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AWESOME ESC ALMOSTS | My top 10 songs of the 2017 selection season

Just because national final season ended back in March doesn’t mean we should forget about it, right? After all, every year brings with it a fresh batch of boss music for us fans to add to our respective playlists, and the happy-dances danced as a result of that can last forever. AND this is all before Eurovision itself even begins! I think I speak for all of us when I say – as a totally unknown band called ABBA once said – thank you for the music, NF season.

There’s no better way to top off a thanks than with a top 10, in my opinion – so here we are. It might seem like I’m just crazy late in posting this countdown, but now is a good time to pay tribute to the 2017 selection season: firstly, because it’s Thursday and I’m a big supporter of #ThrowbackThursday (check my Instagram if you don’t believe me); and secondly, because it’s not long until the results of this year’s OGAE Second Chance Contest are revealed. It turns out that half of my favourite tracks from the recent run of national finals were chosen to compete in the SCC, so I guess I’m not as alternative as I thought. Damn.

The lone rule for this list? I only allowed myself to pick one song from any particular country – so you’re not about to see Melfest song after Melfest song. Keep reading to find out which Eurovision could-have-beens I fell in love with this season, and how I think they would have fared in Kyiv compared to the songs that actually ended up there. And don’t forget to share your personal favourite songs in the comments!

 

 

#10 | Two Faces by Michéle (Switzerland)

NF result 3rd, Die Entscheidungsshow

Is it better than Apollo? No, but…apples and oranges.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Definitely not, though I like to think it would have been staged better than Apollo.

I’m sorry to have to say this, but I know I’m not the only one who’s come to expect a certain level of sub-standardness when reviewing the Swiss national finalists each year. 2017 was an exception in that the final bunch of songs – bar one – were actually more than mediocre. My favourite, Apollo aside, was pocket rocket Michéle’s Two Faces, which took me by surprise given how mod-pop it is. It’s not a perfect production, and my inner jury’s still out on whether the ‘sugar and salt’ analogy is good or awkward…but damn, this is catchy. And even though it does sound radio-friendly, I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

 

#9 | Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrhjola (Finland)

NF result 8th, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu

Is it better than Blackbird? No, but again it’s hard to compare the two.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Probably not.

If this song was sung in English (or Swedish), it would have been right at home in the Melodifestivalen line-up. That’s a big compliment from me meaning it’s a) slickly produced pop, b) minty-fresh radio material, and c) gets stuck in your head like it’s made of super glue. The fact that it’s in Finnish, though, further set it apart in the UMK field, and adds to the aloof kind of cool it projects. The fusion of country twang and electro sounds is very Avicii, and gives it an automatic x-factor. For me, it was the NF character that speaks its own language (literally) and has little hope of winning, but will inevitably end up on my selection season playlist. There’s at least one of those in every national final.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#8 | I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer (United Kingdom)

NF result Unknown, Eurovision: You Decide

Is it better than Never Give Up On You? No, but it’s less of an identity-crisis song.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope.

You guys know mama loves her female power ballads (when they’re good ones…I am fairly discerning). Why do you think I was such an enthusiastic member of Team Denmark this year? Speaking of blonde powerhouse vocalists, here’s Holly Brewer, who sang the shiz out of the sensational PB that is I Wish I Loved You More. I can admit that this sort of song had its heyday circa 2007, but the genre never stopped floating my boat. I love that IWILYM promises to become something dynamic and explosive, and then delivers – first with big + bold choruses, then with that money note that you KNOW is coming, but it still packs a punch when it arrives. It’s a knockout (and so is Holly, on whom I have a raging girl crush).

 

#7 | Heart of Gold by BQL

NF result 2nd, EMA

Is it better than On My Way ? HELL YEAH!

Would it have done better in Kyiv? HELL YEAH!

BQL (made up of two musos who are apparently blood brothers…who’d have guessed?) broke hearts throughout the Euroverse when they failed to get Slovenia’s golden ticket in 2017 – Slovenia’s fault, obvs. Okay, so their live performance was a little rough around the edges, while Omar Naber’s was flawless (it was another Margaret/Michał Szpak situation). And Heart of Gold itself is a bit all-over-the-place as a song, needing a restructure and a revamp. But like everything created by Maraaya, it has SO much going for it. Simple but effective lyrics, and not one, but about five epic melodies, for example. If it had won EMA and undergone a pre-ESC facelift, wonderful things might have happened to a country that has now chosen two questionable entries in a row.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#6 | One by Ida Una (Denmark)

NF result 2nd, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Where I Am? Not according to moi.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I have to say yes (but I don’t want to).

Here’s a prime example of the safe, sugary pop songs that dominate DMGP – and this one is actually about love and peace (I don’t know if Måns and Petra would approve or be appalled). I’m not normally a supporter of either cookie-cutter music or lame lyrics, but I have totally dug the vibe of Ida Una’s One since day one. The lyrics are the main drawback, because everything else is very Scandi-2017…and how about the insane singalong-ability of the chorus? It turns one word into ten syllables, making it a surefire hook without it being too simplistic. I was pretty convinced this track was going to Kyiv because it’s right up Denmark’s street, and I wouldn’t have minded that result since the song is right up my street too.

 

#5 | Places by Ulrikke (Norway)

NF result 4th, Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Grab The Moment? No, but it’s a close call.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I think it would have finished just outside the top 10, so no.

I wouldn’t willingly swap Grab The Moment – one of my true ESC 2017 loves – for anything. But if I had to for some random reason, I’d have sent Ulrikke’s Places to Ukraine in a heartbeat. That’d be on the condition that Norway totally rethought the MGP staging of the song, which wasn’t nearly ‘tropical beach party WOOHOO’ enough. Places itself, though, is a JAM – a summer jam that I’m being forced to play in winter as I imagine being by the ocean. My buzzwords for this countdown have been ‘current’ and ‘catchy’, and I have to use them again to describe this because it has bucketloads of both. More so than Dansk MGP and Melodifestivalen, Norsk MGP tends to deliver on pop with a bit of edge, and pop that’s very now – not squeaky-clean, sugary or safe. Places is an excellent example of that, I reckon.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#4 | Hold On by Nano (Sweden)

NF result 2nd, Melodifestivalen

Is it better than I Can’t Go On? In some ways, yes. In others, no.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope – I think it would have done the same thing.

As you may or may not know (have I mentioned it often enough? I’m not sure…) I was in the audience for the Melfest final this year – and holy Herreys, it was amazing! I didn’t quite get the happy ending I was hoping for, however, as someone supporting Nano rather than Robin. Don’t get me wrong (Bengtsson lyrical pun intended), Sweden NEVER puts a foot wrong at Eurovision IMO (2009 excepted). But Hold On gets to me in a goosebumpy way that the perfectly-polished I Can’t Go On never did. Maybe it’s because it seems more authentic, or because it’s more dynamic and powerful. Or maybe it’s just a cracking song that appeals a teensy bit more to my tastes. Whatever the case, I can’t help being disappointed that Nano was Sweden’s choice to go to Eurovision, but got pipped at the post anyway.

 

#3 | I Love You by Tayanna (Ukraine)

NF result 2nd, Vidbir

Is it better than Time? Absolutely.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? For sure, providing Tayanna’s throat was in full functioning order at the time.

There were a handful of massively missed opportunities during the 2017 selection season, and sadly, host country Ukraine was responsible for one of them. I can understand how it happened, though. The Ukrainian final was super strong, with Tayanna, Mélovin and Rozhden being my personal standouts – but Tayanna’s incredible power ballad (here I go again with the PB love) was the cream of the crop…prior to that final. Tragically, her vocal ability was compromised by some sort of illness when she needed it most, leading to a performance full of cringe-worthy moments. That’s not the performance above – I had to choose the video of Tayanna at her best since it helps me to daydream about how I Love You would have been one of the best and most wildly-applauded host entries of recent times. Oh, and how it would have given Ukraine a respectable result without forcing another fork-out of contest hosting funds.

 

#2 | Ouch! By LeKlein (Spain)

NF result 3rd, Objetivo Eurovisión

Is it better than Do It For Your Lover? Well, yeah. I’d say ‘What isn’t?’ but that would be unnecessarily cruel to Manel and also not technically true.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? You bet your butt it would have!

EPIC ERROR ALERT NO. 3!!! Call this a controversial call, but if Spain made any mistake at their NF this year (which they did, though when I say ‘Spain’ I mean the Objetivo judging panel) it wasn’t picking Manel over Mirela. It was leaving LeKlein in 3rd, which definitely made me say Ouch! She might not have been everybody’s cup of sangria, but I’m convinced Ouch! was the best option for Spain in 2017, and would have secured them a spot on the left side of the scoreboard (I can say that with authority because there’s no way of proving me wrong). This song is an anthem of rock-electro-pop proportions, with a sense of fun and a simple hook that would have been memorable in the Eurovision final for sure. Unless, that is, I’m the minority and everyone else would have seen an aggressive androgynous woman yelling at them down the camera for three minutes #possible.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#1 | Deák by Spoon 21 (Hungary)

NF result DNQ (semi-final), A Dal

Is it better than Origo? It’s equally epic.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? No.

Funnily enough, I’m glad this song – my favourite find from the 2017 season – didn’t end up at the ESC. Spoon 21’s live performance just wasn’t up to scratch, and that was all to do with vocals. Hungary still would have sent my number one entry of the year if they’d sent Deák instead of Origo, but you’ll never catch me disputing Joci Pápai’s place in the contest. Still, as a song for listening to (ten times a day) Deák is superb. It’s the most K-pop sounding NF song I’ve ever heard, and I love it for that. It’s unique, infectious and gets a zillion cool points just by being in Hungarian. And speaking of cool points, I feel like a cooler person just listening to it – it’s a little bit hipster but mainstream enough to have mass appeal. All in all, it’s a kickass track that proves Spoon 21 – who entered A Dal 2015 with something completely different – isn’t a one-trick pony boy band.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

 

So, how did I do? Do you think any of these songs would have made better Eurovision entries than what we actually got? Which musical masterpieces from A Dal to Vidbir and every NF in-between got you excited this year? If you have something (nice) to say, say it in the comments box below J

I’d better go now – it’s time for daily listen no. 10 of Déak, and I can’t keep Spoon 21 waiting.

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2017 | You Decide in the UK + UMK!

Hello there, you stunning creatures! No, I haven’t dived off the deep end (yet). It’s just that, well…didn’t you know that when One Direction sang ‘that’s what makes you beautiful’, they were talking about obsessing over Eurovision? It gives us all a constant, pregnancy-esque glow, except the only thing we’re pregnant with is excitement about all the NF action of the moment.

Speaking of which, let’s get straight into discussing it. We’ll start with what’s happening this weekend: 

  • 27/1 The United Kingdom’s You Decide – the final (feat. Olivia Garcia + Lucie Jones)
  • 28/1 Finland’s Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu – the final (feat. Alva, Emma + Norma John)
  • 28/1 Hungary’s A Dal – heat two (feat. Kállay Saunders Band, Zoltán Mujahid + Ádám Szábo)
  • 28/1 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat four (feat. Alanas Chošnau + Audrius Janonis)

It’s not quite as crazy as some upcoming weekends will be, but there’s definitely enough to keep us happy (and/or complaining bitterly) until the same time next week. I’m going to filter my focus down to the goings-on in the UK and Finland, tonight and tomorrow respectively.

3, 2, 1, GO!

 

 

The UK’s songs for Europe: A step up or a stack down the stairs? You Decide…

udecide17

See what I did there? I hope so, because without trying to be offensive, I think even Corinna May saw what I did there.

