Blog Archives

Putting The (Freaking) Beautiful Into The Mess: My five favourite performances of Eurovision 2017

Happy Hump Day, everybody! They say time flies when you’re having fun, but apparently it also flies when you’re in the torturous throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. It’s already been a week and a half since Portugal won their first ever ESC, and to me it actually feels like it’s been longer. Shouldn’t NF season have started again by now?

I just mentioned a bad bout of PED, but I have to admit that mine hasn’t been nearly as bad as usual. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve been pretty busy since final weekend, dealing with all the stuff I didn’t do before the shows because I had nothing but Eurovision on the brain and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. From now until about April 2018, my brain-space will only be 90% occupied by Eurovision – that leaves 10% for everything else, which IMO is plenty.

Obviously I’m not here to talk about anything but the contest, though, and today I’m focusing on the most freaking beautiful performances of 2017, according to moi (because boy, is this a subjective topic). Staging and singing standards were high this year, but there weren’t that many acts that had every single bit of their s%#t together. Here’s my personal shortlist – from no. 5 to no. 1, for maximum soap-opera-cliffhanger suspense – of those that did.

Hit me up with your top five performances of the year in the comments, and we’ll see if we have any countries in common…

 

  

#5 | Robin Bengtsson’s performance of I Can’t Go On for Sweden

But of course! I’d be concerned for my mental health – and I’m sure you guys would be too – if I’d willingly left Sweden off this list. Just as the two certainties of life are death and taxes, the two certainties of Swedish Eurovision performances are a) they’ll be polished to perfection, and b) they’ll have been that way since we first saw the future ESC rep on stage at Melodifestivalen. There was certainly no need to change Robin Bengtsson’s risky, but super-suave and super-slick staging of I Can’t Go On between Stockholm and Kyiv – although the backdrop was revamped, two dancers were replaced, and a new suit was bestowed the privilege of being wrapped around Robin (FYI, SVT…I would have done that for free). ANYWAY, Robin’s Eurovision performances were as sharp as said suit, and just as entertaining as his first public one from the NF days. What’s to fault? I do now feel inadequate, since I can barely power-walk on a treadmill without tripping over my own feet (let alone strut on one with confidence while singing, et cetera), but that’s just me being pedantic.

 

 

#4 | Salvador Sobral’s performance of Amar Pelos Dois for Portugal

Taking an alternative approach to Sweden’s cool, calculated one paid off for Portugal. Every single time Salvador the Salvadorable took to the ESC stage, he put a slightly different spin on Amar Pelos Dois, via his vocals and unique performance style. That gave his three minute appearances an authenticity and freshness that was so endearing, it made many of us feel like proud parents watching their shy son come into his own at a school talent contest. But don’t get me wrong – his performances were world class, with an emphasis on the ‘class’. Being the only artist to use the satellite stage (Hungary’s violinist doesn’t count), he stood out without the aid of any bells and whistles (I have no problem with pimping out a performance, but we all know APD needed to be pared-back). He’s a spellbinding presence on his own, and with that stunning woodland backdrop behind him, delivered something that was impossible to ignore. There wasn’t anything else on show in 2017 that was quite so dreamy…if we don’t include Robin Bengtsson’s penetrating gaze and Imri Ziv’s biceps.

 

 

#3 | Joci Pápai’s performance of Origo for Hungary

I might be biased on this one, since as you probably know, Origo is my hands-down numero uno song of the year. But even I was worried that Joci would be too nervous on stage, or that the A Dal performance feat. dancer, violinist and suitably aggressive rap sequence wouldn’t translate well to the much bigger IEC stage. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. The intimacy of the performance – an important thing to cultivate considering the personal nature of the song’s story – was retained, but the use of the satellite stage and the fire jets expanded it to Eurovision-size. The colour scheme was perfect, the camera shots clever, and the emotion just as raw and real as it needed to be to not come across as phony (or over-rehearsed). Joci’s costume change for the final was the icing on the cake. The only thing I’d have done differently is toned down the smile on the violinist’s face – I feel like she needed to be more Sandra Nurmsalu and less Alexander Rybak for Origo purposes. Then again, I can’t blame her for smiling her way through a performance this good.

 

 

#2 | Kristian Kostov’s performance of Beautiful Mess for Bulgaria

I had no idea what to expect from Bulgaria this year in terms of staging, but I knew that Beautiful Mess deserved to be presented in an amazing way. What was ultimately done with it was incredible, and gave it all the visual interest it needed without taking away from the song or from Kristian’s beyond-his-years charisma and vocal talents. Geometric shapes and a bleak but totally on-trend monochromatic colour and lighting scheme went hand-in-hand with Kris’s Addams Family-esque clothing choice. Together, those elements made the performance seem so mature it was easy to forget that he’s a kid who only recently turned 17. The choreography was simple, and the shaky camera shots that kicked in halfway through (perhaps inspired by the treatment of Oscar Zia’s Human at Melfest last year) added to the atmosphere. As Kris sings in the chorus, I don’t want nothing more – i.e. I couldn’t have asked for anything better – from Bulgaria’s performance. That’s two years in a row now, and it makes me excited for what they might bring to the party in Lisbon.

 

 

#1 | Sunstroke Project’s performance of Hey Mamma for Moldova

A public service announcement: from now on, we’re all to spell ‘fun’ like this – M-O-L-D-O-V-A. If you were after a Eurovision 2017 performance that ticked every single box, then you’d undoubtedly have found it in the Sunstroke Project’s sophomore stage appearance. It took a great party song and made it a serious contender by doing everything right. The boys and their brides-to-be were entertaining, energetic and vocally solid; their dance moves were quirky, memorable and easy to copy after a few drinks gave you the courage (or was that just me?); and their background graphics were 10/10. They also threw in a handful of bits and pieces that ramped up the fun factor without turning Hey Mamma into a disposable novelty entry – think the backup singers’ costume change, and their synchronised bouquet toss into the audience. Moldova’s semi performance took me by surprise as I didn’t foresee it being my highlight of the night, but it was. And final night wouldn’t have been the same without them, that’s for sure. A third place well earned? You bet your epic sax!

 

 

Now I’ve shown you mine, you can show me yours! Which performances from Kyiv do you think were the most douze-worthy?

 

 

Next time…I hope your poll-taking skills are still sharp from voting in Barbara Dex, because the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards are about to kick off, and I need you to decide who and what should win the People’s Choice trophies! From the Miss and Mr. Congeniality awards to the Dancefloor Filler of the Year, Best Music Video and OMG Moment of the Year honors, it’s up to you to vote in a whole heap of categories and have your say on the best – and worst – of Eurovision 2017. Don’t miss your chance!!

 

 

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Bulgaria, France, Italy, Romania, Serbia + Sweden

Bonjour! I’m back with another round of Eurovision 2017 song reviews (what else would I be doing at this time of year?). I hope you have a spare three to five hours to read through them all.

Just kidding. It’ll take two hours, max.

This is the halfway mark, so if you’d like to catch up on the countries covered by me and my mum (who’s still here delivering verdicts from a first-impression, non-obsessive fan perspective) so far, I’ve linked them below for your convenience. Hey there, people who are just as lazy as me!

  • Round 1, feat. Azerbaijan, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Norway + Portugal
  • Round 2, feat. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands + Poland
  • Round 3, feat. Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta + Switzerland

Now it’s time to cross six more countries and their awesome/average/abysmal songs off the to-do list. Today’s role-call: Bulgaria’s Kristian, France’s Alma, Italy’s Francesco, Romania’s Ilinca & Alex, Serbia’s Tijana and Sweden’s Robin. It’s the ESC equivalent of the popular kids’ table in a high school cafeteria, basically (with a few of the kids absent or in detention).

Have your opinions at the ready so when you get to the end, having found at least twenty comments you disagree with, you can say what’s on your mind – we want to hear everything.

Let’s get going!

 

 

My thoughts Let’s face it, Poli Genova left Bulgaria’s 2017 artist with shoes to fill bigger than that gigantic clog every tourist makes a point of posing with in Amsterdam. Stepping up to the plate (or into the huge-ass shoe) as a 17–year-old boy and the first ESC competitor to have been born in this millennium (#ifeelold), you’d think Kristian Kostov should be scared. But not only is Bulgaria currently the second-favourite to win the whole contest, they’ve brought in the bets with an absolute stunner of a ballad. Beautiful Mess is all beautiful and no mess. It’s almost like a down-tempo, male version of If Love Was A Crime: ultra modern, melodically memorable and full of lyrical determination (and similarities, right down to ‘together we’re untouchable’ versus ‘our love is untouchable’). It’s even gone down the same route of including a strangely alluring sample as a hook. As a result, I love it for many of the same reasons that I loved – and still love – ILWAC. I wouldn’t say Bulgaria has tried to carbon copy Poli’s super-successful entry so much as build on it, since it did do so well for them. Oddly, though, despite them being higher in the betting odds than they were in 2016, I don’t think Kristian can nab them another 4th place. He’s a brilliant performer with an almost studio-perfect voice, and twice the charisma of some of his fellow teen acts (Blanche, I’m looking at you in particular) but there is something missing from Beautiful Mess that, in a year of Italys and Swedens, will stop it from climbing quite that high in my opinion. However, I’m happy to be proven wrong. Did you hear that, universe? 10 points.

