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WE GOT LOVE, LASERS AND LUCKY DAYS: My highlights and lowlights of Eurovision 2018’s second semi final

Just like that, it’s over: semi final two. We now have our 20 finalists, 6 automatic finalists and a final running order feat. all of them. It’s bittersweet, but there’s still a lot of Eurovision 2018 left to experience – and this contest is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in recent years.

Before we find out for sure whether it will be or not, I need to get a big bunch of thoughts off my chest re: last night’s semi. It was a show I enjoyed a lot more than the first one for some reason (the Australia anticipation was real) and there’s heaps to talk about. So let’s talk!

 

 

THE GOOD 

Their song’s not the strongest, and neither are their vocals – but what Moldova’s DoReDos lacked in above-average sound last night, they more than made up for with an epically-choreographed performance (plus truckloads of charisma and stage presence). Comic timing was crucial to pull the entire three minutes off, and everyone on stage clearly had their watches set to the millisecond. My Lucky Day live is something you can’t look away from, and as such I expect Moldova’s televote on Saturday to be substantial…though in such a competitive year, not as massive as their televote in Kyiv.

I can’t not mention Australia and the sparkly ball of joy that was Jessica Mauboy – I’d have my citizenship revoked and be banished to Siberia. Biased I may be, but I’m (almost literally) bursting with happiness over the show Jess put on. Sure, she had some less than perfect vocal moments, but I actually liked the raw and unpolished way she sounded and moved. She performed professionally, but with enough vulnerability and authenticity to make her come across as relatable and genuine. And I’ve never seen someone hair-flick with so much enthusiasm – no wonder she got whiplash earlier on in the week! I wouldn’t change anything about our performance, and I hope Jess pulls something similar – or even better – out of the bag for the final.

My other main performance highlights were via Hungary, Sweden and Ukraine. AWS went off in the Altice by the look of it, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t attempt a headbang in my lounge room in support of the guys (I broke three windows and a table lamp, but it was worth it). Benjamin Ingrosso was always going to be an anticipated artist of the night for me (long story short ICYMI, I am a fully-fledged Swedophile and a big fan of Benjamin’s). Dance You Off was performed as flawlessly as ever, with the only thing I’d pick on being his choice of sneaker (go back to the Vans, man!). Mélovin’s closure of the semi made sure the run of songs went out with a bang (or technically, a flaming staircase) and he served up all the drama and intense gazes that I was hoping for.

There weren’t any bleeped-out f-bombs dropped, but I couldn’t help loving the postcard blooper reel anyway. We don’t usually get to see the production side of the vignettes that introduce every single song, let alone the parts of the process that don’t go according to plan. Thanks for that, Portugal – and take note, *insert whichever country we’re going to next year here*.

I think we all enjoyed the hosts’ Eurovision dance evolution skit – an original interval act idea if ever I’ve seen one. And speaking of the hosts (all twenty-seven of them), Filomena – who bears a passing resemblance to another ESC legend, Pastora Soler – is proving herself to be the host with the most, outshining the others (whose names I’m afraid I keep mixing up) with her green room antics and commendable attempt at the Loreen crab dance.

Results-wise, I was only really surprised by the first country to be drawn out of the hypothetical hat: Serbia. I didn’t predict Balkanika to qualify, but I’m glad they did, especially after Serbia missed out on a final spot last year. So did Slovenia, who are back in the final for 2018 too (in spite of Lea’s ‘technical malfunction’ gimmick). Russia did what I suspected and failed to advance for the first time – leaving Ukraine as the only country with its 100% qualification record intact (if we’re counting from the introduction of the semi final system). All the other qualifiers were reasonably expected – i.e. they were the 8 I managed to correctly predict. It’s been 8s all round for me this year, which is better than my 6 (!) from 2016; but a 9 in 2019 would be nice. In this case, I had Malta and Romania down as finalists instead of Serbia and Slovenia. But if it helps, I knew The Humans were goners once I’d seen their performance…

 

 

THE BAD

Speaking of Romania…as with Macedonia in SF1, ‘What were they thinking?’ is the phrase that comes to mind here. Goodbye is a great song, IMO, that would have been done justice if ANYTHING other than (what looked like) latex-clad masked mannequins were stuck all over the stage. It was like watching a performance broadcast live from a sex shop (and I didn’t want to know what had been dangled decoratively from the lighting rig). The outcome? An extra goodbye for The Humans, this time to Romania’s 100% qualification record. All bets are off in 2019 with regards to qualification, I’m telling you!

The only other thing I saw as a big downside to this second semi was Latvia’s failure to make it to the final. I kind of knew it was coming (and hadn’t predicted Laura to progress) but Funny Girl is so awesome and she was so kick-ass on stage, a part of me hoped she’d slip through. Let’s hope Latvia can avoid being sent home early (again) next time.

 

 

THE “OTHER”

For whatever reason, I thought the hosts’ script was slightly less AAAAAGGGGHHH this time around. Maybe it’ll be third time lucky and the script in the final will be totally listenable and not make me miss Petra and Måns like crazy. A girl can dream!

Norway – giving us Eurovision song 1500, thank you very much – kicked things off with aplomb, but I felt a little hesitation from Rybak. Maybe the pressure of trying to fill his own shoes has taken a toll, but I wanted him to absolutely let rip and charm the crap out of me like he did at MGP, and he didn’t quite get there. Now he’s safely in the final, perhaps we’ll see that extra gear we know he’s capable of.

The award for throwing everything possible at a performance has to go to Malta – they clearly took cues from Croatia 2017. Just when you thought nothing else could fly out of or appear on the stage surrounding Christabelle, it doggone did. The Chanel rule of removing one thing might have done them some good, but nonetheless I’m a little surprised they didn’t qualify.

Oh, Slovenia. To me, the ‘Oh shit, the music’s cut out!’ trick was a bad move in an otherwise top-notch performance – but apparently, I am wrong. It’s going to be even more cringeworthy when repeated on Saturday, but I’ll try and focus on what happens before and after that to console myself. At the end of the day, I’m happy to have Lea and her drop-crotch jumpsuit still in the game.

 

 

A WORD ON THE FINAL’S RUNNING ORDER… 

It didn’t take long for Christer Björkman and crew to unveil their 26-song masterpiece (let’s face it, the man’s had a lot of practice). Here’s what we have to look forward to this weekend:

First half Ukraine, Spain, Slovenia, Lithuania, Austria, Estonia, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, Serbia, Germany, Albania, France

Yep, it’s ballad central compared to the big-hitter other half. But you can tell Christer and co. did their best to create a varied line-up. Ukraine is an unconventional opening song, but I’m not against it. The most up-tempo, high energy tracks – Norway and Serbia – were put aside to be interspersed with all the slow stuff, which is understandable. France scores the lucky 13th slot, and gets to perform as late as possible in this half. Fantastique!

Second half Czech Republic, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Bulgaria, Moldova, Sweden, Hungary, Israel, Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus, Italy

Mikolas Josef has the honour of getting the real party started (potentially with an ill-advised flip) and will be setting all of our camels in the mood (whatever the heck that means). Followed, in time, by Australia, Finland, Moldova, Sweden, Israel and Cyprus, he’s one of many favoured acts putting forward a banger in this half of the show. Will it all be too much with one after the other? Will Cyprus do what the odds suggest and win after not having to outshine anyone bar Italy? We’ll find out (too) soon. I think the voting sequence this year could see douze points going all over the place, though – or at least to a handful of different countries.

 

 

That’s all I wanted to comment on re: SF2, so now it’s your turn. What did you think of the show and the countries that came out of it smiling? And, who do you think will win the whole thing? Let me know in the comments as we count down to the final…and the inevitable, soul-sucking fog of depression that follows it (I like to end things on a positive note).

 

I’ll see you soon – don’t forget to check out my social media @EurovisionByJaz before the final for predictions, and during for funniness!

 

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 8 (Belarus, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, Sweden + Switzerland)

Well, I did it! 43 reviews down, ZERO to go.

As you may/may not have noticed, I didn’t start my Eurovision reviews this year until mid-April. Over the past 28 days or so, I’ve worked my butt off and written an average of 1.5 reviews every single day – in between going to work, cooking enough food to keep myself alive and occasionally interacting with other humans socially. Sure, I haven’t ironed for a month, my floordrobe has to be seen to be believed, and I have unpaid bills stacked up to the ceiling…but Eurovision is priority number one. Everything else can wait.

I hope at least one of you has enjoyed my 2018 ramblings. If you’ve enjoyed them so much you want to go back and read them again before the contest kicks off – or if you’ve found me for the first time and want to catch up – here are all the links you’ll need for fast access: 

  • Round 1 feat. Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + The Netherlands
  • Round 2 feat Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania + Spain
  • Round 3 feat. Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania + Moldova
  • Round 4 feat. Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland + Latvia
  • Round 5 feat. Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal + Ukraine
  • Round 6 feat. Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia + San Marino
  • Round 7 feat. Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Serbia, Slovenia + the United Kingdom

And then there were six. Before we dive headfirst into Eurovision week, I need to talk about Belarus, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland. Is there a douze-worthy song up the sleeve of Alekseev, Vanja, Alexander, Yulia, Benjamin or Zibbz? Maybe there’s a few, as far as I’m concerned. If you want to know what I think and how I scored their entries, keep reading – and for the final time, scroll for the poll to vote for your favourite!

 

 

My thoughts Sometimes rumours become truths, and that’s how Alekseev ended up representing Ukraine at Eurov…wait. That’s not right. It could have been Alekseev flying the blue-and-yellow flag this year, had he not pulled out of the Ukrainian selection to try his luck in less merciless Belarus. That’s not where the drama stopped (it practically went on Forever). But, many debates in the Eurovision community and withdrawals by fellow Eurofest contestants over the age of this song (i.e. was it eligible to go to the ESC as per the EBU rules and regs) later, Alekseev is in Lisbon after all. And he’s there armed with the original melody and English lyrics of a Russian-language song that was definitely publicly performed prior to September 1st. That date rule is a bendy one, isn’t it? And I’m down with it on this occasion, because I freaking LOVE Forever. This song is everything I want in an old-school Eurovision power ballad. It’s dynamic, dramatic in that classic Eastern European way (Work Your Magic comes to mind as a reference point), has a massive chorus which in turn has two massive money notes in it (which spawned the iconic Twitter account Alekseev’s Mouth) and, like a few other songs this year, takes me back to the ESC glory days of 2004-2008. The octave change in the first verse is an attention-grabbing opening to the song, one that’s hypnotic in its bold, loud moments, and spellbinding in its softer moments. And the melody throughout is haunting enough to give me the shivers. Now, I know what you’re thinking: This is clearly not at the forefront of modern music and isn’t exactly a masterpiece, so why am I making it out to be The Best Song Ever? Well, I don’t have a good answer to that. All I know is that if you could get Eurovision songs delivered like pizza, and I ordered an epic lights-and-shadows power ballad with a sprinkling of cheese, Forever is what I’d expect to be delivered to my door. The only things I’d pick off it, if it were a pizza, are a few questionable lyrics. ‘No need to worry, rain falling down, it’s our happiest story and there’s no one around’ ain’t the stuff of lyrical legends. I’m also bamboozled by Alekseev’s ability to blast his way through Let’s Get It Started by the Black Eyed Peas, in English without any trace of an accent (for his Voice Ukraine audition….you MUST YouTube it!), despite the fact that a few years later his singing English is heavily accented. That’s what makes me wish, since the EBU would probably have allowed it, that he was singing this song as Navsegda on Tuesday night. Not that anyone’s going to be listening to what’s coming out of his (Twitter-famous) mouth when he’s got a BED OF BLOODY ROSES protruding from his back. If the sight of that is as laughable as the press are telling us (us = me ‘cause I don’t watch rehearsals), Belarus are on the borderline of qualification. I suspect they might be sacrificed in this deadly semi, and that will upset me forevAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaah.

2017 VS 2018? I wasn’t a huge fan of Naviband’s song (don’t hate me), so 2018.

My score 10.5

 

 

My thoughts I realise that anything Montenegro sent to the ESC straight after Space would have seemed like a stark contrast – but to go for a majestic Balkan ballad, right off the back of a song that referred to wet dreams, is a plot twist and a half. Bringing us the best possible Montenegrin option (their NF was pretty shocking) is Vanja, and if Inje wasn’t missing the magic ingredient that makes a Balkan ballad sensational (Željko Joksimović as composer) I’d be praising the Eurovision gods for its presence in Portugal. As it is, I’m kind of feeling it. It’s a slow-moving, slow-burning number that doesn’t quite explode into a climax worth waiting for (to use Slavko-approved language) but feels grand anyway. If Lejla by Hari Mata Hari is a Chanel, Inje is a Wal-Mart…but that’s only by comparison. Still, I normally go so (dancing Italian) ape over big Balkan ballads, I was wondering why exactly I couldn’t go crazy over this one. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s due to what isn’t there rather than what is – because what is there is adequate, if not remarkable. It’s slightly too slow-paced to whip up excitement; the melody of the chorus is simplistic when I personally prefer my BBs to be extra-rhythmic; and there are times when I could call it boring, even though I don’t want to. I guess I want the whole thing to level up. Like last year, when I loved the camptastic Space but wanted more from Slavko’s performance (wind/dry ice/a horde of hot, half-naked, oiled-up male dancers seductively waving huge, feathered fans), I like Inje, but I’m asking more of it than it wants to give. I want more drama, more atmosphere and more complexity (I’m very greedy, I know). I’m waiting now to see if the performance fills in some of the gaps – maybe when I’m watching it, I’ll get the spine-tingles I so desire. Or not, as Montenegro’s had as many staging misses as they have hits. They do have a capable, confident performer in their corner, which is a giant plus. Vanja may not be in the same smouldering category as Željko Joksimović, or be quite as compelling as Knez (and unlike Knez, is not an expert at making doves disappear and sawing people in half) but he holds his own. And he’s surprisingly hilarious on social media: a fact that may not help him succeed in the contest, but has won him a lot of admirers thanks to his snappy Inje-hater clapbacks. Vanja? More like VanJAAASS. Because he’s such a dope dude, I regret to predict a DNQ yet again for Montenegro, even knowing that every time they’ve sent a Balkan ballad in the past they have made it to the final. Third time unlucky, I reckon. This song would be a nice addition to the final 26, so if I’m wrong, I won’t complain.

