SATURDAY SHORTLIST | The best 2019 national final songs that didn’t even come close to becoming ESC entries
I know, I know…national final season ended weeks ago and the world has moved on. Eurovision In Concert is tonight, for Serhat’s sake! But you guys are used to me being behind the times, hopefully in an endearing, ‘Oh, that Jaz and her constant lateness to the party’ kind of way. And you can’t expect me to leave those crazy months of NFs behind yet. Not before I’ve acknowledged the musical gems that may not have won through in the end, but showed so much promise that in some cases, it’s worth a dramatic soap-opera wail because they didn’t.
Last time I listed every single second-placed song from the 2019 selection season, which you can revisit (so sweet that you’d want to read it again, you super awesome human) or check out for the first time (what are you waiting for? JEEZ) here. This time I’ve restrained myself and chosen six of the best songs that finished 3rd or lower in their respective NFs – so they weren’t really in contention when it came down to it. That makes their quality even more impressive.
PS – Don’t worry, this isn’t just a six-strong list of Melodifestivalen songs. I mean, I could have chosen six from Sweden alone, but not wanting to be too predictable I forced myself to pick only one song from each country in question. My willpower > your willpower.
PPS – Or not. I don’t know if this counts as cheating, but you can find a full playlist of all of my favourite NF songs from 2019 at the end of this post. I’d been putting it together as the season progressed and then “accidentally” embedded it below. Whoops.
Now, let’s get down to business.
On My Way, Sheppard (Australia Decides, Australia)
I remember being underwhelmed when this song came out. Sheppard was one of the biggest and most internationally-known acts competing in Australia Decides – and On My Way was kind of…average. But first impressions never last, as they say. The more I listened to it, the more I liked it and the more likely I was to scream with excitement every time it started playing on the radio (which is embarrassing at work). At this point, I have it pegged as an anthemic, infectious singalong song: just the sort of thing Sheppard does best. I actually wouldn’t have minded sending these guys to Tel Aviv instead of KMH (but not instead of Electric Fields).
Our City, Linus Bruhn (Unser Lied für Israel, Germany)
I know I’m in the minority, preferring this song over literally everything else Germany had to offer, but I don’t care. The performance would have needed to level up if Linus HAD won ULfI (and Guy Sebastian might have had something to say about those LED streetlights) but even so, I honestly think Our City was Germany’s best option for Eurovision. It’s radio-friendly but still competitive, urban and catchy, and has a chorus that would have had thousands of arms up in the air in Tel Aviv (still attached to bodies, fortunately). The best thing I can say about Sister, on the other hand, is that it’s packed with girl power.
Világítótorony, Olivér Berkes (A Dal, Hungary)
For those of us who get (potentially too) invested in certain songs during NF season, losing them along the way can be heartbreaking. I never expected Olivér, on his first A Dal attempt as a soloist, to win the whole thing – but I also didn’t expect him to crash out and not even reach the semi-finals. How is that possible with a ballad this beautiful? Világítótorony is pure class, quality and emotion, and gave me all the physical feels: goosebumps, spine tingles, watery eyes that I would blame on allergies, etc. It’s been months and I’m still both devastated and outraged that it didn’t make the (semi-final) cut.
Mr. Unicorn, D’Sound (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway)
I’m not convinced about the title of this song or the group name (one’s too novelty, the other is straight out of 1995…which makes sense since they’ve been around since 1993). But those are just personal pet peeves. Song-wise, bubblegum disco pop for millennials has never d’sounded so good! Mr. Unicorn is pure fun from start to finish, but it’s still slick and contemporary – like a Scandipop/Scandilove/Daft Punk love child. I’m a fan of Spirit in the Sky, don’t get me wrong. But I would have been over the moon if D’Sound had kept their winning streak from the jury vote going through to the Gold Final and then the battle between the last two acts standing.
I Do Me, Malou Prytz (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)
As I mentioned before, this whole list could have been based on my favourite Melfest 2019 songs – but so you guys didn’t have to roll your eyes at my Swedish obsession yet again, I made the sacrifice. After hours of deliberation (no joke) I went for I Do Me because a) it was such a surprise package and a great debut for Malou; b) it’s so cute and catchy I cannot be in a bad mood after I’ve listened to it; and c) I love Clueless, so the inspiration for the staging and Malou’s outfit (which I want a dupe of SO BAD) was right up my street. The cherry on top of all this goodness was the artist/songwriter reaction to going direkt. Their ‘Us? Really?!?’ face were adorable.
Apart, KAZKA (Vidbir, Ukraine)
First things first: the live performances of this song at Vidbir were vocally questionable at best. But in studio, like everything else KAZKA produces, it’s sublime. I have no doubt that if Apart had won the NF and no drama had followed, the performance would have been whipped into shape in usual Ukrainian style and been a contender for a great Eurovision result. In this reality though, I’ll just keep streaming the shiz out of the studio version and particularly enjoying the mysterious chanting towards the end. Is it a troupe of Ukrainian grannies á la Buranovskiye Babushki? Who knows, but I think they’re saying ‘KAZKA must get to Eurovision ASAP…oh, and Tayanna, of course’.
Listen to all of today’s tracks (plus many more) right here:
Which songs didn’t even reach 2nd place this NF season but ended up on your best-of playlist? Let me know below!
Until next time,
BUT AT THE END, THEY DIDN’T! | Ranking every single second-placed song from the 2019 selection season
Well, just like that (a.k.a. two weeks ago) the 2019 Eurovision selection season is over. We have a full house of 42 41 entries, with their performers starting rehearsals behind closed doors, filming postcards on the ground in Israel, and prepping for the April pre-parties.
While they’re busy doing that stuff, I’m busy not letting go of NF season yet. I can’t, not before I’ve given credit to all the amazing songs that came close to becoming ESC entries this year…and given the thumbs down to the ones that had me breathing a sigh of relief when they WEREN’T chosen. I’ve got a list of general favourites for you guys later, but today I’m focusing on the songs that, with a few extra points to their name or a little change in fortune, could easily have been traveling to Tel Aviv. They, my friends, are the songs that finished second.
26 national finals were held between December 2018 and March 2019, and I’m about to rank and review all 26 of their silver medallists on a scale from ‘DEAR LORDI, MAKE IT STOP!’ to ‘Play it again, Sam…and again…again? JUST ONCE MORE, SAM, I’M BEGGING YOU!!!’. Because I don’t like too much fun going down, I did put a few rules in place for this ranking:
- When there wasn’t a clear runner-up due to format or a lack of transparency (I’m talking to you, BBC) I’ve picked my personal fave from the pile of potential runners-up. With Hungary, for example, I chose my top song from the three that were beaten by Joci Pápai’s in the A Dal televoting decider.
- Since I tend to ramble, basically writing an essay every time I post, I decided to challenge myself to review each song in just two sentences. Some of them are freaking long sentences (a leopard can’t totally change its spots) but it’s the thought that counts. I hope you enjoy this shorter and sweeter Jaz while she lasts.
Now, let the criticising and complimenting begin! Apologies in advance if I’ve dragged a song you adore, but know that I’ve probably also gushed over one you hate. It all evens out in the end.
PS – Speaking of ‘the end’, if you didn’t get the title in-joke, that must mean you missed this glorious moment from the 2019 allocation draw:
As haughty as it is hilarious, incoming co-host Assi’s iconic line is the perfect way to describe the fate of these tracks. Agree, disagree, or agree to disagree with my ranking in the comments.
#26 | Tower of Babylon, Lorena Bućan (Dora, Croatia)
If you’ve always wondered what a musical episode of Game of Thrones would be like, wonder no more. This song was all kinds of ‘thank u, next’ to me when I first checked out the Croatian finalists, and having listened to it again, I’m even more turned off.
>The Dream? Absolutely not.
#25 | Sevdisperi Zgva, Liza Kalandadze (Georgian Idol, Georgia)
This is okay, but it doesn’t make an impression on me for better or for worse – and sometimes I’d rather hate something than be indifferent to it. Liza has a pretty voice that deserves to be used in a less dated and much more memorable way.
>Sul Tsin Iare? Not better, but equally non-event.
#24 | Sweet Lies, Kerrie-Anne (Eurovision: You Decide, United Kingdom)
Kerrie-Anne’s version of Sweet Lies is catchy and danceable, I’ll admit…but it’s also straight out of the 90s and not in a good way. My ultimate dealbreaker is The Worst Lyric of All Time™: ‘Well, but anyways and somehow, and somehow’.
>Bigger Than Us? No way!
#23 | I Will Not Surrender, Maxim Zavidia (O Melodie Pentru Europa, Moldova)
This song is better than the crappy title suggests it will be, but only just. I don’t know if Moldova dodged a disaster with Maxim finishing second to Anna or not, but I do know that I miss the Sunstroke Project like crazy right now.
>Stay? Not that it’s an achievement, but yeah.
#22 | Kaos, Raiven (EMA, Slovenia)
Raiven is slowly becoming the Sanna Nielsen of Slovenia, and there are moments of Sanna-level awesomeness in Kaos to match. Then there are the parts when she repeats the title over and over and over again and makes me even happier that Sebi swooped in (like a Raiven? HA HA HA) and took the win.
>Sebi? NOTHING IS.
#21 | You Make Me So Crazy, Markus Riva (Supernova, Latvia)
If Markus couldn’t get to Eurovision with Take Me Down or This Time, he 110% did not deserve to get there with this uninspired dance track. I hope for his sake this was a blip, not the start of a downhill journey of musical desperation.
>That Night? Nope.
#20 | Space Sushi, Jakub Ondra (Eurovision Song CZ, Czech Republic)
Nothing can ruin a reasonable song faster than calling it Space Sushi and thinking the lyrics ‘My eyes are bigger than my belly and I will keep them that way, be humble, don’t mumble, for there will be a day when my eyes won’t be big enough’ are acceptable. Spoiler alert: THEY AREN’T.
>Friend of a Friend? Not even close.
#19 | Nema Suza, Dženan Lončarević (Beovizija, Serbia)
Finally this Balkan ballad is bringing us into ‘I might actually listen to that again of my own free will’ territory. It’s not a patch on anything Željko Joksimovic has composed or breathed in close proximity to, but it’s classy and dramatic and I can tolerate it.
>Kruna? No – Nevena can keep her crown.
#18 | Hvað ef ég get ekki elskað?, Friðrik Ómar (Söngvakeppnin, Iceland)
Friðrik left Euroband and This Is My Life far behind with this (impossible to pronounce) track. It’s a little vanilla and missing an obvious hook, but still a good effort from someone who probably doesn’t gyrate around in skimpy waistcoats as much as they used to.
>Hatrið Mun Sigra? Chalk and (latex-flavoured) cheese, but I don’t think so…
#17 | Igual A Ti, NBC (Festival da Cançao, Portugal)
This was one of my favourites from FdC 2019, and if Portugal hadn’t decided to go experimental (which I’m excited about) I would have happily settled for this as their entry for Tel Aviv. Comparing it to Telemóveis, though, it comes off rather boring.
>Telemóveis? No way, José.
#16 | I Tuoi Particolari, Ultimo (Sanremo Music Festival, Italy)
I am yet to find an Italian song that isn’t sophisticated AF, unlike myself. While I find Ultimo’s a bit inaccessible in terms of remembering how it sounds (I literally just listened to it and couldn’t sing it back to you to save my life) I know that it was no exception to that rule.
>Soldi? I know I said this about Slovenia already, but again, NOTHING IS.
#15 | The Bubble, Adrian Jørgensen (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway)
This song – co-written by Aleksander Walmann minus JOWST – is pretty precious, albeit kind of annoying if I’m not in a warm-and-fuzzy mood. I know it’s about a breakup, but anything with the word ‘bubble’ in it is bound to be sugary sweet to some extent.
>Spirit In The Sky? This question puts the ‘no’ in Norway.
#14 | Light On, Monika Marija (Eurovizijos Atranka, Lithuania)
MM was supposed to be the one to beat in Eurovizijos this year, but I can see how Jurijus managed to defy expectations once she’d withdrawn Criminal (arguably the better of her two entries). I do like Light On, and Monika was vocally and stylistically flawless whenever she performed it, but it’s too repetitive/radio-friendly to make much of an impact on me.
>Run With The Lions? I’d rather run with the lions than leave a light on (conserve electricity, folks!).
#13 | League of Light, Julie & Nina (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, Denmark)
This song sits somewhere on the musical scale between ‘great’ and ‘hot mess’ – there are parts that are so dated and cringey it hurts me, whereas other parts I dig. As a package it needed work and was not totally ESC-worthy as a result.
>Love Is Forever? Me and my giant dining chair say no.
#12 | Nevinost, Ivana Popović-Martinović (Montevizija, Montenegro)
A Balkan ballad minus a lot of the Balkan isn’t ideal, and that’s what we got from Ivana (as well as a dress that made her look like she was ready to walk the Egyptian Mummy Fashion Week runway). Still, I think this was a diamond in the rough and could have become a solid Eurovision song after a revamp.
>Heaven? With a makeover, yes.
#11 | The Day I Loved You Most, Makeda (Unser Lied Für Israel, Germany)
Have some tissues handy for this one, especially if you’ve recently gone through a breakup or your favourite Netflix series has been cancelled. It’s a pretty ballad that doesn’t fall into the trap of clichéd lyrics, and I like the perspective Makeda sings it from – she’s opting to remember the best of a past relationship rather than the painful parts.
>Sister? Most songs in ULFI were.
#10 | Dear Father, Laura Bretan (Selecția Națională, Romania)
I like this more before Laura ramps up and lets loose with notes that upset pet dogs worldwide – not that she doesn’t hit those highs, but they are intense on the ears and the soul. Having said that, the whole song provides a bunch of goosebump moments and is nothing if not dramatic.
>On A Sunday? Not to my taste as an enthusiastic member of Team Ester.
#9 | Superman, Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman (UMK, Finland)
All three Darude/Rejman tracks were cut from the same cloth, and to be honest I don’t know how Finland managed to separate them enough to pick a winner. Superman nearly took the prize and I would have felt the same about it as I do about Look Away – pretty positive, but far from ecstatic.
