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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?

#worsteurovisionpredictorontheplanet.

  1. Italy
  2. Portugal
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Romania
  5. Sweden
  6. Armenia
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Belgium
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Moldova

Now let’s head down to the opposite end of the scoreboard. This is my predicted bottom 5:

  1. Greece
  2. Poland
  3. Ukraine (sorry!)
  4. Germany
  5. Spain

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.

MUCH EXCITE.

 

May the best song (according to the majority of televoters and/or jury members, obviously) win!

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Melodifestivalen madness + six Swiss songs, one winner!

In case you hadn’t noticed, today’s Saturday – but not just any old Saturday. It’s the first Saturday of February, and that means that a big ball of national final brilliance is about to bounce down on the basketball court that is the Eurovision selection season.

Did that make sense? All I meant was that Frantic February™ is here, and I’m freaking excited about it. I’m guessing you are too if you’re reading this!

What’s even more exciting than a busy Saturday night for NFs is an entire weekend of pre-ESC song contests, and that’s exactly what we’re getting. But be warned: with mostly heats and semis taking place over the next two days, only one more Eurovision entry will be chosen.

Here’s this weekend’s schedule:

  • 4/1 Hungary’s A Dal – heat three (feat. Benjámin Pál + Gigi Radics)
  • 4/1 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat five (feat. Sasha Song, Edgaras Lubys + Mia)
  • 4/1 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final one (feat. Boris René, Dinah Nah, Charlotte Perrelli + Ace Wilder)
  • 4/1 Ukraine’s untitled NF – semi final one (feat. SKAI, Monochromea + Arsen Mirzoyan)
  • 5/1 Latvia’s Supernova – heat one (feat. Katrīna Cīrule + Lauris Valters)
  • 5/1 Switzerland’s Die Entscheidungsshow – the final (feat. Ginta Biku + Timebelle)

You guys know I’m a one-woman band who cannot physically cover all of the above, so I’ve got to be more selective than SVT’s Melfest screening process. Right here, right now, I’m singling out the national finals from Sweden (obviously) and Switzerland (believe it or not) to review and predict. Let’s get into it!

 

 

How Swede it is: Marvellous Melodifestivalen has arrived!  

Like every other epic event that takes place each year (e.g. Eurovision, Junior Eurovision, September 1st when most people carry on as normal but the collective ESC fandom sits up a little straighter) Melodifestivalen comes around very slowly – but once it’s here, it feels like we were discussing the start of the previous year’s edition five minutes ago.

And so, right on cue, the Holy Grail of national finals (in my Sweden-obsessed opinion) is back for 2017. Based on what’s being served up in tonight’s first semi – which will go live from Gothenburg’s Scandinavium in just a few hours – it’s back with a bang. That makes for an extra happy Jaz, since I’ve booked myself a butt-space in Friends Arena for the final. IS THIS EVEN MY LIFE?!?!?

Talking about tonight, though…opening the comp is one of the surprise successes of ’16, Boris René. Closing will be newcomer Nano. In-between the two are Dinah Nah, Charlotte Perrelli, Ace Wilder and many, many more. Well, actually just two more, but I’m too hysterical to not exaggerate. Who’s with me?

 

Semi Final 1: 

  1. Her Kiss by Boris René
  2. Amare by Adrijana
  3. One More Night by Dinah Nah
  4. Road Trip by De Vet Du
  5. Mitt Liv by Charlotte Perrelli
  6. Wild Child by Ace Wilder
  7. Hold On by Nano

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Pretty much all bases (aces of bases?) are covered in this kick-off heat, with retro-pop, hip-hop, dance, acoustic, straight-up pop and EDM on offer. Who will rise to the occasion, scoring themselves a ticket direkt till finalen or to Andra Chansen…and who will fall at the first hurdle? It might take some serious song scrutinisation to figure that out (after which I’ll still be super-duper wrong).

 

My top four 

In performance order, BTW.

    • Her Kiss – This is less contemporary than Put Your Love On Me (RIP litter box) but you can’t tell me that it wouldn’t shoot straight to #1 on the charts if Bruno Mars was behind it. Don’t underestimate Boris’ ability to bring it into the now via an energetic and charismatic performance.
    • Amare – Adrijana’s debut won’t be everyone’s cup of kaffe, but I have a thing for the Swedish language in an urban, rap-oriented context. It just works, hence why I loved Behrang Miri’s Det Rår Vi Inte För and why I love this.
    • Wild Child – At 34, Ace is technically a wild woman. She’s also not the strongest of singers, so perhaps it’s a good idea for the verses of this song to be spoken/shouted. Surprisingly, I’m digging the sound of Wild Child so much, it may turn out to be my favourite of her three Melfest entries to date. They’ve all been different, but have always had real ‘Ace’ attitude, and this is no exception.
    • Hold On – SVT know just when to throw a curvy enough curveball to convince us that they aren’t that predictable after all. It was assumed that the last song on stage would be Ace’s, but they’ve made it Nano’s instead…and I TOTALLY GET IT. It gives me goosebumps, even before the beat kicks in and the chorus explodes. Sure, it’s very reminiscent of Feel The Love by Rudimental, but you know what? That song is the bomb, and I think this one is too.
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He’s my current favourite, but can Nano ‘Hold On’ to his status as the bookies’ favourite and win his heat?

 

The rest

  • One More Night – I’m a little disappointed in Dinah, because this song is right out of Dance Tracks for Dummies (whereas Make Me La La La was in a league of its own). It’s still catchy and well-produced though, and her hair is still pink enough for me to forgive her. Hashtag hair heaven.
  • Road Trip – This is Samir & Viktor meets JTR, and I can get on board (pun intended) with that combo. It’s silly but not too silly, so rather than being a novelty song, it’s a fun contender. And it does make me want to go on a road trip, so…mission accomplished, I guess.
  • Mitt Liv – I don’t get all the hate on this one. No, it’s not bringing us the Charlotte Perrelli we know and love (and once were a little scared of. Remember 2008?) but I think there’s something charming and calming about her stripped-back, not-in-it-to-win-it approach to Melfest this time. There’s a song just like Mitt Liv in basically every Deltävling 1, and it never goes anywhere – but that doesn’t mean it’s horrendous.

  

‘No more stalling’, I can hear you guys saying. ‘We know what you think of the songs, but where the heck are they headed?’. Well, friends, here are my attempts at predicting exactly that. Prepare to laugh until you’re gasping for breath.

 

Who’s going direkt? Ace Wilder and Nano. I haven’t picked Ace because she’s a predictable finalist – she’s not really, since for all I know Sweden is sick of her popping up and yelling at them. I just don’t think she should be under-hyped, and Wild Child is a standout in this semi in terms of instant, infectious pop music. Nano has the advantage of performing in a position that has only proven unlucky for two acts since the introduction of the semi system to Melfest. He also has a sensational song up his sleeve that may leave Ace Wilder in second place of the seven.

Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Boris René and De Vet Du. Boris will do a great job of setting the tone for the evening with the irresistible Her Kiss, and I’m fairly confident (or am I just hoping because I LOVE him?) that he can mimic his AC -> final journey this year. De Vet Du are a classic ‘Not Quite Direkt Material But Good Enough For A Second Chance’ act. Need I say more?

 

I will be saying more during the show, so visit me on Twitter (hint hint) to check out my (hopefully hilarious) comments, and to see my updated predictions after all seven songs have been performed. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Melfest’s first semi? Which two acts will be the first to book their own bit of butt-space in the Friends Arena green room, and who’ll have to fight their way out of AC to get there? Let me know down below.

 

That’s Saturday’s most exciting event taken care of. YES, I SAID IT. If you want to argue about it:

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Now, let’s wing our way over to Switzerland and see what they have in store for us on Sunday evening.

 

 

An (almost) all-female final for Switzerland…but which woman will win?

The Spice Girls would be psyched about the Swiss NF (‘the Swiss NF’ is easier to type and pronounce than Die Entscheidungsshow, let’s face it) because it is positively packed with girl power! The boys backing up Timebelle’s lead vocalist Miruna are it on the non-female front.

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  1. The Fire In The Sky by Nadya
  2. Cet Air Là by Ginta Biku
  3. Two Faces by Michèle
  4. Gold by Freschta
  5. Exodus by Shana Pearson
  6. Apollo by Timebelle

I hate to say this, but I always have low expectations of Switzerland. They can be relied on to choose the cream of a very average crop, but the fact that their line-ups are so frequently sub-par is disappointing.

Thankfully, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the standard in 2017. There’s one song I’m not keen on, but the other five range from good to great to ‘SHUT UP AND TAKE MY DOUZE POINTS.’

 

My top 6  

  1. Apollo – Timebelle’s last Entscheidungsshow entry Singing About Love was a super cute pop-rock number, but I like this pop ballad better. Is it the most original thing I’ve ever heard? Nope. Jessie J might have released something very similar five years ago. Still, it ticks all the boxes for a song of this style, and the tried-and-tested formula still works. It’s extremely enjoyable.
  2. Two Faces – It’s about time someone tried to get to Eurovision with a song about baking sweeteners and table seasonings! Okay, so there’s more to Michèle’s song than sugar and salt. Including a bit of a youthful, edgy, Zara Larsson vibe. The cool factor is high and the originality is too.
  3. Cet Air Là – This is such a mish-mash of genres, languages and time periods, it should be a disaster. But, unnecessary la la las aside, I really like it. The ethnic instrumental parts make it exotic, and the French chorus is like a sexier Loin D’ici. Eurovision 2006 meets Eurovision 2017.
  4. Gold – Adele called, and she wants her B-side back, Freschta. That’s not an insult, because I like this too. I’m simply saying that it’s no Someone Like You or Hello. But I appreciate Gold for what it is, which I’m going to label ‘rawthentic’.
  5. Exodus – Shana’s song is 80% decent, 20% not-so-much. Majority rules. And I definitely wouldn’t say no to a dance if it came on in the (Euro) club.
  6. The Fire In The Sky – This one’s too dated and melodramatic for my taste. Georgia let something like it win their NF, but I’m hoping Switzerland doesn’t follow in their dreary footsteps.

