Hej och välkommen to my 500th post! I’m not kidding – there’s no crappy attempts at clickbait from me (this time). I’d say something like ‘Who would’ve thought there was that much Eurovision-related stuff in existence to be written about by someone who aspires to but has no hope of reaching the popularity status of WiwiBloggs?’…but we all know there’s enough discussable Eurovision-related stuff to last a lifetime. Especially when there’s another ESC, JESC and NF season for both every year.
In summary, there’s a 99.9% chance that I’ll be composing Post No. 1000 in about eight years’ time. Hopefully it has a less boring intro than this one.
Anyway, I know we’re in the midst of the 2017 national final season right now (with the German final taking place on Thursday and an action-packed weekend creeping closer), but I thought this milestone of a massive amount of ESC ramblings needed to be acknowledged. And, as my numero uno NF Melodifestivalen started on Saturday – the final of which I’m attending this year and that’s SO EXCITING I SIMPLY MUST USE CAPS LOCK – I’m going to celebrate Melfest-style. Someone hand me my rhinestone-spangled catsuit!
Basically, there’s a fun tag that’s been floating around Facebook lately (at least, in my feed) and it’s as simple as this: you name your favourite Melfest entry for each year that you’ve followed the comp. I thought I’d choose mine according to all the Melfests that have happened while I’ve been (apparently) busy blogging 499 times – 2010-2016. Then I realised that’s the exact period I’ve been following the show for anyway. It’s fate. So here we go…a.k.a. NU KÖR VI!!!
PS – As this is a tag, I tag each and every one of you reading this to list your favourite Melfest songs from your years of keeping tabs on the five-week extravaganza. Even if you just joined the party in 2016, let me know which entry was your most-loved last year.
2010 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin
The first Melfest to take place after the birth of Eurovision By Jaz (a birth that was not only painless but actually enjoyable, no drugs required) was fantastisk. Well, the final was – I have to admit, there were some questionable entries in the semis. But damn, Sweden, THAT FINAL! Even so, I can narrow the field down to my personal favourite song faster than most Ukrainian men can run on giant hamster wheels. The hugely successful runner-up of Idol 2004, Darin is my most beloved Swedish soloist in the history of Swedish soloists, and his one and only (to date *crosses fingers*) Melfest entry was the pinnacle of pop balladry in my opinion. If the music doesn’t move you, then check out the wind machine usage, which nearly moved the man himself off the stage and into the wings at supersonic speed. Sadly, it didn’t blow Anna Bergendahl, Salem al Fakir and Eric Saade away and out of the running.
Andra Chansen Kom by Timoteij
2011 | My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen
I’m going to break some bad news to you right now by saying that *SPOILER ALERT* this is the only time Loreen will appear on this list. Who knows – her 2017 Melfest entry Statements might end up in a Top 10 of mine in the future, but for now, it’s all about Loreen Vol. I. The first time we saw her compete, she made it into Andra Chansen but not out of it (I know…crazy, right?!?). The dance-pop dream with a hint of disco that is My Heart Is Refusing Me, though, was a winner in so many ways: from the catchiness, explosive chorus and overall cool factor to Loreen’s weirdly wonderful red top (I have been trawling op-shops in the hope of finding something similar ever since, and may eventually resort to feeding a plain red sweater into a document shredder). Because this track is more complex and unpredictable than Euphoria, I ever-so-slightly prefer it – and it’s far and away my favourite song served up to us by Melodifestivalen 2011.
Andra Chansen Popular by Eric Saade
2012 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky
It’s a good question. Why should you start a fire? I guess if you’re out in the wilderness and will freeze to death if you don’t rub some sticks together and get a flame going, then it’s probably a smart idea. But I’ll leave the extenuating circumstances of fire-starting at that, since they have nothing to do with my unconditional love for this song. Lisa, whose songwriting credits include boss-as-a-Billy-bookcase hits for herself and the likes of the Backstreet Boys (we have her to thank for Shape of My Heart), had a tough task topping the ten finalists of Melfest 2012. She ended up finishing second last – which wasn’t that shocking – but I for one think Why Start A Fire? is stunning. A mystical synth riff gives way to lush layers of music and vocals that, when they’ve run their course, make you (and by ‘you’, I mean ‘me) feel relaxed and re-energised – rather than exhausted, because you’ve just listened to something loud and watched a performance with more gimmicks than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms.
Andra Chansen Soldiers by Ulrik Munther
2013 | You by Robin Stjernberg
At last – the first Melfest year of my blogging career in which my number one competing song went on to win the whole thing! Against all the odds, too. Robin’s NF story is the ultimate underdog tale of a ridiculously good singer who entered what was a pretty weak edition of Sweden’s crowning TV glory (as they were hosting Eurovision in 2013, however, they can be forgiven for not trying too hard to produce an epic host entry). He didn’t manage to go direkt, instead ending up in Andra Chansen and making most of us count him out FTW. Then he did win, making him the first non-direct finalist in the existence of the AC round to do so. And he did it with an awesome, heartfelt pop anthem with one heck of a hook (you-ooh-ooh-ooooooooohhh, in case you were wondering). You also boasts a money note that, when Robin belted it out on the Malmö Arena stage, was powerful enough to produce a pyro curtain. I assume it was his vocal strength that did it, rather than your average pyrotechnics consultant backstage somewhere. Don’t burst my bubble.
Andra Chansen Bed On Fire by Ralf Gyllenhammar
2014 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen
Speaking of your one true NF love taking the trophy home (along with an ‘Admit One’ ticket to Eurovision) – it happened to me for the second year running in 2014. Undo marked Sanna’s seventh Melfest participation, following mixed results for her in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011. It didn’t take seven of anything to have me hooked though. So much so that, despite having been Team Empty Room when it came to Sanna’s best entry, it wasn’t long before I’d bumped her ’08 runner-up down to the runner-up position on my list (my mental list…I don’t have a physical paper Sanna ranking). Undo, for me personally, is peak pop power ballad perfection. The soft vulnerability of the first verse, the break between the second and last chorus and the finish contrast goosebumpingly (I hereby decree that a proper word even though Spellcheck wasn’t a fan) with the simple but powerful choruses – and Miss Nielsen nailed every note, every time. This may not be a popular opinion, but I definitely think she won Melodifestivalen with her strongest submission. Nothing else would have scored her a bronze medal at Eurovision – not even Empty Room.
Andra Chansen Survivor by Helena Paparizou
2015 | Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw
It was third time lucky for MZW at Melfest, and the third year in a row that the results went my way. Can anyone really argue that Heroes shouldn’t have won the NF when it went on to win Eurovision? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t try to start something in the comments. The song itself was worthy of winning both contests as far as I’m concerned, being the Avicii-inspired anthem with a karaoke dream chorus that it is. But you can’t mention Heroes and not talk about the visuals that elevated it from great to even greater (and I’m not referring to Måns’ muscles and THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). We all fell in love with the original stick man – who turned out not to be so original in the end, so he got a bit fatter and wore a different hat for the ESC. We followed his journey from being downtrodden and dragged away by a balloon to having the privilege of fist-bumping his older, flesh-and-blood self (who had swapped overalls for THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). And that, plus the slick lighting scheme and choreography, made Heroes a flawlessly-packaged entry that ticked every box, both in Melfest and at Eurovision. I love it just as much now as I did two years ago (!).
Andra Chansen Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone
2016 | Human by Oscar Zia
These days, with 28 songs competing in Melfest each year, I’m bound to like or love at least 25 of them (Swedish songwriters just know how to float my boat). So did I like or love If I Were Sorry? Yes. Was it my ideal winner/host entry for Sweden in Stockholm? No, to tell you the truth. My votes – if I’d been able to cast any – would have gone straight to Oscar Zia, who started out in the show as a backing vocalist, returned a year later on his own, then made a massive comeback – having come out of the closet and evolved stylistically and hair-stylistically – with Human. You know I love (most) modern power ballads, but when a modern power ballad comes equipped with edge and a moody atmosphere like this one, someone’s going to have to haul me up off the floor where I have swooned. As with Måns, what we saw was just as important as what we heard when Oscar had his technically-third try for the Melfest trophy. Storm clouds and intense, quick camera cuts made the performance memorable without the need for an entire supermarket aisle’s worth of bells and whistles. The whole thing was so magical, it annoys me beyond belief that there’s no watchable video of it accessible in Australia (as far as I can tell). So enjoy – or not – the lyric video I stuck here. Closing your eyes and just listening is still an epic experience, after all.
Andra Chansen Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
Whew – think yourselves lucky that I didn’t discover Melodifestivalen in 1991 (I was too busy being a baby). As it stands, my waffling on is…well, off, so it’s time for you to list your own favourites. Which Swedish songs have you cheered for the most over the years? Is there ANYTHING we agree on, or is it true that one person’s treasure is another’s trash? I want answers, people!
Until next time (the upcoming NF-antastic weekend)…
A (Final) Supersized Serving of Scandipop: My Top 50 Melodifestivalen Entries, 2006-2015! (The Top 10)
Meghan Trainor might be all about that bass, but me? I’m more about that Melodifestivalen. The search for Måns Zelmerlöw’s successor began on Saturday, with Ace Wilder (predictably) and Robin ‘Bedroom Eyes’ Bengtsson going direkt till final, and the duos of Albin and Mattias/Samir and Viktor heading off to Andra Chansen. Melfest has certainly started on a good note (if I may make a musical pun without you throwing yourself through the nearest window), but I suspect the show’s best is yet to come. That makes me even more excited to set my next super-early Sunday alarm, so bring it, SVT!
Speaking of which…I’m doing a bit of ye olde ‘bringing’ myself today. But rather than bringing you two hours of camp, poptastic entertainment feat. several glorious utterances of the phrase ‘Sverige, vi har ett resultat’, I’m FINALLY bringing you the conclusion to my Melfest Top 50 countdown. I guess I can still say ‘Vi har ett resultat’ – it’s just that the resultat in this case is my Top 10 from 2006-2015.
Forty other Melfest entries from that period have graced my list so far. In case you’ve forgotten which, here’s a recap:
- #11 Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
- #12 Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandén (2012)
- #13 This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
- #14 In The Club by Danny Saucedo (2011)
- #15 Try Again by Dilba (2011)
- #16 My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (2011)
- #17 Keep On Walking by Salem Al Fakir (2010)
- #18 Efter Solsken by Panetoz (2014)
- #19 Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (2015)
- #20 Echo by Outtrigger (2014)
- #21 Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt (2012)
- #22 Empty Room by Sanna Nielsen (2008)
- #23 Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (2011)
- #24 Baby Goodbye by EMD (2009)
- #25 Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (2014)
- #26 Alla by Sofia (2009)
- #27 Like Suicide by Christian Walz (2011)
- #28 Temple of Love by BWO (2006)
- #29 The Boy Can Dance by Afro-Dite (2012)
- #30 Där Och Då Med Digby Emelie Irewald (2015)
- #31 Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
- #32 Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (2014)
- #33 Living To Die by Andreas Johnson (2015)
- #34 One By One by Elize Ryd and Rickard Söderberg (2015)
- #35 Red by EKO (2014)
- #36 Möt Mig I Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson (2015)
- #37 Around The World by Dr. Alban and Jessica Folcker (2014)
- #38 Bröder by Linus Svenning (2014)
- #39 I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (2015)
- #40 För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson (2015)
- #41 Falling by State of Drama (2013)
- #42 Sean Den Förste Banan by Sean Banan (2012)
- #43 Hello Goodbye by Tone Damli and Erik Segerstedt (2013)
- #44 Begging by Anton Ewald (2013)
- #45 Stormande Hav by Timoteij (2012)
- #46 Stay The Night by Alcazar (2009)
- #47 Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (2015)
- #48 Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette (2015)
- #49 På Väg by Abalone Dots (2012)
- #50 Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2015)
Och nu, without further ado, here is…
#10 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012)
The overwhelming fan favourite of Melfest 2012 may have been Loreen, but personally, I have more of a soft spot for Miss Miskovsky (among other 2012 alumni). I know, I know – I’m a terrible person, and I’ve just bought myself a one-way ticket to Eurovision purgatory as punishment. But before you consider dropping any atomic glitter bombs on my head, hear me out. I know as well as you do that Euphoria was the right representative for Sweden at Eurovision in Baku, and it’s definitely one of my all-time favourite winning songs. But when I look/listen back at Melfest that year, I find that there’s something about the guitar-driven, electro-tinged Why Start A Fire? – something ethereal and otherworldly – that hits me right in the goosebump generator (wherever that is). Euphoria never achieved quite the same thing. Lyrically intriguing and melodically stunning, Lisa’s self-penned entry had me hypnotised from the first time I heard it in full. Its place on this list is a declaration of love it deserves.
