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THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 2 (Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania + Spain)

Bonjour! In case you hadn’t noticed, Eurovision 2018 is so close that the road to Lisbon is practically walkable – provided you’re not wearing giant platform boots like the lead singer of Wig Wam. I’ve definitely noticed, given I’ve got so many reviews to cram into the few weeks left before the contest kicks off.

Clearly, it’s time for less talk and more action. And today I’m talking all things Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania and Spain. Spoiler alert: there are highs, and there are lows.

How high and how low are we talking? There’s only one way for you to find out. Keep reading to see how I rate the entries from Aisel, Elina, Gromee feat. Lukas, The Humans and Amaia & Alfred. Make sure you vote for your favourite of today’s five while you’re at it…scroll for the poll!

 

 

My thoughts Last year we had their skeletons, and now – because Bulgaria has the bones covered in this year’s Eurovision Anatomy lesson – Azerbaijan has moved on to the major organs. They’ve also moved back to a non-Azerbaijani production with X My Heart, which I’m not thrilled about since Skeletons was one of their best, and certainly most original, entries in years. Aisel’s song is neither of those things in my opinion, but it does what it needs to: it’s a competent pop song and an addition to the Lisbon line-up that will deliver an adequate result without challenging for the win. If that’s what Azerbaijan is after, then a happy ending is en route. I do like the track – it’s well-written and produced, energetic enough to bop to (without having a X-my-heart attack), anthemic and catchy (for the most part…I’m on my pre-show listening ban at the moment and have forgotten how the verses go). All in all, it’s solid and doesn’t do anything wrong. But – I bet you could sense there was a big ol’ but coming – I have whipped out my fine-toothed comb and located some minor issues. Head lice on the otherwise healthy scalp of Azerbaijan’s 2018 ESC effort, if you’re up for such a gross metaphor. For starters, there’s the legacy of co-writer Dimitris Kontopoulos and how this song compares to what’s come before it. Kontopoulos is the brains behind a bunch of BANGING Eurovision songs, including Work Your Magic (Belarus 2007), Shady Lady (Ukraine 2008), This Is Our Night (Greece 2009) and You Are The Only One (Russia 2016). Sadly, this song just ain’t in the same league – but that might be the influence of Swede Sandra Bjurman, who gave us one of the contest’s most maligned winners ever, Running Scared. Another little irritation of mine is Aisel herself, who’s gorgeous to look at but is supposed to be a smoky jazz singer…so why has she been given a dance-pop song to sing that doesn’t suit her voice or show her off to maximum advantage? It seems like an odd combo of song and singer to me, and that’s a feeling that doesn’t strike me with most, if not all, of the other countries competing (think of Austria or Israel, for example. Cesár and Netta didn’t co-write their entries, but you can tell they were tailored to their voices and styles). It’s a case of Valentina Monetta Syndrome. Will the majority of other fans/casual viewers/jurors notice or care about the mismatch when they’re voting? I doubt it, and they’ll give Azerbaijan enough of a boost to reach the final and then finish around 12th-17th. I’d be satisfied with that – but if they’re not, then they need to try a different tactic in 2019.

2017 VS 2018? Skeletons – cross my heart.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts If your home and car insurance isn’t up-to-date, you might want to get on that because Elina is about to smash your windows with her on-point operatic vocals. Just as there’s nothing quite so painful to the ear as out of tune operatics, there’s nothing quite so impressive in the vocal world as flawless, crystal-clear pipes like hers. They’re the main selling point of La Forza, let’s be honest – so fingers crossed there’s no mic fail á la Laura last year. As for the song itself, well…I find both opera and popera hit-and-miss at Eurovision (I loved Grande Amore, hated La Voix) as does the scoreboard. La Forza slots in somewhere between those two past entries on my love/hate spectrum, with Estonia being closer to Italy than Sweden (just not geographically). I feel the powerful effects of the song, but not as strongly as a lot of other fans. I can’t help being swept up in the majesty of it all when the chorus drops though, and Elina is a hypnotic performer with a slight case of crazy eyes. With THAT VOICE, her ethereal beauty, a big song that suits her to a tee (take note, Azerbaijan), and a dress designed for Mrs. Slender Man that may or may not have projections on it in Portugal (I don’t think they’re necessary myself), Estonia has a statement piece on their hands. But do they have a winner? Possibly, but not probably. La Forza is firmly in a genre that does not appeal to everyone, and Elina can only do so much – i.e. perform perfectly – to change that. There is a clinical feel to the song and performance package too that gives it a coldness, and not in a cool purposeful way like Equinox’s Bones. I can’t see that vibe overcoming more warm-hearted rivals like Toy to win the televote, but Estonia has a good chance at a top three jury vote, I think. After two years of unexpected disappointments, Estonia is looking at an almost certain qualification (I reserve the right to take that back come prediction time *covers own butt in case*) and a final result that couldn’t be classified as a crash and burn. Elina’s talent alone is top 10-worthy, and how high she can go will likely depend on how many spines she can tingle when it matters.

2017 VS 2018? Verona is more up my street (if not anywhere near as vocally impressive).

My score 8

 

 

My thoughts From Flashlight to Light Me Up, here’s Poland! They’ve switched things up from a solo female ballad to a Norway 2017 sequel (albeit a less inventive, more lyrically pedestrian and typically inferior sequel) and I am pretty pleased with the results. Swedish dominance at Eurovision – outside of the actual Swedish entry – continues with Melodifestivalen’s Mahan Moin co-writing this track alongside fellow Swede Lukas, and the end product is what you’d expect. It’s slick, simple but effective, and will whip the arena audience into a semi-frenzy – especially as Poland is due on stage right after Georgia. Light Me Up is more fun and accessible (and yes, Salvador, fast food) than Sheni Gulistvis, and will probably be rewarded accordingly. I’m not going to pretend it’s The Greatest Song In The World™, but the fact that it is Grab The Moment’s more cookie-cutter cousin gets it on my good side. The chorus is insanely catchy, and the musical hook that follows creates an epic atmosphere. What else can I say? I’m an easily pleased person when it comes to pop music – as long as something has an infectious melody and decent lyrics, it will probably end up on a Spotify playlist of mine at some stage. If I’m going to go negative for a minute, I’ll do it by saying that Lukas had what I hope is a case of Ryan Dolanitis when this song won Krajowe Eliminacje. In other words, his vocals weren’t out of this world. But I know he’s capable of ironing them out for Eurovision (I hate to repeat myself, but as I’m on my contest song hiatus, I haven’t watched Polish performances from the preview parties to compare). Factor in the limit on the number of ways a producer/singer duo song can be performed – JOWST did an A+ version last year which would be a bad idea to mimic so soon – and there are a few flaws in Poland’s plan. I say that even as someone who really likes (maybe even…loves *insert soaring violin music here*) Light Me Up. Strangely, I won’t be shocked if Gromee & Lukas just miss out on qualifying. The 8th-ish mark in semi two seems as easy to access for them as 12th. But Poland is in possession of a great recent track record: they’ve made it to the final every year since their 2014 comeback. And luckily for them, the second semi is not as diabolically difficult to get out of as the first. If Poland does advance, don’t be surprised if they end up opening the final – it would set the mood like a charm, and it’s not a potential winner to be held back for later on in the show. You (might have) heard it here first!

2017 VS 2018? 2018 – it’s the JOWST effect.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts The late-1980s power ballad police called, and they want to put The Humans’ Goodbye behind bars – but I’m not keen to let them, because I’m actually really fond of it. I’ve found myself in the awkward position of being pro-Romania this year when most other reviews of their song have been negative…when last year was the complete opposite (I didn’t dislike Yodel It!, but I was in Camp Take It Or Leave It while the majority of other fans were in Camp OMG THIS IS EPIC). If you think I couldn’t possibly justify my attraction to this entry for 2018, think again! Firstly, I have zero problems with late-1980s power ballads, so Goodbye being the Eurovision edition of Alone by Heart gets a thumbs up from me. It’s definitely a slow burner, taking a solid minute or so to transition from piano ballad to big hair/shoulder pads/inch-thick eyeliner territory. Unlike most other sane people who are not stuck in a decade in which they weren’t even born, however, I think what happens is worth the wait. I’m happy to stick around listening for the beat to drop and the guitars to kick in, and I think people hearing Goodbye for the first time during semi two might be curious enough to do the same (or get bored and use the second half of the second as a toilet/snack break, I’ll admit). No exaggeration, that ‘Why don’t you see the beauty that surrounds you everywhere?’ line in the first chorus gives me LIFE. The entire chorus, in fact (when it finally arrives) is a cracker. Another thing I appreciate about this is that it doesn’t follow a predictable song structure, so it never seems to repeat itself – not in the excessive way we’re used to with a lot of ESC entries, at least. Throw in the powerful, raspy-edged vocals from lead singer Cristina and what is the greatest, most appropriate song ending of this year’s contest (it practically begs for a dramatic mic drop) and I hope you can now see why I’m on Team Romania. There are plenty of other songs that I believe are better than this – it’s sitting at the 20-ish mark in my top 43 at the moment, though as I’ve said there are literally only two songs that I dislike – but overall I think it’s a great 80s-influenced PB (power ballad) that won’t get Romania a Eurovision PB (personal best) but might grab a few of my votes. I get why people are saying it might undo the country’s 100% qualification record, but personally (in my special biased way) I have a feeling it will squeak through. Or maybe even do better than expected…

2017 VS 2018? Yodel It has worn pretty thin with me, so I’d have to say Goodbye.

My score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts It has to be said: Spain had a disastrous contest in Kyiv, with Manel’s money note fail becoming the sour cherry on top (and a sound-on GIF that did multiple rounds on social media, and that I may or may not have laughed at). Based on Do It For Your Lover – which didn’t do it for anyone – whatever followed was bound to come across as a masterpiece. But DOES IT??? *insert tense music here*. Tu Canción can best be described as a romantic lullaby, performed by a couple who got together during the quest to seek out the Spanish entry for Lisbon. I know we’re supposed to get all misty and wipe away happy tears whenever this backstory is mentioned, or whenever we see Alfred and Amaia’s onstage PDAs that are not manufactured at this point (though wouldn’t it be interesting if they broke up before the contest…I’m not hoping, I’m just curious). I must have a black hole where my soul is supposed to be though, because I find both the song and the public displays of affection too sugary sweet for my taste. It’s like the duo are in their own little love-cave when they’re performing, and that doesn’t engage me as I’m watching them. Instead, I feel like I’m looking through the window of their honeymoon suite and really should turn away to give them some privacy. Hashtag awkward! The song itself is certainly a step up from Do It For Your Lover in terms of a competition song, but I prefer the summery, fun vibes Manel offered to be honest. Tu Canción is probably the closest thing to a reigning winner copycat that we’ve got in 2018, and no doubt Salvador would approve of the lack of fireworks and flood of feelings. I just don’t have any strong feelings either way – schmaltz aside, it is a pretty and delicate ballad with a nice flow to it, but nothing more to me. I do have an approving nod to spare for the vocals – the tinkly quality and clarity of Amaia’s voice balances out the rough-edged sound of Alfred’s, and they harmonise like a match made in heaven. Maybe they are…maybe there’s an ESC wedding on the horizon! Not that I’m saying these two should get married on stage during their final performance, but in the absence of LEDs you’ve got to be creative with your gimmicks. I’m unsure how Spain will go on the Saturday night, but it’s safe to say they’ll end the night in a better position – and having put on a more polished show – than last year. Personally, Tu Canción isn’t my favourite of the Big Five + Portugal, but it’s not at the bottom of my list (so please don’t plot my death, Spanish Eurofans).

2017 VS 2018? I liked Do It For Your Lover for what it was. Don’t judge me (too harshly)!

My score 6.5

 

 

There you go: that’s another five songs for Lisbon reviewed by yours truly. I should probably stop doing this, but…10 down, (only?) 33 to go!

Here’s today’s ranking:

  1. Poland (10)
  2. Romania (8.5)
  3. Estonia (8)
  4. Azerbaijan (7)
  5. Spain (6.5)

This is a very mixed-up version of the ranking most other fans would create, I know. You can hit up the comment box below to tell me how you’d organise this bunch from best to worst. Or not-so-best, in my case…I definitely don’t hate Spain. I do really, really like Poland though. Stick around for the rest of my reviews to see how Gromee and Lukas stack up against the entire Class of 2018.

Besides sharing your own ranking, why not pick your outright favourite of these five too and see if you’re in the majority?

 

NEXT TIME I’m putting on my Eurovision lab coat (it’s still white, but white sequins) and sliding Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania and Moldova under my microscope to see whether good things or bad things are lurking in their entries for 2018. Don’t miss my diagnosis!

 

Until then,

 

 

 

And Now, For The Not-So-Beautiful Messes: The five biggest on-stage mistakes of Eurovision 2017

Didn’t see this coming in the wake of last week’s top 5 performances of 2017 countdown? Well, neither did I. Consider my face officially palmed.

I actually have the awesome Anita from Eurovision Union to thank for inspiring this companion piece to that post: a countdown of the countries that didn’t, in my opinion, get it all right in terms of their song’s staging and/or performance in Kyiv. I’ve deliberately not made this about the five worst performances, since there wasn’t a single country that I’d say got everything wrong (although one came close). Instead, I’ve singled out the elements in a handful of acts – dodgy vocals, horrifying costume choices, bad backdrops etc – that dragged them down…and in the case of a few, may have had a hand in their non-qualifications.

Have your say on the biggest stuff-ups of Eurovision 2017 in the comments. Remember, honesty is the best policy (and there’s no fun in 24/7 sunshine and rainbows, so get critical!).

Oh, BTW – you can (and should!) still vote in the People’s Choice polls of the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. They’ll close in a few days’ time and the results will be revealed soon after that, so do your Eurofan duty while you have the chance!

 

 

 

#5 | Montenegro steers clear of OTT…for worse, not for better

I’m starting with something that was too inoffensive rather than too offensive, especially considering the source. From my very first listen of Slavko Kalezić’s Space, I was expecting to see it on stage in the campest and most fabulous fashion imaginable. I’m talking buff, topless male dancers who had marinated themselves in body glitter in the hours leading up to the show; galaxy-inspired visuals that alternated between dramatic (for the verses) and flamboyant (for the choruses; and plenty of overuse of the core Eurovision elements – wind and fire. I was confident in Slavko’s ability to make this dream of mine come true, given that he was to 2017 what Tooji was to 2012 – only Space didn’t require the reining in of camp that Stay did. So you can imagine my disappointment when he appeared on the Kyiv stage by himself, with only a mediocre costume change and his beloved Rapunzel braid for company. It’s not that he couldn’t command the stage on his own, because he strutted around like a boss and did the hairycopter with full enthusiasm. But when a song so obviously calls for one to go full gimmick on its ass, one should obey. Space needed more colour, more choreography and a crowd (of five other people) to be everything non-Eurovision fans think the contest is. Not so much to give it a shot at qualifying, since that was unlikely to ever happen (sadface), but just to make the most of the saucy, sassy lyrics; the fun, upbeat vibe; and Slavko’s larger-than-life personality.

