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

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

Here’s everything going down this evening:

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My top 3

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

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

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

  

Predicting the super finalists + the winner

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Here’s this week’s lucky seven: 

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

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

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

 

My top 4

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

NF UPDATE: What’s next? 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Finland: OMG, it’s UMK!

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

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

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

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

ClemSO

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor
  2. Mitt Guld by Pernilla Andersson
  3. Ain’t No Good by Mimi Werner
  4. Rik by Albin & Mattias
  5. Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
  6. Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder
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Samir was oiling his pecs at the time of this photo call. Or so I assume.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Happy viewing (and pre-show predicting).

 

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SUPER SATURDAY #2 | A bit of A Dal, Melfest in Malmö + Iceland takes their pick!

After what was a rather dramatic week in the Eurovisionverse (understatement alert!) it’s time for us to stop wondering what the bloody hell Australia is doing competing in the contest, and start gearing up for Super Saturday Volume II.

If you thought last weekend was action-packed, you may want to sit down and take a few deep, calming breaths (don’t mind me, I’ve just been doing a lot of yoga lately) before I remind you of all the NF happenings of the 14th and 15th.

  • It’s go-time for Eesti Laul’s last semi, and with it hot favourites Elina Born & Stig Rästa. They’ll sail through to the final, no doubt, but who will join them?
  • The Finnish UMK saga (which is thankfully nothing like the Twilight saga) continues as the likes of Eeverest, Opera Skaala and Siru go head-to-head in the second semi
  • Hungary’s A Dal reaches its own semi final stage, with nine of the eighteen heat qualifiers competing for four precious places in the final
  • Iceland rounds up Söngvakeppnin with one of the strongest finals in years
  • Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival concludes by crowning the champ of the Big Artists section – a champ who has the first right of refusal to go to Eurovision (or to refuse to go again, in Nina Zilli’s case)
  • Lithuania chooses their song, but not their artist. Probably. Maybe? Who really knows how the mammoth and very intricate Eurovizijos operates. You need a PhD in national finals to figure it out.
  • Melodifestivalen, hits Malmö for week two of the epic tour around Sweden
  • Plus, tomorrow night, Serbia’s second and final show determines their first representative since wacky-wear specialists Moje 3.

Basically, there’s a LOT you can use as a distraction if you’re single this Valentine’s Day – I know I’m looking forward to my romantic, candlelit rendezvous with Melodifestivalen (although I suspect Melfest is cheating on me with a considerable amount of other people). I dedicate the forthcoming discussions/predictions of a few of the above finals to all of you who are more excited by the selection season than by sexy times with your non-existent significant other. Even if you’re abandoning your existing significant other to tune in to one or more of tonight’s shows, this is for you. We know what out priorities are! High five! *makes plans to marry Eurovision if she’s still single at forty*

Just before I get on to the Hungarian, Icelandic and Swedish bits and pieces, allow me to introduce (because it’s the last chance to do so) my top 10 ranking for ESC 2015. In a matter of hours, we’ll no longer have the nice, even number of ten to play with, so get in while you can and share yours too.

#1. Georgia – Nina’s still on top! Georgia has never been this high in my estimation before, JESC aside.

To be honest, I'm too scared to rank her any lower.

To be honest, I’m too scared to rank her any lower.

#2. Malta – Take away the mess from this hot mess, Malta, and we’ll renegotiate.
#3. Albania – Elhaida will sing in English. Jaz will be sad.
#4. Switzerland – There’s something about this I really like.
#5. Netherlands – It hasn’t worn too thin with me yet.
#6. Belarus
#7. Macedonia
#8. Denmark
#9. Cyprus
#10. France

Oh, France. How I miss your Moustache.

Now, onwards with the enn-effs!

 

A Dal ramps up: it’s semi final time

I’m still doing a happy dance over Kati Wolf’s qualification last weekend, but I suppose I can stop for a few minutes to take a look at the next stage of Hungary’s always intriguing NF. The heats are finito and it’s time for the best of those to fight in a musical battle to the death. Well, it’d be to the death if Katniss Everdeen was competing, anyway. As it stands, we’ll have to settle for a battle that will see just four of the nine competitors nabbing spots in the final. That’s brutal enough!