#9 | Mystery by Dead By April (2012)
When Outtrigger’s Echo popped up in part two of this countdown, I told you guys I had a thing for Melfest rock. As you can see, I wasn’t kidding. I’m not saying I adore everything about Echo or Mystery (the throat-stripping screams in each track are far from being my cup of tea) but…come to think of it, the screaming is the only thing I’m not a fan of. Mystery made a big impact on me when DBA took on Melfest, and not just because I had an obsessive crush on lead singer (at the time) Zandro (and his tattoos). The song is well-written and was well-performed, with Zandro’s clear-cut vocals contrasting nicely with Stoffe Andersson’s death growls (‘death growls’ = a phrase I never expected would be defined for me by Melodifestivalen). There’s both vulnerability and aggressiveness to be heard here, and that makes for a dynamic listening experience. When you want to rock out, AND lament a lost love or a Netflix-related neck injury (for example) at the same time, Mystery is the perfect outlet.
#8 | You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
Just thinking back to the days when Robin became the first Melfest winner to detour through Andra Chansen has happy tears moistening my eyes – so take everything I’m about to say with a grain of sentimentality. You was one of the most authentic, least forced winners Melodifestivalen has ever crowned. It wasn’t a formulaic cookie-cutter pop song trying desperately to come out on top – it was just one man + a pleasantly subdued neutral palette + a touching-but-not-cloying tribute + THAT VOICE. Oh, and a fire curtain. And all of that ended up creating an unexpected champion, via the most magical voting sequence ever recorded on film. Robin’s win felt so right. You is a song that builds and then builds some more, rising from a solid foundation of acoustic guitar and soft vocals to an explosive (literally, when you consider that fire curtain) conclusion, preceded by a show-stopping note from Robin that declared ‘I’m a contender!’. And shattered glassware from the north to the south of Sweden. It may not have shattered any records at Eurovision, but it will always be one of my most-loved host entries.
#7 | Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (2014)
Aaaaand BOOM (boom boom boo-boo-boom) – just like that, you can say goodbye to sentimentality, and hello to my completely superficial love for a song about sex. Lyrical content such as ‘shoes off in the driveway, shirts off in the doorway, pants off in the hallway’ isn’t exactly the height of sophistication and significance, but it doesn’t have to be when a song’s this catchy. It wasn’t until I heard the Bedroom snippet prior to Melfest 2014’s first semi that I thought ‘THIS is what I’m talking about. THIS is why I devote all the time I’m not thinking about Eurovision to thinking about Sweden’s preselection.’ Because when I’m not weeping into a copy of SCAN Magazine over the raw beauty of a power ballad, I’m dancing wildly in my Bedroom to stuff like this. Alvaro suffers from Eric Saade Syndrome – he’s not a great live vocalist, but he can bust a move and churn out chart hits with ease. His Melfest entry was made for the dance floor, and is basically three minutes of proof that Swedish songwriters should continue to be in constant global demand.
#6 | Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson (2012)
Is there any genre that doesn’t sound sensational i Svenska? The first non-English number in my top 10 is also an R & B song, and I don’t reckon it would have made an appearance at all if it’d been sung in English by ex-EMD member Mattias. Förlåt Mig (‘Forgive Me’) is so slick and well-produced in studio, it couldn’t quite live up to itself live (I’m convinced that those Kate Ryan light sabers are a bad-luck charm) which may explain why it didn’t progress past its semi. Or perhaps I’m just the only person on the planet who thinks it’s the shiz, and should have at LEAST made it to Andra Chansen. If I had to single out one thing I really commend about this song, it would be the way it manages not to repeat itself, in spite of its straightforward sstructure. What I mean by that (because that made zero sense) is, while the verses and the chorus and that other bit before the final chorus *forgets everything she was taught about song construction in music class* together form a cohesive whole, they’re all unique. This isn’t a ‘heard half of it, heard all of it’ kind of song – and that, combined with its general awesomeness, gets my fist bump of approval.
#5 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
There are two kinds of people: those who think Sanna was handed a pity win after her seventh attempt to take home the Melfest trophy; and those who think the time was right because she won with her strongest contribution to the competition. There are no prizes for guessing which camp my tent’s pitched in. I have been besotted with Undo from the moment I met it, and I firmly believe it to be one of Melfest’s – and Eurovision’s – greatest-ever ballads. Helping that mindset along is the fragility Sanna conveyed during each and every performance of the song. Thanks to her crystal-clear voice that is seemingly expelled at the push of a button (I think it’s on the back of her neck, like those Barbie dolls that have “growing” hair), she didn’t really have to focus on nailing her vocal. What she could focus on was making us believe her heartbreak was as fresh in Denmark as it had been during Deltävling 2 back in Sweden. And that, my friends, is what made for the dictionary definition of ‘spine-tingling’ produced by Undo. That and THE MOMENT!!! before the second chorus, which sent the wow factor shooting straight into the stratosphere.
#4 | Kom by Timoteij (2010)
Do you ever just sit and think about all of the things you’d never have discovered if it wasn’t for Melodifestivalen? No? Well, I do. And one of the main things I think about is the glorious girl band Timoteij. Their signature blend of Celtic instrumentals and Europop has led to a string of hits, and it all started with Kom (‘Come’, in case you didn’t see that Kom-ing). If this song is any indication, then Swedish-born ethno-pop can totally hold its own against the Armenian/Spanish/Turkish equivalents. The iconic opening riff ignites a sense of mystery that carries on through the rest of the song, interwoven with a pulsing, toe-tapping beat. The chorus is simple, but so effective; the melody is irresistible; and the ubiquitous key change arrives at the perfect moment. And that rolecall of redeeming features doesn’t even take into account the power of Timoteij harmonies (which, when on point, could poke a hole in a house brick). Even in a super-strong Melfest final, it’s hard (for me) to believe this finished fifth, and not higher.
#3 | Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012)
This track, co-written and performed by Peter Pan Ulrik for his Melfest debut (he’d go on to try way too hard to win the following year, only to end up 3rd again) was THE arena anthem of 2012 – if we’re talking down-tempo arena anthems, as the up-tempo trophy obviously goes to Loreen and her Euphoria. Heavy on instruments – guitars, drums, and a harmonica that gave an authentic bluesy feel to a polished pop song – it relied on sincerity and sing-along power (plus that angelic, seemingly prepubescent face of Mr. Munther’s), rather than flashiness, to harness votes. Remind you of anything? Say, Melfest 2016’s freshly-qualified Constellation Prize? It should. Soldiers is such a great song in all aspects of song…ness (songery?). The melody is memorable, the structure makes for a smoothly-navigated but not-too-predictable three minutes, and the lyrics have substance (but not so much that I have no idea what the manboy in the flat cap is on about). In an epic edition of Melfest, this was my standout entry.
#2 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (2014)
(No decent videos of this performance appear to be available on Youtube, y’all. Apologies.)
There are certain songs that I gravitate towards because they’re catchy. Then, there are those that make me feel all the feelings that tend to give one goosebumps. Relatively unknown prior to his Melodifestivalen debut, Josef Johansson provided us with a song that was the best of both worlds – a total tune, and a heartstring-puller. That’s what makes Hela Natten (‘All Night’) magic. No, it didn’t get anywhere in its semi, but it left an impression on me that has outlasted the impression left by any other participating songs from 2014 that did progress. The song’s build-up to explosive moments is stellar, ensuring the chorus packs punch whenever it pops up. And the introduction of a choir during the last thirty seconds or so was inspired, giving Josef the vocal support he needed to make the final stretch of the song bigger and (almost) better than the rest. I also credit this song for kick-starting my fangirling of Josef’s subsequent releases, like Blickar Kan Mörda, which was completely different to Hela Natten – i.e. a true testament to Josef’s artistic versatility.
And now, after two previous installments of Scandipop-oriented gushing, and my #10-#2 countdown above, it’s time to say hej to what is probably a rather predictable number one.
My favourite Melodifestivalen entry from 2006-2015 is…
#1 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin (2010)
YEAH IT IS! If you’ve read virtually any of my past posts, you’ll know that ’04 Idol runner-up Darin is my personal pinnacle of popstardom. He’s a bit of a musical chameleon, and I’ve loved every stage of his career – his folksy phase of 2015/16, for instance, has seen me flog his latest album Fjärilar I Magen like my life depends on it. When Darin decided to give Melfest a go in 2010, he was in more of a power ballad phase, and that’s how he came to be partnered with You’re Out of My Life. If Sanna’s Undo is the female ballad to end all other female ballads, then YOOML is its male counterpart. I can’t even describe in detail why I love it as much as I do (you’ll be relieved to learn) – it’s just undying, could-listen-to-it-on-repeat-forever love. So if you don’t understand why I even find this song listenable, and you head down to the comments to say so, don’t expect me to emerge from my love bubble long enough to notice. The rose-coloured glasses have been super-glued to my face by the magnificence of Darin’s attempt to get to Eurovision.
Okay…so that was the written equivalent of the London Marathon. If you crossed the finish line, congratulations. If you just scrolled down to see how lengthy this post was and swiftly thought ‘As if!’ upon finding out, here’s what you missed:
- #1 You’re Out of My Life by Darin (2010)
- #2 Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (2014)
- #3 Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012)
- #4 Kom by Timoteij (2010)
- #5 Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
- #6 Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson (2012)
- #7 Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (2014)
- #8 You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
- #9 Mystery by Dead By April (2012)
- #10 Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012)
What are your thoughts on my Top 10? Would any of this back-catalogue Melfest music make your shortlist? If not, which entries would? If you’ve got something to say, I’m hanging out to hear it.
While I’m waiting for your words, I’ll be figuring out how to handle the upcoming Super Saturday – one that makes the six-show evening just gone seem sedate by comparison. Join me on the weekend to see if the stress sent me into meltdown mode, leaving me unable to string a sentence together; or if I managed to rank, review and predict in spite of the pressure. If Laura Tesoro is still wondering what the pressure is, somebody had better tell her that it’s THIS FREAKIN’ SATURDAY.
