BENDY POLES, PORTUGUESE DEATH DROPS AND NOT-SO-PERFECT STORMS | My take on Tel Aviv’s first semi-final!
Just like that, Eurovision 2019’s semi final numero uno is done and dusted and we have our first ten finalists for the year. As always, the show came and went faster than I thought possible, which wasn’t the worst thing since I was keen to get back to bed after a late night and the unfortunate 3am wake-up. The things we do for Eurovision when the time zone isn’t in our favour…
Anyway, I’m guessing you didn’t drop by to hear me complain about something that I actually don’t mind doing because EUROVISION. So instead, I’ll dive straight in to reviewing the semi from start to finish. Splash!
First, a few asides about the less attention-grabbing stuff that happened:
Show pros The opening vignette feat. mini Netta (cute) and the Toy reprise from grown-up Netta that followed; the dancetastic postcards (Georgia’s may have been my fave); the overall look of the stage and the lushness of the LEDs.
Show NOs The hosts (there’s no Anke/Filomena type among the four) and their banter (pretty cringey); some residual dodgy camerawork; a couple of qualifiers I’ll name and shame later.
Now, let’s talk about the all-important bits and pieces: the performances and the results!
The performances: From not-so-good to great
I was going to run through the 17 in performance order, but then I thought ‘Why not offend as many people as possible by dragging their favourites and complimenting their most disliked entries excessively?’. Just kidding. But this is my personal scale of SF1 acts from ‘fail’ to ‘nailed it’.
Montenegro Poor D mol. They did what they could with Heaven, and if I was reviewing a high school talent comp or an episode of Glee, they’d rank higher. But it’s the biggest song contest on the planet we’re talking about, and this performance was not up to par. Questionable costumes, messy vocal moments and a song that could have been rejected by S Club 7 circa 2001 = not what it takes to make a Eurovision finalist.
Finland Icon status alone also isn’t enough to guarantee qualification, as Darude discovered last night. Look Away wasn’t statement enough to stand out in a field of 17, even though the superstar DJ and Sebastian managed to deliver a three minutes much, much better than those we saw at UMK. Finland just wasn’t meant to make it to Saturday night this year. Blame it on Sebastian’s mind-boggling jeans if it makes you feel better, Darude.
San Marino I’m going to do exactly what Serhat’s been telling me and say na na na to this massive slice of cheese. With I Didn’t Know being the Creepiest Song Ever™, it was no mean feat for him to outdo the ick factor from 2016 – but he did it. This performance was a step up from San Marino’s last year, but the whole thing gave off ‘desperate wedding singer hired out of guilt because he’s related to the bride and really needs the work’ vibes.
Belgium Eliot is a precious cinnamon roll and gave Wake Up an admirable go for someone so young and relatively inexperienced. He was just missing the very fight that he was singing about. Maybe it was nerves, not that he was visibly vibrating with the shakes á la Alekseev or anything. Another handicap was the song itself, which as we all know never really takes off. It couldn’t keep my attention away from Twitter and on my TV screen, I’m afraid.
Estonia I wanted this to be the same combo of charming and slick that saw Storm…well, storm to victory in Eesti Laul (thanks to the televote). But it was very rough around the edges – not quite a hot mess, but edging into that territory. The camera loves Victor and so do I, but he was barely hitting his high notes, something he acknowledged after the show. The green-screen weather is still one heck of an eye-catching gimmick though. Better luck on Saturday.
Georgia I’d heard there was some fierce staging afoot for Georgia, and I was not disappointed. The backdrops added a heap of intensity and atmosphere to the song, and I must say that Oto’s outfit was a huge upgrade from the hand-me-down disaster he was sporting on Georgian Idol. He sang well and connected with the camera like a pro, but as I suspected, what happened on stage wasn’t enough to make Keep On Going top 10 material.
Cyprus Was Tamta’s Replay a solid opener for the semi? Kind of. I was underwhelmed by Cyprus in general, with Tamta putting on a performance worthy of that time Mariah Carey could barely be arsed to get through one televised song and put about 37% enthusiasm into it. Also, the wet-hair-don’t-care/beyond thigh-high boots/crystallised leotard look was all kinds of wrong from where I was sitting. Maybe not Barbara Dex bad, but in that neighbourhood. The song itself saved this.
Slovenia I was worried about how Zala and Gašper’s closed-off intimacy would work on a much bigger stage than that of EMA. Truth be told, I didn’t think it did. The galactical backdrop was beautiful though, and I love Sebi so unconditionally that I’m willing to convince myself that the lack of down-camera connection was different rather than dysfunctional for Eurovision. The highlight has to be Zala’s vocals, which were as hypnotic and otherworldly as ever last night.
Poland Here’s a classic case of a song I’m not a fan of impressing me when performed live. All my traumatic memories of Lukas Meijer’s 2018 vocal car crash faded away, as Tulia treated us to a studio-perfect rendition of Pali Şie feat. a striking twist on traditional Polish costumes. They weren’t the most engaging artists and their singing style would have turned people off no doubt, but they were aurally flawless and my ears will be eternally thankful.
Hungary I’M NOT GOING TO CRY, I’M NOT GOING TO CRY, I’M NOT GOING TO CRY. I won’t mention why I’m holding back tears yet, like you don’t know. Wonderful, wonderful Joci gave me everything I wanted from Az Én Apám, sinister floating man-faces and misplaced fire curtain aside. This song hits me right in the heart and with Joci’s signature performance style (emotional, authentic and quietly powerful) that was always going to be the way when I saw it in this semi.
Belarus Cyprus better be grateful that Belarus drew a different final half, because ZENA – at age sixteen – somehow managed to out-Tamta Tamta. Her vocals were so-so at times, but when the staging is so fun, the choreography is killer and the performer’s personality is bigger than us (heh) who really cares? Not me. I enjoyed everything about this, and hoped it might have done enough to qualify once ZENA had done her Spice Girl kick at the end. Spoiler alert: it did!
Greece This was not the perfect package I was praying for, but I may just be feeling extra critical today after the semi did not turn out how I’d hoped. Thumbs down to the condom-shaped prop and overly-busy staging; thumbs up to the feminine florals and colour palette, and of course to Katerine’s drop-dead gorgeous vocals. Was this the semi winner? Not quite, IMO. But Greece put the kind of effort into Better Love’s presentation that they should have put into Oniro Mou.
Serbia Speaking of gorgeous vocals…Nevena unsurprisingly nailed every single one of Kruna’s notes, big, small and in-between. Her voice is amazing, she is stunning and the whirlpool graphics gave the performance more life and emphasised how high-def this year’s LED screens are (unless they just seem to be super high-quality in the wake of no LEDs in Lisbon). Our girl has sure come a long way, especially in the fashion department, since 2013.
Iceland If you were able to push through the feeling of having all your senses assaulted by Hatari, then you would have loved this as much as I did. It was the national final performance tweaked and refined, with better vocals from Matthias and Klemens, and that was all these guys needed to bring to Tel Aviv. I couldn’t help laughing at the contrast between Iceland in last year’s first semi and Iceland this time around. This is proof that it pays to be adventurous (unless you’re Portugal).
Czech Republic It was party time from the second Lake Malawi’s Albert said ‘Can you hear it?’ and flashed his exceedingly pearly whites right at me. That’s what it felt like, anyway. I have no complaints about this fun, colourful (in a Belgian sort of way) and confident performance. Great camera effects and crystal-clear money notes too. This was like a rejuvenating vitamin B shot, which we all needed after sitting through a block of anti-party songs.
Portugal Before I even talk about last night’s results, I feel compelled to say that PORTUGAL WAS ROBBED. I could have watched Conan and his death-dropping sidekick do their thing all evening, and I really felt like it was on the right side of weird – the lack of cutlery glued to Conan’s face probably helped. Excellent colour scheme, lighting and vocals and an overall feeling of artiness that wasn’t too arty…WTF went wrong? This was dope!
Australia Yes, my favourite performance of the night was from my own country. Bloody oath, mate. You can call it bias, but Kate had me feeling prouder than I’ve ever felt before – and very nervous – as she swung to and fro five metres in the air, living out the ultimate fairy princess fantasy while delivering on-point operatic vocals. Zero Gravity has undergone a glow-up and a half since Australia Decides, and it’s now in contention for a great result this weekend *happy-cries in Australian*.
That was all of the performances, which as I said flew by in what felt like five minutes. I have a few awards to hand out to the star performers and standout visuals of the night:
Best vocals Poland
Best staging Australia
Best costume Australia
Best personality Belarus
Best overall performance Australia
Sorry/not sorry for the Aussie overload. What can I say? I’m feeling phenomenally patriotic. Let me know which performances were your personal favourites (and least favourites…go on, spill some tea!) in the comments.
The results: A lot of predictability plus a few surprises
After the recaps, previews of Israel, Spain and France, more awkward host banter and an inexplicable Bruno Mars cover by Dana International (I would pay to NOT have to hear that again), it was time for us to get some answers. Just who would make it out of this less competitive but still curiously unpredictable semi? In announcement order – which is totally random and not at all engineered to make us sweat – it was Greece, Belarus, Serbia, Cyprus, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Australia, Iceland, San Marino and Slovenia. Belgium, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Montenegro, Poland and Portugal were sent packing.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: no Hungary, and no Portugal. Those were the two eventual DNQ countries that I’d been desperate to see in the final, Hungary in particular. I can understand why Joci’s performance might have been too uneventful for some, but the fact that he’s Hungary’s only non-qualifier since 2009 – after giving them such a great result in 2017 – breaks my heart. I adore him, and Az Én Apám will be sorely missed by me on Saturday night. Portugal, on the other hand, proved too bizarre to make the cut and that makes me mad. Especially when San Marino managed to qualify, which has none of Portugal’s creativity, originality and artistic merit. I try to take the results as they come, but that is a hard pill to swallow.
On the plus side, Australia and the Czech Republic went through – and I’m thinking we may have won this semi. It’s got to be between Kate and Hatari, with Katerine hovering on the edge. Estonia’s qualification had me sighing with relief, and I’m hoping Victor can brush up his vocals for the final and prove he belongs there (it’s all very Isaiah at this point). Belarus and Slovenia were my happy shocks of the night, though ZENA’s reaction was the kind I like to see. Zala and Gašper looked like they’d been given a voucher for a free Subway sandwich or something, not a ticket to the final of the world’s most-watched song contest.
In terms of my predictions – which you’ll be able to find all week on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @EurovisionByJaz – I managed to embarrass myself yet again by predicting 7/10 before the show…and 6/10 after I’d seen the performances. Here’s hoping I can redeem myself when it comes to SF2. How did you do?
That’s a wrap on my semi final one review, guys. If there’s anything you want to say about what went down last night, slide into my DMs comment box and get it off your chest. Were you happy with the results? What were your personal highs and lows? Do you think we saw the 2019 winner in this semi? Like John Lundvik, I wanna know.
I’ll see you on the other side of the second semi, for another post-show discussion. In the meantime, enjoy your Eurovision week as it continues, and as we get one step closer to crowning our next contest champion!
THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 6 (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia + San Marino)
I have to open this post with three letters: OMG!!! As I type this, Eurovision 2018 rehearsals are underway, with the semi 1 first halfers taking to the stage yesterday and the second halfers going through the motions right now. It still feels surreal that we’ve reached this point already. Didn’t Salvador only win in Kyiv like, three months ago?
As you’ll know if you’ve hung out with me and my blog before, my golden rule is to NEVER watch the rehearsals. I like to keep things fresh for when I fall out of bed onto the floor at 3am for the live shows (that’s why I also haven’t listened to any of the songs in full for a good six weeks). So you won’t find any analysis of who’s nailing and failing their practice runs on the Altice Arena stage here. It’s not like there’s going to be a shortage of that stuff anyway, and I’m sure you know where to find it: my favourites are ESC Xtra, my Aussie girl Anita at Eurovision Union, and ESC Insight for the daily podcasts. But I do offer catty/complimentary comments on Twitter based on descriptions I’ve heard and photos I’ve seen – #professional. Head over there and follow me @EurovisionByJaz for many Mikolas Josef well-wishes and reaction GIFs.
What you will find here is the continuation of my 2018 reviews, as I trudge towards the finish line approximately 150 kilometres behind everyone else. I still get an ‘A’ for effort, right? There are three rounds left for me to bring to you guys, and today’s is all about Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia and San Marino. Want to know what I think of the songs Sennek, Mikolas, Michael, Netta, Eye Cue and Jessika feat. Jenifer packed in their Portuguese suitcases? Then keep reading – and don’t forget to comment your thoughts on these tracks + vote in the Round 6 poll. How else am I supposed to know how much you all disagree with me?
