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IS IT TOO LATE FOR (SOME ESC FINAL) LOVE? Looking back at Tel Aviv’s Saturday show, at long last

Hi guys! Jaz here. Before I begin this post properly, I wanted to apologise for being so AWOL since Eurovision and for taking an Alekseev-esque forever to get this final review up. The only way it could have been later is if I posted it closer to the final of Eurovision 2020 – and believe me, that could easily have been the case. Thanks to a lot of life stuff (some good, some bad and some that kept me inconveniently busy) I’ve had to prioritise other things for the past four weeks, and I couldn’t be on the ball with post-ESC discussions which I’m sincerely sorry for. I’m also sorry to announce that, since too much time has passed and because I’m still under pressure, I won’t be able to hand out any Eurovision awards this year. I’ve done so in some form every single year since 2009, so I’m pretty sad about having to abandon them – but I am planning to bring them back bigger (SO MUCH BIGGER) and better next year. By then you’ll be looking at a new and improved EBJ, because at the moment I’m also working on a complete revamp/rebrand of the blog to coincide – more or less – with its 10th birthday (!!!). I felt that an extreme makeover was due, and I thought this was the perfect time to make it happen. Please stay tuned for the unveiling (a costume reveal of sorts) and don’t give up on me if you’ve enjoyed my contest-driven content in the past. I’m still here, planning exciting Eurovisiony things for the off season, and I’m always available to chat on my socials. Follow me everywhere and/or subscribe to EBJ in the sidebar, so you know when I’m back on track and when you can check out my kickass new look and layout! Now, back to today’s post…

 

BREAKING NEWS: I’m still alive! My excuse for taking so long to get this grand final review done is that I pushed everything non-ESC in my life aside in the contest lead-up (since I couldn’t concentrate on anything else). And so, after the show I sadly had to spend some time attending to stuff like going to work, paying my bills and interacting with other human beings.

But I’m back on the blog now, with a supersized look at what went down on May 18. This was the final from top to bottom, feat. the controversial aftermath that’s left the contest with some loose ends. Are you up for attempting to read the whole thing? If so, get comfortable, brew yourself a behemoth cup of coffee, and I’ll see you on the other side of this Eurovision 2019 tsunami of typing. Catch me down in the comments where we can talk about all things Tel Aviv…if there’s anything I haven’t already mentioned by then.

 

 

That’s how you start a show! The star-studded flag parade

I don’t know about you, but I love the now-traditional ESC final flag parade/artist parade/whatever you want to call it. It gives all of the acts a pressure-free moment in the spotlight to say hey to the crowd, have a dance break or wordlessly advocate the destruction of capitalism. You know, the usual.

This year there were plenty of non-competing stars involved too, i.e. Dana International, Ilanit and Netta (of course). But the best guest was Nadav Guedj. No longer a teenager but still looking 30 like he did in Vienna at age 16, he asked us to let him show us Tel Aviv IN Tel Aviv, and it was magical. Thanks to KAN for making all of our dreams come true by bringing him back. I just wish we could have had the full three minutes of Golden Boy, since Nadav is the self-proclaimed King of Fun and all.

 

 

The automatic finalists bring their A-game

Now, on to the filling of this song contest sandwich. It’s a blessing and a curse having your spot in the final secured, and it sometimes feels like the Big 5/host country don’t have the same fight of the countries that made it through semis. I was pretty impressed this year, though…mostly. The first auto-finalist to take the stage was Germany, followed by hosts Israel, then the UK, France, Italy and last but not least, Spain. My ranking of their performances from ‘HECK YES!’ to ‘hmm’ might surprise you.

Spain Why did I love this? How did the tacky two-storey house manage to work? Why did the giant puppet not-on-a-string amuse, not confuse me? It must be the sheer power of Miki, his biceps and La Venda. This whole performance was OTT and not at all how I would have played it – but it was fun, created a party atmosphere and closed off the show in classic Eurovision style.

France Speaking of OTT, France could have taken Chanel’s advice and taken one thing off before leaving the house (or in this case, dropped one element of their staging before taking it to Tel Aviv) but again, I didn’t mind that much. Bilal has sass, stage presence and style pouring out of him. Combine that with the poignance of his two dancers and the home video slotted in at the end, and you’ve got a memorable and moving performance.

Italy For me, this live didn’t quite do justice to Soldi as a song, but that’s because the song is so good it’s better heard and not seen (not that I mind looking at Mahmood for three minutes). I would have preferred more of a ‘Sacha Jean Baptiste Does Switzerland’ approach to the visuals: edgy camera cuts, a restricted colour scheme and that screen ratio that gives things a music video look. But this is Italy and they never completely miss the mark.

Israel Say what you want about the song (and the possibility of Kobi being Sacha Baron Cohen in disguise) but this was a very classy presentation from Israel. After the bonkers-ness of Toy, it was a nice contrast to see them pull off something serious and sophisticated. There weren’t any plot twists, but a song being staged exactly as it sounds like it should be isn’t a bad thing.

Germany Call me crazy, but my opinion of Sister changed for the (slightly) better after Carlotta and Laurita had done their thing. Against the odds and my better judgment, I genuinely liked what Germany did with their staging, simple as it was. Chemistry and vocals were top-notch. This was not the definite last place performance I was expecting. Lucky I didn’t bet on it!

The UK Michael’s performance might be my least favourite of the auto-finalists, but it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t anything special. It felt a bit half-baked as he wandered around the stage by himself for the first few minutes, and even when his backing singers materialised, it wasn’t a ‘wow’ moment.

 

 

Highlights of the first half

The honour of opening this year’s final went to Malta, which was going to be no mean feat for 18-year-old deer-in-the-headlights Michela. Chameleon was the best possible song to start with, but would being first cab off the rank scare her into underperforming? That was the question, and no way, José was the answer. Michela did an awesome job, even if she still lacked the confidence of former openers like Laura Tesoro and Imri Ziv.

Poor Albania was stuck with the cursed second slot (which was a waste of space for any country that wasn’t Germany, to be honest) but I was just happy to have Jonida in the final. As always, she looked stunning – Eurovision on Saturday night, flamenco competition on Sunday morning – and as always, she sang like an extremely impassioned songbird. Moody lighting! Fire! Writhing CGI bodies in a massive bird’s nest! This had it all.

Once again I had the pants charmed off me (not literally, but it was a close one) by the Czech Republic. Lake Malawi are fantastic live – with lead singer Albert delivering vocals almost as perfect as his teeth – and their simple-but-effective performance provided damning evidence that less is more. I couldn’t complain about any aspect of their three minutes, even if you held a confetti cannon to my head.

If you thought Sweden wasn’t going to make my shortlist of first-half highlights, do you even know me at all? Their staging was glorious, John was his usual charismatic self and The Mamas were fab. I would like some more fire from Sweden next year, and they’ll need it if they want to secure that seventh win Björkman in particular is so desperate for.

Everybody was switched on for the final, and that was extra evident with Cyprus. If you read my SF1 review you’ll have seen my Tamta roast (she wasn’t putting in any effort, her outfit was atrocious, etc) and while I stand by what I said then, I have to hand it to her – that Saturday night performance was AMAZING. Whatever was holding her back earlier in the week was no longer an issue, and she showed us all why she’s such a superstar when it mattered most. I actually came around on the crystal-encrusted bathing suit and crotch-high platform boots, so I guess I can’t stand by my initial comments on those. It’s not a great getup for grocery shopping, but for Eurovision? Sure.

The one to watch out for in this half was The Netherlands. And if there was anything amiss or missing in the semi – camera connection, descending lamps that dropped down a little too far, etc – it had been dealt with to make this a definite contender, if not the Fairytale-type runaway winner the odds were suggesting it could be. I still had the overwhelming desire to pick up that piano and throw it across the arena, but I couldn’t because a) I was at home in Australia and not inside the arena, and b) I’d have trouble lifting it, let alone making it airborne.

 

 

My favourite moments from a seriously stacked second half

Back when I reviewed Norway I said Spirit In The Sky was way too much fun to be left in the semi and miss out on the final top 10. Alexandra, Tom and Fred reminded me why with their sensational three-minute schlagerjoikfest (there’s a word I never thought I’d use, but I hope I get to use it again). I still wasn’t totally sold on the visuals, but the song is irresistible. And Alexandra is a Nordic queen who we need at Eurovision solo ASAP (no offence, boys).

The award for Most Improved Between SF and GF goes to…who else but Estonia? Victor’s semi performance at Eesti Laul was super ropey only for him to pull himself together for the final, and the exact same thing happened at Eurovision. Weird. Whatever the reason for the tune-up, the only thing wrong with Estonia’s performance on Saturday was that shot of a cameraman and the side of the stage that went on for a full three seconds. What is it with songs called Storm and things going wrong? Granted, a dodgy shot isn’t on the same scale as a stage crasher, but I’m starting to think this song title is cursed.

All references to how ridiculously good-looking Chingiz is aside (for the moment), Azerbaijan was well and truly back this year. If X My Heart was a half-hearted hop, Truth was a running leap across the Grand Canyon that landed safely on the other side. They may have been trying too hard with that tacky representation of Chingiz’ soul taking a quick vacay in the arena rafters…but apart from that, I have no issues. I would love to see Mr Mustafayev back at Eurovision in the future doing some of the flamenco-fusion he does so well. Preferably shirtless.

It was going to be hard for Serbia to stand out in such a competitive half of the final. In all honesty, they didn’t. But that doesn’t mean Nevena didn’t deliver absolute perfection. I love Kruna on its own, but the atmospheric staging, glamourous/edgy styling and phenomenal vocals were the salted caramel syrup and toasted coconut flakes on top (great, now I’m hungry).

I don’t know where Switzerland got that extra spark from, but it was in the air the whole time Luca and his ladies (and gentlemen) in red were dirty dancing their butts off on stage. This felt like a surefire podium finisher to me, or at least Switzerland’s most successful contest in (what feels like) forever. She Got Me was never going to be vocal jury bait, but it nailed the Eurobanger brief.

How can I not mention my homegirl Kate Miller-Heidke? With all the momentum she’d built during the week and all the talk of Australia potentially taking the trophy home, I was extra anxious during her performance. Would she deliver a knockout vocal again? Would the poles bend and not snap? Would she succumb to the pressure and accidentally fling her mic across the arena and concuss Jon Ola Sand? Thankfully, KMH sang beautifully and did not injure herself or the Executive Supervisor of the EBU. See, Australians can behave themselves when they’re overseas! Zero Gravity’s staging was and will remain iconic for a long time to come, so a big congrats to our delegation for making magic.

