SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A shipload of songs for Portugal, Norway’s Grand Prix + the pointy end of Melfest!
It is with great regret – and to be honest, a little relief – that I say hey to you guys on the last Super Saturday of the 2018 ESC NF season. It feels like five minutes ago that the season started, and all of a sudden we’re in the thirties with our set-in-stone song tally and just days away from having a full house (and using the good old sorting tool to its full potential). The positive part of this, though, is that we are now just TWO MONTHS away from the main event.
No, not my birthday…that’s in September. I’m talking about Eurovision, obviously. Isn’t that all I ever do on this blog?
Before the spotlight hits Lisbon, there is more business to take care of. This is a sedate Saturday when you compare it to the last three or four – but the two finals taking place tonight are big ones.
- Norway (Melodi Grand Prix final)
- Sweden (Melodifestivalen final)
Yep – it’s an all-out Scandifest! And even though I’m mad about it denying me the chance to be on Twitter throughout Melfest if I want to watch MGP afterwards sans spoilers (why did they have to be on the same night, for the love of Loreen?!?) I’m also very, very excited. And very, very keen to get on with talking about a) everything that happened last week re: Portugal’s participating songs, b) Melodi Grand Prix, and c) my beloved Melfest (to think I was in Friends Arena for the final a whole year ago!). So I’ll get straight into it.
After a drip-drop few months of the NF season (Safura pun intended), all of sudden we are DROWNING in songs (albeit drowning in an enjoyable way).
It all started with the results of last Saturday’s finals, which saw five songs selected in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Poland and San Marino. The role call = La Forza by Elina Nechayeva, Monsters by Saara Aalto, Our Choice by Ari Oláfsson, Light Me Up by Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer, and Who We Are by Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening (a Maltese/German production for San Marino, of course). My least favourite of this bunch by far is Who We Are (and if Norway chooses a much, MUCH superior Who We Are tonight, San Marino will be even worse off) while my top pick of the night was La Forza. I’ll tell you why – assuming I still feel the same way – when the EBJ reviews for 2018 kick off. #cliffhanger.
Sweden’s Melodifestivalen stage has made its last pre-Stockholm pit stop, and the final line-up is complete (obviously, since it’s happening tonight…I’m just mentioning it now). Quashing their competition in each of the four Andra Chansen duels last Saturday were Margaret, Renaida, Felix Sandman and Mendez, paving the way for a Schwarznegger-strong final. For more on that, including my winner prediction, keep reading.
We have our host entry at long last, with Portugal choosing Cláudia Pascoal and her fairy floss hair to defend their Eurovision title with O Jardim. It’s a seriously slow burner of a song, and I definitely need time to figure out how I feel about it – but my first impression is good. Not good enough to make me think Portugal will successfully defend their first-ever win, however.
Later in the week, just when we thought the flood of songs had stopped, in surged Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia and Ireland, unveiling entries by artists that had been locked in for a long time (Belgium in particular). It’s no surprise that most of my attention was on my own country’s entry (no. 4…who would have thought), but I’m actually not going to say anything about Jessica Mauboy’s We Got Love at this stage. Do I love it? Do I hate it? YOU’LL NEVER KNOW MWAHAHAHAHA until later on when I’ve formed a proper and objective opinion. Sorry, not sorry.
If I could describe the others in one word, though, Cesár Sampson’s Nobody But You would be ‘smooth’, Aisel’s X My Heart ‘underwhelming’, SENNEK’s A Matter of Time ‘interesting’, Franka’s Crazy ’jazzy’, I guess (and I’m glad Croatia isn’t in the same semi as Latvia, because I love Funny Girl and I don’t want two similar songs clamouring for the same points) and Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together ‘sweet’. Stay tuned for those 2018 reviews when I’ll say a lot more than that about all 43 entries.
Now it’s time to talk about some potential entries. Let the Scandifest begin!
We’ve known the artists and the songs for a good few months – and now, it’s finally time for Norway’s MGP to pit them against each other live and narrow ten down to one. And those ten are, in case you needed a refresher:
- You Got Me, Stella & Alexandra
- Talk To The Hand, Aleksander Walmann
- Scandilove, Ida Maria
- Light Me Up, Nicoline
- I Like, I Like, I Like, Tom Hugo
- Stop The Music, Charla K
- Tengo Otra, Alejandro Fuentes
- Moren Din, Vidar Villa
- Who We Are, Rebecca
- That’s How You Write A Song, Alexander Rybak
I don’t know about you, but I reckon this final is pretty freaking beautiful, to quote Robin Bengtsson *struts on treadmill and tries to type at the same time*. You did good, Norway – even if Alexander Rybak isn’t adding a surefire hit to the mix as many of us assumed he would.
Here’s my rundown of the songs that are hits, and those that missed the mark (in my opinion, obviously…feel free to disagree in the comments).
My favourite four (a.k.a. Jaz’s personal super final)
Who We Are In the wake of A Monster Like Me, Mørland brings us another musical masterpiece via Rebecca. It’s a power ballad that moves to morph into Sanna Nielsen-style schlager before each chorus, but (plot twist) doesn’t. The lyrics are familiar but not clichéd or a cheesefest, and each part of the song is as memorable as what comes before it – there’s no relying on a strong chorus to carry everything else. AMAZING. This is the MGP song leading the odds at the moment, and if Rebecca can deliver it close to studio-perfect tonight, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing her on an even bigger stage in May. 9.5/10.
Talk To The Hand I was surprised to see JOWST and Aleksander Walmann so keen to give Eurovision another shot so soon – surprised, but psyched. This time Aleksander is the only billed artist, but we still get to experience JOWST’s brilliant lyrics (Grab The Moment won the EBJ Award for Best Lyrics of 2017, ICYMI). And it’s another catchy, cutting-edge pop track, with a faster pace than the Kyiv 10th-placer. I love it. It’s so much fun, and I will be Spotifying the shiz out of it whether it wins or not. 9.5/10.
Scandilove Speaking of fun…oh my Lordi, this is a party starter. At first I thought it was ridiculous, but all it took was a second listen to get me thinking it was ridiculously epic. It’s unbelievably catchy, bubblegum as heck, and hilariously quotable – ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’, ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion’ and ‘It’s fucking frEEEzing’ are the tip of the iceberg. Sure, it could be an absolute train wreck when performed live, but Ida is innocent until proven guilty. 9/10.
Tengo Otra Who would have thought that the Despacito effect would pop up in Norway’s national final? Or Sweden’s, for that matter? Well, believe it or not, it has – and I’m fine with that when it gives us songs like this. I have no idea what Alejandro is singing about (I’d have better luck if he’d gone with Norwegian) but his melody is exotic and makes me want to dance until sweat is pouring off me and I have to excuse myself to go and down an entire pitcher of sangria. 8.5/10.
The leftovers (a.k.a. the stuff that’s still good, just not great)
That’s How You Write A Song Artist-wise, this is the big one. Song-wise, this is the musical equivalent of a trashy TV movie that’s so bad it’s good. What’s not good is how inaccurate the lyrical instructions are (I think there’s a little more involved in the songwriting process than you’re letting on, Alexander) but who cares when the violin riff is so fantastically cheesy? Fairytale this song is not, but it is my guiltiest guilty pleasure of the whole NF season. 8/10.
Moren Din Up until now, the creepiest mother-related song in the Eurovision bubble was Belgium’s 2014 entry from Axel Hirsoux. Enter Vidar, who wants to get it on with someone else’s (I must stress that) mum and is not shy about making that public knowledge by singing about it on national TV. Subject matter aside, the song is folksy fun and I quite like it – all the more as it’s the only Norwegian-language song competing in MGP this year. 7.5/10.
Stop The Music This is a strange name for a song, but I can’t even make a stupid joke about it along the lines of ‘I wish they had stopped the music’ (HAHAHA not) because it’s a nice song. As ballads go, it’s not the cookie-cutter kind, and I appreciate that. 7.5/10.
You Got Me Holy Haba Haba – Stella’s back! And she’s got her groove back too by the sounds of it (I owe you a congratulatory handshake if you got that reference). Her duet with Alexandra – as opposed to Alexander, Aleksander and Alejandro – is full of energy and packs a decent punch with the chorus, but it doesn’t exactly set my Scandipop-loving soul on fire. 7/10.
Light Me Up This is probably the most nondescript song of the ten. It’s good for radio play or the movie soundtrack of a John Green adaptation, but it’s too lacklustre to compete in a contest. There’s no fight in it. Sorry, Nicoline. 6.5/10.
I Like, I Like, I Like Now here’s a song title I can joke about! It’s not that I don’t like, don’t like, don’t like Tom’s track (though TBH, calling it I Like x1 would have been totally fine) – it’s just one of the few weak links here, and I’d be shocked to see it progress to the super final unless the live performance is miraculously mind-blowing. 6/10.
Making my predictions (a.k.a. embarrassing myself)
Traditionally, the four spots in the Melodi Grand Prix super final/gold final/whatever they’re calling it in 2018 are filled by a few predictable betting favourites, plus a few left-field options that few saw coming (and by ‘few’, I mean ‘me because I’m not very perceptive’). I’m not even sure I would have anticipated Grab The Moment making the cut last year if I’d followed MGP (I was busy swanning around Stockholm at the time). So, I’ve thought long and hard about who I think the final four will be this time…
…which didn’t help at all.
That means it’s stab-in-the-dark time, y’all! And I’m taking a stab at Aleksander Walmann, Vidar Villa, Rebecca and Alexander Rybak being the final four. If Walmann fades into the background after performing in the dreaded second slot, or Vidar isn’t the curveball I suspect he might be (remember En Godt Stekt Pizza?) we could see Ida Maria (if Norway’s feeling frisky) or Stella & Alexandra stepping up instead. Rebecca and Rybak are more or less already there, as far as I’m concerned, but don’t make me bet anything on it.
As for the winner, I do think Rebecca will do it if a) her live vocals are up to scratch, and b) the staging hasn’t been stuffed up and does Who We Are justice. That means the music video should definitely NOT be replicated on stage, as cool of a concept as it is.
What do you think? Am I crazy for not naming Rybak the runaway winner, or is there someone I’ve overlooked? Who do you want to represent Norway in Lisbon? Let me know below.
It’s here. After five cities, four semis and one second chance round, Melodifestivalen has arrived in Stockholm, and the capital is prepping for a final that has turned out to be pretty fantastisk considering the overall, weaker-than-usual standard of this year’s competition. 12 songs remain, and outside of victories on the Spotify charts, only one can win. So who’s going to Eurovision?
- Everyday, Mendez
- All The Feels, Renaida
- A Bitter Lullaby, Martin Almgren
- My Turn, John Lundvik
- Party Voice, Jessica Andersson
- Last Breath, LIAMOO
- Shuffla, Samir & Viktor
- For You, Mariette
- Every Single Day, Felix Sandman
- In My Cabana, Margaret
- Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso
- Fuldans, Rolandz
That golden ticket to the ESC is still up for grabs. There’s no crystal-clear winner forging ahead far enough to make betting on them worthwhile (at least for a scaredy cat with a fragile bank account balance like me). Benjamin is leading the odds and won the audience poll; Felix is topping the charts and gaining more support by the second; Mariette or John Lundvik could still surprise; and LIAMOO might be a miracle worker who raps his way to first place.
A lot is going to come down to who Sweden votes for now that the best songs are in direct competition, and what the international juries take to as well (so we probably won’t see Samir & Viktor shuffla in Lisbon). Before I make my best possible winner prediction, I want to run down the full list of tonight’s twelve songs: not in performance or even alphabetical order (gasp!) but by how much I want them to win. Tell me if you feel the same – or not – in the comments.
Nej, tack…the songs I DON’T want to win Melfest 2018
A Bitter Lullaby I think there is a place for this in the final, and as long as it isn’t first place (which is about as likely as San Marino winning Eurovision this year) I can make peace with it being there. The song has grown on me since listen no. 1, but I still see it being too vanilla to get Sweden a result on par with what they’re accustomed to. 6.5/10.
Party Voice Melfest wouldn’t be Melfest without a touch of schlager, and since Jessica is one of only four females competing tonight, Party Voice is representing schlager and girl power in Stockholm. But, like Christer Björkman, I do NOT want a song like this winning through to the ESC and setting Sweden back 15-20 years. Again, it’s not going to happen…but I just want to make my feelings clear (while dancing like a mother). 7/10.
For You It’s not Mariette’s fault that she had so much pressure on her to produce a clear Melfest winner. Nonetheless, she didn’t. I think she’s almost out of contention for the win (if she couldn’t do it with A Million Years, she shouldn’t be able to with For You). The song and the performance are good, but missing the x factor. 7/10.
Fuldans I can’t be mad that Rolandz went direkt – didn’t we all see it coming? They are officially the Owe Thornqvist of 2018, right down to being handed performance slot 12 in the final. As with Boogieman Blues, I’d be lying if I said I got zero enjoyment out of Fuldans. Knowing it shouldn’t and won’t come anywhere near winning means I’m not worrying about it much. 6/10.
The songs I could get on board with (or should I say ‘All Aboard’ with?)
Everyday This is a bop. So much so that I can forgive the line ‘We were always meant to be’ (seriously, couldn’t they come up with anything else?). The chorus is possibly the catchiest of the year, and the colourful, frivolous staging contrasts well with Mendez’ all-black ensemble. 8/10.
All The Feels Fiercest, most flawless female in the final alert! I’m so thankful Renaida made it out of Andra Chansen so we get to witness her smash it on stage again. All The Feels is addictive, contemporary and perfectly choreographed. The odds aren’t in its favour to win, but if it did I would be happier than Nathan Trent after a lottery win. 8.5/10.
Shuffla They’re leading the pack on Spotify – and it’s understandable – but as with Rolandz, it will be the international juries who drag Samir & Viktor down a scoreboard they might have topped if Sweden had 100% of the power. I’m not super keen on a Shuffla win, so that’s okay with me. Still, imagine the energy this would bring to Eurovision, and how jättebra it would be to have Sweden send a song in Swedish for the first time since 1998! 7/10.
Every Single Day Comparing this song – and Felix himself – to Frans’ win with If I Were Sorry is easy. I ended up loving and supporting that in Stockholm (right down to wearing Frans’ face on my t-shirt) and I can see myself doing the same thing if the Sandman becomes the second-ever winner to come out of Andra Chansen. At this point, though, I like this song, but love others. 8/10.
