Hello (yet) again, and welcome to (yet) another round of Eurovision 2019 reviews! Rehearsals starting this Saturday – oh to the my to the GOD – is a reminder that time is running out, and if I want to spill all my personally-brewed tea on this year’s entries before the contest begins, I better pick up the pace. So here are five more judged and scored songs for those of you who’ve been enjoying them so far, via Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal.
Check out my thoughts on PÆNDA, Leonora, Michela, Anna and Conan’s (pick the odd one out) contributions to the comp, then share yours in the comments. Love is forever and I’ll love YOU forever if you do.
Austria was arguably to Eurovision 2018 what Bulgaria was to Eurovision 2016: a country that hadn’t done much for a while coming out of nowhere and shooting up the scoreboard. It was more predictable when Poli did it, but since Cesár Sampson was one of her backing singers maybe we should have predicted his 3rd place (the man has a magic touch). With PÆNDA and Limits being Austria’s follow-up to Nobody But You, I’m curious to see if she can pull off another shockingly high result for Austria. Or if she’ll squat her way to a DNQ like the last blue-haired female soloist to compete in the contest. Or if she’ll wind up somewhere in between. Limits is the sort of song that could do anything. I could justify it finishing in the top five, fifteenth, last in the final or missing out on qualification altogether.
It’s such an introverted song compared to most of the others. I almost feel like we’re intruding listening to it, like PÆNDA should be singing in a soundproof room behind closed doors (and far away from the prying ears of Lake Malawi). Yet that super personal, intimate feel of the song is one of its appealing points. That feeling is threaded all the way through, with vulnerability and genuine emotion at the core of PÆNDA’s high-pitched, delicate vocals. I can’t deny that this is a touching track with loads of musical integrity. But at the same time, it does feel like a bit of a disappointment. While I’m glad Austria didn’t do a Cyprus and carbon copy their 2018 showstopper, I was hoping for more of a statement piece. Limits is pretty same-same for its entire three minutes, and the chorus in particular fails to elevate it to interesting heights. All those bajillion-syllable ‘yous’ feel a little lazy, like nobody could be bothered to fill in the space with anything more complex. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it’s the impression I get from such a repetitive and uneventful chorus.
If Limits was a minute long I’d enjoy it more, but as a full-length song aiming to grab my attention and keep it, it doesn’t work. I do have a sneaking suspicion Austria will be bringing it with their staging this year, however. The potential is definitely there. I’m thinking moody lighting, dreamy LED graphics and a quirky-but-not-too-quirky costume choice. Maybe some dry ice too, if it doesn’t bring back more memories of Rykka and her squatting. I also expect PÆNDA to deliver some beautifully gift-wrapped vocals to our doorsteps. If she does and she is surrounded by aesthetic goodness, the juries will find her hard to resist. Televoters, I’m not so sure. I can’t vote in the second semi, but if I could I’d have other countries in mind. If most home voters are the same, we could be saying adios to Austria on the Thursday night – but until rehearsals and the real thing, I’m not game to make a set-in-stone prediction on this one. I know my Limits.
In a line Fragile and beautiful but a bit boring 2018 VS 2019 2018, because there really ain’t nobody but you, Cesár Predicted result SF 7th-12th, GF 11th-17th My score 7 points
Denmark isn’t exactly the luckiest Scandinavian country in the contest these days. Then again, you make your own luck – so they’ve only got themselves to blame for their 2015-2017 string of buh-bow (a.k.a. sad trumpet) moments. Last year they brought out some burly, bearded Vikings and were back on form and back in the top 10. So why did they decide to ditch everything Rasmussen-esque in 2019 in favour of a song that sounds like it was written for a laundry detergent commercial? I’m all for countries bouncing around rather than replicating what brought them success the previous year, but this change of direction is a shock to the system. Not on the same level as Iceland’s change of direction, but a shock nonetheless.
So, Love Is Forever. For some reason I feel differently about this song every time I listen to it. One minute I think it’s cute and I really like the campfire feel, off-the-wall lyrics and language mix. The next, I think it’s way too sugary sweet, it gets on my nerves and I’m a) creeped out by Leonora’s unblinking eye contact down the camera and b) confused by the presence of that giant chair. It is a cute song, and the lyrics are (mostly) original and rhyme super-satisfyingly without resorting to fire/higher/desire – a trademark of co-writer Lise Cabble (who’s written a heap of DMGP and Eurovision hits including New Tomorrow and Only Teardrops). At the same time, it’s so twee that it borders on being more suited to JESC than ESC, right down to Leonora’s outfit – as worn by one of Serbia’s Junior artists in 2017. It certainly can be annoying if I’m not in the mood for it. And yes, it sounds like the audio of an ad where a perfect nuclear family frolics in their manicured garden, with their golden retriever and wearing white linen, in celebration of successfully removing a miniscule stain from said white linen with a revolutionary new laundry product.
Maybe Denmark’s success this year will depend on the mood televoters and jurors are in. Though if everyone else is as nonplussed by the chair as I am – and it has been confirmed that it’s traveling to Tel Aviv – that won’t help. Leonora won’t want people distracted by oversized furniture and her death stare when they could be focusing on an adorable, vocally solid song. Beyond vocally solid, actually. Love Is Forever isn’t the most challenging song to sing, but Leonora works extremely well with what she’s been given and I’m yet to hear her drop a note. I just don’t know about this entry in its entirety. There’s no point where it’s a disastrous car crash, nor is there a moment that makes it worthy of qualifying easily. Basically, it’s borderline. And given that Denmark may have their momentum stolen by the Swedish (meat) ball of joy appearing on stage after them, I’m leaning towards the side of the borderline that results in a DNQ.
In a line Cute and charming but a potential cause of diabetes and nightmares 2018 VS 2019 2018. I miss the manly stomping, glorious beards and long flowing locks Predicted result SF 9th-14th, GF 16th-20th My score 7 points
There’s a handful of countries unexpectedly bringing their A-game to Tel Aviv, and Malta is one of them. The tiny island picked Michela as their artist as part of her X Factor winner prize, eventually pairing her with Chameleon: a creation from the bright minds behind If Love Was A Crime, Beautiful Mess, Nobody But You and Bones. With a back catalogue like that, Malta’s Symphonix song had every chance of being a cracker. I was unprepared for just how awesome it is, especially since it’s nothing like party anthem ILWAC, Kristian’s slick power ballad, gospel force Nobody But You or the otherworldly pop of Equinox.
Sitting comfortably and confidently on the fence between weird and wonderful – meaning it’s both bonkers and packed with mass appeal – Chameleon makes the Maltese entry of the same name that almost was (back in 2016) sound incredibly passé. It’s a tropically-tinged floor filler with a powerful singalong bridge, and a chorus that takes away so much musical build so quickly it stops you in your tracks. I don’t know how such a non-chorus can be so effective, but this one just is. Outside of the chorus, this song is busier than Grand Central Station – but because every bit of it is catchy, memorable and current, it works. I swear Chameleon wouldn’t have been turned down by Dua Lipa in a parallel universe, and I’ve never said that about a Maltese entry before (as a big Dua fan, that’s a thumbs up from me). What also makes me dig this is Michela’s vocal delivery. We haven’t seen her perform it live yet (well, I haven’t) but we know from her X Factor performances that she can sing, and her vocals are soulful with an edgy catch. She makes this song even more interesting.
What else could Malta possibly do to make Christabelle’s DNQ a distant memory? Well, they could hire Loreen’s Euphoria choreographer and the design team behind Jamala’s incredible tree graphic. Wait – they did? Oh, okay then. I think we all know what Euphoria and 1944 have in common. Not that I think Malta is going to win Eurovision with Chameleon or anything…I don’t think it’s quite got the goods to go all the way. But unless an unlikely mistake is made with Michela’s staging (I’m hoping for something as colourful and fun as the music video) or she develops strep throat during rehearsals (touch wood in favour of that NOT happening), they are on track to score their best result since 2013. If all goes according to whatever plans they’ve made, mid-top-10 isn’t out of the question. Malta might be entering a Chameleon, but they’re not blending into the background!
In a line A little bit of bizarre and a lot of brilliance makes for a surprise banger 2018 VS 2019 2019 hands down Predicted result SF 4th-6th, GF 5th-9th My score 10 points
Moldova are the masters of two things when it comes to Eurovision: being memeable, and finding themselves in the top 10 against the odds (literally). They don’t always bring something weirdly wonderful though, and when they don’t it seems to be a mistake – just compare the results of Hey Mamma and My Lucky Day to Wild Soul and I Want Your Love. It’s with great regret that I announce something you probably already know: Moldova’s fate is sealed this year, and sadly it involves staying in the semis. It’s what Anna wants, right? To STAAAAAAY? Maybe missing out on the final isn’t what she has in mind, but I do not see a scenario in which this song, which I’d describe as a reject from a Céline Dion album circa 1996, goes anywhere.
I should say that Stay is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I manage to enjoy it on some level despite knowing it doesn’t hold a candle to the majority of songs it’s competing against. It’s dated, more melodramatic than a Mexican telenovela, predictable, blatantly borrowed from Swedes all too eager to be rid of it, and would need Céline Dion herself to elevate it to qualifier status. And don’t get me started on the lyrics. MY LORD. Have you ever come across a chorus so by-the-numbers? ‘Stay, until I find a way to be together, forever’s here to stay, no matter what they say, we’ll be together’? S Club 7’s cheesiest love songs didn’t have such lame lyrics in the early 2000s (a time when Stay still would have sounded stale). You must be wondering how it’s possible for me to like it at all, and I’ve actually been wondering the same thing. Granted, 1990s Céline Dion is legendary, and the fact that Stay is that kind of throwback works in its favour with me. I can pick out appealing parts of the melody too – the tune is the least offensive thing about this entry.
Seeing a tiny diamond doesn’t cancel out all of the rough, though. And there are more qualification-stoppers than I’ve already mentioned. Take, for example, Anna seeming to struggle a little singing in English (pronunciation-wise, that is…her vocal strength is A+). It’s times like this I wish Moldova would remember 2013 and how Aliona Moon and O Mie flourished in Romanian. But, like Croatia this year, they’ve decided on English and it puts the cringey lyrics on full display. I do think there is potential here for stellar staging, but it wouldn’t be enough to get Anna to the final. When Switzerland struts in and makes their undeniable mark on the stage straight afterwards, who’s going to remember – let alone want to vote for – Moldova? I’m sorry, but this is a no-hoper for me. Bring back the wack in 2020 please!
In a line A cookie-cutter power ballad that belongs in the 90s 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 15th-17th My score 6 points
Portugal fell as far as a host country possibly can last year (with the exception of Austria scoring zero points in Vienna…ouch). O Jardim was a stunning song and I still think its last place was undeserved, but at the same time I can see how it happened. The song didn’t stand out, but that will not be a problem for our gracious 2018 hosts this year. Telemóveis is totally bonkers and has nothing in common with O Jardim bar being in Portuguese, unless Cláudia and Isaura stuck spoons to their faces at one point and I just missed it.
I don’t even know how to describe this song, especially since it took me weeks to figure out if I even liked it. It turns out I do – I like it a lot. That’s partly because it’s so original, partly because in spite of that it’s still very Portuguese, and partly because I’m proud of Portugal for being so adventurous. Telemóveis is striking from start to finish and undeniably unforgettable. The first thing that grabs my attention is actually Conan’s vocals, which are smooth as silk but have a haunting quality that makes his native tongue sound particularly nice (I can’t say ‘sensual’ based on his performance, but Portuguese is definitely a sexy language). Thank heavens he can sing, because a song this out-of-the-box would sound so bad if its singer was even slightly off key. The song itself has so many different layers and segments to it and they’re all intriguing. It’s like a mystery to be solved in three minutes, and I can never solve it so I’m left scratching my head…but somehow I’m still satisfied because my ears have had an artistic experience. This really feels above and beyond a lot of the other songs for Tel Aviv, and I don’t mean that in a holier-than-thou way. I just mean that next to more predictable, derivative pop, it’s on another planet. Those dance moves from Conan and his co-star are definitely unlike any I’ve seen on this planet before.
ICYMI because I was making no sense, I’m a big fan of Telemóvéis. I love the music, the vocals, the unpredictable structure and how avant-garde it is. I even love the crazy costumes and even crazier choreography that make it stand out even more. It’s by far the most experimental entry of the year, and again I’d like to applaud Portugal for picking it. I can’t say I have a clue how people outside the Eurofandom will respond. On one hand, Conan is memorable times a million and the song is one of a kind. But the whole package is also strange and potentially inaccessible – and that’s even more obvious given Portugal is performing between Estonia and Greece, two countries armed with very accessible, instant entries. One of three things will probably go down: Portugal will make everyone forget Estonia and fly into the final; Estonia and Greece will make Portugal look too bizarre and prevent them from qualifying; or I’m overthinking things and all three will advance. If you told me I could have a pasteis de nata but only if I picked one scenario, I’d have to go with Portugal missing out. But please, PLEASE prove me wrong, jurors/televoters.
In a line A sensational song so arty, it should be on display in the Tate Modern 2018 VS 2019 2019, but I love them both Predicted result SF 8th-12th, GF 8th-15th My score 10 points
30 down, 11 to go! I wouldn’t want Eurovision to shrink back down to 20-something entries, but 41 is hard work. It wasn’t difficult for me to rank today’s five, though I did have a few ties to break:
- Portugal (10)
- Malta (10)
- Denmark (7)
- Austria (7)
- Moldova (6)
Congrats Portugal, and better luck next time Moldova.