 

#4 | Switzerland sugar-coats their staging of Apollo

I’ve got a job for you: take all of the 2017 entries that were chosen via a national final, and compare how they were staged initially to how they were staged at Eurovision. For the most part, you’ll notice that not many changed drastically, and those that did mostly improved on their presentation. Timebelle’s Apollo, then, is the exception and not the rule, because it went downhill between NF season and contest week. In fact, the only way Switzerland went up was by sticking Miruna at the top of a spiral staircase, which she eventually descended anyway (in stilettos, without breaking a sweat or any bones, which does deserve a high five). What we saw and what we heard clashed like crazy. Apollo benefited way more from the dramatic and modern NF staging, which could have been built on for ESC purposes. Yet that was discarded in favour of cheap and predictable background graphics, the inexplicable staircase (Why was it there? What did it add?), and an equally inexplicable yellow dress that I thought was less Beauty and the Beast inspired and more like the repurposed outer layer of a certain big bird who lives on Sesame Street. And let’s not forget more pastel shades than you’d find in the maternity wing of a major hospital. Overall, the look of this would have worked wonders for the right song (minus the tacky backdrop) but it took a good song and made it below-average. If I were Switzerland, I’d be contacting Sacha Jean-Baptiste right now to book her for Eurovision 2018.

 

#3 | Australia’s hit-and-missed high note

Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy bringing this up in conversation time and time again. However, as patriotic and proud of Isaiah’s work in Kyiv as I am, I can’t deny that when we’re talking about the biggest broadcast boo-boos of the year, that notorious note he aimed for during the semi final HAS to be mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing the guy drop a note while he was singing his heart out on The X Factor last year, so perhaps the grueling rehearsal and media schedule of Eurovision took its toll…or maybe it was a combination of nerves and trying too hard. Whatever the cause, to say that Isaiah failed rather than nailed that note – one accompanied by a pyro curtain, which is the international symbol for ‘This is the moment that’s supposed to win you over and secure your votes’ – would be an understatement. It turned out to be a moment that had me convinced Australia had just lost out on a spot in the grand final instead. Thankfully, because his jury semi performance was more X Factor and less cringe factor, Isaiah did slip through in a still remarkably high sixth place. He then went on to make up for the vocal mishap to end all vocal mishaps on the Saturday night, though it has to be said that the initial pyro note still wasn’t up to scratch. Whenever I watch either of his performances back in the future, my hand will be hovering over the mute button as the two-minute mark approaches.

 

#2 | Albania dresses Lindita up for a wacky wedding…WTF?!?

I could complain until the cows come home about all of the questionable costuming choices made by the 2017 delegations. Belgium? Should have worn the jumpsuit from the flag parade. Poland? Shouldn’t have worn white. Israel? What were they thinking putting him in a shirt when shirtless clearly would have been the best way to go? But right at the top of the heap – though at the bottom of the pile in terms of suitable sartorial selections – is undoubtedly Albania. I don’t know what kind of performance Lindita’s ‘Vegas showgirl meets drunken 3am Vegas bride’ outfit would be appropriate for, but it was just plain ridiculous when paired with World. I don’t get the thought process behind it, assuming there was one. It proved to be such a distraction that I couldn’t even concentrate on Lindita’s mind-blowing vocals, which hadn’t been an issue when she won Festivali I Këngës with the song formerly known as Böte. Unfortunately, this look wasn’t a one-off, as she wore something equally frightening (in nude, not white) on opening ceremony night. She obviously felt pretty and powerful on both occasions – she doesn’t strike me as a person who’d wear what she was told if she wasn’t 100% happy about it – but in my eyes, a black bin liner would have been a better choice both times. You know, like the one Croatia’s Nina Badrić wore back in 2012.

 

#1 | Spain’s…well, everything 

Many of us fans felt sure about two things prior to this year’s contest. One, that Italy would walk it, and two, that Spain would finish dead last. We may have been wrong about the former, but the latter did its predicted duty. Poor Manel – he had a terrible time at Objetivo Eurovisión thanks to The Mirela Incident, and then couldn’t prove anyone wrong by defying our ESC expectations of him. You might wonder why, if you’re unacquainted with both Do It For Your Lover and his rendition of it in Ukraine. Well, the song was weak to start with – great for roaring down the road in a convertible on a summer’s day en route to the coast, but too much of a repetitive flatliner to stand up in a song competition. It could have been saved by some genius stage concept, who knows…but Spain had the total opposite up their hibiscus-patterned shirt sleeve. The surfer idea was good in theory, but the execution was on par with High School Musical 2, if High School Musical 2 had been lumped with a production budget of $100. Low-quality graphics – including a Kombi van that kept on rocking without any danger of anyone knocking, an overhead shot of Manel and his band on surfboards that they just didn’t pull off, and a general air of over-casualness – made the package pretty unappealing. The fact that it was an entire verse before anyone turned around to face the camera/audience was also a turn-off. And just when we thought Spain might scrape enough points to NOT finish 26th, Manel’s voice decided to re-break at a pivotal moment, which sealed the deal. I’m sorry for seeming extra bitchy about this (you must be craving sunlight after all this shade I’ve thrown) but I’m being cruel to be kind. Both Manel and Spain deserve a LOT better.

 

 

Do you agree with any of my picks, or do you think I’M the one making the mistakes? Which competing countries of Eurovision 2017 made the wrong decisions when it came to putting on the best possible show?

 

Next time…you’ve voted (I hope) and now the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award winners – People’s Choice + my personal choices – can be made public. First up, I’ll be handing out (pretend) trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs – followed by The Performances, The Show and The Results. The celebration of Kyiv’s bests and worsts will continue, and you’d be as crazy as Lindita Halimi’s costume designer if you missed it!

 

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro + Spain

Hello again, and welcome to the second-last round of my Eurovision 2017 reviews! Obviously nothing has changed in my life since I was at university, because I’m still battling to get stuff done by certain deadlines. Just expect a lot of reviews in a short period of time, and everything will be fine (something I’m telling myself at least three times a day at the moment).

There’s just two days to go until the first semi final, and all 42 songs have now been rehearsed on the real-deal stage. We’ve seen our likely winner in action (monkeying around to massive rounds of applause) but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about all of the other songs. So that’s what my mum (she keeps coming back, even though I figured I’d have scared her off by now) and I are up to today.

Keep reading to find out what we think of the songs from Isaiah, NAVI, Svala, Brendan Murray, Slavko Kalezić and Manel Navarro. Spoiler alert: there are some major disagreements involved!

 

 

 

My thoughts A seventeen-year-old fresh from a TV talent show win – which followed an audition during which he forgot his lyrics (for the second year running) – wouldn’t have been my ideal choice for my country’s 2017 Eurovision act. On paper, it doesn’t sound that promising…and me bringing all that stuff up makes me sound mean, I know. But I wanted to make the point that when Isaiah was revealed as our act in March, I had a LOT of doubts that he was ready for such a big-scale show. As it turns out, I think he’s grounded and mature enough, and has gained enough on-stage confidence in the wake of his X Factor victory, to do Australia proud next week. He’s going to do that with a song that may be missing the x factor (ironically) that saw Guy Sebastian and Dami Im smash their respective shots at the contest, but has been a major sleeper hit with me. Don’t Come Easy is a soulful ballad that Sam Smith would totally approve of, and it couldn’t be any more suited to Isaiah’s voice. Lyrically, it could be more suited to his age – it’s hard to buy such tales of woe and heartbreak from a seller who’s still considered a kid in many ways (he can’t legally drink, gamble or complain bitterly about adult responsibilities). But if he can use those epic eyebrows to emote as much as possible, and not just sing the words – even though he’ll sing them terrifically – his age may end up being just a number. Most people watching him belt out the song in front of his own super-sized face (check out some rehearsal footage if you’re confused RN) won’t be worrying about it. I hope the staging doesn’t end up being a worry and lives up to what Australia’s put together the last two years, as both times it has made our songs stronger competitors. Don’t Come Easy has grown on me a lot since I first heard it, and now I find it really sticks in my head and makes me feel some feels (not on a Finland level, but there’s something there). There’s potential in the build of the song to create an explosive moment, like Israel did last year, and I believe we’ve even got a pyro curtain to help that along (just like Hovi did). If it all comes together, then another top 10 result is achievable. I don’t think top 5 is on the cards, but I will be waving my Aussie flag with pride (and probably a sweaty palm) in any case. 8 points.

My mum says… I own and treasure a copy of Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, so the fact that this song could have fit right in to that album’s tracklist will give you a good idea of how I feel about Don’t Come Easy. I really like it! It’s retro in a wonderful way, with powerful music and lyrics that are set off by Isaiah’s incredible (especially for a teenager) voice. There’s a bit of an Adele feel to the soul of the song as well, and yes, you guessed it – I also own all of her albums. Is this a biased review? Nope, because I listened to it without knowing which country it was representing. Now I know, I’m proud. 8 points.

Australia’s score 8.00

 

 

 

My thoughts This song is like a musical version of Nathan Trent – so adorable you can’t help your urge to hug it so tightly it almost suffocates. The difference between the two is that the cuteness of Story of My Life doesn’t totally win me over, even though I acknowledge that it’s there. I think it’s fantastic that we get to hear Belarusian on the adult Eurovision stage for the first time ever thanks to NAVI – and I’m so appreciative of the fact that their entry is one of just four this year to feature 100% non-English lyrics *weeps internally*. I also think the sing-along factor of the song is a real asset, giving it an anthemic quality not often found in folk music. But – and you can call me bitter and/or soulless once I’ve said this – the overall ‘aww!’ vibe of Belarus that a heap of other fans feel, I don’t AT ALL. I wouldn’t skip the song if I was shuffling the 2017 album, but I wouldn’t wait for it to play with bated breath. For the sake of Belarus succeeding in the contest, and for the sake of filling the final with as many foreign languages as possible, I hope NAVI do qualify on Thursday. If they don’t, though, I’ll be okay with it. Overall, SOML is too repetitive and maybe too folksy for my tastes. 5 points.

My mum says… I couldn’t have less of a clue what these two are singing about, but it can’t be anything heavy going – the whole song is light and bright, and I really got into it. I especially like the use of instruments. However, that final stretch of hey-ho shouts went on way too long for my liking. That space could have been filled with something less repetitive, and in turn I’d have been giving this entry more than 6 points!

Belarus’ score 5.5

 

 

 

My thoughts There are some songs you can’t help but cut to the chase with when you’re talking about them. And cutting is an appropriate term to use when talking about Svala’s Paper, which I worship. At least 75% of my devotion to the entry has to do with Svala herself, a.k.a. Iceland’s answer to Gwen Stefani. She’s an age-defying, super-stylish GODDESS of a woman, and I am the personification of the heart eyes emoji whenever I think about her. But Paper also rubs me up in all the right ways. It’s like the cutting-edge, 1980s-inflenced love child of Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love and Aminata’s Love Injected – two songs I love to pieces. It’s ice cold and Svala is the ice queen with impeccably styled hair and makeup, plus bone structure that would have made Michelangelo weak at the knees. Not to say that I’m fixating on her cheekbones when she’s performing such an earworm of an electro-pop ballad (IDK how else to describe it). I’m actually getting lost in the dreamy atmosphere that the 80s synth sound provides, which contrasts beautifully with the slick production. It’s a perfect marriage. My only problem with Iceland this year is Svala being a visual force to be reckoned with, yet she’s singing a song that should bring out a vulnerable side based on the story told by the lyrics. She’s a little too intense, pulled-together and in control to pull off Paper with 110% authenticity. At least, she has been up until this point. From what I’ve seen (like, one photo) and heard (*insert long, long list of Eurovision sites/podcasts here*) of the rehearsals, she still needs to soften to match the emotions present in the song. Even if she does, I’m not that confident in Iceland’s ability to score themselves through to Saturday night. But I reckon this song would be an interesting and very contemporary (feat. a throwback sound that somehow makes it even more modern) addition to the final line-up. After the country’s shock DNQ last year – and failure to make the final the year before that – they seriously need a pick-me-up. I don’t want Svala using her Paper to wipe away tears of post-semi sadness. 10 points.

My mum says… This is far from being the worst entry I’ve heard, but it’s also far from being one of my favourites. I quite like Svala’s voice (though I’m incredibly jealous that she looks so young for her age and am wondering if it’s too late for me to up and move to Iceland) but I’m not a fan of a metaphor based on office supplies. I find the lyrics a bit lame in general. It’s just not for me! 5 points.

Iceland’s score 7.5

 

 

 

My thoughts Ireland – or at least those responsible for their recent Eurovision entries – needs a slap. Either that, or Sweden needs to hurry up and overtake them in the wins department so they’ll have to step up rather than falling back on the old line ‘Oh, but we’ve won the contest more than anyone else!’, which is usually accompanied by an entry of the same mould they were sending in the 2000s…which in turn paid tribute to the songs that won for them in the 1990s. Not much has changed in 2017, as the country’s collective face is still looking like it needs a high five. However…my relationship with Brendan Murray’s Dying To Try (not Trying To Die, thankfully) is love-hate. Here’s what I love: the first minute and a half. The understated start, the echo-y beat that kicks in, the melody, the frailty of Brendan’s voice (Svala needs to borrow some of that) and even the lyrics, which are a little cliché but have been neatly phrased and sparingly used, are all really nice. And, if the songwriters had carried on with another verse similar to the first, then a bigger second chorus that transitioned into an even more explosive final chorus without using a cringingly passé key change, all would be well. Instead, the entire second half of the song is one long, whiny chorus that doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. It’s like they literally couldn’t be bothered to write anything after that first chorus, so they dragged it out in order to fill as many seconds as possible. Except, it hasn’t. There’s an emptiness there as you wait for a second verse that never comes. I mean, who’d mix up a bowlful of cake batter and then only pour half of it into the pan? Ireland, that’s who. It’s a wasted opportunity of a song that could have totally tickled my fancy. I honestly love the first half enough to give it 10 points, but the rest deserves about 3. I’ll settle somewhere in the middle and give Dying To Try 7 points.

My mum says… THIS IS A GUY?? Mind = blown. It’s not like I’ve never heard high-pitched male vocals before, but I was completely convinced I was listening to a lady here. That aside (because it has nothing to do with what I think of the song) it’s a nice ballad with a good beat and a soothing quality. I think that comes both from the music and from Brendan’s voice. This is quite an emotional song – not so much that I’m in need of a tissue or ten, but enough to make me feel something. I like that in my music. I do think that this can be categorised as a forgettable ballad though. Describing something as ‘nice’ often leads down that path. 6 points.

