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MY 500th POST!!! Marking a milestone with the Melodifestivalen Favourites Tag <3

Hej och välkommen to my 500th post! I’m not kidding – there’s no crappy attempts at clickbait from me (this time). I’d say something like ‘Who would’ve thought there was that much Eurovision-related stuff in existence to be written about by someone who aspires to but has no hope of reaching the popularity status of WiwiBloggs?’…but we all know there’s enough discussable Eurovision-related stuff to last a lifetime. Especially when there’s another ESC, JESC and NF season for both every year.

In summary, there’s a 99.9% chance that I’ll be composing Post No. 1000 in about eight years’ time. Hopefully it has a less boring intro than this one.

Anyway, I know we’re in the midst of the 2017 national final season right now (with the German final taking place on Thursday and an action-packed weekend creeping closer), but I thought this milestone of a massive amount of ESC ramblings needed to be acknowledged. And, as my numero uno NF Melodifestivalen started on Saturday – the final of which I’m attending this year and that’s SO EXCITING I SIMPLY MUST USE CAPS LOCK – I’m going to celebrate Melfest-style. Someone hand me my rhinestone-spangled catsuit!

Basically, there’s a fun tag that’s been floating around Facebook lately (at least, in my feed) and it’s as simple as this: you name your favourite Melfest entry for each year that you’ve followed the comp. I thought I’d choose mine according to all the Melfests that have happened while I’ve been (apparently) busy blogging 499 times – 2010-2016. Then I realised that’s the exact period I’ve been following the show for anyway. It’s fate. So here we go…a.k.a. NU KÖR VI!!!

 

PS – As this is a tag, I tag each and every one of you reading this to list your favourite Melfest songs from your years of keeping tabs on the five-week extravaganza. Even if you just joined the party in 2016, let me know which entry was your most-loved last year.

 

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2010 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin

The first Melfest to take place after the birth of Eurovision By Jaz (a birth that was not only painless but actually enjoyable, no drugs required) was fantastisk. Well, the final was – I have to admit, there were some questionable entries in the semis. But damn, Sweden, THAT FINAL! Even so, I can narrow the field down to my personal favourite song faster than most Ukrainian men can run on giant hamster wheels. The hugely successful runner-up of Idol 2004, Darin is my most beloved Swedish soloist in the history of Swedish soloists, and his one and only (to date *crosses fingers*) Melfest entry was the pinnacle of pop balladry in my opinion. If the music doesn’t move you, then check out the wind machine usage, which nearly moved the man himself off the stage and into the wings at supersonic speed. Sadly, it didn’t blow Anna Bergendahl, Salem al Fakir and Eric Saade away and out of the running.

Andra Chansen Kom by Timoteij

 

 

2011 | My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen

I’m going to break some bad news to you right now by saying that *SPOILER ALERT* this is the only time Loreen will appear on this list. Who knows – her 2017 Melfest entry Statements might end up in a Top 10 of mine in the future, but for now, it’s all about Loreen Vol. I. The first time we saw her compete, she made it into Andra Chansen but not out of it (I know…crazy, right?!?). The dance-pop dream with a hint of disco that is My Heart Is Refusing Me, though, was a winner in so many ways: from the catchiness, explosive chorus and overall cool factor to Loreen’s weirdly wonderful red top (I have been trawling op-shops in the hope of finding something similar ever since, and may eventually resort to feeding a plain red sweater into a document shredder). Because this track is more complex and unpredictable than Euphoria, I ever-so-slightly prefer it – and it’s far and away my favourite song served up to us by Melodifestivalen 2011.

Andra Chansen Popular by Eric Saade

 

 

2012 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky

It’s a good question. Why should you start a fire? I guess if you’re out in the wilderness and will freeze to death if you don’t rub some sticks together and get a flame going, then it’s probably a smart idea. But I’ll leave the extenuating circumstances of fire-starting at that, since they have nothing to do with my unconditional love for this song. Lisa, whose songwriting credits include boss-as-a-Billy-bookcase hits for herself and the likes of the Backstreet Boys (we have her to thank for Shape of My Heart), had a tough task topping the ten finalists of Melfest 2012. She ended up finishing second last – which wasn’t that shocking – but I for one think Why Start A Fire? is stunning. A mystical synth riff gives way to lush layers of music and vocals that, when they’ve run their course, make you (and by ‘you’, I mean ‘me) feel relaxed and re-energised – rather than exhausted, because you’ve just listened to something loud and watched a performance with more gimmicks than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms.

Andra Chansen Soldiers by Ulrik Munther

 

 

2013 | You by Robin Stjernberg

At last – the first Melfest year of my blogging career in which my number one competing song went on to win the whole thing! Against all the odds, too. Robin’s NF story is the ultimate underdog tale of a ridiculously good singer who entered what was a pretty weak edition of Sweden’s crowning TV glory (as they were hosting Eurovision in 2013, however, they can be forgiven for not trying too hard to produce an epic host entry). He didn’t manage to go direkt, instead ending up in Andra Chansen and making most of us count him out FTW. Then he did win, making him the first non-direct finalist in the existence of the AC round to do so. And he did it with an awesome, heartfelt pop anthem with one heck of a hook (you-ooh-ooh-ooooooooohhh, in case you were wondering). You also boasts a money note that, when Robin belted it out on the Malmö Arena stage, was powerful enough to produce a pyro curtain. I assume it was his vocal strength that did it, rather than your average pyrotechnics consultant backstage somewhere. Don’t burst my bubble.

Andra Chansen Bed On Fire by Ralf Gyllenhammar

 

 

2014 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen

Speaking of your one true NF love taking the trophy home (along with an ‘Admit One’ ticket to Eurovision) – it happened to me for the second year running in 2014. Undo marked Sanna’s seventh Melfest participation, following mixed results for her in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011. It didn’t take seven of anything to have me hooked though. So much so that, despite having been Team Empty Room when it came to Sanna’s best entry, it wasn’t long before I’d bumped her ’08 runner-up down to the runner-up position on my list (my mental list…I don’t have a physical paper Sanna ranking). Undo, for me personally, is peak pop power ballad perfection. The soft vulnerability of the first verse, the break between the second and last chorus and the finish contrast goosebumpingly (I hereby decree that a proper word even though Spellcheck wasn’t a fan) with the simple but powerful choruses – and Miss Nielsen nailed every note, every time. This may not be a popular opinion, but I definitely think she won Melodifestivalen with her strongest submission. Nothing else would have scored her a bronze medal at Eurovision – not even Empty Room.

Andra Chansen Survivor by Helena Paparizou

 

 

2015 | Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw

It was third time lucky for MZW at Melfest, and the third year in a row that the results went my way. Can anyone really argue that Heroes shouldn’t have won the NF when it went on to win Eurovision? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t try to start something in the comments. The song itself was worthy of winning both contests as far as I’m concerned, being the Avicii-inspired anthem with a karaoke dream chorus that it is. But you can’t mention Heroes and not talk about the visuals that elevated it from great to even greater (and I’m not referring to Måns’ muscles and THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). We all fell in love with the original stick man – who turned out not to be so original in the end, so he got a bit fatter and wore a different hat for the ESC. We followed his journey from being downtrodden and dragged away by a balloon to having the privilege of fist-bumping his older, flesh-and-blood self (who had swapped overalls for THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). And that, plus the slick lighting scheme and choreography, made Heroes a flawlessly-packaged entry that ticked every box, both in Melfest and at Eurovision. I love it just as much now as I did two years ago (!).

Andra Chansen Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone

 

 

2016 | Human by Oscar Zia

These days, with 28 songs competing in Melfest each year, I’m bound to like or love at least 25 of them (Swedish songwriters just know how to float my boat). So did I like or love If I Were Sorry? Yes. Was it my ideal winner/host entry for Sweden in Stockholm? No, to tell you the truth. My votes – if I’d been able to cast any – would have gone straight to Oscar Zia, who started out in the show as a backing vocalist, returned a year later on his own, then made a massive comeback – having come out of the closet and evolved stylistically and hair-stylistically – with Human. You know I love (most) modern power ballads, but when a modern power ballad comes equipped with edge and a moody atmosphere like this one, someone’s going to have to haul me up off the floor where I have swooned. As with Måns, what we saw was just as important as what we heard when Oscar had his technically-third try for the Melfest trophy. Storm clouds and intense, quick camera cuts made the performance memorable without the need for an entire supermarket aisle’s worth of bells and whistles. The whole thing was so magical, it annoys me beyond belief that there’s no watchable video of it accessible in Australia (as far as I can tell). So enjoy – or not – the lyric video I stuck here. Closing your eyes and just listening is still an epic experience, after all.

Andra Chansen Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson

 

 

Whew – think yourselves lucky that I didn’t discover Melodifestivalen in 1991 (I was too busy being a baby). As it stands, my waffling on is…well, off, so it’s time for you to list your own favourites. Which Swedish songs have you cheered for the most over the years? Is there ANYTHING we agree on, or is it true that one person’s treasure is another’s trash? I want answers, people!

 

Until next time (the upcoming NF-antastic weekend)…

 

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A (Final) Supersized Serving of Scandipop: My Top 50 Melodifestivalen Entries, 2006-2015! (The Top 10)

Meghan Trainor might be all about that bass, but me? I’m more about that Melodifestivalen. The search for Måns Zelmerlöw’s successor began on Saturday, with Ace Wilder (predictably) and Robin ‘Bedroom Eyes’ Bengtsson going direkt till final, and the duos of Albin and Mattias/Samir and Viktor heading off to Andra Chansen. Melfest has certainly started on a good note (if I may make a musical pun without you throwing yourself through the nearest window), but I suspect the show’s best is yet to come. That makes me even more excited to set my next super-early Sunday alarm, so bring it, SVT!

Speaking of which…I’m doing a bit of ye olde ‘bringing’ myself today. But rather than bringing you two hours of camp, poptastic entertainment feat. several glorious utterances of the phrase ‘Sverige, vi har ett resultat’, I’m FINALLY bringing you the conclusion to my Melfest Top 50 countdown. I guess I can still say ‘Vi har ett resultat’ – it’s just that the resultat in this case is my Top 10 from 2006-2015.