Yep, it’s You Decide that will decide this year’s UK entry, yet again. But in the meantime, all of us fans have been deciding what we think of the line-up – with a different opinion coming from anyone who’s asked. A lot of people seem to be describing the overall quality, variety and fun factor of Danyl, Holly, Lucie, Nate, Olivia and Salena (who should just form a band called ‘We All Sound Super British’ already) as beige, via Pantone colour charts. As someone who’s rather fashion-focused (i.e. I never get tired of critiquing Eurovision costumes), I’m going to try something slightly different:

An accurate representation of (L-R) You Decide 2016, You Decide 2017, and (fingers crossed) You Decide 2018.

An accurate representation of (L-R) You Decide 2016, You Decide 2017, and (fingers crossed) You Decide 2018.

That sums up my general attitude towards the tracks. I’m not peeing my pants with excitement over them (probably not a bad thing), but in my opinion, they’re not half as bland and boring as their 2016 counterparts, of which Joe and Jake were definitely the most interesting choice. Here they all are in we-have-no-running-order-yet order:

  • Light Up The World by Danyl Johnson
  • I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer
  • Never Give Up On You by Lucie Jones
  • What Are We Made Of by Nate Simpson
  • Freedom Hearts by Olivia Garcia
  • I Don’t Wanna Fight by Salena Mastroianni

All six are semi-decent songs (some more than others) performed by perfectly good (in studio, at least) singers, all of whom have appeared on The X Factor (nothing wrong with that – TV talent shows dot the background of bajillions of ESC artists these days). I feel confident in saying that there isn’t a Eurovision winner among them, but it’s too early to predict what the UK may be capable of besides clawing their way back to the top of the scoreboard for the first time since 1997. Let’s take things, as Maria Olafs would say, one step at a time, and see who produces a live performance that scores them an automatic spot in the Eurovision 2017 final.

 

My top 6

  1. I Wish I Loved You More – I know this sort of pop power ballad has been done to death and is pretty passé in 2017…but I still enjoy it! This particular example is catchy, climactic and not too lyrically clichéd. 10 points.
  2. Freedom Hearts – There’s something about this that makes me feel like it needed another week or two of tweaking by the writers/producers. But it’s still good. Kind of like an updated (or sequel to) Children of the Universe. 8 points.
  3. Never Give Up On You – We can’t discuss this one without mentioning co-creator Emmelie de Forest. It’s not quite what I expected from her, but there’s appeal in the pared-back production and heartfelt delivery from Lucie. I still want some drums and strings to drop in and elevate the last chorus. 8 points.
  4. I Don’t Wanna Fight – If there were ever a movie musical starring Dua Lipa as a Miss Universe contestant demanding world peace, this would be her swan song. Miraculously, that kind of works for me (although the lyric ‘only love survives’ HAS to be a bad ESC-related omen for Salena). 7 points.
  5. What Are We Made Of – I hated this after my first listen, but giving it another go led to me liking it as much as I like the average John Legend piano ballad – which is a reasonable amount. 6 points.
  6. Light Up The World – Musically and melodically, I enjoy this. Lyrically, it makes me want to go on some sort of King Kong-like rampage. It’s 2017…when will the cheese be binned? It’s well past its use-by date. 5 points.

 

Now my verdicts are in, the usual questions can be answered. Firstly, this one:

Who SHOULD win Holly, Olivia or Lucie. Basically, because they’re my favourites. If Holly can deliver a vocal that even comes close to her studio version, it will be amazing – her live could really lift IWILYM to a higher level. Olivia and Lucie have the most original songs up their sleeves, and that should be rewarded.

Now for this question, which will cement my status as The Crappiest Predictor in the World™ (although I did guess Belarus correctly last week. It scared me a little).

Who WILL win Olivia or Lucie. They’re top two with the bookies (Lucie first, Olivia second) but I typed their names before I checked the You Decide odds. That’s because their songs stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of giving off winner vibes. Freedom Hearts is a good example of a contemporary pop anthem, mature enough for the ESC but youthful enough to suit sixteen-year-old Olivia. Never Give Up On You has the de Forest advantage, which may or may not matter to the juries and voters, but it gives the song a certain calibre. It stands out as the most stripped-back and sentimental song of the six too. I’ll be surprised if it isn’t one of these ladies who gets the UK’s golden ticket.

In the interests of not fence-sitting for once, here’s my number one pick FTW.

 

Who’s yours? Which of these X Factor exes has got the goods to go all the way to Kyiv…and how far can they go once they get there?

 

 

Finland: ready to find Sandhja’s (hopefully) more successful successor
umk17

As I said in a previous post, I don’t trust UMK to crown a champ who’s the best possible Eurovision rep for Finland. Sandhja herself caused an upset by beating out fan favourites Saara Aalto and Mikael Saari…and look what happened as a result. The Finns have been ESC semi final stayers for two years now, and what they’ve got going on in the UMK 2017 line-up is 50% songs that could change that, and 50% songs that will have them missing out on the final for the third time in a row. Can you guess which are which, IMO?

  • Circle of Light by Emma
  • Arrows by Alva
  • Love Yourself by Günther & D’Sanz
  • Reach Out For The Sun by Anni Saikku
  • Caveman by Knucklebone Oscar & The Shangri-la Rubies
  • Blackbird by Norma John
  • Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrjölä
  • My Little World by Club Le Persé
  • Perfect Villain by Zühlke
  • Paradise by My First Band

I’ll drop some heavy hints with my ranking + mini-reviews.

 

My top 10

  1. Helppo Elämä – This is weird in a wonderful way. I love that the lyrics are native language (Finnish is so whimsical-sounding, it immediately adds interest to anything from songs to conversations about compost), and I love the overall production and sound. 10 points.
  2. Blackbird – Simple and beautiful. The chorus brings actual tears to my eyes. 8 points.
  3. Arrows – I know I’ve already mentioned Maria Olafs once in this post, but I have to do it again. This is Unbroken updated for 2017, but it far better on the grounds that it isn’t half as repetitive. 8 points.
  4. Reach Out For The Sun – I can’t remember how this goes, but I know I quite like it, even though it never escalates into a statement piece. 7 points.
  5. Paradise – I’d rate this higher if the lyrics weren’t so unnecessarily suggestive (and at times, nonsensical). I don’t want to be left alone with any of these guys. 7 points.
  6. Circle of Light – The final installment in the Only Teardrops trilogy (part two was Hear Them Calling) is the fan favourite, but it’s not my thing and I feel like it’s past its prime. 6 points.
  7. Perfect Villain – I think Eurovision has moved on from stuff like this, but I have to applaud the lyrical originality. It’s so thought-provoking. I mean, what WOULD the X-Men do? 6 points.
  8. Love Yourself – Nope. 3 points.
  9. Caveman – Double nope, and not even close to wunderbar. 2 points.
  10. My Little World – How many nopes have you got time for? 1 point, because the chorus isn’t totally obscene.

How does your ranking stack up to mine? Do you despise the three (!) novelty entries, or are you hoping one of them comes out on top. It wouldn’t shock me if one of them did.

 

Who SHOULD win Norma John or Alva. As much as I personally would love to see Lauri on the Eurovision stage, Blackbird and Arrows would make for better, more successful ESC entries. Norma John would bring the bare-bones emotion (á la Never Give Up On You from the UK) while Arrows would be a sweet sorbet for us to enjoy between bigger, louder and more serious songs.

Who WILL win Emma or My First Band. These are the acts that topped the UMK pre-vote, so I’m not game to discount either of them, even though I’m convinced that Finland could pick any of the ten possibles depending on which way the wind blows on the night (sorry to any Finns reading this – I’m not suggesting that you’re fickle, but UMK seems to be). If Circle of Light takes the prize, I suspect it will be more Hear Them Calling than Only Teardrops at the big show, but it’s too soon to say so for sure. Peer pressure – and yes, those pre-vote results – pushed me into calling My First Band as likely victors, despite THOSE LYRICS. They make the song more disturbing than Serhat’s I Didn’t Know, which is really saying something. But hey – that’s a gimmick in itself, right?

Ultimately, I’m going to side with Emma-lie de Finland Forest.

 

Do you think Finland will be safe in the circle of light, or heading off to paradise? Or neither? Make your predictions public now to be in with a chance of saying ‘I told you so!’.

 

 

That’s all I have to say on the UK and UMK for now, but when the shows are over, another conversation can start. When I say ‘conversation’, I of course mean an all-out war of words between those of us who love the winning songs and those of us who wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot-pole. There’s something to look forward to!

Have fun tuning in to your NF/NFs of choice this weekend. If there’s anything you want to say about them, before, during and after, then hit up the comment box down below 🙂

 

Hyvästi!

 

2015sig

 

 

THE KOUNTDOWN TO KYIV | The countries I don’t trust to make the right choices this NF season (a.k.a. Jaz gets way too judgmental!)

Believe it or not, Eurovision’s next national final season is about to begin. THE FEELS!

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Sure, Festivali I Këngës was our early Christmas present, and Hungary and Lithuania have kicked off the heat stages of their selections already (Lithuania really should have started theirs in September if they wanted to be sure of a pre-ESC finish). But the coming weekend is when the craziness starts – in the awesome way it always does for us Eurofreaks. It’s more or less non-stop NFs from the moment Belarus and Georgia get going on Friday until the EBU demands the handover of all 43 entries sometime in March. Are you ready? Me neither, but that’s too bad.

Of course, NF season brings with it as much heartbreak as it does happiness, when the songs we fall in love with don’t rise to the top. And there’s a handful of countries that, to me, are more likely to deliver on the ‘WHY, LORDI, WHY?!?’ front than any others. Before the 2017 season switches to supersonic speed, I’m going to expose those countries in the hope that they might not disappoint me this time around.

In other words, I’m about to complain my InCulto-style sparkly short-clad butt off. Who WOULDN’T want to stick around for that?

First, a few FYIs:

  • This post = my personal opinion on the most unreliable national finals. I still believe that every country has the right to send whatever they want to Eurovision for whatever reason (maybe they’d rather make a statement than be in it to win it. That’s fine!). I also believe that, as with the ESC itself, whichever song wins is the right winner because it triumphed according to the rules. However, NF mistakes have been made more than once by certain selection shows the way I see it, and I just wanted to point that out.
  • Don’t take anything I say below too seriously, and don’t call me out for insulting the intelligence and decisions of entire nations. This is only what I’d dictate in a parallel universe in which the whole season goes my way. Which will NEVER happen, btw.
  • I’m using the results of 2016’s finals as my main examples of what went wrong, but don’t be surprised if I throw back to something from ye olden days of 2010-2015 too.

Right – now that we’ve established that I’m not some sort of Eurovision Satan, let’s get started. Here are the countries and their accompanying pre-selections that I’m worried about as we head into the 2017 season.

 

 

Belarus (The NF Formerly Known As Eurofest)

Since the Belarusian final is taking place this Friday, I feel like there’s still time for me to give the country that confused and scared us all with a giant baby hologram in Stockholm some passive-aggressive advice (besides ‘Maybe don’t do THAT again…like, ever’). I remember Help You Fly being my least favourite song on offer last year, and I also recall jinxing the results in a big way by joking that because I disliked it so much, it’d probably get the go-ahead for Eurovision. Sure, it grew on me as Ivan’s horrendous audition performance blossomed into something far more polished and professional (though OTT and nonsensical at the same time). But I still believe that Belarus could have chosen something that would at least have flicked them into the ESC final (like Kirill Yermakov’s Running To The Sun or NAVI’s Heta Ziamlia which finished 3rd and 4th respectively), and not had us laughing and cringing in equal measure. Therefore, here’s my tip: think about the big picture, Belarus, and pick the best of what is usually a pretty average bunch. Switzerland does it every year – so can you!