>Look Away? It’s the same song…how can I say yay or nay?
#8 | Champion, BLGN & Mirex (Eurofest, Belarus)
On purpose or by pure coincidence, the Cesár Sampson influence spread to Belarus in the form of this soulful and infectious toe-tapper. It’s no Nobody But You of course, but I’ll definitely be streaming it on the reg and singing it in the shower as a substitute for a self pep-talk.
>Like It? No, but I wouldn’t have minded this as the Belarusian entry.
#7 | Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet (A Dal, Hungary)
There were so many epic songs in A Dal this year, I couldn’t count them on my fingers AND toes. This is one of them, though it took some time before I truly appreciated it for what it is – a genuine, easy-listening slice of sunshine that, like practically every genre, sounds like it was born to be in Hungarian.
>Az Én Apám? Az if!
#6 | Tous Les Deux, Seemone (Destination Eurovision, France)
I’m glad we didn’t end up with too many songs about fathers in the ESC 2019 field (Michael Schulte is having his own effect on the comp after that surprising 4th place). Still, as much as I love Roi, I would have said oui to France sending this simple, emotional and classy ballad by Sea Anemone.
>Roi? Not quite.
#5 | Rrëfehem, Lidia Lufi (Festivali I Këngës, Albania)
DAYUM, Albania! You didn’t make a wrong decision with Jonida, but you had another right one in FiK courtesy of this complex, mystical and unique masterpiece from Lidia.
>Ktheju Tokës? Almost, I have to admit.
#4 | Muérdeme, María (Operación Triunfo, Spain)
This had all the goods to make waves in Tel Aviv…apart from María not actually wanting to go to Eurovision, which would have resulted in a half-arsed performance had she been obliged to go. As a standalone song, however, it’s fantastic.
>La Venda? That’s cute, this song is cooler…I like ‘em both.
#3 | Pretty Little Liar, Uku Suviste (Eesti Laul, Estonia)
I only need three words to review this song, and they are I LOVE IT. Catchy, powerful, full of staging possibilities and performed by a talented, attractive Estonian guy, the list of what’s wrong with it is just a blank piece of paper.
>Storm? It’s neck-and-neck.
#2 | On My Own, Bishara (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)
Don’t boycott me because you disagree (as I know most of you will) but I’m Sweden and Benjamin Ingrosso biased – so when faced with a soulful Swedish pop song co-written by Benji and performed by an adorable, freshly-discovered singer, how was I supposed to react? With instant, unconditional love, that’s how.
>Too Late For Love? Negative.
#1 | 2000 and Whatever, Electric Fields (Eurovision: Australia Decides, Australia)
You might think I’m being biased on this one too being Aussie and all, but I actually paid money to try and help this song go to Eurovision. All of my SMS votes went to Electric Fields, and I lost my voice screaming for them when they were onstage with this no-holds-barred BANGER.
>Zero Gravity? I have to be honest and say yes (here’s hoping I don’t get deported).
And that’s it! You can listen to all of the songs from today’s post right here (except Albania, Georgia, Montenegro and Serbia, which aren’t available on Spotify Australia DAMNIT):
Which second-placed songs from the 2019 NF season are your favourites…or least favourites? Which countries do you think made mistakes when it came down to their final decision? Let me know below!
SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The best of three for Darude, Portugal takes their pick + Swedish second chances
Hello and welcome, yet again, to Saturday night. One more week and I won’t have to come up with different ways of introducing the same thing anymore, woohoo!
We’re still a way away from a complete Class of ESC 2019, with not long to go until it MUST be complete – so prepare for a crazy period of last-minute NFs and internally-selected song reveals. This breakdown from ESC Xtra includes all the important info that I’m not about to repeat. But to repeat some of it, here’s what’s happening tonight:
- Finland Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, final
- Georgia Georgian Idol, final
- Iceland Söngvakeppnin, final
- Moldova O Melodie Pentru Europa, final
- Norway Melodi Grand Prix, final
- Portugal Festival da Canção, final
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, Andra Chansen round
Then on Sunday we have:
- Serbia Beovizija, final
That’s a whole lot in a short space of time. Are you ready for it? If not, maybe I can ease you in with my previews and predictions for the week, feat. Finland, Portugal and Sweden.
Let’s do this!
It’s finally time for the Finns to choose which Darude/Sebastian Rejman song will represent them in Israel, in a selection process that’s a lot like 2018 only with less Saara Aalto. On the menu are:
- Look Away
- Release Me
Remember how last year, Monsters stood out from the trio of UMK songs and we all knew it was The One? Well, this is nothing like that. I don’t think any one of these three songs is more interesting than the others. As album filler tracks/music I’d dance to mindlessly at a music festival (if I was the type of person to go to a music festival) they’re good. As songs competing against each other with one set to compete at Eurovision, however, they’re all too same-same for my liking. Listening to them one after another is the musical equivalent of looking at this:
There are fans out there loving one, two or all three songs, and I’m happy for them (you know what they say about one person’s trash…not that I reckon these tracks are trash). They just don’t stir any strong emotions in me yet. I also wonder about the chances of Darude’s style succeeding at Eurovision when in a sense it is background music. Not to mention how similar the concept is to Light Me Up from Poland last year…though no doubt Finland will pull off a better performance than Gromee and Lukas did. A pissed-off donkey could provide a better overall vocal.
Look Away is my favourite of the three…I think. Superman is also pretty catchy, but still a bit pedestrian for song about flying, and not walking. Both of those songs have more memorable hooks than Release Me, which for me isn’t competitive enough for Eurovision. I’m wanting one of the others to be chosen this evening. How about you?
Which song will go to Tel Aviv? If I had to narrow it down to one – even though I have zero idea what the Finnish public will like best – I’d pick Look Away, and not just because it’s my personal favourite. I feel like it has a little more potential to push ahead and qualify than Superman or Release Me. Mind you, I mean a little. Let’s not pretend the options are drastically different here!
Which song would you happily (or begrudgingly) have as Finland’s ESC 2019 entry?
Leaving two semi finals in its dust, the Festival da Canção final has arrived – and here are the eight remaining acts hoping to make O Jardim’s (undeserved) fate a distant memory:
- A Dois Calema
- Mar Doce Mariana Bragada
- Perfeito Matay
- Pugna Surma
- Igual A Ti NBC
- Mundo A Mudar Madrepaz
- Telemóveis Conan Osíris
- Inércia Ana Cláudia
This line-up is an unusual mixture of boring songs and bizarre songs, with one or two in-betweeners. Portugal does have more than one chance to choose something great though, and if the choice was mine it would be centred on these tracks.
My favourites A Dois, Perfeito, Igual A Ti and Telemóveis. That’s in performance order more than anything else, but A Dois may actually be my favourite from this final (and it has nothing to do with Calema being the two most ridiculously good-looking brothers on the planet). The song isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s just the kind of well-produced, easy-listening r&b pop that I automatically adore…so there. Perfeito, on the other hand, is a timeless classic of a ballad that could be more exciting, but makes up for it with grandeur and powerful vocals from Matay that are indeed perfeito.
Igual A Ti is mid-tempo and, in all honesty, middle of the road – yet there’s something about it that I really like, even recognising that it could have represented Portugal at Eurovision in 1997. The chorus is a crown jewel set in slightly dull metal in need of a shine (I’m not going to win any awards for that metaphor, but you know what I mean). Telemóveis, meanwhile, is the song everyone’s talking about and with good reason. More bizarre than anything I’ve ever seen/heard before but so hypnotic at the same time, it’s a statement piece whether you like it or not. And at the core of it, underneath all the face armour and body paint and epileptic choreography, is a kick-ass vocalist who I could listen to all day long.
Predicting a winner This should be easy, given that there’s one song that stands out by miles. Yet I’m not totally convinced Portugal is prepared to send Telemóveis. It would be the bravest possible choice (besides Pugna, which is too strange even for me and didn’t get a heap of public support in its semi final) but with a bunch of safer options, will they take that risk? The jury might stop it in its unconventional tracks. I can see Matay or NBC beating out Conan because their songs have jury AND televote appeal, rather than swaying one way or the other. Matay in particular is the man I’d bet on to win if that’s how things unfold.
Still, I remember this time two years ago when a certain Salvador Sobral was the main topic of Festival da Canção conversation, and he went on and won. Granted, Amar Pelos Dois is way more conventional than Telemóveis, but my point is that both of these male soloists attracted/are attracting the same levels of attention. In 2019, I’d much prefer Portugal to live dangerously and divisively, especially after last year’s last-place finish in front of the home crowd. I can’t see any song from this final being more successful in Tel Aviv than Telemóveis, purely because it’s so memorable. If the ESC juries rewarded it for being artistic and original and the public responded for similar reasons, Conan could do extremely well – whereas the other likely FdC winners would be lucky to qualify. So I’m going to take a risk too and say that it will be Telemóveis that comes out on top tonight. It’s so crazy that Portugal would be crazy not to pick it.
What do you think? Is Conan too unconventional to be chosen or will this be Portugal’s year to make a statement (that doesn’t involve someone making a pompous speech about “music that actually means something”)?
It’s the second-to-last week of Melodifestivalen and time for four acts to get a second chance via Andra Chansen. We lost a few songs over the past month that I think should be duelling it out for a Friends Arena spot tonight (NOT THAT I’M ANGRY ABOUT IT OR ANYTHING *sets fire to the nearest car with Carrie-style kinetic energy*) but they’re not. So I have to suck it up and appreciate what we’ll (hopefully) have in next Saturday’s final once these battles have been won.
- Army of Us Andreas Johnson VS Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
- Nakna I Regnet Vlad Reiser VS Chasing Rivers Nano
- Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck VS Torn Lisa Ajax
- Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson VS I Do Arvingarna
I’m still mystified as to why Andreas Johnson wasn’t paired with Martin Stenmarck, but I guess a) I don’t know how Christer Björkman’s brain works, and b) there’s always some strange match-ups when it comes to AC. In some ways, predicting the results is easier under these circumstances…and in others, it makes it so much harder. But after I’ve told you who I’d like to win, I’ll give it my best shot.
Who I WANT to win Anna Bergendahl, Nano, Lisa Ajax and Rebecka Karlsson.
Truth be told, I’m not crazy in love with Andreas’ OR Anna’s songs (as a This Is My Life lover, Ashes To Ashes just doesn’t measure up). But Anna is definitely the more exciting option – when I’m feeling particularly bitchy I have been known to refer to her duel opponent as Blandreas Johnson. Plus, I’m happy to see her perform as many times as possible in that amazing outfit. Where do I get one?
The Vlad VS Nano duel is actually the toughest one for me to take, because I really like both songs and wish they both had a chance to make the final. But my pre-existing love for Nano + the extra power and passion in Chasing Rivers compared to Nakna I Regnet makes the 2017 runner-up my preferred pick.
I like Martin and Lisa too, though his song is one of his best Melfest entries and hers isn’t as good as I Don’t Give A IMO. Still, I’m backing Lisa because I love her and her voice, and despite some shaky moments last week (she didn’t nail the money note, that’s for sure) Torn is a powerful package and gives Wiktoria some competition in the lady ballad department.
Last but not least is the weirdest duel of all, yet somehow the most evenly matched and most unpredictable. Rebecka is a great singer with a solid if not next-level song, but the staging and styling for Who I Am didn’t do it any favours. Arvingarna are here doing what they do best, and while it is vintage (a.k.a. dated) it’s well-executed and full of enthusiasm. I’d be okay with either act winning this one, but I’m more likely to listen to Rebecka on Spotify, so…I guess I’ll go for her over the guys. We always need more girl power in the final, right?
Who WILL win Anna Bergendahl, Nano, Lisa Ajax and Arvingarna. I’m pretty certain of Anna and Lisa, almost there with Nano and honestly, unsure of that last duel. Just when I’m feeling confident I remember the infamous Anton Hagman VS Loreen battle that ended as unexpectedly as possible. Let’s not have a repeat of that this year, Sweden…don’t let us down!
Give me your Andra Chansen tips in the comments and we’ll see who gets it right (it’ll be you).
That’s all from me for now. I’ll leave you to brace yourselves for a busy night and a week full of song reveals, as Eurovision 2019 creeps ever closer (which is exciting and not scary like I just made it sound).
Until next time,
In news that will shock no one, it’s Saturday. It’s almost like it comes around every seven days or something! Wild.
On this particular Saturday, ESC NF traffic is pretty high. If you don’t believe me, take a look at tonight’s event list:
- Denmark Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, final
- Hungary A Dal, final
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, final
- Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 2
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 4
- Ukraine Vidbir, final
Not too shabby, is it? DMGP is shockingly mediocre this year (and so is Melodifestivalen, if I’m honest…what’s up Scandinavia?) but a final is always exciting, and the likes of Hungary and Ukraine are on hand to rescue us from the Scandi-crisis. I’m going to cover a bit of both today – a high and a not-so-high via A Dal and Melfest.
What can I say? I’m always going to make Sweden one of my priorities. But first, Hungary!
This is it! A Dal is at its most anticipated point, now that 30 songs have become eight with one disqualification along the way (for which Gergő Oláh must be very grateful). Here are the lucky last songs standing:
- Nyári Zápor Acoustic Planet
- Szótlanság Bence Vavra
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Kulcs Fatal Error
- Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
- Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér
- Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
- Roses The Middletonz
It’s a great final lineup, even if it is missing a few of my favourites (on the other hand, the few songs I disliked have also been disposed of). Before I take a stab at guessing the winner and Hungary’s representative at Eurovision 2019, I want to review what’s left while I still have the chance. From my least-loved songs all the way up to my FTW faves, this is my top eight.
Kulcs kicks off my list…at the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it. I’d just file it away under ‘Songs That Are A Lot Like Viszlat Nyár But Not As Good’, and to me that’s not the sort of song Hungary should send to Tel Aviv (particularly so soon after Viszlat). Fatal Error are a little too frantic and noisy for me to rank them any higher.