The songs I want to win
My Turn How did I go from labeling this as a total by-the-numbers cheeseboard to adoring it when I’ve only listened to it once since semi 1? Your guess is as good as mine. But there’s something about the melody, power, and John’s beautiful face that’s worked magic on me. Don’t underestimate this one! 9/10.
Last Breath I get that rap isn’t for everyone, but it’s what LIAMOO does best and that makes his performance of Last Breath authentic and moving. The staging is simple but complementary, and the song is dynamic thanks to the uplifting chorus that gives rap-haters a break from the more intense verses. As Sanna Nielsen would say, I’m in love. 9/10.
In My Cabana But of COURSE. I don’t care if Margaret sings like a drunk pack-a-day smoker (although she has come a long way from her Polish NF performance of Cool Me Down). This song is the bomb dot com – a tropical-reggae-pop banger with numerous insanely catchy bits. Oh boy, oh boy. 9.5/10.
Dance You Off Last but not least, it’s my boy Benjamin with a slick R & B/dance track and the most epic staging I have ever seen. Together they’re an ESC-ready package that I’ll be cheering for tonight so loudly I’ll wake up everyone else in my house, and you’ll probably hear me even if you’re in Friends Arena. 9.5/10.
Predicting the winner, with sweaty palms (and sweaty other places)
I’m going to keep this (kind of) short. Realistically, I think there are four songs that are in it to win it – My Turn, Last Breath, Every Single Day and Dance You Off. As I said before, Samir & Viktor will be dragged down by the international juries, whereas I think Swedish love for Mariette will be decreased now there are stronger songs and performances in play.
Last Breath is too divisive to win, in my opinion – as much as I’d enjoy that. My Turn is probably not current enough. That leaves a likely top two of Benjamin and Felix (who have a bromance going on that Shakespeare would write a sonnet about if he were alive today) and I’m having trouble deciding what’s more likely: the song I actually want to win winning (Dance You Off ) or an Andra Chansen qualifier winning again (Every Single Day). All I feel 100% confident in saying is that Sweden will be sending their fourth guy in a row to Eurovision (so could we please get some girl power á la Sverige in 2019?).
That being said, YOU HAVE TO MAKE AN ACTUAL PREDICTION, JAZ!!! So, for the win, I’m settling on *drumroll*…
Felix. Because I don’t want to jinx Benjamin, but also because I got this feeling inside my bones (Justin Timberlake knows).
Who’s your pick to fly the Swedish flag in Lisbon? Do we agree, or do we have to agree to disagree?
NF UPDATE: What’s Up Next (The Last NF of the Season, Noooooooooo!)
- 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)
And we still have song reveals from Bulgaria, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia and Russia to look forward to. Are we spoiled or what?
I think I’d better stop the Scandifest now since I could probably publish all of the above as an encyclopedia-thick novel (that nobody would want to read). I hope you enjoy Melfest or MGP if you’re watching one/both tonight, and that you don’t decide to be Eurovision Satan and DM me spoilers from Norway on social media. Have a heart!
Until next time, when the real ESC countdown begins…
Happy Hump Day, everybody! They say time flies when you’re having fun, but apparently it also flies when you’re in the torturous throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. It’s already been a week and a half since Portugal won their first ever ESC, and to me it actually feels like it’s been longer. Shouldn’t NF season have started again by now?
I just mentioned a bad bout of PED, but I have to admit that mine hasn’t been nearly as bad as usual. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve been pretty busy since final weekend, dealing with all the stuff I didn’t do before the shows because I had nothing but Eurovision on the brain and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. From now until about April 2018, my brain-space will only be 90% occupied by Eurovision – that leaves 10% for everything else, which IMO is plenty.
Obviously I’m not here to talk about anything but the contest, though, and today I’m focusing on the most freaking beautiful performances of 2017, according to moi (because boy, is this a subjective topic). Staging and singing standards were high this year, but there weren’t that many acts that had every single bit of their s%#t together. Here’s my personal shortlist – from no. 5 to no. 1, for maximum soap-opera-cliffhanger suspense – of those that did.
Hit me up with your top five performances of the year in the comments, and we’ll see if we have any countries in common…
#5 | Robin Bengtsson’s performance of I Can’t Go On for Sweden
But of course! I’d be concerned for my mental health – and I’m sure you guys would be too – if I’d willingly left Sweden off this list. Just as the two certainties of life are death and taxes, the two certainties of Swedish Eurovision performances are a) they’ll be polished to perfection, and b) they’ll have been that way since we first saw the future ESC rep on stage at Melodifestivalen. There was certainly no need to change Robin Bengtsson’s risky, but super-suave and super-slick staging of I Can’t Go On between Stockholm and Kyiv – although the backdrop was revamped, two dancers were replaced, and a new suit was bestowed the privilege of being wrapped around Robin (FYI, SVT…I would have done that for free). ANYWAY, Robin’s Eurovision performances were as sharp as said suit, and just as entertaining as his first public one from the NF days. What’s to fault? I do now feel inadequate, since I can barely power-walk on a treadmill without tripping over my own feet (let alone strut on one with confidence while singing, et cetera), but that’s just me being pedantic.
#4 | Salvador Sobral’s performance of Amar Pelos Dois for Portugal
Taking an alternative approach to Sweden’s cool, calculated one paid off for Portugal. Every single time Salvador the Salvadorable took to the ESC stage, he put a slightly different spin on Amar Pelos Dois, via his vocals and unique performance style. That gave his three minute appearances an authenticity and freshness that was so endearing, it made many of us feel like proud parents watching their shy son come into his own at a school talent contest. But don’t get me wrong – his performances were world class, with an emphasis on the ‘class’. Being the only artist to use the satellite stage (Hungary’s violinist doesn’t count), he stood out without the aid of any bells and whistles (I have no problem with pimping out a performance, but we all know APD needed to be pared-back). He’s a spellbinding presence on his own, and with that stunning woodland backdrop behind him, delivered something that was impossible to ignore. There wasn’t anything else on show in 2017 that was quite so dreamy…if we don’t include Robin Bengtsson’s penetrating gaze and Imri Ziv’s biceps.
#3 | Joci Pápai’s performance of Origo for Hungary
I might be biased on this one, since as you probably know, Origo is my hands-down numero uno song of the year. But even I was worried that Joci would be too nervous on stage, or that the A Dal performance feat. dancer, violinist and suitably aggressive rap sequence wouldn’t translate well to the much bigger IEC stage. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. The intimacy of the performance – an important thing to cultivate considering the personal nature of the song’s story – was retained, but the use of the satellite stage and the fire jets expanded it to Eurovision-size. The colour scheme was perfect, the camera shots clever, and the emotion just as raw and real as it needed to be to not come across as phony (or over-rehearsed). Joci’s costume change for the final was the icing on the cake. The only thing I’d have done differently is toned down the smile on the violinist’s face – I feel like she needed to be more Sandra Nurmsalu and less Alexander Rybak for Origo purposes. Then again, I can’t blame her for smiling her way through a performance this good.
#2 | Kristian Kostov’s performance of Beautiful Mess for Bulgaria
I had no idea what to expect from Bulgaria this year in terms of staging, but I knew that Beautiful Mess deserved to be presented in an amazing way. What was ultimately done with it was incredible, and gave it all the visual interest it needed without taking away from the song or from Kristian’s beyond-his-years charisma and vocal talents. Geometric shapes and a bleak but totally on-trend monochromatic colour and lighting scheme went hand-in-hand with Kris’s Addams Family-esque clothing choice. Together, those elements made the performance seem so mature it was easy to forget that he’s a kid who only recently turned 17. The choreography was simple, and the shaky camera shots that kicked in halfway through (perhaps inspired by the treatment of Oscar Zia’s Human at Melfest last year) added to the atmosphere. As Kris sings in the chorus, I don’t want nothing more – i.e. I couldn’t have asked for anything better – from Bulgaria’s performance. That’s two years in a row now, and it makes me excited for what they might bring to the party in Lisbon.
#1 | Sunstroke Project’s performance of Hey Mamma for Moldova
A public service announcement: from now on, we’re all to spell ‘fun’ like this – M-O-L-D-O-V-A. If you were after a Eurovision 2017 performance that ticked every single box, then you’d undoubtedly have found it in the Sunstroke Project’s sophomore stage appearance. It took a great party song and made it a serious contender by doing everything right. The boys and their brides-to-be were entertaining, energetic and vocally solid; their dance moves were quirky, memorable and easy to copy after a few drinks gave you the courage (or was that just me?); and their background graphics were 10/10. They also threw in a handful of bits and pieces that ramped up the fun factor without turning Hey Mamma into a disposable novelty entry – think the backup singers’ costume change, and their synchronised bouquet toss into the audience. Moldova’s semi performance took me by surprise as I didn’t foresee it being my highlight of the night, but it was. And final night wouldn’t have been the same without them, that’s for sure. A third place well earned? You bet your epic sax!
Now I’ve shown you mine, you can show me yours! Which performances from Kyiv do you think were the most douze-worthy?
Next time…I hope your poll-taking skills are still sharp from voting in Barbara Dex, because the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards are about to kick off, and I need you to decide who and what should win the People’s Choice trophies! From the Miss and Mr. Congeniality awards to the Dancefloor Filler of the Year, Best Music Video and OMG Moment of the Year honors, it’s up to you to vote in a whole heap of categories and have your say on the best – and worst – of Eurovision 2017. Don’t miss your chance!!
Bonjour! I’m back with another round of Eurovision 2017 song reviews (what else would I be doing at this time of year?). I hope you have a spare three to five hours to read through them all.
Just kidding. It’ll take two hours, max.
This is the halfway mark, so if you’d like to catch up on the countries covered by me and my mum (who’s still here delivering verdicts from a first-impression, non-obsessive fan perspective) so far, I’ve linked them below for your convenience. Hey there, people who are just as lazy as me!
- Round 1, feat. Azerbaijan, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Norway + Portugal
- Round 2, feat. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands + Poland
- Round 3, feat. Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta + Switzerland
Now it’s time to cross six more countries and their awesome/average/abysmal songs off the to-do list. Today’s role-call: Bulgaria’s Kristian, France’s Alma, Italy’s Francesco, Romania’s Ilinca & Alex, Serbia’s Tijana and Sweden’s Robin. It’s the ESC equivalent of the popular kids’ table in a high school cafeteria, basically (with a few of the kids absent or in detention).
Have your opinions at the ready so when you get to the end, having found at least twenty comments you disagree with, you can say what’s on your mind – we want to hear everything.
Let’s get going!
My thoughts Let’s face it, Poli Genova left Bulgaria’s 2017 artist with shoes to fill bigger than that gigantic clog every tourist makes a point of posing with in Amsterdam. Stepping up to the plate (or into the huge-ass shoe) as a 17–year-old boy and the first ESC competitor to have been born in this millennium (#ifeelold), you’d think Kristian Kostov should be scared. But not only is Bulgaria currently the second-favourite to win the whole contest, they’ve brought in the bets with an absolute stunner of a ballad. Beautiful Mess is all beautiful and no mess. It’s almost like a down-tempo, male version of If Love Was A Crime: ultra modern, melodically memorable and full of lyrical determination (and similarities, right down to ‘together we’re untouchable’ versus ‘our love is untouchable’). It’s even gone down the same route of including a strangely alluring sample as a hook. As a result, I love it for many of the same reasons that I loved – and still love – ILWAC. I wouldn’t say Bulgaria has tried to carbon copy Poli’s super-successful entry so much as build on it, since it did do so well for them. Oddly, though, despite them being higher in the betting odds than they were in 2016, I don’t think Kristian can nab them another 4th place. He’s a brilliant performer with an almost studio-perfect voice, and twice the charisma of some of his fellow teen acts (Blanche, I’m looking at you in particular) but there is something missing from Beautiful Mess that, in a year of Italys and Swedens, will stop it from climbing quite that high in my opinion. However, I’m happy to be proven wrong. Did you hear that, universe? 10 points.
My mum says… I have to agree that the only Bulgarian mess is the one mentioned in the lyrics. The song is…well, beautiful. It’s interestingly worded for a romantic ballad, and heavy on the emotion without being weepy. Kristian has a voice and an ability to convey that emotion way beyond his seventeen years! I’m impressed. 10 points.
Bulgaria’s score 10.00
My thoughts Ooh la la! Speaking of countries that have ridden a wave of 2016 musical awesomeness into 2017, here’s France. Armed with Alma instead of Amir this time (á la Italy’s move from Francesca to Francesco) they’re bringing some sexy, summery tropical pop to Eurovision in a year with nothing else like that competing. I adore this song. I did have the original, all-French version at an even more heavenly status, and I’m still a little miffed by the switch to a slightly lame English chorus; but the ESC version of Requiem still ticks most of my boxes. Like the French pop I tend to favour, it’s not too predictable, but the catchy chorus sticks and stops the song from becoming inaccessible. And, I must admit, the English makes it easier for moi to sing along as I flamenco haphazardly around the house. Alma is a gorgeous girl/woman (she’s a little older than me hence IDK what to call her) and a good performer, but I have doubts about France’s ability to stage Requiem in a way that doesn’t make us all say ‘Mon dieu!‘. They did a nice job on J’ai Cherche last year, but they can’t be trusted implicitly to NOT screw things up presentation-wise, unlike Sweden or Russia (RIP) for example. They’re dealing with a song that could come across trés terrible with the wrong choreography, dodgy dancers, unsuitable costume choices, etc. However…if they pleasantly surprise me, I will sit quietly and watch them collect just enough points for a non-embarrassing, possibly excellent result. 10 points.
My mum says… I’m not sure if I like this or not, which tells me it might not be the most instantaneous entry in Eurovision this year (of course, it could just be me not feeling the amour). I like the drama it brings in its own way, and I did visualise myself walking Parisian streets with armfuls of Chanel purchases (I don’t know who’d be paying for all of that) while it was playing. But I felt it was a little disjointed, almost like two similar but not similar enough songs stuck together. Maybe it’s an acquired taste? 5 points.
