I’m back…again!!! I’ve had to announce my comeback after an extended blogging break pretty often in the past, so I figured why stop now?
My excuse is the same as always: even though Eurovision is my one true love, the older you get the busier you tend to be, and the more commitments you tend to have that keep you from sitting in bed in your pajamas writing about Europop (sadly). Having said that, I will do my best to be here on EBJ as often as possible in the lead-up to Junior Eurovision, the start of the 2018 NF season, and beyond. I’m like Valentina Monetta – you can’t get rid of me permanently and I’ve only made it to the Eurovision final once.
Since my last post, a lot of stuff has happened on Planet Eurovision: JESC switched venues (!); Eurovision Asia officially became A Thing™ (!!!) and Louis Walsh admitted that he thought Ireland would float – hot air balloon pun intended – straight through to the final in Kyiv (?!?!?). Even so, today I wanted to talk about something else. More specifically, I wanted to engineer a song contest showdown in which particular pairs of ESC entries would go head-to-head until, as Ryan Dolan might say in this situation, only one survives (from each battle). I actually started a similar series ages ago but accidentally forgot to continue it. Oops.
For no reason other than I felt like it, this song battle reboot will pit the top 10 tracks of Stockholm 2016 against their 2017 counterparts – so that means Jamala VS Salvador Sobral, Sergey Lazarev VS Sunstroke Project, and (amusingly) Frans VS Robin Bengtsson (because Sweden is apparently awesome at finishing 5th). I’m going to weigh them up against each other musically, crown my personal champ and then give you guys the chance to vote for your preferred song from each pair. Make sure you read through to the end (a toilet break may be necessary at some point) to vote for the best overall top 10.
Stockholm VS Kyiv – which city’s left-side scoreboard was superior? Let’s get this showdown started and find out!
Battle #1 | 1944 by Jamala VS Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral
They’re both brilliant brunette vocalists who made me burst into tears with their emotional performances. I worship the phenomenal woman-power of one and want to give the other one a bone-crushing hug. But which artist had the better winning song? I’m sorry if you wave your pom-poms for Team Salvadorable, because I have to say IT’S YOU JAMALA. This is my opinion, obviously, and you’re welcome to disagree with it. But I was hypnotised by 1944 from first listen, and when it won it was my #1 entry of the year. Amar Pelos Dois took time to tug at my heartstrings, and it’s not something I’ll press play for as often as I did (and still do) with last year’s winner.
Battle #2 | Sound of Silence by Dami Im VS Beautiful Mess by Kristian Kostov
This is more of an apple-to-apple comparison than most of the other head-to-heads on this list, which actually makes it easier to pick a winner. If I were an Australian who’d be on the Olympic podium for patriotism (if that event existed) then this battle would not be in Bulgaria’s favour. But I like to consider myself pretty objective, so – as kick-ass as Dami’s performance was, and as much as I admire the Sia-esque power pop of Sound of Silence – Kristian’s Beautiful Mess is a better song in my brain. It’s just as strong in studio as it is when you see it on stage, whereas Sound of Silence relied a lot on the pizzazz of the performance to push it into top-two territory.
Winner Beautiful Mess
#3 | You Are The Only One by Sergey Lazarev VS Hey Mamma by Sunstroke Project
There are a lot of differences between the two songs that have taken home the bronze at Eurovision in the last two years. In a way, YATOO was the Italy 2017 of 2016 – a big longstanding favourite that didn’t follow through in the end (though Sergey came closer than Francesco); while Hey Mamma was a massive surprise in terms of propelling Moldova into the top three for the first time. Personally, I loved Hey Mamma immediately and want to weep with joy every time I remember that it came third, whereas YATOO was a track I hated at first (because I thought it was a terrible ESC throwback) but came to love later. I listen to them both on repeat, but my favourite of the two has to be Hey Mamma because it’s a totally 2017 slice of Europop – with a generous dollop of Epic Sax on the side – that never even had to try to win me over. Sergey fans, don’t be so mad…if you knew me, you wouldn’t be surprised.