Now for an update on my overall ranking if you’re interested, and why wouldn’t you be? Actually, don’t answer that:
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- The Netherlands (12)
- Greece (12)
- Estonia (10)
- Portugal (10)
- Norway (10)
- Cyprus (10)
- Malta (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Belarus (10)
- Russia (8)
- Romania (8)
- Belgium (8)
- Armenia (8)
- Iceland (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Denmark (7)
- Lithuania (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- Austria (7)
- San Marino (7)
- Moldova (6)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- Poland (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Georgia (4)
Next time I’ll be reviewing Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden – and after that there’s just the Big 5 and Israel to take care of. Follow me everywhere at @EurovisionByJaz so you don’t miss a thing, and be prepared to tell me what you think of them all.
Speaking of which…who’s your most-streamed and most-skipped on Spotify when it comes to Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal? Let me know below.
Happy Almost-Rehearsal Week!
Hello again, and thanks for stopping by to check out the next round of my JESC 2018 reviews! I’m not going to keep you in suspense this time (humour me as I pretend that you were in suspense at all) because I want to get straight into the compliments and criticisms. Constructive criticisms, of course…I don’t want to scar these kids for the rest of their lives.
Up for judgment today are Levon, Tamar Edilashvili, Max and Anne, Rita Laranjeira and Anna Filipchuk. Keep reading to find out what I think of their songs and how I think they’ll do when it’s time for those precious points to be handed out.
Don’t forget to leave your personal rankings and opinions in the comments so I can high-five you (in my head) or agree to disagree…
Never let anyone tell you that Eurovision events aren’t educational! Between JESC (e.g. Serbia teaching us foreign languages in 2006) and ESC (e.g. Norway teaching us how to write a song in 2018), there’s a whole lot of learning going on for fans. Now it’s Armenia’s turn to enlighten us, and in Minsk they’ll be teaching us how to spell the name of their representative Levon…or L.E.V.O.N, in case you still weren’t sure. I’m not a massive supporter of song titles that are solely/include the name of the artist (it’s the musical equivalent of Ivan from JESC 2015 wearing his own face on a t-shirt in the Bulgarian postcard), but this is one of my favorite Junior Eurovision countries we’re talking about here, and there’s not much I won’t overlook when it comes to Armenia in this contest.
L.E.V.O.N is everything we know and I love about Armenian JESC entries, in a slightly weird and very wonderful package. It’s energetic (relentlessly), catchy and memorable – not on the same level (or should I say L.E.V.E.L?) as People of the Sun or Tarber, but a big step up from the majestic but awfully performed Boomerang from last year. The spelling bee chorus is kind of genius, giving those of us who don’t speak or understand Armenian something to sing along to and remember. Levon has loads of personality on stage, which makes up for him not being the best singer on the planet. His NF performance was pretty bare-bones, but I expect Armenia to amp it up for contest purposes and present us with a slick and fun stage show, as they always do.
If that’s the case, can this win JESC 2018? I‘m going to say N.O.P.E, but it could be there or thereabouts. At this point there are a couple of countries I expect to outdo Armenia, with the obnoxious, in-your-face style of this song being a possible handicap when it comes to the jury vote. But even so, I never underestimate Armenia’s ability to succeed on the power of kick-ass staging alone. Complementing an effortlessly awesome track like L.E.V.O.N, great presentation might not score them their second-ever win…but it could see them slip into the top five for the ninth time. It’s definitely in mine – I L.O.V.E it. 12 points.
When I think of the most successful and impressive Junior Eurovision participants, Georgia is always among them. After all, they’re heading into this year’s contest off the back of a second place in 2017 and a win in 2016 (so if the pattern continues, they’ll be taking home a bronze medal from Minsk). For me – and prepare to be scandalised – Voice of the Heart was better than Mzeo, but they were both magical…which leaves Georgia with a lot to live up to in 2018.
Your Voice (which may or may not be the same as the voice of the heart) is in keeping with the more mature entries they’ve sent recently – i.e. a million miles away from Bzz…, Funky Lemonade and Gabede. Tamar’s song doesn’t put the ‘junior’ into Junior Eurovision to the extent that those did, but it’s still youthful. Is it enjoyable too? I think so. Starting out soft before swiftly building up to a big, banging chorus with a slightly EDM-esque beat – and squeezing in some English lyrics along the way – it’s an interesting and dynamic addition to the Class of ’18. Georgian has never sounded as powerful as it does in that chorus, helped in large part by Tamar’s INCREDIBLE vocals. Seriously, what do Georgians feed their children that makes them such amazing singers? Based on the live vocals provided at JESC in the past, I’m expecting this girl to blow us all away live on stage – and she needs to nail that money note towards the end to not undo any good work she does beforehand. I’m pretty confident she can. You can’t watch this contest for sixteen years without realising that Europe is a hotbed of ridiculously talented child vocalists who can hit notes performers twice their age couldn’t hit with a monster truck.
All in all, this is a super solid effort from Georgia that I really like, if not love on the same scale as I loved Voice of the Heart. I think it’s missing that special something that makes a winner a winner, but a top 10 result is both deserved and likely for Tamar. And as I’ve already implied, I am so excited to see her sing this live. Bring on the 25th! 8 points.
How do you follow on from the tour de force of Fource? The Netherlands’ answer: don’t even try. It could be argued that Russia, for example, is sending a Wings sequel to JESC 2018 – and they’re not doing themselves any favours given that, like most sequels, it’s not as good (I’ve explained exactly why in the Russia review below). The Netherlands, on the other hand, has kept a safe distance from anything resembling a boy band armed with infectious radio pop…knowing they probably wouldn’t do as well as 4th if they sent something similar so soon. Instead we have Max and Anne, one of two boy-girl duos competing this year, and their sugary-sweet musical friendship bracelet Samen.
Judging by that description you might think I’m not a fan of this song. But don’t worry, I’m not about to start a protest outside AVROTROS demanding they ‘BRING BACK FOURCE!’. Yes, Samen is very sweet, but I mean that in a complimentary way. I actually really, really like it. It’s a nice mix of power ballad, piano pop and anthemic singalong song that practically compels you to turn your phone torch on and wave it above your head in time with the music. The language mix is tastefully done, and Max and Anne are vocally great together – not to mention (though I’m about to) their believability as a couple of kids singing about the strength of their friendship. For all I know they met five minutes before the Dutch final, but they make me believe they’re BFFs and that’s what matters.
There’s not a lot that can be done staging-wise with a song like this, but I don’t think it needs a bunch of bells and whistles. It stands out based on being a down-tempo ballad and the boy/girl dynamic. Having said that, it may be a little too vanilla compared to other songs that are more like ice-cream sundaes with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry on top. Also, a brunette female soloist in a white dress has won JESC the last two years running, and they say things come in threes (so pay attention to the costumes come rehearsal time). But after their big success last year – a public voting win and a solid top five result – I’d like to see the Netherlands do well again. It depends on a lot, from the running order to the live performance, but it’s not impossible. 10 points.
If you thought San Marino was the country most obsessed with shoehorning social media into Eurovision songs, a) think again and b) stand back, because here comes Portugal! It’s kind of ironic that their two consecutive social network-themed JESC songs have been pretty dated in sound and style. Youtuber and now Gosto De Tudo… both seem to belong in Junior Eurovision contests past – circa 2004-2008. I almost wish we could bring back Portugal’s initial few entries from 2006 and 2007 (which were more mature but still childlike enough) to compete now.
Rita could certainly do with a song more suited to her voice, and to be honest, her age – Mariana Venancio just about pulled off this sort of cutesy throwback pop last year, but as a teenager Rita could do with something more like Dancing Through Life or I Am The One (courtesy of Macedonia and Belarus in 2017). Maybe I’m just too old and cynical to appreciate a song like this nowadays. Then again, I don’t think JESC juries and voters do either based on the lacklustre results of similar songs (I’m thinking of Montenegro 2014 and Macedonia 2015). As a rule, they’re inoffensive (i.e. boring) with a hint of cheese – there’s never many exciting moments, vocal or musical, to get excited about. Gosto De Tudo definitely fits that profile, right down to the cheesy clapping and the fact that not even its performer sounds particularly interested in singing it. Everything about it reminds me (if you don’t mind me comparing this to just one more song) of Andorra’s debut ESC entry Jugarem A Estimar-Nos – and we all know how well that went down in Istanbul.
In a nutshell (in case you hadn’t guessed) I just don’t like this very much. It feels lethargic and under-baked, and there’s no way it can stand up and compete against…well, the majority of its competition, in all honesty. The only saving graces are a touch of catchiness, the Portuguese (one of my favourite musical and spoken languages) and Rita herself, who is very sparkly and charismatic even though I feel like she knows this song doesn’t show off the best of her talents. I don’t think I’ll be listening to it much after the contest. 4 points.
Russia is a powerhouse country no matter what they’re competing in, apparently (more so if there’s an ice rink or gymnastics equipment involved, but musically too). They are, after all, the current JESC titleholders thanks to Polina Bogusevich and her Wings (one of my 2017 faves and a song I was super happy to see win). It kind of seems like their mentality this year was ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ – meaning Unbreakable is pretty similar to Wings. In fact, Anna’s pre-chorus is almost identical to Polina’s verses. But whatever. I’m a big fan of both.
A cookie-cutter power ballad that also has a lot in common with Australia’s (fingers crossed they’re positioned far apart in the running order), Unbreakable doesn’t try too hard to be anything amazing, but it ticks all the boxes on the checklist of Song Qualities That Jaz Needs In Her Life. The production is as polished as you’d expect from Russia, the verses are strong and the chorus is a statement piece. Once again we have a Russian first half and English second half, but I’d argue that Unbreakable’s English lyrics are less awkward and make more sense than Wings’ English lyrics (I’m still confused by ‘floating angels reaching up the sky’). Where Russia 2017 really overshadows 2018, however, is in the singing department. Anna is adorable, but she just doesn’t pack the vocal punch Polina did, and at the NF there were a bunch of weak moments that the backing vocals couldn’t compensate for. Obviously she’s not competing against Polina (so I should stop comparing them) but she is up against other impressive singers from Australia, Kazakhstan and Malta, etc. Even in studio her vocals aren’t mind-blowing, which could let her down with the juries.
I think it’s safe to say that Russia won’t win two contests on the trot, but I personally do really like this song – and with Russia’s ability to splash cash on staging, I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ve upgraded the presentation for JESC. At this point, I reckon a respectable 6th-9th place is within reach. 10 points.
That’s today’s five tracks covered. Time flies when you’re being critical of children, in my experience. Here’s my final ranking for this round of reviews:
- Armenia (12)
- The Netherlands (10)
- Russia (10)
- Georgia (8)
- Portugal (4)
So it’s Levon who spells his way into the top spot, followed closely by Max, Anne and Anna. Apologies to Portugal, but I’m sure someone out there would give you douze points, Rita.
Maybe it’s you? Hit up that comments section with your scores for these JESC songs. I know you want to!
NEXT TIME With 10 countries down and 10 to go, it’s crunch time for Australia, France, Malta, Poland and Wales. The girl power is strong, but do the songs follow suit? Don’t miss my next post if you want to know what I think.
Happy Thursday, guys! There are just a few days until rehearsals proper start inside Lisbon’s Altice Arena (I like to tell you things you already know), so it’s got to be full steam ahead for me with my horrendously late reviews.
If you’ve missed any that came before this round, or you want to relive what I’ve done so far, here are the quick links:
- Round 1 feat. Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + The Netherlands
- Round 2 feat Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania + Spain
- Round 3 feat. Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania + Moldova
- Round 4 feat. Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland + Latvia
And, before I get started on today’s round, here are the results of the ‘Vote for your favourite of the five!’ polls I’ve been annoying you with at the end of each post (with my winner of each round in bold):
- Round 1: Cyprus, 33% (Armenia, 25%; The Netherlands, 17%; Hungary, 13%; Malta, 13%)
- Round 2: Poland, 35% (Estonia, 24%; Romania, 18%; Spain, 18%; Azerbaijan, 6%)
- Round 3: Albania, 33%, (Finland, 25%; Greece, 25%; Lithuania, 8%; Moldova, 8%)
- Round 4: France, 67% (Australia, 22%; Latvia, 11%; Georgia, 0%; Ireland, 0%)
That’s the story so far – so let’s get stuck into the next chapter. Sit back, relax and read about the ESC 2018 entries from Cesár, Equinox, Franka, Cláudia and Mélovin…and obviously, what I think of them. That’s the whole point of this, right?
Oh, and don’t forget to vote for your favourite out of today’s five in the poll (had to).
My thoughts Hail, Cesár! It’s becoming a trend for Eurovision backing singers to step into the main artist spotlight, and this guy is a prime example (and prime specimen of manhood). Not only did he provide backup for Bulgaria last year, helping them earn their best-ever result, but he did the same in 2016 – even getting to strut out on stage with Poli instead of being hidden in a filing cabinet in the wings. Maybe it wasn’t BNT responsible for Bulgaria’s contest turnaround after all…and if Cesár’s a good luck charm, that bodes well for Austria now they’ve managed to pry him out of Bulgaria’s grasp. The song he’s carrying on his own is worlds apart from both If Love Was A Crime and Beautiful Mess, despite being co-written by three of the same songwriters. It’s a soulful, Sam Smith-esque gospel ballad with a 2018 twist; an upbeat sibling of Isaiah’s Don’t Come Easy, almost. This song’s subject matter, however, is actually age-appropriate for the artist (seriously, how were we supposed to believe that a 17-year-old had a long history of love and loss behind him?). I had a feeling I was going to love Nobody But You from the writing credits alone, and I was not wrong. Damn, it’s good! If Nathan Trent was an adorable golden retriever puppy last year, then Cesár is a full-grown pedigree German Shepherd (well, Austrian Shepherd technically – think Inspector Rex) with a song that’s full of feeling, beautifully produced, current, and multi-layered like a Baklava. The lyrics are simple but not clichéd, making the song easy to sing along to and to remember. And if we had any doubts about Cesár’s ability to step it up and command the attention a headline artist has to, he apparently erased them with his powerful pre-party performances (as you may or may not know, I avoid those to keep the songs fresh for the actual contest). All we need now is the right staging to make this entry pop even more and become a package people want to vote for. Sadly, I can’t, as Australia is voting in semi 2…but if Austria gets to the final I will be texting my ass off for nobody but you (not true but I couldn’t resist the wordplay), Cesár! And to get back to staging for a second, Austria does have form – their 2016 and 2017 efforts were brilliant, so let’s hope it’s three masterpieces on the trot. Time will tell, but there’s one thing I know for sure right now: this is the semi 1 song that I’m not certain will qualify, but I NEED it to or I will be inconsolable. To quote Culture Club, do you really want to hurt me, Europe? Do you really want to make me cry? If not, then vote for Austria.