 

Denmark (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix)

I think I’d need more than two hands to count Denmark’s DMGP missteps on. The past two years in particular have seen them select the most mediocre, inoffensive song possible, only to be surprised when it didn’t make the grade required to see Eurovision’s Saturday night show (presumably because inoffensive mediocrity has, I must admit, worked in their favour before). Two DNQs on the trot should speak for themselves, but I still get the impression that we all need to come together (Eurovision 2016 slogan pun intended) and light a fire (Eurovision 2012 pun NOT intended) under Denmark’s butt to ensure that they don’t do the exact same thing for a third year running. The DMGP line-up in 2016 was actually stellar in my opinion, with at least seven of the ten competing entries worthy of leveling up to the ESC. Two of them even made the super final. Then – *insert sound of a balloon deflating here* – the worst case scenario became a horrifying yet bland reality. Basically, I’ve been betrayed by Denmark too frequently to trust the tastes of their televoting public. It’s on par with feeling personally victimised by Regina George, and it HAS TO STOP.

 

Estonia (Eesti Laul)

Don’t get me wrong – I think Eesti Laul is an excellent national final, and I’m not about to claim that Goodbye To Yesterday was a mistake of magnificent proportions (clearly, it wasn’t). But Estonia are so hit-and-miss with the calibre of song they crown EL champion, I can’t put too much faith in their decision-making skills. They did a Denmark in 2013 by sacrificing something edgy and exciting for something that could send you to sleep circa Eurovision 1994; then they assumed that a Stig Rästa songwriting credit would be enough to distract from the creep factor of Play’s presentation in 2016 (again, don’t drop that jaw. I love Play and I’m still devastated that it didn’t qualify, but I totally understand why). Those unfortunate turns of events have left me wondering what could have been if Grete Paia’s Päastke Noored Hinged and Mick Pedaja’s Seis (my entries of choice in those years) had won through instead. I reckon they would have made memorable moments for all the right reasons, and that’s what I want from the Estonian entry in 2017. But I’m not holding my breath, because I would like to live to see the Kyiv contest take place.

 

Finland (Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu)

Sandhja’s Eurovision experience can be more accurately summed up by the existence of a camel toe (the NSFW Urban Dictionary will help you out if you have no idea what I’m referring to) than by Sing It Away being a raging success…because it wasn’t. With a different position in the running order, more creative staging and weaker competition, the outcome might have been different. But at the end of the day, as fun and energetic as the song is, it was disposable. Finland were guilty of failing to bring ‘it’ (i.e. the x factor that has ‘We’re going to the final, bitches!’ written all over it) before 2016, so I worry that they’ll bring ‘it’ only to leave ‘it’ behind in UMK yet again this year. They’ve done it to poor Mikael Saari twice, and Satin Circus suffered the same fate in 2015 with Crossroads, which I believe would have been a dead cert for the ESC final. As I mentioned in this post’s ‘Better Cover My Arse’ disclaimer, every country is at complete liberty to choose what they want to represent them for whatever reason (as much as it wasn’t up my alley, I accept that Aina Mun Pitää brought an until-then uncharted genre to Eurovision and that Finland should be proud of being such musical pioneers). But do I think the Finns are consistently giving themselves the greatest chances of success on the contest stage? Umm, no. So if a pleasant surprise is in store for us re: UMK this year, you’ll be able to consider me a happy Jaz!

 

Iceland (Söngvakeppnin)

This one goes out to all of y’all who never forgot SUNDAY’s Feathers (or Fjaðrir, as it was known during Iceland’s 2015 semis). It also goes out to the two or three people (myself included) who thought that Iceland might have been suffering from ‘Ooh, it’s Greta!” syndrome when they settled on Miss Salóme for Stockholm. You guys will know what I mean when I say that Iceland has issues with sending their best-bet song to Eurovision. They also tend to take a Danish approach sometimes, by shoving innovative, contemporary songs aside to make way for slightly stale and often repetitive middle-of-the-road music (which is not at all representative of the epic, inventive music that the island can produce). Those issues are why I have issues of my own with the Icelandic selection process. At this point, we’re yet to find out who and what will be competing in Söngvakeppnin 2017, but I swear I’ll start feeling anxious as soon as we do, knowing that it’s highly likely the NF will end in…well, perhaps not disaster, but an ‘Oops, our bad!’ at least. Remember, this is my opinion, and Iceland is free to do whatever the heck they want. But they really should listen to me if they want to take full advantage of putting their musical talents on a global platform.

 

Norway (Melodi Grand Prix)

I can’t accuse Norway of opting for non-groundbreaking/icebreaking music for Eurovisual purposes. With songs like I Feed You My Love, A Monster Like Me and Icebreaker (which was highly original in that it crammed two song styles into one) in their archives, they’re certainly closer to Sweden than Denmark in the above-average stakes. However…Icebreaker was divisive, and I could easily argue that Norway had a mass-appeal, ready-made ESC gem at their disposal with Laila Samuels’ Afterglow. A modern, haunting ballad that would have eaten Croatia and the Czech Republic for breakfast (with some minor costume and staging tweaks), the song wasn’t completely overlooked by the Norwegians – but enough to leave Laila wearing her best gracious loser face as Agnete celebrated victory. You might say, depending on your definition of good music, that NMGP 2016 was like the shampoo aisle at the supermarket – an endless parade of high-quality choices that impress, but also overwhelm. I.e. there can be too much of a good thing, and it’s possible that Norway decided on the wrong good thing if building on Mørland & Deborah Scarlett’s success was their aim. That’s why I wouldn’t bet on NMGP producing the best possible winner this year – whereas I’d bet my life savings on Sweden’s Melodifestivalen whittling its entries down to the one that will guarantee them the most commendable Eurovision result they could have achieved.

 

 

Well, I think that’s the majority of my complaints officially off my chest. Maybe they’ve sent good vibes out into the NF universe…or maybe the vibes I’ve created are so negative, they’re now the Jemini of juju. Time will tell (and is also like thunder, according to Uzari. It’s multi-talented).

Now it’s your turn to vent. Which Eurovision 2017 selection shows are you most concerned about? Do you trust every country to make the “right” decision, or are there some that need a high five to the face with one of Poli Genova’s giant geometric earrings? Which countries made mistakes last year that have you thirsty for justice this year? Tell all in the comments below.

I’ll be back at the end of the week to preview and predict the Belarusian and Georgian NFs. You better prepare yourselves, because life on Planet Eurovision is about to get busy!

 

Until then,

 

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SUPER SATURDAY #1 | So many semis, so little time (a.k.a. SEND HELP!)

Are you ready to rumble, NF-watchers? You’re going to have to be (says someone who’s far from being ready herself) – because the first of February’s four Super Saturdays is upon us!

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Tonight is just one example of why the word ‘February’ is often paired with the word ‘frantic’ when Eurovision fans are conversing. If you want proof, a) you’re very demanding, and b) here it is, in the form of this evening’s epic programme of events:

  • Finland’s UMK – the first semi final
  • Hungary’s A Dal – the third quarter final
  • Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin – the first semi final
  • Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the fifth show (of approximately five hundred)
  • Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the first semi final (*screams*)
  • Ukraine’s Irritatingly Untitled Selection Process – the first semi final

Basically, there are a lot of firsts, a third and a fifth on this particular Saturday. Plus, there’s the kickoff of Latvia’s Supernova to look forward to tomorrow night, featuring Samanta ‘I’ll Still Be Attempting To Represent Latvia When I’m Dead’ Tina, and a song composed by none other than pocket rocket Aminata. These are busy times, y’all. What exactly do other people do on the weekends?

I can’t answer that, but I can tell you what I’m about to do, right here, right now: talk semis. Reviewing, ranking and predicting NFs is practically mandatory at this time of year, but I’m currently unable to go too in-depth (what with work/Stockholm prep/life in general keeping me otherwise occupied). So I’m limiting myself to the most appealing semis on this occasion – and for me, that’s those from Finland, Ukraine and Sweden. So let’s get on with criticising and complimenting what’s on offer from those countries on Super Saturday numero uno, shall we?

 

Finland: OMG, it’s UMK!

Okay, I’ll level with you…UMK isn’t a huge drawcard for me come NF season. While Melodifestivalen is my pinnacle of the period, feat. about ten hits to every miss, UMK = about five hits to five misses, each and every year – but that’s just due to my musical taste, I guess. Still, it’s always an interesting final to follow. This first semi has proven no different. Here are the competitors for this evening:

  1. Thief by Clemso
  2. Draamaa by Eini
  3. Evil Tone by Mikko Herranen
  4. Shamppanjataivas by Pää-Äijät
  5. No Fear by Saara Aalto
  6. Ain’t Got Time For Boys by Stella Christine 

Only half of the artists/songs above will remain in the running to represent Finland after tonight. That’s the kind of culling I admire (as opposed to the Malta-esque, more or less pointless kind), but when it comes to 50:50, I’m bound to make the wrong decision. So I want to emphasise that there’s a very clear divide between my personal favourites in Finland so far, and those I’m predicting to qualify.

My top three Thief, Draamaa and Shamppanjataivas. Yes, I’m serious. Thief is the type of laid-back (so much so it’s comatose), tropically-influenced R & B that I love when it emerges from somewhere in Europe, so Clemso would have my vote…you know, if I could vote. Draamaa is very catchy, and I enjoy the eighties vibe of it. It also sounds super-cool with Finnish lyrics (IT’S SUCH A MAGICAL LANGUAGE). And Shamppanjataivas…ugh, I know I shouldn’t like it. But it’s fun, and a little silly, and Pää-Äijät wear those brilliant sunglasses in the music video. I wonder if there’s any of those for sale on eBay?

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Clemso’s entry ‘Thief’ has stolen my heart. Get it? Eh? Eh? *elbows you until you do*

Which three are going through, though? Draamaa, Shamppanjataivas and No Fear. I really dislike Saara Aalto’s song, but everyone else seems to think it’s the baboon’s bollocks, so No Fear should be a safe bet (I just hope to heck it doesn’t win the whole show). Draamaa, if it’s well performed live, is my credible choice. Shamppanjataivas is my not-so-credible choice, because remember Ostarilla?

 

Those are my thoughts. How about you – are U into UMK? Who should make it out of this first semi, and who should be sent packing?

 

Ukraine: They’re back, and bringing it big time!

Well, well, well! Doesn’t this make the Belarusian NF line-up look/sound even worse than it was when it took place?

That’s the impression I get, having listened to as many of the below semi-finalists as I could find without putting in any effort whatsoever (it’s been a long week, and I am beyond scouring lower than the surface of the internet for anything).

  1. I Am Free Now by Anastasia Prikhodko
  2. Helpless by The Hardkiss
  3. Tin Whistle by Tonya Matvienko
  4. I’m Insane by Vladislav Kurasov 
  5. Hold Me by Lavika
  6. 1944 by Jamala
  7. Inner Power by Aida Nikolaychuk
  8. Never Again by Svetlana Tarabarova
  9. Every Monday by Brunettes Shoot Blondes 

At first glance, the names in this semi-final are the more underwhelming out of Ukraine’s two semis (what with the second installment including NeAngely and Victoria Petryk). Even with Russian ESC alumni Anastasia in the mix. But ermahgerd, guys…there’s some GREAT stuff in here. In my opinion, of course.