 

 

The best and worst of the interval acts

In hindsight, the 2019 show should have been called the Eurovision Interval Act Contest. If that were the case and we were awarding points to everyone who occupied the HOUR-LONG voting window, my douze would go to the Song Switch for sure. Conchita, Måns, Eleni and Verka practically blew the roof off Expo Tel Aviv (is that an inappropriate way of describing it?) with their respective reworkings of Heroes, Fuego, Dancing Lasha Tumbai and Toy. The most powerful rendition was Conchita’s; MZW gets the gong for Song I’ll Be Playing On Spotify Constantly; Verka by Eleni shouldn’t have worked but somehow it did (I could say the same for the strategically-placed stars on her bodysuit); and Verka herself took Toy to brilliant new levels of bonkers. I would happily watch an entire concert of Eurovision grads singing each other’s entries, especially if it culminates in a group song with yet another former winner like Gali Atari.

My other favourite interval act – which I had to YouTube later because Aussie broadcaster SBS cut it out to make room for an ad break – was The Idan Raichel Project with Bo’ee. I was already a big fan of Idan, so when I found out he was on the program it was like discovering Darin and Agnes were doing Malmö all over again (well, maybe not quite that exciting, but what is?). This guy moves me with his music like an Israeli version of Joci Pápai, and there was no chance I’d be unaffected by his Eurovision appearance. Any chance we can have him and his project represent Israel one day, KAN? You’d get most of my votes if you made it happen.

Then there was Netta, who popped up again in a subtle yellow number to perform Margaret’s In My Cabana. Or was it her new song Nana Banana? I can’t really tell the difference, but I always enjoy watching her do her thing.

The eyepatch-wearing elephant in the room at this point is Madonna, who was sickeningly overpaid to “perform” (a.k.a. attempt to sing and then have the crap autotuned out of her voice) Like A Prayer – a song of hers I do normally enjoy – and Future – a song of hers I don’t want to enjoy but find myself singing in the shower. If we’re going to compare her to the 26 acts that performed in the competition, here’s my verdict: her staging and costuming were elaborate and on point, but her vocals were not up to scratch. If we had to have about 57 interval acts, then I’d have preferred more affordable Israeli entertainment…or an extended Song Switch with Salvador Sobral doing his best job of Hey Mamma by the Sunstroke Project. A girl can dream.

 

 

Jaw-dropping jury results + televoting triumphs and tragedies

About six months after Malta opened the show – thanks to that excessive voting window – it was finally time for the results to filter out, starting with the points from the juries. You guys know what went down, so I’m not about to rehash the whole sequence…but here are a few things that stuck out to me.

The big shock success with the juries was North Macedonia. Maybe I should have seen it coming (I had been trying to figure out who the Austria 2018 of 2019 would be, but couldn’t land on anyone) but nope, my jaw was on the floor as big points rolled in for an equally-surprised Tamara over and over again. Proud is hardly one of my favourite entries of the year, but I couldn’t help having my heart warmed by such butt-kicking from a country that hadn’t even qualified since Baku. It’s terrible that Tamara and her team were robbed of knowing North Macedonia won the jury vote during the broadcast…but more on that in a minute.

Italy and the Czech Republic also found favour with the juries to an extent I didn’t expect. Obviously Mahmood was a jury winner in Sanremo, but I wasn’t sure the professionals would warm to the urban style of Soldi at Eurovision. That 4th-place finish said otherwise, and I was damn excited about it! I’m also thrilled for Lake Malawi, who must have come across as flawlessly to the jurors as they did to common folk like myself watching the following night. I thought the Friend of a Friend lyrics, if nothing else, might turn them off – but perhaps it really hit home that sometimes, noisy neighbours sound like YOU AND ME WHEN WE’RE MAKING LOOOOOOVE.

In terms of countries I thought would fare better than they did on the jury vote, The Netherlands and Australia come to mind. Duncan’s 3rd place is nothing to scoff at of course, but I figured if he couldn’t win the jury vote he’d have to be runner-up at least. The actual result cast some brief doubt on whether his televote score would be enough for The Netherlands to win. Kate Miller-Heidke’s 6th place was also fine, but I think some jurors might have seen her performance as novelty rather than the incredible show of talent and lady-balls that it was.

Like multiple winners before him, Duncan missed out on topping the class where the juries were concerned. See how devastated he was about that?

Serbia and Israel also did worse than I’d predicted. The host country got an especially raw deal (something we’re used to seeing at this point) with 12 points and 12 points alone from the “Belarusian jury”, which we later found out should have been a big fat zero. Poor Kobi.

After all that, it was time to move on to the televote and see how the new point-presentation method would pan out. It was confusing, it was heartbreaking here and there, and it gave us moments like these:

  • The Czech Republic receiving 7 measly public points. What was that about? I’m even more shocked by this than I am by their jury score. All I can think is that Lake Malawi’s early running order position paved the way for 23 other songs (well, minus the UK and Germany) to memory-block them into almost nothingness. FOR SHAME, EUROPE (not Australia because we gave them 2 of those 7 points).
  • Norway’s spectacular three-digit, winning – as we found out later, grr – score that more than made up for the lack of jury love for Spirit in the Sky and had Alexandra crying adorable tears of joy. If only KEiiNO had been left until last á la the “old” results sequence, ramping up the tension and letting them celebrate that televote win on camera instead of later when it dawned on them what had happened.
  • That now iconic ‘I’m sorry…’ to Germany as they scored absolutely nothing. On the one hand, it’s an achievement to rack up zero points from 40 countries, especially on more than one occasion. On the other, I do feel sorry for S!sters, who delivered the best performance possible and deserved at least a handful of points for their trouble. Having said that, I didn’t have a reason to vote for them, and I guess nobody else did either.
  • Sweden and The Netherlands being set up as the last two standing when in fact, they were not. Some people got the same enjoyment out of watching John Lundvik’s soul be destroyed that they got out of Benjamin Ingrosso’s 21 points last year, but celebrating a comparative failure is pretty mean-spirited IMO – and the new system ensuring it would be fixated on quite frankly sucks.

As a last word on this, I’m going to beg the EBU to revert back to the perfectly tense and dramatic 2016-2018 televoting sequence. It wasn’t broken, so there was no need to fix it. And that way we can avoid the on-screen devastation of cinnamon-roll Czechs, vulnerable teenagers from Malta and Swedes fooled into thinking they’re one of the two remaining contenders when they’re actually not even close. All of the above was PURE EVIL, even if it did make great TV.

 

 

Thoughts on the final scoreboard and this year’s winner…actually, wait a second!

Because which scoreboard am I supposed to discuss here? Just when we and the Eurovision acts themselves had come to terms with who finished where, mistakes became apparent. If we thought that one Danish juror ranking backwards in 2016 was bad, we were wrong.

The biggest ‘oops!’ has to be the Belarusian “jury” points – put together based on their allocation pot after the actual jurors weren’t able to, in the words of Chingiz, shut up about it – being delivered backwards. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to how the hell that happened, but as a result, Israel ended up with 12 points when they should have received 0, and Malta was denied a douze point celebration. And that’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of what was affected by this monumental f%$k-up. You know it all by now, but Sweden moved up to 5th place, bumping Norway down to 6th; North Macedonia moved from 8th to 7th (oh, and they actually WON the jury vote); Cyprus moved from 15th to 13th; and a bunch of other countries swapped places too. WTF?!?!

Then it was revealed that, thanks to the possibility of three jurors voting backwards, Poland and Lithuania could have qualified to the final over Belarus and Denmark in their respective semis. Obviously, any truth to this can’t change anything, but that just makes me feel extra bad for the implicated countries. Lithuania might have been the most severely screwed over. An issue with the Italian televotes was dismissed, one that would have put Jurij in 10th place…but if the Russian juror alleged to have ranked backwards did do so, it would also have put Jurij 10th. He then would have tied with Leonora, and on (my) countback it seems Lithuania would have been sent through to Saturday instead. My GOD. This whole situation is messier than my bedroom, and it’s going to be hard to trust the initial results next year in the Netherlands – though you’d think this reflects so badly on the EBU, they’ll do anything to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Speaking of the Netherlands, let’s move on to happier topics (and from now on I’m talking about the altered, correct version of the scoreboard). A big belated congratulations goes to Duncan from me, for grabbing the first Dutch win in 44 years with a song that may not have been my preferred winner, but is undeniably worthy (and if you’re about to deny that, just imagine me drowning out your voice by blasting the ‘DOOOOOON’T DEEEEEEEEENYYYYYY’ part of Face the Shadow). Arcade is Amar Pelos Dois all over again for me: a beautiful ballad feat. a pitch-perfect, pared-back but still atmospheric performance that I wasn’t personally emotionally invested in, but I knew it was The One anyway and could accept that. Especially since it means I may well be off to the Netherlands next May, a place I’ve always wanted to go and a place I’m sure will host the shiz out of the ESC, if their JESC efforts are anything to go by. Also I really, really like stroopwafels – so if I do go to Amsterdam/Rotterdam/wherever, I’ll probably be eating them for every meal.

Other results that put a spring in my step in spite of the disastrous Post-Eurovision Depression were Italy finishing 2nd, their equal-highest placement since 1990 (though I was surprised they hit those heights with a good but not great performance…see below); Switzerland scoring their first top 5 finish since 1993; Sweden scoring their 7th top 5 result of the decade; Australia squeezing back into the top 10 after last year’s blip; and the Czech Republic doing pretty well for themselves even with the handicap of that disgustingly low televote score. I’m not going to dwell on the “losers” of the night, but I will say this: for the love of Jessica Garlick, PLEASE get your act together BBC. Something’s got to give and it has nothing to do with erasing Brexit from the memory of the voting public. As Leonora keeps telling us, don’t get too political…because it’s stupid.

As happy as I am with a lot of the final results, there are some that still don’t sit quite right with me. Was it just a weird contest and nothing would have made sense no matter what happened? Maybe. But I’m talking Italy’s 2nd place (which performance-wise, doesn’t feel as slick or iconic as Fuego, Beautiful Mess, Sound of Silence…I could go on); Russia’s 3rd place (which feels a little unearned, and my gut feeling is that bronze position deserved to go to Switzerland); Australia’s 9th place (call me biased, but with such a statement performance and so much pre-final momentum it seems like we should have ended up a bit higher); and a few placements further down that I’ll sit and stew about quietly because I’ve already said too much. If you’re as confused by some of the outcomes as I am, then let’s both hope 2020 brings with it a more straightforward Eurovision in every possible way.

 

 

Okay – believe it or not, I think I’ve said everything I wanted to say about this year’s dramatic, slightly disastrous (in hindsight) Eurovision final. I know it took me a few weeks longer than everyone else on the planet, but it’s better to arrive late to the party than to not turn up at all.

I still have some 2019 coverage to come here on EBJ, and then I’ll be moving on to some top-notch off-season content if I say so myself. That will include a Best of the Decade series, where we celebrate all that the ESC has gifted us throughout the 2010s…and boy, has it been generous! I hope you’ll drop by for some of that goodness. Remember to subscribe in the sidebar and/or follow me on my socials (also in the sidebar because CONVENIENCE) to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

In the meantime, hit up that comments box with your personal highlights and lowlights of Tel Aviv. Whatever you’re thinking, if it’s Eurovision-themed I want to hear it. If it isn’t, I’ll have to pass. Sorry.

