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IT’S THE (GRAND) FINAL COUNTDOWN! My top 10 performances of Eurovision 2018

It’s been less than two weeks since Israel won Eurovision, but to me it actually feels like longer – which makes it even more shameful that it’s taken me all this time to pick out my favourite performances of Portugal’s contest just past.

In my defence, it wasn’t an easy decision! Competition was fiercer than Eleni Foureira’s catsuit-and-stilettos combo this year, especially due to the no-LED policy of the stage design which meant countries had to get extra creative when chasing the wow factor. Better late than never, though, I’ve made my choices (just like Ari Oláfsson told me to). And, in reverse order as always, because I like to whip up a fresh batch of suspense every time I do a top 10 countdown, here they are. Let me know what our agree/disagree ratio is in the comments below…

 

 

#10| Ukraine (Mélovin with Under The Ladder)

When Eurovision meets Ukraine, the result is usually OTT – but up until 2018, it had been a while since the country lived large in terms of their contest staging (1944 and Time didn’t exactly slap you in the face with such subtle items as hamster wheels and half-naked centurions). So it was nice to see Ukraine changing up their recent less-is-more approach for a) a vampiric-looking artist slowly rising from the hellish interior of his grand piano; b) said artist removing a layer of clothing halfway through the song, which in this case looked a lot more badass than when Alexander Rybak did it; and c) yeah yeah FIRE!!! When you think about it, Mélovin’s performance could have been even more flamboyant – but he seemed to know just when to stop to give it the specific level of drama and Gothic glamour it needed. Under The Ladder on the Lisbon stage was as confident and cohesive as we’ve come to expect from Ukraine, whether they’re keeping things simple or kicking their staging up a notch or two (hundred).

 

#9 | Israel (Netta with Toy

If it’s controversial to not have Netta right at the top of a ranking like this, then so be it. I didn’t vote for Israel this year and I can’t claim that Toy is the winning song I would have preferred (let’s just say that I was hoping to be trawling through Air BnB apartments in Limassol right about now). But I can’t argue with the punch this performance packed, thanks mostly to Netta herself and not so much to her dancers, who made the whole thing look more novelty than it actually was. Miss Barzilai, though, even without her looper, was a force to be reckoned with. Every facial expression, hand gesture and note was there; the attitude and sass were sky-high just as they should have been; and it was easy to believe that any guy stupid enough to cross her would be sorrier than Frans realising he really was sorry. Netta sold her song like her life depended on it, with her oriental outfit and backdrop adding an exotic touch to the appealingly bonkers proceedings (and not, IMO, falling into the category of cultural appropriation). The Altice Arena audience went crazy for this, and even on TV it was obvious why.

 

#8 | Austria (Cesár Sampson with Nobody But You

Starring in this year’s episode of ‘Surprising Eurovision Third-Placers’ was Austria’s Cesár, who contributed a jury vote-winning rendition of Nobody But You to the grand final line-up. While I didn’t see that overwhelming jury love coming, I did get some spine-tingles from his performance: one that proved he could more than cope with the transition from backing singer to main artist. Commanding the stage – and a spectacular hydraulic platform – completely solo, he made it hard for me to look away from him (or even blink, lest I miss a shot of his impressive arm musculature). Austria also added a mix of shadowy and golden lighting that perfectly suited the song and its soul vibes; a bit of crowd interaction in the second half to up the human connection with Cesár; and, tapping into a trend that was way overused in 2017, the sole giant selfie of the year…which was great apart from the fact that super-sized Cesár was wearing a different shirt to flesh-and-blood Cesár. But that’s a mildly irritating detail I can overlook, based on how boss every other aspect of this performance was.

 

#7 | Denmark (Rasmussen with Higher Ground)

Like Sweden (a country you should expect me to mention later on in this list) Denmark rarely changes much about their staging between their national final and Eurovision. Unlike Sweden, a lot of the time they need to but just don’t. Fortunately, 2018 was not one of those years – and some credit needs to be given to the ship-inspired Lisbon stage for that. Performing a seafaring Viking song, Rasmussen must have thanked his lucky stars when he discovered how neatly Higher Ground fit in to the concept of the ESC this year. Sure, a ship wasn’t the first thing you thought of when you looked at the stage, but just knowing how appropriate Denmark’s package would appear in the year of ‘All Aboard!’ gave them a boost. Sails, snow, stomping, blue lighting, beards, and a manufactured breeze were all Rasmussen needed to create the ideal atmosphere for Higher Ground – and what came out of the oven once all of those ingredients had been combined and baked was gobbled up by televoters. They ranked Denmark first in the second semi, and in the top five in the final. That’s definitely higher ground than the Danes managed to reach in Kyiv!

 

#6 | Estonia (Elina Nechayeva with La Forza)

I’ve said this in a previous post, but there was a time when I thought Estonia didn’t need to stick Elina in a ridiculously expensive projection dress to make a statement. La Forza and her insanely impressive operatic talents would do the trick on their own, right? Well, we’ll never know for sure – but what I now know for certain is that The Dress: Eurovision Edition (forget about some wedding guest getup that’s black and blue/white and gold) turned Estonia’s appearance at Eurovision 2018 into a showstopper. What helped to make the performance all the more dynamic were the close-up shots of Elina during the soft, mystical verses (just to hammer home how stunning she is) interspersed with wider shots and aerial shots during the explosive choruses – those showing off the dress projections to maximum advantage. If I was being ultra picky (as I enjoy being sometimes) I would have liked the lighting scheme and projections to be totally celestial – more cool colours to take us all to a galaxy far, far away. But a bit of red lighting here and there and some psychedelic dress swirls didn’t prevent me from being speechless at the end of this three minutes.

 

#5 | Australia (Jessica Mauboy with We Got Love)

Okay…before you scream at your screen that I must have walked Rasmussen’s plank and drowned in a sea of my own insanity, hear me out. Firstly, I’m Australian and am therefore totally biased when it comes to our handful of ESC entries and my unconditional defense of them. Secondly, when I name Jessica’s performance as one of my favourites of the year, I’m referring more to the stronger semi-final version than the nervy final version. And thirdly, whatever your opinion on her vocals, that dress (which we now know finished 2nd in the Barbara Dex vote) or the characteristically dark Sacha Jean Baptiste staging, you have to admit that Jess is a ray of sunshine who invested every fibre of her energy into her time on stage and brought light to those overly-moody surroundings. I felt so proud (and a little bit teary) after her Thursday night performance – and part of that was to do with the freedom, rawness and authenticity that came from the dreamtime dance moves and a vocal that was a rough diamond rather than a crystal-clear one-carat diamond. Jess did what she does best by bringing her personality on stage as a prop, and I really enjoyed watching her as a result.

 

#4 | Moldova (DoReDos with My Lucky Day)

Discarding a cool NF staging concept in the hope of wowing people at the ESC with an even cooler concept is risky. Moldova took that risk, ran with it, and ended up providing us with an impeccably-timed slapstick-chic performance that elevated an okay song to sensational status. Try and find a flaw in DoReDos’ Eurovision creation and I will dispute whatever you come up with, because it had it ALL. Eye-catching costumes (in Moldovan flag colours, of course)? Check. Boatloads of stage presence and charisma from all three band members and their backing squad? Check. An oversized Ikea cabinet put to better use than anything with doors has been before? Check! Putting paid to the stereotype that men can’t multitask – and proving that women absolutely can – the trio sang, danced and dashed in out of those doors without missing a beat or looking like it was any sort of struggle. In a day and age of the easily distracted (myself included) keeping all eyes on you for 180 seconds can be difficult – but My Lucky Day live in Lisbon was entertainment well worth the price of admission.

 

#3 | Czech Republic (Mikolas Josef with Lie To Me)

From being stuck on a hospital gurney with a neck brace on to turning out a performance like this – only to go on and top it in the final? Mikolas, I salute you. For a horrifying few days early on in rehearsal week, we weren’t sure whether the Czech Republic would even get to compete in the contest with their best entry ever. But the Eurovision gods were smiling down on us (that, and Mikolas did what doctors told him to do). He got through his semi show in more restrained style than he would have liked before pulling out all of the acrobatic stops on the Saturday night – moves that capped off a super-fun, well-choreographed, part-music video/part-live performance feat. SWAG. There is nothing I would change about the Czech staging, although I wouldn’t have complained if a hologram camel had materialised at some point. The highlight – besides Mikolas landing the flip and not ending up back in the emergency room – has to be the butt wiggle/floss/backpack combo after the second chorus. That was genius, and in keeping with the saucy subject matter. I can fully understand why plenty of these greedies want to eat Mikolas’ spaghetti (apologies if I just said something super rude…I honestly don’t know).

 

#2 | Cyprus (Eleni Foureira with Fuego)  

There’s a reason Eurofans still talk about Ani Lorak all the time, despite Shady Lady finishing as the Eurovision runner-up TEN YEARS AGO (!). Ani was a crazy-hot woman in an amazing outfit who, backed by a posse of equally attractive dancers, strutted her way through a top-notch pop song to rapturous applause from the audience. Does that sound familiar? Does it sound…fuego, perhaps? I think so. Eleni came to Portugal armed with an ethnopop banger that had all the best elements of Shady Lady in its staging, and also threw back to Secret Combination and Qele Qele (Greece and Armenia’s ’08 entries that finished 3rd and 4th respectively). I loved being reminded of those other fierce women who’d showed the ESC who was boss back in the day, while being treated to a song that was modern enough to work in 2018. Eleni looked incredible, danced like a woman possessed, and whipped her hair back and forth in amongst fake and real fire while wearing that sparkly catsuit you wouldn’t want to have to pee while sewn into. I’m not going to lie…I wanted to BE her. If we must have successful 2018 entry copycats in 2019, can they please be Fuego + Foureira copycats?

 

#1 | Sweden (Benjamin Ingrosso with Dance You Off)

As we arrive at my no. 1 personal pick for Eurovision performance of the year, it will either be a massive plot twist (because you’re new here and were partly responsible for Sweden’s low televoting score) or a predictable ending (because you know how obsessed with Sweden and how big a fan of Benjamin’s I am). Whatever the reason for that lack of love from the public, it was not a problem for me – someone in awe of the glow-up between Benjamin’s 2017 and 2018 Melodifestivalen performances, and then continually impressed by the Dance You Off performance that was copy-pasted to the ESC (why would you mess with something that slick?). I don’t know why people have an issue with Swedish performances being the same every time, at Melfest and in every Eurovision rehearsal. When you put that much effort in to a stage show – even though Benjamin’s was relatively simple, just extremely effective – and rehearse the crap out of it, why shouldn’t it be flawless by the time it’s going to be on TV? I love this song and I love how it was staged, unconditionally. Jean Baptiste who?

 

 

I’ve showed you mine…now show me yours! Which Eurovision performances floated your boat the most this year?

 

 

 

 

FLASHBACK(yiv) | The 10 most memorable moments of Eurovision 2017

Does anyone else think it is RIDONKULOUS that we’re just over four weeks away from Eurovision 2018? Where dafuq does time go? I know it’s like thunder (thanks to the teachings of Uzari) but that aside, it’s a mystery.

My point – today, anyway – is not so much that Lisbon is so close, but that Kyiv is nearly a year old. It seems like the 2017 contest happened a few months ago at most, and realising it didn’t has me SHOOK.

The silver lining is that we can now gaze fondly (or not so fondly) back at last year’s show, and the things that made it one to remember, before version 2k18 arrives. And that’s exactly what I’m doing today, in case you misunderstood the title of this post: counting down my top 10 most memorable moments from Kyiv. And yes, the definitive ‘the’ in the aforementioned title is misleading, since the following list is based on my opinions. You know what I’m trying to say.

If it’s been a while since your last 2017 rewatch, consider this a refresher – and if you want more memories, you can check out my other Kyiv-related countdowns (e.g. my best and worst performance lists). But for now, keep reading and see what I think made last year’s contest quite the memorable one. And afterwards, vote for your favourite unforgettable moment!

 

 

#10 | Blackbird, don’t sing (in the grand final): Finland fails to qualify

There are some things that pop up at Eurovision every year without fail: WTF stage props, backup singers being the secret stars of the show, awkward conversations between the hosts and Jon Ola Sand…that sort of stuff. Also occurring every year is at least one final result or DNQ that the Eurofan community just cannot get over and will vent about on social media for months. When it comes to the most shocking scoreboard-related event of Kyiv, I was torn between Austria’s televoting zero in the final (how could that happen to the precious angel that is Nathan Trent?!?) and Finland’s failure to even make the final – and ultimately, I just can’t go past Norma John’s Blackbird getting the boot. The song had me at hello (i.e. the first time I listened to it and heard the line ‘Now you remind me of something I’ll never have’, I broke out in goosebumps and burst into tears simultaneously) and I’ve watched the performance back a bunch of times looking for reasons why it didn’t go through. Spoiler alert: I CAN’T FIND ANY. Finishing 12th in last year’s first semi, Finland would have had to knock out Georgia (11th) and Greece (10th) to reach the Saturday night, and almost a year later I still believe they should have. Let’s see if they can qualify this year for the first time since 2014, with big gun Saara Aalto (even though that won’t compensate me for all the Kleenex I’ve used crying over Blackbird).

