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Most-Played…national finalists + OGAE 2012!

I think it’s time to take a break from JESC, partly for those of you who roll your eyes at Junior Eurovision and partly for me because I’m tired of typing ‘JESC’ and ‘Junior’ every second word.

Today’s post is a hybrid, featuring the second installment of my new (ish) Most-Played series, as well as a quick look at the results of everyone’s favourite second chance contest: the OGAE SCC.

But first up, that list of most-played songs. Last time it was winners (you can read/re-read that here: https://eurovisionbyjaz.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/new-most-played-esc-winners/) and this time, as you most likely figured from the title, it’s national finalists – the songs that have tried and failed to get to the big show, but have found their place on the iPods of NF followers everywhere. Check out my list, and then comment me the ones you’ve played the most since…well, ever. Pretty please?

 

#1 | Kom by Timoteij (Sweden 2010)

The Fab Four (only Swedish, female, and with less embarrassing haircuts)

Timoteij are to me now what the Spice Girls were to me fifteen years ago – I love everything they’ve ever produced and think they’re totally fabulous in every way (and if Timoteij had their own brand of perfume, I’d probably buy it too). The first of their two Melodifestivalen songs may have come 5th in the final, but for many it will be one of those potential ESC entries that got away. It did win the 2010 OGAE Second Chance Contest however, so that’s some *sniff* consolation *sniff*.  

#2 | Nada Es Comparable A Ti by Mirela (Spain 2009)

#3 | Breathing by Bryan Rice (Denmark 2010)

#4 | En Una Vida by Coral (Spain 2010)  

‘I’ll get you, Daniel Diges. And your posse of circus performers too!’

Here’s an epic ballad in the mould of Mirela’s and/or Pastora Soler’s Quedate Conmigo, both of which I love unconditionally. Having been beaten in Spain’s 2008 final by none other than Mr. Baila El Chiki-Chiki, I bet Coral thought she had a win coming two years on when she stepped back on the NF stage with only a curly-haired, clown-toting guy who’d been in the stage adaptation of High School Musical to defeat. Unfortunately she thought wrong, but she’ll always be the rightful winner in my eyes.

#5 | Emotions by Mista (Slovakia 2010)

#6 | You’re Out of My Life by Darin (Sweden 2010)

‘Can we PLEASE get that wind machine turned down a notch?’

#7 | Nótt by Yohanna (Iceland 2011)

#8 | La Histeria by Marquess (Germany 2008)

Germany had a super-strong (or über-strong) national final in ’08. Caroline Fortenbacher! Monrose! Cinema Bizarre! It couldn’t have had more star power unless there were more famous people competing (duh). Anyway, none of those artists managed to win, and neither did Marquess – but their entry La Histeria is so much fun. Albeit more Spanish fun than German fun. I think it would have done much better in Belgrade than Disappear, a song which many fans wish would do just that.

#9 | Dear Mama by Blaxy Girls (Romania 2009)

#10 | Elektrisk by Anniela (Sweden 2011)

#11 | Forever Or Never by Cinema Bizarre (Germany 2008)

#12 | My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (Sweden 2011)

Who knew you could feed clothes through a paper shredder?

Loreen was another ‘one that got away’ from Melodifestivalen, but she kind of compensated by coming back in 2012 and, you know, winning Eurovision, et cetera. The song that brought her and her wacky taste in clothing to ESC community attention was different to, but just as kick-ass as Euphoria. I still can’t believe it didn’t get out of the second chance round.

#13 | In The Club by Danny (Sweden 2011)

#14 | Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (Sweden 2011)

#15 | Tid Att Andas by Simon Forsberg (Sweden 2011)

#16 | Surrender by Passionworks (Finland 2009)

#17 | Or by Chen Aharoni (Israel 2011)

I am nothing if not a member of Team Dana International, but even I have to say that sending her to Düsseldorf instead of Chen was a MASSIVE mistake on Israel’s part. I swear to Mr. God that he would have qualified and made the top 10 had he been given the chance. Or is everything I want in a Eurovision song – ethnic but contemporary, catchy, dramatic, performed by a hot guy…sigh.

#18 | Do You Wanna? by Gipsy.cz (Czech Republic 2009) 

Let’s face it – DYW was the lesser of two evils.

#19 | Sleepless by Anna Noa (Denmark 2011)

#20 | Drømmen by Jeffery (Denmark 2011)

This is quite a humble number that slipped through the cracks, failing to make the super-final of DMGP last year. I think it’s my fondness for Scandinavian languages in hip-hop/r & b-type music that keeps me playing it. It probably wasn’t right for Eurovision, but as a listening song, it ticks all the right boxes. 

 

The results are in: OGAE 2012 

For those of you who don’t know, the OGAE Second Chance Contest is where the songs that failed to make Eurovision go to try and redeem themselves. Nominated songs from each national final are voted on by official fan clubs all over the world to determine the best of the could-have-beens.

Last year, it was Iceland’s Yohanna who won the contest with Nótt (a song that coincidentally, or nótt, made my above playlist). This year, another powerhouse female vocalist took out the competition – Pastora Soler, the most successful Spanish ESC entrant since 2004.