Measuring the quality of this final in Melfest terms, I’d say that it’s not as across-the-board awesome as the semi we looked at before (Sweden is no stranger to producing heats that outdo the concluding chapters of other countries’ NFs). But Switzerland have three or four excellent potential Eurovision entries at their disposal. Which one – if any – will they go for?

It’s time to decide.

 

Who SHOULD win Timebelle or Michèle. I’d also be interested to see Ginta on the ESC stage (she’d stand out, that’s for sure). For mass appeal and the best shot at success though, Timebelle is the smart option. For the sake of sending something cool and unique to Ukraine, that’s where Michèle fits in. The ball’s in your court, Switzerland. Hit it in whichever direction you want!

Who WILL win Timebelle. What can I say other than I think their timebelle has come? I think Michèle may be too offbeat FTW. My underdog pick is Freschta.

 

In your mind, who should and will go to Kyiv on behalf of Switzerland? Will Rykka’s squatting make an unwanted comeback when they get there (it’s no Macarena, but it may have caught on)? The comment box is waiting for your opinions, and so am I! I’m not curious – I’m just plain nosy.

 

I’m exhausted after all that rambling, so I’d better go have a power-nap before Melodifestivalen starts (at the perfectly civilised hour of 3am my time…but I willingly set my alarm earlier than anyone ever should at this time of year). Whether you’ll be joining me watching that magnificent beast get underway, or you’re tuning into Hungarian, Lithuanian or Ukrainian shows instead, have fun. I’ll see you when Frantic February’s first weekend is over and we have even more stuff to ramble about!

 

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SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Bring it on, Belarus!

Say Fri-yayayay! Not only is it now the weekend (cause for celebration in itself), but it’s also the true start of the Eurovision 2017 national final season. What’s happened before tonight was the warm-up, and now that we’re all stretched and dying to get going…well, things are getting going. So that’s good.

In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fully functioning, able-to-string-a-decent-sentence-together human person at the moment. My working week was pretty exhausting, and my extra-curricular plate is more overloaded than the Buranovskiye Babushki’s pie tray. Still, I couldn’t bear to miss out on making some rash judgments and ridiculous predictions re: tonight’s NFs, which I’ll regret later.

Speaking of tonight’s bits and pieces (and tomorrow’s), what’s on?

  • Friday Belarus’ Eurofest (feat. Napoli, NAVI + Nuteki); Georgia’s unnamed NF
  • Saturday Hungary’s A Dal (Heat 2 feat. Gigi Radics); Lithuania’s Eurovizijos (Heat 3 feat. Vilija)

There’s something for everyone in there, even if you’re saving your girlish screams for the Scandinavian selections (like me). Let’s talk about the shows that are putting the ‘final’ into ‘national final’ by actually producing entries for Kyiv.

 

 

A very mediocre Georgian marathon (or ‘Why This Post’s Title Was Belarus-Centric’)

I’ll get straight to the point here – I’m NOT reviewing or predicting this year’s Georgian NF.

That’s partly because I’m pressed for time, but also because I was so uninspired by the stuff in it that I can’t be bothered. The impression I got from hearing all 5000 (approximately) tracks, one after the other, is that waking up at an ungodly hour to watch them be performed would be like tuning into a parallel-universe version of the ESC 2007 semi final, in which every single competing song is Time To Party by The Jet Set.

I.e. a terrible plan not worth sacrificing sleep for.

But hey – first impressions never last. I’ll give a second chance to whatever becomes the winner.

Also, I apologise for flicking my bitch switch up to max in the paragraph above. I’m just being honest, though.

 

 

Nudity + wolves = so 2016…but what’s next for Belarus?

Where do you go after the Ivan Incident? Anywhere that erases Giant CGI Babygate from our memories is fine by me.

There are 13 (ooh, lucky/ooh, unlucky – pick a side) songs battling it out tonight to represent Belarus in the not-very-far-away land of Ukraine. Among them are a few that could certainly improve on the DNQ of Help You Fly, given some polishing time. How convenient, then, that it’s January, and Eurovision’s not until May! No excuses, Belarus.

 

The line-up

After another year of excruciatingly amateur (oops, must’ve hit that bitch switch again) auditions – seemingly held in a studio with all the acoustic calibre of a shoebox – here are the finalists.

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  1. Children of the World by July
  2. Be Stronger by Alexandra Tkach
  3. Follow The Play by Vladislav Kurasov
  4. Historyja Majho Žyccia by NAVI
  5. On The Red Line by Isaac Nightingale
  6. Wild Wind by Kattie
  7. Take My Heart by Nuteki
  8. Let’s Come Together by NAPOLI
  9. Voices In My Head by Nikita Hodas
  10. We Should Be Together by Angelica Pushnova
  11. We’ll Be Together by Anastasiya Sheverenko
  12. Heartbeat by Lermont x Julic
  13. #mylove by PROvokatsiya

There are a few returning artists in the mix – including NAPOLI, who peddled My Universe at both Eurofest and Poland’s Krajowe Eliminacje last year. Will any of them finally get the chance to move to the next stage (literally)? I’ll tell you what I think in a minute. But first…

 

My top 13

Because compiling rankings is as natural as breathing to us Eurofans. 

  1. On The Red Line – It’s on the red line but off-the-wall, and that’s what I like about it. This doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before, and there’s not a cringely, clichéd lyric to be heard. I’m YAASSSing all over the place about that.
  2. Historyja Majho Žyccia – NAVI, once again, are bringing all kinds of adorable to the Belarusian NF. This is the only non-English track on offer and that instantly makes it stand out. It’s super catchy, cute, and full of happy in a folksy way.
  3. Take My Heart – I think this is my favourite musical attempt-to-make-it-to-Eurovision of Nuteki’s. It’s not going to win any awards for originality, but it’s a good example of energetic mid-tempo pop rock in the We Are The Heroes
  4. Be Stronger – There’s something about the sweet lyrics and vulnerability in Lexy’s voice and look (I don’t know how old she is, but she looks like she’s still in school) that has me reaching for the tissues when I hear this. It makes my heart hurt in a good way.
  5. Follow The Play – This sort of pop ballad is right up my street, but it’s a bit passé at Eurovision (and everywhere else) in 2017. Dima Bilan and his ’06 mullet would probably agree.
  6. Children of the World – This is a blatant rip-off of Nick Jonas’ Chains, only with much cheesier lyrics crammed in. And yet I don’t mind it. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?!?
  7. Voices In My Head – I’m torn on this one. I quite like the alternative vibe (this song is the hipster vegan café of the music world) and Nikita’s vocals, but the spoken word sections don’t speak to me.
  8. Heartbeat – I can’t tell whether this is a good song sung badly, or a bad song made worse by crappy singing. In summary, ???
  9. We Should Be Together – Dated, predictable dance-pop does not rub me up the right way…anymore (I think I can use the phrase “I’m too old for this s%#t’ and really mean it at this point in my life).
  10. Wild Wind – Donald Trump is about to be inaugurated as US President. Ergo, there’s so much depressing stuff happening in the world already that we don’t have room in it for such a melodramatic, morbid ballad about unfortunate weather conditions to go to Eurovision.
  11. We’ll Be Together – I’m pretty sure that this is a decent song…but Anastasiya’s voice is so bizarre (has she swallowed a sponge at some point?) that it’s a distraction.
  12. Let’s Come Together – Of the 75 songs competing in Belarus with the word ‘together’ in the title, this is by far the worst. It’s obvious that NAPOLI is desperate to get to Eurovision, but three solid minutes of clichés isn’t going to do the trick.
  13. #mylove – Nope. To the hashtag, the melody, the style and the words, I say ALL OF THE NOPES.

 

Who SHOULD win? This is basically the same as asking me ‘Who do you personally want to win?’, and my answer would be (based on the ranking I typed out two seconds ago) Isaac Nightingale, NAVI or Nuteki. To my tastes, these three (plus one or two others at a push) are diamonds in the rough that is this national final. Isaac has the least chance of actually winning, as I’ll admit that On The Red Line isn’t exciting enough to demand attention (which would translate into votes). I’d love NAVI to win since they’re the sole reps of their native tongue in the entire show, and to see that win out via such a sweet song would make me smile. Nuteki’s entry this time around doesn’t set the world on fire like it’s a piano belonging to The Makemakes, but it’s competent and catchy and karaoke-friendly – multiple boxes of mine are ticked by it.

Who WILL win? *drumroll* Let Jaz’s horrendously inaccurate NF predictions begin! I’m not a betting woman (mainly because I am so bad at foreseeing the future that I’d be constantly broke if I was) but NAVI, Nuteki or Napoli (yeah, I know what I said before) are the names I’d drop some dollars on.

Ask me to single one out FTW, and I’d say…

Last but not least, I’m going to throw in a random underdog, because why the heck not. It’s Lermont x Julic. Don’t ask me why; just know that, like Justin Timberlake, I got this feelin’…inside my bones.

  

SUDDEN ENDING ALERT!!! I’m going to say my goodbyes now, before I fall asleep on my keyboard and risk waking up tomorrow with ‘QWERTY’ imprinted on my forehead. Hit me up with your opinions on and predictions for this weekend’s NFs in the comments, if you have any. Don’t be shy!

If you’re settling down with some snacks and a potentially pixilated stream from somewhere in Europe, enjoy. I’ll see you on the other side when we have two more songs to welcome (with open arms or middle fingers, we’ll see) into the Eurovision family.

 

Love, love, peace, peace out!