2017 VS 2018? The disco-dance power and smuttiness of Space wins.

My score 7

 

 

 

My thoughts Any Eurofans out there who thought ESC record-holder Rybak wouldn’t end up representing Norway this year were very naïve. I know, because I was one of them. That was in spite of his irresistible performance of That’s How You Write A Song winning me over, after I’d already made the most drastic change-of-mind possible on the song itself. It went a little something like this: Listen No. 1 (with high hopes): ‘What the HELL is THIS?!?!? It’s TRASH, is what it is! You should be ASHAMED of yourself, Alexander!!!’. I was so disappointed, I could have cried myself to sleep that night (but didn’t ‘coz I’m a grown-ass woman and pulled myself together). Then came Listen No. 2, my reaction to which was (inexplicably): ‘Holy crap, this is AMAZING!!! I have never known the true meaning of musicianship until this moment!’. Okay, so I’ve dramatised that reaction a tiny bit to show you how much of a 180-degree turn I did. But boy, did I change my tune. I can’t even remember why I was so appalled in the first place…maybe because the song is a humungous throwback to an era that isn’t yet retro-fashionable again. I no longer care about that, and I definitely don’t care that Alex’s instructions for writing a song are wildly inaccurate. I’m too caught up in the bubblegum fun of the mid-tempo disco music, simple lyrics that make for a karaoke dream song, inevitable violin solo, and showstopping final third. I even love the scatting…what have I become? The onscreen scribbles may have been borrowed from Francesca Michielin, but they’re used more interactively á la Bulgaria in Kyiv, and look great on TV. If you’re thinking I need a reality check and should throw in some negatives to prove I haven’t gone completely insane…too bad. I swear, if anyone other than Rybak was peddling this track, I wouldn’t have come around. It’s not because he is who he is, with that Eurovision legacy, but because he has the ability to sell the song like his life depends on it. And I’m not just buying it – I’m throwing fistfuls of kroner at him while screaming hysterically. He instructs us to ‘believe in it’ in the THYWAS chorus, and he seems to practice what he preaches, pouring boundless energy and charm into his live performances. And he still looks so youthful (more on that in a second) that his childlike enthusiasm is infectious, not creepy. The thing I do find annoying about this, Alexander, is that you couldn’t wait another twelve months to make your (possibly) triumphant comeback TEN years after Fairytale. Nine years just bugs me. Also annoying (as it doesn’t apply to me), how has this guy barely aged, when he was 23 at the time of his win and is about to turn 32? Potential humanoid cyborg alert! More importantly, I might have to issue a potential two-time Eurovision winner alert while I’m at it. I can’t believe I’m even saying it, but Norway’s shift to 2nd in the odds after Rybak’s first rehearsal show how dangerous he could be. A safe top 10 result is more likely, but I am yet to discount this entry from the first-place fight.

2017 VS 2018? It’s another case of ‘I love them both equally and could never choose!’.

My score 10

 

 

 

My thoughts When Russia gives Eurovision their all, they go BIG (baking sweet treats live on stage and everything). When they really want to win the contest, it’s crystal clear. The only thing big about Yulia’s 2018 entry is the papier-mâché mountain she’s been forced to sing it on top of (the hills are alive…with the sound of mediocre music). And what’s crystal-clear about I Won’t Break is that, while Russia did good by keeping their promise to Yulia after last year’s Drama (drama so sizeable it deserves a capital D), they didn’t do good by her when they came up with this as her comeback track. It goes without saying that this song runs rings around last year’s almost-entry Flame Is Burning. But that’s not saying much, and unfortunately, plenty of the same problems remain. Once again we’ve been presented with a song that is a) unexciting and uninspired, b) belongs in a different decade, c) features wannabe-inspirational lyrics about strength and resilience and how there is light even in the darkest of places, blah blah blah, and d) in a language that Yulia is obviously not 100% comfortable with and cannot clearly pronounce with genuine feeling (which she shouldn’t be expected to). All of this is just on a smaller, much more bearable scale. I mean, I can sit and listen to I Won’t Break without wanting to punch a hole in the wall. But it’s still light years away from making a Best of Russia at Eurovision play list on Spotify. The beat is good, and I like the melody and the way it develops. But the lyrics are vague and clichéd, and overall the song is just not that interesting – it’s one of those you can imagine playing in the background of an Olympics montage (in this case, moments in which athletes triumphed over adversity) and that’s rarely a sign of imminent ESC success (Heroes aside). My biggest issue of all with this entry is that insistence – by whom, I’m not sure – that Yulia sings in English. It’s not her comfort zone. But for all I know, she was the one who insisted on it. I have to wonder, after trying so hard to win in Stockholm and losing to Ukraine, of all places (and Australia, but I don’t think Sound of Silence bothered them much compared to 1944), what happened to Russia’s A-game? Did Sergey accidentally leave it in the stage wings of Globen, where it was picked up on the sly by Christer Björkman and added to Sweden’s already stellar Eurovision toolkit? With the right song and the right approach, Yulia could be portraying Russia at their ESC best, and even though I Won’t Break makes Flame Is Burning sound…well, just as bad as it was, it still only gives her half a chance of success, if that. Yet we know Russia can do amazing things on the Eurovision stage. They certainly have the funds for it. I’m sure that mountain cost a pretty penny, but it wasn’t a wise investment piece. Is it a gimmick that will help them reach the lofty peak of the final, or is that 100% qualification record of theirs about to be destroyed? I can’t decide, but this must be the most dangerously close to a DNQ that they’ve ever been. I want Lazarev-level Russia back next year, please.

2017 VS 2018? There is nothing that isn’t better than Flame Is Burning.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Sweden may not be alphabetically last in this round of reviews, but this is my 43rd review for the year – i.e. I wrote it after the Swiss one below. I decided to save Sverige for as long as possible, like I was eating a particularly delicious slice of chokladkaka and leaving all of the frosting until last. Why? Well, if you’ve read literally any of my posts before, you’ve probably picked up on my Swedophile status: they’re my favourite Eurovision nation, I speak a fair bit of Svenska and am always teaching myself more, and I’ve traveled to Stockholm twice in the past two years (for the ESC in 2016 and for the Melodifestivalen final in 2017). Needless to say, I’m biased as heck when it comes to the country’s contest entries, and you won’t be shocked to discover that Dance You Off is my #1 song of this year’s comp. Some Eurofans hate it and think it’s trash; others aren’t bothered either way; and then there’s people like me who think it’s INCREDIBLE and actually cried a little when Benjamin won Melfest in March (okay, so I might be the only person who cried). I understand why the song doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I’ll tell you why it appeals to me. Firstly, Benjamin’s musical stylings are right up my street, and I love every song he’s released prior to this – Do You Think About Me, One More Time and last year’s Melfest entry Good Lovin’ in particular tap into the polished, slick and summery dance-pop I have a weakness for. Then there’s the resemblance between Dance You Off and two cracking songs by another of my favourite artists, The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face and I Feel It Coming. Those two songs and DYO all take inspiration from the late 80s and early 90s, and mesh those influences with late 2000s pop trends to create effortless cool. THEN there’s my tendency to fangirl over anyone who can whip out some falsetto and smooth dance moves simultaneously (I am aware that Benjamin is too young for me and has insanely hairy Italian arms, but I can still admire his talents, right?). You can add to that simple, but at times downright genius lyrics – ‘Treated you good, we were gold, I dug you like you were treasure’ = OH YES. Last but in no way least, there’s the fan-bloody-tastic staging concept that sees Benjamin bring a music video to life on a stage within a stage. Visually, this is so impressive – the first time you see it especially, but I’ve watched this performance more than any other and I’m still in awe. Unfortunately, because Sweden is criticised more harshly than any other Eurovision country if they don’t have a surefire, mass appeal winner on their hands, I feel this entry is receiving more hate than it deserves. But in a nice act of revenge, it will probably do better than a lot of people think. Don’t discount the fact that many people will see Dance You Off in all its light-up glory for the first time during Thursday’s semi, and even if they don’t like the song, the staging is easily spectacular enough to suck up votes like a vacuum. When Sweden inevitably reaches the final, they might not do quite as well as they have the past two years (though I believe this should do better than 5th) but there’s a top 10 place with their name on it. I hope that some day soon, Sweden stops being punished by Eurovision fans for their streak of success (even if it’s for selfish reasons because I’m sick of seeing hate comments directed at my favourite songs). Regardless…Team Ingrosso, NU KÖR VI!

2017 VS 2018? 2018, but they were both jättebra.

My score 12

 

 

 

My thoughts Ahh, Switzerland. The land of Lys Assia (RIP), excellent cheese and chocolate (what more do you need?), and consistent choosers of the best possible Eurovision entry from their NF. Sadly, they’re rarely rewarded for that last national trait – maybe because their best offering can’t quite compete with the best offerings from most other countries (harsh but true). The Swiss actually had two awesome, you-better-pick-that songs in this year’s Entscheidungsshow, and one of them was indeed Stones. There’s something about this song that is just plain cool and very likeable. It’s Americana-inspired soft rock that’s 100% authentic, 0% artificial – unlike the other Americana song we have in Lisbon via the Netherlands. Corinne and Stefan do spend half their time in Los Angeles, so there’s the explanation for that. It’s brimming with attitude, and the lyrics are definitely on track to being my favourite of the year – they’re especially tight in the chorus, but original and well-rhymed all the way through. The only part I’m not a fan of is the precursor to the final chorus, where it’s rammed down our throats that these two ‘ain’t standing alone’. It’s a little cheesy and not on par with the rest of the song, but that last chorus and the mic-drop ending later, and all is pretty much forgiven. Even though I’m an Australian whose studying days are over, this song makes me want to go on college spring break just so I can attend a party feat. warm beer in those classic red cups, and hopefully scream-sing it at the top of my lungs before jumping off a balcony into someone’s swimming pool. I’m not going to, but dang, the pull is strong! I love that vibe. Stones in general is laid-back and relaxed but has bite, and it’s a good combo. It’s not right up there with my most beloved songs of 2018 – not right now, at least – but as I’ve said before, there are only a few I truly dislike this year and this one is well above those in my ranking. Of course, if Switzerland had sent Compass by Alejandro Reyes, they’d be firmly inside my top 10 and wouldn’t have to worry about being booted out. I’d also be more confident of a qualification then, but with Zibbz I’ve been back and forth. I feel like they can, and therefore might be sacrificed from semi numero uno. There are so many powerful acts and big-hitters up against them, and Switzerland does not have a great recent track record (they last qualified in Copenhagen). However, I have heard good things about their rehearsals, and with this year looking more unpredictable by the minute, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them slip through. It’ll be 9th-14th in the semi, I think – and if it’s 9th or 10th, the final result is likely to be lower than left-side scoreboard. Just being involved in Saturday night, though, would be a step closer to leveling up for a country that’s been sent home early three years in a row.

2017 VS 2018? 2017 by a Stones-throw (my god, I’m hilarious).

My score 8

 

 

And that is that! THANK THE LORDI. Before I go and have a lie down because this race to smash out 43 reviews in a month has exhausted me beyond belief, I’ll give you a look at today’s ranking:

  1. Sweden (12)
  2. Belarus (10.5)
  3. Norway (10)
  4. Switzerland (8)
  5. Russia (7)  
  6. Montenegro (7)

In news that will surprise no one, Sweden tops my list with an easily-earned douze. Belarus and Norway are not far behind. This was a generally high-scoring lot of songs, and I’m glad I got to end on a positive note.

If you’re wondering when I’ll unveil the entire EBJ ranking for 2018, wonder no more: it’s happening ASAP. Definitely before the first semi final, and probably alongside my predictions for SF1 – so keep an eye on my social media over the next few days if you don’t want to miss a thing (I’m @EurovisionByJaz everywhere).

Now it’s time for you to do your Eurovisual duty:

 

Feel free to post your personal ranking of all six – or even all 43 songs in the Lisbon line-up – in the comments. If you have thoughts on anything ESC-related, basically, I’m happy to hear them.

Okay, I’m seriously going to go pass out now. I’ll be back before it’s too late (a.k.a. before that first semi begins) with my promised predictions. Who’s in and who’s out? At this point, I’m still confused about that, so I’ll get back to you…

 

Welcome to Eurovision week – it’s going to be a great one!!

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

  

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

…which didn’t help at all.

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The songs I want to win

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

  

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

    • 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)

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

 

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

 

Until next time, when the real ESC countdown begins…

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Azerbaijan, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Norway + Portugal

Pryvit, Europeople.

That’s right – we have to say hej då to the ‘hej!’ greetings that preceded Stockholm 2016 (at least temporarily…as someone still learning Swedish, expect me to throw around random words á la Svenska on a regular basis, no matter which country is hosting the show). It’s time to hop on board the Ukrainian bandwagon! That’s because we’re less than a month away from the first semi final of Eurovision 2017 (!!!) which, at the time of typing, will still be held in Kyiv. Sans Russia, surprise surprise.

So now I’ve said hello accordingly, there’s some important business to take care of: FINALLY kickstarting my song reviews. Sadly, I haven’t had time to pull together an EBJ Jury for 2017, having just been sightseeing, Melfesting and eating too much cake in Europe for a month (which I will be using as an excuse for not achieving stuff until approximately October). But guess who offered to help me out by listening to and passing judgment on all 43 42 competing entries?

MRS. JAZ! Yes, my mum is back on EBJ,  just after traveling with me to Melfest and then requesting a copy of the 2017 album with genuine enthusiasm (like I said in my last post, the brainwashing is going swimmingly, guys). So get ready to hear verdicts on the Class of 2017 from someone who may have seen Robin Bengtsson strut his freaking beautiful stuff in the flesh twice, but hadn’t heard any of the other competing entries before reviewing them. She’s got the fresh perspective, I’ve got the constant comparisons to last year on lock. Let’s get going!

First up…well, the title says it all. Read on to find out if Dihaj, Anja, Tamara, Joci, JOWST and Salvador managed to impress both a hardcore ESC fan and a first impression-ist.

