SATURDAY SHORTLIST | The best 2019 national final songs that didn’t even come close to becoming ESC entries
I know, I know…national final season ended weeks ago and the world has moved on. Eurovision In Concert is tonight, for Serhat’s sake! But you guys are used to me being behind the times, hopefully in an endearing, ‘Oh, that Jaz and her constant lateness to the party’ kind of way. And you can’t expect me to leave those crazy months of NFs behind yet. Not before I’ve acknowledged the musical gems that may not have won through in the end, but showed so much promise that in some cases, it’s worth a dramatic soap-opera wail because they didn’t.
Last time I listed every single second-placed song from the 2019 selection season, which you can revisit (so sweet that you’d want to read it again, you super awesome human) or check out for the first time (what are you waiting for? JEEZ) here. This time I’ve restrained myself and chosen six of the best songs that finished 3rd or lower in their respective NFs – so they weren’t really in contention when it came down to it. That makes their quality even more impressive.
PS – Don’t worry, this isn’t just a six-strong list of Melodifestivalen songs. I mean, I could have chosen six from Sweden alone, but not wanting to be too predictable I forced myself to pick only one song from each country in question. My willpower > your willpower.
PPS – Or not. I don’t know if this counts as cheating, but you can find a full playlist of all of my favourite NF songs from 2019 at the end of this post. I’d been putting it together as the season progressed and then “accidentally” embedded it below. Whoops.
Now, let’s get down to business.
On My Way, Sheppard (Australia Decides, Australia)
I remember being underwhelmed when this song came out. Sheppard was one of the biggest and most internationally-known acts competing in Australia Decides – and On My Way was kind of…average. But first impressions never last, as they say. The more I listened to it, the more I liked it and the more likely I was to scream with excitement every time it started playing on the radio (which is embarrassing at work). At this point, I have it pegged as an anthemic, infectious singalong song: just the sort of thing Sheppard does best. I actually wouldn’t have minded sending these guys to Tel Aviv instead of KMH (but not instead of Electric Fields).
Our City, Linus Bruhn (Unser Lied für Israel, Germany)
I know I’m in the minority, preferring this song over literally everything else Germany had to offer, but I don’t care. The performance would have needed to level up if Linus HAD won ULfI (and Guy Sebastian might have had something to say about those LED streetlights) but even so, I honestly think Our City was Germany’s best option for Eurovision. It’s radio-friendly but still competitive, urban and catchy, and has a chorus that would have had thousands of arms up in the air in Tel Aviv (still attached to bodies, fortunately). The best thing I can say about Sister, on the other hand, is that it’s packed with girl power.
Világítótorony, Olivér Berkes (A Dal, Hungary)
For those of us who get (potentially too) invested in certain songs during NF season, losing them along the way can be heartbreaking. I never expected Olivér, on his first A Dal attempt as a soloist, to win the whole thing – but I also didn’t expect him to crash out and not even reach the semi-finals. How is that possible with a ballad this beautiful? Világítótorony is pure class, quality and emotion, and gave me all the physical feels: goosebumps, spine tingles, watery eyes that I would blame on allergies, etc. It’s been months and I’m still both devastated and outraged that it didn’t make the (semi-final) cut.
Mr. Unicorn, D’Sound (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway)
I’m not convinced about the title of this song or the group name (one’s too novelty, the other is straight out of 1995…which makes sense since they’ve been around since 1993). But those are just personal pet peeves. Song-wise, bubblegum disco pop for millennials has never d’sounded so good! Mr. Unicorn is pure fun from start to finish, but it’s still slick and contemporary – like a Scandipop/Scandilove/Daft Punk love child. I’m a fan of Spirit in the Sky, don’t get me wrong. But I would have been over the moon if D’Sound had kept their winning streak from the jury vote going through to the Gold Final and then the battle between the last two acts standing.
I Do Me, Malou Prytz (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)
As I mentioned before, this whole list could have been based on my favourite Melfest 2019 songs – but so you guys didn’t have to roll your eyes at my Swedish obsession yet again, I made the sacrifice. After hours of deliberation (no joke) I went for I Do Me because a) it was such a surprise package and a great debut for Malou; b) it’s so cute and catchy I cannot be in a bad mood after I’ve listened to it; and c) I love Clueless, so the inspiration for the staging and Malou’s outfit (which I want a dupe of SO BAD) was right up my street. The cherry on top of all this goodness was the artist/songwriter reaction to going direkt. Their ‘Us? Really?!?’ face were adorable.
