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SATURDAY SHORTLIST | The six biggest staging bloopers of Eurovision 2018

Just as there’s diversity in the musical line-up of every ESC, there’s also diversity in terms of how well each song is performed live. I realise I’m telling you something you already know even if you’re a casual Eurofan (as opposed to a hardcore year-round obsessive, like me and most of the people who put up with my lengthy Eurovision ramblings). But I’m trying to segue into the topic of today’s post, dammit! And that topic is the performances from Lisbon that left a little – or a LOT, in some cases – to be desired.

Bad backdrops, inappropriate props, lacklustre lighting, catastrophic costumes, vomit-inducing vocals…for a handful of countries, things just didn’t come together (STOCKHOLM SLOGAN PUN ALERT). Following on from my way more complementary Top 10 performances of 2018 post, here’s the other end of the spectrum: the biggest mistakes made and/or overall worst performances of the year from where I was sitting (on my couch). I don’t mean any disrespect to the artists mentioned or to their delegations…but sometimes, one’s inner bitch just HAS to come out.

 

 

Croatia: (All) lights and (no) shadows

I’m starting off with something small that bothered me about a performance in Portugal. As picky as I know I can be, there are times when a tiny detail drags down staging that would otherwise have seen a country’s contest package all wrapped up with a pretty ribbon on it. Take Croatia, who positioned the beautiful Franka on stage in an equally gorgeous gown (albeit one with a pattern that drew too much attention to her pelvic area) in front of a mic stand, where she proceeded to werk the camera and sass her way through a totally competent rendition of Crazy. So far so good, right? Sure – except Crazy is a moody, sexy boudoir ballad that begged for a moody, sexy lighting scheme (think dark shadows, spotlights and a dash of red), and it did NOT get what it wanted. Without the required combo of Austria, Belgium and Latvia’s lighting, Croatia’s three minutes looked ‘meh’ – almost like Franka was rehearsing and her team still had changes to make. It seems a bit weird that a country can throw everything at their performance one year (and I mean EVERYTHING, Jacques) and then miss the mark twelve months later. Maybe 2019 will be the year Croatia finds a happy medium?

 

 

Greece: No drama = no good

Yianna Terzi: another attractive female soloist with excellent dress sense and great hair who delivered on her end of the ESC bargain this year – a.k.a. she put in an applause-worthy, almost studio-perfect performance. It was what happened around and behind her on the Altice Arena stage (by which I mean nothing) that screwed her over. Seriously, I know Greece don’t have a lot of cash to splash on their song contest presentations…but Oneiro Mou is more dramatic than Silvia Night when she didn’t qualify in Athens, and as such deserved less simplistic stage treatment. It was one song that emphasised the lack of in-built LED screens in a bad way, given that I’m guessing Greece couldn’t afford to ship in (nautical pun intended) their own á la Germany and Malta. That’s not to say that the right prop or (again) lighting scheme wouldn’t have helped boost them into the qualification zone. What I’m saying is that as patriotic as they were, Yianna’s white dress and blue hand (presumably intentional, but maybe she was just cold) were not enough. Her song needed drama served up hot, but sadly, I think it was undercooked.

 

 

Russia: A mountainous mistake

Raise your hand if you didn’t think I was going to mention this! Obviously I can’t see you guys right now (my mass spying devices are on the blink at the moment) but I don’t think I need to – nobody has their hand in the air. It was awkward, ridiculous, and I must say laughable enough when Russia waved their CGI wand over poor Yulia and turned her into a mountain for the I Won’t Break music video. But did we think they’d come up with something less WTF for the live show? I did, but that may have been wishful thinking. It turns out that disguising a wheelchair (unnecessarily) with a prop mountain live on stage looks even more ridiculous than doing it via a computer generated alp. Also, what does a mountain even symbolise in relation to this song? Probably overcoming obstacles, blah blah blah, but that was not clear (and three minutes doesn’t give viewers a lot of time to analyse potential deeper meaning). It was uncomfortable to watch and literally uncomfortable for Yulia. Add ropey vocals and some random dancers into the mix – who arguably got more screen time than she did – and it’s a) hard to believe that Sergey Lazarev and his impeccable staging = Russia’s last representative; and b) easy to work out why Russia failed to qualify for the first time with this.

 

 

Belarus: Gothic horror goes wrong

I’ve said this a billion times before, but I don’t watch Eurovision rehearsals. If I’m getting up at 3am for something, I want it to be a surprise! But I do listen to and read every little rehearsal description from the press centre and on my Twitter feed – total abstinence is impossible. My point is, when I heard what Belarus had in store for the ESC staging of Forever, I was super psyched. On paper, the rose handover, brief game of archery and Alekseev’s gruesome prosthetics sounded OTT, but also OMG YES. If you can’t do stuff like that at Eurovision, where can you? It’s too bad then that in the end, the whole concept came off as a bit of a joke. For starters, Alekseev was shaking so much he could barely pass the rose to the camera guy (and the whole jerky rose rotation was pure cringe). The on-screen petal explosion was timely but tacky. And that bed-of-roses-on-the-back reveal was…well, I still thought it was cool in a gross, ‘WHAT IN THE NAME OF NAVIBAND AM I LOOKING AT?!?’ kind of way. But it wasn’t as effective as I think Belarus wanted it to be…and I definitely couldn’t take it seriously. Many fans might have questioned the light-up space suit Alekseev wore when he won the Belarusian NF, but in hindsight, packing that in his suitcase for Portugal might have been a smart idea.

 

 

Romania: The Humans + a bunch of dummies

It still feels strange knowing that Romania lost their 100% qualification record this year – but after the bizarre staging brought to us by The Humans, is it really that surprising? Romania has never misfired so badly before, but that’s what happens when you take a song with the potential to be elevated by an awesome stage show (which is exactly what went down with Moldova) and have it performed in the presence of creepy department store mannequins. There’s a reason horror movies have been made about those things, and since Goodbye isn’t a song that’s supposed to scare the crap out of people, I have to ask…what were they thinking? It didn’t work for Switzerland in 2007 (but at least Vampires Are Alive had a pre-existing creep factor) and I can’t imagine what possessed the Romanian delegation to give it a try. The main purpose those faceless freaks served was distracting us from the performance elements that did work – Cristina’s risqué dress and epic vocal power, for instance. They didn’t help to fill the stage (except with fear) or tell the story of the song, that’s for sure. And to think that last year, cannons that weren’t allowed to be fired and an awkward kiss were Romania’s biggest on-stage issues!

 

 

Macedonia: MY EYES!!!

If you hadn’t guessed, I’ve been working my way up to the worst of the worst staging disasters of Eurovision 2018…which is why I haven’t mentioned Macedonia until now. They are the masters of messing up live performances of great songs, and the streak of self-sabotage continued in Lisbon. Eye Cue hit the city armed with a multiple-personality song that needed clever staging – and cool costumes, of course – to pull everything together. Tragically (in a first-world-problem sense), as with Spain last year, it all went wrong in alarming fashion. The fashion, in fact, was the single most horrific thing we were forced to look at, as the otherwise stunning Marija wandered aimlessly around the stage in a bright pink, backwards tuxedo jacket with inexplicable armpit cutouts. When she whipped it off mid-song, I thought a crisis had been averted…only to witness the most unflattering half sweater/half swimsuit monstrosity the world has ever seen. The only saving grace in a performance that was as neat and tidy as the top shelves of my closet (i.e. not at all) was the vocals. Oh, and Marija’s shoes – they were dope. Just not dope enough to save Macedonia from their Barbara Dex destiny…

 

 

Which Eurovision performances disappointed/shocked/scared the s%*t out of you enough to become your personal “worsts” of the year? Let me know in the comments below…and from one overly-judgmental person to another, don’t hold back!

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S THE (GRAND) FINAL COUNTDOWN! My top 10 performances of Eurovision 2018

It’s been less than two weeks since Israel won Eurovision, but to me it actually feels like longer – which makes it even more shameful that it’s taken me all this time to pick out my favourite performances of Portugal’s contest just past.

In my defence, it wasn’t an easy decision! Competition was fiercer than Eleni Foureira’s catsuit-and-stilettos combo this year, especially due to the no-LED policy of the stage design which meant countries had to get extra creative when chasing the wow factor. Better late than never, though, I’ve made my choices (just like Ari Oláfsson told me to). And, in reverse order as always, because I like to whip up a fresh batch of suspense every time I do a top 10 countdown, here they are. Let me know what our agree/disagree ratio is in the comments below…

 

 

#10| Ukraine (Mélovin with Under The Ladder)

When Eurovision meets Ukraine, the result is usually OTT – but up until 2018, it had been a while since the country lived large in terms of their contest staging (1944 and Time didn’t exactly slap you in the face with such subtle items as hamster wheels and half-naked centurions). So it was nice to see Ukraine changing up their recent less-is-more approach for a) a vampiric-looking artist slowly rising from the hellish interior of his grand piano; b) said artist removing a layer of clothing halfway through the song, which in this case looked a lot more badass than when Alexander Rybak did it; and c) yeah yeah FIRE!!! When you think about it, Mélovin’s performance could have been even more flamboyant – but he seemed to know just when to stop to give it the specific level of drama and Gothic glamour it needed. Under The Ladder on the Lisbon stage was as confident and cohesive as we’ve come to expect from Ukraine, whether they’re keeping things simple or kicking their staging up a notch or two (hundred).

 

#9 | Israel (Netta with Toy

If it’s controversial to not have Netta right at the top of a ranking like this, then so be it. I didn’t vote for Israel this year and I can’t claim that Toy is the winning song I would have preferred (let’s just say that I was hoping to be trawling through Air BnB apartments in Limassol right about now). But I can’t argue with the punch this performance packed, thanks mostly to Netta herself and not so much to her dancers, who made the whole thing look more novelty than it actually was. Miss Barzilai, though, even without her looper, was a force to be reckoned with. Every facial expression, hand gesture and note was there; the attitude and sass were sky-high just as they should have been; and it was easy to believe that any guy stupid enough to cross her would be sorrier than Frans realising he really was sorry. Netta sold her song like her life depended on it, with her oriental outfit and backdrop adding an exotic touch to the appealingly bonkers proceedings (and not, IMO, falling into the category of cultural appropriation). The Altice Arena audience went crazy for this, and even on TV it was obvious why.

 

#8 | Austria (Cesár Sampson with Nobody But You

Starring in this year’s episode of ‘Surprising Eurovision Third-Placers’ was Austria’s Cesár, who contributed a jury vote-winning rendition of Nobody But You to the grand final line-up. While I didn’t see that overwhelming jury love coming, I did get some spine-tingles from his performance: one that proved he could more than cope with the transition from backing singer to main artist. Commanding the stage – and a spectacular hydraulic platform – completely solo, he made it hard for me to look away from him (or even blink, lest I miss a shot of his impressive arm musculature). Austria also added a mix of shadowy and golden lighting that perfectly suited the song and its soul vibes; a bit of crowd interaction in the second half to up the human connection with Cesár; and, tapping into a trend that was way overused in 2017, the sole giant selfie of the year…which was great apart from the fact that super-sized Cesár was wearing a different shirt to flesh-and-blood Cesár. But that’s a mildly irritating detail I can overlook, based on how boss every other aspect of this performance was.

 

#7 | Denmark (Rasmussen with Higher Ground)

Like Sweden (a country you should expect me to mention later on in this list) Denmark rarely changes much about their staging between their national final and Eurovision. Unlike Sweden, a lot of the time they need to but just don’t. Fortunately, 2018 was not one of those years – and some credit needs to be given to the ship-inspired Lisbon stage for that. Performing a seafaring Viking song, Rasmussen must have thanked his lucky stars when he discovered how neatly Higher Ground fit in to the concept of the ESC this year. Sure, a ship wasn’t the first thing you thought of when you looked at the stage, but just knowing how appropriate Denmark’s package would appear in the year of ‘All Aboard!’ gave them a boost. Sails, snow, stomping, blue lighting, beards, and a manufactured breeze were all Rasmussen needed to create the ideal atmosphere for Higher Ground – and what came out of the oven once all of those ingredients had been combined and baked was gobbled up by televoters. They ranked Denmark first in the second semi, and in the top five in the final. That’s definitely higher ground than the Danes managed to reach in Kyiv!

 

#6 | Estonia (Elina Nechayeva with La Forza)

I’ve said this in a previous post, but there was a time when I thought Estonia didn’t need to stick Elina in a ridiculously expensive projection dress to make a statement. La Forza and her insanely impressive operatic talents would do the trick on their own, right? Well, we’ll never know for sure – but what I now know for certain is that The Dress: Eurovision Edition (forget about some wedding guest getup that’s black and blue/white and gold) turned Estonia’s appearance at Eurovision 2018 into a showstopper. What helped to make the performance all the more dynamic were the close-up shots of Elina during the soft, mystical verses (just to hammer home how stunning she is) interspersed with wider shots and aerial shots during the explosive choruses – those showing off the dress projections to maximum advantage. If I was being ultra picky (as I enjoy being sometimes) I would have liked the lighting scheme and projections to be totally celestial – more cool colours to take us all to a galaxy far, far away. But a bit of red lighting here and there and some psychedelic dress swirls didn’t prevent me from being speechless at the end of this three minutes.

