it’s super catchy and on-trend. Strangely enough for a Ukrainian artist (not) Sofia is a child singing prodigy, and the song shows off her voice even without the a cappella break. I’m expecting big things from the staging – lights, sparks, dry ice, and a Gaitana-brand flower crown to name a few. Still, I think Sofia could rock this without all of those embellishments.

Everything else: What can I say? I don’t really see any negatives here. I’m not saying Ukraine will win again (in fact, it’s unlikely) but personally, I think they’ve made an excellent choice. I hope it gets a home ground cheer worth discussing the next day. What I don’t want to happen is for the crowd to boo every time a country gives less than five points to Ukraine, which is what went down in Amsterdam with the Netherlands. Talk about poor sports!

The verdict: Slick, catchy and contemporary. DOUZE POINTS!

JESC chances: It could do really well. 3rd-6th.

 

Twelve reviews down, none to go! I’m not going to do a full ranking just yet, but here’s the standings of the above six. This was a much stronger group, and there’s not a whole lot between them.

  1. Moldova
  2. Ukraine
  3. Russia
  4. Sweden
  5. Netherlands
  6. San Marino

I’ll be back on Saturday with some last-minute hopes, expectations and predictions for JESC 2013, and in the meantime, I’ll be reading about the rehearsals whilst going out of my way to avoid seeing them. Prepare your predictions and get ready to compare notes, people!

 

What do you think of Moldova, Ukraine, and everything in-between? How would you rank them?

 

Spotlight on…Moldova

Ciao a tutti!  There may as well be a little Italian in this post, since I kind of promised it last time via a very easy clue. Si, si, I had intended to cast my spotlight onto Italy today. But let’s just say it wasn’t coming together, like a pasta dough with too much flour in it. Not that I’d know, never having made a pasta dough in my life, but hey – I watch cooking shows on TV. So I’ll keep working at it until it’s ready to be premiered in public, and go for the country known in 2013 as the lucky last to choose their entry instead.

O Mie by Aliona Moon (why aren’t they sticking with A Million?) will be Moldova’s 9th ESC entry, and for me it’s up there with the best of what they’ve sent, ignoring that pesky language switch. Apart from one or two blips, I think this country has kept up a certain standard of unique awesome-ness over the years they’ve participated. If you can’t remember what you had for breakfast, let alone Moldova’s eight-year contest history, here’s a refresher, complete with my picks of the best and worst from that back catalogue.

 

hbmoldova

MOLDOVA: THE STATS

Debut

2005 – Boonika Bate Doba by Zdob şi Zdub

Entries

8

Wins

0

Silver medals

0

Bronze medals

0

Best result

6th – 2005

Top 10 finishes

2/8

Top 10 success rate

25%

Top 5 finishes

0/8

Top 5 success rate

0%

Wooden spoons (last places!)

0

Semi final qualifications

6/7

Qualification success rate

86%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Fight by Natalia Barbu (2007).

This was the first Moldovan entry I was really familiar with, and at the time I was obsessed with it…and kind of obsessed with her leather outfit as well (and the hood! What a hood!). Though I’ve left the cut-out cowhide love behind, I’m still a huge fan of the song. It’s all drama and epic violining (which Moldova has a penchant for, apparently) and my giddy aunt, is it the perfect motivation song for a workout! I listened to it on the treadmill the other day, and I swear I lost five kilos in those three minutes alone.

I can’t help also mentioning Hora Din Moldova by Nelly Ciobanu (2009). If you can sit through this without throwing caution and most of your dignity to the wind in order to leap up and dance like Loreen on steroids, then I fear for you, because you are not a normal person. This is 110% irresistible.

 

My least favourite entry

A Century of Love by Geta Burlacu (2008). Isn’t this everybody’s least favourite offering from Moldova? Excepting those few who can’t see past the horrifying staging of Loca to enjoy it as a guilty pleasure song, of course. As much as I hate to disparage anything from the jazz genre (‘cause of my nickname and stuff) this is jazz gone oh-so-wrong. Plus, Geta’s voice is unusual to say the least, and even though she could clearly hold a tune it was impossible to make out what she was singing. And the staging? Don’t get me started.

Sofa, so good? Not in Geta’s case.

Sofa, so good? Not in Geta’s case.

 

More of the memorable

Boonika Bate Doba by Zdob şi Zdub (2005) – the original and the best, in terms of results at least. Moldova made a stunning debut with this number, and made an entire continent say ‘aww!’ when they caught sight of that drum-beating grandmamma rocking away in her chair. Adorbs.

Loca by Arsenium & Natalia Gordienko (2006) – oh yes, this was memorable…in the same way that a particularly pungent trash bag is memorable.

Run Away by Sunstroke Project feat. Olia Tira (2010) – the act that introduced Epic Sax Guy to the world deserves thanks. Great song too.

So Lucky by Zdob şi Zdub (2011) – ZsZ recaptured almost all of the charm of their first Eurovision foray in Düsseldorf. Is it wrong to wish they’d brought the granny back to do some tutu-clad unicycling?

Laŭtar by Pasha Parfeny (2012) – ethnic, effortless fun that puts a smile on my face every time.

 

Their best stage show

Boonika Bate Doba. Yeah, the granny was the main drawcard of this performance, and if artists are going to continue to choose props based on their song titles then I would really like a song called 100 Metres of Bubble Wrap to go to the contest ASAP. But it was the energy and stage presence of ZsZ themselves that made their time in front of the cameras so enjoyable for us.

 

Their best costume/s

Laŭtar. This goes out to Pasha’s backing posse, the dresses of whom I have no words to describe. Apart from these words: I WANT. These are works of art, people!

I never considered coordinating my underwear with my clothes until THIS.

I never considered coordinating my underwear with my clothes until THIS.

 

Their best vocalist/s

Natalia Barbu. I think singing in English did her a disservice if we’re talking about her vocal chops. But that spectacular high note before the last chorus and the show-stopping end note are more than enough to convince me of classically-trained Nat’s prowess.

Speaking of this song and English, I have to ask (even though it has nothing to do with singing ability) – what is WITH the line ‘itch people will gnaw our wishes no more’? Not only is it nonsensical, but it’s disturbing. Is there some kind of spray I can get to fend off those itch people? I prefer my wishes sans teeth-marks, thank you very much.

 

What’s your top (or bottom) song from Moldova? How do you think they’ll go this year?