My mum says… I have to agree that the only Bulgarian mess is the one mentioned in the lyrics. The song is…well, beautiful. It’s interestingly worded for a romantic ballad, and heavy on the emotion without being weepy. Kristian has a voice and an ability to convey that emotion way beyond his seventeen years! I’m impressed. 10 points.

Bulgaria’s score 10.00

 

 

My thoughts Ooh la la! Speaking of countries that have ridden a wave of 2016 musical awesomeness into 2017, here’s France. Armed with Alma instead of Amir this time (á la Italy’s move from Francesca to Francesco) they’re bringing some sexy, summery tropical pop to Eurovision in a year with nothing else like that competing. I adore this song. I did have the original, all-French version at an even more heavenly status, and I’m still a little miffed by the switch to a slightly lame English chorus; but the ESC version of Requiem still ticks most of my boxes. Like the French pop I tend to favour, it’s not too predictable, but the catchy chorus sticks and stops the song from becoming inaccessible. And, I must admit, the English makes it easier for moi to sing along as I flamenco haphazardly around the house. Alma is a gorgeous girl/woman (she’s a little older than me hence IDK what to call her) and a good performer, but I have doubts about France’s ability to stage Requiem in a way that doesn’t make us all say ‘Mon dieu!‘. They did a nice job on J’ai Cherche last year, but they can’t be trusted implicitly to NOT screw things up presentation-wise, unlike Sweden or Russia (RIP) for example. They’re dealing with a song that could come across trés terrible with the wrong choreography, dodgy dancers, unsuitable costume choices, etc. However…if they pleasantly surprise me, I will sit quietly and watch them collect just enough points for a non-embarrassing, possibly excellent result. 10 points.

My mum says… I’m not sure if I like this or not, which tells me it might not be the most instantaneous entry in Eurovision this year (of course, it could just be me not feeling the amour). I like the drama it brings in its own way, and I did visualise myself walking Parisian streets with armfuls of Chanel purchases (I don’t know who’d be paying for all of that) while it was playing. But I felt it was a little disjointed, almost like two similar but not similar enough songs stuck together. Maybe it’s an acquired taste? 5 points.

France’s score 7.5

 

 

My thoughts If, just a few short months ago, you’d told me that Italy would somehow manage to present us with a dancing gorilla as part of their Eurovision act and have it be classy in that typical Italian way, I would have tossed a bowl of al dente spaghetti into your lap (the obvious reaction for someone in a state of disbelief). But, almost 100 million YouTube views and a shedload of OGAE Poll points later, we have the delightful Francesco and Occidentali’s Karma heading off to Kyiv…and he’ll probably be leaving with a Kosta Boda mic trophy in his human (not ape) hands. I’ll come right out and say that his song isn’t one of my absolute, unconditionally-loved favourites for 2017 – it’s drifting around the 6th to 10th zone in my overall ranking. But I, like 99.99% of people with functioning ears who’ve listened to it and/or seen Gabbani + gorilla in action, have succumbed to the irresistible, joyful and majorly memorable nature of the track. It’s effortlessly effervescent and sugary fun without being overly sweet, like a pint glass of pink lemonade. Every part of it is a hook to hang on to in itself, and the audience involvement created by the ‘Namaste, ale!’ is genius (although I can no longer finish off a yoga session in a peaceful way because I feel compelled to shout that every damn time). Francesco himself is personable and walks the fine line between a serious and tongue-in-cheek performance whenever he’s on stage, which should secure the affections of juries and televoters. Unless the significance of the man in the monkey suit is lost on a massive amount of people, I don’t see any stumbling blocks in the way of Italy winning their first Eurovision since 1990. And it could be a ‘fairytale’ ending for them in more ways than one, if you know what I mean. So, can I see myself happily eating gelato in Milan next May? Si.. 10 points.

My mum says… So this is the big favourite? It’s not my favourite out of the songs I’ve heard so far, but I can understand why so many fans love it en masse. I think it’s instantly likeable, unlike France, and you don’t need to speak Italian to feel Francesco’s joy and energy. The music’s very funky and happy too. I would so dance to this after a few too many glasses of Prosecco. 7 points.

Italy’s score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts Just when I thought we were never going to get a Eurovision entry that combined inspirational hip-hop with interludes of yodeling, along comes Yodel It! – the one we’ve all been waiting for. Or was that just me? Okay, so I’m being a bit sarcastic. But that doesn’t mean I’m about to reduce yodeler Ilinca and sing-shouter of uplifting lyrics Alex Florea to sobbing heaps of depression. In theory, this song should be the biggest disaster in music history, and hands-down the worst song of the 2017 contest (even with Croatia and San Marino’s offerings considered). But in practice, by some miracle (proudly presented by Paula Seling & Ovi), it works. I feel like it would take a solid six months in a science lab to figure out how, but what Ilinca and Alex are bringing to the table individually is like chocolate mousse and pickled herring – yet the combo is as complementary as peanut butter and jelly. Maybe that’s because the yodeling kicks in almost immediately, so by the time the first chorus is over, the shock has subsided – there’s no minute-long wait for the OMG moment like there was with Norway’s 2-for-1 Icebreaker last year. The fact that there’s little bursts of yodeling in amongst Alex’s catchy and urban verses/chorus – rather than a yodel marathon at any point – has to be helping too. That technique has been used at Eurovision before with varying degrees of success: Austria couldn’t qualify with it in 2005 (in Kyiv…is that a bad omen?) but Belgium finished fourth at Junior Eurovision in 2009 doing the same (though when a kid with flowers in her hair does it, it’s harder to hate). So, especially given how split-down-the-middle Yodel It! has Eurofans, there’s no telling how much better Romania’s ESC will be in 2017 than it was in 2016 – but hey, at least there’ll make it to the host city this time. I personally think it’s so ridiculously fun that the Romanian go-to of 11th-14th place isn’t out of reach…and neither is the top 10 if enough people with point-giving power ‘get’ it. Get it, love it, and yodel it. 8 points.

My mum says… If this is the closest thing to a token comedy duet in this year’s contest then I guess that’s a good thing, but I’m not a fan. Yodeling in general tends to turn me off, and that apparently isn’t affected by pairing it with another style of singing and a less traditional type of music. The whole thing sounds like it would work okay on a kids’ TV show – and I can’t say it’s not unique – but I’ll pass anyway. 3 points.

Romania’s score 5.5

 

 

My thoughts Serbia may have shot themselves in the foot by making us wait as far into March as possible (without actually being the last country to present their entry) for Tijana’s In Too Deep. Although that technique does attract attention, it means that if the song in question is anything less than sensational, it will be branded ‘not worth the wait’. Having said that, though I don’t think this one IS sensational, I’m not disappointed by it either. It may be even less “Serbian” (in an ethnic/stereotypical way) than last year’s Goodbye (Shelter), but I’m actually really keen on everything else about it. The music has variety and depth, the lyrics are just on the right side of simple (about a millimetre away from Cliché Central), the chorus is crash-boom-bang powerful, and Tijana has the vocal prowess to handle it all. I’m intrigued by the mix of styles going on here – it’s not as polar-opposite obvious as Romania’s, but there’s electropop/symphonic power ballad/dubstep elements woven together into a tapestry that I’d be happy to hang on my wall. Sure, it’s not daring or challenging or particularly original – and Serbia should thank their lucky Eurovision stars that Nano’s Hold On won’t be in Kyiv – but it’s comfortably safe, not the boring sort of safe. If I were staging In Too Deep, there would be wind machines, a floaty-yet-fierce dress for Tijana that could be blown about by said wind machines like Anggun’s in 2012, an aerial hoop artist or two (maybe Tijana herself could be swinging in a hoop as she is in the music video…) and some cool lighting, and voila – that’d be a well-wrapped package. But I’m not staging it, sadly, so it’s up to Serbia’s IRL stage director to not screw up what should be a simple equation of good song + good singer = good result in the grand final. When I say ‘good result’, I’m thinking 9th-15th, and in the final, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. 8 points.