 

#5 | Australia (Jessica Mauboy with We Got Love)

Okay…before you scream at your screen that I must have walked Rasmussen’s plank and drowned in a sea of my own insanity, hear me out. Firstly, I’m Australian and am therefore totally biased when it comes to our handful of ESC entries and my unconditional defense of them. Secondly, when I name Jessica’s performance as one of my favourites of the year, I’m referring more to the stronger semi-final version than the nervy final version. And thirdly, whatever your opinion on her vocals, that dress (which we now know finished 2nd in the Barbara Dex vote) or the characteristically dark Sacha Jean Baptiste staging, you have to admit that Jess is a ray of sunshine who invested every fibre of her energy into her time on stage and brought light to those overly-moody surroundings. I felt so proud (and a little bit teary) after her Thursday night performance – and part of that was to do with the freedom, rawness and authenticity that came from the dreamtime dance moves and a vocal that was a rough diamond rather than a crystal-clear one-carat diamond. Jess did what she does best by bringing her personality on stage as a prop, and I really enjoyed watching her as a result.

 

#4 | Moldova (DoReDos with My Lucky Day)

Discarding a cool NF staging concept in the hope of wowing people at the ESC with an even cooler concept is risky. Moldova took that risk, ran with it, and ended up providing us with an impeccably-timed slapstick-chic performance that elevated an okay song to sensational status. Try and find a flaw in DoReDos’ Eurovision creation and I will dispute whatever you come up with, because it had it ALL. Eye-catching costumes (in Moldovan flag colours, of course)? Check. Boatloads of stage presence and charisma from all three band members and their backing squad? Check. An oversized Ikea cabinet put to better use than anything with doors has been before? Check! Putting paid to the stereotype that men can’t multitask – and proving that women absolutely can – the trio sang, danced and dashed in out of those doors without missing a beat or looking like it was any sort of struggle. In a day and age of the easily distracted (myself included) keeping all eyes on you for 180 seconds can be difficult – but My Lucky Day live in Lisbon was entertainment well worth the price of admission.

 

#3 | Czech Republic (Mikolas Josef with Lie To Me)

From being stuck on a hospital gurney with a neck brace on to turning out a performance like this – only to go on and top it in the final? Mikolas, I salute you. For a horrifying few days early on in rehearsal week, we weren’t sure whether the Czech Republic would even get to compete in the contest with their best entry ever. But the Eurovision gods were smiling down on us (that, and Mikolas did what doctors told him to do). He got through his semi show in more restrained style than he would have liked before pulling out all of the acrobatic stops on the Saturday night – moves that capped off a super-fun, well-choreographed, part-music video/part-live performance feat. SWAG. There is nothing I would change about the Czech staging, although I wouldn’t have complained if a hologram camel had materialised at some point. The highlight – besides Mikolas landing the flip and not ending up back in the emergency room – has to be the butt wiggle/floss/backpack combo after the second chorus. That was genius, and in keeping with the saucy subject matter. I can fully understand why plenty of these greedies want to eat Mikolas’ spaghetti (apologies if I just said something super rude…I honestly don’t know).

 

#2 | Cyprus (Eleni Foureira with Fuego)  

There’s a reason Eurofans still talk about Ani Lorak all the time, despite Shady Lady finishing as the Eurovision runner-up TEN YEARS AGO (!). Ani was a crazy-hot woman in an amazing outfit who, backed by a posse of equally attractive dancers, strutted her way through a top-notch pop song to rapturous applause from the audience. Does that sound familiar? Does it sound…fuego, perhaps? I think so. Eleni came to Portugal armed with an ethnopop banger that had all the best elements of Shady Lady in its staging, and also threw back to Secret Combination and Qele Qele (Greece and Armenia’s ’08 entries that finished 3rd and 4th respectively). I loved being reminded of those other fierce women who’d showed the ESC who was boss back in the day, while being treated to a song that was modern enough to work in 2018. Eleni looked incredible, danced like a woman possessed, and whipped her hair back and forth in amongst fake and real fire while wearing that sparkly catsuit you wouldn’t want to have to pee while sewn into. I’m not going to lie…I wanted to BE her. If we must have successful 2018 entry copycats in 2019, can they please be Fuego + Foureira copycats?

 

#1 | Sweden (Benjamin Ingrosso with Dance You Off)

As we arrive at my no. 1 personal pick for Eurovision performance of the year, it will either be a massive plot twist (because you’re new here and were partly responsible for Sweden’s low televoting score) or a predictable ending (because you know how obsessed with Sweden and how big a fan of Benjamin’s I am). Whatever the reason for that lack of love from the public, it was not a problem for me – someone in awe of the glow-up between Benjamin’s 2017 and 2018 Melodifestivalen performances, and then continually impressed by the Dance You Off performance that was copy-pasted to the ESC (why would you mess with something that slick?). I don’t know why people have an issue with Swedish performances being the same every time, at Melfest and in every Eurovision rehearsal. When you put that much effort in to a stage show – even though Benjamin’s was relatively simple, just extremely effective – and rehearse the crap out of it, why shouldn’t it be flawless by the time it’s going to be on TV? I love this song and I love how it was staged, unconditionally. Jean Baptiste who?

 

 

I’ve showed you mine…now show me yours! Which Eurovision performances floated your boat the most this year?

 

 

 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 2 (The Performances)

It’s lucky these awards aren’t being broadcast on TV, because nobody would have hung around until the ad break dividing parts 1 and 2 was over. What can I say? Life gets busy sometimes, and since nobody as yet has offered to pay me to talk about Eurovision, other things often have to be prioritised so I can continue to have a roof over my head and eat regular meals.

Hopefully this second slice of trophy-giving will be worth the wait for those of you who enjoyed the first. Back then (last week…totally vintage times), I gave numerous back-pats to the artists and songs of Kyiv 2017. This time, the spotlight’s shining on what happened when those songs were taken to the stage by those artists. Every element of the performances – from backdrops, props and dancers to costumes and vocals – has at least one award in its honour, and the winners weren’t all decided by me. Yes, that means there are more People’s Choice results below for you to feast your ESC-admiring eyes on!

So sit back, relax and do it for your lover…’it’ being checking out my performance awards and nothing more. Get your mind out of the gutter.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner United Kingdom

With Lucie being a stage star and all, you’d expect her to project serious emotion via both her facial expressions and flailing limbs (i.e. arm flourishes). She did…but there were times when her inner drama switch was turned up way too high, to the point where she looked like she was in physical pain. There is a border between theatrical stage emoting and Eurovision stage emoting, and I think Lucie stayed in theatre territory when she should have crossed over to the other side. Still, I’m rewarding her here for every angtsy look and death-grip hand gesture she poured into her performance. An A for effort is all yours, Luce.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria Winner Norway

There wasn’t half as much hi-tech trickery on the stage/screen in Kyiv as there was in Stockholm – no holograms of naked Belarusians, for instance, could be seen (you can decide if that was a great loss or not). Both Bulgaria and Norway opted for on-screen graphic overlays – the TV equivalent of the little drawings you can do on your Instagram stories – to pimp their performances. But I’m putting Norway in pole position, because they had some technical trickery going on in their audio presentation as well as their visual presentation. I still can’t wrap my head around exactly how JOWST was manipulating those ‘kill, kill, kill, kill’ bits (live sampling/bending/looping/ warping?) but at least he wasn’t just standing there pretending to DJ like we’ve seen in past contests.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Hungary

Getting emotional doesn’t always involve a box of tissues. Joci Pápai’s performance for Hungary wasn’t a sad one per se, but it was the most dynamically emotional of the year in that it featured two very different outpouring feelings. Throughout the verses and choruses of Origo, Joci portrayed the pain of forbidden love and of being a target for prejudice in a very vulnerable, mournful way – then changed gears for the rap, venting his frustration and anger over similar issues. Part of what I love about the song is the range of emotions embedded in it, as well as Joci’s talent for conveying them with authenticity.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Portugal

This was a hard one for me to narrow down, because both Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois DID involve me fumbling for a box of tissues. But there was a delicateness to Salvador’s rendition of his song that gave me goosebumps as well as wet eyes. The lyrics, too, have the power to destroy an old romantic like myself, despite the fact (or perhaps due to the fact) that he’s professing a love big enough to sustain a two-person relationship, when I can’t even beguile a guy into buying me flowers.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland, Hungary Winner Moldova

When a massive part of your appeal revolves around a musical instrument – the sax played by Epic Sax Guy, obviously – you know you’re using it wisely. With both sax and violin providing serious fun for Moldova’s 2 x 3 minutes on stage, Hey Mamma’s live wouldn’t have been the same without them, even though we weren’t actually hearing the boys play (it matters less with instruments like these than when you’re watching someone rip into a solo on a clearly unplugged electric guitar).

 

Honourable Mention/s The UK’s mirror shell Winner Azerbaijan’s blackboard

You voters out there surprised me a little with this one, but majority rules! Dihaj’s blackboard was definitely a standout addition to 2017’s string of acts-with-props, and made Daz Sampson’s blackboard from 2006 look even tackier than it did at the time. Although I must say, his was more explicitly relevant to his song’s subject matter – between the board, the ladder and the horse-head man, Dihaj has a LOT of explaining to do.

This looks less like one of the daydreams that Dihaj is into and more like one of my nightmares.

 

Honourable Mention/s Hungary, Moldova Winner Sweden

For most of the backing singers and/or dancers who weren’t hidden from view, staying in tune and in time would have been the biggest challenges. Robin Bengtsson’s visible backup crew, however – feat. previous Melfest contestant and ESC backer-upper Alvaro Estrella – not only had to provide vocal support and smooth moves, but do both while walking on treadmills. And we thought Ukraine’s hamster wheel dude from 2014 had a tough job! The quartet pulled it off perfectly, though, and had a big hand in Sweden’s fourth consecutive top 5 finish.

 

Honourable Mention/s Cyprus Winner Sweden

Because treadmills. Too cool for school choreography coupled with an element of danger will win out every time. Handy Hint No. 362: Next time you’re at a party trying to impress someone, why not try moonwalking barefoot on a bed of nails?

 

Honourable Mention/s France, Portugal Winner United Kingdom

It was a shiny gold showstopper for the UK this year, and though that wouldn’t be my personal pick for best backdrop, I can see the attraction. The graphics were perfectly timed to the music and made the stage virtually disappear, as if Lucie were actually singing in space (not the sexy kind Slavko was referring to, but normal, otherworldly space). The numerous glitter explosions at pivotal moments of Never Give Up On You oozed Eurovision sophistication.

A Eurovision star + actual stars…what more could you want?

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Israel

You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve forgotten a country in this category, because there were times when it seemed like every second act on stage had found a way to incorporate their giant face/body/boobs (oh, Malta) into their performance. The country that did it best, in my opinion, was Israel, because it wasn’t OTT or used just for flashiness. Super-sized Imri didn’t stay on the screens for the entire song – instead he was used to literally illustrate the ‘breaking me to pieces’ line of I Feel Alive’s chorus. The added bonus was that we all got to stare at not one, but two Imris for a fleeting yet fabulous amount of time.

 

Honourable Mention/s Romania Winner Croatia

I don’t know if I hate to say this or not, but the ESC isn’t as crazy as it used to be – maybe it’s the influence of recent winners having been pretty pared-back on stage. There weren’t many acts that threw everything they could think of at their staging in 2017, but we can’t say Croatia was one of them. To name a few of their staging elements: violinist, cellist, half-and-half costume, giant Jacques x2, LED lightning, an instrumental duel, pyro jets AND a pyro curtain, massive sunflowers and a rainbow. The pyro operator in particular must have needed a nap after that…I know I did!

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Sweden Winner Moldova

This award goes to the most perfectly-wrapped package of the year – the country that brought their A-game to vocals, costumes, choreography, staging, lighting and anything else you can think of. Obviously, Portugal and Bulgaria were flawless – but Sunstroke Project managed to corral more performance bits and pieces than Salvador and Kristian had to work with into a cohesive and ridiculously fun whole. And it all seemed to come so naturally.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s France Winner Italy, United Kingdom

We have a tie! I can’t say I’m surprised that Germany and Spain didn’t even come close to winning this People’s Choice prize. Nor did I see this rush of love for the UK coming, but I do get it. As over-emotional as she got at times, Lucie’s performance was vocally perfect and looked stunning on screen. And who wouldn’t get a kick out of Francesco’s three minutes? If you didn’t raise your arms and do that dance along with Gabbani + Gorilla, I have major concerns about you.