Apart, KAZKA (Vidbir, Ukraine)
First things first: the live performances of this song at Vidbir were vocally questionable at best. But in studio, like everything else KAZKA produces, it’s sublime. I have no doubt that if Apart had won the NF and no drama had followed, the performance would have been whipped into shape in usual Ukrainian style and been a contender for a great Eurovision result. In this reality though, I’ll just keep streaming the shiz out of the studio version and particularly enjoying the mysterious chanting towards the end. Is it a troupe of Ukrainian grannies á la Buranovskiye Babushki? Who knows, but I think they’re saying ‘KAZKA must get to Eurovision ASAP…oh, and Tayanna, of course’.
Listen to all of today’s tracks (plus many more) right here:
Which songs didn’t even reach 2nd place this NF season but ended up on your best-of playlist? Let me know below!
Until next time,
Hey you…it’s me again. Yes, that’s a Kate Miller-Heidke reference – it seemed like the perfect way to introduce this post, one that’s coming to you from Past Jaz. She recently arrived back from her trip to the Gold Coast for Australia’s first-ever national final, and she kept a diary while she was there that she wants to share with you now. Present Jaz figures you won’t mind reading about something that’s already happened, since it’s Eurovision-related. And so, without further ado – because this is a loooooooong read and you guys are going to need stamina to get through it – let’s rewind a week to the day I got to the GC and the magic started to happen.
Thursday February 7, 6.15pm
Somewhere between Sydney and the Gold Coast
Okay, so that was the worst opening for an Australian-themed post ever. I apologise. I just couldn’t bring myself to say ‘G’day, mate!’ – it’s not in my nature to go Full Australian™.
I will be doing my best to be Miss Patriotic for the next two nights though, as I scream hysterically in the audience of the Australia Decides jury show and televised final. I’m on the last leg of my cross-country trip as we speak (because even attending an Aussie NF requires me to travel a minimum of seven hours) and at the moment, things feel pretty surreal…and not just due to my altitude-induced air-headedness. Sure, I’ve made the pilgrimage to Stockholm for Eurovision and for Melodifestivalen (not-so-humble brag alert). But an Aussie NF is a different story. If you’d told me a year ago that Australia would be selecting their entry for Eurovision 2019 via a national final — and that I’d be there in person to see it happen — I’d probably have laughed in your face.
But here we are. And since it’s a special occasion, I thought I’d document it with this diary-style post so that those of you outside of Australia/unable to attend this weekend’s shows can live vicariously through me (or get bored by my ramblings, one of the two). There’s not much to say right now except something about the competing songs, considering I haven’t actually done that yet. I want to give you guys my first impressions before I give you a rundown of who nailed it/failed it in the jury show, and prior to me predicting a winner.
So, The Songs…*insert dramatic Law and Order DUM DUM here*. Well, if you follow me on Twitter – which you should, I’m hilarious – you’ll know that I am happier than Nathan Trent on Christmas morning with the line-up for this NF. I always thought that if we had one, it would have the cringe factor of its almost-namesake You Decide (sorry, UK). But SBS has come through and delivered some serious musical goods. As people born after 2000 and who don’t have dark circles under their eyes yet would say, it snaps and I stan.
Friday February 8, 11.15am
No Name Lane Café, Broadbeach
Sorry for that short break that lasted an entire night, but I had to stop typing so my plane could land. How inconvenient. To pick up where I left off, it’s time to review the Australia Decides songs in as few words as possible, and in terms of song quality/any artist biases that I may or may not have.
In alphabetical order by performer, let’s do this thing.
To Myself I didn’t watch Alfie’s season of The Voice, so listening to this song for the first time was also the first time I’d heard him sing. Clearly, he’s pretty good at it. And suitably, this song sounds like it could have been a winning TV talent show song, only it’s got more edge and less cringe than a typical track of that variety. It’s anthemic, goosebumpy in parts, and underrated, I reckon.
Dust I did watch Aydan’s season of The Voice, and my inner 14–year-old totally voted for him (and would have had a poster of him on her bedroom wall if she wasn’t actually 27). I LOVE his voice, and this song suits his smooth tones and Benjamin Ingrosso-esque falsetto perfectly. Great lyrics, slick production and a kickass chorus = excellence, IMO.