My thoughts Pressure (whatever that is, says Laura Tesoro) on Belgium this year was sky-high, as we wondered if they would maintain the run of Eurovision magnificence that began with Loïc Nottet in 2015. The simple question is, have they done so with Sennek and A Matter of Time? And the not-so-simple answer from me is the following. The thing is, if I loved Rhythm Inside 100% (which I did), I loved What’s The Pressure 90% of that, and City Lights 90% of that. And as much as I want to say my love for A Matter of Time is at 70% or more, the reality is that I don’t love it at all. My brain says ‘This is a damn good song, Jaz, don’t you reckon?’, but my heart says ‘Nope’. It leaves me feeling absolutely nothing. We seem to have a James Bond theme at every ESC these days, and sometimes they do connect with me and give me all the feels (sorry, Renaida possessed me for a second there) but Sennek’s gives me none. No goosebumps, no heart palpitations, no need to call an ambulance due to the sheer shock of how amazing it is whatsoever. I can’t put my finger on why not. It’s polished and sophisticated; cinematic in its drama (totes appropes for a song that should accompany footage of Daniel Craig kicking the asses of fifteen assassins at once); original for what it is, with melodic twists and turns that flow well but make sure there’s no time to get bored; and it’s performed beautifully by Sennek (in studio). So what’s wrong with me? Why don’t I adore this? Why am I more excited by the prospect of Sennek’s visual merchandising work for Ikea than by the prospect of seeing this performed live for the first time? If anyone out there is an amateur or professional psychologist and can offer some insight into my severe Belgian mental block, please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll offer some insight on how I think this will do in Lisbon. Once again Belgium is competing in the first semi, which as we all know is the Semi of Death and Destruction and Weeping Eurofans Worldwide. But since Sennek was a contender FTW in the odds, I’d say she’s on the borderline between certain qualifier and a ‘most likely to’ qualifier. In other words, I won’t be splashing any cash on her to make the final, but I do expect to see her there (especially because I don’t ‘get’ this entry, which means it’ll probably do well because that happens every year). As for what will go down on the Saturday night: well, with a good vocal performance and modern, atmospheric staging, a fourth consecutive top 10 place for Belgium wouldn’t come as a surprise – but I’m thinking 11th to 15th at this point.
2017 VS 2018? Blanche = better. I’m not sure how anyone could argue with that.
My score 7
My thoughts If I was giving out an award for the biggest Eurovision glow-up from 2017-2018, the Czech Republic would win it without even trying. I never had a major vendetta against Martina’s My Turn last year, but that’s because it was so bland – bland enough to be one of my least favourite entries of Kyiv. Fast forward twelve months, and the Czech Republic is not only right up in my top 3 for the year, they’re also in the mix to win the entire thing. WTF?!? This almost-favourite status is unprecedented for a country with a disastrous track record, feat. two semi final last places and another last place in the only final they’ve managed to make it to. But I have no hesitation in saying that Lie To Me is the Czechs best entry ever by a million miles. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat after dreaming that Mikolas wasn’t chosen to go to Portugal – that’s how much of a missed opportunity picking anything else would have been. Lie To Me is the musical love child of Problem by Ariana Grande and Talk Dirty by Jason Derülo, with ridiculously wonderful lyrics fired at us a mile a minute until the sparser, smoother, sing-along chorus drops. The trumpet riff pulls you in instantly (what a great way to start a song) and rivals Hey Mamma for catchiness. This might come across as a novelty song in some ways, but at its core it’s epic R&B-pop that’s impossible to ignore even if you don’t like it (but if you don’t, I’m afraid we can’t be friends). It’s urban, fun, a little bit NSFW even though it’s been cleaned up for the contest, and full of attitude. And let’s not forget Mikolas’ charisma and swag, both of which are on the favourable side of the ‘Am I A Douche or Not?‘ spectrum. If I had to pick on something, I’d say I’m not sure about the backpack (or the camel…it’s in the lyrics/music video, and all I can think of based on the song’s subject matter is that its presence has something to do with humps). But I firmly believe that Lie To Me can not only fly into the final, but that Mikolas can ride that camel all the way to the podium. I can’t imagine a song with lyrics like “I know you ‘bop-whop-a-lu bop’ on his wood bamboo” (the tip of the OMG lyric iceberg) actually winning, but 3rd would be a mighty fine spot for the Czech Republic to score. Beyond fine, in fact. Let’s make it happen, Team Miki (and jurors, who will hopefully not think this is offensive and mutter stuff about ‘The youth of today’ as they rank it right at the bottom).
2017 VS 2018? Do I even need to answer this? 2018!!!
My score 12
My thoughts Oh, Germany. What happened to you? 2010 was a turning point that ground to a screeching halt in 2013 with a great song + bad staging. That was followed by a decent but not memorable song, a nul pointer, a great song + terrible costume choice, then a song last year that was destined to do nothing on the scoreboard. This might sound harsh, but there are a lot of countries that deserve an automatic spot in the final more than Germany does at the moment. They’re certainly not making the most of their Big Five status, and I think that trend has continued with You Let Me Walk Alone. It’s supposed to be a sentimental tearjerker of a piano ballad about Michael’s late father – I say ‘supposed’ because the sentiment is lost on me, and my eyes are drier than a desert when I’m listening to it. Does that make the song artificially emotional, or am I a cold, unfeeling witch who should go and live the hermit life in an isolated mountainside cave? Maybe don’t answer that. I am sorry that I don’t feel what I “should” be feeling here (and I’m sorry for Michael’s loss) but this does even less for me than Belgium’s song. It’s musical wallpaper. I do actually like the pre-chorus, because that’s where the lyrics are least cliché and the melody is worth an approving nod. If the rest of the song was more like that part, I wouldn’t be wearing my Negative Nancy t-shirt right now. But as it is, if I do the mental test of asking myself ‘Would this qualify if it was competing in a semi?’, my personal answer is no, I don’t think so. But hey, since Germany has a talent for dragging good songs down with bad staging choices (occasionally…I don’t mean to be a bitch about this) perhaps they’ll do the opposite this year and elevate YLMWA to a place where even I can appreciate it. Then again, I have heard they’re using the old photos-in-the-background trick which doesn’t bode well – I hate that almost as much as I hate cover albums (and I really hate cover albums). Regardless of what Michael is surrounded by, standing on top of or wearing, I think his song will get lost in the 26-song grand final, unless it’s tacked on to the end of the running order (unlikely). I cannot see him faring much better than Levina, but don’t be too hard on me if I’m spectacularly wrong and Germany goes top 10. That would be kicking me while I’m already down, and while I’m confused.
2017 VS 2018? 2017, I guess. Can you feel the lack of enthusiasm?
My score 5
My thoughts Here it is: the bookies’ favourite and runaway winner of the OGAE Poll. This time last year I could have said the same thing about Italy, and we all know what happened to Occidentali’s Karma when the actual contest came around. Thanks to Francesco’s 6th place, we have to question whether Netta will also fall short of pre-show expectations, or if she’ll she do an Alexander Rybak right in front of Alexander Rybak. I feel like it’s one of the two, but more on that after I’ve talked about Toy itself. You might remember that I was never sold on Occidentali’s Karma as a winner, and I have similar gut feelings about Toy…only they’re more fragile feelings this time (which tells me Netta is more likely than Francesco was to steamroll her opponents into submission). Once again I’ve found myself fond of, but not crazy about the song that’s been crowned The One by masses of Eurofans. The thing I do absolutely love about this entry is how original it is, to the point of being riskily so. It’s great to see a country go out on a limb instead of playing it safe. There is no doubt that this stands out from start to finish, and not just because Netta has her vocal looper in tow. The music is inventive, the lyrics are clinically insane but iconic as heck (I don’t know exactly what ‘taking my Pikachu home’ means, but I’m on board with it) and the energy is unrelenting. This is the kind of song that makes me wish more than ever that I was going to Eurovision this year so I could mosh to it. Toy has spawned memes and merchandise, not to mention an epidemic of clucking chicken impressions (a vaccine is currently in development) and that impact can’t be ignored. However, as I said, the song is not keeping my boat especially buoyant, if you know what I mean (translation: it doesn’t float my boat as much as a lot of other entries do). I can praise its originality until the end of time, but I couldn’t honestly say I’ve fallen in love. That might be why I’m not convinced of Israel’s winning chances – I’d prefer plenty of other songs to win. Still, I genuinely see road blocks for Toy to get over that were not in the pathway of Fairytale and Heroes, for example. I said it about the Czech Republic and I’ll say it again about Israel: As much as I want a fun-filled banger of a winner, I can’t imagine a song with lyrics like Toy’s winning the whole contest. And I have to wonder if, because the majority of people going crazy over this are firmly in the Eurovision bubble, first-time listeners/viewers will react to it in the same hugely-positive way. It could be an assault on the senses live on the big stage (not that I’d advise Israel to go for tasteful and understated. That’s fine for France but a mismatch for them). If not Israel to win though, then who? My ideal situation would be for a country we haven’t focused on that much to step up their game during the rehearsal period and say ‘I have ARRIVED!’ – partly because I hate a predictable winner; partly because I want a song I love to win, not a song I like. But majority rules. If the Eurovision roadshow is meant to go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem in 2019, that’s where it will go and I will have to live with it.
2017 VS 2018? You might question my sanity, but I honestly prefer I Feel Alive (and not just because Imri is a beautiful creature/hopefully not a stupid boy).
My score 7.5
My thoughts Macedonia had a similar contest experience to Italy last year in terms of being hyped and then missing the expected mark. Dance Alone was fanwank material that wouldn’t have been so highly regarded if Sweden had sent it, but because it came from Macedonia it was a pleasant surprise. Only the overwhelming love from fans (excluding me since I was never that into it) didn’t transfer into ESC success, and FYROM failed to even qualify. Is the same story being written for Macedonia as we speak? Lost and Found is a somewhat surprisingly high-quality song that has been hyped and showered with affection, but may struggle to make it out of its semi. What’s the difference, aside from the fact that, as far as I know, neither member of Eye Cue is a) pregnant, or b) about to get engaged during a global television broadcast? It is a very different song, of course – there are actually two or three different songs within this one song – and it’s probably going to be staged in a less off-putting way than Dance Alone on the basis that Lost and Found is a warmer, more fun song. Every segment of it, like a ripe orange, is delicious and appealing; but also like an orange (I hope you didn’t think I’d stopped with the food metaphors) as a whole it is messy. We’ve got infectious reggae-pop in the verses, which follows on from the soft acoustic-style opening lines repeated throughout, which in turn leak into the upbeat dance chorus (I think it’s the chorus, anyway). They’re all catchy, all lyrically blessed and all sung beautifully by vocalist Marija – I LOVE her voice, and she’s already proven it’s like honey live. On one hand, I like how Lost and Found dips in and out of different styles, packing so much into its three minutes it’s like a lunchbox overflowing with tasty snacks. On the other hand, I’m disappointed that a song with the potential to be epic had it been cohesive is anything but cohesive. I’m still not sure if it works as a whole or not. It can’t be compared to the last entry to change things up in-song to such an extent – Icebreaker by Agnete – because that changed tempo rather than genre. The changes Macedonia makes aren’t as arresting, but are more confusing. I want Eye Cue to qualify, but at this point where I’m yet to make any official, posted-on-social-media-for-the-world-to-laugh-at predictions, I’m on the fence, and it’s hurting my brain (and my backside…it’s an uncomfortable fence) trying to answer the will-they-or-won’t-they question. So I won’t answer it right now. I’ll just say that if Macedonia does get to the final, I’m foreseeing a lower left-side placing at best.
2017 VS 2018? 2018. They’ve lost their grip on genre, but found some incredible pieces of pop.
My score 8.5
My thoughts San Marino is always a fun country to review for all the wrong reasons. They’re also a country that puts me to the test in terms of not being too insulting. Don’t be shocked to hear that I’m being tested yet again in 2018 with Jessika (via Malta) and Jeni B (via Germany). Look, I really like these girls: they’re friendly, personable and seem to be enjoying their ESC journey (which will be a pretty short one) so far. I’m happy for them to have the chance to do something so cool, especially Jessika who’s been rejected as a Maltese representative about 75 000 times and was obviously desperate to get to Eurovision (can’t blame her). But the bottom line for me is that Who We Are is TERRIBLE. To think that the Loin D’ici Straubs were partially responsible for bringing it to life is horrifying. It sounds like something the winner of Popstars might have released as a winner’s single circa 2001, but it couldn’t have been called current back then. I actually have no idea which decade this song would have been fashionable in. The sound-alike Heroes chorus is the only common trait between this and a song with the calibre to win the contest, and Jeni B’s rap is the worst rap I’ve ever heard. That’s not because she’s a bad rapper but because the lyrics she’s being forced (there must have been gunpoint involved at some stage) to rap are from Cringe City. I can’t decide if the worst part is ‘If they dissin’ you on Twitter, don’t get sad don’t be bitter’, or ‘If they say so, get in the car, rev it up and be a star.’ To say ‘What is this, Junior Eurovision?’ would be doing JESC a disservice. Okay, so the anti-bullying message is worth a round of applause – I fully support that. And, believe it or not, I don’t hate this as much I used to, but that in itself is something I hate. I did NOT want this to be a grower. It hasn’t grown beyond being the 42nd song in my top 43, but there was a time when it was right at the rear, and if it can creep up once it could creep up again. Someone should make a horror movie about a situation like this. I can see the tagline now: Who We Are Is Coming To Get You, And Jeni B Won’t Stop Until She Knows YOU Know That Jess Over Here Is A Special VIP *screams bloody murder*. To sum up, the Who We Are I wanted at Eurovision 2018 was from Norway; I don’t think anyone asked for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we have San Marino in the Euro family…but good Lordi, they need to find a way to slay. Safe to say I’m confident they’re staying behind in the semi.