France’s score 7.5
My thoughts If, just a few short months ago, you’d told me that Italy would somehow manage to present us with a dancing gorilla as part of their Eurovision act and have it be classy in that typical Italian way, I would have tossed a bowl of al dente spaghetti into your lap (the obvious reaction for someone in a state of disbelief). But, almost 100 million YouTube views and a shedload of OGAE Poll points later, we have the delightful Francesco and Occidentali’s Karma heading off to Kyiv…and he’ll probably be leaving with a Kosta Boda mic trophy in his human (not ape) hands. I’ll come right out and say that his song isn’t one of my absolute, unconditionally-loved favourites for 2017 – it’s drifting around the 6th to 10th zone in my overall ranking. But I, like 99.99% of people with functioning ears who’ve listened to it and/or seen Gabbani + gorilla in action, have succumbed to the irresistible, joyful and majorly memorable nature of the track. It’s effortlessly effervescent and sugary fun without being overly sweet, like a pint glass of pink lemonade. Every part of it is a hook to hang on to in itself, and the audience involvement created by the ‘Namaste, ale!’ is genius (although I can no longer finish off a yoga session in a peaceful way because I feel compelled to shout that every damn time). Francesco himself is personable and walks the fine line between a serious and tongue-in-cheek performance whenever he’s on stage, which should secure the affections of juries and televoters. Unless the significance of the man in the monkey suit is lost on a massive amount of people, I don’t see any stumbling blocks in the way of Italy winning their first Eurovision since 1990. And it could be a ‘fairytale’ ending for them in more ways than one, if you know what I mean. So, can I see myself happily eating gelato in Milan next May? Si.. 10 points.
My mum says… So this is the big favourite? It’s not my favourite out of the songs I’ve heard so far, but I can understand why so many fans love it en masse. I think it’s instantly likeable, unlike France, and you don’t need to speak Italian to feel Francesco’s joy and energy. The music’s very funky and happy too. I would so dance to this after a few too many glasses of Prosecco. 7 points.
Italy’s score 8.5
My thoughts Just when I thought we were never going to get a Eurovision entry that combined inspirational hip-hop with interludes of yodeling, along comes Yodel It! – the one we’ve all been waiting for. Or was that just me? Okay, so I’m being a bit sarcastic. But that doesn’t mean I’m about to reduce yodeler Ilinca and sing-shouter of uplifting lyrics Alex Florea to sobbing heaps of depression. In theory, this song should be the biggest disaster in music history, and hands-down the worst song of the 2017 contest (even with Croatia and San Marino’s offerings considered). But in practice, by some miracle (proudly presented by Paula Seling & Ovi), it works. I feel like it would take a solid six months in a science lab to figure out how, but what Ilinca and Alex are bringing to the table individually is like chocolate mousse and pickled herring – yet the combo is as complementary as peanut butter and jelly. Maybe that’s because the yodeling kicks in almost immediately, so by the time the first chorus is over, the shock has subsided – there’s no minute-long wait for the OMG moment like there was with Norway’s 2-for-1 Icebreaker last year. The fact that there’s little bursts of yodeling in amongst Alex’s catchy and urban verses/chorus – rather than a yodel marathon at any point – has to be helping too. That technique has been used at Eurovision before with varying degrees of success: Austria couldn’t qualify with it in 2005 (in Kyiv…is that a bad omen?) but Belgium finished fourth at Junior Eurovision in 2009 doing the same (though when a kid with flowers in her hair does it, it’s harder to hate). So, especially given how split-down-the-middle Yodel It! has Eurofans, there’s no telling how much better Romania’s ESC will be in 2017 than it was in 2016 – but hey, at least there’ll make it to the host city this time. I personally think it’s so ridiculously fun that the Romanian go-to of 11th-14th place isn’t out of reach…and neither is the top 10 if enough people with point-giving power ‘get’ it. Get it, love it, and yodel it. 8 points.
My mum says… If this is the closest thing to a token comedy duet in this year’s contest then I guess that’s a good thing, but I’m not a fan. Yodeling in general tends to turn me off, and that apparently isn’t affected by pairing it with another style of singing and a less traditional type of music. The whole thing sounds like it would work okay on a kids’ TV show – and I can’t say it’s not unique – but I’ll pass anyway. 3 points.
Romania’s score 5.5
My thoughts Serbia may have shot themselves in the foot by making us wait as far into March as possible (without actually being the last country to present their entry) for Tijana’s In Too Deep. Although that technique does attract attention, it means that if the song in question is anything less than sensational, it will be branded ‘not worth the wait’. Having said that, though I don’t think this one IS sensational, I’m not disappointed by it either. It may be even less “Serbian” (in an ethnic/stereotypical way) than last year’s Goodbye (Shelter), but I’m actually really keen on everything else about it. The music has variety and depth, the lyrics are just on the right side of simple (about a millimetre away from Cliché Central), the chorus is crash-boom-bang powerful, and Tijana has the vocal prowess to handle it all. I’m intrigued by the mix of styles going on here – it’s not as polar-opposite obvious as Romania’s, but there’s electropop/symphonic power ballad/dubstep elements woven together into a tapestry that I’d be happy to hang on my wall. Sure, it’s not daring or challenging or particularly original – and Serbia should thank their lucky Eurovision stars that Nano’s Hold On won’t be in Kyiv – but it’s comfortably safe, not the boring sort of safe. If I were staging In Too Deep, there would be wind machines, a floaty-yet-fierce dress for Tijana that could be blown about by said wind machines like Anggun’s in 2012, an aerial hoop artist or two (maybe Tijana herself could be swinging in a hoop as she is in the music video…) and some cool lighting, and voila – that’d be a well-wrapped package. But I’m not staging it, sadly, so it’s up to Serbia’s IRL stage director to not screw up what should be a simple equation of good song + good singer = good result in the grand final. When I say ‘good result’, I’m thinking 9th-15th, and in the final, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. 8 points.
My mum says… I’d definitely hit repeat on this one! I really like it. It’s not flawless, but the music and lyrics are both high-standard, and together they make a catchy couple. Tijana’s voice is great too. There’s something about the sound of it that reminds me ever-so-slightly of Jamala’s, though it’s not quite in the same league. Neither is the song – it’s a bit hard to follow in 1944’s footsteps, I imagine – but it gets a thumbs up from me. Oh, and 8 points.
Serbia’s score 8.00
My thoughts I was going to flick through ‘Not Being Biased For Dummies’ before reviewing Sweden, but I was too busy practicing Robin’s foot shuffle on my treadmill, and then I had to go to the emergency room and stuff…so I just didn’t get the chance. So, as I’m someone who not only supports Sverige unconditionally every year (they were my adopted country to cheer for before Australia was competing, and TBH I still prioritise them over Australia) but also traveled to Stockholm for the Melodifestivalen final and watched I Can’t Go On win it, you should prepare for a rose-coloured review. Here goes: I LOVE THIS. It wasn’t even my favourite song in the Melfest final (the aforementioned Hold On was) but as I always end up loving at least 75% of the Swedish hopefuls, that’s irrelevant. Co-written by Robin Stjernberg – his stamp is all over this track – it’s three minutes of slick, sexually implicit (as opposed to Montenegro’s sexually explicit song) funk-pop with a Justin Timberlake vibe (only way less fluffy than Can’t Stop The Feeling) and it is everything I expect from a Swedish Eurovision entry. Is it insanely catchy from go to whoa? Yes. Was it perfectly polished and contest-ready from the very beginning? Ja. Is the performer incredibly attractive? Obviously *swoons*. And to top it all off, it comes equipped with staging that will be a talking point from when it opens the first semi final (!) to whenever Sweden next manages to outdo themselves. It’s clear that one year of stripped-back production was all they could put up with. It’s also clear that The Land of Cardamom Buns (how I miss them) hasn’t lost their touch when it comes to conquering the ESC without any effort whatsoever – it just comes naturally. Conquering in a year feat. Occidentali’s Karma is a tough task, though, and I suspect Sweden will find themselves on the podium – 4th or 5th at the lowest – but not number one. Robin finishing second at Eurovision on his second attempt to get there has a nice ring to it, and I think that would be a result gladly accepted by a country hungry to take their six wins to seven, but maybe not this soon after hosting. As for me, I’m unsurprisingly giving I Can’t Go On a freaking beautiful set of DOUZE POINTS!
My mum says… Even I’m biased when it comes to this one, since I was sitting right next to Jaz in Friends Arena when Robin won Melfest. Wiktoria was my personal pick to represent Sweden, so I’ve had to come to terms with I Can’t Go On going on (will jokes like that ever get old?) instead. Still, I can’t fault Robin or his act too much. His voice isn’t the strongest, especially at the start when he’s backstage – maybe waiting in the wings keeps the nerves higher than normal. But who’s going to be thinking about that when he’s dancing with four other handsome men on travelators, while performing such a catchy, hit-material song? It’s not a song of substance, but it isn’t meant to be and I don’t think every song should be. Sometimes you just want to listen to some fun music that makes you want to move (in my case, on solid flooring) and Sweden has given Eurovision 2017 an excellent example of that. I’ll be singing along to ICGO for months in my mind, and I reckon plenty of other people will be too. 8 points.
Sweden’s score 10.00
And just like that, another six songs bite the dust. Here’s today’s overall ranking (with a tie broken by yours truly because MY BLOG, MY RULES!!!):
- Sweden (10.00)
- Bulgaria (10.00)
- Italy (8.5)
- Serbia (8.00)
- France (7.5)
- Romania (5.5)
For once, it actually seems shocking that Sweden’s sitting on top of a Eurovision-related scoreboard, since Italy had the chance to push them out of the way. But Francesco’s topped so many polls and rankings already, he’s probably getting bored. You’re welcome for the change, Mr. Gabbani (and gorilla).
There are still 18 songs left to review here on EBJ, with just a few days until delegations arrive and rehearsals start in Kyiv. I’M SO EXCITED SLASH STRESSED! Next time, the spotlight will be on Armenia, Austria, Finland, Moldova, San Marino and Slovenia. Whether you love or hate what Artsvik, Nathan Trent, Norma John, Sunstroke Project, Valentina & Jimmie and Omar Naber are packing in their suitcases (song-wise, as their respective choices of underwear are another matter entirely) you won’t want to miss it!
Seriously. I’m guessing my mother’s reaction to Spirit of the Night will be priceless.
It’s true – the Titanic wouldn’t have stood a chance against the massive, metaphorical chunk of ice (or ‘frozen water’ as Agnete likes to call it) that is This Weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio would still have died and Kate Winslet would still have let him go…but we’d all be partying like it’s 2017, because it is, and super-duper busy NF weekends like this one are Awesome with a capital A.
Don’t believe me re: the crazy schedule for Saturday and Sunday? Here’s the evidence:
- 18/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final two (feat. Daniel Levi, Koit Toome & Laura, Kerli + Liis Lemsalu)
- 18/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat seven (feat. Edgaras Lubys + Gabrielius Vagelis)
- 18/2 Slovenia’s EMA – semi final two (feat. Clemens, BQL + Ina Shai)
- 18/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final three (feat. Robin Bengtsson, Krista Siegfrids + FO&O)
- 18/2 Ukraine’s Vidbir – semi final three (feat. Payushchie Trusy + Green Grey)
- 18/2 Hungary’s A Dal – the final (feat. Gigi Radics, Joci Pápai + Kállay Saunders Band)
- 18/2 Malta’s MESC – the final (feat. Klinsmann, Kevin Borg, Maxine Pace + Richard Edwards)
- 18/2 Poland’s Krajowe Eliminajce – the final (feat. Martin Fitch, Kasia Mós + Carmell)
- 19/2 Latvia’s Supernova – the semi final (feat. Lauris Valters, My Radiant You + Triana Park)
- 19/2 Portugal’s Festival da Canção – semi final one (feat. Golden Slumbers + Rui Drumond)
There you go – CHAOS. Wonderful, wonderful chaos.
As I keep saying, I can’t discuss every single selection show without taking on an army of assistants to type at 200 words a minute for free (any takers?), so it’s time to get picky. Choosing which semis and finals to cover is like choosing a favourite child – not hard if you’re honest with yourself (that’s what my mum said, anyway, when she handed me the ‘No. 1 Kid’ sash and a bouquet of flowers. Don’t tell my brother). Ergo, this was an easy narrow-down for me.
Though three of this weekend’s shows will produce Eurovision entries, I’m only reviewing one of them – Hungary’s A Dal – and, of course, I’m going to take a good look at Melodifestivalen’s third semi too. So let’s get on with it!
SWEDEN | Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Växjö we go…for Melfest, that is!
You know what they say – another Saturday in February, another Melodifestivalen Deltävling.
This time it’s nummer tre, and I’ve got to say, it’s not a third-time-lucky sort of situation. Meaning this heat is the weakest so far, music-wise. Made up of two returnees and a record high (for 2017, at least) of five debutants, it’s probably going to be the most difficult semi to predict. Which stars will shine for the first or second time, and which will fall?
I have no effing idea.
- I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson
- Snurra Min Jord by Krista Siegfrids
- Kiss You Goodbye by Anton Hagman
- Gravity by Jasmine Kara
- Boogieman Blues by Owe Thörnqvist
- Crucified by Bella & Filippa
- Gotta Thing About You by FO&O
We’ve got funk pop, dance pop, acoustic pop, country pop, boy band pop and Owe. Lacklustre overall song standard aside (compared to the previous two semis) it’s certainly going to be a variety show – and hopefully one with a happy ending.
My top four
- I Can’t Go On – If Constellation Prize was a romantic seduction song, and I Can’t Go On is the raunchy post-seduction sequel, then should we await the third installment in a trilogy from Robin in 2018 entitled something like It’s Over, You Evil Bitch? Yes or no, Mr. Bengtsson can do no wrong in my eyes. I did expect something better from this collab of Robins (Robin Stjernberg co-wrote the song, and he’s definitely marked his territory) but I suspect this will benefit from being heard and seen in full.
- Snurra Min Jord – Both of Krista’s Melfest entries have been much more plain-Jane than Marry Me. As with Faller, I do really like this one, but there’s nothing particularly special about it that gives it the edge to make Andra Chansen, let alone the final. But lycka till Krista all the same.
- Crucified – Is it just me or has this song borrowed half its lyrics from Wiktoria’s Save Me? Regardless, it’s as sweet and light as a sorbet in summertime. Repetitive (and a possible female rip-off of Darin’s Lagom) it may be, but it has an undeniable charm.
- Gotta Thing About You – I thought I was getting too old for teen boy band fodder, but apparently the flame’s still flickering in my bitter quarter-century old body. This is not a musical masterpiece, but was anyone expecting it to be? The FOOO Conspiracy FO&O fans will eat this up, and that little light-up heart in the corner of the screen will be on the verge of a myocardial infarction.
- Kiss You Goodbye – And here we have Sweden’s answer to Shawn Mendes. This song can’t hold a candle to Stitches or Mercy, but it’s cute. I like how it begins in an acoustic, alternative kind of way before launching into a more straightforward pop chorus. Also, who is Anton’s dentist?