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The stage is set. Tonight there’ll be bums on those seats.

There are plenty of decent songs on offer this year, but for me the second semi has the stronger bunch. Justification for that will come in seven days (though it really just comes down to personal preference), as right now is the time to focus on what must come before. Which is the first semi. Obviously.

It looks like this (running order TBA at time of posting):

Give Me Your Love by Ádám Szabó
Wars For Nothing by Boggie
Time Is Now by Karmapolis
Homelights by New Level Empire
Kacsi A Világ, De Nagy Világ by Panktastic!
Keep Marching On by Spoon
Woke Up This Way by Timi Antal
Gyémánt by Vera Tóth
Beside You by Zoltán Mujahid

There’s a lot of variety in there, which is nice – some rock-pop, a few ballads, a folksy number, the lead single off One Hungarian Direction’s new album…the list goes on. Here are the four I’d choose to put through to the final if I was the great and powerful Lord Jaz of A Dal (I applied for the job but it’s still pending).

Time Is Now It’s not that distinctive or groundbreaking, but it’s mod and I just like it, okay?
Keep Marching On There is a BOY BAND behind this. Need I say more?
Gyémánt This is a slightly unusual ballad with a mystical atmosphere. Very nice.
Beside You Generic man pop with a rock edge, that’s just catchy enough to win me over.

In terms of who I think WILL advance, I have to go with a half-different foursome, namely Ádám Szabó, Boggie, Karmapolis and Vera.

Ádám can’t be discounted after his heat result, though I don’t hear anything special in his song at this stage. I don’t connect with Wars For Nothing in the way others have, and I assumed it would have been eliminated in the heats, but Boggie clearly has fans, since she won her heat. Karmapolis too, have semi success on their side and are likely to deliver again. And Vera’s ballad is captivating to watch and listen to – who could resist it? Alright, maybe a lot of people. Time will tell. I’ve been so shockingly bad at predicting so far this season (as usual), don’t be surprised if nothing I come out with turns out to be true!

 

Iceland – make your Eurovision decision now!

I have very mixed feelings about Söngvakeppnin’s last dance (i.e. final) for 2015. On one hand, I’m pumped because the line-up is stronger than I’ve ever seen/heard it. On the other, I’m depressed because Iceland has a history of picking what I feel is an unimpressive entry that doesn’t best represent the cool, quirky pop music the country has to offer. There are two songs in the field of seven that I don’t really enjoy, and I can’t help assuming one of those – or the favourite, of course – is going to Vienna.

1. Fyrir Alla by Cadem
2. Fjaðrir by SUNDAY
3. Piltur Og Stúlka by Björn and Friends
4. Lítil Skref by María Ólafsdóttir
5. Í Kvöld by Elín Sif Halldórsdóttir
6. Í Síðasta Skipti by Friðrik Dór
7. Milljón Augnablik by Haukur Heiðar Hauksson

Let’s start with the best of the best, in my opinion: my top three. Fjaðrir, Fyrir Alla and Lítil Skref all qualified from last Saturday’s semi, making me happier than Gianluca Bezzina on laughing gas. Another thing they have in common is that they’ll be switched over to English should any of them win, another thing Iceland like to do on a regular basis. As Icelandic is such a magical language, this move always saddens me a bit, but until I’ve heard the English versions on this occasion – if I do – I’ll refrain from judging.

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It may be Saturday, but SUNDAY get my vote.

Whether performing Fjaðrir or Feathers, SUNDAY is my top choice for the win, but I’d be shocked if they did. Two of the songs will progress to a superfinal towards the end of this evening, and one of those will be the chosen one, and I don’t like the chances of my top two being either of them. María has a better shot.