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

 

 

THE TEL AVIV REVIEWS | Round 3 feat. Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania + North Macedonia

Bonjour and welcome back to my Tel Aviv Reviews! France isn’t featured in this round, so sorry if the ‘bonjour’ misled you. I was just feeling flamboyant.

As of today I’m ten countries deep into my 2019 judgments, which I hope you guys have enjoyed so far, and told your friends (and friends of friends of friends) about. Now it’s time for me to take on another five competitors: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and North Macedonia. Keep reading for my thoughts on what Roko, Lake Malawi, Victor, Jurij and Tamara are packing in their ESC suitcases as we speak.

Am I feeling the force of North Macedonia’s girl power or is it all about the boys this time? And what’s your opinion on these five entries? There’s only one way to answer the first question – then you can answer the second one in the comments. See you there in about three hours.

 

 

Um, Croatia? Eurovision 2008 called and it wants its song back. But it can’t have it, because I’m actually kind of keen on it. The Dream has the mark of Jacques Houdek, the man of many faces, all over it. He co-wrote it, after all, and his lyrical influence is clear in the cliché-crammed English verse and chorus. Jacques did do pretty well at Eurovision himself, however, and one of this song’s other writers has an even stronger pedigree. Charlie Mason co-wrote L’Amoré è Femmina for Italy in 2012, Rise Like A Phoenix for Austria in 2014, and both Beauty Never Lies for Serbia and Here For You for Slovenia in 2015. Between them, Houdek and Mason have never finished lower than 14th in an ESC final. As a duo, you would think they’d be sure to succeed…right?

I’m not so sure. But first, let me try and explain why I actually like this entry against all the odds and my better judgement. There’s an uplifting, stirring atmosphere to it that draws me in, and the fact that it could easily pass as an Olympic Games theme helps (I’m moved by stuff like that, and I really love the Olympics a.k.a. Eurovision with sports). The song builds quickly and trots out a generous share of explosive moments. The melody is pretty simple in general, with the chorus being less of a substantial one and more of a vocal showcase for Roko. And he deserves that showcase, no doubt – this kid is jury catnip, assuming juries aren’t bothered by songs being dated and slightly cringe. Yes, The Dream is a guilty pleasure of mine, but there is a point when it flicks from guilty pleasure to genuine pleasure: the second Roko starts singing in Croatian. Without English-language clichés dragging the song down, it’s much better and makes me wish the all-Croatian version Heroj was competing instead. Still, I’ll take the language mix over full English.

Now I’ve got that off my chest, I can be more objective and say that I am worried for Croatia. I do think The Dream stands out more than Crazy did last year, but all most people will remember about it are Roko’s really subtle angel wings rather than the song itself. It’s too much to ask that the wings be ditched for ESC purposes, with Jacques Houdek loving a good gimmick or six (I’ve obtained a copy of his birth certificate that states ‘OTT’ is his middle name). Plus, dated ballads don’t have a good recent history in the contest, as Omar Naber would confirm. With Croatia stuck in that super-tough second semi, there’s only one member of their bloc nearby to potentially give them a points boost – North Macedonia – and this song just doesn’t have the goods to transcend geography. As someone who doesn’t think The Dream is a nightmare, I wouldn’t mind if Roko reached the final…but even I don’t think he’s going to.

 

In a line An angelic, vocally impressive power ballad too stale to get out of its semi 2018 VS 2019 2019. I must be feeling nostalgic Predicted result SF 12th-15th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

When a country does something amazing at Eurovision out of nowhere, I always hope they’ll surf their wave of success into the following year. Germany did after Lena’s win in 2010, and Bulgaria did it even better after 2016 put them back on the map (RIP, BNT). I’m not sure why I’m talking about Germany and Bulgaria when I’m supposed to be reviewing the Czech Republic…but my point is, CZ had big sneakers to fill after Mikolas Josef gave them their best-ever result, and I was praying they’d bring something just as iconic to Israel. Well, almost as iconic – Lie To Me is basically unbeatable in that department.

I’m relieved to announce that Mikolas’ successors Lake Malawi are setting my camel in the mood for sure. These guys were far and away the smartest choice the Czech Republic could have made in a pretty weak NF (such as it was) lineup. And what they’re bringing to Eurovision is very different to what Mikolas brought, but it’s equally enjoyable and arguably more original. They’re an established band and their experience, rapport and unique style is all on show throughout Friend of a Friend. I cannot help moving to this song á la Jamala, and if I used it as an alarm I’d emerge from REM sleep in two seconds flat, shimmying the entire time. The bouncing beat, memorable chorus and creepy yet somehow endearing lyrics make it irresistible. Speaking of the lyrics, if the line ‘It sounds like you and me when we’re making love’ doesn’t capture your attention then I don’t know what would.

It may have flaws, but I love this entry anyway. It’s cute (when not creepy), fun and competitive without taking itself too seriously. And what makes it even better is, thanks to the straightforward and drama-free Ukrainian NF where Lake Malawi performed as guests, we know the boys can deliver live. The sound great, they look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage, and lead singer Albert has all the energy this song needs (I also really like his Wiggles-chic yellow sweater). Though I don’t have the Czech Republic down as certain qualifiers and wouldn’t bet on Lake Malawi sailing through like Mikolas did, I am quietly confident they will qualify. Friend of a Friend (of a friend of a friend) would make a great grand final opener. Here’s hoping Europe – and Australia, because WOOHOO, we can vote for this – gives the song that opportunity.

 

In a line A three-minute party I’m happy to RSVP to 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 6th-9th, GF 13th-18th My score 10 points

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been reading EBJ for a while, you might know how much I love Victor Crone’s Melodifestivalen 2015 entry with Behrang Miri, Det Rår Vi Inte För. I was disappointed back then when it didn’t get out of Andra Chansen, but surprise was what I felt when I heard Victor was entering Eesti Laul this year. I wasn’t as surprised to see him go on and win it as he was, though. It was a televoting triumph, which at least proves that Estonians wanted him to represent them.

Well, they wanted Victor AND the legendary Stig Rästa, who’s partly responsible for the country-to-club anthem that is Storm. I like this song a lot. I like it so much it may be love. There’s something charming about it, even after the beat kicks in, that I can’t get enough of. It’s less laid-back than Goodbye To Yesterday and Stig’s solo EL entry from 2018, Home, but it still has his stamp on it. The melody and music of the verses is strangely soothing, and that’s where Victor’s voice is at its best – but he did a decent job in the Eesti Laul final on those hard-to-handle choruses. Sure, he was sharp in spots, which may account for his lack of jury appeal. But that will likely be tightened up and/or disguised by backing vocalists for Eurovision (no more Lukas Meijer situations, please). I think this is a clever song for a contest because, while I can see how Storm might age fast when you’re listening to it a lot, for first-time listeners it’s very instant and easy to remember. The chorus in particular, with that ‘like this/like this’ rhyme – which tops ‘fire/desire/higher/wire’ – is one big hook. And Storm isn’t a one-trick pony, repetitive as it may be. The dance beat takes care of that, when Mumford and Sons morphs into Avicii and the world breathes a collective sigh of HECK YES.

Combine all of that with the super-cool NF performance, which I’m sure will be replicated at Eurovision, and we have a really solid entry from Estonia. I personally prefer this to La Forza (she says, hoping the backlash won’t be too bad) and I do believe Victor can follow in Elina’s footsteps as far as qualification goes. But as much as I love this and have it in my personal top 10, I can’t see it reaching the actual top 10. Still, the performance is so attention-grabbing Estonia shouldn’t be forgotten even in a 26-song final, unless they end up opening it. And I’d happily be wrong with my prediction if it means Estonia ends up on the left side of the scoreboard again.

 

In a line A hoedown and dance party in one very appealing package 2018 VS 2019 2019, as nervously mentioned Predicted result SF 4th-7th, GF 14th-19th My score 10 points

 

 

 

 

Let’s all be honest with each other for a second: who didn’t think Monika Marija would end up singing for Lithuania this year? Girl had not one but two great songs in Eurovizijos Atranka (unfair, but at least she delivered with both) and even when she withdrew Criminal and paid the price for it – literally – Light On remained a safe bet for the win. Then again, this NF season was full of surprises, so it shouldn’t have been shocking when Jurijus/Jurij Veklenko won instead. Run With The Lions did pop out when I was previewing the Lithuanian final, but being preoccupied with other countries I didn’t actually listen to the whole song until it had been crowned.

When I did, I was pleasantly surprised. You never quite know what to expect from Lithuania, given that their recent ESC history reads like a book with chapters alternating between evocative literary fiction and a 50 Shades of Grey disaster. But Jurij is closer to Ieva than Fusedmarc with this proficient, atmospheric piece of power-pop. Obviously it lacks the emotion and honesty of When We’re Old, and it is pretty cookie cutter (it has that ‘pumped out on a factory production line and eventually paired up with an appropriate artist’ vibe) but I don’t mind too much. Co-writer Ashley Hicklin is also responsible for Belgium’s Me and My Guitar and Mother, plus a bunch of music from miscellaneous NFs over the years, and for me this is one of his best Eurovision-related efforts. It has a great melody and flow, and I think the verses, pre-chorus and chorus itself are all equally catchy – even if the overall effect is not exactly exciting.

It’s true that the vanilla flavour of Run With The Lions puts it in the danger zone (so I guess you’re not all alone, Blanche). I’d say it has a better chance of replicating Lithuania’s 2017 result than their successes in 2016 and 2018, and that’s because it just isn’t competitive enough. Is it a great radio song? Yes. Would it make a great addition to a road-trip playlist? You bet. Is it as suited to an Olympics montage as Croatia’s entry? Maybe even more so. But none of that means it can step up and fight for qualification rights. And as much as I hate to keep mentioning this, Lithuania is in that intimidating second semi, between Malta and Russia no less. It’s a bit like the Iceland-Estonia-Portugal sandwich in semi one, only Estonia may benefit from being the most accessible song in that run…while Lithuania separating two equally accessible but more memorable songs is unlikely to do them any favours. I suspect Run With The Lions will be forgotten and miss out on the final. And to be honest, as much as I do enjoy it, I can’t argue that it’s strong enough to deserve a spot on the Saturday night. It’s good, but not great.

 

In a line A competent and catchy anthem not impressive enough to survive SF2 2018 VS 2019 2019, because When We’re Old never won me over Predicted result SF 12th-14th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

North Macedonia is a land that likes recycling ESC artists. They don’t do it constantly but often enough, with Kaliopi, Karolina and now Tamara taking multiple bites of the apple (the fact that they’ve never convinced Elena Risteska to come back for seconds both mystifies and upsets me). It seems they also like recycling songs, because there’s a striking similarity between Proud and Greece’s 2015 entry One Last Breath. Tamara may not be farting tears like Maria Elena, but her ballad smells strongly of Greece’s Viennese schmaltz. That song isn’t a favourite of mine, so it’s safe to say I’m not a lover of Proud either.