My mum says… I’d definitely hit repeat on this one! I really like it. It’s not flawless, but the music and lyrics are both high-standard, and together they make a catchy couple. Tijana’s voice is great too. There’s something about the sound of it that reminds me ever-so-slightly of Jamala’s, though it’s not quite in the same league. Neither is the song – it’s a bit hard to follow in 1944’s footsteps, I imagine – but it gets a thumbs up from me. Oh, and 8 points.

Serbia’s score 8.00

 

 

My thoughts I was going to flick through ‘Not Being Biased For Dummies’ before reviewing Sweden, but I was too busy practicing Robin’s foot shuffle on my treadmill, and then I had to go to the emergency room and stuff…so I just didn’t get the chance. So, as I’m someone who not only supports Sverige unconditionally every year (they were my adopted country to cheer for before Australia was competing, and TBH I still prioritise them over Australia) but also traveled to Stockholm for the Melodifestivalen final and watched I Can’t Go On win it, you should prepare for a rose-coloured review. Here goes: I LOVE THIS. It wasn’t even my favourite song in the Melfest final (the aforementioned Hold On was) but as I always end up loving at least 75% of the Swedish hopefuls, that’s irrelevant. Co-written by Robin Stjernberg – his stamp is all over this track – it’s three minutes of slick, sexually implicit (as opposed to Montenegro’s sexually explicit song) funk-pop with a Justin Timberlake vibe (only way less fluffy than Can’t Stop The Feeling) and it is everything I expect from a Swedish Eurovision entry. Is it insanely catchy from go to whoa? Yes. Was it perfectly polished and contest-ready from the very beginning? Ja. Is the performer incredibly attractive? Obviously *swoons*. And to top it all off, it comes equipped with staging that will be a talking point from when it opens the first semi final (!) to whenever Sweden next manages to outdo themselves. It’s clear that one year of stripped-back production was all they could put up with. It’s also clear that The Land of Cardamom Buns (how I miss them) hasn’t lost their touch when it comes to conquering the ESC without any effort whatsoever – it just comes naturally. Conquering in a year feat. Occidentali’s Karma is a tough task, though, and I suspect Sweden will find themselves on the podium – 4th or 5th at the lowest – but not number one. Robin finishing second at Eurovision on his second attempt to get there has a nice ring to it, and I think that would be a result gladly accepted by a country hungry to take their six wins to seven, but maybe not this soon after hosting. As for me, I’m unsurprisingly giving I Can’t Go On a freaking beautiful set of DOUZE POINTS!

My mum says… Even I’m biased when it comes to this one, since I was sitting right next to Jaz in Friends Arena when Robin won Melfest. Wiktoria was my personal pick to represent Sweden, so I’ve had to come to terms with I Can’t Go On going on (will jokes like that ever get old?) instead. Still, I can’t fault Robin or his act too much. His voice isn’t the strongest, especially at the start when he’s backstage – maybe waiting in the wings keeps the nerves higher than normal. But who’s going to be thinking about that when he’s dancing with four other handsome men on travelators, while performing such a catchy, hit-material song? It’s not a song of substance, but it isn’t meant to be and I don’t think every song should be. Sometimes you just want to listen to some fun music that makes you want to move (in my case, on solid flooring) and Sweden has given Eurovision 2017 an excellent example of that. I’ll be singing along to ICGO for months in my mind, and I reckon plenty of other people will be too. 8 points.

Sweden’s score 10.00

 

 

And just like that, another six songs bite the dust. Here’s today’s overall ranking (with a tie broken by yours truly because MY BLOG, MY RULES!!!):

  1. Sweden (10.00)
  2. Bulgaria (10.00)
  3. Italy (8.5)
  4. Serbia (8.00) 
  5. France (7.5)
  6. Romania (5.5)

For once, it actually seems shocking that Sweden’s sitting on top of a Eurovision-related scoreboard, since Italy had the chance to push them out of the way. But Francesco’s topped so many polls and rankings already, he’s probably getting bored. You’re welcome for the change, Mr. Gabbani (and gorilla).

There are still 18 songs left to review here on EBJ, with just a few days until delegations arrive and rehearsals start in Kyiv. I’M SO EXCITED SLASH STRESSED! Next time, the spotlight will be on Armenia, Austria, Finland, Moldova, San Marino and Slovenia. Whether you love or hate what Artsvik, Nathan Trent, Norma John, Sunstroke Project, Valentina & Jimmie and Omar Naber are packing in their suitcases (song-wise, as their respective choices of underwear are another matter entirely) you won’t want to miss it!

Seriously. I’m guessing my mother’s reaction to Spirit of the Night will be priceless.

 

Until then,

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2017 | More Melfest magic + A Dal decision time = the tip of the NF iceberg!

It’s true – the Titanic wouldn’t have stood a chance against the massive, metaphorical chunk of ice (or ‘frozen water’ as Agnete likes to call it) that is This Weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio would still have died and Kate Winslet would still have let him go…but we’d all be partying like it’s 2017, because it is, and super-duper busy NF weekends like this one are Awesome with a capital A.

Don’t believe me re: the crazy schedule for Saturday and Sunday? Here’s the evidence:

  • 18/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final two (feat. Daniel Levi, Koit Toome & Laura, Kerli + Liis Lemsalu)
  • 18/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat seven (feat. Edgaras Lubys + Gabrielius Vagelis)
  • 18/2 Slovenia’s EMA – semi final two (feat. Clemens, BQL + Ina Shai)
  • 18/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final three (feat. Robin Bengtsson, Krista Siegfrids + FO&O)
  • 18/2 Ukraine’s Vidbir – semi final three (feat. Payushchie Trusy + Green Grey)
  • 18/2 Hungary’s A Dal – the final (feat. Gigi Radics, Joci Pápai + Kállay Saunders Band)
  • 18/2 Malta’s MESC – the final (feat. Klinsmann, Kevin Borg, Maxine Pace + Richard Edwards)
  • 18/2 Poland’s Krajowe Eliminajce – the final (feat. Martin Fitch, Kasia Mós + Carmell)
  • 19/2 Latvia’s Supernova – the semi final (feat. Lauris Valters, My Radiant You + Triana Park)
  • 19/2 Portugal’s Festival da Canção – semi final one (feat. Golden Slumbers + Rui Drumond)

There you go – CHAOS. Wonderful, wonderful chaos.

As I keep saying, I can’t discuss every single selection show without taking on an army of assistants to type at 200 words a minute for free (any takers?), so it’s time to get picky. Choosing which semis and finals to cover is like choosing a favourite child – not hard if you’re honest with yourself (that’s what my mum said, anyway, when she handed me the ‘No. 1 Kid’ sash and a bouquet of flowers. Don’t tell my brother). Ergo, this was an easy narrow-down for me.

Though three of this weekend’s shows will produce Eurovision entries, I’m only reviewing one of them – Hungary’s A Dal – and, of course, I’m going to take a good look at Melodifestivalen’s third semi too. So let’s get on with it!

 

 

SWEDEN | Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Växjö we go…for Melfest, that is!

You know what they say – another Saturday in February, another Melodifestivalen Deltävling.

This time it’s nummer tre, and I’ve got to say, it’s not a third-time-lucky sort of situation. Meaning this heat is the weakest so far, music-wise. Made up of two returnees and a record high (for 2017, at least) of five debutants, it’s probably going to be the most difficult semi to predict. Which stars will shine for the first or second time, and which will fall?

I have no effing idea.

  1. I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson
  2. Snurra Min Jord by Krista Siegfrids
  3. Kiss You Goodbye by Anton Hagman
  4. Gravity by Jasmine Kara
  5. Boogieman Blues by Owe Thörnqvist
  6. Crucified by Bella & Filippa
  7. Gotta Thing About You by FO&O

melodifestivalen-2017-semi-3-deltavling-3-winner-poll

We’ve got funk pop, dance pop, acoustic pop, country pop, boy band pop and Owe. Lacklustre overall song standard aside (compared to the previous two semis) it’s certainly going to be a variety show – and hopefully one with a happy ending.

