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LOOKING BACK AT EUROVISION 2016 | 41 personal pinch-me moments from my trip to Stockholm (feat. photographic evidence!)

Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m pleased to announce that yes, I did live to see Christmas Day despite what my lack of blogging over the past few weeks may have suggested (it’s a crazy time of year, and I’m not the best multi-tasker. My bad). I’m back now for the foreseeable future, which is my belated festive gift to you all – one that you may or may not want the receipt for so you can exchange it for (as Softengine would say) something better.

Now, to segue into today’s topic: as we creep closer to the end of 2016, and the most recent Eurovision Song Contest becomes not all that recent, it seems more and more timely that we look back on what was arguably the best edition ever. I’m particularly keen to reminisce since the Stockholm show was my first live one. I’ve also realised that even though I attended as a professional member of the press, and as an obsessive, shrine-possessing, single-minded and slightly rabid fan (it was a Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce sort of situation), I never actually shared that much of my experience here on EBJ. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (links are in the sidebar *she says, dropping a hint so hard it breaks the floorboards*) you’d have seen a selection of photos in May; and if you and I are Facebook friends, you would have seen way too many photos pop up in your feed between then and now. But that’s about it.

WTF, right?

So, in the interest of leveling up as a Fix-It Lady – and before this year’s contest becomes last year’s contest – I’m going to undo your deprivation-induced sad and give up all of my gossip. Everything Eurovision-related and exciting (they go hand-in-hand) that happened while I was in Sweden has been put down in words and pictures for the first time, for you. It might come off as a bit narcissistic, but it’s meant to be an insight into what can go down when the mythical ‘going to Eurovision’ becomes a reality – an expensive but worth-every-krona reality. I hope you enjoy it!

 

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#1. Picking up the stunning piece of art that is my accreditation badge (it’s hanging on my wall at the moment and I charge people admission to see it, so yes, it’s art).

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#2. Touring the Euroclub the day before the doors officially opened with a bunch of other lanyard-wearing press people (#powerofthebadge).

#3. Trying not to laugh as Sweden perpetuated a major stereotype of itself by outfitting the entire Euroclub – in particular, the upstairs delegation lounge – with IKEA furnishings.

#4. Fangirling for the first of many, many occasions when Euroclub hostesses Velvet (!) and Shirley Clamp (!!!) appeared to chat with us.

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#5. Walking down Drottningatan marveling at the Eurovision bunting strung up between buildings the entire way.

#6. Standing on the Hovet balcony overlooking the Press Centre for the first time, knowing I’d be in it in a matter of minutes without having to sneak past security to get there.

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#7. Witnessing Sergey Lazarev stack it during his first rehearsal, as it happened (which, for someone who usually avoids all rehearsal footage, was a momentous event). I now know the true meaning of a rehearsal.

#8. Attending my first-ever press conference, partly for the novelty and partly because it was Hungary’s and I just wanted to see Freddie in the flesh while pretending to be a serious journalist seeking information. Nailed it.

#9. Laying not only eyes but also fingers on Freddie in what turned out to be a Freddie sandwich with my awesome fellow Aussie Jason from Don’t Boil The Sauce *screams and swoons at the mere memory*.

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#10. Nearly having a heart attack when Phillip Kirkirov popped up at Sergey’s press conference, due to the alarming height of his hair and the permanently surprised look of his eyebrows.

#11. Falling in love – just a little bit – with Sergey once my Kirkirov shock had subsided, since I expected him to be an egomaniac and he was anything but.

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#12. Grabbing a selfie with the most legendary of puppets, Terry Vision (who is teeming with the germs of such names as Tooji, Kaliopi, and Hovi Star, who gave him a going over at the end of the ESC Insight table as I looked on from about a foot away. Life!).

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#13. Admiring Lidia Isac’s hair as she was being interviewed on a purpose-built Press Centre podium.

#14. Discovering that, based on looks, I may be related to Jüri Pootsmann. The DNA results are pending.

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#15. Wearing a Frans t-shirt to Frans’ meet-and-greet, which unfortunately/fortunately, he didn’t notice (would he have laughed? Would he have taken out a restraining order? We’ll never know).