2017 VS 2018? When Valentina is an option, always choose Valentina.
My score 3
31 down, 12 to go! Here are the standings now I’ve scored today’s six songs:
- Czech Republic (12)
- Macedonia (8.5)
- Israel (7.5)
- Belgium (7)
- Germany (5)
- San Marino (3)
No lie – Mikolas wins this round by a big margin. I know I’ll get some gasps for sticking Israel in the middle, but honesty is the best policy, right? Unless you’re Benjamin Ingrosso, but that’s a discussion topic for another day.
If you’re on Team Israel or you want to show your love for any of the other songs on the program today, you know what to do.
NEXT TIME If you’ve been keen for me to judge Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Serbia, Slovenia or the United Kingdom, then the wait is over! One is in my top 10, another is anything but, and the rest are the filling in the sandwich. Come back later this week to find out which is which.
Good day sir/madam/whoever is reading this from wherever in the world! I’m flattered you’ve taken the time to drop by EBJ, given all of the rehearsal goodness going down at Kyiv’s International Exhibition Centre that can be enjoyed vicariously through social media (believe me, I’ve been doing my bit in an attempt to quash my ‘Last year I was in the Press Centre at Eurovision and this year I am not’ depression).
It’s hard to comprehend that it’s May already, and that the pre-show prep is in full swing. Rehearsals for the first half of the second semi are taking place as I type this, and I’m eagerly (and sweatily #nerves) awaiting the turn of a few of my favourites. If you are too and you’re after a distraction, then look no further – you’ve found it!
I have three rounds of 2017 reviews left to squeeze in before the ESC hits our TV screens, and today it’s the moment of truth for *drum roll* *realises you’ll already have seen the title of this post* *shrugs*:
- Armenia’s Artsvik with Fly With Me
- Austria’s Nathan Trent with Running On Air
- Finland’s Norma John with Blackbird
- Moldova’s Sunstroke Project with Hey Mamma
- San Marino’s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson with Spirit of the Night
- Slovenia’s Omar Naber with On My Way
As always, my mum has given her verdict on these six songs too…and boy, was there some serious disagreement this time. We actually haven’t spoken a word to each other since I played them for her.
So much for ‘come together’.
Anyway, keep reading to find out how we rated these entries, and feel free to share your feelings about them in the comments – love, hate or tolerate!
My thoughts If you remember what I said when reviewing Serbia, you can skip the next sentence because it’ll be pretty much the same criticism (not to say I hate either song. I don’t). I’d just like to reiterate my warning to all competing Eurovision countries that if you make us all wait until the very last minute before lifting the cloche off your song for the year, we’ll be expecting something phenomenal. So, even if said song is a solid 8/10, it won’t seem that good because you’ve let our expectations pile up like a Jenga tower taller than Jonatan Cerrada’s stilt dancer. Enter Armenia, who did exactly that by being the final country out of 43 to unveil their contribution to the Kyiv contest. If I’d personally heard Fly With Me in February, I might have thought more of it than I do now and wouldn’t have been at all disappointed by it. Rest assured, if you think this song is the best thing since the introduction of the semi-final system, I’m only a tiny bit disappointed. It’s just not a fantastic ethno-pop banger in my opinion, so much as a weird combination of classic Eurovision ethno-pop circa 2005 and the bass (?) guitar from Eneda Tarifa’s Fairytale. I like how exotic and interesting it is, and the ‘fly with me’ hook towards the end – when Artsvik ramps things up vocally – leaves a pretty powerful impression. This is another song, though, that doesn’t seem to have a solid identity. It’s like a coconut fell on its head while it was on holiday in Hawaii, and now it can’t remember its name, age or occupation. It offers up a bunch of different body parts that are disjointed when put together, just enough to be noticeable but not so much that the disjointedness actually becomes an intriguing gimmick (á la Icebreaker). As a result, I can’t decide exactly how I feel about it. I don’t know about you, but if I’m confused about something I’m not very likely to support it (e.g. by voting). Artsvik’s rehearsals have been very well received, so we can expect Fly With Me to be elevated when performed live – as Armenia’s entries often are – but since the song’s still a question mark for me, I still have to hand out an indecisive, ‘Do I like it or not?’ score of 6 points.
My mum says… I have mixed feelings about this too, but the biggest portion of the mix is dislike. I do get a kick out of the hypnotic beat, and I think the music is varied and very interesting to listen to…but everything else is too disjointed and old-fashioned for me. If it had become more cohesive and modern after the first thirty seconds, I’d score it better, but it carried on how it started (just getting more shouty as it went along). I don’t think I ‘get’ it. 3 points.
Armenia’s score 4.5
My thoughts If this was the Eurovision Adorableness Contest, Austria would be an Italy-level favourite right now. Nathan Trent is the most precious person on the planet – as far as I can tell from his press/profile videos without knowing him personally – and that’s the sort of thing that should shine through when he’s on stage, hopefully singing the shiz out of the equally sweet Running On Air. How could anyone hate this song? It’s a prime piece of feel-good inspo-pop (if that term catches on, I want full credit) that just avoids being cheesy, thanks to Nathan sounding more like a smooth R & B singer than an overly-keen finalist on The X Factor performing their potential winner’s single. The low-key, contemporary-sounding verses really show off his voice, while the catchy – if slightly passé-sounding by comparison – chorus is so easy to sing along to, it’s practically impossible to resist. Although the entry doesn’t have the same energy as Belgium’s did last year, What’s The Pressure is what it reminds me of because it’s three minutes of pure happiness that could turn any frown upside down. We need a few tracks like that to give us a break from the intensity of Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, et cetera: all of the countries who’ve taken a more heavy-going approach (in song style, subject matter or both). Running On Air is fun without being too fluffy, full of affirmations but not in an eye-rolling way, and has its own little space in this year’s line-up that lets it stand up and shout from the top of a mountain (somewhere in the Alps, obviously) ‘I’M HERE AND I AM JUST AS LOVABLE AS LOIN D’ICI!’. Seriously, if Nathan doesn’t make it to the final it will be just as heartbreaking as when I watched a shattered Jüri Pootsmann slink out of the green room in Stockholm, followed by a borderline suicidal Stig Rästa. It cannot happen! Except…it could. I don’t have Austria down as a dead cert to qualify, as they’re on stage second after Serbia and before Macedonia (in the middle of girl power on full blast, in other words). But my fingers will be crossed for Nathan, being a guy with a mid-tempo easy listener, to make his presence felt when sandwiched between two more in-your-face female pop numbers. If he can’t, I will make myself available for post-semi comfort hugs if he’s willing to fly to Australia to receive them. 8 points.
My mum says… Austria is a lot easier for me to love than Armenia – musically, that is, as I’m sure both countries are beautiful in their own way. I really liked this song. It sounds very mainstream compared to a lot of the other entries (it could be a Maroon 5 album track) but I’m not such a snob that I’d let that deflate my enjoyment! I see this as simple, straightforward pop that I’m imagining will have bucketloads of mass appeal. 8 points.
Austria’s score 8.00
My thoughts When you consider that Finland could have sent a song about “loving yourself” (in the privacy of one’s own home, hopefully), a song about kissing someone else’s paradise (also in the privacy of one’s own home, PLEASE GOD) or a song featuring the lyric ‘What would the X-Men do if they came to the rescue?’ (which they very nearly did, as Zühlke’s Perfect Villain finished second), it’s nothing short of merciful that they chose Norma John’s Blackbird instead. Remove all of those questionable UMK entries from the equation, though, and Blackbird remains an absolutely beautiful song, and easily one of the best ballads – if not THE best ballad – competing in Kyiv. It reminds me so much of Norway’s A Monster Like Me from 2015, which will always hold a special place in my heart as a piano ballad so powerful, it had me reaching for something to wipe my wet eyes with every time I heard it. I’m not saying the two songs sound particularly alike, but they have the same pared-back, minimalist lyrical content; the same musical interlude which sort of needs the singer/s to do something during it, but it’s still stunning when they just stand there awkwardly; and yes, that same haunting and emotional quality that makes me want to weep. Whenever Leena (not Norma, as you might expect) launches into the chorus with her crystal-clear-plus-a-hint-of-fragility voice, unleashing that ‘Now you remind me of something I’ll never have’ line upon an unsuspecting world, I turn into a tsunami of tears (and I haven’t even been jilted recently, so I hate to think what state this song would put me in if I was freshly heartbroken). There’s a shiver down my spine and goosebumps all over my body too, and you know what the last song to have that effect on me was? 1944. Before you accuse me of being delirious in thinking that Norma John have mad Francesco Gabbani-defeating skills and will win the contest, that’s so NOT what I’m thinking. I know Finland isn’t going to do what Ukraine did last year, since lightning doesn’t strike twice – not two years in a row at Eurovision, anyway. But Blackbird’s ability to move me makes it special. It deserves to do well in the comp in a way that Sing It Away (an easy song to sacrifice) couldn’t. This song, IMO, is not disposable – it’s integral to have in the final. 10 points.
My mum says… It’s not often that music manages to choke me up, but Blackbird is so beautiful, and so beautifully melancholic, I nearly had to wipe away some tears. It’s so different to all of the other ballads I’ve heard – more subdued and less dramatic, but somehow even more emotional. Leena’s voice is just perfect for expressing all of that emotion, and she has an Adele-like way of making you feel what she’s feeling, even if you’re not experiencing it first-hand. It’s stunning. 10 points.
Finland’s score 10.00
My thoughts EPIC SAX GUY IS BACK!!! The man who inspired the most famous Eurovision meme in the history of memes is returning to the contest with his fellow Sunstroke Project boys, but sans guest vocalist Olia Tira this time. That’s not news to anyone reading this, I’m guessing, but I do know something you don’t know: exactly how I feel about Hey Mamma. But don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. To put it simply, I love it. It’s so different to 2010’s Run Away – i.e. very light-hearted and lots of fun, as opposed to intense and fast-paced – that it’s hard to compare the two, but I personally prefer Hey Mamma. Trying to win over one’s in-laws is a struggle that so many people can associate with, and the fact that Moldova has produced a song that brings some humour and happiness to the situation is worth a round of applause. I’ve also found myself clapping for the insanely catchy verses and chorus, plus the inclusion of not only another top-notch sax riff, but a violin riff too. Oh, AND another copy-worthy dance that accompanies the sax riff (feat. less groin thrusting this time). Clearly, this entry shares some ingredients with Run Away, as do the songs of repeat artists that came before the Sunstroke Project (Paula Seling & Ovi, for example) – I mean, when a formula proves fairly successful, why pinball in a totally different direction on your next try? But this is everything we know and love about the boys in a new and improved package. A controversial opinion? Probably, if you think this song is garbage. But the ESC needs light and shade to make it more exciting, and Moldova – not for the first time – aren’t taking things too seriously, song-wise. Instead, they’ve given us all a Euroclub banger that will also be a banger played at Club Le Jaz’s Loungeroom (and in unrelated news, if you’re currently in Kyiv for Eurovision purposes, I hate you with a passion). Everyone needs some saxual healing from time to time. We’ll have to wait and see if the results reflect that, or if Moldova will fail to get out of their semi for the fourth year running. Even if they don’t qualify, if nobody forgets to remove their accreditation badge for the broadcast it’ll be a step up from 2016. 10 points.
My mum says… Ohhhhh no. Not a fan! This sounds like a song that was written in ten minutes after the composers forgot they had a deadline for it, and it’s really obvious. It comes across so…naff. My favourite part was when it finished, and I’ll be happy to not hear it start ever again – even though the look on Jaz’s face when I told her this was a look that could kill. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so they say. 2 points.
Moldova’s score 6.00
My thoughts If a genie ever appears in front of me and grants me three wishes, I’m convinced I’ll just wish for the same thing three times to make 110% sure that it happens. That thing would be for some random, Eurovision-appreciating Sammarinese resident to win the lottery, and be able to bankroll San Marino’s contest participations until Ralph Siegel has fallen off the perch and cannot physically (or spiritually, fingers crossed) do it. That has to be the explanation for his constant creation of half-baked, cringe-worthy songs that have been composed by the numbers from an instruction book called ‘How To Write A Song That Sounds Like It Was Recorded In 1978 And Yet Would Still Have Been Regarded As Bollocks Back Then.’ Obviously, Serhat took the reins in Stockholm and, with a group of other misguided music “professionals”, produced something remarkably similar to a Siegel song – but at least it had entertainment value! Spirit of the Night, performed by the artist ESC fans most associate with San Marino and an artist no one has ever associated with San Marino, has none. It’s just a big wheel of cheese feat. approximately sixteen unnecessary key changes and a lyrical “conversation” that makes me want to go one better than Vincent Van Gogh and cut both of my ears off to save me from ever having to hear it again. Valentina Monetta – and no doubt Jimmie Wilson too – is so much better than this, yet NONE of her four (!) entries have shown her musical talents off to their fullest. She’d be far more suited to singing the Czech song, or something like it, in Italian. But the Monetta-Siegel saga continues. My favourite thing about San Marino 2017 is the dynamic between ValMon and Jimmie, who seem to have a great time together and can somehow perform this horror show with genuine enthusiasm (something I’ve managed to pick up on despite the waves of secondhand embarrassment that wash over me every time I see the two in action). I’d be happy for them to qualify, if there was some way they didn’t have to take Spirit of the Night through as well. But with the rules being as they are, I give this duo full permission to stay behind in the semi final. 2 points.
