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SELECTION SEASON 2018 | Nine more songs, an Estonian decision + Swedish second chances!

Holy guacamole, guys! If you thought the last four or five Saturdays were busy when it came to the ESC NF calendar…then you’re not entirely wrong, they totally were. But this Saturday is on another level, because we’re about to find ourselves with five more songs for Lisbon. FIVE, I TELL YOU!!! THAT’S FOUR MORE THAN ONE!!!

In addition – and I won’t use aggressive all-caps on you this time – Lithuania is edging ever closer to the end of Eurovizija (so they say, but I’ll believe it when I see it) and Sweden’s penultimate Melfest show has arrived. Nights like this are exactly why ‘Super Saturday’ was coined, and I am pumped. Are you?

Here’s a rundown of the evening:

  • Estonia (Eesti Laul final)
  • Finland (UMK final)
  • Iceland (Söngvakeppnin final)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 8)
  • Poland (Krajowe Eliminacje final)
  • San Marino (1in360 final)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen Andra Chansen round)

As usual, I’m going to review everything major that went down in ESC terms this week, and I’ll also be talking Estonian eventfulness and Swedish shenanigans (that’s Eesti Laul and Melodifestivalen, for those of you who’d prefer I speak like a normal person). Sorry if you were hoping for a UMK (Monsters please), Poland (Delirium please), etc ramble. Maybe next year, if my time management skills have become superhuman by then!

 

 

Let’s rewind to last Saturday, which saw Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Slovenia and Ukraine take their picks for Portugal. Enrolling in the Class of 2018 were: AWS with Viszlát Nyár; Laura Rizzotto with Funny Girl; DoReDos with My Lucky Day; Lea Sirk with Hvala, Ne!; and Mélovin with Under The Ladder. Along the way we lost BQl and Tayanna, who’ve now finished second two years running in EMA and Vidbir respectively – but it wasn’t for nothing. My favourite choice of last Saturday night was Latvia’s (as they continue to bring it for the fourth year in a row…we’ll see if they get rewarded this time). Having not had the time to follow Supernova at all this season, I had no idea what to expect when I checked out Laura’s winning performance. Afterwards, all I could think was ‘Wow!’ – so you could say it took me (pleasantly) by surprise.

Over in Sweden, the fourth and final semi of Melodifestivalen ended with direkt qualifications for Mariette (shocking) and Rolandz (*sigh*), plus Andra Chansen tickets for Felix Sandman and Olivia Eliasson. It wasn’t a jaw-dropper of a show by any means – Mariette was the favourite, Rolandz obviously is the Owe Thornqvist of 2018 (as I suspected) and Felix will probably get to the final via the scenic route – and it doesn’t look like this week’s AC round will see any major surprises either…OR WILL IT?!? More on that later on in this post.

The NF action didn’t all go down on Saturday: Sunday night was Armenia and Romania’s turn to crown a couple of champions. Armenia could have gone any which way after pre-Depi Evratesil fave Tamar Kaprelian didn’t even advance to the final – and they opted for the first song performed on the night, Qami by Sevak Khanagyan. Now, I do want to keep my poker face on as much as possible until I officially review the entries for Lisbon, but I just have to say that I totally forgive Armenia for letting Tamar go (i.e. we may have lost a bop, but we’ve gained a GORGEOUS ballad in its place). As for Romania, who settled on Goodbye by The Humans…well, I think I need some grow time on that one. The lack of yodeling is something we’ll all have to get used to.

The week ended with two ‘ta-da!’ moments – a.k.a. on Friday, Cyprus and The Netherlands unveiled their entries at last. Eleni Foureira’s Fuego is the ethnopop banger I’ve/we’ve all been waiting for, and once again I think Cyprus has the competitive edge over Greece (I’m still not over Gravity finishing lower than This Is Love last year. JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED). Waylon’s Outlaw In ‘Em – revealed as his Eurovision pick after five consecutive nights of musical possibilities – is not an ethnopop banger (shocking). Instead it’s a full-on, no-holds-barred twang-a-langin’ country anthem in which he is sporadically possessed by Jon Bon Jovi circa 1987. I’ll leave you to wonder (until review time) whether that’s a pro or a con as far as I’m concerned.

 

 

I wanted to talk a little bit about Eesti Laul, which isn’t an NF I usually follow from go to whoa – I’ve barely had time to glance at it this year – but it can always be relied on to spit out some really interesting songs that would never be mistaken for Melfest rejects (they’re just so inherently Estonian somehow).

A few semi finals ago there were 20 potential successors to Koit & Laura’s Verona in play; now, 10 remain (DUN DUN DUN!) and tonight is the night for Estonia to name the best one (hopefully, although we all have a different opinion of which one that is) winner.  

  1. Young, Karl Kristjan & Karl Killing feat. Wateva
  2. Sky, Eliis Pärna & Gerli Padar
  3. Knock Knock, Nika
  4. Thousand Words, Sibyl Vane
  5. Home, Stig Rästa
  6. Laura (Walk With Me), Vajé
  7. La Forza, Elina Netšajeva
  8. (Can’t Keep Calling) Misty, Frankie Animal
  9. Drop That Boogie, Iiris & Agoh
  10. Welcome To My World, Evestus

The top three in the odds are Elina, Stig and Vajé (well, they were when I wrote this), but are any of those acts in my personal top three? Short answer: yes. Long answer: keep reading.