#16. Spying Sandhja in street clothes waiting at Globen station with one of her people. Did not stalk, which took a whole lot of willpower.

#17. Having a lot more to do with Ira Losco than I ever imagined I would, years after watching her do her glitter-blowing thing – then finish second – at Eurovision back in 2002.

#18. Specifically, interviewing her at Warner Music Sweden (no slumming it anywhere less), complementing her shoes, advising her not to do cartwheels on a full stomach, and riding back to Globen in a taxi with her (during which time I may have sold out Samra’s cringey rehearsal vocals, possibly in an attempt to give Ira an ego boost but also because the topic came up in conversation and I had to be honest). BEST AFTERNOON EVER.

#19. Finding out that, because Spotify = no need for physical CDs in Sweden, Warner Music has taken to using discs to furnish their headquarters. I kind of want to do the same thing in my house.

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#20. Crossing the bridge between Hovet and Globen to check out some contest rehearsals in person – namely, Estonia’s, Azerbaijan’s and Montenegro’s. I had never seen the flurry of between-song setup before, so this was an eye-opening experience. My eyes were also opened to how teeny-tiny (or ‘intimate’ if you want to be more diplomatic) the Globe is IRL despite how large it looks on TV.

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#21. Celebrity-spotting in the Press Centre about once every ten minutes. Poli Genova, Petra Mede, Lighthouse X, even Aminata (she’s so small!)…so many Eurostars walked past our desk, it was ridiculous. At one point, I had Minus One behind me, Freddie to my left, and one of the guys from Argo directly opposite. In other words, I was living the dream. Apart from the bit where Freddie didn’t propose to me.

#22. Finding myself being singled out by Joe & Jake during their meet and greet, which basically means I have a photo of them in which they’re looking directly down my lens. Cheers, guys – from ‘the lady in the red shirt’.

#23. Having to tell Nicky Byrne where to look when I was taking a selfie of us. It was a waste of my breath, but I don’t care because HELLO, EX-WESTLIFE MEMBER!

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#24. Joining the rest of the journos attending Jamala’s press conference to vote for which of her rehearsal dresses she should wear for the real deal. In case you were wondering, I put my hand up for the blue one.

#25. Speaking directly to some random dude called Måns Zelmerlöw. It’s on video. No biggie. Skip to 8:25 below if you want to see it, but it’s pretty boring. Aside from the fact that it MADE MY LIFE.

#26. Basking in the ambience of the Euroclub red carpet on Opening Party night by a) taking way too many photos, and b) silently judging the artists’ fashion choices (Zoë yes yes yes, ManuElla no no no).

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#27. Dancing awkwardly but enthusiastically to Barei’s Say Yay! as the woman herself surveyed the crowd from the club’s balcony.

#28. Watching performances from Frans, Dami, Zoë and Poli the same night, introduced by the one and only Christer Björkman (who is Satan to some but more like a god to me).

#29. Returning to the Euroclub the next day for the Australian Embassy party feat. Dami (though the promise of free food and wine was enough to lure me in)…only to end up standing next to Eneda Tarifa and admiring her amazing handbag. Of course.

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#30. Sitting through my first live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in close proximity to the Green Room (close enough to recognise the rear of Stig Rästa and Elina Born’s heads, I might add) and pinching myself pretty much the whole time.

#31. Standing next to Ira Losco’s scorpion dancer at the post-semi qualifiers press conference.

m#32. Feasting my eyes on Christer Björkman’s collection of accreditation passes from Melodifestivalens and Eurovisions past and not-so-past, at the ABBA/ESC Museum. The contest costumes corralled there were also impressive (I can now confirm that Yohanna’s dress is even uglier in real life than it was on screen).

#33. Having an obligatory photo taken with the massive Come Together countdown clock.

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#34. Sitting through another live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in the Globe Arena, in a rather sleepwalky state because HOW WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!?!?

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#35. Experiencing the joy of a jury final mock vote – won by Belgium, if I remember correctly – as Måns and Petra ad-libbed their way through the voting sequence.