My mum says… Actually, maybe Moldova isn’t so bad after all. Not when compared to this THING, anyway. All right, so the singers are enthusiastic, and do their best to get us all on board with the spirit of the night (speaking of, was this song’s writer drunk on some sort of spirit when he decided it qualified as a semi-decent song suitable for public exposure?). But apart from that, I can’t find any redeeming features here. It’s like the theme from a terrible 1970s movie that no amount of popcorn could make worth watching. Sorry, San Marino, but what an epic fail! 1 point.
San Marino’s score 1.5
My thoughts Omar’s one of two artists making their Eurovision comeback in Kyiv after first participating in the same city in 2005. Like Estonia’s Laura, he’s been chipping away at a second shot at representing his country between then and now, but it wasn’t his time (again) until 2017…though many would say it should have been BQL’s time this year. But that’s another story for the post-contest conversations about which countries effed up royally in retrospect. Omar’s pulled a Sunstroke Project by taking something more uplifting and less intense than his previous entry to this contest – but on this occasion, I don’t think it’s for the better. On My Way is no Stop, which I think we can all agree (and I accept no opposition to this) was ROBBED a place in the ’05 final. However, if we pretend that never existed for the sake of viewing On My Way objectively, it’s not a bad man ballad. Sure, it’s dated – Omar’s openly said that he wrote it a decade ago and has been saving it (perhaps hoping that this sort of song would come back into fashion, which sadly for him it hasn’t). But I feel far more positively about it than most other fans do. I like how symphonic and soaring it is, especially in the chorus: it’s just as big and bombastic as you’d expect. I don’t like how clichéd and overly-simplistic the lyrics are, considering they’re the mind child of someone who’s lived in London for years and speaks fluent English. But the decent melody and Omar’s flawless vocal delivery (the star attraction) distract me from that lyrical dumb-down. I feel like I can compare the whole vibe of this entry to Ott Lepland’s Kuula, though that was far superior in every way. But the grand man ballad style and stage presentation of this song are cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately, Slovenia seems to be lost without Maraaya (hence the BQL mention) and seem destined for another DNQ. At the very least, they’ll scrape into the final and end up with a right-side score after that. 7 points.
My mum says… Okay, Omar – if you want to be on your way, I’m happy to help you along. I’ll even be a temporary bellboy and carry your bags. Anything to get you moving out of hearing range! As powerful as this song might be, I wanted it to stop pretty soon after it had started, because it just goes on and on (and on some more) in an “inspirational” way that would make it fit right in on an episode of Glee featuring a performance at a high school graduation. Eurovision, not so much. Well, not in terms of fitting in enough to win voters over, anyway. 1 point.
Slovenia’s score 4.00
There go another six songs into the ‘Reviewed Like A Boss’ pile! This is where they ended up:
- Finland (10.00)
- Austria (8.00)
- Moldova (6.00)
- Armenia (4.5)
- Slovenia (4.00)
- San Marino (1.5)
I’d shed a tear over Finland winning this round, but I think I’ve used up enough boxes of tissues over Blackbird (plus I need to save some crying energy for Norma John’s performances next week). Austria follows not too far behind, and Moldova not too far behind them. Armenia and Slovenia – after being dragged down by Mrs. Jaz – finish in the lower-middle range, which I don’t think will happen for either of them in the actual contest (take from that what you will). San Marino, suitably, is as far behind here as Ralph Siegel is behind the times when it comes to writing a good pop song.
Next time, we’re zipping around Europe – and a little further afield – to bring you potentially bitchy opinions on Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro and Spain. What do two different generations of Australians think of Isaiah? And more importantly, how will my MOTHER react to the most pornographic song in Eurovision history (which is obviously Montenegro’s, not Australia’s)? You’ll have to come back to get the answers to those questions. Keep an eye on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (or subscribe over there –>) to be the first to know when I’ve posted. Your feeds and inboxes are already being bombarded with Eurovision anyway, so it can’t hurt…
Happy Almost-ESC Week!
It’s creeping ever closer, people! If you don’t know what I mean by ‘it’, then I have to question why you’re reading this blog. For those who do know, you’ll also be aware that the Eurovision 2016 stage is taking shape inside the Globe Arena, and that means more reviewing must be done before it resembles the diagrams we oohed and aahed over a little while ago. It’s still mostly scaffolding at this point – but there’s no time to waste! Let’s say hej to today’s judges, and to the countries they’ll be discussing in this third installment of reviews.
By now, you guys should know where to meet and greet the EBJ Jury, so I won’t tell you again (well, maybe just one more time. Hint: scroll up!). James, Martin and myself are about to complement and criticise the life out of Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and San Marino – or, as I like to call them (because we’re all best buddies), Eneda, Jüri, Jamie-Lee, Donny, Douwe Bob and Serhat. Who’ll be our favourite, and will any country other than the predictable one be our LEAST favourite? Settle down with some popcorn and find out now!
James Okay, I feel like I’m going to be in the minority here when I say I actually think the revamp has improved Albania’s song this year…instrumentally, at least. Fairytale 2.0 sounds a lot more professional than Përrallë did – the only issue I have is that Eneda’s new vocal somehow sounds like she recorded it right after waking up from a three-hour nap, and quite fancied getting straight back to bed as soon as she was done. I’m hoping she really attacks it live because even with its lucky running order position, it’s gonna need a LOT of extra energy if it’s to stand ANY chance of making it to Saturday night. The English lyrics aren’t brilliant, I must admit, but that’s never been an issue in the past *cough, undo my sad, cough*. As a song though, I do enjoy listening to Fairytale, and the hook does stick with me. I’d be happy to see Albania in the final with this.
Martin Swapping from Albanian to English, along with losing forty-five seconds of the FiK version of Fairytale, is going to lead to yet another non-qualification for Albania – much in the same way as it did for Hersi in 2014. What was a powerful and passionate emotional rollercoaster with lots of interesting nuances in Tirana has now lost it all and become a repetitive low-key ballad that no longer holds my attention.
Jaz Albania seem to have forgotten fast that a fully-Albanian language entry gave them their best-ever Eurovision result. Obviously, it’s well within their rights to sing in whatever language they like – but I can’t help feeling that ANY language other than English would have helped Eneda’s Fairytale retain the mystery and intrigue that it initially had (and in doing so, you might say, made it a Fairytale with a happy ending). Like Martin, I can’t say that this song, in its English incarnation, is anything special – whereas it was when it was known as Përrallë. Language gripes aside, I still rate the gritty, rocky sound (and how it contrasts with Eneda’s/Kate Winslet’s ladylike styling), and the melody and construction of the choruses is still interesting (we’re rarely on the receiving end of cookie-cutter stuff from Albania). But, without the air of ‘Ooh, what’s this all about then?’ that the original version of the song created, I cannot see this qualifying. Not unless a handful of other countries stumble and fall flat on their faces, that is.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 5
- James 5
- Jaz 6
- Martin 5
- Nick 2
- Penny 6
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 6
Albania’s EBJ Jury score is…5.33
James Aagh, Estonia. I genuinely still don’t know what I think of Play yet. It’s definitely one of the most original songs in this year’s line-up, and it’s fresh and relevant whilst oozing the kind of timeless classiness that Estonia are so good at of late. The thing I’m not so sure about is Jüri’s voice – if the song had been written a couple of semitones higher, it would be in a much more comfortable place for him. This is something I’m all too familiar with from trying to record covers myself – literally, if someone from his team could just whack the karaoke version into Audacity and change the pitch up a bit, everything would be fine! He still sings it perfectly well, of course, but there’s not a single point in the song where he has the chance to break out of that sludgy lower register and show off the full extent of his vocal capabilities, and the overall effect is far too dark, in my opinion. Yes, I know it’s MEANT to be like that, but I don’t think it really works. Especially live – the melody is so low that it blends in with the track and obscures a lot of the meaning, which is a shame since the lyrics are one of the song’s highlights. I still think it’s got a pretty good shot at qualifying, though, and it’s definitely going to stand out, one way or another.
Martin With a passing nod to the vocal style of Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy, Jüri brings chic and coolness to Eurovision with a very laid-back and confident performance, together with a song that builds nicely and has a memorable chorus. Play just lacks a ‘wow’ moment that would definitely confirm a final place, and a possible top half finish for Estonia. Because of that, this could be one of the ‘better’ casualties of this year’s semi finals.
Jaz Estonia has pulled a Latvia this year, selecting a song written by their 2015 representative to fly their flag (I’ll be swapping the countries around and saying the same thing about Latvia when the time comes). While I’d put Love Injected on par with Heartbeat in the ‘How freaking awesome is this?’ department, I’d actually rank Goodbye To Yesterday a little lower than Jüri’s Play. That’s not because I hate GTY (I don’t, although it never topped my rankings) but because I LOVE Play. Jüri + this song = a performance by a more well-groomed and more intense version of Hozier, and it is soaked with smoky retro sophistication. This kid (I can call him that since he’s younger than me and my mental age is akin to that of a teenager) might look angelic, but when he’s on stage, those of us watching him aren’t sure whether he wants to skin us alive or if he’s just really, really in the zone. I like the fact that he’s so ‘in character’ as he works his way through a song that literally hits all the notes that Bond-inspired vintage-vibe pop should. Of all the throwback songs that will be showing up in Stockholm this year (‘all’ meaning, like, three or four) this is the most well-executed IMO, and it almost serves as a prequel – or sequel, depending on how the listener writes the story – to GTY, as an added bonus. Though I doubt Jüri will squeeze out a single tear á la Elina Born at Eurovision, I don’t doubt his ability to take Stig’s song to the final…and perhaps secure Estonia another top 10 result as well.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 6
- James 5
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Nick 4
- Penny 8
- Rory 6
- Wolfgang 5
Estonia’s EBJ Jury score is…7
James I should absolutely adore this. It’s got that modern synth-pop sound with a waif-like female lead vocal, which I usually really dig…but something about Ghost just doesn’t click with me. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments – I like the bridge, for example, and the chords in the ‘lonely in a crowded room together’ line. But on the whole, that chorus is such an anti-climax, isn’t it (please say somebody agrees with me?). It’s still a decent enough song, but I guess I just feel a bit miffed every time I hear it because I feel like it could have been soooooo much better! I hope it grows on me, and it probably will when I get the CD and actually let myself play all the songs to within an inch of their lives…but until then, it’s mid-table at best for me. Sorry, Germany.
Martin Melancholic lyrics, an atmospheric score and hauntingly powerful vocals were all at odds with the visual package of an 18-year-old girl obsessed with manga outfits! ‘The Voice of Germany’ was totally the focus of the national final performance of Ghost and rightly so. Jamie-Lee’s simple but sublime delivery of this entry could be the sleeper hit this year in Stockholm. One of my favourites – it’s my number 4 at this stage.