Next up I’ve got Nyári Zápor, which has surprised me by a) getting this far in the comp, and b) scoring so well with the jury. It’s a nice, feel-good song that I’m happy to listen to in the car or while I’m housecleaning (I vacuum 47% faster accompanied by music, FYI) but I don’t get the hype coming from A Dal’s panel of music pros. Am I continuing to underestimate Acoustic Planet when I say that if they make the “super final” stage tonight I’ll be surprised? Probably.
Szótlanság is another song I thought would have been eliminated by now, but I have to give props to its (performance) props and Bence’s solid vocals. Apart from that I feel like it’s pretty anonymous compared to most of the other songs – Madár, Repülj! and Roses, for instance, are way more distinctive. But it’s still a decent track.
Heading into my top five and the songs I wouldn’t mind seeing in Israel, here’s Holnap. This flew under the radar pre-performance, only to impress a lot of us once brought to life by Bogi. I’m keeping a close eye on it and wouldn’t count it out of winning contention. It’s a simplistic but beautiful ballad, and the fragility of Bogi’s voice is captivating. She doesn’t need to swing from a hoop suspended six feet off the ground to grab attention…but that actually adds value and interest without cheapening a classy song.
Gergő Oláh is lucky to be in the final at all after Hozzád Bújnék replaced Petruska’s Help Me Out of Here earlier this week. I wanted him there all along, so I can’t help being happy that he’s making up the numbers. Of the two traditional ballads in this eight, Hozzád is the more dynamic and powerful one, and Gergő belts it out without breaking a sweat. He won’t win with it, but that’s okay because until he tops Gyóz A Jő I don’t really want him to.
It’s top three time now, and my (hypothetical) bronze medal goes to Gergő No. 2 with Madár, Repülj!. I was confused by this song at first because it’s all over the place structurally and stylistically, but those are the same things I’ve come to appreciate about it. If it goes to Eurovision, it’s sure to be a standout no matter what else is it’s up against. Side note: Gergő is super cute and I want to fly to Hungary expressly to run my fingers through his hair. Is that weird?
Funnily enough, I’ve ranked what I think is the best song in this final 2nd overall (you’ll get an explanation in a minute). I’m talking about Roses, easily the best effort from András Kalláy-Saunders in A Dal since Running. This song is contemporary, radio-friendly, original and has more hooks than a fishing supplies superstore. To top it off, I thought it might be disastrous when The Middletonz performed it live, but they NAILED it. Sadly it hasn’t had a heap of jury support, but the public vote has been strong – so if they manage to make the top four tonight a win isn’t out of the question.
Last but obviously not least is Az Én Apám. This is a sentimental favourite of mine because it’s Joci Pápai and I could not adore this guy more. His song might be more understated than Roses – and basically everything else left in the comp besides Holnap – but there’s something spellbinding about Joci’s musical style, vocals and authenticity on stage that makes my heart beat faster. And if you Google the lyrical translation of Az Én Apám (non-Hungarian speakers) and don’t experience some feels, why the heck not?!? To sum up, Joci’s sequel to Origo in terms of A Dal entries was always bound to be my most-loved track of the NF.
So there you have it. Unfortunately, I have no say in the actual results tonight. All I can do is predict them, which is the logical next step, so here goes.
Being methodical and looking at the scores from the heats helped me guess last week’s qualifiers pretty accurately, so I’ve done the same this time with the semi scores. If you do it too you’ll end up with these guys as your frontrunners:
- Joci Pápai 36 jury, 9 televote = 45
- Acoustic Planet 37 jury, 8 televote = 45
- Gergő Szekér 34 jury, 9 televote = 43
- Bence Vavra 34 jury, 8 televote = 42
- Bogi Nagy 34 jury, 8 televote = 42
Joci is in prime position despite receiving a slightly lower jury score than Acoustic Planet. Because his public vote score was higher, if both acts make it into the final four with 100% televote deciding the winner, Joci will have the edge. Gergő is a safe bet to accompany Joci and/or Acoustic Planet to that last decider, having had jury AND televote appeal at each point of the process.
This is where it gets tricky. Bence and Bogi can’t be separated based on their semi results, except to say that Bence placed equal 2nd in his semi while Bogi placed 3rd (but that just speaks to a more competitive second semi). And we shouldn’t assume that another act entirely – and I’m thinking of The Middletonz when I say this – won’t rise in the jury’s eyes on this occasion and score themselves a spot in that all-important four. If Roses does do it, the public backing is there (with a 9 on the televote in its semi) to potentially win. As annoying as it is, however, the jury is more likely to roadblock it while paving the way for something they’ve liked better previously.
Let’s get down to business. I’ve made my decision (after way too much INdecision) and this is the top four I’m going with:
- Joci Pápai
- Acoustic Planet
- Gergő Szekér
- Bogi Nagy
Once the A Dal jury input becomes irrelevant and it’s all about that public vote, there’ll probably be a battle between the male soloists. My heart wants Joci to win again and take his magical self to Tel Aviv, but my head is saying it’s Gergő who’s going. And you know what? I won’t have any complaints about that. In fact, if Hungary chooses a song that isn’t Kulcs/Nyári Zápor/Szótlanság, I’ll have the opposite of resting bitch face – and if they choose Roses/Az Én Apám/Madár, Repülj!, I’ll have a new no. 1 in my Eurovision 2019 ranking so far.
But yes, I’m officially predicting victory for Gergő Szekér. How about you?
Moving on to the last straightforward Melfest semi now, and…well, it’s been an underwhelming edition of the show to say the least. I’m easily pleased as Eurofans go and have liked most of the entries. But at the same time, there’s been hardly anything to love with a passion and literally nothing that has made me sit up, take notice and proclaim it The One for 2019.
I’m actually concerned that Sweden could be looking at a 2013-esque result off the back of last year’s televoting disaster. The upper right side of the ESC scoreboard would be a win for some countries, but not for a country that has only finished outside of the top 10 once and won twice in the last eight contests. But I might just be getting ahead of myself.
Let’s look at tonight’s seven. For all I know, The One is right here:
- Stormbringer Pagan Fury
- Känner Dig Anton Hagman
- Torn Lisa Ajax
- I Do Arvingarna
- On My Own Bishara
- Kärleken Finns Kvar Ann-Louise Hanson
- Too Late For Love John Lundvik
It’s a deltävling full of familiar faces, with Anton and Lisa already having competed against each other in the 2017 final. Lisa came out on top then, and I’ll tell you if I think she’ll do the same now or not after I’ve mentioned my personal favourites from this semi.
My top four Too Late for Love, Torn, On My Own and Känner Dig. I knew John Lundvik and Bishara (with Benjamin Ingrosso backing him as a songwriter) would be my 4th semi highlights as soon as their names were announced. That’s because I loved Lundvik last year; and because Bishara is adorable in every way, and as an Ingrosso fangirl from way back their collab was made for me. Lundvik going uptempo and Bishara sticking with what works for his voice/image is working for me so far.
Lisa Ajax is another artist I’ve cheered for previously in Melfest, and though I prefer I Don’t Give A to this latest entry (which you can tell was originally meant for Loreen), I think Torn could be more successful for her. It’s a moody ballad with sparse verses and a belter of a chorus, and I’m curious to see how she handles it live. There won’t be any toilet paper hanging from the roof or useless but pretty raincoats this time, that’s for sure!
And yes, I enjoy a bit of Anton Hagman even if nobody else does. I mean, if he butchers Känner Dig tonight we can just hit mute and look at him, right?
So, who’s going direkt? John Lundvik and Bishara. But take this with a grain of salt because I actually have NO IDEA. Turning to either the odds or the rehearsal poll (which was topped by these two) isn’t helpful when you consider how wrong those indicators have been for the last few shows. I think this prediction is more of what I want than what I’ll get – but Lundvik is a safe bet and the most likely to go DTF. Bishara could be too JESC, or could score well with tweens, teens, mums and grandparents all over Sweden. Based on rehearsal reports I’m not convinced Lisa will have more mass appeal than he does.
Who’s getting a second chance? Arvingarna and Lisa Ajax with the possibility of a Pagan Fury curveball. Arvingarna has their Melfest/ESC history and nostalgic brand of musical Prozac to stand on, and I think they could actually squeeze straight in to the final…but I’ll leave them with AC. Lisa could blow everyone’s minds or underwhelm, and that’s the kind of risky business that deserves a compromise (though I’d happily have her in the final in a way that Wiktoria would not). If one of these guys only gets as far as 5th place, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stormbringer slip in to Andra Chansen instead.
And that concludes this monster of a prediction post in which I didn’t actually do much predicting. It’s not always the fun part, to be honest.
Let me know what YOU think will happen tonight, anywhere and everywhere in Europe. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @EurovisionByJaz, for catty selection show comments and first impressions of the songs for Tel Aviv as they come along. I’ll follow back if you like to talk about Eurovision and send me some freshly-baked cookies!
Knock knock, who’s there? It’s Saturday again, duh!
When you’re living for the weekends like I do during national final season, it’s a blessing for this day of the week to come around so quickly. And boy, does it have a lot to love on this occasion. Here’s everything happening tonight:
- Croatia Dora, final
- Estonia Eesti Laul, final
- Hungary A Dal, semi final 2
- Iceland Söngvakeppnin, semi final 2
- Latvia Supernova, final
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, semi final 2
- Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 1
- Slovenia EMA, final
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 3
- Ukraine Vidbir, semi final 2
I know what you’re thinking: ‘Is that all?’. But don’t worry, tomorrow night we also have:
- Romania Selecția Națională, final
Do the math on this list of NFs, and you’ll find that Saturday + Sunday = FIVE more songs for Tel Aviv. And isn’t it about time? We’ve waited long enough to get into double digits.
I’m not about to preview/predict all of the above NF action, since I don’t want to send you (or myself) to sleep. I will make a quick wishlist for the countries I won’t be covering though, so listen up universe: Croatia can give me Brutalero or Redemption, Estonia Storm, Latvia Somebody’s Got My Lover or Fire, and Slovenia Kaos. Oh, and if Portugal could send Calema through as well as Conan (so I can figure out what the heck I actually think of Telemóveis) that’d be awesome.
Now, if you want to chat in-depth about Hungary, Sweden and Romania, you came to the right place.
It’s the second last Saturday of A Dal decision-making, after last week’s first semi final saw Acoustic Planet, Bence Vavra, The Middletonz (WOOHOO!) and Petruska (smaller woohoo!) make the final cut. Obviously there’s another hurdle for them to jump over in the final itself – making the all-important top four from which 100% televote will determine the winner – but qualifying to next weekend’s showdown is what everyone wants to do, and those guys have done it. Now there’s just four spots left for the taking, and nine acts after them. Let the (probably heartbreaking) battle begin!
- Kedves Világ! Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko
- Kulcs Fatal Error
- Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
- A Remény Hídjai Nomad
- Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
- Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Forró Ruby Harlem
- Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér
You guys know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year, and though I’ve lost some favourites along the way (JUSTICE FOR VILÁGÍTÓTORONY!) a few more are still in the running and competing in this semi. On the other hand, some of my least favourites are here too, and I’m hoping they’ll be among the sacrificial songs of the night.
Let’s start with the good stuff and work our way through to what will actually happen in Hungary this week, IMO.
My top four In random order, Hozzád Bújnék, Az Én Apám, Holnap and Madár, Repülj! Gergő Oláh is a perennial top pick of mine, and although Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz a Jó, it is a ballistic missile of a ballad that he – pardon my French in advance – sings the shit out of. My beloved Joci is back with a bang (well, more of a gentle tap on the door, but it’s beautiful and impactful nonetheless) and all the raw emotion required to sell such a unique ethno-ballad. Bogi is also armed with a gentle ballad, and the crystal-clear fragility of her voice takes it to another level (though the melody is worth mentioning too). As for Gergő No. 2, which is nothing like Mambo No. 5…well, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Madár, Repülj! at first, but I LOVE it now. It’s distinctive and dramatic without being throwback or an ultra cutting-edge track, and that makes it interesting.
My prediction Given that we know the results of all the heats and semis so far – an A Dal tradition that I enjoy and dislike at the same time – it makes guessing tonight’s final four qualifiers easier. There are five heat winners in this semi alone, however, with some acts having tied FTW. And in the case of Joci and Bogi, who finished equal 1st in the third heat, you cannot separate them – they both scored the same from the jury and from the public. I’m going to give Joci the edge based on his previous history though (and I better not be jinxing him by doing so). Fatal Error stormed to victory in their heat (somehow) so I’d say they were safe finalists…not that they’ve had to compete against any of tonight’s other acts until now. I’m also thinking that Gergő Oláh and Gergő Szekér have a good chance of advancing, since they also tied for the win in their heat. If there’s a wildcard who makes it out of this semi, I think it will be Bogi in place of Gergő Oláh (heaven forbid) or Joci (heaven forbid even more). But I’m locking in my final four as follows: Fatal Error, Gergő Oláh, Gergő Szekér and Joci Pápai. There’s a whole lot of testosterone there and I am not mad about it.
Who would you put money on to make it through to the A Dal final?
How can we be onto the THIRD Melfest semi already? Granted, the second one was a blur for me since I was busy attending Australia Decides at the time (check out my Aussie NF diary here if you haven’t yet) but I’m still shocked. Maybe it’s because – and I hate to say this – the 2019 comp has been a bit of a non-event, at least in terms of the entries (the hosts/interval acts have been fantastisk). Nothing has jumped out at me so far and screamed ‘Winner!’ of Melfest, let alone of Eurovision. Will that change this week with these seven songs?
- Somebody Wants Lovers of Valdaro
- Habibi Dolly Style
- Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck
- Victorious Lina Hedlund
- Om Om Och Om Igen Omar
- Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson
- Norrsken Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Based on snippets, no, that’s not going to change. I’m not saying I hate everything on offer here, but there’s a thread of ‘good but not great’ running through the entire line-up that worries me. And yes, I’m even referring to the much-anticipated Norrsken when I say that. But I’ll give this not-quite-magnificent seven the chance to win me over with cracking live performances.
