Blog Archives

SATURDAY SHORTLIST | The best 2019 national final songs that didn’t even come close to becoming ESC entries

I know, I know…national final season ended weeks ago and the world has moved on. Eurovision In Concert is tonight, for Serhat’s sake! But you guys are used to me being behind the times, hopefully in an endearing, ‘Oh, that Jaz and her constant lateness to the party’ kind of way. And you can’t expect me to leave those crazy months of NFs behind yet. Not before I’ve acknowledged the musical gems that may not have won through in the end, but showed so much promise that in some cases, it’s worth a dramatic soap-opera wail because they didn’t.

Last time I listed every single second-placed song from the 2019 selection season, which you can revisit (so sweet that you’d want to read it again, you super awesome human) or check out for the first time (what are you waiting for? JEEZ) here. This time I’ve restrained myself and chosen six of the best songs that finished 3rd or lower in their respective NFs – so they weren’t really in contention when it came down to it. That makes their quality even more impressive.

 

PS – Don’t worry, this isn’t just a six-strong list of Melodifestivalen songs. I mean, I could have chosen six from Sweden alone, but not wanting to be too predictable I forced myself to pick only one song from each country in question. My willpower > your willpower.

PPS – Or not. I don’t know if this counts as cheating, but you can find a full playlist of all of my favourite NF songs from 2019 at the end of this post. I’d been putting it together as the season progressed and then “accidentally” embedded it below. Whoops.

 

Now, let’s get down to business.

 

 

 

On My Way, Sheppard (Australia Decides, Australia)

I remember being underwhelmed when this song came out. Sheppard was one of the biggest and most internationally-known acts competing in Australia Decides – and On My Way was kind of…average. But first impressions never last, as they say. The more I listened to it, the more I liked it and the more likely I was to scream with excitement every time it started playing on the radio (which is embarrassing at work). At this point, I have it pegged as an anthemic, infectious singalong song: just the sort of thing Sheppard does best. I actually wouldn’t have minded sending these guys to Tel Aviv instead of KMH (but not instead of Electric Fields).

 

 

Our City, Linus Bruhn (Unser Lied für Israel, Germany)

I know I’m in the minority, preferring this song over literally everything else Germany had to offer, but I don’t care. The performance would have needed to level up if Linus HAD won ULfI (and Guy Sebastian might have had something to say about those LED streetlights) but even so, I honestly think Our City was Germany’s best option for Eurovision. It’s radio-friendly but still competitive, urban and catchy, and has a chorus that would have had thousands of arms up in the air in Tel Aviv (still attached to bodies, fortunately). The best thing I can say about Sister, on the other hand, is that it’s packed with girl power.

 

 

Világítótorony, Olivér Berkes (A Dal, Hungary)

For those of us who get (potentially too) invested in certain songs during NF season, losing them along the way can be heartbreaking. I never expected Olivér, on his first A Dal attempt as a soloist, to win the whole thing – but I also didn’t expect him to crash out and not even reach the semi-finals. How is that possible with a ballad this beautiful? Világítótorony is pure class, quality and emotion, and gave me all the physical feels: goosebumps, spine tingles, watery eyes that I would blame on allergies, etc. It’s been months and I’m still both devastated and outraged that it didn’t make the (semi-final) cut.

 

 

Mr. Unicorn, D’Sound (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway)

I’m not convinced about the title of this song or the group name (one’s too novelty, the other is straight out of 1995…which makes sense since they’ve been around since 1993). But those are just personal pet peeves. Song-wise, bubblegum disco pop for millennials has never d’sounded so good! Mr. Unicorn is pure fun from start to finish, but it’s still slick and contemporary – like a Scandipop/Scandilove/Daft Punk love child. I’m a fan of Spirit in the Sky, don’t get me wrong. But I would have been over the moon if D’Sound had kept their winning streak from the jury vote going through to the Gold Final and then the battle between the last two acts standing.