In all honesty, I was hoping for Let Me Love You minus Vrčak and Adrian. That, I would have loved. This is the complete opposite – it’s not up-tempo or trashy in a good way. Instead it’s competent, powerful and packed with money notes…and totally boring. Harsh, but in my head that’s the truth. I get the message Tamara’s trying to send and how the song is supposed to be an empowering feminist anthem (written mostly by men). But I feel like empowering feminist anthems should be uplifting, whereas this one is mournful and depressing. The lyrics don’t seem to match the tone of the song either: ‘Don’t bother being proud or recognising your self-worth because we’re all going to die someday and there’s no point’ would be more fitting words. I will say that Tamara does the material justice with her vocals, but the overall feel is old-fashioned and derivative. In my opinion, of course. I know there are plenty of people loving this.

I also know I’m not alone in disliking it, so the question is this: does North Macedonia have enough people who are Proud of them to help them progress? With countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Malta, Russia, Norway and the Netherlands in SF2 to vote for, I can’t see a sizeable televote rolling in for Tamara. I can see the juries taking to her, but there are better packages on offer for them too – including the Netherlands just before North Macedonia and Azerbaijan straight after. Then there’s the curse that’s seen them miss out on the final several times despite finishing 10th (thanks to some stupid rules of yesteryear) or finish 12th so frequently it’s sparked conspiracy theories. Clearly if they finished 10th this year they wouldn’t miss out, but they’ve always qualified on the cusp – no higher than 9th – and haven’t qualified at all since 2012. I’m not confident this is the entry that’s going to change that. I guess the staging might save it…oh wait. This is (the country formerly known as) Macedonia. Never mind.

 

In a line A dreary, dated ballad that does nothing for me 2018 VS 2019 2018, warts and all (and by warts I mean horrendous costumes) Predicted result SF 11th-14th My score 4 points

 

 

 

 

And another round bites the dust! Time flies when you’re having fun being both overly-complimentary and brutally honest, believe me.

Let’s have a look at the standings from today.

  1. Estonia (10)
  2. Czech Republic (10)
  3. Lithuania (7)
  4. Croatia (7)
  5. North Macedonia (4)

I don’t see any of these songs as douze-worthy, but high fives go to Estonia and the Czech Republic for coming close. With all of the above five factored in, here’s my overall ranking so far:

  1. Hungary (12)
  2. Switzerland (12)
  3. Estonia (10)
  4. Cyprus (10)
  5. Czech Republic (10)
  6. Romania (8)
  7. Serbia (8)
  8. Albania (8)
  9. Lithuania (7)
  10. Croatia (7)
  11. Australia (7)
  12. Montenegro (5)
  13. Latvia (5)
  14. North Macedonia (4)
  15. Georgia (4)

How does it compare to yours, and what would you score the songs I’ve reviewed this round? Let me know below and I’ll love you forever, Leonora-style (but sans the staring).

 

Next time I’ll be judging Armenia, Belarus, the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, so get your thoughts on those guys together and be prepared to share. There’s a few big hitters in that bunch and I may have some unpopular opinions on them…be warned*.

 

*Or I may be pulling your leg and actually have very predictable opinions. You’ll have to check out Round 4 to find out. Subscribe in the sidebar or follow me on my socials @EurovisionByJaz so you don’t miss it!

 

 

 

 

THE TEL AVIV REVIEWS | Round 2 feat. Australia, Georgia, Hungary, Romania + Switzerland

Hey there, sweet people/children of the universe/other ESC-themed pet names for you guys that I can’t think of right now. Last time I attempted to introduce a post, we were four weeks away from Eurovision 2019’s semi numero uno. Now we’re four weeks away from the second semi, and before you know it we’ll be four weeks away from the final. It’s creeping closer and closer, and I am SO READY.

Unless you consider still having 36/41 reviews to take care of not being all that ready, in which case I need to make my motto less talk, more action. Without further ado, it’s time for round two!

Today is Judgment-by-Jaz Day for Australia, Georgia, Hungary, Romania and Switzerland. I definitely have some favourites out of Kate, Oto, Joci, Ester and Luca’s songs, and if you do too – or if you don’t – let me know in the comments. And stay tuned ‘til the end to see where these countries slot into my overall ranking so far…

 

 

Okay…the time has come for me to try and separate my patriotic attachment to this song from my actual opinion of it. Wish me luck! There are two things you should know about me if you don’t already: one, I’m a born-and-bred Australian; and two, I was in the Australia Decides audience when KMH became our fifth Eurovision representative. Like Lordi’s Hard Rock Hallelujah (winner of the first contest I watched) and Robin Bengtsson’s I Can’t Go On (the Melodifestivalen winner the year I made it to Friends Arena) this song is automatically special to me and associated with tons of good times. However, I do pride myself on my ability to support Australia’s Eurovision journey from go to whoa AND be honest in terms of how highly I rate the entry in question. And so, I can’t say my love for Zero Gravity is as sky-high as Kate’s glass-shattering operatic notes – and to tell the truth, it is my least favourite Aussie entry to date – but I still think it’s worthy.

For starters, it’s a relief that we’re sending something outside of our usual box – something far less generic than before and not written by DNA (we seriously needed to change up our recipe). Theatrical, dynamic and more popera than any other ESC entry before it, Zero Gravity is as much of a statement piece as Kate’s dangerously spiky silver fascinator. There’s an authentic feel about it that’s been missing from the Aussie package for a few years now. Kate isn’t just a singer who’s been paired with a song and told to give it her best go – rather, this track has her name written all over it (and in the writing credits, obviously). Combining her classical music background and pop sensibilities is what she does best. Zero Gravity’s verses are for Pop Kate and the choruses are for Classical Kate, yet the mish-mash of styles somehow makes sense and doesn’t sound like a stitched-together Frankenstein’s monster song. My favourite thing about ZG is the surprising substance it has in telling the story of Kate’s postnatal depression and the freedom she felt in her recovery. And of course, I love the last thirty seconds when she really lets rip with her high notes, and then never fails to nail that bombastic finale.

Even so, I’m not totally sold on this entry. Sure, I dished out a fair few compliments just then, but that was Biased Jaz talking. Truth-Be-Told Jaz actually wishes that Electric Fields were going to Tel Aviv, and thinks that 2000 and Whatever was a potential Eurovision winner whereas she’s super uncertain of how Zero Gravity will do. I (still talking as truthful Jaz) do think it’s a solid, unique entry deserving of qualification and a left-side scoreboard spot. But as someone who thought it was WTF at first, I can understand why many fans haven’t warmed to it. The Elina Nechayeva copycat claims are unwarranted, but the big dress needed to be ditched, so I was happy to hear that’s likely the case. Also re: the original staging, it was OTT for a song that has a lot going on by itself, so I’m hoping for a stage show that is less action-packed (or dare I say ‘gimmicky’) and more refined in May. There’s no doubt that I’ll be cheering Kate on with embarrassing enthusiasm then, but I’ll be nervous about her chances…and if she doesn’t make it out of the semi or screeches to a halt in the final, my thoughts will again turn to Electric Fields and what could have been.

 

In a line Action-packed popera that will divide but not necessarily conquer 2018 VS 2019 2018. I’ve still got love for We Got Love Predicted result SF 7th-10th, GF 11th-17th My score 7 points

 

 

 

 

Georgia isn’t a country I think of in super positive terms when it comes to Eurovision. Junior Eurovision, yes – but there have been very few Georgian adult contest entries that I’ve been crazy about (and in 2016, part of that craziness was due to the Lolitaz’ light show which singed my retinas and had me hallucinating for hours afterwards). It seems like I’m not alone, since the past two years have seen Georgia continue to kick goals at JESC while failing to qualify to the ESC final. I want them to find a successful formula again, complete with that special brand of Georgian quirk we’ve come to love…but that will have to wait until at least 2020. Keep On Going is not going to be their saving grace.

This song is 41st in my personal ranking, and has been there or thereabouts in every single top I’ve watched on YouTube or seen on social media. It’s not bringing up the rear of my ranking because I hate it with a passion. I actually don’t. I just happen to like the 40 other songs better and think they have more to offer. The good I see in this song is that Georgia is adding to the variety in Tel Aviv with the only straight-up rock song in the lineup; and that the song is perfectly suited to Oto’s powerful, rough-edged vocals. I also want to give credit to the revamp, which created more atmosphere and a bit more build. But I don’t think the most exhaustive musical makeover possible would have given Georgia a chance of competing in the final. It’s just not meant to be, as far as I’m concerned. I wouldn’t have wanted Oto to be stuck with a song that didn’t fit him, and of course there are rock songs that have triumphed at Eurovision (Hard Rock Hallelujah, We Could Be The Same and Deli, for example). Georgia themselves even took the genre into the top 10 back in 2011 with One More Day. But this particular rock track is a plateau of three long, dragging minutes in which waiting for something exciting to happen turns out to be pointless.

As I said, I don’t mind it myself…until I think about it as the competitive song it’s supposed to be. Even in the non-bloodbath SF that is Tuesday’s, there are easily ten other entries that have more appeal for both jurors and televoters. I’d go so far as to say that there are only one or two songs that have LESS voting appeal than Keep On Going. That’s not the sort of thing I’ve ever said about a song that went on to qualify. If we could break about eight rules and enter Your Voice by Tamar Edilashvili (Georgia’s 2018 JESC entry, for those who avoid the kids’ contest at all costs) then I’d be much more hopeful right now. But as it is, I highly doubt Oto’s offering is dynamic or interesting enough to even be a borderline qualifier. If he does miraculously make it through I’ll look pretty stupid, but I’ll be too shocked to care.

 

In a line Solid rock destined to stay put in the semi finals 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 15th-17th My score 4 points

 

 

 

 

You guys would have enjoyed the comic relief that was me finding out Joci was back attempting to represent Hungary again. I quite literally fell off my chair and may have shed a tear or 2500. THAT’S JUST HOW MUCH I LOVE ME SOME PÁPAI, OKAY?!? You don’t even want to know what I did when he went on to win A Dal again, but it would have gone viral if captured on camera. Anyway, my point is that I couldn’t be happier to have Joci back. If you’ve been reading EBJ since 2017, you’ll know Origo was my favourite entry that year, and that it became one of my all-time faves faster than I could listen to Joci’s beautiful back catalogue. He’s really found his sound lately, with every folk/ethnic infusion he comes out with giving me goosebumps.