 

Honourable Mention/s Artsvik, Tamara Gachechiladze Winner O’G3NE

This is NOT an award the Netherlands would have won back in 2015, when Trijntje Oosterhuis’ black dress (*shudder*) was replaced by the reception tent for a Goth wedding (*double shudder*). But the classic little black dresses – plus one catsuit – worn by O’G3NE this year and suitably sparklified for the occasion, were gorgeous. I’m glad they didn’t go too matchy-matchy, and were able to get the girl group look even though every Vol sister wore a different style. Where do I get my own version?

FYI, these outfits will also double as appropriate attire for Verka Serduchka’s funeral one day.

 

Honourable Mention/s Joci Pápai, Sunstroke Project Winner Robin Bengtsson

One of the minor changes made to Robin’s Melfest performance for Eurovision was a suit swap – matte blue for shiny purple. You’d think I’d be too busy admiring the man IN the suit to notice such a thing, but because it was such a cool costume choice (yes, right down to the lack of socks, which somehow makes the look more crisp) I noticed.

Freaking beautiful (HAD TO).

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Martina Bárta Winner Lindita

If you read my biggest Eurovision 2017 mistakes post, you’ll already know that my eyes felt violated by the very sight of Lindita’s Vegas bride getup. If you didn’t, then you should know that my eyeballs may never fully recover from the experience of seeing her take to the stage in something so atrocious.

 

Honourable Mention/s Ksienija Žuk Winner Artsvik

I love braids, but I’ve only mastered the basic kinds – so I’d be keen to have the contact details of whoever worked their magic on Artsvik’s mane. That was art. It should be on display in the Louvre.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kasia Mós, Lindita Winner Anja Nissen

I know some of you will want to hit me with an inflatable Israeli hammer over this one, but I’m entitled to my (many, many, ESC-related) opinions! Anja just blows me away with the sheer power of her voice every time – there’s a reason she won The Voice here in Australia. Her diva vocal is always ready for action, and it’s so forceful I wouldn’t be surprised if her fire curtain was set off by the woman herself, in a Carrie-like moment of explosive kinetic energy.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jacques Houdek, Salvador Sobral Winner Kristian Kostov

Again, remember: THIS IS SUBJECTIVE. I was torn between Salvador and Kristian, aware that Salvador’s voice is more unique…but Kristian’s silky smooth, beyond-his-years vocals won my internal battle. He looks so young (and IS so young) and then he opens his mouth and it’s all maturity and polish and confidence, and I’m sold. I’m expecting big stuff from this kid.

 

Honourable Mention/s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner O’G3NE

Who else? Even if all 42 acts of 2017 had been groups, O’G3NE would have reigned supreme. Having sung together as siblings for so long, their harmonies are incomparable and absolutely perfect, always. I would happily listen to them all day long, and I’m convinced they could sing That Sounds Good To Me and make it appealing. That’s how good they are!

 

Honourable Mention/s Anja Nissen, Kasia Mós Winner Lindita

She may have worn a dress designed by the devil himself (or at least the devil’s personal seamstress), but not even that could distract from Lindita’s epic money note, one which first knocked our socks off (though not Robin Bengtsson’s, since he wasn’t wearing any) back in December 2016 when World was Botë and she won Festivali I Këngës. I have to bring back the word amazeballs just to describe it. She should become a deep sea free diver or professional balloon blower-upper with a lung capacity like that.

 

Honourable Mention/s Georgia Winner Hungary

Don’t get me wrong – Joci’s performance at A Dal was great, and a worthy winner of the NF. But I was worried Hungary would leave it be and not adapt it to fit the far bigger and grander stage of Eurovision. I also thought Joci was a little nervous and restrained back then. Fast forward to May, though, and the confidence and fire jets were out in full force. Hungary were one of only two countries to use the satellite stage too, which proved they’d really thought about how to expand on the A Dal staging. Mission accomplished!

 

 

And that concludes the second segment of the EBJEEs ceremony for 2017! Your butts must be pretty numb by now, so I’m sure that’s a relief. Still to come is the third and final part which will feature the awards for The Show: i.e. the hosts, interval acts, postcards and results. That’ll be a short one, so the only butt trouble you’ll have is if you fall asleep after reading it and then wake up with a butt on your hands (is that not the opening line of Verona?).

Between now and then, though, let me know what you thought of today’s awards. Where would your trophies go? Did the People’s Choice Awards pan out your way this time? All polite or constructively critical opinions are welcome in the comments.

 

TTYL Eurofam!

 

 

And Now, For The Not-So-Beautiful Messes: The five biggest on-stage mistakes of Eurovision 2017

Didn’t see this coming in the wake of last week’s top 5 performances of 2017 countdown? Well, neither did I. Consider my face officially palmed.

I actually have the awesome Anita from Eurovision Union to thank for inspiring this companion piece to that post: a countdown of the countries that didn’t, in my opinion, get it all right in terms of their song’s staging and/or performance in Kyiv. I’ve deliberately not made this about the five worst performances, since there wasn’t a single country that I’d say got everything wrong (although one came close). Instead, I’ve singled out the elements in a handful of acts – dodgy vocals, horrifying costume choices, bad backdrops etc – that dragged them down…and in the case of a few, may have had a hand in their non-qualifications.

Have your say on the biggest stuff-ups of Eurovision 2017 in the comments. Remember, honesty is the best policy (and there’s no fun in 24/7 sunshine and rainbows, so get critical!).

Oh, BTW – you can (and should!) still vote in the People’s Choice polls of the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. They’ll close in a few days’ time and the results will be revealed soon after that, so do your Eurofan duty while you have the chance!

 

 

 

#5 | Montenegro steers clear of OTT…for worse, not for better

I’m starting with something that was too inoffensive rather than too offensive, especially considering the source. From my very first listen of Slavko Kalezić’s Space, I was expecting to see it on stage in the campest and most fabulous fashion imaginable. I’m talking buff, topless male dancers who had marinated themselves in body glitter in the hours leading up to the show; galaxy-inspired visuals that alternated between dramatic (for the verses) and flamboyant (for the choruses; and plenty of overuse of the core Eurovision elements – wind and fire. I was confident in Slavko’s ability to make this dream of mine come true, given that he was to 2017 what Tooji was to 2012 – only Space didn’t require the reining in of camp that Stay did. So you can imagine my disappointment when he appeared on the Kyiv stage by himself, with only a mediocre costume change and his beloved Rapunzel braid for company. It’s not that he couldn’t command the stage on his own, because he strutted around like a boss and did the hairycopter with full enthusiasm. But when a song so obviously calls for one to go full gimmick on its ass, one should obey. Space needed more colour, more choreography and a crowd (of five other people) to be everything non-Eurovision fans think the contest is. Not so much to give it a shot at qualifying, since that was unlikely to ever happen (sadface), but just to make the most of the saucy, sassy lyrics; the fun, upbeat vibe; and Slavko’s larger-than-life personality.

 

#4 | Switzerland sugar-coats their staging of Apollo

I’ve got a job for you: take all of the 2017 entries that were chosen via a national final, and compare how they were staged initially to how they were staged at Eurovision. For the most part, you’ll notice that not many changed drastically, and those that did mostly improved on their presentation. Timebelle’s Apollo, then, is the exception and not the rule, because it went downhill between NF season and contest week. In fact, the only way Switzerland went up was by sticking Miruna at the top of a spiral staircase, which she eventually descended anyway (in stilettos, without breaking a sweat or any bones, which does deserve a high five). What we saw and what we heard clashed like crazy. Apollo benefited way more from the dramatic and modern NF staging, which could have been built on for ESC purposes. Yet that was discarded in favour of cheap and predictable background graphics, the inexplicable staircase (Why was it there? What did it add?), and an equally inexplicable yellow dress that I thought was less Beauty and the Beast inspired and more like the repurposed outer layer of a certain big bird who lives on Sesame Street. And let’s not forget more pastel shades than you’d find in the maternity wing of a major hospital. Overall, the look of this would have worked wonders for the right song (minus the tacky backdrop) but it took a good song and made it below-average. If I were Switzerland, I’d be contacting Sacha Jean-Baptiste right now to book her for Eurovision 2018.

 

#3 | Australia’s hit-and-missed high note

Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy bringing this up in conversation time and time again. However, as patriotic and proud of Isaiah’s work in Kyiv as I am, I can’t deny that when we’re talking about the biggest broadcast boo-boos of the year, that notorious note he aimed for during the semi final HAS to be mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing the guy drop a note while he was singing his heart out on The X Factor last year, so perhaps the grueling rehearsal and media schedule of Eurovision took its toll…or maybe it was a combination of nerves and trying too hard. Whatever the cause, to say that Isaiah failed rather than nailed that note – one accompanied by a pyro curtain, which is the international symbol for ‘This is the moment that’s supposed to win you over and secure your votes’ – would be an understatement. It turned out to be a moment that had me convinced Australia had just lost out on a spot in the grand final instead. Thankfully, because his jury semi performance was more X Factor and less cringe factor, Isaiah did slip through in a still remarkably high sixth place. He then went on to make up for the vocal mishap to end all vocal mishaps on the Saturday night, though it has to be said that the initial pyro note still wasn’t up to scratch. Whenever I watch either of his performances back in the future, my hand will be hovering over the mute button as the two-minute mark approaches.

 

#2 | Albania dresses Lindita up for a wacky wedding…WTF?!?

I could complain until the cows come home about all of the questionable costuming choices made by the 2017 delegations. Belgium? Should have worn the jumpsuit from the flag parade. Poland? Shouldn’t have worn white. Israel? What were they thinking putting him in a shirt when shirtless clearly would have been the best way to go? But right at the top of the heap – though at the bottom of the pile in terms of suitable sartorial selections – is undoubtedly Albania. I don’t know what kind of performance Lindita’s ‘Vegas showgirl meets drunken 3am Vegas bride’ outfit would be appropriate for, but it was just plain ridiculous when paired with World. I don’t get the thought process behind it, assuming there was one. It proved to be such a distraction that I couldn’t even concentrate on Lindita’s mind-blowing vocals, which hadn’t been an issue when she won Festivali I Këngës with the song formerly known as Böte. Unfortunately, this look wasn’t a one-off, as she wore something equally frightening (in nude, not white) on opening ceremony night. She obviously felt pretty and powerful on both occasions – she doesn’t strike me as a person who’d wear what she was told if she wasn’t 100% happy about it – but in my eyes, a black bin liner would have been a better choice both times. You know, like the one Croatia’s Nina Badrić wore back in 2012.

 

#1 | Spain’s…well, everything 

Many of us fans felt sure about two things prior to this year’s contest. One, that Italy would walk it, and two, that Spain would finish dead last. We may have been wrong about the former, but the latter did its predicted duty. Poor Manel – he had a terrible time at Objetivo Eurovisión thanks to The Mirela Incident, and then couldn’t prove anyone wrong by defying our ESC expectations of him. You might wonder why, if you’re unacquainted with both Do It For Your Lover and his rendition of it in Ukraine. Well, the song was weak to start with – great for roaring down the road in a convertible on a summer’s day en route to the coast, but too much of a repetitive flatliner to stand up in a song competition. It could have been saved by some genius stage concept, who knows…but Spain had the total opposite up their hibiscus-patterned shirt sleeve. The surfer idea was good in theory, but the execution was on par with High School Musical 2, if High School Musical 2 had been lumped with a production budget of $100. Low-quality graphics – including a Kombi van that kept on rocking without any danger of anyone knocking, an overhead shot of Manel and his band on surfboards that they just didn’t pull off, and a general air of over-casualness – made the package pretty unappealing. The fact that it was an entire verse before anyone turned around to face the camera/audience was also a turn-off. And just when we thought Spain might scrape enough points to NOT finish 26th, Manel’s voice decided to re-break at a pivotal moment, which sealed the deal. I’m sorry for seeming extra bitchy about this (you must be craving sunlight after all this shade I’ve thrown) but I’m being cruel to be kind. Both Manel and Spain deserve a LOT better.

 

 

Do you agree with any of my picks, or do you think I’M the one making the mistakes? Which competing countries of Eurovision 2017 made the wrong decisions when it came to putting on the best possible show?

 

Next time…you’ve voted (I hope) and now the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award winners – People’s Choice + my personal choices – can be made public. First up, I’ll be handing out (pretend) trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs – followed by The Performances, The Show and The Results. The celebration of Kyiv’s bests and worsts will continue, and you’d be as crazy as Lindita Halimi’s costume designer if you missed it!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

  

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

The 2016 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards: Part 2 (The Performances, The Costumes and The Results!)

I’M NOT DEAD!!! Say yay yay yay! *insert foot shuffle here*

I figured I’d open this post in such a morbid yet somehow still optimistic manner because, as it’s been such a long time since I’ve popped up on my own blog to chat song contests (one in particular), I wanted to confirm that I haven’t been run over by an errant Ukrainian hamster wheel or anything. I’m just slack and/or disorganised. But now I’m BACK and disorganised, which is much better.