Only three of the nine (yes, I agree, that’s way too few) will qualify to the final. Here’s the trio I’d most like to see advance, based on what I’ve heard so far:

  • Helpless The Hardkiss are the pre-show favourites, and they’ve got the goods to back that status up. Helpless isn’t my top pick of the semi, but it’s excellent – unique, unpredictable, far from formulaic, and totally devoid of eye-rolling Eastern European melodrama. Alt-pop, meet your new role model.
  • I’m Insane A song title like this doesn’t exactly garner great expectations. But I do love a good man-ballad (so long as it’s minus the melodrama I just referred to) and this one is served with no cheese – not a good thing when it comes to food, but definitely a good thing when we’re talking music.
  • 1944 Back in 2011, Jamala’s Smile contorted my face into anything but what the title promised. I didn’t dig it at all. But 1944? Well, it’s incredible. Different to her previous effort in every way, it’s mysterious, edgy and haunting. I think it’s something Ukraine should seriously consider sending to Stockholm.
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Jamala, surprisingly, has brought a ‘Smile’ to my face in 2016.

But since when did anything in this department go completely in my desired direction? I’ll give you a hint: NEVER.

So, which songs are actually going to get somewhere? Helpless, Inner Power and Every Monday. Granted, I haven’t clapped ears on Every Monday, but it just sounds like the kind of thing that would progress. I don’t rate Anastasia’s chances with her dreary power ballad, so I’m putting my prediction eggs in the baskets of The Hardkiss (obviously) and Aida Nikolaychuk (there’s a promising snippet of her song online) instead. Jamala is the act I most want to make it, but with just those teensy three spots available in the final, the odds are against her. Still, I’m hoping that she’ll go through given that I’ve discounted her (my powers of anti-prediction are second to none. What I say doesn’t go!).

 

Which songs/artists do you think deserve those three tickets tonight? Can any of the first semi final participants top Ukraine’s result recorded during their last Eurovision trip in 2014?

 

Sweden: Melodifestivalen kicks off with a semi, live from the Scandinavium! 

FYI: I am aware that Sweden comes before Ukraine alphabetically…but I HAD to save the best until last. So get over it.

HOLY HOTPANTS, IT’S MELFEST TIME!!! SOMEBODY SLAP ME!!!

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Måns knows the feels. Why else would I continually use pictures of him in this post? And kiss a poster of him every night before I go to bed?

Melfest really IS the best (it rhymes, so it must be true). The greatest NF on Earth is coming to you live from Göteborg tonight, and it’s been drama-filled already, thanks to a very un-Sweden-like scandal.

Ja, we must all take a moment to bow our heads on behalf of Anna Book, who was disqualified from competing this week after her entry Himmel För Två was revealed as the Swedish version of an entry from the 2014 Moldovan final. Oops. SVT’s got to be embarrassed about that oversight. They have tried to lessen Anna’s trauma by allowing her to perform as a guest tonight, but that could just be awkward as heck – we’ll see.

If she hadn’t been given the boot at the last second, here are the six acts Anna would be battling against:

  1. Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor
  2. Mitt Guld by Pernilla Andersson
  3. Ain’t No Good by Mimi Werner
  4. Rik by Albin & Mattias
  5. Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
  6. Don’t Worry by Ace Wilder
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Samir was oiling his pecs at the time of this photo call. Or so I assume.

Based on the content of this inaugural semi, this edition of Melfest is going to be better than Sweden’s last post-win program in 2013, so that’s a relief. But I do feel we haven’t heard the best stuff yet. With Ace Wilder performing in the plum position, we may have heard Sweden’s Eurovision 2016 entry, however. Would I be happy if that were the case? Find out in the next sentence or so.

My favourite four Bada Nakna, Rik, Constellation Prize and Don’t Worry. Ace’s song is actually my favourite *gasp*. I love the mix of retro styles that somehow manages to be completely contemporary. I just worry (ironically, given how many times Miss Wilder told me not to) that her weak live vocals will drag it down. I can’t help my affection for Samir & Viktor, despite Bada Nakna being inferior to all of their previous releases – they’re too much fun. Rik is a bit too repetitive and not as awesome as what I expected to come out of an Albin/Mattias partnership, but I love them as a duo so much, I’m willing to ignore the song’s flaws. And Constellation Prize has a heap going for it, including a catchy harmonica riff. I think it might go further than many other fans do.

So, who’s going direkt? Bada Nakna and Don’t Worry. Samir & Viktor are going to open the show with a bang and with their torsos on display (obvs) and I think all of the app-users are going to lose their collective minds. Assuming the app works this year, I think popularity will push them through. Ace Wilder will win this semi by a landslide though, no doubt. Don’t Worry is the clear standout, and her story of defeat by Sanna is still relevant. Girl is back with a bang, and will be advancing even if she sings like a strangled street cat (like she normally does).

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Ain’t No Good and Constellation Prize. Country music is often well received at Melfest, and Mimi has a toe-tapping fusion of country and pop to offer that has its audience, I reckon. Constellation Prize should really go direkt, but I think it will slip back into third based on the lack of abs, pecs, and general affable douchebaggery on display in Robin’s performance.

What about the others? Rik 5th, Mitt Guld 6th. Somebody has to lose, and I think Pernilla’s song is too sleepy not to. Rik will struggle to squeeze into the top four.

 

Honestly, I could be here all night long chopping and changing my predictions. But that wouldn’t be very entertaining for you, would it? What will be entertaining, I’m sure, is the level of my incorrectness. Will we be wrong together, or do you have a different take on what Melfest’s results have in store for us tonight? Let me know below.

 

I’m going to have to say a speedy ‘Catch you on the flip side, peeps!’ (apparently I have morphed into a fourteen-year-old boy from 1999) now, as I need a nap before tuning into Melfest at THREE FREAKING A.M. my time. It’s worth it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain about it.

Whether you’ll be glued to the SVT stream (in which case I might see you on Twitter for some fun times) or you’re opting to check out the action in Finland or Ukraine, etc, enjoy. But don’t have too much of a good time. This is only the start of the Super Saturdays – you need to conserve your energy!

 

Happy viewing (and pre-show predicting).

 

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SUPER SATURDAY #4 | Four fabulous finals (and a semi) to finish up February

It’s Saturday, and you know the drill. Get ready to party, and to complain about the ridiculous results that will no doubt ensue on an eventful night like this!

 

TONIGHT: Finland’s UMK final, Hungary’s A Dal final, Moldova’s O Melodie Pentru Europa final, Slovenia’s EMA final, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen semi final four

 

Results + revelations of February’s final week

  • Estonia: What’s jaw-dropping about Stig Rästa & Elina Born’s Eesti Laul victory isn’t that it happened (that was more or less a done deal from day one). Nope, it’s the stats that came with the win that are astounding. More than 37 000 televotes ahead of their nearest rival coming into the super final (HOLY CRAP!), they walked away from it with 79% of the votes, leaving Daniel Levi and Elisa Kolk with a measly 13% and a pitiful 8% respectively. Wowsers in trousers!
  • Hungary: Kati Wolf narrowly won A Dal’s second semi ahead of Passed, nabbing herself a place in the final alongside Passed (obviously), Ív, Bálint Gájer, and the previous week’s four qualifiers. Can she repeat that success this evening? I don’t think so, but I am very happy nonetheless to see her make it this far.
  • Ireland: Sadly, Erika Selin and her backup act Timoteij failed to win over the Emerald Isle last night, with sixteen-year-old Molly Sterling doing the deed instead. She’s taking Playing With Numbers, which she co-wrote, to Vienna. It’s another ballad to add into the mix, but the girl can sing and play the piano at the same time, and the song does have grower potential. Plus, if her stylist has an ill-timed breakdown – which I assume is the explanation for Kasey Smith’s monstrosity in Copenhagen – it’ll be mostly obscured by the piano, so it shouldn’t affect her chances.
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Molly, the moment after she was asked for her opinion on Kasey’s Eurovision outfit.

  • Latvia: Aminata’s Love Injected won the day, and I think it’s rather fabulous. I rarely have reasons to pick up a Latvian flag come Eurovision time, but I might be dusting one off this year.
  • Lithuania: The Common Linnets Effect is rubbing off all over the conhttps://eurovisionbyjaz.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3118&action=edittinent, with Lithuania electing to send a male-female pair just as Belarus, the Czech Republic, Estonia and San Marino have done. Only instead of Calm After The Storm, Vaidas & Monika will be performing Coming Home by Firelight. Er, I mean, This Time. That awkward-as-heck stage kiss has GOT to go pre-ESC.
  • Sweden: Jon Henrik Fjällgren sailed (presumably) through to the Melodifestivalen final at the pointy end of the third semi, taking teen pop purveyor Isa with him. Andreas Weise and Kristin Amparo deservedly received the second chance spots.

 

 

FINLAND: UMK, OK?

It is okay, verging on pretty good, as we come to the final stage of competition in Finland. Nine acts remain, and there are just one or two that would make my Finnish flag droop if they were victorious.

No Voy A Llorar Por Ti by Norlan “El Misionario”
Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät
Crossroads by Satin Circus
Ostarilla by Shava
Heart of Light by Opera Skaala
Lions and Lambs by Jouni Aslak
Hold Your Colours by Solju
Särkyneiden Sydänten Kulmilla by Järjestyshäiriö
All For Victory by Angelo De Nile

There have been some surprising qualifiers along the UMK way this year, which makes me think that tonight’s result could be surprising too. If a song I’m not so crazy about does top the scoreboard, I’ll try not to judge it too hastily in the wake of my 2014 turnaround on Softengine.

FYI, here are the songs I AM crazy about:

  • Crossroads – This is so far up my street you’d need a full tank of fuel to locate it.
  • Heart of Light – In-your-face crazy, but also crazy good.
  • Hold Your Colours – Soothing and pretty.
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Three very different acts; three lots of faces I’m keen to see in Vienna.

One of those songs would win in a world where I make all the Euro-decisions, but as we do not live in that world (sob!) I’m going to be objective and tip Ostarilla or Särkyneiden Sydänten Kulmilla (say that three times fast…or even just the once). Neither of those would horrify me.

If Aina Mun Pitää or All For Victory win, however, I will spend a considerable amount of time afterwards weeping into my ‘I ❤ SATIN CIRCUS’ poster. For the love of Lordi, don’t let it happen!

 

HUNGARY: A less-than-Dal finale

That’s right. It may be A Dal by name, but as is becoming a trend, Hungary’s final is not at all Dal (or dull, in case you still hadn’t got that) by nature. Most of the stuff that made me go ‘ugh!’ has been weeded out of the field, and now, eight potential representatives remain.

Give Me Your Love by Ádám Szabó
Wars For Nothing by Boggie
Beside You by Zoltán Mujahid
Keep Marching On by Spoon
Fire by Ív
Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf
Mesmerize by Passed
That’s How It Goes by Bálint Gájer

My top four:

  • Keep Marching On I may be a little too old to fit the traditional boy-band fangirl mould, but I will continue denying that fact as I scream hysterically in support of these dashing young whippersnappers, and their 1D-lite sing-along song.
  • Fire Like I said last week, this is cool, which is funny considering it’s called Fire. I’d be surprised if it went any further, but pleasantly so.
  • Ne Engedj El I don’t know if it has the legs to win, but Kati (who does have legs) has charmed me to an extent she never did with What About My Dreams this time around. On the off chance she takes it, I hope she’ll rely on Hungarian to deliver her beautiful ballad in Vienna. If ByeAlex can do it, so can she!
  • Mesmerize Here’s another weird and wonderful pop song that grabs attention based on individuality rather than OTT-ness. It’s not the best live song, though, so I doubt Hungary will send it to Eurovision.
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Passed do their best impression of family picture time.

My tip for the actual top four would be Ádám, Boggie, Kati and Passed – but whatever you do, DO NOT bet actual money on it unless its money you’re willing to give up without blaming me for the loss.

Of those four, there’s one that refuses to stop niggling at me as the winner, and it’s the one I’d be least happy to see go through because I don’t get the fuss…but I’m pegging Boggie for the win. Lame, message-shoved-down-your-throat lyrics aside, there is an eye-catching performance here, and I think a lot of other people are getting the emotional connection to Wars For Nothing that I’m not (I’m too busy fumbling for a sick bag).