Until THIS FREAKIN’ SATURDAY…
Where + when Stockholm, 2012
What Why Am I Crying?, written by Molly Sandén, Aleena Gibson and Wendy Wagner, and performed by Molly Sandén
Molly ‘Perfection and a Person I Want To Switch Lives With’ Sandén (as I refer to her on a regular basis) has been welcomed back into the open arms of Melodifestivalen for 2016 (hug it out, M & M) and no doubt she’s hoping it’ll be third time lucky for her, as it was for Måns Zelmerlöw last March. MZW had his second shot at representing Sweden in 2009 – the same year Molly made her first appearance with Så Vill Stjärnorna, just three years after flying the blue-and-yellow flag at Junior Eurovision in Bucharest. Back then, a still-blonde, sixteen-year–old Molly qualified direkt til Globen with her Sanna Nielsen-esque ballad, but finished dead last in the final, far behind MZW and EMD (her future man candy Danny Saucedo being the ‘D’).
She had some seriously tough competition that night, and stepping over them all in order to take the trophy home was never going to be an easy task. It seems she needed some more time to develop into an adult artist capable of clawing her way to the top. And so, three years later, Miss Sandén stepped onto the Melfest stage for the second time – sporting dark hair, dressed in head-to-toe black and very high heels, and trying her luck with…well, another very Sanna Nielsen-esque ballad (that’s not a bad thing…I’m merely pointing out that a musical pattern was forming there). This time, armed with the heartstring-tugger that was/is Why Am I Crying?, she was more of a contender.
After winning her semi, she went on to perform in the penultimate position in the final, in the Globe Arena once again and just before Danny Saucedo took to the stage solo for the second year running (he was still her future boyfriend then, and I can’t help thinking that this is where the sparks really began to fly. Someone should make a movie about their love story, stat!). That final performance was all kinds of perfect (not all kinds of everything), and not because Molly put in a 110% pitch-perfect vocal. She didn’t, actually, but the catches in her voice – which was still as beautiful and powerful as ever, overall – made what could have been a clinical, going-through-the-motions performance feel far more authentic and emotional. Given that Molly’s relationship with the previous year’s Melfest champ Eric Saade ended in early 2012 (let’s just say the girl has a type), it’s not hard to understand how she was able to channel so much heartbreak into three minutes.
What also made her second attempt at representing Sweden such an admirable one was the simplicity of the staging. Back in 2009, things had been too pared-back, if anything – but this time, shadowy lighting, a bit of a breeze from the old wind machine (OF COURSE) and some multi-Molly visual effects ensured that an intimate atmosphere was created, and that no aspect of the performance could be described using the letters O, T and T. Basically, we witnessed the most effective way of treating a song like Why Am I Crying? – something we’d see again with Sanna’s Undo two years later. Sandwiched between the aggressive noisiness of Björn Ranelid and Sara Li’s Mirakel, and the flashy, futuristic stage show of Danny’s Amazing, Molly stood out purely because she didn’t…if you know what I mean.
ANYWAY, that fact didn’t help her win the competition, but she greatly improved on her initial result with her eventual fifth place, narrowly missing out on fourth to David Lindgren (who she’ll battle against again next year if they both qualify from their semis). As we all know, it was a different intimate performance that won Melfest 2012 and went on to win Eurovision – Loreen’s. It couldn’t have been Molly’s or anybody else’s time with the Queen of the Crab-Dance in the mix.
But – and this is where this post has been leading – the combination of singer, song and beatable rivals might just be right for the Mollster in 2016. My reasoning? Well, for starters, her career is peaking as we speak, and her music has never been better (Freak? Hit. Phoenix? Hit. Like No One’s Watching? Hit. Satellites? HIT!!!). So much so that I’ll set fire to my entire Eurovision merchandise collection if her third Melfest entry Youniverse is anything less than THA SHIZ.
In addition, the song’s been written by Molly and Danny as a pair (as well as some other guy who’s clearly a third wheel) which makes it the closest thing to a Manny (or Dolly?) duet that we’re going to get in the near future. Both artists have proven their talent for penning great tracks in the past, so that ups my expectations of Molly’s chances.
And, when you look at her Melfest track record – last, then halfway up the leaderboard – it’d be a logical leap for her to finish first in the March final. She’s never been in a better position to win, and as the likes of Sanna and Måns would tell her, if you keep trying, the time will be right on one occasion or another.
Even if it’s the seventh.
That’s my thinking…but where are you at? Will Molly make it back to the Globe as Sweden’s host entrant for Eurovision 2016? Should she have had that chance back in 2012, or even 2009? Do you reckon she’s stepped things up with Youniverse, or is Why Am I Crying? too hard to top? If you have anything to say about this Sandén sister – even if it’s re: Ace Wilder being far superior (umm, I don’t THINK so!) – then get those fingers busy by commenting below!
Happy Weekend, and välkommen to the second installment of my Scandi-centric countdown. I’m thinking of this as a gift to you, on what happens to be my birthday (hello there, shameless cry for celebratory wishes). It may not be a quality gift in your opinion, but if it is something you’re keen to unwrap, don’t worry about getting me anything in return (although, a sizeable cheque and/or a new car wouldn’t go astray if you’re feeling generous).
Anyway…let’s get back to Eurovision, and get on with the countdown. My top five Swedish ESC entries EVER *insert dramatic music here* are waiting for your judgment, and I’ll be waiting for your personal top fives in the comments. Don’t leave me hanging, guys – not on my birthday!
FYI, here’s a recap of the list so far:
- #10 – En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (1963)
- #9 – Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
- #8 – Den Vilda by One More Time (1996)
- #7 – Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
- #6 – Främling by Carola (1983)
Now, är du redo?
#5 | 1998
Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson
I’m kick-starting the top five with some kärleken – specifically, Kärleken Är, a painfully 90s (not a bad thing), super pretty ballad. Jill Johnson was and is more of a country singer than a pop singer, but quite literally changed her tune for Melfest/Eurovision purposes (in other words, she pulled a Taylor Swift, but in a less drastic manner). Her performance in Birmingham was the last to feature a shred of the Swedish language until 2012 (when Finland sent När Jag Blundar) and her song was penned in response to the death of Princess Diana the previous year. The latter makes it lyrically beautiful and sad at the same time, but despite the sadness (and Jill’s funeral-esque stage garb) ‘uplifting’ is another adjective you could use here. Kärleken Är is a fond tribute rather than a morbid three-minute moan, and that gets my tick of approval. I love the lyrics, the melody, Jill’s voice…all in all, this forces me to feel all the good feels.
You by Robin Stjernberg
You’ve got to root for an underdog, right? Robin’s been on my radar since he lost the 2011 Swedish Idol crown by a barely-there percentage of the vote, so I was pretty excited by and invested in his Melfest entry two years later. Then, when he became the first Andra Chansen competitor to go on and win Melfest, ‘pretty excited’ was eclipsed by ‘out of my mind with ecstasy’. What an awesome host entry Mr. Stjernberg/Fwernber gave us! I was obsessed with You back in the Malmö days, and I’m still bowing down to its greatness – and the majesty of Robin’s vocal range – today, as we look forward to another Sverige-style ESC. You isn’t what some might call a ‘typical Eurovision song’ (repetitiveness aside), and that made it distinctive. It’s another uplifting tribute to a special someone, and I think we can all identify with the titular you-ou-ou-oooo-ou. Adding to the pros of the package was the fact that Robin sung the pants off it, to the soundtrack of a noisily supportive home crowd. And dammit, he deserved some noise. You was an amazing, refreshing alternative to clinical Scandipop (not that I don’t love clinical Scandipop. I really do).
This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl
It’s hard to believe there was a time when Sweden didn’t advance to a Eurovision final – but there was, and that time was just five years ago. Anna Bergendahl’s semi stumble was three things: one, shocking; two, devastating (mostly for Anna herself, and probably Christer Björkman) and three, narrow (Sweden finished five points behind Cyprus’ Jon Lilygreen and his Islanders). Despite a slightly shaky performance that did give off rehearsal rather than real-thing vibes in moments, I believe This Is My Life should have nabbed a place in the 2010 final (though not necessarily at the expense of Life Looks Better In Spring). The song is a stunner, with Anna’s husky vocals providing a nice contrast to her princess tiara and prom dress on stage. My only problem with it is performance-related, though it’s less of a problem than it is a mind-boggling mystery: WHERE DID THE GUITAR GO??? *hires private detective to end my five-year stretch of suffering*.
Se På Mig by Jan Johansen
Sweden definitely went through a ‘less is more’ phase in the 1990s. You could argue that it was impossible to make a performance too ostentatious in a time before 100-metre long Russian LED backdrops and such, and you wouldn’t be wrong – but Jan’s Se På Mig, like Den Vilda after it, was simplistic in comparison to a lot of its competitors. On stage, it was just Jan, his patent leather jacket, a strategically-placed line of backing singers, some soothing dappled lighting, and one heck of a beautiful song. The kind of beautiful song that Anmary went on about in Baku: one that everybody hums, and everybody loves. I repeat, EVERYBODY. Seriously, if you’re anti-Se På Mig, what’s up with your distaste for sentimental, melodically stunning man-ballads? It ain’t normal, my friend. The magic of this song speaks for itself, so I’m going to shut up now and let it.
#1 | 2014
Undo by Sanna Nielsen
I’m well aware that my decision to slot Sanna into first place will make many of you want to Undo your subscriptions to this blog (and if you’re not subscribed, why not? It’s a constant Eurovision party over here!). But, before you throw whatever device you’re reading this on out the window and run screaming from the room, hear me out. Sweden’s 2014 entry being my all-time fave is not just a product of the song quality, but also of its significance being a song by an artist who I’ve loved for years, and who had tried time and time again to represent her country without success. I watched Sanna powerhouse her way through Melfest with this magnificent ballad (in an unflattering jumpsuit, but that’s irrelevant) and win over Ace Wilder by a measly margin, and I was so happy for her I cried a little bit. And that wasn’t the last time she had me reaching for the tissues – my floodgates fairly flew open when she performed in Copenhagen’s first semi last May. Girl was pitch-perfect, hit me right in the heart with her vocal and facial arrows of emotion, and looked like a goddess in a much more flattering outfit than her Melfest getup. Undo gave Sanna 180 seconds to do nothing but impress with her vocals, but it impresses me in other areas too. It has light and shade, strength and vulnerability, and an unforgettable hook (memorable = a two-syllable word that becomes a five-syllable one). Douze for the song, douze for Sanna, douze for a performance that kept the focus on her crystal-clear vocals, and douze for the whole thing being my #1 Swedish entry of all time.
For now, at least. Who knows what Sweden could do to me in 2016?
That’s a wrap on this drawn-out Top 10, and the list is complete (until I change my mind in five minutes). Here’s what it looks like right this second, though:
- Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
- Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (1995)
- This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
- You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
- Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson (1998)
- Främling by Carola (1983)
- Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
- Den Vilda by One More Time (1996)
- Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
- En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (1963)
Oh, and here’s the fantastisk stuff that just didn’t make the final cut…Waterloo by ABBA (1974); Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley by Herrerys (1984); Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (1991); Las Vegas by Martin Stenmarck (2005); Popular by Eric Saade (2011). So now you can’t abuse me for completely, 110% blanking ABBA.
Now it’s your turn. Let me know down below which of Sweden’s 55 entries have most tickled your fancy, and tested the endurance of your flag-waving arm! You know you want to…
Välkommen to EBJ’s inaugural Melfest Monday, folks! This isn’t going to be an intro in which I explain what the deal is with these day-specific posts, because a) I did that already in my previous post, and b) I don’t want to waffle on for ten paragraphs before even arriving at the topic of today’s (for once).