 

My favourites

La Forza I initially listened to this after hearing Eurofans left, right and centre raving about it, and I didn’t feel it much at first (probably because my expectations were higher than Elina’s glass-shattering soprano notes). But a few listens later, my skin is goosebumping during the chorus. Elina’s performance looks and sounds like nothing else in Eesti Laul 2018, and nothing else in Eurovision 2018 at this point. She is stunning, vocally flawless, and the wearer of a skirt bigger than Aliona Moon’s and just as arresting.

Home Ott Lepland did it to me in 2012, and now it’s Stig who’s making me want to fly to Tallinn ASAP and propose to him on the spot. What a romantic! As always, I’m surprised to see him back in the comp considering he looks like he stumbled across it by accident but decided to just roll with the punches. That aside, I adore this song. It’s sweet and heartfelt without being gag material (FYI, Stig, this is me telling you that I’m currently free for GoT viewings).

‘Why didn’t you wake me up? Game of Thrones was on!’.

Young This is too cute, gosh darn it! One of the Karls even has BRACES, for heaven’s sake (I think it’s one of the Karls…there are a lot of cooks in this kitchen and I’m confused). No, it’s not the most distinctive song on the planet (and it won’t win tonight) but it’s fresh and fun, which gets a YAASSS from me.

 

Who’s going to win it?

I don’t want to discount anyone and look stupid later (which has already happened a handful of times this selection season), but in my mind the most likely winners are Stig and Elina (not to be mistaken for the Stig and Elina duo of 2015). And I can narrow it down even further than that, because I just don’t think Home is powerful enough to outshine La Forza – though that depends on what Estonia is looking for. Stig gets the authentic, singer-songwriter vote; Elina has the ‘wow!’ moments (La Forza is one long ‘wow!’ moment in itself, actually). I’m thinking it’ll be wow over ‘aww!’ this time.

Oh, and to cover my butt…my underdog winner prediction would be Sibyl Vane or Frankie Animal.

 

What do you think? Who’s getting on the plane to Portugal on behalf of Estonia, and will their microphone work once they get there?

 

 

Kristianstad is the name (does Sweden has a Kostovstad tucked away somewhere?) and Andra Chansen is the game, people. The eight songs that finished 3rd and 4th in their respective Melfest semis throughout February will be chopped in half tonight, with four acts to join Benjamin Ingrosso, John Lundvik, Samir & Viktor, LIAMOO, Martin Almgren, Jessica Andersson, Mariette and *takes a breath* Rolandz in the final. The AC round is often made up of both the obvious and the WTF (results-wise), making it well worth watching even if you’re impatient for the final to just get here already.

Speaking of things just happening already, I’m going to get straight into the duels and share my thoughts on who I’d like to win, and who probably will.

 

Duel 1: In My Cabana, Margaret VS Cuba Libre, Moncho

First up, two songs that both make me want to go on holiday to a tropical island. Given that Moncho couldn’t have been paired with Mendez for a duel, In My Cabana VS Cuba Libre is the next best thing. There should be a clear winner here – i.e. if Margaret doesn’t walk away with victory in this battle, then there will be something very weird going on in the world (or at least on Planet Eurovision). Then again, I never expected Moncho to get to Andra Chansen in the first place…so I shouldn’t underestimate him again. Still, it’s GOT to be Margaret.

Who should win (IMO) Margaret

Who WILL win Margaret

 

Duel 2: All The Feels, Renaida VS Never Learn, Olivia Eliasson

Here we have a female soloist in black and fluorescent sports-chic, singing a slick and modern dance-pop song, versus a female soloist in black and fluorescent sports-chic, singing a slick and modern dance-pop song. Well, you can’t say Renaida and OIivia aren’t evenly matched. Having both in the final wouldn’t make a lot of sense, although I do like both songs. But Renaida is the superior performer – her energy and confidence sell All The Feels at a price I’m more than willing to pay, whereas Olivia struggled to perform Never Learn with conviction. I do think this could be the most closely-fought duel of the night considering how similar the options are – sometimes it’s a lot easier choosing between pizza and cake than choosing between pizza and pizza.

Who should win (IMO) Renaida

Who WILL win Renaida

 

Duel 3: Every Single Day, Felix Sandman VS Songburning, Mimi Werner

We all have our painful AC duels – the ones that are bittersweet because we love both songs and want them both to score a spot in the final. This is mine for the year, in case you hadn’t guessed. I love Felix and his Frans impersonation (Felix is totally sorry, though) plus the bare-bones staging that made the whole thing feel genuine. And yep, I also love Mimi’s country cracker that was staged to perfection (colour scheme, backup drummers and fire curtain were all on point) even if her vocal was wobbly at times. Oof. At the end of the day, my heart (the one in my chest, not the on-screen Melfest app one that drives me INSANE) says Felix a little louder than it says Mimi. Based on his impressive Spotify stream count (it’s more like a flood) and Mimi’s lack thereof, I’d say we’ll be seeing Mr. Sandman in Stockholm next Saturday.