But, in the hope of not jinxing anything, I’m going to go with one song I dislike and another that’s the bookies’ favourite for my top-two prediction. That’d be Elín (the style of her song is not my thing, and her voice is SO IRRITATING) and Friðrik (the song’s not bad, but would still make for a ‘meh’ selection). And from that super final, I’m siding with the favourite and pegging Friðrik as the champ-to-be. That wouldn’t be a devastating outcome, but he’s close to the bottom of the pack according to my taste and I’d much rather any of the four I’m extra keen on. If you love me, Iceland, you’ll make my wish come true. It IS Valentine’s Day after all, and I did send you a bunch of flowers.

 

Sweden leaves the controversy behind as Melfest takes Malmö

Well…most of the controversy. In a new week and a new city, it’s easy to start afresh, but the Eric Saade-level sting of Molly Pettersson-Hammar apparently falling victim to the Melfest app’s flaws has not been forgotten. Now that people have downloaded the app and actually know how to use it, the odds are as fair for the first few competitors in tonight’s semi as they are for the last. But that may not stop the app from changing Melfest in a multitude of ways, which are detailed here if you’re interested.

But just who will Sweden be thumbing at their phones for this week?

1. Forever Starts Today by Linus Svenning
2. Där Och Då Med Dig by Emelie Irewald
3. Groupie by Samir & Viktor
4. If I Was God for One Day by Neverstore
5. Nonetheless by Marie Bergman & Sanne Salomonsen
6. Möt Mig i Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson
7. Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette

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Where’s Emelie Irewald? Hmm…I reckon it was Magnus, in the dining room, with the candlestick.

Last year’s surprising success Linus Svenning is going for less emotion, more inspiration in his second attempt at representing his homeland. He’ll open the show, followed by The Artist Formerly Known As Danny Saucedo’s Girlfriend. Samir & Viktor had an epic hit in Sweden last summer and are hoping to follow it up with a Melfest victory (hope away, boys) while Neverstore fill the obligatory soft-rock gap. Veterans Marie and Sanne, who I have to say come across as a pair of old witches (visually speaking), are peddling a country song that should do alright as long as they don’t have a bubbling cauldron and a broomstick on stage. Finally, we have a sole slice of schlager from the one and only Magnus Carlsson, and something of an ethereal pop number from Idol alumni Mariette. Whew!

Having listened to the rehearsal snippets (again, I’m saving the full songs for the live stream itself, so all my thoughts/predictions are based on notsomuch) these are the four songs that grabbed me:

  • Forever Starts Today There is something very You (yes, Sweden’s host entry of 2013) about this, which is fine by me as I was that song’s biggest fan. I like that Linus is returning with something different, and not just a rehashed version of Bröder.
  • Groupie This ain’t so different. Success was Samir & Viktor’s incredibly infectious summer hit and Groupie is very similar. Do I care? NOPE. Loved them then, love them now.
  • Nonetheless I didn’t expect to like the sound of this, but here we are.
  • Don’t Stop Believing Fortunately this isn’t as cheesy as the title makes it sound. In fact, snippet-wise, there’s no cheese. I’m intrigued and I want to hear more.

After I correctly guessed that Eric Saade would go direkt last week (like that was hard) and that Behrang/Victor would get a second chance, I’m feeling more confident. 50% is still a crappy rate of rightness, but it beats my usual 0%-25%. So, with my infamous prediction pants on, here I go again…

DIREKT TIL FINAL: Linus Svenning, Samir & Viktor
ANDRA CHANSEN: Neverstore, Mariette

Let’s see if I can keep that stellar 50% record alive!

 

By the way, if you think you can out-predict me (it shouldn’t be hard) on Melfest or any other final, put your money where your mouth is and let me know below. Who are you fist-pumping for tonight? Who’s going to stroll to expected triumph or qualification, and who will shock us all by taking the top prize? I want to know what’s rattling around in your brainbox, so let it allllll out.

Enjoy your romantic evenings, everyone. I hope you get some. Some of the results you are hoping for, that is. Don’t forget, you can join me @EurovisionByJaz on Twitter and together we can pick apart the action – so long as it’s in 140 characters or less.
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