#36. Seeing Justin Timberlake perform live not once, but twice, at the jury final and the actual final. I understandably did not see that coming when I left Australia to go to Eurovision, but as a professional boy band enthusiast, it became the cherry on top of the best cake I’ve ever eaten.

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#37. Lynda Woodruff. Need I say more?

#38. Standing in the mass of fans in front of the 2016 stage for the four incredible/back-breaking hours of the final, watching on and waving my flag in a desperate attempt to get my arm on a global television broadcast. I’m not sure if I did, but Dami did me proud and Jamala made all my dreams come true (and made me burst into tears in front of hundreds of strangers).

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#39. Attending Jamala’s post-victory press conference knowing I could watch it back on the DVD later and think to myself ‘I was totally there!’.

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#40. Spending the rest of the (freaking FREEZING) grand final night right by having a last hurrah at the Euroclub until the last possible second – as in 5am, when the staff had to herd us all out onto the street because the doors were closing for good.

#41. Witnessing (before we got kicked out of the club) the Gallagher lookalike from the Young Georgian Lolitaz get tackled to the ground by security, informing his oblivious band mate that the tackle had occurred, and bumping into Thomas G:son on the way out (the photographic evidence of which I still need to chase up). Oh, and then having a burger for breakfast. Hashtag end-of-contest goals!

 

 

And that’s it…I think. So much stuff happened in a short space of time while I was in Stockholm that details are constantly falling out of then climbing back into my brain. But you’ve just read the majority of them, which I hope you enjoyed whether you’ve traveled to twenty contests or are still waiting for your first (it’ll happen!). If you have paid the ESC a visit, I think you’ll agree that the experience is unbeatable. So much so that even if everything surrounding my Eurovision “vacation” (the least relaxing vacation ever) had been rubbish, those three weeks would have kept this year high on my list of life’s best so far.

The only problem is that I’m going to want to repeat it every year, and I’m not sure my bank balance can handle that. It’s definitely not keen on me skipping Kyiv in favour of Melodifestivalen…but too bad, savings. Too bad.

 

I’ll be back again before 2016 turns into 2017 to say hej då to the past twelve months, Eurovision-style (I’m not 100% sure how yet, but I’ll think of something). Until then, make the most of what’s left of December – and use any Christmas leftovers to boost your energy levels for the upcoming national final season!

 

 

xmassig

 

 

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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In the end, only teardrops…of happiness! My take on the Malmö finale

Let me ask you a question. Do you remember Eurovision 2013?

I ask you this because, approximately a million days after the final, I’ve just managed to pull myself out of the post-contest funk and do a review, and I’m not sure it’s relevant anymore.

An ancient newspaper clipping to jog your memory.

An ancient newspaper clipping to jog your memory.

 That is, of course, a hilarious joke which exaggerates the fact that it is Wednesday and the final was on Saturday and I’m only just getting my behind into gear to write about it. But I figure, why should anyone have to get all of their thoughts about Malmö out ASAP? We should all be dissecting and discussing it for months! That’s the only good thing about Eurovision being over each year!

Hands up who wants me to stop using exclamation marks! Okay.

I am warning you now that I personally don’t intend on shutting up about Ye Olde Swedish Spectacular until something happens on the JESC front, and/or the 2014 ESC season begins. So here is one of many, many ramblings to come on the subject. These are my thoughts on the final, from top to bottom.

 

A few fascinating factoids about Eurovision 2013

– Spoiler alert (for those who have been hibernating under a rock). For the second time, Denmark won the contest in neighbouring Sweden, after the Olsen Brothers vocoded their way into first place back in 2000 in Stockholm. I wonder if this means Estonia will win next year, and Latvia the year after, and so on? Place your bets now, people.

– For the second year running, the winner was a solo female with an aversion to shoes. #justrealised

– The Malmö show proved that spending a little less of your pocket money doesn’t mean ending up with something substandard. The budget of this year’s contest paled in comparison to that of Baku. No disrespect to Azerbaijan, but Sweden did a lot with a little, which I like to call the Allen key mentality.

This looks pretty darn expensive to me.

This looks pretty darn expensive to me.

– The show did break a record as being the edition with the greatest number of close-up hand shots in history. Well, I can assume that’s the case, because have you EVER seen so many GOSHDARN HAND SHOTS in your LIFE?