Who should win (IMO) Felix

Who WILL win Felix

 

Duel 4: Patrick Swayze, Sigrid Bernson VS Everyday by Mendez

Sunny slice of Scandipop goes head-to-head with Latin pop summer song – but who comes out on top? I have been back and forth on this one more times than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms. My personal preference is Mendez, but Sigrid and the effervescent Patrick Swayze have grown on me since the Karlstad semi. And I just don’t know what will win out in the end! SEND HELP.

Who should win (IMO) Mendez

Who WILL win Mendez…or Sigrid. One of the two for sure.

 

I’ve showed you mine, now you have to show me yours! Who would you bet on to make it out of Andra Chansen tonight?

 

 

NF UPDATE: What’s up next?

  • 4/3 Portugal (Festival da Canção final)
  • 10/3 Norway (Melodi Grand Prix final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen final)
  • 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)

 

We are so close to the end of national final season, which is sad – but there’s something satisfying about having a freshly-full house of Eurovision entries to talk about. May the best songs win this weekend (the best according to me, that is, because I’m selfish and want things to go my way musically), and may you enjoy whatever you choose to watch!

 

 

 

 

 

PARTY FOR EVERYBODY! Celebrating EBJ’s 7th birthday with a special countdown (#shareyour7)

For most people, today is Tuesday. For some people, it may still be Monday. For other people – the really slack ones who didn’t get the memo that I’d posted this and just happened to stumble across it belatedly (subscribe or stop by my social media to avoid such disasters by receiving new post alerts *SHAMELESS PLUG*) – it could be any old day of the week. But for me, it’s June 28, and that’s kind of a big deal.

Why? Because seven years ago today (!) I decided to inflict my obsession with/ability to talk constantly about Eurovision upon the world, via a blog that would become known as Eurovision By Jaz…since that’s what I decided to call it that day, duh. Back then in 2009, I couldn’t have foreseen that I’d still be running the blog in my own haphazard manner after so much time had passed – let alone off the back of an ACTUAL TRIP to the contest after ten years of frenzied fangirling (I still have to pinch myself on the hour every hour to remind myself that I was in Stockholm). The reason I’m still around is simple, though: I do it for the love. I mean, if I did for popularity and adoration I would’ve lost the will years ago.

Here and now, in case you were wondering, I’m certain that as long as I enjoy chatting all things ESC with you guys, and as long as at least one person out there seems to be a fan of my material (besides me), I’ll be here doing what I do. I.e. criticising contestants’ costume choices and objectifying whoever happens to be the hottest guy of the latest contest line-up (in 2016, I’ve moved on from Måns to Freddie, FYI). If you’re willing to come along for the ride, I can guarantee a safe, yet entertaining and occasionally controversial journey through the years to come.

Before I let loose and blow my own kazoo (not a euphemism), I want to thank anyone who’s reading this intro. If you are, it means you’ve taken the time to drop by EBJ, probably out of habit or to see if it’s your cup of kaffe. You might have been with me from the beginning, be a recent reader, or be someone who’s sick of me already and plans to stick with Wiwi Bloggs exclusively from now on – I don’t mind whichever way. I’m just grateful for your visit and confident that you must be a pretty cool person since you’re attracted to rather than repulsed by the word ‘Eurovision’.

Now, to kick off my 7th birthday (blogday?) celebrations, here’s a substandard graphic I prepared earlier!

 

hbebj16

 

I’ve decided to celebrate this milestone with a countdown that’s not your usual countdown. It’s not a Top 10, for starters – it’s actually a Top 7, and (brace yourselves for a theme to emerge here) it will feature my personal top 7 songs that have placed seventh in the ESC since EBJ began. In other words, I’m about to rank, from my least loved to my most loved, the seventh placers of 2010-2016. Given that I started blogging just after Eurovision 2009, Sakis Rouvas Vol. 2 will not be included in this list. But, as I know he’d be devastated to be un-invited so unceremoniously from this partay (and be likely to release a song entitledThis Is (Not) Our Night), I’m going to use him to rate each of the seven entries using a system I like to call ‘The Sakis Head Scale’.

You can see why.

 

shs

 

If you’re keen to rate any of the following tracks – or ANY seventh-placed song from Eurovision history, for that matter – using the Sakis Head Scale/conventional 0-12 points (ugh, how normal), head to the comments section below. Alternatively, tweet me @EurovisionByJaz using the hashtag #shareyour7, and tell me which sixth runner-up is your favourite…or least favourite.

Without further ado (you know how I love ado, but I’ll restrain myself on this occasion), let’s kick off the countdown!

 

 

#7 | ‘May the winter stay away from my harvest night and day…’

Apricot Stone by Eva Rivas (Armenia 2010)

I fully expect to be pelted with apricot stones and verbal abuse over this one. I wasn’t surprised by Armenia’s lower-end-of-the-top-ten finish in Oslo, but that doesn’t mean I ‘got’ Apricot Stone. It’s not a bad song, per se – but push my buttons, it does not. It reminded me a bit of the Dutch entry two years previously, and that (Hind’s Your Heart Belongs To Me, for anyone having a brain-blank) was dated in 2008. Based on that, I never found the Armenian version very fresh – especially its chorus. And I hate to say this, because I’m totally pro-Rapunzel letting down her hair…but Eva’s super lengthy locks kind of freaked me out.