Forty other Melfest entries from that period have graced my list so far. In case you’ve forgotten which, here’s a recap:

  • #11 Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
  • #12 Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandén (2012)
  • #13 This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
  • #14 In The Club by Danny Saucedo (2011)
  • #15 Try Again by Dilba (2011)
  • #16 My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (2011)
  • #17 Keep On Walking by Salem Al Fakir (2010)
  • #18 Efter Solsken by Panetoz (2014)
  • #19 Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (2015)
  • #20 Echo by Outtrigger (2014)
  • #21 Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt (2012)
  • #22 Empty Room by Sanna Nielsen (2008)
  • #23 Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (2011)
  • #24 Baby Goodbye by EMD (2009)
  • #25 Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (2014)
  • #26 Alla by Sofia (2009)
  • #27 Like Suicide by Christian Walz (2011)
  • #28 Temple of Love by BWO (2006)
  • #29 The Boy Can Dance by Afro-Dite (2012)
  • #30 Där Och Då Med Digby Emelie Irewald (2015)
  • #31 Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
  • #32 Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (2014)
  • #33 Living To Die by Andreas Johnson (2015)
  • #34 One By One by Elize Ryd and Rickard Söderberg (2015)
  • #35 Red by EKO (2014)
  • #36 Möt Mig I Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson (2015)
  • #37 Around The World by Dr. Alban and Jessica Folcker (2014)
  • #38 Bröder by Linus Svenning (2014)
  • #39 I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (2015)
  • #40 För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson (2015)
  • #41 Falling by State of Drama (2013)
  • #42 Sean Den Förste Banan by Sean Banan (2012)
  • #43 Hello Goodbye by Tone Damli and Erik Segerstedt (2013)
  • #44 Begging by Anton Ewald (2013)
  • #45 Stormande Hav by Timoteij (2012)
  • #46 Stay The Night by Alcazar (2009)
  • #47 Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (2015)
  • #48 Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette (2015)
  • #49 På Väg by Abalone Dots (2012)
  • #50 Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2015)

And if you want to revisit rather than recap, you can check out #50-#31 in detail here, and #30-#11 here.

Och nu, without further ado, here is…

 

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#10 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012) 

The overwhelming fan favourite of Melfest 2012 may have been Loreen, but personally, I have more of a soft spot for Miss Miskovsky (among other 2012 alumni). I know, I know – I’m a terrible person, and I’ve just bought myself a one-way ticket to Eurovision purgatory as punishment. But before you consider dropping any atomic glitter bombs on my head, hear me out. I know as well as you do that Euphoria was the right representative for Sweden at Eurovision in Baku, and it’s definitely one of my all-time favourite winning songs. But when I look/listen back at Melfest that year, I find that there’s something about the guitar-driven, electro-tinged Why Start A Fire? – something ethereal and otherworldly – that hits me right in the goosebump generator (wherever that is). Euphoria never achieved quite the same thing. Lyrically intriguing and melodically stunning, Lisa’s self-penned entry had me hypnotised from the first time I heard it in full. Its place on this list is a declaration of love it deserves.

 

#9 | Mystery by Dead By April (2012)

When Outtrigger’s Echo popped up in part two of this countdown, I told you guys I had a thing for Melfest rock. As you can see, I wasn’t kidding. I’m not saying I adore everything about Echo or Mystery (the throat-stripping screams in each track are far from being my cup of tea) but…come to think of it, the screaming is the only thing I’m not a fan of. Mystery made a big impact on me when DBA took on Melfest, and not just because I had an obsessive crush on lead singer (at the time) Zandro (and his tattoos). The song is well-written and was well-performed, with Zandro’s clear-cut vocals contrasting nicely with Stoffe Andersson’s death growls (‘death growls’ = a phrase I never expected would be defined for me by Melodifestivalen). There’s both vulnerability and aggressiveness to be heard here, and that makes for a dynamic listening experience. When you want to rock out, AND lament a lost love or a Netflix-related neck injury (for example) at the same time, Mystery is the perfect outlet.

 

#8 | You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)

Just thinking back to the days when Robin became the first Melfest winner to detour through Andra Chansen has happy tears moistening my eyes – so take everything I’m about to say with a grain of sentimentality. You was one of the most authentic, least forced winners Melodifestivalen has ever crowned. It wasn’t a formulaic cookie-cutter pop song trying desperately to come out on top – it was just one man + a pleasantly subdued neutral palette + a touching-but-not-cloying tribute + THAT VOICE. Oh, and a fire curtain. And all of that ended up creating an unexpected champion, via the most magical voting sequence ever recorded on film. Robin’s win felt so right. You is a song that builds and then builds some more, rising from a solid foundation of acoustic guitar and soft vocals to an explosive (literally, when you consider that fire curtain) conclusion, preceded by a show-stopping note from Robin that declared ‘I’m a contender!’. And shattered glassware from the north to the south of Sweden. It may not have shattered any records at Eurovision, but it will always be one of my most-loved host entries.

 

#7 | Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (2014)

Aaaaand BOOM (boom boom boo-boo-boom) – just like that, you can say goodbye to sentimentality, and hello to my completely superficial love for a song about sex. Lyrical content such as ‘shoes off in the driveway, shirts off in the doorway, pants off in the hallway’ isn’t exactly the height of sophistication and significance, but it doesn’t have to be when a song’s this catchy. It wasn’t until I heard the Bedroom snippet prior to Melfest 2014’s first semi that I thought ‘THIS is what I’m talking about. THIS is why I devote all the time I’m not thinking about Eurovision to thinking about Sweden’s preselection.’ Because when I’m not weeping into a copy of SCAN Magazine over the raw beauty of a power ballad, I’m dancing wildly in my Bedroom to stuff like this. Alvaro suffers from Eric Saade Syndrome – he’s not a great live vocalist, but he can bust a move and churn out chart hits with ease. His Melfest entry was made for the dance floor, and is basically three minutes of proof that Swedish songwriters should continue to be in constant global demand.

 

#6 | Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson (2012)

Is there any genre that doesn’t sound sensational i Svenska? The first non-English number in my top 10 is also an R & B song, and I don’t reckon it would have made an appearance at all if it’d been sung in English by ex-EMD member Mattias. Förlåt Mig (‘Forgive Me’) is so slick and well-produced in studio, it couldn’t quite live up to itself live (I’m convinced that those Kate Ryan light sabers are a bad-luck charm) which may explain why it didn’t progress past its semi. Or perhaps I’m just the only person on the planet who thinks it’s the shiz, and should have at LEAST made it to Andra Chansen. If I had to single out one thing I really commend about this song, it would be the way it manages not to repeat itself, in spite of its straightforward sstructure. What I mean by that (because that made zero sense) is, while the verses and the chorus and that other bit before the final chorus *forgets everything she was taught about song construction in music class* together form a cohesive whole, they’re all unique. This isn’t a ‘heard half of it, heard all of it’ kind of song – and that, combined with its general awesomeness, gets my fist bump of approval.

 

#5 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)

There are two kinds of people: those who think Sanna was handed a pity win after her seventh attempt to take home the Melfest trophy; and those who think the time was right because she won with her strongest contribution to the competition. There are no prizes for guessing which camp my tent’s pitched in. I have been besotted with Undo from the moment I met it, and I firmly believe it to be one of Melfest’s – and Eurovision’s – greatest-ever ballads. Helping that mindset along is the fragility Sanna conveyed during each and every performance of the song. Thanks to her crystal-clear voice that is seemingly expelled at the push of a button (I think it’s on the back of her neck, like those Barbie dolls that have “growing” hair), she didn’t really have to focus on nailing her vocal. What she could focus on was making us believe her heartbreak was as fresh in Denmark as it had been during Deltävling 2 back in Sweden. And that, my friends, is what made for the dictionary definition of ‘spine-tingling’ produced by Undo. That and THE MOMENT!!! before the second chorus, which sent the wow factor shooting straight into the stratosphere.

 

#4 | Kom by Timoteij (2010)

Do you ever just sit and think about all of the things you’d never have discovered if it wasn’t for Melodifestivalen? No? Well, I do. And one of the main things I think about is the glorious girl band Timoteij. Their signature blend of Celtic instrumentals and Europop has led to a string of hits, and it all started with Kom (‘Come’, in case you didn’t see that Kom-ing). If this song is any indication, then Swedish-born ethno-pop can totally hold its own against the Armenian/Spanish/Turkish equivalents. The iconic opening riff ignites a sense of mystery that carries on through the rest of the song, interwoven with a pulsing, toe-tapping beat. The chorus is simple, but so effective; the melody is irresistible; and the ubiquitous key change arrives at the perfect moment. And that rolecall of redeeming features doesn’t even take into account the power of Timoteij harmonies (which, when on point, could poke a hole in a house brick). Even in a super-strong Melfest final, it’s hard (for me) to believe this finished fifth, and not higher.

 

#3 | Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012)

This track, co-written and performed by Peter Pan Ulrik for his Melfest debut (he’d go on to try way too hard to win the following year, only to end up 3rd again) was THE arena anthem of 2012 – if we’re talking down-tempo arena anthems, as the up-tempo trophy obviously goes to Loreen and her Euphoria. Heavy on instruments – guitars, drums, and a harmonica that gave an authentic bluesy feel to a polished pop song – it relied on sincerity and sing-along power (plus that angelic, seemingly prepubescent face of Mr. Munther’s), rather than flashiness, to harness votes. Remind you of anything? Say, Melfest 2016’s freshly-qualified Constellation Prize? It should. Soldiers is such a great song in all aspects of song…ness (songery?). The melody is memorable, the structure makes for a smoothly-navigated but not-too-predictable three minutes, and the lyrics have substance (but not so much that I have no idea what the manboy in the flat cap is on about). In an epic edition of Melfest, this was my standout entry.

 

#2 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (2014)

(No decent videos of this performance appear to be available on Youtube, y’all. Apologies.)

There are certain songs that I gravitate towards because they’re catchy. Then, there are those that make me feel all the feelings that tend to give one goosebumps. Relatively unknown prior to his Melodifestivalen debut, Josef Johansson provided us with a song that was the best of both worlds – a total tune, and a heartstring-puller. That’s what makes Hela Natten (‘All Night’) magic. No, it didn’t get anywhere in its semi, but it left an impression on me that has outlasted the impression left by any other participating songs from 2014 that did progress. The song’s build-up to explosive moments is stellar, ensuring the chorus packs punch whenever it pops up. And the introduction of a choir during the last thirty seconds or so was inspired, giving Josef the vocal support he needed to make the final stretch of the song bigger and (almost) better than the rest. I also credit this song for kick-starting my fangirling of Josef’s subsequent releases, like Blickar Kan Mörda, which was completely different to Hela Natten – i.e. a true testament to Josef’s artistic versatility.

 

And now, after two previous installments of Scandipop-oriented gushing, and my #10-#2 countdown above, it’s time to say hej to what is probably a rather predictable number one.

My favourite Melodifestivalen entry from 2006-2015 is…


#1 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin (2010)

YEAH IT IS! If you’ve read virtually any of my past posts, you’ll know that ’04 Idol runner-up Darin is my personal pinnacle of popstardom. He’s a bit of a musical chameleon, and I’ve loved every stage of his career – his folksy phase of 2015/16, for instance, has seen me flog his latest album Fjärilar I Magen like my life depends on it. When Darin decided to give Melfest a go in 2010, he was in more of a power ballad phase, and that’s how he came to be partnered with You’re Out of My Life. If Sanna’s Undo is the female ballad to end all other female ballads, then YOOML is its male counterpart. I can’t even describe in detail why I love it as much as I do (you’ll be relieved to learn) – it’s just undying, could-listen-to-it-on-repeat-forever love. So if you don’t understand why I even find this song listenable, and you head down to the comments to say so, don’t expect me to emerge from my love bubble long enough to notice. The rose-coloured glasses have been super-glued to my face by the magnificence of Darin’s attempt to get to Eurovision.