 

My top four

  • I Can’t Go On – If Constellation Prize was a romantic seduction song, and I Can’t Go On is the raunchy post-seduction sequel, then should we await the third installment in a trilogy from Robin in 2018 entitled something like It’s Over, You Evil Bitch? Yes or no, Mr. Bengtsson can do no wrong in my eyes. I did expect something better from this collab of Robins (Robin Stjernberg co-wrote the song, and he’s definitely marked his territory) but I suspect this will benefit from being heard and seen in full.
  • Snurra Min Jord – Both of Krista’s Melfest entries have been much more plain-Jane than Marry Me. As with Faller, I do really like this one, but there’s nothing particularly special about it that gives it the edge to make Andra Chansen, let alone the final. But lycka till Krista all the same.
  • Crucified – Is it just me or has this song borrowed half its lyrics from Wiktoria’s Save Me? Regardless, it’s as sweet and light as a sorbet in summertime. Repetitive (and a possible female rip-off of Darin’s Lagom) it may be, but it has an undeniable charm.
  • Gotta Thing About You – I thought I was getting too old for teen boy band fodder, but apparently the flame’s still flickering in my bitter quarter-century old body. This is not a musical masterpiece, but was anyone expecting it to be? The FOOO Conspiracy FO&O fans will eat this up, and that little light-up heart in the corner of the screen will be on the verge of a myocardial infarction.

 

The rest

  • Kiss You Goodbye – And here we have Sweden’s answer to Shawn Mendes. This song can’t hold a candle to Stitches or Mercy, but it’s cute. I like how it begins in an acoustic, alternative kind of way before launching into a more straightforward pop chorus. Also, who is Anton’s dentist?
  • Gravity – I’m not sure if I like this or not. Jasmine has a great voice, great style, and a great name (even if we’re not total name twins since she’s got that ‘e’ on the end) but Gravity seems like a mixed bag of bits and pieces that don’t, ahem, come together to form a cohesive whole. I’m keen to see her perform it live.
  • Boogieman Blues – This is EXACTLY what I thought it was going to be. For those of you who don’t like surprises and do like retro tunes from ageing popstars, this is for you. But it’s not for me.

 

Who’s going direkt? Robin Bengtsson + FO&O. Perhaps this is a predictable prediction – and I’d like things to go in a more jaw-dropping direction – but Melfest is, at times, predictable. SVT hand out the first and final performance spots to the big guns, and said big guns usually find themselves progressing as a result. Robin Bengtsson won his heat over Ace Wilder last year, and he’s got the goods to win again now, but with a weaker song and against weaker competition. FO&O’s song screams Andra Chansen, but there’s nothing else up against it (besides I Can’t Go On) that necessarily has what it takes to nab a place in the final instead. 

Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Anton Hagman + Jasmine Kara. Krista Siegfrids is also in the mix here, but as she placed last in the telling audience poll after yesterday’s rehearsals, I suspect she’ll miss out and finish fifth at the highest. Bella & Filippa are underdogs. Anton and Jasmine, I think, can make enough of an impression and gain enough momentum to score themselves a second chance each – but I’m skeptical of their chances of making it out of AC at this point.

 

What do you think? Do we have an obvious outcome on our hands in Växjö, or will there be an upset feat. some Melfest first-timers? Let me know below.

 

  

HUNGARY | Eight becomes one tonight…but who’ll be The One?   

I’ve been known to proclaim that many selection show finals are worth sacrificing for Melfest, because the music in a Melfest semi often outdoes that of other countries’ finals. But I have to say, I seriously considered ditching Sweden’s third semi in favour of tuning in to A Dal tonight.

By ‘seriously’, I mean ‘for a split second’, because I am a devout Melodifestivalist from way back. However, I will be watching the last episode of A Dal on delay just to experience its pure excellence.

After three heats and two semi finals, thirty songs have been trimmed down to just eight – and IMO, two of these are good, one is very good, and the other five are amazing. How often does that happen? About as often as Loreen releases a studio album.

Here’s the (unordered) line-up of the Hungarian final, which I realise might not seem so sensational to fans less easily-pleased than me.

adf17

  • Hosszú Idők by Totova & Freddie Shuman feat. Begi Lotfi
  • See It Through by Gigi Radics
  • Fall Like Rain by Gina Kanizsa
  • Origo by Joci Pápai
  • Seventeen by Kállay Saunders Band
  • Élet by Leander Kills
  • Kalandor by Soulwave
  • #háttérzaj by Zävodi & Olivér Berkes

Hungary clearly has faith in their own language, as Hungarian lyrics make up more than half of what we’ll hear tonight. They should, because a) it’s a gorgeous language, and b) it hasn’t stopped them from succeeding at Eurovision (Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet and Kedvesem, I bow to the both of you). That’s part of what makes this final so great in my eyes, but if you want more details, keep reading for my ranking of all eight finalists.

 

My top eight

  1. Origo – I AM IN LOVE. This track had me hypnotised before I’d even reached the chorus the first time I listened to it, and though I’m trying to accept that it’s probably 2017’s Győz A Jó (the slick, edgy ethno-pop entry that won’t win and will be sadly missed at Eurovision), my hopes of a win are still alive. Infectious and exotic but still on-trend (right down – or up – to Joci’s man-bun), Origo is OMG.
  2. Hosszú Idők – Here we have another song that manages to combine mysterious ethnicity with modern pop. Basically, it’s an ethno-pop power ballad. Though Totova gets slightly screamy performing it live, I can’t deny that it makes a mark, and that I could get on board with it winning even though it’s not my favourite.
  3. See It Through – A Disney ballad straight out of the early 2000s (Christina Aguilera sang it on the Mulan soundtrack, didn’t she?) should not work in 2017. But Gigi is such a showstopping singer with more onstage emotion than an Elina Born who wasn’t woken up, she makes it work. I would advise against the huge hair for the final, without which you’ll have a perfect package, Gigi.
  4. Seventeen – Last year, András and his band destroyed the brilliant Who We Are This year, they’ve done much better lives with a more pedestrian – but still extra-enjoyable – song. The Billie Jean reference is tired, but that’s my only complaint about this polished, well-produced and non-cheesy love song.
  5. #háttérzaj – What musical style doesn’t suit Hungarian? It totally gels in this bluesy, laid-back piano ballad. The only bother I have here is the hashtag title, which begs the question WHY GOD, WHY?!?!?
  6. Élet – Hard rock isn’t often my thing, but the dynamic nature of É let is interesting in a good way. There’s a soft piano intro, subdued verses and powerful choruses, and it’s almost like riding on a slow rollercoaster. There are plenty of ups and downs, but it doesn’t make you nauseous and you’re a little sad when you have to get off.
  7. Kalandor – Eurovision already has a folksy song for the year, and I’m not sure this one has the strength to win A Dal anyway, but it’s nice easy-listening, elevated by the fact that it’s not in English.
  8. Fall Like Rain – While I can acknowledge that this is a good song, I find it quite dated (and there are times when I just want Gina to shut up). I don’t think it’s the best choice Hungary can make in terms of a Eurovision entry, but I like the haunting, spiritual feel and the originality.

 

Now, as A Dal will make one more cut before congratulating a winner, it’s time to think about who’ll make it through the jury voting round – then be paraded in front of the public, who are the ultimate decision-makers (a good way to operate an NF, isn’t it, Spain?).

  

Predicting the top four I’m thinking Totova etc, Joci Pápai, Gigi Radics + Gina Kanizsa. There’s potential bumping space for Kállay Saunders Band or Leander Kills, in which case I think Gigi or Gina will miss out on the final four. But, based on the results of the heats and semis, this should be a safe bet for the top four (not that I’m actually betting. For someone who struggles to get things 50% correct, it’s a bad idea). Totova and guests plus Pápai are shoo-ins.

Who’s in it to win it? It looks like another Freddie (albeit a far less attractive one than 2016’s) will be heading to Kyiv on behalf of Hungary in May, as part of Totova’s posse. Hosszu Idők is a recipe with all the right ingredients to rise to the top, and has had the jury and public support in past weeks that it needs to fly through both stages of the comp tonight. I will be surprised if it doesn’t win.

 

If you’re as hungry for Hungary this year as I am, then you’ll have something to say about A Dal – so spill! Is this ticket to Eurovision Totova’s to lose, or should she be watching her back? Is there any chance András Kállay Saunders will make it to Eurovision again this year (Seventeen for 2017)? Give up your internal gossip in the comments.

 

Of course, if you want to chat about anything else that’s happening in the ESC bubble this weekend, I’m all ears. If you want to have an intense conversation about your personal problems, I may not be the best person to talk to, so stick with Eurovision for now. You can always book an appointment later with the same therapist you saw after Objetivo Eurovisión concluded last weekend…

Enjoy all of the national final action ahead, guys – I’ll see you on the other side when we have three more songs for Ukraine!

 

2015sig

 

 

Siegfrids, Svensson and SAY WHAT?!?!? My reaction to all the artists of Melodifestivalen 2017

For those of us who place Melodifestivalen up on a pedestal, right next to Eurovision (because we believe it to be equally as epic) today was practically Christmas.