 

 

My thoughts Say whatever you want about Azerbaijan at Eurovision (be it good or bad; be you polite or potty-mouthed) – you can’t deny that they’re dangerous. They’ve never failed to qualify for the final, and despite a dip in results recently, more than 50% of their time in the contest has been spent sitting pretty in the top five. So will it be a sky-high finish or another slump for Dihaj’s Skeletons: a song that makes a big move away from Melodifestivalen discard Miracle? If it were up to me, Azerbaijan would definitely be back on the left side of the 2017 scoreboard – and I mean WAY up on that side. This song kicks butt! It’s everything I was hoping for from the often experimental Dihaj – interesting, edgy, moody and current – but still has a Sia-esque, accessible pop sound, making it less divisive and giving it more mass appeal. The verses, pre-chorus and chorus itself blend together brilliantly; yet each one has its own distinct vibe without any weak links letting the team down. And is the whole thing catchy or what? The lyrics (particularly in the chorus) make zero sense, if you can even interpret them in the first place – my first impression was ‘I’m a skeleton…and I love my minions’ – but that doesn’t bother me at all. Factor in Dihaj’s quirky sense of style, powerful-but-raspy vocal and Azerbaijan’s tendency to make staging their bitch, and you’ve got the formula for something that, annoyingly, won’t reach the ranks of Running Scared or Always…but totally deserves a top ten finish. 10 points.

My mum says… Oh yes – I liked this straight away (so it was a good start to the marathon of listening I’ve gotten myself in for). Dihaj has a great voice with great range, and took me on a bit of a musical journey reminiscent of an exotic, mysterious Contiki tour. The song is catchy for sure, but not in a commercial ‘How many times have we heard this before?’ kind of way. It sounds like it’s going to have a heck of a stage show to go with it at Eurovision. Well, that’s what I’d be hoping for, anyway! 8 points.

Azerbaijan’s score 9.00

 

 

My thoughts For many Eurofans, The Voice Australia winner Anja was the “real” winner of DMGP 2016. With the Emmelie de Forest creation Never Alone finishing second (shockingly), I don’t think any of our jaws hit the floor when she was announced as a returnee to the comp this year. She changed genre and the all-around vibe of her performance with the all-Aussie Where I Am, which hasn’t completely paid off in the Eurovision bubble (according to some, this entry is yet another hashtag fail for Denmark). But I disagree as much as I possibly could. I LOVE THIS SONG! Love, love, love it. Sure, the pop ballad style may be slightly passé, but there’s something – and by that, I mean everything – about Where I Am that makes it my dream pop ballad. The melody is extraordinarily earwormy, the layers of instrumentation (with an ever-so-slight electronic influence) are contemporary, and Anja’s powerful delivery is unparalleled. She can sing the pants off an entire arena without even trying (so make sure you don’t go commando if you’re heading to Kyiv), and that does elevate a song that I’ll admit would be more pedestrian if sung by a lesser vocalist. And it has to be said that, as always, she looks stunning while she’s doing it (GIRL CRUSH ALERT). Can you tell the whole Danish package is parked up my street? The Australian-ness of it all is an added bonus. My only dilemma is, which flag do I wave if both Australia and Denmark make it to the final? I know I’ve got two hands, but one is reserved for the national flag of my favourite song’s country. I suppose the Aussie one covers both bases, whether Denmark likes it or not. Anyway, I digress. I’m giving Anja DOUZE POINTS!!!

My mum says… If you told me to describe how I feel about this one in two letters, I could do it. I’m not sure why you would, but my point is that the letters would be O and K. It’s no more than nice, and I feel like I’ve heard it before – which I don’t feel at all with Azerbaijan (and I like to hear something different). If I was Denmark, I’d be worried about being forgotten in the 42. As me, I’m just not too keen to listen to this one again anytime soon. It’s not horrible, but I don’t feel the love from above. 5 points.

Denmark’s score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts Let’s be honest – the standard of the Georgian NF was pretty mediocre this year. That being the UNDENIABLE TRUTH (assuming you agree with me) then it’s safe to say that Tako/Tamara, who almost made it to Moscow in 2009, was probably the optimal option to send to Kyiv. Sadly, however, that is the biggest compliment I can bestow on Keep The Faith, which ironically makes me lose faith in Georgia as a Eurovision country that can bring it on. 2016’s Midnight Gold was bat-shit crazy and I bloody loved it, but this bargain basement Bond ballad sucks the soul out of me. Lyrically, it could be lamer, given the overall concept of the song (which is like ‘Let’s take Polina Gagarina’s Million Voices and turn it into a melodramatic musical marathon fit for The Phantom of the Opera!’) but Tamara’s constant droning of ‘keep the faaaaaaith’ almost makes me wish they’d gone full cheese when writing it. It just goes on and on, and then on some more, until you’re expecting her head to explode from the pressure. Don’t get me wrong, because I don’t loathe this song with a passion (which I’m guessing sounds like a lie after all the hate I’ve let loose so far). It’s not in my bottom three. Simply put, though, I don’t like it. Like Anja, Tamara has a powerful set of pipes up her glittery sleeve, but in this case I don’t think they make the song any better. This is all my opinion, of course, which I’m entitled to as much as you’re entitled to metaphorically slap me while screaming ‘TBLISI 2018!!!’…so if you’re Team Georgia, I tip my hat to you. But I won’t be joining you on the playing field. You’ll find me sitting on the sidelines blasting Midnight Gold instead. 3 points.

My mum says… For something so dramatic, there’s a lack of x-factor and general satisfaction here. It may have been a better fit for a Broadway musical than a song contest. It promises more than it delivers, even though there’s an obvious crescendo reached…maybe Tamara’s voice isn’t quite strong enough for the song? She certainly wants it to be, and I admire her for going for it and really attacking her performance. But I don’t think her aggression is the way to win Eurovision. 4 points.

Georgia’s score 3.5

 

 

My thoughts There was a time when I thought I’d never move on from the traumatic loss of Spoon 21 at A Dal’s semi-final stage. Sure, their live performance of Deák was pants, but the song was/is peak electropop – and who’s to say the band couldn’t have made Ryan Dolan-level progress between the NF and the ESC anyway? True as that may be, it’s Joci Pápai and Origo heading off to Kyiv on Hungary’s behalf…and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Consider my poker face gone and my entire deck of cards on the table, folks, because this is my favourite song of the contest. I am in love with it, and would totally propose to it if that was a socially acceptable thing to do (apparently you can marry the Eiffel Tower, but not a three-minute Eurovision song). It’s haunting and hypnotic from beginning to end, with the mix of Hungarian (one of my most-loved musical languages) and Romani (which, like the song’s subject matter, highlights Joci’s heritage) making it extra-exotic, and allowing him to tell his story as authentically as possible. The rap is also a cool addition, seeming like an outlet for Joci to vent his frustrations and emotions in an unrestrained way that doesn’t happen in the lead-up. Every element of Origo flows smoothly into the next, with the slick production and ethnic riff making it current yet still one of the most original (pun intended) entries of the year. I understand that it’s a divisive song, but I think it was an adventurous choice for Hungary to make, and I love that it represents multiple facets of their music scene by marrying the old and the new. Whether that will work in their favour or not remains to be seen, but I’ll be praying that it does. DOUZE POINTS!!!

My mum says… As a disclaimer, Jaz didn’t tell me how she felt about this song before I offered up my own opinion (she doesn’t even tell me which country each one is from before she forces me to I voluntarily listen to them). As it turns out, though, I love it too! It actually gave me goosebumps. Beautiful instrumentals, great atmosphere and something I can’t put my finger on that just makes me want to hear it again – and hear more of what Joci can do. Origo gets 12 points from me!

Hungary’s score 12.00

 

 

My thoughts When it comes to the MGPs, I think Denmark had the superior line-up in 2017 (which is definitely not the norm). Norway only had a few songs that had the potential to give them the final finish at Eurovision that Agnete’s could not. Luckily, though, they picked one. Grab The Moment is an effortlessly ‘now’ pop song that takes advantage of the universe’s unquenchable thirst for music with weird noises and vocal samples in the background (which JOWST manages to pull off live). It’s familiar enough, style-wise, to feel comfortable, but original enough to not provoke any cries of ‘PLAGIARISM!’; and the chorus is so damn hooky, it could catch a great white shark without even breaking the ocean’s surface. I liked the song straight away because it’s not a challenging listen. All it asks from you is to have some fun (and not in an out-of-tune Tereza Kerndlová kind of way) and it makes that very easy to do. No, it doesn’t have what it takes to win Eurovision, and I’m not even confident it will sail to the final. But I personally am more than ready to grab the moment – and enjoy every moment JOWST and Aleksander are on stage. 8 points.

My mum says… This one’s definitely catchy, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I feel like if I listened to it two or three more times in a row, I wouldn’t like it much more – it would start to annoy me instead! I’m not a fan of the lyrics, and I don’t hear anything that makes it stand out from the crowd. It’s not terrible, but all I can say is ‘next, please’. 5 points.

Norway’s score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts Montenegro’s taking us back to 2003, San Marino to 1977 and Portugal to 1956 for Eurovision 2017 – go figure. Two of those three throwbacks I’m on board with (stay tuned to the rest of the reviews to find out which time warp I DON’T want to do again) and Salvador’s is one of them. Why Amar Pelos Dois is so high in the betting odds is a bit of a mystery to me, but I can’t bring myself to trash what is a delicate, soaring and very vintage ballad that is powerful because it isn’t, if that makes sense. We haven’t heard a song so ‘classic ESC’ compete for a long time, and as such, it’s hard to say whether it will prove the bookies right or not. I do think Salvador can win televoters over with his adorkable charms, though, and perhaps the juries with both the song and his understated, pitch-perfect delivery of it. I feel like I want Portugal to do well more than I want Amar Pelos Dois itself to succeed (because there are plenty of other songs that I prefer) but there won’t be one without the other. So, in amongst my fistfuls of Hungarian, Danish, Swedish and Australian flags, you might just find a teeny little Portuguese flag come Eurovision week. 7 points.

My mum says… I quite like this one, as old-fashioned as it is. I can imagine it being performed in a smoky jazz club (in spite of the lack of jazz) in the 1950s, with nothing but a man, a few supporting instrumentalists and some dry ice on the intimate stage. I don’t think it would win the contest in this day and age in a fit (as a layperson) but it has to make for a nice contrast against the countries coming equipped with all the bells and whistles Customs will allow into Ukraine, doesn’t it? 7 points.

Portugal’s score 7.00

 

 

That’s the six songs for today taken care of! Now, with Round One done, the leaderboard looks like this:

  1. Hungary (12.00)
  2. Azerbaijan (9.00)
  3. Denmark (8.5)
  4. Portugal (7.00)
  5. Norway (6.5)
  6. Georgia (3.5)

Congratulations (and celebrations, etc) go to Joci for his impressive win. Sure, he only had to impress two people to make the number one spot, but I was pretty convinced my mum would think Origo was oriNOOOOOOO.

Can Hungary keep a hold of the metaphorical crown with 36 countries’ songs still to be scrutinized? TBH, if I keep going with only two jurors, he probably will. Lucky the final EBJ ranking doesn’t count towards anything official. OR DOES IT?!?

No, it doesn’t.

Waiting in the wings to be reviewed in Round Two are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland – i.e. lots of girl power feat. Koit Toome and that guy from Fusedmarc. Don’t forget to drop by to see if anyone ends up with a douze…or the opposite. As Koit and Laura would say, prepare for dramAAaaAA.

In the meantime, let me (and my mum) know what you think of the songs we’ve reviewed this time. Do you agree with any of our opinions, or should we be ashamed of ourselves for countless reasons? Don’t leave the comments box lonely 😦

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

REVIEWS | The EBJ Jury (Finally) Judges Eurovision 2016 (Part 7)

I’M BACK! I guess that’s one thing I have in common with the likes of Kaliopi, Donny Montell, Poli Genova, and that one guy from Lighthouse X who played keyboard for Emma Marrone in Copenhagen.

I, however, am back in multiple senses of the word. Not only am I back at home in Australia, but I’m also back blogging after what feels like an eternity away, on the ground in Stockholm writing with the awesome ESC Insight team. In actual fact, it was only three weeks – but what an incredible blur that three weeks turned out to be! I have SO much to tell you guys, if you’re willing and able to hear it over the next few months (what can I say? It’s going to take a while for everything to come screaming back to me).

In the meantime, if you’re feeling even a hint of the Post-Eurovision Depression that I am (and I haven’t even gone back to work yet…that’ll be the true reminder that life is going back to boring *hopes my boss never sees this*) you might want to ease the pain by checking out Insight’s epic coverage of Eurovision 2016, feat. in-depth articles, thought-provoking videos and hilarious podcasts. Because this is my blog and I’m allowed to be narcissistic here, may I recommend checking out my pieces first? Like any proud mother, I want to show off my babies. In this case, quadruplets.

Because I’m so keen on retrospective ramblings, I’ll be filling you in on what went down in and out of the Press Centre in Stockholm as time goes on (feat. such juicy gossip as the 2016 act who called me their ‘new best friend’, and the 2016 act who I witnessed being manhandled out of the Euroclub at 3am the morning after the final. SUCH JUICINESS). But for now, I’ve got some pre-ESC loose ends to tie up – a.k.a. some outstanding business to take care of, a.k.a. some very, very late reviews to make public.

My life got so crazy in the lead-up to my Eurotrip, I didn’t have a spare second to post the last part of the EBJ Jury’s 2016 reviews, or the subsequent EBJ Jury Top 43 (including the dearly departed Romania). And if I thought I’d have time to post those while I was away, I WAS WRONG. Hectic rehearsal schedules and far-too-frequent celebrity-spotting took care of that. And now, here I am – we have a wonderful new contest winner who nobody should be bloody complaining about even if 1944 ain’t their cup of coffee, and I’m yet to review it. I am definitely un-Frans-like and very sorry about this.

I won’t drag said reviews out any longer – I’ve already created the longest cliffhanger in history, after all. So, let’s make like Barei and say hey hey hey to today’s panel of Jaz-approved judges.

  

TODAY’S EBJ JURORS

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Remember, you can meet the entire EBJ Jury properly here.

Ali, Rory and I are FINALLY about to review Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine – a.k.a. Zoë, Gabriela, Sandhja, Kaliopi, Agnete, Sanja AND Jamala. It’s all about girl power on this occasion, but who will prevail? Jamala, the actual Eurovision champ? Zoë, the fan favourite? Or someone else? Read on to find out, and let us know which of these ladies’ songs keeps your boat most buoyant in the comments below!

Oh, and FYI…all of the following reviews except mine were written before the contest took place, so if they seem to be totally unaware of the final results, that’s why. Just pretend it’s April, and all will be well.

FYI again (this is the last one, I promise)…this is one heck of a mammoth post. You might want to prepare yourself a pot of tea and a supply of Plopp to get you through this one.