 

#9 | A meme-orable smooch: Alex Florea gives Ilinca a kiss to remember

Okay, so this one was less painful than Finland’s DNQ – maybe not for Ilinca, but for the rest of us. If I’m honest though, the celebratory smooch Alex forcefully planted on her was more iconic. I don’t have anything against it, exactly. The guy was caught up in the moment and what happened, happened (a lot like something else celebratory I’ll be mentioning later on in this list). But the image of Ilinca’s squashed-up face is burned into my brain, and obviously I had to gift you guys a GIF of it above in case any of you had managed to block it out. I need you to laugh-cringe with me all over again!

 

#8 | Firebrace yourselves! Isaiah’s nightmare high note

Don’t get me wrong: I was totally supportive of Isaiah last year (from 2015 onwards I’ve been a member of the ‘defend your own country’s entry to the death’ club), and even though I’m still unsure how Australia ended up in the top 10, I’m proud of him and his team for managing it. But even I can’t deny that several seconds of his semi final performance – and you know which seconds I’m referring to – can now be labeled as one of the worst vocal slip-ups in ESC history. Isaiah was only seventeen back then, and since the rest of his time on stage was infinitely more ear-friendly, I don’t want to shame him. But OUCH. Just ouch. Well, ouch with a little laughter thrown in because I’m a terrible person (the kind who will also laugh when they see someone fall over in the street…but I do feel bad about it, if that helps). Sensibly, there was no attempt in the final to hit that same note, so maybe our eventual 9th place was Europe rewarding us for not damaging millions of eardrums any further. PS – If you’re wondering why I didn’t think Spain’s vocal car-crash moment was memorable enough for this list, well…it didn’t come as much of a shock, TBH. It was more of a nail in the coffin for poor Manel, as opposed to something that almost destroyed an otherwise good performance.

 

#7 | Two genres + three Jacques = one heck of a performance from Croatia

When you think of the most outstanding acts of Eurovision 2017, you might think of winner Portugal, the return of Epic Sax Guy for Moldova, or Francesco Gabbani and his (pretty worse for wear) ape not quite meeting expectations for Italy. Or, your mind’s spotlight might shine straight down on Croatia, with a performance that stood out from the rest for every reason imaginable. As if the whole ‘one man singing two songs solo’ thing wasn’t enough to attract our attention, Jacques took the LED selfie trend to the next level with two massive Houdek heads representing the pop and opera sides of My Friend (as did his half-and-half costume). Plus we got to witness an onstage instrumental duel that reminded me of Harry Potter VS Draco Malfoy in The Chamber of Secrets; pyro for days; rainbows and six-foot sunflowers; and…have I forgotten anything? The kitchen sink must have been in there somewhere. You might not have liked My Friend much as a song (I didn’t) but you have to admit that Croatia created something unforgettable during their three minutes.

 

#6 | Nappies and nuptials: Jana Burčeska reveals she’s pregnant…then gets proposed to!

Macedonia may not have qualified (again) last year, but Jana probably didn’t mind much given she had a lot of other stuff to celebrate on the night of her semi. A pregnancy announcement via pre-performance postcard was new ground for Eurovision – and then came the on-air green room proposal from Jana’s boyfriend Aleksandar (during which one of her fake fingernails fell off…#romance). Two out of three good things on one night ain’t bad! Jana went on to give birth to a baby girl and went all meta-ESC by naming her Dona. And we all went on to remember her acceptance of a marriage proposal as the most dramatic thing to happen in a Eurovision green room since Eric Saade called Petra Mede a MILF back in 2013.

 

#5 | Fast food and fireworks: Salvador’s sensational victory speech

You didn’t think I was going to leave this out, did you? Salvador made headlines beyond Eurovision bubble borders with his post-win declaration that “Music is not fireworks, music is feeling.” His was a speech far less sassy than Conchita Wurst’s, but much more controversial. Even though it was spur of the moment, I can’t help admiring the guts of a guy who’ll get up on a stage in front of thousands (with millions more watching him on TV), at the world’s biggest pop music contest, and say “We live in a world of disposable music; fast food music without any content. I think this could be a victory for music…that actually means something.” The implications were pretty negative, and neither Salvador’s fellow artists nor fans were very happy with the statement. But I can see what he was trying to say, as someone who appreciates meaningful music just as much as musical fluff engineered purely to get butts on the dancefloor. If he’d had time to get his thoughts together, he might have been able to articulate his message in a way that didn’t send the Eurovillagers after him with flaming torches and pitchforks – but that wouldn’t have made for such a memorable moment.

 

#4 | A wet-eyes reprise: The Sobral siblings’ emotional end-of-show duet

Now, back to the Salvador who melted our hearts in Kyiv. After his sister Luísa – composer of Amar Pelos Dois – had filled in for him during rehearsals to ensure he was contest-ready, it was only fitting that she’d be invited to join him for his winner’s reprise. I didn’t know what to expect of this since, as usual, I’d avoided the rehearsal footage like it was an obligation on Eurovision night. Three minutes later, I was encrusted in the salt of my own tears and half wishing the song had been performed as a brother-sister duet the entire time (though given the subject matter, some lyrical changes would have been required). Over the years we’ve seen choked-up reprises and incredulous reprises, but we’d never seen one quite as stunning as this.

 

#3 | Two for one on best-ever results: Bulgaria and Moldova make history

If some mystical bearded Eurovision prophet had told you a few years ago that the 2017 top three would be Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova, would you have believed them? I know I wouldn’t have. And yet that’s the trio we found ourselves faced with at the top end of the scoreboard last year. I’m not done with the winner talk yet, so the bronze position on this list is purely devoted to Kristian Kostov and the Sunstroke Project, who earned their respective countries’ best results ever. After failing to qualify for six years in a row (2008-2013), Bulgaria took a two-year ESC break before returning in fantastic fashion with 4th place in 2016 – only to outdo themselves in Kyiv by finishing 2nd. Moldova, meanwhile, had three DNQs behind them – and a standing peak placing of 6th from 2005 – when returnees the Sunstroke Project secured the third-highest lot of televoting points, which boosted them into 3rd position. Nearly a year on, I still do a happy dance when rewatching the results sequence that led to these Bulgarian/Moldovan milestones.

 

#2 | The butt of the joke: Jamala’s uninvited guest bares (almost) all

Since Jimmy Jump decided to join Spain’s performance in Düsseldorf, nobody else had been game to stage-invade at Eurovision (thank the Lordi). That is, until last year. An infamous Ukrainian prankster – draped in an Australian flag, which meant we copped the blame + bad rep for a bit – thought it would be a smart idea to make an actual arse of himself during Her Royal Highness Jamala’s grand final rendition of I Believe In U. I’m glad he didn’t ruin the atmosphere of 1944, but I’d still like to take that flag and whip him on the bare butt with it for doing something so immature. Luckily, being the classy lady and seasoned performer that she is, Jamala didn’t even bat an eyelid when that crack appeared in her performance (double entendre intended). This was another ESC 2017 event that made headlines worldwide and in some cases, overshadowed reports of Portugal’s historic win – so as cr(ass) as it was, I can’t deny that it was unforgettable.

 

#1 | Amar Pelos Dois does the trick: Portugal wins Eurovision for the first time

But of course! Pre-2017, the last country to win Eurovision for the first time was Azerbaijan (after a whole FOUR YEARS of trying…not that I’d call Running Scared a good try), but Portugal? Well, they’d been waiting over half a century to see how sweet victory tasted. It was a fairytale ending to the 2017 contest, but not one that everyone saw coming. Italy was the fan and betting favourite this time last year, winning every pre-contest poll and leading the odds…until a last-minute leapfrog by the Portuguese saw Francesco’s obvious win become not so obvious. But did we all really believe Salvador could Salvado it instead? I’m pretty sure I didn’t until the douze points started rolling in, one after the other. The public vote could have changed everything, but it didn’t:  Portugal won that too, making them the first country since Austria in 2014 to top the jury and televote in order to win. You can’t challenge dominance like that! As a result of their result (HAHAHA) we’re off to the sun, sand and sea of Lisbon in a month, and we all get to witness the ESC Portuguese-style for the first – and hopefully not the last – time. Excelente.

 

 

So, that’s my ranking – but as always, I want your opinion.

 

Did I miss your favourite moment out completely? Let me know (nicely) in the comments.

 

Until next time, when my 2018 reviews will finally begin (with verdicts on Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands, FYI)…

 

 

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…national final songs of the 2018 season + a playlist of ALL my favourites!

Is it just me who feels like we had a handful of Eurovision 2018 entries five minutes ago and were impatiently waiting for the rest to be locked in? And yet, somehow, the selection season is actually over. We have our 43, and that’s been the situation for a few weeks now.

It’s kind of sad, but there is a bright side – besides another contest being on the cards in the foreseeable future. Before looking back at Kyiv 2017 and looking SIX WEEKS (!) ahead to Lisbon 2018, we now get to glance over at this latest NF season and say ‘How you doin’?’ in a suggestive Joey Tribbiani way to all of the awesome new music we discovered throughout January, February and March (and maybe a little in December too). And today I’m finally ready to present you with my personal list of absolute favourites.

For some reason, I didn’t let myself have total free-rein fun with it (I may be my own boss, but it turns out I’m a strict one). There were conditions. DUN DUN DUN!!!

  1. This is an obvious one, but I couldn’t choose a song that won the NF it competed in, even if it was my favourite in the field. Once that happens, the song stops being an NF song and becomes a Eurovision entry, after all.
  2. Secondly, I only let myself choose one song per country, so don’t think you’re about to see me fawn over ten Melfest tracks in a row – it hasn’t happened. It would have been more like 3x Swedish songs, 3x Norwegian, 3x French and 1x token from somewhere else anyway.

Based on these rules, I’ve put together my top 10 and I’m pretty pleased with it. But, since this year offered up so much great stuff, if you make it to the end of this post – or just cut out the middle man and scroll straight through – you’ll find a playlist of my top 10 plus ALL of my other ‘best of the rest’ songs from this season. Feel free to tell me what excellent taste I have in the comments (or at least be polite when you’re criticising it). And don’t forget to leave a list of your NF favourites from 2018 too – I want to know what stood out to you and what you might have preferred to hear/see in Portugal over what will be. Because I’m nosy *hopes it’s part of my charm*.

Now, let’s get into the list!

 

 

#10 | Astronaut by Liam Tamne

Unplaced in Eurovision: You Decide (United Kingdom)

I know many of you will want to throw a pie at my face (or in this case, perhaps a plate of bangers and mash) for suggesting that ANYTHING in the You Decide lineup was better than Asanda’s Legends. Don’t get me wrong…that was dope, and in my opinion was probably the best choice the UK could have made for Lisbon (sorry/not SuRie). But while my head knew that much, my heart was with Liam and his Astronaut. Apart from taking the space metaphors a little too far at times, this song appeals to me in every way – from the modern and atmospheric production to the pretty melodies and Liam’s crystal-clear falsetto. In fact, the only thing that really bothers me is the line ‘take your body into space’, which sounds like a threat a serial killer would make to a bound-and-gagged victim after consuming a tray of hash brownies. But (bizarrely) that’s not a deal breaker. You can be my astronaut for sure, Liam (in a platonic way because I know you have a husband).

 

#9 | Signals by Karui

Unplaced, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (Denmark)

When Karui didn’t even get a look in to the super final of DMGP this year, it didn’t come as a surprise. She may have turned in a stellar, soulful performance, but Signals is just not the kind of song Denmark would ever choose to send to Eurovision. As a consolation prize, though, it’s totally the kind of song I get a kick out of, and I plan to listen to it on the reg until I find a 2019 Danish reject to replace it. The song is like a less urban version of All My Friends by Snakehips, with bare-bones verses and hypnotic choruses that run smooth like a chocolate fondue (why do I always end up comparing music to food?). It’s the perfect backing track to a low-key house party or a romantic rendezvous – not, I have to admit, a great song to enter in a competition, which is another reason why I didn’t crumple dramatically to the floor when it didn’t go anywhere in DMGP. I still want to hear more stuff like this from Denmark in the future, even if it only serves to end up on a Spotify playlist of mine post-show.

 

#8 | Ptica by BQL

2nd, EMA (Slovenia)

Okay, so it might have been BQL with Promise that technically came second in EMA…but the semi-final Slovenian version of this song is miles better. In any language, it’s no Heart of Gold (which 110% should have gone to Kyiv despite the boys being more performance-ready this year) but it has the Maraaya Midas touch, and that’s enough to warrant it a spot on my best of the rest list. I just love the cruisy vibe, the acoustic-pop sound, and OF COURSE the light-up guitars (it’s like Poli Genova personally oversaw the instrument-pimping process). Honestly, if BQL return for a third try at representing Slovenia next year with a song less impressive than this, it HAS to be their time. Maybe the musical love child of Heart of Gold and Ptica would do the trick? You’re welcome for the musical inspiration, Maraaya.

 

#7 | Lelya by Tayanna

2nd, Vidbir (Ukraine)

If there’s one thing we learnt from NF season 2017, it’s that Tayanna can SING…unless she’s got a throat infection. Fortunately she made a triumphant comeback to Vidbir this year, switching from a big dramatic ballad to a fast-paced retro pop banger in the process. As you’ll know if you tuned in to see her in action, she sang so studio-perfectly while dancing her ass off that she had to fend off accusations of lip-syncing on live TV. But she’s not fake – just fierce AF. And so is Lelya, with a catchy chorus and unrelenting energy that helped Tayanna hang on to her 2nd place from a year earlier. I would have preferred her to go to Eurovision on home soil with I Love You (what a host entry that would have been!) and I’m happy with Under The Ladder as Ukraine’s song for Lisbon, but Lelya would have been a worthy entry too. BTW…I’ve linked Tayanna’s semi performance above because, even though she was vocally flawless both times, I really did not like the oversized pantsuit she wore in the final. Seriously.