- Gravity – I’m not sure if I like this or not. Jasmine has a great voice, great style, and a great name (even if we’re not total name twins since she’s got that ‘e’ on the end) but Gravity seems like a mixed bag of bits and pieces that don’t, ahem, come together to form a cohesive whole. I’m keen to see her perform it live.
- Boogieman Blues – This is EXACTLY what I thought it was going to be. For those of you who don’t like surprises and do like retro tunes from ageing popstars, this is for you. But it’s not for me.
Who’s going direkt? Robin Bengtsson + FO&O. Perhaps this is a predictable prediction – and I’d like things to go in a more jaw-dropping direction – but Melfest is, at times, predictable. SVT hand out the first and final performance spots to the big guns, and said big guns usually find themselves progressing as a result. Robin Bengtsson won his heat over Ace Wilder last year, and he’s got the goods to win again now, but with a weaker song and against weaker competition. FO&O’s song screams Andra Chansen, but there’s nothing else up against it (besides I Can’t Go On) that necessarily has what it takes to nab a place in the final instead.
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Anton Hagman + Jasmine Kara. Krista Siegfrids is also in the mix here, but as she placed last in the telling audience poll after yesterday’s rehearsals, I suspect she’ll miss out and finish fifth at the highest. Bella & Filippa are underdogs. Anton and Jasmine, I think, can make enough of an impression and gain enough momentum to score themselves a second chance each – but I’m skeptical of their chances of making it out of AC at this point.
What do you think? Do we have an obvious outcome on our hands in Växjö, or will there be an upset feat. some Melfest first-timers? Let me know below.
HUNGARY | Eight becomes one tonight…but who’ll be The One?
I’ve been known to proclaim that many selection show finals are worth sacrificing for Melfest, because the music in a Melfest semi often outdoes that of other countries’ finals. But I have to say, I seriously considered ditching Sweden’s third semi in favour of tuning in to A Dal tonight.
By ‘seriously’, I mean ‘for a split second’, because I am a devout Melodifestivalist from way back. However, I will be watching the last episode of A Dal on delay just to experience its pure excellence.
After three heats and two semi finals, thirty songs have been trimmed down to just eight – and IMO, two of these are good, one is very good, and the other five are amazing. How often does that happen? About as often as Loreen releases a studio album.
Here’s the (unordered) line-up of the Hungarian final, which I realise might not seem so sensational to fans less easily-pleased than me.
- Hosszú Idők by Totova & Freddie Shuman feat. Begi Lotfi
- See It Through by Gigi Radics
- Fall Like Rain by Gina Kanizsa
- Origo by Joci Pápai
- Seventeen by Kállay Saunders Band
- Élet by Leander Kills
- Kalandor by Soulwave
- #háttérzaj by Zävodi & Olivér Berkes
Hungary clearly has faith in their own language, as Hungarian lyrics make up more than half of what we’ll hear tonight. They should, because a) it’s a gorgeous language, and b) it hasn’t stopped them from succeeding at Eurovision (Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet and Kedvesem, I bow to the both of you). That’s part of what makes this final so great in my eyes, but if you want more details, keep reading for my ranking of all eight finalists.
My top eight
- Origo – I AM IN LOVE. This track had me hypnotised before I’d even reached the chorus the first time I listened to it, and though I’m trying to accept that it’s probably 2017’s Győz A Jó (the slick, edgy ethno-pop entry that won’t win and will be sadly missed at Eurovision), my hopes of a win are still alive. Infectious and exotic but still on-trend (right down – or up – to Joci’s man-bun), Origo is OMG.
- Hosszú Idők – Here we have another song that manages to combine mysterious ethnicity with modern pop. Basically, it’s an ethno-pop power ballad. Though Totova gets slightly screamy performing it live, I can’t deny that it makes a mark, and that I could get on board with it winning even though it’s not my favourite.
- See It Through – A Disney ballad straight out of the early 2000s (Christina Aguilera sang it on the Mulan soundtrack, didn’t she?) should not work in 2017. But Gigi is such a showstopping singer with more onstage emotion than an Elina Born who wasn’t woken up, she makes it work. I would advise against the huge hair for the final, without which you’ll have a perfect package, Gigi.
- Seventeen – Last year, András and his band destroyed the brilliant Who We Are This year, they’ve done much better lives with a more pedestrian – but still extra-enjoyable – song. The Billie Jean reference is tired, but that’s my only complaint about this polished, well-produced and non-cheesy love song.
- #háttérzaj – What musical style doesn’t suit Hungarian? It totally gels in this bluesy, laid-back piano ballad. The only bother I have here is the hashtag title, which begs the question WHY GOD, WHY?!?!?
- Élet – Hard rock isn’t often my thing, but the dynamic nature of É let is interesting in a good way. There’s a soft piano intro, subdued verses and powerful choruses, and it’s almost like riding on a slow rollercoaster. There are plenty of ups and downs, but it doesn’t make you nauseous and you’re a little sad when you have to get off.
- Kalandor – Eurovision already has a folksy song for the year, and I’m not sure this one has the strength to win A Dal anyway, but it’s nice easy-listening, elevated by the fact that it’s not in English.
- Fall Like Rain – While I can acknowledge that this is a good song, I find it quite dated (and there are times when I just want Gina to shut up). I don’t think it’s the best choice Hungary can make in terms of a Eurovision entry, but I like the haunting, spiritual feel and the originality.
Now, as A Dal will make one more cut before congratulating a winner, it’s time to think about who’ll make it through the jury voting round – then be paraded in front of the public, who are the ultimate decision-makers (a good way to operate an NF, isn’t it, Spain?).
Predicting the top four I’m thinking Totova etc, Joci Pápai, Gigi Radics + Gina Kanizsa. There’s potential bumping space for Kállay Saunders Band or Leander Kills, in which case I think Gigi or Gina will miss out on the final four. But, based on the results of the heats and semis, this should be a safe bet for the top four (not that I’m actually betting. For someone who struggles to get things 50% correct, it’s a bad idea). Totova and guests plus Pápai are shoo-ins.
Who’s in it to win it? It looks like another Freddie (albeit a far less attractive one than 2016’s) will be heading to Kyiv on behalf of Hungary in May, as part of Totova’s posse. Hosszu Idők is a recipe with all the right ingredients to rise to the top, and has had the jury and public support in past weeks that it needs to fly through both stages of the comp tonight. I will be surprised if it doesn’t win.
If you’re as hungry for Hungary this year as I am, then you’ll have something to say about A Dal – so spill! Is this ticket to Eurovision Totova’s to lose, or should she be watching her back? Is there any chance András Kállay Saunders will make it to Eurovision again this year (Seventeen for 2017)? Give up your internal gossip in the comments.
Of course, if you want to chat about anything else that’s happening in the ESC bubble this weekend, I’m all ears. If you want to have an intense conversation about your personal problems, I may not be the best person to talk to, so stick with Eurovision for now. You can always book an appointment later with the same therapist you saw after Objetivo Eurovisión concluded last weekend…
Enjoy all of the national final action ahead, guys – I’ll see you on the other side when we have three more songs for Ukraine!
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.
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:
- Slingshot by Lenna Kuurmaa
- In Or Out by Elina Born
- Everything But You by Carl-Philip
- Suur Ioterii by Ivo Linna
- Feel Me Now by Ariadne
- Supernatural by Uku Suviste
- Hey Kiddo by Laura Prits
- Have You Now by Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux feat. Maian
- Valan Pisaraid by Janno Reim & Kosmos
- 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?
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.
- A Million Years by Mariette
- Himmel Och Hav by Roger Pontare
- Up by Etzia
- Vart Haru Varit by Allyawan
- Hearts Align by Dismissed
- I Don’t Give A by Lisa Ajax
- Good Lovin’ by Benjamin Ingrosso
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.
- 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?
- Do It For Your Lover by Manel Navarro
- Ouch! by LeKlein
- Lo Que Nunca Fue by Paula Rojo
- Spin My Head by Mario Jefferson
- Momento Critico by Maika
- 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
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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)!
Good evening Europe, and everywhere else that’s relevant!
You’ve just made the excellent decision to tune in to the super-delayed first episode of the 2016 EBJEEs: that is, the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. There’s no time like way after the official, Justin Timberlake-less Eurovision DVD has been released to do something like this, right? Not when this is the earliest I’ve been able to get around to it. Better late than never, that’s my motto.
So, if you’re ready for the ceremony to begin, great. If not, too bad – it’s (finally) happening. Today/tonight, I’m presenting second-rate statuettes in the categories of The Artists, The Songs and The Singing, including many of the People’s Choice Awards voted on by you fabulous people last week. Get excited!
*Academy Award-worthy intro music plays* Välkommen till…
Winner Freddie Honourable Mention/s Amir, Douwe Bob
It’s award number one (my number oooonnne) and the EBJ Express has already arrived at Objectification Station – and I’m not sorry, no. There was an array of dashing dudes on display at this year’s contest, and as I was actually there (!) I can attest to the true, in-the-flesh attractiveness of each and every one. So, to those of you who thought Serhat was SerHOT, I say this: not even he could compare to the heartthrob ex-basketball player from Hungary. I mean, even in a one-on-one battle between Freddie and Måns Zelmerlöw, Hungary would quite possibly have the edge over Sweden. They’d definitely have a height advantage.
Winner Samra Honourable Mention/s Iveta Mukuchyan
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, rather than the ear – which is how Samra came to be awarded this trophy by yours truly. She may have suffered from some vocal issues in Stockholm (several of her rehearsals would have had Jemini reaching for earplugs) but she is a stunner, and the cameras would have had zero complaints about focusing on her for three minutes…except that perhaps, three minutes wasn’t long enough to have her in their sights. If I sound lecherous here, it’s because I have a girl crush on Samra the size of Siberia, with symptoms that include a slack jaw and plans to write a dissertation on how someone can look that incredible in a skintight metallic onesie.
Winner Amir Honourable Mention/s Sergey Lazarev
Well, you guys are off to a good start with your picks. I couldn’t have voted better myself! He may not have won Eurovision (although 6th is a win by recent French standards) but Amir absolutely won our hearts – cheesy, but true – with his general adorableness and charm, on and off stage. If there’s one act from ESC history that would be ideal to take home to meet the parents, it’s this guy. My parents are available, Mr. Haddad, if you’re interested…
Winner Poli Genova Honourable Mention/s Zoë, Laura Tesoro, Sanja Vučić
Not unpredictably, Poli out-polled a force-field of girl power to take home the Miss Congeniality trophy. Anyone who wouldn’t jump at the chance to hang out with her, and help her search for any dress of hers that might be missing at the time (Junior Eurovision in-joke alert) is not a person I’d like to associate with. That may sound harsh, but COME ON!!! Poli’s personality and pizzazz is so strong, I’m pretty sure it was responsible for powering her light-up ILWAC costume. Isn’t that what everyone looks for in an amigo?
Winner Laura Tesoro Honourable Mention/s Poli Genova
This award goes to the artist whose onstage charisma and energy eclipsed that of their competition, and who should never give up their career in showbiz because that would be an absolute waste. Belgium’s Laura may still be a teenager, but she performs like a pro from way back. She lit up the Globen stage every time she stepped on it (seriously, I don’t even think the tech guys had anything plugged in during her performances, á la Poli), and was so effervescent I would have blamed it on an illicit substance if she wasn’t so darn innocent. This girl was THE one to watch this year, and she’ll be one to watch for a long time to come.
Winner Ira Losco Honourable Mention/s Dami Im
A Eurovision runner-up returning to the contest will always be a talking point – especially when that runner-up remains the rightful winner in the minds of many fans. But add in the rehearsal week revelation that Ira Losco had a kanelbulle in her oven – and a costume change that, among other things, elegantly emphasised that – and you have a walking water-cooler moment on your hands (and a Walk On Water moment). This was a case of Conchita-itis, in which a country’s artist is a more prominent part of their package than their song.
Winner Laura Tesoro/Zoë Honourable Mention/s Frans
It’s a tie! A tie I could have broken if I’d been bothered. But I think both Laura and Zoë – practically senior citizens compared to runner-up Frans – deserve this award for dealing with the media, performance and competition aspects of the contest like pros. Zoë, in particular, should receive a high five for managing to sing in tune at all times when she probably couldn’t even hear herself over the screaming that followed her wherever she went.
Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria
Belgium snapped up this award last year too – and yet, white outfits aside, Loïc’s backing brigade couldn’t have been more different from Laura’s. The latter helped elevate the energy of What’s The Pressure in a live context, meaning that what would still have been a brilliant show if Laura had been by herself on stage became THA BOMB, DOT COM. Interacting with her and with the audience, they sang and danced their way straight into the #squadgoals hall of fame.
THE SONGS AND THE SINGING
Winner If I Were Sorry Honourable Mention/s Alter Ego
Songs that sound the same as other songs have not (necessarily) been plagiarized. I’m a firm believer in a grey area existing where musical resemblances are concerned. As such, I’m not saying that Sweden’s 2016 ESC entry was partly stolen from some other random song I never knew existed until someone decided IIWS was a rip-off of it. But there is some aural twinning going on here, and I don’t think that can be denied. Here’s proof.
Winner Hear Them Calling Honourable Mention/s Loin D’ici, Say Yay!
Everyone’s definition of a ‘fanwank’ is probably different – which explains why my decision not to include Italy as a nominee here was met with a little criticism. I do agree with this winner though, on the basis of a fanwank being a song that is drooled over and put up on a pedestal by the Eurovision community, only to crash and burn once it emerges from the pre-show bubble and enters the competition. Austria may have had a happy ending, but Iceland? Not so much.
Winner Sound of Silence Honourable Mention/s Ghost, Play
2016 was a strong year for lyrics that weren’t…well, crap. For lyrics that could actually be enjoyed by a former English major who adores symbolism and detests clichés. The best set of words put to song in my opinion was Australia’s. And no, I’m not letting nationality overtake objectivity right now. There was something simple yet so inventive about the Sound of Silence lyrics, particularly in the verses. My favourite line of the lot would have to be ‘Tidal waves of tears are crashing, no one here to save me drowning.’ The imagery! The metaphors! The non-cheesy rhyme! SO MUCH YES. And, okay…maybe a little bit of bias.
Winner I Didn’t Know Honourable Mention/s Soldiers of Love
Now we travel from the good to the gouda – by which I mean check out the cheese! Not to mention the inconsistencies in tense and a distinct lack of sanity. San Marino/Turkey, what were you thinking allowing lines like ‘I got to be inside your mind and hide into your arms’ (ouch) to represent you on a global platform, in 2016?