 

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IT’S JESC 2016 TIME! The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 revealed + my predictions for the show

Welcome to the day all of us Junior Eurovision fans have been waiting for since the conclusion of the adult contest in Stockholm: show day!

 

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In a matter of hours, the 2016 edition kicks off in Valletta, and I couldn’t be more excited if I tried (and I have). I hope you are too – I don’t want to be the only one on the planet who’s pretty close to peeing their pants.

Let’s leap straight in to the stuff I promised to cover in the title of this post, because a) I don’t want the show to start before I’ve even made my predictions, and b) I want to distract you from the fact that I just admitted to being close to wetting myself (I must have temporarily mistaken the slogan of JESC 2016 for #embarrass). So here are some rankings and predictions for your reading pleasure (fingers crossed).

 

Calculated and complete: The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 for 2016 (plus my personal pre-show ranking, just because)

Just as the countdown to the contest itself was on this week, so too was the countdown to the unveiling of the EBJJJ’s post-review ranking (well, it was in my mind, anyway). After four rounds of reviews and mini-rankings, it’s time for me to pull the Cloth of Intrigue away with a magician-like flourish, and let you see who ended up where. Voila!

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So there you have it. Russia, after scoring more sets of douze than any other country, takes first place, followed by Armenia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Poor Cyprus (and I am a little outraged by this) were relegated to rock bottom, which I hope will not be the case after the actual show is over. I’ll probably do a quick analysis this week of how the actual results compared to the EBJJJ version, so keep an eye out for that – the differences are sure to be drastic!

In case you were curious, here’s my personal ranking as of right this second. I got my way a few times, and I didn’t even have to rig anything. Woohoo!

  1. Russia
  2. Armenia
  3. The Netherlands
  4. Ukraine
  5. Macedonia  
  6. Poland 
  7. Bulgaria
  8. Cyprus
  9. Albania
  10. Israel
  11. Italy
  12. Georgia
  13. Belarus
  14. Australia
  15. Serbia
  16. Ireland
  17. Malta

How does yours compare, and what do you think of the EBJJJ’s collective Top 17? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Bets on (but not literally): Predicting the winner, loser and all of the results in-between

I say ‘not literally’ because I’ve never been confident enough in my predicting powers to gamble any of my savings on them. Removing money from the equation takes some of the pressure off, but I’ve got to say – I thought the absence of televoting would make trying to foresee the results easier, but it really makes it harder!

The outcome of JESC has never been decided by 100% jury voting before, so it’s impossible to say with certainty (unless you’re psychic) what will happen in a few hours’ time, and what happened as a result of yesterday’s jury final. Who knows how each jury will react/reacted to each performance? Not me, that’s for sure. But when it comes to the following questions, I have made the effort to come up with some answers…

 

FTW? Bulgaria. Yes, ladies and gents – for the first time in my history of being a Eurovision fan, I am calling this one outright (instead of super-gluing the seat of my pants to the fence by predicting at least three countries to win). I’ve only very recently had the feeling, especially after hearing reports on the rehearsals, that Bulgaria may be about to win their first ever Eurovision event – just six months after Poli Genova achieved their best result yet. My reasoning behind this is pretty simple: I think Valsheben Den is one of the few competing songs (if not the only one) that offers something to all three juries. I can also clearly see the credits rolling over a reprise from Lidia, which is often a good indication of a song’s potential to win (as stupid as it sounds). She’s adorable and engaging, her vocals and her costume (from the little I’ve heard and seen) are on point/fleek, and the song is catchy, memorable and uplifting. WHOLE PACKAGE ALERT! They may not be boasting my absolute favourite entry of JESC 2016, but I would be perfectly happy to witness Bulgaria win with what they do have.

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Could Lidia outdo Krisia, Hasan & Ibrahim’s second place today? Quite possibly!

Dark horse FTW? Poland. It’s time for a beautifully-sung ballad to win again, basically, and if it isn’t the up-tempo, inspirational, almost tribal ballad from Bulgaria, I have a sneaking suspicion that it could be Poland’s more traditional number. There was something magical about Nie Zapomnij from the start, and it has continued to grow on me and give me THE FEELING ever since. The pathway to victory is more mountainous for Poland than for Bulgaria, so that’s why I see Olivia as the dark horse to Lidia’s bright, white prancing pony. But watch out for this one, guys. If it doesn’t go all the way, it’ll at least outrank both of Poland’s previous results – and outscore both of their existing point totals.

The rest of the top five? Armenia, Russia, Macedonia. Armenia are better at being the bridesmaid than they are at being the bride, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Last year, I was convinced Mika would come second despite having everything required for a win, and I was right (for once). I have a similar feeling about Anahit & Mary – though really, anywhere in the 2nd-5th range of positions could come easily to them. Russia would be my ideal pick to emerge on top as Water of Life is my absolute favourite entry…but nobody’s talking about them as a potential winner anymore, and something is crooked enough about the chemistry and all-around appeal of the group and song on the JESC stage to convince me that it’s just not to be *wails like Rona Nishliu at a funeral*. Predicting Macedonia to make the top five may be a bit ambitious on my part (as I’m not sure the older jurors will go for it) but it deserves to be towards the top. If Martija doesn’t even grace the top ten with her presence, I will personally take it upon myself to beat up Jedward with an oversized can of hairspray (even if it wasn’t their fault).

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Russia has sent an incredible song to JESC this year, but it’s looking less likely than ever that they’ll be rewarded for it.

The lower left-hand side of the scoreboard? Georgia, Malta, Belarus, Italy. We’re talking 6th-9th places here, so just out of the top-ten-in-adult-Eurovision equivalent that is the top five. Georgia, if I’m honest and all of a sudden, could actually win (as it turns out, Mzeo is kind of epic and has been getting the round of applause to end all rounds of applause during rehearsals), but if they don’t, I think they’ll drop down to about 6th. Malta (my least favourite) will no doubt get a boost as the home country, but I just don’t think Parachute has the substance to squeeze into the top five á la Federica’s Diamonds in 2014. Belarus would be in with a better chance if televoting was happening (hello, hoverboards!) but as the situation stands, they may have to settle for less. I think Italy’s class will win over the adult juries to an extent, and perhaps the expert juries too, unless Cara Mamma is completely overshadowed by other ballads.

The upper right-hand side of the scoreboard? Israel, The Netherlands, Cyprus, Australia, Serbia. Each of these countries has something that’s likely to stop them from steamrolling over a lot of their rivals. For Israel, it’s going up against arguably stronger and more memorable ballads. For The Netherlands, it’s racking up the points when their song is geared more towards the kids’ jury than any of the others. For Cyprus, it’s bypassing the potential jury opinion that Dance Floor lacks the technicality of a worthy winner. For Australia, it’s the same issue Israel will have, as well as a general lack of ‘wow’ factor. And for Serbia, it’s an underwhelming presentation that has been closely compared to the superior one from Belarus. Together, they’ve got about 99 problems, and making it over to the left side of the scoreboard is definitely one.

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Australia hasn’t upped their game between 2015 and 2016 – so we shouldn’t expect a better result! Great outfit, though…

Right at rock bottom? Albania, Ukraine, Ireland. It causes me physical pain to predict such low places for two of these countries, but I really do think they’ll all have trouble capturing substantial votes from any of the juries – Ukraine and Ireland in particular. I’d love to be proven wrong and see Albania and Ukraine perform better, but I’m preparing myself for the worst.

 

These predictions – plus some highly scientific calculations which involved guessing which entries would appeal to which jury (kids, adults and/or expert) – come together to create a leaderboard that looks like this: 

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Armenia
  3. Poland 
  4. Russia
  5. Macedonia
  6. Georgia
  7. Malta
  8. Belarus
  9. Italy
  10. Israel
  11. The Netherlands
  12. Cyprus
  13. Australia
  14. Serbia
  15. Albania
  16. Ukraine
  17. Ireland

I reserve the right to delete this and pretend I never produced it if the real results are vastly different.

Do you agree or disagree with my guesses? Is there an obvious, in-the-bag winner in your opinion, or are we in for a shock that has all of our jaws on the floor?

  

Finally – the five things I’m most looking forward to seeing when JESC meets Malta again!

Because ten’s too many, and one would just be lazy.

  • Finding out how Malta has approached JESC in 2016 versus how they approached it in 2014. Will it be similar, yet somehow very different – and in many ways, so much better – as with the ESC in Malmö VS in Stockholm?
  • Finally checking out the performances from my favourites – and some of my non-favourites – after not watching any of the rehearsals in order to maintain an element of surprise. Russia, Poland, Macedonia, Cyprus and Australia (obviously) are among the countries I can’t wait to see on the stage for the first time.
  • Werking it when Poli Genova does her duty as an interval act. There’s no doubt she’ll bring back fond memories of the awkward white girl dancing I did during her opening party set at the Euroclub in May. SUCH GOOD TIMES.
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From last year’s host to this year’s ESC, Poli’s come full circle and rejoins the JESC party for 2016. Say yay!

  • Seeing some familiar faces back on the JESC stage – albeit as spokespersons when the adult jury points are announced. The 2015 artists who have been chosen to make a comeback of sorts are Mika from Armenia, Misha Smirnov from Russia, Ruslan Aslanov from Belarus (my winner of last year) and Anna Trincher from Ukraine. Reigning JESC champ Destiny Chukunyere will also be there to announce the kids jury results (after joining Poli as an interval act) and it’s always great to see her smiling face.
  • Watching the results unfold in a year with no precedent for what will take place. Honestly, I’ve based a big chunk of this post on wild guesses because I have no clue what the ending to the JESC 2016 story will be. It could be a happy one, if Russia, Bulgaria, Armenia or Poland take the win (to name a few); or an unhappy one, if Malta manage to do the double with a song that would be the Running Scared to Not My Soul’s Euphoria, if you know what I mean. I’m practically dying of curiosity at this point, so bring it on, Valletta!