My top four Somebody Wants, Habibi, Om Om Och Om Igen and Who I Am. The Lovers of Valdaro (feat. the guy who wore the heels in Moldova’s Eurovision 2018 performance) are the wildcards from Svensktoppen Nästa, and though I doubt they’ll outdo SMILO’s record of 5th place in a semi (being the highest finish for a Svensktoppen-chosen act), I am digging the beat and production of their song – it should make a great show opener. Habibi is my guilty pleasure and honestly, has the only chorus I could remember after I first listened to the snippets. I like the deviation from bubblegum pop to a more exotic Middle Eastern flavour for Sweden’s version of The Sugababes (because they change members so often, HA HA HA).
Omar definitely has the better song of the FO & O boys competing this year (RIP Oscar Enestad from the running) even if it is a mixed-language copycat of Side To Side/In My Cabana/Woman Like Me. Pop music is derivative, that’s just how the cookie crumbles – and I can’t wait to hear this spiced-up version all the way through. Who I Am rounds out my favourites list based on everything but the lyrics, which are so clichéd I have a hard time excusing it. Still, the power-pop style of the song and Rebecka’s vocal abilities are enough to keep me rooting for her.
My prediction This is a hard one. Last week proved that anything is possible and that the odds are not always correct (in a good way – go Malou!) so I’m not even going to use them as a guide for my guesses. I do happen to know that Jon Henrik is sitting pretty at the top and is as guaranteed of a place in the final as one can be, so NO-BRAINER ALERT. I believe in Rebecka’s potential to also go straight to Friends Arena, or to Andra Chansen at least. Dolly Style are in the mix after winning the audience poll, but I can’t imagine – especially after seeing a shot of their staging – that they’ll place in the top two. For me the last spot is for either Omar (hopefully) or more likely Lina based on her pedigree and the Jessica Andersson effect. Victorious ain’t no Party Voice, but it’s just what you’d expect from one third of Alcazar and that might well be enough. To sum up, I think it’s Jon Henrik Fjällgren/Rebecka Karlsson DTF, and Dolly Style/Lina Hedlund to AC. But feel free to surprise me (again) Sweden.
Which acts will go where in this Melfest deltävling? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Disclaimer: Normally I’d just be discussing Saturday night here, but Romania has inconveniently scheduled their final on a Sunday again (Ester Peony pun not intended, but a declaration of love for her song is coincidentally coming up) and I’ve got to talk about it. In amongst the 12 finalists there is a lot of cookie cutter music, but there’s also a handful of songs so good that I couldn’t stay quiet. Place your bets.
- Renegades Linda Teodosiu
- Right Now Olivier Kaye
- Dear Father Laura Bretan
- Skyscraper Teodora Dinu
- We Are The Ones Claudiu Mirea
- Your Journey Aldo Blaga
- On A Sunday Ester Peony
- Daina Letiția Moisescu and Sensibil Balkan
- Army of Love Bella Santiago
- Destin Trooper
- Without You (Sin Ti) Dya & Lucian Colareza
- Underground Vaida
Selecția Națională isn’t usually one of my go-to NFs, and for those of you who do adore it, sorry – I haven’t suddenly become its number one fan. But like I said, a few SN 2019 songs have caught my attention based on their potential to do very well at Eurovision, and/or how jaw-dropping it was to find them in the Romanian selection to start with.
My favourites Dear Father, On A Sunday, Daina and Army of Love. Laura Bretan is a pocket rocket with form on America’s Got Talent, and watching her semi performance of Dear Father had me shook. There’s something special in this song, and it has great build. Of all my top picks it is my least loved, but it’s the most likely to kick butt on behalf of Romania in Tel Aviv. My most-loved in this line-up is On A Sunday, which is like a musical love child of Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke and Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. It turns out those are good genes to combine. It’s a song so slick and moody, I can’t believe it’s not competing somewhere in Scandinavia. Ester is flawless live and I wish she was more of a contender.
Daina is Romania doing what I miss Romania doing. They could have sent it to Eurovision in 2005, 2011 or 2018 and it wouldn’t have made a difference (not to me, anyway). Will they send it in 2019? Not a chance, but it’s a killer – not filler – addition to the final. Speaking of which…where there’s smoke there’s Fuego, and Bella’s Army of Love is such a Fuego soundalike that the smoke is stinging my eyes. My ears are all for it though, because it is a banger! Empowering lyrics, ethnic instrumentals and a rap verse in Tagalog make for a rip-off I’d welcome into this year’s ESC family with open arms.
My prediction As much as I’d like to believe there are multiple contenders for this NF, I think the winner has already been signed, sealed and delivered straight through the window she’s shattered with one of her sky-high operatic notes. I mean Laura, of course. Personally I’d prefer Bella, but when I watch Laura’s performance there’s more than one point where I think ‘This is unbeatable.’ The song might not be the greatest to my tastes, but she makes it great and gives me goosebumps in the process. I said this about Kate Miller-Heidke last weekend and I’ll say it again now: If this girl doesn’t win I’ll be flabbergasted. If she does, I’ll be grateful that Australia isn’t in the same semi as Romania.
Whew…aren’t you glad I drew the line at discussing three countries? I’m done now, so if you have any thoughts or predictions for tonight that you need to get off your chest, my comments box is empty and waiting for you to throw stuff into it.
Who’s going to win? Who’s going to get knocked out? Will there be curveballs or will the bookies’ favourites follow through? Wherever it’s happening and whatever your opinion is, I’m ready to hear about it. My response will be more polite if you agree with me though…
See you on the other side of this super Saturday/fun-sized Sunday!
Hey you…it’s me again. Yes, that’s a Kate Miller-Heidke reference – it seemed like the perfect way to introduce this post, one that’s coming to you from Past Jaz. She recently arrived back from her trip to the Gold Coast for Australia’s first-ever national final, and she kept a diary while she was there that she wants to share with you now. Present Jaz figures you won’t mind reading about something that’s already happened, since it’s Eurovision-related. And so, without further ado – because this is a loooooooong read and you guys are going to need stamina to get through it – let’s rewind a week to the day I got to the GC and the magic started to happen.
Thursday February 7, 6.15pm
Somewhere between Sydney and the Gold Coast
Okay, so that was the worst opening for an Australian-themed post ever. I apologise. I just couldn’t bring myself to say ‘G’day, mate!’ – it’s not in my nature to go Full Australian™.
I will be doing my best to be Miss Patriotic for the next two nights though, as I scream hysterically in the audience of the Australia Decides jury show and televised final. I’m on the last leg of my cross-country trip as we speak (because even attending an Aussie NF requires me to travel a minimum of seven hours) and at the moment, things feel pretty surreal…and not just due to my altitude-induced air-headedness. Sure, I’ve made the pilgrimage to Stockholm for Eurovision and for Melodifestivalen (not-so-humble brag alert). But an Aussie NF is a different story. If you’d told me a year ago that Australia would be selecting their entry for Eurovision 2019 via a national final — and that I’d be there in person to see it happen — I’d probably have laughed in your face.
But here we are. And since it’s a special occasion, I thought I’d document it with this diary-style post so that those of you outside of Australia/unable to attend this weekend’s shows can live vicariously through me (or get bored by my ramblings, one of the two). There’s not much to say right now except something about the competing songs, considering I haven’t actually done that yet. I want to give you guys my first impressions before I give you a rundown of who nailed it/failed it in the jury show, and prior to me predicting a winner.
So, The Songs…*insert dramatic Law and Order DUM DUM here*. Well, if you follow me on Twitter – which you should, I’m hilarious – you’ll know that I am happier than Nathan Trent on Christmas morning with the line-up for this NF. I always thought that if we had one, it would have the cringe factor of its almost-namesake You Decide (sorry, UK). But SBS has come through and delivered some serious musical goods. As people born after 2000 and who don’t have dark circles under their eyes yet would say, it snaps and I stan.
Friday February 8, 11.15am
No Name Lane Café, Broadbeach
Sorry for that short break that lasted an entire night, but I had to stop typing so my plane could land. How inconvenient. To pick up where I left off, it’s time to review the Australia Decides songs in as few words as possible, and in terms of song quality/any artist biases that I may or may not have.
In alphabetical order by performer, let’s do this thing.
To Myself I didn’t watch Alfie’s season of The Voice, so listening to this song for the first time was also the first time I’d heard him sing. Clearly, he’s pretty good at it. And suitably, this song sounds like it could have been a winning TV talent show song, only it’s got more edge and less cringe than a typical track of that variety. It’s anthemic, goosebumpy in parts, and underrated, I reckon.
Dust I did watch Aydan’s season of The Voice, and my inner 14–year-old totally voted for him (and would have had a poster of him on her bedroom wall if she wasn’t actually 27). I LOVE his voice, and this song suits his smooth tones and Benjamin Ingrosso-esque falsetto perfectly. Great lyrics, slick production and a kickass chorus = excellence, IMO.
Fight For Love Frivolous? Yes. But fun and fabulous at the same time? Absolutely. Courtney is a pro with the perfect amount of theatricality, personality and actual talent, and this song is so her. I don’t really want it to go to Eurovision on Australia’s behalf, but I am dying to dance to it in the mosh pit (such as it is) on Saturday night.
2000 and Whatever Cards on the table, this is my favourite Aus Decides entry and exactly what I want to see in Tel Aviv. It’s everything I’d hoped we’d send to the ESC since our story started, but never thought we would. It ticks box after box despite being outside of the box, if you know what I mean: it’s original, high-energy, dynamic, hook-laden and features an Indigenous-language bridge that’s uniquely Aussie. Electric Fields, you have yourself a new and very devoted fangirl!
Data Dust In the battle of the dusts, Aydan is my pick by far. Still, Ella’s song fills a genre spot in this line-up, and gives us all the chance to have a mild headbang while watching the show. It’s catchy, got a good beat and seems like something she’ll enjoy performing, and that enjoyment should transmit to viewers at home. The chorus is pretty sticky too. It’s a good one to shampoo your hair to in the shower, trust me.
Zero Gravity KMH is a big favourite, and after an adjustment period I can see why. My first listen of this song ended with a WTF face because it was such an assault on the senses. But after a few more run-throughs, I realised what’s special about this – everything. It grabs your attention from the beginning whether you like it or not, and doesn’t let go. Reminiscent of Alenka Gotar’s Cvet Z Juga but with a stronger pop sensibility, it combines Kate’s classical and contemporary talents into one distinctive package. No wonder it’s a contender.
Set Me Free Anyone who predicted that an unknown 16–year-old would produce a song as killer as this must have super-psychic powers. I sure didn’t see it coming, but I’m glad it did. Leea’s moody, Scandinavian NF-worthy pop ballad is right up my street (I’ve saved her a space in my garage with an engraved plaque). The verses set up a beautiful, fragile atmosphere that flows into a punch-packing chorus, taking Leea from a place of vulnerability to a place where she’s not going to take crap from this mystery jerk of a guy any more. You go, girlfriend.
This Is Not The End We were spoilt by Il Volo back in 2015, because no male operatic song will ever measure up to Grande Amore (including Il Volo’s own song in SanRemo this year). I don’t mind this one, and there’s nothing that would have shown off Mark’s amazing vocals better. I just prefer almost every other song competing.
On My Way This has Sheppard written all over it with a big fat Sharpie. It’s anthemic, danceable and light-hearted without being cheesy (just) and as always, the O’G3NE-ish camaraderie between the siblings is appealing and sure to give them brotherly and sisterly chemistry on stage. I won’t lie, this song doesn’t blow my mind…but it’s what I expected from the band, and it’s a solid effort.
Piece of Me This was the last AD song to be released and sadly, it wasn’t a case of leaving the best until last. For someone who’s spent a decade living in Sweden, the home of successful songwriters of cutting-edge pop, Tania has thrown it back with this 2000s example of elevator music. Granted, it’s GOOD elevator music, but a little uninspired and dated. Also, the verses are stronger than the choruses which is a worry. Can’t she just perform Bachelor Girl’s Buses and Trains instead?
Friday February 8, 6.30pm
Casa de Jaz (a.k.a. My Air BnB)
That was another abrupt ending – maybe get used to those, guys. And now you know who I will and won’t be backing FTW, I’ve got to say goodbye already. It’s for a legit reason – it’s time to head down the road (literally…I can see the Convention Centre from my apartment) and see what the Australia Decides jury show has to offer. I’m meeting up with Anita from Eurovision Union (if you missed our recent Melfest collab, you can check it out here) and we’ll keep you informed on our socials as the show unfolds. Of course, you’ll be reading this after the fact, so if you weren’t following us on Twitter etc then, do it now and see what we thought in the past. Be overcome by our incredible observations and precise foresight and bitchy comments because sometimes they’re just called for. I’ll see you on the other side!
Friday February 8, 10.55pm
My Air BnB again
And I’m back, after one seriously impressive jury show – albeit one that could do with some trimming to make it less of a marathon. Still, SBS has done an incredible job transforming the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre into an ESC-worthy space, complete with a stage that looks stunning on and off camera.
I can’t say the entire run-through was as flawless tonight, but the performances aside – which were obviously being judged – it didn’t matter that there were some technical difficulties. That basically extended to Aydan having to restart his performance after his mic failed á la Estonia at Eurovision 2017, and hosts Myf and Joel visiting Struggletown for a few seconds when the autocue decided to have a breakdown. Fingers crossed these are kinks that will be ironed out before we go live.
Regardless, Australia Decides looks like it’s going to be an awesome debut NF, with (lots of) great interval acts – including two songs from Dami Im – plus Eurovision vignettes and host scripting that’s closer to Petra and Måns than the Portuguese quartet on the humour scale. To touch on the most important stuff, here’s my quick take on the 10 acts’ jury performances:
Who impressed Electric Fields, Mark Vincent, Aydan, Courtney Act and Kate Miller-Heidke. EF raised the roof and Zaachariaha’s flamboyance filled the room. Mark’s vocal power was undeniable. Aydan’s vocals were more understated but smooth as silk, and there was an intimate stage setup at the start that made him stand out. Courtney delivered the exact level of pizzazz feat. props we all hoped for, and Kate? Well, more on her in a minute.