Fight For Love Frivolous? Yes. But fun and fabulous at the same time? Absolutely. Courtney is a pro with the perfect amount of theatricality, personality and actual talent, and this song is so her. I don’t really want it to go to Eurovision on Australia’s behalf, but I am dying to dance to it in the mosh pit (such as it is) on Saturday night.
2000 and Whatever Cards on the table, this is my favourite Aus Decides entry and exactly what I want to see in Tel Aviv. It’s everything I’d hoped we’d send to the ESC since our story started, but never thought we would. It ticks box after box despite being outside of the box, if you know what I mean: it’s original, high-energy, dynamic, hook-laden and features an Indigenous-language bridge that’s uniquely Aussie. Electric Fields, you have yourself a new and very devoted fangirl!
Data Dust In the battle of the dusts, Aydan is my pick by far. Still, Ella’s song fills a genre spot in this line-up, and gives us all the chance to have a mild headbang while watching the show. It’s catchy, got a good beat and seems like something she’ll enjoy performing, and that enjoyment should transmit to viewers at home. The chorus is pretty sticky too. It’s a good one to shampoo your hair to in the shower, trust me.
Zero Gravity KMH is a big favourite, and after an adjustment period I can see why. My first listen of this song ended with a WTF face because it was such an assault on the senses. But after a few more run-throughs, I realised what’s special about this – everything. It grabs your attention from the beginning whether you like it or not, and doesn’t let go. Reminiscent of Alenka Gotar’s Cvet Z Juga but with a stronger pop sensibility, it combines Kate’s classical and contemporary talents into one distinctive package. No wonder it’s a contender.
Set Me Free Anyone who predicted that an unknown 16–year-old would produce a song as killer as this must have super-psychic powers. I sure didn’t see it coming, but I’m glad it did. Leea’s moody, Scandinavian NF-worthy pop ballad is right up my street (I’ve saved her a space in my garage with an engraved plaque). The verses set up a beautiful, fragile atmosphere that flows into a punch-packing chorus, taking Leea from a place of vulnerability to a place where she’s not going to take crap from this mystery jerk of a guy any more. You go, girlfriend.
This Is Not The End We were spoilt by Il Volo back in 2015, because no male operatic song will ever measure up to Grande Amore (including Il Volo’s own song in SanRemo this year). I don’t mind this one, and there’s nothing that would have shown off Mark’s amazing vocals better. I just prefer almost every other song competing.
On My Way This has Sheppard written all over it with a big fat Sharpie. It’s anthemic, danceable and light-hearted without being cheesy (just) and as always, the O’G3NE-ish camaraderie between the siblings is appealing and sure to give them brotherly and sisterly chemistry on stage. I won’t lie, this song doesn’t blow my mind…but it’s what I expected from the band, and it’s a solid effort.
Piece of Me This was the last AD song to be released and sadly, it wasn’t a case of leaving the best until last. For someone who’s spent a decade living in Sweden, the home of successful songwriters of cutting-edge pop, Tania has thrown it back with this 2000s example of elevator music. Granted, it’s GOOD elevator music, but a little uninspired and dated. Also, the verses are stronger than the choruses which is a worry. Can’t she just perform Bachelor Girl’s Buses and Trains instead?
Friday February 8, 6.30pm
Casa de Jaz (a.k.a. My Air BnB)
That was another abrupt ending – maybe get used to those, guys. And now you know who I will and won’t be backing FTW, I’ve got to say goodbye already. It’s for a legit reason – it’s time to head down the road (literally…I can see the Convention Centre from my apartment) and see what the Australia Decides jury show has to offer. I’m meeting up with Anita from Eurovision Union (if you missed our recent Melfest collab, you can check it out here) and we’ll keep you informed on our socials as the show unfolds. Of course, you’ll be reading this after the fact, so if you weren’t following us on Twitter etc then, do it now and see what we thought in the past. Be overcome by our incredible observations and precise foresight and bitchy comments because sometimes they’re just called for. I’ll see you on the other side!
Friday February 8, 10.55pm
My Air BnB again
And I’m back, after one seriously impressive jury show – albeit one that could do with some trimming to make it less of a marathon. Still, SBS has done an incredible job transforming the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre into an ESC-worthy space, complete with a stage that looks stunning on and off camera.
I can’t say the entire run-through was as flawless tonight, but the performances aside – which were obviously being judged – it didn’t matter that there were some technical difficulties. That basically extended to Aydan having to restart his performance after his mic failed á la Estonia at Eurovision 2017, and hosts Myf and Joel visiting Struggletown for a few seconds when the autocue decided to have a breakdown. Fingers crossed these are kinks that will be ironed out before we go live.