Naturally, that means you’re about to be hit with one heck of a biased review. Joci’s music speaks to me and Az Én Apam is no exception – I absolutely adore this song. It’s emotional and heartfelt without a hint of fakery; it blends that trademark ethnic folksiness with an easy-listening guitar-based ballad to create something spellbinding; it sounds stunning in Hungarian, as every genre of music tends to; and Joci performs it with the same honesty and raw talent we had the privilege to be introduced to in 2017. Same man, same manbun…he’s just been hitting the gym, which you’ll have noticed if you paid the same obsessive attention to A Dal as I did this year. I have to add that the reworking of this song did wonders, filling in the few gaps of build and drama from the original version. Now it’s a track that’s ready to compete, despite what a lot of (less biased) fans think.

I’m not saying Joci is invincible. Even with rose-coloured glasses glued to my face, I can see that Az Én Apám isn’t as instant as Origo. Some might say it’s too understated, though I think Slovenia will have the biggest battle in that department. I’m more worried about one of Hungary’s main selling points – the emotion of the father/son relationship depicted by the lyrics – being lost in translation. Italy managed to convey their message in Lisbon (and funnily enough, will be trying to do the same thing in Tel Aviv with another father-inspired song) but other countries have failed before. Still, the call has been put out for photos of people’s dads á la the photographic backgrounds of Malta 2014/UK 2016, which should help. No matter what happens, I don’t expect Az Én Apám to outdo Origo – but that won’t mean failure for Joci. He’s bringing something meaningful and full of feeling (Salvador Sobral stamp of approval incoming) to the contest yet again, and has another chance to tell part of his life story on the stage. That’s just as important as numbers on a scoreboard. Having said that, if Hungary doesn’t at least qualify with this, I will throw a very undignified tantrum. Thank heavens Australia is in the same semi so I can steal the phones of everyone I know and vote en masse.

 

In a line Majestic Magyarorság magic feat. manbun 2018 VS 2019 2019. Sorry AWS, but I know where my loyalties lie Predicted result SF 6th-8th, GF 12th-17th My score 12 points

 

 

 

 

2018 was not the best Eurovision for Romania. They missed out on a spot in the final and lost their 100% qualification record in the process, something that once upon a time would have seemed impossible (but after Greece bombed out in 2016, nobody was safe). Their trip to the contest this year involves a song that wasn’t preferred by the Romanian public but singled out by the jury, and managed to outrank two big favourites to win. On A Sunday, from Canadian-Romanian Ester Peony, is also a song that stood out to me when I was previewing the Selecţia Naţională entries – mainly, I have to say, because I was so shocked to hear something like it pop up where it did.

On A Sunday fits the Eesti Laul or A Dal mould more than anything else. There’s grit to it and a vintage sexiness (if that makes any sense) that just doesn’t sound like the Romania we know. Consider this being the same country that sent Zaleilah, It’s My Life, Miracle and Yodel It and you’ll see what I mean. None of those songs could have made the cut for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, but if Ester’s subject matter was a little less breakup and a little more bondage (maybe she should collab with Hatari?) then she’d be a shoo-in with this. I’ve been thinking of her song as a musical mashup of Black Velvet by Alannah Myles, Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke and Croatia’s entry from Lisbon, Crazy. I like all of those songs, and I really like On A Sunday too. In fact, when it did catch my ear before the Romanian NF, it immediately became The One for me – but I never thought it would beat Army of Love and Dear Father. It didn’t seem like something Romania would ever choose, and technically, I guess they didn’t. But however the victory came about, I can’t help being happy about it.

I love the whole vibe of this song: smoky and sultry but mournful at the same time. I love the lyrics, which are pretty sparse but cliché free (unlike neighbouring Moldova’s lyrics, but I’ll get to those later). I love the hypnotic beat that draws you in as the song progresses. I love the melody. And, last but not least, I love Ester’s voice, especially when she works her way into those high notes towards the end. Her vocals at the NF were ropey at times, but no doubt they’ll be polished up by May. All in all I’m into this in a big way, and I’m seeing all sorts of staging possibilities in the hope the Romanian delegation can read my mind. I’m not totally confident Ester will take Romania back to the final – not many people are this fond of her song, and a top 10 place in that second semi won’t be easy to come by. But my fingers will be crossed for this Canadian to be closer to Celine Dion than Rykka, results-wise.

 

In a line Being dumped never sounded so good 2018 VS 2019 2019, though I am sad to say goodbye to Goodbye Predicted result SF 9th-14th, GF 16th-21st My score 8 points

 

 

 

 

Remember how flabbergasted (I don’t get to use that word enough) we all were when Mikolas Josef came out of nowhere with an absolute banger and gave his country their best result ever by a million miles? It was only a year ago, so you should remember. Now, I’m not saying Luca Hänni is going to give the Swiss their best-ever placing, since he’d have to win to even equal it. I just think that in many ways, Luca is and will continue to be the Mikolas of 2019. I first got familiar with him (though not as familiar as I’d like to, WINK WINK) late last year when the rumour mill was turning at warp speed in his favour, and I thought I’d better do some research in case the rumours became reality. Within minutes I was in deep and knew I’d be devastated if he was a red herring and Switzerland was actually sending Sebalter again. So danke schön, my conflict-neutral, chocolate-producing friends, for making my dreams come true. What’s not dreamy about a ridiculously good-looking singer/dancer/model armed with a crazy-catchy party anthem?

NOTHING. She Got Me is the best Swiss entry in years, with the country’s bittersweet leapfrog over Sweden in the odds (my loyalties have never been so divided) testament to that. They’re currently sitting pretty in third place, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished that high in the actual contest. Given that Luca can sing AND dance, when it comes to his last few releases I was hoping for his Eurovision song to be more like Signs than Powder, as much as I love the latter. My wish was granted. One of the ESC 2019 songs that can be compared to Fuego (basically, it’s got a beat drop) this has quickly become more talked about than Replay and Chameleon, and I’m a willing participant in the conversation. The song is iconic and infectious from the moment it starts, with a chorus so instant it should be illegal. There’s an exotic Middle-Eastern flavour found in the memorable musical hook. The whole thing is densely packed and has been produced by someone who knows what they’re doing (always good). And it strikes the right balance between ‘not repetitive enough to follow’ and ‘so repetitive I want to rip my ears off.’ Even though the chorus is repeated as a way of transitioning to the explosive last 30 seconds, the instrumental break in-between keeps things fresh and leaves room for a kickass choreographed sequence on stage.

Speaking of on stage, Switzerland have recruited Sacha Jean-Baptiste to give them a grade-A presentation…which she’d better, because She Got Me deserves the best. Dodgy staging is the only thing that could drag this entry down as far as I see it (those Amsterdam vocals will be dealt with, trust me) and Baptiste has been questionable in her choices on occasion. But at the least, her involvement shows that Switzerland is super serious about Eurovision this year. Their song alone will whip the crowd into a frenzy á la Golden Boy, and I cannot see a scenario in which it fails to qualify (unlike their last four entries). I also can’t imagine anything other than a left-side scoreboard finish for Luca. She Got Me stands out from the crowd both in terms of man-bangers (including Estonia and Finland) and in general. For me, it’s the best of the Fuego follow-ups, which is high praise. I love everything about it and can’t wait for Switzerland to have a major change of Eurovision fortune.

 

In a line The surprise package of the year that makes sure you can’t sit still 2018 VS 2019 2019, duh! Predicted result SF 2nd-4th, GF 4th-6th My score 12 points

 

 

 

 

From zero gravity to dirty dancing, this round is over. ‘Already?’ I can hear you saying (even though you’re actually saying ‘At last!’). Yep, that’s it. But before I go, let’s have a look at the standings:

  1. Hungary (12)
  2. Switzerland (12)
  3. Romania (8)
  4. Australia (7)
  5. Georgia (4)

And after Round 1, I now have a top 10 that looks like this:

  1. Hungary (12)
  2. Switzerland (12)
  3. Cyprus (10)
  4. Romania (8)
  5. Serbia (8)
  6. Albania (8)
  7. Australia (7)
  8. Montenegro (5)
  9. Latvia (5)
  10. Georgia (4)

So Hungary takes the top spot from Cyprus, and Switzerland overtakes them too. Sorry Tamta.

 

Next time we’ll see where Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and North Macedonia factor in as far as I see it. Be there or…well, nothing will happen if you’re not there, but I’d love you to come back and check out the rest of my 2019 reviews. Follow me on my socials (all the usuals @EurovisionByJaz) to make sure you don’t miss a thing. And once you’ve done that, share your thoughts on today’s tracks down below – but be warned, if you badmouth Joci, it might be the last thing you ever do.

What a nice note to end this post on.

 

< Four weeks and counting!

 

 

 

 

BUT AT THE END, THEY DIDN’T! | Ranking every single second-placed song from the 2019 selection season

Well, just like that (a.k.a. two weeks ago) the 2019 Eurovision selection season is over. We have a full house of 42 41 entries, with their performers starting rehearsals behind closed doors, filming postcards on the ground in Israel, and prepping for the April pre-parties.

While they’re busy doing that stuff, I’m busy not letting go of NF season yet. I can’t, not before I’ve given credit to all the amazing songs that came close to becoming ESC entries this year…and given the thumbs down to the ones that had me breathing a sigh of relief when they WEREN’T chosen. I’ve got a list of general favourites for you guys later, but today I’m focusing on the songs that, with a few extra points to their name or a little change in fortune, could easily have been traveling to Tel Aviv. They, my friends, are the songs that finished second.

 

26 national finals were held between December 2018 and March 2019, and I’m about to rank and review all 26 of their silver medallists on a scale from ‘DEAR LORDI, MAKE IT STOP!’ to ‘Play it again, Sam…and again…again? JUST ONCE MORE, SAM, I’M BEGGING YOU!!!’. Because I don’t like too much fun going down, I did put a few rules in place for this ranking:

  • When there wasn’t a clear runner-up due to format or a lack of transparency (I’m talking to you, BBC) I’ve picked my personal fave from the pile of potential runners-up. With Hungary, for example, I chose my top song from the three that were beaten by Joci Pápai’s in the A Dal televoting decider.
  • Since I tend to ramble, basically writing an essay every time I post, I decided to challenge myself to review each song in just two sentences. Some of them are freaking long sentences (a leopard can’t totally change its spots) but it’s the thought that counts. I hope you enjoy this shorter and sweeter Jaz while she lasts.

Now, let the criticising and complimenting begin! Apologies in advance if I’ve dragged a song you adore, but know that I’ve probably also gushed over one you hate. It all evens out in the end.

 

PS – Speaking of ‘the end’, if you didn’t get the title in-joke, that must mean you missed this glorious moment from the 2019 allocation draw:

 

As haughty as it is hilarious, incoming co-host Assi’s iconic line is the perfect way to describe the fate of these tracks. Agree, disagree, or agree to disagree with my ranking in the comments.

 

 

#26 | Tower of Babylon, Lorena Bućan (Dora, Croatia)

If you’ve always wondered what a musical episode of Game of Thrones would be like, wonder no more. This song was all kinds of ‘thank u, next’ to me when I first checked out the Croatian finalists, and having listened to it again, I’m even more turned off.