Today, it’s time to conclude the EBJEEs for 2016 (sadface/happyface). Better late than never, right? Actually, my motto (as of right this second) is, if you beat the host city announcement, then you’re not too late. And guess what? The EBU is still having a Pitch Perfect-style riff-off (I assume) to determine whether Kyiv, Dnipro or Odessa will be painted Eurovision next May. If they’ve finished up by the time you’re reading this, then I still pipped them at the post. And also, congratulations KyivDniproOdessa! I KNEW you’d be the chosen one. All along. Knewwww it.

Now, let’s unroll that red carpet and find out which performances, costumes and results of Stockholm ’16 are taking home my fancy trophies – plus those you guys handed out by voting in the People’s Choice polls way back when.

 

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THE PERFORMANCES

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Australia

There was only one true, that-totally-makes-sense choice I could settle on when selecting this trophy winner: the winner of the whole contest. Tingles down the spine were just one of many effects Jamala’s triumphant performance had on me personally, and countless others I’ve interacted with. Also afflicting those of us who aren’t cold, unfeeling, soulless robots (JK…but how can you watch her in action and feel nothing?): body-spanning goosebumps, hairs from scalp to shins standing on end (what? It was too cold in Stockholm for me to shave my legs) and extremely leaky eyeballs. Nobody can pour pain into a performance like Jamala, and as such, 1944 – on or off the Eurovision stage – reduces me to a sniveling mass of admiration every time.

 

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia

We tend to see different types of drama at Eurovision: for example, the overblown kind created by an artist with overly-expressive eyebrows and the tendency to wave their arms all over the place until at least one backing singer has a black eye; and the kind helped along by dry ice, interpretive dance and violent lighting schemes. Then there’s Academy Award-winning drama, in which a performer feels every word they utter with every fibre of their being, and conveys that both down the camera and to the crowd. Enter Jamala (again). Everything about her performance, vocally and visually, was dramatic without being overly so, and it all culminated in a (crystal clear, totally in tune) screech that, if the ESC were the Oscars, would have secured her a golden statuette for sure.

 

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Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Australia

Sweden’s win last year ensured that the 2016 contestants would be keen to outdo and/or build on the projection screen concept that Måns’ team so cleverly devised. After all, one winner usually leads to a flood of copycats. A handful of countries pushed the boundaries of technological staging in Stockholm, and at the forefront was undoubtedly Russia. Sure, their stage show was OTT and didn’t really help tell the “story” of You Are The Only One…but I don’t think it was meant to. It was designed to impress the shiz out of us, and it certainly did that. The moment that made it the most innovative – the most unlike anything we’d seen before at Eurovision – was Sergey scaling the screen and then rotating on it, prompting musings of whether he or the prop were the main attraction. It also prompted us to ask ‘He’s still alive, right?’ after that infamous rehearsal fall, but the less said about that, the better. JUST KIDDING – I love talking about it.

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Winner Bosnia & Herzegovina Honourable Mention/s Hungary, The Netherlands

As we all know, instruments are used as props more than music-makers at Eurovision nowadays. That doesn’t stop them from being used to great advantage. In the case of Bosnia & Herzegovina 2016, the cello has never been sexier. Ana Rucner let loose with her futuristic one (once she’d shed her rather UN-sexy cellophane cape, that is), and it was epic. And what is a Balkan ballad without at least one instrument bringing it to life? I guess we should ask Montenegro, who figured an ice dancer would be a good substitute back in Copenhagen.

 

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Winner Russia’s projection screen Honourable Mention/s Armenia’s multiple Ivetas

The first People’s Choice Award on this occasion is very well deserved, I’ll admit. Like you guys did, I’ll also give kudos to Russia for putting maximum effort into their entry this year, despite it not paying off to the extent they’d have liked. After all, that screenus maximus was nothing if not an attention-grabber, and it was used very calculatedly to try and outdo the Heroes staging that started it all (that’s not an assumption. I sat and heard Philipp Kirkirov say so during the first Russian press conference). There are a number of ways You Are The Only One could have been performed to amplify it as an entry, but this method gave it a serious ‘wow’ factor.

 

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Winner Bulgaria Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan, Belgium

Any country that makes the chicken dance cool again (slash cool for the first time in history) should receive a high five at least. Bulgaria assigned the chorus of If Love Was A Crime its own set of moves that quickly became irresistible in terms of attempting to copy them (or was that just me?). Sassy, fun and a little bit off-the-wall – just like Poli herself – they helped make Bulgaria’s appearance in this year’s contest extra memorable.

 

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Austria, France, Latvia

In a time when you can back your act with pretty much anything (a naked hologram of yourself frolicking with wolves, for instance), it’s hard to haul yourself to the top of the heap. Ukraine’s collection of colours, textures and trees (well, just the one tree), however, did just that. It complemented the story and dynamics of 1944 so perfectly, I can’t personally look past it. That tree “exploding” out of Jamala at the song’s climax is one heck of an iconic image.

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Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan

The likes of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan are famous for throwing everything and the kitchen sink – sometime, several kitchen sinks – at their Eurovision performances. To prove that point, note that only one of them didn’t  in 2016 (and note how it worked in their favour). Russia takes this trophy home, though, for putting on a show so in-your-face, it practically screamed ‘VOTE FOR US! WE WANT TO WIN! WE DON’T NEED AN OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATER THIS TIME!’. Factor in the lack of correlation between the lyrics of YATOO and what we saw Sergey getting up to on stage, and you’ve got OTT for the sake of OTT. That’s, like, the highest level of OTT.

 

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Winner Bulgaria, Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Armenia, Russia

To win Eurovision, you need a cohesive package in which all aspects are on point. If having that up your sleeve doesn’t ensure a podium placing, it should at least drag you away from the depths of the dreaded bottom five. That’s what happened to Ukraine and Bulgaria this year – a win for the first time in over a decade and a best-ever result. Excellent vocals? Check. Brilliant songs? Yep. Perfect costumes? You know it. Setting the scene by pimping the stage? Of course. Both countries had it all going on.

 

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Winner Poland’s baffling televote boost Honourable Mention/s Justin Timberlake is announced as an interval act

As someone who was standing in the thick of it i Globen, I can confirm that thousands of jaws required picking up off the floor in the wake of Poland’s leap from last place to the top ten. Of all the stuff we didn’t see coming re: the 2016 contest, this was the most unpredictable – despite Poland’s apparently domineering diaspora (which didn’t help them during the Polish slump period of 2004-2011). But, whether you love, hate or ‘meh’ Color of Your Life, you have to admit that this particular leaderboard leapfrog made for a priceless Eurovision moment (and GIF).

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria

Is Laura Tesoro a cyborg programmed to be constantly cheery and have unflagging energy? I think so. Has she ever been to a party and not been the life of it? As if! Can I have a smidgen of her sparkling personality if there’s any to spare? I’ll leave it to her to answer that question.

 

THE COSTUMES

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Winner Australia Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan, Malta

Call me biased if you want to, but I feel like I’m just stating the obvious when I say that the Steven Khalil-designed, diamonte-encrusted creation Dami Im donned for her performances was STUNNING. The arm bling and sparkly stilettos slathered frosting on a look that said ‘This is what Glinda the Good Witch would wear to her wedding.’ It is also what I would like to wear to my wedding. Or to the supermarket. Whichever aisle I happen to walk down first, basically.

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Finland  

It’s not often that a costume single-handedly destroys a country’s chances of contest success. The last time that happened was also in Sweden, when Moje 3’s circus clown couture clashed with Ljubav Je Svuda’s good-and-evil concept, untying what could have been a neatly-wrapped package and making a mess instead. Fast forward three years, and Jamie-Lee allowed the same thing to happen to her, refusing to sacrifice – or even tone down/adapt – her love of manga style for the sake of Ghost. A song that good deserved visuals that would have told its story – not detracted from it completely, leading to a discordance that couldn’t be ignored.

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Winner Slovenia Honourable Mention/s Armenia

Most of this year’s artists kept their goodies in the jar, if you know what I mean (and I’m guessing you do). Slovenia’s ManuElla wasn’t one of them. Rather than opting for the military-themed, backing singer-assisted costume reveal from ye olden national final days, she decided to take care of everything concerning revealing all on her own. The result was…well, boobage that the brain behind Trijntje Oosterhuis’ slashed-to-the-waist number might consider risqué. I’m not here to shame a fellow female, but wouldn’t an outfit that was less of an anatomy lesson and more ‘blue and red’ have made more sense?

 

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Winner Bulgaria Honourable Mention/s Poland, Spain

An undercut that kicks butt was all it took for our favourite Bulgarian to take out this award. Good golly, Miss Poli – you OWN that half-and-half hairstyle like nobody else. I can’t wait to see what you do when you get bored of it. Maybe we’ll find out when Eurovision 2021 rolls around?

 

THE RESULTS

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Winner Måns Zelmerlöw Honourable Mention/s Petra Mede 

It was the Very Intelligent People (as Petra likes to label her fans) versus the Månsters for this People’s Choice category, and – somewhat shockingly – the latter were the force to be reckoned with. I guess the fact that MZW did double duty as Eurovision’s reigning champ/chief repriser and an all-singing, all-dancing, all-charming co-host gave him a slight edge over Queen Petra.

 

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Winner ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ Honourable Mention/s The fashion show of flags

I DID NOT FORESEE THIS. I thought ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ had passed us all by without making any impact whatsoever. It’s not like it was a masterpiece of musical theatre that poked the right amount of fun at the ESC while warning future competitors to steer clear of clichés. I mean, nobody even requested that it be released as a single!

Hashtag sarcasm. Hashtag ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ is amazeballs and we all know it.

 

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Winner Iceland Honourable Mention/s Estonia

Estonia’s failure to qualify may have upset me the most (I have permanent tear tracks on my face from the flood that ensued when Jüri was left behind in semi 1…sob!) but Iceland missing out shocked me to my very core. I was never the biggest fan of Hear Them Calling, but I was 110% convinced it would sail through to the final in spite of Sergey Lazarev’s performance overshadowing Greta’s. I still can’t believe Iceland was beaten by San Marino. Come to think of it, I can’t believe ANYONE was beaten by San Marino.

 

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Winner Georgia Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic

Midnight Gold was gold as far as I’m concerned, and I’m not a massive psychedelic rock fan by any means. I wanted it to qualify more than Danny Saucedo wanted to win Melodifestivalen 2012, but I didn’t think it actually would. As it turns out, I was wrong, and that’s fine by me. Go Georgia!

 

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Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Australia

Even if Russia hadn’t been the pre-contest favourite (and during-contest favourite), the thought of them failing to qualify this year would have been a ridiculous one. The thought of Russia not qualifying any year is ridiculous, really – but Sergey was a standout on stage, as we always knew he would be.

 

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Winner San Marino Honourable Mention/s Montenegro

I’m still in shock that Serhat came what can only be described as ‘far too close’ to progressing from Tuesday to Saturday night. But, at the end of the day, he still didn’t make it, and that’s what the Eurovision gods had long since ordained (the 12th place was their version of a belated April Fools’ joke, I assume).

 

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Israel

You guys chose the transformation of Laura Tesoro as the worthy winner of this trophy. Belgium certainly upped the ante and glitteriness of her performance between NF and IF (international final, obviously), transforming it from something that looked at home on an intimate stage to something that filled a massive one – and filled Globen with masses of energy and positive vibes.

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Australia, Denmark

Sorry/not sorry, haters…but I’m so dedicated to Team Jamala, I hold conversations exclusively in 1944 lyrics (I can’t wait to go trick-or-treat doorknocking at Halloween and greet homeowners with the likes of ‘When strangers are coming, they come to your house, they kill you all’. How suitably scary!). As such – and because Her Holiness had so much of herself, and so much of her family’s heartbreaking true story invested in her Eurovision entry – I am adamant that Ukraine won fairly, squarely and deservedly. They earned the absolute shiz out of that triumph.

 

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Winner Estonia Honourable Mention/s Italy

In a semi final that had the words ‘San Marino’ printed in the program, the country that would finish in last place should have been easy to predict. Even when Serhat put on something of an endearing performance *she admits reluctantly*, it seemed like Finland’s Sandhja was going to step into seventeenth instead. What I did not expect was for poor, poor Estonia to fall as flat as possible and end up rock bottom. NOT COOL, EUROPE…and not at all deserved.

 

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Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Denmark  

Everyone else on the planet knew what those who voted for Lighthouse X during DMGP didn’t: that the trio didn’t have a hope in heck of qualifying from a Eurovision semi. They were charming enough to avoid finishing last on the Thursday night – and they didn’t use constipation as inspiration for their choreography, á la Rykka – but they lacked the fire (not even Azerbaijan-level pyro would have saved them) and the x-factor to proceed any further. No crystal ball was needed to foretell that outcome.