But if my top four prediction comes true (HA!) and the decision is left up to televoters who turn out to be less enthused by Boggie than the jurors have been, we could be looking at Mr. Szabó as the prize-winner. Until then, I’ll continue to hold out hope that Kati and her now less-voluminous hair will be gracing the Stadthalle stage with their presence.

 

MOLDOVA: A melodie here, a melodie there

O-Melodie-Pentru-Europa-2015Sixteen, to be exact. After two semi finals, Moldova has ended up with a last-hurrah line-up of Maltese proportions. Seriously, if you’re going to the lengths of holding multiple qualifying heats, at least ditch a decent amount of songs in the process.

Maybe they’ll take that advice on board for 2016. In the meantime, there are sixteen acts still in the running to succeed Cristina Scarlat – and hopefully, none of them are feeling the need to tear their hair out onstage.

1. Lonely Stranger by Miss M
2. I’m Gonna Get You by Irina Kitoroagă
3. I Want Your Love by Eduard Romanyuta
4. Love Me by Dana Markitan
5. Up and Down by Diana Brescan
6. Inimă Fierbinte by Doinița Gherman
7. Maricica by Doredos
8. Save Me by Stela Boțan
9. About Love by Mihaela Andrei
10. I Can’t Breathe by Lidia Isac
11. Magia by Glam Girls
12. Day After Day by Sunstroke Project & Michael Ra
13. Fire by Julia Sandu
14. Danu Năzdrăvanu by Serj Kuzenkoff
15. Feelings Will Never Leave by Marcel Roșca
16. I Can Change All My Life by Valeria Pașa

Now, O Melodie Pentru Europa – as the Moldovan final is known by people who can be bothered to type it out and/or pronounce it – isn’t an NF I strive to follow closely, so I have exposed my ears only to a recap of the finalists, bar Eduard’s I Want Your Love, because I was a fan of his entry from the Ukrainian NF a couple of years ago.

As a result, I’m not going to predict a winner outright so much as throw a few names out there that are sticking out as possibles (and then gloat if one of them wins). It’s a reasonably strong final in my uneducated opinion, with Eduard, Glam Girls, returnees Sunstroke Project, Valeria, Doinița and Doredos being the acts I’d bet on if I was a betting kind of gal. It’s fortunate that I’m not, because by now I would’ve had to pawn my computer to buy food and therefore would not have been able to upload this post.

Just pick something decent, Moldova, okay?

 

SLOVENIA: Does an EMA-zing show await us?

Well…not exactly. I have sampled the goods, and I’m not convinced Slovenia’s putting its best foot forward with these eight entries:

1. Misunderstandings by Alya & Neno Belan
2. Once Too Many Times by Tim Kores
3. Glas Srca by Jana Šušteršič
4. Vse Mogoče by I.C.E.
5. Mava To by Clemens
6. Here For You by Maraaya
7. Šaltinka by Rudi Bučar En Figoni
8. Alive by Martina Majerle

Then again, I have already forgotten what the majority of them sound like, so…yeah. I’m sure Slovenia will make the best decision possible, as they did last year by choosing Tinkara (whose name I am still in the process of trying to steal because it makes her sound like a fairy godmother and I love that).

That may or may not lead to Martina Majerle packing her bags for Eurovision for what seems like the hundredth time – although this would only be her second time as a leading artist. She sang backup for Montenegro last year, and now she’s back attempting to represent the nation that sent her in 2009. Sent her without subsequent success, that is.

If it’s not her time, maybe it will be the time for yet another male/female duet – Alya & Neno – or for something ethnic that would liven up what is a ballad-heavy contest at this point – that’s from Rudi. Only time will tell.

 

SWEDEN: The Melfest semis go out with a Måns

This is the episode of Melodifestivalen I have been waiting for. I’ve been waiting for it ever since trio of brothers JTR were announced as competitors of this fourth and final semi. You’ll already know that the boys won their way into my heart (or at least the heart of the tragic teen fangirl in me) during their time on The X Factor Australia in 2013, costing me a small fortune in SMS votes in the process (110% worth it). Back then, they finished 7th, which is not a position they’ll want to be finishing in tonight.

1. Don’t Say No by Midnight Boy
2. Black Swan by Caroline Wennergren
3. Building It Up by JTR
4. Guld Och Gröna Skogar by Hasse Andersson
5. Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah
6. Ett Andetag by Annika Herlitz
7. Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw

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Only four of these acts will be looking this happy after tonight.

In a semi with one act certain to go direkt til final (Måns), a dansband institution Sweden will find it hard to say no to (Hasse) and someone loosely associated with the movie Frozen (Annika) it’s going to be a tough ask for JTR to make that all-important top four – but don’t dismiss them just yet. I will be cheering on Melfest’s first (as far as I know) semi-Australian act with all the energy I can muster at 3am, until their fate is cemented.

Now, for my personal top four based on dem snippets…

  • Don’t Say No It’s heavily 80s-influenced. He wears crop-tops and has a weird haircut. Need I say more?
  • Building It Up – Again, need I say more? I think the above gush-fest told y’all everything you didn’t want to know about my totally biased love for JTR.
  • Ett Andetag – I’m not sure about her voice, but I like what I heard of this ballad. It’s not as theatrical as I’d expected.
  • Heroes – This definitely seems like a calming antidote to Eric Saade’s OTT Sting. Hopefully it comes across as being authentic, not just as a highly-orchestrated bid to win.

Throwing taste aside and talking tips:

DIREKT TIL FINAL: Hasse, Måns
TIL ANDRA CHANSEN: Dinah, Annika

I’ll be praying into my pom-poms for a Swedish-Australian miracle though. If Andra is as far as JTR can go at a push, I’ll take it!

 

 
Let me know what your hopes and/or predictions are for tonight. Should Finland rock out for the second year running, or shatter some serious glass with Opera Skaala? Will it be Groundhog Day for Martina Majerle as she heads off to Eurovision again? Will Sweden do the unthinkable and not make Hasse filler in their final? SO MANY QUESTIONS, SO LITTLE TIME!

I will see you on the other side of Saturday, when we’ll have most of the answers. Until then…

 

nsig

 

SUPER SATURDAY #3 | The end of Eesti Laul + Hungarian and Swedish semis!

Welcome to another Super Saturday, and an altogether action-packed weekend on the Eurovision NF calendar!

You’ll be relieved to discover that since there’s so much going on, I haven’t got time for a long-winded intro on this occasion. I can hear the globe-spanning cheers already. So let’s leap straight in by looking at this weekend’s program of events, then reviewing and predicting a few of the most important ones (according to moi).

TONIGHT: Estonia’s Eesti Laul final; Finland’s UMK semi 3; Hungary’s A Dal semi 2; Lithuania’s Eurovizijos final (the song’s chosen, now it’s artist-picking time); Sweden’s Melodifestivalen semi 3

TOMORROW NIGHT: Latvia’s Supernova final

A little housekeeping to start…

 

Thoughts on the Europe-wide news of the week

  • Armenia: Six members sourced from six different countries. That’ll be Genealogy, singing Don’t Deny for Armenia in Vienna and so far made up of Essaï and Tamar Kaprelian. Let’s hope that the Six4One resemblance stops with the number of vocalists and the number of places they come from. Or at least that Ralph Siegel has NOTHING to do with the song (which is always a relief).
  • Finland: I’m not following UMK very closely this year (any whiff of Satin Circus and I’m all over it, but apart from that…) but I know enough to have been shocked by the elimination of Siru, Otto Ivar AND Eeverest in last weekend’s semi. Still, with the so cray-cray-it’s-incredible Heart of Light in the mix, one of those three had to go. It just turned out that it wasn’t the right time for any of them.
  • Iceland: Waking up on Sunday, I wanted to discover that aptly, SUNDAY would be representing Iceland. That wasn’t to be, but Iceland did choose one of my favourites from the final – Lítil Skref by María Olafsdóttir. Only now it’s Unbroken, and it’s not quite the same. This is a lovely but über-repetitive song, and I think the English lyrics reinforce that repetitiveness. Plus, Icelandic is so magical! I miss it already.
  • Israel: Nadav Gedj triumphed in The Next Star comp on Tuesday. All I know about him is that he’s not The Girl With The Hair Who I Thought Would Win (Avia) and that he’s touted as a Justin Timberlake-type artist. I approve, based on that latter description.
  • Italy: Three attractive Italian men, collectively known as Il Volo, took home the top prize (i.e. a questionable-looking trophy) of the 2015 Sanremo Music Festival, and with it the golden ticket to Eurovision. They appear to have accepted that ticket rather than tossed it in the trash, and on Thursday RAI confirmed that they’ll be packing winning song Grande Amore in their carryon. I professed my love (or should I say ‘amore’?) for this song in my previous post, so I won’t re-hash it here (besides, this ESC Tips article articulates everything I could say and more). Wouldn’t it be funny if Italy won two Eurovision events in a row with a song title featuring the words ‘grande amore’? I know I’d laugh. WITH TOTAL JUBILANCE!
IL-VOLO_Photo_

How could you not want to vote for these faces (or the voices behind them)?

  • Montenegro: Apparently my main man Željko Joksimović is composing Knez’s entry. ZJ can NOT seem to stay away from the ESC, and I am very happy about that. There’s no excuse for Montenegro to not pick up where they left off, qualifying for the first time in 2014.
  • Serbia: We have our first Serbian rep since Malmö, and her name is Bojana Stamenov. Her song is Ceo Svet Je Moj, and it’s…well, I’m going to call it a grower at this point.
  • Sweden: Once again, I royally f%#$ed up my Melfest predictions, not foreseeing at all that Magnus “Schlager Fiend” Carlsson would go direkt til final. Oops. I guess schlager isn’t as stone-cold dead as I had hoped thought.

Now, let’s move on to the key (in my opinion) national final installments of tonight.

 

ESTONIA: It’s Eesti Laul’s last dance…or song…or whatever

Yep, it’s time for what is always an interesting national final to come to a close for another year. After their semi finals, Estonia has been left with a pretty strong group of ten songs to choose from, but to be honest, I’m not sure I trust them to make the right decision (to find out what I think is the “right” decision, keep reading). Last year, with the likes of Traffic and Sandra Nurmsalu in the final, the country came dangerously close to sending something dreadful to Copenhagen by putting the Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band in their superfinal instead, alongside eventual winner Tanja. Yikes.

Granted, there’s nothing among the 2015 ten that would horrify me as much as that did, but I do have my preferences, and it’s those I want to see in that ultimate stage of competition.

Here’s this evening’s running order:

  1. Minu Päike by Luisa Värk
  2. Üle Vesihalli Taeva by Maia Vahtramäe
  3. Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
  4. Idiot by Kali Briis Band
  5. Troubles by Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers
  6. Burning Lights by Daniel Levi
  7. Superlove by Elisa Kolk
  8. Exceptional by The Blurry Lane
  9. Unriddle Me by Elephants From Neptune
  10. This Is Our Choice by Triin Niitoja & John4

Third song out Goodbye To Yesterday is the one to beat, and it will be the shock of the season if it doesn’t at least advance to the superfinal. Before I consider calling it as a foregone-conclusion winner, though, it’s time to reveal whether it’s one of my personal top three.

  • Goodbye To Yesterday UH, YEAH IT IS! The first time I heard this (and I’ve noticed a trend here) I was thinking ‘meh’. But soon enough I was hooked on the 60s mod, somewhat melancholy sound, and now I’m thinking ‘This is genius!’. It tells a tale, it’s retro but very now at the same time, and the duet dynamic – Stig’s role and Elina’s – is perfect. Kind of anti-Common Linnets.
2_5_Elina_Born_Stig_Rasta

‘If you’re going to insist on looking at the back of my head, Stig, can you at least be useful and check for dandruff?’

