Greetings, guys! Here we are again, staring down the barrel of the glitter-filled cannon that is another Super Saturday (a phrase meaning nothing to non-Eurofans but so much to the rest of us). NF action on the agenda tonight is coming live from:
- Hungary (A Dal final)
- Latvia (Supernova final)
- Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 7)
- Moldova (O Melodie Pentru Europa final)
- Slovenia (EMA final)
- Sweden (Melodifestivalen semi 4)
- Ukraine (Vidbir final)
Yes, you read that right – we get not one, not two, not three, not even four, but FIVE (bet you didn’t see that coming) Eurovision entries this evening. That’s in addition to the last standard Melfest semi before the Stockholm final; and another heat in the long, long, loooooong line of Lithuanian Eurovizija episodes (will it ever end?).
As I have to be picky, I’m shining my conversational spotlight on Sweden and Ukraine only for this post – but before that, let’s take a look at the results/song reveals from the week that was.
Finland finished off Saara Aalto’s song reveals on Friday (well, kind of…track three was actually leaked by UK media before YLE had a chance to go ‘Ta-da!’). Queens is the name, and another competent pop song is the game – but I’m not totally into playing. In my opinion – and please pardon the approaching pun – it’s third in line to the throne of being Finland’s 2018 ESC entry. I’m saying that before we’ve seen Saara smash the trio of songs out live on stage, of course, and when she does on March 3rd it could change everything. But for now, solely based on studio versions and video clips, it’s Monsters all the way for me. How about you?
We have a winner in Germany, and it comes in the form of Michael Schulte and You Let Me Walk Alone. A ballad not-so-subtly focused on the death of his dad, it’s engineered (in the nicest way possible) to be a tearjerker. Basically, it’s to music what The Fault In Our Stars is to cinema. But I either have dried-out tear ducts or a bitter, empty soul, because the song does zip to me. It’s pleasant – I feel that much – but I can’t see myself making the effort to vote for it in May. I can see a slightly better result than that achieved by Levina’s Perfect Life, but if Michael didn’t have German auto-finalist status in his corner, I’m not sure he’d qualify from a semi.
Anyone who was hoping for a Balkan ballad this year got it this week from Montenegro: yes, the same country that sent the iconic and super-sexual Slavko Kalezić to Kyiv. Vanja Radovanović and Inje couldn’t be more of a contrast to Slavko and Space (Vanja doesn’t even have a hair extension to whip around in a helicopter-like fashion…how will we cope?!?). It’s sombre and down-tempo, and not quite up there with a Željko Joksimović creation. Even so, I’m happy to have it add variety to the Lisbon line-up.
Serbia has gone full Serbian on us – which I welcome with open arms – and chosen Nova Deca by Sanja Ilić and Balkanika. This is the kind of song that popped up at contests circa 2004-2010, but I wouldn’t say it was dated – it’s more of an ultra-ethnic throwback to Eurovisions of the past. A fusion of modern and traditional sounds will usually get a gold star (or at least an approving nod) from me, but I think Nova Deca and I need to spend more time together to see what I’m prepared to give it. I’ve literally listened to it once!
Over in Sweden, Melodifestivalen proved it’s not always predictable by throwing a spanner in the works of everyone who thought Mendez and Dotter would walk the Malmö show (i.e. me). Jaws dropped worldwide as Dotter didn’t even make the first cut, Mendez only reached Andra Chansen alongside Moncho, and schlager reigned supreme (Christer Björkman’s worst nightmare) as Jessica Andersson became the first female to go direkt in 2018. Oh, and Martin Almgren made the final too (but I may have been asleep when that happened). This plot twist makes predicting the last semi final a tough task…in a first world kind of way.
Speaking of which, it’s time for me to talk more about Melfest (#seguechampion).
It’s hard to believe that we’re already approaching the pointy end of Melfest for the year. It’s been a lacklustre one to date, so there was one big question hanging in the air and being feverishly tweeted out by flabbergasted Eurofans: had the best songs been saved for last? There was, after all, one song in particular tucked away in heat 4 that was supposed to be The One.
So IS IT? *insert dramatic cliffhanger music here*.