So, that said, let’s dive straight into the depths of a Melodifestivalen past. I hope you’re equipped with a suitably spangled-and-feathered flotation device.
Where + when Luleå, 2011
What Try Again, written by Niklas Petterson and Linda Sonnvik and performed by Dilba
Melfest 2011 was the first edition of Sweden’s famed national final that I watched from a fan’s perspective. Although I’d been obsessing over Eurovision since 2006, I ever really explored the pre-ESC selection scene until 2009 or 2010 (call me cray-cray, but it’s the truth). I’d followed Melfest 2010 mainly because Darin Zanyar was participating in it (and Darin, as you’ll know by now if you read Vol. I of my Stockholm Suggestion Box, is my favourite pop star on the planet) – and it was then that I discovered Timoteij, a.k.a. the Swedish folk-pop Spice Girls; and Anna Bergendahl’s This Is My Life, which continues to be one of my all-time top Eurovision entries, and still has the power to moisten my eyes when I think about how it just missed out on qualifying in Oslo *holds back salty Swedish tears*.
The epic plethora of personalities competing in 2010 had me hooked, and the following year, things got serious. Yes, that’s right: I BOUGHT THE OFFICIAL MELFEST ALBUM FOR THE FIRST TIME, and that’s the song contest equivalent of asking your significant other to move in with you. It was an album worth paying exorbitant import fees for, with the 2011 program featuring eventual winner Eric Saade, runner-up Danny Saucedo, ESC champ-to-be Loreen, and Europe’s most persistent national finalist Sanna Nielsen.
Also competing, with the dance banger Try Again (which should have been Sanna’s theme song), was Turkish-born Dilba, who had released her first album back in 1996 when Eric Saade was still learning how to tie his shoelaces. That album had been a huge success, even scoring the singer a Grammy award (a Swedish Grammy, that is…still a big deal), and several other hit albums followed. So it’s not surprising that Dilba, on name alone, had reasonably-sized expectations resting on her shoulders coming into the competition. She was to open the first semi final in Luleå, and based on the snippet of the Try Again studio version we were treated to in the hours before the show kicked off, she had a great chance of progressing further.
But fast forward to the end of the evening, and Try Again was sitting un-pretty on the bottom of the semi’s scoreboard. With the competition fierce and the musical quality always high in Melfest, there’s rarely a year that passes without an injustice, and this was one of them. Dead last for a pro performer fielding an instant and energetic earworm?
Well, looking back on Dilba’s three minutes in 2015, I’m seeing ‘HOW?!?!?’ very clearly, actually. I suppose that at the time, I may have been too hyped up on my excitement over watching a Scandi pop fest at four in the morning to notice any flaws in her stage time. But now I understand that there was a big problem with this entry – the same one that’s proven too much to overcome for many a Eurovision song over the years.
That problem = the transition from studio to stage being too tricky to pull off. Aurally was where the performance suffered most. Replicating the slickly layered lyrics of the studio version live proved impossible for one woman, even with pre-recorded backup. The fact that Dilba’s microphone had apparently been dropped in the bath before showtime (that’s my explanation for it hardly functioning during the verses, anyway) didn’t help matters.
What we saw was an issue as well as what we heard. Though their outfits were cool in a NASA-meets-New-York-Fashion-Week kind of way, Dilba’s dancers were choreographed far too statically/robotically to complement Try Again. The energetic onstage movement required to match the song’s mood was absent, and as a result, the performance felt a little flat. If that reminds you of anything, it should might be Slovenia’s performance in Eurovision just gone. The made-for-radio Here For You took us all on a trip to Static City in May, but if we’d taken the ‘vision’ out of Eurovision 2015, Maraaya probably would have finished in the top five. Similarly, while Dilba trailed the pack in her semi (the semi won by Danny Saucedo), she would top the Swedish iTunes charts with Try Again in the wake of Melfest.
When I listen to my 2011 album, I never ever skip over this song – but, in retrospect, I can totally understand why it lost the Luleå semi. What should have hit televoters with a ‘BAM!’ ended up giving them a half-hearted shove and whispering ‘Vote for me, if you want to. No pressure’, in their ears.
That’s my opinion, anyway. I’m going to draw this mini-essay to a close by asking you for yours. Did Dilba deserve her disappointing result for failing to translate a terrific studio song to the stage? Or should she have at least made it to Andra Chansen so she could…well, Try Again?
3, 2, 1, thoughts!
It’s February, and that means national final season is about to shift into overdrive. THAT means those of us in unfortunate timezones will be having many late nights/early mornings in the weeks to come, while others tune into Dansk MGP or A Dal or *insert NF of choice here* over their cereal bowls. Then there’s those lucky people who get to experience NF season at a totally respectable prime-time, post-dinner slot on TV. I hate those people.
No matter the situation or dress code (2am in mismatched pajamas WOOHOO!) there are fun times ahead, and the funnest (yes, I am aware that’s not a word) time of all, in my inarguably correct opinion, is coming up this Saturday, live from Sweden. Well, more specifically, Göteborg, Sweden.
Yes, that’s right…Melodifestivalen is (almost) upon us again! Having graduated uni (for the second and final time) on the weekend, with the aftermath being a frighteningly unknowable future, Melfest is the bright spot on my horizon at the moment. I cannot wait to watch Her Royal Amazingness Sanna Nielsen and That Guy Who’s Her Co-Host commandeer the festivities. During the first semi final, said festivities will include the comeback of a Mr. Eric Saade, who’s confident he can Sting his competition into submission and represent Sweden in Eurovision once again.
The show is going to be epic, no doubt, and I thought I’d ring it in by revisiting last year’s also-fabulous edition. This post is a timely one, but it doubles as good filler as we wait until we can do a top 10 ranking of the Eurovision 2015 entries (the thought of doing a top 9 irritates me). It’s one of my famed (AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) Retro Rankings, but rather than using a past Eurovision as the basis, I’m taking Melodifestivalen 2014 and turning it into a personal top 32. Whether you’ve forgotten what last year’s comp had to offer or you’re listening to the album right now and are 110% ready to fight me if I don’t have Ace Wilder on top (which I don’t, sorrynotsorry) I hope you enjoy the following. Give me your top 32, top 10 or just your favourites of Melfest ’14 in the comments. Please?
Before we begin, a brief, alphabetised recap of the comp:
#1 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson – I fell in love with this on the first listen, and I pretty much haven’t stopped listening to it since. It didn’t even get to Andra Chansen, but the soaring, stadium-anthem quality and weighty lyrics make for a winner by Jaz standards. I’ve also become über-attached to Josef himself over the past twelve months, as he’s proved to be a very versatile artist. Check out his post-Melfest singles Blickar Kan Mörda and Tysta Leken (a cover version that I think outdoes the original) for proof.
#2 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen – Obviously. There will never be a more golden moment for me than Sanna’s marginal win in last year’s comp, after six previous attempts. I’ve always been of the opinion that Undo is her best Melfest entry, and its success at Eurovision is something of a testament to that. Her voice is both pure and powerful, giving the ballad an air of vulnerability and defiance at the same time. I sing it in the car, the shower, the toile-er, I mean, the kitchen…everywhere, basically. Sanna gave me a sad that I actually don’t want to undo.
#3 | Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella – Man, Sweden let some gems slip through their texting-and-dialling fingers in 2014! In an NF of such high quality though, it’s virtually impossible to send every great song to the final. Some would argue that Bedroom is hardly one of those greats, but filthy lyrics and all, I absolutely LOVE it. So what if you wouldn’t want it as your wedding song for fear of offending your great aunt Mildred (and for many other reasons)? It’s an irresistible slice of dance-pop in the vein of Moves Like Jagger, and I reckon it could easily fill any floor with drunk, shoeless guests. You know, if that’s what you were after.
#4 | Echo by Outtrigger – For the second time, Melfest made me love screamy rock, which is something I detest as a rule. Dead By April’s Mystery was my musical crush of 2012, and Echo became its 2014 counterpart. I don’t know exactly why I like this so much, but a lot of the appeal lies in the chorus that was made for headbanging. This can be awkward when you’re hearing the song in the middle of a supermarket as opposed to a mosh pit, but rock music ain’t about avoiding strange looks in public.
#5 | Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder – I’ll admit, this would have been the more cutting-edge, daring choice for Sweden to send to Copenhagen. Vocally, it would have been less impressive than Undo, but when a song’s this catchy, I for one am too busy fist-pumping and trying not to fall to my death as I dance atop the nearest piece of furniture to pay much attention to the performer’s vocal chops.
#6 | Around The World by Dr. Alban & Jessica Folcker
#7 | Survivor by Helena Paparizou
#8 | Red by EKO – If the idea of a lite, 80s synth version of Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love is up your alley, then you probably enjoyed this as much as I did. EKO won their way into Melfest via the pre-NF contest for new talent, and while they continued the tradition of those winners failing to qualify from their semi final, they found a fan in me with Red.
#9 | Efter Solsken by Panetoz
#10 | Yes We Can by Oscar Zia – Once upon a time I was obsessed with High School Musical, and as this song has ‘Disney Original Movie soundtrack’ written all over it, I can’t help giving it the thumbs up. Less Disney is the scandalous mention of dancing in underwear and letting the people stare, which sounds a bit like a strip club-type situation. But that’s not a bad thing, since it stops things from getting too sickly sweet.
#11 | Love Trigger by J.E.M
#12 | Natural by Anton Ewald
#13 | Bröder by Linus Svenning – Linus is back this year and singing in English, but I doubt his song will carry as much meaning and emotion as Bröder, which gets me right in the feels every time. As Yoda would most likely say if he were a Melfest fan, lovely song this is.
#14 | Hollow by Janet Leon
#15 | Aleo by Mahan Moin
#16 | Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar – Yes, it was Stay The Night with a different title, but that song did fairly well for them in Melfest, and this one did even better. I guess it’s true that if something isn’t broken, don’t bother to fix it. Here we have classic Alcazar, i.e. cheesy disco-pop with an obligatory key change (or five hundred) and it’s one heck of a guilty pleasure.
#17 | När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
#18 | Ta Mig by Linda Bengtzing
#19 | Set Yourself Free by Little Great Things
#20 | All We Are by State of Drama – This band brought the standard of the 2013 comp up a little with Falling, but in a stronger year with a weaker song, they couldn’t come back with a bang. All We Are is competent, but pretty bland.
#21 | Burning Alive by Shirley Clamp
#22 | I Am Somebody by Pink Pistols
#23 | Glow by Manda
#24 | Casanova by Elisa Lindström – I really disliked this the first time I heard it, and I’m not about to gush over it now. However, I will compliment how happy, cute and energetic it is. It’s like a quokka in song form.
#25 | To The End by YOHIO
#26 | Fight Me If You Dare by IDA
#27 | Songbird by Ellen Benediktson – This is not my preferred style of music at all, and apparently it wasn’t Ellen’s either since she’s returning with something different and more ‘her’. For me, this is a case of knowing the song is well-written and generally good, but not being able to connect with it.
#28 | En Enkel Sång by CajsaStina Åkerström
#29 | Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
#30 | En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
#31 | Bygdens Son by Sylvester Schlegel
#32 | Hallelujah by The Refreshments – Can somebody please explain to me Sweden’s preoccupation with rockabilly? Perhaps it’s just SVT’s quest for variety, but every year a track like this sneaks into the lineup and leaves me scratching my head, and more often than not, hitting the Mute button.