Ireland’s score 6.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I never, not even in my wildest dreams, imagined that we would someday have an entry competing in Eurovision that could be considered camper than Deen’s In The Disco and Zoli Ádok’s Dance With Me combined. But Montenegro has given us the gift of Slavko’s Space, and I am SO here for it. It’s like a highly sexualised Alcazar made it to the contest with the help of a sponsor that manufactures hair extensions. What about that description makes it a bad thing? Nada, people. This is a BANGING disco-dance track that somehow doesn’t seem dated and lame like San Marino’s – possibly because it’s right up Slavko’s flamboyant street, and he owns the shit out of it. He whips his hair back and forth (I’m hoping it doesn’t fly off into the audience during the broadcast…or am I?), struts like it’s an Olympic event and has me lip-syncing along with the most outrageously pornographic lyrical metaphors I’ve ever encountered in a Eurovision song (mainly because the line ‘I trample in your arse’ from Slovenia’s 1999 song turned out to be a misheard lyric). I enjoy every second of every minute, even if I feel like my pleasure should be guilty. Generally speaking, I want Eurovision to evolve and be much less of what skeptics think it is (i.e. all novelty, cheese and the worst word ever – ‘kitsch’), but at the same time, I love that Space brings a touch of schlager back to the show. We’ve got plenty of edgy, deadpan entries this year – think Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland and Latvia – plus a classic ESC ballad from Portugal. So Montenegro are bringing some variety along with a suitcase exclusively reserved for body glitter (I assume). Uptempo, catchy and oh-so-danceable, this is the song that’s most making me miss the Euroclub. I would have busted some memorable moves to it on that dance floor, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I can also tell you that it probably won’t qualify, as sublime is likely to beat ridiculous (with the exception of Romania). As I can see that coming from a mile away, I won’t be too upset about it. But I’ll console myself anyway by playing it on full blast at every opportunity, until my neighbours file a complaint regarding excessive noise and sexual innuendos. Bring it on! 10 points.

My mum says… It’s hard to stay focused on how catchy the tune of this song is when the lyrics are so suggestive. That’s an understatement, really – Slavko seems to be less about suggesting than explaining in detail. Just when I thought ‘When you look this f*%$ing beautiful’ was the most controversial (almost) Eurovision line I’d ever heard! I could be convinced to dance to Space, but for the most part I can’t get past the ridiculous, R-rated lyrics. 5 points.

Montenegro’s score 7.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I’m not going to mention the words ‘Mirela’ or ‘contigo’ in this review (apart from mentioning them to say I won’t be mentioning them) because I think it’s about time we all moved on from The Spanish NF Incident of 2017. Manel Navarro is the one rehearsing in Kyiv right now, and Do It For Your Lover is the song representing Spain this year – that’s all there is to it. Speaking of which, there’s not a lot to this song apart from some simple charm, a cruisy surfer vibe and the most repetitive chorus since Ivi Adamou’s ‘La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la loooove.’ Those three things don’t add up to something spectacular, but I have to admit to liking this more than most other people I come across. Any music that sounds perfect for playing while on a road trip, with the windows down and no responsibilities to speak of for a few days, is bound to appeal to me to a certain extent. DIFYL ticks about 60% of my boxes – it’s inoffensive without being too bland, but it doesn’t push any boundaries either, and that repetition of the title (in case we forgot it, it was declared that Manel would repeat it 947 times in three minutes) is pretty irritating. As a result, I enjoy the Spanish-language verses more than any other part of the song. Manel’s aesthetic is casual street busker, which isn’t the sort of thing that does super well at Eurovision: Douwe Bob was a more polished exception. With his song failing to light a fire even for me, the odds are against him to strum his way out of the final’s bottom five. It might be time for Spain to revaluate their approach to the ESC on several levels, unless Manel shocks us all and defies our expectations. I can’t picture it, but I could live with it for sure. 6 points.

My mum says… Well, you can tell where this one comes from, and I like that about it. The Spanish parts are nice, easy-listening material, and I sort of wish that English didn’t feature at all in the song. It’s when that kicks in that things get monotonous. I especially dislike the stutter effect stuck in after each chorus. There needs to be more to a song than Do It For Your Lover has at its disposal to win me over completely. 6 points.

Spain’s score 6.00

 

 

 

That’s our six taken care of for this round…and here’s the ranking: 

  1. Australia (8.00)
  2. Iceland (7.5)
  3. Montenegro (7.5)
  4. Ireland (6.5)
  5. Spain (6.00)
  6. Belarus (5.5)

Naturally, I’m HORRIFIED that Australia topped the list. Not. Congrats go to Iceland for not being far behind, and commiserations to Belarus for being very far behind. Lucky for them that this scoring couldn’t have less bearing on the actual contest results.

There’s six more sets of scores for the mini EBJ jury to hand out, and then the full ranking will be revealed! Drop by on Monday to check out our thoughts on Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Trust me, you don’t want to miss my mother’s reaction to a man duetting with himself.

In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s tracks. What do you think will happen to them this week as the competition gets going? I want all the dirt. You guys know how nosy curious I am.

 

Get (even more) excited – Eurovision is nearly here!!!

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Talking all things Estonia, Sweden + Spain on the most super-sized NF weekend so far!

Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs! I feel like I can use that as a greeting with some relevance, since France dropped their Eurovision 2017 entry on us earlier in the week, just in time to steal some of Germany’s thunder. Not that Germany had that much to steal in the first place, but more on that in another post (for now, I’ll just say that red, white and blue > red, black and yellow). My point is, any opportunity one gets to throw around some random, stereotypical French should be taken. Oui oui!  

France is just about the only country where there ISN’T any NF action going on this weekend – a weekend so full of finals (and heats, and semis…all the good stuff), there’s not enough room for all of them to trend on Twitter. Feast your soon-to-be-weary eyes on this lot: 

  • 11/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final one (feat. Lenna Kuurmaa, Elina Born + Ivo Linna)
  • 11/2 Ukraine’s untitled NF – semi final two (feat. Kuznetsov + Ilaria)
  • 11/2 Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival – the final (feat. Michele Bravi, Elodie + Alessio Bernabei)
  • 11/2 Hungary’s A Dal – semi final two (feat. Ádám Szabó, Kállay Saunders Band + Roma Soul)
  • 11/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final two (feat. Mariette, Lisa Ajax + Benjamin Ingrosso)
  • 11/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat six (feat. Mia, Sasha Song + Aistė Pilvelytė)
  • 11/2 Spain’s Objetivo Eurovisión – the final (feat. LeKlein, Paula Rojo + Mirela)
  • 12/2 Latvia’s Supernova – heat two (feat. Markus Riva + My Radiant You)
  • 13/2 Israel’s Rising Star – the final (feat. Julietta, Diana Golbi, Beatbox Element + Imri Ziv)

Visit eurovision.tv for all of the live-streaming links. And because it might be lonely and want to have a cup of coffee and a chat with you.

What will you be watching? You’ve got about as much chance of catching everything at once as I do of covering it all here – so I guess we’ll both have to pick our priorities.

To be honest – as if the title of this post wasn’t a giveaway – I’ve already decided where my loyalties lie. So, if you want some verdicts on/predictions for Eesti Laul, Melodifestivalen and Objetivo Eurovisión, you’ve come to the right blog.

Let’s muse about the music!

 

 

Estonia: Elina Born is back as Eesti Laul begins…but is she In Or Out?

It’s a good thing there isn’t a prize for Best Blog Subtitle, ‘cause I wouldn’t be winning any for that one. Blame Elina Born, who went and signed herself up for Eesti Laul as a soloist – for the second time – with a Stig Rästa song that begs to be used in many punny ways (it’s the new That Sounds Good To Me). Girl has said Goodbye To Yesterday and hello to a shot at competing in Kyiv, and her quest begins tonight with the first semi final of Estonia’s always enjoyable NF.

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Of course, she’s not the only act competing this evening, so I shouldn’t devote too much screen space to her alone. Elina will be the second of ten acts to perform, and here’s a rundown of them all: 

  1. Slingshot by Lenna Kuurmaa
  2. In Or Out by Elina Born
  3. Everything But You by Carl-Philip
  4. Suur Ioterii by Ivo Linna
  5. Feel Me Now by Ariadne
  6. Supernatural by Uku Suviste
  7. Hey Kiddo by Laura Prits
  8. Have You Now by Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux feat. Maian
  9. Valan Pisaraid by Janno Reim & Kosmos
  10. Hurricane by Leemet Onno

As usual, Estonia is providing us with an interesting set of songs, many of which take some second or third listens to figure out (it’s a pre-selection of acquired tastes, IMO, which is not a bad thing because it speaks for the complexity of what ERT program the show with). Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of being able to listen more than once – and in some cases, my first impressions are based on snippets (with a Eurotrip three weeks away and other commitments calling, time is like thunder short for me at the moment). Here are the semi one songs that stood out to me with minimal exposure.

My top five In Or Out, Everything But You, Feel Me Now, Supernatural + Have You Now. My favourites from this shortlist would be In Or Out (the trumpeting might be passé, but it’s still enjoyable) and Have You Now (which is obviously an Estonian tribute to The Chainsmokers). There’s nothing super-duper dated – or plain terrible – in the whole semi, though. Not even Ivo Linna is acting his age, musically-speaking.

Predicting the ACTUAL top five Slingshot, In Or Out, Feel Me Now, Hey Kiddo + Have You Now. I won’t say where I pulled this prediction from (in the interest of maintaining some degree of ladylike elegance) but let’s just say it’s unreliable. On the other hand, if it turns out to be 60%-100% right, I’ll claim that I produced it after a careful, educated analysis. K?

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I doubt Elina will be pulling her hair in frustration after tonight…unless that’s how she celebrates too.

 

Do you think Eesti Laul’s off to a good start? Is there someone in this first semi who can do what Juri Pöötsmann couldn’t and get Estonia to the Eurovision final again (without giving the impression that their hobbies include dismemberment, and preserving vital organs in formaldehyde)? Let me know in the comments.

  

 

Sweden: Melfest makes it to Malmö for a big-deal Deltävling 2

That’s right – we’re taking a trip back to Malmö Arena, where those of us who were otherwise engaged during Petra Mede’s Melfest hosting gig may have first laid eyes on her when she owned Eurovision in 2013. Unfortunately, some might say, tonight ain’t about Petra – it’s about the seven acts who all want to follow in Ace Wilder and Nano’s footsteps (I assume) since they lead straight to Friends Arena in Stockholm, and the Melfest final. 

  1. A Million Years by Mariette
  2. Himmel Och Hav by Roger Pontare
  3. Up by Etzia
  4. Vart Haru Varit by Allyawan
  5. Hearts Align by Dismissed
  6. I Don’t Give A by Lisa Ajax
  7. Good Lovin’ by Benjamin Ingrosso

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We’re down one returnee from last week, with Mariette, Roger Pontare and Lisa Ajax in the mix. In Göteborg, just two of the four comeback acts progressed, and with only one real contender standing/dancing in the way of Mariette etc’s direkt and AC spots, can they all make it through? SHOULD they? Melodifestivalen raises some tough questions. Luckily, they’ll be answered later, but I’ll have a go at filling in the blanks in the meantime.

 

My top four

    • A Million Years – Is this better than Don’t Stop Believing? I don’t think so, but it’s similarly  intriguing and contemporary. The lyrics are a little cliché, and that ticks me off as a writer who goes out of their way to avoid clichés. I really need access to the complete package before I make my mind up about Mariette 2.0. Potential for greatness is here, though.
    • Vart Haru Varit – This is Adrijana’s Amare with a male singer and a slight increase in mass appeal. It’ll probably make just as much of an impression as Amare did (i.e. none whatsoever) but dang it, I love Swedish hip-hop!
    • I Don’t Give A – In case you missed the barely detectable F-bomb (times ten) in Lisa’s sequel to My Heart Wants Me Dead, yes, it exists (#sarcasm). It’s not necessary in a song that lacks the Zara Larsson attitude and style I was expecting. Still, expletives aside, there’s pros a-plenty to be found in I Don’t Give A. The pop ballad style lets Lisa show off her amazing vocals, and all in all it’s very ‘now’. Well, I think it is. I’m not too tuned in to what the youths of today are into *returns to knitting an intricate sweater for my dog*.
    • Good Lovin’ – Maybe I’m biased, given that I practically had a heart attack when my beloved (in a platonic way as he’s a bit too young for me) Benjamin was announced as a Melfester for 2017…but THIS KICKS BUTT. It’s everything I want in a pop song and more. It also manages to be both what I was expecting, and something completely different. Slick, smooth, and well-sung. Så brå.
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His mum’s done Melfest four times, so I think fabulousness (and great hair) must be in his genes.

 

The rest

  • Himmel Och Hav – I actually toyed with having Roger in my top four thanks to the great atmosphere and ethnicity of this track. As someone who never fell hard for When Spirits Are Calling My Name, I could learn to like this more than that. GASP!
  • Up – I know this isn’t culturally similar to Kizunguzungu, but it’s easy to compare the vibes of the two. I can’t see Etzia sharing SaRaha’s success in a) going through to Andra Chansen, and b) getting out of it. Up is catchy, but pretty pedestrian overall.
  • Hearts Align – This is okay. It’s fine. The performance and costuming choices will be the biggest talking point though. No chance of direkt for Dismissed, methinks.

 

On that note, it’s time to make a few predictions. Last week I somehow managed to be 100% correct, so I’m going to do my best not to ruin that this time. 

Who’s going direkt? Mariette + Lisa Ajax. Based on such data as Facebook likes, Mariette seems to be the Nano of this week’s show (swap the man bun for dreadlocks and the difference is undetectable) in that the heat is hers to lose. Lisa’s song might divide voters (unless the f-word is on par with ‘darn it!’ in Sweden) but I have no doubt she’ll nail it live, and it’s big enough to leave a lasting impression. The swearing actually makes the song more memorable, I must say.

Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Benjamin Ingrosso + Dismissed. I desperately want Ingrosso to go straight through, but girl power is likely to pip him at the post. Fourth place could go to Roger Pontare if Sweden is still feeling his flow, but I suspect it might go to Dismissed as Hearts Align screams Andra Chansen to me.

 

In the immortal words of Elaiza, is it right or is it wrong? Do you think you know who’ll go where when the results of Deltävling 2 are revealed? Tell me more!

 

  

Spain: Which of the six singers will fill Barei’s dancing shoes?

Si, amigos – Objetivo Eurovisión is back, albeit without Brequette (maybe 2018 is your year, queen). The line-up is much more diverse than it was in 2016, which makes the outcome harder to predict. But we can’t complain about variety and (reasonable) quality all round…can we?

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  1. Do It For Your Lover by Manel Navarro
  2. Ouch! by LeKlein
  3. Lo Que Nunca Fue by Paula Rojo
  4. Spin My Head by Mario Jefferson
  5. Momento Critico by Maika
  6. Contigo by Mirela

I don’t know about you, but I can clearly divide up these six songs: there’s two that I absolutely adore, two that I quite like, and two that I wouldn’t miss if I never heard them again. And I have no idea whether Spain will think along the same lines, or choose a song that has no chance of reversing their Eurovision fortunes. One thing’s for sure – I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat while waiting for them to make up their collective mind.