Winner If Love Was A Crime Honourable Mention/s What’s The Pressure
Poli’s performance of ILWAC at the Euroclub on Opening Party night (though technically, it was the morning after Opening Party night) was one of my ESC trip highlights, so I’m thrilled to be able to metaphorically present her with this award on behalf of all of y’all. I can confirm that the dancefloor couldn’t have been fuller during her three minutes that evening/morning – though I probably don’t have to, because even if you were in Antarctica at the time, you’d have heard the chants of ‘Oh, day mi lyubovta!’. Epic times. Prepare yourself, future fiancé, because the DJ will be playing this on repeat at our wedding.
Winner Loin D’ici Honourable Mention/s Color of Your Life
In terms of the songs that grew on me ‘more and more each day’ as Serhat would croak from the window of his favourite hangout Sleaze Palace: The Disco, Austria made the most impressive transition. The throwback to a time long gone by that is Loin D’ici irritated the strudel out of me initially, especially when I compared it to the contemporary offerings from Armenia, Latvia and Ukraine. But I was won over by a) its charm as an homage to twee French pop, b) Zoë’s general loveliness, and c) the reaction both she and the song received in the Euroclub and in Globen (it was too cute to resist).
Winner Made of Stars Honourable Mention/s What’s The Pressure
As much as Eurovision these days is about presenting audiences with a live music video rather than a live, concert-style performance (if you want to succeed, that is), there are some songs that feed off a flesh-and-blood crowd and come to life as a result. Made of Stars is one of them. There is a passion in the delivery of the song via Hovi that is lacking when you listen to the studio version, or when you watch the official, drone-dominated video. Those are my thoughts, anyhow. Perhaps it’s the theatricality of song and artist that needs to be seen and heard outside of a box to be appreciated.
Winner Ghost Honourable Mention/s The Last of Our Kind
And then, there’s the other end of the Swarovski-encrusted microphone stand. I personally believe that Germany’s Ghost was one of the best songs in the competition this year, but the mismatched live performance destroyed and detracted from it. Listening to it in studio, without the distraction of Jamie-Lee’s Halloween costume test-run (I think she was supposed to be a cocktail umbrella) is a totally different experience – for the better.
Winner No Degree of Separation Honourable Mention/s You Are The Only One
What is the significance of Francesca’s music video happenings? Who knows. Does anyone care? Nope. It’s beautifully shot and interesting to watch, and there was actual effort put into the making of it. Much better than a budget video or *gasp* no video bar a national final performance. Not that I’m demanding or anything…
Winner Bulgaria Honourable Mention/s Australia, Norway
If I had a gripe about anything to do with Eurovision 2016, it’s the postcards – not because they sucked (they didn’t), but because they just weren’t very memorable. They were beautifully shot, but none of the artists were handcrafting their country’s flag out of foodstuffs, or participating in risky extra-curricular activities in the host city. I’m bestowing the trophy for best of the bunch to Bulgaria though, because watching Poli Genova go about her daily business (albeit a glossy version that includes getting ink done) could never fail to be fascinating.
Winner Michał Szpak Honourable Mention/s Hovi Star, Sergey Lazarev
What do you get when you cross Captain Hook with someone who can carry a song single-handedly without the support of any detectable backing vocalists? Michał Szpak, that’s who. Hovi Star had the emotion and Sergey Lazarev had the singing/dancing combo down pat, but Michał powered through each of his performances of Color of Your Life with ease – and, as I said, without any contribution (as far as I could hear and see) from another singer who’d been stuffed in the wings. The Jedward syndrome-suffering Azerbaijani delegation must have been very jealous indeed.
Winner Dami Im Honourable Mention/s Jamala
There were two ladies who stood head and shoulders above the rest when it came to singing the pants off their respective songs (though not the pants off themselves. That would have been unfortunate for Jamala). Honestly, my vote would have headed in a Ukrainian direction, but Australia topping this poll is obviously reason for a happy dance from me. You can’t argue that Dami is an incredible vocalist, and she managed to give her all for the entire Eurovision fortnight without dropping a single note. You keep doing you, Dami, ‘cause it’s awesome to witness.
Winner Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz
Honourable Mention/s Joe & Jake, Minus One
This one’s a bit of a surprise to me, even though there were no Il Volos to speak of in 2016 and so the bar was set a little lower. Don’t get me wrong – I’m totally pro-Georgia, and Nika and his Lolitaz sounded more or less studio-perfect during their performances. I’m just shocked that the majority of you guys thought so too.
And now, some good news for those of you with numb bums: this evening’s (if it isn’t night time where you are, just pretend) ceremony has reached its conclusion! The EBJEEs will continue in a few days as I present my personal – as well as the remaining People’s Choice – awards in the categories of The Performances, The Costumes and The Results. So don’t return those fancy outfits you undoubtedly hired for the occasion just yet. There’s still a whole lot of Eurovision 2016 left to talk about!
Yes/ja/oui, et cetera – it’s already time for another round of reviews here on EBJ! And since this second installment isn’t much less epic (a fancy way of saying ‘ridiculously long’) than the first one, I’ll make this intro fast…by stopping it right here. You guys know how these posts go.
Remember, you can reacquaint yourself with the 2016 EBJ Jury at any time via the meet and greet page up there *points in the appropriate direction*. Today’s reviewers = my mum (she’s back!), Fraser from ESC TMI, and yours truly – meaning it’s an all-Aussie, all-awesome affair. We’ve had our say on the Eurovision entries from Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. Our excessive compliments and/or abusive tirades are in, as are the scores from all of my other slaves…er, I mean helpers. So now I present to you the entire EBJ Jury’s assessments of IVAN, Minus One, Nika Kocharov & The Young Georgian Lolitaz, Francesca, Frans* and Rykka. Which act will emerge victorious? And will they knock France off the top of our leaderboard? If you want the answers to those questions, plus a whole heap more, then read on!
*Am I the only one who thinks Francesca and Frans should hook up purely because their couple name writes itself? I’m dying to use #Franscesca in a tweet or two (hundred).
Mrs. Jaz The beginning of this song caught me off guard (even though I didn’t know what would follow it). As interesting as it is, that intro sounded strange to me, and not in a good way. As Help You Fly continued, I was also unsettled by the high note-filled choruses that IVAN is so fond of – choruses that could be his downfall if he doesn’t nail them at Eurovision (if he’s even a millimetre out of tune, it could be painful for everyone with functioning ears). However, on the whole, I quite enjoyed Belarus’ entry. It’s catchy and radio-friendly, and would be easy to sing along to, if I knew any of the lyrics! I’m told that IVAN’s slightly disturbing wish to perform starkers with wolves will not be granted by the ESC powers that be, and that’s definitely the best part of this package…so to speak.
Fraser Howling, wolves…ooh, this is Eurotastic! I do love how projections can make any song look super professional. IVAN has a fabulously expected, deep Eastern European pop voice – one that, in most other countries, would not be used for this style of song. Somehow it all seems to work. The song is easy to sing along to, and not bad as a bit of background music. I’m struggling to see how Help You Fly has anything to do with wolves…but hey, this is Eurovision, so who cares! Belarus have not made it through to the final for a few years, but if IVAN presents this naked on the Eurovision stage surrounded by wolves, maybe they will. That’s their best chance.
Jaz It seems that taste in music doesn’t totally run in my family, given that I do like the intro of Help You Fly – a song that I named the one I’d least like to win the Belarusian final a while back. Clearly, I’ve come around since then. If you’re wondering what’s up with IVAN’s wolf obsession (especially when an eagle obsession would make more sense), then that intro at least incorporates a howl into HYF, and sets an intense, mysterious and minutely-ethnic tone for the rest of the song, which sits on the right side of the rock genre. Initially, I found the chorus irritating, and couldn’t even remember how the verses went. But after listening to it a time or two recently, I’ve found myself appreciating it for what it is – a solid Eastern European rock effort, with lyrics that manage to be inspirational without inducing any gagging (which is always good). It’s a little too lethargic to trouble its semi’s top 10, so I’m not sure it’ll qualify. But if IVAN gets to grips with the knowledge that the naked + animal thing ain’t going to happen, and intensifies his NF staging (the background graphics there were edgy and complementary), you never know. Failing that, he might burst (not naked) out of a giant disco ball, and subsequently straight into Saturday night. It worked for Alyona Lanskaya, didn’t it?
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 4
- James 5
- Jaz 7
- Martin 5
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 1
- Penny 7
- Rory 5
- Wolfgang 1
Belarus’ EBJ Jury score is…4.8
Mrs. Jaz ‘Coz this is thrillerrrrr….thriller night!’ Oh wait – it isn’t? Well, it sure sounded like it at the start. Though that is where any resemblance to Michael Jackson’s music ended, because this track is only okay, in my opinion. I preferred Belarus to Cyprus. Alter Ego is pretty catchy too, and it has a good beat, but it’s rather repetitive and not as instant. I think I’d need further listens to appreciate it, but as I got bored halfway through this one (I zoned out and did some online shopping during those last 90 seconds) I’m not too keen to hear it again. If Jaz wants me to give it another go, she might have to use some force.
Fraser Well, this is a bit of a surprise. Everything about Minus One’s Alter Ego is against my normal style of music, but there is something that’s a bit ‘easy-listening soft rock’ that I like about this. Wolves are big this year – maybe Minus One and IVAN can do a naked mashup with wolves, or re-enact ‘Dances With Wolves’ on the stage. Naked. Please? Actually, looking at the video, it’s probably best if they all keep their clothes on. Honestly, I think Cyprus may have a chance of getting through to the final with this song. It’s catchy enough to sing along to, and that may just get them somewhere.
Jaz Thomas G:son strikes again! Though it must be said, Alter Ego isn’t his best-ever Eurovision effort. Then again, neither an uplifting power ballad nor a club banger (the kind of songs he does best) would have suited Minus One, who’ve bounced back from a defeat in the 2015 Cypriot NF to represent the island in Stockholm. What the band and G:son have created is a song that ticks a lot of boxes, but still seems to be missing something – something that says ‘Vote for this!’. It’s all just a bit…flat. Having said that, it does have a great driving beat, and a two-part chorus that adds variety. The Killers-slash-Nickelback vibe also has appeal (no, I don’t mind Nickelback. You got a problem with that?) and I particularly enjoy the ‘Howlin’ for youuuuuuuuu’ part (SVT should just change the ESC slogan to ‘Come together…with wolves’ already). In summary, I suppose I’m in two minds (or perhaps I’m thinking one thing, and my Alter Ego is thinking another). This track is more than halfway up on the good-quality song scale, but I also believe it doesn’t pack enough punch to reach the highest heights. Ultimately, I’m happy that it doesn’t send me to sleep like Cyprus’ entry did last year, but I’m not exactly impressed by it.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 2
- James 7
- Jaz 6
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 5
- Nick 4
- Penny 7
- Rory 7
- Wolfgang 5
Cyprus’ EBJ Jury score is…5.7
Mrs. Jaz Wow – what a throwback! You’d never guess this was the Georgian entry based on how Brit-pop it sounds. Oasis would be proud to have Midnight Gold as one of their own hits if the Gallagher brothers weren’t such…well, you can insert your own insult here. The song’s clearly not cutting-edge, but I like that Georgia have taken a deliberately retro route rather than an accidentally stale one. The result is something that stands out (though maybe not for the better in the eyes and to the ears of many Eurovision fans). If I may channel Austin Powers for a moment, I’d say it’s pretty groovy, baby!
Fraser Immediately this sounds like some average 90s Brit-pop band is making a comeback. There is nothing that sounds remotely Eurovision about it. I’m bored already. I think Noel Gallagher is on bass guitar, and his talents are better used elsewhere. Did I mention I’m bored? Sorry Georgia, this is not your year.
Jaz I try not to feel guilty about fangirling over ANY song – why should you feel bad about liking what you like? But…if I could call anything a guilty pleasure this year where Eurovision’s concerned, it would have to be Georgia’s Midnight Gold. As it’s far from being a fan favourite, I have a strong feeling that I’m not “supposed” to enjoy it. And I’d be lying if I said I expected it to succeed, or even get out of its semi. But I really, really like this song! What’s even weirder about that is the fact that alt-rock is a genre I hardly ever choose to listen to any other time. Apparently, though, it can be slotted into the ESC line-up and I’ll fawn over it like it’s Måns Zelmerlöw attending a nude party thrown by Sir Ivan of Belarus. Everything about the song is close to bizarre and certainly edging towards bonkers territory – and I love it. The catchy guitar riff, ambiguous zero-cliché lyrics, and general freshness of the genre in the Eurovision context have well and truly won me over, folks. And I refuse to be ashamed about it! I’m letting my freak flag fly, and quite possibly a Georgian one too.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 10
- Fraser 1
- James 2
- Jaz 8
- Martin 4
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 6
- Penny 7
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 1
Georgia’s EBJ Jury score is…5.3
Mrs. Jaz I’M IN LOVE. This is gorgeous, and makes me want to get married again just so I can use it as my wedding song. Obviously I had no idea what Francesca was on about until the English chorus kicked in, but I figured it was something romantic, and I guess I was right (although the Italian language can make any subject matter sound romantic…this could have been an ode to conjunctivitis and I’d still be swooning). The melody, plus her combination of crystal-clear and raspy notes (she’s got a great range) made me feel the emotion of her words without even trying. I’d willingly listen to this one again, at my fantasy second nuptials or not.
Fraser Italy can do no wrong. This is fabulous. Maybe it’s just that anything sung in Italian sounds hot! Francesca’s voice is youthful, modern, and soothing. I fell in love with this song after San Remo, and it has grown on me more and more ever since. I’m not sure there was a need to add in the English lyrics halfway through the song, as it was good regardless – but it is competing in Eurovision, and you need to make sure you get votes from as many people as possible. I expect that this will finish within the top five songs this year.