2017 VS 2018? I can’t choose, unless there’s money in it. No? Well, I’m not choosing then.
My score 10
My thoughts If there’s any country (besides Belgium) that has become a big Eurovision hitter lately, it’s Bulgaria. That means the pressure is now well and truly on BNT to maintain the sky-high standard they first set for themselves with Poli Genova in 2016. This year, they certainly did a top job of piquing curiosity in the Eurofan community with their cryptic pre-song-and-act reveal clues. In the end, it was the “common framework” project (we can’t just call them a group, apparently) Equinox with the otherworldly Bones that would follow in Kristian Kostov’s footsteps…but how far exactly can they follow? There’s no doubt – not from me, anyway – that this song is a good one. It’s dark, moody and modern, with slick production and an intense atmosphere. Lyrical quality is reasonably high (though at times I have as much idea of what they’re referring to as I did when Dihaj was discussing men with horse-heads having her skeletons). And I love the melody of the verses, pre-chorus and the chorus itself. I would argue that the chorus is melodically weaker than the rest of the song, but it still sticks. The five Bulgarian and American voices blend well, at least in studio…and so I’ve heard, live. Overall, this is an infinitely more enjoyable entry than the last one that attempted to bring a bunch of personalities together for an experimental musical project (*cough*Armenia 2015*cough*). But I just don’t feel the same sense of wow that I felt – and still feel – when I listen to Beautiful Mess. Bones is a bit too alien, cold and calculating for me to connect with on the same level. Ironically, for a song that’s about loving beyond the bones, I feel like there’s not a lot under the surface of this besides a desire to do well in the contest. My impression is that it’s trying too hard to be something special. While Beautiful Mess was organically awesome and ended up living up to hype created during rehearsals, Bones has already been hyped. It seems that after coming so close to a win in 2017, Bulgaria wants to go one better so badly that their finished product is missing the magic that made Kristian’s ESC so successful in the first place. I really don’t think the social media stir-up by the Bulgarian team was the best idea ever – it was pretentious and heightened expectations of the entry so much that they couldn’t possibly be met. I probably need to pull back on the harsh judgments here because at this point, you wouldn’t believe I actually do have Bulgaria in my top 10. The song is good enough on its own to win me over, but as for winning the whole contest? I doubt it. Qualification is a given though, and another podium finish isn’t out of the question. I’m keen to see if Bones has been given the stage treatment it deserves, and if these guys (+1 girl) come across as a cohesive group…er, I mean, ‘common framework’.
2017 VS 2018? 2017, hands down (to the floor, Robin Bengtsson-style).
My score 8.5
My thoughts There are two countries competing this year that couldn’t have sent more drastically different songs to Lisbon than they did to Kyiv if they tried. Croatia is one of them (and no prizes for guessing the other – it’s pretty obvious). We’ve bid our farewells to both Jacques and their ginormous LED heads, and now we’re saying zdravo to the gorgeous Franka and her boudoir ballad Crazy. The elephant in the room on this one is the ‘Was the composition stolen from a random Romanian guy or not?’ drama of a few weeks back. That tarnished things a bit for Croatia, but to be honest I’m not sure there was that much at stake. I like this song for the most part: the questionably-sourced music is the highlight, but the overall structure is good; the lyrics, while not revolutionary and clunky at times, aren’t bad; and I dig the saucy, sexy vibe, one that Latvia taps into as well. But unlike Latvia, Croatia isn’t getting me super-psyched. Crazy is kind of one-dimensional. I know Franka’s not saying she’s crazy as she sits in an armchair knitting sweaters for her twenty cats – she’s crazy in love. But a bit of craziness might have benefited a song that doesn’t push any boundaries (except for risking people not understanding the ‘roses and horses and the rain’ line). I’m 99% sure that during Franka’s performance, my mind will be occupied by thoughts of how much she looks like Rochelle from The Saturdays rather than how much I want to vote for her (not that I can anyway since she’s in the first semi). I think Croatia is going to sink rather than swim this year, which is what I figured last year too, but in hindsight I can see how that was naive. Looking at Crazy from every angle, including what it’s sandwiched between in the running order – Lost and Found from Macedonia and Nobody But You from Austria – Croatia is too easy to sacrifice. It screams ‘12th’ to me for some reason, so we’ll see if that’s my sixth sense talking. I don’t think I have anything else to say about Croatia this year, and you have to admit, that was never a problem with My Friend. Wait a second…there is one more thing: I wish we could CTRL-Z that spoken word bit, because the cringe factor there is HUGE.
2017 VS 2018? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…2017.
My score 6.5
My thoughts Say olá to our host entry for 2018 – Portugal’s first ever! This is also the first time Portugal has found themselves automatically qualified for the Eurovision final since the semi system was introduced, as they failed to qualify from 2004-2007. After that, nobody outside of the reigning champ and the Big Four/Five had the privilege – if you see it that way – of not having to make it out of a semi in order to perform on the Saturday night. Basically, this is a big deal for Portugal. And it’s pink-haired The Voice alum Cláudia Pascoal who’s carrying both that privilege and the pressure of not embarrassing her country on home soil on her shoulders (too bad the Czech Republic aren’t hosting…Mikolas could be carrying it in his backpack). Backed up by songwriter Isaura, can she do Portugal proud – or even do the double – with O Jardim? I wouldn’t say this song is a winner, no – but it is beautiful. Festival da Cançao was pretty dire this year, and O Jardim, IMO, was the ONLY decent option. Luckily, it’s more than just decent, with a dreamy quality, leisurely but hypnotic (and strangely soothing) pace, and meaningful lyrics. Delicate vocals from Cláudia are amped up when Isaura chimes in, though Cláudia could easily carry this on her own (and I do find it a bit awkward how Isaura does nothing for several minutes and then chimes in out of nowhere). There’s a message about a lost loved one in this song that reminds me of Germany’s You Let Me Walk Alone, but this is less overt and more moving to be honest, because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying desperately to tug at everybody’s heartstrings. If you’re not a Portuguese speaker and don’t Google Translate the lyrics (a favourite pastime of mine), you’ll miss lines like ‘The flowers are my place; now that you’re not here, I water your garden’ (SOMEONE PASS ME A TISSUE FFS) – but I know I still feel the emotion regardless of speaking literally three words of Portuguese (well, four now I know what jardim means). Overall, it’s a pretty package being delivered here; one that never feels calculating, like it’s trying to replicate Salvador’s success. There are flaw(s) in Portugal’s plan, though. For example, O Jardim is a slow three minutes, and anyone who doesn’t feel the emotion of it or like the lullaby vibes might find it monotonous. For another, it is a statement song, but it’s whispering and not shouting – so will it be remembered when 18 songs have followed it in the final? And is it realistically a vote magnet? I’m not convinced. I think Portugal will struggle for a top 10 result, not because this song is undeserving but because it will be outshone. I’m seeing a host country result more in line with Sweden 2013 than Sweden 2016 – but there’ll definitely be an improvement on Ukraine 2017 (and Austria 2015…that must’ve hurt). One thing that’s for sure is that Cláudia will get to bask in one of the biggest audience reactions of the night – and the audible support for the host country in the arena is always something I look forward to during the final.
2017 VS 2018? Sorry, Salvador, but O Jardim gives me more feels. Controversial?
My score 8.5
My thoughts The 2018 Ukrainian national final was more or less a rehash of 2017’s – Tayanna was there singing her heart out, Mélovin was there with his creepy contact lens, and many of us thought a third party would swoop in and steal the victory from under their noses. But that didn’t happen. Tayanna may have ended up in second place again (she’s the Saara Aalto of Ukraine, so she should have her happy ending eventually) but this time Mélovin made his mark and won the right to represent Ukraine with Under The Ladder. Given that he doesn’t mind chilling under the occasional ladder, we can expect him to be everything but superstitious at Eurovision – opening umbrellas inside, willingly allowing black cats to cross his path, smashing Moldova’s mirrors, etc. And I reckon we can expect him to have a much better contest than O.Torvald did last year. Mélovin would have made a great rep with Wonder back then, a song that I initially thought was better than Under The Ladder. But his ESC entry grew on me very quickly, and I can now say that I am Mélovin it (HA HA HA). First things first, it’s one of the most original songs in the entire Lisbon line-up – not as out there as Israel, but on the same wavelength when it comes to stuff we haven’t heard in the contest before. I’d call it a distant, moodier relative of Mr. Brightside by The Killers, if anything. Starting out with pared-back piano behind the vocals, before the beat kicks in and the music swells, it’s dramatic and dynamic without being OTT. The chorus might have sacrificed lyrical space for oh-oh-ohs, but they’re catchy ones. And speaking of the lyrics…I’m still working out WTF the meaning is behind them all, but damn, I love them! You won’t find any love/above or fire/desire/higher here (no disrespect to Helena Paparizou). Instead we’re treated to the opening line ‘Curtains down, I’m laughing at the trial’ which leads to the gem that is ‘You can see that whatever the weather, that the wind’s always there, always fair.’ Alliteration and good rhyming? I’m sold. Then there’s the change of pace towards the end that keeps things interesting…not that I personally need that to keep me hooked on this. Okay, so I’ve established that this song is the bomb dot com, but what about the performer? Well, I have no complaints there either. Mélovin is an onstage force to be reckoned with. And despite what a lot of fans have said, I don’t have a problem with his English pronunciation. Any issues are with his voice and enunciation more than his Eastern European accent. Can you tell I’d defend Under The Ladder to the death? Ukraine is the last country on the second semi’s setlist, and I’m only unhappy about that because it means I have to wait until the end of the second show to see Mélovin in action.
2017 VS 2018? I could leave this unsaid, but 2018 to infinity and beyond!
My score 12
25 down, 18 to go! Today’s leaderboard looks like this:
- Ukraine (12)
- Austria (10)
- Bulgaria (8.5)
- Portugal (8.5)
- Croatia (6.5)
With Austria getting a strong 10 from me, it was a close call…but how could I not give Ukraine top honours when I gushed about them so much? Bulgaria is just inside my top 10 at the moment with that 8.5, and Portugal’s not far outside (I’ve been trying to fit 15 songs into my top 10 for weeks and it’s just not working).
Would you put Under The Ladder over the other songs in this round, or not so much? Leave me a comment to let me know how you’d rank them, and pick your personal fave below.
NEXT TIME This weekend is judgment weekend for Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia and San Marino. That’s right: thanks to that irritating number 43, I’m jumping from five songs per round to six. Don’t miss the first super-sized episode of the EBJ Eurovision 2018 Reviews!
Hi there, and welcome to the second episode of my Junior Eurovision reviews for 2017! A few days ago, Round 1 saw Cyprus, Georgia, The Netherlands and Poland get COMPLETELY CRUCIFIED by yours truly (JK, I was actually very nice). With the Tbilisi contest creeping closer and closer, there’s no time to waste – so I’m back with Round 2 today feat. Albania, Italy, Macedonia and Portugal. If you want to be a tree-hugging, choice-making Youtuber who dances through life (and let’s face it, who doesn’t), this post is perfect for you.
Keep reading if you want to know what I think of Ana Kodra’s Don’t Touch My Tree, Maria Iside Fiore’s Scelgo, Mina Blažev’s Dancing Through Life and Mariana Venâncio’s Youtuber. If you don’t, then I have to wonder why you’re here in the first place.
Cue reviews in 3, 2, 1…
Watch it here
Last year…Albania sent a belter of a ballad called Besoj to Malta – but as adorably shouty as Klesta Qehaja was, she couldn’t sing her way higher than 13th.
The 2017 verdict Some people love it, some people hate it…the slightly weird music Albania often sends to ESC and JESC, that is. Music that isn’t particularly ethnic but is somehow stamped PROPERTY OF ALBANIA – think One Night’s Anger by Hersi. Unusual melodies and a mighty fine atmosphere (which mostly disappears if the lyrics are switched to English) are the key ingredients, and miniscule vocalist with surprising grunt in her vocal Ana Kodra (potentially Albania’s version of Anastasiya Petryk) has a song packed with both. It’s a message song too – presumably about the environment and human mistreatment of it, but to be honest it comes off as Ana being totes possessive about a tree that she legally has no personal claim to whatsoever (it’s not ‘Please be careful around this particular tree ‘cause I like it a lot’, it’s ‘DON’T TOUCH MY TREE IF YOU WANT TO SEE 2018!!!’). Yeah, the aggression is a little off-putting – as are the English lyrics which are possibly the worst and most awkward in the entire contest this year. However…I quite like this anyway. Who else is in the minority with me? *fist bumps all three of you*. As with most Albanian Eurovision-related songs, I can’t really put into words why I like it, but I just do. The melody of the verses is as distinctive as the melody of the chorus, and there’s a tribal feel to the beat and the music that I’m always drawn to (JESC examples = Moldova 2013, and funnily enough, Albania 2015). Ana herself needs to be more in control of her live vocal and be more commanding on stage, especially if she’s stuck out there by herself as per Albanian Junior tradition – that would be a big improvement on the overall effect of Don’t Touch My Tree. But regardless of the negatives and the fact that I know this is going nowhere in the comp, I’m a fan. Call me crazy if you want – it’s probably true because I talk to myself constantly.