Winner Hey Mamma
#4 | If Love Was A Crime by Poli Genova VS City Lights by Blanche
They both wore black and sang (mostly) in English, but that’s where the similarities between Poli and Blanche come to a screeching stop. I guess you could also say that both ILWAC and City Lights were examples of so-cutting-edge-you-might-need-a-BandAid pop music, but the songs have totally different vibes. For the most part, I’m more likely to lean towards an upbeat song that I can awkwardly dance to (my take on Poli’s choreography is unfortunately reminiscent of the Chicken Dance), so even though I do think City Lights is a brilliant song – and I’m so happy Blanche got over her nerves to deliver a performance worthy of the top 5 – ILWAC is too irresistible for me to…well, resist. Summer hit > melancholy electro-bop. Just.
Winner If Love Was A Crime
#5 | If I Were Sorry by Frans VS I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson
DAMN YOU, SWEDEN, FOR FORCING ME INTO THIS DECISION BY FINISHING FIFTH TWICE IN A ROW!!! Even if this is your first visit to EBJ, you can probably sense the Swedophile status that makes comparing something Swedish to something else Swedish and deciding which one’s superior a heart-palpitating task for me. There’s never been a Eurovision song from Sweden that I haven’t at least liked (2009’s La Voix is just noise, not a song, so it doesn’t count) and my relationship with their entries from 2016 and 2017 is more than platonic. But…giving in again to my penchant for a danceable piece of pop, I’m declaring I Can’t Go On the winner by one of Robin Bengtsson’s perfectly-groomed chin hairs. That’s because the second I hear it start, I perk up and prepare to sing loudly over the top of him, and If I Were Sorry doesn’t have that power (sorry!).
Winner I Can’t Go On
#6 | J’ai Cherché by Amir VS Occidentali’s Karma by Francesco Gabbani
Now THIS might be a controversial battle – either because you guys will be split down the middle, or because it’s actually an easy one for me but that might have some people plotting my death. I like Occidentali’s Karma a lot, and always have (‘always’ = since February when we first heard it), even if I suspected for the longest time that Eurovision 2018 wouldn’t be popping up in Italy. It’s fun, it’s catchy, it makes astute observations AND it has its own dance á la the Macarena…what’s not to like? Nothing. But you know what? I like it rivers, and I love J’ai Cherché oceans. Amir is just adorable (it’s not his fault that his name doesn’t illustrate just how precious he is, unless it’s not too late for ‘Amir-acle’ to catch on) and J’ai Cherché is a masterclass in sunny, uplifting – but not cheesy – folk-pop. It’s one of the few songs you can clap to without feeling like an overly-enthusiastic dad at his kid’s soccer game. C’est magnifique.
Winner J’ai Cherché
#7 | LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan VS Yodel It! by Ilinca & Alex Florea
This fistfight is a no-brainer for me to call champion on, so I won’t keep you in suspense. Simply put, LoveWave has aged better over the past year-and-a-bit than Yodel It! has in a matter of months – for me, anyway. I have to be in the right mood to listen to Alex and Ilinca doing their yodel-rap duties these days, and if I have even a hint of a headache, forget it. Iveta, while not one of my favourites from last year’s contest, left a more sophisticated and less irritating legacy behind (and she really put the ‘leg’ into legacy).
#8 | Color of Your Life by Michał Szpak VS Origo by Joci Pápai
For those of you who’ve forgotten about the epic scoreboard leap Poland made in Stockholm, here’s your reminder (I don’t have room to insert the GIF, so just pretend I did). I don’t begrudge Michał his awesome last-minute result, but in this battle he was bound to lose. Even if he’d turned up at my front door with pleading eyes and a million-dollar bribe (which shockingly, he didn’t), the love I have for Origo would have seen me slam the door in his face – while being careful not to maim any of his majestic man-hairs, of course. Joci Pápai’s ethno-dance dream was and still is my douze pointer of Kyiv’s 42, so nothing short of my all-time favourite ESC entry (Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović, FYI) would have a shot at changing my allegiance.