 

My top six

  1. Ouch! – This song is ridiculously sublime. I can’t take LeKlein’s screams of ‘ouuuuuuuch’ seriously (she sounds exactly like me whenever I stub my toe on something) but I love everything else about her potential ESC entry. I love the grammatically awkward lyrics, the melody of the verses, the power and anthemic quality of the chorus, the polished production…it’s all very bueno. Now, if only she could carry it off live without numerous unstable vocal moments…
  2. Contigo – It’s no Nada Es Comparable A Ti (not only my fave NF effort from Mirela, but one of my fave NF songs ever) but then again, it’s not supposed to be. It’s an instantly infectious, ethno-pop triumph that needs to be a World Cup theme ASAP. The lyrics might be rubbish (I speak zero Spanish and have not yet Google-translated them) but who cares? Sometimes you just want to get up and dance and have a good time – a fiesta then a siesta – without considering the meaningfulness of lyrical content. Contigo is perfect for that purpose.
  3. Spin My Head – I feel like having your head spun up (as opposed to around) would be painful, but Mario seems to be welcoming it. Again, this isn’t going to win any awards for substance, but I would wave my hands in the air like I just didn’t care to it in a club (or in the supermarket. Whenever, wherever, as Shakira would say). The Spanglish chorus is decent when it could have been a disaster.
  4. Do It For Your Lover – Speaking of Spanglish, here’s a mixed-language version of The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. That’s not a negative, but I do wish Manel was offering up something more original. I also wish ‘do it for your lover’ wasn’t repeated nearly THIRTY times in three minutes. What is ‘it’, anyway?
  5. Momento Critico – Maika is not a woman I’d want to mess with, so in case she ever reads this, I’m going to point out the positives of her Objetivo song. It’s unashamedly rocky. It has attitude. It’s somewhat memorable (although I have forgotten how it goes now that I think about it. But I know I thought it was kind of memorable). It’s not bad. Please don’t come at me with an industrial-sized blowtorch, Maika.
  6. Lo Que Nunca Fue – Boring. Sweet and cute and charming in a countrified way, sure, but this leaves no impression on me whatsoever. It’s totally forgettable, and if there’s a hook in it, I can’t hear it. All of this means it’ll probably win.

 

Who SHOULD win LeKlein or Mirela. Yes, they’re my personal top picks, but I genuinely believe they have the best odds out of the six of making Spain’s trip to Ukraine worth it. I’m not saying they’re Eurovision winners, but if either one wins tonight and takes advantage of the gap between now and the contest (to revamp and maybe take a few singing lessons) anything’s possible. 

Who WILL win I want to scream ‘SEND HELP!’ on this one, because I cannot decide. I’m not even convinced that one of my preferred two will win. I’m going to rule out Maika and Mario. Paula and Manel are my dark horses. The failure of Maria Isabel’s ethno-pop to get far last year gives me doubts about Mirela…so that leaves LeKlein. She’s already proven she appeals to the public (winning the Eurocasting round is why she’s in OE) and if she produces a more polished live rendition of Ouch! tonight, she could win this too. Or not, and I’m just wishful thinking.

 

In a shocking turn of events, I want to know what you think about the Spanish show. What’s good, what’s bad and what’s even worse in your opinion? And, more importantly, who’s going to win? You’ve got a 1 in 6 chance of getting it right!

 

Whatever you’re watching this evening (or tomorrow morning, if you’ve also been screwed over by your time zone), I hope to see you on Twitter for some 140-character or less fun times. We Eurofans know how to party, even if it’s just on social media.

 

May the best songs win (or qualify)!

 

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REVIEWS | The EBJ Jury Judges Eurovision 2016 (Part 4)

Welcome to the halfway point of my quest to cram 43 Eurovision 2016 reviews into a far-too-short space of time! It’s been quite a rush so far (literally), and today, six more songs are under the scrutiny of my esteemed panel of ESC experts. But first, in case you’ve forgotten which countries came before this bunch, and/or what choice comments the EBJ Jury made about them, here’s your midway reminder:

  • Part 1 Croatia, France, Greece, Poland, Romania and Russia (reviewed by Rory from Ireland and Wolfgang from Germany)
  • Part 2 Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland (reviewed by Mrs. Jaz and Fraser from Australia)
  • Part 3 Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, San Marino (reviewed by James and Martin from the UK)

Now we can move on to exposing the identities of Part 4’s jurors and countries, whether they like it or not. I’m sure they would, though. It is an honour AND a privilege to be associated with me, after all.

*AWKWARD SILENCE*

 

 TODAY’S EBJ JURORS

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It’s an almost all-American panel making the judgment calls this time. Nick, Penny and I are about to ramble on (and on some more, in my case) about Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Montenegro and Spain. Dalal and Deen (AND Ana Rucner, AND Jala), Poli, Lighthouse X, Freddie, Highway and Barei are undoubtedly dying to hear our verdicts – so let’s get going!

 

 

Bosnia

Nick Ah, Balkan melodrama – one of my favorite Eurovision offerings. Bosnia & Herzegovina’s returning to the contest with flair, a fair amount being brought by the ever-exuberant Deen. His 2004 entry is actually a pretty big miss with me, so I’m happy he’s brought along this troupe of supporting characters, as Ljubav Je is a decent hit with me. The song grows nicely and it all flows pretty well together, until Jala comes in to mess things up (but in a good way). If the rap wasn’t there, the song would stagnate and have no good way of developing after that. Jala drives it home into the final chorus, and his is probably my favorite part of this entry. Also worth noting is the use of full Bosnian in this song, making it one of only three to go entirely non-English this year – and it’s the best of the three (sorry not sorry, Austria and FYR Macedonia). I do worry that it’s too contrived for the ESC, and that its big downfall will be that it doesn’t go down the standard Balkan ballad route, but I’m happy they took a chance with it. Let’s see if Europe rewards them.

Penny When BHRT announced that their 2016 song was going to involve a mash-up of styles, part of me was expecting a really bad mash-up of six songs fused together. After listening to Ljubav Je for the first time, it sounded like someone crossed Zauvijek Moja (Serbia & Montenegro 2005) with Jas Ja Imam Silata (FYR Macedonia 2010). I like Ana’s cello solo paired up with the drums, the gradual build-up of the song, and how Jala’s rap part fits in with everything else. I don’t have any idea what he’s saying, but at least he starts at the right point and does a syllable count before adding in his part so it doesn’t sound as jarring as a lot of people say. So, yay – the Balkan ballad quota of the year has been filled. But at the same time, I think I might be getting tired of the formula, because I can’t find that ‘magical’ aspect in the verses, despite them being performed well. Also, I’m still trying to get over the fact that Deen’s face has morphed into an Easter Island moai head (sorry, Deen).

Jaz Eurovision without a Balkan ballad would be like Melodifestivalen without schlager (yes, even in 2016): just plain weird. So I’m very thankful to my old mates B & H – plus Dalal, In-The-Disco-Deen, Ana Rucner and Jala – for delivering us from the evil of an atmospheric powerhouse-less contest. With Ljubav Je, they have also delivered us a Balkan ballad with a difference – namely, the rap. I can’t confess to having missed that element in Montenegro’s masterpiece Adio last year, but nor am I one of those people who think ‘rap’ puts the R-A-P in ‘crap’. The combo of ethnic and urban sounds that this song serves up is an interesting one, and I do think it works – the rap toughens up the classical beauty of the cello, while Dalal and Deen stay true to the step-by-step guide I’m sure exists entitled ‘How To Perform A Balkan Ballad’ (though it is a bit sad to see Deen removing all traces of 2004 hip-thrusting from his routine). And Jala’s entrance is more of an appealing surprise than a jarring one, in my opinion. BUT…not all Balkan ballads are created equal, and this is no Adio, Lejla or Lane Moje. It’s not even close. The overall feel is by-the-numbers and slightly half-hearted, and it doesn’t give me any goosebumps as the best of the BBs do. Still, I reckon this is an entry that will thrive live on the big stage, with all bells and whistles in place. It’s likely to be far more impressive and multidimensional then, when all memories of the low-budget video clip have (hopefully) been banished from our minds.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 4
  • Fraser 4
  • James 4
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 5
  • Wolfgang 8

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s EBJ Jury score is…5.44

 

 

Bulgaria

Nick Another returning B country, Bulgaria’s also trotting out a returning artist: fandom queen and (debatably) wronged 2011 NQ Poli Genova. Her song was the last to be revealed this year, and dare I say, it was worth the agonising wait. If Love Was a Crime definitely sounds like it comes from the Balkans, but it’s got a smartly-applied layer of Swedish gloss that doesn’t distract from the intended sound (hear that, Cyprus?). The build-up into a drop using the chorus is an undeniably modern choice – especially for Eurovision – and it was even smarter to write in a Bulgarian-language hook that’ll get stuck in everyone’s heads come May. My main concern with this entry is that it’ll be really hard to stage in a way that highlights the song rather than holding it back. It’s not got that many opportunities for choreography, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Bulgarian delegation (one not known for stage direction) will do. Otherwise, I have no doubts that this will be one of the standout tracks of the year.

Penny First off, there’s a flute solo. Given what’s happened to other songs with flute solos (e.g. Lane Moje, Molitva and Only Teardrops), Poli’s probably in good company and should qualify. Throw that in with one of the most Ohrwurm-y refrains of the year, and she could get into the top half of the final. I wonder how many people will get ‘O, daj mi ljubovta’ simply by seeing the words printed on the screen or hearing Poli sing the song once. The song feels really light-hearted and fluffy in the verses, but then she gets to ‘If love was a crime, we would be criminals,’ and I can’t help but connect with the words despite them sounding really cheesy (thanks, S.O. whom I haven’t seen since November because of scheduling issues and constant technical difficulties). There’s also something really nice about the way she pronounces ‘miracles’ and ‘criminals’ in the song that I don’t know to describe…but it’s kind of like in songs that shove too many syllables into one line to show that there’s so much emotion/back story that it wouldn’t fit if it stayed in syllable count. So yes, I’ll be waving white-green-red in front of my laptop during ESC week.

Jaz All paths were leading to Poli Genova representing Bulgaria this year: her super-successful turn as 2015’s JESC host, her…ah…um…okay, so maybe there was just the one path. But it was still a logical choice for BNT to make – and a choice that was incredibly well-received by the fan community. I haven’t seen a single negative word Facebooked, Tweeted or Instagrammed about Poli, and the reaction to her second ESC entry If Love Was A Crime (the prequel to Frans’ If I Were Sorry, I presume) has been almost as positive. And why wouldn’t it be? This is a song that does pretty much everything right, ticking all boxes without being a goody two-shoes about it. Lyrically, the verses and pre-chorus are a little weak – I mean, I get that ‘If love was a crime, we would be criminals’ is a necessary evil in a song that hypothesises what would happen if love was, in fact, something you could get arrested for indulging in…but it’s such a predictable line. Still, I can’t criticise much else about this track. It’s contemporary (complete with weird non-human noise in the background), energetic, ultra catchy (particularly when Poli launches into the Bulgarian chorus, which even non-Bulgarian speakers can latch on to with ease) and memorable, mainly thanks to that hook. Factor in Poli’s proven ability as a live performer who always seems to enjoy herself on stage, and you’ve got Bulgaria’s best chance of a celebration-worthy result in a long time – perhaps EVER, given that their highest placing in history is 5th. I did say ‘perhaps’ – girl is going to have to fight for it. But, huge success in the offing or not, Bulgaria deserves a round of applause (and a round of drinks) for pulling Poli and not-Na-Inat-2.0 out of their hat.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 6
  • Fraser 10
  • James 12
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 7
  • Penny 10
  • Rory 12
  • Wolfgang 6

Bulgaria’s EBJ Jury score is…8.67

 

 

Denmark

Nick Once again, Denmark’s choice of a seemingly run-of-the-mill boyband entry over an annoying female fanwank proved to set the fandom alight for no reason, as the superior song was picked. With either Simone or Anja hopping across the Øresund to Sweden, Denmark would be much further down on my list (especially with the latter, who’d occupy space 43 easily), so Lighthouse X is my personal savior. That being said, Soldiers of Love is still a pretty bland song that occupies the same area of the pop landscape as the Irish song this year. However, it does it so much better than Sunlight, and it ends up that Soldiers of Love is actually the song that shines. The music is written to be catchy and punchy, the occasional riffs on piano standing out in that aspect; and there’s a nice flow to it. It’s also one of the few entries this year that stands out more live than in studio, as the group’s voices add an extra layer that’s lacking in the studio version. Hopefully Europe will hear the difference in quality and send this boyband nouveau song through from semi two.

Penny Remember last year, when Norway’s Mørland said he did something terrible in his early youth? After DMGP, a lot of people would probably say that he stole a time machine, formed a band, went to the year 2016, entered Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, and angered every fan who wanted Simone or Anja Nissen to win. I’m just kidding, but does anyone else think one of the Lighthouse X guys looks like Mørland? While this was a bit of a surprise winner at the time and a tad cheesy (somewhere around sharp cheddar), I’ve warmed up to them and found myself singing along to the refrain of Soldiers of Love every time they show up. It’s cheery, makes me smile after having to endure multiple exams, and – as proven by their DMGP performance – they can pull it off live.

Jaz I know I should leave the past in the past and move the heck on, but you say ‘Denmark 2016’ and I say ‘How DARE you remind me of the most painful heartbreak I have ever experienced during a national final season?’. The hours I spent sobbing into my pillow (and whoever else’s pillow I came across during the grieving process) weren’t due to Anja Nissen’s so-close-but-so-far DMGP defeat, but to Simone’s shockingly distant third place (which left a heart-shaped hole in my chest…if only metaphorically). I simply did not see Lighthouse X coming – or the fact that their name is pronounced ‘Lighthouse Ten’ (Roman Numerals are rarely the first thing on my mind). I suppose I should have, since they satisfy every requirement in the Danish rulebook of selecting a Eurovision entry: they’re a generically good-looking act offering a competent but not-at-all risky or exciting pop song, and that (somehow) always gets the Danes voting in droves (possibly because that’s the bulk type of song they have to choose from, thanks to DR). Usually, it works for them at the ESC – qualifications, comfortable results, and an occasional win thrown in for adequate measure – but last year, it backfired. Yet we’re still getting more of the same! Having said all of that, I do like Soldiers of Love, and how easy on the eye the Lighthouse trio is. They look pretty and sound pretty singing a song that does most of the things it should in all the right places. The chorus is melodically strong and uplifting, even if every line of it is a cliché (you might even say it’s a cliché love song. Oh, the irony!). But…does it light my fire? Nope. I want it to melt my marshmallows, but all it does is brown them ever-so-slightly. Basically, it’s perfectly fine, and therefore very vanilla. Denmark might be all for safety first, but when countries think outside the box, that’s when they’re truly competing.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 2
  • Fraser 8
  • James 3
  • Jaz 8
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 8
  • Rory 4
  • Wolfgang 4

Denmark’s EBJ Jury score is…5.22

 

 

Hungary

Nick When I came to ranking these songs, I wanted to listen to the nightcore (sped-up and pitched-up) versions of each one to ease myself into the process. Usually, I end up liking those a little more, and Pioneer was no exception. In saying that, I still wanted the song to be over less than halfway through. Moving on to the regular live performance was even worse, as the one featured on the official channel had Freddie mumbling and screaming off-key on the A Dal stage. The song is a noisy mess that has no flow and clichéd motivational lyrics. It also does that horribly annoying thing where the singer draws out a word for no reason other than to fit the rhyme: see ‘real’ in the second line of the chorus. I’d almost appreciate the brashness of the music if everything else was done tactfully enough to let it shine…but as it stands, this is an absolute mess of an entry that should see Hungary out of the final for the first time since their return. Better luck next year.