Who disappointed Sheppard and Tania Doko. Sheppard might have suffered from expectations being too high – they were okay, but rough around the edges and looked messy on stage. Tania’s vocals were on point but her choreography was so bizarre I couldn’t take it seriously. Trying to make Piece of Me more interesting backfired a bit.
Who did neither Ella, Leea Nanos and Alfie Arcuri. They all turned out good but not great performances. Ella provided an energetic opener and an eye-wateringly tight jumpsuit, Leea showed maturity and sophistication beyond her years and Alfie sang like the champion he is (and flashed some welcome flesh in a shirt open enough to appeal to Sakis Rouvas). But none of them went above and beyond to come forward as contenders.
In terms of who would have scored big with the jury tonight, there’s one person who stood head and shoulders above everyone else…literally. Kate Miller-Heidke was in another league, and between her world-class vocals, elaborate costume and action-packed staging (it looked like there was more money thrown at her than at the other nine artists combined) it was a winning package. As much as I love Electric Fields and will be praying for a 2000 and Whatever win instead, I suspect KMH has just booked herself a ticket to Tel Aviv. If so, that might shock a lot of ESC fans who’ve accused Australia of playing it too safe recently (something I haven’t been able to argue with). At this point, I’m all for divisive – it’s much better than dull.
If there is a challenger to Kate apart from Electric Fields, I’d say it was Sheppard despite an underwhelming performance. And if I was taking a major punt, I’d say don’t rule out Courtney completely. Not only did she give her all to an intense three minutes in a latex outfit without breaking a sweat, she also did things in stilettos that I couldn’t do in sneakers.
My tip for the final top 3 based on the jury show is:
- Electric Fields
- Courtney/Sheppard (Australia might be about to decide, but I can’t.)
As I said, my personal favourite is Electric Fields. I think if I hated 2000 and Whatever it would actually stand a better shot at winning, so that’s a shame.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me (for now, MWAHAHAHAHAHA) because based on the length of tonight’s show and the energy I know I’ll need to get through it – and dance through it – in the “mosh pit” tomorrow night, I’ve got to get a good night’s sleep. It will probably involve dreams of giant silver caterpillar cocoons, fire-engine-red latex and Joel Creasey dressed as Dami Im. You know, the usual. Good night!
Saturday February 9, 5.43pm
My Air BnB yet again
This is it, guys! The day Australia’s entire Eurovision-obsessed population – and a lot of non-Aussies – have been waiting for. I’ve just eaten a bowl of cereal as my pre-show fuel, which is pathetic but I’m way too excited to eat something substantial. I’ve also just spent 20 minutes writing ‘2000 and’ on one cheek and ‘Whatever’ on the other cheek in eyeliner, and it was time well spent.
I’ve been thinking about the likely outcome of this inaugural NF since last night, and I stand by what I said then – if Kate Miller-Heidke doesn’t have it in the bag, I’ll be SHOCKED TO MY VERY CORE. That wouldn’t be my ideal result, but I think I’ll be so grateful for Australia to have chosen something non-vanilla, I will happily stand behind Kate as our representative (not that you’ll be able to see me). After four years of mostly-successful but always safe entries, it’s time for us to be daring and show Europe that we’re more creative than we get credit for.
Speaking of time to do stuff, it’s time for me to get going. Hysterical screaming, awkward white girl dancing and other typical Saturday night activities await. Let’s do this!
Sunday February 10, 12.10pm
Between the sheets (in a very non-sexy way, believe me)
Okay, so I may have just woken up…but if a super late night followed by a 5am wakeup to watch Melodifestivalen (makes a nice change from 3am) isn’t a good excuse to sleep in until midday, then I don’t know what is.
I didn’t party after the show last night, unless you consider stumbling back to my apartment complex in the rain and falling face down on the bed to lie in wait for the midnight snack (a.k.a. pizza) I’d just ordered a party…which I definitely do. I did have an event invitation courtesy of OGAE Australia, but to be honest I was in PAIN after all that standing. Sounding more like a 77-year-old than a 27-year-old, my groans of ‘My back! My feet!’ were heard across the Gold Coast, and the concept of bed was too desirable to resist. I did pull an all-nighter after the Eurovision final in 2016, so there is a party animal inside me somewhere.
Anyway, on to more important info: we have an Australia Decides winner, and as predicted by moi and most other people with functioning eyes who watched the jury show, it’s Kate Miller-Heidke with Zero Gravity. Topping the jury and public vote meant a win you can’t really argue with (though I have tried a few times in my head) and her performance tonight was breathtaking.
But…AAGH, Electric Fields came so close! They were just 4 points behind KMH after the jury scores had come in, and not much further away after all was said and done. I almost wish they’d finished lower so that all the ‘What if?’ scenarios in my head were useless. On the other hand, 2000 and Whatever being the banger that it is = a probable OGAE Second Chance Contest entry and possible winner. I just hope we didn’t throw away a Eurovision winner, that’s all.
You could have predicted last night’s results by audience volume, which made it quite clear that the original three-horse race (between Kate, Electric Fields and Sheppard) had become a two-horse race between the quirkiest songs/acts on offer. That makes me proud to be an Aussie Eurofan, since clearly we’re not scared to take a risk. A risk I don’t think I want us to take is keeping Kate’s performance so similar to a bunch of Eurovision stage setups that have come before her (which I don’t think I need to mention). There are many ways to get her up off the ground that won’t cause cries of ‘copycat!’ come May – think trapezes, floating platforms or mechanical swings. Just not all three at once please…this isn’t Cirque Du Soleil, SBS, and we want Kate to live to a ripe old age.
All 10 acts upped their game tonight, and though somebody had to come last nobody deserved to. This has been such a strong start for us in NF terms, and Australia Decides has made a great addition to selection season. There were mistakes we can learn from – mainly re: show length and unnecessary padding – but the pros outweighed the cons by far. I don’t have to, but if I did need to wake up at 3am to tune into an NF like this, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
All in all, I’d call Australian NF no. 1 a big success that definitely warrants a sequel in 2020. And if that is the case, you can guarantee I’ll be there.
Monday February 11, 9.30am
Gold Coast Airport
And just like that, my whirlwind trip to the other side of Australia is over. I’m sitting in a café at the airport waiting on a flight that’s been delayed, and feeling that inevitable comedown that we call PED in May and I’m calling PADD at the moment. The niggling feeling I have that Electric Fields would have been a better way to go is actually getting more insistent rather than less so, but I think it’s being fuelled by some super critical Twitter types who think they know exactly what’s going to go down in Tel Aviv even though it’s February and we have 8 songs out of 42. Oh, and they’ve all got hate to spare for Kate, BTW. Hopefully she’ll prove them wrong in a few months’ time on a bigger stage, but if she doesn’t, I’m still happy that Australia opted for something adventurous given the chance.
I caught the show on TV last night on replay, and obviously it was my first time seeing it on screen. The first thing I noticed was my back popping up four times in the first 30 seconds, so it is now more famous than my face will ever be. I expect it to have its own Wikipedia page any day now.
Something else I noticed was that the bulk of vocals didn’t sound as good on TV as they did from inside the Convention Centre, but I found that at Eurovision too. It was still an excellent show feat. great songs, and an event I’ll be reliving a lot in the lead-up to Eurovision. I hope you guys enjoyed it too from wherever you are in the world (and if you were in the live audience, how RUDE of you to not come and say hi! JK, you can do it next year).
At the end of the day this NF was called Australia Decides, and you know what? Australia decided. Now it’s entirely up to Europe to choose our fate. In the meantime, Down Under we’ll be bowing down to our newly-crowned queen of Eurovision: Glinda the Good Witch, a.k.a. Kate Miller-Heidke.
I’m off to start winging my way home (finally). I’ll be back in a few days to resume normal NF reviews and predictions, as the season continues and we wonder which song will be The One for 2019. Who knows…we might have heard it already.
It’s Saturday once again, and you know what that means at this time of year: it’s an NF fest! Believe it or not, the five shows on tonight are nothing compared to some upcoming Saturdays (but more on that later). Here’s what’s happening in a few hours’ time:
- Estonia Eesti Laul, Semi Final 2
- Hungary A Dal, Heat 3
- Latvia Supernova, Heat 2
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 4
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 1
My focus today is Hungary and Sweden (apologies to everyone else, but a girl’s got to have priorities) so let’s get straight into it. As always, spill as much tea as you like in the comments re: songs/acts/results/predictions. I’m ready for it!
Time flies when a national final is as awesome as A Dal 2019…isn’t that what people say? There’s got to be some explanation for how we’ve arrived at the third and final Hungarian heat already. There are only six spots left in the semi finals, with ten acts hoping to take them.
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Az Én Apá Joci Pápai
- Maradj Még Kyra
- Hazavágyom Leander Kills
- Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
- Run Baby Run Monyo Project
- Help Me Out of Here Petruska
- Forró Ruby Harlem
- Barát Salvus
- Posztolj USNK
My two least favourite songs are listed above, which is a bummer (find out what they are here) but all is definitely not lost! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this heat for a few reasons, and the main one is spelled J-O-C-I P-Á-P-A-I.
Yes, the man who makes magic every time he opens his mouth is back for another crack at representing Hungary – and though it would be out of character for them to send the same person twice (András Kállay-Saunders is not amused), it’s not totally impossible. Or am I just biased because Origo is one of my favourite Eurovision entries ever and I love everything else that Joci has ever recorded? Check out my top picks from this heat and decide for yourself.
What do you know, I’m starting with Az Én Apam! Plot twist. This is my favourite song competing this evening, and though I’m not going to say it’s as amazing as Origo, it’s just as special and emotional – just in a more understated way. I’m praying for Hungary and the A Dal jury to support it, because if Joci goes the way of Olivér Berkes and gets knocked out immediately, HELL WILL HATH NO FURY LIKE THIS WOMAN SCORNED.
X Factor winners USNK are going gangbusters on YouTube with Posztolj (6.7 million views as I type this) which IMO is deserved for anything with ByeAlex’s name attached to it. The song style isn’t my usual “thing” at all but I love it here – the edginess and intensity of the sound against the social media-themed lyrics makes for a cool contrast. Hungary isn’t averse to rap (which I appreciate) and USNK obviously have public vote pulling power, so this seems like an obvious qualifier. Maybe too obvious…
Leander Kills are one of 2019’s many repeat NF offenders. Since they couldn’t win A Dal with Élet in 2017, they shouldn’t win with Hazavágyom. Having said that, however, they are in with a damn good chance and I would be able to get on board with them as AWS successors. There’s something joyful and unique about Hazavágyom that I like a lot, and I expect the live performance to match – and of course, to be as competent as yesyes were INcompetent (WHY GOD WHY?!?) last week.
Kyra is serving up some diva power-pop in the form of Maradj Meg, and I am here for it. I’m 50/50 on whether her performance will be as on-point as it needs to be or a car crash (or somewhere in-between) but I’ll think positive until she proves me otherwise.
My other two faves in this heat are Help Me Out of Here – the less infectious but still appealing sibling of Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind – and Barát, with Salvus delivering a classic slice of Hungarian rock that will probably follow in the footsteps of A Remény Hídjai and Kulcs by qualifying.
Who’s going through?
I’ve got an okay success rate going for A Dal so far in terms of predictions – 4/6 correct guesses for both heat 1 and heat 2. But I wouldn’t mind going one (or two, ideally) better this week. With the risk of opting for the obvious, I’m thinking it will be Leander Kills, Joci Pápai, USNK, Petruska, Salvus and Mocsok 1 Kölykök (my debatable wildcard) who make it to the semi final stage. In other words, I suspect the girl power level will be very low once the results have come in. If there does happen to be some female fierceness in tonight’s top six, I believe it will be courtesy of Kyra.
That’s enough about Eastern Europe for now (no offence). It’s time to talk Scandinavia, specifically Sweden, and more specifically Melodifestivlalen!
Brace yourselves, people, because Melodifestivalen has hit its first destination for 2019: Göteborg! I’m going to spare you guys another questioning statement about how we can possibly be at this point in time again and how fast the months fly by, et cetera. The fact is that we are here again and I’M SO EXCITED. I hope you are too.
There are returnees aplenty taking part tonight, including two 2017 finalists and (of course) Anna Bergendahl, whose claim to ESC fame I’m not going to mention since I think it’s time to move on (even though it gives her the best comeback narrative of the year). Here they are in running order:
- Chasing Rivers Nano
- No Drama High15
- Not With Me Wiktoria
- Mina Bränder Zeana feat. Anis Don Demina
- Mina Fyra Årstider Arja Saijonmaa
- Hello Mohombi
- Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
On name value, this is not the most thrilling semi for me personally, but the first one is traditionally not supposed to be (Sweden/Christer Björkman believe in saving the best until last, or at least until later). Even so, I have managed to pluck out four favourite songs.
My top four
Hello, Hello! Mohombi is bringing his A-game to this semi and I am so keen to see him perform. There’s something about this song I get just from the teaser that suggests it could do more in the comp than a lot of fans expect it to. Factor in staging that echoes Måns Zelmerlöw’s for Heroes and you’ve got an entry worth watching out for.
Mina Bränder is the good old ‘Swedish-language radio pop song that Jaz likes but nobody else does’ á la Stark last year. As such I expect Zeana and Anis to crash out of this semi, but only after I have bopped along to their three minutes – especially the chorus, which has a strong scent of Melfest 2005 about it.
Neither Chasing Rivers nor Not With Me seem like they’re the best song their artist has competed with, but as expected both are strong. It’s particularly hard to get a feel for Chasing Rivers by only hearing a minute of it, but it has promise. Wiktoria is trotting out all the heartbreak clichés this time, but because Not With Me reminds me a lot of Isa’s I Will Wait and this is Wiktoria we’re talking about, I have to get behind it.
I know this is a top four, but I have to mention Anna’s Ashes To Ashes. It slips into my 5th place based on the jarring similes that make up the lyrics (like a this, like a that…it’s OTT for me, I’m afraid) but the melody is memorable and her voice is as distinctive as it was in 2010. Lycka till.
Who’s going direkt?
