Blog Archives

LAST FIVE TOP FIVE | Portugal (A Luta É Alegria to Amar Pelos Dois)

Well, it’s official: we’re heading to Lisbon, Portugal’s perennially beautiful capital city, for Eurovision 2018!

When I say ‘we’, I don’t necessarily mean ‘you and me’ – I have no idea whether you’re going or not (let me know below!), and my plans for the upcoming contest are up in the air somewhere running around with Nathan Trent. But as Eurovision fans/freaks, we collectively discovered via Tuesday’s RTP press conference that next year’s contest will be held in the MEO Arena, in Lisbon, on May 8th, 10th and 12th.

A massive shocker? Not so much. But even non-surprising news is good news, for those of us who despair during the off-season and need something Eurovisual to be developing as often as possible to feel complete. Of course, there has to be some filler between the end of one contest and the start of another…and that’s where I come in. I’m full of it (filler, that is) this post-contest, pre-NF period, which brings me to today’s post: the start of a brand new series here on EBJ that I hope *crosses fingers, touches wood and prays to the Lordi simultaneously* you guys will enjoy.

For however long I feel like it, every now and then, I’ll be choosing a country currently competing in the ESC and taking a look back at their last five entries (whether they’ve skipped years or not). After reviewing and scoring each song, I’ll finish off by rating them from worst to best on an ultra-professional scale ranging from ‘Don’t play that song again!’ to ‘That sounds good to me!’ (thanks for entering the comp with really appropriate song titles, Nicki French and Josh Dubovie…though the irony of using the name of a dreadful song to highlight great ones has not escaped me). You’ll be able to vote for your favourite of each country’s last five entries too, and share your own ranking. Got it? Awesome.

I couldn’t think of a better or more relevant way to start this Last Five Top Five series than by checking out the Eurovision evolution of reigning champs/hosts-to-be Portugal. They’ve definitely had more misses than hits of late – but which songs are which as far as I’m concerned? Keep reading to find out…and have your personal top five prepared!

 

 

The Stats

  • Last five participations 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017
  • Last five results 18th (DNQ), 13th (DNQ), 11th (DNQ), 14th (DNQ), 1st
  • Qualification record 1/5
  • Winners 1
  • Top ten places 1
  • Last places 0

 

The Entries

2011 | A Luta É Alegria by Homens Da Luta

I have a fair bit of respect for this song. My reasons for that are threefold: it’s multidimensional, blending traditional Portuguese sounds with folk elements for a unique finished product; it was performed totally in Portuguese, which is always welcome at Eurovision (that goes for any language other than English in this day and age, though I do draw the line at Klingon); and it’s a message song with enough quirk to make it dairy-free (i.e. it’s not cheesy). Having said all of the above, it wasn’t a highlight of the 2011 contest for me, and while it’s certainly not a big blot on Portugal’s participant history, I don’t think it’s a highlight for them either.

My score 6 points

 

2012 | Vida Minha by Filipa Sousa

Portugal went…well, full Portugal back in Baku, with Filipa’s fado number that came pretty close to qualifying (it finished 13th in its semi final). I’ll admit that I have to be in the right mood to really enjoy this genre, but even so, I find this entry utterly average. It’s not quite as dramatic as it needs to be, and the chorus is lacking in the essential catchy quality that you need to succeed. Once again I applaud Portugal for having sent something so true to their musical roots as a country – but like Filipa’s eventual result, Vida Minha is okay, but not great. In MY opinion, obviously.

My score 5 points 

 

2014 | Quero Ser Tua by Suzy

Ethnopop? Now here’s a genre I tend to fall in love with at the drop of a hat (or the beat of a tribal drum) – especially when its flag is flown by someone as effervescent and enthusiastic as Suzy. Quero Ser Tua isn’t ideal for the lactose intolerant among us (meaning there is a hint of cheesiness present) and by 2014 standards, it was a little dated. But I love the fact that it managed to successfully fuse the oh-so-Portuguese sounds that we’re accustomed to with an energetic tempo and dance vibe so irresistible, it probably had Jon Ola Sand tapping his foot under the Official and Very Important EBU Executive Supervisor’s Table.

My score 8 points 

 

2015 | Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa by Leonor Andrade

This is definitely the least stereotypically-Portuguese entry we’ve seen at Eurovision in the last five years that Portugal has competed. That’s not why I like it, but I do like it a lot. Sure, it’s not the most exciting song on the planet given that everything about it is middling – the tempo, the level of dynamism, the staging…everything, bar Leonor’s dominatrix costume which she may or may not have worn to a bunch of questionable parties since. But the melody is really nice, the chorus is sweet, and the Portuguese adds interest to what would be a bog-standard radio track in English.

My score 10 points 

 

2017 | Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral

Finally, we come to the only truly successful song Portugal have sent to the ESC in recent times – and their most successful song ever. I understand that a lot of fans may not love this, but at the same time I feel compelled to scream ‘HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS?’. It’s as spellbinding as the entire Harry Potter series, and Salvador is…well, his name doesn’t help make the perfect portmanteau that is ‘Salvadorable’ for nothing. No, Amar Pelos Dois wasn’t my favourite entry of the year, but when something makes you weep in the short space of three minutes (and not because it’s so bad that you can’t contain your sorrow) it’s seriously special.

My score 10 points

 

 

Now I’ve revealed my chronological verdicts on Portugal’s last five ESC entries, I’ll let you in on the not-so-secret secret (since I’ve already allocated my scores) of how they rate on my official Last Five Top Five scale – from ‘Don’t play that song again!’ to ‘That sounds good to me!’ (the super-scientific ends of the spectrum as explained in the intro to this post).

 

 

So it’s parabéns yet again to Salvador Sobral, whose winning song of 2017 stands head and shoulders above anything Portugal have sent to Eurovision in the past – and definitely since 2011. Would you agree with that, or do you prefer the tracks from Homens Da Luta, Filipa Sousa, Suzy or Leonor Andrade? Make your decision and see how it measures up to everyone else’s.

 

 

It’ll be interesting to see what Portugal pulls out of their hat in 2018 as their select their very first host entry. Here’s hoping they can follow Bulgaria’s lead and keep riding their (very) recent wave of victory-dance-worthy results. Who knows – maybe this time next year, Amar Pelos Dois will be second on my LFTF scale.

Speaking of which, share your worst-best Portuguese ranking for 2011-2017 in the comments, and we’ll see if we agree on anything. Just a warning for anyone who might rate the five songs in exactly the same way as I did: THIS WILL BE MY FACE.

 

 

 

 

Talking Eurovision 2017 From Top (Three) To Bottom (Three): James + Jaz’s Big British ESC Chat!

Hey there, Eurovision fam…if there’s anyone out there I can still consider family of the Eurovisual kind. Yes, it is true (Yohanna) – I’ve been blog-gone for a while. But my MIA status had a lot to do with Melodifestivalen, so you’ll forgive me, right?

Basically, in case you didn’t know, I made my second trip to Stockholm (after winging my way to the ESC last year) in March. I went mainly to hit up the Melfest final at Friends Arena, and it was FREAKING BEAUTIFUL.

Talk about a beautiful mess…the aftermath of an amazing night.

Okay, so my mum (who came with me and is pretty close to being brainwashed by yours truly into a bonafide Eurofan) and I didn’t have the best view of the stage. But I can now say from experience that crystal-clear stage views are hard to come by in a venue that makes Globen look like Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter. Still – even though we were sitting on the sort of angle that made Robin Bengtsson’s perfect facial features difficult to make out (or make out with, sadface) – it was one of the greatest evenings ever. I’ll definitely be rambling about it more in the future, when the kraziness of Kyiv is over, and sharing some more photos that feature a person who may or may not be Wiktoria because when they’re that blurry, who can know for sure. But for now, I’m just going to apologise for my recent blogging fail (I was in Europe for a month, and the pre-trip prep had me super busy beforehand) and move on to something else.

‘Something else’ = a little story I need to tell you. Soooo, after spending a week and a half in Stockholm feat. literal heaps of snow, I headed off to London for three weeks (missing the London Eurovision Party by ONE DAY, which is the dictionary definition of devastating). There, I managed to meet up with ESC Views co-founder and my formerly online-only friend James, who you might remember from past EBJ Jury review sessions (together we created a crapload of controversy over Finland 2015, and damn, we were proud of it). If not, here’s a refresher:

‘Hej! I’m James, a Creative Writing student at Edge Hill University. I like music, cocktails, writing and making people happy – and Eurovision, of course! I was incredibly excited to host my annual Eurovision party last year, and indoctrinate a load of my non-fan friends with the 2016 line-up. It went well – I even managed to get a couple of them to use the Gerbear sorter thing (which of course required them to have listened to, and formed opinions on all 43 songs…so how’s that for progress!?).’ 

Stolen without permission from James’ Instagram. #noshame

It was awesome meeting him in person, partly since we spent most of our time together discussing Eurovision. I knew this would happen, so I figured a chunk of our conversation/s could be turned into EBJ content. What I had in mind was a written interview, but it turns out that a) I recorded nearly TWO HOURS of ESC 2017–centric chat, and nobody wants to read a transcription of that; and b) I’m far too lazy to transcribe more than a half-hour of audio anyway.

So what I’m offering you now is a podcast-type thing that is nowhere near as professional or logical as a podcast should be. In other words, it’s over an hour of James and I reviewing our current — at the time of recording — bottom and top three songs of the 2017 bunch. If you like listening to people complain about and compliment Eurovision entries, and you’re curious to find out what two obsessed fans are digging and disliking, then click that play button right now!

Oh, but just before you do…a few FYIs. We recorded this in a busy London park pretty close to a main road, so please excuse the traffic and people noises in the background (I’m not techy enough to edit them out, apparently). Please also excuse all the awkward pauses when I’m speaking. I get stage fright as soon as anything is recording me, leading to constant brain blanks that make me sound like a moron. James, you don’t need to worry about — he’s a natural.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy our honest, uncensored opinions on the best and worst music this year’s show has to offer. Don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comments.

*crosses fingers for a fully-functioning embedded audio file*

 

NEXT TIME It’s already April, so the Eurovision 2017 review train really needs to leave the station. Next week I’ll kick things off (with the help of my Melfest-loving mother) by judging Azerbaijan, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Norway and Portugal. Drop by to find out what we think of Dihaj, Anja, Tamara, Joci, JOWST and Salvador. Oh, and their songs. Have your own opinions at the ready too…

 

 

 

 

 

The Songs of Eurovision 2017 So Far: First impressions, 2016 vs 2017, my top five + vote for your favourite!

Happy First of February, everybody! As scary as it is that a full four weeks of 2017 have already gone by – it’s practically a permission slip for us all to Get Frighten like Lolita ZeroFebruary is an exciting month on the Eurovision calendar, so maybe we should all “get excite” instead.

January just ended with the presentation of Kyiv’s logo and slogan (‘slogo’ to those of us who don’t have time for excess syllables):

eurovision_song_contest_2017_logo-1

It isn’t the most attractive logo (or the greatest slogan) in ESC history as far as I’m concerned (the colour scheme in particular is pretty drab). However, it has the potential to look slick in show-motion, as part of the postcards, and plastered all over posters/lanyards/t-shirts/toilet paper (an untapped item of merchandise that could, ahem, wipe the floor with the rest). So shall we give it a chance to shine – or not – before we throw it in the trash via salty Twitter sessions? Yes? Okay then.

In other end-of-January news, the allocation draw for the semi-finals took place yesterday, and has divided all of the non-automatic finalists into either the Tuesday or Thursday night shows. This doesn’t mean that much at the moment. Still, I’m happy to have Sweden in the first semi alongside Australia (despite the fact that they’re obviously tough competition) because we’re pretty friendly, and unless it’s third time unlucky and Australia sends something diabolically bad to Ukraine, we’re likely to get a little boost of points from last year’s hosts. If we don’t, the entire country will have a mob of angry Aussies (or perhaps just me) to answer to.