Jaz Oh, Italy. What would Eurovision these days be without you? A lot less classy, that’s for sure, and in the case of 2016, that lack of class would be accompanied by a lack of spine-tingles, and a lack of exclamations such as ‘Oh no, I’ve got something stuck in my eye *sniff*’. No Degree of Separation is, put simply, stunning. My only criticism – which I’d like to get out of the way so I can carry on gushing – is that it wasn’t an instantaneous goosebump-producer for me, like Grande Amore was. It took a few plays of the 100%-Italian version for me to fall in love, but the song did pique my interest straight away, as elegant Italian piano-pop always does. And now, with the (barely) bilingual version off to Stockholm, I have high hopes for Italy once again. Francesca’s choice to insert an English chorus and make it known by its English title for ESC purposes will pay off, I reckon. That second chorus adds an element of understanding to a song that was already seeping with sentimentality. The fragility of Francesca’s voice is perfectly paired up with the themes and style of the song. The structure of it is dynamic without shoving itself down anyone’s throat. I’m besotted, basically (in case you couldn’t tell). With an entry that reminds me of Gabrielle Aplin’s version of The Power of Love, and suitably ethereal/off-beat staging, I think Italy could and should do very well with this. But I am a teensy bit biased.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 10
- James 12
- Jaz 12
- Martin 5
- Mrs. Jaz 10
- Nick 5
- Penny 6
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 10
Italy’s EBJ Jury score is…9
Mrs. Jaz I get the feeling I’m not supposed to find that ‘no’ at the end of Sweden’s song amusing, but I did anyway. And, after all, I spent most of the three minutes thinking ‘Clearly, he’s not sorry!’, so it’s a relief that he admitted it. I did quite like this one. It’s interesting, and that made me pay attention rather than drift off daydreaming (or online shopping). If I Were Sorry is a bit repetitive – let’s just say I had no issues with working out its title before I was told what it was. But lyrically, it grabbed my attention, and I think Frans’ unique accent is an asset.
Fraser Well, well, well…what happened to schlager? It appears that Sweden has grown up and moved on. Maybe I should too? From the first time I heard this song in the field of Melodifestivalen entries, I knew it was going to be the Swedish representative. It wasn’t my favourite song in the field, but it’s a song of today. With a pared-back, youthful and emotional song, Frans will have a huge following of teenage girls which will automatically get him some votes. But I hope the rest of Europe get IIWS too. It didn’t do as well as some others with the international juries in Melodifestivalen, which was surprising. I guess we will have to wait and see how Frans goes on the huge Eurovision stage. My fingers and toes are crossed for him!
Jaz A minute ago, I said I was biased about Italy. Well, now it’s time to talk about our hosts with the most – so hold on to your underpants, because a tsunami of bias is headed your way! There’s a reason I knew, the second Heroes won Eurovision 2015, that 2016 HAD to be the year I trekked across the globe to attend my first contest. I. LOVE. SWEDEN. In and outside of the ESC (though the outside mainly refers to Melodifestivalen). That’s not to say there haven’t been times when I’ve disliked their entries (La Voix, I hate with a passion), but for the most part, the country can do no wrong in my eyes. So, despite my earlier desires for Oscar Zia or Molly Sandén to represent Sweden, I am a fully-fledged Frans fan. If I Were Sorry is in the mould of Sweden’s recent host entries – i.e. just You – in that it’s more organic, less precise, and simplified in comparison to the stuff they send when they’re competing on foreign ground. But there’s no doubt Sweden are still in the race with this, as the Spotify streams and betting odds are testament to. I don’t think Frans will deliver his country the seventh win Christer Björkman is hoping for (I’m sure he can wait until 2017 or 2018) but what I’m hoping for is a strong top 10 finish with this very-2016 toe-tapper. I can’t see the IIWS staging changing much from ye olde Melodifestivalen times – so the song and its presentation are really going to need to capture the public and the juries when it counts, as they captured the Swedish public and (some of) the international juries back in March. The song is certainly endearingly sweet and quirky enough – not to mention unique enough in the 43 – to find that favour. Perhaps my plan to scream the roof off the Globe Arena whilst wearing a shirt with Frans’ face on it will have a positive effect on the outcome?
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 12
- James 6
- Jaz 10
- Martin 8
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 7
- Penny 8
- Rory 1
- Wolfgang 7
Sweden’s EBJ Jury score is…7.3
Mrs. Jaz Very nice, Switzerland. I like this a lot. I was lured in from the abrupt beginning all the way through to the end, and I loved the sound of Rykka’s voice throughout. Her diction is beautiful. I’m a ballad fan if said ballad fits my definition of ‘decent’, and Last of Our Kind definitely does. It sounds like it should be the theme to a romantic drama movie or something – as in, what Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do was to Fifty Shades of Grey (not that I’d know anything about that). Backing an intense scene between two extremely attractive leads, the song would shine.
Fraser Rykka is a surprise for me. Her song feels like a step back into the end credits of a movie from 1989 (I know she even says that, but it really does). It’s a really nice song that I find myself singing along to in the car. The only thing is, I don’t always understand all of the lyrics she’s singing – maybe it’s just her accent. The recorded version is a lot stronger than the live of course, but I really hope that Rykka has a lot of practice before May. If her performance is on point, she may just sneak through to the final. BTW, if she could do something about those eyebrows, it would be greatly appreciated.
Jaz Each and every year, the Swiss NF is made up of a handful of mediocre songs (and often one or two that start with ‘r’ and end with ‘ubbish’) plus one that is slightly less mediocre than the others (but is still crappier than the crappiest Melfest entry of that year). The latter always wins, but I don’t always dig it. Where am I going with this? Straight to the shed for a shovel, peeps, because I totally dig The Last of Our Kind. It’s one of several Sia-esque songs heading to Stockholm, and that gets it an automatic ‘YAAAASSSS!’ from me. The melody and lyrics we hear before that first chorus are stunning, and overall the song is like a particularly ethereal dream that I don’t want to wake up from. I do think that the verses are stronger than the choruses, perhaps because they’re less repetitive (you and whoever you’re singing to are the last of your kind, Rykka…we get it). But there’s nothing wrong with a little repetition – and nobody’s going to forget the song title fast, that’s for sure. I’d love Switzerland to succeed with this, but I’m not entirely confident they will. Still, I have total confidence that they made the right choice by selecting Rykka as their representative…and let’s not forget what happened the last time a Canadian stepped up to fly the Swiss flag (although a tense battle for the win between Switzerland and the UK is super unlikely in 2016). While Fraser has all of his digits crossed for Sweden, I’ll have mine crossed for Canada…slash Switzerland.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 10
- James 5
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 8
- Nick 4
- Penny 5
- Rory 1
- Wolfgang 12
Switzerland’s EBJ Jury score is…6.8
With a slightly above-average score for Switzerland locked in, that’s six more songs I can now file away under ‘Reviewed’. As you might have noticed, there wasn’t a massive difference of opinion between the three of us critiquing today – but survey those scores again, and you’ll see basically every number from 1-12 pop up at least once. That variety has left us with these results:
- Italy (9)
- Sweden (7.3)
- Switzerland (6.8)
- Cyprus (5.7)
- Georgia (5.3)
- Belarus (4.8)
Close, but not close enough! If you’ve forgotten the results of Part 1 (or have dropped by randomly and didn’t see them at all) then I can reveal that Francesca has failed to overtake France on the EBJ Top 43 table. But she’s topped this round of reviews, so that’s something – maybe I’ll send her a congratulatory card.
Next time, two British bloggers will join me to discuss Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and…San Marino (there’s SO much to say about San Marino). Feathers and curse words will (probably) fly, so you won’t want to miss that.
In the meantime, let us know what you think of our winner and of our losers. Do you agree that No Degree of Separation is a stunner, or are you anti-Italy this year? Is the Georgian entry just bonkers enough in your opinion, or way too cray-cray for your taste? If you’re thinking it, type it in the comments. My mother would really appreciate it.
It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life. After five Saturdays of frenetic and not-so-frenetic (in the case of After Dark) app voting, wanton wind machine usage, and results that made us say ‘Um…really?’, Melodifestivalen 2016 has reached its final stage…literally.
The traveling circus has set up shop in Stockholm (as Eurovision will in a matter of months) and the original line-up of 28 – if we’re including the booted Anna Book – has been narrowed down to 12 (presumably, the others have been fed to the lions by now). It is exciting, anticipating this imminent last installment, but it’s also depressing to imagine life after Sweden’s 2016 ESC entrant is named and famed. Seriously, what did we do in those dark days prior to Deltävling 1? I don’t know, but we’re going to have to start doing it again as of Sunday *sniffs pathetically with head buried in latest edition of Scan magazine*.
For now, though, let’s forget about things that are not Melfest-related, and focus on what’s ahead of us – i.e. things that ARE Melfest-related. When I say that, I mean it – I’m choosing to forgo discussing such things as 1) Australia’s second-ever adult ESC entry, and 2) Lithuania also selecting their song this evening, to give the Swedish selection the attention it deserves. I expect my honorary Swedish citizenship, hand-signed in glitter pen by Christer Björkman, to arrive in the post any day now.
As Ace Wilder would say, don’t worry – I’ll get back to Dami Im and (probably) Donny Montell in due course. But just nu, let’s preview and predict one of the greatest and most competitive Melfest finals in recent history!
- Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz
- My Heart Wants Me Dead by Lisa Ajax
- We Are Your Tomorrow by David Lindgren
- Kizunguzungu by SaRaha
- Human by Oscar Zia
- Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder
- Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
- Youniverse by Molly Sandén
- Put Your Love On Me by Boris René
- If I Were Sorry by Frans
- Save Me by Wiktoria
- Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor
That’s certainly a good-looking, good-listening programme. And that’s not even factoring in the star-powered interval act SVT have planned for us (more on that later). There are so many songs and acts I want to see succeed this evening, and only a few I wouldn’t be devastated to see fail. You can find out which are which without further ado. 3, 2, 1, review!
Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz
My verdict I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – these guys make me so happy, and all they have to do is exist (and ideally, release some music every now and then). It’s no surprise that I was jumping for joy when they emerged victorious from their Andra Chansen battle last weekend. Håll Om Mig Hårt is weaker than 2014’s Efter Solsken, but it’s still the same brand of effervescent, crowd-pleasing tropical pop, and there could be no better opener for tonight’s final. Will it win? Of course not. Will it even come close? Nope. But will we enjoy it whether we want to or not? Obviously.
My ranking 7th
Predicted ranking 12th
Would it work at Eurovision? No
My Heart Wants Me Dead by Lisa Ajax
My verdict Stringing toilet paper from the ceiling has never looked so glamorous! No, Lisa didn’t get the best of deals when SVT were budgeting to cover staging costs. But that doesn’t stop MHWMD from being a killer pop ballad performed with aplomb by Sweden’s 2014 Idol champ (marinated in on-trend metallics). I love everything about this song, bar the lack of more dynamic staging. Zara Larsson would be proud to have this track in her repertoire.
My ranking 6th
Predicted ranking 9th
Would it work at Eurovision? Yes
We Are Your Tomorrow by David Lindgren
My verdict David is the epitome of an Eric Saade-endorsed manboy. He’s adorable, in other words. But how he managed to go direkt yet again is a mystery to me, particularly when his song is just so…nice. Nice, competent and reasonably catchy, but nothing more. There’s no real substance to it, and it’s not going to be a contender now we’ve reached the pointy end of the comp. Sweden might have an affinity with this guy, but the international juries won’t – and even Swedish voters have the likes of Frans and Robin on hand to choose over David this time. Which is fine…I’m happy to console him when he fails miserably.
My ranking 11th
Predicted ranking 11th
Would it work at Eurovision? No
Kizunguzungu by SaRaha
My verdict Yes, this is Waka Waka + Aleo + Haba Haba in a tidy three minute capsule; and yes, despite the African overtones, it’s Swedish pop-by-numbers right down (or should I say, right up?) to the key change. But it’s also so high-energy and so much fun that I’m irresistibly drawn to it. Plus, I am yet to find a better word than ‘kizunguzungu’ emerge from 2016. You do give me kizunguzungu, SaRaha…as a result of too much DAMNED DANCING.
My ranking 9th
Predicted ranking 7th
Would it work at Eurovision? Yes
Human by Oscar Zia
My verdict Cards on the table: this is my favourite. And I can’t help thinking it would be the best Melfest-turned-Eurovision song Sweden could possibly pick tonight, even if there’s little to no chance they’ll actually pick it. Oscar isn’t the world’s best vocalist, but his charisma, the power of Human, and the Academy Award-worthy cinematography of his staging (camera shots have never been used so effectively) compensate for that. He looks like a 50s film star on stage, but the rest of his entry is totally contemporary – and together, it’s a magic combo. Still, it’ll be a miracle of Paula and Ovi proportions if he manages to win.
My ranking 1st
Predicted ranking 8th
Would it work at Eurovision? Yes
Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder
My verdict Way back when Ace was the outright favourite to win Melfest, I wanted to love her comeback entry so I wouldn’t mind when she walked away with the victory. A lot has changed since then, including the fact that there’s a new kid on the block who’s likely to pip her at the post. What hasn’t changed is my attitude towards Ace herself – I still find her as unlikable as I did in 2014, when she was the devil to Sanna’s angel as they both perched on Melfest’s padded shoulders. I do, however, love Don’t Worry. But I don’t think it’s a winner. Simple as that.
My ranking 8th
Predicted ranking 2nd
Would it work at Eurovision? Yes
Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
My verdict It’s apt that Robin sings ‘You’re a star’ in the chorus of Constellation Prize (I still can’t wrap my head around that title) because he was the star of semi final one. Armed with a harmonica that he was definitely playing *wink* and eyes that could convince me to do pretty much anything (one lingering look, and I’d beat Frans to robbing a bank and the post office too), Robin charmed us all then, and he’ll be doing the same tonight. I hope he nabs a great result, if topping the table is out of the question (which is isn’t, necessarily). If he can hypnotise the international juries with those peepers, AND rank highly with the Swedish public, he could be the second Robin to represent Sweden on home soil. Stranger things have happened.
My ranking 2nd
Predicted ranking 3rd
Would it work at Eurovision? Yes
Youniverse by Molly Sandén
My verdict Molly can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. She is flawless, and proved it when she put in a final-worthy performance a few weeks back. Granted, Youniverse is not the landslide-win type of song I was expecting given that Molly and her man-candy Danny Saucedo co-wrote it, but it still kicks butt. This is a tough year, and it will be an uphill struggle rather than an easy stroll for Molly to take it out. I’d be ecstatic if she did, but she might need to try a few more times to find the perfect formula – and/or drop by when the competition’s not so fierce.
My ranking 3rd
Predicted ranking 4th
Would it work at Eurovision? Yes
Put Your Love On Me by Boris René
My verdict Whether in a little box or a litter box (once you’ve heard that, you can’t un-hear it) Boris has my heart for sure. This is my jam of the year so far, and I’m stoked we get to experience the pure joy of it once again in the final. Proving that you don’t need showy staging to have get places, Boris uses the fancy footwork from his football past to full advantage, and that helps make him a worthy participant tonight. I’m sad to say that he’ll probably end up in the bottom six of the twelve – but he should be proud to have made a successful Melfest debut, and in doing do, put a smile on the face of everyone who isn’t a soulless robot. Go ahead, Boris – putcha love on me!