 

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Winner Poland Honourable Mention/s San Marino

The bulk of ‘It Should Have Been Margaret!’ t-shirt wearers were stopped in their tracks when Michał was catapulted from the lowest of scoreboard lows to the upper echelons of the top 10, all thanks to the televoting. That moment was many things – shocking and impressive among them – but easily explainable? Nope. I find it hard to believe that Polish diaspora is that influential, and even though I really liked Color of Your Life, I’m also confused by the possibility of such an outpouring of voter-at-home love…especially when the juries completely dismissed Poland. COLL was not a song that made you go ‘Yep, the televoters will LOVE that, but the juries’ll hate it.’ If anything, I’d have had it the other way round. To sum up, *insert giant question mark here*.

 

 

And that, my fellow Eurovision freaks, is that! My collapsible table of trophies is empty, and it’s time to roll up that red carpet for another year. I hope you enjoyed the 2016 edition of the EBJEEs in some respect, because I definitely enjoyed bringing it to you (even if it took a little longer than I’d initially planned).

Stay tuned to le blog over the coming weeks if you’re interested in the OGAE Second Chance Contest, the Olympics, random album reviews and lookalikes – I’ve got content concerning all of the above in the pipeline for August (and it IS all ESC-related, I swear).

While you’re waiting for that, why not tell me what you thought of today’s award winners? Did your People’s Choice votes go to waste, or did you get your way? Which performances, costumes and results of Eurovision 2016 do you think deserve some extra credit? Let me know below. I live for your feedback!

Well, I don’t live for it…but I like it.

 

Until next time,

 

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The 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 2 (The Performances, The Costumes + The Results)

Pull up a comfortable chair (you’re going to be sitting in it for a while), have food and drink within reach (you’ll need the sustenance), and generally prep yourselves for the second and final installment of the 2015 EBJEEs!

I won’t lie – it’s a mammoth ceremony. But it might just be worth it: if you voted in the People’s Choice polls, you’ll find out today whether your remaining favourites won out in the end. Plus, if you make it all the way through, I’ll give you a gift basket full of gratitude and appreciation for your dedication. You won’t be able to sell it on eBay, but hopefully it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy (once you get the feeling back in your behind after sitting down for so long).

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking!

 

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 THE PERFORMANCES

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Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Nadav Guedj, Uzari

You can send threatening notes my way calling me biased, but I’d like to see you argue against Australia’s pride and joy (at this moment in time and exclusively among Eurovision fans) possessing a flawless set of pipes. Even suffering from a cold, as he was in the days leading up to the final, Guy Sebastian demonstrated his usual smooth-as-silk singing technique, and reminded us all why he won Australian Idol back in the day.

 

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Winner Aminata Honourable Mention/s Bojana Stamenov, Polina Gagarina

Barely able to reach the ‘You Must Be THIS Tall To Ride’ marker when queuing for a rollercoaster ride, Aminata’s powerful vocals defy her petite size. Transitioning between crystal-clear high notes and big belters with ease, the control she had over her voice was second to none in this year’s contest as far as I’m concerned. If Beyoncé is #flawless, we’re going to have to come up with a whole new word for Aminata. Aminatamazing? Aminaterrific? The suggestion box is officially open.

 

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Winner Il Volo Honourable Mention/s Genealogy, Mørland & Debrah Scarlett

Singing separately, Gianluca, Ignazio and Piero are mesmerising. Singing together, they send me on a trip to Goosebumpsville, USA, every time (it’s starting to get expensive). The force that is high-quality operatics shouldn’t be underestimated, and high-quality operatics is what we got from the boys whenever they opened their mouths in Vienna. Perfection is spelled I-L V-O-L-O from now on.

 

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Winner Italy Honourable Mention/s Latvia

Let’s talk about Italy for the second time in thirty seconds, shall we? There’s something about an epic vocal performance that sends shivers down my spine. This is particularly true when the performance is given by a trio of hot Italian men…and when one of said men winks at the camera and turns me into a sad excuse for an independent woman who don’t need no man. In addition to the shivers, Il Volo also had every hair on the back of my neck standing up each time they launched into Grande Amore’s explosive chorus. As a result, I resembled a fuzzy triceratops, but it was totally worth it.

 

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Winner Spain Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic, Greece

A dramatic song like Amanecer needs a dramatic performance to go with it, and Spain certainly delivered in that respect. They didn’t rely solely on Edurne’s ability to look super-intense and wave her arms around at every opportunity; instead, they switched the drama into overdrive by adding a costume change, an aggressive dance sequence and a gale from the wind machine into the mix. Subsequently, Spain’s performance rated more highly on the drama scale than an entire year’s worth of Days Of Our Lives episodes.

 

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Winner Austria Honourable Mention/s France, Switzerland

In a move that gave a more literal meaning to Paula and Ovi’s Playing With Fire, The Makemakes’ Dominic set his piano alight at the pivotal point of I Am Yours – a cool (though not temperature-wise) way of spicing up the staging of the cruisy, down-tempo number. It didn’t help Austria score any points, but the risk factor and fresh take on pyrotechnics deserves recognition.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Lithuania, France

Sweden grabs this People’s Choice Award in very convincing style, with 58% of the votes. It’s not surprising when you consider just how much Måns’ projected stick man and all that jazz had to do with his win. The gimmick made a good song great, and made the performance of that song superior in terms of innovation and creativity.

 

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Winner Greece Honourable Mention/s Georgia, Spain, Switzerland

Maria Elena had everything one needs to pull off a classic Eurovision lady ballad: a big voice; flowing locks; a floor-sweeping gown; and the ability to fake enough anguish to moisten her eyes, but not so much to actually let a tear go and ruin her mascara. All that was required top it off was wind – and boy, did she get it! As much as I want to opt for the logical pun here and say I was blown away by Greece’s performance, I wasn’t. But if it hadn’t been for that manufactured breeze, the climax of One Last Breath would have lacked impact.

 

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Israel, Sweden

Robotic movements coupled with perfect pirouettes and the occasional face-grab? What a work of art. Belgium’s combo of geometric and organic movements was as complementary to Rhythm Inside as the black-and-white costumes and boxy backdrop. The choreography also played a big part in Loïc and his dance crew snapping at Måns Zelmerlöw’s heels in the creativity stakes.

 

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Winner France Honourable Mention/s Latvia, Poland

Back in 2012, Ukraine neatly sidestepped the six-person stage rule by featuring a crowd of fist-pumping – and it must be said, tacky-looking – party-goers on the screens behind Gaitana. The idea was good, but the execution was poor. Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll see that France took the same idea, and made it work. A digital army of drummers (plus a smaller contingent of living and breathing drummers) appeared behind Lisa Angell, and with that, the last thirty seconds of her performance and its atmosphere were elevated by a mile.

 

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Winner Spain Honourable Mention/s Moldova

No amount of gimmicks is too many – not according to Edurne’s team. It’s a worry when a song is deemed so unentertaining, it needs every backdrop, costume reveal, dance move and wind machine setting known to man to bring it to life (say what you will about Sweden, but at least they limited themselves to lighting and projection). Still, I can’t say I minded the OTT much on this occasion. As I said earlier, Amanecer is a dramatic number, and you have to admire Spain for carrying that through to the staging as well.

 

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Winner The Netherlands Honourable Mention/s The Czech Republic

I’m sure we’d all have forgiven The Netherlands if that horrendous opening shot had been a mistake. But, believe it or not, it was included on purpose. An entire verse of Trijntje eyeballing the camera with netting draped over her face didn’t say ‘I’m on the Eurovision stage and loving it!’ so much as ‘I’m being held hostage by an embittered fisherman who’s threatening to slap me with a sea bass unless his demands are met.’ And yet, rather than feeling sorry for her, all I could do was laugh. ‘WTF?!?’ is an understatement.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Belgium, Australia, Latvia

This People’s Choice poll was a close one, with Belgium leading until the last minute. Ultimately, it’s contest winner Sweden that can add another trophy to their collection as the All-Rounder of the Year – the country that had the best package of song and performance. Year after year, Sweden puts the ‘vision’ into Eurovision in a big way, and 2015 was no exception. Not only visually spectacular (and I’m not just talking about Måns) but vocally top-notch and full of energy, there was nothing lacking in what they had to offer most recently. This award is well-deserved.

 

 

THE COSTUMES

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Winner Nina Sublatti Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie, Genealogy

What with Nina being the fierce, take-no-prisoners kind of woman she is, Georgia needed to dress her in something that said ‘I’m a sexy goth, and if you come near me without my permission I’ll whip a Chinese throwing star at your forehead.’ Thankfully, they did, and I am now crushing on an ESC costume like I did when Maja Keuc made Perspex platforms and provocative body armour a thing in Düsseldorf. I.e. to a crazy extent.

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Winner Trijntje Oosterhuis Honourable Mention/s Trijntje Oosterhuis

Well, there was one thing The Netherlands did better than anyone else this year. Upon seeing what Trijntje opted to wear for the show after trying out several alternatives, that haphazardly-cut, boob-baring dress suddenly didn’t look so bad. I guess she’s not one of those people who can wear a bin bag and still look fabulous.

 

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Winner Moldova’s hot cops Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie

I’m mainly referring to the object of Eduard’s affection (and her teeny-tiny, totally non-regulation police hotpants) here. But the sprayed-on shorts the men were wearing were also grounds for arrest, and for covering the eyes of any children present. How those guys managed to move to the music without something splitting is a mystery.

 

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Winner Debrah Scarlett Honourable Mention/s Loïc Nottet

Adventurous hairstyles were few and far between in Vienna, with nobody even coming close to a Rona Nishliu-style DEAR LORD WHAT IS THAT ON HER HEAD?!? So the conventional but undeniably stunning hairdo of Debrah Scarlett wins this People’s Choice Award. Affixed with an empty pie tin repurposed as artful headwear (zoom in on Norway’s performance and you’ll probably spot some crust crumbs) Debrah’s fiery mane of curls was anything but monstrous. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that mane on my own scalp stat (minus the pie tin).

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THE RESULTS

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Winner Conchita Wurst Honourable Mention/s Alice Tumler

This wasn’t a competition, really…at least not a close one. ORF made a big mistake failing to convince Conchita to host the entire show. She’s everything a great host is made of: articulate, humorous, charismatic, and gorgeous to look at (nobody looks more banging in an evening gown).

 

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Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Moldova

2015 wasn’t exactly a year of jaw-dropping moments. I can’t say that any of the DNQs had me clutching my chest and feeling faint at the sheer shocking-ness of their occurrence. However, I did have Denmark down as a qualifier, thinking that as usual, the safe and competent song they were fielding would get them into the final. It did not, which was a little surprising…but not devastating, if I’m honest.

 

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Winner Albania Honourable Mention/s Poland

As much as I’m Alive has grown on me in the month or so since Eurovision, I still don’t 100% understand how it got through. Elhaida’s cape game was strong in semi final one, but girl veered right off the in-tune tracks and straight into screech territory for her last thirty seconds on stage. Ouch.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Russia

For the long-standing bookies’ favourite, there were no questions surrounding qualification. It wasn’t even worth arguing against Sweden winning their semi. We know from the Bergendahl Incident of 2010 that the Swedes can trip up when it comes to making the final, but there was no way 2015 was going to resemble that ABSOLUTE TRAVESTY, thank heavens.

 

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Winner San Marino Honourable Mention/s Portugal

Poor Anita and Michele. Come back next year (after you’ve given Ralph Siegel the flick) and you might have a chance.

 

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Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Romania, Switzerland

I don’t know if it’s down to better acoustics in the hall or a voice-box transplant, but Eduard went from putting all his energy into dancing and giving us the vocal performance of nobody’s lifetime, to putting most of his energy into dancing – there was even a backflip thrown in this time – and actually sounding passable. The Jedward Effect of having backing singers do most of the heavy lifting had to have something to do with it.

 

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Winner Australia Honourable Mention/s The Netherlands, Sweden

As awesome/bizarre as it would have been to see Australia win Eurovision, I never really thought it was going to happen with Tonight Again. After Guy’s outstanding live performance, though, a top five placement was not out of the question – and when we nabbed one over Latvia, I felt it was fair (not that I would’ve complained if Australia and Latvia had finished the other way round). When I do the math, 5th seems just right. The song deserved top ten, the performance deserved top five, and the vocal was deserving of the win.