Jaz I don’t want to get overly-attached to Jamie-Lee and her Ghost, given what happened in the wake of me latching on to Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke (I’m beginning to think I’m a bad luck charm). But…this song is brilliant! Hashtag fail on the ‘keep your distance’ thing! I’m no musical expert – which you may find hard to believe – but I think that technically-speaking, this is one of the best songs competing in this year’s contest. The background music is almost church hymn-like, which adds a pleading but accepting tone to the words pouring out of Jamie’s mouth; while the steady beat makes the whole thing hypnotic. As a package, the music and lyrics are fresh and edgy, and Eurovision needs those adjectives. However, what we see rather than hear is where Germany has gone wrong. I know Jamie-Lee loves her K-pop and her Harajuku-inspired outfits (in other words, Gwen Stefani would adore her) – but not only does her choice of costume detract from a song it just isn’t suitable for, it also makes for a jarring combination of a mature, emotionally-charged song being performed by someone who looks distinctly Junior Eurovision, and therefore far too young to have an understanding of what she’s singing about. Jamie, sans stuffed-toy-covered wardrobe, does have the maturity required to pull this off despite her young age, and her vocal talents are undeniable. But dressing the way she does, she’d be better off joining Dolly Style when one of their current members inevitably departs, or performing a song that is as fun, cute and playful as she looks. To people not named Jaz, the contrast between Ghost and Jamie’s sartorial selections might make her stand out positively from her 25 fellow finalists – but I think, as much as I admire her passion for and loyalty to her look, keeping it for Eurovision is a big risk. I do love the song though…
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 5
- James 5
- Jaz 10
- Martin 10
- Nick 12
- Penny 6
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 10
Germany’s EBJ Jury score is…7.78
James Okay, yes, this has ‘Melfest Reject’ written all over it, but you know what? I don’t mind at all. One thing I really look for in Eurovision now is relevance. As I’m hosting a Eurovision party for all my non-fan friends, I get really excited when there are songs that sound like they’d fit right into the UK charts or radio playlists right now, because then I can point at the screen and go ‘SEE? EUROVISION’S NOT SHIT!’ and smile smugly as all my friends listen and can’t help but agree, because songs like Lithuania’s match their own tastes and would do so well if released by someone more well-known over here. So yeah, well done Lithuania! Ever since Attention, which I ADORED, they’ve really upped their game at Eurovision, and I’m enjoying their commitment to giving Europe the very best that their country can offer! Another thing though – have you heard any of Donny’s more recent music? Because damn, boy, he’s so much better now than when he sang that god-awful thing at the ESC in 2012! He’s got a really slick Troye Sivan/The Weeknd kind of vibe going on (think Aminata/Loïc Nottet if you want a contest reference) and it really suits his voice and style. I sort of wish he’d entered something more like that for Eurovision, but meh – I’ve Been Waiting… is more than good enough as it is!
Martin Donny gives this entry everything – it’s definitely memorable, it’s a standout high-tempo pop song that is performed superbly well, and it makes full use of his onstage charisma and good looks. Is the song’s title also a good omen for Lithuania? Donny could well be singing ‘I’ve been waiting for this night’ over the credits of the Eurovision final as his country’s first winner.
Jaz How does a pasty, preppy dude whose hobbies include strumming an imaginary guitar and wearing comical bejeweled blindfolds transform into a buff, bronzed and blonde (for the most part) crowd-captivator? Why not ask Donny Montell? He’s done just that between 2012 and 2016. Don’t get me wrong – Love Is Blind was the bomb, and Donny has always been a showman and a half, who can dance and sing simultaneously to a degree that probably makes Eric Saade very depressed indeed. But it’s great to see that Donny has evolved as an artist, and that he didn’t try to make an ESC comeback by repeating his approach of four years ago. I’ve Been Waiting For This Night is a bog-standard dance anthem, but the catchy chorus coupled with Donny’s charisma elevate it to above-average. Not since Kurt Calleja’s This Is The Night have we witnessed an entry that sets the tone for the show so perfectly (although Tonight Again did a darn good job of that in Vienna, I must say). Needless to say, the Globen audience (which will include me!), plus everyone watching on TV will be partying it up-up-up-up-up-uuup Loreen-style thanks to Lithuania. I am expecting them to qualify, and I will be complaining very loudly if they don’t. Oh, and I’ll also be starting a petition to get Donny to drop the Anglicised stage name and revert back to his much cooler birth name. ‘Donny’ worked with Love Is Blind. ‘Donatas’ is the artist IBWFTN deserves.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 3
- Fraser 10
- James 6
- Jaz 8
- Martin 8
- Nick 5
- Penny 6
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 10
Lithuania’s EBJ Jury score is…6.55
James Anyone who knows me will know that I absolutely love Calm After The Storm. So I guess when we worked out that by sending Douwe Bob, The Netherlands were going to be trying country music again, I was cautiously optimistic. And then I heard the song. Yeah, no. It’s the kind of thing that would only feel at home around the track 12 mark on disc two of some cheap ‘Driving Anthems’ compilation: the kind my Dad would play on long car journeys circa 2004. As a result, Slow Down just makes me think of those car journeys as a kid and I get a weird second-hand travel-sickness from it and…yeah, I just really don’t like it. The chord pattern, the instrumentation, the tone of the whole thing – it’s supposed to make you feel happy, but by the third line I just want to Sellotape Bob’s smug little mouth shut so he ‘can’t go on’ (see what I did there? Eh, eh?). Can I just stop listening to this and go listen to Calm After The Storm again instead please? That was such a special song. This is not.
Martin Country & western returns to Eurovision courtesy of the Netherlands yet again – it’s always about the lyrics, as this genre can sound like every other C & W track you’ve ever heard. Slow Down is well sung, and Douwe Bob is personable and handsome…but the steady pace and sound of the song won’t stand out in Stockholm. Another possible ‘good’ non-qualifier for me.
Jaz I have to agree with both James and Martin on this one, in terms of the fact that Douwe Bob’s Slow Down is achingly average – and it certainly doesn’t recapture the magic of Calm After The Storm (though you can’t blame the Netherlands for trying to in the wake of the Trijntje incident). The song’s not bad (we’ll come to one that is almost undeniably so in a minute). But, as much as I enjoy the cruisy pace and general jauntiness of it, plus Bob’s insistence that we chillax bro – and his vocal, which is super-smooth with a rough retro edge that I find strangely attractive – the entry as a whole just doesn’t ‘do’ much for me. Therefore, I have no choice but to file it away with the likes of Finland and the Czech Republic. I can’t imagine that the staging for this will be epic enough to make Douwe Bob the second coming of the Common Linnets, because even on its own, their song had the x-factor. Still, he should serve us up a nice, clap-friendly three minutes on stage (and if he lets that rose tattoo poke out of his shirt, you may hear me wolf-whistling amidst the applause). That should at least ensure that he won’t be bottom of his semi. Qualification isn’t out of his reach, but it’s definitely not in the bag.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 6
- James 3
- Jaz 6
- Martin 7
- Nick 5
- Penny 10
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 3
The Netherlands’ EBJ Jury score is…5.55
James Okay…is this a joke? Like, genuinely, I hope this is a joke, because if not, it’s just plain embarrassing. I cannot comprehend how one country can send so many palpably half-arsed entries in such a short space of time. I completely understand that San Marino are strapped for cash, and since Ralph Siegel has stopped bankrolling their entire Eurovision operation (hallelujah!) they’ve adopted the approach of nominating artists who can pay their own participation fee. So that essentially means they’ve got the pick of, oh, I don’t know, EVERY SLIGHTLY RICH ARTIST IN THE ENTIRE CONTINENT – hey, actually no, THE ENTIRE WORLD…and they’ve sent THIS. Was this really the best they could do? The original was dire, but by trying to squash Serhat’s badly-written, cringey, lopsided spoken words (that is not singing. I’m sorry, but no) into a DISCO TRACK, they’ve somehow managed to make it even worse. The beat itself, well, erm, Baccara called and they want that back ASAP. But dear lord, Serhat’s voice is the most grating thing in the entire Stockholm line-up! My dog has a bigger vocal range than he does. I’d literally rather spend three minutes listening to her barking right in my ear for her daily Dentastick, and deal with the copious amount of drool that accompanies such a request, than listen to any track with Serhat’s voice on it. Look at his face and then Google the troll face, and tell me they’re not distant cousins at the very least. This HAS to be a pisstake, right? It goes without saying that they haven’t got a hope in hell of qualifying, and if they do – ESPECIALLY if they take the place of someone like Gabriela from the Czech Republic – then there is something very, very wrong with this contest. Come on, San Marino. Sort yourselves out for next year, I beg you!
Martin The Turkish Leonard Cohen meets Studio 54! What would have been a very creepy monotone delivery of a set of ‘obsessive’ lyrics by Serhat is now tempered by some decent female backing, and the light and breezy disco beat that somehow makes this work. I Didn’t Know isn’t great (that’s an understatement!) but at least it’s now bearable to listen to. And, it’s no longer my worst entry this year (just).
Jaz I’ll be honest, and I think many of you will agree with me on this: I’ve never had particularly high expectations of San Marino’s Eurovision entries. Whether they’ve been armed with Siegel’s stash of cash or not, I’ve never been on the edge of my seat waiting for them to produce something on par with an Italian effort (I’m not a Valentina Monetta fan either, which doesn’t help). Even so, the sheer awfulness of I Didn’t Know has sent my jaw straight to the floor countless times since it was unveiled in its original, non-disco form. Like James, I was sure San Marino were trolling us when they presented the song to the public – how else could you explain the so-stale-it-was-growing-stuff track that sounded more like a recording of an audio book gone wrong than a song, or the laughable accompanying video clip that could have been lifted from an SNL sketch? But sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, I Didn’t Know was given the Donna Summer treatment, and OH DEAR GOD. This is what media outlets and non-fans will latch on to when they want to make a mockery of the contest. They won’t ignore it in favour of discussing Latvia or France – they’ll zone directly in on Serhat and his Seventies nightmare (thanks a lot, San Marino/Turkey). Based superficially on his appearance, I had hoped for a trumpet-backed, updated version of Mambo No. 5 from this guy, which would have been a bit of fun. But what we got instead more closely resembles something you’d step in by mistake at the local dog park. In the words of His Majesty Michele Perniola (whose 2015 entry is suddenly sounding like musical genius by comparison), NO.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 5
- James 0
- Jaz 1
- Martin 4
- Nick 1
- Penny 2
- Rory 1
- Wolfgang 0
San Marino’s EBJ Jury score is…2.44
Duh duh duh…another six bite the dust! This third round of reviews has produced the lowest-scoring set of songs so far – but it did include San Marino, so we should have anticipated that. Here’s today’s top six:
- Germany (7.78)
- Estonia (7)
- Lithuania (6.55)
- The Netherlands (5.55)
- Albania (5.33)
- San Marino (2.44)
I tip my hat (the hat I’m not actually wearing) to Jamie-Lee Kriewitz for taking out the top spot on this occasion. You go, girlfriend. Where will she finish in the grand scheme of the EBJ Jury’s Top 43? We’ll all find out in a few weeks’ time.
Coming up, two Eurofans from the US of A will join me to pass judgment on Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Denmark, Montenegro and Spain. There’s bound to be some hits and misses among them, so make sure you drop by to witness the humorous differences of opinion (it’s always amusing when someone rips a song to shreds and someone else takes offence and they have an argument which results in the destruction of a longtime friendship, don’t you think?).
Sense the sarcasm, guys.
While you’re waiting for me to hit publish on that post, let the EBJ Jury know what you think of today’s tracks. Does Germany’s Ghost get you going, or will it just get you going to the kitchen to put the kettle on? Is San Marino’s sixth place deserved or totally uncalled for? Comment and score these songs for yourself down below – we’d all love to hear from you!
Until next time,
JESC 2015 Judgments feat. the EBJ Junior Jury | Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino
Hello again, and welcome to the final round of the EBJ Junior Jury’s JESC ’15 reviews!
Before I introduce today’s jurors and then actually allow you to check out their comments, there’s something I have to acknowledge. Something pretty sizeable that has made headlines on Planet Eurovision since the last lot of reviews went live. I cannot sweep it under the glitter-infused rug, not even until JESC is done and dusted. What could I possibly be referring to? Um, only AUSTRALIA BEING CONFIRMED AS NO. 41 FOR STOCKHOLM!!!
Yep, we’re back – but this time, we actually have to earn our place in the final by qualifying from the semis. Fair enough, too. I think most of us knew this news was coming, but it took official confirmation from Eurovision.tv yesterday for me to lose my mind completely and do the world’s greatest victory dance. Okay, so even I have reservations re: the decision – our participation was supposed to be a one-off, and I don’t particularly want the floodgates surrounding the ESC to open in light of possible Aussie permanency, taking the ‘Euro’ out of the equation to a ridiculous extent.
But…OH MY GOD! Basically, though I think this is a terrible idea, I also somehow think it’s a freaking fantastic one. I can’t help being peeing-in-my-pants-a-little thrilled about it, partly because I will get the chance to cheer on an act from my own country at Eurovision, in person. My plan had long been to attend the 60th ESC, so when that didn’t pan out, I thought I was missing my one and only shot at waving an Australian flag with a purpose. But in May, I’m heading to Stockholm for contest 61, and so is a Guy Sebastian successor. Will it be Delta Goodrem, causing all my dreams to come true at once which will in turn cause me to spontaneously combust with excitement (hopefully after Delta’s performance)? We’ll have to wait and see.
Something Australia-related we don’t have to wait long for (this is my segue back to JESC and I’m not ashamed of it) is Bella Paige’s Junior Eurovision performance on Saturday night, or ‘Sunday morning’ as we call it in my time zone. The contest is so close I can barely concentrate on anything else (seriously, don’t try and communicate with me about anything non-Eurovisiony until after the weekend) so before time runs out, here are the final five EBJJJ reviews. Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino: meet your judges!
TODAY’S EBJ JUNIOR JURY
Liam Clark Liam is a Eurovision journalist for escXtra, based in Melbourne, Australia. He first started writing about Eurovision back in 2009, and hasn’t looked back. He’s particularly fond of and has a large amount of expertise in the Baltics, especially Estonia. He first discovered Eurovision in 2003 – the same year as the first Junior contest, when he was still a kid himself. In 2011, he attended JESC in Yerevan (Jaz: IMO, he picked a great year to go!).