 

#6 | My Turn by John Lundvik

3rd, Melodifestivalen (Sweden)

Why are the Melfest performances geoblocked on YouTube? In Australia, anyway. It’s a travesty, is what it is. But I digress. If you read the Selection Season posts that led up to this one (which you totally would have because you just can’t get enough of me, AMIRIGHT?!?) then you might have noticed I transitioned from thinking My Turn was cheesier than a board of brie and camembert, to thinking that it was magnificent (while continuing to acknowledge the cheese). It’s not like it’s Our Choice cheesy (Iceland has a lot to answer for). It’s more of a ‘I just won Idol circa 2002 and this is my uplifting, inspirational winner’s single! Yay for me!’ situation. But it just works. It has all the moments it needs to give me goosebumps, right down to the explosive money note that we all knew would be accompanied by a fire curtain before we even saw John perform it on the Melfest stage. And speaking of which, he performs it so well with so much confidence, it’s hard to hate. Who knows, he may not believe a word he’s singing, but he makes me believe that he does. It so is your turn, John…just not to win Melodifestivalen, obviously.

 

#5 | Delirium by Isabell Otrębus

9th, Krajowe Eliminajce (Poland)

There’s something about Isabell that isn’t that appealing to Poland – this year in particular, when her NF outing ended with second-last place. I’ll admit that Delirium is a better song to listen to than to watch being performed (making it less than ideal to send to a contest where visuals are as crucial to a successful package as the song). But that’s what I’m ranking here anyway – songs that I have already or will be Spotifying the shiz out of over the next few months/years/centuries (because Delirium gives me enough life to guarantee I’ll live beyond 100). This song is better, I reckon, than Isabell’s 2017 Krajowe entry Voiceless. That was good, but Delirium is great. It’s not quite a pop music masterpiece, but pretty close – everything about it is contemporary, the production (Swedish, surprise surprise) is slick, and the chorus is simple but super catchy. If I’m honest, I would have preferred Poland to send it to Lisbon over Light Me Up, but I also know full well that Gromee and Lukas will fare better than Isabell would have. So I’ll just accept what actually happened, and continue to press play on this whenever the mood takes me (which is about every half an hour).

 

#4 | Poison (Ari Ari) by Tamar Kaprelian

DNQ, Depi Evratesil (Armenia)

Initially, I was under the impression that this was the ONLY song Armenia should send to Eurovision this year. Then they went and kicked Tamar to the curb at the semi-final stage of Depi Evratesil (THE NERVE!) and chose Qami…which I ended up falling in love with because it gives me all the Renaida-style feels. But rest assured that a) I’m still mad about the Poison rejection, and b) I will never forget what an epic piece of ethno pop it is. And that’s not just by comparison to Genealogy’s Face The Shadow, which was dire. In a parallel universe – and with some staging changes plus a boost from backing vocalists – this would have been an ESC return that gave an entire continent a bad case of the earworms. I mean, that chorus is stickier than super glue!  Overall, the song is three minutes of Tamar playing Princess Jasmine in the Armenian production of Aladdin, and hers is an Arabian night I want to relive over and over again. Ari ari-lly love this.

 

#3 | Scandilove by Ida Maria

Unplaced, Melodi Grand Prix (Norway)

I have to start by saying that I had a hard time choosing my Norway song for this list. I had no doubt there’d be one, I just didn’t know whether it would be Talk To The Hand, Who We Are or Scandilove (and narrowing it down to those three was tricky enough. #firstworldproblems). Ultimately I opted for Scandilove because it’s the Mean Girls of music: endlessly quotable, totally iconic and SO much fun. If you don’t believe me on that first point, allow me to present you with the following lyrical gems: ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion, it’s fucking freeeeezing’; ‘You’re in Scandinavia, biatch’, and of course, ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’ (though I’m still not sure exactly what that entails). The whole thing is so weirdly wonderful, a part of me wishes Norway had taken a non-Rybak risk and bestowed Europe with such a magical gift of song in May. Especially since Ida performed it so perfectly (when I was expecting a car crash) and with all the energy, attitude and costume game we could have hoped for. 1990s Spice Girl pop and 2010s too-cool-for-school Scandi pop – with a sprinkling of ridiculousness – join forces here, and the result is amazing.

 

#2 | Compass by Alejandro Reyes

2nd, Die Entscheidungsshow (Switzerland)

Now I’m getting into the songs that I not only wanted to win, but nearly got my way with (which is me saying that this song and my #1 both finished second in their respective NFs). I do think Stones is a good song, and that Switzerland was sensible in picking it. But if I’d had the picking power over there (I cannot imagine a scenario in which this would be the case, but just roll with me) I would have gone with Compass in a heartbeat. I was impressed by Switzerland having a potential Eurovision song that was so damn now, it could be the latest thing Shaun Mendes fangirls are freaking out over (rarely something you find in a Swiss NF). Still, I would have dug this like a hole in the sand even if it had been competing in Melodifestivalen surrounded by similarly current radio hits. It’s easy-listening but still has energy; the lyrics are interesting, neatly rhymed and non-cliché; and the chorus is stripped-back (word-wise) but memorable. As a package, Compass comes gift-wrapped in fancy paper with a big fat bow on top. And, as an added bonus, Alejandro is a beautiful sight to behold and can deliver himself to my door gift-wrapped (or not) any time.

 

#1 | Eva by Lisandro Cuxi

2nd, Destination Eurovision (France)

Eva feels nothing but a heartache…and I was the same when Lisandro was beaten at the last minute by Madame Monsieur in France’s 2018 NF. As with Norway, there was a handful of French possibles that could have ended up on this list, and they did all end up on the playlist you’ll find below (including Emmy Liyana’s OK ou KO and Nassi’s Rêves de Gamin). But I had to make Lisandro’s Eva my number one NF song of the season because not only do I love love LOVE it, it’s also the one song that destroyed me when it finished second, not first. It didn’t help that it looked like it was going to win until, as I said, the last minute (oh, the pain!). But enough about that, since it didn’t win and I’ve now accepted that. As a standalone song outside of a competition, to me Eva is everything. It’s moody, mixes languages without interrupting lyrical or audio flow, tells a story, goes hard on hypnotic beats and power, and is generally an R & B banger that stood out to me from the moment I heard a snippet of it. Lisandro’s smooth-as-silk vocals are the cherry on top of the croissant. More than ever, I wish we could make an exception to the September 1st rule and wheel this one out to represent France in 2019, but the best I can hope for is that Lisandro tries again with a song that’s equally good, or better (if such a thing even exists).

 

 

So that’s the cream of the crop for me…but about the rest? Well, here they are alongside my top-tier NF favourites.

 

How long would your personal playlist be? Would any of my top 10 picks make it into your top 10? Write me a sentence or a story in the comments and let me know!

 

I’ll be back soon with another pre-Portugal post, and then it’ll be time for the EBJ reviews to kick off (the only time I wish Eurovision wasn’t currently a 40+ country contest is when I have to write about every single entry). Watch out for those, and/or subscribe (in the sidebar), and/or follow me on your standard social media platforms @EurovisionByJaz, for new post alerts. Oh, and ESC-related thoughts complimented by GIFs. What more could you want?

 

 

 

 

SONG CONTEST SHOWDOWN | The top 10 of 2016 VS the top 10 of 2017 (+ vote for your favourites!)

I’m back…again!!! I’ve had to announce my comeback after an extended blogging break pretty often in the past, so I figured why stop now?

My excuse is the same as always: even though Eurovision is my one true love, the older you get the busier you tend to be, and the more commitments you tend to have that keep you from sitting in bed in your pajamas writing about Europop (sadly). Having said that, I will do my best to be here on EBJ as often as possible in the lead-up to Junior Eurovision, the start of the 2018 NF season, and beyond. I’m like Valentina Monetta – you can’t get rid of me permanently and I’ve only made it to the Eurovision final once.

Since my last post, a lot of stuff has happened on Planet Eurovision: JESC switched venues (!); Eurovision Asia officially became A Thing™ (!!!) and Louis Walsh admitted that he thought Ireland would float – hot air balloon pun intended – straight through to the final in Kyiv (?!?!?). Even so, today I wanted to talk about something else. More specifically, I wanted to engineer a song contest showdown in which particular pairs of ESC entries would go head-to-head until, as Ryan Dolan might say in this situation, only one survives (from each battle). I actually started a similar series ages ago but accidentally forgot to continue it. Oops.

For no reason other than I felt like it, this song battle reboot will pit the top 10 tracks of Stockholm 2016 against their 2017 counterparts – so that means Jamala VS Salvador Sobral, Sergey Lazarev VS Sunstroke Project, and (amusingly) Frans VS Robin Bengtsson (because Sweden is apparently awesome at finishing 5th). I’m going to weigh them up against each other musically, crown my personal champ and then give you guys the chance to vote for your preferred song from each pair. Make sure you read through to the end (a toilet break may be necessary at some point) to vote for the best overall top 10.

Stockholm VS Kyiv – which city’s left-side scoreboard was superior? Let’s get this showdown started and find out!

 

 

Battle #1 | 1944 by Jamala VS Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral

They’re both brilliant brunette vocalists who made me burst into tears with their emotional performances. I worship the phenomenal woman-power of one and want to give the other one a bone-crushing hug. But which artist had the better winning song? I’m sorry if you wave your pom-poms for Team Salvadorable, because I have to say IT’S YOU JAMALA. This is my opinion, obviously, and you’re welcome to disagree with it. But I was hypnotised by 1944 from first listen, and when it won it was my #1 entry of the year. Amar Pelos Dois took time to tug at my heartstrings, and it’s not something I’ll press play for as often as I did (and still do) with last year’s winner.

Winner 1944

 

Battle #2 | Sound of Silence by Dami Im VS Beautiful Mess by Kristian Kostov

This is more of an apple-to-apple comparison than most of the other head-to-heads on this list, which actually makes it easier to pick a winner. If I were an Australian who’d be on the Olympic podium for patriotism (if that event existed) then this battle would not be in Bulgaria’s favour. But I like to consider myself pretty objective, so – as kick-ass as Dami’s performance was, and as much as I admire the Sia-esque power pop of Sound of Silence – Kristian’s Beautiful Mess is a better song in my brain. It’s just as strong in studio as it is when you see it on stage, whereas Sound of Silence relied a lot on the pizzazz of the performance to push it into top-two territory.

Winner Beautiful Mess

 

 

#3 | You Are The Only One by Sergey Lazarev VS Hey Mamma by Sunstroke Project

There are a lot of differences between the two songs that have taken home the bronze at Eurovision in the last two years. In a way, YATOO was the Italy 2017 of 2016 – a big longstanding favourite that didn’t follow through in the end (though Sergey came closer than Francesco); while Hey Mamma was a massive surprise in terms of propelling Moldova into the top three for the first time. Personally, I loved Hey Mamma immediately and want to weep with joy every time I remember that it came third, whereas YATOO was a track I hated at first (because I thought it was a terrible ESC throwback) but came to love later. I listen to them both on repeat, but my favourite of the two has to be Hey Mamma because it’s a totally 2017 slice of Europop – with a generous dollop of Epic Sax on the side – that never even had to try  to win me over. Sergey fans, don’t be so mad…if you knew me, you wouldn’t be surprised.

Winner Hey Mamma

 

#4 | If Love Was A Crime by Poli Genova VS City Lights by Blanche

They both wore black and sang (mostly) in English, but that’s where the similarities between Poli and Blanche come to a screeching stop. I guess you could also say that both ILWAC and City Lights were examples of so-cutting-edge-you-might-need-a-BandAid pop music, but the songs have totally different vibes. For the most part, I’m more likely to lean towards an upbeat song that I can awkwardly dance to (my take on Poli’s choreography is unfortunately reminiscent of the Chicken Dance), so even though I do think City Lights is a brilliant song – and I’m so happy Blanche got over her nerves to deliver a performance worthy of the top 5 – ILWAC is too irresistible for me to…well, resist. Summer hit > melancholy electro-bop. Just.

Winner If Love Was A Crime

 

#5 | If I Were Sorry by Frans VS I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson

DAMN YOU, SWEDEN, FOR FORCING ME INTO THIS DECISION BY FINISHING FIFTH TWICE IN A ROW!!! Even if this is your first visit to EBJ, you can probably sense the Swedophile status that makes comparing something Swedish to something else Swedish and deciding which one’s superior a heart-palpitating task for me. There’s never been a Eurovision song from Sweden that I haven’t at least liked (2009’s La Voix is just noise, not a song, so it doesn’t count) and my relationship with their entries from 2016 and 2017 is more than platonic. But…giving in again to my penchant for a danceable piece of pop, I’m declaring I Can’t Go On the winner by one of Robin Bengtsson’s perfectly-groomed chin hairs. That’s because the second I hear it start, I perk up and prepare to sing loudly over the top of him, and If I Were Sorry doesn’t have that power (sorry!).

Winner I Can’t Go On

 

#6 | J’ai Cherché by Amir VS Occidentali’s Karma by Francesco Gabbani

Now THIS might be a controversial battle – either because you guys will be split down the middle, or because it’s actually an easy one for me but that might have some people plotting my death. I like Occidentali’s Karma a lot, and always have (‘always’ = since February when we first heard it), even if I suspected for the longest time that Eurovision 2018 wouldn’t be popping up in Italy. It’s fun, it’s catchy, it makes astute observations AND it has its own dance á la the Macarena…what’s not to like? Nothing. But you know what? I like it rivers, and I love J’ai Cherché oceans. Amir is just adorable (it’s not his fault that his name doesn’t illustrate just how precious he is, unless it’s not too late for ‘Amir-acle’ to catch on) and J’ai Cherché is a masterclass in sunny, uplifting – but not cheesy – folk-pop. It’s one of the few songs you can clap to without feeling like an overly-enthusiastic dad at his kid’s soccer game. C’est magnifique.

