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THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 7 (Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Serbia, Slovenia + the United Kingdom)

We’re nearly there, guys. It’s May, and the first live semi final of Eurovision 2018 is on Tuesday. TUESDAY!!!!!

I’ve never been so terrified at how quickly time is passing and so keen for a little bit more to pass at the same time. I’ve also never been so confused about which songs are going where, especially in SF1. But the chances of me embarrassing myself by getting 5 or 6 qualifiers correct is a discussion for another day.

Right now, I’m taking care of business by squeezing in the last few rounds of reviews for the year. This is the second last installment, and it involves ginger beards, cinnamon rolls and candy-coloured hair. Sweet. So who’s got the goods and who’s got some explaining to do out of Rasmussen, Ari, Ermal & Fabrizio, Sanja Ilić & Balkanika, Lea and SuRie? That’s subjective, but keep reading if you want my opinion!

 

  

My thoughts Everyone out there who’s been dreaming of the day Game of Thrones would meet Eurovision: this is your year! Okay, so maybe Rasmussen’s Higher Ground is more Vikings than GoT, but I really wanted to joke about the possibility of Denmark using gratuitous nudity and decapitations in their staging concept (in reality, it’s Belarus who’ve gone gratuitous and gruesome). What Denmark has done is let a Melodifestivalen reject represent them at the contest – an “honour” shared with Azerbaijan in 2016, and heaven knows how many other countries in heaven knows how many other years. But it’s not all bad, because a Melfest discard will still be half-decent at least, and this particular one is more than that. It’s definitely more adventurous than the Danish entries we’re used to (in style, performance, and in the sense that it screams ‘epic sea shanty!’ and begs for us all to wave our cutlasses in the air like we just don’t care). Combining Gregorian-esque chants with a pounding beat, an interesting time signature and a big ol’ belter of a chorus, it’s reminiscent of Himmel I Hav by Roger Pontare (of Melfest…go figure); only Higher Ground is more current, and more accessible by way of being in English. Even so, you wouldn’t hear a song like it anywhere outside of the ESC bubble or a movie soundtrack. To me, that’s part of the charm. There are a lot of layers to this song as far as production goes (you might say it’s as deep as the deep blue sea) with instrumentals that are rich and soaring, and powerful vocals from Rasmussen. I love the way his hair (and beard) blows in the manufactured breeze conjured up by our beloved wind machines – this song needs weather, though I don’t suggest Rasmussen pulls a Flashdance by drenching himself in water while wearing a leotard that leaves little to the imagination. My favourite thing about this track is how quickly it creates an atmosphere. Electricity is crackling in the air pretty much from the second it starts, and that’s hard to ignore – unlike a few Danish entries from recent years. I also have to commend the fact that there isn’t another song competing in this contest quite so suited to the nautical theme and ship-inspired stage. Congrats to Denmark for choosing so wisely, even if it was accidental. At the end of the day, I’m pleased with Higher Ground if not impressed by it. Anja Nissen was a hard act to follow for me, as someone (in the minority, I know) obsessed with her and Where I Am. That remains a song more stylistically Jaz than this one. Still, HG is a solid effort and stands out in the field. It’s got a reasonable shot of qualifying, but if it does I doubt we’ll see it on the left side of the scoreboard. Denmark still has a way to go before I start dropping the douze on them and calling them potential winners.