 

Okay…so that was the written equivalent of the London Marathon. If you crossed the finish line, congratulations. If you just scrolled down to see how lengthy this post was and swiftly thought ‘As if!’ upon finding out, here’s what you missed:

  • #1 You’re Out of My Life by Darin (2010)
  • #2 Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (2014)
  • #3 Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012)
  • #4 Kom by Timoteij (2010)
  • #5 Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
  • #6 Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson (2012)
  • #7 Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (2014)
  • #8 You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
  • #9 Mystery by Dead By April (2012)
  • #10 Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012)

What are your thoughts on my Top 10? Would any of this back-catalogue Melfest music make your shortlist? If not, which entries would? If you’ve got something to say, I’m hanging out to hear it.

While I’m waiting for your words, I’ll be figuring out how to handle the upcoming Super Saturday – one that makes the six-show evening just gone seem sedate by comparison. Join me on the weekend to see if the stress sent me into meltdown mode, leaving me unable to string a sentence together; or if I managed to rank, review and predict in spite of the pressure. If Laura Tesoro is still wondering what the pressure is, somebody had better tell her that it’s THIS FREAKIN’ SATURDAY.

 

Until THIS FREAKIN’ SATURDAY…

 

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EBJ’s Top 10…Swedish entries of all time (The Top Five!)

Happy Weekend, and välkommen to the second installment of my Scandi-centric countdown. I’m thinking of this as a gift to you, on what happens to be my birthday (hello there, shameless cry for celebratory wishes). It may not be a quality gift in your opinion, but if it is something you’re keen to unwrap, don’t worry about getting me anything in return (although, a sizeable cheque and/or a new car wouldn’t go astray if you’re feeling generous).

Anyway…let’s get back to Eurovision, and get on with the countdown. My top five Swedish ESC entries EVER *insert dramatic music here* are waiting for your judgment, and I’ll be waiting for your personal top fives in the comments. Don’t leave me hanging, guys – not on my birthday!

FYI, here’s a recap of the list so far:

  • #10 – En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (1963)
  • #9 – Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
  • #8 – Den Vilda by One More Time (1996)
  • #7 – Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
  • #6 – Främling by Carola (1983)

Now, är du redo?

 

#5 | 1998

Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson

I’m kick-starting the top five with some kärleken – specifically, Kärleken Är, a painfully 90s (not a bad thing), super pretty ballad. Jill Johnson was and is more of a country singer than a pop singer, but quite literally changed her tune for Melfest/Eurovision purposes (in other words, she pulled a Taylor Swift, but in a less drastic manner). Her performance in Birmingham was the last to feature a shred of the Swedish language until 2012 (when Finland sent När Jag Blundar) and her song was penned in response to the death of Princess Diana the previous year. The latter makes it lyrically beautiful and sad at the same time, but despite the sadness (and Jill’s funeral-esque stage garb) ‘uplifting’ is another adjective you could use here. Kärleken Är is a fond tribute rather than a morbid three-minute moan, and that gets my tick of approval. I love the lyrics, the melody, Jill’s voice…all in all, this forces me to feel all the good feels.

 

#4| 2013

You by Robin Stjernberg

You’ve got to root for an underdog, right? Robin’s been on my radar since he lost the 2011 Swedish Idol crown by a barely-there percentage of the vote, so I was pretty excited by and invested in his Melfest entry two years later. Then, when he became the first Andra Chansen competitor to go on and win Melfest, ‘pretty excited’ was eclipsed by ‘out of my mind with ecstasy’. What an awesome host entry Mr. Stjernberg/Fwernber gave us! I was obsessed with You back in the Malmö days, and I’m still bowing down to its greatness – and the majesty of Robin’s vocal range – today, as we look forward to another Sverige-style ESC. You isn’t what some might call a ‘typical Eurovision song’ (repetitiveness aside), and that made it distinctive. It’s another uplifting tribute to a special someone, and I think we can all identify with the titular you-ou-ou-oooo-ou. Adding to the pros of the package was the fact that Robin sung the pants off it, to the soundtrack of a noisily supportive home crowd. And dammit, he deserved some noise. You was an amazing, refreshing alternative to clinical Scandipop (not that I don’t love clinical Scandipop. I really do).

 

#3| 2010

This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl

It’s hard to believe there was a time when Sweden didn’t advance to a Eurovision final – but there was, and that time was just five years ago. Anna Bergendahl’s semi stumble was three things: one, shocking; two, devastating (mostly for Anna herself, and probably Christer Björkman) and three, narrow (Sweden finished five points behind Cyprus’ Jon Lilygreen and his Islanders). Despite a slightly shaky performance that did give off rehearsal rather than real-thing vibes in moments, I believe This Is My Life should have nabbed a place in the 2010 final (though not necessarily at the expense of Life Looks Better In Spring). The song is a stunner, with Anna’s husky vocals providing a nice contrast to her princess tiara and prom dress on stage. My only problem with it is performance-related, though it’s less of a problem than it is a mind-boggling mystery: WHERE DID THE GUITAR GO??? *hires private detective to end my five-year stretch of suffering*.

 

#2| 1995

Se På Mig by Jan Johansen

Sweden definitely went through a ‘less is more’ phase in the 1990s. You could argue that it was impossible to make a performance too ostentatious in a time before 100-metre long Russian LED backdrops and such, and you wouldn’t be wrong – but Jan’s Se På Mig, like Den Vilda after it, was simplistic in comparison to a lot of its competitors. On stage, it was just Jan, his patent leather jacket, a strategically-placed line of backing singers, some soothing dappled lighting, and one heck of a beautiful song. The kind of beautiful song that Anmary went on about in Baku: one that everybody hums, and everybody loves. I repeat, EVERYBODY. Seriously, if you’re anti-Se På Mig, what’s up with your distaste for sentimental, melodically stunning man-ballads? It ain’t normal, my friend. The magic of this song speaks for itself, so I’m going to shut up now and let it.

 

#1 | 2014

Undo by Sanna Nielsen

I’m well aware that my decision to slot Sanna into first place will make many of you want to Undo your subscriptions to this blog (and if you’re not subscribed, why not? It’s a constant Eurovision party over here!). But, before you throw whatever device you’re reading this on out the window and run screaming from the room, hear me out. Sweden’s 2014 entry being my all-time fave is not just a product of the song quality, but also of its significance being a song by an artist who I’ve loved for years, and who had tried time and time again to represent her country without success. I watched Sanna powerhouse her way through Melfest with this magnificent ballad (in an unflattering jumpsuit, but that’s irrelevant) and win over Ace Wilder by a measly margin, and I was so happy for her I cried a little bit. And that wasn’t the last time she had me reaching for the tissues – my floodgates fairly flew open when she performed in Copenhagen’s first semi last May. Girl was pitch-perfect, hit me right in the heart with her vocal and facial arrows of emotion, and looked like a goddess in a much more flattering outfit than her Melfest getup. Undo gave Sanna 180 seconds to do nothing but impress with her vocals, but it impresses me in other areas too. It has light and shade, strength and vulnerability, and an unforgettable hook (memorable = a two-syllable word that becomes a five-syllable one). Douze for the song, douze for Sanna, douze for a performance that kept the focus on her crystal-clear vocals, and douze for the whole thing being my #1 Swedish entry of all time.

 

For now, at least. Who knows what Sweden could do to me in 2016?

 

That’s a wrap on this drawn-out Top 10, and the list is complete (until I change my mind in five minutes). Here’s what it looks like right this second, though:

  1. Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
  2. Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (1995)
  3. This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
  4. You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
  5. Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson (1998)
  6. Främling by Carola (1983)
  7. Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
  8. Den Vilda by One More Time (1996)
  9. Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
  10. En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (1963)

Oh, and here’s the fantastisk stuff that just didn’t make the final cut…Waterloo by ABBA (1974); Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley by Herrerys (1984); Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (1991); Las Vegas by Martin Stenmarck (2005); Popular by Eric Saade (2011). So now you can’t abuse me for completely, 110% blanking ABBA.

Now it’s your turn. Let me know down below which of Sweden’s 55 entries have most tickled your fancy, and tested the endurance of your flag-waving arm! You know you want to…

 

2015sig

 

 

The 2013 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 1 (Artists and Songs)

Hello there. Long time, no new Eurovision rambling from yours truly. Well, it’s been just over a week, but in blog time that’s an eternity, so I apologise to anyone who cares. I do this, as Krista ‘Ding Dong’ Seigfrids would say, for you-ah, for you-ah, for you, yeah, I do it for youuuuu. Or as Robin ‘I won Melfest?’ Stjernberg would say, for you-ooh-ooh-oohoohooh-oh-ohhhhhh.

OH DEAR GOD, SOMEBODY STOP ME!

Thanks. So, today it’s finally time for me to hand out the first of my awards for the best and worst of all things Eurovision 2013. I realise it’s a bit odd to say they’re for excellence and still rate the bad stuff (costumes etc) but if you think about it, one of the artists who did badly in some way was the most excellent at doing badly in that way. I’m just trying to figure out which one.

Part 1 is devoted to the best and worst of this year’s artists and songs – from the most attractive performers (’cause I’m shallow like that) to the biggest personalities, most unoriginal entries and more. Let the ceremony begin! Oh, and let me know who your winners would be down below. Mine are highlighted in bold.

ebjees

The Artists

1

Andrius Pojavis

Farid Mammadov

Ilias Kozas (Koza Mostra)

Jonas Gygax (Takasa)

Marco Mengoni

Ryan Dolan

 

He may belong in an insane asylum (judging from his behaviour during interviews and the now infamous ‘crotch readjustment’ incident of the jury final) but Marco Mengoni, the San Remo-winning Italian stallion, is also insanely attractive – and when you’re objectifying people by handing out “trophies” to the best-looking, that’s what counts. He can fly to Australia and act like a total space cadet in my company any time.

Marco: the hair of a madman, the face of my future husband.

Marco: the hair of a madman, the face of my future husband.

 

 2

Alyona Lanskaya

Amandine Bourgeois

Natália Kelly

Natalie Horler (Cascada)

Nevena Božović (Moje 3)

Zlata Ognevich

 

If you’re a female and you’ve never secretly hoped that Zlata has bad breath or a problem with flatulence, because NOBODY can be as beautiful and talented and generally perfect as she is, then you’re a better person than I am. I’ll push my jealousy to one side for a second to say this: she is a stunner. If she and Marco Mengoni ever had a love child (never gonna happen, back off Ognevich etc etc) it would be ridiculously gorgeous. Or alternatively, hideous because two lots of super-hot genes coming together might cancel out the attractiveness.