With the theme art unveiled and the allocation draw done and dusted, we can now move on to the millions (slight exaggeration) of national finals mapped out for this month – including the magnificent Melodifestivalen, which starts this Saturday. For now, though, there are five seen-and-heard songs in the race to be the next 1944…and that’s such a neat little number, I’ve got to take advantage of it. So here, have some opinions on the fabulous (and not-so-fabulous) five songs chosen to date for the 2017 contest. And stick around to the (possibly bitter) end to vote for your favourite before five becomes…more than five. #mathsskillz.

 

ffsf

 

Bonjour, Albania, Belarus, Finland, Georgia and the United Kingdom. I’m about to criticise you like crazy.

 

 

Botë by Lindita Halimi (Albania)

When discussing Albania at the moment, we’re fully aware that the song we’re talking about now is probably not the song we’ll be talking about in a month or two. That’s because Lindita and her crew are currently revamping it and preparing for its English-language unveiling (not because the Botë writers are going to pull a Diell on us and actually force her to find a different song to sing in Kyiv). In its at-this-second state, Botë is classic Albania – a big, brassy power ballad in possession of a mysterious beauty. Even if any of that changes when the final version is presented, Lindita will still sing the absolute crap out of it without breaking a sweat. If she doesn’t qualify to the ESC final, I feel like someone’s going to get punched (not by me, but by her. The girl is fierce).

My current score 8 points.

Better than Fairytale? As one of the few living and breathing fans of Fairytale, I’m not 100% certain, but I think Lindita trumps Eneda. She’d definitely beat her in the boxing ring.

 

 

Historyja Majho Žyccia by NAVI (Belarus)

Like Finland, Belarus chose wisely from their NF line-up when they could easily have made a dreadful decision (in my opinion…which as always, is the right one). NAVI’s brand of fun folk-pop is wrapped up in a neat, cheerfully-decorated package with Historyja Majho Žyccia. Even though it will stay in Belarusian (which makes me want to do a little ethnic/highly embarrassing dance of joy) we’ll all be able to sing along to the various heys and hos that up the cute factor throughout. I’m not head-over-heels in love with this song – it could be the genre, which isn’t my favourite, or just a missing bit of pizzazz – but I like it a lot, and I’m interested to see how it performs at Eurovision.

My current score 7 points.

Better than Help You Fly? This is like comparing 1944 with Wadde Hadde Dudde Da (don’t try to tell me that Stefan Raab masterpiece isn’t stuck in your head now). Basically, it’s a tough call, but I’m saying yes.

 

 

Blackbird by Norma John (Finland)

I was holding out a little hope that this track would win UMK, but until I saw the performances, I assumed Emma had it in the bag. Or that Finland would think ‘f%#k it’ and pick Günther & D’Sanz. Fortunately, they pleasantly surprised me by doing neither of those things. Blackbird has plenty of people pretending to puke whenever it’s mentioned, but for me, it has a bit of the magic of A Monster Like Me plus the raw emotion of Silent Storm. That amounts to something special, if not spectacular. Some pre-ESC crafting of the staging concept should elevate it to semi top ten status, but it’s early days and most of Norma John’s competition is a question mark. They might blend into the background, or make a statement with their subtlety. If you ask me, it’s Option B!

My current score 10 points.

Better than Sing It Away? As a party-starter/dancefloor-filler, nope. In every other department, yep.

 

 

Keep The Faith by Tako Gachechiladze (Georgia)

Tako nearly made it to Moscow in 2009 as part of the peeps that brought us We Don’t Wanna Put In. To be honest, I’d rather listen to that disco-flavoured, thinly-veiled dig at Russia’s main man than this melodramatic, been-done ballad. When you’re watching a song being sung, and you’re thinking about how sparkly the singer’s dress is and how voluminous her hair is and where you can buy a lipstick in that exact shade because it’s gorgeous…but not about the song itself as it kind of sends you to sleep, that’s bad news. And that, my friends, was me watching Tako do her thing at the Georgian final. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so I know Keep The Faith has its fans. I’m just not one of them at this point.

My current score 5 points.

Better than Midnight Gold? No way. Bring back the drug references and epileptic lighting sequences.

 

 

Never Give Up On You by Lucie Jones (United Kingdom)   

Was it my number one (like, the only treasure I’ll ever have) choice of the six You Decide songs? Not before the comp. But I’ve got to admit, this song has grown on me very rapidly after only a few listens and a look at Lucie’s pared-back performance from Friday night (in which she sang like a songbird, wore an amazing velvet dress and reminded me a little bit of Lena circa 2010 if Lena had taken a Valium before stepping onto the Oslo stage). It’s an almost-exceptional, well-worded minimalist ballad that Emmelie de Forest has co-created here – and may I remind the haters that every single song she’s written that has made it to the ESC has won the contest? True fact.

My current score 10 points.

Better than You’re Not Alone? Definitely. Joe + Jake were a much less hyperactive and more sensible-haired version of Jedward, which can only be a good thing – but Lucie is a step in a more successful direction.

 

 

For those of you who made it through all of the above, here’s my top five:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Finland
  3. Albania
  4. Belarus
  5. Georgia

How long will it be before somebody, if anybody (*sneezes in a very timely fashion with a ‘SWEDEN!’ instead of an ‘AACHOO!’*) steamrolls over the UK and parks in my personal top spot?

I have no idea.

Here’s an easier question to answer:

 

If you want to justify your poll pick or say something snarky about a song you don’t like (this is not a bitchiness-free zone, so go ahead), drop by the comments below. Also, feel free to send your personal top five my way so we can compare our rankings while secretly wondering why the heck each of us has THAT song in first/last place.

 

Until Saturday, when the clouds part and a heavenly glow covers Gothenburg because it’s Melfest Semi One Day (can’t you hear the angels warming up their vocal chords in anticipation?)…

 

 

2015sig

 

 

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!

 

maxresdefault-1

 

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!

ebjjj17

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.

lidia_ganeva1-1

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).

sofia-fisenko-russia-water-of-life-project-jesc-2016-junior-eurovision-3-600x400

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.

australia-second-rehearsal

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.
poli_genova_at_jesc_2015

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.

 

2015sig

 

 

An Alternate Stockholm Scoreboard: The EBJ Jury’s Top 43 for 2016 (and how it stacks up to the actual results!)

If you’re reading this, bonjour! If not, then there’s no bon or jour for you whatsoever.

Question: do you remember when I posted the final round of EBJ Jury reviews, approximately seventeen years after they were relevant, some amount of time ago?

Me neither. Regardless, I’m going to go ahead and wrap them up once and for all today. Yes, that’s right: at long, long, long last, I’m ready to unveil my jury’s full ranking, from numero uno all the way down to the unfortunate four-three (because, in case you weren’t aware, Romania remains a player in our game. I’m not saying Ovidiu is ranked 43rd, but without him, I’d obviously be posting a top 42. Förstår du?).

This ranking will be accompanied by the highest and lowest scores each country received from the EBJJ, plus a comment from ye olde reviews that justifies their position in the list. Also, since we have actual, official results now (and have had for like, a MONTH) I’m also going to finish off with a quick analysis of the jury’s ranking VS the one compiled by the televoters and jurors of Europe/Australia back in May.

PS – For the last time, I’d like to remind you that all the info on the 2016 EBJ Jury members is available here. Go bask in their awesomeness whether you need to or not!

Let’s get this party started.

 

 

headerebjj43

 

#1. France (10)

Highest score: 12 (Jaz, Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 8 (James, Nick)

‘I truly believe that if this doesn’t hit the heights of the top 10 in Stockholm, there will officially be something very wrong with the world…or some possible irregularities in the jury/televoting figures.’ (Jaz)

 

#2. Ukraine (9.78)

Highest score: 12 (James, Jaz, Rory, Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 6 (Nick)

‘Never has there been a more soulful song about the swallowing of souls! I can report that, on more than one occasion, in the course of listening to 1944, I have detected on my upper cheeks the inexplicable presence of salt water.’ (Ali)

 

#3. Italy (9)

Highest score: 12 (Ali, James, Jaz)

Lowest score: 5 (Martin, Nick)

This is gorgeous, and makes me want to get married again just so I can use it as my wedding song.’ (Mrs. Jaz)

 

#4. Bulgaria (8.67)*

Highest score: 12 (James, Rory)

Lowest score: 5 (Martin)

‘If Love Was a Crime definitely sounds like it comes from the Balkans, but it’s got a smartly-applied layer of Swedish gloss that doesn’t distract from the intended sound (hear that, Cyprus?).’ (Nick)

 

#5. Croatia (8.67)*

Highest score: 12 (Ali, Penny, Rory)

Lowest score: 4 (Fraser, Nick)

‘It’s a strong Balkan song that, for once, didn’t come from the nostril of Željko Joksimović!’ (Rory)

 

#6. Iceland (8.6)

Highest score: 12 (James, Martin)

Lowest score: 5 (Mrs. Jaz)

‘What I like about the song is the country style, and that it’s really dynamic and up-tempo. But what makes the difference on the Eurovision stage is its amazing performance.’ (Wolfgang)

 

#7. Germany (7.78)

Highest score: 12 (Nick)

Lowest score: 4 (Rory)

‘Melancholic lyrics, an atmospheric score and hauntingly powerful vocals were all at odds with the visual package of an 18-year-old girl obsessed with manga outfits!’ (Martin)

 

#8. Russia (7.44)

Highest score: 12 (Fraser)

Lowest score: 4 (Rory)

‘This is precisely thought-out, clinical and slickly-produced schlager dance, and it is dangerous.’ (Jaz)

 

#9. Latvia (7.4)

Highest score: 12 (Jaz)

Lowest score: 3 (Rory)

‘I must admit that I like this year’s Latvian song and artist much more than last year’s. Justs really is a great vocal performer, and his song is by far catchier than last year’s injected love.’ (Wolfgang)

 

#10. Sweden (7.3)

Highest score: 12 (Fraser)

Lowest score: 1 (Rory)

‘If I Were Sorry is in the mould of Sweden’s recent host entries, in that it’s more organic, less precise, and simplified in comparison to the stuff they send when they’re competing on foreign ground.’ (Jaz)

tgblzluwxb4p0ww9kcrzam5irtk-jpg

Frans, upon hearing he ranked so highly with the EBJ Jury, smiles for the first time since 2003.

 

 

#11. Malta (7.22)

Highest score: 10 (Fraser, James, Martin, Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 3 (Nick, Rory)

‘It was definitely the right decision to change songs for Malta! Walk On Water makes full use of Ira’s amazing vocal ability and range, combining it with a much more contemporary sound that is radio-friendly enough to stay in voter’s memories far past Eurovision.’ (Martin)

 

#12. Austria (7.11)

Highest score: 12 (Ali, Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 4 (Nick)

‘Those who glibly dismiss this song as ‘cotton candy’, ‘girly’, and calculatedly faux-nostalgic have failed to see the wood for the trees.’ (Ali)

 

#13. Belgium (7.1)

Highest score: 12 (Ali, Rory)

Lowest score: 2 (Nick, Wolfgang)

This is right up my street – a song that has me yelling ‘Somebody get me some roller skates and take me back to the disco era, ASAP!’. (Mrs. Jaz)

 

#14. Estonia (7)*

Highest score: 12 (Ali)

Lowest score: 4 (Nick)

‘It’s definitely one of the most original songs in this year’s line-up, and it’s fresh and relevant whilst oozing the kind of timeless classiness that Estonia are so good at of late.’ (James)

 

#15. Azerbaijan (7)*

Highest score: 12 (Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 4 (Rory)

‘Sometimes there are songs that need some time until I like them much, but then there are songs that I love from the very first moment. Samra’s entry belongs in the latter category.’ (Wolfgang)

 

#16. Czech Republic (6.89)

Highest score: 12 (James, Rory)

Lowest score: 2 (Ali)

‘Gabriela is more used to singing rock and gothic songs, but this is a really pleasant departure from her comfort zone. The lush beats and strings really bring out the best in her vocals.’ (Rory)

 

#17. Switzerland (6.8)

Highest score: 12 (Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 1 (Rory)

‘I’m a ballad fan if said ballad fits my definition of ‘decent’, and Last of Our Kind definitely does.’ (Mrs. Jaz)