2017 VS 2018? I’ve fangirled over Anja too much to be disloyal, so 2017 it is.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Last round, I said that the Czech Republic had glowed the heck up in the space between Eurovision 2017 and Eurovision 2018. Flip the script, and you have Iceland – a country that has willingly swapped the incredible, why-the-eff-didn’t-she-qualify ice queen Svala and her Scandipop masterpiece Paper for….ugh. How do I even describe Our Choice without having to shove my life savings into the swear jar? I guess first off, I have to get one thing straight: I absolutely adore Ari. The Nathan Trent of 2018, he is a precious and über-talented human who deserves a brilliant song to represent Iceland with. It’s a massive shame that what he gets to represent them with is the musical equivalent of squishy cheese, vintage 1990. Seriously, this song sounds like it predates its own performer (Ari was born in 1998…let that sink in and horrify you if you think late 90s babies should still be in diapers). It puts Boggie’s Wars For Nothing, a similarly saccharine wannabe charity song, on the same level as We Are The World and Do They Know It’s Christmas? While there’s literally nothing I like about the song, the lyrics well and truly are the worst aspect. It’s 2018, we have entries likeToy and Dance You Off feat. razor-sharp lyrics, and Iceland thinks that lame lines like ‘There’s always a choice we can make to help and to heal in different ways’ and ‘Inside we’re all the same’ are acceptable? NOPE. Granted, Pollapönk got away with ‘Inside we’re the same’ in 2014, but that was a message song not originally written in hieroglyphics on a stone tablet by Ancient Egyptians. I think the credited songwriter here is trying to pull a fast one on us by pretending Our Choice was penned this century. I can make a concession given that the Icelandic NF Söngvakeppnin was very lacklustre this year. But regardless, I’m mystified as to how this topped the lot (Aron Hannes + Golddigger = far superior). I suppose Ari’s puppy-dog eyes, strong voice and ability to sell the song to some degree (not 100% – he ain’t Superman) must have had something to do with the win. It’s safe to say that is the only song contest this bland, stale ballad will be winning. PLEASE FORGIVE ME, ARI! It’s not you, it’s the song. And as if the signs for it going nowhere weren’t clear enough, Our Choice was lumped with the Slot of Death (no. 2) in the Semi of Death. The best possible outcome for Iceland this year is to not finish last on Tuesday night, and even that’s an ambitious goal. If Ari had released his song as an actual charity single to raise money for the homeless (thirty years ago), it might have done some good. But at a highly-competitive song contest in 2018, he’s just preaching to the non-converted.

2017 VS 2018? Bring back Svala (or give Ari something reasonable to work with).

My score 2.5

 

 

My thoughts There are two ways I’ve reacted to Italian entries lately: I fall in love with them immediately (grande amore!), or I think ‘hmm’ at first only to fall in love after three or four listens. What I always think is that Italian music is classy AF – unlike myself – and has its own unmistakeable thing going on. All of that applies to Ermal and Fabrizio’s Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente…except the instant enamour bit, because this was a song that snuck up on me with its brilliance, as opposed to smacking me in the face with it while blowing a vuvuzela and yelling ‘VIVA ITALIA!’. On first listen I found it too complex, too wordy and not hooky enough to remember. I think I must have had a headache at the time too, because Fabrizio’s insanely gravelly voice was up there with nails down a blackboard on the ‘Dear Lord, Make It Stop!’ scale. I looked up the translation of the lyrics; felt no change (I mentioned in the last round that I’m a soulless witch – Eurovision’s own Ebenezer Scrooge). Listened to it again; a slightly higher opinion of it. Listened to it again – to cut a long and boring story short – and BAM, just like that I was head over heels. And I don’t think it’s just a crush or a phase. I’m in this for the long haul, so put a ring on it, Italy! The complexity of this song is now something I appreciate about it: the melody and phrasing isn’t clear-cut and there’s no hooks that have been shoehorned in purely to make people dance, cry or headbang. The wordiness is one of those classic Italian musical tropes, and I feel like it’s in keeping with Ermal and Fabrizio having so much to say. And as for the lack of memorability I thought NMAFN had before…well, that’s probably still the case for a lot of first-time listeners, but I can’t get it out of my head now. The message is getting to me more these days, and I applaud the substance of the subject matter. That meaningfulness, combined with the beautiful guitar work, amazing chorus in which Italian has never sounded better, and contrasting smooth-edged/rough-edged vocals of the duo (that I understand now balance each other out, yin-yang style) makes for an overall impression of SI, SI, SI. Sure, it took a while for me to reach this state of obsession – which may not bode well for Italy’s contest chances – but good things come to those who wait. Speaking of this in a competition context, I have to come full circle and say ‘hmm’. Will Europe (and Australia) get this? Can the anti-war, anti-terrorism message be conveyed strongly enough via staging in three minutes to affect and pull focus in a 26–song final? One in which many of the other songs will be more instantly memorable and potentially overshadow Italy’s? Sadly, I doubt it. Italy was the overwhelming fave in 2017 (until the last minute) and ended up 6th. Unless this flips those fortunes, as current 10th favourite to win I see it ending up far lower. But I love it so much (finally), I’m hoping to be proven wrong.