Penny I couldn’t remember what this song sounded like until listening to over forty Top 43 ranking videos. And although I can now remember what (part of) it sounds like, I don’t understand how it’s in almost everyone’s top 10. The whistling in the verses and the grit in Freddie’s voice sounds nice, but Pioneer is a plodder and doesn’t do much for me. Sorry Freddie, but I’ll probably be getting food while you’re performing so I’m not hung(a)ry. The glow sticks and swirly background do remind me that I need to visit my local science museum though.

Jaz The A Dal final was full of fabulous potential Hungarian entries. For starters, none of them reminded me of Boggie or Wars For Nothing. Then we had the quirky hipster sing-along song from Petruska, epic ethnopop from Gergő Olah, and achingly cool alt-rock from Kalláy Saunders and his band. Rising to the top of them all in the end, though, was Freddie’s Pioneer, an early favourite. For me, there was something about this song from the start – something unique and raw that I was drawn to. The rawness, I guess, was mainly emanating from Freddie himself, who is far from being a smooth operator in the vocal department (that’s a compliment re: his gravelly voice, by the way). As the performer, he adds an authentic rough edge to a song that is an anthem á la Denmark’s, but without the cheese. I love everything about it – the minimalist construction, the whistling, the extremely powerful chorus that is bound to be explosive on the Eurovision stage…and how can I fail to mention the walking, talking hunk of eye candy that is Freddie (yes, I’m shallow. Get used to it). I’ve been saying for a few years now that Hungary are likely to win the contest sometime soon, and though it’s unlikely that 2016 is ‘soon’, I stand by those comments with Pioneer in mind. Also, Freddie, if you’re reading…yes, I am single, and waiting for your call. WINKFACE EMOJI.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 7
  • Fraser 6
  • James 5
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 8
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 2
  • Wolfgang 12

Hungary’s EBJ Jury score is…6.33

 

 

 Montenegro

Nick Okay, can we take a minute to recognise ‘I see you inside me’ as one of the creepiest lyrics of this year? In fact, my biggest hang-up with this entry is the vaguely stalkerish imagery that’s present throughout the song. Musically, I’m a big fan of the acid rock/dubstep crossover, but the lyrics and vocals throw me off. Deep voices aren’t usually my thing to begin with, and they’re especially not when I’m being crooned at with such lyrics as ‘I’m gonna run, gonna feel good.’ Assuage me of fears that does not, and it really harms what could’ve been a strong entry. Montenegro’s track record – one that astonishingly includes a song like The Real Thing, 2013’s Most Wrong Entry™ Igranka – tells me that they’ll probably meet the same fate they did when the contest was last in Sweden. However, this time, I’ll probably be a little less bitter about losing them.

Penny Montenegro has decided: two years of Balkan ballads was nice, but there’s more to the ex-Yugo music scene. It looks like that means it’s time to send an entry closer to Who See’s than Knez’s. When I first heard The Real Thing after its presentation, all I could think was, ‘What IS this noise?’ – and that it sounded like a bunch of random people who all wanted to play their instruments as loudly as possible. As of so far, the only lyrics I can understand are still ‘Inside you’ and ‘Feel it; I’m the real thing, yeah.’ It’s not my favorite genre, and I still need to put in effort and energy to focus on the song, but it doesn’t deserve the bottom-three hate that it seems to get in YouTube rankings. Also, I’m still really confused as to what this “real thing” that Highway talk about is. Does it mean that they’re real people? Or are they just not hiding their identities?

Jaz In stark contrast to the previous two acts, Montenegro is sending a group to Stockholm who are NOT incredibly attractive (in my opinion). Why does that matter? Well, it doesn’t – I just thought I’d mention it to remind you that it’s not just what’s inside that counts, especially at Eurovision (and to remind you that I’m a judgmental jerk and proud of it). Anyway…the song! After the 2015 Montenegrin masterpiece that was Adio, we’ve been given what is allegedly The Real Thing – and though I know which one I prefer, I have to applaud Montenegro for showing variety, and Highway for staying true to their style (otherwise, they’d be performing a song called Not Exactly The Real Thing). Like Penny, I don’t agree with everyone who has Highway right at the rear end of their rankings. I’d even go so far as to say that I enjoy this track. It’s Georgia 2.0 for me: I don’t know why I like it exactly, and it’s not in the genre ballpark that I normally hang out in, but I’m on board nonetheless. If we compartmentalise it, we’ve got a) verses that are actually very well-produced and current, b) a chorus that is noisy, yes, but was made for rocking out to, and c) a guitar riff that sticks. It’s surprisingly cohesive when strung together for three minutes. I’m not seeing it through rose-coloured glasses here – I know it’s not going to go anywhere. But in spite of that, it floats my boat. No lifejacket required!

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 8
  • Fraser 1
  • James 1
  • Jaz 8
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 5
  • Rory 1
  • Wolfgang 0

Montenegro’s EBJ Jury score is…3.78

 

 

Spain

Nick It’s a sign of the times: Spain’s finally thrown off the Spanish and is going full English for the first time. Putting aside my disappointment at Eurovision’s continued slide into linguistic homogeny, I must admit that this song lends itself well to the language, although that’s just my backhanded way of saying it’s kind of anonymous. Barei’s the undoubted star of the show in this entry, as her exuberance onstage adds so much to what’s otherwise a drop in the bucket of up-tempo, feel-good songs. That’s not to say the song doesn’t have its positives – the verses are nicely orchestrated and the English lyrics aren’t as cringey as they could’ve been. But it is lacking a distinctly Spanish flair that Barei’s making up for. Whether that will deliver Spain a better result than Edurne’s shriekfest (that was overrated at 21st, if you ask me) is up for debate, but I have a suspicion this year’s result will tend more toward Pastora Soler territory.

Penny While I’m a little disappointed that there won’t be any Spanish in the contest this year, this entry is already an improvement on 2015’s, since a) Barei can hit all the notes and b) her song feels a bit more ‘honest’ (as in, she seems to be telling her own story instead of someone else’s). It’s also really nice to have the one flashmob song of the contest, given that Barei’s been doing that dance for every single performance and in almost every interview; and that Say Yay is really catchy and easy to sing along to. Then again, how hard is learning ‘Say yay, yay, yay’, or ‘Sing it, la, la, la, la’? However, while I’d definitely sing and dance along if someone else played the song, I don’t know if I’d actively search for the song since the backing music makes it sound like it’s something my dentist would play, or one of six (yes, six) songs that would play over the bakery radio at work (I will confirm that this sounds way better than dental drills or the oven buzzer though).

Jaz Like A Dal, this year’s Spanish final was packed with awesome potential ESC entries. I would say Barei was among that bunch with Say Yay!,  but she wasn’t my first, second, third or even fourth choice to represent her country. I have no problem with her – she’s a great singer with a interesting catch in her voice, and she brims with personality and energy on stage. Plus, on the whole, Say Yay! is a modern, effervescent dance number that practically prohibits you from standing still. However, there’s an aspect of it that screams ‘background music’ to me – maybe it’s the largely instrumental chorus. Whatever the source, I just don’t feel like it makes enough of a statement as a standalone song to win Eurovision. There’s no doubt it has the ability to do well for Spain, particularly when pedaled by someone who sells it like Barei does. But overall, I find it a little wallpaper-like. It’s there, and it’s nice, but I’m not going to be paying that much attention to it when there’s opulent statement furniture elsewhere in the room.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 1
  • Fraser 12
  • James 7
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 10
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 6
  • Wolfgang 6

Spain’s EBJ Jury score is…6.78

 

 

And we have a runaway winner! Of this round, that is. Shockingly, it isn’t Montenegro. 

  1. Bulgaria (8.67)
  2. Spain (6.78)
  3. Hungary (6.33)
  4. Bosnia & Herzegovina (5.44)
  5. Denmark (5.22)
  6. Montenegro (3.78)

Bulgaria takes this one out in impressive fashion – but will they do the same (or even remotely similar) at Eurovision itself? Are we totally off the mark relegating Spain to second place? Has my undying love for boybands influenced my decision on Denmark, or would you agree that it’s bland, but not bad? I have so many questions, and you can provide the answers in the comments below. If you don’t, the chances of Ani Lorak returning to the ESC will decrease by 33.33%.

Speaking of returnees…next time, my mother and Germany’s very own Wolfgang will be back to have their say on Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland, Israel, Latvia and the United Kingdom. You might be surprised by the songs that go down well with those two. Then again, you might not – it depends on how easily you’re surprised. Either way, don’t forget to drop by!

 

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Objetivo Eurovisión: Of Spain’s select six, who should stay (at home) and who should go (to Stockholm)?

It’s the last day of January, and you know what that means!

Well, I’m assuming you know what that means.

Just in case you don’t, it means that national final season is about to take over all of our lives, and cause us to suffer from hair loss and heart palpitations as we struggle endlessly to keep up with all of the pan-European (and Australian) action on the calendar – particularly on Saturday nights.

We wouldn’t want it any other way, would we?

February’s first NF will be brought to us courtesy of Spain – on the first, fittingly. Tomorrow night, three guys and three girls will fight, matador-style (that’s how it works, right?) for their right to represent their country at Eurovision. Once there, the winner will have to pull off a performance that makes everyone forget the so-OTT-it-was-laughable stage show we witnessed in Vienna via Edurne. It’s a tough task, but somebody has to undertake it.

Mark my words where this final is concerned: it’s going to be pretty awesome. This is Objetivo Eurovisión!

 

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For once, I can say ‘VIVA LA SPAGNA!’ with genuine enthusiasm, because this six-strong national final is packed with potential ESC success. There isn’t a bad song in the bunch – although some, in my opinion, are better than others (I’ll specify which in a second).

Here are the entries Spain has to select from, in running order:

  1. Un Mundo Mas Feliz by Maverick
  2. Say Yay! by Barei
  3. Victorious by Xuso Jones
  4. Días de Alegria by Salvador Beltrán
  5. La Vida Sólo Es Una by María Isabel
  6. Now by Electric Nana

It’s quite the variety show, with traditionally Spanish tracks sitting alongside electro-pop, pop-rock, and a dance-banger or two. The most talked-about names initially were those associated with the latter genre – Xuso Jones, who’s backed by a Swedish songwriting superpower; and María Isabel, who has a Junior Eurovision victory to her name, and has many wondering if she could do the double if sent to the adult contest. But it’s Barei who has risen in the ranks of the Spanish iTunes charts, topping them a few days ago. Does that tell us everything we need to know re: tomorrow’s results? Are underdogs Maverick, Salvador and Electric Nana completely out of contention? Time, as always will tell.

Something I can tell you in the meantime is what I think of the six songs. Quick, prepare yourselves for a mini-ranking!

  • #1 La Vida Sólo Es Una It could be my unconditional love for her Junior winner Antes Muerta Que Sencilla talking…or my eternal excitement at the possibility of another former JESC participant graduating to the ESC. Either (or neither) way, I love this! It’s quintessentially Spanish without perpetuating a stereotype, and fulfils all of the ethno-pop fantasies I’ve had during the last few Eurovisions sans a significant amount of said ethno-pop. Oh, and it’s very catchy. That’s often all I ask for in a Eurovision entry.
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I’m not just pretending to love Maria’s song so she doesn’t strangle me with all eight of her arms, I promise.

  • #2 Un Mundo Mas Feliz This one is a bit more stereotypically Spanish – but what’s wrong with that *says the Australian*? I don’t think anybody else is as big of a fan of Maverick as I am in this context, music-wise or aesthetics-wise (though at 24, I can’t seem to fancy his 19-year-old self without feeling like a creepy cougar). Un Mundo makes me feel good, and that can’t be bad. It’s sunny and trumpety and tropical, and I want to flamenco my ass off to it. Anyone who wants to join me is welcome. Olé!
  • #3 Victorious As someone who frowns upon countries conducting their ESC entry shopping in the Cookie Cutter aisle of the Swedish Songs Sure To Succeed In Certain Contests Supermarket (*takes much needed breath*) I should hate Victorious, which is as derivative as heck and was co-penned by Peter Böstrom of Euphoria (and Amanecer) fame. The token Spanish lyrics, enforced in this NF, also annoy me. But…THIS IS BRILLIANT. The chorus is killer, and no other song in this comp has one so instant. If Xuso was victorious, I wouldn’t mind at all.
  • #4 Say Yay! Though it’s far from being my favourite, the only thing I dislike about this song is its title, which makes it sound like it belongs on a Best of Hi-5 album (if you’re Australian, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, good luck). That aside, it’s verging on being something special. Barei has a cool, Sia-like catch in her voice which adds interest to an already interesting, multi-faceted song that’s unlike anything Spain has ever sent to Eurovision before. I’d be curious to see what transpired if they did so in 2016.
  • #5 Días de Alegria I desperately wanted to see Pablo Alborán in this NF, and obviously, my wish wasn’t granted. But Salvador, who appears to be the love child of Pablo and Christos Mylordos, is a semi-decent substitute. I’m undecided on the formulaic beginning of Días de Alegria – do I like it? Is it too predictable? I don’t know. But then things ramp up, the chorus kicks in and I know I’m enjoying what I’m listening to.
  • #6 Now My least favourite of the lot is still a perfectly competent, well-written number. It’s just that pop-rock isn’t usually a genre I enjoy, even when it’s in such a contemporary form. I think this is too much of a plateau song to give Spain a good chance of hitting any Eurovision heights, but it would still be an entry they could be proud of.

So, sí. Those are my thoughts. All in all, this is the strongest Spanish final I’ve been around to experience, and I’m psyched that Spain will end up with what I perceive to be a very good (worst case) or epic (best case) entry for Eurovision 2016, no matter what.

But what do I actually think is going to go down? I know you’re ridiculously keen to find out.

Right?

Guys?

Is anyone there?

Who WILL win Barei. Or Xuso. Or María. Just…one of those three, okay?!? I don’t want to call Barei as an obvious winner based purely on Spain’s iTunes stats, especially because the Spanish public only has a 40% say in the outcome of Objetivo (a jury and a panel of experts share the remaining 60%). Still, the people have clearly staked a claim on her entry as one they prefer. And Say Yay! does give off triumphant vibes (not to be confused with Un Mundo Mas Feliz’ trumpet vibes). But…so does Victorious. Xuso would be a safer, more secure choice than Barei, but I’m not sure how willing Spain is to be represented by something so un-Spanish – mandatory Espanol pre-chorus aside (TVE are clearly NOT willing to toss all Spanish-ness in the trash). I do think María has a decent shot here too, due in part to her status as a previous Eurovision event winner. But again, wishful thinking might be clouding my judgment on this one. Much of what happens across the board depends on the live performances we witness from the six, so we’ll have to wait and see who’s truly winning material, I guess.