Sakis 2

 

#6 | ‘Watch my dance, head up high, hands like wings and I’ll fly…’

Watch My Dance by Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike (Greece 2011)

Ah, Greece and their love of fusing rap with…not rap. There has to be some irony in the fact that they blended rap and ethnic sounds better in 2016 than in 2011, yet lost their 100% qualification record this year and finished seventh five years ago. If I remember correctly, a lot of us fans were convinced that Loukas and Stereo Mike (now known as Spotify Mike, most likely) would be Greece’s downfall, and that included me at the time. Nowadays, I like this song more than I did then, but it’s still too intense and too melodramatic for me to play that often – not to mention jarring enough to resemble an edit of a movie put together by a monkey. All in all, I prefer it when Greece takes a lighter approach to their rap fusion entries, á la Rise Up (#ROBBED). Though I’m not unwilling to watch Loukas’ dance, if he’s still after an audience and will be shirtless.

Sakis 2.5

 

#5 | ‘My life is on a string when I see you smile, our love will last a thousand miles…’

Shine by the Tolmachevy Sisters (Russia 2014)

Here’s a song that I hated when I first heard it, only to find myself humming along shortly thereafter. I guess there’s no shortage of wonders an oversized see-saw can work, particularly when combined with twins who temporarily become conjoined via their ponytails. To be honest, I still don’t think Shine is a great song – it certainly has nothing on the duo’s Junior Eurovision winner Vesinniy Jazz – but there’s something nice about the melody and the way the girls harmonise (as only identical twins can) that had it growing on me even before the giant papier mâché sun was unfolded by a Portuguese national finalist (naturally). In fact, I have it stuck in my head right now.

Sakis 2.5

 

#4 | ‘I didn’t want to wake you up, my love was never gonna be enough…’

Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa (Estonia 2015)

The song that won Eesti Laul by a landslide last year couldn’t do the same at Eurovision, but 7th? Totally respectable, especially given the unfortunate and unjust outcome of Estonia’s entry in Stockholm. Goodbye To Yesterday is one of many fine feathers in Stig Rästa’s compositional cap, and while it wasn’t up there with my personal douze-pointers in 2015, I can’t deny that it has something special. The dynamic between the two characters in the song’s story makes for a perfect duet, and the song itself is one that feels both retro and fresh. And who could resist a lyric like ‘As I got outside, I smiled to the dog’? Not me, that’s for sure. Or the dog, I’m guessing.

Sakis 3

 

#3 | ‘You shook my life like an earthquake, now I’m waking up…’

LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan (Armenia 2016)

And here we have the latest track to reach the seventh rung of Eurovision’s top 10 ladder – one that makes me hopeful for a future in which cutting-edge, experimental music outnumbers stale cookie-cutter-type stuff in the contest. When a song doesn’t grab me straight away, but intrigues (rather than horrifies) me, I’m happy, because I know I’m going to love it eventually. LoveWave is initially disarming with its spoken-word start, but it makes you wonder where it’s headed and what kind of ground it’s about to break (so to speak). Ultimately, it’s a powerful punch-packer of a track, fronted by the femme fatale figure of Iveta who sells it vocally and visually. You can’t tell me this doesn’t kick Apricot Stone’s ass.

Sakis 3.5

 

#2 | ‘I am a lonely sailor drinking the night away, my ship is made from hope, she’s searching for your bay…’

Love Me Back by Can Bonomo (Turkey 2012)

The last time we saw Turkey compete in the ESC, they gave me everything I want in my ethno-pop. That includes a) a generous dollop of traditional sounds that set the song apart from its rivals; b) three minutes of fun and frivolity without any ‘this is a novelty act and it can’t be taken seriously’ vibes; and c) back-up dancers who can transform their costumes into a sailboat at a second’s notice. Basically, it’s the whole package. Catchy, unique and easy to sing along to (or yell drunkenly over in the midst of an enthusiastic round of the Eurovision Drinking Game), Love Me Back is also a masterclass in how to make a cultural mark on the contest without alienating anyone…besides people prone to seasickness.

Sakis 3.5

 

#1 | ‘While the world breaks into pieces, I compose new places and desires which also belong to you…’

L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)

If you hadn’t guessed already, given that only one 2010-2016 7th-placer is yet to be mentioned, Italy takes out the top spot with one of my favourite Eurovision songs of ALL TIME (if your name is Kanye West, don’t bother trying to dispute that). An entry that truly puts the ‘song’ into Eurovision Song Contest, L’Essenziale is lyrically and melodically magic, and comes equipped with a message that doesn’t make your skin crawl thanks to its cheesiness (yes, Russia, it CAN be done without resorting to love love, peace peace). I would marry this song if that were at all possible, I’m so crazy about it. Although, if Marco is available, I’d rather marry him instead. Then he could serenade me with the song whenever I wanted. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Sakis 5

 

Well, I’ve shared my seven – a song for every year I’ve been blogging here at EBJ. Holy Hard Rock Hallelujah! Remember, if you want to do the same, I’d consider it a birthday gift and therefore wouldn’t be offended by the lack of fruit baskets being delivered to my door. You should also feel free to tell me what you thought of my ranking. How would you rearrange it? Was seventh place too good or not good enough for these tracks? Exactly how offended are you right now?