2017 VS 2018? Anti-evil beats evolution – 2018.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts There are a few songs in the Lisbon fam that are ESC throwbacks, and I love it. Taking me back in time to the mid/late 2000s are the likes of Belarus, Greece and Serbia (obviously, or I wouldn’t have mentioned this at the start of their review). Ethnic to the extreme with a Eurodance beat, and partly performed by a strangely attractive bald yet bearded dude? Hvala da, Slovenia joke intended. There’s no question Nova Deca could have slipped seamlessly into the line-up of the Istanbul or Helsinki contests (it would have been a great host entry in Belgrade too, no disrespect to Oro) but I’m happy it’s here in 2018 adding retro variety to the show. It’s striking from the second it begins, when the wailing (I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else to describe it) puts the ethno in ethnopop. Just when you think you’re in for 180 seconds of traditional Serbian folk music, DAT BEAT kicks in and promises much more – not that I would have been mad about a totally traditional Serbian song, especially after last year’s mostly Swedish production. Good energy, an anthemic quality and a catchy chorus (a key ‘Woohoo!’ requirement for me) fill the rest of the running time, and I have zero complaints about any of it. I’m not sure what else to say – sometimes you just like something and you can’t put into (that many) words why. I will admit that this is not a song anyone’s likely to call ‘so 2018’. But I don’t care. It’s another one you’d never stumble upon outside of Eurovision (or at least outside of the Balkans) which is one of the things I love about it. I’m sure the huge Serbian population here in Australia will respond to this positively, dancing up a SuRie storm. Whether or not that translates into votes, we’ll see. I do think Serbia will struggle for a final spot again, and to be honest my jaw will drop a little if Balkanika are announced as qualifiers – in a good way. Nova Deca would be a fantastic song to have in the final program, since no matter what it follows or precedes it will be different. And I think Serbia needs some encouragement to start sending ethno-fusion songs to Eurovision on a more regular basis, because when they do, they do it very well. They always get the Jaz tick of approval, anyway.

2017 VS 2018? 2018. Easy choice.

My score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts Pink hair, don’t care. That’s Lea Sirk (and her Portuguese twin Cláudia Pascoal), repping Slovenia with a song that makes last year’s On My Way sound even more passé than it actually was. First things first, I’m still pissed that BQL were knocked back again at EMA with another amazing Maraaya creation. I sincerely hope their victory day will come. In the meantime, we have Hvala, Ne!, a song I have quite the like/dislike relationship with. Do the good things outweigh the bad, IMO? Let’s see. Positives: It’s contemporary and radio-friendly; it has attitude; it’s in Slovene when the temptation to switch to the English version would have been high; and Lea is a solid performer and vocalist. The NF performance was simple but effective too, so if they’ve replicated it in a way that fills the bigger ESC stage, I’ll be happy. Negatives: It’s kind of flat and monotonous; the noise in the chorus that punctuates ‘Hvala ne’ sounds like a smoke alarm having a nervous breakdown, and I am not here for it; and Lea’s NF outfit was super unflattering (it looks like she’s wearing something similar for Eurovision, and I do not approve). Okay, so it seems I’m leaning towards the angel on my shoulder rather than the devil on the other one re: Hvala, Ne! But at the same time, the song doesn’t ignite enough passion in me – in a yay or nay way – to make me want to vote for it. And I suspect I’m not the only person thinking this. There aren’t any ‘wow’ moments to speak of, and Lea’s position in the running order isn’t too favourable – Montenegro before her, while not the best Balkan ballad ever, is grander; and Ukraine after her? Well, they could destroy any impression Slovenia leaves like it’s a scrap of paper left on top of Melovin’s flaming piano. I can see Slovenia finishing in the 11th-14th bracket in SF2, but no higher. If I’m right, I won’t be glad to see the back of Lea and her amazing fairy floss hair, but I won’t miss her song in the final a whole lot either.

2017 VS 2018? I’m actually torn on this one. Both have big pros and cons. 2018, I think?

My score 7

 

 

 

My thoughts In 2017, the UK reminded us all that glitters is gold – and that a gold-drenched stage and singer won’t necessarily propel you into the gold medal position. Something they’re hoping will do the trick is sending a two-time backup singer (for Belgium, with Loïc and Blanche) in the form of SuRie. She’s a superstar on social media and the kind of Eurovision artist we all want to be our BFF…so it’s a shame that Storm doesn’t live up to her awesomeness as a person.  Like Germany, the UK is not earning their automatic Saturday night spot with this – a song that would have a hard time qualifying from a semi. It’s nice, there’s nothing wrong with it, and SuRie is a joy to watch perform as she’s a Little Miss Sunshine onstage like Jess Mauboy. The lyrics are cheesy and predictable at times, but she charms her way through them and makes me believe she means what she’s saying (not that I’d been having trouble believing storms don’t last forever). But no matter how hard I look, I can’t find any ‘oomph’ in this. It’s lacking an element of excitement to light my fire and toast my marshmallows. Is it a heart-warmer? Not really. Can you dance to it? Nope. Is it hard to resist singing along to? Not in my experience. To put it another way, if Eurovision was an election campaign made up of political candidates, the UK wouldn’t be one who makes a powerful statement and attracts voters like Portuguese custard tarts attract Lisbon tourists. Up against the other automatic finalists, Storm comes across mediocre – and my ‘meh’ feeling only increases when I compare it to the other 37 songs. I hate that I’m not even surprised by that happening with a UK entry. Who wants to be accustomed to average? Lucie Jones gave us a glimmer of hope last year, but if she couldn’t finish higher than 15th, I don’t think SuRie can either. This year is turning out to be more on par with 2017 than we first thought in terms of the overall standard, so because Never Give Up On You > Storm, my early prediction for the UK now is 18th-22nd. But here’s your consolation prize, SuRie: when it comes to crowning the Twitter Queen of Eurovision 2018, nobody else stands a chance.