#9 | I’ve Been Waiting For This Night by Donny Montell VS Don’t Come Easy by Isaiah
Donny definitely wins the showdown when it comes to song title length, but does victory come easier to Isaiah (HA HA) in terms of song quality? And another question: will I be deported if I say no? Let’s find out. I don’t think many Eurofans would argue that Donny himself and his second Eurovision song have more of an x-factor than Isaiah and his song – ironic given that Isaiah won The X Factor. It’s probably down to Donny’s more extensive stage experience and showier personality, plus an entry that just happens to be more exciting and have more mass appeal. That appeal does extend to me, although I am fond of Don’t Come Easy. But *packs suitcase* I just *heads to port from which I’ll be shipped off to a faraway land for being un-Australian* prefer Donny’s package. No dirty thoughts, please…you know what I mean.
Winner I’ve Been Waiting For This Night
#10 | What’s The Pressure by Laura Tesoro VS Grab The Moment by JOWST
Squeezing into the top 10 in 2016 and 2017 were two great tracks from Belgium and Norway. For the former, it was their second consecutive year on the left side of the scoreboard, while the latter country was clawing their way back up after a DNQ on Swedish soil. But who did 10th place better? I’m pretty torn, to be honest. Laura’s grand final opener put the fun into funk and proved yet again that saxophones are as effective at Eurovision as they are in George Michael’s Careless Whisper (a.k.a. VERY). JOWST, on the other hand, brought something uniquely 2017 to the contest stage with lyrics that I previously crowned my faves of the year. As much as I want to be loyal to Laura, I think I have to go with Grab The Moment because it’s a little cleverer and a lot more original.
Winner Grab The Moment
Okay…we’ve finally made it through the entire top 10 of both Stockholm ‘16 and Kyiv ’17. Now the main part of the show(down) is over, in true ESC style it’s time for some overall results.
2016 = 5
2017 = 5
DAMMIT. It’s a tie – practically Eurovision 1969 all over again (but on a much, much smaller scale and minus booms + bang-a-bangs). I am going to break this tie though, looking at the entire top 10 of each year and deciding which one was stronger – for me. BRB.
*several hours later*
Okay, I’ve got it. The winner is…
Maybe I’m a bit biased since I was there (#subtlebrag) but I do think the overall kick-assery of the 2016 top 10 is slightly more forceful – there was practically a residual shoeprint – than the 2017 top 10. Do you agree? If you voted in the polls above, then I’m guessing you won’t mind voting in this one to let me know.
You can give me the lowdown on all the super-important choices you made above in the comments. Not gonna lie, I kind of want someone to start a fight with me over “the clear superiority of Sergey in comparison to Sunstroke Project Vol. II”. Just remember, if we all liked the exact same songs to the exact same degree, Eurovision would be extremely predictable and pretty boring.
But obviously, I’d still be obsessed with it.
Good evening/afternoon/morning, Europe/rest of the world, and welcome to a competition between Eurovision entries that is not Eurovision itself (as much as I’d love to sell tickets and slogan t-shirts on behalf of this post). A few months ago I held my first round of song battles, in which I pitted the songs certain countries sent to Baku against their counterpart candidates for Malmö, to see which ones you and I thought were better. Why? Well, there was no particular reason – I just thought it’d be fun. It was, so I’m totes doing it again. Hooray?!?
This time around, I thought it would be slightly less fun but more interesting to make entries from 2013 battle it out against those the same countries sent five years ago, a.k.a. in 2008. How do the Albanian and German songs of Belgrade, for example, compare to the Albanian and German songs fresh from Malmö? Were Croatia and Romania better back then or have they improved with age?
Am I the only one who wonders about this stuff?