Who SHOULD win This depends on what Spain want to achieve in Stockholm. If they’d rather send something relatively safe, that has the goods to get them out of the gutter (i.e. as far from the bottom of the scoreboard as possible), then Xuso is probably their best bet. If they want to take a risk that may or may not pay off (following in Belgium and Latvia’s 2015 footsteps) they should send Barei. If they don’t want to upset me – and let’s face it, that’s the population of Spain’s first priority – they should send María or Maverick. So which is it, amigos?

 

As Electric Nana might say, Now it’s time for you to have your say. But I’m not going to ask you to pick your predicted or personal winner. Instead, I want to know:

 

There. All you can do now is sit back, relax, and see if your advice is taken.

However, if you’re itching to reveal your Objetivo rankings or predictions, head south to the comments section and reveal away! While you’re doing that, I’ll be Googling churro recipes, determining if eighteen different tapas dishes is too many for one person, and finding the most comfortable viewing position for tomorrow night (if you’re reading this on Sunday)/tonight (if you’re reading this on Monday)/tomorrow morning (if you’re in an Aussie-esque time zone).

 

Adiós!

 

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PS – I have to take a moment to say farewell to the legend that is Mr. Eurovision (no, not that one…the OTHER Mr. Eurovision). Sir Terry Wogan passed away today aged 77, in what is the latest in a string of famous deaths none of us saw coming. He didn’t always take the ESC as seriously as some of us do, but that was part of his charm. Also appealing was his unwavering loyalty towards the contest – his voice eventually becoming synonymous with the BBC broadcast of the show. For that, and for so much more, I salute him. RIP, Terry.

 

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 5)

There are just three weeks until the final of Eurovision 2015, people. THREE WEEKS! We do, of course, have the equally important/exciting semi finals to look forward to prior to that, which doesn’t give me much time to devise a detailed schedule and allocation chart that dictates the destinations of my precious votes. I’d better get on that ASAP.

With this rapidly diminishing amount of pre-ESC days, I don’t have any time to waste when it comes to churning out the rest of the Viennese Verdicts. The past few days have been momentous ones, what with Loïc Nottet’s message for EBJ (check it out, if you haven’t yet – it’s short but sweet) and the royal baby birth and stuff, but none of that compares to the momentousness of this fifth installment of reviews. This time (Lithuanian pun 100% intended) it’s the turn of Malta, Georgia, Albania, Lithuania and Spain to be judged by a few familiar faces.

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv1Rory Gannon: You met Ireland’s own Rory (if you hadn’t already met him) waaaaay back in Part 1. He’s the beauty and brains behind a Eurovision blog that is just as fabulous as he is – and I say that of my own volition, not because he paid me to. You can find said blog ESC Views here, and/or like the ESC Views Facebook page here.

Matt Kelly: Aussie Matt, hailing from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as it’s often known) also laid his Eurovision-branded cards on the table in Part 1. He’s one of the stars of YouTube’s escTMI review show, so he’s well-schooled in doling out compliments and criticisms to Eurovision participants. You can subscribe to escTMI’s YouTube channel here and/or like their Facebook page here.

Jasmin Bear: As they say, I’m here all week…if by ‘week’, one means FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY, MWAHAHAHAHA!!! Even though my links are blatantly promoted over in the sidebar, I have no qualms about promoting them even more blatantly here. So, that being said, feel free to like the EBJ Facebook page here, follow me on Twitter here, and/or follow me on Instagram here.

 

The three of us are ready to marvel over and moan about what Amber, Nina, Elhaida, Vaidas & Monika and Edurne are taking to the Austrian capital. Are you?

 

 

MALTA

Warrior by Amber

Malta

Rory: Umm…Malta? We just don’t really get on, do we? I wanna break up. It’s not you, it’s me…actually no, it is you. I’m sorry, but I am not a fan of your song. Can anyone actually understand what Amber sings in the live version of Warrior? If you can’t be understood, what’s the point in even sending the song? At least they’ve worked on the pronunciation aspect of it – the fact that she kept calling the past ‘the pest’ really did p**s me off! 4 points.

Matt: The original Warrior, Amber’s has all the elements of a modern Eurovision song – violins, big drums, powerful vocals, and a positive message of hope. I personally feel that this song is old hat now, as it was one of the first songs chosen all the way back in November. But I’m sure Amber will bring it to life again in Vienna. 10 points.

Jaz: Amber was approximately two attempts at representing Malta away from becoming the Sanna Nielsen of the island (though that’s the situation for most Maltese artists, let’s face it) when she finally won MESC last year. When she steps onto the Stadthalle stage in a few weeks’ time, she’ll be in the unusual position of having performed on the Junior and adult Eurovision stages within six months – not because she’s in the same boat as San Marino’s Anita Simoncini, but because Malta understandably repurposed the JESC stage for their national final use. None of this has anything to do with Amber’s Warrior, of course – I just like going off on tangents. I’m constantly changing my mind when it comes to my personal winner of the Warrior face-off, as I like both. I have to say, though, Malta has impressed me with their choice of representative for the third year in row. Granted, MESC 2014 wasn’t an NF to end all NFs, but Amber stood out to me from my first listen of the line-up. There’s something about the style of Warrior that I get a kick out of, even though it isn’t the most finely-crafted, cohesive power ballad I’ve ever heard. And speaking of power – Amber has it in spades when she launches into that big chorus. She just needs to ensure she’s in key to make it explosive in a good way. I did actually prefer the song before it was reworked, and I’m still irritated by the ‘con-quer-er-errrr’ bit (it almost puts ‘uh-uh-uh-un-dooooooo’ to shame) but that’s the majority of what I’d pick on re: Malta 2015. There are plenty of songs that are superior, but I like this enough to give it 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.33

 

 

GEORGIA

Warrior by Nina Sublatti

Georgia

Rory: So I told you that I wasn’t a fan of Malta, but to be honest, Georgia wins the Warrior battle hands-down. I mean, the song beforehand was strong, but it’s really packing a punch now. Seeing as they’ll be closing the first semi, I see no reason why Nina won’t do incredibly well. It’s crazy, addictive, hypnotic…if only Georgia (plus Belgium….and the Netherlands) was in the second semi!! 10 points.

Matt: The other Warrior, Nina’s song is the ESL emo version. I wanted to like it – it’s dark and unusual. But the lyrics are so bad. Did she use Google Translate to write them? I can’t sing along to a chorus that has ‘still stucked in my mind’ as one of its lines. And I still don’t know what ‘oximated’ means, but it’s good to know that Nina’s ‘not a shabby’. It’s hard to believe this song was reworked by the Eurovision legend Thomas G:son. Surely he should’ve fixed the mistakes…but no, this song is going to Vienna with all of the original, bad lines. I feel like it’s a missed opportunity, and that’s just frustrating. 5 points.

Jaz: This was the standout song in the Georgian final, and it’s also the best song Georgia has sent to Eurovision in a long time. That doesn’t mean I’m about to lavish it with douze points (spoiler alert: I’m not) but it does mean I find a lot of positives in it. The lyrics, in terms of that little thing called ‘making sense’, are not one of those positives (like Matt, I am appalled by the use of ‘stucked’…subtract two letters, and it would be fine) but honestly, I’d rather listen to interesting lyrics like these than lame, cheesy ones that rhyme ‘love’ with ‘above’ or ‘dove’, or even worse, ‘love’. This song is edgy and hip (no matter how uncool my use of ‘hip’ might make it) and rather alternative by Eurovision standards. There are a few songs in that vein competing in Vienna – Belgium, Latvia, etc – and I’m digging them all. When it comes to originality, this Warrior has the battle in the bag, and the juries should reward it for that at the least. Nina’s an intense performer for a nineteen-year-old, which I blame on the heavy makeup that makes her look at least twenty-five. Her experience participating in and winning Georgian Idol will be beneficial as she rides the Eurovision merry-go-round – probably not all the way to the top, but hopefully to the upper mid-table of the final scoreboard. PS – For everyone still wondering, ‘oximated’ means ‘reaction with, or conversion into an oxime.’ So I guess we’ll continue to wonder, then. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.67

 

 

ALBANIA

I’m Alive by Elhaida Dani

Albania

Rory: Ohhhhhh Albania, you always have the best sense. Well, most of the time (we still have to talk about Rona’s hair). I am incredibly happy that they actually ditched Diell in favour of I’m Alive. This song actually shows off Elhaida’s versatile vocal range – and my god, it is an UP-TEMPO SONG! This calls for a celebratory Verka Serduchka dance around the stage. Well done, Albania. You’ve learned from your mistakes! 8 points.

Matt: I’m Alive is a really contemporary ballad, and it’s a million light years away from the awful, outdated song Elhaida was originally going to sing. Talk about dodging a bullet. I could imagine Beyoncé or the like singing this, and it doing well on mainstream radio. A seasoned talent show veteran, Elhaida will deliver amazing vocals on stage, and has the stage presence that will sell the song to the audience. I think this will do well. 8 points.

Jaz: So I guess I’m alone in preferring Diell, then (I got the raw deal in Albania’s surprise song exchange). The composers of Elhaida’s Festivali I Këngës winner deciding to withdraw the song from Eurovision is almost as inexplicable a move as Andreas Kümmert saying danke, but nein danke, to representing Germany. But while in Germany’s case, the unexpected turn of events worked in my favour, in Albania’s…it really didn’t. There is nothing horrendously wrong with I’m Alive. In fact, it’s a darn good eleventh-hour song (something you could also say about Australia’s). It’s more contemporary and uplifting than Diell, not to mention more energetic. Plus, it allows Elhaida to be a bit more playful with her undoubtedly impressive vocals. All of that makes it a welcome addition to the contest. But I just don’t get the hype. I find the repetition in the chorus quite irritating, and despite the inclusion of that big belter of a note towards the end (which is very Jessie J-esque) the song doesn’t travel to as epic of a place as I’d like it to. I haven’t seen Elhaida perform this live, but I did watch her winning FiK performance – and based on the way she sung the pants off Diell, her Eurovision performance has the potential to change my mind. But until then, I’m not 100% sold. 6 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.33

 

 

LITHUANIA

This Time by Vaidas & Monika

Lithuania

Rory: Ehhhh…I’m not really sure what to say about Lithuania this year. I’m happy that they’re finally sending something that will appeal to the masses, but performing first on the night might be a little bit of a hindrance to them, to say the least! As a sidenote, how nice is their video, though!!? Vaidas…phwoar! 6 points.

Matt: When I was a kid I always assumed that Grease’s John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were a couple, due to their fantastic on-screen chemistry. I feel the same about Monika and Vaidas. They are so cute together, and I believe that their song of love comes from the heart (to avoid another disappointment, I’m not going to research whether they are a couple or not). The song itself is simple and catchy, but nothing too amazing. My prediction is that the audience will feel some love for this, but not enough to get them to the top. I think they’ll probably end up in the middle of the pack. 7 points.

Jaz: If you’re hoping I’m going to say ‘Aww, isn’t this cute!’, well, I’m not. Nor am I going to say ‘Ugh, isn’t this revolting!’. I’m somewhere in the middle, as it happens. I’m not totally feeling Vaidas and Monika’s love, but I’m not totally averse to it either. This Time, for me, is a poor man’s version (or more accurately, a poor but very peppy man’s version) of Firelight’s Coming Home, which in turn wasn’t going to win any awards for Best Original Song. It’s formulaic and verging on being sickly sweet (that “impromptu” kiss has already worn thin with me) but I don’t feel like it’s a song you can hate with a passion. It’s extremely catchy, after all, and the chemistry between Vaidas and Monika is up there with the most genuine of the year. They always appear to be enjoying themselves on stage, and enjoying performing with each other – in spite of the fact that they aren’t a couple (sorry to burst that bubble, Matt, but who knows…they might be by the time Eurovision’s over!). I guess I’m more of a fan of Lithuania’s performers than Lithuania’s song. This Time is serviceable pop, but it doesn’t excite me enough to consider voting for it. 5 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.00

 

 

SPAIN

Amanecer by Edurne

Spain

Rory: I’m afraid I’m going to have to go against the grain here and say that I don’t like Amanecer. Sure, it’s really catchy in the chorus (that e-e-e-o-o is addictive), but for me that’s all it is – just a bit of repetition. I feel like RTVE really overhyped the promotion of the song, and it’s just a bit of a letdown (I have a feeling that Kit Kat won’t have to give a free bar to everyone who retweeted that Tweet back in January!). *opens arms and braces self for the onslaught of tomatoes*. 3 points.

Matt: I think I have ballad fatigue. Amanecer was written by the same team who wrote 2012’s winning song Euphoria, so I was expecting a lot. While it’s a nice song, it’s no Euphoria, or Quédate Conmigo. It drifts along pleasantly for three minutes and then finishes. That’s it. Edurne is an amazing performer, though, and I’m sure she’ll bring it to life when she takes to the stage in May. 7 points.

Jaz: I’d like to journey back in time to Copenhagen 2014, and remind you that my opinion of Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing In The Rain was as follows: I knew it was good, but I felt very little attachment to it. I didn’t love it, and it definitely didn’t give me the energy required to wave a flag for it (although I was happy to see Spain back in the top 10). Leaping back through the space/time  continuum to 2015, and enter Edurne. Amanecer is not only my new favourite word of all the words, but also a song that I do feel a connection with. That may have something to do with the girl crush I have developed on Edurne, but I genuinely do like her song a lot. I agree that it was overhyped – after the pre-release fervour, it could have been a masterpiece and still failed to meet expectation. But for me, it has the drama and atmosphere and Spanish-ness that I didn’t find in Dancing In The Rain. If Edurne is anything like her fellow countrywoman Pastora Soler, she will help Amanecer hit new heights when she gets to Eurovision by delivering a blistering vocal performance. Hopefully she’ll also bring us a hint of the wildness from the music video. Unfortunately that can not entail a live tiger being onstage, so a faux tigerskin cape that Edurne can whirl around everywhere might be called for. Cape or no cape, I think Spain’s entry has as much potential to make the top 10 as it does to end up mid-table, strangely enough. So much will depend on how this goes down in the jury and televised finals. I would be satisfied with Amanecer outdoing Dancing In The Rain, but I won’t be betting on that happening. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.67

 

 

And there you have it! Another five reviews are done and dusted, and not without disagreement. Ultimately, the two Warriors won the day. Well, one of them did, but there wasn’t much between Nina and Amber.

  1. Georgia (7.67)
  2. Malta (7.33)
  3. Albania (7.33)
  4. Spain (6.67)
  5. Lithuania (6.00)

Despite our differing opinions, on average, the EBJ Jury ranked these countries fairly closely together. I suspect that’s a trend that won’t continue in Part 6 of the Viennese Verdicts, when I ask an American and an Englishman to help me review Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. You won’t want to miss the fireworks that combination could cause.