2017 VS 2018? I loved Lucie, so sorry SuRie.

My score 6.5

 

 

37 down, SIX TO GO!!! I’m on the home stretch, y’all, and that’s worth a happy dance. While I’m getting jiggy with it, you can check out this round’s ranking: 

  1. Italy (10)
  2. Serbia (8.5)
  3. Denmark (7)
  4. Slovenia (7)
  5. United Kingdom (6.5)
  6. Iceland (2.5)

All I’m going to say on this one is…poor Ari.

Does Italy give you the most grande amore out of these six songs, or does Rasmussen’s majestic beard song win you over every time? Maybe you actually *gulp* enjoy Iceland? Make your decision and vote for your favourite now!

 

NEXT TIME It’s all come down to this: the final six countries competing in Eurovision 2018. Who’s got me fist-pumping and who’s got me face-palming when it comes to Belarus, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland? This weekend, all will be revealed…

  

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | More ESC entries, multiple announcements + Melfest moves on to Malmö!

Hej och välkommen to another Super Saturday! The Eurovision calendar of events is fuller than Linda Wagenmakers’ skirt this weekend, and I refuse to even think about how it compares to my social calendar (not that I need one when there’s so much NF action keeping me occupied). We may only be getting the gift of one more entry for Lisbon tonight, but there are loads of semi finals going on and paving the way for a full house of songs. The fact that 2018 entries are trickling in at the moment just means we have time to make up extra beds and pull together a sufficient snacking platter.

About tonight…

  • Estonia (Eesti Laul semi 2)
  • Hungary (A Dal semi 2)
  • Iceland (Söngvakeppnin semi 2)
  • Latvia (Supernova semi 3)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 6)
  • Montenegro (Montevizija final)
  • Slovenia (EMA semi)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen semi 3)
  • Ukraine (Vidbir semi 2)

If that list doesn’t offer something for every Eurofan, then I’ll denounce my unconditional love for Lane Moje. It’s so long that little old lonesome me can’t possibly talk about it all. So, in keeping with shows I’ve already covered this season and shows I’m waiting until later to discuss, I’ll only be talking about a) what’s happened in the world of Eurovision 2018 over the past seven days, and b) Melodifestivalen (duh, says the Swedophile) in this post. I know what you’re thinking…

…but the day I both become Superwoman and stop considering Melfest the pinnacle of national finals, I’ll let you know.

 

 

We may not have welcomed too many tracks into the family this week (as I said, they’re trickling through like treacle this NF season) but a heap of stuff has happened regardless. Don’t believe me? Well, the proof is in the pudding, a.k.a. in the following rundown of bits and pieces.

The newest of brand-new songs heading to Lisbon (at this stage) is from Belarus, with Alekseev oh-so-predictably winning Eurofest with Forever on Friday night. Despite visually stunning staging, the “revamp” of the song has really just served to make him sound like he’s performing the original version wrong, and I’m not 110% convinced we will see/hear him sing it in May. But Belarus would be smart to keep him as their artist – and even smarter to show him off to his full advantage with the Russian version of Forever (if possible) or a totally different, non-English song altogether.

Denmark gave us a fabulous beard and a Viking anthem last weekend, as redheaded Rasmussen stormed to Dansk Melodi Grand Prix victory. Even though Higher Ground doesn’t sound remotely 2018, it’s very Eurovision and a definite statement piece – unlike some of the bland, wallpapery songs Denmark could have chosen this year and HAVE chosen in the past. Still, that second semi of death beckons, and it’s a question mark whether or nor the Danes will survive it.