Regardless, Australia Decides looks like it’s going to be an awesome debut NF, with (lots of) great interval acts – including two songs from Dami Im – plus Eurovision vignettes and host scripting that’s closer to Petra and Måns than the Portuguese quartet on the humour scale. To touch on the most important stuff, here’s my quick take on the 10 acts’ jury performances:
Who impressed Electric Fields, Mark Vincent, Aydan, Courtney Act and Kate Miller-Heidke. EF raised the roof and Zaachariaha’s flamboyance filled the room. Mark’s vocal power was undeniable. Aydan’s vocals were more understated but smooth as silk, and there was an intimate stage setup at the start that made him stand out. Courtney delivered the exact level of pizzazz feat. props we all hoped for, and Kate? Well, more on her in a minute.
Who disappointed Sheppard and Tania Doko. Sheppard might have suffered from expectations being too high – they were okay, but rough around the edges and looked messy on stage. Tania’s vocals were on point but her choreography was so bizarre I couldn’t take it seriously. Trying to make Piece of Me more interesting backfired a bit.
Who did neither Ella, Leea Nanos and Alfie Arcuri. They all turned out good but not great performances. Ella provided an energetic opener and an eye-wateringly tight jumpsuit, Leea showed maturity and sophistication beyond her years and Alfie sang like the champion he is (and flashed some welcome flesh in a shirt open enough to appeal to Sakis Rouvas). But none of them went above and beyond to come forward as contenders.
In terms of who would have scored big with the jury tonight, there’s one person who stood head and shoulders above everyone else…literally. Kate Miller-Heidke was in another league, and between her world-class vocals, elaborate costume and action-packed staging (it looked like there was more money thrown at her than at the other nine artists combined) it was a winning package. As much as I love Electric Fields and will be praying for a 2000 and Whatever win instead, I suspect KMH has just booked herself a ticket to Tel Aviv. If so, that might shock a lot of ESC fans who’ve accused Australia of playing it too safe recently (something I haven’t been able to argue with). At this point, I’m all for divisive – it’s much better than dull.
If there is a challenger to Kate apart from Electric Fields, I’d say it was Sheppard despite an underwhelming performance. And if I was taking a major punt, I’d say don’t rule out Courtney completely. Not only did she give her all to an intense three minutes in a latex outfit without breaking a sweat, she also did things in stilettos that I couldn’t do in sneakers.
My tip for the final top 3 based on the jury show is:
- Electric Fields
- Courtney/Sheppard (Australia might be about to decide, but I can’t.)
As I said, my personal favourite is Electric Fields. I think if I hated 2000 and Whatever it would actually stand a better shot at winning, so that’s a shame.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me (for now, MWAHAHAHAHAHA) because based on the length of tonight’s show and the energy I know I’ll need to get through it – and dance through it – in the “mosh pit” tomorrow night, I’ve got to get a good night’s sleep. It will probably involve dreams of giant silver caterpillar cocoons, fire-engine-red latex and Joel Creasey dressed as Dami Im. You know, the usual. Good night!
Saturday February 9, 5.43pm
My Air BnB yet again
This is it, guys! The day Australia’s entire Eurovision-obsessed population – and a lot of non-Aussies – have been waiting for. I’ve just eaten a bowl of cereal as my pre-show fuel, which is pathetic but I’m way too excited to eat something substantial. I’ve also just spent 20 minutes writing ‘2000 and’ on one cheek and ‘Whatever’ on the other cheek in eyeliner, and it was time well spent.
I’ve been thinking about the likely outcome of this inaugural NF since last night, and I stand by what I said then – if Kate Miller-Heidke doesn’t have it in the bag, I’ll be SHOCKED TO MY VERY CORE. That wouldn’t be my ideal result, but I think I’ll be so grateful for Australia to have chosen something non-vanilla, I will happily stand behind Kate as our representative (not that you’ll be able to see me). After four years of mostly-successful but always safe entries, it’s time for us to be daring and show Europe that we’re more creative than we get credit for.
Speaking of time to do stuff, it’s time for me to get going. Hysterical screaming, awkward white girl dancing and other typical Saturday night activities await. Let’s do this!
Sunday February 10, 12.10pm
Between the sheets (in a very non-sexy way, believe me)
Okay, so I may have just woken up…but if a super late night followed by a 5am wakeup to watch Melodifestivalen (makes a nice change from 3am) isn’t a good excuse to sleep in until midday, then I don’t know what is.