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Austria, France

I’ve said this a dozen times already, but even ignoring the fact that Germany wasn’t ranked last in the televoting or jury voting and still ended up at the bottom (no pun intended, if you know what I mean), I remain confused as to how Ann Sophie was so wronged. As if she hadn’t been traumatised enough during the German NF! There was nothing deserving of nul in her sassy, sexy performance, and I for one am outraged that Black Smoke is now the only Eurovision song in history to finish 27th in the final.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Russia

Aside from a last-minute challenge from Russia, and the possibility of Italy trampling all over their competition, Sweden was the one to beat this year. From the millisecond Måns won Melfest, he was the odds-on favourite to win Eurovision, and he didn’t disappoint those who’d put money on him. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t think Russia was going to snatch victory (after Polina’s final performance and until halfway through the voting sequence, that’s EXACTLY what I thought was going to happen) but the obvious winner that few of us discounted did turn out to be the actual winner. I don’t think Sweden’s sixth victory blindsided anyone.

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Austria

Yep, we’re in agreement – Germany wuz robbed! Since Stefan Raab relinquished control of the German entries, the country’s fortunes have taken a nosedive. As such, we might have expected Ann Sophie to finish mid-table or lower. What none of us expected was to see her sitting as low as possible on the scoreboard, with the host nation and a big fat zero keeping her company. WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO? On the plus side, Ann Sophie is now a member of a rather exclusive club of losers, and will be remembered in a way that whoever finished, say, 22nd (I literally had to Google that to remind myself that it was Cyprus) will not.

 

 

And that, my European song competition-obsessed friends, is it *insert relieved round of applause here*. There are no more trophies left to hand out to the Class of ’15, which the likes of Lithuania will be sad to hear considering they didn’t get one (not This Time….HAHAHA).

I hope you enjoyed this year’s awards. Thanks again to everyone who voted in the People’s Choice polls – I promise there will be more of those, feat. more nominees, in 2016.

I still have a bit of Vienna-themed business to take care of here on EBJ, before I move on and look ahead to JESC in Bulgaria, and the 61st ESC in A City Yet To Be Named (don’t rush, EBU/SVT…I need more time to conduct accommodation research). There won’t be a dull moment here during the off-season, so do drop by over the coming months. I can assure you that, unlike Ann Sophie and The Makemakes, you’ll never have a nul-point experience!

 

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COMING UP I count down my top ten national finalists who should/could have gone to Vienna; and you’ll be seeing double as all the doppelgangers of ESC 2015 are exposed!

 

EBJ’s Top 10…performances of Eurovision 2015

Hej hej! Welcome to the filler post that’s supposed to make you drool with anticipation as you await the results of my 2015 Eurovision Excellence Awards.

Don’t worry; their arrival is in the offing. In the meantime, if you haven’t voted in the People’s Choice polls yet, I would la la love you to do so while you still can. The polls are sitting pretty in my previous post, where they’ll be open for another few days (UPDATE: They’ve now closed!!!). Many of the results are close at this point, so your vote could determine who wins and who goes home empty-handed. As our beloved Queen Loreen would say, you got the power.

Before you head off to use it, though (and thanks so much if you already have…douze points for you!) why not hang around here for a bit and check out today’s countdown?

The forty songs performed in Vienna over three nights have been narrowed down to ten: my top ten of the lot, based on how well they were staged and sung, how aesthetically pleasing they were, and how insignificant the shocking camerawork became in light of all of the above.

 

As taking forty down to ten is a tough task (even with a few badly-staged, badly-sung entries among that forty) I’m allowing myself some Honourable Mentions to start:

Moldova If Moldova had tried to disguise I Want Your Love as a classy, contemporary affair, there would have been a global eye-roll epidemic. Fortunately, Eduard and his team acknowledged how trashy and 2000s the song is via a heavily-choreographed, sleazy dance routine performed by “police” hot off a porn set. I don’t care what anyone says – we NEEDED this in Eurovision 2015.

Montenegro Željko Joksimović was part of Adio in spirit (and as songwriter) if not on stage, with his influence extending to the use of every Balkan ballad trope imaginable during Knez’s performance. In this case, I’m more than happy to embrace the clichés, because I’ve long been a sucker for Balkan ballads and their atmospheric ensemble-based stagings…especially when Željko’s engineered them.

Russia I can’t deny that Polina gave a win-worthy performance in the final, helped along by her all-white resemblance to Dima Bilan back in ’08 (except his neckline was even more plunging than hers). But, more so than the costumes or the backdrops, it’s the emotion and energy she put into conveying the message of A Million Voices that I applaud here. Polina clearly invested every fibre of her (pure and angelic) being into her performance, and the fact that she semi-crumbled at the end endeared her effort to me all the more. You go, girlfriend.

 

And now, let’s get to the really, really good stuff (and pretend I didn’t just say ‘You go, girlfriend’): my top ten performances of the year.

When compiling this list, I thought back to how strong my desire was to clap after each performance, rather than bury my head in my hands. I also tried to recall whether my eyes were glued to the TV screen for three minutes straight (á la Sweden) or if I was tempted to tear them out after ten seconds because I NEVER EVER WANT TO SEE ANYONE WEAR ANYTHING LIKE THAT AGAIN, TRIJNTJE!

This is the end result.

 

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#10 | Game of Thrones meets Eurovision…and it’s a perfect match

Genealogy’s performance of Face The Shadow for Armenia

Game of Thrones with a ton of (subliminal) ads for Cadbury Family Blocks thrown in, that is. Armenia’s medieval-esque and very purple outfits – which may or may not have been retrieved from the depths of Inga’s wardrobe and repurposed, based on their resemblance to her and her sister’s 2009 costume choice – added to an equally purple and well-executed performance that took my pre-show perception of Face The Shadow and completely reversed it. Once performed live, the chaos of the studio version – in which all six singers attempted to outdo each other at every opportunity – disappeared, making way for screen shots that almost literally walked us through Essaï, Mary-Jean, Stephanie, Inga, Tamar and Vahe’s solos. On top of that, the migraine-inducing melodrama of that studio version came off as more of a theatricality, and one that worked very well outside of the recording booth. I still feel like Genealogy would have been more at home in a West End production of The Phantom of the Opera than at Eurovision…but their performance made me want to retract most of the snarky comments I made when reviewing Armenia a few months ago – and that deserves praise.

 

#9 | How do you say ‘OTT’ in Spanish?

Edurne’s performance of Amanecer for Spain

After a pretty lengthy period of simplistic staging choices, it was only a matter of time before Spain regurgitated every unused costume reveal, backdrop, dance move and wind machine gust from the past five years all over the Eurovision stage. We’ll never know whether less would have been more where Amanecer is concerned, but I personally don’t mind never finding out – because Edurne’s action-packed, meme-worthy performance harked back to the ultra-gimmicky days of the contest, and I couldn’t help loving it. Si, it was OTT, but not in a tacky, trashy way (Moldova had the tackiness and trashiness all to themselves). To put it in Eurovision terms, if Silvia Night’s Congratulations performance in ’06 was a petulant child, then Edurne’s Amanecer performance was the same child nine years later – more mature, but now at the party-girl stage of life when all she wants to do is rip off the demure cloak she wore out of the house to appease her parents, revealing a flashy dress that enables her to be manhandled by a half-naked dancer up in the club. Or in this case, up on the Stadthalle stage in front of thousands of flag-waving fans. Something else I commend about Spain’s show is the fact that Edurne didn’t let the myriad of backdrops, or the machine-made wind, or any of the other stuff that was happening to/around her, outshine her. She retained her status as star of the show the entire time. I guess when you’re that stunning, it’s easy to do.

 

#8 | Before I leave, you can definitely show me Tel Aviv!

Nadav Guedj’s performance of Golden Boy for Israel

I mean that in a ‘because you guys are the collective kings of fun’ kind of way, as opposed to an ‘I have the hots for a sixteen-year-old which, as I am in my twenties, is creepy, even though said teenager looks older than me’ kind of way (I swear I don’t). Without question, Israel was the life of the Eurovision party in Vienna, and all it took was simple but bang-on staging of the energetic floorfiller that is Golden Boy. All the song needed was a cool lighting scheme, men who could move, and – something I didn’t visualise pre-ESC but now can’t imagine sacrificing – some sweet-as-heck metallic sneakers. And Israel delivered on all three of those counts. They also gave us a teen talented beyond his years, who worked the stage like a pro and made millions of people watching at home leave the butt-shaped crater in their couches behind in order to shake the butt that made the indentation. I was doing no such thing when I was sixteen, being too busy carrying out my grand plan to win over the guy I liked by never looking at or speaking directly to him, which worked a treat. Not. ANYWAY, there was nothing not to enjoy about Nadav’s moment in the spotlight – including his literal moment in the spotlight during Golden Boy’s ballad-like intro, also perfectly staged – which is why it’s going down as one of my top ten performances. As long as I can keep pretending the cringe-tastic ‘Do you like my dancing?’ lyric doesn’t exist, I’ll be re-watching it on repeat.

 

#7 | Where there’s smoke, there’s Nina

Nina Sublatti’s performance of Warrior for Georgia

Let’s be honest: there were a lot of lady ballads in Eurovision this year. Countless women in floor-sweeping gowns were either a) wilting away at their microphones because the flame of their loins had departed, or b) demanding in a very shouty manner that we all come together and build a bridge and pray for peace and whatnot (thanks, but no thanks). So it’s a relief that Georgia gave us some grunt factor in the form of a fierce-as-F-word, gothic goddess in black leather hotpants and thigh-high boots – a.k.a. Nina Sublatti. At twenty years of age, Nina held her own on a sizeable and very smoky stage (she didn’t even bat a kohl-covered eyelid when the Dry Ice Overload Incident took place during the final). Girl eyeballed the camera, strutted around in those amazing boots (sorry to keep mentioning them, but they’re a 10 on the Maja Keuc scale of lust-worthy footwear) and generally hypnotised me into staring at her the entire time she was doing her femme fatale thing. She didn’t need anyone else accompanying her on stage, and I get the feeling the same applies to her everyday life – she’s the epitome of a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man. It’s quite possible that I’m a little bit in love with her, actually. But pushing that aside, I think that Georgia staged Warrior impeccably. A striking backdrop, a dark and sexy choice of costume, dry ice for atmosphere and Nina herself was all that the performance needed to succeed.

 

#6 | Lights! Camera! Completely unjustified nul points!

Ann Sophie’s performance of Black Smoke for Germany

From one saucy, black-clad woman to another…let’s talk about Ann Sophie and her Eurovision rendition of Black Smoke. And this time, I’m going to get straight to the point: I LOVED this performance. Fans who didn’t like the song beforehand and were still annoyed about the Andreas situation may not have felt the same way watching it, and I’ll admit that as I did rate Black Smoke quite highly in the contest lead-up – and wanted poor, downtrodden Ann Sophie to surpass expectations (which didn’t quite pan out) – I’m probably biased. But you tell me something that was über-wrong with Germany’s three minutes, and I’ll tell you that you’re crazy. Everything about it was simple, seductive and sophisticated – and no, I haven’t forgotten about the butt-centric shots that dominated the first verse. What can I say? The woman has a behind that deserves camera time, and the fact that she spent thirty seconds with her back to the audience was at least a unique and memorable approach to stage choreography. It was hardly off the charts wackiness-wise when compared to some of Belgium’s choreography (which *spoiler alert* will be discussed again shortly). Ann Sophie’s style and charisma were equally on point, and her voice wasn’t half as nasally as it had been at the German national final. On top of that, the use of the giant lights as props was inspired, and totally in keeping with the slightly retro flavour of Black Smoke. All in all, Germany’s was a slick and entertaining performance in which every visual element was nailed and the artist played their part in adding pizzazz. Neither the televoters nor the juries thought that zero points was a fair score here, so I blame the current combined voting system for a failure that will haunt my dreams for years to come.

 

#5 | Three (handsome, Italian) heads are better than one

Il Volo’s performance of Grande Amore for Italy

Il Volo, of course, had sung Grande Amore live at Sanremo in order to win the main section of the comp – but after hearing the song for the first time via the cinematically-themed video and falling in love with it, I decided not to seek out the live version. Rather, I’d wait until Eurovision time to see if the boys would blow me away as I expected them to. Obviously, since I’m talking about them on a list of my favourite Viennese performances, they did. They really, really did. All they had to do was stand on the stage in front of that majestic and oh-so-Italian backdrop in dapper suits, and nail their solo vocals and harmonies, and the power of the song would do the rest. A little partnership between the lighting/graphics and the explosive launch into the choruses added to the drama, and that wink from Gianluca down the camera cemented the sex appeal and charisma of this popera entry. Comparisons to the stuffy and straight-laced Sognu should have ended there, but people refuse to stop pitting Italy 2015 against France 2011…even now that we know Italy won the televote and finished third overall (seriously, STOP IT!). Effortless, classy and with an Italian stamp on their performance like always, Italy more than made up for Emma’s scoreboard slump of 2014. And gave me some epic goosebumps. Brr.

 

#4 | Did we pick the right Guy for the job? Too right, mate!