>The Dream? Absolutely not.

 

#25 | Sevdisperi Zgva, Liza Kalandadze (Georgian Idol, Georgia)

This is okay, but it doesn’t make an impression on me for better or for worse – and sometimes I’d rather hate something than be indifferent to it. Liza has a pretty voice that deserves to be used in a less dated and much more memorable way.

>Sul Tsin Iare? Not better, but equally non-event.

 

#24 | Sweet Lies, Kerrie-Anne (Eurovision: You Decide, United Kingdom)

Kerrie-Anne’s version of Sweet Lies is catchy and danceable, I’ll admit…but it’s also straight out of the 90s and not in a good way. My ultimate dealbreaker is The Worst Lyric of All Time™: ‘Well, but anyways and somehow, and somehow’.

>Bigger Than Us? No way!

 

#23 | I Will Not Surrender, Maxim Zavidia (O Melodie Pentru Europa, Moldova)  

This song is better than the crappy title suggests it will be, but only just. I don’t know if Moldova dodged a disaster with Maxim finishing second to Anna or not, but I do know that I miss the Sunstroke Project like crazy right now.

>Stay? Not that it’s an achievement, but yeah.

 

#22 | Kaos, Raiven (EMA, Slovenia)

Raiven is slowly becoming the Sanna Nielsen of Slovenia, and there are moments of Sanna-level awesomeness in Kaos to match. Then there are the parts when she repeats the title over and over and over again and makes me even happier that Sebi swooped in (like a Raiven? HA HA HA) and took the win.

>Sebi? NOTHING IS.

 

#21 | You Make Me So Crazy, Markus Riva (Supernova, Latvia)

If Markus couldn’t get to Eurovision with Take Me Down or This Time, he 110% did not deserve to get there with this uninspired dance track. I hope for his sake this was a blip, not the start of a downhill journey of musical desperation.

>That Night? Nope.

 

#20 | Space Sushi, Jakub Ondra (Eurovision Song CZ, Czech Republic)

Nothing can ruin a reasonable song faster than calling it Space Sushi and thinking the lyrics ‘My eyes are bigger than my belly and I will keep them that way, be humble, don’t mumble, for there will be a day when my eyes won’t be big enough’ are acceptable. Spoiler alert: THEY AREN’T.

>Friend of a Friend? Not even close.

 

#19 | Nema Suza, Dženan Lončarević (Beovizija, Serbia)

Finally this Balkan ballad is bringing us into ‘I might actually listen to that again of my own free will’ territory. It’s not a patch on anything Željko Joksimovic has composed or breathed in close proximity to, but it’s classy and dramatic and I can tolerate it.

>Kruna? No – Nevena can keep her crown.

 

#18 | Hvað ef ég get ekki elskað?, Friðrik Ómar (Söngvakeppnin, Iceland)

Friðrik left Euroband and This Is My Life far behind with this (impossible to pronounce) track. It’s a little vanilla and missing an obvious hook, but still a good effort from someone who probably doesn’t gyrate around in skimpy waistcoats as much as they used to.

>Hatrið Mun Sigra? Chalk and (latex-flavoured) cheese, but I don’t think so…

 

#17 | Igual A Ti, NBC (Festival da Cançao, Portugal)

This was one of my favourites from FdC 2019, and if Portugal hadn’t decided to go experimental (which I’m excited about) I would have happily settled for this as their entry for Tel Aviv. Comparing it to Telemóveis, though, it comes off rather boring.

>Telemóveis? No way, José.

 

#16 | I Tuoi Particolari, Ultimo (Sanremo Music Festival, Italy)

I am yet to find an Italian song that isn’t sophisticated AF, unlike myself. While I find Ultimo’s a bit inaccessible in terms of remembering how it sounds (I literally just listened to it and couldn’t sing it back to you to save my life) I know that it was no exception to that rule.

>Soldi? I know I said this about Slovenia already, but again, NOTHING IS.

 

#15 | The Bubble, Adrian Jørgensen (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway)

This song – co-written by Aleksander Walmann minus JOWST – is pretty precious, albeit kind of annoying if I’m not in a warm-and-fuzzy mood. I know it’s about a breakup, but anything with the word ‘bubble’ in it is bound to be sugary sweet to some extent.

>Spirit In The Sky? This question puts the ‘no’ in Norway.

 

#14 | Light On, Monika Marija (Eurovizijos Atranka, Lithuania)

MM was supposed to be the one to beat in Eurovizijos this year, but I can see how Jurijus managed to defy expectations once she’d withdrawn Criminal (arguably the better of her two entries). I do like Light On, and Monika was vocally and stylistically flawless whenever she performed it, but it’s too repetitive/radio-friendly to make much of an impact on me.

>Run With The Lions? I’d rather run with the lions than leave a light on (conserve electricity, folks!).

 

#13 | League of Light, Julie & Nina (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, Denmark)

This song sits somewhere on the musical scale between ‘great’ and ‘hot mess’ – there are parts that are so dated and cringey it hurts me, whereas other parts I dig. As a package it needed work and was not totally ESC-worthy as a result.

>Love Is Forever? Me and my giant dining chair say no.

 

#12 | Nevinost, Ivana Popović-Martinović (Montevizija, Montenegro)

A Balkan ballad minus a lot of the Balkan isn’t ideal, and that’s what we got from Ivana (as well as a dress that made her look like she was ready to walk the Egyptian Mummy Fashion Week runway). Still, I think this was a diamond in the rough and could have become a solid Eurovision song after a revamp.

>Heaven? With a makeover, yes.

 

#11 | The Day I Loved You Most, Makeda (Unser Lied Für Israel, Germany)

Have some tissues handy for this one, especially if you’ve recently gone through a breakup or your favourite Netflix series has been cancelled. It’s a pretty ballad that doesn’t fall into the trap of clichéd lyrics, and I like the perspective Makeda sings it from – she’s opting to remember the best of a past relationship rather than the painful parts.

>Sister? Most songs in ULFI were.

 

#10 | Dear Father, Laura Bretan (Selecția Națională, Romania)

I like this more before Laura ramps up and lets loose with notes that upset pet dogs worldwide – not that she doesn’t hit those highs, but they are intense on the ears and the soul. Having said that, the whole song provides a bunch of goosebump moments and is nothing if not dramatic.

>On A Sunday? Not to my taste as an enthusiastic member of Team Ester.

 

#9 | Superman, Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman (UMK, Finland)

All three Darude/Rejman tracks were cut from the same cloth, and to be honest I don’t know how Finland managed to separate them enough to pick a winner. Superman nearly took the prize and I would have felt the same about it as I do about Look Away – pretty positive, but far from ecstatic. 

>Look Away? It’s the same song…how can I say yay or nay?

 

#8 | Champion, BLGN & Mirex (Eurofest, Belarus)

On purpose or by pure coincidence, the Cesár Sampson influence spread to Belarus in the form of this soulful and infectious toe-tapper. It’s no Nobody But You of course, but I’ll definitely be streaming it on the reg and singing it in the shower as a substitute for a self pep-talk.

>Like It? No, but I wouldn’t have minded this as the Belarusian entry.

 

#7 | Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet (A Dal, Hungary)

There were so many epic songs in A Dal this year, I couldn’t count them on my fingers AND toes. This is one of them, though it took some time before I truly appreciated it for what it is – a genuine, easy-listening slice of sunshine that, like practically every genre, sounds like it was born to be in Hungarian.

>Az Én Apám? Az if!

 

#6 | Tous Les Deux, Seemone (Destination Eurovision, France)

I’m glad we didn’t end up with too many songs about fathers in the ESC 2019 field (Michael Schulte is having his own effect on the comp after that surprising 4th place). Still, as much as I love Roi, I would have said oui to France sending this simple, emotional and classy ballad by Sea Anemone.

>Roi? Not quite.  

 

#5 | Rrëfehem, Lidia Lufi (Festivali I Këngës, Albania)

DAYUM, Albania! You didn’t make a wrong decision with Jonida, but you had another right one in FiK courtesy of this complex, mystical and unique masterpiece from Lidia. 

>Ktheju Tokës? Almost, I have to admit.

 

#4 | Muérdeme, María (Operación Triunfo, Spain)

This had all the goods to make waves in Tel Aviv…apart from María not actually wanting to go to Eurovision, which would have resulted in a half-arsed performance had she been obliged to go. As a standalone song, however, it’s fantastic.

>La Venda? That’s cute, this song is cooler…I like ‘em both.

 

#3 | Pretty Little Liar, Uku Suviste (Eesti Laul, Estonia)

I only need three words to review this song, and they are I LOVE IT. Catchy, powerful, full of staging possibilities and performed by a talented, attractive Estonian guy, the list of what’s wrong with it is just a blank piece of paper.

>Storm? It’s neck-and-neck.

 

#2 | On My Own, Bishara (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)

Don’t boycott me because you disagree (as I know most of you will) but I’m Sweden and Benjamin Ingrosso biased – so when faced with a soulful Swedish pop song co-written by Benji and performed by an adorable, freshly-discovered singer, how was I supposed to react? With instant, unconditional love, that’s how.

>Too Late For Love? Negative.

 

#1 | 2000 and Whatever, Electric Fields (Eurovision: Australia Decides, Australia) 

You might think I’m being biased on this one too being Aussie and all, but I actually paid money to try and help this song go to Eurovision. All of my SMS votes went to Electric Fields, and I lost my voice screaming for them when they were onstage with this no-holds-barred BANGER.

>Zero Gravity? I have to be honest and say yes (here’s hoping I don’t get deported).

 

 

And that’s it! You can listen to all of the songs from today’s post right here (except Albania, Georgia, Montenegro and Serbia, which aren’t available on Spotify Australia DAMNIT):

 

 

Which second-placed songs from the 2019 NF season are your favourites…or least favourites? Which countries do you think made mistakes when it came down to their final decision? Let me know below!

  

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | A seriously super Saturday (with a little something on a Sunday)

Knock knock, who’s there? It’s Saturday again, duh!

When you’re living for the weekends like I do during national final season, it’s a blessing for this day of the week to come around so quickly. And boy, does it have a lot to love on this occasion. Here’s everything happening tonight: 

  • Croatia Dora, final
  • Estonia Eesti Laul, final
  • Hungary A Dal, semi final 2
  • Iceland Söngvakeppnin, semi final 2
  • Latvia Supernova, final
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, semi final 2
  • Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 1
  • Slovenia EMA, final
  • Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 3
  • Ukraine Vidbir, semi final 2

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Is that all?’. But don’t worry, tomorrow night we also have:

  • Romania Selecția Națională, final

Do the math on this list of NFs, and you’ll find that Saturday + Sunday = FIVE more songs for Tel Aviv. And isn’t it about time? We’ve waited long enough to get into double digits.