Nano and Anna Bergendahl. It’s hard to tell just how impactful Chasing Rivers will be from the snippet alone, but I think Nano is enough of a force to be reckoned with to place top two tonight…even if Hold On was too much to live up to. Anna might not get the fairytale ending at Friends Arena that she’s after, but I believe she will be there in March. I’ve seen her stage outfit and she deserves to win this semi based purely on how stunning it is.
And who’s off to Andra Chansen?
Wiktoria and Mohombi. If Wiktoria doesn’t go direkt, it’ll be her first time having to fight for a place in the final, but I have a feeling it’ll be her OR Nano to Friends straight away – not both. Mohombi is an artist I was excited about heading into this, but he took me by surprise with the vibe of Hello – I was expecting Bumpy Ride Part II (which wouldn’t have been a bad thing). He did win the rehearsal poll, and if he goes direkt I’ll be psyched…but it’s touch-and-go between the big players in this line-up.
Who do you think will advance to the final or to AC from this first Melfest 2019 semi? Place your (hypothetical) bets in the comments below!
Tel Aviv: Reactions from the week that was
It’s time for me to share my thoughts on what’s happened in the world of Eurovision 2019 since the last time I did the same thing. Three artist announcements and two songs await!
Austria Paenda has been decided as the artist who’ll attempt to top Austria’s surprise 3rd place from Lisbon. She’ll be singing the unreleased Limits, and somehow I’m getting the same feeling from the song title alone that I got from the likes of City Lights – like I just know it’s going to be good. As for Paenda herself…let’s hope she’s more successful than the last blue-haired competitor from that geographical region.
Czech Republic Barbara Mochowa had the voice and (to an extent) the song, but Lake Malawi have something extra – an element of fun and very questionable lyrics – that got them over the line to become the Czech entry for Tel Aviv. We might come to realise this was a mistake, but for me right now I’m pretty pleased about it. Let’s face it, anything that came after Mikolas Josef was going to be a letdown in some way. I would happily have him represent his country every year, particularly if he keeps bangers like Abu Dhabi coming.
Finland My beloved Robin may have turned the ESC ticket down, but world-famous DJ Darude did not. And so Finland brings us the DJ + vocalist combo that we got from Norway in 2017 and Poland in 2018. Fingers crossed Darude and Sebastian Rejman model themselves more after the former than the latter. They’ll present their three potential entries on March 2.
France Against all odds (by which I mean Seemone) Bilal Hassani is France’s chosen one, and I couldn’t be more excited for him – and for myself because Roi is a JAM. I loved his performance in the Destination Eurovision final and I’m glad it was the French public that got their way. Haters back off!
Malta The X Factor concluded with Michela Pace crowned champion and automatic ESC artist for Malta. There’s not much to say at this point other than yes, she can sing, so for Ira Losco’s sake give her a good song.
What’s next for NF season?
- 5/2-8/2 Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Nights 1-4)
- 8/2 United Kingdom (You Decide, Final)
- 9/2 Australia (Australia Decides, Final), Hungary (A Dal, Semi Final 1), Iceland (Söngvakeppnin, Semi Final 1), Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Final), Latvia (Supernova, Semi Final), Lithuania (Eurovizijos Atranka, Semi Final 1), Montenegro (Montevizija, Final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 2), Ukraine (Vidbir, Semi Final 1)
- 10/2 Romania (Selecția Națională, Semi Final 2)
Next Saturday? HOLY CRAP. I’ll be over on the Gold Coast in the Australia Decides audience, so look out for me if you’re watching on TV or online. You’re welcome for the time difference that will allow you to watch our NF without missing any European ones.
Until next time (when I’ll review the Aussie songs and much more),
SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The French final, another Hungarian heat + my thoughts on Tel Aviv’s latest additions!
Bonjour, my fellow Eurofreaks (a sarcastic thanks to the UK for making me never want to use the word ‘freaks’ ever again). Welcome to a 2019 Super Saturday preview, Jaz-style! This is my first proper NF season rundown for the year, and I may be weeks behind everyone else but I’m also excited to get into it – especially now we’re entering the end-of-January-to-early-March period where there are approximately 65 national finals of varying stages taking place every weekend, with other announcements and reveals in-between. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tonight isn’t the busiest night we’ll have this season, but there is plenty of goodness going down. Specifically:
- France Destination Eurovision, the final
- Hungary A Dal, Heat 2
- Latvia Supernova, Heat 1
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 3
- Malta X Factor, final
I’m not following Latvia, Lithuania or Malta very closely at this point (either because there are other things to focus on or I’m plain disappointed in the song selection) so today I’ll be talking all things French and Hungarian exclusively…with a few thoughts on the Class of ESC 2019 so far thrown in at the end. I’ll leave you to keep reading if you want to (please do) and to comment your opinions on what’s happened re: Tel Aviv and what might happen this evening. Meanwhile I’ll be busy deciding whether to watch Destination Eurovision or A Dal, because á la Bucks Fizz I really need to make my mind up.
FRANCE: Is the Destination Eurovision final a three-horse race?
After two semis, a few shock DNQs and one song title switch, voilà – we have arrived at our destination. Destination Eurovision, that is. In a field that isn’t as strong as last year’s (for me, at least), eight songs remain in the fight for the French ticket to Tel Aviv.
- Là-Haut, Chimène Badi
- Allez Leur Dire, Silvàn Areg
- Sois Un Bon Fils, Doutson
- Comme Une Grande, Aysat
- Tous Les Deux, Seemone
- La Promesse, Emmanuel Moire
- Roi, Bilal Hassani
- La Voix d’Aretha, The Divaz
If I could go back in time and get my way with the semi results, things would be different looking at this lineup (Gabriella, Lautner and Ugo would be listed, for starters). But as it stands, all of the songs are enjoyable in their own way and should make for a final worth watching. According to the odds as I type this, Bilal is the most likely winner, closely followed by Seemone and Emmanuel. But who do I think should – and will – win?
His performance in the first semi wasn’t as flawless or affecting as Seemone’s in the second, but I’m happy to have Bilal in prime position with bookmakers at the moment – Roi is my no. 1 song left in the competition. If there’s anything I could learn to love as much as I loved Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva in 2018, it’s this not-totally-dissimilar track that mixes French and English as fast and fluidly as France’s JESC runner-up Jamais Sans Toi. Bilal is an iconic performer with a great personality, and if he amps things up tonight and gives 110% to his time on stage, then he could easily end up having to keep mid-May free for Eurovision.
I didn’t “get” this until I saw it performed, but La Promesse is now right behind Roi in my ranking á la Francais. It was staged simply but beautifully, and Emmanuel matched the visual beauty with Schwarzenegger-strong vocal game. This is a classic example of a song lifted by a live performance. Dark horse alert!
Seemone is the opposite of a dark horse, and while Tous Les Deux is not the song I’d prefer to see representing France in Tel Aviv, I will be able to climb on the bandwagon if it wins. All this girl has to do is stand there and sing (in sparkly shoes for an added My Little Pony + Wizard of Oz vibe) and the majority of us will buy what she’s selling. You don’t have to be fluent in French to know that this is an emotionally-charged song, and the emotions do appear authentic. I just hope that continues to be the case over time if Seemone does go to the ESC.
Doutson rounds out my favourites with the trés danceable Sous Un Bon Fils. It’s nothing mindblowing and has zero chance of winning, but it’s fun – and cute where mini-Doutson is concerned.
Who will win?
Much of this final is made up of a) okay songs performed very well (e.g. Là-Haut and La Voix d’Aretha) and b) good songs that could benefit from a better performance (like Comme Une Grande). The top three favourites are the best of both worlds. I think it’s asking a little too much for Emmanuel to win, unless points are so split between Bilal and Seemone that he does it almost by default. My gut feeling though – and my prediction based on her solid win in the stronger of the two semis – is that Seemone will succeed Madame Monsieur as France’s Eurovision rep. I don’t think she’ll beat Bilal by a huge margin, but by enough to get her crowned fair and square. This means that once again, my personal favourite will be pipped by a song I like, but don’t like as much…still, the pain will be practically nonexistent compared to what I felt when Eva lost to Mercy at the last second (but whatever, I’m TOTALLY OVER IT *sobs*).
Now, let’s fly over to Eastern Europe and stay for a while. There’s lots to talk about!
HUNGARY: Big hitters in A Dal’s second heat
If you read my last post, you’ll know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year. It’s always a great NF to get into, but there’s a particularly huge percentage of kick-ass music on offer in 2019 (as far as my tastes go, anyway). If you read my last post you’ll also know that I was/am in love with Olivér Berkes’ Világítótorony, which failed to qualify from last Saturday’s heat and broke my heart in the process. I’m sure you’re feeling pretty unhappy about it too, Olivér, so feel free to hit me up if you want someone to share a pity party with.
Here’s hoping this week’s heat goes more my way (since I’m still trying to tape my poor heart back together). Once again there are six spots up for grabs, with these 10 songs in contention:
- Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet
- Szótlanság, Bence Vavra
- La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie
- Little Bird, Diana
- Kulcs, Fatal Error
- Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy
- You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu
- Roses, The Middletonz
- Ő, The Sign
- Incomplete, yesyes
Neither of the two songs I straight up dislike are in this heat, so it’s safe to say I’m excited about it. Tonight is also a battle between five-time participant and ESC alum András Kállay-Saunders (as half of The Middletonz) and 2018 runners-up yesyes, to see if there’s room for both of them to qualify. I suspect there is…and if you want to know what else I suspect will happen in this round of A Dal, keep reading.
I might be in the minority here (and I say might because I actually don’t know) but IMO yesyes has topped 2018’s almost-winner I Let You Run Away with Incomplete. I’ve already professed my love for it in the post I keep mentioning, so I won’t re-ramble here. I’ll just say that it ticks all my boxes, has a definite shot at winning the whole comp and will certainly qualify from this heat.
My next pick is Roses. Urban, original and on-trend, it’s the kind of song that would stand out in any NF. I’m a little worried it will be messy when performed live as opposed to slick and cool like it is in studio, but The Middletonz should be innocent until proven guilty. I’m not sure Roses will sail through to the semis but my fingers are crossed.
Csak 1 Perc and La Mama Hotel are the best of the rest for me. The former screams radio hit and I love it, but again I’m nervous to see whether it will be a success or a fail on stage. La Mama Hotel is rocky and intense and like basically every type of song, makes Hungarian sound so damn good. Insert prayer for these two to make tonight’s top six here!
I’m not too fussed either way about the other six songs, but if I had to pick two more to advance I’d go with Nyári Zápor and Ő.
Who’s going through?
I’m even rustier when it comes to predictions than usual, and I had a super hard time with this one. The Hungarian public and jury can vote in mysterious ways, and realistically, almost anything from this heat has the potential to rise or fall. I am confident that yesyes will qualify and either outright win or tie FTW. Following behind in an orderly fashion will be, I’m guessing, The Middletonz, Fatal Error, Diana, Acoustic Planet and Dávid Heatlie. Don’t be surprised if Klára’s too-Disney-for-Disney ballad sneaks through though – it wouldn’t be the first time A Dal has rewarded a song like that.
Who do you think will make the grade in this Hungarian heat? Let me know in the comments while you still can!
The ESC 2019 songs and singers so far
My bad – I’ve realised I’m yet to react to ANY of the recently (and some not-so-recently) selected songs and/or artists for Eurovision 2019. Let’s fix that, shall we?
Albania It’s Jonida Maliqi and her amazingly white teeth (seriously, who does her dental work? I need the inside info) who’ll be flying the Albanian flag in Israel. Ktheju Tokës is a promising track with all the grandeur and mysteriousness of a typical Albanian entry, but I’m not sure that it can hit the heights of Mall. I’ll save any further thoughts for the inevitably revamped version.
Belgium Voice graduate Eliot Vassamillet is dropping his dope surname for the ESC and will be aiming to pick up where Blanche left off rather than where Sennek did. The trend has been for RTBF’s acts to do consistently well (Roberto Bellarosa/Loïc Nottet/Blanche) – and since Eliot’s song will be penned by City Lights writer Pierre Dumoulin, I’d say watch out, everyone else. Fun fact: Eliot was born in 2000 and is somehow old enough to be out of nappies and of ESC age. My god, I feel old.
Macedonia She’s been in the background and foreground of a few contest performances in her time, and now Tamara Todevska has been selected to solo for Macedonia. Her 2008 entry is a slightly guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve liked what she entered previous Macedonian NFs with, so I’m thinking this was a good choice. Here’s hoping she can do better than her sister Tijana did back in Copenhagen.
The Netherlands Fairly unknown (not complaining) Duncan Laurence will follow in Waylon’s footsteps for the Netherlands, though hopefully not to the point of wearing a leopard-print pimp coat on stage. What we do know about Duncan is that he’s easy on the eyes, and has a beautiful and distinctive voice at his disposal (thanks to a leaked demo version of a song that may or may not be his ESC entry). I’m quite excited about this guy.
San Marino Was San Marino trolling us all by letting us think the Human Ken Doll was representing them? I don’t really care, I’m so relieved that he isn’t. That left the door wide open for Serhat to come strolling through as he did in 2016, and I feel stupid for not seeing it coming. I don’t know how to feel about this news, but there’s a chance we could get a decent song out of him this time (i.e. one that isn’t the guiltiest of guilty pleasures). That’s what I’m hanging on to.
Spain In a disappointingly non-dramatic outcome, Spain chose Miki and the super-fun La Venda to go to Eurovision rather than risking a televised ‘Why me?!?’ tantrum and subsequent refusal to go from Maria. Overall, I think they made a smart choice. Miki has loads of energy and charisma, looks like Amir back in Amir’s university party days, and is armed with three minutes of Latin-flavoured happiness. I like the song and expect it to grow on me even more, but I think some fans are getting ahead of themselves with the top 5 proclamations.