 

#18. Spain (6.78)

Highest score: 12 (Fraser)

Lowest score: 1 (Ali)

‘Overall, I find this a little wallpaper-like. It’s there and it’s nice, but I’m not going to be paying that much attention to it when there’s opulent statement furniture elsewhere in the room.’ (Jaz)

 

#19. United Kingdom (6.7)

Highest score: 10 (Rory)

Lowest score: 3 (James)

‘It’s pleasant to listen to, but reeks of the kind of song that backs a movie trailer or montage of some kind. If the Rio Olympic organisers are after a song that can soundtrack ‘The Top 10 Team Efforts of the XX-whatever Olympiad’, then they should look no further than Joe & Jake’s.’ (Jaz)

 

#20. Serbia (6.55)*

Highest score: 12 (Martin, Penny)

Lowest score: 3 (Ali)

‘The song is pleasant enough to listen to, but when it comes to the subject matter – domestic violence – I just feel like it’s ripping off András Kallay-Saunders, but with a more mature vibe to it.’ (Rory)

CiSPFSgWkAEz94D

I’m hoping Sanja doesn’t murder me in my sleep for having something to do with her mediocre ranking…

 

#21. Lithuania (6.55)*

Highest score: 10 (Fraser, Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 3 (Ali, Rory)

‘Yes, this has ‘Melfest Reject’ written all over it, but you know what? I don’t mind at all.’ (James)

 

#22. Israel (6.5)

Highest score: 10 (Jaz)

Lowest score: 2 (James)

‘The build of the song resembles somehow the ‘drama queen’ ballad by Conchita from 2014, only this one goes nowhere and suddenly ends when you expect more to come.’ (Wolfgang)

 

#23. Australia (6.44)*

Highest score: 10 (Fraser)

Lowest score: 2 (Nick)

‘Dami is definitely destined to get at least a respectable placing in Stockholm, but there’s something missing that means she will not win Eurovision.’ (Martin)

 

#24. Armenia (6.44)*

Highest score: 12 (Penny, Rory)

Lowest score: 2 (Nick)

‘LoveWave has a lot of interesting parts – mainly the music and the structure – but it never coalesces like it should.’ (Nick)

 

#25. Hungary (6.33)

Highest score: 12 (Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 1 (Nick)

‘I couldn’t remember what this song sounded like until listening to over forty ranking videos. And although I can now remember what (part of) it sounds like, I don’t understand how it’s in almost everyone’s top 10.’ (Penny)

 

#26. Poland (6.22)

Highest score: 10 (Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 2 (Nick)

‘It is a beautiful and timeless classic entry that easily could have been in any other ESC in the past. Every time I listen to Color of Your Life it grows on me and gives me goosebumps.’ (Wolfgang)

 

#27. Finland (5.89)

Highest score: 10 (Ali)

Lowest score: 3 (Nick, Wolfgang)

‘Sandhja’s song did all it could do at Eurovision – it served as an excellent-but-disposable show opener, so easily sacrificed that it might be better for us to think of it as part of the first semi’s opening act than as an actual competition song.’ (Jaz)

 

#28. Slovenia (5.78)

Highest score: 10 (Ali, Fraser)

Lowest score: 2 (Jaz, Wolfgang)

‘A lyric like “blue is blue, and red is red” definitely isn’t winning any songwriting awards, but it fits the air of naïveté that the song so beautifully creates.’ (Nick)

 

#29. Cyprus (5.7)

Highest score: 7 (Ali, James, Martin, Penny, Rory)

Lowest score: 2 (Fraser)

‘I think I’d need further listens to appreciate this, but as I got bored halfway through this one (I zoned out and did some online shopping during the last 90 seconds) I’m not too keen to hear it again.’ (Mrs. Jaz)

 

#30. Greece (5.67)

Highest score: 10 (Rory)

Lowest score: 3 (Fraser, James)

‘Overall, it’s a non-dynamic, non-event kind of entry, with lame English lyrics and far too much repetition.’ (Jaz)

2016-05-10T194535Z_1148624669_D1AETDHJJJAA_RTRMADP_3_MUSIC-EUROVISION

Greece: all white, but nothing special.

 

#31. The Netherlands (5.55)

Highest score: 10 (Penny)

Lowest score: 3 (James, Rory, Wolfgang)

‘It’s supposed to make you feel happy, but by the third line I just want to Sellotape Bob’s smug little mouth shut so he actually “can’t go on”.’ (James)

 

#32. FYR Macedonia (5.44)*

Highest score: 12 (James)

Lowest score: 1 (Nick)

‘I didn’t have high expectations of Kaliopi’s second official ESC entry given that I didn’t love her first…and as expected, I like this even less.’ (Jaz)

 

#33. Bosnia & Herzegovina (5.44)*

Highest score: 8 (Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 4 (Ali, Fraser, James)

‘I think I might be getting tired of the Balkan ballad formula, because I can’t find that ‘magical’ aspect in the verses, despite them being performed well. Also, I’m still trying to get over the fact that Deen’s face has morphed into an Easter Island moai head…’ (Penny)

 

#34. Albania (5.33)

Highest score: 8 (Rory)

Lowest score: 2 (Nick)

‘What was a powerful and passionate emotional rollercoaster, with lots of interesting nuances in Tirana, has now become a repetitive low-key ballad that no longer holds my attention.’ (Martin)

 

#35. Georgia (5.3)

Highest score: 10 (Ali)

Lowest score: 1 (Fraser, Wolfgang)

‘Immediately this sounds like some average 90s Brit-pop band is making a comeback. There is nothing that sounds remotely Eurovision about it.’ (Fraser)

 

#36. Ireland (5.22)*

Highest score: 10 (Martin)

Lowest score: 1 (Nick)

‘Everything about this screams desperate, from the wannabe 2013 Avicii composition to the recycling of 90s “heart-throb” Nicky Byrne to screech-er, I mean, sing it.’ (Nick)

 

#37. Denmark (5.22)*

Highest score: 8 (Fraser, Jaz, Penny)

Lowest score: 2 (Ali)

‘I want this to melt my marshmallows, but all it does is brown them ever-so-slightly. Basically, it’s perfectly fine, and therefore very vanilla.’ (Jaz)

 

#38. Moldova (5.11)

Highest score: 8 (James, Wolfgang)

Lowest score: 2 (Fraser)

‘Falling Stars is the sort of song that a DJ might put on as filler before a killer tune is played.’ (Martin)

 

#39. Norway (4.89)

Highest score: 10 (Jaz)

Lowest score: 1 (Nick)

‘I can see how many people could enjoy the metaphor that Agnete’s going to be the ship to free us all from the ice we’ve been stuck in…but the song just leaves me feeling empty.’ (Rory)

 

#40. Belarus (4.8)

Highest score: 7 (Jaz, Mrs. Jaz, Penny)

Lowest score: 1 (Nick, Wolfgang)

‘This song is easy to sing along to, and not bad as a bit of background music. I’m struggling to see how it has anything to do with wolves…but hey, this is Eurovision, so who cares!’ (Fraser)

97738381-eurovision-belarus-large_trans++lyOSvw5rfHgx0pjGlPht0POFhV5cfgmot7LA_xjmu6k

Not even the wolves knew what Ivan’s wolf obsession was all about.

 

#41. Montenegro (3.78)

Highest score: 8 (Ali, Jaz)

Lowest score: 0 (Wolfgang)

‘Deep voices aren’t usually my thing to begin with, and especially not when I’m being crooned at with such lyrics as ‘I’m gonna run, gonna feel good.’ Assuage me of fears that does not, and it really harms what could’ve been a strong entry.’ (Nick)

 

#42. Romania (3.22)

Highest score: 7 (Martin, Penny)

Lowest score: 0 (James, Wolfgang)

‘To get straight to the point with Romania in one word: HORRIBLE! Just horrible!’ (Wolfgang)

 

#43. San Marino (2.44)

Highest score: 8 (Ali)

Lowest score: 0 (James, Wolfgang)

‘I had hoped for a trumpet-backed, updated version of Mambo No. 5 from Serhat, which would have been a bit of fun. But what we got instead more closely resembles something you’d step in by mistake at the local dog park.’ (Jaz)

 

*Tie broken via Twitter poll.

 

Sadly, as we know, France couldn’t translate their OGAE poll win into a Eurovision win (although given that Amir’s sixth is their best result since 2002, we can probably loosen the definition of ‘win’ a little). However, they steamrolled ahead of actual champ Ukraine to claim another prestigious prize here. In fact, who needs OGAE poll results when you’ve got the hugely-delayed results of some random blog’s jury voting in your favour? Not France, that’s (not at all) for sure.

That was my long-winded and delusional way of congratulating Amir for taking out the top spot in the EBJJ vote for 2016. As aforementioned, Jamala was hot on his heels, and creeping up on her in turn were Francesca from Italy and Poli from Bulgaria. Rounding out our top 5 (though this one had nothing to do with me) was Croatia’s Nina, who didn’t need to win here as she recently won the most coveted prize of them all: the Barbara Dex Award. Reaching the latter heights of the top ten = Iceland, Germany, Russia, Latvia and Sweden. High fives and metaphorical gift baskets go out to those guys too!

I would like to point out that my kick-ass jury, while not psychic, managed to predict Bulgaria’s future by ranking Poli 4th. We also got pretty darn close with our positioning of Austria in 12th (Zoë came 13th). Overall, as you’ll see in a second when I compare our ranking to the official outcome/s, we did very well when it came to predicting who’d end up in the final, even if we weren’t too top-notch on the specifics. A correct guess wasn’t what we were aiming for anyway – our reviews and scores were based on personal opinions, not which entries we thought would triumph or crash and burn.

 

EBJ versus ESC: Let’s compare the pair!

23 of the countries in our top 26 appeared in the actual final. Six were already there (the automatic finalists and hosts Sweden, of course), but the remaining seventeen were correctly, collectively predicted by the EBJ jury. If I could pat my entire team of Eurovision experts on the back right now, I would.

Estonia, who were awarded the dishonour of placing 42nd out of 42, were ranked 14th with us – and I personally think they deserved to be closer to 14th than 42nd. But I’m totally over it. Whatever.

#JUSTICEFORJÜRI.

Our highest-ranked non-qualifier was Iceland in 6th place. As we all know now, Greta Salóme missed out on a Saturday night spot by a mile rather than a millimeter – she placed 14th in her semi.

13 of the countries we considered non-final material turned out to be exactly that. We did underestimate the Cypriot, Dutch and Georgian abilities to advance, but 13 out of 16 is pretty impressive regardless. A lot more impressive than the 6 out of 10 that I personally rightly predicted before semi final 1. But the less people who know about that, the better. Don’t expect me to confess that online any time soon.

Oops…too late.

The EBJ Jury’s lowest-ranked qualifier of the abovementioned three was Georgia, in 35th place. I’m going to take most of the credit for seeing something in Nika and his not-actually-that-young Lolitaz that few others did.

Georgia_eurovision-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8

Seeing something, and seeing double…

Looking down the list, you can see that the EBJ Jury greatly underrated the likes of Australia, Armenia and Poland. Conversely, we overrated Italy, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. We also placed Germany in our top 10, and therein lies the difference between voting mainly on the merit of a song, and voting based on a manga-marinated visual version of that song.

 

And now, because this post has gone on way too long in traditional Jaz style, I’m going to stop observing and start winding things up. If you have any further observations re: the EBJJ or actual top 43/42, though, you know my comments section is always open for business!

In a few days’ time (I swear to Mr. God) I’ll be asking you for even more opinions – only all you’ll need to do then is click a bunch of times. Translated, that means the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence – 2016 edition – are imminent, and that the People’s Choice polls are just about ready for public viewing and voting. Say yay yay yay!

What? Barei would. Be like Barei.

 

2015sig

 

 

 

Ranking the OMG, the OK and the WTF: My Eurovision 2016 Top 43 (right now!)