  1. Spain – Tu Vida Es Tu Vida by Pastora Soler
  2. Sweden – Amazing by Danny Saucedo
  3. Norway – High On Love by Reidun Sæther
  4. Denmark – Take Our Hearts by Jesper Nohrstedt
  5. Austria – That’s What I Am by Conchita Wurst
  6. Iceland – Hugarró by Magni Ásgeirsson
  7. Russia – Back To Her Future by Dima Bilan & Yulia Volkova
  8. Slovenia – A Si Sanjal Me by Eva Boto
  9. Estonia – Mina Jään by Lenna
  10. Cyprus – You Don’t Belong Here by Ivi Adamou
  11. Germany – Quietly by Ornella de Santis
  12. Netherlands – Chocolatte by Raffaëla Paton
  13. Portugal – Gratia Plena by Ricardo Soler
  14. Belgium – Safety Net by Iris
  15. Finland – Lasikaupunki by Ville Eetvartti
  16. Greece – Killer Bee by Cassiopeia
  17. Latvia – She’s A Queen by Roberts Pētersons
  18. Ireland – Mercy by Donna McCaul
  19. Lithuania – Why by Beissoul

I am a little surprised that Pastora managed to win. I’m not a huge fan of Tu Vida Es Tu Vida, possibly because I love Quedate Conmigo so much; and anyway, I figured Norway or Ireland would romp to victory. But she is a stellar performer, so my pointless-since-she’ll-never-see-this congratulations go out to her.

Just because, here are my personal picks of the bunch:

  1. Norway
  2. Russia
  3. Ireland
  4. Slovenia
  5. Estonia
  6. Sweden
  7. Denmark
  8. Finland
  9. Austria
  10. Cyprus  

May we all celebrate the brilliance of these national finalists, ‘til the upcoming selection season erases them from our memories!

 

What do you think of the OGAE results? And don’t forget to tell me about  your most-played national finalists!

 

NEXT TIME: It’s back to the JESC recaps as I look back on Rotterdam 2007. Then, prepare yourselves for a very frightening Halloween post as I count down the top 10 Scariest Eurovision Moments of All Time…BOO!

 

My all-time ESC 50: The Countdown (Part 3)

Bonjour, and welcome to the third chapter of my all-time countdown. You know the drill by now, so I won’t embark on a huge rambling intro; all I’ll say is that you may have some serious doubts about my sanity in a few minutes’ time. I apologise in advance, but only for making you recoil in horror – not for my particular (and in my eyes, perfectly acceptable) taste in music!

 

 

 

 #30 – Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey 2003)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJksu8XxZCo

After two years of winning songs that were regarded as more ‘meh…’ and ‘OH DEAR GOD!’ than douze points by fans, a pint-sized Turkish singer wearing harem pants and body glitter gyrated into the contest with a cracking ethno-pop number and changed the game. EWTIC is Turkey in their finest form. The core riff never fails to get me up and hip-shaking.

 

#29 – Diamond of Night by Evelin Samuel & Camille (Estonia 1999)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV3xhRffg6Y

I have a soft spot for Estonia in the ESC (excluding the “song” they sent in 2008) which well and truly extends to this entry, a mystical ballad that could have been lifted from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack. Evelin’s vocal in the chorus is verging on glass-shattering, but the fact that she performs it so on pitch makes it spine-tingling rather than eardrum-bursting. I particularly love Camille’s violin solo, more so in the extended studio version.

 

#28 – Suus by Rona Nishliu (Albania 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=671tCjePT3w

This is the first of a few songs in this group which I assume will have you all gasping in disbelief, but trust me – a few months ago I would have done exactly the same thing. The first few times I heard it, I hated it; but then I watched the preview video, and something changed. Then I saw it live in the semi and I was spellbound. Rona is a spectacular vocalist, and actually moved me to tears with her emotional performance. Pure class.

 

#27 – This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH5cowCvCX4

Again, please respect my right to have an opinion. This song is one of the most-played on my iPod, simply because…well, just because. Contrary to many fans, I don’t find it depressing or boring at all – I’d say it’s more anthemic. Anna didn’t quite pull it off live, but she and her party-dress-and-Converse combo will always be much loved by yours truly.

 

#26 – Rock Me by Riva (Yugoslavia 1989)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW9Xbwn8kwo

Yes, you read that right – the much-maligned winner of ’89 is this high on my list. Why, you ask? Because it’s catchy, it’s fun, and I get a kick out of listening to it. It’s as simple as that. I will add that it was very well performed on the night, and I do love the red/black/white colour scheme (a popular choice for Eurovision success).

 

#25 – Hemel En Aarde by Edsilia Rombley (Netherlands 1998)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkLJd9p8Xgc

Edsilia kind of crashed and burned in Helsinki, but almost a decade earlier she’d brought the Netherlands one of their best results ever with this quite frankly amazing up-tempo ballad. She’s a powerhouse singer (if you watch this performance, listen out for the growl) and engaged the audience so well. The Dutch should be proud of this one.  

 

#24 – Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (Serbia 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9x9VbJzaDQ

Ah, Željko, the master of the slow-burn Balkan ballad. I had high expectations of him coming into this year’s contest, and boy, were they met! The beauty in this song is everywhere, and like Suus it was one of the classiest entries this year. My favourite parts are the instrumental break after the first chorus, and the final thirty seconds, although I am pretty much infatuated with everything from 0.00-3.04.  

 

#23 – Rändajad by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGiVnhfXs0

Estonia crop up once again (and not for the last time) at #23, with Sandra “Perfect Hair” Nurmsalu and her fellow urban symphonists. What makes their song so special for me is partly the atmosphere, and partly the Estonian, which sounds so beautiful and mysterious. I suppose the mysteriousness has to do with my not remembering what the heck the lyrics mean. Ignorance can be bliss after all.