Winner J’ai Cherché

 

#7 | LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan VS Yodel It! by Ilinca & Alex Florea

This fistfight is a no-brainer for me to call champion on, so I won’t keep you in suspense. Simply put, LoveWave has aged better over the past year-and-a-bit than Yodel It! has in a matter of months – for me, anyway. I have to be in the right mood to listen to Alex and Ilinca doing their yodel-rap duties these days, and if I have even a hint of a headache, forget it. Iveta, while not one of my favourites from last year’s contest, left a more sophisticated and less irritating legacy behind (and she really put the ‘leg’ into legacy).

Winner LoveWave

 

#8 | Color of Your Life by Michał Szpak VS Origo by Joci Pápai

For those of you who’ve forgotten about the epic scoreboard leap Poland made in Stockholm, here’s your reminder (I don’t have room to insert the GIF, so just pretend I did). I don’t begrudge Michał his awesome last-minute result, but in this battle he was bound to lose. Even if he’d turned up at my front door with pleading eyes and a million-dollar bribe (which shockingly, he didn’t), the love I have for Origo would have seen me slam the door in his face – while being careful not to maim any of his majestic man-hairs, of course. Joci Pápai’s ethno-dance dream was and still is my douze pointer of Kyiv’s 42, so nothing short of my all-time favourite ESC entry (Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović, FYI) would have a shot at changing my allegiance.

Winner Origo  

 

#9 | I’ve Been Waiting For This Night by Donny Montell VS Don’t Come Easy by Isaiah

Donny definitely wins the showdown when it comes to song title length, but does victory come easier to Isaiah (HA HA) in terms of song quality? And another question: will I be deported if I say no? Let’s find out. I don’t think many Eurofans would argue that Donny himself and his second Eurovision song have more of an x-factor than Isaiah and his song – ironic given that Isaiah won The X Factor. It’s probably down to Donny’s more extensive stage experience and showier personality, plus an entry that just happens to be more exciting and have more mass appeal. That appeal does extend to me, although I am fond of Don’t Come Easy. But *packs suitcase* I just *heads to port from which I’ll be shipped off to a faraway land for being un-Australian* prefer Donny’s package. No dirty thoughts, please…you know what I mean.

Winner I’ve Been Waiting For This Night  

 

#10 | What’s The Pressure by Laura Tesoro VS Grab The Moment by JOWST

Squeezing into the top 10 in 2016 and 2017 were two great tracks from Belgium and Norway. For the former, it was their second consecutive year on the left side of the scoreboard, while the latter country was clawing their way back up after a DNQ on Swedish soil. But who did 10th place better? I’m pretty torn, to be honest. Laura’s grand final opener put the fun into funk and proved yet again that saxophones are as effective at Eurovision as they are in George Michael’s Careless Whisper (a.k.a. VERY). JOWST, on the other hand, brought something uniquely 2017 to the contest stage with lyrics that I previously crowned my faves of the year. As much as I want to be loyal to Laura, I think I have to go with Grab The Moment because it’s a little cleverer and a lot more original.

Winner Grab The Moment

 

 

Okay…we’ve finally made it through the entire top 10 of both Stockholm ‘16 and Kyiv ’17. Now the main part of the show(down) is over, in true ESC style it’s time for some overall results.

2016 = 5

2017 = 5

DAMMIT. It’s a tie – practically Eurovision 1969 all over again (but on a much, much smaller scale and minus booms + bang-a-bangs). I am going to break this tie though, looking at the entire top 10 of each year and deciding which one was stronger – for me. BRB.

*several hours later*

Okay, I’ve got it. The winner is…

 

 

Maybe I’m a bit biased since I was there (#subtlebrag) but I do think the overall kick-assery of the 2016 top 10 is slightly more forceful – there was practically a residual shoeprint – than the 2017 top 10. Do you agree? If you voted in the polls above, then I’m guessing you won’t mind voting in this one to let me know.

 

You can give me the lowdown on all the super-important choices you made above in the comments. Not gonna lie, I kind of want someone to start a fight with me over “the clear superiority of Sergey in comparison to Sunstroke Project Vol. II”. Just remember, if we all liked the exact same songs to the exact same degree, Eurovision would be extremely predictable and pretty boring.

But obviously, I’d still be obsessed with it.

 

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…performances of Eurovision 2015

Hej hej! Welcome to the filler post that’s supposed to make you drool with anticipation as you await the results of my 2015 Eurovision Excellence Awards.

Don’t worry; their arrival is in the offing. In the meantime, if you haven’t voted in the People’s Choice polls yet, I would la la love you to do so while you still can. The polls are sitting pretty in my previous post, where they’ll be open for another few days (UPDATE: They’ve now closed!!!). Many of the results are close at this point, so your vote could determine who wins and who goes home empty-handed. As our beloved Queen Loreen would say, you got the power.

Before you head off to use it, though (and thanks so much if you already have…douze points for you!) why not hang around here for a bit and check out today’s countdown?

The forty songs performed in Vienna over three nights have been narrowed down to ten: my top ten of the lot, based on how well they were staged and sung, how aesthetically pleasing they were, and how insignificant the shocking camerawork became in light of all of the above.

 

As taking forty down to ten is a tough task (even with a few badly-staged, badly-sung entries among that forty) I’m allowing myself some Honourable Mentions to start:

Moldova If Moldova had tried to disguise I Want Your Love as a classy, contemporary affair, there would have been a global eye-roll epidemic. Fortunately, Eduard and his team acknowledged how trashy and 2000s the song is via a heavily-choreographed, sleazy dance routine performed by “police” hot off a porn set. I don’t care what anyone says – we NEEDED this in Eurovision 2015.

Montenegro Željko Joksimović was part of Adio in spirit (and as songwriter) if not on stage, with his influence extending to the use of every Balkan ballad trope imaginable during Knez’s performance. In this case, I’m more than happy to embrace the clichés, because I’ve long been a sucker for Balkan ballads and their atmospheric ensemble-based stagings…especially when Željko’s engineered them.

Russia I can’t deny that Polina gave a win-worthy performance in the final, helped along by her all-white resemblance to Dima Bilan back in ’08 (except his neckline was even more plunging than hers). But, more so than the costumes or the backdrops, it’s the emotion and energy she put into conveying the message of A Million Voices that I applaud here. Polina clearly invested every fibre of her (pure and angelic) being into her performance, and the fact that she semi-crumbled at the end endeared her effort to me all the more. You go, girlfriend.

 

And now, let’s get to the really, really good stuff (and pretend I didn’t just say ‘You go, girlfriend’): my top ten performances of the year.

When compiling this list, I thought back to how strong my desire was to clap after each performance, rather than bury my head in my hands. I also tried to recall whether my eyes were glued to the TV screen for three minutes straight (á la Sweden) or if I was tempted to tear them out after ten seconds because I NEVER EVER WANT TO SEE ANYONE WEAR ANYTHING LIKE THAT AGAIN, TRIJNTJE!

This is the end result.

 

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#10 | Game of Thrones meets Eurovision…and it’s a perfect match

Genealogy’s performance of Face The Shadow for Armenia

Game of Thrones with a ton of (subliminal) ads for Cadbury Family Blocks thrown in, that is. Armenia’s medieval-esque and very purple outfits – which may or may not have been retrieved from the depths of Inga’s wardrobe and repurposed, based on their resemblance to her and her sister’s 2009 costume choice – added to an equally purple and well-executed performance that took my pre-show perception of Face The Shadow and completely reversed it. Once performed live, the chaos of the studio version – in which all six singers attempted to outdo each other at every opportunity – disappeared, making way for screen shots that almost literally walked us through Essaï, Mary-Jean, Stephanie, Inga, Tamar and Vahe’s solos. On top of that, the migraine-inducing melodrama of that studio version came off as more of a theatricality, and one that worked very well outside of the recording booth. I still feel like Genealogy would have been more at home in a West End production of The Phantom of the Opera than at Eurovision…but their performance made me want to retract most of the snarky comments I made when reviewing Armenia a few months ago – and that deserves praise.

 

#9 | How do you say ‘OTT’ in Spanish?

Edurne’s performance of Amanecer for Spain

After a pretty lengthy period of simplistic staging choices, it was only a matter of time before Spain regurgitated every unused costume reveal, backdrop, dance move and wind machine gust from the past five years all over the Eurovision stage. We’ll never know whether less would have been more where Amanecer is concerned, but I personally don’t mind never finding out – because Edurne’s action-packed, meme-worthy performance harked back to the ultra-gimmicky days of the contest, and I couldn’t help loving it. Si, it was OTT, but not in a tacky, trashy way (Moldova had the tackiness and trashiness all to themselves). To put it in Eurovision terms, if Silvia Night’s Congratulations performance in ’06 was a petulant child, then Edurne’s Amanecer performance was the same child nine years later – more mature, but now at the party-girl stage of life when all she wants to do is rip off the demure cloak she wore out of the house to appease her parents, revealing a flashy dress that enables her to be manhandled by a half-naked dancer up in the club. Or in this case, up on the Stadthalle stage in front of thousands of flag-waving fans. Something else I commend about Spain’s show is the fact that Edurne didn’t let the myriad of backdrops, or the machine-made wind, or any of the other stuff that was happening to/around her, outshine her. She retained her status as star of the show the entire time. I guess when you’re that stunning, it’s easy to do.

 

#8 | Before I leave, you can definitely show me Tel Aviv!

Nadav Guedj’s performance of Golden Boy for Israel

I mean that in a ‘because you guys are the collective kings of fun’ kind of way, as opposed to an ‘I have the hots for a sixteen-year-old which, as I am in my twenties, is creepy, even though said teenager looks older than me’ kind of way (I swear I don’t). Without question, Israel was the life of the Eurovision party in Vienna, and all it took was simple but bang-on staging of the energetic floorfiller that is Golden Boy. All the song needed was a cool lighting scheme, men who could move, and – something I didn’t visualise pre-ESC but now can’t imagine sacrificing – some sweet-as-heck metallic sneakers. And Israel delivered on all three of those counts. They also gave us a teen talented beyond his years, who worked the stage like a pro and made millions of people watching at home leave the butt-shaped crater in their couches behind in order to shake the butt that made the indentation. I was doing no such thing when I was sixteen, being too busy carrying out my grand plan to win over the guy I liked by never looking at or speaking directly to him, which worked a treat. Not. ANYWAY, there was nothing not to enjoy about Nadav’s moment in the spotlight – including his literal moment in the spotlight during Golden Boy’s ballad-like intro, also perfectly staged – which is why it’s going down as one of my top ten performances. As long as I can keep pretending the cringe-tastic ‘Do you like my dancing?’ lyric doesn’t exist, I’ll be re-watching it on repeat.

 

#7 | Where there’s smoke, there’s Nina

Nina Sublatti’s performance of Warrior for Georgia

Let’s be honest: there were a lot of lady ballads in Eurovision this year. Countless women in floor-sweeping gowns were either a) wilting away at their microphones because the flame of their loins had departed, or b) demanding in a very shouty manner that we all come together and build a bridge and pray for peace and whatnot (thanks, but no thanks). So it’s a relief that Georgia gave us some grunt factor in the form of a fierce-as-F-word, gothic goddess in black leather hotpants and thigh-high boots – a.k.a. Nina Sublatti. At twenty years of age, Nina held her own on a sizeable and very smoky stage (she didn’t even bat a kohl-covered eyelid when the Dry Ice Overload Incident took place during the final). Girl eyeballed the camera, strutted around in those amazing boots (sorry to keep mentioning them, but they’re a 10 on the Maja Keuc scale of lust-worthy footwear) and generally hypnotised me into staring at her the entire time she was doing her femme fatale thing. She didn’t need anyone else accompanying her on stage, and I get the feeling the same applies to her everyday life – she’s the epitome of a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man. It’s quite possible that I’m a little bit in love with her, actually. But pushing that aside, I think that Georgia staged Warrior impeccably. A striking backdrop, a dark and sexy choice of costume, dry ice for atmosphere and Nina herself was all that the performance needed to succeed.

 

#6 | Lights! Camera! Completely unjustified nul points!

Ann Sophie’s performance of Black Smoke for Germany

From one saucy, black-clad woman to another…let’s talk about Ann Sophie and her Eurovision rendition of Black Smoke. And this time, I’m going to get straight to the point: I LOVED this performance. Fans who didn’t like the song beforehand and were still annoyed about the Andreas situation may not have felt the same way watching it, and I’ll admit that as I did rate Black Smoke quite highly in the contest lead-up – and wanted poor, downtrodden Ann Sophie to surpass expectations (which didn’t quite pan out) – I’m probably biased. But you tell me something that was über-wrong with Germany’s three minutes, and I’ll tell you that you’re crazy. Everything about it was simple, seductive and sophisticated – and no, I haven’t forgotten about the butt-centric shots that dominated the first verse. What can I say? The woman has a behind that deserves camera time, and the fact that she spent thirty seconds with her back to the audience was at least a unique and memorable approach to stage choreography. It was hardly off the charts wackiness-wise when compared to some of Belgium’s choreography (which *spoiler alert* will be discussed again shortly). Ann Sophie’s style and charisma were equally on point, and her voice wasn’t half as nasally as it had been at the German national final. On top of that, the use of the giant lights as props was inspired, and totally in keeping with the slightly retro flavour of Black Smoke. All in all, Germany’s was a slick and entertaining performance in which every visual element was nailed and the artist played their part in adding pizzazz. Neither the televoters nor the juries thought that zero points was a fair score here, so I blame the current combined voting system for a failure that will haunt my dreams for years to come.