In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s songs. Do you believe Rory’s right, and that Georgia wins the Warrior-off without question? Or do you think Matt’s on the money and Amber will definitely resurrect her Warrior at Eurovision? Maybe you actually agreed with something I said *gasp*. Whatever you’re thinking, we want to hear it!*

 

*To a point…I mean, don’t hurl abuse at us or anything. Save your curse words up in case the EBJ Jury gives a unanimous douze points to Finland.

 

nsig

 

A surprising post (not): reviewing + predicting February’s final super Saturday

Hey hey, it’s Saturday! No, this post isn’t about the TV show of the same name that you will know if you’re a fellow Australian. It’s actually about Eurovision (shocking). At last, we have a Saturday that is truly super, with multiple entries being decided and one being debuted. As such, there’s no time to waste with long intros. I’ll make up for that next time with an extra long and extra boring intro, but for now…lights, camera, action!

 

Hungary…for Eurovision victory?  

dal2014

Since they rejoined the Eurovision family in 2011 (when the last memory we had of them was an over-tanned dance machine wearing the tightest pants ever manufactured) Hungary has been on form. Sure, they haven’t constantly hit the highest of heights, but they’ve qualified for the final every year since Kati Wolf of the Bouffant Hairdo, and made top 10-worthy magic with Kedvesem last year (still my one true love). ByeAlex got me excited to see what his country would produce next, and then so did all the fans who said the A Dal lineup for 2014 was über awesome. As such, I couldn’t resist having a sneak listen to the final eight, chosen after quarter and semi finals – despite my earlier decision to leave Hungary as a total surprise. So yeah. I did. And here they are.

  • Running Out of Time by Victor Király
  • We All by Bogi
  • The Last One by New Level Empire
  • Csak A Zene by Depresszió
  • Running by Kállay-Saunders
  • It Can’t Be Over by Fool Moon
  • Brave New World by Dénes Pál
  • A Legnagyobb Hős by HoneyBeast

The video of snippets I watched told me that yes, the level is pretty high. A few of the songs grabbed me immediately, and the rest stroked me gently on the shoulder as if to say ‘you could grow to love us’. If I had to pick favourites based on just a taste, these would be my most delicious picks:

Running Out of Time cute but not cheesy pop with a chorus that sticks.

The Last One – it’s kind of dance and kind of not. The mystery intrigues me.

Running – this guy did very well in A Dal last year, but I like this song much better.

It Can’t Be Over – I do love me some Group Cosmos, but if this wins it could well be the best a cappella entry to have graced the ESC stage.

So who’s going to try and out-score Kedvesem in Copenhagen? I guess a more important question is, should I step back and leave the predicting to those of you who’ve heard the songs in their entirety? I think yes. I would be happy for any of my preferences to win, so let me know below if that’s likely to happen, or if I’m going to have to learn to love something else. How high do you think Hungary can go at Eurovision this year?   

 

Hola, Mira Quién Va A Eurovisión!

That’s ‘Look Who’s Going To Eurovision’, if Google Translate is correct. I have to hand it to Spain for being extremely organised without seeming to be at all. They had their songs, they had their NF date, and we knew nothing about either of them until very recently. Since then, however, we’ve all listened to and passed mostly positive judgment on the five prospective entries, and tonight is the moment of truth. Which one of these ridiculously good-looking Spaniards will fly the red and gold in May?

L-R: Raúl, Brequette, La Dama, Ruth and Jorge, pretending that they don’t hate each other’s guts. Sweet!

L-R: Raúl, Brequette, La Dama, Ruth and Jorge, pretending that they don’t hate each other’s guts. Sweet!

  1. Más (Run) by Brequette
  2. Estrella Fugaz by La Dama
  3. Dancing In The Rain by Ruth Lorenzo
  4. Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo by Jorge González
  5. Seguir Sin Ti by Raúl

We have dance, we have ballads, and we have key changes. We also have a lot of awkward Spanglish which seems unnecessary, but that can be taken care of later (it better be *shakes fist threateningly*). There are great, good, and not-so-good elements in all of them, but there is one that stands out for me. If I had the power, I’d rank them as follows:

  1. Más (Run)
  2. Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo
  3. Estrella Fugaz
  4. Dancing In The Rain
  5. Seguir Sin Ti

Si – Brequette’s the one, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not convinced she could do a Pastora Soler, but her song is the only one that doesn’t put me off with something dated or cliché (such as the painful key change in Raúl’s song). It does bear a resemblance to a certain other song, and if it wins the cries of plagiarism will be heard around the world because that’s what people do these days (just STAHP!) but let’s face it, most songs do sound like other songs in some way (so JUST STAHP!).

Going by the predictions of the masses, tonight is ultimately a catfight between Brequette and Ruth Lorenzo, so it will be interesting to see how the results pan out. I do believe it will be one of the two that ends up on top, and even if that one is Ruth I can make peace with it. What about you? Who should Spain select and who should they steer clear of?

 

Sweden – have they saved the best for last?

It’s hard to comprehend that we’ve already arrived at the last semi of Melodifestivalen. Time flies when you’re enduring the agonizing wait between national finals that are actually final.

The Örnsköldsvik semi includes a lot of returning artists, i.e. Alcazar and last year’s surprise success, Anton Ewald (a.k.a. one of my many future husbands). But do big guns come armed with big songs? Listen and decide for yourself here.

  1. Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar
  2. Fight Me If You Dare by I.D.A
  3. Hollow by Janet Leon
  4. Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
  5. Hela Natten by Josef Johansson
  6. Ta Mig by Linda Bengtzing
  7. En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
  8. Natural by Anton Ewald  

Stefan Mattsson (1)

I think Sweden has almost saved the best for last. This semi’s just a little weaker than last week’s, which I thought was the best so far. The returning artists are bringing it for the most part, and there are a few newcomer surprises too. Here’s my top 4:

Hollow – this is hard to compare to Janet’s last entry Heartstrings, but I think I prefer this. It’s a pop ballad that is less depressing than the title would have you believe.

Hela Natten – say hello to my hands-down favourite of the semi! Josef looks like a younger version of Darin (Swedish superstar/Melfest alumni/my beloved) and his song could have been lifted from a Darin album easily. His voice is different though, and if he’s a good live performer this could be amazing in the arena.

Ta Mig – Linda has swapped schlager for electronic pop with a rock edge, and it works for her. Song-wise, I’d rather E Det Fel På Mig (her last effort) but this has appeal.

Natural – Anton’s Begging was a surprise success last year, and he’s the favourite of favourites in this semi. Natural isn’t quite as original, but it’s a perfectly wonderful club banger. I hope his backing singers are up to the task of carrying him, Eric Saade-style…

Now, to predict. I’ve been trying to figure out why my Melfest predictions always feel wrong no matter how I configure them. I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t know how Sweden thinks, so I’m constantly uncertain. Oh well…embrace the uncertainty!

To the final: Linda and Anton

To Andra Chansen: Alcazar and Janet

I might be putting too much faith in the returning artist gimmick there. We’ll see. I’m actually hoping for yet another favourite + underdog pairing to go straight to the final. Anton and Josef, anyone?

 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe…

There are a couple of other things happening tonight, but they’re hardly worth mentioning. All we’re getting out of them is THREE MORE SONGS, PEOPLE! Gosh! Why are you being so blasé about it?

Oh wait, that was me.

  • Latvia’s Dziesma final (another one as yet unfollowed by moi) is ready to roll with 12 songs in the running to represent. I’ve never considered Latvia’s NF one not to be missed, and in missing it again, all I know is that one half of PeR obviously didn’t take their Malmö fail too hard, since he’s back already to have another shot. And also that Samanta Tina is becoming the Latvian equivalent of Sanna Nielsen, so if she wins tonight I’ll take it as a good omen for Sanna.
  • FYR Macedonia is presenting their (freshly changed) song tonight after internally selecting Tijana Dapčević around the same time dinosaurs began to walk the earth. Instead of premiering the initially selected Pobeda, they’ll be premiering the English version of Tamu Kaj Što Pripagjam…at least from what I gather. It’s called To The Sky, which I suppose is a better name for a competition song than To The Bottom of the Scoreboard With Zero Points. My fingers are crossed for a gem.
  • Lithuania’s mammoth quest to find their entry/rep continues with show no. 456386858711…haven’t we all lost count? This time, something significant IS taking place, with the song (but not the artist) to be determined. That’s as far as I can see, anyway. It’s Confusion Central over there in Lithuania.

 

Yikes – I think that’s enough to satisfy even the most demanding ESC fan. The only bad thing is that, if you don’t want to fry your brain, you’ve got to choose which NF/presentation to tune in to. Whatever you watch, enjoy it, and may your favourite win! Unless it’s different to mine, in which case stuff you, I want mine to win.

What? Honesty is the best policy.

See you on the other side of Saturday…

EBJ Signature

 

Copenhagen Chat | My thoughts on the news of the week

Hola, amigos. It’s the middle of the week, and as of now, that means it’s time for me to belatedly weigh in on the Eurovisiony happenings that have made the headlines since it was previously the middle of the week. Although…nothing of note really happened prior to our first Super Saturday, so let’s just go from there.

Quite a lot has gone down since the weekend, and not just in the Land of National Finals. Sure, we’ve now got two more songs for Copenhagen, taking the total to six; and sure, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen has begun and that is SO MUCH YAY!; and sure, Spain has shocked us all by premiering some decent potential entries; but, we also now know who will present the ESC this year – more specifically, all three of them. Discussions of these developments are coming up, but for now, let me say this: please let those hosts put in a better performance than the last trio we had to put up with!

 

The hosts with the most (maybe) are… 

*drumroll*…three people I’ve never heard of! Woohoo!

That doesn’t actually bother me. Some of the most entertaining hosts have been unknown to most of us before they took to the stage – e.g. Jaana and Mikko, Eric Solbakken, and Her Royal Funniness Anke Engelke. So give a great big benefit of the doubt to Lise Rønne, Pilou Asbæk, and Nikolaj Koppel.

1

They look nothing like Ell, Leyla and Nargiz, but can they be less wooden?

Lise, Pilou and Nikolaj are not without credentials. She is a television presenter (handy) who has helmed Dansk Melodi Grand Prix in the past, á la Petra Mede, who hosted Melodifestivalen before Malmö; Pilou is an actor, so he’ll be used to making a script sound like natural dialogue; and Nik (as I am affectionately calling him since now) is a musician and former judge on Denmark’s Got Talent. All that sounds promising, don’t you think? I’ve never been sold by the trio concept, so hopefully this trio can change my mind.

 

Something Better from Finland, and a Swiss star-hunter

Then again, who cares if they don’t? It’s all about the music. Well, more about the music, anyway. And as I mentioned before, Super Saturday gave us two more songs to add to the small pile we already have which will be en route to Denmark in a few months’ time.

Finland’s UMK ended with Softengine’s Something Better on top, beating out fan favourite Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola. As you’ll know if you read my last post, I didn’t follow UMK this year, but I did subject myself to snippets of the competitors before Saturday night. That decision has left me a little disappointed that the result wasn’t the other way around. The mod-rock style of Softengine doesn’t do much for me, whereas I thought Mikko’s song was a downright lovely ditty (or perhaps that’s the senior citizen in me) but time, in addition to healing all wounds and going by so slowly, changes things. Time and multiple listens. I may be proclaiming Something Better my first douze-pointer of the year this time next week.

Meanwhile, the Swiss chose the best of a bad, bad bunch in their Grosse Entscheidungsshow, opting for Sebalter’s Hunter of Stars to fly their flag. On the whole, this is a positive thing – it’s nothing like the lame lady ballad that it beat, and has a certain charm with the whistling and whatnot. I still think Switzerland can so much better though. It’s sad that this is the only half-decent outcome we could have had from them.

Exactly how half-decent is Sebalter? How could we figure that out…wait, I’ve got it! It’s TOP SIX TIME! Here, in a world exclusive, is mine:

  1. Belarus
  2. Ukraine
  3. Albania
  4. Italy
  5. Finland
  6. Switzerland
TEO (or is that Donny Montell) is still on top.

TEO (or is that Donny Montell?) is still on top.

Okay, so Seb is still on the bottom in my books, and I’m still totally on Team Cheesecake (which is surprisingly still the Belarusian entry). But with 30+ songs yet to be picked or premiered, this ranking is bound to change. Hit me with your personal top six in the comments, and the ensuing disagreements will no doubt keep us occupied until the weekend.

 

Melfest: it’s well and truly on!

It’s safe to say that Sweden is back. Maybe not back in a ‘we’re ready to win again, bitches’ kind of way, but definitely in a way that makes last year’s Melfest sound even worse than it actually was (bar Robin Stjernberg and a select few others). Saturday’s first semi turned out to be less predictable than I was expecting, with only one of the big favourites being voted straight to the final.

I’m talking, of course, about YOHIO, who no doubt won the night (but hopefully won’t win the whole thing) with To The End. But it wasn’t the Eurovision royalty that is Helena Paparizou who followed him – she was relegated to Andra Chansen alongside Linus Svenning’s beautiful Bröder. Newcomer/stand-in for Amandine Bourgeois in Malmö, Ellen Benediktson, scored the other ticket with Songbird. I have to admit, despite the Helena love I share with many other ESC fans, I consider this a victory for all the artists who think they haven’t got a chance against those who have been there and done that. Go Ellen!

I'm not entirely sure which is which...

I’m not entirely sure which one’s which…

With the wins must come the losses, and four songs are now out of Melfest ’14 for good. Only one of those had the power to bring a tear to my eye, and that was Alvaro Estrella’s Bedroom. Say what you want about a bad performance – I thought it was a-ok, and that the song was easily the best of the night. I mean, if Eric “I’ll smash a ton of glass to distract you from the fact that I’m not a very good singer” Saade can win Melfest, why couldn’t his former backup dancer qualify? Sob. The good news is that Bedroom has topped the Swedish iTunes charts, and that I intend to send the song into a radio station anonymously to try and elevate it to Gangnam Style status in Australia. Wish me luck.

What did you think of Melodifestivalen’s first installment?

 

Spanish surprises: the national final five

Following France’s shockingly impressive lead, Spain released the select group of songs that will be vying to represent them sometime in the near future (a date would be nice, Spain). I’ve given them all a listen, and on the spectrum of prospective entries, they collectively sit closer to the likes of Sweden than of Switzerland – a.k.a. hooray!

  • Más (Run) by Brequette
  • Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo by Jorge González
  • Estrella Fugaz by La Dama
  • Seguir Sin Ti by Raúl
  • Dancing In The Rain by Ruth Lorenzo

I’m not saying these are the strongest songs on the planet, but they do take me back to those days when Spain sent ethno-pop year after year, and did well with it. Generally, the selection is poppy and generic, but there’s always room for poppy and generic songs to succeed at Eurovision. I reckon Spain has a chance here, if not to hit the heights of Pastora Soler, to at least improve on last year’s fail.

I’ll wait for a date before I think about reviewing them properly, but at the moment, my picks are Brequette, Jorge and Ruth. How about you?

 

Super Saturday #2 – what’s on?