There’s only one way to find out – by letting the battles of 2008 VS 2013 commence! I’ve already picked my winners, so check them out and then let me know which songs you would choose.
Albania’s Zemrën E Lamë Peng by Olta Boka VS Identitet by Adrian & Bledar
If you ask me to pick between a ballad and a rock song, chances are I’ll go for the ballad (unless it’s between a ballad and Turkish rock…there’s something about the Mor Ve Ötesis and MaNgas of the world that gets me). So Olta’s unique take on the average female ballad trumps this year’s rockiest entry in my opinion. I always found her song an interesting one, and I think Albanian comes off really nicely in it. Don’t you worry though, Adrian and Bledar. Anytime I feel like headbanging I’ll turn to you.
Bulgaria’s DJ Take Me Away by Deep Zone & Balthazar VS Samo Shampioni by Elitsa & Stoyan
Sound the guilty pleasure alarm folks, ‘cause here’s a biggie! Back in the time of Belgrade, I was pretty happy with the choice Bulgaria made…only to discover that nobody else was (it’s happened a few times since). I know it was dated even for 2008, and had a ridiculously long intro, and that Johanna was only there to repeat the same lyrics over and over and OVER again. But it was catchy, and as you probably know that’s my main criteria in a good Eurovision song. Plus, Samo Shampioni has a lot more wailing.
Croatia’s Romanca by Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents VS Mižerja by Klapa s Mora
This is a tough one. So tough that if they were physically fighting each other, I’m not sure who would win (75 Cents has unfortunately passed away, so you can’t say he’d be a disadvantage to the former). They’re in a similar ballpark in terms of being instrumentally rich, ethnic songs from Croatia, but I have to give the edge to Mižerja because it’s Just. So. Beautiful. It makes you feel like you’re watching the sunrise on a rugged Croatian mountaintop even if you’re actually standing in the supermarket trying to decide which brand of toothpaste to buy.
France’s Divine by Sebastian Tellier VS L’Enfer et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois
I’d rather have more ditsy, cruisy ditties from France in the future than slightly sleazy retro numbers, merci very much. Even if it means helium becomes an onstage fixture. It’s not that I didn’t like what France served up this year; I just adored what they did five years ago. Divine was one of my favourite entries of the year, and I can’t say that about L’Enfer. Please don’t hunt me down and strangle me with a feather boa, Amandine.
Germany’s Disappear by No Angels VS Glorious by Cascada
For some of you, this would be obvious. But if we’re talking about songs as opposed to live performances, then I’m a huge fan of both. Cascada wins based on the Glorious level of dance-a-bility and anthemic-ness (I’m sorry, but sometimes you need to hyphenate to get your point across). Disappear is a bit limp in comparison. Although Natalie Horler could have done with some of the angels’ chiffon stapled to the back of her dress. It really needed some extra oomph.
Israel’s The Fire In Your Eyes by Boaz VS Rak Bishvilo by Moran Mazor
No contest. I’ve come around on Rak Bishvilo, but if you remember my all-time top 50 countdown, you’ll know that Israel’s Dana International-penned entry of ’08 is one of my absolute favourite Eurovision songs. Like I said earlier, I’m a fan of ballads. Yes, I know they’re both ballads…but there is a clear distinction here as far as I’m concerned.
Romania’s Pe-o Margine De Lume by Nico & Vlad VS It’s My Life by Cezar
To this day, I think Romania was robbed of a better placing in Belgrade. I blame Nico’s decision to swap the fierce leather/feather dress she wore in the semi for that blah silver thing in the final (bad costumes ruin lives, people). I can’t say the same about Cezar – I’m just relieved he didn’t finish higher. Pe-o’s opera-pop vibe, mix of musical languages, and male-female dynamic is still much more appealing to me.