 

#5 | Three (handsome, Italian) heads are better than one

Il Volo’s performance of Grande Amore for Italy

Il Volo, of course, had sung Grande Amore live at Sanremo in order to win the main section of the comp – but after hearing the song for the first time via the cinematically-themed video and falling in love with it, I decided not to seek out the live version. Rather, I’d wait until Eurovision time to see if the boys would blow me away as I expected them to. Obviously, since I’m talking about them on a list of my favourite Viennese performances, they did. They really, really did. All they had to do was stand on the stage in front of that majestic and oh-so-Italian backdrop in dapper suits, and nail their solo vocals and harmonies, and the power of the song would do the rest. A little partnership between the lighting/graphics and the explosive launch into the choruses added to the drama, and that wink from Gianluca down the camera cemented the sex appeal and charisma of this popera entry. Comparisons to the stuffy and straight-laced Sognu should have ended there, but people refuse to stop pitting Italy 2015 against France 2011…even now that we know Italy won the televote and finished third overall (seriously, STOP IT!). Effortless, classy and with an Italian stamp on their performance like always, Italy more than made up for Emma’s scoreboard slump of 2014. And gave me some epic goosebumps. Brr.

 

#4 | Did we pick the right Guy for the job? Too right, mate!

Guy Sebastian’s performance of Tonight Again for Australia

No list of this nature written by an Australian would be complete without our debut performance on it. In fourth place is Guy Sebastian, whose talent, personality and posse of backup dancers/singers had the whole of the arena on their feet (from what I could see on screen) and dismissing the ‘WTF?’ factor of Australia being invited to compete. Tonight Again is the kind of song that works better live, when the performer can feed off the energy of the audience – and in this case, where smooth-as-honey vocals like Guy’s sound sweetest. From his first note, the crowd made the noise that indicated they knew they were in for a fun time (fun being extremely welcome after a ton of down-tempo songs that simply could not be twerked to), and when the trumpets kicked in, there was no looking back. The 3D and 2D street lights served as an eye-catching and appropriate part of simple but effective staging – i.e. staging that was far from boarding Spain’s OTT train, but not at all boring. My absolute favourite thing about our debut was this: watching it unfold in a room full of other Aussies, all of us waving our flags and singing along to every word, while dancing in the uncoordinated kind of way one does at 4 o’ clock in the morning. For the first time, I felt the patriotic spirit that those of you in regularly-competing countries must feel when you’re supporting your entry for the year (assuming you like it and aren’t embarrassed to get behind it). If we’re not invited back, then I’ll always have that memory and feeling to hold on to (sorry for the cheese, but this was a special event, and I’m getting kind of emotional thinking about it *sniff*).

 

And now, for the top points…er, I mean, performances. Or perhaps both?

Yes.

Eight points go to…

 

#3 | Affected, detected, reflected and injected

Aminata’s performance of Love Injected for Latvia

I am proud to say I’m someone who approved of Love Injected when it won the Latvian NF. But not even I foresaw how epic Aminata’s Eurovision performance, and eventual result, would be. I mean, this is Latvia we’re talking about – their contest history includes the world’s campest pirates, Johnny Logan name-dropping and songs about cake-baking. In the post-2000 years, I’ve often had low expectations of them…but that’s changed. Watching barely-five-foot Aminata attempt to fit through backstage doorways in that giant red puffball of a dress, I was skeptical. But with that dress, and the girl in it, being the focal point of the presentation, magic was made. The colour scheme and lighting were seamlessly integrated with the theme and hypnotic beats of the song, and the camerawork here was among the best of the lot. The real drawcard, though, was Aminata herself. Like Conchita, she remained in the same spot for the entirety of her performance, but managed to belt out Love Injected with a whopping amount of power, and emote using only her facial expressions and arm movements. Note-perfect every time and totally present and absorbed in the moment, she had so much to do with Latvia providing another spine-tingler. Overa-a-a-a-all (couldn’t resist) they impressed me big time, brought up my heart rate, and achieved a result that was more Brainstorm than Beautiful Song.

 

Ten points go to…

 

#2 | Lord of the dance, and the leather pants

Måns Zelmerlöw’s performance of Heroes for Sweden

Oh, Sweden – you did it again! Á la 2012, the ESC powerhouse’s out-of-the-box thinking led to an innovatively-staged performance that was unique in the field, and deservingly took out Eurovision’s top honours. The extent to which Sweden takes Melodifestivalen and Eurovision seriously is evident in how well-packaged their entries are from the very first time you see them live – when they’re just potential Swedish representatives competing in a Melfest semi. Changes to the stick man aside, the Heroes that turned up in Vienna was shot-for-shot, move-for-move the same as the Heroes that had won Melfest in Stockholm. And there’s nothing wrong with that – why strive to improve on perfection? Sure, there were a few minor tweaks that did just that: e.g. the colour scheme becoming monochromatic, which, as Måns said, gave the visuals a crispness they didn’t have before. That was the cherry on top of a precision-iced cake. Although I’d seen Måns interacting with cartoon Måns (who’s not as handsome but is adorable nonetheless) a million times before he did so at Eurovision, I was compelled by the staging every time. MZW  was selling something I already wanted to buy, so the fact that a) his vocals were top-notch, b) his engagement with the audience and camera was as pro as always, and c) he was still rocking those leather pants *swoons pathetically* was an added bonus. Just because every element of a performance has been thought through and rehearsed to within an inch of its life doesn’t mean said performance will become stale. It can still be fresh, with the right frontman…or in this case, the right frontmåns.

 

And now, the moment you’ve waded through my ramblings for. The douze points for my personal favourite performance of the year go to…

 

#1 | Black + white + rap pap pap tonight!

Loïc Nottet’s performance of Rhythm Inside for Belgium

Belgium has been a hit-and-miss kind of contest competitor lately. After Roberto Bellarosa’s surprise success in Malmö, Axel Hirsoux’s failure to qualify in Copenhagen must have taken the wind out of their sails (while not surprising the majority of us who were creeped-out by Mother). This year, with Francophone broadcaster RTBF in charge again, Loïc Nottet was internally selected – and what a brilliant selection it was. Loïc – who we mustn’t forget is only nineteen years old – proceeded to co-write a cutting-edge pop song and choreograph a cool routine for some all-white backing singers. The rest, as they say, is history. Belgium’s best result since 2003 was thanks to a song and performance unlike anything we’d heard or seen on the Eurovision stage before, which is mainly why I voted for it. Simple shapes, bizarre but complementary dance moves and a minimalist, monochromatic colour scheme united as Loïc let rip with a killer vocal. Unusual camera shots, and an intensity from The Voice Belgique runner-up that would be hard for an artist twice his age to muster, added to the intrigue, making Belgium’s performance pretty impossible to forget. The whole thing was strange yet satisfying, and gelled in a way that some other performances didn’t. I couldn’t tear my eyes away, having been a fan of Rhythm Inside from the start and then been blindsided by a level of awesomeness in its presentation. I want to see more of this in Eurovision as we journey on into the show’s seventh decade. Maybe that would prove that the older the contest gets, the cooler it gets – you know, like your grandmother who goes bar-hopping, listens to heavy metal and takes hang-gliding lessons.

 

 

That’s my countdown concluded, peeps. I’ve said my (very long) piece, so now it’s your turn. Which ten performances of Eurovision 2015 will you be watching over and over until a distraction comes along in the form of Eurovision 2016? Let me know below. I’m as curious as always!

 

NEXT TIME Dust off your tuxedoes, fluff out those tulle skirts, and red-carpet-proof your footwear – the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence have arrived! Well, the first installment has, anyway. You’re cordially invited to sit front-row as the trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs are handed out. Four of the People’s Choice winners will be revealed as well, so you won’t want to miss this ceremony.

 

nsig

 

EBJ’S TOP 10…national finalists of the 2015 season (plus the rest of the best!)

Hi. I’m Jaz, I’m twenty-three years old, and I think I need to be admitted to national final rehab after the week I’ve had.

No, I haven’t been watching every single NF of 2014/15 back-to-back, only leaving the me-shaped crater in my mattress to get food and let the other occupants of my household know that I’m still alive. That would be crazy!

What I have done is listen to almost every single song entered in a 2014/15 national final, on and off for quite some days, in order to determine my favourites of the season. Subtract the reasonable-sized bunch I was already acquainted with (mostly those hailing from Scandinavia) and you’ll see how that’s a much less crazy thing to do. Still, I need the rehab. Just to make sure I’m re-energised enough to haul my butt out of bed for 3 x 3am Eurovision installments next month (!).

Those of you not currently receiving NF-induced therapy get to enjoy the fruits of my labor today, as I present my top 10* national final songs of the season just gone – plus the thirty-odd others that I would recommend you add to your must-hear playlist, if you haven’t heard them yet.

Hit me up with your personal preferences in the comments, and let me know if there are any gems I should give a second chance to (or third, or fourth…I’ve had an intensive time, guys).

 

* If I’m honest, it’s actually a top 11 (as if you wouldn’t have noticed). I got to the point where the prospect of relegating one more song to the ‘rest of the best’ pile was causing me physical pain, so I decided to throw the rulebook out the window and adopt the attitude of ‘my blog, my rules!’. And my rules dictate that a top 11, in a time of need, is a-ok. And now I’ll shut up and get on with said top 11.

 

My favourites, from A Dal to UMK (and quite a few finals in-between)!

Counting backwards for maximum suspense levels.

#11 | I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (DNQ, Sweden)

In what shall henceforth be known as The Swedish App Fiasco of 2015, lady-in-red Molly failed to even make the second chance round of Melodifestivalen, allegedly due to first-time-use issues with the voting app. Up until my ears were exposed to eventual winner Heroes, I was convinced the Land of Abba had let their best chance of Eurovision success go in this scandalous manner. Now, though I couldn’t be happier about Måns heading to Vienna, I still see/hear this song as a retro-flavoured masterpiece, performed with a level of diva-ness that Dana International could only dream of reaching.

 

#10 | Nefelibata by MNTHA (4th, Latvia)

Tracks like this – i.e. weird alt-pop songs – aren’t normally my cup of tea, but for some reason, I’m drinking them down like there’s no tomorrow at the moment. MNTHA’s high-pitched vocal on Nefelibata (which apparently means ‘cloud-walker’) adds delicacy to a song that makes you wonder where it’s going, even when you’re listening to it for the third time in a row. It’s an attention-grabber of the non-OTT kind, and I appreciate that very much.

 

#9 | S’të Fal by Lindita Halimi (3rd, Albania)

You might not expect feverish EDM to come out of Festivali I Këngës. Even if you did, you might not expect it to get such a good result. Lindita Halimi pulled out all the vocal gymnastic tricks she could muster (but failed to pull a pair of pants out of her wardrobe or use a hairbrush) and ended up bringing both of those things to the sometimes-stuffy FiK with S’të Fal. I really like the pace of this song, how edgy it is, how it builds, and how surprisingly well it works with a live orchestra.

 

#8 | Wechselt Die Beleuchtung by Laing (Result unknown, Germany)

You can always rely on Germany (‘always’ meaning ‘for the previous four or five years’) to provide a national final full of interesting, atypically-Eurovision (per the stereotypes) entries. The superior of the two songs Laing threw into the Unser Song Für Österreich ring, this one is dark, moody, and also cutting edge. It lends itself beautifully to the German language and comes armed with an über cool performance feat. a costume reveal and…desk lamps. Translate the title of the song, and that addition will make sense.

 

#7 | Human Beings by Karin Park (Result unknown, Norway)

The woman behind Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love decided to have a bash at representing Norway as singer and songwriter this year, and it made for a triumph – if not results-wise, then in musical magnificence. Who knew a song with such sentiment behind it could be so lacking in cheese? Human Beings has the same kind of cold beauty that captured Europe’s votes when M. Berg oozed it on the Malmö stage (sorry for that mental image). It’s a Karin Park trademark. How Human Beings didn’t make the MGP super-final is beyond me.

 

#6 | Glück by Alexa Feser (Result unknown, Germany)

What do you know, here’s Germany popping up in my top 10 11 again! And ich liebe es big time. I would like to direct all people who believe German to be a harsh language to Exhibit A: This Song, if Laing’s didn’t already convince them otherwise. Glück, which according to Google Translate = ’good fortune’ (which means it probably actually translates to ’unripe bananas’ or something) is slow-burn piano pop at its finest – pretty, calming and authentic.

 

#5 | Frozen Silence by Fahrenhaidt (DNQ, Germany)

I swear, this is the last German national finalist I’m going to prattle on about. Yoda would say hauntingly beautiful this is, but I’m going to say that it’s hauntingly beautiful – so I guess Yoda and I are in agreement. Like Nefelibata, Frozen Silence isn’t a big, brash, in-yo-face number, but it draws you in and holds your attention nonetheless. This could have been a spellbinder on the stage in Vienna (though in the scheme of things, I’m grateful for the more up-tempo Black Smoke).