While you’re letting me know, I’ll be off raising a glass to myself…and, of course, planning seven more years’ worth of Eurovisual entertainment for anyone who currently reads or will someday stumble upon this site. I hope you enjoy what’s to come as much as I’m going to enjoy creating it for you (if the Sakis heads are any indication, I’ll have an epic time).

 

2015sig

 

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 7)

Bonjour! You’re reading eurovisionbyjaz.com – yep, the ‘.wordpress’ is finally a thing of the past, in case you missed me plastering that all over my social media on the weekend – and this is Part 7 of the Viennese Verdicts. There’s just one set of songs left to review after today, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s worth a ‘hooray!’ or a ‘hell no!’. Though if you’re not up for checking out the EBJ Jury’s catty critiques (with the occasional compliment thrown in to prove we’re not unfeeling cyborgs) you’d have clicked away by now. Right?

Those of you sticking around may have trouble believing this, but rehearsals in Vienna are already underway. Where the fu…er, I mean, feather boa, did the last twelve months go?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that it is physically paining me to not be tapping away at my laptop keyboard in the swanky Austrian press centre. I desperately wish I was on site, regularly caressing my official lanyard and socialising with other peeps who love Eurovision and write stuff *makes über-ugly cry face*. So I’m using this post, and all posts yet to come pre-ESC as a distraction from that pain. Just so you know, in case they come across all angsty.

So let the distraction commence! Facing the music (HA HA) today will be Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. Their fate is in the hands of one familiar face, one not-so-familiar face, and me. You have to feel sorry for these countries…

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

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Nick Provenghi: “Like one esteemed (and infamous) Valentina Monetta, I’m back! Sadly, though, I won’t make it through to the final, as I can’t come back a third time *sad face*. Nevertheless, I’m more than eager to sink my teeth into another batch of songs! But before that, it’s worth noting that ESC 2011 in Düsseldorf (loved having the umlaut, BTW) was the first contest I followed. And in this batch of songs, I actually have the country that sent my winner from 2011! Hopefully they’ve delivered something on par with their four-year-old entry (spoiler: they haven’t…no one in 2015 has).”

Visit Nick’s Eurovision blog here.

James Sayer: “Hello! I’m James, a 19-year-old Creative Writing student at Edge Hill University…which is near Liverpool (nobody has ever heard of it, I’m aware. It’s lovely though, promise.) In Eurovision circles, you may know of me from ESC Views, which I set up and co-ran with Rory [a fellow member of the EBJ Jury] for most of last year (and then uni happened, and I had to leave. Sad times. Rory keeps it going now though, and he does a fabulous job, if I do say so myself!). My favourite Eurovision entry ever is Horehronie. Gravity. Shady Lady. Olou Tou Kosmou I Elpida. THIS QUESTION IS TOO DIFFICULT. I’ve never been to see Eurovision live, although this is literally my number one life goal. Until then, I fill my time by writing poems (I’m not THAT pretentious, I swear) and hosting awesome flat parties, which may or may not be an elaborate excuse to subliminally shove obscure European music down my unsuspecting friends’ throats without them realising *mwahahahahaaa*. Also, it’s rumoured that my hair has magical powers. I cannot confirm or refute this statement.”

Jasmin Bear: “I loved the umlaut too, and for the record, I DO believe that James’ hair has magical powers.”

 

 

This round of VVs is all about groups and duos – plus a Céline Dion impersonator – by pure chance (I literally pulled these out of a hat). Read on to find out how Nick, James and I rate PKN, Michele & Anita, Anti Social Media, Elina & Stig and Maria Elena’s respective three minutes.

 

 

FINLAND

Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät

Finland

Nick: Punk and Eurovision – who would’ve thought it? Well, technically, I wished for a kind of punk to win Finland’s NF last year, but that’s the past. Anyway, when PKN won UMK, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I am now. Initially, I was furious that my favourites, Satin Circus and Järjestyshäiriö, lost out to what sounded like pure noise. But with time, I was able to accept the losses and actually listen to Aina Mun Pitää in a fair context. And for what it is, it isn’t half bad! It’s got a strong punk sensibility and the lyrics are probably the most unique and “heartfelt” of the year. Sure, it still annoys me after about a minute, but that’s pretty much the whole song, so whatever. In the end, I’ve come around to support PKN, even more so after the (hilarious) outrage over their “every other song is crap” comment. I’m even able to support my pet country now! I don’t support the song, but having said that, a high finish from Finland could see more rock entries in the contest, and that’d be just amazing. 5 points.

James: I am still not over this. Finland should have sent Satin Circus, Solju, Opera Skaala…hell, just about ANYTHING from UMK would have been better than Aina Mun Pitää. Ignoring the elephant in the room with this one is just impossible. Yes, these guys are handicapped. Why, may I ask, does that excuse the fact that their song is a pile of steaming horse shite? Just listen to the bloody thing (if your ears can bear it). I’ve smashed plates that made a more pleasing noise than that. It’s honestly as though the four band members are all playing different songs and just happen to be doing so in close proximity to the others. They can’t keep in time with each other! I feel like I should insert a politically correct line here like ‘I appreciate the difficulties they’ve overcome, and I’m glad to see them enjoying themselves’…but in all honesty I don’t, and I’m not. The Finnish entry makes me angry because they beat some amazing songs on a SYMPATHY vote, and will probably do ridiculously well in Vienna on the same basis. This is not the X-Factor, where sob stories are part and parcel of the whole shebang. Eurovision is a SONG contest, and this mess is just not good enough. I’m sorry, but I can’t give this any more than 0 points.