 

  

Austria

Ali So, what do we have here? If one cares to delve beyond the overt ‘sweet’ simplicity, there is much to be found: a solo guitar’s rollicking strumming conjuring a roaming minstrel; strings (in pizzicato, then sweeping legato, and later pulsing staccato) which weave the ever-evolving landscape through which we are drawn; our singer, with gentle hope and resolve in her voice, in the throes of affirming to the spirit that is leading her, how faithfully she will follow. The destination? A country far from here, where the people, in a naïve search for paradise, are singing. A rhythmic, driving repetition sets our singer’s steady, determined pace, despite the apparent distance, and the dangers of straying into futility (‘si la route nous semble sans issu’), or into the despair of the abyss (‘même si on sera perdu’). There is a poignancy and potency in the fact that our pilgrim (coincidentally, no doubt?) adopts not her native tongue, but the language of the victims of some of the more notorious of those atrocities. The path proposed here is to faithfully follow the song and the music. Indeed, the spirit to which our pilgrim addresses herself is the music itself: when it sings, she sings too; when it flies, so does she; if it soars, she follows it, unencumbered by doubt. The song’s title, and the lyrics of its chorus, are the ever-present reminder that this place we seek is indeed ‘far from here’. The revolving ‘seasons’ in the (official) video, and the ever-flowing chord progressions, reinforce that this trek may indeed be never-ending. But equally, the chorus’s hopeful, trance-like mantra also reminds us that what matters is the journey itself. Those who glibly dismiss this song as ‘cotton candy’, ‘girly’, and calculatedly faux-nostalgic have failed to see the wood for the trees. Though cloaked in ‘lightness’, what we are invited to experience here is by several country miles the most profoundly philosophical and spiritual of all of this year’s creations. It delivers a lasting, symbolic homage to that ultimate musical pilgrimage, the song contest itself. But then again, maybe it’s just another DNQ fanwank?

Rory I’m just going to put it out there: I’m not a fan of Zoë this year. Austria had some really great artists in their NF – LiZZA, Céline/Farna and Bella Wagner (to a very broad extent) – and they went with a song with a very schlager beat to it, and it’s all in French. I’m not hating on her, okay? I’m just saying that with some other very different artists in their selection, Austria had a lot of other options. I can see why they picked Loin D’ici  – the staging in itself was a show, coupled with her USP of singing in a completely unofficial language of her country. However, with an über-poppy, almost tween-ish beat to it, I can’t see it appealing to non-Eurovision fans. There’s making yourself stand out and there’s taking the p***, and I think that Austria might JUST have overshot it this year…maybe it’s a bit of a reality check? We’ll have to wait and see.

Jaz I’m going to start by reminding you again that I’m the only person reviewing and scoring this bunch of songs AFTER Eurovision (because everyone else managed to get their act together beforehand. I’m the one who let the team down). If I’d commented on Loin D’ici back in April when I was supposed to, I’d actually have a very different take on it to the one I have now. When Austria first crowned Zoë as The Makemakes’ successor, I was pretty horrified, to be honest. As cute and whimsical as the song was/is, the tragically stale Eurodance beat that kicks in after the first chorus made me want to call on Conchita Wurst to float down from the heavens (obviously she’s still alive, but I just figure she hangs out up there being perfect most of the time) and save us all from such dated un-fabulous-ness. Upon arriving in Stockholm, it became clear that Zoë was a massive fan favourite, partly due to her song being such a tribute to stereotypical Eurovision anthems of a time gone by – I was nearly danced to death by the horde of devotees basking in her Euroclub performance on Opening Party night. And I still didn’t get it. In fact, even now, I’m not about to give Loin D’ici a douze. But after being subjected to the song more times than I would have if I’d stayed home this year, I started to…well, hate it a lot less. I don’t doubt that there is as much depth under the song’s surface as Ali states, but what I rather like about it now is the face-value sweetness and light, and the almost-irresistible melody that becomes a karaoke dream once you’ve wrapped your tongue around the French lyrics. And Zoë herself is so precious, it’s hard to insult anything she’s had a hand in. I also may want to borrow from her extensive collection of frou-frou strapless dresses one day, and if I’m mean to her, there’s zero chance of that happening.

The EBJ Jury says…

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

Austria’s EBJ Jury score is…7.11

 

 

Czech

Ali The Czech Republic’s Saturday night cherry is still unpopped, so I will try to say some encouraging things here. The intro of simple lilting piano and a slow current of low strings is very promising. The chorus’ melody is pared-back but engaging, and the pace is elegant and restrained. Gabriela has a stunning voice, and is certainly gentle enough on the eye, in a Tanya Plibersek kind of way. Plus, her floral afro in the video is the most impressive I have ever seen. Alas…the lyrics of I Stand lurch between lazily clichéd and waywardly clunky, and the narrative is befuddledly (yeah, befuddledly) circuitous, with the result that – in contrast to our songstress, who professes to ‘always care’ – I find myself quickly giving up caring about her, her various travails, and anything her song has to tell me. We can’t tell who the hero is supposed to be: on one hand, the song seems to be trying to celebrate Gabby’s own resilience; but on the other hand, it’s a ‘better half as saviour’ song. And those lyrics! ‘I’ve worn the path, I’ve hit the wall’? Did the lyricists even care what these idioms mean when they tossed them in? It jars when I hear ‘head’ attempting to rhyme with ‘cares’, ‘rain’ with ‘fall’, et cetera. Can we blame Bill Gates for the fact that the spell-checker failed to flag that the past tense of ‘to fall’ is ‘fell’, not ‘fall’? And who decided Gabby should spend the video lying down whilst saying ‘I stand’? The problems with the story and words were all easily avoidable, which makes them all the more exasperating. The unfortunate result is that I end up not giving two hoots about whether she’s standing, squatting, or doing the downward-facing dog.

Rory When I saw that the Czech Republic would be interested in taking part in Eurovision again after last year’s failure to reach the final, I thought that they must be crazy. But with I Stand, I am so grateful that they’ve continued on their quest for a Eurovision qualification – which I’m guaranteeing they’re going to get with this song. Gabriela is more used to singing rock and gothic songs, but this is a really pleasant departure from her comfort zone. The lush beats and strings really bring out the best in her vocals. The peak of the song definitely comes out at the end of the song with that screech in the lead-up to the last chorus, which just lets out so much emotion and care and you can really feel that. My one concern is how they’re going to stage the song: with Hope Never Dies, they managed to understage it, because there wasn’t really anything that made you remember the performance. With I Stand, they have to play it really carefully…maybe they can get her to be like in her music video and lie down while her hair is covered by layers of flowers? Regardless, best of luck, Czech Republic!

Jaz They may not have traveled far in the final, but congratulations must go to the Czech Republic (Czechia?) for making it to Saturday night for the first time. There were several other songs I’d have preferred to see among the last 26 standing, but it’s always nice when a struggling country finds a surprising degree of success. That said, I understand why Gabriela didn’t find any on final night. Her performance was pretty much perfect – from flawless vocals with just the right amount of emotion present, to the stunning geometric floor-and-wall patterns; from her bridal-esque outfit to the timely hair-release that thankfully didn’t end the same way as Moldova’s in 2014. But…I never found I Stand to leave much of a lasting impression, and in the final, it was up against at least twenty songs that were more memorable. That’s not to mention the fact that the Czech Republic were handed the dreaded second slot to perform in, which we all know to be legitimately cursed. Hopefully, however, this progression from the semis is a stepping stone to further success for the country in 2017. It’s got to be one of the reasons they’ve already confirmed for next year’s contest.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 2
  • Fraser 8
  • James 12
  • Jaz 5
  • Martin 6
  • Nick 4
  • Penny 5
  • Rory 12
  • Wolfgang 8

The Czech Republic’s EBJ Jury score is…6.89

 

 

Finland

Ali Apart from heartily fist-bumping the underlying ‘song-as-therapy’ message, I do dig a ditty that gets me lip-syncing along with it, and wiggling my ample tuchas (apologies for the unsolicited visual!), especially in a year that’s weighed down by dollops of dirges. Throw in some snappy brass riffs, a lively percussion track, a swag of ohh-ohh-ohh-oh-oh’s, a positive ‘friend-in-need’ message, and some evocative lyrics – ‘When heavy waters try to break you, you will be singing for life’ – and, hot-diggidy, I find myself in total lock-step: ‘YEAHHH!’. If Sandhja and her team are able to extract maximum engagement, joyfulness and life by connecting sympathetically with the cameras and the audience, then why can’t this (pretty please?) at least get through to the final?

Rory I’m going to go against the grain and say that I actually enjoy Sing It Away. I’ve a big guilty pleasure for funk, and Sandhja delivers in that aspect in ways that acts like the KMGs (Belgium 2007) couldn’t. This is sleek, sophisticated, and builds up before exploding into the chorus. I do think Sandhja needs to work on her live vocals, if she plans on moving as much as she did at UMK as she will onstage, just because it might prove to be a problem. I don’t see an issue with this making a connection, but in the ferocious first half of Semi Final 1, she’ll have to make sure her performance is memorable. That being said, singing lines like ‘I WANT YOUR BALLS AWAY!’ will definitely give her that edge (it’s supposed to be ‘All my troubles away’, but I can’t bring myself to correct it every time I hear it!). Hopefully, Europe won’t listen to her and will give her their balls in the form of votes, but it’s really a 50:50 chance!

Jaz I had some ridiculous favourites in UMK this year (Thief, Shamppanjataivas, and the comparatively normal On It Goes) as well as some songs I detested (mainly just the bookies’ number one, No Fear). Sing It Away fell in neither of those categories, but I was mighty relieved when Sandhja beat Saara Aalto nonetheless. Her song did all it could do at Eurovision – it served as an excellent-but-disposable show opener, so easily sacrificed that it might be better for us to think of it as part of the first semi’s opening act than as an actual competition song. I don’t dislike it – it’s fun and funky, and Sandhja has the personality required to pull it off and convince us that she will sing ‘it’ away (it’s great how the ‘it’ is open for interpretation. Got dandruff? She’ll sing it away. Been run over by a parade float full of schlager stars? Sandhja’s got you covered). But it lacks the fire and some of the energy that saw counterpart What’s The Pressure sail into the final and squeeze into the top 10. It’s almost as if it won UMK by accident because the decision-makers couldn’t choose between Saara and Mikael – a kind of DMGP/Eurovision 2011 situation. And that doesn’t give you a contest winner…Eurovision 2011 aside. But we’re all still scratching our heads over that one, aren’t we?

The EBJ Jury says…

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

Finland’s EBJ Jury score is…5.89

 

 

Macedonia

Ali Unlike Nika (from Georgia) and his muddied bed partner, I don’t smoke. But I will definitely be buying myself a cigarette lighter to take along to the second semi-final, just so I can do the old ‘waving-the-ciggy-lighter-back-and-forth-to-the-slow-chorus’ thing to this big, hearty Balkan tavern ballad. Sometimes it can be satisfying when a song delivers (with aplomb) a totally ‘no-surprises’ offering. Even though I have not been overly generous with my points here, this in my book has an ample supply of plombs. Staying with a more classical structure, this builds in all the right ways, and Kaliopi’s voice, as always, intoxicates us with the smokiness of an Islay single malt. There is some loss of momentum from having an unadumbrated middle verse (in contrast to the modern trend of cutting it short, e.g. Norway this year), but it is worth the price, because it makes us savour the ‘bring-it-home’ chorus all the more. Being one of only three songs this year (count them) that are entirely in a LOTE, and therefore arguably less ‘accessible’ to the full spread of jurors and televoters, qualifying is far from a ‘gimme’, but one can live in hope. Who is Dona? I have no idea. But all in all, I’m very glad someone thought she/he/it was worth singing about.

Rory DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, GLAAAAAAD I MET! Oh wow, Kaliopi is back with a bang and I’m secretly enjoying it. I must admit, I was expecting something along the lines of Crno i Belo, but with Dona, I feel like I’ve been transported back to the late 80s/early 90s, with a power ballad like this. Of course, we’ll have to see how she delivers this onstage to get a feel of how it could do in the long run, but with only half the vocal range required to sing Dona than to sing Crno i Belo, I think Kaliopi will slay BIG TIME with this. Whether it qualifies or not, however, is a completely different story. I’m very sorry, but I’ve got nothing else to say about Macedonia…unless you want to hear me sing DONUT, DONUT again!

Jaz The following sentence will tell you what I think about Dona in a nutshell: I didn’t have high expectations of Kaliopi’s second official ESC entry given that I didn’t love her first…and as expected, I like this even less. That’s not to say that I detest it – and, as with a few other 2016 songs, frequent exposure during the rehearsal period ensured that it grew on me – but it’s too dated and over-dramatic for my taste. Even Kaliopi, a singer whose power knows no bounds (she can shatter glass with a single note, so it’s a good thing she wasn’t performing in the Crystal Hall this time) seemed to struggle to give her all to the demanding Dona, just ever-so-slightly. It’s for that reason that her highest-of-high notes at the end of the song never quite measured up to the clarity and pitch-perfection of Jamala’s. There are things about this track that I like – more so the gentler verses than the big, domineering choruses. But even from the beginning, I have trouble paying attention to Kaliopi for three whole minutes, without wondering if a song I like better is coming up next in my playlist/the semi. It usually always is. I thought Macedonia would make it to the final if mainly on artist name alone, but I have no issues with the fact that they didn’t.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 5
  • Fraser 6
  • James 12
  • Jaz 3
  • Martin 4
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 6
  • Wolfgang 5

FYR Macedonia’s EBJ Jury score is…5.44

 

 

Norway

Ali A lot of good, solid, ‘play-to-our-strengths’ Lapp/Nordic buttons are being pushed here, and coupling that with Agnete’s fine voice and presence, I think this may manage to sneak (break?) through to the final. Many listeners have reportedly found the tempo change for the chorus unsettling, if not disappointing, given that by all indications it was otherwise building into a Euphoria-esque up-tempo dance number. But I think, in context, it works: after all, an ice-breaker is not a particularly fast-moving vessel. And having the brakes go on the pace at that point also reinforces the arduousness of the effort our Agnete would need to put in to liberate her ‘stuck’ friend. However, the storyline here lacks traction: a lot of the song is spent cataloguing the reasons why this ex-and/or-potential partner is extremely high maintenance, if not an outright cad/cadette, so we aren’t given much of a feel for why Agnete would be so determined to save him or her. Indeed, perhaps this cad/ette would benefit from spending a bit of reflection time stuck in the ice – sorry, I mean in the ‘fro-o-o-zen water’…a.k.a. ice?