What are you most looking forward to this afternoon/tonight/tomorrow morning/whenever? As long as it’s Junior Eurovision-related, I want to know. Although if it’s about your dog, I’m happy to have a conversation about that too.

 

Wherever you are and however you’re tuning in, I hope you have a very merry JESC, and get the results of your dreams (unless they’re different to the results of my dreams, in which case SCREW YOU I WANT IT TO GO MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY!!!).

 

Enjoy the show.

 

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STOCKHOLM SEMI TIME…AGAIN! My picks for tonight’s Top 10

Hej, fellow humans! I use that term loosely because today, I’m feeling rather crappy and not very human-like at all. But it’s time to push past that – Eurovision is in full swing, after all.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of me jumping for joy.

I have an embarrassing confession to make that you’ll already be aware of if you read my last, brief post in which I attempted to predict the outcome of the first semi. Even having the inside track and viewing all of this year’s rehearsals (SO MANY REHEARSALS *eyes glaze over a little*), I managed to spectacularly bomb and only guess six of Tuesday’s qualifiers correctly. Whether I got the order right at all remains to be seen. But believe me, I am ashamed of myself.

My goal, however, is to redeem myself tonight by getting…well, more than a measly six, on the money. It’s going to be another bloodbath of a qualifier, and gazing into the crystal ball is a struggle. But here are the ten I’ve come up with. Share your personal predictions below so we can compare notes!

 

Semi Final 2: From 1st to 10th According to Jaz (A.K.A. Here Are Some Predictions You Shouldn’t Put Money On Under Any Circumstances) 

  1. Ukraine
  2. Australia
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Latvia
  5. Israel
  6. Serbia
  7. FYR Macedonia
  8. Belgium
  9. Poland
  10. Lithuania
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Jamala will be just as happy if she DOES win her semi.

 

I’m off now to prepare myself for some serious Ukrainian and Australian flag-waving, and to determine how vigorously I can chair-dance to Bulgaria without bothering the people sitting around me. If you get the chance before tonight’s show kicks off, please let me know who you think is through to Saturday night and will therefore complete the final lineup.
Until next time (when I’ll try to nail down my winner prediction for you)…

 
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STOCKHOLM SEMI TIME: Who’s In and Who’s Out (According To Moi)?

Hej hej, everybody! You might remember me as someone who used to blog here on a regular basis. You might not know that I attempted to post an apologetic article yesterday explaining my absence from EBJ, only to accidentally delete it and not be able to have a second shot as I ran out of time. Basically, I blame Eurovision.

I’m on the ground in Stockholm as we speak, and staring down the barrel of attending my first live show tonight in the giant golf ball known as the Globe Arena. I’ve been busy since last weekend doing duties in the press centre with the folks at ESC Insight (in case you, like Serhat, didn’t know, they unwisely agreed to take me on this Eurovision) so if you want to see what we’ve been up to, we’d appreciate the heck out of it. Otherwise, you can follow my personal movements on Twitter and Instagram (trust me, my feeds have never been as interesting as they are now and probably never will be again).

When I’m back home in Australia – or as soon as I’m on Plane 1 of 2 heading back to the Southern Hemisphere – I’ll be filling you in on all the gossip and excitement of my maiden ESC voyage. I’ll also be posting the very belated last part of the EBJ Reviews, AND our collective Top 43 (including Romania). Until then, there’s just enough time for me to post my terribly-predicted list of qualifiers for tonight’s semi. Woohoo! Feel free to post yours in the comments, so we can compare notes later. I’ll even let you laugh at me re: all my mistakes – being at Eurovision and watching literally every rehearsal has apparently not made me a more accurate guesser. Damn it.

Without further ado…

 

SEMI FINAL 1: My Qualifiers, In Non-Random Order 

  1. Russia
  2. Armenia
  3. Iceland
  4. Malta
  5. Hungary
  6. Greece
  7. Estonia
  8. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Azerbaijan

What do you think? Is Russia the runaway semi winner we all saw coming, or is there an underdog waiting in the wings and ready to strike? How many people have I completely offended by leaving out *Insert Country Here*? If you’ve got something to say and it won’t make me burst into tears, type away in that box below.

 

Until next time (which hopefully won’t be in the too-distant future)…

 
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Första, sista och allting in-between: Attempting to predict the running order of Stockholm’s semi finals

FINALLY – because when it’s taken this long, capital letters are mandatory – we have our 43 entries for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. SAY YAY!!!

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For host broadcaster SVT, there’s only one logical thing to do next: announce the running order of the semi finals, which they’re planning on doing…sometime. We don’t have a set date as far as I know, but it’s safe to assume they’ll be unveiling the line-up any day now given that the Head of Delegation meeting has been and gone.

Also gone are the days of the exciting, random, pulling-countries-out-of-glass-bowls draws that we all used to tune in to if our eurovision.tv streams were fully functioning which mine NEVER WAS (yes, I’m still bitter about it). As much as that loss is worth mourning, it does mean we now get to play ‘What kind of weird-ass order will this year’s production team arrange the semis in?’. The aim of a producer-led program is to ensure a dynamic and entertaining viewing experience, so it can be fun to put yourself in a producer’s shoes and imagine which songs you’d put where if you had the responsibility. As I’m all about the fun (as long as it’s legal and concludes at a respectable hour) that’s what I’m going to do right here, right now.

Think of these hypothetical orders as both predictions and wish-lists – but don’t take them too seriously, as I am hopeless at foreseeing the future. It’s Wednesday today, and I’m having trouble figuring out what weekday tomorrow will be.

 

SEMI FINAL 1

For the first half, I predict…

  1. Finland
  2. The Netherlands
  3. San Marino
  4. Armenia
  5. Moldova
  6. Hungary
  7. Greece
  8. Russia
  9. Croatia
  • There are very few songs that scream ‘START WITH ME!’ in this first half – Croatia, Finland and Moldova are about it. But ultimately, I’ve gone for Finland’s Sing It Away. It doesn’t do much for me personally, but it would serve as a perfect party-starter for SF1, and set a festive mood for the rest of the evening.
  • Who else to stick in the dreaded slot 2 besides San Marino’s/Turkey’s Serhat? I’d want I Didn’t Know over and done with early on in the show so it didn’t drive the audience away in droves long before the pointy end.
  • UPDATE: As I Didn’t Know has now gone disco, it no longer works coming directly after Sing It Away (it doesn’t work in ANY way, shape or form, but I’ll save my venom for when I review it). As a result, I’ve swapped San Marino with The Netherlands.
  • I’d go for variation in atmosphere and tempo for the rest of the half, starting with the edgy, non-formulaic LoveWave, continuing with Falling Stars to reenergise the (very large, arena-like) room, then opting for Pioneer which is far more substantial and gritty than Lidia’s song.
  • Russia will likely be placed late in the half. I wouldn’t put it past them to pull a Sweden, doing something on stage that requires clean-up or deconstruction (meaning Sergey “needs” to perform just before the break) but in terms of that tempo/style variation, I haven’t placed them dead last. Croatia’s Lighthouse would make for a strong finish that would still leave fans wanting more.

 

And in the second half… 

  1. Austria
  2. Estonia
  3. Malta
  4. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  5. Czech Republic
  6. Montenegro
  7. Azerbaijan
  8. Cyprus
  9. Iceland
  • Austria’s Loin D’ici would ease us back into the program with a bit of pizzazz (albeit pizzazz from a Eurodance club circa 1992), providing a nice contrast with the purposefully retro and much heavier Play in slot 11.
  • Bosnia’s Balkan ballad – the only song of its kind competing in 2016 – would add variety pretty much anywhere in the line-up, but I’d put it between two more mainstream pop/ballad tracks, making each one distinguishable in its own way.
  • The rock-tinged tracks from Montenegro and Cyprus probably shouldn’t take to the stage consecutively. Dividing them with Azerbaijan’s Miracle makes for a dynamic home stretch, and avoids any same-same vibes.
  • Last but not least, I’d call on Greta Salóme. Hear Them Calling could just as easily start off the second half, but I think it’s better used as a striking, fast-paced (but not overly so) finisher.

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SEMI FINAL 2

 For the first half, I predict…

  1. Lithuania
  2. Belarus
  3. Switzerland
  4. Israel
  5. Serbia
  6. Poland
  7. Ireland
  8. Australia
  9. Latvia
  10. Macedonia
  • If I was on the payroll at SVT and in charge of positioning SF2, I’d be a) super smug, and b) torn between making Ireland’s Sunlight or Lithuania’s I’ve Been Waiting For This Night the opening song. As a layman, I’ve opted for the latter, because it would set the tone of the evening so darn perfectly. Consider it the far superior version of Moldova kicking off last year’s first semi (as trash-tastic as that was).
  • There are many mid-tempo songs in this first half, so some of them will have to run in a row. I think there are enough differences between my selected run of slot 2-6 songs to give us some (though not a truckload) of variety.
  • Ireland could pep us up nicely towards the end of the half. I think Australia will get a later position, away from the similarly dramatic Serbia.
  • Latvia’s Heartbeat – which will be the most contemporary song of the night no matter when Justs takes to the stage – could be used to break up the slower string of songs, but again, I predict a later draw.
  • Purely for the ‘OMG, it’s Kaliopi’ factor, I’d finish with Macedonia.