 

 

I Do Me, Malou Prytz (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)

As I mentioned before, this whole list could have been based on my favourite Melfest 2019 songs – but so you guys didn’t have to roll your eyes at my Swedish obsession yet again, I made the sacrifice. After hours of deliberation (no joke) I went for I Do Me because a) it was such a surprise package and a great debut for Malou; b) it’s so cute and catchy I cannot be in a bad mood after I’ve listened to it; and c) I love Clueless, so the inspiration for the staging and Malou’s outfit (which I want a dupe of SO BAD) was right up my street. The cherry on top of all this goodness was the artist/songwriter reaction to going direkt. Their ‘Us? Really?!?’ face were adorable.

 

 

Apart, KAZKA (Vidbir, Ukraine)

First things first: the live performances of this song at Vidbir were vocally questionable at best. But in studio, like everything else KAZKA produces, it’s sublime. I have no doubt that if Apart had won the NF and no drama had followed, the performance would have been whipped into shape in usual Ukrainian style and been a contender for a great Eurovision result. In this reality though, I’ll just keep streaming the shiz out of the studio version and particularly enjoying the mysterious chanting towards the end. Is it a troupe of Ukrainian grannies á la Buranovskiye Babushki? Who knows, but I think they’re saying ‘KAZKA must get to Eurovision ASAP…oh, and Tayanna, of course’.

 

 

Listen to all of today’s tracks (plus many more) right here:

 

 

Which songs didn’t even reach 2nd place this NF season but ended up on your best-of playlist? Let me know below!

 

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

A DAL, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN | A love letter to Hungary’s Eurovision 2019 song selection feat. my top 30!

In case you didn’t know, Sweden is my all-time favourite Eurovision country and the one I support unconditionally every year (2009 aside…La Voix was a moment of insanity on their part). But I have to say, there’s another nation nipping at their stylishly-shod heels.

Hungary has gifted three minutes of greatness (in every genre imaginable) to the ESC almost every time they’ve participated, and while I’ve been waiting for them to finally win I’ve kept a close eye on their national final A Dal. And this year, the competition is seriously wow. I mean, if I had to sum up how I feel about it in just a few words, ‘VISZLAT NYASSS!!!’ would do it.

Thankfully I don’t have to limit myself to just a few words, so instead I’m going to devote an entire blog post to how awesome it is. The upcoming A Dal is too good NOT to discuss in detail to the point where you guys are snoring and drooling – so maybe grab some coffee (triple shot) before you check out my thoughts on all 30 entries as we wait for the comp to start on Saturday night. And as always, share your agreements and disagreements in the comments. I’m desperate to know if you’re as impressed by Hungary this year as I am!

 

 

My A Dal douze pointers

Working from best to worst, this is my top 10 in a comp that’s setting the standard for song quality this NF season. If the Eurovision gods are smiling down on me when the A Dal final rolls around, one of these tracks will win it. If not, I may cry a little.

Lighthouse, Olivér Berkes This song does to me what I think Amar Pelos Dois did to a lot of people (but NOT me): it makes me feel feelings that manifest in the form of goosebumps, spine tingles and moist eyes that I may or may not blame on allergies. It’s one of the prettiest piano ballads my ears have ever been exposed to, and Olivér – competing in A Dal for the first time as a soloist and the third time overall – delivers it emotively and with the perfect mix of flawless and rough-edged vocals. I do think the Hungarian version Világítótorony is extra special, so I’m hoping Olivér opts to sing that during A Dal. Either way though, it will be stunning.

Wasted, Barni Hamar Barni might look like he should be competing in a JESC NF, but his song is totally ready for adult Eurovision. Wasted – composed and written Mikolas Josef style by Barni himself – is exactly the kind of cutting-edge, catchy as heck radio pop I always gravitate towards when the A Dal songs are unveiled. I’ve had it stuck in my head for days and I’m not complaining about it. This song is the bomb, and if you love it too, check out Barni’s EP Different on Spotify – the whole thing is in the same musical and lyrical neighbourhood.

Incomplete, yesyes Truth time: I didn’t get the yesyes hype last year, when they finished just behind AWS with I Let You Run Away. With this comeback track, they’ve taken the skeleton of that song and fleshed it out, bringing something to life I can definitely say yesyes to. Incomplete has every box on my douze-point checklist ticked – it’s current, dynamic, edgy, atmospheric and catchy. Plus, the potential for a kick-ass light show to accompany it is sky high, and that tends to make me happy. Watch out for this one, because it could run away (see what I did there) with the win very easily.