Song score 8
Artist score 6
Final score 7
Watch it here
Last year…Unexpectedly, Fiamma Boccia’s Cara Mamma charmed itself into 3rd place. Bravo!
The 2017 verdict Here’s a brief history of my reactions to Italian JESC entries, because one of them is the same as the reaction I’m having to Maria’s Scelgo. 2014 (Vincenzo Cantiello’s Tu Primo Grande Amore) – fell head-over-heels instantly and may have cried when it won; 2015 (Chiara & Martina’s Viva) – never made it out of ‘this is meh’ territory; 2016 (Fiamma’s Cara Mamma) – didn’t think much of it at first but began to hear the appeal after a second or third listen. Now, in 2017, things haven’t come full circle since I’m apparently having another Fiamma moment with Maria. Ranking (then 15) entries after listening to Scelgo once, I had it last – not because I hated it, but because I liked everything else more. Then I decided I needed to give it a fair go as I’d listened to the likes of Russia 50 times and the situation was becoming a bit unfair. So I did, and all of a sudden this song seemed…better. It’s got that typically Italian way about it of sounding like there are twice as many words to be sung than actually fit into the timeframe of the track, but that’s part of the charm. The melody is interesting but not too complicated, and the chorus does have an earworm-y quality to it. I’m not 100% sold on the way they’ve mixed languages, but I love how it’s done right at the end, with the line ‘I choose not to be afraid’ finishing things off in a sweet, cohesive way. As always, this is a classy effort from Italy, but I doubt it will pull in the points to score as well as Cara Mamma (surprisingly) did last year. I just don’t think it’s going to capture juries (or voters…YASSS WE GET TO HAVE OUR SAY AGAIN!) to the same extent. And I get the feeling it could be quite messy live, but I’ll be happy to stand corrected.
Song score 8
Artist score 8
Final score 8
Watch it here
Last year…With a brilliant song but maybe not a brilliant song for Junior Eurovision – Love Will Lead Our Way – Martija Stanojković made it to 12th place. I guess love couldn’t lead her all the way.
The 2017 verdict This is all too familiar. From JESC 2016àESC 2017àJESC 2017, Macedonia has sent a string of high-quality, current and catchy pop songs to Eurovision events – but the first two just didn’t work in a competition context. I think last year’s JESC entry was too mature for the contest, right down to the dance moves. Dance Alone suffered from a similar issue (but when you’re too adult for adult Eurovision, some serious reevaluation is required!). Now the same fate seems to be looming for Mina. Dancing Through Life (alone, Jana-style? Not alone, Aram Mp3-style? WE NEED ANSWERS!) is without a doubt – in my opinion, obvs – an epic EDM track with so many hooks crammed into it, you could hang up the coats of the Buranovskiye Babushkis AND all of their extended families. Verses? Catchy. Choruses? Catchy. Chant-along oh-oh-oh bits? CATCHY. The genre is also perfectly suited to Mina’s voice, and with the pounding pace and explosive money note, has all the energy you could want in a song without the ‘hyped up on red cordial’ feel that can crop up at JESC. Sadly, overall this entry belongs more at Eurovision than where it is competing – and unless Macedonia can find a way to make the performance super young and fresh (which would probably jar with the song) I’m worried it’s not going to perform very well on the scoreboard. Sophistication can and does succeed at Junior, but there’s a grey area where youthful stuff works and more mature stuff works. Outside of that, there are songs that are too childish and songs that are too grown-up. Russia, for example, has struck a balance between the two, but Macedonia hasn’t quite managed it. Dancing Through Life is a better prospect than LWLOW, but I will be shocked if it ends up in the top 5. Personally speaking, I love it.
Song score 10
Artist score 8
Final score 9
Watch it here
Last year…nada. 2017 will mark Portugal’s third appearance at Junior, and we last saw them compete in 2007 (when, for the record, Jorge Leiria came 16th with Só Quero É Cantar).
The 2017 verdict I can’t be the only one who was excited at the prospect of Portugal returning to JESC, after a Poland-esque hiatus. Their very first adult contest win clearly gave them the motivation to give Junior another go, and hopes were high in the Eurofam that they’d deliver something of comparative calibre to Amar Pelos Dois. What we got instead was a kids’ edition of The Social Network Song (if I even need to say ‘kids’ edition’). This time, Youtuber will go all the way with its title intact, which is as sketchy as the EBU allowing Dami Im to sing ‘FaceTime’ when we all know they meant the Apple kind. Potential double standards aside, I have a hard time believing that this song was not composed by Ralph Siegel – that’s how cheesy and passé it is in 2017. However, it was extra cheesy and passé when we heard the demo version performed (if I remember rightly) by the actual adult composer. Mariana, as a child, makes it more palatable and even slightly enjoyable. But the cringe-factor of the “funky” tune and barely-more-than-a-single-word chorus remains. The poor girl can only do so much to salvage the situation. It’s even more of a shame because her voice is strong and she has great control over it. If she can project some more confidence and sell Youtuber to the best of her ability in Tbilisi, she might avoid last place (she’s very precious and I don’t want her to end up there). Ultimately, though I don’t hate this with a passion and acknowledge that it has one or two decent moments, I have to call a spade a spade – this is one of the weakest entries of the year, and it will struggle. I just hope a bad result doesn’t put Portugal off trying again in 2018, because they are capable of great things. Learn from your mistakes, guys!
Song score 6
Artist score 7
Final score 6.5
Eight down, eight to go – someone high-five me, quick! I feel like I’ve been pretty generous so far with my critiques and scores (maybe it’s my inner Father Christmas). Then again, this is Round 2 of 4 and there are plenty more opportunities for me to be unnecessarily cruel to children. Yay!
Here’s the ranking for this round:
- Macedonia (9)
- Italy (8)
- Albania (7)
- Portugal (6.5)
Macedonia takes this one out, with Italy not far behind. Will that be at all reflected in reality next weekend? Considering the tendency of my favourites to drop just out of winning range, probably not.
Speaking of favourites, it’s time for you to choose yours:
And don’t forget to leave your own mini-ranking in the comments. Let’s see if we agree on anything or if you’re wrong 😉
NEXT TIME Keep your eyes peeled for Round 3 of the JESC 2017 reviews, feat. Australia (I’ll try to keep a lid on my bubbling bias), Belarus, Malta and Ukraine. Who’s done wonders and who’s disappointed? You’ll see my perspective very soon!
Until then, much love love and a whole lotta peace peace…
Well, it’s official: we’re heading to Lisbon, Portugal’s perennially beautiful capital city, for Eurovision 2018!
When I say ‘we’, I don’t necessarily mean ‘you and me’ – I have no idea whether you’re going or not (let me know below!), and my plans for the upcoming contest are up in the air somewhere running around with Nathan Trent. But as Eurovision fans/freaks, we collectively discovered via Tuesday’s RTP press conference that next year’s contest will be held in the MEO Arena, in Lisbon, on May 8th, 10th and 12th.
A massive shocker? Not so much. But even non-surprising news is good news, for those of us who despair during the off-season and need something Eurovisual to be developing as often as possible to feel complete. Of course, there has to be some filler between the end of one contest and the start of another…and that’s where I come in. I’m full of it (filler, that is) this post-contest, pre-NF period, which brings me to today’s post: the start of a brand new series here on EBJ that I hope *crosses fingers, touches wood and prays to the Lordi simultaneously* you guys will enjoy.
For however long I feel like it, every now and then, I’ll be choosing a country currently competing in the ESC and taking a look back at their last five entries (whether they’ve skipped years or not). After reviewing and scoring each song, I’ll finish off by rating them from worst to best on an ultra-professional scale ranging from ‘Don’t play that song again!’ to ‘That sounds good to me!’ (thanks for entering the comp with really appropriate song titles, Nicki French and Josh Dubovie…though the irony of using the name of a dreadful song to highlight great ones has not escaped me). You’ll be able to vote for your favourite of each country’s last five entries too, and share your own ranking. Got it? Awesome.
I couldn’t think of a better or more relevant way to start this Last Five Top Five series than by checking out the Eurovision evolution of reigning champs/hosts-to-be Portugal. They’ve definitely had more misses than hits of late – but which songs are which as far as I’m concerned? Keep reading to find out…and have your personal top five prepared!
- Last five participations 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017
- Last five results 18th (DNQ), 13th (DNQ), 11th (DNQ), 14th (DNQ), 1st
- Qualification record 1/5
- Winners 1
- Top ten places 1
- Last places 0
2011 | A Luta É Alegria by Homens Da Luta
I have a fair bit of respect for this song. My reasons for that are threefold: it’s multidimensional, blending traditional Portuguese sounds with folk elements for a unique finished product; it was performed totally in Portuguese, which is always welcome at Eurovision (that goes for any language other than English in this day and age, though I do draw the line at Klingon); and it’s a message song with enough quirk to make it dairy-free (i.e. it’s not cheesy). Having said all of the above, it wasn’t a highlight of the 2011 contest for me, and while it’s certainly not a big blot on Portugal’s participant history, I don’t think it’s a highlight for them either.
My score 6 points
2012 | Vida Minha by Filipa Sousa
Portugal went…well, full Portugal back in Baku, with Filipa’s fado number that came pretty close to qualifying (it finished 13th in its semi final). I’ll admit that I have to be in the right mood to really enjoy this genre, but even so, I find this entry utterly average. It’s not quite as dramatic as it needs to be, and the chorus is lacking in the essential catchy quality that you need to succeed. Once again I applaud Portugal for having sent something so true to their musical roots as a country – but like Filipa’s eventual result, Vida Minha is okay, but not great. In MY opinion, obviously.
My score 5 points
2014 | Quero Ser Tua by Suzy
Ethnopop? Now here’s a genre I tend to fall in love with at the drop of a hat (or the beat of a tribal drum) – especially when its flag is flown by someone as effervescent and enthusiastic as Suzy. Quero Ser Tua isn’t ideal for the lactose intolerant among us (meaning there is a hint of cheesiness present) and by 2014 standards, it was a little dated. But I love the fact that it managed to successfully fuse the oh-so-Portuguese sounds that we’re accustomed to with an energetic tempo and dance vibe so irresistible, it probably had Jon Ola Sand tapping his foot under the Official and Very Important EBU Executive Supervisor’s Table.
My score 8 points
2015 | Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa by Leonor Andrade
This is definitely the least stereotypically-Portuguese entry we’ve seen at Eurovision in the last five years that Portugal has competed. That’s not why I like it, but I do like it a lot. Sure, it’s not the most exciting song on the planet given that everything about it is middling – the tempo, the level of dynamism, the staging…everything, bar Leonor’s dominatrix costume which she may or may not have worn to a bunch of questionable parties since. But the melody is really nice, the chorus is sweet, and the Portuguese adds interest to what would be a bog-standard radio track in English.
My score 10 points
2017 | Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral
Finally, we come to the only truly successful song Portugal have sent to the ESC in recent times – and their most successful song ever. I understand that a lot of fans may not love this, but at the same time I feel compelled to scream ‘HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS?’. It’s as spellbinding as the entire Harry Potter series, and Salvador is…well, his name doesn’t help make the perfect portmanteau that is ‘Salvadorable’ for nothing. No, Amar Pelos Dois wasn’t my favourite entry of the year, but when something makes you weep in the short space of three minutes (and not because it’s so bad that you can’t contain your sorrow) it’s seriously special.
My score 10 points
Now I’ve revealed my chronological verdicts on Portugal’s last five ESC entries, I’ll let you in on the not-so-secret secret (since I’ve already allocated my scores) of how they rate on my official Last Five Top Five scale – from ‘Don’t play that song again!’ to ‘That sounds good to me!’ (the super-scientific ends of the spectrum as explained in the intro to this post).
So it’s parabéns yet again to Salvador Sobral, whose winning song of 2017 stands head and shoulders above anything Portugal have sent to Eurovision in the past – and definitely since 2011. Would you agree with that, or do you prefer the tracks from Homens Da Luta, Filipa Sousa, Suzy or Leonor Andrade? Make your decision and see how it measures up to everyone else’s.
It’ll be interesting to see what Portugal pulls out of their hat in 2018 as their select their very first host entry. Here’s hoping they can follow Bulgaria’s lead and keep riding their (very) recent wave of victory-dance-worthy results. Who knows – maybe this time next year, Amar Pelos Dois will be second on my LFTF scale.
Speaking of which, share your worst-best Portuguese ranking for 2011-2017 in the comments, and we’ll see if we agree on anything. Just a warning for anyone who might rate the five songs in exactly the same way as I did: THIS WILL BE MY FACE.
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!!
Hey guys! This is the kind of post that should have gone up about five minutes after the Eurovision final ended on Saturday, but I have been internet-less (cue Psycho shower scene music) for the whole week up until this point. So please excuse the slowness.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but on the weekend Portugal did something pretty cool by winning that Eurovision final after more than half a century of trying. No biggie.
Okay, okay…like Ron Burgundy, Portugal’s win IS kind of a big deal. And obviously you already know what went down during the show – from Austria’s giant moon to a flag-draped Ukrainian’s moon (of a different kind) and everything before, in-between and after.
The more-than-convincing win by Salvador Sobral with Amar Pelos Dois is one for the ages. Salvador is a quirky and precious gift to humankind (the Michael Cera of Eurovision, if you will) and APD is a stunning song, lovingly crafted by his equally talented sister Luisa. I’m so glad we got to witness the two of them come together (Stockholm 2016 slogan pun not intended, believe it or not) to perform the best ESC winner reprise in contest history:
I’M NOT CRYING. YOU’RE CRYING.