Jaz: Back when PKN won UMK, my reaction was, fittingly, OMG – WTF?!? Finland may have impressed me by embracing all genres for the purposes of their 2015 NF (opera, folk, alt-rock, the ultimately triumphant punk…everything was accounted for) but they horrified me by choosing Aina Mun Pitää. I’m telling you, I spent an entire hour attempting to pick my jaw up off the floor that evening. I am not a punk fan at the best of times, and tend to avoid it like a very loud plague. So naturally, I couldn’t believe that a minute-and-a-half of migraine-inducing noise had been voluntarily selected by a country to represent them at Eurovision (over the fun and freshness that we all agree is Crossroads by Satin Circus, mind you). As I said at the time, I have nothing against PKN themselves, and I hope they have a blast in Vienna. I also think it’s great that they’re using music as an outlet for their frustrations, helping those of us who do not have to live with disabilities better understand what it’s like (there’s that PC statement James stylishly sidestepped). The problem is, I’m not 100% sure that what Finland have here IS music. I have mellowed since that fateful final, having reached the point where one must accept that a certain song is competing and that’s that. I.e. there’s no point in swearing like a profanity buzzer personified on Twitter about it. But the bottom line is that punk is not my cup of tea. Finland is not my #40 song of the year at the moment, as I actually appreciate how memorable it is, and how it couldn’t be any less cheesy even though it’s a message song of sorts. But there’s no hook here, no real tune, and no spectacular vocals to admire/distract us from the terrible song (more on Greece later). If people vote based on song, and jury members do the same, this shouldn’t qualify. If they opt for sympathy votes instead, Aina Mun Pitää may be through, and from there, anything could happen. That’s precisely what worries me, because there’s no way this deserves to outdo Something Better. It most definitely isn’t something better. 3 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 2.67

 

 

SAN MARINO

Chain of Lights by Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini

San Marino

Nick: Oh, look who’s back – the only person who’s been a more frequent participant than Valentina Monetta for lovely little San Marino, songwriter Ralph Siegel. What’s different now is that he’s recruited JESC veterans Michele and Anita to do his dirty work this year. And he’s managed to out-musty Maybe as the most 80s-tastic schlager-esque revival song ever. Michele and Anita are both capable vocalists, and it’s unfortunate that their talents are wasted on this dirge. At least we’ll get to see them two more times when they come back next year and when they finally qualify in ESC 2017. 3 points.

James: I still haven’t listened to this all the way through once. I just can’t. Siegel is bankrolling the entire country, apparently, and I’m desperately sad for Michele and Anita. They’re young, talented singers, and because of unfortunate financial restrictions, they’re stuck singing this dreary monstrosity, which is basically Switzerland 2006 and ValMon 3.0 shoved into a particularly temperamental blender and regurgitated as a particularly sickly blancmange. I found an interview with them, can’t remember where, but they specifically said they wanted to sing something modern and uptempo. This is neither, and I feel like it’s going to be the cringiest, most uncomfortable thing that we’ll have to sit through in Vienna. At least we’ll only have to do so once, in their semi. 1 point, purely because it’s marginally better than Finland.

Jaz: The reign of Valentina may have ended *sighs with relief* but that (apparently) doesn’t mean that Ralph Siegel has given up on Eurovision. Presumably because San Marino made the final last year with one of his compositions – which I still believe was an ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake…just give them what they want!’ vote – they figure Siegel is their third-time-lucky charm. Well, if the mess that is Chain of Lights is any indication, they are very, very wrong. I had such high hopes for Anita and Michele. They’re both talented, camera-ready, and, thanks to their Junior Eurovision experiences in 2013 and 2014 respectively, well-equipped to handle the hullabaloo (that word does not get used enough) of the adult Eurovision weeks, despite their young age. All they needed was an age-appropriate song that was remotely contemporary, and they would have been well on their way to not being humiliated in front of millions of people. What they have instead is a megamix of three different entries from Eurovision 1982, none of them good ones. This song leaves me with so many questions. Why do I know it’s a mish-mash disaster, yet at the same time I have trouble remembering how it goes? Why does the chorus remind me so much of Lionel Richie’s Hello, a song I actually like? And why is Siegel still under the impression that he can succeed at Eurovision when he hasn’t since the 1990s? I may never get the answers to these questions, but one I can answer myself is ‘will San Marino qualify this year?’. No, they will not. And that really blows for two teens who could have put the Tolmachevy Sisters to shame with a better song up their sleeves. 3 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 2.33

 

 

DENMARK

The Way You Are by Anti Social Media

Denmark

Nick: Ooh, controversy! Just like Finland’s, Denmark’s selection generated huge amounts of rage when fellow JESC veteran and Eurofan favourite Anne Gaadegard’s Suitcase lost out to this. And having totally forgotten both the winner and runner-up since my first listens (my fave was Julie Bjerre’s adorable Tæt På Mine Drømme), I came to the unpopular agreement with the Danish jurors. Anti Social Media’s song has a lot of pop simplicity that I appreciate, and since it technically falls into the genre of pop-rock, I have an automatic bias for it. The chorus is immediate and very catchy, and the groove is a fun one, a rarity for 2015! That being said, the live performance is shaky, and I’m not a huge fan of the lead singer’s voice. And after a while, it really did get on my nerves, but I’m coming around to it again. Considering that the last Danish entrant to do that was one Miss de Forest, that could bode well (or badly, if you’re DR) for Denmark. 6 points.