 

And in the second half… 

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Norway
  3. Georgia
  4. Slovenia
  5. Ukraine
  6. Albania
  7. Belgium
  8. Romania
  9. Denmark
  • After a short break (hopefully filled with Lynda Woodruff sketches) why not move from one returnee to another? Poli Genova’s If Love Was A Crime would kick off the second half with a bang not so big that it overshadowed song no. 2, but big enough to leave an impression.
  • Speaking of song no. 2…well, Norway is offering two songs rolled into one, making Eurovision 2016 a variety show all on their own. ILWAC followed by Icebreaker would pit one powerful blonde bombshell against another, but there’s enough contrast between the inspirational feel of the former and the intensity of the latter to break them up…like an icebreaker.
  • The Slovenia/Ukraine order is pretty strategic on my part. Transitioning from a vacuous, Taylor Swift B-side circa 2008 to a weighty, striking and very contemporary track could only work in Jamala’s favour.
  • I’d put Albania next, in order to a) separate it from Georgia/Romania and their rock-inclined nature, and b) make it the shade before the light of Belgium.
  • Denmark would bring up the rear if I was in charge, not because Soldiers of Love is worth waiting the entire night for, but because I can just see it being the final song of the evening. If not Lighthouse X, it’s likely to be Poli or Jamala in slot 19.

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All of this is 110% out of the brain of Jaz (a very confusing place at times), of course. So what’s lurking in YOUR brain as far as Stockholm’s semi orders are concerned? Would your program of events (a.k.a. entries) look anything like mine, or would you head in a totally different direction? Let me know below!

I’ll be back in the very near future with my first Top 43 for 2016, just before I welcome the EBJ Jury back for another year of song reviews. They’re going to be bigger, better and bitchier than ever (the reviews, that is; not the jurors). Therefore, it’s time to get excited!*

 

*That’s not a request. If you don’t, Il Volo will break into your house and beat you about the head with their colour-coded microphones.

 

Until next time,

 

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JUNIOR EUROVISION HAS ARRIVED! The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 + predictions for Sofia’s spectacular show

It’s D-day, guys. #discover day. Saturday, for those less JESC-inclined. For the rest of us, though, the next best thing to Eurovision is about to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, and we (I can safely assume) are very, very excited!

There are mere hours until a certain European – or perhaps Australian – takes over from Vincenzo Cantiello as Junior Eurovision champion incumbent, and I am more than ready to find out who that child is. But before that, there’s some important business to take care of: the business of predicting. Attempting to guess what’s going to happen at any given Eurovision event is tradition, and I don’t like to break from tradition. You can see where this is going, right?

3, 2, 1, predictions!

Oh…hang on. There’s one teensy thing I forgot I had to do first. But you’ll like it, I promise.*

 

*I can’t REALLY promise that.

 

Revealed: The EBJ Junior Jury’s complete ranking, from #1 to #17

Whether you’re an EBJ regular or a random, you’ll be aware that over the past few weeks, myself and seven other JESC devotees have been both extremely catty and extra complimentary in reviewing Sofia’s seventeen competing entries. If you want to revisit all the highs and all the lows, follow Gaitana’s lead and be my guest.

  • Part 1, feat. Armenia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Serbia
  • Part 2, feat. Italy, Malta, Russia and Slovenia
  • Part 3, feat. Australia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine
  • Part 4, feat. Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino

I totted up the top four/five at the end of each round of reviews, but being a fan of a soap opera-style cliffhanger, flatly refused to reveal the full ranking until I was gosh darned ready – i.e. when the suspense had pulled up at the intersection of Unbearable Street and Just Tell Us Already Avenue (in the suburb known as Jaz’s Overactive Imagination). That moment, my friends, has arrived. Without further ado, feast your eyes on this collaborative ranking of the Class of (JESC) 2015.

ebjjj17I’m very happy to report that my hands-down favourite from the start, Belarus, topped the list in the eyes (and ears) of the EBJ Jury. I should think so, too…I didn’t bribe them for nothing! Also in our top five are the highly regarded songs from Slovenia, Armenia and Australia, with Albania making a bit of a curveball appearance. I don’t expect Mishela, as lovely as she and her song are, to dambaje her way to such heights tonight. See my scoreboard prediction below if you want to find out where I think she will finish.

Our gracious first-time hosts Bulgaria didn’t fare so well with the EBJJJ, limping into last place. If that’s their fate in the actual contest, at least Gabriela and Ivan will be spared the humiliation of mimicking The Makemakes’ goose egg – thanks to the ‘Douze points for everybody, dance’ Junior rule, none of the kids will be jetting out of Sofia empty-handed. Bless ‘em.

In case you were wondering (which is highly unlikely, I know), here’s a rundown of the top scores handed out by each of my jury members. Not all jurors reviewed all of the entries – in fact, I was the only one who did – so keep that in mind when you’re about to mutter ‘Well, there’s no accounting for taste.’

  •  Jaimie (Australia) 10 points to Armenia
  • James (UK) 10 points to Slovenia
  • Jaz (Australia) 12 points to Belarus and Slovenia
  • Liam (Australia) 7 points to Ireland
  • Lukman (Australia) 10 points to Belarus
  • Mrs. Jaz (Australia) 8 points to Italy
  • Penny (USA) 12 points to Belarus
  • Rory (Ireland) 12 points to Albania

With three sets of douze points being awarded to Belarus, have we chosen a champ you can bet on? Or have we jinxed Ruslan right out of trophy territory? All will be revealed in a few hours’ time.

To officially conclude my 2015 JESC reviews, I’d like to thank all of my jury members for taking part – some at quite short notice. You guys are awesome, and if we were in the same room right now, I’d give you the high five of the century.

Now, onto what you probably started reading this post for: some predictions!

 

Looking into my (cloudy) crystal ball and getting all psychic on Sofia

Let’s start the proceedings with some standard guesses re: who’s going to hit, who’s going to miss, and who’s going to have it all. I’m the CEO of Never Ever Watch The Rehearsals Enterprises, so the following predictions are based on what I’ve heard about the run-throughs, plus my personal opinions of how the songs will fare.

 

The slickest staging Armenia/Belarus. Armenia never fail to entertain, and from what I’ve heard, they’ve really got their shiz together this year, bringing some of the fun from Mika’s music video to the Arena Armeec stage. Belarus will be replicating Ruslan’s NF performance, having adapted it a little to bring it up to JESC standards. It’s sure to be simple, but super-duper effective.

The most jaw-dropping vocals Australia/Belarus/Ireland/Malta/Serbia/Slovenia…I could go on. Once again, the 10-15-year-olds of Europe (and Australia…) are singing like they’ve been doing it for decades, and given that flashy vocals were a big part of Italy’s winning formula in 2014, the ability to make us all go ‘Wow!’ could be crucial. My top picks for tonight are Australia and Ireland. If there aren’t any voice-breaking incidents in the Belarusian camp, listen out there too.

The most cutting-edge costumes Armenia/Georgia/San Marino. I’ll admit, I have caught glimpses of these guys in costume, so this isn’t so much of a prediction as an educated opinion. It’s all about colour for Armenia and Georgia, whereas San Marino is going for shattered-glass chic. Believe it or not, it works.

The best backdrop Belarus. Trees are always a crowd pleaser. Hey, prettiness! Hey, symbolism!

The coolest choreography Armenia. Because if they don’t, it just wouldn’t be Junior Eurovision. And I would not know what the heck to do with myself.

The total package Armenia, Australia, Belarus. This trio should have sight and sound fully covered, and that’s what makes them frontrunners for the win.

A positive surprise San Marino. Both in terms of performance and result, I’m hoping Kamilla will surpass expectations.

A negative surprise Ukraine. Usually you can trust Ukraine to nail the visuals and mechanics of their stage performance, but I hear they’ve gone all Amanecer and thrown everything at Anna, including a giant lotus flower and a CGI shark. What the?

Biggest cheer from the crowd Armenia/Bulgaria/Malta. Bulgaria gets a free pass on this one as the host country – even if they’d sent two aggressive feral cats to hiss through a duet (which, let’s face it, is actually a semi-decent way of describing the dynamic between Gabriela and Ivan) they’d be received with rapturous applause. Armenia’s Love and Malta’s Not My Soul will get the audience going in a big way as two of the most energetic songs on the program.

 

Now, to bring out the big guns…guns that fire pixilated love hearts á la Armenia’s. Decoded, that means it’s time to predict the final results.

One of the bajillion things I love about JESC is its unpredictability. For some reason, this contest is always harder to predict than its adult counterpart, which can be frustrating as well as wonderful. 2015 is just as unclear-cut as the previous few editions have been – even in terms of who’s going to finish last, which is usually the easiest call to make – but I’m not going to let that stop me from making a fool of myself! Here’s how I think the leaderboard of Junior Eurovision 2015 is going to look just before the winner’s reprise and the roll of the credits.

 

The bottom five

Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Italy, Montenegro

If I HAD to call it: Montenegro 13th, Italy 14th, Albania 15th, Bulgaria 16th, FYR Macedonia 17th

 

The mid-rangers (a.k.a. the meat in the scoreboard sandwich!)

Georgia, Ireland, The Netherlands, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Ukraine

If I HAD to call it: Georgia 6th, Slovenia 7th, Ireland 8th, Ukraine 9th, San Marino 10th, The Netherlands 11th, Russia 12th

 

The top five

Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Malta, Serbia

If I HAD to call it: Belarus/Malta 1st/2nd (I CANNOT call it, okay?!?), Armenia 3rd, Australia 4th, Serbia 5th

 

Call it controversial (even if it isn’t, just to make me feel badass) but I’ve had a gut instinct that Belarus, my favourite entry of the year, is going to fare a lot better than some believe. I don’t want to tempt fate and ruin Ruslan’s chances, but I ignored the similar instinct I had about Italy last year, and we all know what went down in Malta. The thing is, I’m not anywhere near certain that Belarus will win – perhaps because many parallels can be drawn between their package of singer and song, and Italy’s last year, and I’m wondering if voters and juries will go for the same thing two years in a row. But, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Ruslan’s rehearsals, and provided he kept his voice in check (generally and hormonally-speaking) for the jury final, he would have raked in the points – and as some countries, including Australia, are using 100% jury vote *mutters angrily about not being able to vote*, televoters have less power here. Basically, I think things look very good for Belarus, and if they don’t win, it’ll be at least a return to the top five for them.