 

#4 | Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (DNQ, Sweden)

I’ve been listening to this more or less non-stop since it got booted from Melfest – in favour, mind you, of a performance that incorporated a selfie stick (though in Samir & Viktor’s case, it was technically a groupie stick). Rap interspersed with vocals isn’t to everyone’s taste, but something about this – the anthemic atmosphere, the drums, the hilarious way Behrang says ‘ehhh’ at the beginning, perhaps – gets me every time. I find it particularly powerful when I’m struggling with a workout, as it has an amazing ability to push me towards the finish line. #forreals.

 

#3 | Crossroads by Satin Circus (2nd, Finland)

This. One. HURT. I thought Satin Circus had UMK ’15 in the bag with their irresistible pop-rock singalong song for le youth…but alas, PKN pipped them. Crossroads came a close second to Aina Mun Pitää, and as a result, I can’t listen to it without tearing up and wailing ‘If only!’. But I continue to listen to it anyway, because it is the bomb, and in my Eurovision fantasies it goes down an absolute treat in Austria. Tonight we CAN be young!

 

#2 | Fjaðrir by SUNDAY (5th, Iceland)

Every year, Iceland passes up the chance to send something that’s more Björk than bland; i.e. a piece of quirky pop perfection that even the haters would have to admit is unique. This year, SUNDAY’s Fjaðrir (or Feathers, in its slightly-less-awesome English incarnation) was that sacrifice. I freaking LOVE it – it’s weird and mystical and so contemporary it shouldn’t even exist yet (I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that, so don’t ask). The song makes much better use of its three minutes than Unbroken does, and she-SUNDAY’s voice is perfect for the style. Brilliant stuff.

 

#1 | Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf (Result unknown, Hungary)

Leaving What About My Dreams? – and her poofy-haired, satin-clad self – behind, Kati Wolf made a triumphant return to A Dal in 2015…at least as far as I’m concerned. The A Dal judges were more like ‘whatevs’ when it came to the crunch, failing to put the Wolfster and her emotive ballad through to the final four. Ne Engedj El (Don’t Let Me Go) would have been my ideal representative for Hungary though, because, unlike Boggie’s cry for peace that leaves me cold, I can feel the feelings Kati invests in it – feelings that were well-portrayed in her performance.

 

The rest of the best (according to moi)…

Get these babies on your music machine of choice STAT, people. Unless you hate them all, in which case just do your own thing. Whatever. I can’t help you improve your terrible taste.

AUSTRIA: Absolutio by Johann Sebastian Bass (5th)
BELARUS: Supernova by Janet (14th)
CYPRUS: Stone In A River by Hovig (4th)
DENMARK: Suitcase by Anne Gadegaard (2nd), Tæt På Mine Drømme by Julie Bjerre (3rd), Manjana by Babou (5th)
ESTONIA: Burning Lights by Daniel Levi (2nd), Superlove by Elisa Kolk (3rd), Exceptional by The Blurry Lane (8th)
FINLAND: Hold Your Colours by Solju (4th), Ostarilla by Shava (8th), Mustelmat by Siru (DNQ), Love It All Away by Eeverest (DNQ)
HUNGARY: Fire by Ív (Result unknown), Mesmerize by Passed (Result unknown), Gyémánt by Vera Tóth (DNQ), Ősz Utca by Gergő Szakács (DNQ)
ICELAND: Fyrir Alla by Cadem (6th), Aldrei of Seint by Regína Ósk (DNQ)
ITALY: Fatti Avanti Amore by Nek (2nd), Adesso e Qui (Nostalgico Presente) by Malika Ayane (3rd)
LATVIA: Take Me Down by Markus Riva (2nd)
MACEDONIA: Brod Što Tone by Tamara Todevska (2nd)
MALTA: Rush by Christabelle (2nd), Breakaway by Glen Vella (3rd), Stop Haunting Me by Raquel (DNQ)
NORWAY: Next To You by Jenny Langlo (Result unknown)
ROMANIA: Superman by Lara Lee (7th), Chica Latina by Aurelian Temișan feat. Alexa (9th)
SWEDEN: Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2nd), Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (12th), Där Och Då Med Dig by Emelie Irewald (DNQ)

 
That’s all of the NF-ness I’m going to provide for now, ladies and gents. But rest assured that after Vienna, I’ll be taking a look at which national finalists could – and maybe should – have been sent to Eurovision, based on the results of the songs that were (á la this post from last year).

Don’t forget to tell me your standouts of the 2014/15 NF season. I’ll open up my can of DO IT NOW, FOR THE LOVE OF LORDI!!! if I have to.

 
Until next time…

 

nsig

 

EBJ’s top 10…UK entries in Eurovision history!

If you asked me right here, right now, to name the Eurovision nation I support unconditionally…I’d say Sweden, duh. That has nothing to do with the subject of today’s post, of course – I was just hoping to throw you off track (and remind you that Sweden is the one, they’re my number one, the only treasure I’ll-STOP IT, JAZ!).

The UK, on the other hand, isn’t a participant I always wave a flag for, but they have had more than their fair share of successes in contests past. Every year for the first twenty years of their participation, they finished in the top 10, with eighteen of those finishes in the top five. Clearly, they knew what they were doing back in the day, and the people – be they people on juries or, later on in the 1990s, people at home on the couch – responded accordingly.

As I’m people too (believe it or not) I’m going to take this chance to vote for my faves from Royaume-Uni, if only in retrospect and with make-believe points. I’ve been on a trip through the ESC archives, and here are the ten songs from the land of Cliff Richard that I had to bring back with me as souvenirs.

 

1 point goes to Are You Sure? by The Allisons (1961)

I find voices that are in perfect harmony hugely satisfying. Are You Sure? plays up to that satisfaction by neatly weaving together the vocals of Allison 1 and Allison 2 (I am currently too lazy to Google-remind myself of their names) into a very cute little ditty about some she-devil who’s callously walking out on one (or possibly both) of these guys. It’s an entry that might prove too saccharine for some, but I find it refreshing to listen to in this day and age, when the pinnacle of pop music is Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. Okay, so that statement’s clearly untrue, but humour my desire to be dramatic, won’t you?

 

2 points go to Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit by Gina G (1996)

I think we can all agree – I think – that in spite of that cringeworthy ‘Hey girls!’, Gina G was robbed of a top 5 finish in Oslo. Getting through three minutes in that dress without something falling out was a prize-winning achievement in itself, but COME ON! This song is boss. It’s got an irresistible thumping beat, a disco/Eurodance flavour that Alcazar could only dream of recreating, and, when competing in the contest, managed to be both oh-so-90s and ahead of its time. I guess my fellow Aussie Gina found solace in the fact that Ooh Aah became an international hit, whilst Ireland’s winning song The Voice…well, didn’t. I guess that’s proof that the real Eurovision winner isn’t always the one on top of the scoreboard.

 

3 points go to Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (1981)

This has got to be one of the happiest songs of all time. It’s definitely the happiest song to incorporate skirt-ripping (and to be proudly sponsored by Velcro). It hasn’t dated particularly well, but stick this on at a Eurovision party, or a party being attended by anyone who was a sentient being in England in the 1980s, and the dance floor will be packed faster than you can say ‘don’t let your indecision take you from behind’ (tee hee!). Sometimes I feel like MYMU is one big, long chorus, with the levels of catchy so consistent throughout, and listening to it in 2015, it has a cheesiness that’s charming rather than revolting. At least as far as I’m concerned.

 

4 points go to Save All Your Kisses For Me by Brotherhood of Man (1976)

So it turns out the UK were big advocates of adorability back in the day, as their third winning entry is as cute as The Allisons’. Save Your Kisses For Me isn’t just SO PRECIOUS IT HURTS, however. It also has a very M. Night Shyamalan plot twist in which we discover that the aforementioned kisses that must be saved are not from an adult spouse, but rather *gasp* a three-year-old child (presumably one of their children…). But mainly, it’s just precious. Tip of the day: make this your first pick next karaoke night, and throw in some of the original choreography just because. If your friends laugh at you, make it known you won’t be saving any smooches for them anytime soon.

 

5 points go to Come Back by Jessica Garlick (2002)

Who doesn’t love a good ballad? Well, probably lots of people. But I’m not one of them, and if you’re not interested in hearing my opinion, I have no idea why you’re reading my personal blog. As a connoisseur of fine ballads, I can say with authority that Jessica Garlick’s is up there with the second-best of them (or should I say the third-best?). There have been plenty of better ballads in the ESC, before and after she took to the stage in her Pocahontas costume (#WANT) but I still really enjoy Come Back. It’s a simple, well-sung entry that builds nicely before calming the eff down and then soaring again on that final money note. No stripteases or glitter-blowing required.

 

6 points go to Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (1993)

The UK went retro with Sonia, and her amazing purple catsuit. It didn’t totally work for them (if looks could kill, Sonia’s laser-beam death stare would have incinerated Niamh Kavanagh on the spot) but it was a top-notch effort nonetheless. Sonia’s one of those artists who almost sounds better live than in studio, and she sang and generally performed le crap out of Better The Devil You Know, which more than made up for the weaknesses in the lyrics. As a standalone song, the main drawcard here is how instant and infectious it is, and though I think Ireland’s winner was a very good one, I think I would’ve been happy if the UK had added another trophy to their collection at this point.

 

7 points go to Say It Again by Precious (1999)

Hi, my name is Jaz, I’m twenty-three, and I’m still the same girl-band and boy-band freak I was fifteen years ago. I was raised on the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, so any act that vaguely resembles either of them AND entered Eurovision – i.e. Eden, Prime Minister or XXL – is bound to rate highly with me. Precious = a British girl band including a woman who’d go on to join Atomic Kitten = musical royalty in my eyes. In terms of my ears, Say It Again is always well received. R & B doesn’t usually go down well in the contest, and this was no exception by UK standards – at the time, 12th was one of their worst-ever results – but I’m a fan, and that fact that this song finished lower than the likes of Love City Groove is inexplicable to me.

 

8 points go to Where Are You? by Imaani (1998)

There’s not a whole lot you can say about this entry, though I could go on for hours about the painful yet wonderful 90s-ness of Imaani’s hair and outfit. My short and sweet description of the song would go something like this: three minutes of simple but very effective pop. There was a lot of that in the field in Birmingham, with the majority of it scoring well. I wouldn’t dare complain about the UK coming second to Israel, partly because it would be a cardinal Eurofan sin to diss Dana International, and partly because Dana did have a little extra something (and no, I don’t mean…THAT) which helped her forge ahead. But give me the option to listen to either Diva or Where Are You?…and I’ll be all like, ‘Who do you think you are? Don’t tell me what to do! Back off!’. Then I’d probably pick the latter.

 

10 points go to I Can by Blue (2011)

As if you didn’t know this was coming, especially after my earlier boy band/girl band speech. I still believe this song had ‘WINNER!’ written all over it, and if it wasn’t for a performance that wasn’t so much a complete disaster as it was just wrong all over (Lee Ryan’s vocal fail not included as that was definitely a disaster) it might’ve at least had ‘respectable top five finish’ written all over it. After the Josh Dubovie Incident of the previous year, and the many fails the UK had experienced leading up to the Düsseldorf show, the anthemic I Can gave us a glimmer of hope that Jade Ewen’s success hadn’t been a fluke. And I suppose Blue’s almost-top-10 result – an excellent one in comparison to the likes of 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010 – proved that it wasn’t. Kind of.

 

And finally…

 

Douze points go to Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (1989)

Oh, but you don’t, Live Report. You actually got it super right on this occasion, apart from the whole ‘losing to a song that most of us think is one of the weakest winners, like, EVER’ thing. Now, to clarify, I actually like Rock Me as a song. It’s fun, it’s catchy, and lead singer Emilija had one of the best quiffs in Eurovision history until Jedward came along. But as a winner, it does suffer from a bit of Running Scared syndrome, otherwise known as ‘how the hell did that happen?’. So as much as I don’t like to say that certain songs ‘should’ have won, I’m going to imply it here. Why Do I Always Get It Wrong is the height of UK Eurovision excellence for me because I love 80s music, and I love ballads, and the combination of those two loves here does things to me. Report’s front man Ray helps that along with his effortless vocals in and out of the recording studio. Fashion aside, there’s nothing about this entry that doesn’t work for me.

 
EBJ extras: Puppet On A String by Sandie Shaw (1967); Let Me Be The One by The Shadows (1975); Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran (1977); Love Shine A Light by Katrina & the Waves (1997); Even If by Andy Abraham (2008).

 
Aaaaaaand cue the complaints! JK. I meant cue the commenting of your personal favourites from the United Kingdom over the last fifty-nine years, interwoven with gushing praise on how amazing you think I am. That’s not asking too much, is it?

*awkward silence*

Fine then! That’s all for today, but stay tuned to EBJ this week for some Georgia talk. Plus, sticking with the UK and continuing my ‘Vienna Wishlist’ series, I’ll be revealing who I’d draft in to represent them in 2015 if I had the power. To anyone at the BBC reading this: I really, really, really would like that power. In the immortal words of Cyprus 2002, GIMME.

nsig

 

EBJ turns FIVE!! | My top 10 JESC entries of Era EBJ

Hello there. Welcome back to the most popular blog in the world that features ‘Eurovision’, ‘by’ and the name ‘Jaz’ in the title, and to today’s lucky last fifth birthday post. I am she who goes by Jaz, and I will be your captain on this flight through JESC past.