 

#22 – Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler (Spain 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8J1b62wOao

I waved a Spanish flag for the first time this year, all thanks to the powerhouse that is Pastora and the song-writing machine that is Thomas G:son. As a sucker for a big ballad a la several recent Spanish national finalists (Nada Es Comparable A Ti by Mirela, En Una Vida by Coral etc) there was zero chance of my disliking the one that made it to Baku. That money note gets me every time.

 

#21 – Od Nas Zavisi by Karolina (Macedonia 2002)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLMWrBzyDQ8&feature=related

It’s not just the costume reveal that makes me love Karolina’s first contest foray, though I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of it (who can go past a good piece of body armour?) Od Nas is a hard one to describe – is it a ballad? Is it ethnic soft rock? Or is it a hybrid? Maybe it’s that very uncertainty that I’m attracted to…

 

The End. For the moment, anyway. Next time the countdown will continue, but until then please keep the feedback coming! I’m really enjoying all the varying verdicts, as well as hearing which songs you guys would name as your most loved. It’s amazing how different opinions can be. Obviously, mine is the right one, but I will humour you with yours.

Just kidding!

 

EBJ’s top 10…artists I want to hear more of (2012 edition)

Just as the national final season is a great way of discovering new music, so too is Eurovision a great way of discovering new artists – artists that appeal to your taste.

For example, think back to 2006, when Lordi won the contest with an epic rock song about angels and lambs and stuff (hardcore!). Hard Rock Hallelujah is one of my all-time favourite winners, but I knew I wasn’t likely to be interested in what the band had produced before and after it. On the other hand, there was a Russian guy with a mullet named Dima Bilan, who I fell in love with (not physically…I did just mention that mullet, didn’t I? I mean musically) and so spent the next six years squealing girlishly every time his name was mentioned, especially in relation to the ESC.

My point is, this year’s contest was no different. I’ve come away with the intention of acquainting myself with a bunch of artists I’d never heard of six months ago. Now that I’ve got a bit of time to do that, I plan to. So here is my list of the performers who impressed me in Baku, at least enough to make me search for their albums on iTunes and consider giving them a listen.

NB – Obviously, I’ve excluded anyone I was familiar with prior to the 2012 season, so please don’t abuse me for leaving out Loreen or Željko or Anybody Else.

 

#1

Mandinga

Club de Mandinga (2012)

There are few things I love more than catchy, summery, ethnic pop music, and I hear that’s Mandinga’s specialty. I am slightly perturbed by the fact that the graphic of Elena on the cover of their latest album looks nothing like her, but as that has nothing to do with their music and my potential future enjoyment of it, I’ll push it aside. I wonder if you can hear the moonwalking bagpiper in any of the tracks (hear him moonwalking, that is, not bagpiping).

 

#2

Ivi Adamou

San Ena Oneiro (2011)

Ivi’s not the best live vocalist, but she sounds great in studio, and as her preferred genre fits in nicely with what I usually listen to (outside of Eurovision-land – when I’m inside, I listen to everything) I’m excited to rifle through her back catalogue. I did listen to one of her hits, Crashing Down, back when she was announced as Cyprus’ representative, and I gave that douze points.

 

#3

Pastora Soler

Una Mujer Como Yo (2011)

Quedate Conmigo was basically a three-minute showcase for Pastora’s uh-mazing voice, so I’m eager to see how she works with less epic material. This woman has been around for a while, so attempting to listen to everything she’s ever done could take me until Eurovision 2060, but I’ll give it a try.

 

#4

Ott Lepland

Laulan Ma Sind (2011)

I can’t deny that one of the best parts of Ott’s performance in Baku was him being there and me getting to stare at him because of that. But he is genuinely talented, something I managed to notice on those occasions when I tore my eyes away from his wonderful eyebrows. I love a bit of piano ballad-ness and I love listening to Estonian, so further exploring Ott’s repertoire should be disappointment-free.

 

#5

Compact Disco

II (2011)

These guys were doing electro-rock-pop way before Katy Perry tried it out, so whilst they may not look as good in latex leotards as she does, I’m guessing they’ve got the edge when it comes to the sound.

 

#6

Nina Zilli

L’amore è Femmina (2012)

Judging by her San Remo entry Per Sempre and her Eurovision song, I’m expecting a hybrid of classic chanteusery and retro sassiness from Nina. Italian really is one of the most musical languages, so my hopes are high.

 

#7

Can Bonomo

Meczup (2010)

Can’s latest album begs to be heard – the title translates as ‘lunatic’. Who wouldn’t want to investigate that further? It’s the kind of album title I’d expect from Rambo Amadeus, but in this case I’ll be listening voluntarily.

 

#8

Rona Nishliu

Suus (2012)

Apparently Rona’s genre of choice is experimental jazz, a departure from Suus and not my thing in the least. But I’ve got to see (or rather, hear) what else she can do with that ridiculous voice of hers. I’m beginning to think that her dreadlocks hold some sort of mystical powers that make her sing like nobody’s business. That would explain why she had to wrap one around her neck…

 

#9

Litesound

Going to Hollywood (2010)

I’m assuming that back in 2010, these guys hadn’t disco-fied their music to death. If so, their debut album should be worth a spin. If not, well, I could get used to wearing flares and leathers when I’m listening.

 

#10

Soluna Samay

Sing Out Loud (2012)

She may be one of those people who make me feel inadequate and talentless, but her adequateness and talent drew me to her at Eurovision (as did her hat-and-shoulderpads combo. I must visit a costume store and find me one of those). It will be a relief to answer that eternal question: what happens when a busker gets a record deal?

 

Which artists were your favourite discoveries this year?