Rory Gannon ‘Well hello there, peoples of the internet variety! My name is Rory Gannon, and I am from the Isle of Emeraldness – otherwise known as Ireland. I also work on the website ESC Views, as you might remember from earlier in the year (Jaz: Rory joined me on the EBJ Jury back in May). I was the guy who hated Måns? Well, that really backfired on me, didn’t it! However, we’re here for Junior Eurovision, and hopefully Europe will make the right decision and side with me this time…although, what are the odds of that happening? I started watching this post-ESC 1989 attempt at child labour (I KID!!!) in 2010, and it has never failed to offer up some great songs, which would have to include…ehh…I have always been a fan of Odelia Ranuni (Georgia 2007), Miy Litaak (Ukraine 2010), Nebo (Ukraine 2012), People of the Sun (Armenia 2014), Choco Factory (Armenia 2013), We Are One (Ukraine 2013), Mari Dari (Georgia 2010)…really, there some CHOONS there! Does it make me a bad person that I want some Armenian “shocka” now?’
Jaz “For my last bio *praises the lord* I guess I’ll fill you in on my JESC story. I discovered the contest the same year I discovered the adult contest – 2006 – and that discovery was just as accidental as when I flicked the TV over to SBS one night and saw Lordi on stage with a hot Greek guy and Maria Menounos from Entertainment Tonight and thought ‘What exactly is happening here?’. In May and again in November, I fell in love, and I’ve never looked back either (nor have I gone a day without bringing Eurovision up in conversation since, much to the chagrin of my family and friends). I’m not sure if I can put into words why I love JESC when so many ESC fans don’t. It must be the same thing that draws me to all international competitions where flags are waved – the Olympics, Miss Universe…you name it, I’m glued to the broadcast. Global and pan-European contests just speak to me on a spiritual level. JESC, specifically, is so much fun to watch, and has indeed produced some epic entries over the years. It also allows certain countries (Armenia, Belarus, etc) to shine in a way that they just can’t manage to in the adult contest. All in all, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to see the competing kids having fun and supporting each other…and a little inadequate, given that I’m 24 and still sing more like Jemini than Gaia Cauchi.”
Now that we’ve relayed our JESC-related autobiographies to you (the abridged versions, anyway) it’s time for the EBJ Junior Jury to cast our eye and ear over the remaining entries for 2015. Mishela, Gabriela & Ivan, Ivana & Magdalena, Aimee and Kamilla – the stage is yours!
Liam I feel like I get what Mishela is going for here, but it just never really takes off. The first minute of Dambaje is cute, but then it just repeats itself. She looks like a lovely kid, but I fear that this is just going to bore all of the other kids. 2 points.
Rory There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Albania is my number one this year. When Dambaje became the first entry picked for Junior Eurovision back in the summer, I had a listen to the *incredibly grainy* NF performance and thought that if they revamped it, they’d have a good chance of making it to the top half of the leaderboard. They’ve done that tenfold with the new version! I love the way that it just grows and when I listen to it, I do feel like I’m on the plains of the Serengeti. That, coupled with Mishela’s flexible yet stunning vocal range, gives you a feeling of pure peace and contentment. If there’s one thing I think is a flaw, it’s the fact that the song’s not actually upbeat, and because it’s being performed second last on the night, it just might get lost in the crowd. But, in any case, I’m definitely supporting Mishela this year. #DambaToTheJe, and DOUZE points!!!
Jaz Simply put, Albania had me at ‘song that sounds remotely tribal and would make the soundtrack for an African safari adventure road trip, and/or wouldn’t be out of place playing over the credits of The Lion King’. Zlata Ognevich’s Gravity, Rafael Bobeica’s Cŭm Sa Fim (sent to JESC by Moldova in 2013) and Mishela’s Dambaje have formed a holy trinity of tracks that tickle my tribal fancies no end, and if you’re about to question why, I won’t hear you as I’ll be too busy dancing around a bonfire to the beats of all of the above. Like Rory, I’m transported right to the heart of Africa whenever Mishela utters any of the song’s adorably multi-lingual lyrics. When she’s doing so, she looks so happy that I can’t help being happy too, and that’s the kind of music I like to listen to (for the most part). I feel like this entry is tailor-made for JESC, with those seamless language switches that can grate at Eurovision, but are much more easily carried off by kids. I love the melody of the verses and chorus, the sound of Mishela’s voice…all in all, this blows Albania’s previous debut entry out of the water. But – yes, there is a ‘but’ – there is one thing that I strongly dislike about Dambaje – holy hairnets, it’s repetitive! I mean, if you’re going to write a song with a one-word chorus, you might want to feature those choruses as sporadically as possible so as not to drive listeners insane. That glaring negative aside, I’m a big fan of Albania 2015, and I hope they do a heck of a lot better than they did back in 2012. They definitely deserve to! 10 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 8.00
Liam I never thought I would see a more forced and awkward duet than that of Anita Simoncini and Michele Perniola, but I guess that’s why you never say never. As for the song – well, I’m still listening to it and I’ve already forgotten how it goes. 1 point.
Rory Bulgaria this year is in complete contrast to what I thought of Bulgaria last year. In Malta, Krisia was the odds-on favourite to win the whole show, and I had reason to believe that it would actually happen (although James from the previous round of reviews would disagree with me!) – what with a small girl with a powerful voice singing a power ballad, along with the twins who seemingly went unnoticed (a.k.a. Slovenia every year). Now, this year’s song is more ethnic than Planet of the Children, but it just doesn’t have the same impact on the audience that Krisia’s did. Colour of Hope is just…well, rather lacklustre, in my opinion. It’s missing something that would help it reach its full potential. That doesn’t mean that I hate it – I just wish that it had something more that would make it stand out! And while we’re on about Gabriela, where the hell did that Ivan guy come from? I thought she was singing on her own, and then this guy just pops up out of nowhere. If you ever wanted a Halloween jump scare, that’s where you’re gonna get it, peeps! 6 points.
Jaz Let’s face it – Planet of the Children was always going to be a hard act for hosts Bulgaria to follow (and as IF they were going to find another child who’s as precious as Krisia to sing for them *mimes pinching her cheeks like an overbearing grandmother*). What they have followed it up with is a duet between two singers who mesh about as well as the song as a whole – i.e. not very well. I actually rather like Colour of Hope. The verses are quite unusual and mysterious-sounding, and the guitar work is beautiful – very sophisticated, in fact. The chorus, while cheesy in a way that makes me wonder if Gabriela and Ivan are asking for monetary donations for a charity of some sort, is uplifting and catchy (and very reminiscent of Belarus’ 2010 host entry Muzyki Svet, which was a success in Minsk). The problem is, those verses and that chorus sound like they’ve been lifted from two very different songs, and cobbled together in a non-cohesive manner that just doesn’t feel 100% right. And our two singers – boy, NF winner Gabriela must be peeved at having to share her spotlight – as I said before, aren’t exactly a vocal match made in heaven. Still, there is a lot about their song that intrigues me, and they’ll naturally receive the biggest, loudest round of applause of the evening as the home act. I suspect that’s all they’ll receive though, if you know what I mean (and if you don’t know what I mean, I mean they won’t be walking away with a trophy). 7 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 4.67
Liam There is something wonderfully 1996 about Pletenka. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s there. There isn’t a lot to the song, and it gets repetitive pretty quickly; however, it’s more memorable than some of the other songs on offer. 3 points.
Rory Oh my god, this just SCREAMS nationality, doesn’t it? And in all seriousness, who would sing about a braid? Like, do they mean a braid as in a plait you do in your hair? Or is there something called a “braid” that’s only sold on the streets of Skopje that I’m not aware of? FYR Macedonia, I know you adore your nationalist ways, but you really don’t help your case here. As catchy as this song is and as much “charisma” as Ivana and Magdalena have, I think it would be a fair bet to say that FYR Macedonia will be finishing towards the bottom of the leaderboard. Sorry guys – once you put Comic Sans in your music video, there’s no going back! 5 points.
Jaz Alongside Montenegro, FYR Macedonia are taking me right back to the Junior Eurovisions of yore…or more specifically, JESC 2005. And, as I said when I reviewed Jana’s Oluja, I don’t mind that at all. Back in those days, JESC was ultra childlike; today, it’s more like a mini-Eurovision than anything else. We need slightly amateurish, youthful, artist-penned songs to compete, or else Junior will lose all of its identity as a contest for children. So in that sense, I’m grateful that FYR Macedonia is back and urging us to MAKE A BRAID! This song isn’t musical genius, and it’s not technically put together or particularly well-sung (which means the juries will blank it completely). But it epitomises Junior Eurovision in my opinion, possessing the childlike spirit that dominated the contest ten years ago in truckloads. It’s like a midday movie – complete with second-rate acting and a lack of energy – so bad, it’s good. It won’t go anywhere, but it’s catchy and cute, so I’ll look forward to seeing it on stage rather than being scarred by the dreadful video clip. Plus, I really like the word ‘pletenka’, and plan to use it as often as possible in everyday conversations from now on. Don’t believe me? Well, I’m off to pletenka my hair right this second. But before I go, I’ll give FYR Macedonia 7 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.00
Liam While Destiny from Malta takes us to church in a fun, soul, ‘Sister Act’ kind of way, Aimee is taking us to church in more of an ‘I’ve been dragged here by my parents’ kind of way. Her voice is exquisite, and Réalta na Mara is a beautifully sung song. But it’s not fun, and I think that will really work against it. 7 points.
Rory I always seem to be assigned the group of countries featuring my own…is this rigged?!? (Jaz: Yes, it is!). Right, where do I start on this? For anyone who doesn’t know, I followed the Irish national final on ESC Views’ Twitter, and my favourite song in the entire competition (along with the already selected song for JESC) was Gan Tú by Amy Meehan. When she got knocked out of the competition, I relied on Zena Donnelly to be the beautiful second choice. What happened? She lost to Aimee Banks. I’m afraid to say this, but I don’t like Aimee’s song at all. Although Réalta na Mara is a great piece of music on its own, we’re not really getting the most of what Ireland could possibly send to a music event out of it. I do feel like I can’t understand anything that she’s singing, despite being able to speak Irish almost fluently. I’m sure she’ll do great though, if my luck in the adult contest is anything to go by. But in my opinion, opera is just not the way to go – Federica Falzon was a one-off! 4 points.
Jaz First things first: how great is it to have Ireland – and Irish – represented at JESC for the first time? Pretty darn great, if you ask me. With no history to draw on for comparison, though, it was difficult to predict what the Emerald Isle would send to Sofia. Aimee’s Réalta na Mara is, for the most part, an Irish stereotype tied up with string, but not in a tacky way (thankfully, at the NF, no cardboard four-leaf clovers were strung from the ceiling) and though it is what I expected from Ireland – perhaps hoping for something else – I’m quite drawn to it. There’s something about the chorus, and how gorgeous the Irish sounds in it, that almost gives me goosebumps. It’s not a straight-up spine-tingler, possibly because it doesn’t have a true ‘moment’ to speak of (or vote for, which worries me) but there’s some magic there nonetheless. And you can practically hear the dry ice circulating the stage, which will have the crowd choked up with emotion and smoke inhalation. The biggest draw card here isn’t the song (or the smoke) however – it’s Aimee’s voice, which is nothing short of angelic. Crystal clear and precisely controlled, her vocal will be a stunning sorbet sandwiched between Bella Paige’s belting of My Girls and Mikhail Smirnov’s nice-and-nothing-more rendition of Mechta. Though the juries will likely reward her for her efforts (or effortlessness, in this case), I don’t expect the televoters will warm to an entry that could have won Eurovision 1996 for Ireland if Eimear Quinn had gone AWOL at the last minute and taken The Voice with her. But this package is still class personified, and I think Ireland should be proud to have sent it (did you hear that, Rory?!?). 8 points.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 6.33
Liam Mirror features one of the most forced key changes I have ever heard, but I appreciate the effort. This is fun and catchy, and it’s got a good hook. I don’t think it will be at the top of the scoreboard, but it’s fun and should do better than the most serene republic is used to. 6 points.
Rory Finishing off it all is Malala Yousafsai from….San Marino? Okay, there is no denying the fact that Kamilla bears a striking resemblance to Malala – go on, Google the two of them and comment on how similar you think they look! As for the song, I’m left feeling quite….unnerved after listening to it. Mirror is something that you would definitely hear from the likes of Belarus in the adult competition, and in my opinion, it could do a lot better there. And if there’s one thing I could change about this song, it would be Kamilla’s dreadful Italian accent. I mean, I know learning another language is complicated and arduous for some, but you learn the accent of the people! During the song, I just hear what sounds like Russian, but is Italian…like, it’s okay to listen to, but I don’t think we’re gonna see the competition go the top of Mount Titano. They’ll have to import another singer then! Maybe try Monaco next time? 6 points.