Roses, The Middletonz This is the fifth time András Kállay-Saunders has attempted to represent Hungary at Eurovision (with a 1/5 success rate, obviously). This latest try is giving him a pretty good shot at victory in my opinion (as someone whose own success rate at predicting the outcomes of national finals is laughable). Roses is a love it or hate it sort of song, but clearly I love it. What I love most about it is how it’s ever-evolving, shapeshifting in sound constantly throughout the three minutes but in a pattern that you can follow. I’ve never heard a song quite like it before, and neither has Eurovision. Just saying…

Az Én Apám, Joci Pápai My boy is back! I nearly passed out when I heard that Joci, the man behind one of my all-time favourite ESC entries and a string of other amazing songs, was giving A Dal another go. Given Hungary’s tendency to bounce from genre to genre and never send the same act twice, I don’t think we’ll see him at Eurovision 2019 – but they could do a lot worse than sending this heartfelt ethno-folk ballad. It might not be as dramatic as Origo (topping that is impossible) but it’s just as beautiful and arresting in its own way.

Posztolj, USNK As soon as I found out that ByeAlex co-wrote this, I knew I’d soon be professing my love for it on this blog. And here we are! That songwriter credit is the only thing Posztolj has in common with Kedvesem (another favourite ESC entry of mine), but I’m a fan regardless. It serves swag, attitude and grit, and makes me feel cooler than I actually am just by listening to it. USNK, fresh from winning Hungary’s X Factor, obviously have public vote-pulling power too. I don’t think Hungary would be afraid to send this to the A Dal final.

Százszor Visszajátszot, Konyha I’m strangely bummed that I like this so much because it means I have to type out that crazy long title more often (JK…I’ll be copying and pasting). But it’s too good to resist. Hungarian is one of my most beloved musical languages, and this song is a great example of why. It’s slick, it’s neat, and that chorus is infectious times infinity. I also think it works as chill party background music, a song you’d sing along to on the radio in the car AND one that can compete in a contest. That’s no mean feat. 

Maradj Még, Kyra Here’s the powerhouse female pop I knew would be in A Dal somewhere, since this NF leaves no genre stone unturned. Again, because this is Hungary, it’s not straightforward, middle-of-the-road cookie cutter pop we’re talking about here. Maradj Még has bite. It moves from solid verses to an awesome bridge, then on to an epic chorus feat. big vocals and a little EDM influence. I hope to heck that Kyra can deliver this live – if not it will be a mess, but if she can, HECK YES.

Hozzád Bújnék, Gergő Oláh Another returnee, Gergő is in it to win it for the fourth time, and while Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz A Jó (a song that deserved Eurovision and so much more) it’s still top notch stuff. Soaring, powerful and all class, it’s like a talent show winner’s single but actually decent. Gergő will want to be at his vocal best performing this, since it showcases his voice without spotlighting much else (i.e. there’s no bells and whistles to distract from a dodgy vocal). I’m pretty confident he can handle it.

Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy You might see this as a wildcard in my top 10, or at least as a song that wouldn’t be so highly thought of by many other people. But there’s always an underdog in with my favourites, and congrats Gotthy – it’s you this time! I don’t expect Csak 1 Perc to progress too far in A Dal. Unlike Százszor Visszajátszot (copied and pasted) it’s a definite radio song rather than a radio song AND a competition song. But that just means I will be streaming the shiz out of it on Spotify and enjoying every minute.

 

The rest of the best

I’ve listed all my absolute favourites from A Dal 2019 now, but I wouldn’t be devastated if any of these next entries won instead.

Hazavágyom, Leander Kills This is something a bit different from Leander Kills – and it’s damn good different. I prefer epic Élet from 2017, but this ethnic, unique and folksy creation is a song I wouldn’t mind winning the whole thing.

La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie I love the intensity and energy of this one. It passed me by a little when I was first running through the 30, but I’m glad I gave it the attention it deserves.