Rory I’m not really sure what to make of Icebreaker. I mean, I can see how many people could enjoy the metaphor that she’s going to be the ship to free us all from the ice we’ve been stuck in (maybe that’s why I’ve been so hypothermic), but the song just leaves me feeling…empty. There’s nothing in here for me to like or dislike. It’s just…neutral, if you get what I mean. Agnete’s vocals are exceptional and I’m sure that that will work in her favour, but the song is just very lacklustre – which is highly ironic, as I should really be enjoying this sort of genre! Norway will easily sail through to the final, just because it has a few reliable countries making its case. As for the final, I can’t exactly put my finger on their exact finishing position – it could be the bottom of the left-hand-side of the scoreboard or the top of the right-hand-side. It’s definitely a Mar(Vegi)mite song this year, a lot like I Feed You My Love – you either love it or you hate it. Suffice to say, I don’t eat Mar(Vegi)mite, so you’re better off asking someone else!

Jaz Love, hate or feel indifferently towards Icebreaker, you have to applaud Norway for managing to send two entries to Eurovision this year without breaking any rules: the first, an atmospheric Euphoria-esque dance banger; the second, an intense I Feed You My Love-style anthem that I do not recommend listening to if you have a headache coming on. The stark tempo and genre changes in Agnete’s song were initially arresting in all the wrong ways for me, back when I was still bitter that Afterglow didn’t win NMGP. But as I’ve gotten more accustomed to them, I actually think the track takes a risk that could have paid off under better circumstances. It’s adventurous in a way that we hadn’t heard at Eurovision before, and the overall effect is edgy, dramatic and powerful. It’s just a shame that Agnete was too poorly pre-ESC to trek the promotional trail (i.e. attend any pre-parties, or press conferences on the ground in Stockholm) or reshape her performance much from the national final stage. I always expected Icebreaker to have a 50:50 shot at qualifying, but if Agnete’s path to the contest had been as smooth as everyone else’s, I think she might have slotted in to Saturday night. I would have loved to see her there as I actually get multiple kicks out of this song now – but just making it through rehearsals and the broadcast was a win for her, at the end of the day.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 4
  • Fraser 2
  • James 4
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 5
  • Wolfgang 7

Norway’s EBJ Jury score is…4.89

 

 

Serbia

Ali This has huge potential, and I really want to like it. But ZAA’s stage performance will be the decisive factor. In the official video, her melodramatic gestures and facial expressions are a bit OTT, and borderline comical. This obviously tends to detract from the real potency of the song’s conflict-laden atmosphere. A more constrained presentation would more powerfully convey the inner struggle inherent in the theme. She also has to get the audience on side. One way to help do this would have been to have ZAA herself singing (with backing vocalist accompaniment) the sympathetic ‘whoa-oh-oh-ohhs’ that follow the chorus — but admittedly, that would leave her without a decent breather, so may have sapped her energy for the big finish. In terms of the song itself, I know the temptation would naturally have been to give ZAA opportunities to demonstrate her undoubted virtuosity, but I do find it a bit off-putting how, in each half of the chorus — in contrast to the controlled tension of the notes and dynamics in the verses — the notes at the end of the first two lines wobble round like a learner driver trying to work out which gear to use: ‘Every time I say goodby-Y-y-Y-yyye …’. Anyway, the ingredients are all there for ZAA to make this either a Eurovision classic or a Eurovision calamity. Hey, Laura T – you need to have a chat to ZAA about pressure, STAT!

Rory This year, Serbia has me questioning a lot of things. First off, I very much appreciate sending an unknown singer to Eurovision, but why give her two names? ZAA Sanja Vučić? Could it not just be her? The song is pleasant enough to listen to, but when it comes to the subject matter – domestic violence – I just feel like it’s ripping off András Kallay-Saunders, but with a more mature vibe to it. Secondly, Sanja is a singer who – with ZAA – normally plays ethnic-indie music (see her video for Irie&Kool for a proper reference), so why get her to sing a ballad that is so pop, it oozes Charlie Mason? Finally, why does she make so many facial expressions and jagged movements, some of which don’t even work in time with the music? I just feel like this has been very forced and I think that had she been given a more alternative song, or a song in a genre she’s more experienced in, she’d give a more convincing performance. Nevertheless, her vocals are amazing, and the versatility and flexibility of her music makes her incredibly adaptable. But I feel RTS just took a shot in the dark, and that it might not pay off.

Jaz When it comes to controversial song subject matter at Eurovision, I’m an advocate. I think it’s important for music to be used to address issues other than love and fairytales and happy endings and falling stars and donuts (say whatever you want, Kaliopi…we all know your entry is an ode to Krispy Kremes). Not all the time, but sometimes. That’s partly why I hold Hungary’s Running and Ukraine’s 1944 (which I’ll be gushing over in a minute) in such high regard. Serbia’s Goodbye (Shelter) has the kind of ambiguous lyrics that could refer to a verbally-abusive or extremely strained relationship, as much as to a physically-abusive one. That makes it less uncomfortable to listen to, but it also gives it less of an identity and less strength, message-wise. Having said that, I still believe it’s a powerful song – a rocky Balkan ballad delivered with a maturity you might not expect from a normally happy-go-lucky 22-year-old like Sanja. Given that she reined in the jerky performance style we saw when Goodbye was presented on Serbian TV, there was nothing vocally or visually wrong with her performance. Perfect colour scheme, perfect graphics, perfect costumes, perfect choreography…every piece was in place. But I still didn’t love the song enough to back it as a potential winner. It certainly deserved its place in the final, but it didn’t move me, and I understand why it didn’t bother the top 10.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 3
  • Fraser 6
  • James 4
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 12
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 12
  • Rory 4
  • Wolfgang 6

Serbia’s EBJ Jury score is…6.55

 

 

Ukraine

Ali Never has there been a more soulful song about the swallowing of souls! I can report that, on more than one occasion, in the course of listening to 1944, I have detected on my upper cheeks the inexplicable presence of salt water. Jamala will indeed win many a heart with her ‘Negro-spiritual’-like timbre, and prodigious vocal range. Whether a largely uninitiated TV audience will be able to pick up on the full gamut of what is being laid out before them here is very doubtful. It may, for example, be vulnerable to the predictable Norton-esque derision for being too ‘dreary’, ‘serious’, etc. We shall see. The lyrics may have benefited in some places from having their nuances honed, to ease them back from the brink of what might be perceived as hyperbole, but that is a very minor quibble, in the context of the subject matter. If this is not in the final, the universe will be very much the poorer for it.

Rory There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll sound biased on this, but 1944 is my favourite song of the 2016 contest by millions and millions of miles. When I first heard the song on February 5th, the day before it was due to be performed at the national selection in Ukraine, it LITERALLY reduced me to tears – I’m not even exaggerating. The song is just so beautiful and emotive, it gives me goosebumps every single time I listen to it – you know that every note Jamala sings is one that she feels for both herself and her fellow Crimean Tatars. Turning to the dark side of the song, I am clearly stating that there’s no political intent in 1944 whatsoever. Jamala has said in an interview that politics aren’t her cup of tea (sorry Valentina Monetta – Jamala doesn’t get you!), and that there was no political motive behind the song. The fact that some people see a political aspect to it is just a coincidence. 1944, with its breaking-beats, Crimean Tatar lyrics and climax with the final chorus (along with that scream that just gives me the shakes every time – it’s like she’s releasing her soul whenever she reaches that note) give it that edge to stand out a mile in the semi final, and all skeptics will be proven wrong when it easily qualifies – it might even win the semi! Personally, Jamala is my winner of the whole contest, but will she actually win? She’s definitely top 10 or top 5 material. I could go on all day about her, and about 1944 and her other songs, but I won’t bore you to death. I will let you know that Ukraine is my #1 for this year’s Eurovision, in case that wasn’t already clear. DAVAI UKRAÏNA!

Jaz I’m not quite sure how to articulate my affection for 1944. ‘Affection’ is an understatement, really. This song had me hypnotised from the first few seconds of my first listen, partly because it was so different to what I was expecting – Jamala’s previous entry in a Ukrainian NF, Smile, was way too cheesy and repetitive for me, and I figured she’d be offering up something similar this time. FACEPALM!! I’ll admit, I didn’t realise how versatile she was as an artist. I did realise that her vocal range is beyond incredible, and 1944 shows that off to the fullest, while simultaneously allowing her to tap in to her emotions. I don’t think it’s just her acting abilities that give Jamala the skill to make past pain feel fresh every time she performs this song – it’s also the fact that this song is about a specific experience, even though she wasn’t around to live it. It’s the most substantial song that competed in Stockholm, and the most experimental, and I’m still over the moon that it managed to win the whole contest when its divisiveness could have dragged it down. It’s everything a winning song should be made of, in my opinion – it’s unique, contemporary, brilliantly performed (without the staging overshadowing the sound), and has something real to say. To some, it might be a vehicle for a wailing Eastern European woman; to me, it’s a victory for inventiveness and significance in a contest where the appeal of the last few winners has been in the artist’s persona (Austria 2014) and the high-tech trickery of their performance (Sweden 2015)…not to take anything away from Conchita or Måns (you guys know I love them both). Let’s also not forget that, with so few songs that weren’t entirely in English competing in 2016, not only did one of those win, but it was the one featuring a language new to the Eurovision stage. As Petra and MZW declared during ‘That’s Eurovision!’, music is a language that we all know how to speak, and Jamala’s Crimean Tatar transcended tongue barriers to entrance jurors and televoters everywhere (and make me cry in front of thousands of strangers). That’s one heck of an artist, and one heck of a song.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 10
  • Fraser 8
  • James 12
  • Jaz 12
  • Martin 8
  • Nick 6
  • Penny 8
  • Rory 12
  • Wolfgang 12

Ukraine’s EBJ Jury score is…9.78

 

 

And with judgment passed on Jamala, I finally get to say this…we’re done! It took ever-so-slightly longer than I’d intended, as I said at the start – and involved me deviating to a different hemisphere for a few weeks – but the EBJ Jury has officially reviewed all 42/43 entries of Eurovision 2016. I think a round of applause and some hysterical screaming is warranted here.

Applause and screaming should also be directed at our winner for this round, who also won the actual contest and therefore gets to be the reigning champ until Sweden wins again next year: Ukraine!

  1. Ukraine (9.78)
  2. Austria (7.11)
  3. Czech Republic (6.89)
  4. Serbia (6.55)
  5. Finland (5.89)
  6. FYR Macedonia (5.44)
  7. Norway (4.89)

Austria finishes surprisingly strongly (as they did IRL) in second place, with the Czech Republic and Serbia not too far behind. Finland and FYR Macedonia could only muster up mediocre scores, and it looks like I was basically the sole supporter of Norway in the EBJJ. Today’s top 4 qualified in Stockholm, while the bottom 3 didn’t – so I guess as a group, we’re pretty perceptive. Or psychic.

Of course, there’s still one loose end left to tie up, and it’s the EBJ Jury Top 43. Each round of reviews has featured its own mini-ranking, but meanwhile, I’ve been busy combining and tie-breaking until I’ve been left with one big list of favourites, and…not-so-favourites. Next time, that ranking will be revealed – and since the 2016 comp has taken place, I’ll be comparing it to the actual Top 42 to see if my elite assembly of Eurovision freaks (I mean that in the most affectionate of ways) managed to predict any of the results correctly. Hint: we actually did!

I’ll (hopefully) see you then, as I continue to play catch-up and fill you in on all the details of my first, fabulous ESC experience. Over the next month or so, you can expect some belated national finalist playlists; my extensive gallery of 2016 doppelgangers; a series of Stockholm photo albums that will send you to sleep; and the annual EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence, in which you get to play a bigger part than ever (if you want to). Watch out for all of that – it’s on the way to help ease your PED. And mine, of course. I don’t do anything unless there’s something in it for me.

#honestyisthebestpolicy.

 

Hej då!

 

2015sig

 

 

 

One down, (semi final) two to go: Reviewing Vienna’s first semi and predicting the second

DISCLAIMER: I was short on time and delirious with drowsiness when I put this post together, so please forgive me if it’s zero percent funny and ninety percent nonsensical (banana). You can decide what’s wrong with the remaining ten percent…

 

Let me paint you a very glamorous picture: it’s three o’ clock on Wednesday morning, and I’m sitting on the couch in my mismatching pajamas. My eighteen-year-old, senile, sneezing cat is snuffling on one side of me, my constantly farting dog is on the other side of me, and there’s a large-and-in-charge spider on the ceiling directly above my head.

This was my first live Eurovision-viewing experience, and though I was left wondering why ‘tonight we can be glorious’ (in the words of Cascada) was in no way applicable here, I enjoyed myself immensely. More so once the spider decided to depart, which just happened to be midway through Finland’s performance. I guess he wasn’t a punk fan.

There were a few things I didn’t dig about the show: for starters, the fact that Conchita and her teeny-tiny waist were relegated to the green room rather than having the honour of hosting the whole show. We all knew that was the situation, but as it turns out, our three main hostesses Mirjam, Alice and Arabella were a bit underwhelming. Some hosts – Jaana and Mikko, Petra Mede etc – make their script sound unscripted, but these three did not.

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Nice try, ladies, but I’m not so sure three heads are better than one.

 

Secondly, not enough time was reserved to create any sort of tension when the results were announced. Talk about a rush job! I expect the magic envelopes (which aren’t really envelopes nowadays, but I refuse to call them anything else) will be opened at a more leisurely pace tonight; but whether Austria’s version of Charlie’s Angels can impress me this time is a question mark.

I did think the postcards were über cute, though. People doing things? Much yes. I wish I could have a parcel delivered to my door that transports me to Austria when I open it. Did ORF round up forty Harry Potter-style Portkeys or what?