Jaz I was fully prepared for a member of The Peppermints to take the reins for San Marino this year…and I still think that would have been a better move than nabbing someone who has allegedly visited the country they’re representing, and nothing more. That’s not to say I’m completely against inter-country artist loans for JESC/ESC purposes, but I’m with Rory – Kamilla’s obviously-non-Italian accent (and non-Italian fluency) is a major distraction from what is a decent and dramatic ballad. And I don’t want to upset anybody, but her vocal on the studio cut of Mirror is very weak. I can’t imagine a voice so sub-par in studio being impressive live. That’s a pain in the behind in my book, because San Marino does have a strong song here, and based on the video for it, they’ll have slick staging too – so the performer is where they’re likely to be let down. Is there definitely no Peppermint still under the age of sixteen who could be drafted in at the final hour? Non? Damn it. I guess I’ll wrap this up then, by saying that song-wise, I give San Marino 7 points for something that’s well-written and makes the most of Italian-English switches; artist-wise, I give them 1 point, because I just can’t stand the sound of Kamilla’s voice (I’m sorry!). Average it out, and that’s 4 points from me.
EBJ Junior Jury Score 5.33
That’s it! In the (super slow-mo) blink of an eye, all seventeen of Sofia’s hopefuls have been judged and scored by the EBJ Junior Jury. This final round was a pretty interesting one – particularly when you consider that Ireland received its lowest score from the sole Irish member of the jury.
Here’s a distraction from said awkwardness in the form of today’s top five:
- Albania (8.00)
- Ireland (6.33)
- San Marino (5.33)
- FYR Macedonia (5.00)
- Bulgaria (4.67)
Surprisingly, I must say, Albania wins the day thanks to Rory’s douze and my almost-as-strong score, trailed distantly by debutants Ireland. You have to feel for the host country, finishing with the lowest average score of them all. But hey, it’s not like these numbers mean anything in reality. We’re not psychic, and we don’t know how Saturday’s scoreboard will look (although I will be taking a shot at predicting just that prior to the show).
Until that momentous day comes, let us know how you rate the entries from Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino down below. Which country would your douze be doled out to?
COMING UP All of the verdicts are in, and the EBJ Junior Jury has its Top 17 for 2015! So, alongside a bunch of hopes and predictions for JESC ‘15, I’ll be unveiling the collaborative ranking this weekend. Who’ll finish where? Will the leaderboard in any way resemble the actual results? Is anybody even reading this bit right now? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions yet, but I hope you’ll drop by for ze rankings and ze predictions anyway.
Bonjour, and welcome to the second half of my JESC 2013 reviews! Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, San Marino, Sweden and hosts Ukraine have been judged like there’s no tomorrow by moi, and the verdicts are here for you to be outraged by. Trust me, you’re going to be fearing for my sanity by the time you’ve read Ukraine. As it turns out, there are two douze pointers in this group, and one is controversial. But what is Eurovision without controversy?
Let’s agree to disagree on these six songs…
Cum Ša Fim by Rafael Bobeica
The good: I feel like there’s always one song in every Eurovision event that I love, and everyone else hates (which is probably not the case…said songs must have at least one other fan on the planet). This JESC year, that song comes from Moldova. I didn’t fall instantly in love with Cum Ša Fim – hearing it for the first time via the grainy video from the national final, where bad acoustics reigned supreme and the judges looked bored out of their minds, was bound to have a negative effect. But despite the poor start á la Roberto Bellarosa’s Love Kills, I heard potential, and when I gave the studio version a spin, that’s when I fell in love. I find it so majestic and uplifting (even if the Romanian/English mish-mash makes no sense), particularly when the choir joins in with the second chorus. It has a tribal kind of vibe that really does remind me of Gravity. I love the music, the melody, the structure, and even Rafael’s glass-shattering vocal – and if I’m alone in that, then I’ll just have to cheer extra enthusiastically for him to compensate.
Everything else: I do understand why this isn’t a popular choice (the screeching! The dodgy English bits! Et cetera!). It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of entry, and with the consensus leaning towards ‘hate’, I’m thinking Moldova’s in for a poor showing, point-wise. Still, if Rafael can keep that voice under control and thrive in the grander setting of the contest, which is more suited to a grand song like this, then there’s hope for a little more. At the very least, then we can say he pulled a Bellarosa – a.k.a. improved dramatically from NF to Eurovision and ended up 12th!
The verdict: Everyone else’s trash is my treasure. DOUZE POINTS!
JESC chances: I am predicting this as the one to come last. Hashtag sadface.
Double Me by Mylène & Rosanne
The good: I thought I knew how I felt about this before re-listening for this review. It had been a while, and the last time I’d heard it, it was beginning to annoy me. But I guess it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, because I’m not annoyed anymore. This song takes Mylène & Rosanne’s twin situation and runs with it, and the result is some serious fun. Yes, it is repetitive, but it’s the happiest darn thing on offer this year and I can’t help smiling as the girls shout ‘SPIEGELBEELD!’ at me for the billionth time. Every part of the song is infectious, and the chorus sticks like super glue. I even have a guilty fondness for the cheesy English parts – “Mirror, mirror, in the frame, we are just the same!” Half of me hopes the twins will stick with the cheerleader theme for JESC, because it was eye-catching with the pom-poms and lockers and stuff; the other half hopes for something new, but just as entertaining. I’m rarely not entertained by the Netherlands when it comes to Junior (the opposite applies for the ESC, unfortunately).
Everything else: Like Jedward, it’s uncertain whether this duo can actually sing, or if they’re just shouting into their mikes and the backing singers are making it listenable. I’m not sure if anyone will care that much, but 90% of the time, the winner/s of Junior Eurovision have been excellent vocalists, so to all of y’all who want the Netherlands to win, beware.
The verdict: Until I get annoyed again, 10 points.
JESC chances: I’ll be surprised if a top 5 result passes them by.
Mechtay by Dayana Kirillova
The good: Yeah, we’ve heard this type of song in mini-vision before. On multiple occasions, in fact. I don’t want to be sucked in so easily to something so clichéd, but I’m afraid that I am loving this entry. It goes back in time from Lerika’s very contemporary predecessor, and you know where it’s going from start to finish, but it’s so catchy I find myself ignoring both of those facts. In Monday’s running order draw, Dayana drew herself the desired performance slot of 12th (hopefully she’s not a nervous waiter) and I think Mechtay will go off as a show-closer. I can see it now – she strikes her final pose amidst fountains of pyrotechnics and various oversized props, and the crowd goes wild. Russia does pretty well in the contest, and maybe, just maybe, Dayana could win it for them for the first time.
Everything else: Then again…this might be all too ‘been there, heard that’ to be winner. Topping the scoreboard usually requires something more unique. As Russia isn’t my absolute favourite this year, I don’t mind either way. Success may also depend on Dayana’s ability to rise to what is a song that starts off in a fairly high-key, and gets higher from there. We know she can do it, but if she over-rehearses, the vocal that counts may resemble the sound of a cat being bathed against its will. Nobody wants to listen to that.
The verdict: No points for originality, but 10 for the rest.
JESC chances: Unless I’m mistaken (which is highly likely), 1st-4th.
O-o-O Sole Intorno A Me by Michele Perniola
The good: First of all, San Marino in Junior Eurovision? *fist pump* I was surprised when they were announced as country number twelve (I had been expecting a return from Lithuania or Latvia) but I love debuts, and it’s going to be great to hear Italian on the JESC stage again. Ladies-man-in-the-making Michele is bringing his brand of sunny pop-rock to Kyiv, and despite its flaws, it’s a pretty strong starting point. I like how it begins all humble with the softer vocal, before the drums kick in and Michele ramps up the o-o-o’s. Those three syllables are very catchy, adding to a chorus that’s already sing-along paradise. The verses are quite nice too, and the Italian throughout (with no deviation into English just for the sake of it) makes the whole thing more sophisticated. All in all, Sole Intorno is a pleasant listen, and I think it strikes a good balance between being young and being mature.
Everything else: My main problem here is that the song takes so long to get going and offer us anything more than the o’s, that there isn’t enough time left at the end for it to build into something. It almost seems to be over before it’s begun. That doesn’t bother me a huge amount, but I think the song could have used that humbleàhigh energy structure in a more time-effective way, as we’ve heard before with entries like Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav and Zo Verliefd. Also, it is far from current in sound – but I suspect that won’t affect it either way, because it isn’t being belted out by a middle-aged guy with a mullet. Kids can get away with dated stuff.
The verdict: It’s not amazing, but it’s a little irresistible. 8 points.
JESC chances: I’m uncertain, but I’d love San Marino to succeed. 5th-9th.
Det Är Dit Vi Ska by Elias Elffors Elfström
The good: Alexander Rybak, for some unknown reason, has decided to ditch the violin and disguise himself (not very well) as a 13-year-old boy to represent Sweden in JESC. He may as well have, anyway. Elias here bears an uncanny resemblance to Eurovision’s champion of champions, and he’s given me another reason to love his country in the contest (as if I needed one…SVERIGE FTW!). Det Är Dit Vi Ska is grown-up in the tradition of Swedish JESC songs, and has a similar kind of depth behind it as Lova’s song did last year. Also like Mitt Mod, this song isn’t an instant hit, but rather a slow burner, and took me a couple of listens to appreciate. It’s opening the show on Saturday, and I think it’ll make an excellent opener in its own way. Maybe it won’t get the audience hyped up like the Netherlands or Macedonia would do, but it will work. For me, this isn’t Sweden’s absolute best work, but it’s strong, and the music and melody are beautiful.
Everything else: There’s an elephant in the room, and it can’t sing for peanuts. Elias is a weak vocalist based on his Lilla Melodifestivalen outing, and this is not a song that requires a ‘just good enough’ vocal to be pulled off. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he can emulate Ryan Dolan by pleasantly surprising us all. Or at least emulate Jedward by recruiting some backing singers willing to do most of the heavy lifting.
The verdict: Solid, anthemic and meaningful. 10 points.
JESC chances: I can’t imagine a stellar result, or a dreadful one. 6th-10th.
We Are One by Sofia Tarasova
The good: Because the cost of hosting JESC doesn’t necessarily fall on the winning country (though it has in recent years) you don’t often see the hosts running on 50% in order to spare themselves another expense. IMO, Ukraine wouldn’t mind terribly topping the scoreboard again with this dance track, which manages to stand out from the sea of songs in the same genre thanks to a few interesting features. I’ve been a big fan of it from the beginning. I think the production level is high, and that it’s super catchy and on-trend. Strangely enough for a Ukrainian artist (not) Sofia is a child singing prodigy, and the song shows off her voice even without the a cappella break. I’m expecting big things from the staging – lights, sparks, dry ice, and a Gaitana-brand flower crown to name a few. Still, I think Sofia could rock this without all of those embellishments.
Everything else: What can I say? I don’t really see any negatives here. I’m not saying Ukraine will win again (in fact, it’s unlikely) but personally, I think they’ve made an excellent choice. I hope it gets a home ground cheer worth discussing the next day. What I don’t want to happen is for the crowd to boo every time a country gives less than five points to Ukraine, which is what went down in Amsterdam with the Netherlands. Talk about poor sports!
The verdict: Slick, catchy and contemporary. DOUZE POINTS!
JESC chances: It could do really well. 3rd-6th.
Twelve reviews down, none to go! I’m not going to do a full ranking just yet, but here’s the standings of the above six. This was a much stronger group, and there’s not a whole lot between them.
- San Marino
I’ll be back on Saturday with some last-minute hopes, expectations and predictions for JESC 2013, and in the meantime, I’ll be reading about the rehearsals whilst going out of my way to avoid seeing them. Prepare your predictions and get ready to compare notes, people!
What do you think of Moldova, Ukraine, and everything in-between? How would you rank them?
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.
Crisalide (Vola) by Valentina Monetta
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.
Ljubav Je Svuda by Moje 3
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.
Straight Into Love by Hannah
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.
Contigo Hasta El Final by El Sueño De Morfeo
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.
You by Robin Stjernberg
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!
You And Me by Takasa
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.
Gravity by Zlata Ognevich
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.
Believe In Me by Bonnie Tyler
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:
- Sweden 12
- Ukraine 10
- San Marino 10
- Serbia 8
- United Kingdom 7
- Switzerland 7
- Spain 6
- 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.
Hello everyone, and Happy Valentine’s Day, blah blah blah. I’ve decided to take a break from sifting through the sack of cards and gifts I got from secret admirers in the post to talk Eurovision (what a sacrifice) and since there is quite a lot of talking to do, I’m going to get straight into it.
Random news of the week…
…from Bulgaria: there I was thinking that the announcement of the Bulgarian artist would be of no interest to me whatsoever because I wouldn’t have a clue who they were and would still have to wait to hear the song to form an opinion, when BAM! BNT revealed that they’d rounded up their most successful representatives ever to try and turn Bulgaria’s luck around. Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov (who must be looking pretty rough these days. She’s probably okay) drummed their way into 5th place back in 2007, which is far and away Bulgaria’s best result in ESC history since that was the only time they’ve appeared in the final. This exciting turn of events (for those of us who liked their entry Water, that is) is the result of that super-massive survey BNT put out last year to get “the people’s” opinion on what they should send to Eurovision to get the best result possible. All I can say is, thank you people! And may we see more epic drumming and chain-mail outfits when the guys step on stage in Malmö.