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Ruslan had better hope the dry ice doesn’t go all Nina Sublatti on him tonight… (Photo: Wiwibloggs)

If I’m not about to witness my favourite song win a Eurovision event for the third consecutive time, however, then it’s got to be a win for Malta (which I’m steeling myself for as it’s not an outcome I’d be thrilled about…NO NO NO!) or Australia. Armenia could take it out too, but I’m convinced Love is the kind of song that will come second or third rather than go all the way. With adult jury influence heavily in play, “junior” Junior entries have struggled to beat their more mature rivals, and I suspect that trend will continue here. But top five is almost a certainty for Armenia again.

There’s a big space between the top five and bottom five that has to be filled, but it’s ridiculously hard to predict how. Georgia has a good chance of almost being back on form this year, because they know how to put on a show, and Gabede is a song that stands out (not necessarily for all the right reasons, but it’s definitely memorable). I’m crossing my fingers for Ireland to finish in the upper mid-table region, or surprise me and do even better. The Netherlands and Russia won’t perform terribly – which is a relief for me because I really like Million Lights and Mechta – but they’re just not memorable enough to battle for anything other than to squeeze into the top ten. This is, of course, in my opinion, but I am incredibly knowledgeable AND have an impeccable prediction record. Not.

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Mikhail’s fairly well suited to JESC, and his backing dancer’s all white. (Photo: Wiwibloggs)

I’m pretty sure that FYR Macedonia, who once upon a time sent absolute gems to JESC, is going to be to Sofia 2015 what Croatia was to Malta 2014 – i.e. the loser (sorry, kids, but when there’s an über-accurate word for a situation, you’ve just got to use it). I don’t mind Pletenka, but even I can hear that it’s repetitive and monotonous, and maybe a little too amateur in comparison to the other sixteen songs. But I’m happy to be wrong if it means FYR Macedonia defies expectation, does okay and then decides to return to the comp next year.

 

Finally…the five things I’m most looking forward to seeing tonight

I don’t think this segment requires an intro.

  • Seeing how Bulgaria handle their hosting duties. Malta did an amazing job in 2014, and I’m sure Bulgaria can measure up. With Poli Genova at the helm, the night’s got to be rocking.
  • The performances from my personal top three. I’ll be on the edge of my seat when Belarus, Slovenia and Ukraine have their minutes in the spotlight, hoping for the best (or, in Ukraine’s case, hoping the shark thing was a joke).
  • Australia making their JESC debut. There was a time I would have laughed at you for fifteen straight minutes if you’d even implied that we Aussies would have a delegation at mini-Eurovij, all the whole wishing it would happen. Now it IS happening, and I am psyched.
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‘My girls here we goooooooo…to the supermarket, to buy some more alfoil for this dress.’ (Photo: ESC Daily)

  • Speaking of Australia…I’m awaiting our point delivery with eagerness too. Hopefully our jury has made the kind of choices that compensate for a lack of public vote. Although, we’re relying on an ex-Wiggle here…
  • And, to finish off, Vincenzo’s reprise of the stunning Tu Il Primo Grande Amore. I’m keen to see if his sass levels are still higher than a kite a year on from his victory. I’ve no doubt his voice remains spectacular.

 

I think I’ve said all I need to say before the show kicks off – or at least, all I have time to say, as I’ve got to go and have a pre-contest nap so I don’t pass out halfway through the recap. I’ll be doing some live tweeting tonight if you want to meet me on Twitter (I’m @EurovisionByJaz, in case you didn’t know).

Until then, if you catch sight of the comments section and feel like using it, give me one or all of your predictions for JESC 2015! I hope, no matter how right or wrong you turn out to be, you enjoy the show. I know I will, even if it does mean hauling my butt out of bed at two o’clock in the morning.

Merry JESC!

 

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One down, (semi final) two to go: Reviewing Vienna’s first semi and predicting the second

DISCLAIMER: I was short on time and delirious with drowsiness when I put this post together, so please forgive me if it’s zero percent funny and ninety percent nonsensical (banana). You can decide what’s wrong with the remaining ten percent…

 

Let me paint you a very glamorous picture: it’s three o’ clock on Wednesday morning, and I’m sitting on the couch in my mismatching pajamas. My eighteen-year-old, senile, sneezing cat is snuffling on one side of me, my constantly farting dog is on the other side of me, and there’s a large-and-in-charge spider on the ceiling directly above my head.

This was my first live Eurovision-viewing experience, and though I was left wondering why ‘tonight we can be glorious’ (in the words of Cascada) was in no way applicable here, I enjoyed myself immensely. More so once the spider decided to depart, which just happened to be midway through Finland’s performance. I guess he wasn’t a punk fan.

There were a few things I didn’t dig about the show: for starters, the fact that Conchita and her teeny-tiny waist were relegated to the green room rather than having the honour of hosting the whole show. We all knew that was the situation, but as it turns out, our three main hostesses Mirjam, Alice and Arabella were a bit underwhelming. Some hosts – Jaana and Mikko, Petra Mede etc – make their script sound unscripted, but these three did not.

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Nice try, ladies, but I’m not so sure three heads are better than one.

 

Secondly, not enough time was reserved to create any sort of tension when the results were announced. Talk about a rush job! I expect the magic envelopes (which aren’t really envelopes nowadays, but I refuse to call them anything else) will be opened at a more leisurely pace tonight; but whether Austria’s version of Charlie’s Angels can impress me this time is a question mark.

I did think the postcards were über cute, though. People doing things? Much yes. I wish I could have a parcel delivered to my door that transports me to Austria when I open it. Did ORF round up forty Harry Potter-style Portkeys or what?

Let’s talk about what happened in-between those postcards for a minute. I’m going to race through the running order of Tuesday’s show and give you my verdict on all sixteen performances, before I crack on with my second semi predictions. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Moldova In a word, the opening performance of this year’s contest was trashtastic. It was a good move for ORF to choose Eduard, his permanently-attached trucker cap and his posse of police/strippers to kick things off. And I must commend the guy for not singing like a goat with pneumonia like he did during the Moldovan final.
  • Armenia More kudos here for making what was a shambles in studio work remarkably well on stage. Great outfits, nice violet visuals, and solid vocals from all six Genealog…ists. Tamar and Mary-Jean (STRAYA REPRESENT WOOOOOOOO!!!) in particular sounded top-notch.
  • Belgium My highlight of the night! Loïc was in his weird and wonderful element, and everything about his three minutes – the costumes, the choreography, the monochrome colour scheme…even his mid-song nanna nap – was cool and contemporary.
  • The Netherlands Mediocre, aside from a) the super zoomed-in shot of Trijntje’s face which was frightening, and b) her caped jumpsuit, which looked like the kind of thing a superhero would go skydiving in.
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From boobs aplenty to bin bag, Trijntje just couldn’t win.

  • Finland This goes against everything I’ve said about Finland to date, but *gulp* I actually enjoyed PKN’s performance. It certainly woke me up.
  • Greece Well-sung and expertly wind-machined (without compromising Maria Elena’s precarious boob positionage) One Last Breath nevertheless remained a borefest.
  • Estonia Stig shall henceforth be known as Estonia’s Houdini after that disappearing act. This was good, and the narrative was well-acted, but I don’t think we’re heading to Tallinn in 2016.
  • FYR Macedonia Oh dear. This is the third year in a row Macedonia has stuffed up their staging with a hot mess. If they’d had Daniel in a spotlight and played the music video in the background, it would have been so much better. That is coming from someone who has never staged anything for anyone, ever, though.
  • Serbia Bojana is a force to be reckoned with, and she worked the stage like the diva Eurovision deserves. Despite my dislike of the lyrics (trés lame) I have to admit that this looked and sounded very good. But I’m not sure about the result of the costume reveal. I f you’re going to reveal something, it should be something worth waiting for.
  • Hungary Boggie didn’t put me to sleep, so that’s a plus. Hungary’s was another performance that I liked without expecting to, so I’m not that surprised it qualified. The streak of success continues.
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Boggie was beautiful in burgundy – no running, running, running to repurchase a replacement dress for her.

 

  • Belarus The staging was flat and Time deflated to match. What a shame for Uzari and Maimuna. I know that giant hourglass would have been hard to stuff in one of their suitcases, but it was sadly missed.
  • Russia Polina is the Sanna Nielsen of 2015 – a blonde angel warbling among the rest of us mortals. But her performance didn’t scream ‘WINNER!!!’ at me. I can imagine the credits rolling over it, so basically I’m super confused right now.
  • Denmark Anti Social Media did what exactly what they did at MGP, which was be smiley and peppy while performing a perfectly serviceable rendition of a perfectly serviceable song. I thought that would have been enough to nudge them into the final , but nope. Denmark misses out for the first time since 2007.
  • Albania Elhaida’s vocal, as she is THE Voice of Italy, was excellent…until the last thirty seconds of I’m Alive, which was when she got way too shouty for my delicate eardrums. Thumbs up for the styling though. It’s too bad she couldn’t have loaned the black number to Trijntje.
  • Romania Gets me every time! You can bet your prized flag collection that I voted for Voltaj. I’m glad the waiter garb was swapped for something that didn’t say ‘Would you like some cracked pepper, sir?’.
  • Georgia Nina is so fierce, she should be sent to live in a tiger enclosure at the zoo. She may be the same age as Lena was when she won Eurovision, their names may rhyme and they might both have a penchant for black, but this was badass on a level that well, never needed to achieve, but couldn’t if it tried anyway. Go Georgia.

After all of that (plus about a hundred mentions of Australia that I’m pretty sure Europe did NOT appreciate…sorry guys) the voting window opened, and all of us Down Under got our vote on for the first and third-last time (assuming, as I do, that we’re not going to win on Saturday). I went to town texting in for my five favourites, three of whom – Belgium, Romania and Estonia – made the grade. Joining them was Armenia, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Albania and Georgia.