- Icarus, Emmi Christensson
- Mitt Paradis, Elias Abbas
- Break That Chain, Felicia Olsson
- Fuldans, Rolandz
- Never Learn, Olivia Eliasson
- Every Single Day, Felix Sandman
- For You, Mariette
Overall, there are more songs I like in this semi than there have been in any of the others. But the best one (IMO) isn’t as good as the almost-best we’ve had in semis of past years – and that’s a good indication of a sub-standard Melfest. But it is what it is, so let’s focus on the positives for a while. Well, my positives.
My top 4
Mitt Paradis Cookie cutter tropical dance pop it may be, but that genre is a crowd-pleaser…and a Jaz pleaser. Elias is bringing the first of two Swedish-language songs to the table for this semi, and I prefer his by miles.
Break That Chain I’m calling this a guilty pleasure, because I feel like I shouldn’t like it since nobody else does. Sure, it could have been a mid-tempo lady ballad from any time between 2004-2013, but that’s part of the appeal. I was expecting Felicia to be starring in the sequel to Make Me No. 1 (her first Melfest entry from, coincidentally, another weak year) so props to her for surprising me.
Every Single Day Felix has gone from FO&O to Frans (ish) in the space of a year, and though I loved and still love Gotta Thing About You (in spite of some ridiculous lyrics), I’m impressed by how different this solo sound of his has turned out to be. I do feel like I need to hear the full song to decide whether it’s good or great, but the snippet is promising.
For You *cliffhanger music from earlier makes a comeback* So is Mariette 3.0 also Mariette, winner of Mello 2018? I’m not convinced. She’s already lost her top spot in the odds to Benjamin Ingrosso, which doesn’t bode well for a supposed runaway winner. Yet I do think For You is one of the best songs on offer tonight, and an almost-definite direkt qualifier. Extra points for not resembling Niamh Kavanagh’s It’s For You in the slightest.
So, who’s going direkt til final? Mariette + Rolandz. The former because it’s an easy prediction to make (then again, so was Mendez last week), and the latter because it’s something I don’t want to happen but can see happening á la Owe Thornqvist in 2017. If it’s not a cringeworthy man band joining Mariette in the final, it could be one of the solo boys – most likely Elias given Felix’s shock 6th place in the rehearsal audience poll.
And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Elias + Felix. I can’t bring myself to say that Felix might go nowhere and feel some of Dotter’s pain in the process, so AC it is (I am prepping for the worst though). If he slips further down, it might make way for Emmi or Olivia. BYE, FELICIA is sadly on the cards.
What do you think? Will a curveball be thrown again this week at Melfest, or are we back to knowing exactly what’s going to happen?
Flying east to Ukraine, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for…right? Yes or no, last year’s hosts are about to pick their song for Portugal. After two semis, six possibilities remain, and the standard is as high as the Vidbir finals of 2016 and 2017 (ICYMI, I thought those finals were awesome). It’s almost a do-over of last year anyway, with multiple familiar faces taking another shot at representing Ukraine.
- Beat of the Universe, Kadnay
- Lelya, Tayanna
- Heroes, The Erised
- Waiting, Laud
- Forest Song, Vilna
- Under The Ladder, Mélovin
Is there a dud here? I don’t think so.
My top 3
Lelya Tayanna’s I Love You from last year would have become one of my most beloved host entries ever, had she not come down with a super ill-timed, voice-ruining sickness. As far as I know she’s healthy this time round, and ready to deliver another flawless, sassy and energetic performance of Lelya, which shows off her incredible vocals without sounding like she’s having a screaming match with herself. The chorus of this song is catchy on an alarming level. 9/10.
Under The Ladder Like Tayanna, Mélovin has come back to Vidbir with a song that’s not as good as his last, but is still Eurovision-worthy. It’s his performance that really makes Under The Ladder something special, but the interesting lyrics and easy-to-chant-while-a-bit-drunk ‘oh-oh-oh’ bits make it a decent standalone song. 8/10.
Beat of the Universe This one’s more hardcore and unique than Lelya or Under The Ladder, and though I suspect it wouldn’t do as well at the ESC as they would, nothing else like it is likely to end up in Lisbon (which could give it an advantage). It’s a little bit Imagine Dragons and a little bit Marvel movie soundtrack. Those are good things, by the way. 7.5/10.