PS…I’ll slip in a little word here about the freshly-revealed host quartet for 2019. First things first, I am not a fan of the four-host scenario – it puts too many cooks into the Eurovision kitchen and gets messy very easily. But on face value, the four handpicked by KAN – supermodel Bar Refaeli, and TV presenters Erez Tal, Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub – look promising, and like they’ll have a decent dynamic. Rumour has it there’ll be a divide between Refaeli and Tal as the main hosts, and Azar and Ayoub as the green room hosts, so that should help.
What’s next for NF season?
- 27/1 Romania (Selecţia Natională, SF1)
- 28/1 Czech Republic (ESCZ winner announcement), Eurovision 2019 (allocation draw)
- 29/1 Finland (artist announcement)
- 31/1 Estonia (Eesti Laul, SF1)
I think I’ve finally said all I had to say for now, so congrats if you got through it. If you have any energy left, head down to that comment box and spill the tea on anything to do with Eurovision 2019, national finals, what you’re watching and expecting tonight and your personal problems if they’re interesting.
I’ll see you on the other side of this (sort of) Super Saturday!
A DAL, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN | A love letter to Hungary’s Eurovision 2019 song selection feat. my top 30!
In case you didn’t know, Sweden is my all-time favourite Eurovision country and the one I support unconditionally every year (2009 aside…La Voix was a moment of insanity on their part). But I have to say, there’s another nation nipping at their stylishly-shod heels.
Hungary has gifted three minutes of greatness (in every genre imaginable) to the ESC almost every time they’ve participated, and while I’ve been waiting for them to finally win I’ve kept a close eye on their national final A Dal. And this year, the competition is seriously wow. I mean, if I had to sum up how I feel about it in just a few words, ‘VISZLAT NYASSS!!!’ would do it.
Thankfully I don’t have to limit myself to just a few words, so instead I’m going to devote an entire blog post to how awesome it is. The upcoming A Dal is too good NOT to discuss in detail to the point where you guys are snoring and drooling – so maybe grab some coffee (triple shot) before you check out my thoughts on all 30 entries as we wait for the comp to start on Saturday night. And as always, share your agreements and disagreements in the comments. I’m desperate to know if you’re as impressed by Hungary this year as I am!
My A Dal douze pointers
Working from best to worst, this is my top 10 in a comp that’s setting the standard for song quality this NF season. If the Eurovision gods are smiling down on me when the A Dal final rolls around, one of these tracks will win it. If not, I may cry a little.
Lighthouse, Olivér Berkes This song does to me what I think Amar Pelos Dois did to a lot of people (but NOT me): it makes me feel feelings that manifest in the form of goosebumps, spine tingles and moist eyes that I may or may not blame on allergies. It’s one of the prettiest piano ballads my ears have ever been exposed to, and Olivér – competing in A Dal for the first time as a soloist and the third time overall – delivers it emotively and with the perfect mix of flawless and rough-edged vocals. I do think the Hungarian version Világítótorony is extra special, so I’m hoping Olivér opts to sing that during A Dal. Either way though, it will be stunning.
Wasted, Barni Hamar Barni might look like he should be competing in a JESC NF, but his song is totally ready for adult Eurovision. Wasted – composed and written Mikolas Josef style by Barni himself – is exactly the kind of cutting-edge, catchy as heck radio pop I always gravitate towards when the A Dal songs are unveiled. I’ve had it stuck in my head for days and I’m not complaining about it. This song is the bomb, and if you love it too, check out Barni’s EP Different on Spotify – the whole thing is in the same musical and lyrical neighbourhood.
Incomplete, yesyes Truth time: I didn’t get the yesyes hype last year, when they finished just behind AWS with I Let You Run Away. With this comeback track, they’ve taken the skeleton of that song and fleshed it out, bringing something to life I can definitely say yesyes to. Incomplete has every box on my douze-point checklist ticked – it’s current, dynamic, edgy, atmospheric and catchy. Plus, the potential for a kick-ass light show to accompany it is sky high, and that tends to make me happy. Watch out for this one, because it could run away (see what I did there) with the win very easily.
Roses, The Middletonz This is the fifth time András Kállay-Saunders has attempted to represent Hungary at Eurovision (with a 1/5 success rate, obviously). This latest try is giving him a pretty good shot at victory in my opinion (as someone whose own success rate at predicting the outcomes of national finals is laughable). Roses is a love it or hate it sort of song, but clearly I love it. What I love most about it is how it’s ever-evolving, shapeshifting in sound constantly throughout the three minutes but in a pattern that you can follow. I’ve never heard a song quite like it before, and neither has Eurovision. Just saying…
Az Én Apám, Joci Pápai My boy is back! I nearly passed out when I heard that Joci, the man behind one of my all-time favourite ESC entries and a string of other amazing songs, was giving A Dal another go. Given Hungary’s tendency to bounce from genre to genre and never send the same act twice, I don’t think we’ll see him at Eurovision 2019 – but they could do a lot worse than sending this heartfelt ethno-folk ballad. It might not be as dramatic as Origo (topping that is impossible) but it’s just as beautiful and arresting in its own way.
Posztolj, USNK As soon as I found out that ByeAlex co-wrote this, I knew I’d soon be professing my love for it on this blog. And here we are! That songwriter credit is the only thing Posztolj has in common with Kedvesem (another favourite ESC entry of mine), but I’m a fan regardless. It serves swag, attitude and grit, and makes me feel cooler than I actually am just by listening to it. USNK, fresh from winning Hungary’s X Factor, obviously have public vote-pulling power too. I don’t think Hungary would be afraid to send this to the A Dal final.
Százszor Visszajátszot, Konyha I’m strangely bummed that I like this so much because it means I have to type out that crazy long title more often (JK…I’ll be copying and pasting). But it’s too good to resist. Hungarian is one of my most beloved musical languages, and this song is a great example of why. It’s slick, it’s neat, and that chorus is infectious times infinity. I also think it works as chill party background music, a song you’d sing along to on the radio in the car AND one that can compete in a contest. That’s no mean feat.
Maradj Még, Kyra Here’s the powerhouse female pop I knew would be in A Dal somewhere, since this NF leaves no genre stone unturned. Again, because this is Hungary, it’s not straightforward, middle-of-the-road cookie cutter pop we’re talking about here. Maradj Még has bite. It moves from solid verses to an awesome bridge, then on to an epic chorus feat. big vocals and a little EDM influence. I hope to heck that Kyra can deliver this live – if not it will be a mess, but if she can, HECK YES.
Hozzád Bújnék, Gergő Oláh Another returnee, Gergő is in it to win it for the fourth time, and while Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz A Jó (a song that deserved Eurovision and so much more) it’s still top notch stuff. Soaring, powerful and all class, it’s like a talent show winner’s single but actually decent. Gergő will want to be at his vocal best performing this, since it showcases his voice without spotlighting much else (i.e. there’s no bells and whistles to distract from a dodgy vocal). I’m pretty confident he can handle it.
Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy You might see this as a wildcard in my top 10, or at least as a song that wouldn’t be so highly thought of by many other people. But there’s always an underdog in with my favourites, and congrats Gotthy – it’s you this time! I don’t expect Csak 1 Perc to progress too far in A Dal. Unlike Százszor Visszajátszot (copied and pasted) it’s a definite radio song rather than a radio song AND a competition song. But that just means I will be streaming the shiz out of it on Spotify and enjoying every minute.
The rest of the best
I’ve listed all my absolute favourites from A Dal 2019 now, but I wouldn’t be devastated if any of these next entries won instead.
Hazavágyom, Leander Kills This is something a bit different from Leander Kills – and it’s damn good different. I prefer epic Élet from 2017, but this ethnic, unique and folksy creation is a song I wouldn’t mind winning the whole thing.
La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie I love the intensity and energy of this one. It passed me by a little when I was first running through the 30, but I’m glad I gave it the attention it deserves.
Ide Várnak Vissza, DENIZ I’m a sucker for a rap/vocal combo (it’s one of the billion reasons I love Origo so much) so what DENIZ is bringing to A Dal is A+. How similar does the vocalist sound to Medina though? Listen to 100 Dage, her collab with Thomas Helmig, and you’ll know what I mean.
Holnap, Bogi Nagy If you’re looking for a female equivalent of Olivér Berkes – or a female-led song that’s simple, pretty and emotive like Lighthouse – here’s your girl and here’s your song. It’s far from being in Lighthouse’s league, but it’s a really nice ballad and Bogi’s vocals are practically angelic.
Help Me Out of Here, Petruska I loved Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind, and for me this one doesn’t quite measure up to that. But the Paul Simon Graceland vibes put me in a good mood.
Barát, Salvus The early 2000s called, but they can’t have this Christian rock-esque number back because I want and need it here in 2019.
A Remény Hídjai, Nomad Mid-tempo soft rock is on the vanilla side of things for me, and this is no exception. But vanilla is still appealing! Hungarian sounds boss in this genre like it does in EVERY GENRE IN EXISTENCE.
Ő, The Sign This is a weird song, and most of it is taken up by ‘Őőőőőőőőőőőőőő.’ But, even though it may not maximise the 180 seconds it has to work with, I find it so soothing and pleasant to listen to that I still like it a lot.
Frida, Rozina Pátkai ’Ethereal’ is a word I don’t use very often when I’m talking music, but it’s fitting for this track. I wish it had more x-factor to take it to the next level, but that’s a small pet peeve and I’m still impressed by it.
Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet I didn’t like this much based on the teaser, and I still think the guitar parts are way too throwback. But the rest is easy-listening enjoyment all the way, and it puts a smile on my resting bitchface.
Little Bird, Diana There’s one thing stopping me from ranking this way higher, and it’s Diana’s voice – it just grates on me. That aside, Little Bird is an awesome addition to A Dal this year. I’m hoping I’ll find the vocals more agreeable live.
I need some more alone time with these songs to see how I really feel about them, but there’s something appealing about them all.
Madár, Repülj!, Gergő Szekér I think I like this. It’s original and dramatic, no doubt, but a bit messy. Chaotic messy, not artfully messy like Gergő’s hair.
Szótlanság, Bence Vavra I’ve listened to this as often as I’ve listened to everything else, and I cannot remember how it goes. Yet when I do press play, I always think ‘Yeah, this isn’t bad!’. Go figure.
Egyszer, Mocsok 1 Kölyök I don’t feel any fire from this in terms of competing FTW, however I wouldn’t skip it on a shuffling playlist. The 90s grunge feels are strong.
You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu There’s usually a carbon copy of this song in A Dal (it reminds me particularly of Fall Like Rain from a few years back) and I’m never a big fan. This time it’s a guilty pleasure for me, though. The lyrics are beyond cliché, but the melody is nice and overall I find it a relaxing listen.
Kulcs, Fatal Error I have to be in the right mood to listen to this, otherwise the noisiness and frantic pace send me into meltdown mode. If I am in the right mood, I will headbang until I need a chiropractor.
Someone Who Lives Like This, László Váray Would I miss this if it wasn’t invited to the party? No, but I don’t mind it being on the guest list.
Kedves Világ!, Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko Okay, nothing special. I welcome every song that’s in Hungarian though.
Thank u, next
Loving or liking 28 out of 30 in this lineup is what made me want to write this ramble in the first place – but yes, there are a few songs I don’t like.
Forró, Ruby Harlem The style of this is not my bowl of goulash at all, and I find the chorus super irritating.
Run Baby Run, Monyo Project The verses aren’t bad but the chorus (another song-ruining one) is so repetitive and monotonous, it gives me a headache.
And that’s every single song on offer in A Dal this year from my perspective. I love so many that I’m guaranteed to get heartbroken during the heat and/or semi stages, but I’m confident we’ll get a great winner and Eurovision entry from Hungary in the end. Stay tuned to EBJ for my predictions when the time is right…
Which potential Hungarian ESC entries are you excited about at the moment? Is A Dal 2019 as dal-ightful in your opinion as I think it is? Let me know below!
Okay…so I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to be more prompt with my posts. Some things are just too hard to change, and I actually think you guys would miss the old, always late and always running behind Jaz if she was replaced with a new, punctual version.
On that note, it’s January 3rd and time for me to finally say HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I can’t believe 2018 is no more. Time freaking FLIES, but on the plus side that means we’re about to enter ESC NF season again – a better season than the best bits of autumn, winter, spring and summer combined. Before every second thing I type becomes ‘Melodifestivalen’ (or potentially ‘Australia Decides’), I’ve got to squeeze in a look back at the year we’ve just farewelled.
2018 began with a sensational string of Eurovision selections, continued with a phenomenal Portuguese ESC, and ended with an unforgettable Junior Eurovision. Accompanying those three events were hundreds of songs competing to get to or win a Eurovision event, and to honour the sheer awesomeness of some, I’m presenting you with my top 10 favourites from across the board. Keep reading to find out which songs I chose and why (there’s some weird ones that needed an explanation) then hit the comments box/visit me on my socials to share your own musical highlights of the last year living on Planet Eurovision!
#10 | Tengo Otra, Alejandro Fuentes (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)
Is this a curveball way to start this list? Probably. But being a Eurovision and national final freak means getting used to other people going gaga over songs that didn’t stand out to you at all. For some reason – a reason I’m about to try and identify – Tengo Otra is a standout of the 2018 NF season for me, knowing it passed the majority of fans (and Norwegians) by as part of the MGP lineup.
I can understand that when I remember it was surrounded by the likes of Rebecca’s big ballad, Ida Maria’s iconic and NSFW Scandilove and Alexander Rybak. But I think the Despacito Latin-pop influence that leaked into multiple NFs last year was peak bueno with Alejandro. In fact, I’m going to go all out and say that this song is better than Despacito (and it’s been inarguably less overplayed). Tengo Otra is just as summery and catchy, but edgier – and the production on the studio version is next level. It’s one of those songs that starts so mysteriously, you can’t help wondering where it’s going. And when the chorus arrives it’s not in-your-face, but it makes exactly the statement it came to make: ‘Visit Chile Or Anywhere Else Where Spanish Is Spoken!’. That’s what it says to me, anyway.
Should this song have been sent to Eurovision? Not before Rybak’s or Rebecca’s – but the beauty of national finals is discovering more music to love whether it gets to the big show or not. I will say that Tengo Otra > the majority of songs Spain has sent to the contest recently. To you that may not be saying much, but to me this track is a banger. It didn’t pop up on my most-played of 2018 Spotlify playlist for nada!