I don’t know about you guys, but my ranking of this year’s Eurovision entries has changed more often than Daria Kinzer during a three-minute stint on stage. Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve used this life-saving sorter tool (how did we manage to compile top lists before Mr. Gerbear brought us this baby?) three times today alone, and each time, there have been subtle differences in my top 43 – mostly in the top 10. I’m finding many of Stockholm’s songs to be growers, so the more I listen to them, the more I like them and the higher they creep in my estimations…but I don’t want to demote the songs already clinging to the upper rungs of the ladder. IT’S SO FRUSTRATING. You know, in a first-world kind of way.

Still, despite knowing I’ll have changed my mind again in a minute, I’m about to present you with my first full ranking of the year. FYI, as there are only a few songs I detest in the 2016 line-up, read the ranking as follows:

  • #1-#13 = I’m very close to publicly declaring undying love for these
  • #14-#27 = I like ‘em a whole lot
  • #28-#33 = I like ‘em a little less…but they’re still pretty good
  • #34-#39 = Mediocre, but not offensive music
  • #40-#43 = Totally offensive. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING, FFS?!?

So…yeah. Use that as your guide while navigating my top 43, and let me know how I should navigate yours when you copy it into the comments below (because you know you want to).

Let’s dive straight in! *splash*

 

ttp

 

THE TOP 10

#1 | Ukraine When a song builds up to a crescendo that actually makes you cry (and not because the song is crap and the singer sounds like a cat in labour), you know it’s something special. 1944 has that on lock.

#2 | Latvia One of the most contemporary songs competing this year, Heartbeat is slick, instant proof that Aminata needs to be appointed as Latvia’s official ESC songwriter, stat.

#3 | Italy Put simply, this is another stunner from Italy, even in its bilingual form. Try to out-class an Italian piano ballad, and you will fail miserably.

#4 | Hungary A powerful plea anthem that shows up Wars For Nothing as the limp leaf of lettuce that (I think) it was, Freddie’s gravelly vocals and the whistling thrown in for good measure make this a contender.

#5 | France If France crashes out in the bottom five with J’ai Cherché, there is something terribly wrong with the world, and therefore I will be moving to Mars ASAP.

#6 | Azerbaijan I should hate the fact that Azerbaijan has again paired one of their own artists with a clinical Swedish-penned power ballad. But I can’t, because Miracle is all kinds of amazing.

#7 | Sweden If I’d had my way, Oscar Zia would be fronting this year’s host entry, but I’m a Frans fan nonetheless. It’s nice to see something pared-back representing Sweden.

#8 | Estonia This is the best type of throwback song there is, and Juri’s “creepiness” seems more like intensity to me.

#9 | Bulgaria This is further up my alley than Na Inat, and there are so many great elements to it. The Bulgarian chorus is addictive.

#10 | Germany If Jamie-Lee would stuff the outfit she borrowed from Georgia’s 2010 JESC act in the back of her wardrobe for Eurovision purposes, this would be perfection. Danke for a great song anyway, Deutschland.

Someone really should have told Jamie that she had something on her head.

Jamie-Lee: the Supreme Overlord of Munchkinland.

 

THE MUSIC IN THE MIDDLE

#11 | Malta

#12 | Norway

#13 | Lithuania

#14 | Switzerland

#15 | Poland This is a classic example of an entry that gets better with each listen. I’m still not keen on the clichéd lyrics, but the melody is sigh-worthy. Margaret who?

#16 | Belgium

#17 | Armenia

#18  | Russia

#19 | Montenegro Yes, I really do have Highway placed this…well, high. Call me crazy, but I totally dig The Real Thing, and I don’t usually like anything this heavy or noisy. Unless it’s a St. Bernard puppy.

#20 | Moldova

#21 | Croatia

#22 | Georgia

#23 | Ireland

#24 | Israel Thank heavens *star reference* for Israel’s revamp of Made of Stars, which removed the pompous theatricality and left behind a lovely, if not super impressive, ballad – one that superbly highlights Hovi’s vocals.

#25 | Denmark

#26 | Spain

#27 | Cyprus

#28 | Australia I could be deported for ranking Dami so low, I know. But Sound of Silence, while competent and reasonably “now”, just doesn’t have the x-factor (there’s got to be some irony in that given Dami’s background).

‘What do you mean you’re an Australian who doesn’t love my song to bits? Isn’t that, like, illegal?’

‘What do you mean you’re an Australian who doesn’t love my song to bits? Isn’t that, like, illegal?’

#29 | Bosnia & Herzegovina

#30 | Albania

#31 | United Kingdom

#32 |The Netherlands

#33 | Iceland This is fine, and the staging is the bomb. But the been-done Mumford & Sons sound and repetitive nature don’t impress me much.

#34 | Finland

#35 | Austria

#36 | Serbia

#37 | Greece

#38 | Czech Republic

 

THE BOTTOM 5

#39 | Belarus I don’t think any amount of nudity or wild animals (neither of which are permitted on the ESC stage anyway) could save Ivan from the semi final scrapheap.

#40 | FYR Macedonia Crno I Belo was never a big favourite of mine, but at least it had some grunt, and allowed Kaliopi to be her badass self. Dona is a bore-fest.

#41 | Slovenia I like country music – it calms me. But this is so passé, it’s painful to listen to.

#42 | Romania Moment of Silence in a West End musical? Sure. Moment of Silence in Eurovision? No. Just NO.

#43 | San Marino This is all kinds of terrible, discoed-up or not. But it’s useful to know that San Marino is capable of embarrassing themselves on an international platform without Ralph Siegel’s help. In fact, a Siegel creation would be preferable to this.  

If the insanity of thinking I Didn’t Know is a decent song is any indication, it’s not perfume that Serhat’s in the habit of sniffing...

If the insanity of thinking ‘I Didn’t Know’ is a decent song is any indication, it’s not perfume that Serhat’s in the habit of sniffing…

 

And voila – that’s my current top 43! It’s also a sneak peek as to how I’ll be rating the Class of 2016 in my upcoming reviews. How the rest of the EBJ Jury will score them, though, is anyone’s guess (including mine).

Did you disagree with some, most or all of my list? Or do we share some common love/hate for an entry or ten? Tell me all about it in the comments, and don’t forget to post your personal ranking while you’re at it. You’re accustomed to my demanding nature by now, right?

I’ll be back next week with a playlist of top-notch national final songs that deserve some more attention. Then, it’ll be time for those aforementioned 2016 reviews to kick off. It’s going to be a busy but exciting lead-up to Stockholm, that’s for sure, and I hope you’re willing to keep me company along the way!

 

Until next time,

 

2015sig

 

 

A Supersized Serving of Scandipop: My Top 50 Melodifestivalen Entries, 2006-2015! (#50-#31)

Hallå, och välkommen till…um…nope, still not quite at the point where I can string together an entire introduction i Svenska. But I’ll get there. Possessing such a skill would have been ultra-appropriate today, though, given the subject matter of this post. There’s no need for me to explain it to you – the title tells you everything you need to know. Well, apart from one or two or three teeny tiny things:

  • Melodifestivalen is far and away my favourite pre-ESC national final (which may be cliché, but I don’t give a crap) so I’ll take any opportunity to celebrate its sheer sensational-ness. I’ve never posted a Melfest ranking before, so with that in mind – plus the fact that the 2016 edition of the show is creeping ever closer – I’m considering this window of time before NF season crazy-time begins as an opportunity more golden than Herreys’ shiny boots.
  • I realise that a Top 50 of Melfest spanning 1959 (the year of its inception) to present would have been more spectacular, but there’s just so much magnificent music to choose from, even limiting myself to the last ten years was a challenge. Besides, I’m far more familiar with the entries from 2006 onwards – i.e. the year I discovered the definitions of ‘Eurovision’ and ‘national finals’. You can, however, expect a more vintage view of the comp in the future.
  • There are a lot of entries from the last two/three years of Melfest in this first installment of the countdown, but I can assure you that trend does not (completely) continue in the #30-11 and Top 10 episodes. Just FYI.

Now, with that trio of housekeeping points taken care of, let’s get started! I’ve embedded some videos of the listed tracks below, but if you want to see and watch them all in one place, check out this playlist.

Sverige (and everywhere else)…vi har ett resultat.

Well, some of it, anyway.

 

Melfest50a

 

#50 | Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2015) No, I’m not joiking. As much as I love the standard Scandipop fare Melfest predominantly serves up, it was refreshing to have something on the NF’s most recent programme that managed to be super-Swedish without *Googles the songwriters just in case* having Thomas G:son’s name attached to it. Jag Är Fri could be the theme song for a tourist campaign urging us all to visit Lapland – and it totally works on me. I wonder if I could squeeze in a side trip while I’m i Sverige?

 

#49 | På Väg by Abalone Dots (2012)

 

#48 | Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette (2015) If it hadn’t been for the extremely predictable lyrics peppering this track from Mariette – and the presence of Måns + Stick Måns in Melfest 2015, of course – I’d have happily said ‘Si!’ to Sweden sending a cool, contemporary ballad-but-not-quite kind of pop song to Vienna. My favourite thing about this is how dynamic and drama-packed it is, without ever being OTT. It’s got a great melody, and overall, isn’t half as cheesy as you might expect a song called Don’t Stop Believing to be.

 

#47 | Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (2015)

 

#46 | Stay The Night by Alcazar (2009) It’d practically be illegal to put together a list like this and NOT include Alcazar, unless you’re the President of the Anti-Schlager Society. Now, I’m not exactly heading up the Pro-Schlager Party, but I’ve always found Alcazar’s sound-alike Melfest entries to be infectiously irresistible. Stay The Night (the superior version of 2014’s Blame It On The Disco) is so textbook, you could sing it in your sleep even if you’d heard a minute-long snippet and nothing more. But there’s a certain appeal in such familiarity…and in that freaking catchy chorus.

 

#45 | Stormande Hav by Timoteij (2012)

 

#44 | Begging by Anton Ewald (2013) One of several surprise successes of Melodifestivalen 2013 (both Anton and Robin Stjernberg failed to qualify direkt til final, only to emerge victorious from Andra Chansen and finish 4th and 1st respectively), Begging became a big success in the Swedish charts too, and I understand why. Produced to perfection and not as derivative as your average dance track, it’s a frantically-paced club banger that I think holds its own without Anton busting many a move to add interest – partly because in studio, his vocals don’t suffer for the sake of enthusiastic pelvic thrusting. Forget about his comeback track Natural (although I personally liked that too)…it was during his debut as a frontman that he had the best musical weapon at his disposal.

 

#43 | Hello Goodbye by Erik Segerstedt & Tone Damli (2013)

 

#42 | Sean Den Förste Banan by Sean Banan (2012) GUILTY PLEASURE ALERT. I never wanted to enjoy this – even considering my crappy taste in movies and books, it should have been too low-brow for me – but what can I say? I’m easily swayed by an ear worm, and SDFB is nothing if not one heck of an ear worm. Also, bananas are my favourite fruit, and Sean has a penchant for them too, so…there’s that.

 

#41 | Falling by State of Drama (2013)

 

#40 | För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson (2015) The pre-comp Svensktoppen Nästa winners always get a raw deal in Melfest, methinks – never advancing anywhere (they’re lucky if they don’t come last in their semis). Still, I’m always a fan of their entries, and Kalle’s is no exception because it is adorable, dammit. Retro-flavoured pop doesn’t always float my boat, but För Din Skull (For Your Sake) is tinged, rather than soaked, with a slightly Sixties flavour, which lends itself very well to the Swedish language. I also really like the sound of Kalle’s voice, so all in all, this entry is sounding good, sugar (to me, at least).

 

#39 | I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (2015)

 

#38 | Bröder by Linus Svenning (2014) Before he informed us that Forever Starts Today, Linus proved that you don’t have to opt for a ballad if you want to move people – move them straight to the nearest box of tissues, in this case. Written for him by Fredrik Kempe about the death of Linus’ brother (hence the title), Bröder is far more rocky than most tributes to a lost loved one. It does start out in ballad territory, giving you a chance to notice how pretty the melody is, before upping the ante and turning hard(er)core. I loved Bröder from the first listen, felt the emotion behind it, and practically jumped for joy when it scored a second chance and made it to the 2014 final.