 

3

Andrius Pojavis

Farid Mammadov

Gianluca Bezzina

Gor Sujyan (Dorians)

Marco Mengoni

Roberto Bellarosa

 

This was a tough category, what with 2013 being a year full of animated brows, all jostling for our attention. But the hypnotic quality of Andrius’ pair secures him the disco ball. I’m pretty sure he got into the final by using them to put the jury members and TV viewers into a trance, during which time they were compelled to vote Lithuania. That weird trip-effect halfway through the performance was just a distraction.

'Hush. The eyebrows have spoken.'

‘Hush. The eyebrows have spoken.’

 

 

4

Adrian Lulguraj

Gianluca Bezzina

Ralfs Eilands (PeR)

Robin Stjernberg

Ryan Dolan

 

Perhaps I’m biased because I love Robin to pieces (‘Pieces’ coincidentally being the title of his new album, to be released on June 26th, hashtag shameless plug) but I reckon he was the nicest guy to set foot on Malmö soil during Eurovision week. His priceless reaction of shock at winning Melodifestivalen carried through to the big show, as he was constantly thrilled and amazed just to be there. He was charming with all 468, 952 members of the press he had to speak to (so I hear), taught Australian commentator Sam Pang how to wrestle, and went out of his way (literally; he ran in the wrong direction) to greet fans at the opening party. What a top bloke.

 

5

Hannah Mancini

Krista Seigfrids

Natália Kelly

Natalie Horler (Cascada)

Sara Jovanović (Moje 3)

 

Okay, so Krista and her entourage/bridal party may have been a bit loud at times, and prone to disturbing the relative peace of artist interviews-in-progress…but underneath that noise was someone genuinely excited to be representing her country and someone who wants to make friends with everyone she comes into contact with. Despite her negative result in the final, I’ll bet she and her team spent the plane trip home ding-donging up and down the aisles.

 

6

Bonnie Tyler

Cascada

Koza Mostra

PeR

Robin Stjernberg

Who See

 

In this case, it’s ‘Born EntertainerS’. I’m not including Agathonas as one of the said entertainers, despite how much I love his moustache fondling. It’s just that Koza Mostra, as a fivesome, kind of outshine him in the energetic, crowd-revving, kilt-wearing stakes. I reckon you could hire these guys to perform at a party specifically for people who are bored by everything, and within ten seconds those people would be dancing on tabletops with various items of clothing tied around their foreheads.

It's also entertaining to wonder what's under those kilts.

It’s also entertaining to wonder what’s under those kilts.

 

7

Alyona Lanskaya (the two-time NF winner who finally made it)

Birgit (expecting on the ESC stage)

Elitsa & Stoyan (return of the drum-tastic Bulgarians)

Gianluca Bezzina (the singing doctor)

Moran Mazor (chic geek)

Valentina Monetta (from social networks to sophistication)

 

Miss Monetta takes out this award, and not just because she came straight back to the contest without even a coffee break in between. It’s because she went from ‘inappropriately dressed thirty-something forced to gyrate around singing about cybersex and googling, giggling, gaggling (whatever that is)’ to ‘mature, talented chanteuse with excellent Italian ballad-cum-disco-number and adequately floaty outfit.’ We all wondered whether the Social Network stigma would ruin her second chance, or if she’d be able to shake it off; though she didn’t manage to make the final, I think she well and truly proved that Crisalide Valentina is the real Valentina.

 

 

The Songs

 8

Glorious (sounds like Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia)

L’Enfer Et Moi (sounds like Rolling In The Deep by ADELE)

Samo Shampioni (sounds like Water by Elitsa & Stoyan)

Solayoh (sounds like Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou)

Something (sounds like Mr. Brightside by the Killers)

Tomorrow (sounds like Hey Soul Sister by Train)

 

Last year’s Greek entry sounded at least five years old, and this year’s Belarusian entry, which was more or less a carbon copy, actually turned out to be five years old (read: stale as a bread crust left behind in the pantry for six months). As catchy as it is, it’s that lack of originality and dated-ness that makes me want to never hear the “word” ‘solayoh’ ever again. But my congratulations to Alyona’s songwriters (if they’re still alive…they did write it all those years ago) are sincere. You guys really deserve this award for creating a song so structurally and melodically similar to another one that hadn’t even been thought of at the time.

 

9

Glorious

Hold Me                                                                                            

I Feed You My Love

Only Teardrops

Solayoh

Waterfall

 

A fanwank song is one that a big percentage of ESC lovers go crazy over, that may or may not have been written expressly to appeal to said lovers and that may or may not succeed in the contest itself. Waterfall was (and still is) a ballad stuffed with Eurovision-specific clichés, and had many people booking hotel rooms in Tbilisi for May 2014 before Eurovision week had even begun. Unfortunately for Georgia (and the people who’d booked in to a hotel with a no-refund policy) taking a chance on a fanwank didn’t pay off.

'Whyyyyyyyy couldn't we beeeaaaattt Ell and Nikkiiiiiiiiii?'

‘Whyyyyyyyy couldn’t we beeeaaaattt Ell and Nikkiiiiiiiiii?’

 

95

Contigo Hasta El Final

Et Uus Saaks Alguse

Hold Me

Igranka

Lonely Planet

 

The first time I listened to Hold Me, I was all like ‘Errgh. Yawn. But dammit, Azerbaijan is going to win again with another average song!’ Then a few months went by, and the contest rolled around and the guy in the box happened…and I suddenly became one of the people who wouldn’t have minded if Farid had won, excepting the fact that going back to Baku so soon would have been a tad same-same. As annoying as it is, I love this song as of now. Can we go back to 2011 and make it win in place of Running Scared?

 

91 

Birds

Gravity

Hold Me

L’Essenziale

O Mie

Rak Bishvilo

Waterfall

 

Besides Birds, L’Essenziale was the only subtle, lyrical ballad in the above sea of big, brash belters. That’s not why it’s my personal ballad of 2013 – I love an in-your-face ballad as much as the next person (assuming that next person is a fan of them). I just think it’s beautiful in its simplicity. But it is also lyrically and musically on a different level to most of the others, and I really appreciate that. Are those empty words coming from someone whose main requirement for a good song is catchiness? Maybe. But non mi importa.

 

 92

Contigo Hasta El Final

Identitet

Pred Da Se Razdeni

Samo Shampioni

Solayoh

 

Sadly, the ethno-pop of this year was hard to find, and you could argue that some of the above don’t technically fit into the category. Namely my winner, which is ethno-rock if you want to be picky. You don’t? Great, I’ll carry on then. Identitet is the kind of rock song that appeals to people who aren’t usually rock fans, much like the Turkish rock from Mor ve Ötesi and MaNga (who are responsible for two of my favourite Eurovision songs like, ever). There’s something about it – the melody, those tinges of ethnicity perhaps – that I really like. It’s more instant than Contigo Hasta and more cohesive than Pred Da Se Razdeni, the two songs that I’d name as runner-ups.

 

 93

Alcohol Is Free

Glorious

Marry Me

Only Love Survives

Solayoh

Straight Into Love

 

IMO, Cascada gave us the Macarena of Year Malmö – the up-tempo track that more or less prizes you out of your seat and marches you over to the nearest open space so you can give in to the overwhelming desire you have to shake your thing. Sure, you might not be able to do so at the top of a staircase with a wind machine at your beck and call, but whatever. As Lady Gaga so wisely once said, ‘just dance’. You know you want to.

 

 94

Finland

France

Greece

Iceland

Malta

Ukraine

 

Ukraine threw everything, and I mean everything, at their music video this year, which is so unlike them (ha ha ha). There were CGI unicorns, butterflies, flowers that gave birth to Zlatas, diamonds falling from the sky (not a good thing unless you have a reinforced steel umbrella)…and that’s just to name a few. But the OTT was OMG. The ‘all or nothing’ attitude Ukraine has with regard to Eurovision paid off this time. I’m only disappointed that they didn’t utilise hologram technology to get a unicorn on stage.

'This one'll do nicely for my engagement ring.'

‘This one’ll do nicely for my engagement ring.’

 

Well, that concludes this half of the 2013 EBJAEEs. I hope you enjoyed yourself. If you did, you may want to come back in a few days for the final instalment, which will be commending the yays and nays of the performances, costumes and results from Malmö. Plus, you can find out if your favourite won the People’s Choice Award for All-Rounder of the Year. You wouldn’t want to miss that! I’ll save you a front-row seat, shall I?

In the meantime…

 

Did I make the right decisions? Who/what would you hand these trophies to?

 

 

Separated at birth? The stars of Malmö and their lookalikes

I’m sure you all saw this coming. With a new year and a fresh batch of artists on the Eurovision grill, it was only a matter of time before someone felt compelled to reunite them with the twins they never knew they had – a.k.a. cobble together a list of people who vaguely resemble some of the latest participants.

This year (like most years) that someone is me. So if you liked all 10, 345 of my previous doppelganger posts, then perhaps you’ll be entertained by this here episode. I’ve tracked down the doubles of eleven Malmö-ites for your convenience/judgment. Please let me know below if I’ve missed any from the class of 2013!

 

Albania’s Bledar Sejko looks like British actor Gary Oldman (as Dracula)

mlalbania

And I bet you thought Cezar was the only Dracula on display in this year’s competition. Nope. Albania sent one too, albeit a less obvious, less glamorous one without a penchant for crystal-encrusted gowns with plunging v-necklines. Bledar’s a more conservative type, favouring the same flowing brunette locks and trendy eyewear Sir Oldman worked when he played the vampire to end all vampires back in 1992.

 

Armenia’s Gor Sujyan looks like Kevin from the Backstreet Boys

mlarmenia

I can see it now – a telemovie starring Gor and Kevin as twins adopted out to different families, with one growing up to be a rock star (of sorts) and the other joining a boy band that becomes a phenomenon. Years later, they’re reunited…and immediately start ripping into each other about their respective musical tastes. Wouldn’t that be heartwarming? Though I must say, this backstreet boy has a way to go if he wants to attain Gor’s level of eyebrow thickness.

 

Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov looks like Friends star Matt Leblanc

mlazerbaijan

I’m willing to bet my entire DIY flag collection that these guys go to the same dentist to get their teeth whitened, if nothing else. If I happen to lose that collection, I’ll still believe that Farid has more than a hint of Matt-in-the-Joey-Tribbiani-days about him. Just look at the hair, and the untamed brows, and the shape of the noses, and you’ll see it. I hope. 

 

Belgium’s Roberto Bellarosa looks like British actor Luke Pasqualino

mlbelgium

I don’t want to be mean and say that the above looks like a before-and-after plastic surgery comparison, but it kind of does. Roberto is adorable in his own right, so let’s just call Luke his older, more refined sibling. And then let’s celebrate, because we’ve finally found not one, but two people who look reasonable with a Justin Bieber ’09 sweep haircut.