Now, if your reaction to the mere sight of a Junior Eurovision-related post was something like this…

hqdefault

…I’m sorry, but I totally warned you at the end of my previous post that this was coming. For those of you who are Team JESC as well as ESC (high fives all round) it’s probably coming at a time when you’re pretty pumped for the 2014 edition. The show will be held in Malta in approximately two months, fourteen days and nine hours, not that I’m keeping track. Amazingly, it will be the biggest one we’ve experienced in a long time, with the likes of Serbia and Bulgaria returning, plus Italy (!), Montenegro (!!) and Slovenia (INFINITE EXCLAMATION MARKS!) making their respective debuts. Remember just a couple of years ago when JESC was on the brink of being cancelled? Not any more, folks. So, partly to wind up my overly-long blog birthday celebrations, and partly to kick off the warm-up to Junior season, I present to you my top 10 entries since EBJ began – which unlike in the case of adult Eurovision, includes the 2009 contest.

If you want to check out my top 10 of all time, you can do that here. If you’d rather just read on, I’ll stop rambling and let you get on with it.

 

#10 | Vumgerit marmeladebs, gemriel shokoladebs, vtsekvavt ertad candy party-ze…

Candy Music by CANDY (Georgia 2011)

You may (but probably won’t) recall that I seriously disliked this song the first time I heard it. It was my least favourite of Year Yerevan right up until the Candy girls ditched the gold lamé and afro wigs for those adorable pink and white confections, and had their mini Christina Aguilera warble her way into my heart. I mean, I still wasn’t thrilled when Georgia won that night, but looking back I think it was the right decision. Candy Music is freaking catchy, and encapsulates the effort and individuality we’ve come to expect from this country in JESC.

 

#9 | Du vet väl att jag faller, när du går förbi, när du tar min hand…

Faller by Erik Rapp (Sweden 2011)

Whenever I’m reminded that Erik didn’t win Swedish Idol last year (*insert the Swedish word for ‘travesty’ here*) I find that taking a bajillionth-or-so listen to his kick-ass Junior track makes me feel slightly less outraged. You guys know I have Sweden’s flag permanently glued to my hand every ESC/JESC season, so a little bias is creeping in here (and will do to all the Swedish songs I’m yet to mention) but Faller’s maturity, melody and slick production speaks for itself, and I genuinely love the sound of its voice.

 

#8 | För nu idag, nu känner jag, nu känner jag att har mitt mod…

Mitt Mod by Lova Sönnerbo (Sweden 2012)

Oh hai there, Swedish song number two. This one from Lova was an understated, heartfelt ballad with lyrics that I can really connect with. I’m not sure what that says about me considering I’m ten years older than Lova, but whatever. It’s just pretty, okay? Plus, it showed us that Sweden can pull off something pared-back with as much success as something OTT (perhaps involving exploding glass).

 

#7 | Dar, cât nu e prea târziu, tu întreab-o, cum să fiu…

Cum Să Fim by Rafael (Moldova 2013)

I present to you now a prime example of a ‘love it or hate it’ entry. Rafael’s ear-piercing vocals had many fans running for their nearest earplug stockist, and I understand that. However, I fell in love with this song instantly, and no amount of pre-pubescent screeching or questionable English lyrics were going to change that. It has the same majestic, Lion King-esque vibe that had me hooked on the likes of Zlata’s Gravity from the beginning. So for future reference, if you want to write a song that will win me over, you know how to go about it.

 

#6 | Vsia zemlia, moi zori, moia simian…

We Are One by Sofia Tarasova (Ukraine 2013)

Ukraine came reasonably close to doing the double with this entry, which, based on style and performance, could stand up in the adult contest. We Are One is a stellar combo of dance and dubstep (with a smattering of ethnicity) that is repetitive enough to be infectious, but not so much – with the language and music variations – that it irritates. Of course, Sofia’s ability to sing the s%!t out of it makes the whole thing that much more appealing, as did those awesome laser light effects. BRB…installing a set in my bedroom to spice up the décor.

 

#5 | Nebo vidkryi nam ochi, syl nadai ity, ya…

Nebo by Anastasia Petryk (Ukraine 2012)

Ukraine couldn’t have attempted a back-to-back win without Anastasia winning for them in the first place (duh). She gave the fairly successful JESC competitor their first victory in the comp, performing her dubstep number with an intensity beyond her years (and giving us all nightmares in which deceptively adorable little girls with long blonde hair strangle us to death). She topped the scoreboard easily, which I didn’t see coming at the time, but which made me go YAAAAAAAAASSSSS because I loved (and still love, obviously) Nebo.

 

#4 | När vi går tillsammans framåt, för det är dit vi ska…

Det Är Dit Vi Ska by Eliias (Sweden 2013)

Opening last year’s show in Kiev was Eliias, whose top-notch track was unfortunately blighted by the Curse of Puberty (also suffered by Macedonia’s Dorijan in 2011). Untimely voice breakages aside, it made an excellent starter. It’s got competency and catchiness, and strikes the perfect balance between mature and youthful that always has me supporting Sweden in Junior. Bravo, DADVS (because ain’t nobody got time to type that title out more than once).

 

#3 | Ik kijk heel diep in zijn ogen, en zie duizend regenbogen…

Zo Verliefd (Yodelo) by Laura (Belgium 2009)

Once upon a time, this was my ALL-TIME FAVOURITE JESC ENTRY WOOHOO. Although Laura has fallen a little in my estimations over the years, I still find her yodel-fest irresistible. It’s the kind of song that can drag you out of even the most serious funk faster than anything else, according to my recent and extremely unscientific studies. So if you’re feeling a little yode-low, take my advice and pipe this down your ear canals, stat.

 

#2 | Inch anem, chgitem, vor na, indz barev ta ev imana…

Mama by Vladimir Arzumanyan (Armenia 2010)

Borrowing Kalomoira’s giant storybook paid off for the Armenian delegation in Minsk. Vlad snatched the trophy from the Russian duo’s overly-cheery jazz hands thanks to that prop. Oh, and his awesome song! Mama is like a fine wine, except rather than getting better with age, it stays as epic as it always was (my apologies for using alcohol to describe a song written by a 12-year-old). This is ethno-pop at its finest, people, and anyone who disagrees…well, is perfectly within their rights to do so. But the statuette that I assume takes pride of place on Vlad’s awards shelf suggests otherwise.

 

And now, the best entry to have graced JESC in my blogging life…

 

#1 | Är det någonting alla kan få, om jag ramlar tar du emot mig då…

Du by Mimmi Sandén (Sweden 2009)

Yeah, yeah, it’s another Swedish one. Get over it! You would have seen this coming anyway if you read my all-time top 10 list. All three Sandén sisters have been uh-mayzing on their Junior outings, but Mimmi is the only one eligible to make this list and despite my love for Molly’s Det Finaste, she usually comes out on top in any case. Du, again, is a song that could hold its own in adult Eurovision; and yet, the electro/r & b sound contrasted nicely with the younger-sounding entries from Russia and the Netherlands, for example. To sum up, Du = perfection in a sequined miniskirt.

 

EBJ extras: Allt Jag Vill Ha by Josefine Ridell (Sweden 2010); Supergeroy by Ivan Ivanov (Bulgaria 2011); Teenager by Rachel (Netherlands 2011); Kak Romeo I Dzhulyetta by Katya Ryabova (Russia 2011); Abracadabra by Fabian (Belgium 2012); Poy So Mnoy by Ilya Volkov (Belarus 2013).

 

That’s all for today, ladies and gents of the Junior persuasion. I hope you got some enjoyment out of this trip down memory lane (or flight, or whatever mode of transport I used to describe what is really just a list of words in the intro) and that you’re ready to share your own preferences below. If you’re also on Team Junior, what have been your favourite JESC entries from 2009 until now?

 

COMING UP

x  Spotlight on…Austria

x  Song Battles: ESC vs JESC

x  PLAYLISTING | My picks to turn non-Eurovision fans into ESC obsessives

x  A sexy new look for this here blog to celebrate the upcoming 60th contest, and ‘cause I felt like giving it a makeover!

 

EBJ turns FIVE!! | My personal nul-pointers, 2010-2014

Well, hasn’t this past week been a big one? Bulgaria are back in Junior Eurovision (*insert fist pump here*), Eurovision has a new but not-necessarily-improved generic logo (I’m still pulling a Bucks Fizz and trying to make my mind up about it) and we still don’t know which Austrian city we should start familiarising ourselves with. In case the EBU happens to make that known between now and my next post, I’d like to say that I think Vienna will give us an amazing show.  As long as it’s hosted by Conchita Wurst and Inspector Rex, that is.

You can't tell me they make an unattractive pair.

You can’t tell me they make an unattractive pair.

I would also like to say a haa-yuuuge thankyou for the lovely comments made on my last post. They were just the kind that make me feel all warm and fuzzy and remind me why I love to blog, ESC-style.

To kick off the week, I thought we could indulge our catty sides and “throw some shade” or whatever it is that the youth of today harp on about. This may be the second post in my 5th birthday series, but why should they all be celebratory when it’s so much fun to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly of Eurovision?

Now, I know what you’re thinking…

044

…but deep down we’re all aware that occasionally, the contest stage is overtaken by crap. When you’re doing your yearly rankings, there are songs that will be at the bottom. Personally, I tend to hate some entries with a passion initially, but by contest end find them listenable – which is why it’s taken me so long to find a legit list of songs that have made me go ‘NOPE!’ since I began this blog. Many of these are more dull than they are crappy, so I wouldn’t actually give them all zero points if I had the chance. But the following ten songs would bring up the rear of my 2010-2014 rankings.

You know the drill. Check ’em out, then let me know which songs of the last five contests have had you hitting the nearest mute button!

EBJ Turns 5!!!

 

#10 | Would I? I don’t think so…

Would You by Iris (Belgium 2012)

Sometimes I wonder if it’s better for an entry to be so bad that nobody can stop talking about how bad it is – rather than so dull that nobody EVER talks about it. I present to you now Exhibit A, being mentioned perhaps for the first time since it (unsurprisingly) failed to qualify two years ago. I don’t hate this song, and I definitely don’t hate Iris – in fact, many of us had big hopes for her prior to her song being chosen – but that’s the problem. I have zero strong feelings about Would You aside from a very strong urge to yawn whenever I hear the opening bars, because I know what’s coming. I.e. three minutes of slightly disjointed nothingness.

 

#9 | Standing by for something less yawn-worthy

Stand By by Senit (San Marino 2011)

Yep, more yawns are a-comin’, people! The second-ever entry from our favourite tryer San Marino was so inoffensive it hurt. Again, it wasn’t horrible by any means, and Senit did the best she could with the material at hand, but I direct your attention back to what I said about Belgium ’12 in this case. Stand By was more cohesive than Would You, but no more interesting and just as zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz *falls asleep in the middle of writing about it ‘cause it’s that bland*.

 

#8 | One life, and three minutes you’ll never get back

One Life by Glen Vella (Malta 2011)

If you’re craving something savoury right about now, you may enjoy this massive hunk of cheese I’m about to serve up. Actually, I shouldn’t take credit for what was a Maltese creation back in the days of Düsseldorf, particularly when the quality of said creation is so questionable. You’ve got to love Glen himself – one of many congenial, happy-go-lucky peeps to represent Malta in recent years – but if you also love the stale pop of ‘ooooooonnne liiife’, may I ask why? Did you hop in a time machine pre-Eurovision 2011 and go back to 1988 only to find this entry cutting edge? Or do you just hear something in it that I don’t?

 

#7 | You’ve got to be joking…

I’m A Joker by Anri Jokhadze (Georgia 2012)

Georgia seem to pattern themselves like this: one year they’ve got their game faces on and come to the ESC armed with a contender more often than not purchased from the Swedish Song Supermarket (owner and proprietor Thomas G:son) and the next, it’s bonkers o’clock and the nonsensical rhyming lyrics and parachutes are out in full force. The cray cray may work to their advantage in Junior Eurovision, but I’m afraid I don’t enjoy it elsewhere, as much as I admire how they embrace all that is wack. I’m A Joker was a mash-up of about five different songs that was well handled by Anri, but the man deserves something infinitely better to test his impressive vocal range on.

 

 

#6 | FYI, I don’t remember you

An Me Thimase by Despina Olympiou (Cyprus 2013)

Last year, Despina was itching to know if we remembered her. If that’s not irony, it’s right there in that neighbourhood given how utterly unmemorable her song was. Bring this entry up in conversation and the first thing that will pop into my mind is her faux-transparent lace gown, which I rather liked. Apart from that, I’ve got nothing. In that sense, I’m kind of glad Cyprus chose to take a year out of the competition. I hope the holiday has revved them up to find something that excites for Vienna/Graz/Innsbruck (come on EBU – put us out of our misery!).

 

#5 | No time for this…

Time by Izabo (Israel 2012)

I can feel the burn from the evils y’all are giving me, and I’m sorry, but everyone is entitled to their opinion…mine in this case being that this song is so freaking annoying, it actually gives me a headache. Now, I will admit that there are rare occasions when I can tolerate it, but I have to be in the most carefree, hormonally regular state of being at the time. If not, the mere sound of that screechy chorus sends me into a rage that ends in either me tearing my hair out, or tearing out the hair of anyone who happens to be within clawing range. Unless it’s Cristina Scarlat, who has no hair left to tear out.