I’m not about to preview/predict all of the above NF action, since I don’t want to send you (or myself) to sleep. I will make a quick wishlist for the countries I won’t be covering though, so listen up universe: Croatia can give me Brutalero or Redemption, Estonia Storm, Latvia Somebody’s Got My Lover or Fire, and Slovenia Kaos. Oh, and if Portugal could send Calema through as well as Conan (so I can figure out what the heck I actually think of Telemóveis) that’d be awesome.

Now, if you want to chat in-depth about Hungary, Sweden and Romania, you came to the right place.

 

 

It’s the second last Saturday of A Dal decision-making, after last week’s first semi final saw Acoustic Planet, Bence Vavra, The Middletonz (WOOHOO!) and Petruska (smaller woohoo!) make the final cut. Obviously there’s another hurdle for them to jump over in the final itself – making the all-important top four from which 100% televote will determine the winner – but qualifying to next weekend’s showdown is what everyone wants to do, and those guys have done it. Now there’s just four spots left for the taking, and nine acts after them. Let the (probably heartbreaking) battle begin!

  • Kedves Világ! Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko
  • Kulcs Fatal Error
  • Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
  • A Remény Hídjai Nomad
  • Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
  • Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
  • Holnap Bogi Nagy
  • Forró Ruby Harlem
  • Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér

You guys know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year, and though I’ve lost some favourites along the way (JUSTICE FOR VILÁGÍTÓTORONY!) a few more are still in the running and competing in this semi. On the other hand, some of my least favourites are here too, and I’m hoping they’ll be among the sacrificial songs of the night.

Let’s start with the good stuff and work our way through to what will actually happen in Hungary this week, IMO.

My top four In random order, Hozzád Bújnék, Az Én Apám, Holnap and Madár, Repülj! Gergő Oláh is a perennial top pick of mine, and although Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz a Jó, it is a ballistic missile of a ballad that he – pardon my French in advance – sings the shit out of. My beloved Joci is back with a bang (well, more of a gentle tap on the door, but it’s beautiful and impactful nonetheless) and all the raw emotion required to sell such a unique ethno-ballad. Bogi is also armed with a gentle ballad, and the crystal-clear fragility of her voice takes it to another level (though the melody is worth mentioning too). As for Gergő No. 2, which is nothing like Mambo No. 5…well, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Madár, Repülj! at first, but I LOVE it now. It’s distinctive and dramatic without being throwback or an ultra cutting-edge track, and that makes it interesting.

My prediction Given that we know the results of all the heats and semis so far – an A Dal tradition that I enjoy and dislike at the same time – it makes guessing tonight’s final four qualifiers easier. There are five heat winners in this semi alone, however, with some acts having tied FTW. And in the case of Joci and Bogi, who finished equal 1st in the third heat, you cannot separate them – they both scored the same from the jury and from the public. I’m going to give Joci the edge based on his previous history though (and I better not be jinxing him by doing so). Fatal Error stormed to victory in their heat (somehow) so I’d say they were safe finalists…not that they’ve had to compete against any of tonight’s other acts until now. I’m also thinking that Gergő Oláh and Gergő Szekér have a good chance of advancing, since they also tied for the win in their heat. If there’s a wildcard who makes it out of this semi, I think it will be Bogi in place of Gergő Oláh (heaven forbid) or Joci (heaven forbid even more). But I’m locking in my final four as follows: Fatal Error, Gergő Oláh, Gergő Szekér and Joci Pápai. There’s a whole lot of testosterone there and I am not mad about it.

 

Who would you put money on to make it through to the A Dal final?

 

 

How can we be onto the THIRD Melfest semi already? Granted, the second one was a blur for me since I was busy attending Australia Decides at the time (check out my Aussie NF diary here if you haven’t yet) but I’m still shocked. Maybe it’s because – and I hate to say this – the 2019 comp has been a bit of a non-event, at least in terms of the entries (the hosts/interval acts have been fantastisk). Nothing has jumped out at me so far and screamed ‘Winner!’ of Melfest, let alone of Eurovision. Will that change this week with these seven songs?

  1. Somebody Wants Lovers of Valdaro
  2. Habibi Dolly Style
  3. Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck
  4. Victorious Lina Hedlund
  5. Om Om Och Om Igen Omar
  6. Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson
  7. Norrsken Jon Henrik Fjällgren

Based on snippets, no, that’s not going to change. I’m not saying I hate everything on offer here, but there’s a thread of ‘good but not great’ running through the entire line-up that worries me. And yes, I’m even referring to the much-anticipated Norrsken when I say that. But I’ll give this not-quite-magnificent seven the chance to win me over with cracking live performances.

My top four Somebody Wants, Habibi, Om Om Och Om Igen and Who I Am. The Lovers of Valdaro (feat. the guy who wore the heels in Moldova’s Eurovision 2018 performance) are the wildcards from Svensktoppen Nästa, and though I doubt they’ll outdo SMILO’s record of 5th place in a semi (being the highest finish for a Svensktoppen-chosen act), I am digging the beat and production of their song – it should make a great show opener. Habibi is my guilty pleasure and honestly, has the only chorus I could remember after I first listened to the snippets. I like the deviation from bubblegum pop to a more exotic Middle Eastern flavour for Sweden’s version of The Sugababes (because they change members so often, HA HA HA).

Is It just me, or is that Kim Kardashian in the pink wig?

Omar definitely has the better song of the FO & O boys competing this year (RIP Oscar Enestad from the running) even if it is a mixed-language copycat of Side To Side/In My Cabana/Woman Like Me. Pop music is derivative, that’s just how the cookie crumbles – and I can’t wait to hear this spiced-up version all the way through. Who I Am rounds out my favourites list based on everything but the lyrics, which are so clichéd I have a hard time excusing it. Still, the power-pop style of the song and Rebecka’s vocal abilities are enough to keep me rooting for her.

My prediction This is a hard one. Last week proved that anything is possible and that the odds are not always correct (in a good way – go Malou!) so I’m not even going to use them as a guide for my guesses. I do happen to know that Jon Henrik is sitting pretty at the top and is as guaranteed of a place in the final as one can be, so NO-BRAINER ALERT. I believe in Rebecka’s potential to also go straight to Friends Arena, or to Andra Chansen at least. Dolly Style are in the mix after winning the audience poll, but I can’t imagine – especially after seeing a shot of their staging – that they’ll place in the top two. For me the last spot is for either Omar (hopefully) or more likely Lina based on her pedigree and the Jessica Andersson effect. Victorious ain’t no Party Voice, but it’s just what you’d expect from one third of Alcazar and that might well be enough. To sum up, I think it’s Jon Henrik Fjällgren/Rebecka Karlsson DTF, and Dolly Style/Lina Hedlund to  AC. But feel free to surprise me (again) Sweden.

 

Which acts will go where in this Melfest deltävling? Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

 

Disclaimer: Normally I’d just be discussing Saturday night here, but Romania has inconveniently scheduled their final on a Sunday again (Ester Peony pun not intended, but a declaration of love for her song is coincidentally coming up) and I’ve got to talk about it. In amongst the 12 finalists there is a lot of cookie cutter music, but there’s also a handful of songs so good that I couldn’t stay quiet. Place your bets.

  1. Renegades Linda Teodosiu
  2. Right Now Olivier Kaye
  3. Dear Father Laura Bretan
  4. Skyscraper Teodora Dinu
  5. We Are The Ones Claudiu Mirea
  6. Your Journey Aldo Blaga
  7. On A Sunday Ester Peony
  8. Daina Letiția Moisescu and Sensibil Balkan
  9. Army of Love Bella Santiago
  10. Destin Trooper
  11. Without You (Sin Ti) Dya & Lucian Colareza
  12. Underground Vaida

Selecția Națională isn’t usually one of my go-to NFs, and for those of you who do adore it, sorry – I haven’t suddenly become its number one fan. But like I said, a few SN 2019 songs have caught my attention based on their potential to do very well at Eurovision, and/or how jaw-dropping it was to find them in the Romanian selection to start with.

My favourites Dear Father, On A Sunday, Daina and Army of Love. Laura Bretan is a pocket rocket with form on America’s Got Talent, and watching her semi performance of Dear Father had me shook. There’s something special in this song, and it has great build. Of all my top picks it is my least loved, but it’s the most likely to kick butt on behalf of Romania in Tel Aviv. My most-loved in this line-up is On A Sunday, which is like a musical love child of Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke and Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. It turns out those are good genes to combine. It’s a song so slick and moody, I can’t believe it’s not competing somewhere in Scandinavia. Ester is flawless live and I wish she was more of a contender.

Daina is Romania doing what I miss Romania doing. They could have sent it to Eurovision in 2005, 2011 or 2018 and it wouldn’t have made a difference (not to me, anyway). Will they send it in 2019? Not a chance, but it’s a killer – not filler – addition to the final. Speaking of which…where there’s smoke there’s Fuego, and Bella’s Army of Love is such a Fuego soundalike that the smoke is stinging my eyes. My ears are all for it though, because it is a banger! Empowering lyrics, ethnic instrumentals and a rap verse in Tagalog make for a rip-off I’d welcome into this year’s ESC family with open arms.

My prediction As much as I’d like to believe there are multiple contenders for this NF, I think the winner has already been signed, sealed and delivered straight through the window she’s shattered with one of her sky-high operatic notes. I mean Laura, of course. Personally I’d prefer Bella, but when I watch Laura’s performance there’s more than one point where I think ‘This is unbeatable.’ The song might not be the greatest to my tastes, but she makes it great and gives me goosebumps in the process. I said this about Kate Miller-Heidke last weekend and I’ll say it again now: If this girl doesn’t win I’ll be flabbergasted. If she does, I’ll be grateful that Australia isn’t in the same semi as Romania.

 

 

Whew…aren’t you glad I drew the line at discussing three countries? I’m done now, so if you have any thoughts or predictions for tonight that you need to get off your chest, my comments box is empty and waiting for you to throw stuff into it.

Who’s going to win? Who’s going to get knocked out? Will there be curveballs or will the bookies’ favourites follow through? Wherever it’s happening and whatever your opinion is, I’m ready to hear about it. My response will be more polite if you agree with me though…

See you on the other side of this super Saturday/fun-sized Sunday!

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The French final, another Hungarian heat + my thoughts on Tel Aviv’s latest additions!