 

Croatia’s Marko Škugor looks like R & B singer Mike Posner

mlcroatia

I’d argue that Marko is the better singer, even though he doesn’t do it for a living. But apart from that, give or take an earring or two and some differing dress sense, you’re left with two men whose names start with M and who enjoy carefully crafted buzz cuts for that ‘bald, but not really bald’ look.

 

Denmark’s Emmelie de Forest looks like Australian actress Jacinda Barrett

mldenmark

Neither of them are fond of hairbrushes, we know that much. It’s a fair prediction to make that in ten to fifteen years’ time, this is what Emmelie will look like, although it’s too hard to say whether she’ll have found some shoes by then.

 

Estonia’s Birgit Õigemeel looks like Australian actress Kate Bell

mlestonia

Kate Bell in turn looks a bit like Lena, but I might save that for another post. Though I really have nothing to say about these two. Except for this: if you stand about ten metres away from your screen and cross your eyes, the resemblance is uncanny.

 

France’s Amandine Bourgeois looks like American muso Courtney Love

mlfrance

Amandine, if you’re reading this (because it’s so likely) bonjour. And I’m sorry. But I am not the first person to wonder if you and Ms Love could be one and the same. I’m sure you’re not as cavalier with illicit substances, but you’ve got to admit, your heavy use of eyeliner and blonde bed-headedness has a lot of us drawing comparisons.

 

Greece’s Agathonas Iakovidis looks like the Dolmio pasta sauce puppet

mlgreece

For anyone who’s easily offended, no, I am not implying Agathonas looks like a Muppet/puppet. I think he’s the coolest moustache-stroker around, actually. All I’m saying is that I suspect he’s been selling pasta sauce around the world for the last couple of decades. No biggie. It is a bit cheeky of him to go around demanding free alcohol when I doubt he’s had to pay for a single meal of spaghetti since 1983. 

 

Iceland’s Eythor Ingi looks like Australian Idol winner Wes Carr

mliceland

It would be all too easy to go for Thor or Jesus or that guy who delivered a pizza to my house once, so I’m pairing Eythor with a less obvious alternative. You could say that he and Wes are just two blonde dudes who happen to grow their facial hair in the same way, and you’d be right. What more does it take for people to look like each other? In fact, if I had some face fuzz (not likely, but bear with me) I reckon I could pass for Eythor’s long-lost womb-mate too.

 

Romania’s Cezar Ouatu looks like American actor Patrick Dempsey

mlromania

Grey’s Anatomy would be a lot more entertaining if Dr. McDreamy sang diagnoses to his patients in an ear-piercingly high falsetto. Unfortunately, it’s only appearances that he and Cezar have in common. These two are literally a cheek mole away from being identical.

 

Sweden’s Robin Stjernberg looks like Glee star Chris Colfer

mlsweden

Firstly, may I make a comment about the glorious hair that you are currently admiring on both of the above parties? Thanks. WHAT HAIR! Señor Stjernberg is more impressive in that department, but Chris holds his own. I don’t believe that two people with such volume up top could have been born to different parents.

 

What do you think? Have all the Malmö twins been reunited, or is there more detective work to be done?

  

NEXT TIME: Part 1 of the 2013 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence is coming your way, so you better get your tuxedoes dry-cleaned and sequined hotpants re-sequined for optimum shine. The artists and songs of Year Malmö will be fighting for many a prestigious statuette…manufactured entirely out of Clipart on my laptop at 1am. You’re invited, so I hope to see you there.

 

Malmö Reviews | Part 4 (San Marino-United Kingdom)

It’s getting closer and closer, people! And by ‘it’, I am of course referring to my birthday. But don’t worry, you’ve still got a few months to think of an epic gift to give me.

What’s that you’re saying? Eurovision is even nearer than that? So it is. Oh well, I guess I’d better talk about that then.

Three days. Three days until the first semi final. I am über pumped, which is odd considering I won’t be watching it until Friday, when it’s broadcast over here in Australia. But we are getting a pre-show documentary to compensate for the wait. Plus, we have a rather awesome Eurovision website of our own (www.sbs.com.au/eurovision) which I encourage you to check out and be impressed by. Anyway, point is, I’ve only reviewed 31 of the 39 entries so far, and there are only three days to do the rest AND make some extremely inaccurate predictions. So here is Step One of getting that stuff done: my final lot of reviews. These are my musings on San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UK. Have a look-see and let me know how you feel about these eight songs.

 

SAN MARINO

Crisalide (Vola) by Valentina Monetta

SanMarino13Better than 2012: Yes

IMO: I’m not going to bring the Facebook song…ah, I mean, the “Social Network” song, into this review. This is a new year, San Marino has a new song, and the genuinely talented Valentina has the opportunity to be taken seriously with Crisalide. This entry, despite also being a brainchild of Ralph Siegel (who’s way past his use-by date if you ask me) is up there with Complice – SM’s horrendously underrated debut – as their best ever. Last year, Lithuania gave us one minute of ballad and two of disco dance pop, whereas here we have two minutes of lovely Italian waltz and one minute of disco dance pop. Both combinations work for me. I find myself thinking with Crisalide that I would have been happy to have either a full song of the waltz, because it is so beautiful, or 100% of the catchy up-tempo, but as it stands I’m glad to have both. The transition between styles is smooth, and makes for a nice surprise when you’re hearing it for the first time and expect the ballad to continue to the end. Valentina will no doubt thrive on the whole package of being able to sing in her own language, and in a genre (or two) more suited to her voice and age (no 37-year-old jazz-trained singer should be strutting around in leather pants screeching about cybersex). I’m expecting a long, floaty dress. I’m expecting wind. I’m expecting a heck of a lot of Ikea lighting. And I’m hoping for a Sammarinese qualification for the first time.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.  

 

SERBIA

Ljubav Je Svuda by Moje 3

Serbia13Top 10 material: No

IMO: Say halo to a Serbia we’ve never seen before at Eurovision. A Serbia that’s less classy and more…brassy. Less ‘OMG’ and more OTT. You get the idea. I’m not as big a fan of this Serbia as I am of the one that brought us Marija, Jelena and Željko, but I can get on board with them for the sake of my weakness for a catchy pop song. Let’s get a couple of facts straight: firstly, if this was Love Is Everywhere, in English, it would be extremely mediocre. The Serbian language has managed to elevate it to an above-average level, for my taste. Secondly, would I be as keen on it if Nevena, the first person to represent her country at JESC and ESC as a main artist, was not involved? Probably not. I’m so excited by her presence that I would have enjoyed three minutes of the trio dragging their manicured nails down a blackboard. Fortunately, Ljubav Je Svuda is much more pleasant to listen to. I like that each of the girls has their own moment in the spotlight, but that they do come together as a cohesive group when needs be. I’m also a sucker for that less-than-original but still effective concept of devil/angel/conflicted soul in the middle. That’s why it’s a such a shame to know that concept will not be illustrated visually via the costumes. The red, gold and white of the national final has been binned in favour of what I hear are Georgia’s JESC costumes from 2011. On the back of that, all the non-Serbian speakers unaware of the song’s story will see three attractive women in wacky outfits, singing a good but not great pop song quite well. I have to wonder how many of them will vote for it.  

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.  

 

SLOVENIA

Straight Into Love by Hannah

Slovenia13Sounds like: Radioactive by Rita Ora

IMO: This is one of the most radio-friendly entries of the year – a dance song that sounds like a lot of other dance songs, with a smattering of dubstep. It isn’t going to lead to any love it/hate it arguments between anyone: the lyrics are fairly generic, the chorus is fairly strong, it’s totally inoffensive…I don’t have much to say about it, to be honest. It’s okay, I like it, but I don’t love it. Whereas Cascada has a very powerful, stadium-worthy dance song, Hannah’s is tamer and less infectious. It does have the potential to be performed very well though, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be another middling song made excellent by way of top-notch staging and costuming. I’m not worried about Hannah’s ability to deliver a polished vocal judging by her previous live performances. She’s a confident performer and, as irrelevant as this is, possibly the Kaliopi of 2013 – a.k.a. the nicest girl on the block. I wouldn’t want her to crash and burn, but without so many elements working in Slovenia’s favour, she’ll have trouble pushing higher than 12th or 13th in her semi.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.  

 

SPAIN

Contigo Hasta El Final by El Sueño De Morfeo 

Spain13Better than 2012: No

IMO: As you may remember, Spain gave me exactly what I wanted from them last year. As a result, I’m going to be a hard fan for them to impress for the rest of eternity. Exhibit A: Contigo Hasta El Final. Not impressed. However, I’m not repulsed, so you ESDM supporters can put away your rotten fruit, thank you very much. This song is interesting, light and sing-along-able, without the cheese of such entries as Que Mi Quiten Lo Bailao. I like how it begins in one form and develops into another by the end. But, like the Danish song, by that end it hasn’t made me feel anything in particular. I want to rave about it, but I can’t. And I can’t see a finish anywhere near as good as Pastora Soler’s forthcoming. I can imagine myself driving along the Spanish coast in an open-topped sports car, sunglasses on, bandanna in my hair and this on repeat though. Come to think of it, is anybody up for a road trip? And if so, do you have a sports car and a spare flight ticket to Spain?

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.  

 

SWEDEN

You by Robin Stjernberg

Sweden13Best lyric: ‘I reach for the horizon whenever I’ve got days of doubt bringing me down.’

IMO: Where do I begin? I was pretty fond of Mr. Stjernberg around the time he lost the Swedish Idol title to Amanda Fondell (who he then beat in Melodifestivalen by a mile…in her face much?). Then he went and won MF against all the odds, an event that MADE my national final season. Ever since then, I’ve realised that this is the most enthusiastic I’ve ever been about a host entry. I adore this song, and there’s nothing you-ou-ou-ooh-oh-oh can say that will change my mind. It’s something relatively different from Sweden, and whilst it definitely smacks of ‘we don’t want to win two years in a row’ (as did the whole of Melfest) I think it has the goods to give the hosts a respectable result. At least, I hope it does. It’s contemporary without resorting to dance or dubstep, and though some would say the chorus is full of yodeling, I reckon the repetition is a hook that people will remember (and since when was yodeling in a pop song a bad thing anyway? Laura Omloop, Gwen Stefani, hello?). I just love everything about this. Yes, even the screech Robin does towards the end. It takes talent to screech in tune like that. Speaking of which, I don’t know what the critics are referring to when they talk about his voice in a negative way. Maybe my ears are malfunctioning, but on every occasion I’ve heard the guy sing live it’s been great (sans that emotional reprise at Melfest). Plus, he’s cute as a button and his surname is really fun to say. What more do you people want?!

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!  