That’s three years in row now that the Eurovision victory lap has moved me to tears, for one reason or another. If the thought of heading to Lisbon next May wasn’t appealing enough, whoever takes the trip (which might include me!) will also get to see at least one Sobral sibling perform live. BRB, off to plaster a sticker on my loose change jar that says ‘PORTUGAL FUND’.
Of course, many of us were expecting to start up an Italy fund over the weekend, if we hadn’t already. While Francesco Gabbani + gorilla hardly crashed and burned, such a steaming hot favourite finishing outside of the top 5 is flabbergasting.
Occidentali’s Karma wasn’t the only song to end the night in an unexpected place. There were plenty of surprises – good and bad – on the semi and final scoreboards…and then the full split results were made public and provided even more open-mouth moments. It’s customary for every Eurovision-related site to pick all of those results apart like a chicken carcass, so that’s what I’m (finally) doing today. Sans the grease that accompanies picking apart an actual chicken carcass. Sorry for the visual, vegetarians.
FYI 1.0: I’m not too bothered about points, because there are (other) Eurovision nerds out there who can crunch numbers with ease (I can’t) and have beaten me to it anyway. I’m more interested in other stats: agreements and disagreements between the televoters and juries; which countries continued to succeed and which countries fell off the ‘We’re Good At Song Contests!’ wagon; who outdid all of their previous results and who hit a brand new low…that sort of thing. If you want to know how many jurors from Eastern Europe gave five or more points to countries in Western Europe (or something like that), you won’t find that info here.
FYI 2.0: I like to ramble. Even if this is your first time visiting EBJ, then this overly-long intro will have made that clear. So before you go on and read this post (which I hope you do ‘coz it’s interesting, I promise), find a comfortable seat and some energy bars to have by your side – or, as Ilinca from Romania says between bouts of yodeling, ‘Get another coffee, get another one to make it through’. Wise, wise Ilinca.
Now let’s look back at the rankings from the semi finals and the final of Eurovision 2017, and see what stands out for better…or for worse.
Semi final 1
Split results stats
- Countries the juries and televoters agreed on were Portugal and Greece, but they both ranked Sweden, Armenia, Iceland and Latvia
- The biggest differences of opinion were over Australia (2nd J, 15th T), the Czech Republic (7th J, 18th T) and Belgium (13th J, 3rd J). Fortunately for televoters, the juries didn’t manage to keep Blanche out of qualifying range.
Combined results stats
- Portugal won a semi for the first time this year. Their previous highest qualification came from a 2nd placing in 2008.
- Moldova’s 2nd place overall equals their best semi result ever – they also finished 2nd the last time the contest was held in Kyiv in 2005.
- For Sweden, this was the fifth semi final in a row (host years excluded, of course) in which they’ve finished in the top 3.
- Australia maintained its 100% qualification record – it could be worse with two semi participations – alongside Azerbaijan (slightly more impressive given they’ve participated in nine semis).
- The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Portugal (they didn’t compete in Stockholm), Moldova and Greece.
- The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Georgia, the Czech Republic and Latvia.
Moldova’s out-of-the-ordinary strong result and Sweden’s predictably excellent one put a smile on my Post-Eurovision-Depression-ravaged face. I’m also pleased with Isaiah’s 6th place, since after his performance last Tuesday I wasn’t sure Australia would even get to the final at all.
I’m not surprised by Georgia’s narrow miss of the final based on the flawless performance Tamara gave during the broadcast. I’m guessing she didn’t miss a beat, note or dramatic arm flourish during the jury show either.
I feel a bit better about losing Blackbird now that we know Finland wasn’t totally disregarded. The juries just found a few other songs that catered more to their tastes (or better met the criteria they were supposed to be searching for).
Latvia’s last place has left me shook. The juries ranking it right at the bottom makes some sense, but I expected the public to go for this particular pimp-slot song in a big way. Then again, I didn’t vote for it, and apparently I wasn’t alone.
Semi final 2
Split results stats
- The countries juries and televoters agreed on this time were Bulgaria and Ireland, with Serbia, Switzerland, Macedonia, Lithuania and San Marino ranked closely with both.
- It was a different story for the Netherlands (2nd J, 9th T), Austria (4th J, 14th T), Malta (8th J, 18th T), Croatia (13th J, 5th T), Romania (15th J, 3rd T) and Estonia (17th J, 6th T). The jury got their way with Estonia, but not with Malta.
Combined results stats
- After qualifying for only the second time ever last year, Bulgaria did it for a third time in style by winning the second semi.
- Hungary achieved their equal best semi result in history, with Joci doing what Magdi Ruzsa managed in 2007.
- This semi saw Romania pick up their 100% qualifying record where they left off in 2015.
- Switzerland may have missed out on a spot in the final for the third time in a row, but 12th place isn’t bad considering they placed dead last in their 2015 and 2016 semis.
- Despite having a hotly tipped song up their sleeve, Macedonia failed to make it out of the semis for the fifth consecutive year.
- The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Norway, Romania (after being expelled like a naughty school kid last year), Belarus and Denmark.
- The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Serbia, Malta and Lithuania. Where’s Donny Montell when you need him?
Nothing warms my (formerly cold, unfeeling) heart more than seeing Hungary’s Origo – my favourite entry of 2017 – so high in the combined ranking. I figured Joci’s rap would repel a lot of juries, but they still had him in their top 10.
I was a little surprised to see that Denmark just scraped through, but I’m biased when it comes to Anja and Where I Am. Maybe I should have seen it coming. I’m not shocked that she had more jury appeal than televoter appeal. Claudia Faniello did too, but with worse consequences.
San Marino actually finished far lower than I thought they would. Because a) Valentina and Jimmie put on a good show in spite of the material they were working with, and b) I figured I shouldn’t underestimate a Sammarinese disco song after last year, I’d prepared for them to claw their way into 12th-14th territory. Serhat must be pretty pleased with himself now!
I’ve noted each country’s jury (J) and televote (T) ranking below in the overall ranking.
Split results stats
- Just like in the semis, the juries and televoters only agreed on the ranking of two countries – Portugal and Bulgaria (who’d also been ranked first by both in their respective semis).
- It was a close call for Italy, Azerbaijan, Greece, Israel, Germany, Belarus and Spain, who were all ranked reasonably equally by J and T. The televoters’ way would have seen Austria finish last, but the juries elevated Nathan to 16th place overall (which I’m thankful for, because I couldn’t bear to watch that adorable human fall victim to a total lack of love).
- The biggest disagreements between J and T were over Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Romania and Hungary. Australia gets the award for the largest gap between rankings, with a jury 4th and a televoting 25th.
Combined results stats
- We all know that the entire top 3 – Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova – achieved their best-ever results on Saturday. Portugal and Moldova also made massive leaps after each failing to even qualify the last time they competed. This time last year, Bulgaria had just reached a best-ever placing of 4th, so well done to Kristian for improving on Poli’s already stellar result.
- Belgium hit the heights of the top 10 for the third time in a row, and Sweden finished 5th for the second time in a row. Consistent!
- Australia continued their top 10 trend despite receiving the second-lowest amount of public votes, while Norway found themselves back on the left side of the scoreboard after a non-qualification last year. Prior to 2016, the last time Norway had finished outside of the top 10 was 2012.
- The Netherlands ended up in 11th place again – Douwe Bob did the same last year. Cyprus came 21st for the second straight year. More consistency!
- 19 of the 26 finalists were also in the Stockholm grand final. Of those 19, 8 improved on their 2016 final placings and 8 dropped down. The most notable dropper is Poland, who went from 8th then to 22nd
- In terms of host entries, Ukraine put in one of the worst performances – on the scoreboard, not on the stage – of the last decade. Austria’s 26th place with nul points from 2015 obviously outdoes O.Torvald’s 24th place (with 36 whole points) but those are the only two host entries to sink that low in recent years.
- Spain found themselves in the bottom 5 again this year, after Barei finished 22nd in 2016. This is the first time since 1999 they’ve come last, though, which might seem surprising since they’ve had such bad luck for so long.
- Germany, on the other hand, managed to better their last few results despite finishing second last. They trailed the pack of participants in both 2015 and 2016, so Levina shouldn’t be too One box of tissues, tops.
On Portugal’s win…was Amar Pelos Dois my favourite entry this year? No. Do I agree with everything Salvador said in his spontaneous slash controversial victory speech? No, but that’s more to do with the way he said it (and he’s easily defendable on that front). Am I happy that he and Portugal won the contest last weekend? HECK YEAH!!! Simple, beautiful and emotional – and yes, more about feeling than fireworks, although fireworks are fine – this winning song will be a timeless classic.
Bulgaria and Moldova achieving their best-ever results makes me do a happy dance every time I think about it (so I’d better avoid attending funerals for a while #inappropriate). Kristian’s placing was expected, but the Sunstroke Project outdid even their own expectations, I suspect. I feel strangely like a proud mother (as opposed to the hard-to-impress kind they sang about).
5th place (again) for Sweden is solid if not sensational. They had some tough competition to take out this year, and winning was never a realistic possibility. But they get to hold on to their Eurovision powerhouse title for at least another year.
Poor Italy. After all of that buildup and so much time spent as the bookies’ fave to win, they didn’t even make the top 5. After seeing Francesco’s performance, I got the impression it wasn’t a winner, but I still thought top 3 was going to happen for him. Nope. Interestingly, France won the OGAE vote last year, like Italy did this year, and also went on to finish 6th. Spooky.
It proved to be a non-event with the juries, but Hungary’s Origo – my beloved #1 song of the year – was thankfully boosted into the top 10 by the televoters (including me…it got about 15 of my 20 votes). Since their 2011 comeback, Hungary has qualified for the final every year and has finished in the top 10 three times. Not too shabby.
On the other hand, Australia was virtually ignored by televoters but adored by the juries. I don’t really understand either response, but I can’t help being thrilled in my own biased way that we made the top 10 yet again.
I figured France was a goner after Alma appeared on stage last looking very lonely and not leaving much of an impression behind her. But 12th? Tré bien! The song definitely deserved that left-side finish, even if the staging left something to be desired.
I thought Israel might do a little better, but I think we all saw Spain’s wooden spoon coming – even before Manel sealed the deal with that cringeworthy vocal fail. I think he’s sweet, and he doesn’t deserve the hate he got before the contest and will probably get now – but I also hope Spain learns a lesson from his lack of success.
Lastly…the comeback acts, then versus now
Kyiv was a more successful contest for:
- Sunstroke Project 22nd in 2010/3rd in 2017
…and that’s it! The trio should be particularly grateful for their success, because every single other returning artist had a worse result than they did when they last competed.
- Koit Toome 12th in 1998/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017
- Laura Põldvere DNQ (20th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017*
- Omar Naber DNQ (12th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (17th in semi) in 2017
- Valentina Monetta 24th in 2014/DNQ (18th in semi) in 2017
*I’m calling Laura’s result this year worse because with Suntribe in 2005, she beat five other countries. This year, she only beat four.
Okay…I THINK I’ve gotten all of my scoreboard-related thoughts out of my system. Parabéns if you made it all the way through, and parabéns to Portugal for being the cherry on top of a contest with such discussable ingredients. I mean, EVERY Eurovision has an aftermath worth having in-depth conversations about that really confuse everyone outside of the ESC bubble. This one, though, will easily keep us going until the 2017/2018 national final season starts – or until Junior Eurovision in November, if that floats your Naviband-esque boat (it keeps mine extremely buoyant, BTW. Yes, I’m a JESC fangirl).
On that note, if there’s a result or ranking you’re burning to comment on, you’re in the right place. Did Eurovision 2017 pan out how you thought it would, or has it SHOCKED YOU TO YOUR VERY CORE and given you Koit Toome face?
Whatever you’re thinking, type it down below. I’m not willing to shut up about this contest until Lisbon’s (maybe) so let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.
Until next time – when I’m planning on counting down my top 10 performances of Eurovision 2017 – muitas felicidades!
Portugal, proposals and some pretty terrible predictions: My post-semi + pre-final thoughts on Eurovision 2017!
Well, Eurovision week has flown by faster than Belgium’s betting ranking dropped after the first round of rehearsals (fortunately for Blanche, they’ve crept up again). The countdown to the grand final is on, and at the last minute, Kyiv 2017 has become a bit less ‘Where in Italy are we going next year?’ and a bit more ‘Where else could we be going next year?’. But more on that later.
First, I’m going to take a quick look back at the semi finals. They may not have lived up to Stockholm’s in terms of slick production, interval entertainment value and host awesomeness (Petra, Måns, and Edward af Sillen’s genius scripting skills left three sizeable pairs of shoes to fill) but they definitely delivered on great performances from 36 countries on a sensational stage, and on qualifier shocks.
Semi Final 1: Treadmills, twirling braids and bye bye Blackbird
The best of Ukraine was on show on Tuesday night, with rapper Monatik kicking things off; Verka Serduchka playing a part (I’m always happy to see the namesake of my car, Vercar Serduchcar); and reigning champ and all-around goddess Jamala nailing performances of 1944 and Zamanyly. That was all on either side of/in-between the 18 acts competing for the first ten final tickets, of course.
This was the weaker semi final as far as my personal favourites were concerned – and I do think there were more disposable songs on offer, which made parting with them less painful. That was before I knew what was to come when our non-green-room hosts Vova (I may have misheard that nickname for the majority of the show) and Oleksandr announced the qualifiers. But before I have a good old groan of ‘WHY, GOD, WHY?!?!?’ about that, here are my top 5 performance highlights of the night.