Well, that’s that, and now I’ve shown you mine, you’re welcome to show me yours! If you’re up for it, also let me know who you’ll be cheering for in Melodifestivalen’s first semi on Saturday night. I’m Team Saade with a little Behrang Miri on the side, but who knows which artists will produce gems that I’ll be fawning over in a year.
Until next time…
Eurovision 2014. My awards. Very delayed second half. No further introduction necessary.
DISCLAIMER: The Conchita persona may be a feminine one, but the majestic voice that comes out of her is, biologically, Tom Neuwirth’s. Therefore I’m classifying Conchita’s vocal performance as a man’s. In this category, she sure showed the boys who’s boss. Soft and vulnerable when it needed to be and all-powerful at every other moment, Tom’s voice never wavered – not even during the notoriously second-rate winner’s reprise (which is excusable). I’d have to give the Money Note of the Year Award (if I’d thought of including one) to that final ‘flaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame!!!’ for sure.
Like you thought I was going to pick someone else. I now realise that a lot of what I said above also applies to Sanna. The woman’s got both the soft vulnerability and the lung-busting power down pat. Her vocal was clear as crystal every time I had the pleasure of hearing it (which was many, many times, all of them voluntary) not to mention effortlessly executed. Undo was engineered to show off her voice, and I commend it for a job well done.
Also known as ‘The Goose-Bump Arouser Award’ (for a sexier option) this goes to the performance that had a certain something special; something that connected with me emotionally and gave me the chills. Despite the little sob I had over Sweden in the first semi, I’m giving this to Norway, because Carl had me covered in goosebumps. Plus, I’m fairly sure my spine actually tingled at one point, and unless I had a spider down the back of my jumper (OH DEAR GOD) there’s only one explanation.
To win this award, artists can have made Oscar-worthy facial expressions on stage (hence the title) or been backed by emotional interpretive dance, or…I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. In the battle of diva drama fought between Conchita and Ruth Lorenzo, it’s Conchita who has the edge, because she managed to ooze drama despite standing in the same spot for her entire performance. There were minimal arm flourishes and hair flicks, and yet, her three minutes were more dramatic than an entire season of Days of Our Lives (though with the acting level on that show, that doesn’t say much). You go, girlfriend. Just not to drama school, ‘cause you’re already qualified.
Like Conchita without her beard (sorry for mentioning her so much, but it’s gonna carry on all year) who is Tinkara without her flute? Having never seen her minus the flute (apart from in her postcard) I’m starting to wonder if she’s had it surgically attached. It added a nice (albeit mimed) touch to the performance, and the way she wielded it made her look even more like some kind of magical lady-warlock, which worked for me.
You know it’s been a good year for props/gimmicks when you’re torn between a trampoline and a giant hamster wheel. In this case, I’m going for the hamster wheel. Ukraine proved once again that they are the masters of on-stage equipment by taking a pared-down version of Svetlana Loboda’s Hell Machine and pimping it out with a fine specimen of male flesh (i.e. a hot dude) to illustrate – I can only assume – the passing of time. As Greece would have, Ukraine get bonus points for having their singer interact with the prop rather than just sing in front of it.
Normally, I like my wind machines turned up to maximum. I’m talking 130km/h gusts that blow even the most gelled-down hair in history into a frenzy. But this year, I found myself appreciating the subtlety of Armenia’s wind machine use. With Aram Mp3 not in possession of a flowing mane, all the breeze did was give his jacket some lift, but that had a big effect – adding more impact to the dubstep portion of Not Alone. If he’d been blown off the stage by 130km/hr gusts, it wouldn’t have been the same. Although it would have been amusing…
Dance made up the bulk of the Estonian ingredients this year, after all. It may not have
ultimately worked in their favour, but Tanja and her man-friend had moves that deserve applause *insert a smattering here*. Apparently Tanja can sing in any position, and that knowledge was used to advantage as she ran, jumped, lunged, and got thrown around all over the place, all the while contributing more to the total vocal than Jedward did in 2011 and 2012 combined. I’m 90% admiration, 10% envy. Okay…60/40.
Say what you like re: the beard winning the contest, but you can’t deny that Austria’s entry was just as well-groomed in every other respect. As has been the norm for a while now, there was a lot of background screening to work with on the Eurovision stage, and in terms of using that to complement the rest of the elements (song, costume etc) I think Austria nailed it. Their background was gold and fiery and gave Conchita wings so she could literally (pardon the blatant misuse of ‘literally’) rise like a phoenix. If it was predictable, it’s only because we all knew what kind of visuals would suit the song.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This has been the mantra of many a Swedish entry in the period between Melodifestivalen and Eurovision, with the likes of Eric Saade and Loreen barely changing costume from one to the other, let alone anything else. In the not-so-curious case of Sanna Nielsen, her people hit on a lighting scheme that was simple but so effective, and almost served as a physical prop. So they didn’t sacrifice it for the big show; they just made it even more impressive. I’m now hoping to receive my very own light cage for my birthday this year. Ikea sells those, right?
It isn’t just an overload of props and/or gimmicks that sends a performance into OTT territory (which isn’t always a negative…if you can’t tie your hair to someone else’s and ride a see-saw whilst brandishing a light saber and dancing in unison in front of a giant sun at Eurovision, where can you?). Poland’s entry was choreographed and costumed to perfection, but it’s their determination to be boob-inclusive at all costs that wins them this gong. Those butter-churning, stain-removing girls had pretty much all of their charms on display despite the contest being a family show. I guess a lot of parents no longer have to give their kids the sex talk.
I am a huge fan of your average costume reveal. Plaid pants are ripped off to expose sequined short shorts? Great, thanks InCulto. Three-piece suit becomes evening gown by the end of the song? Best part of Latvia ‘02. But it turns out that not-so-average costume reveals have the ability to freak me out, as demonstrated when Cristina Scarlat became so irritated with her overgrown weave, she went and yanked it right off. I applaud Moldova for trying something new, but if hair-pulling isn’t the final frontier, what is? Navel lint? Splinters? Teeth?
A lot of countries presented us with the total package this year. In fact, more did than didn’t, and disappointingly, there were zero train wrecks. But the country that impressed y’all the most by a long shot was the Netherlands, and though my vote went to Poland, I can see why. Dressed to perfection, Ilse and Waylon performed like the pros they are, using what could have been a very awkward microphone situation to their advantage. It was intimately staged and graphically effective. Let’s hope the trend continues for the Dutch in Austria.
When you think to yourself, ‘How would I dress this act?’ and can’t come up with anything better than the reality, you know costuming has been well-executed (either that or it’s so horrific, you couldn’t imagine anything worse). In this case it’s the former, and I applaud your choice of Best Dressed for 2014. Waylon would have had a hard time going wrong, so it really came down to Ilse – and fortunately, she appeared on stage looking like a country Americana angel. From the retro bouffant hairdo to the tips of her stilettoed pumps, she was glorious.
What happens when you combine button-up track pants and a tuxedo? A fashion faux pas, that’s what. Throw in some wack blue shoes that match your stunning but completely out-of-place chandelier earrings, and you’ve got one steaming hot mess. Oh Tijana. Suitability for the entry aside, she looked lovely from the neck up. From the neck down, though, it was 100% WTF. And now you know exactly where my Barbara Dex vote went this year.
I know, I know – not every song calls for a backless, crystal-encrusted leotard with a feathered mullet skirt and matching platform boots (particularly not Running). But as I’m convinced that Richard Edwards wore the same outfit to Malta’s rehearsals as he did for the live shows, Firelight nabs this one.
Between them, these nominees had just about every body part on display (and if you’re wondering about Twin Twin, I have two words for you…DEM SHORTS). But I’d be crazy if I didn’t recognise Poland as the sauciest by far. Although, it wasn’t so much the Slavic girls’ costumes that were x-rated as the lack thereof.
Because your average maxi dress is much easier on the eye than a part flouncy, part asphyxiating mix of…whatever that gold thing was a mix of. Also going against this creation was the fact that Kasey could hardly move in it, which made her look very uncomfortable on stage.
It may be forehead-pulsingly tight, but Cleo’s high braid feat. festive materials is one hairstyle from this contest that I’m desperate to copy. Unfortunately, I’m lacking the length of hair necessary to pull it off, so I hope it’s still a relevant look in, say, twelve months. #whocares, #gonnadoitanyway.
I really, truly thought Estonia had the final in the bag. The upside to the choreography’s failure to see them through is that I can now insist to anyone who’ll listen (and even those who won’t) that Sandra should have walked Eesti Laul and would have been dangerous in the final she would have made for sure, blah blah blah. Nonetheless, I remain flabbergasted that one of my certainties back at prediction time turned out to be a DNQ.
Third time lucky is a legitimate thing, and Valentina Monetta knows that now. Let’s just hope she didn’t get one taste of glory and wants more next year (there has to be SOMEONE else from San Marino who can sing). ValMon’s qualification got her this trophy because it was the only one that literally made my jaw drop. I didn’t shut my mouth for hours, and was planning on suing the EBU for extreme dehydration.
As we would later discover, this wasn’t Greece’s most successful year (STILL not over it) but even in an off year, they flew into the final with the greatest of ease. They are part of the exclusive 100% Club, which consists of those countries that have never failed to advance from a semi, so it’s always a safe bet when you put cash on them to go through. That’s not to say it’s impossible for them to DNQ, but the day that happened would be a shocking one (and a good one for all the pigs sprouting wings).
As admirably authentic as it was (and bonkers) there was never any hope for Three Minutes To Earth as far as I’m concerned. There was a possibility it wouldn’t come last in its semi, but even that was slim. Still, The Shin and Mariko gave a great performance, so if you’re reading this, guys…don’t hurt me.
In terms of entry quality and results, Armenia (thankfully) made us forget all about Malmö’s double denim incident courtesy of Dorians. 4th may not have been the win they were hoping for, but I think Sirusho would agree that it beats the heck out of 18th.
Hungary is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with, and their national final A Dal one of the strongest I’ve ever followed. I have this sneaking suspicion we could be heading to Budapest within the next few years. Running’s somewhat unexpected top 5 placing built on this. I think we were all skeptical of the entry’s ability to push past the subject matter and be judged as a ‘package’ – the package being a well-performed, contemporary song that wasn’t nonsensical fluff, lyrically speaking. Fortunately, it was, and that makes me go WOOHOO HUNGARY YOU GO GIRLFRIEND. Et cetera.
Like I said…soooooo not moving on from this travesty. It’s been two months and I still cry myself to sleep, sobbing ‘ri…ii..iiise upp!’. Just kidding. I don’t say that. I only weep. Even Kalomira clone Eleftheria (the only other recent Greek act to not hit the heights of the top 10) did better than Freaky Fortune. I realise this was an open year, and points were going all over the place, but IMO Greece should have been at least where Romania ended up. I guess holograms > trampolines.
There came a point – a sad, sad point – where I knew Sanna wasn’t quite going to go all the way, despite her victory in the OGAE vote. But after her amazeballs performance in semi one, I was convinced that the haters would be left with many unfortunate emotions to undo when she easily made the top 5. The bronze medal represents a great performance by a great act that was just missing that something extra that would have made it a winner.