 

#37 | Around The World by Dr Alban feat. Jessica Folcker (2014)

 

#36 | Möt Mig I Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson (2015) A year ago, I would NEVER have considered including this song in my top fifty. After all, it was Magnus “I Can’t Feel My Face (Because of all the Botox)” Carlsson crashing Melfest yet again, with yet another been-there-heard -that schlager number. All of those things remain true, but the song has wormed its way into my brain and affections over time. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly superficial, all I want out of my music is a catchy tune. On that, Möt Mig I Gamla Stan delivers, and y’all can bet I’ll be singing the shiz out of it when I’m actually wandering around Gamla Stan.

 

#35 | Red by EKO (2014)

 

#34 | One By One by Elize Ryd & Rickard Söderberg (2015) Robbed of a place in Andra Chansen last year (IMO), this poperatic confection worked to a degree I didn’t expect. Sure, Rickard comes off a little too showy to be taken seriously at times, but Elize’s vocal saves the day, and the two do manage to mesh for the most part. One By One itself has a nice mix of light and shade, verses that are as interesting as the choruses, and a show-stopping money note from Rickard, prior to chorus no. 2, which gives me goosebumps.

 

#33 | Living To Die by Andreas Johnson (2015)

 

#32 | Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (2014) High School Musical met Melodifestivalen two years ago, when Oscar followed up his backing-singer-for-Behrang-Miri gig with a song about dancing in his underwear. Well, it was about other stuff too, but that was mentioned – and since it was okay for Lena to divulge the deets of her knickers to millions, I say it was okay for Oscar too. I feel like this entry is a rare one to fangirl over, but if I am one of just a few who’d say yes to Yes We Can, then so be it. This song’s epic! It packs a punch, it’s fun to sing along to…you can really let your hair down and rock out to it. And it reminds me of summer, making it a summer anthem, which automatically makes it awesome.

 

#31 | Euphoria by Loreen (2012)

 

 

Talk about ending on a (euphoric) high! Although, if you’re a massive Loreen fan, you might think seeing her ranked outside of the Top 10 is the lowliest of lows. In that case, don’t worry, because she might just crop up again in the countdown *insert mysterious, cliffhanger-type music here*.

 

I hope you enjoyed this supersized serving of Scandipop, with some Scandirock and Scandiotherstuff thrown in for good measure, even if you disagreed with some/all of my choices. Once again, here’s the full playlist:

 

Now’s the time for you to post your own #31-#50, or simply have your say on my song selections, in the comments below. Go on…do it for Christer Björkman.

I’ll be back in a few days’ time with more Melfest goodness – specifically, unveiling the Top 50 from #30 through to #11. As Anton Ewald would (probably) say, I’m begging *pelvic thrust* you to drop by and count them down with me!

 

 

2015sig

 

 

RETRO RANKINGS | My Vienna 2015 Top 40, then and now (six months after show time!)

Hallå och välkommen til…um…okay, so I haven’t advanced particularly far with my Swedish on Duolingo yet (I’m not even sure there’s a lesson entitled “Welcoming People To Another Extremely Exciting Post Here on Eurovision By Jaz Dot Com in Svenska” anyway), but give me some time, and I’ll be så brå you won’t believe it.

In case the above paragraph wasn’t enough of an indication, I’ll spell things out for you: I’m feeling super-Swedish-obsessed at the moment, now that a) I’m actually, 110% heading to Stockholm for ESC no. 61 (*emits a Kaliopi-screech and farts a rainbow of pure joy*) and b) the Melodifestivalen 2016 line-up has been revealed. I’ve got plenty of Melfest madness planned for you over the coming months, so I don’t want to devote an entire post to the 2016 edition now…but I will give you a glimpse of the artists I’m most excited about seeing back in the competition (and boy, there are a ton of them) or entering for the first time:

  • THE RIDICULOUSLY EXCITING Molly Sandén, Mattias Andréasson (with Albin), Lisa Ajax, Panetoz and Oscar Zia. That’s in order of how much my face resembled the heart-eyes emoji when each name was announced. JESC alumni and all-round amazing human Molly is the bookies’ and my #1 pick to win the whole thing at this early stage. This will be her third try, and she’s never been in a better position to out-sing and out-song her rivals.
Mollyll

Yes, it took me far too many minutes to create this. No, I am not ashamed in any way.

  • THE MODERATELY EXCITING Molly Petterson Hammar, Samir & Viktor, David Lindgren and (a now brunette) Isa. Molly PH has obviously recovered from App-Gate 2015, and it’s great to see her back with a vengeance. I really wish that’s what her song was called for the purposes of a brilliant pun, but it’s actually called Hunger – and it’s been penned by the trio behind MZW’s Heroes.
  • THE INTRIGUING Krista Siegfrids. Aftonbladet didn’t anticipate this one, so how could we common folk have seen it coming? Krista’s supposed to be hosting UMK in Finland next year, so it will be interesting to see how she juggles both commitments, and/or whether the Finnish public see fit to throw their shoes at her for trying her luck in Sweden. Surely they’re too polite to engage in such shenanigans?

That’s that för nu (SOMEBODY STOPPA MIG!!): now, let’s move from Melfest to Eurovij.

Before I start looking forward to Stockholm, I thought it would be timely to look back to Vienna, given that it’s been (just over, but close enough to) six months since Sweden snatched their sixth victory. And what better way to do that than by re-ranking all of the entries from this year’s contest to see, once and for all, how I feel about them now compared to how I felt about them at show time (the last Top 40 I posted was just before Semi Final 1)?

I’ll leave you to tell me if there would have been a better way to commemorate six months since, after you’ve checked out the revised ranking below. If you’re up for it, go and re-calculate your own using everyone’s favourite sorting tool, and post it – or some of it – in the comments. Which songs have grown on you over time, and which ones have started to grate? Let me know down below.

My brand spanking new, end-of-2015 ranking looks like this (with the previous position of each country in brackets):

 

Keep scrolling…

 

Just a bit further…

 

Here it is!

 

#1 | Sweden (=) Don’t act surprised, or reach for a sick bag! I never bought a ticket to ride on the ‘Not Sweden again! ITALY WAS ROBBED’ train, being the massive fan of Mr. Zelmerlöw, avid supporter of Heroes with or without the stick man, and generally Sweden-obsessed freak that I am (I maintain that the whole jury-vote-deciding-winner is the kind of situation where you should hate the game, not the player). I love this song just as much in December as I did in February – only now, I get even more caught up in screaming ‘WE ARE THE HEROOOOOOOOES!!!’ knowing I’ll be seeing Måns reprise it live.

This is a pretty accurate representation of how my face will look when that precious, precious moment arrives.

This is a pretty accurate representation of how my face will look when that precious, precious moment arrives.

#2 | Italy (+1) Six months on, Grande Amore still gives me goosebumps. Will it have that effect á la Lane Moje, my all-time favourite ESC entry, and last a lifetime? Get back to me in a decade or two and I’ll let you know.

#3 | Belgium (+1) Belgium’s fairytale fourth place is something I still pinch myself over – when I’m not doing the robot to the minimalist, cutting-edge sounds of Rhythm Inside, of course. I’m still attempting to master Loïc’s triple pirouette, but I’m happy to crack this track way up for years to come in order to practice.

#4 | Montenegro (+4) Of all Željko’s contest compositions, Adio is the one that took me the longest to fall in love with. But, as you can see, it’s leapt from 8th place to 4th in my Top 40, and I won’t say it’s not going to climb higher in the future. It’s a textbook spine-tingling, haunting, atmospheric Balkan ballad, and if you can put it out of your mind that Knez looks like a circus ringmaster, it’s pretty much perfection in a three-minute package.

#5 | Australia (+12) Making a far bigger leap up my personal leaderboard is my own country’s first – and as we now know, NOT last – entry. Tonight Again was definitely a grower for me. I liked it instantly, but didn’t love it…then Australia came fifth, and I miraculously changed my mind. Actually, the change of mind was more to do with the vibes when I was cheering Guy on in a room full of Aussies. But let’s not dwell on that. It just happened! Do whatcha whatcha whatcha waaaant….

#6 | Spain (+4)

#7 | Israel (+15) Nadav is still my golden boy, and I certainly do enjoy. A lot more, evidently, than I did back in the day (i.e. May). Golden Boy , I have discovered, makes for an epic workout song. Squats suddenly become slightly more bearable when it’s blaring in the background. 

Israel-Nadav-first-rehearsal-eurovision-2015

Nadav captured at the precise moment he realises he doesn’t have time to show you Tel Aviv before he leaves.

#8 | Germany (+1)

#9 | Romania (-4)

#10 | Moldova (+2)

#11 | Latvia (-5)

#12 | FYR Macedonia (-5)

#13 | Slovenia (=)

#14 | Norway (-12) This is a controversial one. Maybe I over-listened to AMLM, which was my second-favourite song once upon a time, or maybe it just lost some of its magic for me. Either way – though I still like it a lot – I can’t hold it in as high a regard as I used to. Does this count as doing something terrible in my “early” youth?

#15 | Azerbaijan (+1)

#16 | Austria (-1)

#17 | Malta (+4)

#18 | Russia (+7)

#19 | Belarus (+8) I’m surprised that this has crept up rather than stayed put. There was never anything about Time that grabbed me with both hands (the hands of Time, obviously) which always irritated me because Uzari and Maimuna are both awesome in their own right, and have both produced far more dynamic and impressive music in the past. But I guess I’m not that irritated after all. And time really is like thunder, a-ahh.

maxresdefault

“To poke or not to poke Uzari with my violin bow so I can be the star of the show…”, Maimuna, 2015.

#20 | Iceland (-1)

#21 | Portugal (+8)

#22 | Albania (+10)

#23 | The Netherlands (-9)

#24 | Estonia (-13) I never felt the feverish love for Stig & Elina’s Eesti Laul landslider that many others did, so this drop doesn’t mean that much. Don’t get me wrong – we’re at #24, and the only songs I’m verging on hating with a passion are #37 through #40. It’s just…to steal the motto of Eurovision 2012 and rephrase it for my own personal use, Goodbye To Yesterday doesn’t light my fire, as such. I wonder if another tragic tear will snake its way down Elina’s cheek over that comment?

#25 | United Kingdom (-2)

#26 | Switzerland (-2)

#27 | Denmark (-7)

#28 | Serbia (+12) Bojana was my bottom-ranked act in May – though I should specify that it had nothing to do with her (she’s a delight, and can we be best friends forever, please?) and everything to do with the cheesy English-language version of Beauty Never Lies. I’m still not overly keen on it (it’s becoming a theme as we creep closer to number 4-0) but I can’t deny that it is a cracker of a dance-floor filler.

#29 | Greece (+5)

#30 | France (+1)

#31 | Georgia (-13)

#32 | Cyprus (+1)

#33 | Ireland (-7)

#34 | San Marino (+4) Is San Marino still in my bottom five? As Michele would say, NO! That’s a major achievement for the republic in itself. This song is total crap, but a part of me sees/hears it as a guilty (so very guilty) pleasure. I love how hard Michele and Anita try to make it something it’s never going to be – i.e. a decent, age-appropriate pop song that people would willingly listen to on a regular basis.

1432236847908

It’s a shame Anita and Michele didn’t introduce their outstretched palms to Ralph Siegel’s face at high speed, BEFORE he lumped them with ‘Chain of Lights’…

#35 | Poland (-7)

#36 | Hungary (+3)

#37 | Lithuania (-7) This Time  was, is and always will be so full of cheese, you could make a batch of toasted sandwiches with said cheese so big that the Buranovskiye Babushkis and their extended families could feast on them for years without worrying about a dwindling supply. I don’t know about Vaidas’ solo stuff, but Monika’s is infinitely better than this.

#38 | Finland (-1)

#39 | Czech Republic (-4)

#40 | Armenia (-4) I haven’t sat through the recorded or live version of Genealogy’s melodramatic musical mess since their performance in the Viennese grand final. It’s just not my cup of tea (to put it politely) and I think that Not Alone, which preceded Don’t Deny, shows it up massively. I suspect that Iveta Mukuchyan’s entry, which will succeed it, will do the same.