Guy Sebastian’s performance of Tonight Again for Australia

No list of this nature written by an Australian would be complete without our debut performance on it. In fourth place is Guy Sebastian, whose talent, personality and posse of backup dancers/singers had the whole of the arena on their feet (from what I could see on screen) and dismissing the ‘WTF?’ factor of Australia being invited to compete. Tonight Again is the kind of song that works better live, when the performer can feed off the energy of the audience – and in this case, where smooth-as-honey vocals like Guy’s sound sweetest. From his first note, the crowd made the noise that indicated they knew they were in for a fun time (fun being extremely welcome after a ton of down-tempo songs that simply could not be twerked to), and when the trumpets kicked in, there was no looking back. The 3D and 2D street lights served as an eye-catching and appropriate part of simple but effective staging – i.e. staging that was far from boarding Spain’s OTT train, but not at all boring. My absolute favourite thing about our debut was this: watching it unfold in a room full of other Aussies, all of us waving our flags and singing along to every word, while dancing in the uncoordinated kind of way one does at 4 o’ clock in the morning. For the first time, I felt the patriotic spirit that those of you in regularly-competing countries must feel when you’re supporting your entry for the year (assuming you like it and aren’t embarrassed to get behind it). If we’re not invited back, then I’ll always have that memory and feeling to hold on to (sorry for the cheese, but this was a special event, and I’m getting kind of emotional thinking about it *sniff*).

 

And now, for the top points…er, I mean, performances. Or perhaps both?

Yes.

Eight points go to…

 

#3 | Affected, detected, reflected and injected

Aminata’s performance of Love Injected for Latvia

I am proud to say I’m someone who approved of Love Injected when it won the Latvian NF. But not even I foresaw how epic Aminata’s Eurovision performance, and eventual result, would be. I mean, this is Latvia we’re talking about – their contest history includes the world’s campest pirates, Johnny Logan name-dropping and songs about cake-baking. In the post-2000 years, I’ve often had low expectations of them…but that’s changed. Watching barely-five-foot Aminata attempt to fit through backstage doorways in that giant red puffball of a dress, I was skeptical. But with that dress, and the girl in it, being the focal point of the presentation, magic was made. The colour scheme and lighting were seamlessly integrated with the theme and hypnotic beats of the song, and the camerawork here was among the best of the lot. The real drawcard, though, was Aminata herself. Like Conchita, she remained in the same spot for the entirety of her performance, but managed to belt out Love Injected with a whopping amount of power, and emote using only her facial expressions and arm movements. Note-perfect every time and totally present and absorbed in the moment, she had so much to do with Latvia providing another spine-tingler. Overa-a-a-a-all (couldn’t resist) they impressed me big time, brought up my heart rate, and achieved a result that was more Brainstorm than Beautiful Song.

 

Ten points go to…

 

#2 | Lord of the dance, and the leather pants

Måns Zelmerlöw’s performance of Heroes for Sweden

Oh, Sweden – you did it again! Á la 2012, the ESC powerhouse’s out-of-the-box thinking led to an innovatively-staged performance that was unique in the field, and deservingly took out Eurovision’s top honours. The extent to which Sweden takes Melodifestivalen and Eurovision seriously is evident in how well-packaged their entries are from the very first time you see them live – when they’re just potential Swedish representatives competing in a Melfest semi. Changes to the stick man aside, the Heroes that turned up in Vienna was shot-for-shot, move-for-move the same as the Heroes that had won Melfest in Stockholm. And there’s nothing wrong with that – why strive to improve on perfection? Sure, there were a few minor tweaks that did just that: e.g. the colour scheme becoming monochromatic, which, as Måns said, gave the visuals a crispness they didn’t have before. That was the cherry on top of a precision-iced cake. Although I’d seen Måns interacting with cartoon Måns (who’s not as handsome but is adorable nonetheless) a million times before he did so at Eurovision, I was compelled by the staging every time. MZW  was selling something I already wanted to buy, so the fact that a) his vocals were top-notch, b) his engagement with the audience and camera was as pro as always, and c) he was still rocking those leather pants *swoons pathetically* was an added bonus. Just because every element of a performance has been thought through and rehearsed to within an inch of its life doesn’t mean said performance will become stale. It can still be fresh, with the right frontman…or in this case, the right frontmåns.

 

And now, the moment you’ve waded through my ramblings for. The douze points for my personal favourite performance of the year go to…

 

#1 | Black + white + rap pap pap tonight!

Loïc Nottet’s performance of Rhythm Inside for Belgium

Belgium has been a hit-and-miss kind of contest competitor lately. After Roberto Bellarosa’s surprise success in Malmö, Axel Hirsoux’s failure to qualify in Copenhagen must have taken the wind out of their sails (while not surprising the majority of us who were creeped-out by Mother). This year, with Francophone broadcaster RTBF in charge again, Loïc Nottet was internally selected – and what a brilliant selection it was. Loïc – who we mustn’t forget is only nineteen years old – proceeded to co-write a cutting-edge pop song and choreograph a cool routine for some all-white backing singers. The rest, as they say, is history. Belgium’s best result since 2003 was thanks to a song and performance unlike anything we’d heard or seen on the Eurovision stage before, which is mainly why I voted for it. Simple shapes, bizarre but complementary dance moves and a minimalist, monochromatic colour scheme united as Loïc let rip with a killer vocal. Unusual camera shots, and an intensity from The Voice Belgique runner-up that would be hard for an artist twice his age to muster, added to the intrigue, making Belgium’s performance pretty impossible to forget. The whole thing was strange yet satisfying, and gelled in a way that some other performances didn’t. I couldn’t tear my eyes away, having been a fan of Rhythm Inside from the start and then been blindsided by a level of awesomeness in its presentation. I want to see more of this in Eurovision as we journey on into the show’s seventh decade. Maybe that would prove that the older the contest gets, the cooler it gets – you know, like your grandmother who goes bar-hopping, listens to heavy metal and takes hang-gliding lessons.

 

 

That’s my countdown concluded, peeps. I’ve said my (very long) piece, so now it’s your turn. Which ten performances of Eurovision 2015 will you be watching over and over until a distraction comes along in the form of Eurovision 2016? Let me know below. I’m as curious as always!

 

NEXT TIME Dust off your tuxedoes, fluff out those tulle skirts, and red-carpet-proof your footwear – the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence have arrived! Well, the first installment has, anyway. You’re cordially invited to sit front-row as the trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs are handed out. Four of the People’s Choice winners will be revealed as well, so you won’t want to miss this ceremony.

 

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VOTE FOR THE WINNERS | Have your say in the People’s Choice categories of the 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence!

UPDATE: The People’s Choice polls have now closed. Thanks to everyone who voted – there was a pretty impressive turnout by EBJ standards! Drop by in the coming days for Parts 1 and 2 of the Eurovision Excellence Awards, when the results (and winners of a heap of other “trophies”) will be revealed. Subscribe to EBJ if you want your email to let you know exactly when those posts go live!

When Eurovision 2015 came to a close, it left us with one winner and thirty-nine losers spread across Europe (with one down here in Australia). I’m sorry to put it so harshly, but when you’re not winning, you’re technically losing, no matter what Malta’s Amber thinks. Marcel Bezençon Awards aside, only Måns Zelmerlöw departed Vienna with a trophy in his suitcase (though I like to think he insisted on wrapping it in a blanket, cradling it like a baby and singing it lullabies all the way back to Sweden. I know I would have).

I think that’s über unfair. That’s why, for the sixth year running, I’m holding my own ceremony of awards to honour the achievements of the countries, artists and songs that were not champions of the contest itself. I can’t promise Sweden won’t win any of these trophies too, however. Why should they be punished for bringing their A-game?

Anyway, these awards are better known as The EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence, and span five fabulous categories: The Artists, The Songs, The Performances, The Costumes and The Results (you can check out the 2014 awards here and here). In each category, there’s at least one gong that goes to the most popular nominee as voted by you (yes, you…have you had a haircut? It looks great. Really flatters your jawline). And today, voting is the task I’d love you to undertake. If my totally personalised and genuine complimenting of your appearance didn’t make you want to do what I tell you to, then you should know that anyone who votes in the polls below will receive a jar of my eternal gratitude in the mail in around 6-8 weeks.

So, if you’re up for it (which I’m sure you are now) it’s time to make some very important decisions – including that of who had the most superbly-styled hair in the Stadthalle (choosing the nominees for that made me miss Guy Sebastian’s old ‘fro like crazy). If you feel like I’ve missed out on nominating a particular country/artist/song for any award, feel free to nominate them yourself in the comments, and I’ll be sure to count that as a vote, because I’m nice like that. Not humble, but nice.

Now go forth and vote, vote, vote for the winners!

And tell your friends to do the same.

 

The Artists

Mr. Congeniality
The most personable and approachable male artist on the ground in Vienna (who you’d take home to meet your parents in a heartbeat).

 

Miss Congeniality
The female artist from the Class of ’15 you’d want to be best friends with (and she can meet your parents too).

 

The Songs

Fanwank (Pardon My French) of the Year
The song that had hardcore fans frothing at the mouth months before Eurovision even took place.

 

Best Preview Video
The music video that was visually spectacular, took an entry to another level, and/or gave you serious feels (watch or re-watch all of the nominees here).

 

The Performances

Best Stage Prop/Gimmick
The attention-grabbing onstage accompaniment that made the song it was supporting much more memorable.

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The All-Rounder of the Year
The country with an act who sang perfectly, whose style was on point, and who had a song that was brilliantly staged and choreographed (i.e. the entry with the total live package).

 

The Costumes

Hairdo of the Year
The artist with the moussed, flat-ironed and/or teased ‘do that you’re planning to recreate because it was the bomb dot com.

hdoty

 

The Results

The ‘How Did That Happen?’ Award for Most Shocking Result
The…um, does this one really require an explanation?

 

Those are your eight People’s Choice Awards for 2015. Thank you so much for voting, if you did. If not, then what are you waiting for?

The polls will be open for about a week, and then the EBJEEs will commence. There are plenty more trophies up for grabs that I’ll be deciding the winners of myself, because I like to be in charge all the time every now and then. But for now, the fate of the nominees is in your hands.

Lordi help them.

May the best potential winner be the eventual, actual winner!
nsig

NEXT TIME The awesomeness level of performances in Vienna may have been off the charts, but I’ve managed to narrow a long list of highlights down to ten: my top ten performances of the year, that is. Drop by in a few days’ time and check out the countdown, from #10 to #1.

 

Drummer boys, golden boys and Italian stallions: My very Swede Eurovision final experience (Part 1)

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: it’s taken me an eternity to put this post-final post together. It’s a good thing I’m not a news service, or being paid to run this blog – because if that was the case, I’d be failing epically at the former and be über undeserving of the latter (but if anyone wants to pay me for running this blog, I promise I’ll lift my game and work hard for the money).

My lame excuse for the lateness is the fact that all I’ve been capable of since Saturday night/Sunday morning *considers moving to Europe to eliminate the need of saying stuff like that anymore* is basking in the glow brought on by my favourite song winning Eurovision for the very first time. My beloved Sweden, and Måns, and his leather pants (like I could bypass any opportunity to mention those) won the 60th contest on the weekend, fairly and squarely and in accordance with all EBU rules and regulations – a concept some people are struggling with.

After a voting sequence that was pointing us in an easterly direction for about half the time, Sweden began to close the gap, eventually taking the lead, then building up a decent point buffer from there. It wasn’t a battle for victory on par with the likes of 2003 in terms of how profusely my palms (and some other places we won’t discuss) were sweating, but it was the most exciting round of results we’ve seen in a while. For once, that algorithm designed to disguise the winner for as long as possible excelled itself.

This year’s contest featured a lot of firsts for me and many of my fellow Australian fans. Watching live, voting, and cheering on our own country became part of the package, and I did all of this on Saturday night/Sunday morning (seriously, AAGH!) at an epic live screening party in Perth. Held at The Backlot private cinema, the soiree was organised by some esteemed and very awesome members of the Aussie Eurovision community – Kate Hansen, Renee Pozzi and Kingsley Dawes. With a 2014 Euroclub evening AND this screening under our rhinestone-encrusted belts, we Perth peeps are well on our way to making our city the Eurovision capital of Australia…or at least one of them. I send Il Volo-endorsed grande amore to Kate, Renee and Kingsley, for the effort and attention to detail put into the party planning and execution. Douze points for everyone!

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A little more re: the party, for those of you who want to know just how EBJ spent her Eurovisionmas…draped in flags, nearly fifty of us fans (among them several interstate visitors, including Sharleen from ESC Insight) drank from light-up glasses, weighed up the pros and cons of Marta Jandová tossing her shoes aside during the second semi final, and went bonkers when Guy Sebastian took to the Wiener Stadthalle stage. This was the closest I’ve ever been to sharing the Eurovision experience with a crowd of fans, and it was made even more memorable by the fact that we were Australians cheering on Australia in our first – but potentially not our last – appearance in the contest. I mean, we sang along to Tonight Again like we were competing in the Group Karaoke World Championships or something (which we totally would have won, by the way). And afterwards, I really did want to ‘do’ the night again. But I couldn’t. Thanks for the false hope, Guy.

evpR2nd

Anyway, in addition to the drinking, singing, dancing and voting, there was a Best Dressed competition – I’m dubbing it ‘The Anti-Barbara Dex Award’ – judged by a well-known radio personality, and won by Daryl Dickson, a.k.a. ConchiDaz. To top it all off, we gave out some points of our own, with the douze going to Italy even though we were allowed to vote for Australia (don’t let anyone tell you we’re biased). It seems the boys from Il Volo really did have sway over the SMSing public.