Artist announcements – some with songs, some without – were fired out of the cannon at a rapid rate this week. Croatia is sending Franka Batelić with Crazy (which I’m sensing we’ll hear sometime between now and mid-March); Greece, after a mess of an NF lead-up that has resulted in no NF at all, has opted for Gianna Terzi and Oneira Mou (which is Greek-chic and 10x better than This Is Love IMO); Israel crowned Netta Barzilai the champ of Rising Star (which in addition to stars, rose questions re: vocal manipulation and how much of it Netta will be permitted to do in Portugal); and Macedonia revealed that Eye Cue will represent them with Lost and Found (let’s hope the song’s better than the band name). Planet Eurovision is a busy place to be in February, that’s for sure, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Finland’s second song for Saara Aalto, Domino, premiered on Friday in the wake of the well-received Monsters. Pros: it’s a pretty modern power ballad that Saara handles with ease. Cons: the lyrics are made up of one cliché after another (the wrecking ball simile has got to go). Monsters is the best option so far, but if Domino is the worst YLE has to offer, Finland deserves a high five *smack*.

After approximately 65 years, Italy’s Sanremo festival concluded with Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro taking home top honours and accepting the invitation to go to Eurovision. Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente is not set in stone as the competition song though – back in 2012 Nina Zilli swapped out Per Sempre for L’Amore É Femmina (I was not a happy camper), and a swap may well happen again. So the moral of this story is, maybe don’t include Italy in your rankings just yet.

Semi number two of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen saw an expected result: Samir & Viktor + LIAMOO direkt, Margaret + Mimi Werner to Andra Chansen. Boy, do we need some girls in that final ASAP! I am happy that for the first time ever, I predicted a Melfest heat completely correctly, but that’s probably testament to how see-through the semi was. My favourite was LIAMOO, so DTF = woohoo, but I must say that Mimi’s staging was beyond brilliant. I love you John Lundvik, and I’m a let you finish, but Mimi Werner had the BEST FIRE CURTAIN OF ALL TIME.

 

Now, speaking of Melfest…it’s time to talk about tonight’s deltävling tre.

 

Sweden’s traveling stage has been set up in ESC 2013 headquarters this week – Malmö Arena. Sadly Petra Mede won’t be popping up from underneath it in a John Paul Gaultier creation, but what WILL happen is…*unnecessary drum roll* seven more songs will be sung in a fight for a top 4 finish. And here they are:

  1. A Bitter Lullaby, Martin Almgren
  2. Stark¸ Barbi Escobar
  3. Cubra Libre, Moncho
  4. Party Voice, Jessica Andersson
  5. Min Dröm, Kalle Moraeus & Orsa Spelmän
  6. Cry, Dotter
  7. Everyday, Mendez

To all those saying that this is the worst edition of Melodifestivalen ever…well, I can see where you’re coming from. It certainly doesn’t measure up to any of the years I’ve been following it like the crazed fan I now am (2011 onwards) with just one semi left to lift the overall standard (unlikely). But I have no doubt that the March 10 final at Friends Arena is going to go off – there are four very good songs there already, after all; four to come; and four others to emerge from AC, which will be the best of the rest. And it only takes one song to kick butt at Eurovision, so let’s have some faith in Björkman (even if you can’t stand him, you can’t deny his ability to engineer excellent Swedish results) until it’s proven we shouldn’t, K?

 

My top 4

Cry Firstly, I just want to say how much I loved Dotter in Practical Magic (and that Academy Award? You go, girlfriend). Okay, so maybe she and Nicole Kidman ARE different people (have they ever been seen in the same room at the same time?). But they’re both very talented, and Dotter has the most intriguing snippet of the seven this week. The originality factor isn’t very high, however, since the comparisons to this are obvious.

I can’t be the only one actually seeing double…

Party Voice Mello wouldn’t be Mello without a touch of schlager, and Jessica Andersson is the perfect woman to serve it up – with a side of EDM, no less. It’s a big change from her last shot at getting back to Eurovision (long shiny dress + ballad) but for the better (or for the equally good). I have my ears at the ready to hear her party voice.

Everyday Apparently this is The One of the semi – the one Björkman wants us all to fawn over. I’m a little surprised – is it that special? – but I do like the sound of it, predictable lyrics (you and me/meant to be…no thanks) aside. It taps into the Latin pop trend nicely, and the chorus is catchy and fun.

Stark I’m on my own with this one, but it really stands out to me as a dance track with a melancholy feel. Of the three Swedish-language songs competing in Malmö, it’s my top pick.