 

 

Are you still awake? If so, congrats on making it all the way through this Top 40! If not, then I guess you’re not reading this right now, so I don’t need to address you (I am going to draw on your face with a Sharpie while you’re snoring, though). Things have changed quite a bit on my end, rankings-wise, so now it’s your chance to shock me with how much you’ve rearranged the field of 2015 in your mind – or on paper – since the contest took place.

 

Come on, spill! How’s your Top 40 looking as we approach the end of twenty-fifteen?

 

2015sig

 

COMING UP It’s been a while since the previous episode, but what better time than now for another Melfest Monday? Then, ever since Australia was granted a precious second shot at Eurovision glory, minds the world over have been whirring trying to come up with the best artist to fly our flag this time. I’m yet to chip in on this discussion, but I’ve been biding my time for a reason. Drop by for a Friday Fast Five in which I’ll reveal my top five fantasy Aussie representatives. I promise ‘Guy Sebastian, again’ isn’t among them.

 

 

From ‘Heroes’ to zeroes: Reviewing the Eurovision 2015 semi and final scoreboards, all the way from first to worst

Ah, yes. What a gift the combo of Sweden’s winning song title and Austria/Germany’s double nul-points has been to Eurovision journalism! Just to warn you – this may not be the last time I make use of the heroes/zeroes thing. But, in my defence, it is particularly relevant to today’s post:, even though today’s post isn’t particularly relevant.

Allow me to explain: it’s been over a fortnight since the first semi final of Eurovision 2015; over a week since the final; and three days since May came to an end (WHAT THE?!?!). That means it’s beyond time I did what everyone else has already done: look back on this year’s results. I’m going to pretend the lateness is intentional because I want to stand out from the crowd, when really it’s due to me being a slowpoke and taking this long to mould everything I want to say into something readable. You guys know by now that there’s waiting involved (for other people) in everything I do. It’s part of my charm…I hope.

At long last, though, I have performed a results analysis on all three nights of Viennese competition (feel free to applaud before reading any further). You won’t find a dissection of every single split and combined figure from all forty countries below – if you want the specifics, you can seek them out yourself here) – but you will find:

  • Some brief opinions on the final re: everything except the performances (since I already reviewed all 27 performances in my previous post);
  • An overview of how the Australian televoters and jurors ranked the finalists, and a reminder of where our first (but not last?) final points went; and
  • Plenty of stats from/observations of the split and combined scoreboards of the final and both semis.

So, in the words of Eurovision groove master Guy Sebastian: let’s (oh) get on it, (ooh) get on it!

 

The ESC 2015 final: A Twitter-friendly, Jaz-eye view on everything BUT the performances

‘Twitter-friendly’ = brief. I am capable of being short and sweet, you know.

Having said that, it would take at least two or three Tweets to make all of this info public.

  • The opening You had me at ‘flying Conchita in sparkly jumpsuit’. The Building Bridges theme song was a bit too JESC for ESC in my opinion, but I could learn to love it. The intro in its entirety was too long-winded. Nearly half an hour before song no. 1? Give me a break. A shorter break.
  • The hosts Alice, Mirjam and Arabella became slightly more appealing as the shows progressed – by final night, they were almost charismatic. But the main reason I was happy for them to have camera time was so I could stare at their outfits (Austrian design gets my tick of approval!). Conchita, as Green Room host, left the other three ladies in her glittery wake. #QUEEN.
  • The postcards As adorable as something can be when that something isn’t a puppy. These pre-performance featurettes were somewhat similar to last year’s – all thematically linked, but all unique in what they depicted each act doing, this time around Austria. It’s obvious there’s a lot to do over there, and if showing us that was ORF’s way of increasing tourism, it’s worked on me. But I think I’ll leave the bungee jumping to Monika and Vaidas.
mvpc

Monika and Vaidas, hoping they’ll be out of their body casts in time to perform at Eurovision. Spoiler alert: they were.

  • The interval acts An interval act has to be really, really, really good for me to watch it without thinking to myself ‘Is this STILL going? Me want results!’. Unfortunately, Mr. Percussionist didn’t fit that brief. But Conchita’s mini-medley was fabulous – I could watch and listen to her all day long. Can we have Conchita at Eurovision every year in some capacity? She can be the new Lys Assia (even though we still have the old Lys Assia).
  • The voting sequence The most exciting one we’ve sat through in years…but more on that later. I will say now that I’m legit going to start a petition to stop that ‘We don’t need to hear the results from any more countries to know that so-and-so is the winner! Congratulations! Oh, but I suppose we’d better hear the rest…’. HATE. IT. WITH. A. PASSION. It’s unnecessary, and disrespectful to the countries who are yet to announce their points and who aren’t in first place on the scoreboard. Yet it’s becoming a contest trend. Ugh.
  • The end result I more or less covered this last time, but in terms of the winner and where we’re headed in 2016 as a result, I’m RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY. CAPS LOCK IS TOTALLY NECESSARY TO GET ACROSS TO YOU JUST HOW HAPPY I AM. Take Eurovision as seriously as Sweden does, and there’s no reason you can’t win twice within four years. I expect them to equal and overtake Ireland’s winning tally in the not-too-distant future.

swwwThat is all.

 

‘Straya’s say: A little look-see at the points from the land Down Under

Speaking of Eurovision strutting back to Scandinavia next year…with Australia-in-the-ESC-for-keeps advocate Christer Björkman in a position of power where the 61st contest is concerned, it’s becoming more and more likely that we Aussies will be invited back to the party. I’ll make my thoughts on this matter public when the time’s right. For now, let’s just have a nosy at Australia’s debut grand final votes.

The Aussie points were presented by our beloved newsreader Lee Lin Chin (can’t help wishing it’d been me though). Lee Lin may not look like a badass (in fact, if Twitter is to be believed, she looks more like a certain extra-terrestrial, which I think is a very cruel and not at all amusing comparison) but I can assure you that her appearance is deceiving. She swept her sass to one side for her result-reading time, ever the professional when she needs to be. Here are the points she revealed to Europe and beyond:

  • 1pt Georgia
  • 2pts Israel
  • 3pts Estonia
  • 4pts Norway
  • 5pts Serbia
  • 6pts Belgium
  • 7pts Latvia
  • 8pts Italy
  • 10pts Russia
  • 12pts Sweden
Eurovision-Lee-Lin-Chin

Seeing red: Alice and Mirjam pale in comparison to the resplendent Lee Lin Chin.

As it turned out, Australia’s combined result was in keeping with quite a few other countries’ results. Our top three – Sweden, Russia and Italy – matched the Belgian and Latvian top threes exactly. Romania, Spain, Israel and Portugal also deemed Måns, Polina and Il Volo worthy of top points, in one order or another.

In addition, we predicted the eventual top six, not including ourselves (obviously) and with Belgium and Latvia in the wrong places. I don’t think that’s an indication of our collective psychic prowess so much as an indication that a handful of countries were almost universally popular this year.

So that was the combined result. Now, let’s banana split it a bit.

The Australian jurors’ top threes:

  • J1 Amanda Pelman – Russia, Sweden, Cyprus
  • J2 Richard Wilkins – Russia, Italy, Sweden
  • J3 Danielle Spencer – Russia, Belgium, Sweden
  • J4 Ash London – Sweden, Belgium, Russia
  • J5 Jake Stone – Russia, Sweden, Norway

Russia and Sweden were particularly popular with our jury, making it into all five members’ top threes. Italy, a little surprisingly, only featured once (who knew Richard Wilkins had such good taste? Amiright, Aussies?) as did Cyprus and Norway. Belgium was ranked second twice.

The Australian televoters’ top three:

Sweden, Belgium, Serbia

Clearly, we were feeling some Serbia ljubav that the jurors – who ranked Bojana 9th in the final – were not. This could have something to do with our sizeable Serbian population, or it could be down to the bulk of early-morning voters being Eurovision fans easily sucked in by the oh-so-ESC anthem of self-love that is Beauty Never Lies. Or it could be neither. I didn’t vote for Serbia, so you’ll have to direct any whys to someone who did!

The Australian jurors’ bottom threes:

  • J1 Amanda Pelman – Belgium, Poland, Montenegro
  • J2 Richard Wilkins – Armenia, Israel, Albania
  • J3 Danielle Spencer – Poland, Armenia, Slovenia
  • J4 Ash London – Germany, Montenegro, Slovenia
  • J5 Jake Stone – Armenia, United Kingdom, Slovenia

Reading the above as places 24, 25 and 26, you can see that Slovenia was ranked last three times. I’m somewhat taken aback by this. Could it be because Marjetka’s voice left a bad taste in multiple mouths (a.k.a. bad sound in their ears)? Or was there a widespread aversion to those damn headphones? My confused face is well and truly on. Interesting here is Belgium’s appearance, when Loïc was ranked in the top five of three other jurors. These bottom threes are a lot more varied than the top threes, with nine different countries appearing (as opposed to six appearing in the top threes).

The Australian televoters’ bottom three:

France, Albania, Azerbaijan

Now you can see just how different the tastes of televoters and juries can be. Without any specific criteria to assess the songs/performances against, we ranked three countries that barely factored into the jury’s bottom three at all 24th, 25th and 26th. For further comparison, our jury ranked France 21st, Albania 23rd and Azerbaijan…6th. It doesn’t take a genius to determine which party Elnur was more appealing to (and that wasn’t the case in Australia alone).

 

So, all of the above was Australia’s first – but, as we’ll be forced to say until who knows when, perhaps not last – contribution to the final results. ‘What results?’ I hear you ask. ‘It’s been that long since the final actually happened that I can’t remember a thing about them!’. Well, fear not, because I’m about to refresh your memory.

 

Final-ly…an overview of the expected and ‘OMG!’ outcomes of Eurovision 2015’s last hurrah

This year’s voting sequence really was an epic one. The algorithm employed by the EBU to make the results as exciting as possible can only do so much when it has to be based on the jury votes. Often the addition of the televotes screws it up completely (i.e. it’s quite obvious who’s going to win when we’re only a quarter of the way through the announcements).

But this year, we were treated to a spectacle in which Russia took an early lead and held it with both hands for the entire first half of the sequence. Then, Sweden slowly but surely closed the gap, overtook Russia, then built up their own lead. By the time there were five or so countries left to announce their points, we knew Måns had Polina beat – but that’s far, far later than usual. The tension up to that point nearly killed me.

Knowing how the sequence ended will make future viewings much less taxing, and I intend to enjoy many of those in the coming months. How come? For the result that was in my favour for the first time. For Guy Sebastian personally thanking the artists from the countries that gave Australia high points (*melts*). For Måns’ priceless facial expression when it dawned on him that he’d won! I could go on, but instead I’ll jump into the promised scoreboard overview.