All in all, I had a blast, and I’m not sure I can bear to sit at home by myself, on my couch, watching a delayed broadcast of the final, ever again. And on that note, allow me to make public my intentions for May 2016. It probably won’t shock you to learn that I want to be on the ground in Stockholm/Göteborg. Not only that, but I want to be in the Press Centre, with laminated accreditation hanging around my neck. After ten years of being a Eurovision obsessive, I want the live experience with all the trimmings. As Jade Ewen might say if she was as excited as I am right now, it’s beyond my time.

I promised myself that if Sweden won in Vienna, I would do everything possible to make my Eurovision dream a reality (killing two birds with one stone, as Sweden is at the top of my travel list) and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Nothing’s for certain, unfortunately, but if I don’t make it in 2016, I want to be able to say I tried my best. I have a year to go for it, and as fast as that year will go by, I will make the most of it – planning, saving, and generally annoying the crap out of my friends who have attended the contest by constantly asking them inane questions. Brace yourselves, guys.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. Every other Eurovision site in existence may have already reviewed the grand final, but in the spirit of being better late than never, I’m doing it today. Since there’s a massive amount to talk about, I’m going to stick with the performances only at this point – the meat in the ESC sandwich. You’re cordially invited to accompany me on my tour through the bum-numbingly long, but brilliant evening.

 

finaleeeee

The conclusion to Eurovision 2015 turned out to be a great one – not half as weak as I’d thought it would be earlier in the season. In spite of some (i.e. a LOT of) shaky camera work, and a string of second-half ballads that put our abilities to stay conscious to the test, I enjoyed every minute of it. I would say ‘every three minutes of it’ as I’m about to review all 27 performances…but that’s not technically true.

Let’s begin on a positive note (#musicalpun).

 

The good

Any country that manages to have a hundred people backing their singer without breaching the six-person rule deserves a high five – so high five, France! N’oubliez Pas is a slow burner of a song, but the many (many, many) drummer boys, 3D and 2D, who joined Lisa in the last thirty seconds, made the crescendo worth the wait. It put me in mind of a better-executed attempt of Ukraine 2012.

Israel’s Nadav told us to come here and enjoy (although he didn’t make good on his promise to show us Tel Aviv) and I was more than happy to allow myself to be bossed around by a teenager on this occasion. Tonight Again aside, Golden Boy is the song I’d most like to have seen performed live, just to experience the energy and atmosphere it stirred up in the Stadthalle.

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I hate to break it to Nadav, but his backing dancers might have more claim to the throne of fun than he does. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

I can’t deny (see what I did there?) that Armenia turned a shambolic studio song into a successful live one. The theatricality of Face The Shadow means it was bound to be better in this environment. Awesome outfits, great graphics and a possible lawsuit from Cadbury due to the use of so much purple later, I’m verging on being pro-Genealogy.

Ah, Sweden. If any country knows how to do Eurovision and make it look effortless, it’s Sverige. The subtle and not-so-subtle changes made since Måns won Melodifestivalen took something perfect, and somehow turned it into something even more so. I am glad no changes were made in the leather pants department. Måns should bring out his own line of those things.

Australia’s debut was a mighty good one. I am so gosh darn proud of Guy, who spent his ground-time in Vienna charming the press and fans – and then, when it came to his big moment, charming us all over again. His performance of Tonight Again couldn’t have gone down better, and he even pulled off beige trousers (not literally. Eurovision is a family show, and I don’t think anyone would be considering Australia as a permanent participant if that had happened).

Belgium’s performance was undoubtedly the coolest thing I have ever seen on an ESC stage. I already raved about it in my semi 1 review, but I’m still in awe of the minimalist monochromatic visuals, and the cutting-edge choreography, and the fact that I’m talking about Belgium in such a positive light right now. ‘Once agaaaaain Motherrrr’ BELGIUM.

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Loïc, wondering if his forward-combed hairdo was the most stylish selection for Eurovision. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Montenegro put on a show that was the love child (or should I say ‘ljubav’ child?) of Molitva and every stage show that has ever been associated with the name ‘Željko Joksimović’. And it was totally on point as a result. Unfortunately we’ll never know how Knez felt about it, as his face is incapable of displaying anything other than slight surprise.

Let’s forget what happened later on in the evening for Germany and just focus on…you know what? I can’t. Nul points? For THIS? We’ll discuss exactly how that happened later, but Ann Sophie was incredible on that stage, in that jumpsuit (where she found one that actually flattered her behind, I don’t know). She took saucy and sultry to a new level, and her vocals didn’t have the slightly irritating nasally sound they had during Germany’s drama-filled NF.

Latvia’s Aminata is such a revelation. She may be teeny tiny, but her voice is huge, and note-perfect every time. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the reason she didn’t get to represent Latvia last year was so she could come back this year and take them to a place they hadn’t been in years: the final. In return, she required at least four people to take her to the toilet, because there’s no way that dress was pee-friendly.

Tugging on our heartstrings for Romania, Voltaj looked good, sounded good, and got their message across in a non-sickening manner. Even the post-performance cut to the kid from the music video melted my heart and brought a tear to my eye…okay, maybe not. But it didn’t make me roll my eyes, which makes it a success by my standards.

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Why have giant hamster wheels or Trojan horses when you can have suitcases and shipping containers? (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Polina Gagarina had a song at her disposal that Eurovision winners are made of, and put on a show worthy of a winner too. A few more Olympic ice skaters by her side, and Russia may have gone all the way.

I know I didn’t warn you that this post may contain sexual references, but here’s one: Italy was orgasmic. Stunning in every possible respect, and spine-tingling from start to finish. I actually died a little bit when Gianluca winked at the camera, and I refuse to be ashamed of that.

 

The not-so-good

There was something missing in Slovenia’s performance (and unfortunately, it wasn’t the headphones). Here For You in studio is brilliant, but radio-ready songs can be challenging when one must figure out how to plonk them on a stage in an aesthetically-pleasing way. The camera work wasn’t up to scratch, but as I mentioned before, that wasn’t exclusive to the Slovenian performance.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love A Monster Like Me, and for those keeping tabs, yes, I still have a lady crush on Debrah and her majestic mane of tangle-free wonderment. But I found the lighting and the costuming Norway opted for so incredibly unsuitable for such a dark and moody song. It was distracting, and that’s definitely not good. I hate to bring The Dress into the Eurovision bubble, but what was white and gold should really have been black and blue.

 

The WTF?!

Did the United Kingdom look at a bunch of old Eurovision clips and think to themselves ‘anything you can do, we can do better!’ and then throw everything they’d seen into the same performance? That’s the impression Electro Velvet gave me. Safura’s light-up dress from 2010 was a clear influence, as were Cristina Scarlat’s ratty hair extensions from 2014 (Bianca’s brunette version being used to disguise the hefty battery pack responsible for lighting up her dress). The duo’s vocals were very good, and the staging could have been a lot worse – but it still had ‘WTF?!’ written all over it.

Since Spain’s rehearsals had caused the watching press to laugh rather than applaud, I expected to do the same when Edurne made her televised Eurovision appearance. But the stage show torn out of the ESC 2006 playbook, feat. a costume reveal, OTT arm movements and some very dramatic dance moves (I did feel a bit like I was watching an episode of Dancing With The Stars) actually worked for me. Even I wouldn’t call it sedate, however.

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Spain’s performance was a hair-raiser…at least for Edurne. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Here’s a fun fact about Georgia’s Nina Sublatti: she’s not asthmatic. How do we know this? Because she was engulfed in an overload of dry ice during the final, and when it dissipated, she wasn’t on the floor in a wheezing heap of feathers and thigh-high boots. The person in charge of dispensing said dry ice at this time is probably out of a job by now (or at least left the arena with a Sublatti boot-mark on his forehead).

 

If I might interrupt myself (I just checked with me and I say it’s okay)…I do realise I’m rambling here, so try to keep the rest of my performance reviews brief. Expect more in-depth dishing on the good ones listed above when I rank my top 10 performances of the year in a near-future post.

 

The rest

There was nothing wrong with Estonia’s performance, apart from how mildly infuriated I was by Elina wearing pink lipstick instead of red (which would have complemented the smoky retro-glamour feel of Goodbye To Yesterday so much more). ESCrush update: I am still strangely attracted to Stig. He can jingle his keys at my door any time.

Speaking of lips…Lithuania suffered a mishap when Vaidas and Monika got a little too into their ‘one kiss’ (which was technically their 498th kiss, if I’ve done the math correctly) and missed the next line of This Time. Oops. This performance was too cheesy for my taste in the second semi, and it continued to be so in the final.

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‘If we squeeze our eyes shut hard enough, maybe all of our competition will be gone when we open them!’ (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

I’m still not 100% sold on Beauty Never Lies lyrically-speaking, but the reaction Serbia received before, during, and after Bojana’s performance was something to behold. I would have killed to have been in the crowd for the up-tempo section of the song (although it probably would have been me who was killed or maimed in that seething mass of hysterical, hip-shaking fans).

ORF placed Cyprus between Sweden and Australia, which was good for us in terms of musical variety, but not so good for John in terms of being remembered. I hate to say it, but I think the  Aussies erased him from most people’s memories.

The Makemakes represented Austria on home soil with pride, a flaming piano and a member of Occupational Health and Safety personnel waiting in the wings with a fire extinguisher. There was nothing to criticise here, but there was nothing that would compel people to pick up their phones and vote for the host country either. Hence, I figure, why they placed last with the televoters.

Greece’s Maria Elena pulled off the best Céline Dion impression of the year whilst dressed as Delta Goodrem at the Logie Awards (Aussie reference alert!). That’s pretty much all that happened. There were no bouzoukis, no trampolines and no shouts of ‘OPA!’. Is it wrong of me to miss stereotypical Greece?

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Maria reaches out for the Hollywood Tape after one last breath resulted in some, ahem, shifting. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Poland won on the prettiest staging front – their blossoming background was blooming beautiful. I did find myself focusing more closely on that than on anything else though. It’s almost like the floral graphics are to Poland 2015 what the butter-churning, laundry-doing ladies were to Poland 2014.

Hungary’s wars to succeed in the contest pretty much did amount to nothing. I was actually quite transfixed by Boggie’s performance, and I do think Hungary staged Wars For Nothing as well as they possibly could have. But positioned in the viewer fatigue zone in slot 22 of 27, they were bound to struggle with such a sleepy song.

Azerbaijan appear to have lost their Eurovision touch to an extent. How they managed to make a man-filled glass box which eventually filled with rose petals as a woman with the world’s longest dress train belted towards it NOT be a distraction from their entry, then two years on pare things right back with two interpretive dancers who WERE a distraction, beats me. Should we be impressed by that?

A change of outfit and a less out-of-control vocal from Elhaida Dani meant Albania crept up a bit in my estimations…but just a bit. I wasn’t blown away. I do feel like the originally-selected Diell would have blown me away, but it was nice to have Albania in the final again even if all I felt was a slight breeze.

 

 

I suspect that this post may have gone on longer than the actual final at this point (now the most drawn-out in Eurovision history) so I’m going to bring it to an abrupt end right now. ‘Right now’ of course meaning ‘in a few minutes after I’ve gotten around to it.’

There was obviously a lot more to Eurovision 2015 than just the performances – take flying Conchita, for example. But I’ll leave my thoughts on that marvelous moment, plus the rather exciting voting sequence and the intricacies of the scoreboard, for next time.

If you can’t wait, I have to wonder why you haven’t read all of the results analyses published by numerous other ESC websites promptly after the final. You guys know my motto is ‘never do today what can be worked on over the next three or four days and then finally completed when it’s to your liking but when your readers are starting to think you might have died.’ Fear not – á la Elhaida, I’m alive (ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi). And I’m already halfway through the belated scoreboard scrutinisation, so it will be up prior to Eurovision 2020, I promise.

Before it does go live, be sure to let me know what you thought of the Viennese final. Of the 27 acts that made it to Saturday, which ones impressed you and which ones did you use as a toilet break (a much-needed break if you were involved in a drinking game during Spain’s performance)? And, how did you watch the final? From the comfort of your couch, at a party, or in the arena until you were poked in the eye by a flagpole and were carted screaming off to First Aid? I want all the details. Think of me as someone who’d read your diary if you left it unattended. But nicer.

 

nsig