There weren’t any shock moments among those rapid results for me personally. Denmark not qualifying wasn’t something I’d predicted, but after their polished-but-not-standout performance, I could comprehend it. Having enjoyed the Hungarian performance, I was actually happy to see them continue the success of their ESC comeback. Hoping but not expecting Moldova and FYR Macedonia to advance, I was satisfied with my top two songs of the semi – Rhythm Inside and De La Capăt – earning places in the final.

Also satisfying was achieving a new record re: qualifying predictions. Nine out of ten, peeps! Like I said, I did think Denmark would make it and that it would be Albania or Serbia through, not both. But I never said I was all-knowing. I’M ONLY HUMAN!

If you’re only human too (or not, I don’t mind) let me know how successful you were in predicting the outcome of the first semi, and what you thought of the show as a whole. Got some highlights and/or lowlights? List ‘em in the comments and I’ll love you until someone else says something more interesting.

Now, let’s get into the thick of semi final two with some more guessing games. Starting with Lithuania and ending with Poland, this installment is not far away at all, so get your viewing snacks and scorecards ready!

Remember, I don’t tune in to the rehearsals, so everything to come is based on the odd photo, reports from the press centre and my opinions.

 

sf2pred

The running order

Lithuania, Ireland, San Marino, Montenegro, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Czech Republic, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Cyprus, Slovenia, Poland

 

Semi final two is the bigger, and, as usual, better semi. It should be a lot more dynamic than Tuesday’s show in terms of musical light and shade, and give us more to bust a move to. By ‘more’, I’m mainly referring to Golden Boy. Do you like my dancing?

 

The results

 My top 10 prediction

 A.k.a. where I undo my sad all my good work of correctly predicting 90% of Tuesday’s qualifiers.

  1. Sweden
  2. Slovenia
  3. Norway
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Lithuania
  6. Latvia
  7. Cyprus
  8. Montenegro
  9. Israel
  10. Iceland

There are so many uncertain qualifiers in this semi that none of my previous Top 10s felt right. This one doesn’t either, but I had to settle sometime before the show actually started (you’d be skeptical if I got 10/10 after the show).

Sweden topping the semi tonight is a safe bet, literally, and I’m confident that Slovenia and Norway won’t be far behind Måns and his roly-poly cartoon man – if not in points, then in position. I know not everyone thinks Norway is sure to make the final, but I cannot see such a classy, spellbinding ballad escaping notice of the televoters or the juries.

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‘Just sit back and relax, my friend…we got this.’

 

In the same way that Greece is Greece, Azerbaijan is Azerbaijan. Even if they sent Elnur on stage dressed as the poo emoji, they’d qualify. This time, that’s fine by me – I cannot wait to see and hear Elnur on the ESC stage again, albeit minus the feathers and glitter.

Latvia’s Love Injected, I’m hoping, is striking enough to find favour with televoters and jurors alike. They truly deserve a spot in the final, and if they get it, it’ll be their first weekend appearance since 2008.

I’m predicting Cyprus without being sold on the idea, but everyone else seems to think the island is a shoo-in, and I’m easily swayed.

I think Montenegro can make it in much the same way Sergej did last year – without a massive bunch of neighbours to give them a boost. They won’t be in the top 5, most likely, but I don’t see Knez being borderline either. I believe in the power of Željko Joksimović!

Israel and Iceland are borderline. We NEED Israel in the final for busting of thy moves, but the juries will drag it down – just hopefully not out of contention. Iceland could get lost being sandwiched between Azerbaijan and Sweden and be knocked out by Malta, Poland or Switzerland.

 

My fantasy top 10

  1. Sweden
  2. Norway
  3. Latvia
  4. Montenegro
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Israel
  7. Slovenia
  8. Ireland
  9. Malta
  10. Iceland

At least there’s one there that’s likely to come true.

 

My bottom seven prediction 11. Malta, 12. Ireland, 13. Switzerland, 14. Poland, 15. Czech Republic, 16. Portugal, 17. San Marino

San Marino tailing is the only bit of this I’d put money on (so don’t blame any of your SF2 losses on me) but I can see Malta just missing out.

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Ann Sophie’s got black smoke, Amber’s got white…but I reckon only one will be performing in the final.

If Poland’s performance is as effective out of rehearsals as it has been in them (so I hear) they too could come close, but there are so many female ballads in this semi it’s going to be hard for the more understated ones to stand out. Performing last, Monika has an advantage in this respect, but not much about In The Name of Love sparks the desire to vote.

 

If there’s a shock result…it could have something to do with San Marino. I don’t think there’s any danger of the bookies’ favourites missing the mark. If the Czechs make their very first final, that would be something to gasp about too.

 

 

Who’s most likely to…

…get the biggest round of applause? Israel/Sweden.

I’ll put it this way: Israel is the Serbia of semi two, and Sweden is the Estonia.

 

…sing best live? Aminata/Elnur Huseynov.

The pocket rocket and Elnur minus Samir are the vocalists I’m most keen to hear in action. Can Elnur still make canines everywhere head for the hills with his high notes? Hashtag curious.

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‘I suggest you put your glassware away, folks. Things are about to reach a very very high pitch.’

 

…sing worst live? Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini.

Just because their competitors have oodles of talent and experience. I had to pick someone!

 

…make the best use of the background? Ireland/Montenegro/Sweden.

I hear Ireland has set the tone in a refreshingly non-Celtic kind of way, and that should complement Molly’s piano-playing quite nicely. Montenegro might attempt to hypnotise us all with sweeping shots of breathtaking scenery, and Sweden…well, Sweden’s got an army of adorable fat men in berets. You can’t beat that.

 

…have the most boring stage show? Portugal.

Sure, the wind machine will get a good workout, but Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa is the kind of plodding number that needs interesting staging to sell it, and a gust of air won’t make much of a contribution to that.

 

…have the best costume/? Norway.

Debrah Scarlett is my new style icon, and if I can’t have her flowing red waves surgically attached to my scalp, I’ll at least be mimicking her structured white ensemble and ornamental headpiece. White is perhaps not the most suitable colour for A Monster Like Me, but she and Mørland look so good in it, I’m willing to ignore that.

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The black tie of the music video is out, and white is in. Are Kjetil and Debrah hoping to take after Johnny Logan and Dima Bilan?

 

…have the worst costume/s? Iceland.

Anything that looks like you could buy a stick of it at a fairground should probably not be worn – even at Eurovision. But María’s fairy floss-esque confection might be sweet in HD, who knows.

 

 

Aaaaand I’m done. I’ll be back on Saturday with a review of tonight’s proceedings and at least five answers to the all-important question: who’s going to win Eurovision 2015? For now though, I’m off to bed. I want to get at least a few hours of beauty sleep in before the show starts so I don’t get up looking like Mr. Lordi. Again.

Wherever you are and whoever you look like when you fall out of bed at an unfortunate hour, I hope you enjoy Part 2 of this year’s contest. May your favourites not do better than my favourites!

 

Who do you think has the edge in the second semi final? Who’s in and who’s out? Will you be convinced I’ve turned into an owl if I say ‘who’ one more time? Let me know below!

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3, 2, 1…60! My first semi-final predictions (plus an updated pre-ESC Top 40)

There’s only one way to sum up how I’m feeling right now.

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As I write these words, the first semi final of Eurovision 2015 is mere hours away, with the jury semi already over. It genuinely feels like I was saying the same thing about Eurovision 2014 about a month ago. I don’t know about time being like thunder, but it sure moves freaking fast!

Pushing that frightening thought aside, I can tell you that I am more excited to set my alarm for 2.30am Wednesday than I ever thought I could be. I won’t tell you a whole lot more before I get into my predictions for the first semi, because I’ve still got flags to plaster all over my living room and show snacks to send someone else out to buy for me (because I’m too hyped-up to be let out in public).

A two-part disclaimer re: this post’s predictions, which cover the results, possible jaw-droppers and general other Eurovisiony occurrences:

  • You may or may not be aware that my foresight is dreadful. Unless something is blatantly obvious, I will rarely see it coming (just check out my 2014 prediction post if you want proof. So please make allowances for this when you’re checking out my thoughts.
  • You also may or may not be aware that I NEVER watch the Eurovision rehearsals – nor have I listened to any of this year’s entries for about seven weeks. I have my reasons for this, but the former does make it very hard to guess what’s going to happen. My predictions are based on what I’ve heard about the run-throughs, and the few photos I’ve seen so far.

I think that’s all I need to gab on about for now, so let’s dive in to my amateurish assumptions regarding the outcome of semi final numero uno!

PS – I’ve also taken the liberty of letting you know who I’m voting for, as I support my favourites for the very first time. If you want to throw stuff at me after reading that bit, you’ll need to have quite the arm. I know my next-door neighbours, and you’re not any of them.

 

sf1pred

The running order

Moldova, Armenia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Estonia, FYR Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Belarus,  Russia, Denmark, Albania, Romania and Georgia.

I’m fairly confident that I’ve predicted this correctly. Then again, this is ME we’re talking about *checks the appropriate Wikipedia page for the 127th time just to be sure*.


The results

My top 10 prediction

Because making a fool of myself by listing qualifiers randomly isn’t enough.

  1. Russia
  2. Estonia
  3. Georgia
  4. Belgium
  5. Armenia
  6. Greece
  7. Romania
  8. Denmark
  9. Hungary
  10. Albania

I don’t want to accept this – purely because the song’s not up there with my favourites – but Russia has pulled off one perfect rehearsal after another, if the reactions of the press are to be believed. In this semi, Polina has the potential to be a formidable force.

russia

Polina doesn’t want coloured powder thrown at her tonight – she wants your votes. And it’s highly likely she’ll get them.

I’m not convinced Estonia still has the steam to come out on top here, but they should do well anyway.