 

scoreboard-2015-eurovision

 The top five (a.k.a. the five countries I predicted as potential winners, by some miracle):

1. Sweden (365)

2. Russia (303)

3. Italy (292)

4. Belgium (217)

5. Australia (196)

  • The televoters’ top five consisted of Italy, Russia, Sweden, Belgium and Estonia. The juries chose Sweden, Latvia, Russia, Australia and Belgium as their favourites. Sweden becomes the first country in the combined jury/televoting era to not win the televote and still win the entire contest.
  • Sweden and Italy were the only countries to receive points from everyone but themselves. Sweden’s lowest score was a 4 from Greece; Italy’s was a single point from Belarus and Lithuania.
  • Sweden scored twelve sets of 12 points, to Italy’s nine and Russia’s five. Belgium received three sets, including one from Hungary, and Australia nabbed two, from hosts Austria and winners Sweden.
  • Måns’ victory is Sweden’s second in four years and their sixth overall (watch out, Ireland!). If you’re still not convinced that they know how to succeed at Eurovision, just take a look at their track record, starting at 2011: 3rd, 1st, 14th (as the 2013 hosts, you can cut them a bit of slack), 3rd, and 1st. If the pattern continues, the winner of Melodifestivalen 2016 should prepare themselves for a mid-table finish at the ESC.
  • The winning margin of 62 is the biggest since Sweden last won in 2012. Back then, Loreen defeated the Buranovskiye Babushki by 113 points.
  • Russia is the runner-up for the second time in four years. They haven’t finished outside of the top ten since 2011.
  • Italy makes up for last year’s misstep with their second-strongest finish since their comeback, also in 2011 (a lot happened/has happened in/since 2011).
  • Belgium can be proud of their first top five finish since 2003. Only three countries – Azerbaijan, Malta and Montenegro – saw fit to leave Loïc pointless.
  • Australia rounded out the top five with points from all but six countries. We found ourselves the third favourite of seven countries, scoring a very respectable 8 points from Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, San Marino, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

 

The rest of the top ten:

6. Latvia (186)

7. Estonia (106)

8. Norway (102)

9. Israel (97)

10. Serbia (53)

  • After a string of non-qualifications between 2008 and 2014, Latvia not only advanced to the final (just behind Sweden) but rose up the ranks into the top ten for the first time in ten years. This amazing success (seriously…I’m SO proud) was helped along by three sets of 12 points. If the contest had been completely decided by the juries, Aminata would have finished second.
  • Estonia also makes a return to good fortune after Tanja’s surprise DNQ in Copenhagen, despite not scoring any douze points. Neither did fellow top ten finishers Norway and Israel.
  • Speaking of Norway…Mørland & Debrah’s eighth place is Norway’s second in a row, and their third top ten result in a row.
  • Israel pulled a Latvia/Estonia, with a happy ending that was a long time coming. Having not seen a final since 2010, it took a sixteen-year-old in the body of someone twice that age to get them there. Nadav and his shiny sneakers secured Israel’s best placing since 2008.
  • Rounding out the top ten was Serbia, scoring just 53 points. This is the lowest score for a 10th-placed entry since Croatia squeezed in with 42 points in 2001.

 

The mid-to-low table finishers:

11. Georgia (51)

12. Azerbaijan (49)

13. Montenegro (44)

14. Slovenia (39)

15. Romania (35)

16. Armenia (34)

17. Albania (34)

18. Lithuania (30)

19. Greece (23)

20. Hungary (19)

21. Spain (15)

22. Cyprus (11)

  • Azerbaijan didn’t quite manage to manoeuvre their way back into the top 10, but their 12th place is a big improvement on last year’s 22nd place, which was their worst-ever placing by far. After finishing 8th with their debut entry in 2008, then enjoying successive top five results between 2009 and 2013, it still seems like they’ve lost their touch a bit. But perhaps jumping from 22nd to 12th is evidence that they’re clawing their way back up. Will we see an equally impressive leap to 2nd place in 2016?
  • Montenegro can bask in the glory of their most successful Eurovision to date as an independent nation, while Adio composer Željko Joksimović can only wonder what went wrong as he contemplates his first finish outside of the top ten. For Montenegro, though, 13th place in the final is a coup. After their first semi-final qualification in Copenhagen, they seem to be surfing a little wave of success.
  • Greece scored less than last year, but received a (slightly) higher placing with Maria Elena’s ballad than they did with Freaky Fortune’s dance banger. If the latter had represented Greece in down-tempo Vienna, I suspect the country would have fared a lot better.

 

The bottom five:

23. Poland (10)

24. United Kingdom (5)

25. France (4)

26. Germany (0)

27. Austria (0)

  • Poland finished 15th in the televote, but the juries weren’t keen on In The Name of Love at all and ranked Monika last.
  • After two years of avoiding the bottom five, the UK found themselves back there once again. France languishes in the lows of the bottom five for the fourth time in a row (ouch). Still, with four whole points to her name, Lisa Angell doubled Twin Twin’s measly two points from 2014.
  • The double-whammy of woe for Germany and hosts Austria is the first of its kind since 1997, when both Norway and Portugal got the goose egg. Germany wasn’t ranked last with the televoters (25th) or juries (20th), so got a particularly raw deal. Austria did rank last in the televote, but 13th in the jury vote.

And that, ladies and gents, was the final. Before I wrap up this momentous post, let’s whiz through the semi results as well.

 

A snapshot of the semi-final scoreboards, split and combined

Here are the combined results of semi final 1:

  1. Russia (182)
  2. Belgium (149)
  3. Estonia (105)
  4. Georgia (98)
  5. Romania (89)
  6. Greece (81)
  7. Armenia (77)
  8. Hungary (67)
  9. Serbia (63)
  10. Albania (62)
  11. Moldova (41)
  12. Belarus (39)
  13. Denmark (33)
  14. The Netherlands (33)
  15. FYR Macedonia (28)
  16. Finland (13)
  • The winner of this semi, with the televoters, juries and overall, was Russia. This is the second time Russia has won a semi they’ve participated in – the Buranovskiye Babushki also won theirs in 2012.
  • Placing last, Finland achieved their worst result in Eurovision semi history. But if it had been purely up to us televoters, PKN would have qualified!
  • Four of the ten qualifiers did not qualify last year – Belgium, Estonia, Georgia and Albania (Serbia did not participate in 2014).
  • The televoting top three = Russia, Estonia and Belgium. The jury top three = Russia, Belgium and Greece.
  • Loser of the televote was FYR Macedonia; loser of the jury vote was Finland.
  • Only Russia and Georgia were ranked equally by the televoters and the juries. Both parties did agree on three of the eventual top five, with Russia, Belgium and Georgia appearing at the top on both sides of the split vote. The televoters also had Estonia and Romania in their top five, while the juries had Greece and The Netherlands up there.
  • The most drastic differences between the televotes and jury votes involved Armenia (6th T, 12th J); Serbia (7th T, 13th J); The Netherlands (15th T, 5th J); Finland (10th T, 16th J); and Estonia (2nd T, 9th J).

I predicted nine of the ten qualifiers (thinking Denmark would qualify in place of Serbia…d’oh!) but only predicted the correct finishing positions of Russia, Greece and Albania. How did you do?

 

Here are the combined results of semi final 2:

  1. Sweden (217)
  2. Latvia (155)
  3. Israel (151)
  4. Norway (123)
  5. Slovenia (92)
  6. Cyprus (87)
  7. Lithuania (67)
  8. Poland (57)
  9. Montenegro (57)
  10. Azerbaijan (53)
  11. Malta (43)
  12. Ireland (35)
  13. Czech Republic (33)
  14. Portugal (19)
  15. Iceland (14)
  16. San Marino (11)
  17. Switzerland (4)
  • This semi’s televote, jury and overall winner was Sweden. This marked Sweden’s third semi final win after 2011 and 2012 victories.
  • Unfortunately for Switzerland, they lost a semi for the third time. Piero & the Music Stars and Michael von der Heide also finished last in 2004 and 2010.
  • Three of the qualifiers did not qualify last year – Latvia, Israel and Lithuania (Cyprus did not participate in 2014).
  • Azerbaijan recorded its worst-ever result in a semi final, qualifying tentatively in 10th.
  • The televoting top three = Sweden, Israel and Latvia. The jury top three = Sweden, Latvia and Norway.
  • Loser of the televote was Switzerland; loser of the jury vote was San Marino.
  • This time (Lithuanian pun not intended) three countries – Sweden, Cyprus and Portugal – were ranked equally by both parties, while Sweden, Latvia, Israel and Norway were agreed upon in both top fives. The televoters had Poland in their top five, while the juries had Malta in the mix.
  • In semi no. 2, the split revealed big disagreements regarding Malta (12th T, 5th J); Ireland (16th T, 7th J); and Poland (4th T, 16th J).

I also predicted nine out of ten qualifiers in this case (a personal best), under the impression that Iceland would qualify instead of Poland. Oops. Again, I managed to guess three finishing positions – Sweden’s, Malta’s and Ireland’s. Better luck next year to me, and to you if you couldn’t see the future so well either!

 

 

That’s all for today (as if it wasn’t enough for a lifetime) but rest assured that I have serious posting plans for the nest few months.

Up next will be my argument in favour of retaining the jury vote in the wake of Sweden’s “controversial” triumph. Then, you’ll have your chance to vote in the People’s Choice categories of the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards 2015 (woohoo?); the EBJEEs themselves will take place; I’ll reveal my top 10 performance highlights from Vienna and my picks for the national final runners-up who probably should have gone to Eurovision; and I’ll be publishing my exposé on all the lookalikes from the Class of ’15.

I hope you’ll drop by for some or all of these (hopefully) exciting events! In the meantime, let me know what you thought of this year’s voting sequence, results and winner. Please note that members of the Anti-Måns Brigade may be given the cold shoulder for a few days.

Just kidding.

Until next time…

 

nsig

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 2)

Hello again, for approximately the 407th time. When I put it that way, it’s no wonder I struggle to think of an original greeting every time I write one of my infamous rambling intros.

This intro is not going to be one of the rambling variety *insert worldwide cheers here* as all I really need to say is welcome to Vol. II of the Viennese Verdicts!

In this episode, the EBJ Jury is getting up, close and personal with another five Eurovision 2015 entries – namely, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland. I have two brand new jurors by my side (figuratively speaking) and they’re ready to wax lyrical and not-so-lyrical about this bunch of songs – i.e. praise the pants off them, and trash them like there’s no tomorrow. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to today’s partners in crime.

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv3

Mrs. Jaz: That’s the code name I’m giving my mum for the purposes of these reviews. Yes, the woman who (accidentally) raised this Eurovision obsessive agreed to be on the inaugural EBJ Jury, which had nothing to do with me threatening her with the ten-hour YouTube loop of Epic Sax Guy thrusting away. Mrs. Jaz isn’t averse to the ESC – she’s put up with years of me forcing her to listen to the official albums and bringing the subject up at every opportunity. Plus, she sat and watched Junior Eurovision with me last year (I’m assuming there was nothing more to her liking on TV at the time) and watched me burst into hysterical tears of happiness when Italy won it. Still, she’s not exactly a fan. She’s familiar with the winners and entries that were in the charts when she was growing up in the UK, but she has no idea what a Melodifestivalen is and doesn’t understand why I voluntarily wake up at 3am to watch it. I played Mrs. Jaz her assigned entries and had her review them before I told her which countries they were from, what the songs were called and who was performing them – i.e. it was a totally blind process. So, you can be sure her reviews haven’t been influenced by a bias for lustworthy, leather-clad Swedish men or anything (unlike mine). If you think our way with words is somewhat similar, that’s because I was responsible for padding her review notes out into paragraphs. But all opinions, observations and witty/bitchy remarks are her own!

PS – I guess I should explain the above bio photo of France’s 2003 entrant, the lovely Louisa. Mrs. Jaz wasn’t 100% comfortable with having her face plastered on the internet (I assume because she knows how attractive the rest of the EBJ Jury is and feels inadequate as a result). So I’ve used the closest ESC-related doppelganger I could think of to compensate. Imagine Louisa wearing specs and you’ll be just about there.

Nick Provenghi: “Congratulations, I have arrived! My name is Nick and, contrary to what my intro suggests, I am not Icelandic, but am rather coming to you from the rather unremarkable American Southwest. Five years ago, an accidental click on Lena’s video for Satellite gave me a new life-wrecking life-changing addiction. In the past five years, my favorites have ranged from sweet Dutch guitar pop in 2012 to arena-filling rock from Finland in 2014 – but my favorite entry ever would have to be Hungary’s Kedvesem from 2013.”

Nick’s blog Shining ESC | Nick on Twitter

Jasmin Bear: “Yep, it’s me again! I gave you a regular ol’ bio last time, but I don’t want to repeat that now since I’ll be on my own jury for every installment of the Viennese Verdicts. Instead, allow me to provide you with a “fascinating” ESC factoid about me. The first Eurovision Song Contest I ever laid eyes on was the Athens 2006 show, and I’m pretty sure that was by accident when I was just a naïve fourteen-year-old flicking through the TV channels, hoping to see a bunch of Finnish monsters winning a pan-continental song contest. I really got lucky that night, didn’t I? My point is, once you’ve seen Lordi, you can’t stop yourself from investigating further. My interest was well and truly piqued by those rubber-clad rockers, and by the time I’d watched JESC 2006 and ESC 2007 in Helsinki, I was officially obsessed. The 2007 show will always have a special place in my Eurovision-logo heart as the first contest I experienced as a fan. Not to mention the fact that Finland put on an epic show, and that hosts Jaana and Mikko were perfection personified. I’m still waiting for them to call me up and beg me to hang out with them. It’s been eight years, but I haven’t lost (all) faith.”