  • Superlove This is a really pretty song performed to the max, with dry ice. Dry ice always helps, unless you’re asthmatic. I don’t expect Elisa to win, but I would be happy for her if she did.
  • Burning Lights This veers into vanilla territory genre-wise, but I really like the lyrics, and the chorus has good sing-along potential.

This year, there’ll be a three-strong superfinal in Eesti Laul, and it’s hard to predict which trio of entries will end up there. Last year’s Super Hot Cosmos fiasco is one heck of an indication that Estonia and I have differing ideas of what constitutes decent music. But, as always, I’ll give it a go so you guys can laugh at my haplessness later.

TO THE SUPERFINAL: Goodbye To Yesterday, Burning Lights, Unriddle Me

FTW: Goodbye To Yesterday

If I’m wrong (which never happens…I mean, which constantly happens) then it’s not going to be Goodbye To Yesterday so much as Goodbye To Jaz Predicting Anything EVER AGAIN. But seriously, Estonia…you have the chance to compensate, and then some, for Tanja’s DNQ in Copenhagen here. Don’t stuff it up.

 

HUNGARY: A Dal’s second (and stronger) semi

This penultimate episode of A Dal is verging on being a hum-dinger. Translation: the hits are definitely outnumbering the misses.

  1. Úgysem Felejtesz El by Gabi Szűcs
  2. Untold Story by Other Planet
  3. World of Violence by Bogi
  4. A Tükör Előtt by Gergő Oláh
  5. Fire by Ív
  6. Run To You by Gyula Éliás Jnr. feat. Fourtissimo
  7. Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf
  8. Mesmerize by Passed
  9. That’s How It Goes by Bálint Gájer

With just four places in the final up for grabs, and five songs I’m rather attached to, this is gonna hurt. Best case scenario, I lose one. Most likely scenario? I lose multiple. Do you care? Probably not.

No doubt you have your own favourites that you’re attempting to ESP into the final. But as I can’t hear you screaming them at me, here are mine!

  • World of Violence This is nothing on Bogi’s We All from last year. But there’s something endearing about it, and about her stage persona. Also, I am now pronouncing ‘violence’ as ‘vi-oh-lence’ because it’s a surprisingly fun thing to do. Bogi knows what I’m talking about.
  • Fire This is the kind of thing I’ve enjoyed hearing in A Dal recently. Interesting, authentic alt-pop that doesn’t try too hard to resemble a “typical” ESC entry. If it won, it wouldn’t make a huge impact on the scoreboard, but it would represent Hungary with integrity.
  • Ne Engedj El (Possibly) controversial opinion: I like this better than What About My Dreams. It may just be the power Hungarian as a musical language has over me, but this is a pop ballad that gives me the elusive feels…the feels that lead to hairs all over my body standing to attention. That’s it, I’m joining Team Kati! *speeds over to Facebook and likes her page*
maxresdefault

Kati tries her best not to sabotage her A Dal performance by sneezing.

  • Mesmerize Weird, trippy, and something I’d like to see given a shot on the Eurovision stage. It won’t happen, but a girl can dream, right?

After squeezing into my infamous prediction pants (I had a pizza night this week, so they’re running a little tight), I have come up with my version of A Dal’s results for the night.

TO THE FINAL: Bogi, Ív, Other Planet and Passed

I hate to leave out Miss Wolf, but a) I have this gut feeling she may miss out, and b) if I omit her I won’t be jinxing any chance she does have of qualifying. If you’re tuning into A Dal, let me know who you think has the goods to get through this all-important round on the road to next weekend’s final!

 

SWEDEN: Melodifestivalen heats up with returnees and debutants

It sure is a mixed bag for tonight’s third semi final. Among others, there’s last year’s surprise success Ellen Benediktson, with a whole new look and sound; brand new face Kalle Johansson; the male Sanna Nielsen (i.e. someone who just keeps on trying) Andreas Johnson; and my big hope of the week, Sami singer and Sweden’s Got Talent champ Jon Henrik Fjällgren. Here’s the full lineup:

  1. Insomnia by Ellen Benediktson
  2. För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson
  3. Bring Out The Fire by Andreas Weise
  4. Living To Die by Andreas Johnson
  5. Don’t Stop by Isa
  6. I See You by Kristin Amparo
  7. Jag Är Fri (Manne Liem Frije) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Melodifestivalen-semi-final-three-2015

Is Kalle super-tall, or is everyone else just super-short? #importantquestions

Aaaaand here’s my top four (based, as usual, on snippets alone):

  • Insomnia I wasn’t a Songbird lover, so it was always likely I’d be more into Ellen’s reinvented self.
  • För Din Skull Kalle was this year’s Svensktoppen Nästa winner. These winners have a history of going nowhere in Melfest, which makes me sad because I always like them (even when they end up at Melfest with a weaker song). This is no exception.
  • Living To Die I can’t believe I’ve got Andreas down as a favourite, as he’s never impressed me much in his previous attempts. He’s got me intrigued this time. I’ll get back to you on the ‘impressed’ front once I’ve heard the entire song.
  • Jag Är Fri I watched Jon Henrik’s audition for Got Talent as soon as I heard he was competing in Melfest, and fell in love. There’s something spellbinding about what he does when he’s got a microphone shoved in his face, and it sounds like he’s going to keep that magic going tonight.

Now, yet another chance for me to make a fool of myself, woohoo! Three will fall, but four will advance, and damn it, it’s hard to figure out which four that is. This week, I’m cheating a little and using betting odds to guide me. Both ESC Tips and NicerOdds.com have Jon Henrik, Kristin Amparo, Isa and Andreas Johnson as their top four, in that order. I can’t ignore that, but nor am I going to copy it name-for-name. So my tip is as follows:

DIREKT TIL FINAL: Jon Henrik, Kristin
TIL ANDRA CHANSEN: Ellen, Isa

*instantly feels regret at deviating from other people’s predictions*

Oh well. It wouldn’t be right if I got it 100% correct. Or 75%. Or 50%…

 

Well, I have to be off – lots of mundane stuff to do before falling into bed, only to drag myself back out at 3am for Melfest. I hope I will see you there, if only on Twitter. In the meantime, let me know what you think will go down where tonight, or if you’re reading this on Sunday, your verdict on THAT UNBELIEVABLE DEVELOPMENT!

Whichever final you’re watching – especially if you’re attempting to watch five at once – I hope you have fun times, and that your favourite songs succeed. Unless they’re not my favourites. In that case, I hope they fail miserably.

JUST KIDDING.
nsig

SUPER SATURDAY #1 | Get ready for DMGP, UMK, Söngvakeppnin and Melfest!

I’ve missed those words. But the missing is over now that ‘super’ and ‘Saturday’ are chilling in the same sentence once again. It’s February 7, and tonight is the first big night of ESC 2015’s national final season. By Sunday morning Jaz time (that’s GMT+8.00 for those who want to get technical) we’ll have an early-ish decision from Denmark, and qualifiers in Finland, Iceland and Sweden. MELODIFESTIVALEN IS HERE!.

In addition to that action in Scandinavia and (slightly) beyond, we’ve got:

• the first semi of Estonia’s Eesti Laul;
• the third heat of Hungary’s A Dal (a ticket to the semis for Kati Wolf, please); and
• what feels like the 798th installment of Lithuania’s Eurovizijos.

I’m choosing my areas of focus, but if you’re spreading yourself across the continent, I wish you the best. And I wish you an enjoyable, or at least tolerable time reading my rundown of some of these NFs, feat. song verdicts and predictions.

Just before I start on that…

 

Poll results: Your favourite Georgian entry EVER is…

…to be revealed in just a second! In case you’ve forgotten, shortly after Georgia selected Warrior as their song for Eurovision no. 60, I celebrated their contest history with a poll so y’all could pick your preference. That poll is now closed, so if you didn’t vote in it, a) TOO BAD MWAHAHA and b) WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

I can tell you now that the top Georgian entry according to your votes is – why, it’s a tie! *goes into Eurovision 1969-style panic mode*

In first place, with 22% apiece, is Visionary Dream by Sopho (2007) AND Shine by Sophia Nizharadze (2010). Sopho power! Check out the full results in my festive pie chart (any excuse to create a festive pie chart) below.

gpc

If you’re about to question the lack of Anri Jokhadze, stop! The poor guy didn’t receive any votes. I personally am shocked to my very core by this travesty.

Not.

I won’t embarrass Anri any further by lingering on the subject. It’s time we moved on to discussing tonight’s NF schedule. Let the snide remarks, gushy compliments and questionable predictions begin!

 

The hosts of 2014 pass the torch, picking their entry through DMGP

Dansk-Melodi-Grand-Prix-2015

Ah, DMGP…the national final in which I usually end up pining for the runner-up because I much prefer it to the winner. FYI, it’s been two years and I’m STILL not over Emmelie de Forest beating Mohamed Ali and his amazing Unbreakable (can you tell Only Teardrops isn’t my favourite Eurovision winner of recent times?) so I’m hoping tonight’s edition of the show will have me crying tears of joy rather than sadness.

With a line-up this derivative, though, there’s not that much to be crying or jumping for joy about.

  1. Love Me Love Me by Sara Sukurani
  2. Mi Amore by Tina & René
  3. Når Veje Krydses by Marcel & Soulman Group
  4. Hotel A by Cecilie Alexandra
  5. Love Is Love by Andy Roda
  6. Tæt På Mine Drømme by Julie Bjerre
  7. The Way You Are by Anti Social Media
  8. Suitcase by Anne Gadegaard
  9. Manjana by Babou
  10. Summer Without You by World of Girls

I’m sure you’re all pretty familiar with the lowdown on Denmark’s selected ten: you’ve got the duo who think we’ve all forgotten about In A Moment Like This (but we haven’t); not one but two of Basim’s backing singers from last year (that’s Marcel and Andy); JESC alum Anne Gadegaard, all grown up; and the Danish version of GRL. It’s a banquet of variety, sure, but there really isn’t anything on offer we haven’t tasted before. I’m mainly referring to that shameless rip-off Mi Amore, which is not only being rehashed by the same country who sent it in the past, but just five years later.

Still, I have my favourites, and here’s a quick top 5 to acknowledge those:

#1. Manjana I’m just a sucker for this kind of muzak, folks. Accept it, and we’ll get along fine. Manjana is uplifting, damn catchy and makes me want to dance. It could be the antidote to my Unbreakable anguish if it wins.

#2. Tæt På Mine Drømme Here’s the obligatory Danish-language pop that I love but that never goes anywhere (a.k.a. this year’s Vi Finder Hjem, which was penned by Basim and performed in DMGP ’14 by Emilie Moldow). This song = a slick, happy hybrid of 80s and mod-pop that I enjoy a lot.

#3. Summer Without You I do love a girl band, and I’d be happy for this one to win (so long as they’re good live). It’ll be almost summertime in Europe come ESC time, and this would capture the mood and inject some energy into what is, so far, a predominantly down-tempo contest.

#4. Suitcase I can’t help barracking for a JESC graduate, but this song is genuinely growing on me. It’s a sweet sing-along number that seems like the kind of thing Denmark will vote for, based on what’s succeeded in recent DMGP years. If Anne wins, she, Anita and Michele can swap serious stories in Vienna. The bitching! The backstabbing! Scandalous JESC!

#5. Mi Amore Don’t judge me. I’m judging myself. I hate the fact that, as blatantly similar to In A Moment… as this is, and as much as I detest that entry, I still like this. For me, it’s a more enjoyable version of Chanee & N’evergreen’s soppy ballad, albeit just as clinical and dated.