Baku Reviews: Part 7 (the final six)

Hello there. Have you missed my little words of welcome over the past few weeks? No? Fair enough. Unfortunately for you, I just wanted to say a few things before I get into the last lot of 2012 reviews for EBJ.

Firstly, I cannot believe this is the last lot, because that means it’s almost ESC o’ clock, and I can’t believe that either. Where has the last year gone?

Secondly, I hope you enjoyed all six previous installments in one way or another. This was my first time doing pre-contest reviews rather than retrospective ones, and I think I might be doing it again in 2013. And you better like it!

Now, on with the important stuff:

 

Azerbaijan

When the Music Dies/ Sabina Babayeva

Reminds me of: Falling by Alicia Keys

The good stuff: Azerbaijan has the Midas touch when it comes to Eurovision. They may have only been competing in the contest for four years, but in that time they have never missed out on a top 10 placing, having been in the top 5 the last three years running. For the last couple of contests they’ve succeeded so with radio-friendly, r & b influenced pop ballads, and in 2012, it seems that the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is behind their first entry on home soil. When the Music Dies is a good, solid example of that Top 40 stuff the Azeris do so effortlessly, and I would say it’s easily a better song than Running Scared. Regardless of its final position, you can expect it, and its stunning singer Sabina (Azerbaijan has no shortage of attractive ladies, does it?) to get a massive round of applause.

Everything else: When you’ve won the ESC and the time comes for you to host it, you don’t have to be too picky with your own entry. What’s the point in sending a winner two years in a row? Unfortunately, I feel that this ‘we really don’t care’ attitude is evident in the very effortlessness of WTMD. I don’t mind a country that focuses more on perfecting their show than their entry, as many do, but the fact that Azerbaijan will probably make the top 10 as usual with a song that, IMO, deserves to finish around 14th or 15th, irritates me.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.

 

France

Echo (You and I)/ Anggun

Top 10 material: No

The good stuff: Whoever can predict what sort of song France is going to send each year deserves a croissant-shaped medal. Some countries have a formula and they stick to it, but the French will apparently try anything once to see how it goes, making them ridiculously unpredictable. I don’t even know how to describe Anggun’s Echo (echo, echo, echo…). The best I can do is say it’s a Frenglish mash-up of military, Gaga, and 80s pop that leaves me unsure of my own opinion. The staging could be as interesting/strange as the song (and, ironically, the stage itself – have you SEEN that thing?) so I’m looking forward to see how much so.

Everything else: I’m confused by this song, and as a Eurovision obsessive I’ve listened to it more than a few times. What does that mean for the seasonal fans who tune in for the contest and tune out straight after (who I’m told make up a significant portion of the televoters)? Surely they won’t get it instantly enough, which means fewer votes and another year of less-than-impressive results for France. I can’t imagine the juries regarding it too highly either. Then again, maybe I’m the only one who’s a bit lost here. If you “get” it, please let me know.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.  

 

Germany

Standing Still/ Roman Lob

Best lyric: ‘I can put my arms around the emptiness I found…’

The good stuff: Here’s another song that has made the transition from ‘hmm…’ to ‘mmm!’; from ‘I’m unsure’ to ‘I want MORE!” Basically, I wasn’t sold at first, but now I’m loving it. The Unser Star für… format has done wonders for Germany over the last few years in discovering both new artists (some of whom are recyclable) and new songs. I think the best song and singer possible were chosen in 2012. Roman’s cute as a gingham button and Standing Still is a lovely ballad that’s less in-your-face than some of the others on offer. It was co-written by Jamie Cullum, a rather famous British jazz artist (he has his own Wikipedia page and everything!) who takes pride of place on my mum’s CD shelf, so it’s got cred too.

Everything else: That first time I heard this, I thought it sounded very much like an Idol/X Factor winner’s single. There’s nothing particularly wrong with those – in fact, they usually sell by the truckload – but they can be a little bland. I personally (no longer) find this song bland, but if other people do, Germany may make a return to the bottom of the scoreboard. I really don’t want to see that happen, ladies and gents, so if you have a conscience and don’t want to hurt Roman’s feelings, vote for him!

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points

 

Italy

L’amore é Femmina (Out of Love)/ Nina Zilli

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: It seems that Amy Winehouse is living on in sassy Italian songstress Nina, or at least in her entry. Here we have a retro, swinging, big band-type song that’s much more accessible than Italy’s 2011 effort, but is still likely to tickle the juries’ fancy. L’amore wasn’t originally Nina’s song – her San Remo Song Festival gem Per Sempre was the first pick, and although I was a huge fan of that, I think they made the right choice in switching. If I had to use one word to sum up Italy at Eurovision, it would be ‘classy’, and as classy as Per Sempre was, what is going to Baku is classy AND fun…a potentially winning combination.

Everything else: I did prefer this song in 100% Italian. It’s not that it doesn’t work in Italinglish hybrid form, but the transitions are too random for my liking. A final chorus in English may have been better. Regardless, I’ll be surprised if a right-side finish is on the cards for this one.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.

 

Spain

Quedate Conmigo/ Pastora Soler

Reminds me of: En Una Vida by Coral

The good stuff: I’m sure y’all know I love this song (though you probably didn’t know I sometimes talk like Miley Cyrus). I’ve been praying to the Eurovision gods that Spain would send something like it for years now, which they’ve had the chance to do multiple times – e.g. with Mirela in 2009, and Coral in 2010. Not by coincidence, their songs and Pastora’s were all written by Thomas G:son, the superstar songwriter from Sweden who has two entries in the contest this year (he must be euphoric about that). He has a way of making songs with ‘moments’ that give you goose bumps, and in Quedate Conmigo the moment comes when Pastora lets rip on an epic, key-changing note before the final chorus. This lady is likely to deliver the best female vocal of 2012, on a ballad that I’ll be waving a flag for like nobody’s business.