San Marino’s Complice by Miodio VS Crisalide (Vola) by Valentina Monetta
Here we have two Italian-language ballads, one of which becomes disco out of nowhere. They are San Marino’s two best entries IMO (not that there’s a lot of competition) but I’ve always had a soft spot for their very first. I figure that’s mostly because it came dead last in its semi final (I seem to be drawn towards losers) but there is definitely a smidgen of genuine love in there for this classy, mysterious ballad.
Slovenia’s Vrag Naj Vzame by Rebeka Dremelj VS Straight Into Love by Hannah
Poor Slovenia can’t catch a break once they make the decision to put their backing dancers in heavy-duty masks. I do think they improved on that formula this year, with a considerably less…shall we say, controversial performance. But I’ll never get over the dodgy staging that ruined the awesome Vrag Naj Vzame. I LOVE this song, darn it.
Ukraine’s Shady Lady by Ani Lorak VS Gravity by Zlata Ognevich
Let’s end with a gut-wrenchingly difficult decision, why don’t we? This year, just as they did five years ago and pretty much every year in between, Ukraine brought it to Eurovision. Ani Lorak did a little better than Zlata in terms of placement, and I do like to get my Shady Lady on quite often…but…no, I can’t go past the Disney-but-not-cheesy beauty of Gravity. It’s all sunlight and majestic clifftops and CGI unicorns, and that makes it unbeatable.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaannndddd fin. This round of song battles is over, peeps. Though for anyone who cares, here are the stats of my picks.
Then (2008): 70%
Now (2013): 30%
Well, it looks like I generally preferred the musical buffet of Belgrade to what Malmö served up. How about you?
2008 VS 2013, country by country – who gets your vote?
Pitting two Eurovision songs against each other to determine which is the best for no particular reason is such an original idea, said NO ONE EVER. But that won’t stop me from inflicting my own version on you poor, unsuspecting readers. Muahahaha!
What makes my version different (to some of the others, maybe) is that each round will have a theme – for example, songs by the same artist – to make things more interesting (again, maybe). I’ll be picking my personal winners, justifying those decisions, and then asking you to discuss my taste or lack thereof in the comments. Now if that isn’t fun, I don’t know what is.
Soon I’ll be launching a series of posts that recap Baku, so today’s debut round of song battles is aptly pitting a bunch of last year’s entries against their counterparts of 2013. From Azerbaijan to Croatia and Norway to the UK, which countries are sending better songs to the ESC this time around? Check out my thoughts, then leave your own below.
Azerbaijan’s When The Music Dies by Sabina Babayeva VS Hold Me by Farid Mammadov
Still flabbergasted by Ell & Nikki’s win in 2011 (let’s just say I was never an active member of the ‘I ❤ Running Scared’ fan club) I managed to get on board with what Azerbaijan put forward as host country last year. Heck, I wasn’t just on board – I was cartwheeling up and down the deck and making a general nuisance of myself. But I just don’t see the winning potential in Hold Me, which means it’ll probably go on and win.
Albania’s Suus by Rona Nishliu VS Identitet by Adrian & Bledar
I think I’ve droned on about Rona on enough occasions for you guys to know I love her. But there’s always room for more droning, as far as I’m concerned! Suus is a very original and very emotional song, and with her crazy vocals it was magic on stage. Having said that, Identitet has grown on me, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m glad it didn’t get disqualified.
Belarus’ We Are The Heroes by Litesound VS Solayoh by Alyona Lanskaya
Neither of these were originally supposed to go to Eurovision (let’s all have a slow clap for the trustworthy Belarusian NF system, shall we?) and of course, it was Alyona who was sent packing – or not, rather – in favour of cheat-free Litesound. In 2012, this was a blessing, but in 2013 I was not amused. That’s why WATH is my pick of this battle, whether in its initial rock form or post-remix disco version.
Bulgaria’s Love Unlimited by Sofi Marinova VS Samo Shampioni by Elitsa & Stoyan
Sofi and Elitsa are both women with voices of an acquired taste (unless you are instantly attracted to high-pitched shrieking) but the infectious, language-stuffed Love Unlimited trumps in the song department. I thought that was one of Bulgaria’s best ever entries, and as it just missed out on qualifying, it seems I wasn’t the only one.