Let’s talk about what happened in-between those postcards for a minute. I’m going to race through the running order of Tuesday’s show and give you my verdict on all sixteen performances, before I crack on with my second semi predictions. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Moldova In a word, the opening performance of this year’s contest was trashtastic. It was a good move for ORF to choose Eduard, his permanently-attached trucker cap and his posse of police/strippers to kick things off. And I must commend the guy for not singing like a goat with pneumonia like he did during the Moldovan final.
  • Armenia More kudos here for making what was a shambles in studio work remarkably well on stage. Great outfits, nice violet visuals, and solid vocals from all six Genealog…ists. Tamar and Mary-Jean (STRAYA REPRESENT WOOOOOOOO!!!) in particular sounded top-notch.
  • Belgium My highlight of the night! Loïc was in his weird and wonderful element, and everything about his three minutes – the costumes, the choreography, the monochrome colour scheme…even his mid-song nanna nap – was cool and contemporary.
  • The Netherlands Mediocre, aside from a) the super zoomed-in shot of Trijntje’s face which was frightening, and b) her caped jumpsuit, which looked like the kind of thing a superhero would go skydiving in.
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From boobs aplenty to bin bag, Trijntje just couldn’t win.

  • Finland This goes against everything I’ve said about Finland to date, but *gulp* I actually enjoyed PKN’s performance. It certainly woke me up.
  • Greece Well-sung and expertly wind-machined (without compromising Maria Elena’s precarious boob positionage) One Last Breath nevertheless remained a borefest.
  • Estonia Stig shall henceforth be known as Estonia’s Houdini after that disappearing act. This was good, and the narrative was well-acted, but I don’t think we’re heading to Tallinn in 2016.
  • FYR Macedonia Oh dear. This is the third year in a row Macedonia has stuffed up their staging with a hot mess. If they’d had Daniel in a spotlight and played the music video in the background, it would have been so much better. That is coming from someone who has never staged anything for anyone, ever, though.
  • Serbia Bojana is a force to be reckoned with, and she worked the stage like the diva Eurovision deserves. Despite my dislike of the lyrics (trés lame) I have to admit that this looked and sounded very good. But I’m not sure about the result of the costume reveal. I f you’re going to reveal something, it should be something worth waiting for.
  • Hungary Boggie didn’t put me to sleep, so that’s a plus. Hungary’s was another performance that I liked without expecting to, so I’m not that surprised it qualified. The streak of success continues.
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Boggie was beautiful in burgundy – no running, running, running to repurchase a replacement dress for her.

 

  • Belarus The staging was flat and Time deflated to match. What a shame for Uzari and Maimuna. I know that giant hourglass would have been hard to stuff in one of their suitcases, but it was sadly missed.
  • Russia Polina is the Sanna Nielsen of 2015 – a blonde angel warbling among the rest of us mortals. But her performance didn’t scream ‘WINNER!!!’ at me. I can imagine the credits rolling over it, so basically I’m super confused right now.
  • Denmark Anti Social Media did what exactly what they did at MGP, which was be smiley and peppy while performing a perfectly serviceable rendition of a perfectly serviceable song. I thought that would have been enough to nudge them into the final , but nope. Denmark misses out for the first time since 2007.
  • Albania Elhaida’s vocal, as she is THE Voice of Italy, was excellent…until the last thirty seconds of I’m Alive, which was when she got way too shouty for my delicate eardrums. Thumbs up for the styling though. It’s too bad she couldn’t have loaned the black number to Trijntje.
  • Romania Gets me every time! You can bet your prized flag collection that I voted for Voltaj. I’m glad the waiter garb was swapped for something that didn’t say ‘Would you like some cracked pepper, sir?’.
  • Georgia Nina is so fierce, she should be sent to live in a tiger enclosure at the zoo. She may be the same age as Lena was when she won Eurovision, their names may rhyme and they might both have a penchant for black, but this was badass on a level that well, never needed to achieve, but couldn’t if it tried anyway. Go Georgia.

After all of that (plus about a hundred mentions of Australia that I’m pretty sure Europe did NOT appreciate…sorry guys) the voting window opened, and all of us Down Under got our vote on for the first and third-last time (assuming, as I do, that we’re not going to win on Saturday). I went to town texting in for my five favourites, three of whom – Belgium, Romania and Estonia – made the grade. Joining them was Armenia, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Albania and Georgia.

There weren’t any shock moments among those rapid results for me personally. Denmark not qualifying wasn’t something I’d predicted, but after their polished-but-not-standout performance, I could comprehend it. Having enjoyed the Hungarian performance, I was actually happy to see them continue the success of their ESC comeback. Hoping but not expecting Moldova and FYR Macedonia to advance, I was satisfied with my top two songs of the semi – Rhythm Inside and De La Capăt – earning places in the final.

Also satisfying was achieving a new record re: qualifying predictions. Nine out of ten, peeps! Like I said, I did think Denmark would make it and that it would be Albania or Serbia through, not both. But I never said I was all-knowing. I’M ONLY HUMAN!

If you’re only human too (or not, I don’t mind) let me know how successful you were in predicting the outcome of the first semi, and what you thought of the show as a whole. Got some highlights and/or lowlights? List ‘em in the comments and I’ll love you until someone else says something more interesting.

Now, let’s get into the thick of semi final two with some more guessing games. Starting with Lithuania and ending with Poland, this installment is not far away at all, so get your viewing snacks and scorecards ready!

Remember, I don’t tune in to the rehearsals, so everything to come is based on the odd photo, reports from the press centre and my opinions.

 

sf2pred

The running order

Lithuania, Ireland, San Marino, Montenegro, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Czech Republic, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Cyprus, Slovenia, Poland

 

Semi final two is the bigger, and, as usual, better semi. It should be a lot more dynamic than Tuesday’s show in terms of musical light and shade, and give us more to bust a move to. By ‘more’, I’m mainly referring to Golden Boy. Do you like my dancing?

 

The results

 My top 10 prediction

 A.k.a. where I undo my sad all my good work of correctly predicting 90% of Tuesday’s qualifiers.

  1. Sweden
  2. Slovenia
  3. Norway
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Lithuania
  6. Latvia
  7. Cyprus
  8. Montenegro
  9. Israel
  10. Iceland

There are so many uncertain qualifiers in this semi that none of my previous Top 10s felt right. This one doesn’t either, but I had to settle sometime before the show actually started (you’d be skeptical if I got 10/10 after the show).

Sweden topping the semi tonight is a safe bet, literally, and I’m confident that Slovenia and Norway won’t be far behind Måns and his roly-poly cartoon man – if not in points, then in position. I know not everyone thinks Norway is sure to make the final, but I cannot see such a classy, spellbinding ballad escaping notice of the televoters or the juries.

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‘Just sit back and relax, my friend…we got this.’

 

In the same way that Greece is Greece, Azerbaijan is Azerbaijan. Even if they sent Elnur on stage dressed as the poo emoji, they’d qualify. This time, that’s fine by me – I cannot wait to see and hear Elnur on the ESC stage again, albeit minus the feathers and glitter.

Latvia’s Love Injected, I’m hoping, is striking enough to find favour with televoters and jurors alike. They truly deserve a spot in the final, and if they get it, it’ll be their first weekend appearance since 2008.

I’m predicting Cyprus without being sold on the idea, but everyone else seems to think the island is a shoo-in, and I’m easily swayed.

I think Montenegro can make it in much the same way Sergej did last year – without a massive bunch of neighbours to give them a boost. They won’t be in the top 5, most likely, but I don’t see Knez being borderline either. I believe in the power of Željko Joksimović!

Israel and Iceland are borderline. We NEED Israel in the final for busting of thy moves, but the juries will drag it down – just hopefully not out of contention. Iceland could get lost being sandwiched between Azerbaijan and Sweden and be knocked out by Malta, Poland or Switzerland.

 

My fantasy top 10

  1. Sweden
  2. Norway
  3. Latvia
  4. Montenegro
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Israel
  7. Slovenia
  8. Ireland
  9. Malta
  10. Iceland

At least there’s one there that’s likely to come true.

 

My bottom seven prediction 11. Malta, 12. Ireland, 13. Switzerland, 14. Poland, 15. Czech Republic, 16. Portugal, 17. San Marino

San Marino tailing is the only bit of this I’d put money on (so don’t blame any of your SF2 losses on me) but I can see Malta just missing out.

Amber-Malta-Eurovision-2015-First-Rehearsal-600x400

Ann Sophie’s got black smoke, Amber’s got white…but I reckon only one will be performing in the final.

If Poland’s performance is as effective out of rehearsals as it has been in them (so I hear) they too could come close, but there are so many female ballads in this semi it’s going to be hard for the more understated ones to stand out. Performing last, Monika has an advantage in this respect, but not much about In The Name of Love sparks the desire to vote.

 

If there’s a shock result…it could have something to do with San Marino. I don’t think there’s any danger of the bookies’ favourites missing the mark. If the Czechs make their very first final, that would be something to gasp about too.

 

 

Who’s most likely to…

…get the biggest round of applause? Israel/Sweden.

I’ll put it this way: Israel is the Serbia of semi two, and Sweden is the Estonia.

 

…sing best live? Aminata/Elnur Huseynov.

The pocket rocket and Elnur minus Samir are the vocalists I’m most keen to hear in action. Can Elnur still make canines everywhere head for the hills with his high notes? Hashtag curious.

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‘I suggest you put your glassware away, folks. Things are about to reach a very very high pitch.’

 

…sing worst live? Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini.

Just because their competitors have oodles of talent and experience. I had to pick someone!

 

…make the best use of the background? Ireland/Montenegro/Sweden.

I hear Ireland has set the tone in a refreshingly non-Celtic kind of way, and that should complement Molly’s piano-playing quite nicely. Montenegro might attempt to hypnotise us all with sweeping shots of breathtaking scenery, and Sweden…well, Sweden’s got an army of adorable fat men in berets. You can’t beat that.

 

…have the most boring stage show? Portugal.

Sure, the wind machine will get a good workout, but Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa is the kind of plodding number that needs interesting staging to sell it, and a gust of air won’t make much of a contribution to that.

 

…have the best costume/? Norway.

Debrah Scarlett is my new style icon, and if I can’t have her flowing red waves surgically attached to my scalp, I’ll at least be mimicking her structured white ensemble and ornamental headpiece. White is perhaps not the most suitable colour for A Monster Like Me, but she and Mørland look so good in it, I’m willing to ignore that.

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The black tie of the music video is out, and white is in. Are Kjetil and Debrah hoping to take after Johnny Logan and Dima Bilan?

 

…have the worst costume/s? Iceland.

Anything that looks like you could buy a stick of it at a fairground should probably not be worn – even at Eurovision. But María’s fairy floss-esque confection might be sweet in HD, who knows.

 

 

Aaaaand I’m done. I’ll be back on Saturday with a review of tonight’s proceedings and at least five answers to the all-important question: who’s going to win Eurovision 2015? For now though, I’m off to bed. I want to get at least a few hours of beauty sleep in before the show starts so I don’t get up looking like Mr. Lordi. Again.

Wherever you are and whoever you look like when you fall out of bed at an unfortunate hour, I hope you enjoy Part 2 of this year’s contest. May your favourites not do better than my favourites!

 

Who do you think has the edge in the second semi final? Who’s in and who’s out? Will you be convinced I’ve turned into an owl if I say ‘who’ one more time? Let me know below!

 nsig

 

It’s Top 40 Time! My first full ranking of Eurovision 2015

At last, we’re done and dusted, folks. Every Eurovision 2015 entry has been submitted to the powers that be, all ready to be stuck in the CD player in the wings of the Weiner Stadthalle (or however it works. I’m not down with the kids and all their new-fangled technology). I repeat, AT LAST!

Hotly-anticipated reveals from Albania, Azerbaijan, San Marino, Australia (*hollers like a bogan on a boozy Balinese holiday*) and Montenegro earlier in the week rounded off this year’s selection season, with some of us (me) still basking in the glittery aftermath of Saturday’s Scandi finals at the time. That evening saw my favourites in Sweden and Norway take out Melfest and NMGP respectively, making for vigorous victory dancing in my bedroom at six o’clock in the morning.

Now that all of the participants in the 60th ESC are decided, we can all drop whatever we were doing (exams, work projects, giving CPR) and put those all-important Top 40s together. That’s exactly what I’ve done for the purposes of today’s post.

If you’re anything like me, your Top 40 will change about a hundred times between now and May (let’s not even get into how much it will have changed come Eurovision 2016!) and the first one is often the hardest of them all to figure out. Seriously, rankings of this magnitude can make you question your existence and shock you to your very core. Kind of.

That’s why having a helping hand to improve the accuracy of such things is always welcome. I’ve used ESC United’s invaluable song sorter, which is back after being equally priceless in 2014, to generate my first-but-not-final top 40.

Without further ado, I present to you the results, and invite you to share yours in the comments!

 

The top 10

After the weekend of Scandi shenanigans gone by, something drastic has happened to my favourites list. Namely, I have a brand new #1. Gasp! When it comes down to it, though, things are so tight between my top three they’re technically all on top.

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1. Norway – This gave me chills the first time I heard it, and has continued to do so ever since. My body hairs were standing up just watching the voting recaps during MGP. My eyes were a little moist too, but I’m sure that was just dust or something *sniff*.
2. Italy – The only reason I’ve relegated Italy in favour of Norway is because A Monster Like Me triggers a marginally greater physical and emotional reaction in me. Rest assured (I’m talking to you fellow Grande Amore fans here) that I still love Italy like nobody’s business. I am awaiting the ESC edit, hoping no build/drama has been sacrificed in the journey from three minutes forty-something to three minutes even.
3. Sweden – There are not enough positive adjectives on the planet for me to express my appreciation of this entry. I will say, there are a lot of other countries who should be taking notes on how to bring their A-game based on Sweden.
4. Romania – After hearing the (not bad) English version, I thought to myself, ‘If only Voltaj would send a mixed language version to Eurovision.’ I guess they heard me, because they are now sending De La Capăt (All Over Again), which is a smart move. This song might be boring to some, but I absolutely love it. Good riddance to the round pianos and awkward hugs!
5. FYR Macedonia – This entry = one of the best English rewrites I have heard in my time as a Eurovision fan. I suspect the English version was written first, or at least early on, since Daniel sang the chorus of Autumn Leaves in a post-NF win interview. That could be why the English lyrics fit so well. Whatever the explanation, I want to high-five Macedonia big time.
6. Iceland
7. Belgium
8. Moldova
9. Germany
10. Spain

 

My other favourites

The songs in this category round out my top half at the moment. There’s a good chance some of them will make my top 10 eventually, in a year of a) many growers and b) me being as fickle as ever.