Everything else: Surely Spain is waiting to do a Germany– that is, suddenly win Eurovision and then bask in the successful aftermath. I wish it would happen, but this is Spain we’re talking about. Despite the fact that a dramatic, brilliantly performed ballad has a better chance at success than a cheesy, I’m-on-a-cruise-ship number á la Lucia Perez’s, this country does not have the touch or the bloc support. For me, it’s top five, but forEurope…well, only Mr. God knows at this point.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!

 

United Kingdom

Love Will Set You Free/ Engelbert Humperdinck

Best lyric: ‘Love comes once, if you’re lucky enough…’

The good stuff: Ah, the Hump – another man who made it onto my mum’s CD shelf. It was great to have another big name announced as the UK’s rep this year, although the actual name may be big enough to tongue-tie the commentators. The Hump checks quite a few boxes on the checklist of Eurovision desirability: he’s internationally famous, can sing like a champ, and has the ‘Aww!’ factor that will probably get Russia’s grannies to the final. His song is a classy number produced by a strong songwriting team, and should ease us nicely in to the final. The chorus is my favourite part, mainly because the “follow your heart” lyric reminds me of Thumbelina, which I may or may not still own on VHS and may or may not watch like, once a month.

Everything else: I was told I’d grow to love this, but ESC week is almost upon us and it’s still too boring to seduce me. As we all know, 2012 is the Year of the Ballad, and without the drama or superstar backup of My Time – the last UK ballad to succeed in the contest – I think this song will get lost. Being drawn to open the final was probably better for the Brits than, say, in the midst of a half, but I don’t think any performance position will give LWSYF a leg up past mid-table.  

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 5 points.

 

 

NEXT TIME: My 2012 prediction special will let you know exactly what will happen I think will happen over the course of the best three nights of the year…before I am forced into internet quarantine. So much for Australia being the ‘lucky country’…sigh.

 

Selection Season Day 13: We (almost) have our 42, and we (totally) have a running order!

I’ve already given thanks to San Marino this week, when I voiced my gratitude for their permanent instilling of an annoyingly catchy tune and terrible, TERRIBLE lyrics into my head (and the heads of countless others worldwide. ‘Facebook, uh, oh oh’. Sing it with me! No? Okay, fair enough…). But now I am forced to thank them yet again, in a way that is 100% sarcastic, in case you hadn’t realised. Because they are now the one country standing in the way of me making my top 42, something I couldn’t wait to do/to put in this very post so you could disagree with it and we could have a lively debate that ended in us never speaking again. But now, I can’t technically do that.* SM have been given a few extra days to come up with a new song, or re-write the lyrics of the original so they no longer involve the word ‘Facebook’ (and hopefully ‘cybersex’).

Despite this little hiccup, everything else has gone to plan with the last three empty song-spaces filled and the running order draw done and dusted – and that’s why I’m here. Welcome to the second-last Selection Season post for 2012!

 

* I’m still going to do it, basing San Marino’s position on the Facebook song. Let’s face it, what are the chances of the new song if there is one) blowing us away with its amazing-ness? Exactly.

 

Azerbaijan, Belgium and the UK pick their songs for Europe

Two were hotly anticipated, and one was…well, one was Belgium. The (again, almost) final three have been decided. All three had selected their artists beforehand, so it was just a matter of waiting for the songs, which as we now know are When the Music Dies, Would You, and Love Will Set You Free.* As my annual reviews are approaching (feel free to be excited by that thought) I don’t want to ramble on about these entries, but I’ll give you a vague idea of my initial impressions, in alphabetical order of course.

You can tell Azerbaijan doesn’t care about winning now they’re hosting. I’m not saying Sabina Babayeva’s song is bad, it’s just got a middle-of-the-road effortlessness about it that says ‘We’re Azerbaijan and we’re going to do well. We don’t need to try too hard.’ I like WTMD better than Running Scared, but that’s not saying much because, nearly a year on, I’m one of many still trying to accept that Running Scared won Eurovision.

When will Azerbaijan stop sending hideous women to Eurovision?

You must excuse my rude-ish comment about Belgium earlier – it’s just that it’s a country one can’t expect too much of in the ESC. In JESC, sure, but not in the big show. Iris is a nice singer, and the song is a definite improvement on last year’s, but I just can’t see it going anywhere.

As for the UK…well, I’ve been surprised by the positive reactions Love Will Set You Free has been getting since the video premiered on Monday, because I’m not feeling it. Not yet, anyway – I’m prepared to give it time. There are some good elements there, the main one being that the song isn’t That Sounds Good To Me (automatic points for that), but if I had Tweeted my thoughts on it, I would have used the hashtag #takeitorleaveit. To see what hashtags I actually use on the actual Twitter thingy, why not follow me? If you already are, merci! If not, I’m @EurovisionByJaz and I am HILARIOUS. And I am sorry for that shameless promotion of this blog’s associated social networks.  

 
* An EBJ Fascinating Fact: Engelbert Humperdinck’s entry takes the number of songs with ‘love’ in the title to seven, putting him alongside Bulgaria, Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, Serbia and Turkey. In 2011 there were also seven, but in 2010 there was just one.
 