I desperately want Belgium to get through, and I think they will. But as what they’ve chosen to put on stage has divided observers, I don’t think Loïc will come too close to winning the semi.

I had Armenia down as a DNQ when their live performance was a question mark, but it seems they’ve managed not to transfer the chaos from the studio version of Don’t Deny Face The Shadow to the live version. The power of all those personalities and voices, plus a decent stage show, should see them qualify safely.

Greece is, well, Greece. One Last Breath may be a bore, but I hear they’ve staged it well, and Maria Elena is great at what she does – impersonating Céline Dion. Not so great, however, that she’ll end up mimicking Switzerland’s 1988 victory or anything.

Since they’ve been so successful in the years post-comeback, it’s hard to imagine a final without Hungary in it. Boggie is a borderline qualifier as far as I’m concerned, but I’m putting her down as a finalist because a) to reference The Common Linnets, she’ll be the calm after Serbia’s storm, and that in itself could be arresting; and b) the juries will lap her song up like its water and they’ve just been wandering through the desert sans liquid for a week. The Aussie jury in particular is on the hunt for a ‘social cause’ (bleurgh) and Wars For Nothing is nothing (like the wars) if not that.

I feel like Albania will slip in to the top 10, but just. Serbia has the potential to snatch that 10th spot though.

 

My fantasy top 10

A.k.a. the result we’ll never get in a million years, unless I happen to become all-powerful within the next few hours.

  1. Belgium
  2. Romania
  3. FYR Macedonia
  4. Moldova
  5. Estonia
  6. Georgia
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Belarus
  9. Denmark
  10. Russia

Go on, have a good old laugh about this. I know it’s wishful thinking of the most ridiculous kind.

 

My bottom six prediction 11. Serbia, 12. The Netherlands, 13. Finland, 14. Belarus, 15. Moldova, 16. FYR Macedonia

Bojana’s voice and presence for Serbia – plus the last thirty seconds of Beauty Never Lies – could carry her through, but Elhaida Dani also has a big voice and a more consistent, cohesive song. Hence I’m bumping Serbia into ‘close, but no cigar (or Saturday night)’ territory.

Trijntje has swapped her boob-baring gown for something more demure and less MY EYES, MY EYES!! But I reckon she’ll struggle nonetheless.

nether

‘What did you say about my stylist running with scissors?’

Finland could sail through, but I’m not convinced people’s heads will stop reeling in time to decide whether they liked Aina Mun Pitää or not. I’m intrigued to see how it does jury-wise.

I was going to tip the sleazefest that is Moldova to advance, having had a gut feeling that Eduard might scrape through for a while now. After all, last year’s rather sleazy (and cheesy) Belarusian Cheesecake had no trouble getting out of its semi. And the fact that Moldova are not incorporating hair removal into their choreography this year bodes well. But now I’m ignoring my gut (probably a mistake) and falling in line with the crowd who think the Moldovan package is trash dressed up in trampy police outfits. Please note that if they do qualify, I will say ‘I told you so!’ even though I technically didn’t.

 

If there’s a shock result…because there’s always something I don’t see coming, no matter how hard I try to see it beforehand. In the case of semi one, the shocker could be a country with a 100% qualification record losing that record – I’m referring to Greece or Romania, as I’ll choke on my kvass if Russia trips up in this department. I’m not saying this IS going to happen – as you’ve seen from my predictions above, I don’t think that’s the case at all.

But but but, if a gasp-worthy outcome is on the cards, there is a chance it could.  Neither Greece nor Romania have sent songs that scream ‘qualifier!’, for different reasons – Greece because it’s a prehistoric ballad, Romania because it’s understated (it’s hard to believe Voltaj are representing the same country that gave us angle grinding, round pianos and Cezar). But, by the media’s reckoning, both One Last Breath and De La Capăt have been well-staged and performed during rehearsals, and even if they hadn’t been, one or neither advancing would equal much drama and debate, methinks.

How about this: what if Finland win the first semi? If PKN made it to the final, that in itself wouldn’t make my eyes bug out of my head. But if I later found out they’d topped it, well…then my eyeballs would know no bounds.

My third and final jaw-on-the-floor moment would involve FYR Macedonia qualifying. I am Beyoncé-level crazy in love with Autumn Leaves, but it was always a song on the fence in terms of qualification. Now Daniel’s rehearsed and things have (apparently) been particularly beige and not particularly cohesive, I’m fearing the worst. Therefore, if he does manage to nab the 9th or 10th spot post-voting, I will be flabbergasted. Flabbergasted in a hysterically happy kind of way (i.e. I will alternate between collapsing on the floor clutching my chest, and moonwalking up and down my hallway).

 

Who’s most likely to…

…get the biggest round of applause? Serbia and Russia.

Serbia has one of the only up-tempo songs in this semi at their disposal – at least for the final stretch of their three minutes – and Bojana will have a big, triumphant finish that I’m sure the fans in the Stadthalle will go crazy over. I would, if I was there (can you hear the sound of my heart breaking?) even though Beauty Never Lies is literally my least favourite entry right now, as you’ll see when I unveil my updated Top 40 below. Curse that painful English version that’s cheesier than a wheel of Switzerland’s finest!

ser

Craploads of silver material? Check. Flags? Check. White snuggies with built-in neck braces? Check.

And, to answer the question I know you have in mind – no, I don’t think Russia’s going to get booed this year. Polina is so angelic, and by all accounts, her performance is so on point, that I will be surprised if anyone in the audience lets loose with a big, fat, B-O-O.

 

…sing best live? Genealogy, Loïc Nottet, Maria Elena Kyriakou, Polina Gagarina, Elhaida Dani…I could go on.

There is a wealth of wonderful singers in the Viennese lineup, but in terms of the live voices I’m most enthusiastic to hear in action, I’ll be waiting for Genealogy, Loïc and Polina.

 

…sing worst live? Moldova.

Let’s not pretend otherwise. I don’t know how far Eduard has come since his woeful-yet-winning NF performance, but he won’t stand up vocally next to…well, more or less ALL of the singers taking to the stage after him. Fortunately, I Want Your Love isn’t an LLB (lame lady ballad, in case you’re new and don’t know that’s a thing now) that relies on a stunning vocal to elevate it. Nothing is going to retrieve this from the trash chute, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

…make the best use of the background? Romania.

I predict this because, singing mostly in Romanian, Voltaj need to use the visuals as much as possible to convey their message to those of us who don’t understand Romanian and/or who don’t already know the story of the song. I believe they’re making a good attempt at that.

 

…have the most boring stage show? The Netherlands, Hungary and Denmark.

I know not every country can have men in hamster wheels rolling around among giant wooden horses trapped in glass boxes, while rainbow sparks rain down and the wind machine is switched up to MAX, and then the wind blows some of the rainbow sparks into the audience and someone’s flag catches fire, and then the stadium starts burning and everyone has to evacuate, and the stadium ends up as a pile of black rubble littered with smoking cardboard cut-outs of Nina Sublatti.

Ahem. My point is, it’s unnecessary for every performance to have bells and whistles attached. It’s unlikely that Trijntje, Boggie or Anti Social Media are going to do anything but stand still and sing and pretend to play their instruments. There might be a bit of walking around involved, but that’ll be it. ASSUMPTION ALERT!!!

 

…have the best costume/? Georgia.

I’m cheating here, as I have seen Nina’s getup – a badass version of Maja Keuc’s leather-and-metallic look from Düsseldorf. Or perhaps the new-and-improved edition of Molly Smitten-Downes’ backup singers’ costumes. Either way, it’s perfection.

georgia

Nina, ready to take flight and land on a scarecrow straight after her performance.

 …have the worst costume/s? The Netherlands.

Yes, Trijntje (how did I end up having to type that name so many times during this post?) has changed her dress, thank the Lordi. But we can’t just forget about the original ensemble that looked like it had been personally designed for her by Freddy Krueger. And what’s with the veil? This is Eurovision, not Derby Day at the races. Or a funeral, for that matter.

 

So, where are my votes going?

Having been given the chance to vote in Eurovision for the first (and “only”) time, I’m not going to waste it. I’ll reveal to you now in list form who I’m supporting, so you can blame me if X country goes through against your wishes, and so I can refer back to it at 4.30 tomorrow morning when I’m too delirious to remember who I wanted to vote for.

This list aligns with the aforementioned fantasy top 10, but I’m saving my votes for the first five countries on it: Belgium, Romania, FYR Macedonia, Moldova and (possibly) Estonia. I say ‘(possibly) Estonia’ because I’m not as attached to Goodbye To Yesterday as I am to the other four songs. Plus, I don’t think Stig & Elina need my help as much as the others do.

 

Last but not least, it’s ranking time! 

It’s tradition to revise one’s Top 40 just before the contest kicks off…isn’t it? I’m gonna say it is. And so, I present to you my updated pre-ESC ranking, with numeric proof of how much it’s changed over the last few months.

tfu

Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

And with that out-of-place Taylor Swift reference, I pronounce this post over, ladies and gents! I can’t wait to join y’all for the first semi final, watching live and – if you’re a fellow Australian, or if you’ve just never bothered to vote before – voting for the first time.

I probably won’t be taking to social media during the show, because I want to focus 110% on what’s happening on my TV screen (the voting period excepted, of course) so this is peace out from me until we have our first ten finalists. Besides the seven already booked in to Saturday night. You know what I mean. I’ll be back before semi two to review the performances and results of semi one, and make some more unreliable predictions. Yay?

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoy the show…unless you’re in Vienna and are attending the contest, in which case I hope you have a horrible time (though I’ll retract that if you promise to send me a postcard and/or a lock of Måns Zelmerlöw’s chest hair). Let me know below what your plans are for the evening/afternoon/morning (bloody time zones!) plus your predictions for this first Eurovision 2015 installment. Who’s going through and who’s going home? Place your bets now.

 

See you on the other side of the semi!

 

nsig