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11. Latvia
12. Estonia – I’m not sure why this has dropped down so far. I’m still a big supporter of Stig and Elina, and I still find Stig oddly attractive (but the less said about that, the better).
13. Georgia – The release of the music video, along with the “new and improved” version (it’s exactly the same to my untrained ear) has rekindled my enjoyment of this Warrior. I haven’t liked a Georgian entry this much since…well, ever. JESC not included.
14. Slovenia
15. Malta
16. Montenegro – I was expecting something with a higher ‘wow’ factor from Knez, considering his song’s composer. Nonetheless, this is a classy Balkan ballad, ethnic to an extent we desperately needed in the Viennese line up.
17. Ireland
18. Israel – I’m unsure about the mish-mash of styles present in Golden Boy – not to mention some of the lyrics – but this is a song that wakes me up and makes me want to join Nadav on the dance floor. This kid’s voice is like honey on very smooth bread, applied with a knife manufactured by angels.
19. Australia – Clearly, I’m not overly-biased. I don’t love Tonight Again to death, but I think we Aussies can be proud of this entry. It’s energetic, very true to Guy’s style, and the kind of song that will be better live than in studio – meaning it should go off in the arena. If you’re skeptical, remember: Australia could easily have sent another ballad. But we did not. We freaking SAVED you, Europe!
20. Switzerland

 

The ones that are keeping me confused!

There’s a sizeable chunk of entries I keep changing my mind about – either that, or I haven’t decided how I feel about them yet.

3

21. Azerbaijan – It’s less dreary than Start A Fire, at least. You can never discount Azerbaijan, but their 2014 result was proof that they have to try to succeed, and I’m not certain they’ve tried hard enough here. Elnur’s voice is as amazing as ever, though, and I can see myself liking Hour of the Wolf (cool title alert) a lot more in the future.

22. The Netherlands
23. United Kingdom – If the Class of 2015 was full of peppy, fast-paced pop songs, I’d probably dislike Still In Love With You without thinking twice. But in reality, it’s one of the few songs offering up a fun three minutes, and therefore I’m leaning towards joining the Electro Velvet Brigade, if there is one.

24. Albania
25. Belarus – The music video of Time is fantastic, and taught us all to avoid coming to Maimuna’s rescue. The revamped version of the song itself is less fantastic, but because I love Uzari and his violin-wielding sidekick so much, I can’t bring myself to be too negative about it.
26. Austria
27. Poland – This has already made the leap from ‘meh’ to ‘hmm, I rather like this!’. It is very pretty. But the boob-shaped hole left by Cleo – plus her butter churner and laundry lady – is a big one, and this doesn’t go far in filling it.
28. Denmark
29. Cyprus
30. Russia – We all knew this was the B-side to What If based on the snippet alone. I prefer the melody of that, but this is slightly less cheesy. Polina is stunning, and if she can sing as well outside of the studio as she can in it, I won’t mind sitting through this at all.
31. Hungary
32. Lithuania – This does nothing for me. It’s cute and catchy, but I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for it.
33. Portugal

34. France

 

The receivers of my ‘Oh Dear’ awards…at this point

By the time the contest is over, I’m usually tolerating (at the least) every single song that competed. Apparently I have the magical ability to stop hating something if I listen to it enough. Time will tell if that’s going to apply to the following…

4

35. San Marino – As glad as I am to see the back of Valentina Monetta and the front of Anita and Michele, San Marino have set themselves up for a fall giving two talented young singers this bizarre, disjointed and dated cheese-fest. There’s a reason nobody else will let Ralph Siegel write songs for them anymore.
36. Czech Republic – Eurovision 2005 called, and it wants its song back.
37. Greece – Something is seriously wrong when we can’t even count on Greece to get the party started. This is more like a funeral march than a floor filler.
38. Serbia – They’ve never switched to English before, and they never should again. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bojana’s entry originally, but now that it’s known as Beauty Never Lies, I want to kill it with fire. Not Bojana herself, to clarify…just the song.
39. Armenia – A change of song title hasn’t diminished my disdain for this pompous and bland ballad. It’s like all of these great artists combined somehow cancelled out what should have been a masterpiece.
40. Finland

 
And that’s my Top 40, ladies and gents, albeit a temporary one. Now it’s your turn to get ranking, if you haven’t already (what are you, crazy? NOTHING is more important than this!) and comment your list – or some of it – below. I look forward to totally trashing respectfully agreeing or disagreeing with your opinions.

 
Until next time (in this case, a pretty damn exciting post you won’t want to miss)…

 

nsig

 

MY 400th POST feat. two Scandi finals and a bunch of first impressions!!!

Yes, you read that correctly. I am as shocked as you are to find that I’m still going after five and a half years, and now, FOUR HUNDRED posts. That’s like, a hundred times four (I haven’t done any maths since 2008, so excuse me for being uncertain).

I guess you really can talk about Eurovision endlessly if you have the inclination. Sorry to everyone who thought I’d get bored and shut up before I even reached the big 1-0-0.

With lots of other stuff to chat about today, I’m not going to go on and on about this milestone. I just want to say thanks to anyone who’s read any of my 399 previous ramblings and is about to read this one. You’re (partly) why I keep blogging.

I’ll let a picture (which I hear is worth a thousand words) do the rest of the talking.
ebj4c
Wait…I did also want to warn you that I plan to be celebrating my 800th post in another five-and-a-half-years’ time. Run for cover, people!

Let’s get on with the show/s.

 

First thoughts on the songs of the last seven days

  • Armenia: There’s been big buildup re: Don’t Deny, as week by week Geneaology’s band members were announced and we all wondered how the song would compare to Six4One’s If We All Give A Little. Now we have all six singers, plus one song that makes me go ‘hmm…’. At the moment, the best part of this package for me is having an Arshakyan sister back in Eurovision. Jan jan!
  • Austria: Last night, The Makemakes won themselves the honour of repping Austria on home soil with I Am Yours. It was always going to be difficult for our hosts to follow up Conchita, and sadly – as competent, pleasant and well-sung as this piano ballad is – if it wasn’t an automatic finalist, I think it would be staying behind in the semis. The memorability factor, as with a bunch of 2015 entries, is low.
  • Belgium: The only way was up for Belgium after the creepfest they sent to Copenhagen. Even with that in mind, I am very impressed with Loïc Nottet’s Rhythm Inside. 2015 is shaping up to be a year of ballads VS atypical ESC entries, and this definitely falls into the latter category. It’s catchy and a bit off the wall, and Loïc’s voice – unsurprisingly, given his turn on The Voice Belgique – is great. With vocal backup being provided by a member of Witloof Bay, the live won’t be a disappointment.
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I don’t think the Eurovision camera equipment will respond well to a stage presentation this moist. Then again, Jedward pulled it off…

  • Czech Republic: I guess Hope Never Dies will be the fawned-over song that I can’t get on board with this year. I find it dated and depressing, which means it’ll probably win.
  • Israel: I was dying to hear Golden Boy, knowing that Nadav’s r & b stylings would ensure it wouldn’t be a ballad. It’s not, and it’s the most ethno-pop offering on the table so far. There are some questionable lyrics and a segment that sounds exactly like the pre-chorus of Ed Sheeran’s Sing (shh, don’t tell anyone!) but for the most part, it’s everything I was hoping for. And I STILL cannot believe Nadav’s only sixteen. What has he been eating for breakfast?
  • Poland: Well, the boobs have officially been retired for Eurovision 2015, and it’s kind of a shame. Monika Kuzynska will be using her voice rather than her lady lumps to win us over via In The Name of Love. It’s yet another ballad, and although it is pretty and pleasant to listen to, it will have a tough time standing out.
  • Portugal: Oh look, it’s nice ballad #975! This won’t have a hard time qualifying at all!
  • Romania: Voltaj were my favourites heading into Selecţia Naţională…meaning De La Capăt was the only Romanian song I’d listened to and enjoyed at that point. This has been a big hit in their homeland, and as a fan, I can see (or hear) why. It has the authenticity and character that Paula & Ovi’s Miracle completely lacked.
Voltaj-de-la-capat

‘Look! No stupid round pianos in sight!’

  • United Kingdom: The first time I listened to Still In Love With You, I actually facepalmed. The second time, I found myself tapping my toes. As a result, I’M SO CONFUSED! I’m yet to give it a third spin to see what reaction that brings, but I think I kind of like it. The scat part makes me want to cut my ears off, but I reckon I could come to boogie on down to the rest. BRB, just popping out to hire a flapper outfit and sign up for some Charleston lessons.

Now (I’m back with my fringed mini-dress and dance registration slip, BTW) let’s talk some songs which, for a few more hours, all have the chance of joining the prestigious Eurovision 60 Club – some with better odds than others. That would be the finalists from Norway and Sweden.

 

Cinderella, a monster like me and a well-cooked pizza: God kveld, NMGP!

Whatever else you might have to say on the topic of Norway, you can’t accuse their 2015 national final of lacking in variety, or quality in comparison to 2014.

Melodi Grand Prix has a much more consistent standard to its name this year, with the majority of the eleven entries being more than listenable (which is a compliment). Of course, there are the obligatory musical nightmares that should never have been let out of 1985, but things wouldn’t be quite the same without them. What would we have to complain about if the likes of Elisabeth Andreassen and Tor Endresen hadn’t provided us with 100% vintage cheese?

MGP-2015-All-the-participants

Which of these pretty faces will follow in Carl Espen’s footsteps?

Tor & Bettan will perform third tonight, and this is who they’re sandwiched between:

  1. Thunderstruck by Erlend Bratland
  2. Louder by Raylee
  3. All Over The World by Tor & Bettan
  4. Next To You by Jenny Langlo
  5. We Don’t Worry by Ira Konstantinidis
  6. Heaven by Contrazt
  7. Ta Meg Tilbake by Marie Klåpbakken
  8. En Godt Stekt Pizza by Staysman & Lazz
  9. A Monster Like Me by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett
  10. Cinderella by Alexandra Joner
  11. Human Beings by Karin Park

My top five:

#1 | A Monster Like Me: I know, I know…Eurovision 2015 is drowning in a sea of ballads. I’ve only mentioned it 100 times in this post alone. But this is a ballad I actually WANT in the contest (unlike quite a few of the existing ones). There is something spine-tingling about the melody, the lyrics and the way Mørland and Debrah’s voices intermingle. In two words (despite the fact I’ve already used many words): hauntingly beautiful.

10842268_645929968852209_5067144199527973594_o1

If they win, I hope they look a little happier than this.

#2 | Human Beings: This is pretty much what I expected from Karin ‘I Feed You My Love’ Park, and it rocks. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I do think it’s lacking the MGP-winning gene, but it’s unique and edgy, just like Karin herself.

#3 | Next To You: Again, this is missing whatever rings the ‘WINNER!’ bell in my brain. Still, I really like it. It’s contemporary with a well-produced Scandi sound, and somehow manages to be soaring and melancholic at the same time.

#4 | En Godt Stekt Pizza: This is a well-cooked pizza that smells like a very guilty pleasure. Staysman & Lazz have produced the trashy love child of Timber by Kesha and Woki Mit Deim Popo (a description Staysman seemed to appreciate when I tweeted it recently) and I’m ashamed to say I get a kick out of it. Yee-haw!

#5 | Cinderella: Aaaand enter the obligatory MGP r & b number that floats my boat. I highly doubt Alexandra will win, but I don’t doubt she’ll re-energise the audience as the penultimate performer.

 
So, who is in contention for the win? Worst case scenario, Contrazt AND Tor & Bettan. Don’t do it, Norway!

If I had to put money down, I’d put it down on Erlend, Staysman & Lazz, Mørland & Debrah and Karin – with the chance of Jenny subbing in for the Norwegian Trackshittaz.

Narrowing it down even further – Mørland & Debrah’s Monster has been calling out to me as ‘The One’ since the MGP entries were released. I do worry that it’s similar enough to Silent Storm for Norway to be looking for something different to represent them in 2015, in which case Karin, or Erlend – with his stadium pop that I don’t really “get” – could take the prize. But, as many ballads and he/she duets we already have booking flights to Austria, I can’t help wanting one more to succeed Carl Espen. A Monster Like Me FTW, or else!*

 

* ‘Else’ = me getting my sadface on, good and proper.

 

Melfest wraps up in Sweden with a super-sized finale

I can’t believe five weeks of Melodifestivalen have gone by already. Nor can I believe I’ve gotten up at 3am every Sunday morning for the last five weeks to watch the prelim rounds. #totallyworthit. But we do still have the biggest and best installment to look forward to, plus what is sure to be an interesting round of point-giving. Though don’t expect the scores to be as close as they were between Ace Wilder and Sanna Nielsen twelve months ago…

Speaking of twelve, that’s the number of competitors in tonight’s grand finale, after Linus Svenning, Hasse Andersson, Dinah Nah and Samir & Viktor qualified from Andra Chansen last weekend, joining the eight direkt qualifiers. Here they all are, in recap and running order form:

  1. Groupie by Samir & Viktor
  2. Building It Up by JTR
  3. Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah
  4. Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren
  5. Can’t Hurt Me Now by Jessica Andersson
  6. Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw
  7. Forever Starts Today by Linus Svenning
  8. Don’t Stop by Isa
  9. Möt Mig I Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson
  10. Sting by Eric Saade
  11. Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette
  12. Guld Och Gröna Skogar by Hasse Andersson

It’s an unusual running order by SVT standards, but you can find plenty of discussion on that subject elsewhere on the net (and it’ll make more sense than anything I could come up with). I’m going to leap straight in to my personal preferences and predictions.

My top five:

#1 | Heroes: A lá Melfest 2014, one of the favourites is also my favourite. On this occasion, it has nothing to do with how insanely attractive I find Måns, and everything to do with how excellent his song and staging are. Okay, that’s a lie. But I really do love the song.

ws5asstidazg6cdqiafbbka9fzd-jpg

‘YES! I told you I could work these leather pants!’

#2 | Make Me (La La La): I was only too happy to bid Dolly Style farewell last week in favour of Miss Nah (not her real surname, though I wish it was). I love the costumes and choreography of this performance, and the song is a club dream with the perfect amount of 90s infusion.

#3 | Jag Är Fri: I couldn’t be less Sami, but there’s something about Jon’s joiking that I connect with on an emotional level. Throw in a Lion King-esque sound and an ethnic outfit and I’m sold.

#4 | Building It Up: I HAVE TO, GUYS. They’re Australia-associated! And you know I’m a sucker for boy band muzak. I genuinely enjoy this song, and if you’d seen JTR on the Aussie X Factor a few years ago, you’d know how much they’ve stepped up.