Thoughts on the rest
Heroes What, no leather pants or cartoon stick men with balloons? Shame. This Heroes is no Eurovision winner – and probably no Ukrainian representative either – but I can see/hear how it got this far. If the Vidbir final was an album, it’d be considered for a single release rather than kept back as filler. 7/10.
Waiting Like Heroes, this is not likely to be ESC-bound. I wouldn’t complain about Laud proving me wrong though, after my Tayanna/Mélovin grieving period was over. 7/10.
Forest Song I’d give this a solid 6/10, even though it’s my least favourite of the six. If Emmelie de Forest ate a special brownie from an Amsterdam coffee shop, Vilna and her musical stylings would be the result. 6/10 (as I said).
Who’s going to win this thing? O. Torvald were not on my radar this time last year, so I don’t want to assume anything…but Mélovin’s televote in his semi was substantial to say the least. Tayanna’s was surprisingly humble, and I don’t think any of the songs that haven’t competed against Under The Ladder yet are strong enough to beat it. The jury could shift things, obviously, and I can see Tayanna or Kadnay edging a win if they also grab a bigger percentage of the televote than before. But a lot has to work in their favour – and NOT in Mélovin’s – to make that happen. To sum up, I’m saying Mélovin will take it!
I’ve been pretty hit and miss this NF season with predictions (what else is new) so feel free to help me out in the comments. Who do think will go to Portugal on behalf of Ukraine, and who do you want to see get there?
NF UPDATE: What’s up next?
- 25/2 Armenia (Depi Evratesil final), Romania (Selecţia Naţională final)
- 27/2 San Marino (1in360 final)
That’s all I’ve got time for, folks (sad but true). I’ll be back next Saturday – hopefully with a less hasty post, having had about thirty seconds to put this one together – to review the latest highlights of the selection season and discuss the shows still to come, feat. big hitters Eesti Laul, UMK, Norsk MGP and Melfest (duh).
Right now though, I’m going to attempt to fit eight hours of sleep into the few hours left before my NF alarm goes off. FYI, I’ve set it to play Tamar Kaprelian’s Poison in tribute to what could have been a cracking piece of ethnopop among the Class of ’18. Sadface.
Just because national final season ended back in March doesn’t mean we should forget about it, right? After all, every year brings with it a fresh batch of boss music for us fans to add to our respective playlists, and the happy-dances danced as a result of that can last forever. AND this is all before Eurovision itself even begins! I think I speak for all of us when I say – as a totally unknown band called ABBA once said – thank you for the music, NF season.
There’s no better way to top off a thanks than with a top 10, in my opinion – so here we are. It might seem like I’m just crazy late in posting this countdown, but now is a good time to pay tribute to the 2017 selection season: firstly, because it’s Thursday and I’m a big supporter of #ThrowbackThursday (check my Instagram if you don’t believe me); and secondly, because it’s not long until the results of this year’s OGAE Second Chance Contest are revealed. It turns out that half of my favourite tracks from the recent run of national finals were chosen to compete in the SCC, so I guess I’m not as alternative as I thought. Damn.
The lone rule for this list? I only allowed myself to pick one song from any particular country – so you’re not about to see Melfest song after Melfest song. Keep reading to find out which Eurovision could-have-beens I fell in love with this season, and how I think they would have fared in Kyiv compared to the songs that actually ended up there. And don’t forget to share your personal favourite songs in the comments!
#10 | Two Faces by Michéle (Switzerland)
NF result 3rd, Die Entscheidungsshow
Is it better than Apollo? No, but…apples and oranges.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? Definitely not, though I like to think it would have been staged better than Apollo.
I’m sorry to have to say this, but I know I’m not the only one who’s come to expect a certain level of sub-standardness when reviewing the Swiss national finalists each year. 2017 was an exception in that the final bunch of songs – bar one – were actually more than mediocre. My favourite, Apollo aside, was pocket rocket Michéle’s Two Faces, which took me by surprise given how mod-pop it is. It’s not a perfect production, and my inner jury’s still out on whether the ‘sugar and salt’ analogy is good or awkward…but damn, this is catchy. And even though it does sound radio-friendly, I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.
#9 | Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrhjola (Finland)
NF result 8th, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu
Is it better than Blackbird? No, but again it’s hard to compare the two.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? Probably not.