The running order draw: the last big event before Baku

Do you remember how I said most things went according to plan over the last week or so? Yes? Well, I lied – something you’d know if you watched yesterday’s running order draw. I had looked forward to it all day, especially since it was due to start at 6pm my time (usually if I want to watch any pre-ESC stuff it’s at a 3am timeslot. Ew.) so when 6pm arrived only to turn into 6.40 before anything actually happened. I (and the entire online universe) was naturally irate. The show must, and did, go on, however, and my excitement level was high as the first hand was thrust into the first fishbowl…and then my computer died.

To cut a long story short, when I’d finished sobbing into the keyboard and screaming ‘Why, God, WHY?!’ I got the PC restarted, caught up on the draw for Semi final 1, and got through the rest without incident.

I won’t type out the results, as I’m sure you’ve already seen them/know where to visit to see them. I do have a few things to say about it all, though. How unusual…  

–          How’s this for one of the weirdest contest openers ever: Montenegro’s Euro Neuro will be the first song performed in Baku in position 1, semi 1. As strange as it’ll be, I do count it as a blessing since it’ll be gotten over with in record time. Plus, Iceland will look practically like musical genius coming after it.  

–         Greece and Cyprus, in positions 3 and 12, are far enough apart to make me feel less like one of them will suffer as a result of their similarities.  

–         Finland and Ireland were the wildcard recipients of this semi, meaning their performance place was up to them. Finland chose 9 and Ireland picked 18, the final spot. Interestingly, Ireland also drew the wildcard in 2011, when they also chose last place for Jedward to perform in. Déjà vu much?

–         Serbia has the honor of opening semi 2, and with such a strong artist and song it should work in their favour. It certainly did for fellow Former Yugoslavians Bosnia & Herzegovina in Düsseldorf.

–         Ukraine and Lithuania were the wildcards this time. The former nabbed lucky number 7 and Lithuania decided on 18. That means we have to wait all the way ‘til the end to laugh at Donny Montell and his blindfold. Damn it!

–          The UK drew the first spot in the final. How courteous that Europe is allowing the senior citizen to go before everyone else, just like on public transport! If Russia qualify, maybe they should be allowed to go second?

–          The final will also see two lots of back-to-back Big Sixers – France and Italy in positions 9 and 10, and Spain and Germany in 19 and 20. Spain got to pick their place as the last wildcard country.

–          Finally, it’s lucky for some and not so much for others, but what will 13th place do for hosts Azerbaijan? Time will tell…  

 

For the first time, my top 42

You can’t stop me, San Marino! The lead-up to Baku is all booked out on this blog, so it’s now or never.

  1. Spain
  2. Norway
  3. Serbia
  4. Croatia
  5. Estonia
  6. Bulgaria
  7. Slovenia
  8. Hungary
  9. Iceland
  10. Turkey
  11. Sweden
  12. Finland
  13. Latvia
  14. Italy
  15. Romania
  16. Austria
  17. Greece
  18. Lithuania
  19. Moldova
  20. Belarus
  21. Ukraine
  22. Denmark
  23. Albania
  24. France
  25. Netherlands
  26. Azerbaijan
  27. Germany
  28. Malta
  29. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  30. Ireland
  31. Slovakia
  32. Cyprus
  33. Macedonia
  34. Switzerland
  35. Israel
  36. Belgium
  37. Portugal
  38. UK
  39. Russia
  40. San Marino
  41. Georgia
  42. Montenegro

    I'm backing Spain all the way. Olé!

I will say that a lot of the songs are on the same level for me right now, e.g. Croatia – Iceland, and so the only songs I really dislike are the bottom three. I think we can all agree on the hideousness that is Montenegro. Why do Serbia always get it right when their old partner-in-geography get it so wrong?

 

A little ramble re: Language

With the official deadline past, all 40+ countries have had to decide which language they’ll be singing in come May: a.k.a. English or no English? For example, Serbia and Croatia have chosen to stay native, whilst Bulgaria’s Sofi will continue to sing in every language ever invented.

Only two songs have undergone changes at this point: Italy, who have settled on a similar English-Italian hybrid to their last entry, and Iceland, who have decided on the fully English version of Mundu Eftir Mér, Never Forget. I’m not a fan of English versions per se, but this year things aren’t too bad. I’m all for a hybrid, so Italy, bravo. And Iceland – well, it was always going to happen for you, wasn’t it? Last year I fell in love with the Icelandic version of Aftur Heim and then had trouble accepting the English one, but I’m not finding the situation as difficult with Greta and Jónsi. I still prefer the original, but you can tell the new lyrics have been thought about as they fit in nicely and even make a neat reference to the original title. The song is so full of instrumental drama it doesn’t rely too much on lyrics anyway.

 

NEXT TIME: My final SS post of 2012 focuses on the songs that almost got the golden tickets to Baku. Yes, it’s time for another Best of the Second Best list!

Selection Season Day 10: March Madness!

A busy week has/still is leading up to a ripper weekend in a faraway land I like to call EurovisionNationalFinalville. Who’d have thought that Mad March would take over from Frantic February as the craziest four weeks on the ESC pre-selection calendar? There’s so much happening I don’t even have time to finish this senten

Told you.

 

Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Spain and Slovakia: my thoughts

This past week has been one of few surprises* (on the national final front, anyway), with Lithuania selecting the odds-on favourite for Baku, Spain picking their song for Pastora Soler from a choice of three (ergo, nothing too shocking there) and Italy deciding that si, Nina Zilli will perform her San Remo Song Festival entry in the final come May 26th. Estonia’s choice was again, unsurprising, but that may be because I didn’t manage to have a listen to all of the finalists and so could not honestly say ‘OMG, what HAPPENED? Whatshername Thingie’s song was soooooooo much better!’ or something like that. What I didn’t expect of these countries was to be generally thrilled with their decisions.