I’ll be happy for any of the above songs to win this evening, and I think I can come to terms with any other champ except Anti Social Media (yawnfest) but who do I reckon is GOING to win? I refuse to make an outright prediction, but I’m giving the ‘Most Likely’ award to Tina & René, Cecilie or World of Girls. Or maybe Anne. I DON’T KNOW, OKAY?!?

From the host country of 2014, let’s fly over to Finland…

 

Starting at the Finnish: Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu begins!

Confession: I’ve never actually followed the Finnish final in detail from beginning to end. I always leave a few NFs to unfold without my supervision (I love the element of surprise) and UMK is often one of them.

I do look back on it at the end of the season and pick out a few gems, which I’ll definitely be doing this year. Only…I’ve already found one. And I think it might be THE one, if you know what I mean. It’s one of the entries competing in tonight’s first semi:

  1. Loveshine by Hans On The Bass
  2. Äänen Kantamattomiin by Vilikasper Kanth
  3. No Voy A Llorar Por Ti by El Misionario
  4. Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät
  5. Sydän Ei Nuku by Pihka ja Myrsky
  6. Crossroads by Satin Circus

I couldn’t resist listening to a recap of all the UMK-ers, so I’m vaguely familiar with them all, but someone singled out Satin Circus and Crossroads (Nick, I’m talking about you!) and I am now a little obsessed.

Will we be seeing these pretty faces in Vienna? I'm hoping so.

Will we be seeing these pretty faces in Vienna? I hope so.

I’ve been through this band’s brief back catalogue, and whilst their 2014 single Expectations is slightly higher in my esteem (gosh dayum, it’s catchy) Crossroads is the one song Finland must pick for Eurovision, if they know what’s good for them. Which is me not being totes mad. Right now, of course, its challenge is to progress from the semi, which I think it will do comfortably. At least, that’s all I want from the Finns this week!

 

Second semi final shenanigans for Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin

Iceland’s NF is another one I don’t follow with a magnifying glass in hand, but again, I have recapped this year’s contestants and listened to the songs that piqued my interest. I’ve got to say ‘BRAVO!’ to the land of Björk. The quality of Söngvakeppnin is mighty high on this occasion, with the island spoilt for choice.

They have already sent three acts packing – one of whom was an early favourite – and the same thing will happen in a matter of hours in semi 2. I have four favourites of my own this time, so I’m going to lose at least one. Sadface.

  1. Milljón Augnablik by Haukur Heiðar Hauksson
  2. Lítil Skref by María Ólafsdóttir
  3. Fjaðrir by SUNDAY
  4. Aldrei of Seint by Regína Ósk
  5. Brotið Gler by Bjarni Lárus Hall
  6. Fyrir Alla by Cadem

Again, they’re all decent songs. But I’m most fond of Lítil Skref, Fjaðrir, Andrei of Seint and Fyrir Alla. Lítil Skref is a nice, uplifting (sorry for the overuse of that word in today’s post) pop ballad reminiscent of Yohanna’s stuff. Fjaðrir is minimalist and cutting edge and I LOVE it, but I don’t have high hopes of it qualifying. Regina is as on-point as ever with the atmospheric Aldrei of Seint. And Fyrir Alla is one of those dance tracks that I have a weakness for. On the plus side, one of them has to go through, and I think I want it to be Aldrei of Seint, because Regina is perfection.

My guess as to the 50% who’ll progress? Haukur, Reguina and Bjarni. But I say good luck (you can Google Translate that into Icelandic if you want) to everyone, as I leave Söngvakeppnin behind in favour of something that excites me just a teensy bit more.

 

Saving the best for last…IT’S #MELFEST TIME!

*pants with uncontrollable excitement*

melodifestivalen-2015

That’s right, my fellow Melfest freaks. The greatest show on Earth (Eurovision itself excluded) has shimmied into Göteborg and is ready to roll. For the first time, I’m watching the semis live – normally I don’t get up at 3am for anything less than the final – and I can’t wait to experience it with you guys, as it happens. Catch up with me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz and we can live tweet until our thumbs fall off.

This is what this first semi’s line-up looks like:

  1. I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar
  2. Pappa by Daniel Gildenlöw
  3. One By One by Rickard Söderberg & Elize Ryd
  4. Hello Hi by Dolly Style
  5. Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone
  6. Can’t Hurt Me Now by Jessica Andersson
  7. Sting by Eric Saade
deltavling1

DISCLAIMER: Not all of these artists are sporting their natural hair. That’s right – Eric Saade wears a wig. You heard it here first.

We have seven songs per semi instead of eight for 2015, and I have mixed feelings about this. What I don’t have mixed feelings about is how awesome the show’s going to be, based on the rehearsal snippets that we’ve all seen and heard since their release on Thursday. A lot of fans are disappointed with what they heard, but I’m pumped – Eric Saade’s dodgy vocals aside.

Granted, this pumped-ness is based on snippets only, and will remain that way as I’ve decided to wait until the show itself to hear the full songs, but songs 1 through 7 (mostly) get my tick of approval for now. Here’s my top 4:

  • I’ll Be Fine If I were Austin Powers I would say this was groovy, baby. But I’m not, so I’m just going to say I like the sound of it. Retro, big band influences + Molly’s banging voice = a gold star.
  • One By One No, his opera voice doesn’t mesh that well with hers, but this song grabbed my attention. I’m intrigued.
  • Hello Hi I don’t want to like this, but it seems to marry J-pop and Scandipop in a way that appeals to the cheesy pop fan in me (which is about 90% of me, to be honest).
  • Det Rår Vi Inte För Behrang’s no one-trick pony, as this is no Jalla Dansa Sawa. That was boss, and as a fan of hip-hop duets, I think I’m going to appreciate his comeback track.

Now, shall we put our prediction pants on? With one less song in the running, it’s probably easier to decide which three won’t advance to the final or to the second chance round. Having considered this, these are my thoughts.

DIREKT TIL FRIENDS ARENA (I.E. THE FINAL): I’ll Be Fine and Sting
TO ANDRA CHANSEN: Det Rår Vi Inte För and Can’t Hurt Me Now

I have been spectacularly wrong re: Melfest predictions lately, so I’m aiming for at least one success this year. Do you think I’ve got it already, or am I way off? Let me know who’s going where, in your opinion, down below. That goes for outside of Sweden, too.

 

 
Well, I’d better get to bed if I want a shot at some shut-eye before the perfectly normal 3am wake-up call. It’s not like I’ll be dozing off in a hurry afterwards, what with the glitter-encrusted excitement coursing through my veins and all. If you’re settling in for this evening’s schedule of events, I shall see you then (I won’t literally be SEEING you, but you know what I mean). If not, are you crazy? NF season is the best season out, spring, summer, autumn and winter included. Get amongst it, people.

 

Until next time (when we discuss the aftermath of the action)…

nsig

 

MY VIENNA WISHLIST | Robin Packalen for Finland!

Hey hey, ladies and gents. Now it’s December (gasp!) a month in which the 2015 NF season officially kicks off, it’s officially acceptable to think of nothing but national finals. Did you hear that, all the people I’ve cancelled plans with because Melodifestivalen’s approaching? Speaking of which, the list of Melfest’s competitors for the upcoming edition is out/was out days and days and days ago. As I was busy and couldn’t shove my excitement down your throat at the time, I’ll do it now, albeit more briefly than I’d like to. These are the names that had me hyperventilating into my sequined knapsack!

  • Eric Saade: The Danny Saucedo rumours were just rumours, but that’s one less powerhouse for returning powerhouse (if not in the vocal department) Saade to contend with. Mr. ‘Popular’ is making his comeback with a ‘Sting’ in his tail, and a determination to take out Melfest AND Eurovision next year. He’s cocky, sure, but I’m going to be shallow and say dat ass is more than welcome to grace Vienna with its presence.
  • Linus Svenning: He did surprisingly well for himself last year with ‘Bröder’, a song I still listen to on a regular basis when I want to get all screamy and emotional (so basically most of the time) so I’m very happy to see he’s giving it another crack. Expect less heartstring-tugging from Linus this time around.
  • JTR: Fresh from their turn on The X Factor Australia in 2013 (when I fangirled over them like no self-respecting twenty-something should) I inquired via Facebook as to whether these three Swedes would consider competing in Melfest. I didn’t get an answer, but I still reckon my question inspired them to go for it (#notdelusionalatall). I AM SO EXCITED. I cannot wait until Heat 4. Except I have to, because it’s Heat 4.
  • Måns Zelmerlöw: Perhaps seeing Sanna finally triumph got MZ thinking it was time to get back in on the action? It could be third time lucky for the one-time co-host. After the lack of eye candy on display in Copenhagen, I say MÅNS FOR PRESIDENT!! I mean, for VICTORY!!

Of course, there are always gems to be discovered in the Melfest lineup. Based on Scandipop’s in-depth insight into all of the entries and artists, I’m also über keen to expose my earholes to Samir & Viktor, Jon Henrik Fjällgren and a reinvented Ellen Benediktson.

Now, to get to the point of today’s post, at long last: I think we all have a wishlist of artists we’d love to see go to Eurovision, be that list in our minds or on actual paper and categorised alphabetically by country. Some of my personal hopes for 2015 have already been dashed (no Valentina Monetta for San Marino? What the hell is going on? I’M KIDDINGNOMOREVALENTINAEVERPLEASE) but there are plenty of countries whose artists remain up for speculation.

With that in mind, I’m going to begin revealing my wishlist for Vienna by profiling one of my favourite Finns. I’d kill to see this guy taking part in UMK 2015 (though I’ll try not to) so on the off chance he did submit a song, you better pick it, Finland! His name may or may not be familiar to you, based on how susceptible you are to the charms of teen pop singers, but I can assure you that he is awesome and totally ESC-ready.

So, can we PLEASE have…

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WHO? WHERE? WHAT?

Robin Packalen, 16, from Turku, Finland. Robin started his singing career in 2008 as a ten-year-old entrant in Finnish contest Staraskaba. The following year he represented his country in New Wave Junior in Moscow, so he knows how to handle competition. Three years after that one, he released his debut album Koodi, featuring the hugely successful single ‘Frontside Ollie’, and quickly became known as the Justin Bieber of Finland (unfortunately for him).
Robin’s first album didn’t chart, but his following two efforts in 2012 and 2013 went straight to the top in Finland. So did Boombox, a remixed version of 2013’s Boom Kah album. You know you’ve made when people are even willing to fork out for an hour’s worth of remixes!
In September this year, at the ripe old age of sixteen, Robin released 16, which became his third #1 album. All up, 16 included, he’s had three #1 singles, five top 10 hits, sold almost 400 000 records, and collaborated with some big names in Finnish music, including Mikael Gabriel and Nikke Ankara. Not bad for someone still very much a teenager. *instantly feels inadequate and unsuccessful*.

 

SOUNDS LIKE…

The standard pop to pop-rock sound of Robin’s earlier music makes those Bieber comparisons easier to believe. You can also imagine his first few singles fitting in nicely in the Netherlands’ Junior Songfestivaal (with a Dutch-language rewrite) in the quest to make it to JESC.
These days, Robin’s sound is more diverse, his pop songs interwoven with elements of electro, r & b and hip-hop. He ain’t thirteen any more, and thankfully, his music has matured with him – the production standard is high and everything’s very current. Toss the adjectives ‘slick’, ‘versatile’ and ‘catchy’ into the ring when discussing his latest album, and you’ll (probably) be met with agreement (though I can’t promise there won’t be someone who’ll throw a piece of rotten fruit at your head). Quite simply, Robin’s a purveyor of DAMN GOOD pop music. So DAMN GOOD I couldn’t possibly type ‘DAMN GOOD’ without using capitals.