The last award of the 2014 EBJEEs (I hear your collective sigh of relief) is also a People’s Choice Award. You voted, and it turns out that Molly’s lack of success shocked you more than anybody else’s (or in Russia’s case, shocked you more than the twins getting that high). You’d think we would have learnt to never overestimate the UK after 2011 (though I still maintain Blue were robbed in part) but nope – here we all were again, gushing about a UK entry that wasn’t crap and/or sung by someone who lived in world sans Eurovision. All dreams of Manchester 2015 were dashed when the points just trickled in, in contrast to the flooding they were doing for Austria and the Netherlands.
At long last, I’m done! Hallelujah. Hard rock hallelujah. Thank the Lordi! And other ESC-related puns. My trophy table is now empty, and it’s time to move on to random filler until Junior Eurovision – now with 100% more Greece and Cyprus – comes along. I will be keeping an eye on the Austrian developments over the coming months, i.e. claiming I knew that INSERT CITY NAME HERE would get the hosting honours, so I hope you’ll join me. I promise I’ll be entertaining.
In the meantime…Part 2 of the awards: discuss.
What do you think of my picks and your picks of the performances, costumes and results from Copenhagen?
If there’s a prize for being late to the party (the party being reviewing Eurovision 2014) then back off, because it’s mine! The thing is – and you’ll be bored of me rehashing this – since I was too excited to study during the ESC week, and too depressed to be productive in the few days afterwards, I’m now in a period of chaos where I have multiple MAHUSIVE assignments due within the next week (my last week of the semester, thank the Lordi) that I’ve barely begun. Therefore, I’m having to work my butt off with little time to blog, which sucks. That’s my excuse for why the second part of my final review is coming out over a fortnight after the contest, and over a week after the first part.
This is basically just a run through of the scoreboards from the final and the semis, with comments by moi, plus a recap of the Australian online vote and a mini post-show ranking to show you how my preferences were changed by epic lighting and/or magnificent costuming. I’m not going to get into the intricacies of the split results much, as similar analysis has been done (The Eurovision Times published a a few particularly good ones you can find here and here if you haven’t checked them out yet) so this is more of an overview accompanied by catty judgments.
The Final Scoreboard: A Closer, Totally Unbiased Look
Two things about the voting sequence before we get to the results:
a) Crossing to all of the spokespersons at once on the big screen? More of that please. Although if I’d spotted Alyona Lanskaya I would have remembered to mute her impromptu and totally unnecessary version of Solayoh. You had your moment last year, Alyona. NO ONE CARES.
b) Umm, that early winner announcement! I’ve had more than one night’s anger over that. After the backlash caused by the same thing in Malmö, I assumed it wouldn’t happen again. But oh no, charming Nikolaj and adorable Pilou lost a bit of their charm and adorableness when they announced Austria as unbeatable with about two or three countries left to vote (I know they were just doing what they’d been instructed to, but I have to lash out at somebody). We all knew Conchita was the winner – to announce it early took away from the significance of the remaining countries votes, turning them into an afterthought. I am hoping this doesn’t become a tradition.
Now, those results…we’ve all seen them, but who wouldn’t want to see them again and then hear me complain about Greece not beating Romania for several paragraphs?
1. Austria 290 – No real surprises here. After Conchita’s performance I was thankful I’d predicted Austria as a probable winner. Still, with the spread of scores and the relatively low gap between 1st and 2nd place, this was no landslide.
2. The Netherlands 238 – I’m thrilled for the Dutch, still. If Anouk had been last year’s runner-up, I’d have struggled to understand it, but The Common Linnets captured the mood and created a magic that I totally got (in the end).
3. Sweden 218 – I’m happy with this, and I hope Sanna is too. I knew my favourite song of the year wasn’t quite going to go all the way after a certain point, but because I was worried Sweden could head in the direction of Hungary in 2011, the bronze position is brilliant.
4. Armenia 174 – Again, this ain’t exactly shocking. I never saw Armenia winning with Not Alone, as much as I love it. Finishing in 4th, they’ve got to be at least a teensy bit pleased that they blew Azerbaijan out of the water.
5. Hungary 143 – This is proof that Hungary is getting better and better at playing the Eurovision game every year. A very good, very current song that many thought would bomb because of its subject matter triumphed instead. Well done Andras!
6. Ukraine 113
7. Russia 89 – Now THIS was a surprise. As the televoters much preferred it over the jurors, I put it down to the staging, which I personally couldn’t tear my eyes away from. The hair trick and giant see-saw are surely what people remembered when they picked up their phones.
8. Norway 88
9. Denmark 74
10. Spain 74 – I guess the lesson here for Spain is if they send an attractive brunette who can sing the leg off a chair to perform a typically Eurovision ballad, they’ll secure themselves 10th place. That’s a good showing for Spain.
11. Finland 72
12. Romania 72 – Romania and Moldova are experts in just missing out on the top 10. In this case, Romania should have completely missed out IMO.
13. Switzerland 64
14. Poland 62 – The jury sealed Donatan & Cleo’s fate via the drag effect of ranking them 23rd to the televoters’ 5th. Not that 14th is a terrible result – I’m just mourning what could have been for one of my favourite entries.
15. Iceland 58
16. Belarus 43
17. United Kingdom 40 – Ouch. After weeks of steadily declining odds and promising rehearsals, Molly failed to meet expectation and then some. But there was only 34 points between her and Ruth, which is something of a consolation.
18. Germany 39
19. Montenegro 37 – Not only did they make the final for the first time, but Montenegro beat big players Greece, Italy and Azerbaijan. That’s a win for them as far as I’m concerned. Figure skaters = success. Just ask Dima Bilan.
20. Greece 35 – How…just how did this happen? I am CRUSHED. Okay, so when I step back and look at all the factors I can kind of see how it happened. But even cookie-cutter, dated Aphrodisiac did better than this!
21. Italy 33
22. Azerbaijan 33 – So, they’re not invincible after all, eh? For the first time since their 2008 debut, Azerbaijan finished out of the top 10, and not narrowly. I have to admit, it pleases me to learn that they are capable of failure, since up until now I assumed they’d do amazingly even if they sent a bag of garbage (literally) to represent them, and that irritated me.
23. Malta 32
24. San Marino 14 – Props to SM for not coming last. I hope such an unprecedented result doesn’t encourage a fourth consecutive appearance from Valentina (and Ralph)…*shudder*.
25. Slovenia 9
26. France 2 – Not for the first time in recent history, one of my most-loved entries lost the final. Waldo’s People in 2009, Tooji in 2012, and now this! Maybe Moustache wasn’t very effective in such a grand setting, but…TWO POINTS?!? I guess I should just be grateful that Twin Twin didn’t pull a Jemini.
Australia calling! The results from our unofficial final vote
Over on broadcaster SBS’s Eurovision site, us fans Down Under had the chance to thumbs up or thumbs down each entry as was our want. I couldn’t even do that, because of state-related time zone issues, so it was up to the rest of my fellow Aussies to decide our “points”. Here’s our top 10, in traditional ESC fashion:
1 point went to Ukraine
2 points went to Malta
3 points went to Switzerland
4 points went to the UK
5 points went to Poland
6 points went to Iceland
7 points went to Finland
8 points went to the Netherlands
10 points went to Sweden
Aaaaaaaaand, surprise surprise…our 12 points went to Austria.
So it looks like Conchita has recruited herself a fan club over here as well. We actually agreed with Europe’s entire top 3 (albeit in a slightly different order) but put Finland, Iceland, Poland (woohoo!), the UK, Switzerland and Malta in place of Armenia, Hungary, Russia, Norway, Denmark and Spain. Oh, and in case you were wondering, San Marino came in 26th. So I guess it wasn’t so much a Maybe here as a Definitely Not.
Back To The Semis: The Winners, Losers and Almosts
Semi final 1 ↓
- The Netherlands 150
- Sweden 131
- Hungary 127
- Armenia 121
- Ukraine 118
- Russia 63
- Montenegro 63
- Iceland 61
- Azerbaijan 57
- San Marino 40
- Portugal 39
- Estonia 36
- Latvia 33
- Belgium 28
- Albania 22
- Moldova 13
- For the first time ever, the Netherlands topped a Eurovision semi final. I’m still surprised by this to be honest (because I didn’t think the majority would rule on a humble l’il country number…and it’s the Netherlands) but it’s something for all of the countries in a rut to take note of. With the right song and act, anything is possible.
- Sanna pipped Andras for the honour of qualifying second, but not by much. Hungary are going from strength to strength, having qualified every year since their 2011 comeback, and made the final top 10 for two consecutive years.
- There was a 55-point gap split between the 5th and 6th qualifiers – Ukraine and Russia. Montenegro made it to their first final on the same point level as Russia, with Iceland very close behind.
- Azerbaijan’s 9th place made quite the change from their previous stellar history. During the 2008-2011 period they qualified 6th, 2nd, 2nd and 2nd, and won their semi final last year in Malmö. It’s safe to say Dilara didn’t start many fires with her slow-burn ballad!
- Jaws all over the globe hit the floor when San Marino went through, unsurprisingly in 10th place. What we didn’t know at the time was that poor Portugal had finished just under San Marino. A single point was all that separated Valentina and Suzy, which probably left the latter wondering what she could have done to win over a few more jury members (it was the juries who sealed her fate by ranking her last).
- Moldova’s hair-ripping routine failed to get them to the final for the first time since 2008. Perhaps now they’ll realise that the classic costume reveal is still okay?
Semi final 2 ↓
- Austria 169
- Romania 125
- Finland 97
- Switzerland 92
- Belarus 87
- Norway 77
- Greece 74
- Poland 70
- Malta 63
- Slovenia 52
- Lithuania 36
- Ireland 35
- Macedonia 33
- Israel 19
- Georgia 15
- From losing their semi final and limping only to 16th place in last year’s to winning the whole thing, Austria sure rose up (pardon the pun) in the rankings this time around. Conchita’s powerful pipes won convincingly over Paula Seling’s dog-frightener of a note.
- Surprisingly high qualifiers in this semi (for me) were Finland and Switzerland, in 3rd and 4th places. Switzerland turned out to be less of a borderline entry than many of us thought it would be. Greece, on the other hand, didn’t do as well as is expected of them, nor as well as I was hoping.
- Poland’s qualification was pretty convincing for a country that hadn’t seen a Saturday night since 2008, putting them 18 points ahead of just-in Slovenia.
- Vilija can’t have been as devastated as Suzy must have been to end up 11th, as her result was brought on by much more than one point. Things were quite tight in the 11th-13th-placed range.
- Israel coming second-to-last with only four more points than bonkers Georgia was a big shock for me, and I’m not even a massive fan of Same Heart. Mei’s performance was fiercer than 100 angry Beyoncés in a fistfight, and I’m sure she’s made it her mission to hunt down and poke her sword at everyone who failed to vote for her.
- Georgia last = duh. Okay, so the song has grown on me, and the parachute thing actually worked IMO, but Three Minutes To Earth was always going to be more like Three Minutes to the Bottom of the Scoreboard.
My top 10, two weeks later
As usual, seeing the songs performed live for the real deal changed my already changeable mind a LOT. Once again I used this handy sorter to gauge my own opinion, and below you can see my post-show top fifteen (because I didn’t think anyone would want to read through my entire top 37 for the third time) and how they’ve moved from my most recent ranking done just prior to the first semi. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who might have been hoping for a renouncement of my Team Sanna membership.