 

So, who’s going direkt til final? Mendez + Dotter. This prediction goes against betting odds and the weekly audience poll, but I’m afraid I don’t get the DTF appeal of Martin. And I desperately want some womanly representation in that final! Mendez will sail through, but I really think Cry is the song that deserves to get a golden ticket.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Martin + Jessica. No, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dotter is bumped down to AC by Martin regardless of what I just said, but A Bitter Lullaby screams second chance. I’ll be mad if Jessica’s journey ends pre-AC, unless it’s because of Barbi…but that’s not happening.

 

What do you think? Will we get some much-needed girl power delivered to the Melfest final tonight, or will it be dudes direkt yet again?

 

NF UPDATE: What’s next?

  • 18/2 Portugal (Festival de Canção semi 1), Romania (Selecţia Naţională semi 5)
  • 19/2 Armenia (Depi Evratesil semi 1)
  • 20/2 Serbia (Beovizija final)
  • 22/2 Armenia (Depi Evratesil semi 2), Germany (Unser Lied Für Lissabon final)

 

And that’s my cue to leave, ‘cause it’s traditional pre-3am power nap time. Whether you’re gearing up for the NF of your choice by sleeping or not (which depends where you’re living in relation to CET), do whatever you’ve got to do and enjoy what you’re going to watch. The selection season’s going so fast, we have to appreciate it while we can!

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | Three more ESC entries, Denmark decides + Melfest goes to Göteborg!

God kväll good, national-final-watching people! I hope you’re having a fun NF season so far, despite it turning out to be one where pre-show faves do not follow through. This is the second Super Saturday proudly brought to us by February, and there’s so much happening I’m going to have to cut off my own introductory ramble and get on with chatting about my personal highlights ASAP.

Here’s everything going down this evening:

  • Denmark (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix final)
  • Estonia (Eesti Laul semi 1)
  • Hungary (A Dal semi 1)
  • Iceland (Söngvakeppnin semi 1)
  • Italy (Sanremo final)
  • Latvia (Supernova semi 2)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 5)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen semi 2)
  • Ukraine (Vidbir semi 1)

Whew! The superhuman multi-taskers among us are rejoicing right now as they cook a six-course dinner, knit a sweater and recite Shakespeare simultaneously. You can find all of the streaming links to tonight’s shows right here courtesy of Wiwibloggs (bless their little sequined socks).

Surprise, surprise – my plans involve tuning in to Melfest. But in this post, I’m talking about some other stuff too (just not all of the above because I don’t want to put your will to live to the test). The latest song selection news from Eurovision HQ + Dansk MGP + that Swedish semi = what you’re (hopefully) about to read. Sit back, relax and enjoy…or hyperventilate with rage when I declare undying love for music you hate and bitch about music you love.

 

 

Malta chose to break a taboo (HA HA HA not) last weekend by choosing Christabelle – apparently 4th time’s the charm – to go to Eurovision. Her performance was pretty kitchen sink (as in, every “firework” Salvador Sobral could possibly frown upon was thrown in to up the song’s ante) but there’s potential in Taboo itself, and enough time pre-Portugal to bring the staging more in line with…whatever the heck the song is trying to say (I can’t say I got the mental health message without explanation, but DID YOU SEE THE PANTHER?!?).

Over in Sweden – Karlstad, specifically – Melodifestivalen kicked off in uncharacteristically mediocre style, I’m sad to say (scroll down to see if I think things are looking up this week). Shocking nobody, John Lundvik (feat. fire curtain) and Benjamin Ingrosso (feat. one of the greatest stage setups in entertainment history – Malta, take note) went direkt to Friends Arena. Renaida and Sigrid Bernson will fight for a final place at Andra Chansen. Grattis, guys!

It was bound to be one of the betting front-runners that won in Switzerland – and unfortunately for Alejandro Reyes (my personal pick), it was Zibbz – the grungier doppelgangers of Madame Monsieur – with Stones. I can’t fault them even though I was Team Compass, so that’s a good sign. It’s still too early to tell how the brother-sister duo will do in a more competitive environment than the six-song Entscheidungsshow.

The United Kingdom sacrificed legendary Asanda to the NF favourite gods and opted to send SuRie’s Storm to the ESC instead. My choice would have been Liam and Astronaut, so I wouldn’t have been totally thrilled anyway…but I wish Asanda’s vocal issues (easily fixable by letting her stand still for five seconds) could have been overlooked. Legends would have been LIT in Lisbon. Storm, on the other hand, is a little bit wallpaper. Competent and kind of catchy, yes – but not exactly a voting sponge at this stage (i.e. not likely to suck up the points it needs to succeed).

Malta, Switzerland and the UK now join Albania, the Czech Republic, France and Spain in the exclusive group of 2018 entries finalised so far. Head over to my Instagram stories to check out my top 7 while it lasts (@eurovisionbyjaz, of course) and let me know how your current ranking compares in the comments.