Ide Várnak Vissza, DENIZ I’m a sucker for a rap/vocal combo (it’s one of the billion reasons I love Origo so much) so what DENIZ is bringing to A Dal is A+. How similar does the vocalist sound to Medina though? Listen to 100 Dage, her collab with Thomas Helmig, and you’ll know what I mean.

Holnap, Bogi Nagy If you’re looking for a female equivalent of Olivér Berkes – or a female-led song that’s simple, pretty and emotive like Lighthouse – here’s your girl and here’s your song. It’s far from being in Lighthouse’s league, but it’s a really nice ballad and Bogi’s vocals are practically angelic.

Help Me Out of Here, Petruska I loved Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind, and for me this one doesn’t quite measure up to that. But the Paul Simon Graceland vibes put me in a good mood.

Barát, Salvus The early 2000s called, but they can’t have this Christian rock-esque number back because I want and need it here in 2019.

A Remény Hídjai, Nomad Mid-tempo soft rock is on the vanilla side of things for me, and this is no exception. But vanilla is still appealing! Hungarian sounds boss in this genre like it does in EVERY GENRE IN EXISTENCE.

Ő, The Sign This is a weird song, and most of it is taken up by ‘Őőőőőőőőőőőőőő.’ But, even though it may not maximise the 180 seconds it has to work with, I find it so soothing and pleasant to listen to that I still like it a lot.

Frida, Rozina Pátkai ’Ethereal’ is a word I don’t use very often when I’m talking music, but it’s fitting for this track. I wish it had more x-factor to take it to the next level, but that’s a small pet peeve and I’m still impressed by it.

Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet I didn’t like this much based on the teaser, and I still think the guitar parts are way too throwback. But the rest is easy-listening enjoyment all the way, and it puts a smile on my resting bitchface.

Little Bird, Diana There’s one thing stopping me from ranking this way higher, and it’s Diana’s voice – it just grates on me. That aside, Little Bird is an awesome addition to A Dal this year. I’m hoping I’ll find the vocals more agreeable live.

 

I’m undecided…

I need some more alone time with these songs to see how I really feel about them, but there’s something appealing about them all.

Madár, Repülj!, Gergő Szekér I think I like this. It’s original and dramatic, no doubt, but a bit messy. Chaotic messy, not artfully messy like Gergő’s hair.

Szótlanság, Bence Vavra I’ve listened to this as often as I’ve listened to everything else, and I cannot remember how it goes. Yet when I do press play, I always think ‘Yeah, this isn’t bad!’. Go figure.

Egyszer, Mocsok 1 Kölyök I don’t feel any fire from this in terms of competing FTW, however I wouldn’t skip it on a shuffling playlist. The 90s grunge feels are strong.

You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu There’s usually a carbon copy of this song in A Dal (it reminds me particularly of Fall Like Rain from a few years back) and I’m never a big fan. This time it’s a guilty pleasure for me, though. The lyrics are beyond cliché, but the melody is nice and overall I find it a relaxing listen.

Kulcs, Fatal Error I have to be in the right mood to listen to this, otherwise the noisiness and frantic pace send me into meltdown mode. If I am in the right mood, I will headbang until I need a chiropractor.

Someone Who Lives Like This, László Váray Would I miss this if it wasn’t invited to the party? No, but I don’t mind it being on the guest list.

Kedves Világ!, Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko Okay, nothing special. I welcome every song that’s in Hungarian though.

 

Thank u, next

Loving or liking 28 out of 30 in this lineup is what made me want to write this ramble in the first place – but yes, there are a few songs I don’t like.

Forró, Ruby Harlem The style of this is not my bowl of goulash at all, and I find the chorus super irritating.

Run Baby Run, Monyo Project The verses aren’t bad but the chorus (another song-ruining one) is so repetitive and monotonous, it gives me a headache.

 

 

And that’s every single song on offer in A Dal this year from my perspective. I love so many that I’m guaranteed to get heartbroken during the heat and/or semi stages, but I’m confident we’ll get a great winner and Eurovision entry from Hungary in the end. Stay tuned to EBJ for my predictions when the time is right…

 

Which potential Hungarian ESC entries are you excited about at the moment? Is A Dal 2019 as dal-ightful in your opinion as I think it is? Let me know below!