- Sweden (=)
- Poland (+5)
- Greece (-1)
- France (-1)
- Armenia (+1)
- Denmark (+4)
- Italy (+6)
- Belarus (=)
- Norway (=)
- Hungary (-6)
- Montenegro (-6)
- Ukraine (+12)
- Iceland (+1)
- Finland (+21)
- Albania (+7)
So I’m clearly crushing on Finland after Softengine rocked the Hallerne…what about you? How have your rankings changed since the show?
That’s about all I have to say on the scores at the moment. I hope this overview was worth the delay in one way or another! If you’re still up for complaining and/or rejoicing in the outcomes of this year’s contest, I’m up for listening, so comment down below with any of your unaired thoughts.
NEXT TIME: Watch out…the 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence are coming! I’m about to open my People’s Choice polls, and I want you to vote to decide each winner (duh. That’s the whole point) so make sure you drop by in a few days’ time to have your say. This year you get to vote on more awards than ever before in the two-or-three-year history of the ceremony, so get excited! Please? Just a little bit?
Well, this is belated. Having been unable to focus on study for the week leading up to Eurovision, and then over the Eurovision period itself, I was forced to make up for lost time the second Conchita Wurst ended her winner’s reprise. To cut a boring story short, I’ve only just been able to put together something of a review of last Saturday’s final from Copenhagen to follow my overviews of the semis. I’ve barely even started dissecting the results, so while that’s still in progress (I’m hoping you guys will still be interested in reading that by the time I post it) I’ll just cover everything up until the voting.
As it’s been like, FOREVERRRR since the final took place, allow me to refresh your memory via my personal highlights and lowlights of the evening; plus some extremely exciting photographs of my decorating/waving paraphernalia. Things just don’t get more epic than this…
I had a mini Molly, Conchita and Sanna (courtesy of Ben Morris’ Minipop Icons) to accompany me during the show, plus some DIY banners to wave until the Sellotape gave way.
To begin: we all know that it was Austria’s golden girl Conchita who took out the contest on Saturday evening, marking her country’s first win since 1966. It wasn’t a landslide win, but despite the EBU’s best efforts to disguise the result for as long as possible via their voting order algorithm (only to have the hosts announce the winner early AGAIN which I will complain about in detail when I talk results) there came a point where we knew we were going to Vienna. Or Innsbruck. Maybe Graz? I’m reluctant to settle on the likeliest host city for 2015 after the great “Oh, it’s definitely going to be Stockholm!” incident of 2012. Not that it matters – wherever in Austria the 60th contest takes place, I’ll be über excited to see the show. My delayed congratulations go out to Conchita, and her short but sweet victory speech. Rise Like A Phoenix may not have been up there with my favourite entries of the year, but it’s a worthy winner in so many ways. The added bonus is that it’s always nice to see a country of few recent successes do incredibly well. This could be the start of a wave of excellent results for Austria, a la Germany 2010-2012…so long as they don’t decide to send Trackshittaz again.
My favourite acts of the night
Many of those who impressed me during the semis did it again during the final. In fact, all of my highlights bar one were semi-finalists. Read on to find out which member of the Big 6 floated my boat.
- Iceland – as proud as I am of the fine Australian export that is The Wiggles, I was born a bit early to have grown up with them (the Spice Girls were my one true childhood love). Pollapönk seem like an adult-appropriate version of The Wiggles to me, so I’m not ashamed to say I was thoroughly entertained by their colourful performance yet again. No Prejudice is like the theme of Conchita’s win. I wonder if she and the boys ever got together for a chat? They seem to have a lot in common (beards included).
- Armenia – Aram was perhaps feeling some pressure in the final, as his vocal was slightly ropey. But I still found his three minutes full of impact. Waiting for the song’s climax to explode (almost literally, with those fire jets they had going), knowing it was about to go BAM, was exciting every time.
- Poland – following in the footsteps of the comparable Igranka, here was a song that could have been dreadful live but turned out to work like a charm (it must be the charming beauty of the Slavic girls). Cleo swapped t-shirts, but apart from that, Poland put on the same saucy, folksy performance that catapulted them into the final in the first place.
- Greece – no song got the crowd moving like Rise Up. At home, surrounded by junk food and feeling particularly lazy, I stayed put on the couch…but my #TeamFreakyFortune banner was getting a workout, believe me. The energy level here was through the roof, and that was pre-trampoline.
- Austria – this was a winning performance, flawless and full of the sass and drama that has become Conchita’s trademark. The roar of the crowd before, during and after was well-deserved, and gave me a strong feeling that what was a very open contest had narrowed over the course of just three minutes.
- Sweden – I didn’t cry this time, but my beloved Sanna nailed Undo just as she had in the semi, and continued to give me the feels and the chills I mentioned in my review. And I must thank her for giving me something to put on my Christmas list – my own personal (and preferably portable) cage of light.
- Finland – Softengine have wooed me, and I swear it’s not because of their clean-cut cuteness. I wasn’t fazed by Something Better at UMK, or when I watched the music video, and yet somehow the Eurovision performances have left me digging the heck out of it.
- Denmark – this has to be done, I’m afraid…SKUBA DUBA DAP DAP DIDI DAJ, I LOVE YOU! Because I honestly do, Denmark. Basim kicked home country butt, renewing my affection for Cliché Love Song in the process. The unfurling flag put off some people, but I thought it was a massive fabric cherry on top of an excellent performance.
- The Netherlands – The Common Linnets were the total package on final night. They sounded great, looked great, connected with each other and the camera well (Waylon’s smouldering eyes…) and their staging was simple but perfectly suited to CATS. My only complaint concerns the guitar soloist, who put way too much drama into his shred on a clearly unplugged instrument.
My least-favourite acts of the night
Because nobody hashtag failed (not miserably, anyway) I’m about to get rul, rul picky. Prepare yourselves.
- Romania – neither Paula nor Ovi sang as well as they had in their semi, and all the elements of the act that were awkward then seemed even more so on this occasion. I draw your attention to the hug, which resulted in Ovi almost choking on a chunk of Paula’s hair. He’ll be producing hairballs for weeks.
- Italy – Emma’s vocals are rough around the edges, and that’s part of her appeal. But to me her performance was a bit messy and aggressive. I felt like she was shouting directly at me for most of the song. Amazing outfit though – it was like she smashed a bunch of mirrors, poured PVA glue all down her front and then rolled in the debris. I am totally copying that for my next night out.
- Spain – don’t get me wrong, Ruth’s a great singer, and stunning to look at (the wet look really works for her). But there were moments when she was over-singing those money notes so much, I thought she was going to explode. I don’t think the janitors would have appreciated having to Hoover up bits of Ruth from all over the arena.
- United Kingdom – nothing was particularly wrong, but something wasn’t right here. I didn’t connect and I didn’t feel the anthemic-ness of COTU was genuine. A UK win was a lost cause when I found myself thinking more about how awesome Molly’s shoes were than anything else.
What else went down?
- The Danish version of the Swedish artist parade gets my tick of approval. Taking us through the running order and introducing each act in one hit was genius. I hope the Austrians were taking notes!
- The hosts were…well, there. Nikolaj was charming, Lise was a pro, and Pilou continued to be adorable and have a stage name that reminds me of a certain Claymation penguin. BUT THEY WEREN’T JANA AND MIKKO! Three is an odd number (duh) but I always find it extra odd with Eurovision hosts. One or two people is enough, and makes it far easier to divvy up duties such as chatting awkwardly with the contestants in the green room.
- I have to mention the postcards again. I touched on them briefly in my semi reviews, but I don’t think that adequately conveyed my feelings for them. I love it when the postcards make you want to watch them over and over again (unlike the touristy ones from the likes of Baku which become little more than attractive yet annoying breaks between songs) and these ones definitely did that. Aside from giving us a look at the next artist up, they entertained AND informed us that, for example, Andras Kállay-Saunders trots around with pre-solved Rubik’s cubes in his backpack, and Emma maintains her figure by making flags out of her food instead of eating it. These postcards made our #MyEurovisionFlags look amateur.
- It was a relief to see Emmelie de Forest deviate from singing Only Teardrops for the billionth time in order to perform Rainmaker, a song I prefer. It’s been a year and she still hasn’t stumbled upon a shoe store, but at least she’s found a hairbrush and added some colour to her wardrobe – she looked like Pocahontas at a rave, and it was glorious. All the artists in the final joining her on stage to sing along was as heart-warming as I imagined it would be, although I bet they spent the whole time surreptitiously elbowing each other out of the way to get in shot.
Well, that’s my fan’s-eye view of the grand final, albeit over a week after the fact (oops). Of course, there are the all-important results – the shocks, surprises, and expectations pretty much met – remaining to be discussed (by me…the rest of the planet has got their act together and done it already) and I’ll be doing that sometime in the next few days. Following that, I have some exciting stuff re: Copenhagen planned – i.e. my annual EBJ Awards. For this edition, I want you guys to vote for more than just one award á la last year, so have your poll-taking fingers poised!
Looking waaaaaaay back at the final of Eurovision 2014, what were your performance (or other) highlights and lowlights? Did the right song win the contest? And have you managed to undo your post-ESC sad yet?
I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach, and since I didn’t have anything nerve-wracking to do today, it meant one thing and one thing only: IT’S EUROVISION TIME!!! Well, kind of. As I write this intro, the first semi final is mere hours away, although I won’t be seeing it until Friday night. The Australian TV broadcast kicks off then and continues over the weekend, and it’s a ritual for me to wait for it rather than haul myself out of bed to watch the contest live via a very unreliable stream. I’m not even buying my Eurovision food until tomorrow (my snacks of choice this year being sugared popcorn and Redskins) which is also when my internet blackout starts in a quest to avoid spoilers. It’s hard work, but I’ve managed successfully in the past, not counting the year I found out the winner about an hour before the final was screened here (circa 2010). So I won’t be blogging until at least after I’ve seen the first semi, but I will definitely be back. Feel free to comment or interact with me any time, because it’s up to me to avoid any virtual contact until the coast is clear.
My last post before the winners and losers of tonight’s first semi final are known (I still can’t believe today’s the day!) is a mix of rankings, predictions, expectations and hopes for everything concerning Eurovision 2014. I’ve been so busy with uni lately that a lot of this was written last-minute, so I apologise if that’s super obvious, or if it doesn’t sound like I’m that excited about the ESC being upon us. Believe me, I am – it’s my driving force to get as much study out of the way as possible so I can enjoy THE best weekend of the year. On that note, I’ve got many riveting readings to do tonight, so I’ll get down to business right now. First up, it’s ranking time!
My pre-contest top 37 revealed!
This is my second full ranking of the year (I did my first a month or so ago here on the blog) and to make life easier and more accurate, I used this sorter that’s been circulating around the web for a while now. Here are the results, complete with stats showing how each country has moved up, down or not shifted at all since I last ranked.
- Sweden (+1)
- Greece (+1)
- France (-2)
- Hungary (+4)
- Montenegro (+15)
- Armenia (-1)
- Poland (+2)
- Belarus (-4)
- Norway (+1)
- Denmark (-4)
- United Kingdom (+3)
- Moldova (+11)
- Italy (-1)
- Iceland (-7)
- Portugal (+10)
- Estonia (-5)
- Lithuania (+12)
- Germany (-3)
- Slovenia (+3)
- Malta (-2)
- Spain (-2)
- Albania (-9)
- Belgium (+14)
- Ukraine (=)
- The Netherlands (-8)
- Israel (+2)
- Latvia (-11)
- Russia (+6)
- Ireland (-3)
- Switzerland (=)
- Azerbaijan (-4)
- Austria (+1)
- Romania (-12)
- Georgia (+2)
- Finland (-4)
- Macedonia (-4)
- San Marino (-2)
As you can see, there’s been some serious jumps in both directions. Feel free to let me know below which countries’ songs have made major leaps either way in your rankings, and/or what your pre-contest top 10 looks like.