My ranking 5th
Predicted ranking 10th
Would it work at Eurovision? No
If I Were Sorry by Frans
My verdict If we’re destined to have a runaway winner, it will be Frans. Having topped the Spotify and Sverigetopplistan charts and been the odds-on favourite since his semi performance, he’s on the right track to outwit, outplay and outlast much bigger names, which I’m quite pleased about (it makes Melfest less predictable in a way, and means it’s still a launching pad for relative unknowns/former child stars). There is a charm and authenticity to If I Were Sorry – an air of ‘no, we’re not trying too hard for once’ – that we last saw in Robin Stjernberg’s You, and that makes it dangerous. I know it’s not hugely popular outside of Sweden, but I think it will be a cool choice if it does what’s expected. But…will the non-Swedish jury members warm to it, or just think ‘WTF?’.
My ranking 4th
Predicted ranking 1st
Would it work at Eurovision? Yes
Save Me by Wiktoria
My verdict Contrary to IIWS, Save Me is all about what happens to/on Wiktoria on stage. The girl is an amazing singer, and I want her hair chopped off and glued to my scalp stat (in a non-creepy way) but without those incredible body projections, she would need someone to save her. Don’t get me wrong – I am a fan of this song (it’s the kind of thing I imagine Taylor Swift would have been releasing right now if she’d remained within the realms of country music). But I’d be far less keen to sit through it if Wiktoria simply stood and sung, sans the series of projections. With those in her corner, I’m expecting her to debut successfully by squeezing into the top 5.
My ranking 10th
Predicted ranking 5th
Would it work at Eurovision? Yes
Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor
My verdict I’m happy to hear that these boys will be as close to nakna as possible on primetime television tonight. Why not venture all the way down Trash Avenue? After all, it would be un-Samir & Viktor-like to show restraint (and not nipples). These two are the weakest singers in the field, and Bada Nakna is no Groupie. As a result, they won’t be heading back to Stockholm for ESC purposes unless they’re hitting up the Euroclub. That’s expressly why we should just sit back and enjoy the final song to be performed tonight…in all its moist, shirtless, pantless glory.
My ranking 12th
Predicted ranking 6th
Would it work at Eurovision? No
Okay…so that likely took you as long to read as it will take the Mello final to start, happen and finish. But that’s SVT’s fault for having so many songs competing. In summary, my predicted scoreboard (minus any actual scores, because I don’t want to make that much of a fool of myself) looks like this:
- Samir & Viktor
I do think that ultimately, Frans will be our winner for 2016. But his is not necessarily an open-and-shut case kind of victory like Måns’ of twelve months ago. Back then, MZW had the sort of mass appeal that won him both the international jury vote and the televote. But in 2014, Sanna Nielsen placed second in the jury vote and won the televote; and in 2013, Robin Stjernberg did the opposite, winning the jury vote and placing second with the Swedish public. My point is (yes, I have one!) that Frans will most likely win the televote, but if he’s placed second or lower with the juries, he may not win the whole shebang. It’s hard to guess which act the juries would opt for instead, but you could argue that the likes of Ace, Robin, Molly and Oscar have more mass appeal, and might be more easily “gotten” by non-Swedes. And if the points/percentages are right, we could see a close call feat. Frans with a metaphorical silver medal round his neck.
So who, if anyone, has the best chance of toppling the favourite? Ace or Robin, with Wiktoria as an outsider. I’d love to say that Oscar – my main Melfest man – could hit the heights required to score an ESC ticket, but it seems there’s too much in the way (third time lucky in 2018, perhaps?). There really are a ton of great songs in this final, and too few top five places (five, funnily enough) to be allocated accordingly. Samir & Viktor should come last in my opinion, but they won’t. Any other act really doesn’t deserve that dishonour. I’ve predicted Panetoz because, as wonderful as they will be as the show’s opening act, I think the fun will fizzle out come voting time when Swedish voters get serious (and I don’t think the juries will rank them particularly highly either). I get the impression they’ll just be happy to be there, having made it this far though.
What do you think? Are there some shocks and surprises in store for us in Sweden, or will Melfest turn out to be massively predictable after all? Place your bets, people!
Now, to finish off, I’m going to bask in the ambience of Europe’s most epic NF for a little longer as I identify what I’m most looking forward to seeing and hearing in Friends Arena in a few hours’ time:
- Oscar Zia in action I haven’t laid eyes on his kick-ass performance since his semi-final (though I have snuck in a few plays of Human in studio) so I’m dying to see it again. I do think we’re human, and I would like to take a look once again, Oscar.
- Molly lost in her Youniverse Because who wouldn’t want to watch the Mollmeister do what she does best and generally be all of our beauty and talent goals in flesh-and-blood form? Anyone else also hoping Danny will show his beautiful face on this occasion?
- Lynda Woodruff’s triumphant return SHE’S BACK! I can’t get enough of Sarah Dawn Finer, as herself or in character as the EBU’s most incompetent employee. The big question is, will she work in a mention of Azerjaiben?
- The Melfest medley of a lifetime SDF again. Magnus Carlsson. Nanne Grönvall. Anton Ewald. BWO. These are just some of the artists from Melfests of yesteryear who’ll be taking to the stage to reprise their entries while we wait for the votes to be tallied. I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT. Interval acts don’t usually have me peeing my pants at the prospect of witnessing them, but this one’s different. Sorry for the over-share.
- The moment vi har ett resultat I don’t want to hear Gina Dirawi utter that phrase for the last time, but I do want to suffer through the agony of the voting sequence. Remember, it’s the kind of process we’ll be seeing at Eurovision, so think of the drawn-out tension as a dress rehearsal for May.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand I’m done. There is more I could say on the subject of M to the E to the L to the O to the…well, you get the idea. But then I’d need to print it, bind it and market it as serious bedtime reading, and that’s too much hassle.
Speaking of bedtime…I’d better go have my last pre-Melfest power nap. I might see you on Twitter later for the main event, but if not, enjoy your Saturday whether you’re watching Melfest, watching Lithuania’s Eurovizijos (?) or doing something else entirely (???). We have so few Eurovision entries left to be picked/premiered, so let’s hope we get a few great ones tonight!
Until next time,
A (Final) Supersized Serving of Scandipop: My Top 50 Melodifestivalen Entries, 2006-2015! (The Top 10)
Meghan Trainor might be all about that bass, but me? I’m more about that Melodifestivalen. The search for Måns Zelmerlöw’s successor began on Saturday, with Ace Wilder (predictably) and Robin ‘Bedroom Eyes’ Bengtsson going direkt till final, and the duos of Albin and Mattias/Samir and Viktor heading off to Andra Chansen. Melfest has certainly started on a good note (if I may make a musical pun without you throwing yourself through the nearest window), but I suspect the show’s best is yet to come. That makes me even more excited to set my next super-early Sunday alarm, so bring it, SVT!
Speaking of which…I’m doing a bit of ye olde ‘bringing’ myself today. But rather than bringing you two hours of camp, poptastic entertainment feat. several glorious utterances of the phrase ‘Sverige, vi har ett resultat’, I’m FINALLY bringing you the conclusion to my Melfest Top 50 countdown. I guess I can still say ‘Vi har ett resultat’ – it’s just that the resultat in this case is my Top 10 from 2006-2015.
Forty other Melfest entries from that period have graced my list so far. In case you’ve forgotten which, here’s a recap:
- #11 Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
- #12 Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandén (2012)
- #13 This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
- #14 In The Club by Danny Saucedo (2011)
- #15 Try Again by Dilba (2011)
- #16 My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (2011)
- #17 Keep On Walking by Salem Al Fakir (2010)
- #18 Efter Solsken by Panetoz (2014)
- #19 Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (2015)
- #20 Echo by Outtrigger (2014)
- #21 Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt (2012)
- #22 Empty Room by Sanna Nielsen (2008)
- #23 Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (2011)
- #24 Baby Goodbye by EMD (2009)
- #25 Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (2014)
- #26 Alla by Sofia (2009)
- #27 Like Suicide by Christian Walz (2011)
- #28 Temple of Love by BWO (2006)
- #29 The Boy Can Dance by Afro-Dite (2012)
- #30 Där Och Då Med Digby Emelie Irewald (2015)
- #31 Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
- #32 Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (2014)
- #33 Living To Die by Andreas Johnson (2015)
- #34 One By One by Elize Ryd and Rickard Söderberg (2015)
- #35 Red by EKO (2014)
- #36 Möt Mig I Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson (2015)
- #37 Around The World by Dr. Alban and Jessica Folcker (2014)
- #38 Bröder by Linus Svenning (2014)
- #39 I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (2015)
- #40 För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson (2015)
- #41 Falling by State of Drama (2013)
- #42 Sean Den Förste Banan by Sean Banan (2012)
- #43 Hello Goodbye by Tone Damli and Erik Segerstedt (2013)
- #44 Begging by Anton Ewald (2013)
- #45 Stormande Hav by Timoteij (2012)
- #46 Stay The Night by Alcazar (2009)
- #47 Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (2015)
- #48 Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette (2015)
- #49 På Väg by Abalone Dots (2012)
- #50 Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2015)
Och nu, without further ado, here is…
#10 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012)
The overwhelming fan favourite of Melfest 2012 may have been Loreen, but personally, I have more of a soft spot for Miss Miskovsky (among other 2012 alumni). I know, I know – I’m a terrible person, and I’ve just bought myself a one-way ticket to Eurovision purgatory as punishment. But before you consider dropping any atomic glitter bombs on my head, hear me out. I know as well as you do that Euphoria was the right representative for Sweden at Eurovision in Baku, and it’s definitely one of my all-time favourite winning songs. But when I look/listen back at Melfest that year, I find that there’s something about the guitar-driven, electro-tinged Why Start A Fire? – something ethereal and otherworldly – that hits me right in the goosebump generator (wherever that is). Euphoria never achieved quite the same thing. Lyrically intriguing and melodically stunning, Lisa’s self-penned entry had me hypnotised from the first time I heard it in full. Its place on this list is a declaration of love it deserves.
#9 | Mystery by Dead By April (2012)
When Outtrigger’s Echo popped up in part two of this countdown, I told you guys I had a thing for Melfest rock. As you can see, I wasn’t kidding. I’m not saying I adore everything about Echo or Mystery (the throat-stripping screams in each track are far from being my cup of tea) but…come to think of it, the screaming is the only thing I’m not a fan of. Mystery made a big impact on me when DBA took on Melfest, and not just because I had an obsessive crush on lead singer (at the time) Zandro (and his tattoos). The song is well-written and was well-performed, with Zandro’s clear-cut vocals contrasting nicely with Stoffe Andersson’s death growls (‘death growls’ = a phrase I never expected would be defined for me by Melodifestivalen). There’s both vulnerability and aggressiveness to be heard here, and that makes for a dynamic listening experience. When you want to rock out, AND lament a lost love or a Netflix-related neck injury (for example) at the same time, Mystery is the perfect outlet.
#8 | You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
Just thinking back to the days when Robin became the first Melfest winner to detour through Andra Chansen has happy tears moistening my eyes – so take everything I’m about to say with a grain of sentimentality. You was one of the most authentic, least forced winners Melodifestivalen has ever crowned. It wasn’t a formulaic cookie-cutter pop song trying desperately to come out on top – it was just one man + a pleasantly subdued neutral palette + a touching-but-not-cloying tribute + THAT VOICE. Oh, and a fire curtain. And all of that ended up creating an unexpected champion, via the most magical voting sequence ever recorded on film. Robin’s win felt so right. You is a song that builds and then builds some more, rising from a solid foundation of acoustic guitar and soft vocals to an explosive (literally, when you consider that fire curtain) conclusion, preceded by a show-stopping note from Robin that declared ‘I’m a contender!’. And shattered glassware from the north to the south of Sweden. It may not have shattered any records at Eurovision, but it will always be one of my most-loved host entries.
#7 | Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (2014)
Aaaaand BOOM (boom boom boo-boo-boom) – just like that, you can say goodbye to sentimentality, and hello to my completely superficial love for a song about sex. Lyrical content such as ‘shoes off in the driveway, shirts off in the doorway, pants off in the hallway’ isn’t exactly the height of sophistication and significance, but it doesn’t have to be when a song’s this catchy. It wasn’t until I heard the Bedroom snippet prior to Melfest 2014’s first semi that I thought ‘THIS is what I’m talking about. THIS is why I devote all the time I’m not thinking about Eurovision to thinking about Sweden’s preselection.’ Because when I’m not weeping into a copy of SCAN Magazine over the raw beauty of a power ballad, I’m dancing wildly in my Bedroom to stuff like this. Alvaro suffers from Eric Saade Syndrome – he’s not a great live vocalist, but he can bust a move and churn out chart hits with ease. His Melfest entry was made for the dance floor, and is basically three minutes of proof that Swedish songwriters should continue to be in constant global demand.
#6 | Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson (2012)
Is there any genre that doesn’t sound sensational i Svenska? The first non-English number in my top 10 is also an R & B song, and I don’t reckon it would have made an appearance at all if it’d been sung in English by ex-EMD member Mattias. Förlåt Mig (‘Forgive Me’) is so slick and well-produced in studio, it couldn’t quite live up to itself live (I’m convinced that those Kate Ryan light sabers are a bad-luck charm) which may explain why it didn’t progress past its semi. Or perhaps I’m just the only person on the planet who thinks it’s the shiz, and should have at LEAST made it to Andra Chansen. If I had to single out one thing I really commend about this song, it would be the way it manages not to repeat itself, in spite of its straightforward sstructure. What I mean by that (because that made zero sense) is, while the verses and the chorus and that other bit before the final chorus *forgets everything she was taught about song construction in music class* together form a cohesive whole, they’re all unique. This isn’t a ‘heard half of it, heard all of it’ kind of song – and that, combined with its general awesomeness, gets my fist bump of approval.