- Sweden Yeah, like you didn’t know this was coming. As a Swedeophile who saw Robin win Melodifestivalen in the flesh, I was never going to be anything less than psyched to see him at Eurovision. I Can’t Go On was a great show opener, and Mr. Bengtsson made all the right moves. We expect perfectly polished performances from Sverige, and that’s what we got.
- Finland Norma John are another act that made barely noticeable changes to their national final performance for ESC purposes. They didn’t need to overhaul Blackbird’s presentation, because it already had all the power it needed to be stunningly heartbreaking. At least, that’s what I thought.
- Moldova I’d single out the Sunstroke Project as my absolute evening highlight. Everything about Hey Mamma on the Eurovision stage was on point – energetic, irresistible and fun without being tacky, AND it had a costume reveal. I danced my butt off to this one, and burned a lot of calories in the process. Thanks, Moldova!
- Cyprus Theft of Loïc Nottet’s backdrop aside, Cyprus made a massively positive impression on me, which is just what I was hoping for as a Gravity Kudos to Hovig for finding the point of balance (pun totally intended) between singing in tune and working one’s way through complicated choreography. You can’t say the man’s not multitalented.
- Armenia The most impressive thing about this was Artsvik’s hair, which had obviously been braided by angels who then moved along to work their magic on O’G3NE’s vocal chords. That’s a compliment, because her costume, vocals and staging were all excellent. The whole package did justice to what’s one of the most unique songs in the 2017 contest.
Other performances to note include Georgia’s – Tamara blew me away even though I’m not a big fan of Keep The Faith ; Montenegro’s, during which Slavko’s sass level was off the charts, but his spinning braid stole the show; and Iceland’s, because Svala wore Baby Spice platform sneakers and actually looked good (something I aspired to back in 1998). Sadly, none of these three countries made the cut when it came to qualifier crunch time. So who did? And more importantly, how accurate were my pre-show predictions?*
*If I’m honest with myself, I know you probably don’t care how right I was…but I do, so let me be narcissistic for a second.
I pulled Poland out of my predicted ten at the last second, but in favour of Cyprus. Finland was already on my list as a certain qualifier, so it’s safe to say that I didn’t see their DNQ – Finland’s third in a row – coming. And when I watched Norma John’s performance again, looking for reasons as to why they didn’t make it, I couldn’t see any (partly because I was weeping over the emotional lyrics and my vision was blurred). This fail to advance will go down in history as one I will NEVER be able to figure out. I figure Finland must have finished 11th or 12th, which we’ll find out soon after the final, but even that doesn’t make sense to me. So if you have the answer, I’m begging you to tell me what it is so I can get some closure!
Finland excepted, I was happy with the results of this semi. Australia managed to make it through (possibly by the skin of our teeth) which was obviously a huge relief, and it gave me the warm fuzzies to see Moldova (who last made it to the final in 2013) and Portugal (they haven’t seen a Saturday night since 2010!) qualify.
How much pleasure, and how much pain – if any – did the semi final one blood puddle (it wasn’t a full-on bloodbath, after all) give you? How did your predictions pan out? Let me know in the comments.
Semi Final 2: A pregnancy, a marriage proposal and another early exit for Estonia
Three things happened during Thursday’s second semi final that I hadn’t expected, and none of them had anything to do with the eventual qualifiers. The first was that Vova and Oleks actually attempted to live up to Love Love Peace Peace, which was a bad idea (though I appreciate the effort and the Ukrainian feel their musical number brought to the proceedings). The second – and third – were the two Major Life Event Checklist boxes that Jana Burčeska managed to tick off in one night (as I sat on my couch in a very glamorous pair of pajamas with only a farting dog for company). As you know, she revealed her pregnancy via her video postcard, only to be proposed to about an hour later by her boyfriend in the green room. It’s lucky Macedonia DIDN’T qualify, because she might have exploded with happiness (and that’d be a lot harder to clean up than the confetti that’s apparently banned from this year’s show).
Jana’s performance didn’t do much for me, but there were plenty that did. Here are five of my second semi highlights:
- Hungary Origo is my favourite entry of the year, and Joci did everything I was hoping for on a stage much bigger than he had to work with at A Dal. Nerves didn’t affect him, the fire jets added more visual interest and the use of the satellite stage for the violinist worked like a dream. FLAWLESS.
- Denmark Umm, speaking of flawless…after Joci came blonde bombshell Anja, who may have done exactly what she did in DMGP (down to wearing the same red dress, which was a welcome change from the clown swimsuit she wore during rehearsals) but nailed every second of it. I love Where I Am too, a lot of that has to do with Anja’s powerful delivery.
- Croatia Yes, this was a personal highlight! I couldn’t help being amazed at Jacques’ ability to sing a solo duet live with ease, but the comic relief of his performance is what made it stock in my memory. The half-and-half costume, those turns from “pop” camera to “opera” camera…it was exactly what I was hoping to see (and laugh at continuously for three minutes).
- Norway This was very similar to what won JOWST the right to represent Norway, but it was SO much slicker. And after a success slump with Agnete in 2016, it was fantastic to see Norway present such a cohesive and current package. I also really like Aleksander’s hat, so that helped.
- Bulgaria Even though I’ve seen countless Junior Eurovision performers take to the stage with confidence and talent beyond their years, there’s something compelling about Kristian Kostov, who’s a little older but still the youngest artist in the adult contest this year. His voice is amazing, and his stage persona is ‘cool as a cucumber’, and packed with genuine (or well-faked) feeling.
This semi served up far more than five epic performances, and others I’d say fall into that category include Austria’s, because it was beautiful and adorable in equal measure; The Netherlands’, what with O’G3NE’s incredible sisterly harmonies; and San Marino’s. Yes, I said San Marino’s. What can I say? Valentina and Jimmie were having so much fun on stage, they almost made Spirit of the Night seem tolerable. It wasn’t a night of good spirits in the end, though, since they didn’t progress from the semi. Here’s who did (like you didn’t already know) compared to who I thought would go through.
Yet again, I had Norway in only to drop them out at the last minute, replacing them with Croatia. As I said, I’m super glad JOWST did qualify, but I feel super sorry for Estonia, who couldn’t shake off the Shock DNQ Syndrome they developed last year. But this time, I found it easier to figure out what went wrong. Verona didn’t work live in the way they’d opted to present it, and the dynamic between Laura and Koit was…well, weird. Koit’s über-dramatic facial expressions were up there with Croatia’s entire performance in the hilarity stakes, and have now become a meme, so that’s something.
I have to admit, although I do love Verona as a song, I didn’t bat an eyelid when it didn’t qualify because I was too busy doing a celebratory dance over Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark and Hungary.
Did any of the second semi’s winners get you on your feet (with excitement or shock value)?
And final-ly…some grand final opinions and predictions
The 2017 final has turned out to be a banger, musically-speaking. There are strings of songs in the running order that’ll barely give us time to take a breath.
Israel will be an ovary-bursting opener – so much so that we might still be fanning ourselves when Poland (in the dreaded second slot) takes their turn. Moldova through Denmark is a worrying stretch for me, since it involves three of my favourite entries mixed in with the two bookies’ favourites. Belgium-Sweden-Bulgaria is an interesting run too. France isn’t as strong a closer as we’ve gotten accustomed to: from what I’ve seen and heard, Alma’s too small on the big stage, and her voice has its wobbly moments.
I’m not going to analyse the running order, because plenty of other sites have already done it with way more finesse than I would, but let’s just say it’s raised some questions, and made the competition a little less predictable.
The biggest question is one I’ll have a go at answering…
Who’s going to win?
I’ve been back and forth on this one. A month ago, I had a gut feeling that Italy was going to finish second. Then I gave in and decided Francesco had it in the bag. Now I’m totally confused and unsure what to expect when the votes come in feat. dramatic music and the kind of tension that brings on heart palpitations (if it’s anything like the Stockholm voting sequence, which nearly killed me).
Realistically, we could be looking at a Fairytale-type landslide for Italy. But the real fairytale ending would be a Portuguese win. If they can do it, it will be their first in 49 attempts (48 if you don’t count 2006’s Coisas De Nada as an attempt to win Eurovision, which TBH you probably shouldn’t).
In doubt about Salvador’s classic song and quirky performance style combining to produce a scoreboard topper? Well, in a last-minute shocker, he’s loosened Francesco Gabbani’s unwavering grip on the odds-on favourite title to become the current favourite to win – and his performance from Tuesday’s semi final has been viewed 1.5 million times, making nearest rival Blanche’s 980k view count look pretty paltry by comparison.
It’s clear Portugal has captured a lot of imaginations (and votes…DUH!) and as someone who didn’t totally get the hype until I suddenly found myself reaching for the tissues during Salvador’s semi performance, I can say that it’s not too late for the country to charm even more people with voting power.
Bulgaria has to be noted as a contender, but I don’t see Beautiful Mess as winning material. Top 3 or top 5, yes.
To throw in a few random, much less likely potential winners – how hilarious would you find it if I named the United Kingdom and Romania? Lucie Jones’ staging is literally gold standard, and she’s scored herself a great performance spot. I still think people are getting a little over-excited, and that a lower top 10 placing is more likely for the UK, but stranger things have happened. Romania would be the perfect package if they actually had something coming out of their cannons. You never know, though…the slogan of next year’s contest could be ‘Yodel It!’. Alex and Ilinca would need one hell of a televote score to make that a possibility, though.
When it comes to the crunch – meaning I’m about to stop fence-sitting – I still think Italy will win, but not by a massive margin. And if Eurovision doesn’t travel to Milan in 2018, then it’ll probably head to Lisbon. I’d be totally fine with that, having spent a half hour this morning Googling photos of the Portuguese capital and swooning at the sheer beauty of it.
But does Salvadorable outshine namaste, alé?
Predicting the top 10, and the bottom 5 😦
Without further ado, this is my best guess at the top 10 – a.k.a. the most sought-after bunch of positions. But I really have no idea what’s going to happen. What else is new?
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
Now let’s head down to the opposite end of the scoreboard. This is my predicted bottom 5:
- Ukraine (sorry!)
Seriously, though…douze points, fifty million dollars and a muffin basket for anyone who can nail either end of the scoreboard down before the final begins.
Speaking of which, the hours before said final are now in single digits, so I’m going to sign off and try to get a power nap in so I don’t fall asleep during the show (thank god Malta didn’t qualify, or I’d definitely be having a snooze). Whether you’re prepping for a fabulous Eurovision party or getting ready to go it alone tonight, I hope you enjoy what’s left of this year’s contest. Join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz if you want (which you totally should) – and if you don’t, then I’ll see you on the other side when we have the next 1944.
May the best song (according to the majority of televoters and/or jury members, obviously) win!
That’s right – we have to say hej då to the ‘hej!’ greetings that preceded Stockholm 2016 (at least temporarily…as someone still learning Swedish, expect me to throw around random words á la Svenska on a regular basis, no matter which country is hosting the show). It’s time to hop on board the Ukrainian bandwagon! That’s because we’re less than a month away from the first semi final of Eurovision 2017 (!!!) which, at the time of typing, will still be held in Kyiv. Sans Russia, surprise surprise.
So now I’ve said hello accordingly, there’s some important business to take care of: FINALLY kickstarting my song reviews. Sadly, I haven’t had time to pull together an EBJ Jury for 2017, having just been sightseeing, Melfesting and eating too much cake in Europe for a month (which I will be using as an excuse for not achieving stuff until approximately October). But guess who offered to help me out by listening to and passing judgment on all 43 42 competing entries?
MRS. JAZ! Yes, my mum is back on EBJ, just after traveling with me to Melfest and then requesting a copy of the 2017 album with genuine enthusiasm (like I said in my last post, the brainwashing is going swimmingly, guys). So get ready to hear verdicts on the Class of 2017 from someone who may have seen Robin Bengtsson strut his freaking beautiful stuff in the flesh twice, but hadn’t heard any of the other competing entries before reviewing them. She’s got the fresh perspective, I’ve got the constant comparisons to last year on lock. Let’s get going!
First up…well, the title says it all. Read on to find out if Dihaj, Anja, Tamara, Joci, JOWST and Salvador managed to impress both a hardcore ESC fan and a first impression-ist.
My thoughts Say whatever you want about Azerbaijan at Eurovision (be it good or bad; be you polite or potty-mouthed) – you can’t deny that they’re dangerous. They’ve never failed to qualify for the final, and despite a dip in results recently, more than 50% of their time in the contest has been spent sitting pretty in the top five. So will it be a sky-high finish or another slump for Dihaj’s Skeletons: a song that makes a big move away from Melodifestivalen discard Miracle? If it were up to me, Azerbaijan would definitely be back on the left side of the 2017 scoreboard – and I mean WAY up on that side. This song kicks butt! It’s everything I was hoping for from the often experimental Dihaj – interesting, edgy, moody and current – but still has a Sia-esque, accessible pop sound, making it less divisive and giving it more mass appeal. The verses, pre-chorus and chorus itself blend together brilliantly; yet each one has its own distinct vibe without any weak links letting the team down. And is the whole thing catchy or what? The lyrics (particularly in the chorus) make zero sense, if you can even interpret them in the first place – my first impression was ‘I’m a skeleton…and I love my minions’ – but that doesn’t bother me at all. Factor in Dihaj’s quirky sense of style, powerful-but-raspy vocal and Azerbaijan’s tendency to make staging their bitch, and you’ve got the formula for something that, annoyingly, won’t reach the ranks of Running Scared or Always…but totally deserves a top ten finish. 10 points.