If this song was sung in English (or Swedish), it would have been right at home in the Melodifestivalen line-up. That’s a big compliment from me meaning it’s a) slickly produced pop, b) minty-fresh radio material, and c) gets stuck in your head like it’s made of super glue. The fact that it’s in Finnish, though, further set it apart in the UMK field, and adds to the aloof kind of cool it projects. The fusion of country twang and electro sounds is very Avicii, and gives it an automatic x-factor. For me, it was the NF character that speaks its own language (literally) and has little hope of winning, but will inevitably end up on my selection season playlist. There’s at least one of those in every national final.
Watch the NF performance here.
#8 | I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer (United Kingdom)
NF result Unknown, Eurovision: You Decide
Is it better than Never Give Up On You? No, but it’s less of an identity-crisis song.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope.
You guys know mama loves her female power ballads (when they’re good ones…I am fairly discerning). Why do you think I was such an enthusiastic member of Team Denmark this year? Speaking of blonde powerhouse vocalists, here’s Holly Brewer, who sang the shiz out of the sensational PB that is I Wish I Loved You More. I can admit that this sort of song had its heyday circa 2007, but the genre never stopped floating my boat. I love that IWILYM promises to become something dynamic and explosive, and then delivers – first with big + bold choruses, then with that money note that you KNOW is coming, but it still packs a punch when it arrives. It’s a knockout (and so is Holly, on whom I have a raging girl crush).
#7 | Heart of Gold by BQL
NF result 2nd, EMA
Is it better than On My Way ? HELL YEAH!
Would it have done better in Kyiv? HELL YEAH!
BQL (made up of two musos who are apparently blood brothers…who’d have guessed?) broke hearts throughout the Euroverse when they failed to get Slovenia’s golden ticket in 2017 – Slovenia’s fault, obvs. Okay, so their live performance was a little rough around the edges, while Omar Naber’s was flawless (it was another Margaret/Michał Szpak situation). And Heart of Gold itself is a bit all-over-the-place as a song, needing a restructure and a revamp. But like everything created by Maraaya, it has SO much going for it. Simple but effective lyrics, and not one, but about five epic melodies, for example. If it had won EMA and undergone a pre-ESC facelift, wonderful things might have happened to a country that has now chosen two questionable entries in a row.
Watch the NF performance here.
#6 | One by Ida Una (Denmark)
NF result 2nd, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix
Is it better than Where I Am? Not according to moi.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? I have to say yes (but I don’t want to).
Here’s a prime example of the safe, sugary pop songs that dominate DMGP – and this one is actually about love and peace (I don’t know if Måns and Petra would approve or be appalled). I’m not normally a supporter of either cookie-cutter music or lame lyrics, but I have totally dug the vibe of Ida Una’s One since day one. The lyrics are the main drawback, because everything else is very Scandi-2017…and how about the insane singalong-ability of the chorus? It turns one word into ten syllables, making it a surefire hook without it being too simplistic. I was pretty convinced this track was going to Kyiv because it’s right up Denmark’s street, and I wouldn’t have minded that result since the song is right up my street too.
#5 | Places by Ulrikke (Norway)
NF result 4th, Melodi Grand Prix
Is it better than Grab The Moment? No, but it’s a close call.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? I think it would have finished just outside the top 10, so no.
I wouldn’t willingly swap Grab The Moment – one of my true ESC 2017 loves – for anything. But if I had to for some random reason, I’d have sent Ulrikke’s Places to Ukraine in a heartbeat. That’d be on the condition that Norway totally rethought the MGP staging of the song, which wasn’t nearly ‘tropical beach party WOOHOO’ enough. Places itself, though, is a JAM – a summer jam that I’m being forced to play in winter as I imagine being by the ocean. My buzzwords for this countdown have been ‘current’ and ‘catchy’, and I have to use them again to describe this because it has bucketloads of both. More so than Dansk MGP and Melodifestivalen, Norsk MGP tends to deliver on pop with a bit of edge, and pop that’s very now – not squeaky-clean, sugary or safe. Places is an excellent example of that, I reckon.
Watch the NF performance here.