 

SWITZERLAND

You And Me by Takasa

Swiss13Better than 2012: Yes

IMO: The main problem I find with Swiss entries is that they’re chosen so early on in the season, and because they aren’t the strongest of songs (generally speaking) by May they’ve well and truly fallen by the wayside. I really liked You And Me back in December, when Takasa (which sounds like some sort of Japanese greeting) were still known as Heilsarmee, but I have to admit, I’d kind of forgotten about it amongst the Ukraines and Italys of the other 38 songs. Forcing myself to recall it for this review, I’ve realised I do still enjoy it. There’s something endearing about the whole thing, and not just because there’s a grandpa involved (he’s old even when compared to the Babushki, so here’s hopng he lives until the semi-final). I can’t help smiling when the chorus kicks in, despite the lyrics being quite cheesy. It’s the ‘ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah’. I also get the feeling that Takasa believe in this song and what it’s about, and have a good time performing it. I just wish they’d been more adventurous with their wardrobe choice for Malmö. White shirts and ties are basics, ladies and gents, and unless they’ve been vomited on by the Glitter Glue Monster, they rarely have a place at Eurovision. Costume is one area where this entry could have been amped up. Having not seen a rehearsal, I’m left to assume there’s something in the staging that does so instead.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

UKRAINE

Gravity by Zlata Ognevich

Ukraine13Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Since the glory days of Ruslana, Ukraine hasn’t put a foot wrong with regards to the quality of their entries (yes, I am one of the few people that liked Razom Nas Bahato) even if they haven’t always done spectacularly well. They do have a 100% qualification record – the upkeep of which is now resting on Zlata Ognevich’s shoulders. I think she can relax. Gravity, despite the “unusual” staging we’ve been hearing about from rehearsals, is going to the final, y’all. It’s a ballad of Disney proportions (and we all know Disney songs are awesome) that conjures up visions of Rafiki raising Simba to the heavens atop of Pride Rock…while Zlata belts out nonsensical lyrics in the background. Does anyone care about the nonsense when she’s belting like she does? I don’t. Her voice is incredible, and perfectly suited to a vocally demanding song like this. I love the tribal/fantasy vibe of the whole shebang. Having said that, there are entries I like better, and I’m not under any delusions that this will win. Unless certain other participants sleep through their alarms and miss the contest, it’s not happening. But the Ukraine has (almost) always done Eurovision well, and Gravity keeps the trend going.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.  

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Believe In Me by Bonnie Tyler

UK13Sounds like: Deixa-me Sonhar by Rita Guerra

IMO: First things first – why is it so difficult for the UK to nab themselves a young (or just ineligible for a senior’s card) up-and-comer with a catchy, current pop song? Ireland can do it. It cannot be that hard. And yet, here we are again with a formerly famous singer who needs a walking frame to get around (I may have made that up) and who’s bringing a fusty mid-tempo ballad to Eurovision. It didn’t work last year, so why would it work 12 months later? Whew. Now that’s out of my system, allow me to be less cruel to Bonnie for the following reasons: a) She’s practically a spring chicken compared to Engelbert Humperdinck; b) Believe In Me is a better song than Love Will Set You Free in my opinion – much more accessible and instant, and with a nice American country feel; and c) It’s because of her that THE greatest literal music video of all time exists (sample it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UULlroFAVuI ). Yes, I wish that the UK had someone more like Ryan Dolan for 2013, with a less generic song that had a better chance of success. But this is the UK, and unfortunately it’s not surprising that we’ve got what we’ve got from them. So I personally am trying to ‘believe in Bonnie’. Her song is a decent way to pass the time waiting for another I Can to come along.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.  

 

Well, that’s it. My reviews are complete, and after all the typing I only have arthritis in one hand – winning!

There are two more orders of business to take care of before I bid you adieu, however. Firstly, my mini-ranking of the above eight entries:

  1. Sweden 12
  2. Ukraine 10
  3. San Marino 10
  4. Serbia 8
  5. United Kingdom 7
  6. Switzerland 7
  7. Spain 6
  8. Slovenia 6

Secondly, the moment when I ask your opinion (and I really do want it). How do you rank the songs from San Marino to the UK? Where do we agree and disagree? I know you’ve got thoughts, so get ‘em out in the comments!

And now, until next time…adieu.

 

(Speaking of) NEXT TIME: I’m cutting it fine, but there’s still time for a good old Prediction Special! Find out where I’m at on who will impress, disappoint, qualify and win, and see if we’re on the same wavelength. 

 

Five finalists and the host with the most: Malmö’s Big 6 (and my first top 39!)

Once upon a time, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom were known collectively in ESC Land as the Big 4, presumably because they were big and there was four of them. Actually, it was because they were European superpowers responsible in large part for keeping Eurovision going, and as such have been rewarded with automatic entry into the final since the year 2000…and because there was four of them.

Fast forward to 2011, when Italy joined the exclusive Big club after an extended vacation from the contest, taking the total up to five (and as we all know, all the best groups have five members. The Backstreet Boys, *N SYNC, the Spice Girls…need I say more?). But then include the ever-present host country in the final lineup, and you’ll find the current total is six. It’s the Big 6 of 2013 that I want to ramble on about today.

Confused? I’m with you. To make myself clearer to you and to myself, what I mean is:

For the purposes of this post, I’m officially declaring the host country one of the Big countries, despite the fact that as always, they’ll be relegated back to semi-final status next year (unless they win again. It could happen, guys). Also, for the purposes of not driving you insane with this wordy intro, I’m just going to start the main event of rambling now. You’ll get the idea.

 

Thoughts on the final six

For me personally, the automatic finalists have been slowly but surely lifting their game over the last few years, and I think again in 2013 we have a strong group for the semi-final qualifiers to compete with. In alphabetical order (my favourite kind) they are:

France (L’enfer Et Moi) – I was expecting some maudlin, depressing, obscure ballad from France from the second the song title was announced, but as it turns out, that’s what we got from the Netherlands instead. I’m so pleased this is more in the retro vein of L’amore é Femmina. It’s catchy but sophisticated, and doesn’t make me want to jump off a cliff in the slightest.

Amandine’s good luck charm: sucking on a lemon before performances?

Amandine’s good luck charm: sucking on a lemon before performances?

Germany (Glorious) – Been there, said that about this one. But I’m all too happy to say it again: bravo, Deutschland, bravo. This country is going from strength to strength, and made a clever choice in picking a song that’s great in studio, but goes off like nobody’s business in a live, arena setting. What could be more perfect for Eurovision than that?

Italy (L’essenziale) – I feel I should say bravo to the Italians as well, especially since it’s an Italian word. I was hoping Marco’s Sanremo winner would be the one to go to Malmö, but after what happened last year, I didn’t want to assume. But it is! Yay, etc. Say what you will about Italy, you can’t deny that they always stay classy, and for me this classy ballad is one of the best on offer.

Spain (Contigo Hasta El Final) – This was initially, and still is, the weakest of the six IMO. However (before those of you on Team ESDM start cramming as many expletives into the comment box as possible) it’s grown on me a lot since my first listen. I’m finding the chorus quite sing-along-able now, and I do like the way things keep changing.

Are we to assume some Spanish department store had a 3-for-1 offer on stripy t-shirts?

Are we to assume some Spanish department store had a 3-for-1 offer on stripy t-shirts?

Sweden (You) – Again, I think you’ll all know how I feel about this here host entry. How do you say ‘it’s the bomb’ in Swedish?

UK (Believe In Me) – I still think this is headed the way of Humperdinck, but I’m much more into it that I was the Hump’s song. The country feel is actually endearing, and the verses are as strong as the choruses. If Bonnie’s voice holds out for the jury and live final, maybe she can get on to the left side of the scoreboard. Just maybe.

So if I were to rank these six, it would look something like this:

  1. Sweden
  2. Germany
  3. Italy
  4. UK
  5. France
  6. Spain

Really, there’s not much between the top or bottom three as far as I’m concerned. I’m actually impressed by this lot as a whole. But these are just my thoughts, which will probably translate in no way to the actual results. Speaking of which…

 

How will they do?

It ultimately comes down to the song/performance combo, how well or how badly these finalists do. Perhaps there’s a bit of the unfamiliarity factor in there to explain why they’ve had a hard time (the Big countries more so than the hosts). For the voters who don’t already know the songs, the semi-finalists get more of an opportunity to win them over. And maybe it’s a bit about when they perform in the running order. But despite all that, with a really good song and a good performance, anything is possible (just ask Lena).

Just for the heck of it, let’s have a looksee at how the Big countries have fared recently. Here are the results from 2007:

17. Finland (hosts)

19. Germany

20. Spain

22. France

23. UK

 

And 2008:

6. Serbia (hosts)

16. Spain

19. France

23. Germany

25. UK

 

Not so good, right? The host country did the best on both occasions. Now compare those to more recent results from 2011 and 2012 (including Italy).

2. Italy

10. Germany (hosts)

11. UK

15. France

23. Spain

 

4. Azerbaijan (hosts)

8. Germany

9. Italy

10. Spain

22. France

25. UK

Again, the host country did pretty well, as did the returnee Italy. France and the UK are the only Big countries to have missed out on a top 10 placing in the last few years, albeit narrowly (with Blue’s 11th in Düsseldorf and Jessy Matador’s 12th in Oslo).

If that trend continues this year, Amandine and Bonnie will be left out, but I think Spain will be pushed not to join them. I suspect that Germany, Italy and Sweden all have a good shot at making the top 10, with Germany being the only one I can see winning. If they did, that would make an incredible two wins in four years, as well as four top 10 placings in a row, for a country that struggled like crazy in the pre-Lena years just to get off the bottom of the scoreboard.

What do you think? Could this be a year when all of the finalists make the top 10? Or will their change in fortune come to an abrupt end in Malmö?

 

Holy sequined hotpants! It’s my first top 39!

As promised, and eagerly awaited by you, right?

Okay, you can stop laughing. Before I ask your opinion on the best of the Big 6, here’s how they fit in to the bigger picture, as of this second. Because I could change my mind at any moment.

  1. Sweden
Anton Ewald congratulates Robin on topping my list. How nice of him!

Anton Ewald congratulates Robin on topping my list. How nice of him!

  1. Germany
  2. Hungary
  3. Ukraine
  4. Italy
  5. Norway
  6. Moldova
  7. Belgium
  8. Macedonia
  9. Lithuania 
  10. Serbia
  11. United Kingdom
  12. France
  13. Albania
  14. Ireland
  15. Iceland
  16. Switzerland
  17. Austria
  18. Estonia
  19. Spain
  20. Israel
  21. Finland
  22. Belarus
  23. Denmark
  24. Romania
  25. Malta
  26. Bulgaria
  27. Latvia
  28. Greece
  29. Georgia
  30. Montenegro
  31. San Marino
  32. Slovenia
  33. Netherlands
  34. Croatia
  35. Armenia
  36. Azerbaijan
  37. Russia
  38. Cyprus

How’s your personal top 10 looking right now?