My mum says… Oh yes – I liked this straight away (so it was a good start to the marathon of listening I’ve gotten myself in for). Dihaj has a great voice with great range, and took me on a bit of a musical journey reminiscent of an exotic, mysterious Contiki tour. The song is catchy for sure, but not in a commercial ‘How many times have we heard this before?’ kind of way. It sounds like it’s going to have a heck of a stage show to go with it at Eurovision. Well, that’s what I’d be hoping for, anyway! 8 points.
Azerbaijan’s score 9.00
My thoughts For many Eurofans, The Voice Australia winner Anja was the “real” winner of DMGP 2016. With the Emmelie de Forest creation Never Alone finishing second (shockingly), I don’t think any of our jaws hit the floor when she was announced as a returnee to the comp this year. She changed genre and the all-around vibe of her performance with the all-Aussie Where I Am, which hasn’t completely paid off in the Eurovision bubble (according to some, this entry is yet another hashtag fail for Denmark). But I disagree as much as I possibly could. I LOVE THIS SONG! Love, love, love it. Sure, the pop ballad style may be slightly passé, but there’s something – and by that, I mean everything – about Where I Am that makes it my dream pop ballad. The melody is extraordinarily earwormy, the layers of instrumentation (with an ever-so-slight electronic influence) are contemporary, and Anja’s powerful delivery is unparalleled. She can sing the pants off an entire arena without even trying (so make sure you don’t go commando if you’re heading to Kyiv), and that does elevate a song that I’ll admit would be more pedestrian if sung by a lesser vocalist. And it has to be said that, as always, she looks stunning while she’s doing it (GIRL CRUSH ALERT). Can you tell the whole Danish package is parked up my street? The Australian-ness of it all is an added bonus. My only dilemma is, which flag do I wave if both Australia and Denmark make it to the final? I know I’ve got two hands, but one is reserved for the national flag of my favourite song’s country. I suppose the Aussie one covers both bases, whether Denmark likes it or not. Anyway, I digress. I’m giving Anja DOUZE POINTS!!!
My mum says… If you told me to describe how I feel about this one in two letters, I could do it. I’m not sure why you would, but my point is that the letters would be O and K. It’s no more than nice, and I feel like I’ve heard it before – which I don’t feel at all with Azerbaijan (and I like to hear something different). If I was Denmark, I’d be worried about being forgotten in the 42. As me, I’m just not too keen to listen to this one again anytime soon. It’s not horrible, but I don’t feel the love from above. 5 points.
Denmark’s score 8.5
My thoughts Let’s be honest – the standard of the Georgian NF was pretty mediocre this year. That being the UNDENIABLE TRUTH (assuming you agree with me) then it’s safe to say that Tako/Tamara, who almost made it to Moscow in 2009, was probably the optimal option to send to Kyiv. Sadly, however, that is the biggest compliment I can bestow on Keep The Faith, which ironically makes me lose faith in Georgia as a Eurovision country that can bring it on. 2016’s Midnight Gold was bat-shit crazy and I bloody loved it, but this bargain basement Bond ballad sucks the soul out of me. Lyrically, it could be lamer, given the overall concept of the song (which is like ‘Let’s take Polina Gagarina’s Million Voices and turn it into a melodramatic musical marathon fit for The Phantom of the Opera!’) but Tamara’s constant droning of ‘keep the faaaaaaith’ almost makes me wish they’d gone full cheese when writing it. It just goes on and on, and then on some more, until you’re expecting her head to explode from the pressure. Don’t get me wrong, because I don’t loathe this song with a passion (which I’m guessing sounds like a lie after all the hate I’ve let loose so far). It’s not in my bottom three. Simply put, though, I don’t like it. Like Anja, Tamara has a powerful set of pipes up her glittery sleeve, but in this case I don’t think they make the song any better. This is all my opinion, of course, which I’m entitled to as much as you’re entitled to metaphorically slap me while screaming ‘TBLISI 2018!!!’…so if you’re Team Georgia, I tip my hat to you. But I won’t be joining you on the playing field. You’ll find me sitting on the sidelines blasting Midnight Gold instead. 3 points.
My mum says… For something so dramatic, there’s a lack of x-factor and general satisfaction here. It may have been a better fit for a Broadway musical than a song contest. It promises more than it delivers, even though there’s an obvious crescendo reached…maybe Tamara’s voice isn’t quite strong enough for the song? She certainly wants it to be, and I admire her for going for it and really attacking her performance. But I don’t think her aggression is the way to win Eurovision. 4 points.
Georgia’s score 3.5
My thoughts There was a time when I thought I’d never move on from the traumatic loss of Spoon 21 at A Dal’s semi-final stage. Sure, their live performance of Deák was pants, but the song was/is peak electropop – and who’s to say the band couldn’t have made Ryan Dolan-level progress between the NF and the ESC anyway? True as that may be, it’s Joci Pápai and Origo heading off to Kyiv on Hungary’s behalf…and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Consider my poker face gone and my entire deck of cards on the table, folks, because this is my favourite song of the contest. I am in love with it, and would totally propose to it if that was a socially acceptable thing to do (apparently you can marry the Eiffel Tower, but not a three-minute Eurovision song). It’s haunting and hypnotic from beginning to end, with the mix of Hungarian (one of my most-loved musical languages) and Romani (which, like the song’s subject matter, highlights Joci’s heritage) making it extra-exotic, and allowing him to tell his story as authentically as possible. The rap is also a cool addition, seeming like an outlet for Joci to vent his frustrations and emotions in an unrestrained way that doesn’t happen in the lead-up. Every element of Origo flows smoothly into the next, with the slick production and ethnic riff making it current yet still one of the most original (pun intended) entries of the year. I understand that it’s a divisive song, but I think it was an adventurous choice for Hungary to make, and I love that it represents multiple facets of their music scene by marrying the old and the new. Whether that will work in their favour or not remains to be seen, but I’ll be praying that it does. DOUZE POINTS!!!
My mum says… As a disclaimer, Jaz didn’t tell me how she felt about this song before I offered up my own opinion (she doesn’t even tell me which country each one is from before she forces me to I voluntarily listen to them). As it turns out, though, I love it too! It actually gave me goosebumps. Beautiful instrumentals, great atmosphere and something I can’t put my finger on that just makes me want to hear it again – and hear more of what Joci can do. Origo gets 12 points from me!
Hungary’s score 12.00
My thoughts When it comes to the MGPs, I think Denmark had the superior line-up in 2017 (which is definitely not the norm). Norway only had a few songs that had the potential to give them the final finish at Eurovision that Agnete’s could not. Luckily, though, they picked one. Grab The Moment is an effortlessly ‘now’ pop song that takes advantage of the universe’s unquenchable thirst for music with weird noises and vocal samples in the background (which JOWST manages to pull off live). It’s familiar enough, style-wise, to feel comfortable, but original enough to not provoke any cries of ‘PLAGIARISM!’; and the chorus is so damn hooky, it could catch a great white shark without even breaking the ocean’s surface. I liked the song straight away because it’s not a challenging listen. All it asks from you is to have some fun (and not in an out-of-tune Tereza Kerndlová kind of way) and it makes that very easy to do. No, it doesn’t have what it takes to win Eurovision, and I’m not even confident it will sail to the final. But I personally am more than ready to grab the moment – and enjoy every moment JOWST and Aleksander are on stage. 8 points.
My mum says… This one’s definitely catchy, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I feel like if I listened to it two or three more times in a row, I wouldn’t like it much more – it would start to annoy me instead! I’m not a fan of the lyrics, and I don’t hear anything that makes it stand out from the crowd. It’s not terrible, but all I can say is ‘next, please’. 5 points.
Norway’s score 6.5
My thoughts Montenegro’s taking us back to 2003, San Marino to 1977 and Portugal to 1956 for Eurovision 2017 – go figure. Two of those three throwbacks I’m on board with (stay tuned to the rest of the reviews to find out which time warp I DON’T want to do again) and Salvador’s is one of them. Why Amar Pelos Dois is so high in the betting odds is a bit of a mystery to me, but I can’t bring myself to trash what is a delicate, soaring and very vintage ballad that is powerful because it isn’t, if that makes sense. We haven’t heard a song so ‘classic ESC’ compete for a long time, and as such, it’s hard to say whether it will prove the bookies right or not. I do think Salvador can win televoters over with his adorkable charms, though, and perhaps the juries with both the song and his understated, pitch-perfect delivery of it. I feel like I want Portugal to do well more than I want Amar Pelos Dois itself to succeed (because there are plenty of other songs that I prefer) but there won’t be one without the other. So, in amongst my fistfuls of Hungarian, Danish, Swedish and Australian flags, you might just find a teeny little Portuguese flag come Eurovision week. 7 points.
My mum says… I quite like this one, as old-fashioned as it is. I can imagine it being performed in a smoky jazz club (in spite of the lack of jazz) in the 1950s, with nothing but a man, a few supporting instrumentalists and some dry ice on the intimate stage. I don’t think it would win the contest in this day and age in a fit (as a layperson) but it has to make for a nice contrast against the countries coming equipped with all the bells and whistles Customs will allow into Ukraine, doesn’t it? 7 points.
Portugal’s score 7.00
That’s the six songs for today taken care of! Now, with Round One done, the leaderboard looks like this:
- Hungary (12.00)
- Azerbaijan (9.00)
- Denmark (8.5)
- Portugal (7.00)
- Norway (6.5)
- Georgia (3.5)
Congratulations (and celebrations, etc) go to Joci for his impressive win. Sure, he only had to impress two people to make the number one spot, but I was pretty convinced my mum would think Origo was oriNOOOOOOO.
Can Hungary keep a hold of the metaphorical crown with 36 countries’ songs still to be scrutinized? TBH, if I keep going with only two jurors, he probably will. Lucky the final EBJ ranking doesn’t count towards anything official. OR DOES IT?!?
No, it doesn’t.
Waiting in the wings to be reviewed in Round Two are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland – i.e. lots of girl power feat. Koit Toome and that guy from Fusedmarc. Don’t forget to drop by to see if anyone ends up with a douze…or the opposite. As Koit and Laura would say, prepare for dramAAaaAA.
In the meantime, let me (and my mum) know what you think of the songs we’ve reviewed this time. Do you agree with any of our opinions, or should we be ashamed of ourselves for countless reasons? Don’t leave the comments box lonely 😦
Until next time,
And then there were five. No, I’m not referring to the days left until Eurovision gets underway – although there’s about five of those left too (depending on your time zone and method of counting stuff and…stuff). In this case, though, I’m talking about the songs remaining for my esteemed EBJ Jury to review.
The lucky/unlucky last entries to be put under the musical microscope come from Portugal, Australia, Latvia, FYR Macedonia and Belarus, and once they’re done, so are my first-ever collaborative reviews. Sadface.
But it’s not all bad news. With the entire Class of 2015 ranked, I can finally reveal the jury’s Top 40, so that’s your reward if you make it to the end of the post. Good luck!
First, let’s take care of the usual business. Meet my partners in crime for the last time…
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Fraser McEachern: My fellow Australian Fraser returns (to rapturous applause, I’m sure) to the EBJ Jury today, having managed to fit in all of his reviewing prior to jetting off to Vienna with partner, previous EBJ Jury member and co-star of the escTMI YouTube show, Matt. You’re missing out if you haven’t taken a look at their videos, people.
James Sayer: You met James, a nineteen-year-old creative writing student, in the previous installment of VVs. He’s British, so we can blame him for Electro Velvet. Or thank him for Electro Velvet, depending on far up the scoreboard the pair can shimmy and scat next Saturday night. Up until recently, he was one of the driving forces of the fab blog ESC Views, which remains just as fab without him (I swear that’s a compliment).
Jasmin Bear: I won’t introduce myself yet again – you know me (though if you’re a first-time visitor to EBJ, you may not, so FYI, I’m awesome). I’m most looking forward to the first semi final on Tuesday because I’ll get to hear some ESC 2015 entries for the first time in SEVEN WEEKS. Just because my pre-show abstinence was voluntary doesn’t make it any less painful. #stillworthit.
Now, do me a favour and imagine really dramatic music playing as I say the following:
Leonor. Guy. Aminata. Daniel. Uzari & Maimuna. Only one act can emerge from this blog bloodbath victorious…but who will it be? And where will they factor into the EBJ Jury’s Top 40?
Read on to find out!
Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa by Leonor Andrade
Fraser: Please don’t make me listen to this song again. It’s just…blah. Why did Portugal think that this was a good song to put into the contest? The guitar drives me crazy. 1 point.
James: I’ve been looking forward to my first chance to write a really positive review here, just to prove to you guys that I do have it in me to be nice. Soooo yeah, here it is: OH MY GOD, PORTUGAL IS AMAZING. There’s a sentence I bet you thought you weren’t gonna hear – I know most people aren’t keen on Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa, and it probably won’t do very well and all that…but I absolutely love it. It’s all deep and dramatic and it’s incredibly beautiful. I adore the synthy backings and the haunting choral echos, and whilst I wish Leonor’s vocal was turned up a bit louder in the studio mix, that won’t be a problem live in Vienna. This song has such an amazing melody – like seriously, that register change in the ‘nos’ note is spine-tinglingly perfect. Have I used enough hyperbolic adjectives to let you know how much I love this one yet? I’m gonna go for it and give Portugal a well-deserved 12 points, because why not?