For today was the day we all received 28 gifts of varying shapes and sizes, in the form of the artists competing in the national final of dreams in February/March 2017. I was particularly keen to unwrap these gifts given I’m actually attending Melfest for the first time next year (!!!) and will have the chance to see twelve of the artists in the flesh come finalen…and then have some press charges in the wake of me inappropriately touching them.

Just kidding.

Anyway, after months of rumours that ran right up to the start of this morning’s press conference – hosted by the adorable David Lindgren sans Clara Henry and Hasse Andersson – we now know exactly who will and who won’t be popping up in the four semi finals. Many confirmations of what we already knew were made; blanks were neatly filled in by returnees and newbies alike; and one of the biggest bombshells in Melfest artist-announcement history was dropped.

jessica-gow

Here they are: the terrific 28 for 2017. (Photo: Jessica Gow)

 

Let’s run through the entire list of participants and songs, and I’ll unload my initial thoughts and impressions along the way. I apologise in advance for any spelling mistakes, incorrect information or general incoherent rambling that you might encounter here. I’m both delirious with excitement and rushing to get this post up while it’s still relevant, so I’m not at the top of my game just nu.

 

 

Semi 1 | Göteborg

deltavlingett-jpg

  • Amare, Adrijana
  • Her Kiss, Boris René
  • Hold On, Nano
  • Mitt Liv, Charlotte Perrelli
  • One More Night, Dinah Nah
  • Road Trip, De Vet Du
  • Wild Child, Ace Wilder

We knew Adrijana, Charlotte Perrelli, De Vet Du and Ace Wilder were shoo-ins already, so the most pleasant surprises in this first roll-call – for me, at least – were Boris René and Dinah Nah.

Boris ended up being one of my favourites from this year’s comp, and I still can’t help dancing enthusiastically when Put Your Love On Me comes on shuffle (as well as shouting ‘IN A LITTERBOX’ loudly enough for my neighbours to hear and subsequently consider moving to Siberia). Suffice to say I can’t wait to discover what he has in store for us for his second shot.

Dinah Nah was heavily rumoured to return in 2016, but evidently she needed more time to find a track that might get her to the final again. I am very glad to see that her hair is still pink.

I know I should be peeing my pants with excitement about Ace Wilder, but to be honest, I wish she’d taken some more time away like Dinah did – I’m not sure I can handle her two years in a row. But I’ll reserve (most of) my judgments until we hear what she has to offer.

Apparently Charlotte Perrelli doesn’t want to win Melfest on this occasion, but has her reasons for giving it another go after The Girl failed to even make Andra Chansen in 2012. I’m guessing she won’t be disappointed if her aim is not to go to Eurovision for the third time.

I’m clueless re: Adrijana and Nano, so perhaps one of them will be the exotic stranger who has me head-over-heels for their entry (then sobbing into my specially-commissioned sequined Kleenex when it finishes last). It happens every year!

 

 

Semi 2 | Malmö  

deltavling2-jpg

  • A Million Years, Mariette
  • Good Loovin’, Benjamin Ingrosso
  • Hearts Align, Dismissed
  • Himmel Och Hav, Roger Pontare
  • I Don’t Give A, Lisa Ajax
  • Up, Etzia
  • Vart Haru Varit, Allyawan

The second semi will feature just as many big hitters as the first – such as Mariette (who took home the bronze medal in the Year of Måns), Roger Pontare (a Melfest and Eurovision veteran who last represented Sweden on home soil in 2000), and Lisa Ajax (the Idol winner who also won her semi this year over eventual runner-up Oscar Zia).

I can’t say I’m as excited – on names alone – for this round. But I am pretty keen to hear from the debutants. Benjamin Ingrosso, who comes from a family of serious musical heavyweights (Pernilla Wahlgren is his mother, for starters) is one I’ll definitely be watching. And listening to, obviously. Despite the totally unnecessary extra ‘o’ in his song title (#petpeeve).

 

 

Semi 3 | Växjö 

deltavlingtre-jpg

  • Boogieman Blues, Owe Thörnqvist
  • Crucified, Bella & Filippa
  • Gotta Thing, The Fooo Conspiracy
  • Gravity, Jasmine Kara
  • I Can’t Go On, Robin Bengtsson
  • Kiss You Goodbye, Anton Hagman
  • Snurra Min Jord, Krista Siegfrids

Again, the majority of artists competing in this semi were rumoured by the always reliable Aftonbladet. But that doesn’t make it any less awesome to have my main man Robin Bengtsson back in the mix after his success earlier in the year (when he beat Ace Wilder to win Deltävling 1). If he’s armed with a song that is anywhere near as superb as Constellation Prize, then we are in for a treat come week three. It’s highly likely, as I Can’t Go On was written by two of the three songwriters behind Sanna Nielsen’s Undo, plus my other fave Robin – Robin Stjernberg. *screams internally*.

At 87, Owe Thörnqvist will become the oldest Melfest competitor ever. That’s assuming he lives long enough (I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but he barely made it onto the press conference stage without faceplanting and breaking a hip). If he doesn’t fall off the perch within the next few months, I have a feeling he could be the Hasse Andersson of 2017 and be catapulted further in the comp than I’d prefer via an outpouring of affection from the Swedish public. Hasse Andersson, of course, is also the Hasse Andersson of 2017, seeing as he’s co-hosting the show.

I’ll be flag-waving for The Fooo Conspiracy (despite being about ten years past the average age of their fan demographic) because BOYBAND ALERT, and Jasmine Kara because…well, we Jasmins/Jasmines have to stick together. I reserve the right to retract these pledges of support should these acts’ songs be…well, crap.

I must mention the gorgeousness that is Krista Siegfrids. Our girl from Sweden via Finland has come back for another crack at securing a ticket to Friends Arena, singing again in Swedish (bad move? We’ll have to wait and see). No matter where her journey ends – Växjö, Kyiv, or anywhere in-between – she’s always fun to have around, and I suspect she’ll be hungrier for success this time. That means she should have a song up her stylish sleeve that’s a step up from the good-but-not-great Faller. Fingers crossed!

 

 

Semi 4 | Skellefteå 

deltavling4-jpg

  • As I Lay Me Down, Wiktoria
  • Bound To Fall, Les Gordons
  • Du Får Inte Ändra På Mig, Sara Varga and Juha Mulari
  • En Värld Full Av Strider, Jon Henrik Fjällgren feat. Aninia
  • När Ingen Ser, Axel Schylström
  • Running With Lions, Alice Svensson
  • Statements, Loreen

Well, well, well. We know SVT like to save a name bigger than any found in the Welsh phone directory for the last semi final. But they not only outdid themselves on that front for 2017 – they also managed to keep it a secret to ensure that all of our jaws would end up on the floor.

Holy dala horses, Queen Loreen is back! With, I might add, the coolest of minimal song titles AND the songwriting dream team of Segerstad and the Debs joining her in the credits. Anyone who says they saw this coming is either a psychic or a liar (or both), and anyone who doesn’t think it will be a contender FTW needs to have their vital signs checked. It will be the toughest of tasks for Loreen to top Euphoria, but she could be the second coming of Johnny Logan that we’ve all been waiting for. Johnny Logan with a septum piercing.

Wiktoria is making an unsurprising return, but will she have wow-factor staging to elevate her entry this time? I’m interested to find out. Save Me wasn’t right up my street song-wise, so I’m hoping she’s changed things up and gone for a power ballad. The girl can SING, so she could easily handle a Céline Dion update (i.e. something like Isa’s I Will Wait).

Also reappearing in the lineup is Sara Varga, who made it in and out of Andra Chansen in 2011 with Spring För Livet, but she’s not alone. She’s also not alone in making a comeback in partnership with another artist, as Jon Henrik Fjällgren has done the same. The man who nearly put paid to MZW’s trip to Vienna is teaming up with Aninia (Google will tell you all you need to know about her, because I can’t) and I reckon the result will be original, to say the least. It’s such a relief that we’ll be able to say stuff like ‘Are you joiking?’ on Twitter again without people getting (too) annoyed.

Jon Henrik and Loreen aside, the name that most excites/intrigues me is Alice Svensson, another Idol alum who was beaten to the crown by Kevin Borg (he of Maltese national final fame). I’m basing this almost exclusively on the title of her song (that plus previous musical releases are all we have to go on at the moment) because is Running With Lions not totally badass? Both the act itself and the string of words, I mean. Bring it on!

 

 

Those are my initial thoughts on the 28 acts unveiled this morning – now it’s time for you to have your say. Are you happy with the peeps preparing to battle it out in Europe’s favourite national final? Which songs are you most excited to hear when the time comes? Do you think Loreen will walk it (or crab-dance it), given her history and supreme songwriting team? Whatever you’re thinking, put it in writing in the comments. The countdown to Melfest 2017 is officially on, guys, so let’s keep the conversation going!