…from Finland and Norway: two blonde bombshells, two very different songs, and at least one satisfied customer came out of Saturday’s double decision. As expected, Margaret Berger blitzed Bombo to take out the 2013 Melodi Grand Prix in Oslo, whilst over in Finland, Krista Siegfrids won over the public and jury by asking them to marry her. Let’s just hope they don’t accidentally marry Margaret instead, who was also wearing a white dress. How embarrassing. I really like both of these entries, but Margs would get my vote, if I could give one. Oh wait, I can! And you can too. Find out how at the end of the post, if you make it that far.
…from San Marino: this is technically news of last week, I think, but up until now I haven’t had a chance to mention it. Yes, she of The Social Network Song will be singing for San Marino again, which no doubt sent some of you into a state of shock, unable to log in to Facebook for hours. I reckon Valentina deserves another chance though, singing a more age-appropriate and generally less bonkers song, because she actually can sing. Fingers crossed we get that from Crisalide, which sounds über promising to me. If it’s good, the only problem Miss Monetta will have to face is getting people to take her seriously only a year after she uttered both ‘cybersex’ and ‘so you wanna make love with me?’ on the ESC stage.
…from Sweden: speaking of ESC stages, SVT have released an artist’s rendition of sorts of the Malmö stage from above. It didn’t take long for the criticism to start rolling in, which I find ridiculous because you can’t exactly judge what the thing will look like IRL from a 2D illustration. Be patient, guys. When the real stage gets built and it sucks, then you can go to town trashing it.
Valentine’s Day? No, it’s Unser Song Für Malmö Day!
And thank heavens for that. There’s always at least one country picking their entry on V-Day, which I really appreciate because I get to talk about that instead of the fact that yet again, I coincidentally have no Valentine *weeping noises*. This year, it’s Germany, straying from the Unser Star format for the first time in a while. It’s Unser Song in 2013, and I am pleased to say it looks like that song will be a good one. Here’s the line up.
- Meerstern, Sei Gegrüßt by Die Priester feat. Mojca Erdmann
- Change by Finn Martin
- Little Sister by Mobilée
- Heart On The Line by Blitzkids mvt.
- Lalala by Betty Dittrich
- The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory
- Craving by Saint Lu
- Nackert by LaBrassBanda
- Elevated by Nica & Joe
- Lieblingslied by Mia Diekow
- One Love by Söhne Mannheims
- Glorious by Cascada
There are only one or two rubbish numbers in there, so the odds for another gold-star worthy pick from Germany are high. Personally, I’m hoping for one of these:
The Righteous Ones – I LOVE this. In fact, this song can be my Valentine, because it is brilliant (and would never cheat on me). It’s an 80s-inspired synth-pop-electro-rock masterpiece with knobs on, and it’s my favourite of the lot.
Glorious – okay, so you can easily compare this with Euphoria (gloooooorrious/ euphooooooorrria – come on) and a million other songs, but damn, it is catchy. Cascada are pretty well known internationally, and that would give them an edge of sorts if they won USFM.
Change – this is decent pop with a nice sentiment, and less of the fanfare that’s sure to come with the previous two songs.
Little Sister – Lena Meyer-Landrut had no hand in this, but it sounds like she could have. Infectious indie-pop may not do as well at Eurovision when she’s nowhere to be seen, but it could be worth a try.
Craving – How many cigarettes/bowls full of sandpaper does it take to get that voice? That’s not a joke, it’s a serious question. Raspy Saint Lu has a unique entry up her sleeve that’s really growing on me.
I think it’s going to be Blitzkids, Betty, Ben or Cascada coming out on top tonight. What do you think? Who could keep Germany in the top 10?
Österreich Rockt Den Song Contest
Do they? Do they really? Because I’m seeing Austria boring the song contest rather than rocking it, with a selection like this.
Feels Like Home by Yela
Rise Above The Night by Falco Luneau
Back To Fantasy by The Bandaloop
Shine by Natália Kelly
Give Me A Sign by Elija
Tomorrow night, these five will battle it out to represent Austria in May, if they can stay awake long enough to perform after hearing each other. Feels Like Home is cruisy but very forgettable. Rise Above The Night is just plain forgettable. Back To Fantasy is the most exciting of them all, about a 6 on the Scale of Excitement. Shine isn’t bad, but is (yet again) forgettable and has a super awkward key change. Give Me A Sign is my favourite, and yet I still can’t remember how it goes.
Bring back Trackshittaz!
Or in the event that that’s not possible, give the victory to The Bandaloop or Elija. That is all.
POLL TIME: have your say!
Have you been wondering who would win Eurovision if it was held right now? Me neither, but I did do this poll last year, and I figured it was time to do it again. So…
Thanks for voting (assuming you did. If you didn’t, DO IT NOW!). I’ll bring you the highly predictable results this weekend, along with other stuff that is 99.4% likely to include Melodifestivalen. Until then…
Oui, we are getting closer and closer to having a full 42 (which may turn into 41, but more on that later…) with only Belgium, Azerbaijan and the UK still to choose/reveal their songs for Iris, Sabina and Engelbert. I’ve been very busy this week, and so today’s post is jam-packed with all I couldn’t cover as it happened. Better late than never, right?
More songs, more reactions
The last seven days have continued the gap-filling for Baku in spectacular fashion, with nine more songs now part of the 2012 family – a family with more offspring than the Brady Bunch and the Octo-Mom combined.
Now, before you read my reactions and abuse me because I forgot to mention Sweden, I must tell you that I always feel the need to give Melodifestivalen a segment all of its own. It is, after all, almost as huge as Eurovision itself (technically huger if you consider the amount of shows/weeks/locations/wind machines involved). So you’ll have to wade through my verdicts on Bosnia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, San Marino AND Serbia’s entries to get to Sweden (if you don’t know what happened there a) where have you BEEN? Holidaying in an Amish caravan park? and b) here’s a clue: even a blindfolded Donny Montell would’ve seen it coming). Commence your wading.
Bosnia & Herzegovina (Korake Ti Znam by MayaSar): When I was researching Maya, I listened to her Bosnian hit Nespretno. I was both surprised that she is already an established artist and not just the tartan keyboard lady from Dino Merlin’s performance in Düsseldorf, and taken with how interesting the song was. Interesting is again how I would describe Korake Ti Znam, and not in a bad way. It’s a song that makes you pay attention to figure out where it’s going. I don’t know quite where that is myself, but I know I enjoy the journey. If Maya sounds as good live and solo as she does in studio, hers will be three minutes to look forward to.
Greece (Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou): With Cyprus in the same semi final, I wonder if Ivi and Eleftheria will cancel each other out (I also wonder why someone would name their daughter ‘Eleftheria’ when their surname was ‘Eleftheriou’, but that’s another matter). With these two countries you’ve got two young and pretty girls singing catchy dance-pop, and though Aphrodisiac has the ethno-pop thing going on, the sameness is present. Will it lead to the downfall of one or both? I personally like Greece’s song better, and I think if only one were to qualify, it would be Greece because it always is. Still, Cyprus does have another strong entry that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked, so hopefully there’s a chance for both to go forward.
Moldova (Lăutar by Pasha Parfeny): This reminds me so much of one of my favourites of Year Oslo – Ovo Je Balkan from Serbia. Consequently I’m loving it. It’s one of those songs verging on the novelty (based mainly on the NF performance) so it has that element of fun, but it’s not a joke of an entry. I’m not easily impressed, but I’m easily pleased, and anything that’s catchy AND ethnic will get my vote. Not literally, of course. Sadly, that is impossible…sob.
Montenegro (Euro Neuro by Rambo Amadeus): This was everything I expected and more, and that’s all I can say. Apart from WHY, Montenegro, WHY?
Portugal (Vida Minha by Filipa Sousa): The fact that I listened to this for the second time about five minutes ago and I can’t remember how it goes is not a good sign. I do remember liking it a little more this time, but I could still take it or leave it, which surprises me since the song was written by Andrej Babić, a Croatian who has written five ESC entries since 2003, all of which I am a fan of.
Romania (Zaleilah by Mandinga): Now this is what I’m talking about – Romania doing catchy, ethnic pop and doing it so well. It’s everything I want in a song really, and it should get the Crystal Hall audience going. I’m not expecting the Zaleilah to become the Macarena of the 2010s, but I’d shake my thing to it if it came on at a party, for sure.
San Marino (Facebook Uh, Oh, Oh by Valentina Monetta): Uh oh indeed. German Ralph Siegel is responsible for some Eurovision brilliance, but this is not an example of that. I do think that if its subject matter was anything, and I mean anything, else, it would be a nice, poppy if not groundbreaking number. But as it stands, Mark Zuckerberg is soon to be mentioned on the ESC stage for the first time. That is if disqualification isn’t on the cards, as many fans are hoping it is, in which case will San Marino be able to come up with an alternative, or will it be bye, bye, Italy Junior? The next few days will tell.
Serbia (Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović): Since the split of Serbia and Montenegro, Serbia has flourished in Eurovision whilst Montenegro has floundered. That is not about to change in 2012. Željko’s entry was the most anticipated, and so had a lot to live up to. For me, it has well and truly succeeded in that mission. I love the instrumental start, the way it builds, ZJ’s always-reliable vocals, and the epic second half. I love it all!
A brief mention of Melodifestivalen
I mean, I want to go on and on about it, but I want you guys to stay awake more. Speaking of staying awake, I managed to do so a week ago as I watched the live stream of the MF final at 3am on Sunday morning. I use the word ‘stream’ very loosely in this context, considering that mine was pausing every ten seconds before catching up with itself (sometimes it’s so hard living in Australia and having a dodgy Internet connection). But all the pixilation was worth the thrill of seeing my favourite final live for the first time. The show was amazing, from Eric Saade’s all-dancing, semi-miming opener, to Sarah Dawn Finer’s hilarious sketch in which she put on such a convincing British accent I did not realise it was her, to Helena Paparizou’s de-schlagered rendition of Popular, the voting, and everything in between.
The real winner of the night was of course Loreen, whose surprise when the final points put her on top was so genuine it made me love her even more. She should have been in the final last year, so I reckon her predictable but deserved win with Euphoria was fated. The song is dance gold (and from the buzz, could be ESC gold also), but the pared-back staging and perfect vocals are what really make the entry special – at least, they will if they are carried through to Baku, which I think is likely. Loreen’s sitting pretty on top of both the digital and physical charts in Sweden right now, but can she get that high at the big show? Stockholm 2013 does have a ring to it.
PS – I have to mention my beloved Danny Saucedo, who was forced to look happy and applaud as he was pipped into second place for the second year running. I wonder if SVT will make him announce the Swedish votes wearing a Loreen t-shirt just to keep things consistent. Poor, poor Danny. Come back next year with an unbeatable song, please!
PPS – If you want to relive Melodifestivalen (and who wouldn’t) the official CD is available online now. I recommend the Scandipop Facebook store for fast shipping and good prices. There you can also pre-order the DVD, set for release on the 30th, something I was quick to do being desperate to see the show sans stoppages.
Forever no more
First, it was ‘We don’t know about Per Sempre’. Then it was ‘Si, si, that’s the one!’. Now, in what we hope is a final decision but understandably may not be, Italy have announced that Nina Zilli will be singing L’amore é Femmina instead of her San Remo Song Festival entry at Eurovision. And just when I was really getting into it!
I do have to say, though, the change of mind is not an entirely horrendous change to have made. L’amore… is very catchy (and dare I say, swinging) and a lot more instant than Per Sempre, so it may have a better chance in the final; although I don’t think many of us saw Raphael Gualazzi’s song making waves last year, and lo and behold, it came second. Perhaps Nina will fail miserably in Baku while, in a parallel universe, Per Sempre Nina will flourish.
Perhaps I should save my predicting for later?
Is that all there is?
No, but there’s not a whole lot more. As mentioned way back in my intro, there are just three countries left who are yet to finalise their entries. Belgium and the UK are pretty set on what they’re doing, but the hosts are not – there’s a rumour of a song tonight and a video Monday, among others. Considering the deadline, this is what should be happening:
Belgium– Saturday the 17th
Azerbaijan (song announcement tonight)/ UK– Monday the 19th
Whether that happens or not, we are coming to the end of Selection Season for another year. I’ve got to say that I’ve really enjoyed it, in all its craziness.
But don’t worry – if, by chance, you like reading EBJ, I’m not going anywhere. In the few months left before Baku, I’ll be taking a look at the best of the 2012 national final runner-ups, reviewing all 42 (or 41) entries and bringing you a month of Düsseldorf in Rewind to recapture the magic of the 56th contest before we arrive at the 57th. Oh, and there is the all-important prediction special, of course. It’s going to be a hectic few months, but I’m always willing to push aside study for blog’s sake!