– There were 17 non-English language entries out of the 39 competing. 5 of those qualified to the final, and 3 were from Big Five countries. Of those 8, 3 made the top 10, with another just missing out.

– Norway made the top 10 for the first time since their 2009 win, Malta for the first time since 2005, and Hungary for the first time since 2007. But most impressive of all was the Netherlands, cracking the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

 

Hitting the heights of Cezar’s range: performance highlights 

France: I never saw a great result on the cards for France. And when they were chosen to open the show, all I could think was ‘Amandine is tres screwed.’ But my god, can the woman perform! She ripped into L’Enfer et Moi like it was a bag of hot chips and she hadn’t eaten for three days. She was sexy but not sleazy, very, very fierce, and above all taught us that the clichéd singers wear metallic fringe, while the classy ones wear leather fringe.

Moldova: I couldn’t wait to see Aliona in action again after the semi, and apart from one crack of the old voice, she did not disappoint. From the sound to the look to the choreography, Moldova brought it this year.

Belgium: For the first time in a long time, Belgium was in the final AND I was over the (Aliona) moon about it. Roberto looked pretty happy that Belgium was there too, and that made for an excellent performance. I have officially forgiven them for the Iris snoozefest.

Malta: Has anybody ever been as happy to be at Eurovision as Doctor Bezzina? His face must be aching from that smiling, but I’m sure he can prescribe himself something to ease it.

Why so serious?

Why so serious?

Sweden: The walking, talking cuteness that is Robin Hcqwernberg (just wanted to have a go at spelling it how you say it) finally made it…back to the Malmö Arena where his Melodifestivalen semi was held. But hey, it was a different stage, and he was wearing a different jacket. His was one of my favourite acts of the night, and to anyone who thinks he can’t sing, I point you to this three minutes and ask ‘are you freaking kidding me?’

Hungary: I don’t know if this was by accident or on purpose because of that laid back/apathetic vibe ByeAlex has about him, but his vocal was more solid on Saturday than it had been on Thursday, and that combined with the reaction from the audience and the quirky backdrop (and my endless love for the song) charmed my socks off. Not literally – it was a cold night – but still. I swooned.  

Azerbaijan: Hold Me is without a doubt my  grower entry of le year. I’m really digging it now, but I won’t deny that the slow clap-worthy staging had a hand in it. Farid was basically as consistent as he had been in the semi, and I marveled once again at what was going on under and around him.

Someone's never heard of thinking outside the box...

Someone’s never heard of thinking outside the box…

Norway: I loved everything about this performance. Though it was similar to the original from MGP, the subtle differences (i.e. the fact that someone took to Margaret’s dress with a bedazzler and some pinking shears) showed some effort.

 

Lower than Moran Mazor’s neckline: performance lowlights

Russia: This was not as slick as it was in the semi. Dina’s hair was limper, her vocal wasn’t as impressive, and those light-up balls were thrown into the audience a little too late. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased, since those tiny errors spelt N-O  W-I-N  F-O-R  T-H-E  R-U-S-S-I-A-N  C-H-E-E-S-E.

Germany: I was looking forward to Cascada in an über-big way, but something didn’t click. I’m not sure what it was – Natalie’s vocal was good, her outfit was much less trashy than that of Unser Song, the stairs were cool…but it just didn’t have the same impact as it did in the NF. I guess the editing of Glorious into an ESC-sized version with less build and drama could be to blame.

Romania: This is a lowlight strangely based on how good (albeit in a bizarre way) it was. I got a teensy bit scared that Romania could win, or at least make the top 10, and that the press would have an absolute field day mocking such a ‘typical’ Eurovision success. Also, none of the glassware in my house made it to Cezar’s final pose unshattered. I’m going to be sweeping it up for months.

'World domination via Eurovision? Genius! Brouhahahahaha!!'

‘World domination via Eurovision? Genius! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!’