 

 

2015sig

 

 

SUPER SATURDAY #6 | Välkommen to the most momentous of Melodifestivalen moments!

It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life. After five Saturdays of frenetic and not-so-frenetic (in the case of After Dark) app voting, wanton wind machine usage, and results that made us say ‘Um…really?’, Melodifestivalen 2016 has reached its final stage…literally.

The traveling circus has set up shop in Stockholm (as Eurovision will in a matter of months) and the original line-up of 28 – if we’re including the booted Anna Book – has been narrowed down to 12 (presumably, the others have been fed to the lions by now). It is exciting, anticipating this imminent last installment, but it’s also depressing to imagine life after Sweden’s 2016 ESC entrant is named and famed. Seriously, what did we do in those dark days prior to Deltävling 1? I don’t know, but we’re going to have to start doing it again as of Sunday *sniffs pathetically with head buried in latest edition of Scan magazine*.

For now, though, let’s forget about things that are not Melfest-related, and focus on what’s ahead of us – i.e. things that ARE Melfest-related. When I say that, I mean it – I’m choosing to forgo discussing such things as 1) Australia’s second-ever adult ESC entry, and 2) Lithuania also selecting their song this evening, to give the Swedish selection the attention it deserves. I expect my honorary Swedish citizenship, hand-signed in glitter pen by Christer Björkman, to arrive in the post any day now.

As Ace Wilder would say, don’t worry – I’ll get back to Dami Im and (probably) Donny Montell in due course. But just nu, let’s preview and predict one of the greatest and most competitive Melfest finals in recent history!

 

mf16p

  1. Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz
  2. My Heart Wants Me Dead by Lisa Ajax
  3. We Are Your Tomorrow by David Lindgren
  4. Kizunguzungu by SaRaha
  5. Human by Oscar Zia
  6. Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder
  7. Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
  8. Youniverse by Molly Sandén
  9. Put Your Love On Me by Boris René
  10. If I Were Sorry by Frans
  11. Save Me by Wiktoria
  12. Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor

 

That’s certainly a good-looking, good-listening programme. And that’s not even factoring in the star-powered interval act SVT have planned for us (more on that later). There are so many songs and acts I want to see succeed this evening, and only a few I wouldn’t be devastated to see fail. You can find out which are which without further ado. 3, 2, 1, review!

 

Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz

My verdict I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – these guys make me so happy, and all they have to do is exist (and ideally, release some music every now and then). It’s no surprise that I was jumping for joy when they emerged victorious from their Andra Chansen battle last weekend. Håll Om Mig Hårt is weaker than 2014’s Efter Solsken, but it’s still the same brand of effervescent, crowd-pleasing tropical pop, and there could be no better opener for tonight’s final. Will it win? Of course not. Will it even come close? Nope. But will we enjoy it whether we want to or not? Obviously.

My ranking 7th

Predicted ranking 12th

Would it work at Eurovision? No

 

My Heart Wants Me Dead by Lisa Ajax

My verdict Stringing toilet paper from the ceiling has never looked so glamorous! No, Lisa didn’t get the best of deals when SVT were budgeting to cover staging costs. But that doesn’t stop MHWMD from being a killer pop ballad performed with aplomb by Sweden’s 2014 Idol champ (marinated in on-trend metallics). I love everything about this song, bar the lack of more dynamic staging. Zara Larsson would be proud to have this track in her repertoire.

My ranking 6th

Predicted ranking 9th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

ajax2-jpg-768x360

Toilet-papering houses is so last year…arenas are where it’s at.

 

We Are Your Tomorrow by David Lindgren

My verdict David is the epitome of an Eric Saade-endorsed manboy. He’s adorable, in other words. But how he managed to go direkt yet again is a mystery to me, particularly when his song is just so…nice. Nice, competent and reasonably catchy, but nothing more. There’s no real substance to it, and it’s not going to be a contender now we’ve reached the pointy end of the comp. Sweden might have an affinity with this guy, but the international juries won’t – and even Swedish voters have the likes of Frans and Robin on hand to choose over David this time. Which is fine…I’m happy to console him when he fails miserably.

My ranking 11th

Predicted ranking 11th

Would it work at Eurovision? No

 

Kizunguzungu by SaRaha

My verdict Yes, this is Waka Waka + Aleo + Haba Haba in a tidy three minute capsule; and yes, despite the African overtones, it’s Swedish pop-by-numbers right down (or should I say, right up?) to the key change. But it’s also so high-energy and so much fun that I’m irresistibly drawn to it. Plus, I am yet to find a better word than ‘kizunguzungu’ emerge from 2016. You do give me kizunguzungu, SaRaha…as a result of too much DAMNED DANCING.

My ranking 9th

Predicted ranking 7th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

 

Human by Oscar Zia

My verdict Cards on the table: this is my favourite. And I can’t help thinking it would be the best Melfest-turned-Eurovision song Sweden could possibly pick tonight, even if there’s little to no chance they’ll actually pick it. Oscar isn’t the world’s best vocalist, but his charisma, the power of Human, and the Academy Award-worthy cinematography of his staging (camera shots have never been used so effectively) compensate for that. He looks like a 50s film star on stage, but the rest of his entry is totally contemporary – and together, it’s a magic combo. Still, it’ll be a miracle of Paula and Ovi proportions if he manages to win.

My ranking 1st

Predicted ranking 8th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

bhfzdoztsta3nx18zdxy8bzzjke-jpg

Oscar: clearly a fan of T-Bird-meets-funeral chic.

 

Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder

My verdict Way back when Ace was the outright favourite to win Melfest, I wanted to love her comeback entry so I wouldn’t mind when she walked away with the victory. A lot has changed since then, including the fact that there’s a new kid on the block who’s likely to pip her at the post. What hasn’t changed is my attitude towards Ace herself – I still find her as unlikable as I did in 2014, when she was the devil to Sanna’s angel as they both perched on Melfest’s padded shoulders. I do, however, love Don’t Worry. But I don’t think it’s a winner. Simple as that.

My ranking 8th

Predicted ranking 2nd

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

 

Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson

My verdict It’s apt that Robin sings ‘You’re a star’ in the chorus of Constellation Prize (I still can’t wrap my head around that title) because he was the star of semi final one. Armed with a harmonica that he was definitely playing *wink* and eyes that could convince me to do pretty much anything (one lingering look, and I’d beat Frans to robbing a bank and the post office too), Robin charmed us all then, and he’ll be doing the same tonight. I hope he nabs a great result, if topping the table is out of the question (which is isn’t, necessarily). If he can hypnotise the international juries with those peepers, AND rank highly with the Swedish public, he could be the second Robin to represent Sweden on home soil. Stranger things have happened.

My ranking 2nd

Predicted ranking 3rd

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

 

Youniverse by Molly Sandén

My verdict Molly can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. She is flawless, and proved it when she put in a final-worthy performance a few weeks back. Granted, Youniverse is not the landslide-win type of song I was expecting given that Molly and her man-candy Danny Saucedo co-wrote it, but it still kicks butt. This is a tough year, and it will be an uphill struggle rather than an easy stroll for Molly to take it out. I’d be ecstatic if she did, but she might need to try a few more times to find the perfect formula – and/or drop by when the competition’s not so fierce.

My ranking 3rd

Predicted ranking 4th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

Molly-Sanden-Melodifestivalen-2016-Youniverse

Like we believe ALL of that wind is coming from the fans, Molly…

 

Put Your Love On Me by Boris René

My verdict Whether in a little box or a litter box (once you’ve heard that, you can’t un-hear it) Boris has my heart for sure. This is my jam of the year so far, and I’m stoked we get to experience the pure joy of it once again in the final. Proving that you don’t need showy staging to have get places, Boris uses the fancy footwork from his football past to full advantage, and that helps make him a worthy participant tonight. I’m sad to say that he’ll probably end up in the bottom six of the twelve – but he should be proud to have made a successful Melfest debut, and in doing do, put a smile on the face of everyone who isn’t a soulless robot. Go ahead, Boris – putcha love on me!

My ranking 5th

Predicted ranking 10th

Would it work at Eurovision? No

 

If I Were Sorry by Frans

My verdict If we’re destined to have a runaway winner, it will be Frans. Having topped the Spotify and Sverigetopplistan charts and been the odds-on favourite since his semi performance, he’s on the right track to outwit, outplay and outlast much bigger names, which I’m quite pleased about (it makes Melfest less predictable in a way, and means it’s still a launching pad for relative unknowns/former child stars). There is a charm and authenticity to If I Were Sorry – an air of ‘no, we’re not trying too hard for once’ – that we last saw in Robin Stjernberg’s You, and that makes it dangerous. I know it’s not hugely popular outside of Sweden, but I think it will be a cool choice if it does what’s expected. But…will the non-Swedish jury members warm to it, or just think ‘WTF?’.