 

 

I always get excited about DMGP, despite the fact that it’s usually vanilla when compared to the sprinkle-encrusted sundaes delivered by the likes of Estonia, Hungary and Sweden (normally). I guess even average Scandipop has a way with me – and besides, there’s always something above-average ready to represent Denmark (it just never actually wins the right to do so).

The ten-strong line-up for DMGP 2018 looks like this:

  1. Riot, Ditte Marie
  2. Starlight, Anna Ritsmar
  3. Higher Ground, Rasmussen
  4. Boys On Girls, Sannie
  5. Angels To My Battlefield, Sandra
  6. Unfound, Lasse Meling
  7. Standing Up For Love, CARLSEN
  8. Signals, Karui
  9. Holder Fast I Ingenting, Rikke Ganer-Tolsøe
  10. Music For The Road, Albin Fredy

For me, 2017>2018 (there’s a lot of like-worthy stuff this year, whereas I loved multiple tracks in 2017) but I’ve seen disagreement on that already. Artist-wise, we’re looking at a few familiar faces (Ditte Marie, Albin Fredy), a 90s hitmaker in Sannie, and someone who doesn’t look old enough to be awake past 7pm, let alone gunning to go to Eurovision (that’s Anna).

I’ll quickly make my feelings clear re: the songs that didn’t make my top 3 before getting into those podium places, for anyone interested… 

Starlight Seriously, how old is Anna? I feel like we should be questioning Denmark’s child labour laws every time I see her. Song-wise, she’s offering something cutesy and twee that somehow irritates me and soothes me at the same time. It could do very well tonight. 7.5/10.

Boys On Girls I wanted to feel intense 90s nostalgia listening to this, but Sannie a.k.a. Whigfield let me down a little. There’s a couple of DMGP songs weakened by anti-climactic, overly-repetitive choruses, and this is a prime example. 7/10.

Angels To My Battlefield This isn’t terrible, but it is the most forgettable song of the lot. How it’s in the top half of the odds, I have no idea (maybe it’s going to win and make my jaw hit the floor á la Soldiers of Love. Eek). 5/10.

Unfound Lasse is to DMGP what Max Cinnamon was to Destination Eurovision: adorable and armed with a guitar. This is a super-cute Shawn Mendes-esque track that’s not likely to go anywhere (but I will have a bop for one in my bedroom while I watch it being performed). 8.5/10.

Standing Up For Love How freaking Danish is this?!? CARLSEN manage to be both the female version of Lighthouse X and one of Europe’s many O’G3NE tribute acts, and if there were ever a song that screams ‘Denmark at Eurovision 90% of the time!’ Standing Up For Love is it. I want to hate it, but I kind of love it. Dammit. 9/10.

Holder Fast I Igenting And here’s the token Danish-language song that DMGP is not complete without – think Tæt På Mine Drømme (2015), To Stjerner (2016) and Vesterbro (2017). Unfortunately, Rikke’s song is not nearly as good as those were/are. It’s beige. 6/10.

Music For The Road Just when we thought Avicii’s Hey Brother was no longer a musical inspiration to anyone, enter Albin! It’s hard to resist the infectious country twang and catchy chorus he’s provided us with. 8/10.

And now, having saved the best (as far as I’m concerned) until last…

 

My top 3

Signals Did I love this instantly because it reminds me of this? Maybe, but regardless, something so unconventional (for Denmark) popping up here (in Denmark) threw me in a good way. Solange Knowles could come out with Signals and nobody would raise an eyebrow. There’s no way it’s winning or even coming close though. The musical territory is too unsafe for Denmark. 9.5/10.

Riot Ditte Marie has delivered a third pop banger to DMGP’s doorstep, after 2011’s 25 Hours A Day (with Le Freak) and 2012’s Overflow. Okay, so Riot isn’t breaking any genre boundaries, but it’s slick and catchy, and makes you want to move (not out of the room so you can’t hear it any more). The title is repeated a hundred times too many throughout, but I can forgive that. 9/10.

Higher Ground Roger Pontare has possessed Rasmussen, right? Except Rasmussen has more hair on his face than Roger has on his head. This song is majestic, atmospheric…and yeah, about a decade or so too late to be on-trend at Eurovision. But I wouldn’t be mad if Denmark sent it in Lisbon’s direction. 8.5/10.

  

Predicting the super finalists + the winner

I am SO BAD at calling DMGP, it’s become a tradition for me to be spectacularly wrong. So here we go again!