Now, without further ado/rankings…let the predictions begin, show by show!
Semi Final 1
Who will qualify Armenia, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, Moldova, the Netherlands and Hungary
I’m not convinced Russia’s perfect qualification record will be broken, but based on the song and the purported Curse of the JESC Alumni, I’m not convinced they’re a given either. It’s in the bag for Armenia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Hungary as far as I’m concerned, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see others in place of the rest. There are a ton of ‘maybes’ this year!
Who I want to qualify Armenia, Latvia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Portugal, Montenegro and Hungary
I’m desperate for Montenegro to go through, but after hearing nothing but negative comments about their choice of gimmick (when they shouldn’t have chosen anything) their chances may be dashed. Latvian and Portuguese qualifications would each be sweet in their own way.
Who is most likely to…win the semi Armenia. As far as I know without bothering to check, Aram remains the bookies’ favourite FTW, and as the first semi final’s opening act he’s likely to blow us all away and make sure nobody forgets about him. Other countries in the mix to win would be Hungary (if the subject matter doesn’t prevent it) and Sweden (a prediction made on behalf of biased Jaz of Team Sanna).
Lose the semi San Marino. Valentina has by far the most boring song in the lineup, and I can’t imagine anything about it, even with staging and costume taken into account, that would attract votes in mass.
Get the biggest round of applause Belgium. Axel is the male, Belgian equivalent of Susan Boyle, is he not? There are multiple “moments” in Mother that just strike me as golden opportunities for rapturous applause that drowns out whatever gushing declaration of love for his mum Axel makes next.
Sing best live Belgium again. Say what you will about their entry – this is a man with one heck of a set of pipes. I’d also have to single out Sweden, because Sanna’s vocal is always on point. The clarity of her voice sends shivers down my spine, for cereal.
Sing worst live Armenia. Before you say anything that could be misconstrued as a death threat, hear me out. I’m only pegging Aram as a possibility because his song requires both soft, subtle notes and big, BAM IN YOUR FACE shouts/notes, and as I’m yet to hear him sing live, I don’t know how well he handles that combination. I have heard Ukraine’s Maria was ropey in rehearsals, so she may also be up for this title.
Make the best use of the background Montenegro. All they need is to model their graphics after the Moj Svijet video clip and I’ll be swooning.
Have the most boring stage show The Netherlands. Boring isn’t necessarily bad; there are some songs that shouldn’t be accompanied by tons of pyro and a twenty-foot Hell Machine, or intricate choreography. Calm After The Storm is one of them. There will not be much going on aside from guitar-strumming and staged eye contact.
Have the best costume/s Moldova. Think back to any Moldovan entries past and you’ll find they’ve got the ‘weird yet wonderful’ outfit market cornered. Don’t let Cristina’s hideous neon lace number from the opening party fool you – they’ll be style and edge aplenty in her stage selection. And probably a hairstyle that could win awards for architectural excellence.
Have the worst costume/s Albania. It’s safe to say that Hersi won’t have a dreadlock wrapped around her neck (unless she borrowed one of Rona’s for the occasion) but judging by some of the outfits I’ve seen on her up until now, what she wears on her big night may not be the most stylish of outfits. In fact…she likes lace and Peter Pan collars. Maybe she’ll wear Cristina’s hideous neon lace number? Sorry, Hersi and fans of. You’re more than welcome to prove me wrong.
Semi Final 2
Who will qualify Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Finland, Belarus, Macedonia, Greece, Slovenia and Romania
Once again, there are some definites and more possibles in this bunch. I’m expecting Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Greece and Romania to sashay into the final with no troubles, but the other spots could go to any combination of countries. The likes of Macedonia and Belarus could just as easily get left behind as they could make it through.
Who I want to qualify Malta, Israel, Norway, Poland, Austria, Lithuania, Belarus, Switzerland, Greece and Slovenia
I would LOVE the Slavic girls to be there on Saturday night, but I can’t see it based on what I’ve been calling the ‘Igranka effect’ – if that didn’t make the final, why would this? The one time I want Lithuania to do their trick of surprisingly qualifying, it doesn’t seem to be on the cards.
Who is most likely to…win the semi Greece or Romania. My personal preference is for Greece (refer to my bagging of Romania in my last lot of reviews to see why) but I feel like either country could dominate with their high-energy songs and acts.
Lose the semi Lithuania. That’s if they don’t qualify against the odds like they’ve done more than once in the past. I just think there’s so much that doesn’t work with Attention, mostly based on what I’ve heard regarding the visual aspects, that it could easily end up floundering in last place.
Get the biggest round of applause Austria. Conchita’s song is massive, as is her voice and her stage presence. I’ll grow a perfectly-shaped beard if the crowd doesn’t go crazy for her.
Sing best live Conchita. As I said and as we all know, she’s a powerful vocalist who handles money notes and key changes with ease. Unless she’s worn out her chords this week, she shouldn’t fail to impress.
Sing worst live Vilija. Again, I haven’t heard her sing live, so this is more or less down to the possibility. Consider my benefit of the doubt given, though.
Make the best use of the background Finland. Something flashy would definitely spice up a performance in which the band will be in one place the whole time.
Have the most boring stage show Ireland. This song is so mid-tempo, I’m not sure what kind of stage act would work with it. It’s too bad if I turn out to be right about this, because the song doesn’t really go anywhere and some Ukraine-esque score-boosting props or dancers would give it a better chance of success.
Have the best costume/s Poland. Even those of us who haven’t seen Cleo & co’s fashion choices for the contest will know what they are. The mixture of traditional costume and, well, skimpier stuff, goes well with the fusion of folk and modern sounds that is My Słowianie. My runner-up would be Slovenia, as I have seen Tinkara’s dress and it looks amazing. The Slovenian girls always do!
Have the worst costume Lithuania. Again, I’ve seen it, and although it’s nothing on the likes of Moje 3’s candy-coloured monstrosities from Malmö, it’s not good. Actually, come to think of it, one of those ridiculous dresses might have worked for Vilija…
The Grand Final
The lineup, IMO Armenia, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, Moldova, the Netherlands, Hungary, Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Finland, Belarus, Macedonia, Greece, Slovenia, Romania, Germany, Italy, Denmark, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. In a totally random, non-producer engineered order, of course. NOT.
Who will win Oh, how I wish that was an easy question to answer! Apart from the fact that I totally don’t, because this is one of the most open contests I’ve ever experienced and that makes it extra exciting. Still, I’ve had such a hard time predicting the winner that I could only narrow my long list of potentials down to five. In alphabetical order, here they are:
Armenia – Not Alone is the favourite, and you can’t discount the favourite! I’m still having trouble visualising the credits rolling over it (which is apparently a good indication of a song’s winning chances) but it certainly has impact and grabs attention.
Azerbaijan – Because come on, it’s Azerbaijan. They have a comparatively unique ballad up their sequined sleeve, a strong voice in Dilara, and what sounds like great staging as always.
Estonia – Amazing itself is close enough to Euphoria that it would be a questionable winner, but it’s accessible and instant, and the presentation will stick in people’s minds no matter where it crops up in the running order. Don’t forget that history often repeats…
Israel – I didn’t see this one’s success in the OGAE vote coming, so I’m attempting to see a possible contest win coming. Mei’s a powerful performer with a very competent pop song that has edge. She could drive straight up the middle of the scoreboard with consistent 6s, 7s and 8s.
UK – I’m hoping Molly has a real shot, and we’re not all getting ahead of ourselves like we did with Blue. The difference here is that not only is the song good, the performance will likely be too. If I Can reached 11th with that messy performance, COTU could do a lot better. And I mean a LOT.
Who will make the top 10 Again, in alphabetical order, my guess is Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Malta, Sweden and the UK.
This list perhaps features too many cliché top tenners, when in recent years there’s been a few surprise acts making it this far. But they’re a surprise for a reason – it’s hard to predict them!
Who will be left at the bottom Finland or the Netherlands, assuming they both get to the final. I just feel that their songs could be the kind that get overshadowed when the going gets tough. Otherwise, France or Germany are possibilities. I adore Moustache and like Is It Right quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean either will capture anyone’s mood. The chances of predicting this correctly are very slim, so I’m just going with random feelings here.
Where the final six will end up I’m foreseeing two of the auto-finalists in this year’s top 10 – Denmark and the UK. Molly may end up anywhere from 1st-6th position, while the host act will likely be in the 5th-8th range. I think Italy will narrowly miss out on the top 10 in about 11th or 12th place, followed by the too-typical Spain in 13th-16th. As mentioned just before, I reckon France and Germany could be (undeservedly) down the bottom end of the scoreboard – in the 18th-26th area.
A few bonus bits
Here are some extra predictions/hopes etc that didn’t fit in anywhere else. Enjoy?!?
The five countries I want to succeed the most Greece, Montenegro, Poland, Sweden and the UK, all for different reasons and with the knowledge that it’s not going to happen for all of them.
Five things I’m excited for
- Seeing the stage in action – it’s like a giant dissected Rubik’s Cube, and that is freaking awesome.
- Watching the postcards – we’ve all been getting our #MyEurovisionFlag on in the leadup to Copenhagen, and now in the postcards, each artist will be doing the same. Props go to whoever came up with that idea (which does remind me a teensy bit of Belgrade ’08).
- Cheering on the Australian entry – Jess Mauboy is representing us, if only in the second semi’s interval act, and I can’t wait to wave a flag for her! I know she’ll do us proud, and it’ll be great practice for when the EBU finally let Australia participate for real. Hashtag IN MY DREAMS.
- Knowing the qualifiers – this year has been incredibly hard to predict, and it will be a relief to finally know which of the many maybe songs are to become finalists.
- Nail-biting my way through the final voting – with such an open year on our hands, the voting sequence has the potential to be the most tense we’ve seen in a very long time. As stressful as that will be, I say bring it on.
Five cities I’d love to see host the 60th contest
- Budapest, Hungary
- Manchester, England
- Paris, France
- Reykjavik, Iceland
- Warsaw, Poland
Lugano, Switzerland would also be neat, 2015 being a big Eurovision anniversary and all…any chance you can make that happen, Sebalter? Hypnotise the continent into voting for you via your superior whistling skills!
I think that about covers everything. It’d want to, considering I’ve rambled on for the equivalent length of an encyclopedia. It’s very late where I’m at, and I’m falling asleep on my keyboard (the impressions it’s leaving in my face are extremely attractive) so I’m off to sleep through the start of Eurovision 2014 before commencing my spoiler-watch. On behalf of me, myself and I, I wish you the merriest of Eurovisions, whether you’re watching live or you’re waiting for something better (by which I mean a TV broadcast, not the Finnish entry to come on). May the best song win, whatever that may be, but above all, let the show exceed all of our expectations and make for hours of flag and TEAM SANNA 4EVERRRRRRR banner-waving. Or is that just going to be me?
Get in while you still can, people! Give me your tips for qualifiers, the winner and everything in-between. Or, if the results have been and gone, tell me what I can do next year to improve on my terrible predicting skills…