My ranking 4th

Predicted ranking 1st

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

 

Save Me by Wiktoria

My verdict Contrary to IIWS, Save Me is all about what happens to/on Wiktoria on stage. The girl is an amazing singer, and I want her hair chopped off and glued to my scalp stat (in a non-creepy way) but without those incredible body projections, she would need someone to save her. Don’t get me wrong – I am a fan of this song (it’s the kind of thing I imagine Taylor Swift would have been releasing right now if she’d remained within the realms of country music). But I’d be far less keen to sit through it if Wiktoria simply stood and sung, sans the series of projections. With those in her corner, I’m expecting her to debut successfully by squeezing into the top 5.

My ranking 10th

Predicted ranking 5th

Would it work at Eurovision? Yes

wiktoria-star1-jpg

After Melfest, Wiktoria will be installed in Sweden’s national art gallery as a permanent exhibition.

 

Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor

My verdict I’m happy to hear that these boys will be as close to nakna as possible on primetime television tonight. Why not venture all the way down Trash Avenue? After all, it would be un-Samir & Viktor-like to show restraint (and not nipples). These two are the weakest singers in the field, and Bada Nakna is no Groupie. As a result, they won’t be heading back to Stockholm for ESC purposes unless they’re hitting up the Euroclub. That’s expressly why we should just sit back and enjoy the final song to be performed tonight…in all its moist, shirtless, pantless glory.

My ranking 12th

Predicted ranking 6th

Would it work at Eurovision? No

 

 

Okay…so that likely took you as long to read as it will take the Mello final to start, happen and finish. But that’s SVT’s fault for having so many songs competing. In summary, my predicted scoreboard (minus any actual scores, because I don’t want to make that much of a fool of myself) looks like this:

  1. Frans
  2. Ace
  3. Robin
  4. Molly
  5. Wiktoria
  6. Samir & Viktor
  7. SaRaha
  8. Oscar
  9. Lisa
  10. Boris
  11. David
  12. Panetoz

I do think that ultimately, Frans will be our winner for 2016. But his is not necessarily an open-and-shut case kind of victory like Måns’ of twelve months ago. Back then, MZW had the sort of mass appeal that won him both the international jury vote and the televote. But in 2014, Sanna Nielsen placed second in the jury vote and won the televote; and in 2013, Robin Stjernberg did the opposite, winning the jury vote and placing second with the Swedish public. My point is (yes, I have one!) that Frans will most likely win the televote, but if he’s placed second or lower with the juries, he may not win the whole shebang. It’s hard to guess which act the juries would opt for instead, but you could argue that the likes of Ace, Robin, Molly and Oscar have more mass appeal, and might be more easily “gotten” by non-Swedes. And if the points/percentages are right, we could see a close call feat. Frans with a metaphorical silver medal round his neck.

So who, if anyone, has the best chance of toppling the favourite? Ace or Robin, with Wiktoria as an outsider. I’d love to say that Oscar – my main Melfest man – could hit the heights required to score an ESC ticket, but it seems there’s too much in the way (third time lucky in 2018, perhaps?). There really are a ton of great songs in this final, and too few top five places (five, funnily enough) to be allocated accordingly. Samir & Viktor should come last in my opinion, but they won’t. Any other act really doesn’t deserve that dishonour. I’ve predicted Panetoz because, as wonderful as they will be as the show’s opening act, I think the fun will fizzle out come voting time when Swedish voters get serious (and I don’t think the juries will rank them particularly highly either). I get the impression they’ll just be happy to be there, having made it this far though.

What do you think? Are there some shocks and surprises in store for us in Sweden, or will Melfest turn out to be massively predictable after all? Place your bets, people!

 

Now, to finish off, I’m going to bask in the ambience of Europe’s most epic NF for a little longer as I identify what I’m most looking forward to seeing and hearing in Friends Arena in a few hours’ time:

  • Oscar Zia in action I haven’t laid eyes on his kick-ass performance since his semi-final (though I have snuck in a few plays of Human in studio) so I’m dying to see it again. I do think we’re human, and I would like to take a look once again, Oscar.
  • Molly lost in her Youniverse Because who wouldn’t want to watch the Mollmeister do what she does best and generally be all of our beauty and talent goals in flesh-and-blood form? Anyone else also hoping Danny will show his beautiful face on this occasion?
  • Lynda Woodruff’s triumphant return SHE’S BACK! I can’t get enough of Sarah Dawn Finer, as herself or in character as the EBU’s most incompetent employee. The big question is, will she work in a mention of Azerjaiben?
lynda_woodruff

Oh, how I’ve missed that stunningly attractive face!

  • The Melfest medley of a lifetime SDF again. Magnus Carlsson. Nanne Grönvall. Anton Ewald. BWO. These are just some of the artists from Melfests of yesteryear who’ll be taking to the stage to reprise their entries while we wait for the votes to be tallied. I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT. Interval acts don’t usually have me peeing my pants at the prospect of witnessing them, but this one’s different. Sorry for the over-share.
  • The moment vi har ett resultat I don’t want to hear Gina Dirawi utter that phrase for the last time, but I do want to suffer through the agony of the voting sequence. Remember, it’s the kind of process we’ll be seeing at Eurovision, so think of the drawn-out tension as a dress rehearsal for May.

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaand I’m done. There is more I could say on the subject of M to the E to the L to the O to the…well, you get the idea. But then I’d need to print it, bind it and market it as serious bedtime reading, and that’s too much hassle.

Speaking of bedtime…I’d better go have my last pre-Melfest power nap. I might see you on Twitter later for the main event, but if not, enjoy your Saturday whether you’re watching Melfest, watching Lithuania’s Eurovizijos (?) or doing something else entirely (???). We have so few Eurovision entries left to be picked/premiered, so let’s hope we get a few great ones tonight!

 

Until next time,

 

2015sig

 

 

SUPER SATURDAY #1 | So many semis, so little time (a.k.a. SEND HELP!)

Are you ready to rumble, NF-watchers? You’re going to have to be (says someone who’s far from being ready herself) – because the first of February’s four Super Saturdays is upon us!

d6baed01718038d717454b0186bf55a896d36edaca6e21c0b7c698f0be9a18b9

Tonight is just one example of why the word ‘February’ is often paired with the word ‘frantic’ when Eurovision fans are conversing. If you want proof, a) you’re very demanding, and b) here it is, in the form of this evening’s epic programme of events:

  • Finland’s UMK – the first semi final
  • Hungary’s A Dal – the third quarter final
  • Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin – the first semi final
  • Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the fifth show (of approximately five hundred)
  • Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the first semi final (*screams*)
  • Ukraine’s Irritatingly Untitled Selection Process – the first semi final

Basically, there are a lot of firsts, a third and a fifth on this particular Saturday. Plus, there’s the kickoff of Latvia’s Supernova to look forward to tomorrow night, featuring Samanta ‘I’ll Still Be Attempting To Represent Latvia When I’m Dead’ Tina, and a song composed by none other than pocket rocket Aminata. These are busy times, y’all. What exactly do other people do on the weekends?

I can’t answer that, but I can tell you what I’m about to do, right here, right now: talk semis. Reviewing, ranking and predicting NFs is practically mandatory at this time of year, but I’m currently unable to go too in-depth (what with work/Stockholm prep/life in general keeping me otherwise occupied). So I’m limiting myself to the most appealing semis on this occasion – and for me, that’s those from Finland, Ukraine and Sweden. So let’s get on with criticising and complimenting what’s on offer from those countries on Super Saturday numero uno, shall we?

 

Finland: OMG, it’s UMK!

Okay, I’ll level with you…UMK isn’t a huge drawcard for me come NF season. While Melodifestivalen is my pinnacle of the period, feat. about ten hits to every miss, UMK = about five hits to five misses, each and every year – but that’s just due to my musical taste, I guess. Still, it’s always an interesting final to follow. This first semi has proven no different. Here are the competitors for this evening:

  1. Thief by Clemso
  2. Draamaa by Eini
  3. Evil Tone by Mikko Herranen
  4. Shamppanjataivas by Pää-Äijät
  5. No Fear by Saara Aalto
  6. Ain’t Got Time For Boys by Stella Christine 

Only half of the artists/songs above will remain in the running to represent Finland after tonight. That’s the kind of culling I admire (as opposed to the Malta-esque, more or less pointless kind), but when it comes to 50:50, I’m bound to make the wrong decision. So I want to emphasise that there’s a very clear divide between my personal favourites in Finland so far, and those I’m predicting to qualify.