 

Now the formalities are out of the way, read on to find out what the three of us think of the offerings from Trijntje, Mørland & Debrah, Maraaya, Maria and Mélanie. Spoiler alert: reactions are mixed!

 

 

THE NETHERLANDS

Walk Along by Trijntje Oosterhuis

Netherlands

Mrs. Jaz: Well, isn’t this catchy! I found myself tapping my feet to the beat and singing along to those why-ay-ay-ays almost instantly. I think this would make an excellent karaoke track. I like Trijntje’s voice and the country vibe of the song. It is a bit repetitive though, and I find myself wondering ‘why-ay-ay-ay’ the Netherlands didn’t make better use of the time they had. More verse content might have helped, because that chorus comes around very quickly and could very easily start to grate. 6 points.

Nick: In my strange little head, I like to imagine the origin story of this year’s Dutch entry playing out like an episode of the Real Eurovision Singers of Amsterdam, with Anouk teaming up with her friend Trijntje to get back at the former’s archival, Ilse de Lange, for upstaging her. Unlike the strategy she used for her 9th place finish in Malmö, though, Anouk went down the pop route and got a little caught up in the pursuit of a crown, because she forgot the soul to the song. Walk Along is a nice little number delivered well by Trijntje, but it’s sadly devoid of any of the charm that Anouk and Ilse both channeled to get to the (near) top. 6 points.

Jaz: The Netherlands have had an extremely successful past few years at Eurovision, kick-started by Anouk’s qualification in 2013 (their first since 2004) and eventual top 10 result (their first since 1999). The woman in black returns this year as songwriter and producer for Trijntje’s Walk Along, which is surprisingly upbeat considering its creator (sorry/not sorry, but I always found Birds to be a depressing life-drainer). It is peppy and it is catchy (that ‘why-ay-ay-ay?’ is a hook and a half) for sure…but boy, is it repetitive! You’ve barely heard the first chorus and started to wonder what else the song will offer, when another chorus and another set of why-ay-ay-ays comes along (or should I say ‘walks along’?). I really enjoy listening to this entry, but it’s very obvious that it doesn’t take advantage of the 180 seconds it has to play with, unlike many of the songs it’s competing against. Those hearing it for the first time during semi final one will latch on to that hook quite easily, and if they like what they’re hearing as much as I do, the repetitiveness won’t stop them from voting for Trijntje. Still, I’m on the fence with regards to a third Dutch qualification on the trot. 7 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.33

 

 

NORWAY

A Monster Like Me by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett

Norway

Mrs. Jaz: Wow…what did this guy do in his early youth, exactly? Jeez! Apart from being slightly concerned about that (though as he’s singing live at Eurovision and not via satellite from a prison cell, that concern might be unnecessary) I really liked this, if that’s the right way to respond to such a dark song. The criminal and his lady friend (Norway’s Bonnie and Clyde, I presume) sound lovely together, and their song has more substance and more of a story than the Dutch song. I appreciate the fact that it’s lyrically interesting and musically in-depth – it’s not fluff. 8 points.

Nick: For the second year in a row, I just can’t “get” the Norwegian entry. But at least this year, I can pinpoint what’s bugging me, and it’s the lyrics, for the most part. That opening line is just awful: ‘I did something terrible in my early youth.’ No, Mørland, you did something terrible in the early part of this song, because I burst out laughing when I heard that for the first time. The rest of the song doesn’t get much better, and as a result, it wastes the perfectly nice music and singers. 5 points.

Jaz: When a mere snippet of a song gives me moist eyes and goosebumps, I know I’ve stumbled upon something special. That’s what my favourite ESC entry of all time, Lane Moje, does to me on a regular basis. As you may have guessed, A Monster Like Me has done the same ever since Mørland, Debrah and I became acquainted, back when the MGP teasers were released. Their song had ‘NORWEGIAN WINNER!’ written all over it, and sure enough, it’s heading to Vienna with my full support. For me, the song combines the best aspects of the classic Eurovision duet – an intriguing dynamic, voices that harmonise, and a moment that basically screams ‘INSERT PYRO HERE’ – with lyrical and emotional content that is a world away from the artificial cheese of such duets as In A Moment Like This. I don’t know exactly what Mørland did that made him such a monster either, but I do know that he and his flame-haired compatriot are an act I will be supporting wholeheartedly come May (whilst shedding a tear or two, most likely). A tip or two for the MGP-to-ESC transition, though: polish those vocals and rethink Debrah’s bizarre face-bun hairdo (the retro-glam look from the music video wouldn’t go astray for the Eurovision performance, actually). Even if those tips aren’t taken on board (though why wouldn’t they be?) I give Norway DOUZE POINTS!

EBJ Jury Score: 8.33

 

 

SLOVENIA

Here For You by Maraaya

Slovenia

Mrs. Jaz: This is a good one. I could imagine it being played on the radio right now. It’s very instant, not overly repetitive and generally quite memorable. Her voice is unusual in a great way, which adds more of an X-factor to the package. Once again, I was tapping my fingers and feet as I was listening to it. All of the above makes me think Slovenia could have Eurovision success with this. 8 points.

Nick: Say ‘Slovenia’, and images of a flute-playing Morticia Addams and ill-advised wedding dresses might come to mind. Thankfully, neither of those things are anywhere close to this year’s Slovene entry. Devilishly modern and sleek, Here For You is the perfect marriage of dance and violin, brought on by a (hopefully) perfect marriage between singer Marjetka and composer Raay. The composition is totally invigorating and gets under your skin with ease. And unlike other songs with catchy music, the lyrics can comfortably support the tunes here, as they’re crisp and charming. 10 points.

Jaz: Just because a song was the best of a bad bunch (more on Switzerland later!) doesn’t mean that song is mediocre. Case in point, Slovenia ’15. Even with serial ex-Yugo backup vocalist (and occasional lead artist) Martina Majerle in the mix, EMA was a final of less-than-impressive standards this year. Here For You stood out like a diamond-encrusted mullet dress on a rack of black, un-ironed business slacks. It may not be at the very top of my rankings, but it’s higher than I’ve had a Slovenian entry in years. It’s catchy and trendy, with that violin riff serving as the palate-cleansing sorbet between the slightly repetitive courses of the chorus. It’s the kind of song I’d play to a member of the anti-ESC brigade, just to see the look on their face afterwards when I casually mentioned that it’s representing Slovenia in the contest this year. It’s also the kind of song that I actually have to be listening to in order to remember just how much I like it, which shouldn’t harm Slovenia’s chances of achieving their best result for a long time – that’s what the recap is for. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 8.67

 

 

ICELAND

Unbroken by Maria Olafs

Iceland

Mrs. Jaz: Like Slovenia’s song, Iceland’s is catchy, instant and contemporary, though this one’s a bit more commercial-sounding. There’s another lovely female voice on record here, singing nice, inspirational lyrics. I’m a words person where music is concerned, and I did really like the latter. My only big complaint would be the abruptness of the ending – it’s very sudden. And I was a little bit disappointed when the song was over! 7 points.

Nick: In a return to form from 2012, Iceland gave us the best national final of the year in Söngvakeppnin, but selected its most underwhelming winner in recent memory. María Ólafs stepped out onstage looking like Emmelie de Forest’s understudy, with an even more ridiculous song than Only Teardrops. Remarkably, the team made a song that consists entirely of chorus, and it gets old incredibly fast. María’s tendency to go shrill doesn’t help matters here, and the entire package is the worst Icelandic entry I can remember (my memory doesn’t go back far, so take that with a grain of salt). 3 points.

Jaz: I’m going to attempt to push aside the fact that I desperately wish I was reviewing SUNDAY’s Fjaðrir right now, and instead review Unbroken as if it’s the only Icelandic song I’ve heard this NF season. Of course, there’s still the matter of the superior Icelandic version of this song, but…again, that’s irrelevant, because it’s the English version that’s going to Vienna. Maria’s ballad was one of the Söngvakeppnin candidates that drew me in from the start, being as melodically instant as it is. One of its biggest positives is that it’s not one bit depressing; rather, it injects a sense of hope and joy and all things uplifting into a field heavy with ballads that ARE depressing. The English lyrics are a little cliché and emphasise how repetitive the song is, but the situation could have been a lot worse (I don’t want to name any names, but…oh, what the hell. SERBIA!). I can’t help but love this – those happy vibes and the way it builds wins me over every time. Maria is adorable (I know she’s 21, but since she looks 12 I figure I can use that adjective) and I think her voice is, if not totally on point, perfectly ready to belt out Unbroken on the ESC stage. My only real criticism here would be the Emmelie de Forest costume she’s likely to adopt for May. That would bring back unfortunate memories for me. DON’T DO IT, MARIA!!! 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.67

 

 

SWITZERLAND

Time To Shine by Mélanie René

Switzerland

Mrs. Jaz: I may have been disappointed when the Icelandic song ended, but when Switzerland’s did I was glad, to be honest. It’s not dreadful, but all in all it’s pretty flat. It seems to want to be dramatic, like it’s aiming for an explosive moment, but it never even gets close. There’s merit in the music, but the lyrics are quite weak – cheesy and cliché. That doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. 4 points.

Nick: Ah, Switzerland. Home of the EBU, chocolate, and a terrible NF format. And this year, only the chocolate hasn’t disappointed me yet. Mélanie won the already weak national final with this dirge of a ballad. The big problem is that it’s so uncommitted to any of the ideas it plays with. If it wants to be an empowering, coming-of-age song, it shouldn’t have a dated 70s guitar solo two minutes in. There’s just nothing that this entry gets right, and the delegation will probably be making an early trans-Alpine return across the border from Vienna. 2 points.

Jaz: Like Slovenia, Switzerland didn’t set the most appetising banquet of songs on their table this year. Unlike Slovenia, this is the case pretty much every year in Switzerland, Still, they have to be given credit for always choosing as wisely as possible, as they have done with Mélanie and Time To Shine. I dislike the title of this song due to its cheesy connotations, but the fact that the song is zero percent LLB (lame lady ballad, for those unfamiliar with this EBJ-copyrighted acronym) and one-hundred percent…actually, what IS it? It’s not a traditional ballad, or an R & B track, though there are tinges of that present. My best description would be down-tempo inspo-pop that tries and fails to be an arena anthem. Nonetheless, there’s something about this that attracts me. I find myself singing along to the chorus automatically, and I like the construction of the song as a whole. Mélanie’s voice also works for me. Apart from the title, the cliché lyrics of the chorus and the oh-so-2000s prom dress she wore at the national final, I’m digging her entry. Donate the dress to your local charity shop, Mel, and I might just consider sending a vote or two your way. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 4.67

 

 

Well, I guess that answers the famous question posed by Shakespeare: ‘To be divisive or not to be divisive, when it doth cometh to Eurovision entries?’. Some of this year’s songs are dividing opinion like never before (except for all of the other times that happened before) and I would like to take this opportunity to inform both Nick and my mother that I won’t be speaking to either of them again for quite a while due to their comments on Norway and Switzerland respectively.

JUST KIDDING! Here’s the ranking of today’s Viennese Verdicts.

  1. Slovenia (8.67)
  2. Norway (8.33)
  3. Iceland (6.67)
  4. The Netherlands (6.33)
  5. Switzerland (4.67)

The EBJ Jury’s Top 40 will be revealed in due course, but if you recall the results of the previous reviews, you’ll be aware that we now have a new leader in Slovenia. Sorry, Ireland! Will they remain on top or will one of next week’s countries steal the #1 spot? Up next are Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia, with Australian and German representation on the judging panel. You’d be crazy not to come back and see what goes down!

 

 

nsig