Bonjour, my fellow Eurofreaks (a sarcastic thanks to the UK for making me never want to use the word ‘freaks’ ever again). Welcome to a 2019 Super Saturday preview, Jaz-style! This is my first proper NF season rundown for the year, and I may be weeks behind everyone else but I’m also excited to get into it – especially now we’re entering the end-of-January-to-early-March period where there are approximately 65 national finals of varying stages taking place every weekend, with other announcements and reveals in-between. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tonight isn’t the busiest night we’ll have this season, but there is plenty of goodness going down. Specifically: 

  • France Destination Eurovision, the final
  • Hungary A Dal, Heat 2
  • Latvia Supernova, Heat 1
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 3
  • Malta X Factor, final

I’m not following Latvia, Lithuania or Malta very closely at this point (either because there are other things to focus on or I’m plain disappointed in the song selection) so today I’ll be talking all things French and Hungarian exclusively…with a few thoughts on the Class of ESC 2019 so far thrown in at the end. I’ll leave you to keep reading if you want to (please do) and to comment your opinions on what’s happened re: Tel Aviv and what might happen this evening. Meanwhile I’ll be busy deciding whether to watch Destination Eurovision or A Dal, because á la Bucks Fizz I really need to make my mind up.

Let’s go!

 

FRANCE: Is the Destination Eurovision final a three-horse race?

After two semis, a few shock DNQs and one song title switch, voilà – we have arrived at our destination. Destination Eurovision, that is. In a field that isn’t as strong as last year’s (for me, at least), eight songs remain in the fight for the French ticket to Tel Aviv. 

  1. Là-Haut, Chimène Badi
  2. Allez Leur Dire, Silvàn Areg
  3. Sois Un Bon Fils, Doutson
  4. Comme Une Grande, Aysat
  5. Tous Les Deux, Seemone
  6. La Promesse, Emmanuel Moire
  7. Roi, Bilal Hassani
  8. La Voix d’Aretha, The Divaz 

If I could go back in time and get my way with the semi results, things would be different looking at this lineup (Gabriella, Lautner and Ugo would be listed, for starters). But as it stands, all of the songs are enjoyable in their own way and should make for a final worth watching. According to the odds as I type this, Bilal is the most likely winner, closely followed by Seemone and Emmanuel. But who do I think should – and will – win?

 

My favourites

His performance in the first semi wasn’t as flawless or affecting as Seemone’s in the second, but I’m happy to have Bilal in prime position with bookmakers at the moment – Roi is my no. 1 song left in the competition. If there’s anything I could learn to love as much as I loved Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva in 2018, it’s this not-totally-dissimilar track that mixes French and English as fast and fluidly as France’s JESC runner-up Jamais Sans Toi. Bilal is an iconic performer with a great personality, and if he amps things up tonight and gives 110% to his time on stage, then he could easily end up having to keep mid-May free for Eurovision.

I didn’t “get” this until I saw it performed, but La Promesse is now right behind Roi in my ranking á la Francais. It was staged simply but beautifully, and Emmanuel matched the visual beauty with Schwarzenegger-strong vocal game. This is a classic example of a song lifted by a live performance. Dark horse alert!

Seemone is the opposite of a dark horse, and while Tous Les Deux is not the song I’d prefer to see representing France in Tel Aviv, I will be able to climb on the bandwagon if it wins. All this girl has to do is stand there and sing (in sparkly shoes for an added My Little Pony + Wizard of Oz vibe) and the majority of us will buy what she’s selling. You don’t have to be fluent in French to know that this is an emotionally-charged song, and the emotions do appear authentic. I just hope that continues to be the case over time if Seemone does go to the ESC.

Doutson rounds out my favourites with the trés danceable Sous Un Bon Fils. It’s nothing mindblowing and has zero chance of winning, but it’s fun – and cute where mini-Doutson is concerned.

 

Who will win?

Much of this final is made up of a) okay songs performed very well (e.g. Là-Haut and La Voix d’Aretha) and b) good songs that could benefit from a better performance (like Comme Une Grande). The top three favourites are the best of both worlds. I think it’s asking a little too much for Emmanuel to win, unless points are so split between Bilal and Seemone that he does it almost by default. My gut feeling though – and my prediction based on her solid win in the stronger of the two semis – is that Seemone will succeed Madame Monsieur as France’s Eurovision rep. I don’t think she’ll beat Bilal by a huge margin, but by enough to get her crowned fair and square. This means that once again, my personal favourite will be pipped by a song I like, but don’t like as much…still, the pain will be practically nonexistent compared to what I felt when Eva lost to Mercy at the last second (but whatever, I’m TOTALLY OVER IT *sobs*).

 

Now, let’s fly over to Eastern Europe and stay for a while. There’s lots to talk about!

 

HUNGARY: Big hitters in A Dal’s second heat  

 

If you read my last post, you’ll know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year. It’s always a great NF to get into, but there’s a particularly huge percentage of kick-ass music on offer in 2019 (as far as my tastes go, anyway). If you read my last post you’ll also know that I was/am in love with Olivér Berkes’ Világítótorony, which failed to qualify from last Saturday’s heat and broke my heart in the process. I’m sure you’re feeling pretty unhappy about it too, Olivér, so feel free to hit me up if you want someone to share a pity party with.

Here’s hoping this week’s heat goes more my way (since I’m still trying to tape my poor heart back together). Once again there are six spots up for grabs, with these 10 songs in contention:

  • Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet
  • Szótlanság, Bence Vavra
  • La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie
  • Little Bird, Diana
  • Kulcs, Fatal Error
  • Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy
  • You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu
  • Roses, The Middletonz
  • Ő, The Sign
  • Incomplete, yesyes

Neither of the two songs I straight up dislike are in this heat, so it’s safe to say I’m excited about it. Tonight is also a battle between five-time participant and ESC alum András Kállay-Saunders (as half of The Middletonz) and 2018 runners-up yesyes, to see if there’s room for both of them to qualify. I suspect there is…and if you want to know what else I suspect will happen in this round of A Dal, keep reading.

 

My favourites

I might be in the minority here (and I say might because I actually don’t know) but IMO yesyes has topped 2018’s almost-winner I Let You Run Away with Incomplete. I’ve already professed my love for it in the post I keep mentioning, so I won’t re-ramble here. I’ll just say that it ticks all my boxes, has a definite shot at winning the whole comp and will certainly qualify from this heat.

My next pick is Roses. Urban, original and on-trend, it’s the kind of song that would stand out in any NF. I’m a little worried it will be messy when performed live as opposed to slick and cool like it is in studio, but The Middletonz should be innocent until proven guilty. I’m not sure Roses will sail through to the semis but my fingers are crossed.

Csak 1 Perc and La Mama Hotel are the best of the rest for me. The former screams radio hit and I love it, but again I’m nervous to see whether it will be a success or a fail on stage. La Mama Hotel is rocky and intense and like basically every type of song, makes Hungarian sound so damn good. Insert prayer for these two to make tonight’s top six here!

I’m not too fussed either way about the other six songs, but if I had to pick two more to advance I’d go with Nyári Zápor and Ő.

 

Who’s going through?

I’m even rustier when it comes to predictions than usual, and I had a super hard time with this one. The Hungarian public and jury can vote in mysterious ways, and realistically, almost anything from this heat has the potential to rise or fall. I am confident that yesyes will qualify and either outright win or tie FTW. Following behind in an orderly fashion will be, I’m guessing, The Middletonz, Fatal Error, Diana, Acoustic Planet and Dávid Heatlie. Don’t be surprised if Klára’s too-Disney-for-Disney ballad sneaks through though – it wouldn’t be the first time A Dal has rewarded a song like that.

Who do you think will make the grade in this Hungarian heat? Let me know in the comments while you still can!

 

The ESC 2019 songs and singers so far

My bad – I’ve realised I’m yet to react to ANY of the recently (and some not-so-recently) selected songs and/or artists for Eurovision 2019. Let’s fix that, shall we?

Albania It’s Jonida Maliqi and her amazingly white teeth (seriously, who does her dental work? I need the inside info) who’ll be flying the Albanian flag in Israel. Ktheju Tokës is a promising track with all the grandeur and mysteriousness of a typical Albanian entry, but I’m not sure that it can hit the heights of Mall. I’ll save any further thoughts for the inevitably revamped version.

Belgium Voice graduate Eliot Vassamillet is dropping his dope surname for the ESC and will be aiming to pick up where Blanche left off rather than where Sennek did. The trend has been for RTBF’s acts to do consistently well (Roberto Bellarosa/Loïc Nottet/Blanche) – and since Eliot’s song will be penned by City Lights writer Pierre Dumoulin, I’d say watch out, everyone else. Fun fact: Eliot was born in 2000 and is somehow old enough to be out of nappies and of ESC age. My god, I feel old.

Macedonia She’s been in the background and foreground of a few contest performances in her time, and now Tamara Todevska has been selected to solo for Macedonia. Her 2008 entry is a slightly guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve liked what she entered previous Macedonian NFs with, so I’m thinking this was a good choice. Here’s hoping she can do better than her sister Tijana did back in Copenhagen.

The Netherlands Fairly unknown (not complaining) Duncan Laurence will follow in Waylon’s footsteps for the Netherlands, though hopefully not to the point of wearing a leopard-print pimp coat on stage. What we do know about Duncan is that he’s easy on the eyes, and has a beautiful and distinctive voice at his disposal (thanks to a leaked demo version of a song that may or may not be his ESC entry). I’m quite excited about this guy.

San Marino Was San Marino trolling us all by letting us think the Human Ken Doll was representing them? I don’t really care, I’m so relieved that he isn’t. That left the door wide open for Serhat to come strolling through as he did in 2016, and I feel stupid for not seeing it coming. I don’t know how to feel about this news, but there’s a chance we could get a decent song out of him this time (i.e. one that isn’t the guiltiest of guilty pleasures). That’s what I’m hanging on to.

Spain In a disappointingly non-dramatic outcome, Spain chose Miki and the super-fun La Venda to go to Eurovision rather than risking a televised ‘Why me?!?’ tantrum and subsequent refusal to go from Maria. Overall, I think they made a smart choice. Miki has loads of energy and charisma, looks like Amir back in Amir’s university party days, and is armed with three minutes of Latin-flavoured happiness. I like the song and expect it to grow on me even more, but I think some fans are getting ahead of themselves with the top 5 proclamations.

PS…I’ll slip in a little word here about the freshly-revealed host quartet for 2019. First things first, I am not a fan of the four-host scenario – it puts too many cooks into the Eurovision kitchen and gets messy very easily. But on face value, the four handpicked by KAN – supermodel Bar Refaeli, and TV presenters Erez Tal, Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub – look promising, and like they’ll have a decent dynamic. Rumour has it there’ll be a divide between Refaeli and Tal as the main hosts, and Azar and Ayoub as the green room hosts, so that should help.

 

What’s next for NF season?

  • 27/1 Romania (Selecţia Natională, SF1)
  • 28/1 Czech Republic (ESCZ winner announcement), Eurovision 2019 (allocation draw)
  • 29/1 Finland (artist announcement)
  • 31/1 Estonia (Eesti Laul, SF1)

 

I think I’ve finally said all I had to say for now, so congrats if you got through it. If you have any energy left, head down to that comment box and spill the tea on anything to do with Eurovision 2019, national finals, what you’re watching and expecting tonight and your personal problems if they’re interesting.

 

I’ll see you on the other side of this (sort of) Super Saturday!