James: Luck of the draw has saddled me with a load of entries which will make you guys think I am a complete bitch. I do apologise, and I promise you there ARE songs I love this year…but Denmark’s ain’t one of ‘em. This infuriatingly faux-happy THING offends me, and I don’t even know why – it’s just the way it is (see what I did there? Jaz will be proud). It just makes me frown a lot, and want to skip it every time I hear that intro. Denmark do this quite often. I hated Cliché Love Song, I hated Should’ve Known Better, I hated New Tomorrow…need I go on? Stop with all this fake happiness!! I mean, come on – this is a country where the music industry is full of fabulously moody electro divas like Medina. WHY CAN’T WE HAVE ONE OF THEM FOR THE ESC?!?!? Ugh. If it’s any consolation, my friend Izzy really likes this one. And it’s probably gonna qualify and do annoyingly well. There, I said something positive. 2 points, purely because it’s marginally better than San Marino. There’s a pattern emerging here…

Jaz: Ah, Denmark…another country that had me swearing on social media once their national final had concluded. There’s got to be irony in that somewhere, considering the winning act was Anti Social Media. I was almost as outraged by their DMGP win as I was by PKN’s victory, as The Way You Are was my least favourite contender to represent last year’s hosts. I didn’t think it was dreadful – like, San Marino-level dreadful – but it was musical wallpaper to me. Hence why I may have had an over-dramatic reaction to it beating Anne Gadegaard’s Suitcase by a miniscule margin. But over time, I’ve stopped sobbing and screaming ‘IF ONLY!’ into my pillow, and come to accept that this song does have its place in the 2015 field. It is peppy, after all, and reasonably energetic, and god knows we need an injection of peppiness and energy in Vienna. It’s also cool by default because it’s retro: 1960s-esque, so still set apart from the 1920s-esque UK entry. However, I still have a problem with The Way You Are, which is a problem I often have with Danish entries (Cliché Love Song not included, because that was the bomb dot com). They’re competent, they’re catchy, and they’re well-performed…but they don’t excite me. I can’t connect with them on a level that in the past, would make me cheer for them, and this year, will make me vote for them. Anti Social Media are personable boys/men, and their song is good, but it’s not great by my standards. Still, I’m not a harsh judge, so they get 6 points from me.

EBJ Jury Score: 4.67

 

 

ESTONIA

Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa

Estonia

Nick: My Danish love story was repeated on a grander scale with the Estonian entry, as I downloaded it in January and called it something to the effect of a “beacon of light.” Nowadays, it’s fighting a losing battle to stay in the good graces of my scoreboard. The problem hasn’t necessarily been overplaying, it’s been that the song is starting to show its weaknesses. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a mess, repeating the same words over and over but maintaining a façade of depth. The music is probably its strongest asset, and I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for the opening, but after that, it doesn’t really do anything for me. Finally, the worst part has to be the live vocals, which have sounded ropey from both parties from what I’ve heard. All that means that Estonia’s falling onto the wrong side of six points. 5 points.

James: Didn’t like this at first. Didn’t get it AT ALL…until I got the CD and started actually listening to it, that is. Because yeah, okay, I must admit it’s pretty fantastic. I still don’t understand the ‘OMG IT’S GONNA WIN’ hype, but I’m really enjoying the song now, so I’ll roll with it. I’ve known about Elina Born for a while, and I still think she can do better than this, and sonically, that ‘breathing in a deep sleep pace’ line still makes me cringe every time…I don’t even know why, Stig just spits it out and it’s horrible. And it doesn’t even really make sense. But enough of that, I’m nitpicking. Probably trying to justify why I didn’t like it at first. It’s such a grower, it really is. It’s got nothing on the absolute magic of Calm After The Storm and the comparisons are unavoidable, but it’s a nice entry nonetheless. 6 points.

Jaz: Stig and Elina won their way to Eurovision in a landslide victory that would have been comparable to Andreas Kümmert’s, had he accepted his win. They wiped the floor with the competition in their own country, and they’re a formidable force coming into the next, most important stage of battle. Of course, much of that status is being attributed to their Common Linnets resemblance, which as far as I can see extends to Stig being a man á la Waylon, and Elina being a woman á la Ilse DeLange. Calm After The Storm and Goodbye To Yesterday are different creatures, and with a totally different dynamic between the pairs performing them. I didn’t see The Netherlands as the dark horse they turned out to be last year, as I liked but didn’t love their song (though I felt the same way about Anouk’s Birds, so perhaps I should have seen it coming) but Estonia 2015, I see. I’m not convinced we’ll be headed to Tallinn next May, but all in all I am very impressed with what the strangely attractive Stig and the not-so-strangely attractive Elina are bringing to Vienna. Goodbye To Yesterday is another retro-tinged track (although it’s far more subtly so than the Danish/UK entries) and it’s blended with a guitar pop sound that is super on-trend outside of the ESC sphere. It’s moody and melancholy without being depressing, and it’s lyrically rather clever – it tells a tale while repeatedly reinforcing the central idea via the choruses. That dynamic I mentioned earlier is intriguing. Stig and Elina are having a musical conversation with each other, but they’re letting us in on it too as they each reveal their side of the story. ‘I didn’t want to wake you up/why didn’t you wake me up?’ just works. I can’t help but be hooked on this, folks. There are songs I like more, but the bleakness and uniqueness of GTY is mesmerising to the ears – and that so-close-but-so-distant NF presentation is mesmerising to the eyes. This is a strong package that should be feared by most, if not all, of the 2015 participants. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.00