#4 | Hold On by Nano (Sweden)
NF result 2nd, Melodifestivalen
Is it better than I Can’t Go On? In some ways, yes. In others, no.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope – I think it would have done the same thing.
As you may or may not know (have I mentioned it often enough? I’m not sure…) I was in the audience for the Melfest final this year – and holy Herreys, it was amazing! I didn’t quite get the happy ending I was hoping for, however, as someone supporting Nano rather than Robin. Don’t get me wrong (Bengtsson lyrical pun intended), Sweden NEVER puts a foot wrong at Eurovision IMO (2009 excepted). But Hold On gets to me in a goosebumpy way that the perfectly-polished I Can’t Go On never did. Maybe it’s because it seems more authentic, or because it’s more dynamic and powerful. Or maybe it’s just a cracking song that appeals a teensy bit more to my tastes. Whatever the case, I can’t help being disappointed that Nano was Sweden’s choice to go to Eurovision, but got pipped at the post anyway.
#3 | I Love You by Tayanna (Ukraine)
NF result 2nd, Vidbir
Is it better than Time? Absolutely.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? For sure, providing Tayanna’s throat was in full functioning order at the time.
There were a handful of massively missed opportunities during the 2017 selection season, and sadly, host country Ukraine was responsible for one of them. I can understand how it happened, though. The Ukrainian final was super strong, with Tayanna, Mélovin and Rozhden being my personal standouts – but Tayanna’s incredible power ballad (here I go again with the PB love) was the cream of the crop…prior to that final. Tragically, her vocal ability was compromised by some sort of illness when she needed it most, leading to a performance full of cringe-worthy moments. That’s not the performance above – I had to choose the video of Tayanna at her best since it helps me to daydream about how I Love You would have been one of the best and most wildly-applauded host entries of recent times. Oh, and how it would have given Ukraine a respectable result without forcing another fork-out of contest hosting funds.
#2 | Ouch! By LeKlein (Spain)
NF result 3rd, Objetivo Eurovisión
Is it better than Do It For Your Lover? Well, yeah. I’d say ‘What isn’t?’ but that would be unnecessarily cruel to Manel and also not technically true.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? You bet your butt it would have!
EPIC ERROR ALERT NO. 3!!! Call this a controversial call, but if Spain made any mistake at their NF this year (which they did, though when I say ‘Spain’ I mean the Objetivo judging panel) it wasn’t picking Manel over Mirela. It was leaving LeKlein in 3rd, which definitely made me say Ouch! She might not have been everybody’s cup of sangria, but I’m convinced Ouch! was the best option for Spain in 2017, and would have secured them a spot on the left side of the scoreboard (I can say that with authority because there’s no way of proving me wrong). This song is an anthem of rock-electro-pop proportions, with a sense of fun and a simple hook that would have been memorable in the Eurovision final for sure. Unless, that is, I’m the minority and everyone else would have seen an aggressive androgynous woman yelling at them down the camera for three minutes #possible.
Watch the NF performance here.
#1 | Deák by Spoon 21 (Hungary)
NF result DNQ (semi-final), A Dal
Is it better than Origo? It’s equally epic.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? No.
Funnily enough, I’m glad this song – my favourite find from the 2017 season – didn’t end up at the ESC. Spoon 21’s live performance just wasn’t up to scratch, and that was all to do with vocals. Hungary still would have sent my number one entry of the year if they’d sent Deák instead of Origo, but you’ll never catch me disputing Joci Pápai’s place in the contest. Still, as a song for listening to (ten times a day) Deák is superb. It’s the most K-pop sounding NF song I’ve ever heard, and I love it for that. It’s unique, infectious and gets a zillion cool points just by being in Hungarian. And speaking of cool points, I feel like a cooler person just listening to it – it’s a little bit hipster but mainstream enough to have mass appeal. All in all, it’s a kickass track that proves Spoon 21 – who entered A Dal 2015 with something completely different – isn’t a one-trick pony boy band.
Watch the NF performance here.
So, how did I do? Do you think any of these songs would have made better Eurovision entries than what we actually got? Which musical masterpieces from A Dal to Vidbir and every NF in-between got you excited this year? If you have something (nice) to say, say it in the comments box below J
I’d better go now – it’s time for daily listen no. 10 of Déak, and I can’t keep Spoon 21 waiting.