#5 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
There are two kinds of people: those who think Sanna was handed a pity win after her seventh attempt to take home the Melfest trophy; and those who think the time was right because she won with her strongest contribution to the competition. There are no prizes for guessing which camp my tent’s pitched in. I have been besotted with Undo from the moment I met it, and I firmly believe it to be one of Melfest’s – and Eurovision’s – greatest-ever ballads. Helping that mindset along is the fragility Sanna conveyed during each and every performance of the song. Thanks to her crystal-clear voice that is seemingly expelled at the push of a button (I think it’s on the back of her neck, like those Barbie dolls that have “growing” hair), she didn’t really have to focus on nailing her vocal. What she could focus on was making us believe her heartbreak was as fresh in Denmark as it had been during Deltävling 2 back in Sweden. And that, my friends, is what made for the dictionary definition of ‘spine-tingling’ produced by Undo. That and THE MOMENT!!! before the second chorus, which sent the wow factor shooting straight into the stratosphere.
#4 | Kom by Timoteij (2010)
Do you ever just sit and think about all of the things you’d never have discovered if it wasn’t for Melodifestivalen? No? Well, I do. And one of the main things I think about is the glorious girl band Timoteij. Their signature blend of Celtic instrumentals and Europop has led to a string of hits, and it all started with Kom (‘Come’, in case you didn’t see that Kom-ing). If this song is any indication, then Swedish-born ethno-pop can totally hold its own against the Armenian/Spanish/Turkish equivalents. The iconic opening riff ignites a sense of mystery that carries on through the rest of the song, interwoven with a pulsing, toe-tapping beat. The chorus is simple, but so effective; the melody is irresistible; and the ubiquitous key change arrives at the perfect moment. And that rolecall of redeeming features doesn’t even take into account the power of Timoteij harmonies (which, when on point, could poke a hole in a house brick). Even in a super-strong Melfest final, it’s hard (for me) to believe this finished fifth, and not higher.
#3 | Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012)
This track, co-written and performed by Peter Pan Ulrik for his Melfest debut (he’d go on to try way too hard to win the following year, only to end up 3rd again) was THE arena anthem of 2012 – if we’re talking down-tempo arena anthems, as the up-tempo trophy obviously goes to Loreen and her Euphoria. Heavy on instruments – guitars, drums, and a harmonica that gave an authentic bluesy feel to a polished pop song – it relied on sincerity and sing-along power (plus that angelic, seemingly prepubescent face of Mr. Munther’s), rather than flashiness, to harness votes. Remind you of anything? Say, Melfest 2016’s freshly-qualified Constellation Prize? It should. Soldiers is such a great song in all aspects of song…ness (songery?). The melody is memorable, the structure makes for a smoothly-navigated but not-too-predictable three minutes, and the lyrics have substance (but not so much that I have no idea what the manboy in the flat cap is on about). In an epic edition of Melfest, this was my standout entry.
#2 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (2014)
(No decent videos of this performance appear to be available on Youtube, y’all. Apologies.)
There are certain songs that I gravitate towards because they’re catchy. Then, there are those that make me feel all the feelings that tend to give one goosebumps. Relatively unknown prior to his Melodifestivalen debut, Josef Johansson provided us with a song that was the best of both worlds – a total tune, and a heartstring-puller. That’s what makes Hela Natten (‘All Night’) magic. No, it didn’t get anywhere in its semi, but it left an impression on me that has outlasted the impression left by any other participating songs from 2014 that did progress. The song’s build-up to explosive moments is stellar, ensuring the chorus packs punch whenever it pops up. And the introduction of a choir during the last thirty seconds or so was inspired, giving Josef the vocal support he needed to make the final stretch of the song bigger and (almost) better than the rest. I also credit this song for kick-starting my fangirling of Josef’s subsequent releases, like Blickar Kan Mörda, which was completely different to Hela Natten – i.e. a true testament to Josef’s artistic versatility.
And now, after two previous installments of Scandipop-oriented gushing, and my #10-#2 countdown above, it’s time to say hej to what is probably a rather predictable number one.
My favourite Melodifestivalen entry from 2006-2015 is…
#1 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin (2010)
YEAH IT IS! If you’ve read virtually any of my past posts, you’ll know that ’04 Idol runner-up Darin is my personal pinnacle of popstardom. He’s a bit of a musical chameleon, and I’ve loved every stage of his career – his folksy phase of 2015/16, for instance, has seen me flog his latest album Fjärilar I Magen like my life depends on it. When Darin decided to give Melfest a go in 2010, he was in more of a power ballad phase, and that’s how he came to be partnered with You’re Out of My Life. If Sanna’s Undo is the female ballad to end all other female ballads, then YOOML is its male counterpart. I can’t even describe in detail why I love it as much as I do (you’ll be relieved to learn) – it’s just undying, could-listen-to-it-on-repeat-forever love. So if you don’t understand why I even find this song listenable, and you head down to the comments to say so, don’t expect me to emerge from my love bubble long enough to notice. The rose-coloured glasses have been super-glued to my face by the magnificence of Darin’s attempt to get to Eurovision.
Okay…so that was the written equivalent of the London Marathon. If you crossed the finish line, congratulations. If you just scrolled down to see how lengthy this post was and swiftly thought ‘As if!’ upon finding out, here’s what you missed:
- #1 You’re Out of My Life by Darin (2010)
- #2 Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (2014)
- #3 Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012)
- #4 Kom by Timoteij (2010)
- #5 Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
- #6 Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson (2012)
- #7 Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (2014)
- #8 You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
- #9 Mystery by Dead By April (2012)
- #10 Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012)
What are your thoughts on my Top 10? Would any of this back-catalogue Melfest music make your shortlist? If not, which entries would? If you’ve got something to say, I’m hanging out to hear it.
While I’m waiting for your words, I’ll be figuring out how to handle the upcoming Super Saturday – one that makes the six-show evening just gone seem sedate by comparison. Join me on the weekend to see if the stress sent me into meltdown mode, leaving me unable to string a sentence together; or if I managed to rank, review and predict in spite of the pressure. If Laura Tesoro is still wondering what the pressure is, somebody had better tell her that it’s THIS FREAKIN’ SATURDAY.
Until THIS FREAKIN’ SATURDAY…
Hej there! With a brief break between semi allocation draws, slogan/logo (slogo?) announcements and national finals upon us, there’s finally time for me to continue the countdown of my favourite Melfest entries ever…excluding all editions of the show between 1959 and 2005. As I mentioned in part one, narrowing the possible picks down to those performed within a ten-year period is hard enough – there’s no way I was going to put myself (or you) through the ordeal of compiling an all-time Top 50. So here we are, at the penultimate point of my 2006-2015 version: #30-#11.
Once again, I’ve made a playlist of all the tracks featured below, if you want to check that out. If you just want some method to justify the madness, then read on as I reveal…
#30 | Där Och Då Med Dig by Emelie Irewald (2015) This one flew under the radar at Melodifestivalen 2015, finishing in an unfortunate sixth place in the second semi. That was unsurprising when you consider that the main talking point of the entry, pre-show, was Emelie’s status as ex-girlfriend of Danny Saucedo (perhaps association with him is a bad luck charm? BREAK THE CURSE, MOLLY SANDÉN!). Even I was more interested in that gossip than the possibility that her song could be anything special. But come performance time, failure to qualify and all, Där Och Då Med Dig (There and Then With You) had me hypnotised. Haunting, melancholy in an intriguing manner and refreshingly subdued, it left a real impression on me – even though I was yet to Google Translate the lyrics at that point (if you haven’t, spoiler alert: they’re heartbreaking).
#29 | The Boy Can Dance by Afro-Dite (2012)
#28 | Temple of Love by BWO (2006) Now we’re getting vintage (according to the parameters of this list, at least)! BWO had many a shot at representing Sweden at Eurovision – four, to be exact. But Temple of Love was the song that resulted in their most successful attempt. I’m in total agreement with that stat, because I reckon it was by far their best entry of the lot. It’s not lyrically substantial, á la Emelie’s song, but that’s not what BWO do best. Schlager-influenced dance bangers that get butts moving are their forte, and Temple of Love is nothing if not one of those. It’s up-tempo, infectious and a ton of fun – not to mention epic to sing along to when you may or may not be a teeny bit drunk (don’t ask me how I know that).
#27 | Like Suicide by Christian Walz (2011)
#26 | Alla by Sofia (2009) Melodifestivalen 2012 would bring us traditional Greek sounds combined with Swedish-language lyrics in the form of OPA!’s Allting Blir Bra Igen…but back in ’09, we got Greek on Greek – with some rock thrown in for good measure – from Sofia (who is Swedish, but just has a thing for Greece. As an Australian with a thing for Sweden, I ain’t gonna pass judgment). And, pardon the pun, this song really does rock. I love how high-intensity it is, how much energy it whips up despite being mid-tempo, and how great the Greek (as odd as it was to hear in the Melfest line-up) sounds over music that’s traditional-meets-modern. Sofia comes across as the ultimate power woman when she belts out the anthem that is Alla, and I want to join the army that I assume she started up back then. How does ‘Private Jaz, reporting for duty!’ sound?
#25 | Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (2014)
#24 | Baby Goodbye by EMD (2009) You guys know how much I love boy bands – so, when the swarthy Swedish trio known individually as Erik, Mattias and Danny hit up Melfest, I was in my element. Featuring the success guarantee that is whistling, a thumping mid-tempo beat, and a structure that allows each member of the group to have a solo moment, Baby Goodbye sums up everything that was great about Melodifestivalen as the 2000s drew to a close. It’s slick, catchy, a little retro, and boasts the kind of killer chorus that can make you forget you’ve heard plenty of similar songs in the past (because you’re so focused on singing along enthusiastically, you can’t think about anything else).
#23 | Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (2011)
#22 | Empty Room by Sanna Nielsen (2008) Six years and two further entries away from FINALLY representing Sweden at Eurovision, Sanna had a crack with what is arguably one of the best ballads ever associated with…well, anyone or anything (yes, I am prone to exaggeration). The Rapunzel-esque hairdo didn’t do our girl many favours, but nobody tackles an emotional, piano-driven, heartstring-tugger like she does. Dressed in the post-breakup colour of choice and relying on nothing but her pipes to impress, Sanna sang her way to second place with a song that is just as dynamic – and just as effective as a vehicle for her voice – as Undo. Do I prefer Empty Room to Undo, then? Well, you’ll have to wait and see. I will say that it is, without doubt, up there with the best of her seven entries.
#21 | Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt (2012)
#20 | Echo by Outtrigger (2014) Yes, you read that right. Hard rock is hard to come by in Melfest, but when it does make an appearance, I tend to gravitate towards it like a moth to an aggressive, head-banging flame. This song allows me to let out all of my frustrations, which include but are not limited to La Voix making it to the ESC in 2009, and people being mad at Sweden for winning the contest last year instead of being mad at the scoring system. But Echo isn’t just three minutes of screaming and general noise – there is a cracking tune that accompanies all of the guitar-shredding. Rock on (a phrase only uttered by people who do not do so on a regular basis)!
#19 | Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (2015)
#18 | Efter Solsken by Panetoz (2014) I love Panetoz’ Melfest debut for the same reason I love their first major hit Dansa Pausa – because it’s what sunshine and happiness and rainbows would sound like if they went on a vacation together to a tropical island. Everything about this track makes me smile, from the irresistible beat, to how adorable Swedish sounds layered over it. Sometimes I like my music to be deep and meaningful and angst-ridden; but when I don’t, I turn to stuff like this and think to myself ‘Hakuna matata!’. The fun and escapist nature of this group’s music makes me very excited to hear their entry for 2016.
#17 | Keep On Walking by Salem Al Fakir (2010)
#16 | My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (2011) Record-breaking, game-changing Euphoria has already made it onto this list, which may surprise you whether you’d forgotten or not. That’s right – I have a higher regard for the song that initially introduced us to Loreen (assuming we missed the 2004 season of Idol Sverige) than her Melfest/Eurovision winning one…though I love them both. I think MHIRM is a little more interesting and a little less straightforward (genre-wise) than Euphoria. It seamlessly blends elements of electro, dance and disco music to produce something that is poppy, but has a definite edge. And you’ve got to give props to Loreen for pulling off the ‘I stopped by Sesame Street, skinned a Muppet and am now wearing it as a coat’ trend.
#15 | Try Again by Dilba (2011)
#14 | In The Club by Danny Saucedo (2011) I’ve always thought that Mr. Molly Sandén tried too hard to win on his second solo shot at Melfest – meaning that Amazing, while impressive, didn’t 110% live up to its title. I much prefer Danny’s first foray in the comp without the E and the M of EMD by his side. Not only did In The Club perfectly illustrate how the guy can sing and dance simultaneously without letting one or both skills suffer as a result (not something you can say about his vanquisher Eric Saade) but it also had super crowd-pumping power. Unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure of moonwalking to this in a club (Swedish pop>mindless trance, but too few playlist programmers are aware of that). However, I have done it up and down each hallway in my house, and it was an awesome party for one, let me tell you! #tragicandiknowit
#13 | This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
#12 | Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandèn (2012) I’ll keep this short and sweet, since I’ve already professed my love for WAIC in a Melfest Monday post. Molly’s one of many returnees to the Swedish NF this year, and she’s going to have to go above and beyond to equal the magnificence of Why Am I Crying? I’m confident she can do it, what with her recent releases being the bomb and all. But I’ll always have a room in my heart rented out to her 2012 entry, due to its display of emotional fragility AND strength, touches of tinkling piano, and steady build to an explosive final chorus well worth waiting for.
#11 | Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
The Melodifestivalen/Eurovision reigning champ brings us to the end of this Scanditastic™ episode of the countdown, sadly (or not, depending on the level of enjoyment you derived from reading my ramblings). The most important installment is still to come, and it won’t be immediately – there’s some NF nattering to do first. So, to save all of your fingernails from being bitten off in suspense, I’ll drop some hints about my Top 10. Guess some or all of the featured songs/acts, and I’ll honour you with your own personal round of applause!
- The Top 10 features Melfest entries from 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. More specifically, two from 2010; four from 2012; one from 2013; and three from 2014.
- Two bands are included – one all male, the other all female. They’ve got VERY different sounds, but they’re both instrumentally inclined. My top 3, however, is made up purely of soloists.
- Two Melfest winners – and therefore, Eurovision entries – made the final cut.
- How my Top 10 placed (if they made it to their respective finals): #10 = 9th, #9 = 7th, #8 = 1st, #7 = DNQ, #6 = DNQ, #5 = 1st, #4 = 5th, #3 = 3rd, #2 = DNQ, #1 = 4th
Now’s the time for you to prep your own Melfest Top 10, if you’re keen on counting down with me. If you’re extra, EXTRA keen, I välkommen your #30-#11 lists in the comments below. Do we have any picks in common, or am I the only one with decent taste in music?
JK. I have terrible taste in music. And I’m totally okay with that.
See you sometime before Spain make their selection for Stockholm!