In random order, my prediction for the super final – in which the top three songs post-vote face off against each other FTW – is Anna Ritsmar, Rasmussen and CARLSEN. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, bet any money on this.

When it comes to the ultimate winner, I was going to go with Anna, but then I remembered the Anne Gadegaard Incident. Will the folksy pop number get its revenge this time? I’m not sure. Rasmussen is the one I think people would be most satisfied with, so that’s probably out. CARLSEN are so stereotypically Denmark-goes-to-Eurovision that they shouldn’t be underestimated.

So CARLSEN it is! *prepares for prediction fail no. 4975*

Now, if you’re still awake, let’s switch Scandinavian countries. 

 

 

Ja, it’s true – Melfest got off to a less-than-impressive start last week. But this second deltävling is shaping up to be a little (if not a lot) better. At this rate we’ll be back to expected levels of epic by the time the roadshow hits Örnsköldsvik…OR WILL WE?? Insert dramatic soap opera cliffhanger music here and keep on wondering.

Here’s this week’s lucky seven: 

  1. Shuffla, Samir & Viktor
  2. Allting Som Vi Sa, Ida Redig
  3. Det Finns En Väg, Jonas Gardell
  4. In My Cabana, Margaret
  5. Titta Vi Flyger, Stiko Per Larsson
  6. Songburning, Mimi Werner
  7. Last Breath, LIAMOO

There are three names that really stand out here: Samir & Viktor, who are always loveable (bada nakna or not) and might have their best chance yet of going to Eurovision; Margaret, who missed out on representing Poland in 2016 with the iconic Cool Me Down; and LIAMOO, who won Swedish Idol in 2016 (coincidentally covering Cool Me Down along the way). Mimi Werner, too, is worth nothing as a fan fave who didn’t quite make the Andra Chansen grade on her last attempt.

The big question is – in a parallel universe where I have a massively inflated ego – are any of those guys my favourites of this heat? As Ace Wilder would say: don’t worry, it’s alright. I’m about to tell you.

 

My top 4

Last Breath Just as I knew Benjamin Ingrosso would be my favourite in heat 1, I was sure LIAMOO would top my ranking for heat 2. My pre-established fangirling for the guy makes me biased, I know, but in all honesty I am digging (the snippet of) Last Breath like I’m looking for buried treasure. Clearly rap doesn’t turn me off.

In My Cabana I can’t believe I’m vouching for a song staged using a toilet, but here we are. This is exactly what I was expecting it to be – a.k.a. the love child of Cool Me Down and Camilla Cabello’s Havana. Do I have a problem with that? Umm, no.

Margaret won’t be laughing if someone uses her prop toilet by mistake.

Shuffla Not a fan of Groupie? Have no desire to Bada Nakna? Well, you might still enjoy Shuffla, because it’s totally different to Samir & Viktor’s previous Melfest entries. There is trumpets, dance beats aplenty and a 1920s undertone that adds interest. I approve.

Songburning TBH, Mimi is here by default since the other three songs in this heat are pretty dire. That doesn’t mean Songburning has no redeeming features though – it’s just as charming as Ain’t No Good, actually, if the snippet is any indication. (Country) girl power!

 

So, who’s going direkt til final? Samir & Viktor + LIAMOO. As much as I’d like LIAMOO to prove his favourite status right by winning this semi, I suspect Samir & Viktor might do the deed instead – but he should be safely in the final anyway.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Margaret + Mimi. This is what I’m hoping, at least. If anyone else slips in to an AC slot it will be Ida Redig, but I’m not convinced Allting Som Vi Sa has enough of an x factor to move beyond 5th place. There is a clear top 4 here in my eyes.

What do you think? Tell me if you agree with my Melfest guesses – or if we’ll have to agree to disagree – in the comments.

 

NF UPDATE: What’s next? 

  • 11/2 Romania (Selecția Națională semi 4)
  • 13/2 Israel (Next Star final)
  • 16/2 Belarus (Eurofest final), San Marino (1in360 night 2)

But let’s deal with the craziness of tonight first…

 

 

THAT IS IT!!! I’m done – and to think I only discussed two of the 17 000 shows taking place tonight. I’m obviously all about the Scandis at the moment, but I fully respect your right to turn elsewhere for your NF fix. Let’s meet up on Twitter later (I’m @EurovisionByJaz, ICYMI) to compare notes and debrief after result-induced traumas. In the meantime, if you have anything to say about this Super Saturday, the EBJ comment box is always open!

 

Until NEXT Super Saturday (or a possible sneaky Valentine’s Day post…whichever comes first),