 

 

GREECE

One Last Breath by Maria Elena Kyriakou

Greece

Nick: Where’d it all go wrong, Greece? The refreshed NF format born in 2013 has thrown up some gems, but this year it just flopped completely. This ballad was the only non-ethno touched song of the five, and I initially gave it pity points for that. But then it had to stand on its own and it nearly fell down the stairs. It’s the definition of a lame lady ballad (stealing that term from you, Jaz!), with its sappy lyrics and ridiculous score. That’d kinda be okay if Maria Elena could save the song, but judging that performance from the NF, she can’t. Maybe that’ll change in Vienna, but for now, this is a basement dweller for me. And, if nothing improves, it should keep Greece in the semis for the first time ever. Poor thing. 1 point.

James: Oh, Greece? I genuinely forgot this song was even in the competition. It came up on shuffle the other day, and it was at about 2 minutes 30 seconds before I finally remembered which one I was listening to, having mentally crossed off a whole host of more memorable lady ballads from this year first. That can’t be a good sign. I mean, once I get over the fact that I forgot it existed, One Last Breath isn’t too bad as a song, I guess. But at the same time, it’s one of those LLBs that does absolutely bugger-all for 90% of the song and then gets all dramatic and angsty in the last chorus, and leaves you feeling a bit like ‘um…okay, calm down love, what was all that for?’ Nah, sorry Greece. You’ve lost the plot. 4 points (wow, I’m being nice…).

Jaz: In this year of ballads, it’s great that we have a country like Greece – a country that can be relied upon to liven things up with some big, fun, ethno-pop number. The last thing we needed from them was an aspiring Céline Dion in an evening gown, peddling a mournful love ballad that would suck the life out of us all. So it really is wonderf-what? What’s that you’re saying? That IS what Greece has given us? Oh yeah, I forgot. On PURPOSE. I get that last year’s rap/dance fusion feat. trampoline didn’t fare so well (which is a complete mystery to me, by the way) but is that justification to head off in the total opposite direction? I mean, there are like, zero trampolines involved in Maria Elena’s entry. One Last Breath – a final intake of air that is not the result of too much trampolining – is a power ballad in the vein of Anna Vissi’s Everything, which worked on home ground in 2006 because a) it was way more powerful, b) it was way more memorable, and c) it was 2006. Even though Maria Elena is as beautiful as her voice, her song is passé, which is even more evident when it’s placed beside more relevant ballads like Norway’s and Italy’s. This is Greece we’re talking about, so no doubt they’ll qualify to the final. But I cannot foresee One Last Breath making much of a splash once it gets there. Then again, I thought Rise Up was a top 10 cert, and look how wrong I was about that. Athens 2016, anyone? 4 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 3.00

 

 

Well, that was…unimpressive. The quality of the songs in this round, that is – not what we said about them (we were hilarious). Here’s proof of the mediocre scoring we couldn’t avoid doling out:

  1. Estonia (7.00)
  2. Denmark (4.67)
  3. Greece (3.00)
  4. Finland (2.67)
  5. San Marino (2.33)

So Elina and Stig win the day, albeit with one of the lowest winning average scores to date.

Estonia hasn’t scored highly enough with the EBJ Jury to squeeze into our collective top 10. How far up have they been ranked? And is poor San Marino sitting at #40? You’ll have to drop by for the final installment of the Viennese Verdicts to find out. If you want to know exactly when that post goes live and you’re not already subscribed to EBJ/stalking my social media, you can subscribe or follow me on Twitter/like my Facebook page (all links are over in the sidebar). I would appreciate it like Dima Bilan appreciates nobody bringing up Mulletgate ’06!

All will be revealed then…but not before James returns to judge, alongside Fraser from escTMi and moi (duh), Portugal, Australia, Latvia, Macedonia and Belarus. Whether you need a break from reading rehearsal gossip by then or not, please come and check it out. ‘Tis the season to be all over all things Eurovision, ‘tis it not?

On that note, I want to know how you’d rank today’s reviewed entries, so spill in the comments.

 

Until next time…

nsig

 

PS – I must quickly mention the results of the 2015 OGAE poll, which started and finished in a flash. As you’re probably aware, Italy took the prize (meaning I am doing a very stylish victory dance as I type this) which may signify that they’re going to follow suit on May 23rd, or that they’ll have to settle for bronze like last year’s OGAE winner Sweden. Of course, it could also signify nothing of the sort. But I have to celebrate the implications of my entire top 3 ending up in the poll’s top 5 – Italy first, Sweden second, and Norway fourth. My fingers are crossed that these results bode well for Eurovision success of some sort. Let me know below how your favourites scored with the OGAE clubs!