#5 | Groupie: I ALSO HAVE TO, GUYS. Groupie’s nothing on Samir & Viktor’s smash hit Success (despite the fact that it’s virtually the same song) but since the duo knocked my top Melfest ’15 song out of the race in Andra Chansen, I’ve decided to support them.

 
Getting on to who’s going to end up where on le scoreboard…well, every man and his schlager-loving dog have made their full, twelve-song prediction, so I think I’d better do the same. At risk of ending up dying of embarrassment.

  1. Måns Zelmerlöw – in a year where Eric Saade tried way too hard, the victory is Måns’ for the taking. If the song doesn’t do it, that adorable little cone-hat man will.
  2. Jon Henrik Fjällgren – the international juries will drag him out of winning contention, but don’t underestimate Sweden’s affection for JHF.
  3. Eric Saade – I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he ends the night lower than this.
  4. Mariette
  5. Isa
  6. Dinah Nah – I’m tipping Dinah as the AC success of the year.
  7. Magnus Carlsson
  8. Jessica Andersson – Now we’re at the final stage, Can’t Hurt Me Now will come across blander than ever.
  9. Samir & Viktor
  10. Linus Svenning – There’s something missing here. People won’t connect with this like they did with Bröder.
  11. Hasse
  12. JTR – Anything BUT last will be a win for the boys, but with the cute guy vote already split multiple ways, they will struggle to charm their way out of the 10th-12th place region.

What do you reckon? Am I right or am I a moron with all the foresight of an Ikea meatball? Hit me with your tips for Sweden down below.

If you’re tuning in to Melfest, I hope to see you on Twitter where we can discuss the science of Hasse Andersson’s appeal in his homeland, among other things. We’ll also be able to console each other when the show’s over. I have a box of tissues and a tub of ice cream at the ready!

 

As the big 4-0 comes closer, what’s left?

Not a whole lot. But the good news – or bad news, if you’re as impatient as I am – is that selection season is not ending on the EBU-ordered submission date of Monday the 16th. Montenegro has put paid to that. After tonight, there are no more national finals on the calendar (nooooooooo) but here’s what we can expect.

Sunday March 15th
Albania (Elhaida Dani’s I’m Alive reveal)
Azerbaijan (internal selection…probably of Elnur Huseynov)
Russia (Polina Gagarina’s A Million Voices reveal)

Monday March 16th
Australia (Guy Sebastian’s song reveal)
San Marino (Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola’s song reveal)

Tuesday March 17th
Montenegro (Knez’s Adio reveal)

And that’s it, ladies and gents. Shall we cry now or cry later?

 

Let’s cry later. I’d rather revel in the glory of posting my 400th FREAKING POST, and I’m sure you’d rather join me.

*awkward silence*

Fine. A party for one it is.

 
Enjoy your weekend, peeps!

 

nsig

 

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

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

 

Since we last spoke…

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

Firstly, the NF winners:

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

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

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

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

And now, the song premieres:

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

 

Tonight: four more songs?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

What’s left of the N-Fs?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

EBJ Signature

 

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

 

A very Scandinavian Super Saturday (feat. the results of your Melfest votes)

Hey, people who read my blog! Tonight is a great big fat night on the NF calendar, with impending host country Denmark and last year’s hosts Sweden going head-to-head with their respective finals. There’s also the Slovenian final to look out for, plus semis in Norway and Portugal and an alleged revelation from Russia…and that’s not all. Yikes, right? Unlike likely Melodifestivalen winner Ace Wilder (spoiler alert!) I suspect none of us will be busy doin’ nothin’ this evening. In fact, we’ll be busy doin’ a heck of a lot. Here’s a more in-depth look at what you’ll be dividing your time between.

 

PS – Read on to the Melfest section to see the results of last week’s poll, and whether they’ve influenced my prediction at all.

PPS – Getting to that section may take while. Seriously – this is a long post. Go grab yourself a cup of tea, or better yet, an energy drink, and get reading.

 

Norway: the semis continue!

I have a confession to make: I didn’t have the time to follow Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix this year.

Having followed it the last few years and enjoyed myself immensely, I had every intention of doing the same thing in 2014. Unfortunately, life (and a bunch of other NFs) got in the way, and last night I realised it wasn’t going to happen, what with the first semi final taking place pretty much as I was accepting that. Oops.

But the show must, and did, go on without me. Three songs out of five are through to next Saturday’s final – Heal by Mo (which I have previewed and quite enjoyed), Needs by Dina Misund, and High Hopes by Linnea Dale. Tonight, another five songs will compete for another three places. They are:

  1. Hele Verden by Cir.Cuz
  2. Right Now by Martine Marbel
  3. Sing by Oda & Wulff
  4. Taste of You by Knut Kippersund Nesdal
  5. Hit Me Up by Charlie

I can’t offer any educated insights here, but I can offer uneducated ones. Based purely on title/name appeal, I like the look of Hele Verden, Right Now and Hit Me Up. It’s a given that at least one of those will qualify to the final, but that won’t stop me from gloating when that happens, just to warn you.

Tomorrow night, it’s the same deal with lucky last semi three, featuring:

  1. Bensin by Moi
  2. Ain’t No Love In This City No More by El Cuero
  3. Who Needs The Universe by Ilebek
  4. Sole Survivor by Elisabeth Carew
  5. Silent Storm by Carl Espen

I’m interested to (eventually) hear Bensin, Who Needs The Universe and Sole Survivor in this group. I’m also interested to hear whether anyone has the potential to reach or top the standard of Margaret Berger – i.e., is Norway keen to keep the ESC in Scandinavia for another year, or are they just not that bothered?  

 

Denmark’s MGP seeks someone to fly the home flag

Speaking of not being bothered…here’s Denmark! DMGP was very strong last year, and we all know what came of that. I’d like to take a moment to remind you of one my personal favourites from back then.

What could have been *sigh*…but it was Emmelie de Forest who took the win, then again in Malmö. That’s why we’re all referring to Denmark as ‘the host country’ this season, isn’t it? So, in saying that, the host country chooses its entry tonight, and whichever song wins can be guaranteed a rapturous applause in the Eurovision final.

That song will be one of ten entries competing in Odense, listed below in running order.

  1. I Choose U by Bryan Rice
  2. Your Lies by Rebekka Thornbech
  3. Feeling The You by Sonny
  4. She’s The One by Danni Elmo
  5. Vi Finder Hjem by Emilie Moldow
  6. Right By Your Side by GlamboyP
  7. Before You Forget Me by Nadia Malm
  8. Cliché Love Song by Basim
  9. It Hurts by Anna David
  10. Wanna Be Loved by Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez

I chose to be lazy here and only listen to the snippets a few times over.

The impression I got was that Denmark definitely don’t want another win; but at the same time, give these songs a chance and you’ll probably find quite a few that will give the Danes a middling to decent result, which won’t embarrass them.

Here’s my top five:

I Choose U Bryan Rice is my ultimate ‘one who got away’. He 110% should have gone to Eurovision in 2010, but was left languishing in second place. Four years later, he’s back with a song that doesn’t have the same impact as his last, but is perfectly good radio pop with a great tempo.

Feeling The You The disco sound is having a revival, no? I blame that for my attraction to this cheesy funkfest. It can’t have anything to do with that nonsensical title, which could either refer to Sonny’s penchant for sexual harassment or some kind of heightened vibe-sensing ability he possesses.

Vi Finder Hjem This reminds me of something you’d find in the Swedish preselection for Junior Eurovision, which suits me just fine. Extra points for singing in Danish!

Cliché Love Song Damn, this is catchy. And I wish some other songs would be this honest. For example, Dina Garipova’s What If would be Shamelessly Lame Ballad Wired To Rake In The Points, and Solayoh would’ve been Off-The-Shelf Ethnopop Five Years Past Its Use-By Date.

Wanna Be Loved Very European dance pop. Not original, but a decent example of what it is.

Now, who among these five and the leftovers will succeed Emmelie as the Danish rep? I always have a hard time predicting DMGP, but working on the basis that my favourites hardly ever win it, I’m going to guess Danni Elmo or GlamboyP. If I was to get lucky and have a most-liked take out the comp, it’d be Bryan Rice or Basim.

What do you think? Who’s going to fly the Danish flag on home ground?

 

This is it: Melodifestivalen reaches its exciting conclusion

And I’ll be getting up at 3am to tune in! I am so P.U.M.P.E.D, my mini Swedish flag is practically quivering with excitement.

This is the ten-strong lineup for tonight, accompanied by some bite-sized reviews.  

Natural by Anton Ewald – I’ve finally figured out what isn’t clicking here. It’s too forced, too try-hard, too ‘I want to come back and WIN, damn it.’ I loved Anton last year, and I still think he has the face of a Hollywood heartthrob (and the voice of Eric Saade on an off day) but Natural is one club banger that will stay in the club.

Songbird by Ellen Benediktson – And the award for Song Most Likely To Send Me To Sleep goes to Sporty Spice lookalike Ellen! I was shocked when this qualified straight through, because it is nice, but boring as Sanna Nielsen’s outfit. Bless the girl, but she will be my toilet break.

Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar – The schlager-tastic trio has sucked me in with their hypnotically catchy chorus circa 2002, and I no longer dread the thought of them winning. That is partly because they won’t be winning. But they will more than make up for the lack of bedazzling on Sanna.

Alcazar's motto: peace, love, and a sh%!load of sequins.

Alcazar’s motto: peace, love, and a sh%!load of sequins.

Yes We Can by Oscar Zia – Perhaps it’s my secret addiction to cheesy Disney Channel movies talking here, but I LOVE this one. Oscar is adorable, can bust a move and has the voice of an angel (when compared to Anton Ewald). Combine those pros with the karaoke dream that is Yes We Can, and I for one am sold.  

Bröder by Linus Svenning – I’m so happy this came out of AC, because it was one of my favourites in the first semi. It’s one of just two Swedish-language songs in the final, which coupled with the sad back story makes it all the more special. I don’t expect it to do much tonight, but it will stand out in the line up.

Survivor by Helena Paparizou – She made it (almost) all the way! I’ve grown to love Survivor, and the already-established love I had for Helena herself means there is a whole lotta love from me to this entry. I’ve been singing this in the shower, back-to-back with Undo, constantly for the last month. My neighbours are not amused.

Just call her a survivor, already!

Just call her a survivor, already!

To The End by YOHIO – I still prefer Heartbreak Hotel, but this has grown on me. I have to admit though, my favourite thing is that the big, brash performance is going to make Sanna’s simplified staging a breath of fresh air. I think YOHIO’s chances of winning have waned, but he should do okay with this.

Undo by Sanna Nielsen – Sanna is a perfect human, and this is a near-perfect lady ballad IMO. You can take your Wrecking Ball comparisons and shove them somewhere intimate, because there is no way you’ll ever see Sanna swinging across the stage astride a heavy-duty piece of destruction equipment. I do hope to see her swinging into first place during the voting, however.

Efter Solsken by Panetoz – I love these guys, their sound, and their irresistible choreography. They are definitely a collective ray of sunshine in this competition, and if there was to be a shock winner, I’d want it to be them.

Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder – This song is an ear worm and a half. It’s also interesting and modern enough that it would make a good winner. I’m skeptical of Ace’s live vocal abilities (she’s no rival for Sanna in that department) but if Eric Saade can win Melfest, singing prowess is obviously not that important…

The outcome of Melfest 2014 isn’t going to be as hard to predict as DMGP, or as I initially thought. We’ve seen how the acts performed in the semis, we’ve seen the betting odds, and we have our gut instincts to guide us. Still, I was that hopeless during the semis and AC that I needed all the help in the world to make my prediction. That’s why I recruited you guys to vote for who you thought would win tonight.

Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for voting – the numbers were bigger than I expected, and I appreciate every click made. Secondly, HERE ARE THE RESULTS!

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It was a close one between Ace and Sanna at first, but perhaps poor Sanna is destined to be second-best.

I’m not so sure she can defy that destiny this evening. The result comes down to televotes from the Swedish public, as well as vote cast by a variety of international juries. Last year, the juries took victory away from YOHIO and boosted Robin into what became a winning position. Not to sound too dramatic, but acts will suffer at the hands of either Sweden or the juries. It’s the way of the system.

I’m calling Girl Power to overcome the suffering, in the form of either:

Ace – I had a feeling about her before the poll results proved her so popular. I don’t think the juries will love her, but Sweden does/will, and they could give her the boost required so that a middling jury score won’t matter.

Ellen – Hers was a shock qualify, and I still don’t get it. But apparently there’s something about her I’m missing. Songbird is understated where Busy is aggressive, and sometimes less is more. The victory may depend on how many people have migraines.

Sanna – I am Team Sanna. I want her in Copenhagen, dammit. She’s tried six times in the past, and I’m not convinced she’ll get over the line now, but I can’t discount her. She has a decent draw, and based on downloads Sweden has responded well to Undo. The juries should rate it too, so if it’s not quite a win for Sanna, it will be a good result.

If she wins, it'll undo her sad for sure.

If she wins, it’ll undo her sad for sure.

If you’re watching Melfest tonight, join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz. I’m excited to share my first (and probably only) live NF of the season with anyone who’ll have me. We can share witty 140-character quips until the sun rises (or until the show is over and you go to bed at a reasonable hour, if that’s your situation). See you there?

 

Sans Scandinavia (i.e. elsewhere in Europe)…

I think this post has gone on long enough, so I’ll just gloss over the rest of this weekend’s happenings.  

Tonight

  • Russia will supposedly make an internal selection, having set an NF date and pushed it back already.
  • Slovenia’s EMA final, featuring 2005 rep Omar Naber and a song co-written by Hannah Mancini, begins and ends.
  • Portugal’s Festival da Canção kicks off with a semi.

Sunday

  • Sergej Četković’s song for Montenegro will be premiered. According to Wikipedia it’s called Moj Svijet, which means it’s very unlikely to actually be called Moj Svijet.

Tuesday (not part of the weekend, but worth a mention)

  • Greece decides which of four acts to send to Denmark, presumably flying economy or with the baggage.

 

Alright. I’ve talked at you for long enough. I’ll let you go and prepare your viewing snacks and test your flags for wave-ability and flex your pumping fist. Me, I’ll be setting my alarm for a very silly hour of the morning and choosing the pajamas that would be best suited to watching Melfest.

#AustralianESCfanproblems.

Enjoy your evening, ladies and gents!

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