Jaz: Wow, Portugal sure divided the opinion of my fellow jurors! I’m amazed that such an innocuous song has inspired such mixed reactions. Funnily enough (if you are very easily amused) I’m sitting pretty much in the middle of 1 and douze points on this one. Portugal sent effervescent ex-air-hostess Suzy to Eurovision last year with a song that was ethnic, infectious and uptempo – but it could have been sent back in time to the 2005 contest and fit right in (not a good thing in terms of the ESC moving musically forward). This year, they’ve sent the opposite. Há Um Mar blah blah blah (one cannot bring oneself to type out that entire song title sometimes) isn’t particularly ethnic, it’s definitely not uptempo, and I wouldn’t call it catchy, exactly. But it is reasonably contemporary, at least. Sure, it wouldn’t have been ahead of its time in Kyiv, but it won’t sound stale or über of-another-Euro-era in Vienna either. I quite like the melody in the choruses, and Leonor is a nice vocalist who comes across far more mature than she is onstage (partly due to an overload of eye makeup…she must have attended the same Bump Up Your Age In Thirty Seconds class as Nina Sublatti). The problem I have with this is that I don’t find it very memorable. I literally cannot remember how the verses go. It also fails to ignite any strong reaction in me – love or hate. It just plods along, not heading anywhere exciting but not heading to purgatory either. And yet, I do enjoy it. What I remember of it, anyway. I highly doubt it will make it out of semi two, but I hope Portugal don’t take that as a sign to bow out of next year’s comp. They came so close to qualifying last year, and this is a respectable enough entry to carry on with. They just need something less lacklustre . Something that combines the fun and energy of Quero Se Tua with the somewhat-fresh and mature sound of Há Um Mar et cetera. 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.33
Tonight Again by Guy Sebastian
Fraser: Well, it seems Guy may have cobbled together a pretty decent tune here. I do wish he would stop telling everyone that he wrote, arranged, recorded and produced it in three days. Aside from that, it’s a really fun song. It’s catchy, it sounds like a song that will chart well over a European summer, and it shows off what Guy can do with his voice without overdoing it! 10 points.
James: My first reaction to this was ‘well-timed Uptown Funk 2.0 without the sass.’ And I think I’m still somewhere in that region two months later, to be honest. It’s a pretty good song, and definitely one of the most chart-friendly offerings of the 2015 contest…but it’s not exactly to my personal taste. I do think I’ll go and check out some of his other stuff though, and I love it when Eurovision introduces me to *new* artists like this, so yay! I hope nobody complains if this one does well though – and by that, I mean a country who is theoretically denied a personal-best placing by the Australian entry, then goes and withdraws because they think it’s unfair because Australia doesn’t even go here…or something stupid like that. Side note: what the hell is Mr. Sebastian wearing on the single cover? That outfit makes him look like a two-tone IKEA curtain, please no. I hope he wears something better on the night! 5 points.
Jaz: I never thought I’d be reviewing my own country’s entry in the lead-up to Eurovision – at least, not prior to my moving to Sweden, adopting a terrible accent and assuming the identity of Sanna Nielsen’s long-lost cousin. But here we are, living in a world where Australia’s been cordially invited to fire everyone up by participating in the 60th contest, for an alleged one-time-only. We’ve all questioned the EBU’s sanity in issuing this invitation time and time again, so I’ll leave that behind now and actually discuss Guy Sebastian’s song. Tonight Again isn’t an example of Guy’s finest work, but it does stay true to the retro-flavoured, funky kind of pop music that he’s explored in the past with the likes of Like It Like That and Gold. This kind of music has a better track record at Eurovision than r & b/hip hop-influenced stuff, which is another direction Guy could have taken in the wake of his hits Oh Oh and Battle Scars. At the beginning of those infamous three days, he made a very smart decision to not create a ballad for Vienna. Whether this is because he took a listen to his competition, and the down-tempo, depressing penny dropped, we don’t know for sure, but the result is a relief. Tonight Again helps fill the void left by all the 2015 ballads, where sassy, dance-worthy, karaoke-ready anthems usually take up a lot of space. It’s also broadcasting a message perfectly suited to the Eurovision final (obviously not by coincidence) – tonight’s so good, forget tomorrow, we can do tonight again. I bet we’re all going to want a do-over of the final by the time *INSERT APPROPRIATE COUNTRY HERE* is announced as the winner. So there’s a lot to like about this entry. People favouring it to the equally-funky Cliché Love Song, however, are not people I agree with. I LOVED Denmark’s host entry last year, and that >Tonight Again, IMO. I do think the Aussie entry suffers from its whirlwind conception/gestation/birth period, in terms of originality. But it does stand out in the field, it will get the audience on their feet, and consummate pro Guy will perform it pitch-perfectly. And I can’t help being a little biased about it. This is the only chance I’ll get to possibly hear the words ‘And douze points go to…Australia!’. Make my dream come true, Europe? 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.33
Love Injected by Aminata
Fraser: Your love…pierces my earssssssss (and not in a decorative way). I want to like this song, as it’s probably the best song out of Latvia in a long time, or ever. There are parts of the song that are pleasing to the ears, but others make them bleed. Sorry Latvia – it’s not your year. 2 points.
James: Experimental female-vocal electro-pop? Judging by my usual music taste, I should like this more than I actually do. Maybe it will grow on me, I don’t know. My only issue really is that the verses are far too high. I can’t work out what she’s saying a lot of the time, and there’s not much of a melody there to compensate. The chorus is fantastic though, and she really attacks it! I love the music, and I’m hoping these two things can win me over enough to overlook the weakness of the verses. I would love Latvia to qualify at some point, and I’d be happy for this to be the song that finally gets them back into the final – but I’d be less happy if it does so at the expense of better songs *cough – PORTUGAL – cough*. 6 points.
Jaz: Pardon the crappy pun, but I’ve definitely been injected with love for Aminata’s second attempt at reaching the heights of Eurovision (and the heights of her vocal range). I haven’t been this enthusiastic about a Latvian entry since about 2005 – maybe even 2000 (Brainstorm’s My Star is Latvia’s original and probably best contribution to the contest). This song is weirdly wonderful, cutting-edge and powerful in the way of Norway 2013, but it’s even more dynamic than I Feed You My Love, what with those minimalist, high-pitched verses and explosive choruses. As a package, the entry isn’t overblown or over-baked – just subtly layered and filled with attention-grabbing contrasts. Aminata herself is a performer who loses herself in the song, which is a positive; but she needs to ensure she connects with the camera and the audience on some level. That would be my only criticism of Latvia’s offering, as the rest of it – song, singer, look, interpretive hand movements – works like a charm with me. I just hope they find a balance in the staging, not distracting from the song with anything OTT, but not leaving things too bare and boring. They need something…just not too much. Sorry I can’t be any more helpful than that, Latvia, but as you’re rehearsing right this second (or thereabouts) I’m assuming you’ve got things sorted anyway. I will be voting my butt off for this song, and I give it 10 points (not the twelve you were probably expecting, but there are songs I prefer).
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
Autumn Leaves by Daniel Kajmakoski
Fraser: Awww Daniel, what have you done? The original version was so much better. The Eurovision English version loses a lot of the spark of the original. If we look at what will be presented at the contest, it’s nice. It’s a polite song about falling leaves with some weird sound played throughout, but I can get over that. Hopefully it makes it to the left side of the scoreboard, but I’m not convinced anymore. 5 points.
James: I really liked Lisja Esenski. I really DON’T like Autumn Leaves. Sanna, help me pls, I have a sad that needs undoing. Basically, the Macedonian entry in its national language was a pure pop anthem. I loved the fact that it had a beat to it and there was a fab backup vocal line – it really brought the melody to life. In English, it’s just dead. They have literally taken a knife and chopped out everything that was great about their song. And every time Daniel launches into that lacklustre grey chorus, I’m reminded of the energetic, angsty Macedonian equivalent which was once in its place, and I mourn the loss all over again. 4 points.
Jaz: When a country chooses their song as early on in the season as Macedonia did, it seems like a logical use of time to give said song an overhaul. In fact, I’d be disappointed if they hadn’t tweaked Lisja Esenski since Daniel and his funky footwear won their ticket to Vienna. ‘Tweaked’, however, is an understatement in this instance. Autumn Leaves is a completely different song, and I can’t say I like the changes that have been made. That’s because I LOVE them (sorry/not sorry for the trolling). I did like the song in its original incarnation – I’m always a fan of national languages, especially as they’re becoming rarer in the ESC; and I also enjoyed the anthemic quality it had, which Daniel seemed to thrive on. But it turns out the man can do pared-back emotion (and English without a heavy accent) as well. There’s something about Autumn Leaves – the heartfelt lyrics, the softness, the vulnerability…I can’t pinpoint it – that hits me right in the feels factory. It brings a tear to my eye almost to the same extent that Norway’s Monster does. I know I’m in the minority here, and that Daniel will probably struggle to qualify – Macedonia has a talent for finishing 11th in semi finals, and I can easily see that happening again – but I’ve been sucked in by this new version. It’s had an effect on me that the old one didn’t, even though I’m unsure about some of the sacrifices made during the chopping-and-changing process. Ideally, I’d love to be hearing the simpler, softer version in Macedonian at Eurovision. But I’m not complaining about what we WILL be hearing. That ‘Every moment will hurt from the last to the first’ line gets me every time *dabs eyes*. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.33
Time by Uzari & Maimuna
Fraser: This one just gets better and better with time [pun intended?]. This was one of the first songs I heard this year, and I didn’t think too much of it back then. However, the more I hear it, the more I like it. There is a lot of power in the song, and the video certainly helps it all come together as well. Uzari and Maimuna both seem like lovely people too – they are very engaging on social media, which makes me want to cheer for them even more! 8 points.
James: Belarus’ entry this year is a prime example of reworking done right. The NF version of Time did very little for me. It felt like it didn’t quite know what it wanted to be, and I didn’t know what to think of it as a result. Now what we’re dealing with is a well-sung, melodically interesting and energetic up-tempo pop song which I think will really stand out in Vienna. If they come up with some really unique staging, this one might even be knocking on the door of the top ten. They have the violin gimmick to fall back on too, as well as Uzari’s inexplicable metal elf ears, if all else fails. As far as my personal tastes go, it’s not one of my absolute favourites, but I’m enjoying it all the same. 6 points.
Jaz: Okay…I am steeling myself not to be biased regarding this entry. No, I am not part-Belarusian (that I know of). I just have a history of worshipping both Uzari and Maimuna as separate artists, and now together as the Eurovision duet of my dreams (until Darin and Agnes transform their interval act from Malmö into the true Eurovision duet of my dreams). I did also have the chance to interview the pair recently, which has clouded my judgment a bit. But I’ll try to keep myself honest here. Time is another song that has undergone reconstructive surgery since winning its national final, and at first, I wasn’t sure that it was for the better. The revamped version felt like a remix of the original that didn’t quite suit the dance beat behind it. Then the official video was released, and somewhere among the fire, snakes and gigantic hourglasses, I realised that it all fit together. Uzari busting his butt to reach Maimuna in that huge hourglass mirrored the energy that had been added in the rework. Time has been given the punch it needed to have arena-worthy impact – kind of like Kedvesem received thanks to the Zoohacker remix. It also now possesses the pop sensibility that gives it a more solid identity as classical crossover music. It’s an intriguing track that doesn’t follow a clichéd path, and it’s fronted by a great pair. Uzari has an amazing voice, and Maimuna is stunning whether she’s standing still doing nothing, or ripping into a solo on the violin. I’d really like this to qualify, but without that hourglass (yes, I’m a little obsessed with that thing) I’m concerned the staging could fall flat and take the song with it. Time will tell. I give Belarus a strong 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.00
That’s it, folks! Forty down, zero to go. The standings for this final round of reviews look like this:
- Australia (7.33)
- Belarus (7.00)
- Portugal (6.33)
- FYR Macedonia (6.33)
- Latvia (6.00)
What could I possibly say in response to this other than GO STRAYA! It’s nice to see Guy on top of at least one leader board, despite the fact that I do prefer the Macedonian and Latvian entries to his. Belarus wasn’t far behind, but I guess it just wasn’t their Time. Daniel K fell like the autumn leaves into fourth place, and…oh, stop it.
Now it’s finally time to reveal that semi-important Top 40, as decided by the ten EBJ Jury members hailing from Australia, Ireland, Germany, the UK and the USA – all of whom I’d like to thank profusely for coming on board. As the late, great Udo Jürgens might have said, merci, chéris.
I’ve calculated an average score for each country based on the points we gave them, and compiled the full list from there. In the event of a tie (of which there were many) I’ve ranked countries using the Eurovision count-back method (i.e. which country received the greater amount of higher points). Without further ado, here’s the result!
Congratulations to man’s man Måns (???) who takes the #1 spot from Loïc Nottet by a whisker of carefully cultivated stubble. All in all, we have a top five here that sits very well with me. The group of countries in the top 10 is a group I’d be happy to see in the Eurovision top 10, too, but I’m not sure the jury has predicted next weekend’s outcome too accurately here. That’s fine, because making accurate predictions was not the object of the exercise.
That’s what I’ll be attempting to do in my next post, as I take a look at the line-up for semi final one; make my guesses as to which acts will be heading to the final and which acts will be heading home; and let you know who I plan to vote for now that Australia has the opportunity. Exciting times are just ahead, guys!
In the meantime, feel free to revisit all of this year’s Viennese Verdicts:
- Part 1, feat. Russia, Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia
- Part 2, feat. the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland
- Part 3, feat. Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia
- Part 4, feat. Sweden, the UK, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Romania
- Part 5, feat. Malta, Georgia, Albania, Lithuania and Spain
- Part 6, feat. Israel, Hungary, Germany, Moldova and Azerbaijan
- Part 7, feat. Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece
- Part 8, feat. Portugal, Australia, Latvia, FYR Macedonia and Belarus…which you’re reading right now.
Don’t forget to let me know below how you’d rank today’s reviewed entries, and what you think of the EBJ Jury’s Top 40. Whether you’re enraged that Sweden topped the list or hysterically happy; confused as to why Boggie’s stuck on the bottom or nodding vigorously in agreement, I want to know. I’m a very nosy person, so humour me, won’t you?
Until the predictions begin (have yours at the ready!)…