My top three Thief, Draamaa and Shamppanjataivas. Yes, I’m serious. Thief is the type of laid-back (so much so it’s comatose), tropically-influenced R & B that I love when it emerges from somewhere in Europe, so Clemso would have my vote…you know, if I could vote. Draamaa is very catchy, and I enjoy the eighties vibe of it. It also sounds super-cool with Finnish lyrics (IT’S SUCH A MAGICAL LANGUAGE). And Shamppanjataivas…ugh, I know I shouldn’t like it. But it’s fun, and a little silly, and Pää-Äijät wear those brilliant sunglasses in the music video. I wonder if there’s any of those for sale on eBay?

ClemSO

Clemso’s entry ‘Thief’ has stolen my heart. Get it? Eh? Eh? *elbows you until you do*

Which three are going through, though? Draamaa, Shamppanjataivas and No Fear. I really dislike Saara Aalto’s song, but everyone else seems to think it’s the baboon’s bollocks, so No Fear should be a safe bet (I just hope to heck it doesn’t win the whole show). Draamaa, if it’s well performed live, is my credible choice. Shamppanjataivas is my not-so-credible choice, because remember Ostarilla?

 

Those are my thoughts. How about you – are U into UMK? Who should make it out of this first semi, and who should be sent packing?

 

Ukraine: They’re back, and bringing it big time!

Well, well, well! Doesn’t this make the Belarusian NF line-up look/sound even worse than it was when it took place?

That’s the impression I get, having listened to as many of the below semi-finalists as I could find without putting in any effort whatsoever (it’s been a long week, and I am beyond scouring lower than the surface of the internet for anything).

  1. I Am Free Now by Anastasia Prikhodko
  2. Helpless by The Hardkiss
  3. Tin Whistle by Tonya Matvienko
  4. I’m Insane by Vladislav Kurasov 
  5. Hold Me by Lavika
  6. 1944 by Jamala
  7. Inner Power by Aida Nikolaychuk
  8. Never Again by Svetlana Tarabarova
  9. Every Monday by Brunettes Shoot Blondes 

At first glance, the names in this semi-final are the more underwhelming out of Ukraine’s two semis (what with the second installment including NeAngely and Victoria Petryk). Even with Russian ESC alumni Anastasia in the mix. But ermahgerd, guys…there’s some GREAT stuff in here. In my opinion, of course.

Only three of the nine (yes, I agree, that’s way too few) will qualify to the final. Here’s the trio I’d most like to see advance, based on what I’ve heard so far:

  • Helpless The Hardkiss are the pre-show favourites, and they’ve got the goods to back that status up. Helpless isn’t my top pick of the semi, but it’s excellent – unique, unpredictable, far from formulaic, and totally devoid of eye-rolling Eastern European melodrama. Alt-pop, meet your new role model.
  • I’m Insane A song title like this doesn’t exactly garner great expectations. But I do love a good man-ballad (so long as it’s minus the melodrama I just referred to) and this one is served with no cheese – not a good thing when it comes to food, but definitely a good thing when we’re talking music.
  • 1944 Back in 2011, Jamala’s Smile contorted my face into anything but what the title promised. I didn’t dig it at all. But 1944? Well, it’s incredible. Different to her previous effort in every way, it’s mysterious, edgy and haunting. I think it’s something Ukraine should seriously consider sending to Stockholm.
Jamala-Ukraine

Jamala, surprisingly, has brought a ‘Smile’ to my face in 2016.

But since when did anything in this department go completely in my desired direction? I’ll give you a hint: NEVER.

So, which songs are actually going to get somewhere? Helpless, Inner Power and Every Monday. Granted, I haven’t clapped ears on Every Monday, but it just sounds like the kind of thing that would progress. I don’t rate Anastasia’s chances with her dreary power ballad, so I’m putting my prediction eggs in the baskets of The Hardkiss (obviously) and Aida Nikolaychuk (there’s a promising snippet of her song online) instead. Jamala is the act I most want to make it, but with just those teensy three spots available in the final, the odds are against her. Still, I’m hoping that she’ll go through given that I’ve discounted her (my powers of anti-prediction are second to none. What I say doesn’t go!).

 

Which songs/artists do you think deserve those three tickets tonight? Can any of the first semi final participants top Ukraine’s result recorded during their last Eurovision trip in 2014?

 

Sweden: Melodifestivalen kicks off with a semi, live from the Scandinavium! 

FYI: I am aware that Sweden comes before Ukraine alphabetically…but I HAD to save the best until last. So get over it.

HOLY HOTPANTS, IT’S MELFEST TIME!!! SOMEBODY SLAP ME!!!

d6baed01718038d717454b0186bf55a896d36edaca6e21c0b7c698f0be9a18b9 - Copy

Måns knows the feels. Why else would I continually use pictures of him in this post? And kiss a poster of him every night before I go to bed?

Melfest really IS the best (it rhymes, so it must be true). The greatest NF on Earth is coming to you live from Göteborg tonight, and it’s been drama-filled already, thanks to a very un-Sweden-like scandal.

Ja, we must all take a moment to bow our heads on behalf of Anna Book, who was disqualified from competing this week after her entry Himmel För Två was revealed as the Swedish version of an entry from the 2014 Moldovan final. Oops. SVT’s got to be embarrassed about that oversight. They have tried to lessen Anna’s trauma by allowing her to perform as a guest tonight, but that could just be awkward as heck – we’ll see.

If she hadn’t been given the boot at the last second, here are the six acts Anna would be battling against:

  1. Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor
  2. Mitt Guld by Pernilla Andersson
  3. Ain’t No Good by Mimi Werner
  4. Rik by Albin & Mattias
  5. Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
  6. Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder
Deltavling-1-First-Semifinal-Melodifestivalen-2016-Ace-Wilder-

Samir was oiling his pecs at the time of this photo call. Or so I assume.

Based on the content of this inaugural semi, this edition of Melfest is going to be better than Sweden’s last post-win program in 2013, so that’s a relief. But I do feel we haven’t heard the best stuff yet. With Ace Wilder performing in the plum position, we may have heard Sweden’s Eurovision 2016 entry, however. Would I be happy if that were the case? Find out in the next sentence or so.

My favourite four Bada Nakna, Rik, Constellation Prize and Don’t Worry. Ace’s song is actually my favourite *gasp*. I love the mix of retro styles that somehow manages to be completely contemporary. I just worry (ironically, given how many times Miss Wilder told me not to) that her weak live vocals will drag it down. I can’t help my affection for Samir & Viktor, despite Bada Nakna being inferior to all of their previous releases – they’re too much fun. Rik is a bit too repetitive and not as awesome as what I expected to come out of an Albin/Mattias partnership, but I love them as a duo so much, I’m willing to ignore the song’s flaws. And Constellation Prize has a heap going for it, including a catchy harmonica riff. I think it might go further than many other fans do.

So, who’s going direkt? Bada Nakna and Don’t Worry. Samir & Viktor are going to open the show with a bang and with their torsos on display (obvs) and I think all of the app-users are going to lose their collective minds. Assuming the app works this year, I think popularity will push them through. Ace Wilder will win this semi by a landslide though, no doubt. Don’t Worry is the clear standout, and her story of defeat by Sanna is still relevant. Girl is back with a bang, and will be advancing even if she sings like a strangled street cat (like she normally does).

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Ain’t No Good and Constellation Prize. Country music is often well received at Melfest, and Mimi has a toe-tapping fusion of country and pop to offer that has its audience, I reckon. Constellation Prize should really go direkt, but I think it will slip back into third based on the lack of abs, pecs, and general affable douchebaggery on display in Robin’s performance.

What about the others? Rik 5th, Mitt Guld 6th. Somebody has to lose, and I think Pernilla’s song is too sleepy not to. Rik will struggle to squeeze into the top four.

 

Honestly, I could be here all night long chopping and changing my predictions. But that wouldn’t be very entertaining for you, would it? What will be entertaining, I’m sure, is the level of my incorrectness. Will we be wrong together, or do you have a different take on what Melfest’s results have in store for us tonight? Let me know below.

 

I’m going to have to say a speedy ‘Catch you on the flip side, peeps!’ (apparently I have morphed into a fourteen-year-old boy from 1999) now, as I need a nap before tuning into Melfest at THREE FREAKING A.M. my time. It’s worth it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain about it.

Whether you’ll be glued to the SVT stream (in which case I might see you on Twitter for some fun times) or you’re opting to check out the action in Finland or Ukraine, etc, enjoy. But don’t have too much of a good time. This is only the start of the Super Saturdays – you need to conserve your energy!

 

Happy viewing (and pre-show predicting).

 

2015sig