#9 | Scandilove, Ida Maria (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)
Can you tell that I rather enjoyed Norway’s MGP last year? A lot more than I enjoyed the Danish equivalent, that’s for sure. If Dansk has the monopoly on safe, cookie-cutter radio pop with the occasional bearded Viking thrown in, then Norsk has original, often moody Scandipop locked down. I can’t say the wonderfully bizarre Scandilove is moody, but it’s definitely original. Spice Girls with 1000% more attitude level original!
Behind the bonkers is a genuinely well-crafted pop song with a bouncy beat and unmatched energy. And you guys know I’m a sucker for a catchy chorus. When it comes to lyrical one-liners, this track is as quotable as Mean Girls. If you need fast proof, I’d offer up ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’ and of course, ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion, it’s f*%king freezing!’. How do you say ‘iconic AF’ in Norwegian? I’m asking because I also want to use the phrase to describe Ida’s spotted suit and High-School-Musical-on-crack staging.
It’s all so brilliant and impossible to ignore. There’s a part of me that wonders what it would have been like if Norway had sent Scandilove to Eurovision, but I don’t blame them for playing it safe. You can’t go from silent storms and grabbing the moment to I’M SCANDINAVIAN Y’ALL without building up to it.
#8 | Talk To The Hand, Aleksander Walmann (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)
This is the last MGP entry on this list, I promise (the 2018 show was just TOO GOOD). Eurovision 2017 proved that the lyrical genius of JOWST and the vocal talents of Aleksander Walmann was an excellent combination. And if it ain’t broke, why not try it again immediately at Melodi Grand Prix?
It wasn’t a case of JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann this time, but the man in the light-up mask remained a composer and lyricist of Talk To The Hand as he had been for Grab The Moment. What can I say? He’s got the magic touch when it comes to pop earworms with lyrics that couldn’t be less cliché. Granted, I don’t think anybody’s uttered the phrase ‘talk to the hand’ with sincerity since 2002…but I was quick to overlook that from the second I pressed play on this track for the first time. It’s funky, it’s fresh, and that guitar intro reminds me so much of the Seinfeld theme that I’m transported back to the 90s while still feeling very much in 2018 (which we’re not any more, but you know what I mean). It’s a song that’s seriously good without taking itself too seriously, and if you can sit still when you’re listening to it I feel compelled to judge you.
Having said all of that, I was actually surprised to see Aleksander in the MGP super final again – I wasn’t sure Norway would be so keen to send him straight back to Eurovision, especially when he was competing against Rebecca and the most unbeatable Alexander of all, Rybak. As it turns out, they weren’t (which may have been a mistake in the end) but I was happy enough to have TTTH get as far as it did. It’s a bop and a half, and I want the JOWST X Walmann pairing to keep on gifting the world with music just like it.
#7 | Time, Daniel Yastremski (Belarus, Junior Eurovision)
Creeped out by the whole concept of Junior Eurovision but don’t mind being exposed to JESC entries that could pass as ESC entries? Then pay attention to this favourite musical moment of mine. The only thing that made Belarus’ host act/song/performance from Minsk unsuitable for adult Eurovision was Daniel’s birth date.
For starters, the slick R&B pop anthem that is Time (the best Time ever sent to a Eurovision event IMO) was written by Kirill Yermakov, a.k.a. Kirill Good, who’s competed in a bunch of Belarusian JESC and ESC preselections – hello contest pedigree! No surprises as to why it strikes the best kind of balance between youthful and mature. If you’ve checked out Kirill and Daniel’s acoustic duet, then you should easily be able to imagine a parallel universe in which Kirill submitted the song to Eurofest and won with it. As for Daniel’s performance at JESC 2018…well, it was a total Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every way, that is, and very forward thinking – nobody would bat an eyelid if Sweden turned up in Tel Aviv with something similar, basically. Factor in Daniel’s charisma (he has more than I do and I’m a senior citizen by comparison) and you’ve got a package deal that stands out for all the right reasons.
I know Time wasn’t a hit with all Junior fans, and its eventual 11th place in the comp (I DEMAND JUSTICE) proved that. But if you read my review of the song back in November, you’ll understand why I love it so much and why it’s a highlight of my 2018 in ESC/JESC/NF terms. I don’t want the Kirill/Daniel story to end without the success and massive amount of points it deserves, so here’s hoping there’s a Eurovision collab on the horizon (a.k.a. the second Daniel turns 16). Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping myself busy listening to that awesome duet on repeat.
#6 | Qami, Sevak Khanagyan (Armenia, Eurovision)
Back in May 2017, foolish Jaz thought that Blackbird becoming a DNQ when it should have flown into the ESC final was the most painful non-qualification scenario she would ever experience. Little did she know that the worst was yet to come, around about the same time she realised referring to herself in the third person is damn annoying.
It’s not that I thought Armenia was a certain finalist last year – but I guess I fell so far in love with Qami (and if I’m honest, the sculpted-ab body armour Sevak wore at Depi Evratesil) I figured everyone else must love it too. Long story you already know short, it bombed out after what I have to admit was a slightly boring performance, and my body could not produce the amount of salt and water needed for me to cry out my anguish. I exaggerate, but it really did hurt.
Regardless, here is a haunting power ballad with ethnic flourishes – much like another song I’ll be talking about later – that captured me in the way Origo did in 2017. In both cases I stumbled across the songs after a previous favourite fell before the NF final and I was searching for a replacement. I loved and lost Deák by Spoon 21 during A Dal 2017 only to discover Origo, and then latched onto Qami in the wake of Poison (Ari Ari) not getting anywhere. It’s a typical song for me to go crazy over, based on my penchant for Balkan ballads. The atmosphere, beauty and power give me goosebumps every time. And it may be a slow burner, but like Aram Mp3’s Not Alone, the explosive climax (I’m talking in musical terms here, you dirty-minded individual) is worth waiting for. Armenia does dynamic songs very well, and for that I salute them. This one deserves a do-over in the form of staging revamp and a retrospective spot in the Eurovision final.
#5 | Lie To Me, Mikolas Josef (Czech Republic, Eurovision)
Together we’ve witnessed many Eurovision glow-ups over the years. Belgium sending Rhythm Inside right after ghastly Mother, Moldova following up the lacklustre DNQ Falling Stars with eventual bronze medalist Hey Mamma…the list goes on and on. At the very top of it or thereabouts, though, has to be the Czech Republic. How else could you acknowledge the mammoth gap between My Turn and Lie To Me in practically every department? And to think that someone initially wanted Mikolas to perform My Turn…holy WTF.
I cannot overstate how much I was blindsided by Lie To Me popping up as one of the Czech candidates last year, and as soon as I’d heard it for the first time I knew it had to be The One (you don’t want to know what I would have done had it NOT been selected for Lisbon). This song is nothing if not iconic. Ridiculously catchy, eternally danceable and lyrically questionable in the best kind of way, the only problem I have with it is the fact that I still don’t know what ‘Set my camel in the mood’ means.
It doesn’t take a genius to interpret the line ‘Whop-bop-a-lu-bop on his wood bamboo’, but even that gets points from me for originality. Eurovision gets lyrics that saucy pretty infrequently, so when Lie To Me hit the stage in Lisbon it grabbed eyes AND ears. A catastrophe seemed likely when Mikolas nearly snapped himself in half during rehearsals – an injury that could have led to a forced withdrawal – but he managed to pull himself together, play safe for the semi final and then risk it all (‘all’ = the integrity of his spinal column and ability to walk) with a flip for the final. The risk paid off, with the show Mr. Josef putting on earning the Czech Republic their best result ever by a long shot. Lie To Me has also earned him the honour of a place on this list, for being an irresistible song I’ll be lip-syncing for a long time to come.
#4 | Doma, Marija Spasovska (Macedonia, Junior Eurovision)
Brace yourselves, because I’m about to make a big call: Macedonia’s JESC 2018 entry is arguably the best song they’ve ever sent to a Eurovision event. That’s in my opinion, obviously…but Doma is something special and I know I’m not the only one outraged that it missed out on the Minsk top 10. Marija’s live performance was beautifully staged (which came as a shock since Macedonia are the masters of staging self-sabotage) if slightly shaky in the vocal department – and her song was/is stunning.
I’m not going to repeat all of the adjectives from my review, and my love for this can’t adequately be expressed in words anyway (despite this paragraph of typing). I will say that Elena Risteska, who gave us the epic Ninanajna in 2006 and who should have represented Macedonia again by now (maybe she’s up for a trip to Tel Aviv in May?) helping create such a spellbinding, spine-tingling ballad is not surprising. Elena plus Darko Dimitrov, the man behind a bajillion Macedonian/other ex-Yugo ESC entries, including Ninanajna.
With a songwriting team like that in her corner, it’s no wonder Marija ended up with such an amazing track. Armed with Doma in a less competitive contest, I think Macedonia could have reached a higher rung on the scoreboard ladder than 12th, but if it’s any consolation this will always be among my personal favourites of last year’s JESC.
#3 | Last Breath, LIAMOO (Sweden, Melodifestivalen)
I’m not the most confident person on the planet, but I am 110% confident in saying that LIAMOO should have finished higher than 6th in last year’s Melfest final. Last Breath is the bomb! There hasn’t been a better combo of rap and singing by the same person since all the way back in 2017 when Joci Papái gave us the gift of Origo.
Clearly I’m not the type to be turned off by rapping (unlike every jury member ever). I see it as a way of expressing emotions that can’t be expressed properly via vocal runs or money notes, and an outpouring of emotion is what we got from LIAMOO. A rapper first and foremost, the way he structured and performed the song made it authentic and believable because he was in his comfort zone. His verses are neat, quick and pave a smooth path for that cracking chorus, which always makes me feel some kind of way (whatever that means…it’s a good thing right, kids?). Sure, it’s quite a repetitive song, but I could (and do) listen to it over and over again without getting bored thanks to that magical melody. I also watch the performance a heck of a lot too. It’s simpler than Dance You Off and less of a statement piece – but with great lighting, some dry ice and rapid-fire camera cuts (á la Oscar Zia’s equally epic Human performance from 2016) comes something applause-worthy.
As a song that hits me in the heart, from a multitalented performer and accompanied by stripped-back staging, Last Breath is easily one of my favourite musical moments of 2018. I’m super psyched to see what LIAMOO and Hanna Ferm produce at Melfest this year.
#2 | Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso (Sweden, Eurovision)
I’m issuing a spoiler alert to inform you that this is the last Eurovision entry to make my list. Last, but the opposite of least, being my favourite entry from Lisbon and another song to add to the ‘Why yes, I AM incredibly biased when it comes to Sweden!’ pile. If I’m being honest, Benjamin Ingrosso’s entire 2018 was a musical highlight for me (I even enjoyed his endless Instagram stories about pasta). First came Dance You Off; then the World’s Greatest Bromance™ with Felix Sandman that led to Tror Du Att Han Bryr Sig, then his first proper album Identification dropped and blessed us all with an array of peak summer Scandipop. But it was his Melfest win on attempt no. 2 that had me riding a rollercoaster of emotions last year.
There were lows – one in particular that I call the Outrageous Televoting Incident of 2018 In Which Europe and Australia Displayed A Major Lack of Taste. But for the most part, everything to do with Dance You Off had me on a high. I mean, the staging for starters – I’m pretty sure the words ‘revolutionary’ and ‘dope’ were invented with that rightfully glorified tanning bed in mind. Benjamin was just a boy, dancing on top of and in front of lighting tubes, asking us to love him…and it totally worked on me (not a tough task since I was Team Ingrosso when he was dancing in front of giant foil-covered baked potatoes for Good Lovin’).
He claimed that Melfest crown/ugly trophy and went on to do the exact same performance, only slicker, at Eurovision. The juries saw sense and ranked him 2nd overall, and as for the rest – well, I like to pretend it never happened and just say grattis till Sverige on another top 10 result. Contest placings aside, the real reason Dance You Off is such a highlight for me is because as a song, it’s a pure and simple pop masterpiece. If Michael Jackson, early 90s R&B and a freshly-opened 2018 nightclub somehow had a baby, this would be the product. And thanks to Identification, there are siblings!
#1 | Eva, Lisandro Cuxi (France, Destination Eurovision)
This might be a surprise numero uno for you if Madame Monsieur’s Mercy was your pièce de résistance of Eurovision 2018. Don’t get me wrong, Mercy is a great song with a great message. But Eva is an even greater song (PLEASE DON’T ABUSE ME IT’S JUST MORE TO MY TASTE ASDFGHJKL) also featuring a message. Sure, it’s less about a refugee child and more about a single mother who moonlights as an exotic dancer…but sometimes it’s the most controversial/emotional subjects that make the best music (Exhibit A: Running, Exhibit B: 1944 and Exhibit C: Mercy, of course).
In a national final that was full of fantastic songs, Lisandro’s piqued my interest immediately above other eventual favourites like Ailleurs, OK ou KO and Rêves de Gamin. Not only do I love me some R&B, but as a Melodifestivalen madwoman I love anything that looks and sounds like it could go direkt to Friends Arena. Eva ticks both of those boxes, and also has a moody atmosphere, radio-ready sound and glass-shattering money note (one that was more on point in the Destination Eurovision final than in the semi, I’ll admit).
Some might say it comes across as manufactured and inauthentic compared to Mercy, but I will fight them to the death (or at least until we’re all pretty tired) in my attempt to prove them wrong. Eva just delivers its message in a different way and is packaged differently to Mercy. And it just so happens that Eva’s genre is more up my alley – so far up my alley that I may have cried a little when Lisandro lost to Madame Monsieur. I’m past the weeping stage now, but this kick-ass gem of a song has stayed with me and been played by moi too many times to count. I love it more than the French delegation loves CGI Eiffel Towers. That’s big love.
I’ve showed you mine – now you have to show me yours! Which songs from ESC, JESC and the NFs of 2018 do you feel blessed to have on your Spotify playlists?