I didn’t party after the show last night, unless you consider stumbling back to my apartment complex in the rain and falling face down on the bed to lie in wait for the midnight snack (a.k.a. pizza) I’d just ordered a party…which I definitely do. I did have an event invitation courtesy of OGAE Australia, but to be honest I was in PAIN after all that standing. Sounding more like a 77-year-old than a 27-year-old, my groans of ‘My back! My feet!’ were heard across the Gold Coast, and the concept of bed was too desirable to resist. I did pull an all-nighter after the Eurovision final in 2016, so there is a party animal inside me somewhere.
Anyway, on to more important info: we have an Australia Decides winner, and as predicted by moi and most other people with functioning eyes who watched the jury show, it’s Kate Miller-Heidke with Zero Gravity. Topping the jury and public vote meant a win you can’t really argue with (though I have tried a few times in my head) and her performance tonight was breathtaking.
But…AAGH, Electric Fields came so close! They were just 4 points behind KMH after the jury scores had come in, and not much further away after all was said and done. I almost wish they’d finished lower so that all the ‘What if?’ scenarios in my head were useless. On the other hand, 2000 and Whatever being the banger that it is = a probable OGAE Second Chance Contest entry and possible winner. I just hope we didn’t throw away a Eurovision winner, that’s all.
You could have predicted last night’s results by audience volume, which made it quite clear that the original three-horse race (between Kate, Electric Fields and Sheppard) had become a two-horse race between the quirkiest songs/acts on offer. That makes me proud to be an Aussie Eurofan, since clearly we’re not scared to take a risk. A risk I don’t think I want us to take is keeping Kate’s performance so similar to a bunch of Eurovision stage setups that have come before her (which I don’t think I need to mention). There are many ways to get her up off the ground that won’t cause cries of ‘copycat!’ come May – think trapezes, floating platforms or mechanical swings. Just not all three at once please…this isn’t Cirque Du Soleil, SBS, and we want Kate to live to a ripe old age.
All 10 acts upped their game tonight, and though somebody had to come last nobody deserved to. This has been such a strong start for us in NF terms, and Australia Decides has made a great addition to selection season. There were mistakes we can learn from – mainly re: show length and unnecessary padding – but the pros outweighed the cons by far. I don’t have to, but if I did need to wake up at 3am to tune into an NF like this, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
All in all, I’d call Australian NF no. 1 a big success that definitely warrants a sequel in 2020. And if that is the case, you can guarantee I’ll be there.
Monday February 11, 9.30am
Gold Coast Airport
And just like that, my whirlwind trip to the other side of Australia is over. I’m sitting in a café at the airport waiting on a flight that’s been delayed, and feeling that inevitable comedown that we call PED in May and I’m calling PADD at the moment. The niggling feeling I have that Electric Fields would have been a better way to go is actually getting more insistent rather than less so, but I think it’s being fuelled by some super critical Twitter types who think they know exactly what’s going to go down in Tel Aviv even though it’s February and we have 8 songs out of 42. Oh, and they’ve all got hate to spare for Kate, BTW. Hopefully she’ll prove them wrong in a few months’ time on a bigger stage, but if she doesn’t, I’m still happy that Australia opted for something adventurous given the chance.
I caught the show on TV last night on replay, and obviously it was my first time seeing it on screen. The first thing I noticed was my back popping up four times in the first 30 seconds, so it is now more famous than my face will ever be. I expect it to have its own Wikipedia page any day now.
Something else I noticed was that the bulk of vocals didn’t sound as good on TV as they did from inside the Convention Centre, but I found that at Eurovision too. It was still an excellent show feat. great songs, and an event I’ll be reliving a lot in the lead-up to Eurovision. I hope you guys enjoyed it too from wherever you are in the world (and if you were in the live audience, how RUDE of you to not come and say hi! JK, you can do it next year).
At the end of the day this NF was called Australia Decides, and you know what? Australia decided. Now it’s entirely up to Europe to choose our fate. In the meantime, Down Under we’ll be bowing down to our newly-crowned queen of Eurovision: Glinda the Good Witch, a.k.a. Kate Miller-Heidke.
I’m off to start winging my way home (finally). I’ll be back in a few days to resume normal NF reviews and predictions, as the season continues and we wonder which song will be The One for 2019. Who knows…we might have heard it already.