There’s only one more song to look forward to this Saturday, but Malta’s NF is only the beginning of the action. Olympics fans like myself would add the start of the Winter Games in Sochi to the list of comps worth watching (it’s basically the Eurovision of the sporting world) but for those who are interested in the ESC only, look out for…

  • MESC. That’s Malta’s Eurovision Song Contest. After a semi final on Friday which will, inexplicably as ever, only send 6 of 20 songs packing, 14 will be left to battle it out for the win. There’ll be two former JESC contestants taking part (assuming they both advance, and let’s face it – the odds are in their favour) but the only one I’m gunning for is Daniel Testa. His song One Last Ride has Eurovision written all over it, and not in a cheesy way. However, there is some fierce competition he’ll have to push out the way to make it…can he do it?
  • Melodifestivalen semi final 2. A veteran of this NF, Sanna Nielsen is back for what seems like her millionth shot at representing Sweden, and this could be the one that gets her all the way. She’ll be joined by Martin Stenmarck (who was beaten by Helena Paparizou and many others in Eurovision ’05) singing in Swedish, and my personal gem Panetoz. Check out their hit Danza Pausa and then tell me you’re not excited to hear what they’ve come up with!
  • Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin semi final 2 and Hungary’s A Dal heat 3. I admit to knowing nothing about either of these at this point, so whether they’re worth watching is up to you.

 

I’ll be back on Saturday to preview and predict MESC and Melfest, and complain about what an agonizing decision it is choosing between multiple national finals AND the Olympics. There’s something for you to look forward to.

Ahem. In the meantime, don’t forget to rank and ramble about results down below. If you don’t…well, I’ll be sad.

 

 See you Saturday!

EBJ Signature

 

JESC Month | My All-Time Junior Top 10!!!

According to my mathematical calculations, there are eight days to go until Ukraine hosts Junior Eurovision for the second time. If that’s incorrect, you can either blame the time difference between us or my terrible math skills. Either way, the 11th contest is close, and there’s no time to waste for those of us trying to cram as much coverage in as possible. So, following on from my last two posts, this is the third and final part of my all-time JESC ranking, and the most important one of all at that: the top 10. *dramatic music*

Three entries from Spain, two from Denmark, Sweden and Macedonia and one from Croatia have made the cut. Want to know which? Read on and all will be revealed…

 

#10

Denmark 2004

Pigen Er Min by Cool Kids

I never thought I’d be a fan of kid rap, but then again, I never knew the youth of Denmark could rap so well (to generalise). Sure, Cool Kids rapped and sang, and they did it to an awesome beat, but this song is as ghetto as JESC has ever gotten and I freaking love it! It’s got a simple and repetitive chorus, but that chorus is one of the catchiest choruses of all JESC time, and it has the added bonus of being easy to sing along to. If you know me at all, you’ll know I like to ruin songs on a regular basis by adding in my own woeful vocals.

Something else I like to do is highlight the occasions on which a Junior song was clearly superior to its adult counterpart. Denmark definitely sent a better song to Lillehammer than they did to Istanbul (that song was the derivative and dated Shame On You. It didn’t qualify for the final, which should be law for any song performed by a guy with wheels on his shoes). The Cool Kids were responsible for a cool song, proving that age is just a number when it comes to songwriting.  

 

#9

Spain 2004

Antes Muerta Que Sencilla by María Isabel

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Spain kicked butt at JESC. Their time in the contest was short but extra sweet, and peaked on attempt number two when pocket rocket María Isabel topped the scoreboard with Antes Muerta. For me, this song has stood the test of time. I rate it as highly now as I did way back when I first discovered it. It has that winning package that proves successful time and time again – it’s infectious, unique, a little bit ethnic, repetitive by just the right amount, and was well-presented and performed.

Something else I like is that it seems to be quite adult in some respects, but was still more than appropriate for Junior Eurovision. Maybe that’s why I’ve never stopped enjoying it when a lot of other JESC entries have found and then fallen out of favour with me over the years.

 

#8

Spain 2003

Desde El Cielo by Sergio

Oh, hai there, Spain. Fancy seeing you here, in this list, amidst ALL OF THE OTHER SPANISH STUFF!

Yes, I’ve gone straight from Spain’s second bash at JESC to their first. What can I say? It’s not my fault they were so darn good. They debuted with the soft, dreamy ballad that is Desde El Cielo, and it makes me want to go and fall asleep in a cloud (strange but true). I assume it doesn’t have the same effect on everyone, because nobody would have been conscious in order to vote Sergio into second place. I feel that was a position deserved because the song is just so pretty, and spoke for itself without the need for flashy costumes or props (if he’d had Christmas lights stapled to his shirt or a man in a glass box, things wouldn’t have been the same).

I must also compliment the Spanish language for lending itself so well to a song of this nature. I swear it’s never sounded so beautiful. Just talking about it has me eager to dust off the ‘Learn Spanish!’ CD I bought five years ago, and actually learn some Spanish.

 

#7

FYR Macedonia 2008

Prati Mi SMS by Bobi Andonov

I give you permission to call me biased on this one. We Australians have to take any opportunity that comes to cheer on a fellow countryperson at a Eurovision event, no matter how silly the reason (I’m thinking of how I was rooting for Sakis Rouvas in 2009 because his songwriters were Aussies). But know this: I genuinely think Australian-Macedonian Bobi’s song was a cracker, nationality aside. I’m at least 97% sure I’d still love it if he was Romanian, Dutch, or from outer space. It’s an earworm of epic proportions, and I dig the current sound, catchiness (of course), use of mobile phone alert noises, and danceability factor.

I do have a theory that the repetition of ‘prati mi SMS’ brainwashed people into voting FYROM, but my only problem with that is it didn’t work well enough. Making the top 5 was an excellent result for Australia Macedonia, but IMO, the Bobster should have broken the 100-point mark.

 

#6

Croatia 2003

Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav by Dino Jelusić

Now for someone who did surpass the big 1-0-0 mark, and who couldn’t have hoped for a better result – JESC’s very first winner. Croatia hasn’t participated in the contest since 2006 (and at this point, they’re AWOL from the big ESC…sob) but boy, did they get off to a good start!

Dino was second out on stage in Copenhagen, which as we all know is a dreaded position to perform in. But his charisma, eye-catching choice of jacket and (obviously) his song couldn’t be beaten by any of the fourteen acts that followed. Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav is a masterpiece of child songwriting as far as I’m concerned. It’s got that slow piano beginning to attract attention and make you wonder where the song’s going; then, just when you’ve decided it’s going straight to Balladsville, the drums start up and it transforms into a pop-rock number worthy of the finest karaoke bar in town (that is a compliment, by the way). Croatia set the winning bar high with this one.

 

#5

Denmark 2003

Arabiens Drøm by Anne Gadegaard

The response a host country performance gets from the audience – before, during and after – has long been one of my favourite parts of ESC and JESC. The response Anne received on home ground ten years ago was particularly epic (I guess the novelty of a brand new contest had people even more excited than usual) but if you don’t think her song was good enough for such cheers and applause anyway, then I suggest a brain scan stat!

Anne, who was barely big enough to lift her microphone, brought an Arabian flavour to Scandinavia with her drøm, and such a flavour always gets a big tick from me when it’s combined with an uptempo dance beat and some suitably exotic choreography. Again, we have a chorus that is simple and repetitive, but it gets stuck in your head instantly. Well, my head, at least. With the catchiness of the Arabian riff and the verses, the whole thing is like musical super-glue.

 

#4

FYR Macedonia 2005

Rodendeski Baknež by Denis Dimoski

It’s not possible to over-emphasise the power of good ethnopop, is it? If you think it is, then you best step away now.

I’m happy to have FYROM back in Junior this year, because I thought when they did it in the past, they did it well. Rodendeski Baknež is my favourite entry of theirs, although Bobi isn’t far behind. It’s majestic, ethnic pop…in fact, it’s what I was expecting to hear from Barbara Popović. Her song is kind of a turbocharged version of this, but I prefer the more laid-back option, which is still energetic, but doesn’t launch straight into a manic dance beat that has the potential to knock you out if you’re unprepared.

I love the way the verses blend in to the choruses so seamlessly. I also love the instruments that back the whole thing, putting the ethno into the pop. There’s nothing I don’t love about this, actually.

 

#3

Sweden 2006

Det Finaste Någon Kan Få by Molly Sandén

Eurovision ballads seem to fall into one of two categories: the clichéd, sickly-sweet and unoriginal kind, and the soaring, goosebump-inducing “moment” kind. Obviously, I’d place Molly’s firmly in the second category. Granted, anything would have sounded great compared to the noise-fest Sweden had sent to JESC the year before (one of only a few Swedish slipups) but I really think Det Finaste is a stunning example of balladry.

Molly was one of the oldest artists competing in ’06, which worked in her favour because she had the vocal chops and maturity to carry off the song, which has that big moment (‘big moment’ here being code for ‘mahusive note requiring maximum lung capacity’) as well as softer, more emotional parts. It’s not inconsistent though – it builds to a crescendo, and has a lot of impact as a result.

 

#2

Spain 2005

Te Traigo Flores by Antonio José

Okay, okay, I promise this is the last you’ll hear of Spain for a while. I have exhausted every single one of their entries, after all. Last but not least (because he’s ranked the highest, duh) is Antonio’s Te Traigo Flores. This song almost clinched a second consecutive victory for Spain, and was clearly my personal best of the year. It makes the most of both traditional and modern sounds to create something that is very Spanish, but at the same time accessible to everyone. Put simply, it’s awesome, and I think I’ll let it do the rest of the talking.  

 

Finished your conversation with Te Traigo Flores? Well, prepare to be shocked and/or horrified, because here is my number one JE—wait a second. I just remembered I wanted to tell you a very long and boring story before I revealed the top ranker.

Just kidding. Here it is!

 

#1

Sweden 2009

Du by Mimmi Sandén

I feel a little guilty having such a sophisticated song as my #1, since we’re talking Junior Eurovision. But Mimmi’s entry, the last from the Sandén sisters, outranks all the other 100+ entries at this precise moment, and that’s what matters here.

Like most of Sweden’s offerings in JESC, this could fit in at the ESC no problem. It’s slick – and yes, sophisticated – electro-pop with high production values and a hook that is so easy to latch on to (‘oh-uh-oh, oh-uh-oh’, et cetera). I’ve loved it ever since my first listen, and no matter how many times I hear it or how many times I butcher it by singing it in the shower/car/library (the staff do not appreciate that for some reason) it still gives me this feeling of appreciation. It’s appreciation for the Sandén sisters, for Swedish pop, and for JESC for bringing it to my attention.

 

 

That’s my 50 favourite Junior songs ranked, believe it or not. I hope the top 10 didn’t prove to be a serious anticlimax, or make you wonder if I’m deaf because my picks are so woeful. Remember, we all have our own opinions, and pretending to respect the musical tastes of others whilst trashing them behind their back is one of the many perks of being a Eurovision fan. Having said that, feel free to trash mine openly in the comments. I don’t mind disagreement if it gets people talking (and it’s phrased politely).

For anyone who’s interested or who can’t be bothered looking back on the rest of the 50, here’s the list in full:

 

#1 | Du by Mimmi Sandén (Sweden 2009)

#2 | Te Traigo Flores by Antonio José (Spain 2005)

#3 | Det Finaste Någon Kan Få by Molly Sandén (Sweden 2006)

#4 | Rodendeski Baknež by Denis Dimoski (FYR Macedonia 2005)

#5 | Arabiens Drøm by Anne Gadegaard (Denmark 2003)

#6 | Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav by Dino Jelusić (Croatia 2003)

#7 | Prati Mi SMS by Bobi Andonov (FYR Macedonia 2008)

#8 | Desde El Cielo by Sergio (Spain 2003)

#9 | Antes Muerta Que Sencilla by María Isabel (Spain 2004)

#10 | Pigen Er Min by Cool Kids (Denmark 2004)

#11 | My Song For The World by Tom Morley (UK 2003)

#12 | Zo Verliefd (Yodelo) by Laura (Belgium 2009)

#13 | Učimo Strane Jezike by Neustrašivi Učitelji Stranih Jezika (Serbia 2006)

#14 | Si On Voulait Bien by Thomas Pontier (France 2004)

#15 | Nebo by Anastasiya Petryk (Ukraine 2012)

#16 | Allt Jag Vill Ha by Josefine Ridell (Sweden 2010)

#17 | Supergeroy by Ivan Ivanov (Bulgaria 2011)

#18 | Mitt Mod by Lova Sönnerbo (Sweden 2012)

#19 | Ti Ne Me Poznavaš by Marija & Viktorija (FYR Macedonia 2003)

#20 | S Druz’yami by Alexey Zhigalkovich (Belarus 2007)

#21 | Click Clack by Ralf (Netherlands 2009)

#22 | Edna Mechta by Krastyana Krasteva (Bulgaria 2008)

#23 | Te Doy Mi Voz by Dani (Spain 2006)

#24 | Erazanq by Arevik (Armenia 2007)

#25 | Stupid by Tess (Netherlands 2005)

#26 | Mama by Vladimir Arzumanyan (Armenia 2010)

#27 | Goed by Kimberley (Netherlands 2006)

#28 | De Vriendschapsband by X!NK (Belgium 2003)

#29 | Odelia Ranuni by Mariam Romelashvili (Georgia 2007)

#30 | Anders by Trust (Belgium 2007)

#31 | Birichino by Demis Mirarchi (Switzerland 2004)

#32 | Sweetie Baby by Compass Band (Armenia 2012)

#33 | Ik Ben Een Teenager by Rachel (Netherlands 2011)

#34 | Nu Eller Aldrig by Frida Sandén (Sweden 2007)

#35 | Power of a Song by Young Talent Team (Malta 2004)

#36 | Faller by Erik Rapp (Sweden 2011)

#37 | Junior Swing by Daniel Testa (Malta 2008)

#38 | Mijn Ogen Zeggen Alles by Roel (Netherlands 2003)

#39 | Kak Romeo I Dzhulyetta by Katya Ryabova (Russia 2011)

#40 | Een Kusje Meer by Femke (Belgium 2011)

#41 | Povestea Mea by New Star Music (Romania 2006)

#42 | Shut Up by Oliver (Belgium 2008)

#43 | Girls and Boys by Omar & Suada (Azerbaijan 2012)

#44 | My Vmeste by Ksenia Sitnik (Belarus 2005)

#45 | The Best Is Yet To Come by Cory Spedding (UK 2004)

#46 | Piši Mi by Nevena Božović (Serbia 2007)

#47 | Varför Jag? by Limelights (Sweden 2004)

#48 | Ĭţi Mulţumesc by Noni Răzvan Ene (Romania 2004)

#49 | Sinnsykt Gal Forelsket by 2U (Norway 2003)

#50 | Vesinniy Jazz by Tolmachevy Twins (Russia 2006)

 

Thanks for reading, ladies and gents. Please drop by again if you want to know what I think of Kyiv’s twelve hopefuls, because my 2013 reviews are coming up next! I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone else’s so far, and I can’t wait to do mine. That’s right; I haven’t started them yet. I guess I’d better get going. BRB.

You know, in a few days.  

 

What do you think of my top 10 JESC songs of all time? Which entries would make your list of favourites?