Croatia’s Nebo by Nina Badrić VS Mižerja by Klapa s Mora
Hi. My name’s Jaz and I am the only person I know who liked Croatia’s entry last year (but don’t worry, I did NOT like Nina’s dress/trash bag. I have some standards). What can I say? I enjoy any song with bells in the background. Ding dong.
Germany’s Standing Still by Roman Lob VS Glorious by Cascada
This is really a matter of subtlety versus in-your-face, and for me, in-your-face wins. I can’t help shaking my thing to Glorious, and it’s one of the songs I’m most excited to see live at Eurovision (‘live’ in this case meaning ‘on TV’). Standing Still is a nice song and I think Germany deserved its top 10 placing in Baku, but I need more ‘oomph’ to be 110% satisfied.
Hungary’s Sound of Our Hearts by Compact Disco VS Kedvesem by ByeAlex
Hungary haven’t scored as well as they should have over the last few years IMO, and I have a feeling it’s going to happen again with ByeAlex’s absolute gem of a song. I take back what I said just then about ‘oomph’ in this case, because this is a simple but stunning song. I love Hungarian to bits as a musical language.
Italy’s L’amore É Femmina by Nina Zilli VS L’ezzenziale by Marco Mengoni
The Italy we see at the ESC is always classy, and I don’t think you could ever call one of their entries outright bad. I’m fond of Nina’s retro Italinglish number, but I’m head over heels for Marco. Er, I mean, L’essenziale. There’s something about Italian ballads that gets to me, and I think this is the best of the songs Italy has sent since their comeback.
Norway’s Stay by Tooji VS I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger
I felt like a mother being forced to choose which of her children she loves more with this one (which in my mother’s case is an easy decision. My brother just doesn’t measure up) but the decision has been made. My obsession with Stay has faded a little since it won NMGP, but I have to stay loyal to it, since it was my favourite entry of 2012 and I spent so many hours trying to comprehend it losing the final. I still love ya, Margs.
Slovenia’s Verjamem by Eva Boto VS Straight Into Love by Hannah
An atmospheric ballad like Verjamem was a very Serbia-like thing for Slovenia to come out with, which makes sense since one of its composers also composed Molitva. Despite the similarities, I think it had its individual charms, and it’s certainly got more drama than Straight Into Love.
Ukraine’s Be My Guest by Gaitana VS Gravity by Zlata Ognevich
Ukraine rarely fails to impress me. They just ‘get’ Eurovision, and they always send a top-notch artist who can belt one out (or more, if required). Zlata may be the Queen of Belters, and although Gravity lacks the quirky fun factor of her last attempt to represent her country, The Kukushka, it’s a definite contender for victory. I will be very surprised if it doesn’t considerably improve on Gaitana’s result.
The UK’s Love Will Set You Free by Engelbert Humperdinck VS Believe In Me by Bonnie Tyler
Another year, another big name from the UK with a slightly too old-fashioned ballad. Still, at least they’re going younger. At this rate we should get an entrant under the age of 30 by 2025. But let’s not be ageist, not when this year’s song is a lot better than the last. It is to me, anyway – I tried to love Love Will Set You Free, but eventually the charade became too much and I had to call it quits. Believe In Me is more current and a lot catchier, and after a couple of listens I was willing to wave a Union Jack with genuine enthusiasm.
So that’s that; but what exactly does ‘that’ tell you? Well, the overall result of the duels is as follows:
58% of my winners came from 2012
42% of my winners came from 2013
If those numbers are any indication, the standard of 2012 was higher than the standard of 2013 in my book, though not by a massive margin.
Now it’s your turn to battle. I want to know if you totally agree with me, partly agree with me…or think I’m bonkers with a side serving of very poor judgment when it comes to the above duels. Which songs would be your winners?