Georgia: Watching this, keeping in mind the flood of tips for it to win, I couldn’t help feeling depressed. As much as I’m keen to see a Georgian contest, I really didn’t want it to happen with Running Scared 2.0 – a nice, Swedish-penned ballad sung by a male/female duo who were quite touchy-feely with each other and were showered in sparks (not love) as the clincher. I felt that Sophie & Nodi were more than competent, but kind of soulless on the night.

 

What about the other entertainment of the evening?

– The opening act combined a choir, half of ABBA, a bit of the Olympics and a dash of Junior Eurovision and the result was a testament to the different approach SVT took to this year’s contest. In other words, I hadn’t seen an artist parade before in my Eurovision lifetime bar the mini version, and that’s a part of JESC I’ve always loved. So that was good. Thanks, SVT.

– In the middle came another reprise of sorts from Loreen, who distracted us from her continuing lack of footwear by modeling extreme feathered shoulder pads/hanging from the ceiling/et cetera. It was just an average day on the job, basically.

– Petra’s Swedish Smörgåsbord had ‘Melodifestivalen’ written all over it, and it was glorious (can I use that word without being sued by Cascada?). I would pay to go and see an extended version. It was unfortunate that Carola exited so quickly and ungracefully, but at least we know she doesn’t mind making a fool of herself.

You can't get meatballs this size at IKEA.

You can’t get meatballs this size at IKEA.

– Sarah Dawn Finer on the Eurovision (satellite) stage at last! This was the woman most of us wanted to host the show, and her performance was our consolation prize. I wonder where Lynda Woodruff was at while SDF was doing her thing? You know, I’m starting to wonder if they might be the same person…

 

The final scoreboard – expectations, shocks and surprises

  1. Denmark 281

dwnn

So the favourite turned out to be the favourite for a reason. Fair enough. Only Teardrops wasn’t my ideal winner, but it makes a worthy one, and I’m glad that 2014 will take us to Copenhagen (probably) rather than back to Baku so soon.

  1. Azerbaijan 234

Unlike Running Scared, I would have been happy to see Hold Me win based on song and performance. That staging was pure genius. Yeah, yeah, Eurovision is a song contest…but don’t think the visuals have nothing to do with anything. Still, 2nd place is another excellent result for this country.

  1. Ukraine 214
  2. Norway 191
  3. Russia 174
  4. Greece 152
  5. Italy 126

And Italy does it again, with class and minimalism (and a spiffy blue suit). In your face, haters. I do think this should have beaten Russia.

  1. Malta 120
  2. Netherlands 114
  3. Hungary 84

Places 8, 9 and 10 all make me happier than Gianluca on holiday at Disneyland, for different reasons. In Hungary’s case, it’s because a country that struggles to succeed sent a humble, native-language song that I adore to pieces, and was surprisingly rewarded for it. Doctors and philosophers = Eurovision triumph.

  1. Moldova 71
  2. Belgium 71

Now this was a shocker. After Roberto miraculously qualified (5th, no less) I expected Belgium to come undone in the final. But it seems enough ordinary folk and haughty jurors saw in his song what I do to get him a respectable score.

  1. Romania 65
  2. Sweden 62

This isn’t a dreadful finish by any means, but as president of Team Robin, I was hoping for more. I actually think representing the host country worked in his favour – if he hadn’t been, I suspect he would have ended up lower. I still don’t think YOHIO would have done better.

  1. Georgia 50
  2. Belarus 48
  3. Iceland 47
  4. Armenia 41
  5. United Kingdom 23
  6. Estonia 19
  7. Germany 18

I’m confused. I know I complained about the performance earlier, but Glorious still went off, and I would have at least expected a top 15 result for Germany. I blame the draw. Still, it might be time for Deutschland to revert back to the Unser Star format.

  1. Lithuania 17
  2. France 14
  3. Finland 13
  4. Spain 8
  5. Ireland 5

It’s Tooji all over again, but with less points and a much better vocal. I don’t get it. Why wasn’t the UK all over this?

 

So those are a few (…) of my musings on what went down last weekend. Like I said, 100 years ago at the beginning of this post, there will be more to come, including the handing out of my awards for Eurovision Excellence, and non-excellence. There will be a people’s choice award this year, so look out for that very soon. In the meantime…

 

Got some personal highs and lows of the 2013 finale? Let me know below!