 

POLL TIME: Take your pick…

To finish off this rather strange post, I’m dying to know:

Results will be published next week, and if you vote for the eventual favourite, you win absolutely nothing, because I am poor! But you can give yourself a good pat on the back.

 

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time, when I may or may not be switching the EBJ spotlight onto one of the Big countries in particular. It’s going to be eccellente, signore e signori

 EBJ Signature

 

MY 300TH POST!!! And other Eurovision-related milestones

‘Celebrate, oh celebrate, everybody let’s celebrate’…ugh, no.

‘Celebraaaaaate, every single step you take’…nope.

‘Congratulations, and celebrations’…yeah, that’ll do.

Via the wonderful words of Piero and the Music Stars Daria Kinzer Sir Cliff Richard, I welcome you to what is officially the 300th post I’ve made here at EBJ, since way back in 2009.

EBJ 300!

That’s 300 installments of mildly amusing Eurovision ramblings, occasionally read and commented on by you (yes, that’s you. I love that shirt you’re wearing, by the way). Coincidentally, I’ve also recently reached the big 50 000 hit mark, so I’d like to thank you for making the decision to read me more than once. I mean, I’m assuming that 50 000 isn’t due to 50 000 individual people landing on this blog, reading a post, finding themselves instantly bored/disgusted/confused because they thought Eurovision was something else, and clicking off, never to return. So thanks, merci, danke schön, hvala and all that jazz, for motivating me to get to these milestones of bloggery.

As you may or may not be aware, another milestone was reached on Saturday night when Sweden’s Melodifestivalen was won by Robin Stjernberg and You. His win is the first by an act to come from the Second Chance round, which has been running since 2002, and was made even more spectacular when it was revealed that he’d been the second-placed qualifier from Andra Chansen, below Anton Ewald (who ended up placing 4th in the final). I’m still reeling from this victory, but in-between my extended periods of disbelief I’ve been contacting T-shirt printing companies, asking if they can make me a TEAM ROBIN WOOHOO! shirt to wear during the final. I’ll let you know how that pans out.

The three stages of Melodifestivalen victory: obliviousness, realisation, and über-shock

The three stages of Melodifestivalen victory: obliviousness, realisation, and über-shock

Yes, I was thrilled to see this adorable, vocal demon of an underdog win MF (not so thrilled that I almost cried or anything. As if…) and to those peeps who won’t stop yammering on about how Yohio was the real Swedish winner, I say, remember how things went the last time the Swedish votes and the international jury votes disagreed, and the Swedish choice went to Eurovision? Two words: no qualification. I realise that having an entry represent your country is about more than raking in the points – it’s also about having a home-grown song you’re proud of. But Sweden, do you really want to embarrass yourself on your own turf? The Robin + song package obviously has more international appeal than the Yohio version (as beautiful as he is) and that will translate into votes at Eurovision. So thppppthhhhhergh.*

 

* The highly mature sound of me blowing a raspberry.

 

Anyway, what with the EBJ achievement/s and Robin’s amazing win, I’ve had milestones on the brain over the last few days. So I thought I’d compile a list of some of the ESC’s latest and greatest firsts and records, some serious and some not-so-much. I hope you like it, and I hope I can keep talking about Eurovision long enough to keep you entertained to post #600!

 

2003 | The year the UK realised that Nicki French’s 16th place in 2000 = not too shabby

When poor old (not quite in the Humperdinck sense) Nicki only managed to score 28 points in Stockholm, she gave the United Kingdom their worst result of all time. The people despaired – what had gone so wrong? It could have been the BBC sending a badly-dressed female with a dated dance song that was the problem, since that’s what they chose to do again in 2001, coming 15th. But after coming back to form the following year, it seemed such a lowly ranking as 16th was all in the past.

And then came Jemini. Oops.

 

2004 | The first year audiences were terrified by somebody on stilts jerking around on stage, having no obvious relevance to the song itself

Jonatan was hesitant to go near the stilt lady in case she FELL ON HIM.

Jonatan was hesitant to go near the stilt lady in case she FELL ON HIM.

This particular stilt woman was used to “compliment” France’s Jonatan Cerrada during his performance of A Chaque Pas. Now, I know that song title translates to ‘with each step’, but nowhere in the lyrics does it say ‘with each precarious step I may come crashing down and break my nose on the fibreglass stage’. I’m all for spicing up a dull ballad with something or someone, but this was just distracting. A similar thing would happen again in 2009 with Bulgaria, but in that case the distraction was appreciated. By EVERYONE.

 

756 | The approximate duration (in hours) of the 2005 final (this figure also applies to any Maltese national final)

Alright, that was a slight exaggeration. But at 3 hours and 26 minutes, the final in Kiev was the longest Eurovision episode in history, mainly thanks to the voting sequence. Whoever thought it was a good idea to keep the ‘1 point goes to…(ten years later) and fiiiinaallllly, 12 points go to’ thing going obviously had no issues with getting a numb bottom after sitting on the couch for too long. I’m just grateful that Helena Paparizou’s winning song was a danceable one, because it gave me an excuse to stand up. I hate to think what would have happened to my rear end if Chiara had won.

 

999 | The entry number of Kate Ryan’s Je T’Adore, performed in Athens in 2006

Everybody knows that Ireland’s Brian Kennedy presented the 1000th Eurovision song during this semi final, so I thought I’d acknowledge Kate, who not only just missed out on such an honour, but also failed to qualify to the final against all betting odds. When you think about it, 999 is a much cooler number than 1000. I bet Brian was super jealous that he didn’t get drawn in her position.

 

43 | The record number of countries to have participated in any year, set in 2008 and 2011

Malmö 2013 had the potential to be the biggest, fattest contest ever in terms of participation, but one thing led to another…and so that title remains with both Belgrade and Düsseldorf. It’s incredible to think that that’s more than seven times the amount of countries that showed up for the first ESC. Life in general is supposed to be about quality, not quantity, but I do hope the 43 is eclipsed one day.

 

11 | The number of seconds Rona Nishliu managed to scream for during Suus (in every chorus) without taking a breath

Would someone get the woman her damn chai, already??

Would someone get the woman her damn chai, already??

I say ‘scream’ in an affectionate way, as someone who still adores Suus and Rona’s ability to yell for spiced beverages. The second “chai” is the most impressive, just edging past Pastora Soler’s epic money note as the most jaw-dropping vocal display heard on the Baku stage. In fact, if a vocal gymnastics category happens to be introduced to the next Olympics, Albania has a gold-medal contender right here.

 

2012 | The first time someone managed to simultaneously win and lose the contest

If you’re thinking ‘WTF? Loreen was actually Tooji in a wig?’ then allow me to clarify: it was songwriter Peter Boström, co-responsible for both Euphoria and Stay, who achieved this applause-worthy feat. It was an undeserved feat, in my Tooji-loving opinion (it’s been almost a year and I’m still not over it), but it’s still so unlikely, you shouldn’t expect it to happen again anytime soon. Until about 2025, when I expect Thomas G:son to be writing and composing every single entry.

 

5 | The number of times Azerbaijan has placed in the top 10, over 5 years of participation

Everything seems to come so easy for some people, doesn’t it. Azerbaijan is like that when it comes to Eurovision. They may make an effort when it comes to choosing their artist, but more often than not their song is an off-the-shelf Swedish job that somehow impresses its way into the top 10. I’m not trying to diss them – they’ve found a formula and they’re sticking to it (namely consistently good pop songs). But I would like to see them fail just once, just for the shock value.

 

4 130 000 | The viewing figure for this year’s Melodifestivalen final

And that’s not including all the people on the planet (like myself) who tuned in to the web stream…or the extra few hundred thousand who dropped by for the results. To put it into perspective, the Swedish population currently sits at 9.5 million, which means nearly half the country plonked themselves down to cheer the ten competitors on. I can’t think of many TV shows that would get 11 million Australians watching – although if we had our own version of Melfest, I would watch it with enough enthusiasm for 11 million people. FYI, the rating at result o’ clock was the highest ever.

 

2 | The number of times Malmö will have been the host city of Eurovision in the near future

Times have changed...and thankfully, so have logos

Times have changed…and thankfully, so have logos

The third largest city in Sweden will join an exclusive club consisting of Copenhagen, Stockholm, The Hague, Oslo, Jerusalem and Cannes by doing a double. It’s not that impressive when you consider Luxembourg and London, both five-time hosts. Then there’s Dublin, a capital that has seen not one, not two, not even three…but SIX contests, mostly thanks to Johnny Logan. Showoff.  

Which Eurovision milestone (mine or not) has impressed you the most?

 

Selection Season Day 9: Verdicts of the week, the Melfest final and my first ranking for 2013

So, Romania’s choosing a Eurovision entry tonight? How fascinating. I must say that…

No, I’m sorry. I don’t really care. Because Melodifestivalen is where it’s at this evening! As I mentioned last time, it’s the first and only final I’ll be getting out of bed at a ridiculous time to watch, so even though the standard is weak, I’m super pumped. We also get to see Sarah Dawn Finer in action as Lynda Woodruff (probably to discuss Lorraine’s Euphemism or something like that), schlager queen Carola in action as herself, and what should be a thrilling voting segment. I never thought I’d say this, but bring on 3am!

In the meantime, as little attention as I’m willing to give to Romania (again, I apologise) I will acknowledge that other things have happened in the past week besides Melfest rehearsals. And here they are. Along with Melfest ramblings, of course.

 

Songs of the last seven days: first impressions

Armenia (Lonely Planet) – this makes me think of my Lonely Planet book collection, which makes me happy. That association, however, is the only thing about this that puts a smile on my face. I was so hoping Armenia would come back with a bang, showing Azerbaijan what they missed, etc. But this is not a good effort.

Belarus (Solayoh) – I was practically head of the Rhythm of Love Appreciation Society, so for it to be replaced with a lame five-year-old tropical number that would have been more at home on a cruise liner circa 2003, is a huge blow. I hope this doesn’t qualify. 

‘Look at all these suckers, thinking my original song was going to be my eventual song. Hello! This is Belarus!’

‘Look at all these suckers, thinking my original song was going to be my eventual song. Hello! This is Belarus!’

Bulgaria (Kismet) – how are you supposed to feel about three minutes in which you like 65%, but are weirded out by the rest? Good I guess, since majority rules. I really do like the instrumental parts, and the bit Elitsa keeps repeating (technical term, anyone?).

Estonia (Et Uus Saaks Alguse) – Birgit is no Ott Lepland, let’s face it: even though they’ve both won Estonian Idol, there’s no way she looks as good in a tight pair of pants. Her ballad is nowhere near as strong either. It’s nice, and I’m glad they’ve gone for another song in Estonian, but…yawn.

Hungary (Kedvesem) – I have no idea why, but I LOVE this. Maybe it’s that same humble charm that Coming Home had for Sjonni’s Friends. I’m not sure ByeAlex will do as well as Compact Disco (it may be ‘bye, Alex’ on semi final night, if you know what I mean) but if I could vote, I’d vote for him.