* Slovakia actually announcing their entry & entrant when they said they would was a bit of an unforeseen event. Perhaps the age of us all making fun of their ever-changing mind is over?

Estonia (Kuula by Ott Lepland): You can go ahead and say this is boring, it’s going nowhere, blah blah blah, but I won’t care. I am a ballad-loving lady – under most circumstances – and I sure love this one. There’s something about the chorus that is truly spine-tingling (and no, I wasn’t sitting on a fuse box when I listened to it), and I think it might be part due to the language, so my fingers are crossed for it to remain in Estonian. The last time Estonia sent a song in their native tongue, it came 6th, whereas their last few entries, both in English, have flopped…is that an indication of what’s to come?

Italy (Per Sempre by Nina Zilli): And so the bleating begins about what is ‘too good for Eurovision’. What haters don’t realise (considering the only Eurovision they know saw Bucks’ Fizz, Verka Seduchka and Dustin the Turkey battling it out for the trophy) is that nothing is too good for the contest. Obviously there are some songs too bad for it, a fact that all but several countries each year seem to be aware of. Sure, Per Sempre is a classy, classic song without a whiff of schlager or bouzouki, but it’s actually very Eurovision – it just harks back to an older era. That’s not to say it’s dated. I like to think of it as being a compromise between the classic and the contemporary, with the Penelope Cruz-esque Nina giving it some extra spice.

Lithuania (Love is Blind by Donny Montell): Donny – who I thought was an Irish immigrant, but actually uses a stage name – entered the Lithuanian selection in 2011 with Best Friends, a duet with Sasha Son that IMO should have won. Fast forward twelve months and Donny’s got himself a solo spot in the big show; although he sounds so much like Sasha they may as well be doing another duet. My thumbs are up for his song, which starts off as a ballad before becoming a funky disco tune to which, as Donny is testament to, you can do one-handed cartwheels. However they are down for that blindfold. I get the symbolism, but D, you look more ridiculous than Eric Solbakken in his Milan Stanković wig.

Donny, under the impression he's at a party playing Blind Man's Bluff when in fact he's at the Lithuanian final

Spain (Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler): In my years of Eurovision watching, I have enjoyed some of the Spanish songs, but never enough to manufacture and then wave a flag to support them. Well, folks, consider me a changed woman, because in 2012 I will be donning the red and yellow and yelling ‘Viva la Spagna!’ at the top of my lungs until my parents tell me to shut up, at which point the flag will make an appearance, because I LOVE this song. It’s one of exceptional quality that starts humbly, but builds into an anthemic, powerful, punch-packing ballad sung perfectly by the phenomenal Pastora. It’s amazing how she sung so well at the NF, seemingly without worrying about wardrobe malfunctions (if you check out the dress she wore at the weekend you’ll know what I mean). I’m fully prepared for you all to trash this since I have just gabbed on for an eternity about how much I adore it, by the way.

Slovakia (Don’t Close Your Eyes by Max Jason Mai): The OCD part of me is not happy with the rest of me reviewing Slovakia after Spain, but this one is hot off the press (at the time of writing, that is). Just a few hours ago, the Slovak broadcaster announced Max as the artist and DCYE as the song that will represent them this year. The reaction has been positive so far, but I’m not sold – on the song, anyway. It’s mainstream soft-rock, not unpleasant to the ear, but lacking that special, catchy something. Max, on the other hand, is very, very pleasant to the ear…and the eye. Call me shallow, but I bet there’s a gajillion ladies and gents who will agree with me, and on their behalf I plan to start a petition to get him to perform topless.  

 

Russia: will they pull out the big guns or the grannies?

Like Melodifestivalen, Russia’s national final has become a two-horse race, but instead of Loreen-and-Danny, the names have way more syllables. In news that made me squeal in a frightfully girlish manner, Dima Bilan is back with ½ of Tatu, Yulia Volkova, by his side in a bid to take on Eurovision for the third time. I know some of you will be sick of Dima and every other artist who just won’t leave the contest alone, but I’m a huge fan of his, so I’m hoping it won’t be much of a challenge for him and his lady friend (presumably one of many) to kick some Russian butt tonight (I have also heard a snippet of the song and it’s right up my street).

I am aware of nana power, however. Without wanting to offend the other finalists, the only real Dima/Yulia competition* comes in the form of a gang of grannies who won many fans over in the 2010 NF, mainly, I assume, because they were grannies. Though the song did have something…anyway, Buranovskiye Babushki are back, and I reckon they could do some damage to Dima’s chances.

No, it's not the drum-beating grandmama from Moldova and her sisters - it's Buranovskiye Babushki!

* If someone other than Dima/Yulia or the grannies should win, I apologise in advance, and commend them for beating such heavyweights. You go girl/boyfriend!

 

My top two-nine

Normal people would wait until tomorrow and then do a top 30, but as you would have gathered if you’re a regular reader, I am not normal (not when it comes to Eurovision). Already I’m finding it hard to separate the good ones from the other good ones, so much so that those I love go pretty much from #1 to #18.

My top 10 is full of ballads, including one that has succeeded in knocking Norway(sorry Tooji) off the premier spot. Take a look and let me know which songs are your favourites at the moment.