 

DISCOGRAPHY

  • Koodi (2012) feat. ‘Frontside Ollie’ (#1), ‘Faija Skitsoo’, ‘Hiljainen Tyttö’
  • Chillaa (2012) feat. ‘Puuttuva Palanen’ (#4), ‘Luupilla Mun Korvissa’, ‘Haluan Sun Pulaavan’
  • Boom Kah (2013) feat. ‘Boom Kah’ (#4), ‘Erilaiset’ (#1), ‘Onnellinen’
  • Boombox (2014) feat. ‘Tilttaamaan’
  • 16 (2014) feat. ‘Kesärenkaat’ (#1), ‘Parasta Just Nyt’ (#13), ‘Paperilennokki’

 

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THE HIT LIST

He’s come a long way in a short span of time, and these days, Robin can do no wrong…at least in my opinion. Here are my top picks from his repertoire of pop masterpieces.

‘Boom Kah’ feat. Mikael Gabriel & Uniikki. Fast-paced electro-inspired fun with plenty of fist-pumping opportunities. This is the track that got me hooked.

 

‘Erilaiset’. An up-tempo, feel-good builder recorded for Red Nose Day in Finland.

 

‘Onnellinen’. He can do piano ballads too, people!

 

‘Parasta Just Nyt’ feat. Nikke Ankara. An aggressive hip-pop fusion that shows Robin’s got bite.

 

‘Paperilennokki’. This latest offering is zero Justin Bieber and about 80% Justin Timberlake. It’s my favourite song of the moment, and ‘paperilennokki’ (i.e. ‘paper airplane’) is my favourite Finnish word of ALL TIME.

 

WHY EUROVISION?

Well, if San Marino can select two sixteen-year-olds who’ve failed in Junior Eurovision to represent them in the adult contest (don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about it and I love the duo of Anita and Michele, but their combined results don’t bode well for grown-up success) then Finland could, should and would (if I had my way) pick a sixteen-year-old who’s participated in competitions before, but has spent most of his career going from strength to strength in his homeland and building up a catalogue of chart-toppers instead of competing.
Robin’s transformation from JESC-appropriate teen act to the still young and fresh, but more mature, experimental artist he is today, proves that there’d be no need for him to wait any longer to give Eurovision a try – unless, of course, he wants to wait until he’s about to release his next album in an attempt to use the exposure to plug it outside of Finland.
In terms of bringing his country a result as good as or better than Softengine’s in Copenhagen, could he do it? I don’t see why not. ‘Something Better’ was a contemporary rock song on the more indie side of what Eurovision is stereotypically accustomed to, and a simple but effective performance – and most likely, its uniqueness in the 2014 field – was all it took to secure the boys a placing to be proud of. So it’s not far-fetched to imagine that a more talented, less schlager and more cutting-edge version of Eric Saade (sorry, my Swedish meatball, but you know it’s the truth) could do the same, especially when you consider that Robin’s the right age and has the right sound to have mass appeal, at least among the televoting community. Perhaps my bias is creeping (i.e. elbowing forcefully) in here, but I reckon this kid has as good a chance as anyone to show Eurovision who’s boss. And even if he ended up last in the final (because I have NO doubt he’d make it to that stage) I’d have gotten to fangirl over his appearance in the contest, and that’s what matters to me.

 

Clearly I have no regard for all of your opinions and tastes as I have been gushing about one of my personal favourite artists for quite a lot of page space. JK, JK – I AM interested in your opinions and tastes, I swear. So let me know down below how you think Robin would fare in the ESC, who you’d like to represent Finland in Vienna, and/or who your dream contestant for any country in 2015 would be. If it’s Eric Saade for Sweden, lucky you…your dream may just come true.

 

Until next time,

EBJ Signature

 

PS – Want more Robin? You’ve got it!

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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!

 

Copenhagen Chat | My thoughts on the news of the week

Hola, amigos. It’s the middle of the week, and as of now, that means it’s time for me to belatedly weigh in on the Eurovisiony happenings that have made the headlines since it was previously the middle of the week. Although…nothing of note really happened prior to our first Super Saturday, so let’s just go from there.

Quite a lot has gone down since the weekend, and not just in the Land of National Finals. Sure, we’ve now got two more songs for Copenhagen, taking the total to six; and sure, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen has begun and that is SO MUCH YAY!; and sure, Spain has shocked us all by premiering some decent potential entries; but, we also now know who will present the ESC this year – more specifically, all three of them. Discussions of these developments are coming up, but for now, let me say this: please let those hosts put in a better performance than the last trio we had to put up with!

 

The hosts with the most (maybe) are… 

*drumroll*…three people I’ve never heard of! Woohoo!

That doesn’t actually bother me. Some of the most entertaining hosts have been unknown to most of us before they took to the stage – e.g. Jaana and Mikko, Eric Solbakken, and Her Royal Funniness Anke Engelke. So give a great big benefit of the doubt to Lise Rønne, Pilou Asbæk, and Nikolaj Koppel.

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They look nothing like Ell, Leyla and Nargiz, but can they be less wooden?

Lise, Pilou and Nikolaj are not without credentials. She is a television presenter (handy) who has helmed Dansk Melodi Grand Prix in the past, á la Petra Mede, who hosted Melodifestivalen before Malmö; Pilou is an actor, so he’ll be used to making a script sound like natural dialogue; and Nik (as I am affectionately calling him since now) is a musician and former judge on Denmark’s Got Talent. All that sounds promising, don’t you think? I’ve never been sold by the trio concept, so hopefully this trio can change my mind.

 

Something Better from Finland, and a Swiss star-hunter

Then again, who cares if they don’t? It’s all about the music. Well, more about the music, anyway. And as I mentioned before, Super Saturday gave us two more songs to add to the small pile we already have which will be en route to Denmark in a few months’ time.

Finland’s UMK ended with Softengine’s Something Better on top, beating out fan favourite Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola. As you’ll know if you read my last post, I didn’t follow UMK this year, but I did subject myself to snippets of the competitors before Saturday night. That decision has left me a little disappointed that the result wasn’t the other way around. The mod-rock style of Softengine doesn’t do much for me, whereas I thought Mikko’s song was a downright lovely ditty (or perhaps that’s the senior citizen in me) but time, in addition to healing all wounds and going by so slowly, changes things. Time and multiple listens. I may be proclaiming Something Better my first douze-pointer of the year this time next week.

Meanwhile, the Swiss chose the best of a bad, bad bunch in their Grosse Entscheidungsshow, opting for Sebalter’s Hunter of Stars to fly their flag. On the whole, this is a positive thing – it’s nothing like the lame lady ballad that it beat, and has a certain charm with the whistling and whatnot. I still think Switzerland can so much better though. It’s sad that this is the only half-decent outcome we could have had from them.

Exactly how half-decent is Sebalter? How could we figure that out…wait, I’ve got it! It’s TOP SIX TIME! Here, in a world exclusive, is mine:

  1. Belarus
  2. Ukraine
  3. Albania
  4. Italy
  5. Finland
  6. Switzerland
TEO (or is that Donny Montell) is still on top.

TEO (or is that Donny Montell?) is still on top.

Okay, so Seb is still on the bottom in my books, and I’m still totally on Team Cheesecake (which is surprisingly still the Belarusian entry). But with 30+ songs yet to be picked or premiered, this ranking is bound to change. Hit me with your personal top six in the comments, and the ensuing disagreements will no doubt keep us occupied until the weekend.

 

Melfest: it’s well and truly on!

It’s safe to say that Sweden is back. Maybe not back in a ‘we’re ready to win again, bitches’ kind of way, but definitely in a way that makes last year’s Melfest sound even worse than it actually was (bar Robin Stjernberg and a select few others). Saturday’s first semi turned out to be less predictable than I was expecting, with only one of the big favourites being voted straight to the final.

I’m talking, of course, about YOHIO, who no doubt won the night (but hopefully won’t win the whole thing) with To The End. But it wasn’t the Eurovision royalty that is Helena Paparizou who followed him – she was relegated to Andra Chansen alongside Linus Svenning’s beautiful Bröder. Newcomer/stand-in for Amandine Bourgeois in Malmö, Ellen Benediktson, scored the other ticket with Songbird. I have to admit, despite the Helena love I share with many other ESC fans, I consider this a victory for all the artists who think they haven’t got a chance against those who have been there and done that. Go Ellen!

I'm not entirely sure which is which...

I’m not entirely sure which one’s which…

With the wins must come the losses, and four songs are now out of Melfest ’14 for good. Only one of those had the power to bring a tear to my eye, and that was Alvaro Estrella’s Bedroom. Say what you want about a bad performance – I thought it was a-ok, and that the song was easily the best of the night. I mean, if Eric “I’ll smash a ton of glass to distract you from the fact that I’m not a very good singer” Saade can win Melfest, why couldn’t his former backup dancer qualify? Sob. The good news is that Bedroom has topped the Swedish iTunes charts, and that I intend to send the song into a radio station anonymously to try and elevate it to Gangnam Style status in Australia. Wish me luck.

What did you think of Melodifestivalen’s first installment?

 

Spanish surprises: the national final five

Following France’s shockingly impressive lead, Spain released the select group of songs that will be vying to represent them sometime in the near future (a date would be nice, Spain). I’ve given them all a listen, and on the spectrum of prospective entries, they collectively sit closer to the likes of Sweden than of Switzerland – a.k.a. hooray!

  • Más (Run) by Brequette
  • Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo by Jorge González
  • Estrella Fugaz by La Dama
  • Seguir Sin Ti by Raúl
  • Dancing In The Rain by Ruth Lorenzo

I’m not saying these are the strongest songs on the planet, but they do take me back to those days when Spain sent ethno-pop year after year, and did well with it. Generally, the selection is poppy and generic, but there’s always room for poppy and generic songs to succeed at Eurovision. I reckon Spain has a chance here, if not to hit the heights of Pastora Soler, to at least improve on last year’s fail.

I’ll wait for a date before I think about reviewing them properly, but at the moment, my picks are Brequette, Jorge and Ruth. How about you?

 

Super Saturday #2 – what’s on?

There’s only one more song to look forward to this Saturday, but Malta’s NF is only the beginning of the action. Olympics fans like myself would add the start of the Winter Games in Sochi to the list of comps worth watching (it’s basically the Eurovision of the sporting world) but for those who are interested in the ESC only, look out for…

  • MESC. That’s Malta’s Eurovision Song Contest. After a semi final on Friday which will, inexplicably as ever, only send 6 of 20 songs packing, 14 will be left to battle it out for the win. There’ll be two former JESC contestants taking part (assuming they both advance, and let’s face it – the odds are in their favour) but the only one I’m gunning for is Daniel Testa. His song One Last Ride has Eurovision written all over it, and not in a cheesy way. However, there is some fierce competition he’ll have to push out the way to make it…can he do it?
  • Melodifestivalen semi final 2. A veteran of this NF, Sanna Nielsen is back for what seems like her millionth shot at representing Sweden, and this could be the one that gets her all the way. She’ll be joined by Martin Stenmarck (who was beaten by Helena Paparizou and many others in Eurovision ’05) singing in Swedish, and my personal gem Panetoz. Check out their hit Danza Pausa and then tell me you’re not excited to hear what they’ve come up with!
  • Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin semi final 2 and Hungary’s A Dal heat 3. I admit to knowing nothing about either of these at this point, so whether they’re worth watching is up to you.

 

I’ll be back on Saturday to preview and predict MESC and Melfest, and complain about what an agonizing decision it is choosing between multiple national finals AND the Olympics. There’s something for you to look forward to.

Ahem. In the meantime, don’t forget to rank and ramble about results down below. If you don’t…well, I’ll be sad.

 

 See you Saturday!

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