Israel (Rak Bishvilo) – interesting look, great voice…average song. Okay, it’s verging on being a decent ballad, but it doesn’t exactly live up to Milim. In what is appearing to be a ballad-heavy contest, I can’t see this standing out unless something drastic happens on stage. Is there an Israeli version of Jimmy Jump?

Serbia (Ljubav Je Svuda) – guilty pleasure alert. It’s been labeled cheap, tacky and a little bit dated, and I know I shouldn’t be a fan, but damn it, I am. Yes, it is partly because we have our first JESC-to-ESC artist and that is freaking awesome. But come on, the song’s catchy!  

I wonder which side Nevena’s on…good or evil?

I wonder which side Nevena’s on…good or evil?

United Kingdom (Believe In Me) – sigh x 1000. Another year, another big name, another middling ballad that will struggle to make an impression on anyone from the UK. Having said that, I do like this a little better than I liked Love Will Set You Free after one listen. All we can hope for is a killer vocal and suitable staging.

 

Which entry of the week is your favourite?

 

Sweden ready to name Loreen’s successor

And it will be one of the nine that isn’t Ravaillacz.

  1. Tell The World I’m Here by Ulrik Munther
  2. Skyline by David Lindgren
  3. Falling by State of Drama
  4. Begging by Anton Ewald
  5. Only The Dead Fish Follow The Stream by Louise Hoffsten
  6. Bed On Fire by Ralf Gyllenhammar
  7. En Riktig Jävla Schlager by Ravaillacz
  8. Copacabanana by Sean Banan
  9. You by Robin Stjernberg
  10. Heartbreak Hotel by YOHIO

Can whoever it is do as well as Loreen? Um, no, obviously not. But it would be nice for the host country to squeeze into the top 10. At the very least they’ll get that massive cheer that I look forward to so much.

But just who will ‘they’ be, if that made any sense?

Ulrik, Ralf, Sean, or YOHIO, I reckon. Up until recently I would have gone with Ulrik straight out, but as scandipop.co.uk   (I think) pointed out, with both Robin and Anton advancing from Andra Chansen, the teenage girl votes that would have gone directly to the Munthmeister may now be divided between the three guys. I really want Ulrik to win (or Robin, the underdog) but YOHIO in particular has an x-factor and crazed fan base that will make him hard to beat. Outside of Sweden, the international juries may go for someone a little more mainstream – Ulrik, David, Anton maybe. Or they might be wooed by the sight of a grown man in a nappy being hoisted into the ceiling rafters of Friends Arena (everyone has a fetish).   

Really, who wouldn’t want this man flying the Swedish flag?

Really, who wouldn’t want this man flying the Swedish flag?

Head over here http://www.svtplay.se/video/1071366/finalen-med-forsnack at around 20.00CET to watch the show live from the massive arena just mentioned. I know I will, unless some disaster happens with my alarm, in which case you won’t hear from me ever again because I’ll be too devastated to function. If you see any of my hilarious live tweets (@EurovisionByJaz) you’ll know everything’s good.

 

Ranking the Class of ’13, so far

I would like to (sarcastically) thank the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – using the full name because I am not amused – for doing two things. Firstly, for announcing yesterday that my beloved Imperija would be scrapped as Lozano & Esma’s entry for Malmö, due to negative reactions in the press and on social media. Because it is only a few journalists and a handful of people on Twitter who decide the Eurovision winner, right?

The second thing is that, in dumping their entry, they totally messed up my plans of making my first 2013 ranking a top 30. Or DID THEY?

Well, no, ’cause I’m just going to go ahead and do it anyway, assuming that the new song will be just as good as Imperija and would therefore not affect my list in any way. Wishful thinking, huh.

 

  1. Germany
Feel free to insert your own 'glorious' pun here

Feel free to insert your own ‘glorious’ pun here

  1. Ukraine
  2. Hungary  
  3. Norway
  4. Macedonia
  5. Serbia
  6. Malta
  7. Austria
  8. Belgium
  9. Finland
  10. Lithuania
  11. Switzerland
  12. Ireland
  13. Iceland
  14. Bulgaria
  15. Israel
  16. Slovenia
  17. Denmark
  18. Greece
  19. Estonia
  20. Albania
  21. Georgia
  22. Croatia
  23. United Kingdom
  24. Belarus
  25. Russia
  26. Latvia
  27. Armenia
  28. Spain
  29. Cyprus

 

That concludes my bits and bobs for another Saturday. Do let me know what goes down in Romania if you watch the show there; I do still care. If you want to share your thoughts on anything else, including your personal ranking at this point, please do. 

Until 3am…

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Selection Season Day 7: News, Sweden’s last semi and February leftovers

It’s the last February Saturday of the year, which also means that this is the final weekend of February Madness in the run-up to Malmö. Granted, it’s not that mad – we’re not even getting any final deciders tonight. But with an event-filled week behind us, a bunch of semi-finals about to kick off (including Romania’s, which is on the verge of breaking the Maltese record for longest show in the history of the world) and plenty of action taking place next week, one can’t really complain. And if you find yourself pining for some form of madness, there’s always the option of reliving Laka’s performance from Belgrade…or any of the bajillion other crazy-ass performances from the last six decades.

For those who don’t mind a degree of sanity, however, here’s some I prepared earlier.

 

A little bit of this, a little bit of that: news from the last seven days

– Alcohol Is Free: Greece’s new tourism slogan for 2013, or their latest Eurovision entry? In case you didn’t know, it’s the latter. Continuing this year’s trend for picking artists with impressively long and difficult to type names, Greece chose Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis to fly their flag in Sweden, with the aforementioned musical celebration of free booze. I would have been grateful if they’d sent a decade-old souvlaki to represent them just to have Greece in the competition, so the fact that they decided on actual human beings with a fun and ethnic (but not in a Helena Paparizou Version 35025.0 way) song is a big bonus. There are similarities to one of my all-time Turkish favourites, For Real by Athena, in Alcohol Is Free, so that’s also pleasing.

– In other shocking news, Ireland chose a single, non-hysterical man with a regular hairdo to go to Eurovision last night. It’s hard to remember what life was like in the pre-Jedward years, apart from the occasional flashbacks of a screeching bird with someone’s hand up its backside, but I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with them. Again, I’d have accepted a crappy song just to have a Jedward break, but Ireland have chosen well. They’ve gone for Only Love Survives, a.k.a. electro-dance pop that would be lumped in with Slovenia and Germany if Eurovision was a Venn diagram. I don’t like it as much as Glorious, but it’s on a par with Straight Into Love which has grown on me a lot since my first listen. I can see a wicked stage show backing it.

'I love Jedward THIS much! JK.'

‘I love Jedward THIS much!’ Well, that makes one of us.

– The Netherlands have revealed Anouk’s song title, and it’s Birds. It would sound more interesting if it was called Rhinoceroses or Three-Toed Sloths, but hey, she’s certainly talking it up. According to her delegation, though, it’s both too good for Eurovision and not good enough to do well – which if you ask me is just an excuse to cover all bases if they do fail miserably.

– The BBC has FINALLY broken their silence on what’s in store for the UK, if only to give us a date of announcement and a slight clue as to who will represent them. On March 18th a solo singer will put all the rumours to rest by failing to live up to them (probably). Odds are on Mika who would make me very happy, but my hopes are kind of…*gestures to feet*. We shall see.

– Finally, in random but exciting news (for me, anyway) I was lucky enough to be interviewed about EBJ and all things ESC last week by escunited.com, and the interview is now live. You can read it right here: http://www.escunited.com/home/interview-with-jaz-creator-of-eurovision-blog-eurovision-by-jaz/. While you’re at it, do check out the rest of the website. It pretty much has everything you could ask for, and the editors make a point of looking into the Eurovision impact all over the world, not just within Europe.

 

Melodifestivalen: three down, one to go

And here’s hoping it’s the best one yet (that really, really isn’t much to hope). I’ve been waiting for this semi to come for one reason, and two words: Ulrik Munther. He’s one of the favourites, and since I loved his song last year I had big expectations of him this year. I’m also keen to see Idol runner-up Robin Stjernberg (and see if he can beat the girl who beat him in Idol by getting out of his semi) and Terese Fredenwall. Here they are, with the rest.

  1. Rockin’ The Ride by Army of Lovers
  2. Must Be Love by Lucia Pinera
  3. You by Robin Stjernberg
  4. Trivialitet by Sylvia Vrethammar
  5. Bed On Fire by Ralf Gyllenhammar
  6. Jalla Dansa Salwa by Behrang Miri
  7. Breaking The Silence by Terese Fredenwall
  8. Tell The World I’m Here by Ulrik Munther 

 _DSC0868

Sweden has saved their best for last. This semi is almost up to the standard of last year’s weakest, so yay, I guess. Here are my favourites.

You I liked this because it didn’t go where I thought it was going to, and I like the way Robin turns the one-syllable title into practically an entire chorus.

Jalla Dansa Salwa if it wasn’t biologically and logistically impossible, I’d think Behrang was the love child of Sean Banan and Jessy Matador. His musical stylings of catchy tribal-dance pop certainly suggest it.

Breaking The Silence this is similar to the song that got Terese a place in Melfest, and just as beautifully sung. She’s not the best live vocalist from what I’ve seen, but I’m hoping she can pull off a decent performance tonight.

Tell The World I’m Here okay, it’s not a patch on Ulrik’s previous entry, but it’s still got what it takes to win in a year of mediocrity. I am praying this gets to the final, even if it goes no further.

Now, who’s going where? If you’re looking for a likely prediction go elsewhere (I’m sure I don’t need to highlight yet again my lack of prowess in this field) but if you just want an opinion, this is what I’m thinking – Ralf and Ulrik to the final, Army of Lovers and Robin to Andra Chansen. Whether that happens or not, at least there isn’t any cringe-worthy middle-aged men who can slip in to the final when someone else deserved it more.

PS – this semi is not only being held in Malmö, but in the very arena that will host Eurovision in a few months. Imagine that sketch of the stage in the setting you’ll see tonight, with Petra Mede plonked in Danny and Gina’s place, and that’s a fairly accurate picture of what you can expect.

 

What’s coming up in February?

There isn’t much left of the month, but these are the scheduled developments you can look forward to:

24th Russia’s Voice Dina Garipova presents her song What If. If she doesn’t have at least three grannies as backing vocalists, she’ll already have failed to live up to her predecessors.

26th Spain choose the song ESDM will sing in Malmö, from a smorgasbord of three. I haven’t listened to any yet, so…yeah. How are they?

27th Croatia and Macedonia present their songs, Mižerja and Imperija respectively. I’m not sure which I’m more curious to hear. I’m definitely hanging out to see if the age gap between Esma and Vlatko is more noticeable than the one between Ell and Nikki.

 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks, and make the most of the almost-madness.

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