  1. Spain
  2. Norway
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Slovenia
  5. Croatia
  6. Finland
  7. Estonia
  8. Turkey
  9. Hungary
  10. Latvia
  11. Belarus
  12. Lithuania
  13. Austria
  14. Ukraine
  15. Iceland
  16. France
  17. Italy
  18. Denmark
  19. Cyprus
  20. Ireland
  21. Malta
  22. Netherlands
  23. Slovakia
  24. Germany
  25. Switzerland
  26. Macedonia
  27. Israel
  28. Albania
  29. Georgia

 

Coming up: Super Saturday!

Not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR countries – Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Sweden – will select on Saturday, with Sunday bringing us the NF from Moldova. Naturally all that is very exciting, but for me, the most exciting events are Zeljko Joksimovic’s song presentation in Serbia and Sweden’s grand finale. I’m planning to stay up to the wee hours of the morning and watch Melodifestivalen live for the first time. Anyone else crazy enough?

Please tune in (or log in…I suppose that would be more appropriate?) on Saturday for my thoughts and predictions on all of the above.  I promise they’ll be worth a look!

Which country are you excited to see select this weekend?

PS – I almost forgot to mention Armenia’s withdrawal from the competition today. I’m sure most of us are saddened but not surprised by this news…let’s hope the country will be back and ready to win in 2013.

 

Selection Season Day 9: Announcements, more finals and Swedish second chances

Guess what? I’m not going to make this a post with a long, boring intro. It’s Saturday (again) and this is what’s happened and/or happening – and that’s all you need to know.

 

Israel and the UK presenting and representing

Israel officially premiered their song Time by Izabo on the first of the month, and as it turns out it is the song that has been on Youtube for the past week or so under the dubious title of ‘The possible actual but still unofficial entry’. Damn that dastardly internet for spoiling Israel’s plans! Although as a result of that evil entity we have had the chance to get to know the song better by this point. Who in this day and age doesn’t like getting something earlier than expected?

I suppose it’s Time for me to tell you how I feel about the entry. Well, I can certainly say that it more closely resembles something you’d find on alternative radio than at Eurovision, but why should there be a genre that isn’t ‘Eurovision’ in sound anyway? The song’s quirkiness may be its saving grace. It’s not like any of the 2012 songs so far and is unlikely to be like any yet to come. I’d describe it as a happy little ditty (if I was about seventy years older than I actually am), something left-of-field fromIsrael. I think it has the potential to be a (good) surprise on the live stage.

Speaking of things old and surprising, the UK finally broke the silence on who their act is, only to leave gazillions of fans speechless. As I’m sure you already know, a certain Mr. Engelbert “The Hump” Humperdinck – who on one hand is tremendously popular but on the other is tremendously aged by ESC standards – will be shuffling onto the stage May 26th on behalf of the UK, and there he will most likely a) rake in the votes and make the top five or b) fail miserably, which would be more consistent with the United Kingdom’s recent results. He will be 76 years old by then, which means that not only can we make lots of hilarious jokes about his name (“Hump”…hehehehehe) but we can also make references to his being up way past his bedtime when it comes to the show.

'STOP! Humpertime!!!'

In all seriousness, I do respect the man’s skill and credentials, and with some experienced songwriters at the helm of his entry, who knows; maybe he’ll be the live surprise. Part of me is still wondering what on Earth the BBC were thinking, but the other part can’t help but root for the underdog – or the old, arthritic dog in this instance (I’m sorry, I can’t help it!). Perhaps we should reserve our judgments for his song, as this is a song contest. For some reason I’m always forgetting that…  

 

It’s the final countdown for Estonia, Lithuania and Spain

Well, that’s what Wikipedia is telling me, anyway. Both Estonia and Lithuania qualified last year, but after the less-than-impressive positions they ended on, both could stand to improve by picking something stand-out. As for Spain, we’ve known since December that it’s the firmly established Pastora Soler who’ll be carrying their flag. All that’s left is for her song to be chosen from a field of three. They too didn’t live up to expectation in Düsseldorf, so will bringing out the big guns (or just the one gun) change their fortune? Maybe, so long as they keep the actual guns at home, unless we are talking about the ‘guns’ of some shirtless dancers in which case I’m all for the use of weaponry.  

I should really stop with the gun thing.

 

Second chance time in Sweden

Andra Chansen is the final obstacle (albeit one I don’t mind getting over) before the fabulous Melodifestivalen final, and the last chance for a lucky twosome to nab a place there. There’s about a 0% chance that one of the AC winners will win the whole of MF, but you never know how well they’re going to do – last year The Moniker made it out of Andra to come third in the final, beaten only by two good-looking guys in leather jackets.

Anyway, here are the four pairings that will turn into two, from which will emerge the final two songs in the March 10th decider:

Duel #1: Dynazty VS Top Cats

Duel #2: Andreas Johnson VS Timoteij

Duel #3: Thorsten Flinck & Revolutionsorkestern VS Lotta Engberg & Christer Sjögren

Duel #4: Sean Banan VS Youngblood 

There are some tricky-to-pick partnerships there, but I’ve made my predictions. Check them out with the aid of this nifty and highly complicated table (FYI, green means go).

 

I don’t really mind who makes it through so long as one of them is Timoteij. Although if I’m honest I would like the other one to be Sean Banan (cue everyone throwing banana skins at me for my poor taste).

 

That’s about all I’ve got to say for the moment. This NF season sure is making me tired, although I guess that could also be due to the countless hours I spent dancing with joy yesterday on finding out that Dima Bilan will be trying again to represent Russia next week (but more on that another time – like when he wins, for instance!). See you on the other side of Saturday…

 

Jaz