 

#4 | Not exactly a dream come true

My Dream by Thea Garrett (Malta 2010)

LAME LADY BALLAD ALERT! Why, oh why are we still being plagued by these atrocities? Russia, just one year ago, gave us the most recent example, and in fact, there are a lot of similarities between What If and My Dream. ‘Youthful, talented female sings cringe-worthy ballad while dressed in her grandmother’s curtains’ pretty much sums them up. What saved What If from appearing on this list was the construction and the melody, neither of which are presented in quite the same dated, clichéd manner of Malta 2010. Let’s hope the island nation is done with cheese like this, and what came immediately afterwards.

 

#3 | Putting the ‘no’ in Narodnozabavni

Narodnozabavni Rock by Ansambel Zlindra & Kalamari (Slovenia 2010)

Some unusual pairings just work – for instance, chocolate and popcorn, or Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins (oh, the LMAOs!). Perhaps even folk and rock music can result in a pleasurable listening experience when combined in the right way. Unfortunately for Slovenia in Oslo, their experiment in genre fusion failed. This is another song that I find extremely irritating, and frustrating at the same time because I feel like three minutes of the folk would have been so much better. The painfully vintage rock stylings I can do without.

 

#2 | It’s her life, and she can keep it

C’est Ma Vie by Evelina Sašenko (Lithuania 2011)

Disclaimer: I know I’m repeating myself, but I’m not trying to insult the artist here. Evelina has a great voice and is probably a top-notch human being. Sadly, the overblown, melodramatic and depressing B-side from Les Misérables that she was forced to sing at confetti cannon-point competing with was a big distraction from those positives. This style of song just doesn’t appeal to me at all, especially in the Eurovision context. And I feel like I’m perfectly at liberty to say that, as compensation for it going through to the final when I really didn’t want it to.

 

#1 | That makes one of us…

That Sounds Good To Me by Josh Dubovie (United Kingdom 2010)

My opinion of this entry in a nutshell? WHAT were they THINKING?!? It’s like the kid at school who never even had a chance because not only does he have a stutter, a limp and a lazy eye, but his parents also named him Buttcrack. What I mean is, Pete Waterman set what was already a laughing stock of a song up for the ultimate fall when he decided to call it That Sounds Good To Me. Josh was/is adorable, but not even he could save the UK from humiliation, and his bum note right at the end of his performance in the 2010 final was the cherry on top of the world’s worst sundae. I can’t even laugh at it because I feel so bad for him. Okay, maybe I can laugh a little. Sorry Josh.

If you’re like me and aren’t a fan of these songs, I apologise for bringing them up. But really, we should be thanking the writers and composers who were clearly having an off day, because what is good without bad?

On the other hand, if you’re outraged that I dared rubbish the masterpiece that is That Sounds Good To Me, let me know below. Hit me up with your personal nul-pointers, 2010-2014!

 

NEXT TIME: Inspired by the injustices of the Barbara Dex Award, I’m going to have my say on the best and worst fashion moments from Eurovision’s last five years. Dust off your Fashion Police uniforms and join me, won’t you?

 

EBJ’s top 10…national finalists of the 2014 season (plus a playlist of extras!)

Hello hello! There are just two weeks until the first semi final of Eurovision 2014, and you can guarantee that they’ll be some of the longest weeks of your life. I will be attempting to make the time fly here at EBJ, with reviews, predictions and today, a top 10 I’m pretty excited about.

It’s been a while since national final season ended, but that doesn’t mean we’ve all stopped analysing the results and complaining that so-and-so definitely should have won, and generally spending far too much time listening to every NF entry Europe-wide. One of my favourite times of year is corralling all the great new music I discover through the preselections into a playlist to freshen up my iPod – and then deciding which ones are the best of the best, so I can deliver them to you and we can commence debating.

I’ve finally done that for the latest NF season, and ten songs remain. It’s those ten songs, my personal favourites from Albania to Ukraine and quite a few places in-between, that I’m counting down right now. In addition I’ve put together a list of other songs I’ve loved this year that didn’t make the final cut, because I couldn’t resist. Have a look (and a listen if you want to) and let me know if we have any common musical ground whatsoever.

 

First up, my top 10 national finalists of season ’14:

 

#10 | Breathe by Stefan Stan feat. Teddy K (Romania, 5th)

How often have we seen a great song let down by a weak performance in Eurovision? I haven’t got enough fingers to keep count. Naturally, it happens in national finals too, and a prime example is this song from Romania that fell a little flat live – so much so that I’m posting the video clip so as not to affect anyone’s judgment of the song itself. I have so many feels for it in studio. It’s been constructed in such a way that, whilst Stefan and Teddy have their clearly defined parts to take care of, they come together beautifully, kind of like Nico and Vlad did for Romania in Belgrade. The result is emotional and dramatic, without tipping over the edge of either.

 

#9 | I’m Alive by Ilaria (Ukraine, 5th)

She may have had the best Eurovision-related light-up dress since Safura (in fact, I’d argue this one’s better) but it’s Ilaria’s weird and wonderful entry into the Ukrainian NF this year that really got me. I’m Alive is a unique song in that I don’t know how to describe it. Is it a ballad? Is it pop? Does it sample the tinny tune of a jewellry box? I’m not sure, but I can say it is quirky in the way of backing music for a gritty film adaptation of a fairy tale (Hansel and Gretel would totally freak out in the middle of creepy woods to this track). If you’re now wondering why the heck I like it so much based on that description, know this: I’m a girl who likes to be scared, as my horror movie collection is testament to.

 

#8 | Kthehu by Luiz Ejilli (Albania, 10th)

He represented Albania in 2006, in a questionable white suit with Zjarr E Ftohtë (which was much less questionable) and attempted to return to Eurovision eight years later with this stunner of a ballad that should have finished higher in a mediocre field. Luiz Ejilli’s entry into Albania’s Festivali I Këngës 2013 reminded me of some of the great Balkan ballads that have graced the ESC stage over the last decade or so, only it’s slightly less ethnic, the native tongue giving it an edge. I really like the way it develops over the three minutes, but from the beginning it’s mature, sophisticated and kind of mysterious. Some dry ice wouldn’t have gone astray for the performance.

 

#7 | Kertakäyttösydän by Jasmin Michaela (Finland, unplaced in semi)

Finland, Finland, FINLAND! What were you thinking sending this girl home so early? I’m not saying that because she and I have the same first name and I have some sort of compulsive need to defend her as a result. I’m saying it because her song was fresh pop perfection, performed with talent, charisma and an arsenal of sassy dance moves. All in all, it was terrific, and I can’t believe it missed the final. I’m reminded of Iceland here, who often neglect to send at least one adorable pop song to the ESC in favour of something less fun. Still, Iceland do generally see those songs through to the final, so again I say…Finland, Finland, FINLAND *shakes head despairingly*.

 

#6 | Für Elise by Traffic (Estonia, 3rd)

Of all the Mumford & Sons soundalikes we’ve heard in recent history, this is my favourite. It’s so ridiculously catchy, and well-performed in a way that makes you feel right at home with Traffic and totally up for singing along (even if you just end up butchering the Estonian language). Speaking of Estonian, it lends itself surprisingly well to this type of music – so much so that I don’t think I’d be as keen on the song if it were in English. I hope the titular Elise is hugely flattered by having such a great song written for her. I’m still in disbelief that it was beaten by not so much Amazing, but by that dreadful other song that I refuse to name the title or performers of.

 

#5 | Lootus by Lauri Pihlap (Estonia, 8th in semi)

Judging by his styling choices, Lauri fancies himself as Estonia’s answer to Danny Saucedo. In reality, he’s a former Eurovision winner (i.e. a member of 2XL, who took to the stage with Tanel and Dave in 2001) who, if Lootus is any indication, could be Estonia’s answer to Justin Timberlake. This is smooooooooooth stuff, y’all. It’s a bit of a throwback to late 90s/early 00s r & b, which a lot of people may not like about it, but I’m very fond of that time period AND its music. Once again, Estonian adds a touch of beauty to a song that could have been a lot plainer in English.

 

#4 | Ma Liberté by Joanna (France, 2nd)

I have to admit, I didn’t get this straight away. I was too busy insinuating myself into Team Moustache to notice anything but Joanna’s awesome hairdo, and what I then considered an ‘okay’ ballad. But listening to Ma Liberté after Moustache had safely won the French vote, and then again…and a few more times after that, I developed a real appreciation for it. Like many ballads, it starts off slowly and quietly, before ramping up with one heck of a chorus. What makes this one different is a) the French language, which classes up anything that comes remotely near it; and b) the simple but effective piano riff that adds another layer to the second verse and beyond. This is power and passion, à la Française.

 

#3 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (Sweden, 7th in semi)

Melodifestivalen was back in top form this year IMO, which meant a lot of casualties during the semi finals. It’s Josef whose loss I’m still mourning way after the fact. His electronically-tinged stadium ballad caught me off guard with how awesome it was. It’s right up my street because it reminded me of something that Darin, another Swedish singer who happens to be my favourite solo artist, like, ever (as mentioned multiple previous posts) would produce. His album Lovekiller was full of tracks like this – soaring power ballads with ‘anthem’ written all over them. Josef combined those musical stylings with a unique look and some nifty Molly Sandén camera effects for Melfest, and though his voice wasn’t as strong live as it is in studio, the result was super cool. The final missed this for sure.

 

#2 | Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola (Finland, 2nd)

If I could wind back the clock and make any country choose a different entry to send to Copenhagen, I’d choose Finland – and it wouldn’t be the delightful Jasmin Michaela I’d be swapping Softengine with. Instead, it’d be Mikko ‘I Can Cut Glass With These Cheekbones’ Pohjola, and the spellbinding Sängyn. This song gives me goosebumps from start to finish, complete with every hair on my body standing to attention. That gives me the overall appearance of a cold porcupine, but I don’t care because I’m so wrapped up in the magic of what I’m listening to. If you feel the same way, the song should speak for itself, and everything I’ve said about it was a waste of words.

 

Aaaaaaand my #1 song of the season is…

 

#1 | Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu (Estonia, 5th)

I love everything that Sandra Nurmsalu has ever been associated with – her music with and without Urban Symphony is amazing. I expected to be biased when judging her contribution to Eesti Laul this year, but I honestly believe that this song would be much loved by moi no matter who was singing it. It’s an effortless ray of sunshine that gets stuck in your head instantly, and it has the same tribal, Lion King soundtrack feel of Zlata’s Gravity, only in folksy packaging. Every part of it is infectious (in a good way) and if it doesn’t put some pep in your step, I’d be worried. Is there any chance the EBU can bend the rules and have this represent Estonia in 2015?

 

Well, you can’t say I didn’t like what Estonia had to offer this year! Entries from Eesti Laul made up 30% of a top 10 that was incredibly hard to put together. So hard that I must now present you with that promised playlist of other NF entries that impressed me, with a few comments thrown in.

  • Natë E Pare by Venera Lumani & Lindi Islami (Albania, 4th) – another lovely ballad from Festivali I Këngës, this one faring much better results-wise.
  • Stay With Me by NAPOLI (Belarus, 8th)                    
  • Rapsodiya #1 by Artem Mikhalenko (Belarus, 13th)
  • Wanna Be Loved by Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez (Denmark, 2nd)
  • Vi Finder Hjem by Emilie Moldow (Denmark, unplaced)
  • Error by Madeline Juno (Germany, unplaced) – Madeline didn’t actually get to perform this thanks to the German NF’s strange new system, which was a serious loss.
  • Petalouda Stin Athina by Crystallia (Greece, 3rd)
  • Catch Me by Gigi Radics (Hungary, 6th in semi)
  • It Can’t Be Over by Fool Moon (Hungary, 2nd)
  • Running Out of Time by Victor Király (Hungary, 3rd)
  • A Legnagyobb Hős by Honeybeast (Hungary, unplaced) – this song is adorable. It has the same kind of offbeat charm that made me fall in love with Kedvesem.
  • Þangað Til ég Dey by F.U.N.K (Iceland, unplaced)
  • The Movie Song by Eoghan Quigg (Ireland, 2nd)
  • One Last Ride by Daniel Testa (Malta, 3rd)
  • Heal by Mo (Norway, 3rd) – catchy and current are the keywords here. I will be listening to this on repeat for a long time to come.
  • Más (Run) by Brequette (Spain, 2nd)
  • Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (Sweden, 6th in semi)
  • Red by EKO (Sweden, 8th in semi)
  • Echo by Outtrigger (Sweden, 3rd in second chance round) – I am not a rock fan as a rule, but here’s an exception with a head-bangingly epic chorus.
  • Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (Sweden, 2nd)
  • Survivor by Helena Paparizou (Sweden, 4th)
  • Bröder by Linus Svenning (Sweden, 5th)
  • Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (Sweden, 8th) – if Eric Saade starred in High School Musical, this would be his solo. Love. It.
  • Efter Solsken by Panetoz (Sweden, 9th)
  • Love Is Lord by Viktoria Petryk (Ukraine, 2nd)
  • Courageous by NeAngely (Ukraine, 5th)
  • Tsvetok by Uli Rud (Ukraine, 20th) – Ukraine had no shortage of creepy songs in their NF. This one is bizarre but brilliant in studio. Not so much live.

 

That’s it! I’m done. It’ll take me another six months to actually download all of these songs, of course, but it’ll be worth the wait. Once I’ve done that, I will be revisiting the songs that just missed out on representing their countries and deciding whether they ultimately would have done better. Until we find out how the actual winners go, there’s not much point getting into that side of things.

Now I’m curious. Did you see/hear anything you liked up above? If not, which NF songs that could have been will you be playing to death this year?

 

NEXT TIME: Better late than never, I’m getting my reviews on. In the first installment, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and France had better watch out, ‘cause it’s judgin’ time!