Blog Archives

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Armenia, Austria, Finland, Moldova, San Marino + Slovenia

Good day sir/madam/whoever is reading this from wherever in the world! I’m flattered you’ve taken the time to drop by EBJ, given all of the rehearsal goodness going down at Kyiv’s International Exhibition Centre that can be enjoyed vicariously through social media (believe me, I’ve been doing my bit in an attempt to quash my ‘Last year I was in the Press Centre at Eurovision and this year I am not’ depression).

It’s hard to comprehend that it’s May already, and that the pre-show prep is in full swing. Rehearsals for the first half of the second semi are taking place as I type this, and I’m eagerly (and sweatily #nerves) awaiting the turn of a few of my favourites. If you are too and you’re after a distraction, then look no further – you’ve found it!

I have three rounds of 2017 reviews left to squeeze in before the ESC hits our TV screens, and today it’s the moment of truth for *drum roll* *realises you’ll already have seen the title of this post* *shrugs*:

  • Armenia’s Artsvik with Fly With Me
  • Austria’s Nathan Trent with Running On Air
  • Finland’s Norma John with Blackbird
  • Moldova’s Sunstroke Project with Hey Mamma
  • San Marino’s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson with Spirit of the Night
  • Slovenia’s Omar Naber with On My Way

As always, my mum has given her verdict on these six songs too…and boy, was there some serious disagreement this time. We actually haven’t spoken a word to each other since I played them for her.

So much for ‘come together’.

Anyway, keep reading to find out how we rated these entries, and feel free to share your feelings about them in the comments – love, hate or tolerate!

 

 

 

My thoughts If you remember what I said when reviewing Serbia, you can skip the next sentence because it’ll be pretty much the same criticism (not to say I hate either song. I don’t). I’d just like to reiterate my warning to all competing Eurovision countries that if you make us all wait until the very last minute before lifting the cloche off your song for the year, we’ll be expecting something phenomenal. So, even if said song is a solid 8/10, it won’t seem that good because you’ve let our expectations pile up like a Jenga tower taller than Jonatan Cerrada’s stilt dancer. Enter Armenia, who did exactly that by being the final country out of 43 to unveil their contribution to the Kyiv contest. If I’d personally heard Fly With Me in February, I might have thought more of it than I do now and wouldn’t have been at all disappointed by it. Rest assured, if you think this song is the best thing since the introduction of the semi-final system, I’m only a tiny bit disappointed. It’s just not a fantastic ethno-pop banger in my opinion, so much as a weird combination of classic Eurovision ethno-pop circa 2005 and the bass (?) guitar from Eneda Tarifa’s Fairytale. I like how exotic and interesting it is, and the ‘fly with me’ hook towards the end – when Artsvik ramps things up vocally – leaves a pretty powerful impression. This is another song, though, that doesn’t seem to have a solid identity. It’s like a coconut fell on its head while it was on holiday in Hawaii, and now it can’t remember its name, age or occupation. It offers up a bunch of different body parts that are disjointed when put together, just enough to be noticeable but not so much that the disjointedness actually becomes an intriguing gimmick (á la Icebreaker). As a result, I can’t decide exactly how I feel about it. I don’t know about you, but if I’m confused about something I’m not very likely to support it (e.g. by voting). Artsvik’s rehearsals have been very well received, so we can expect Fly With Me to be elevated when performed live – as Armenia’s entries often are – but since the song’s still a question mark for me, I still have to hand out an indecisive, ‘Do I like it or not?’ score of 6 points.

My mum says… I have mixed feelings about this too, but the biggest portion of the mix is dislike. I do get a kick out of the hypnotic beat, and I think the music is varied and very interesting to listen to…but everything else is too disjointed and old-fashioned for me. If it had become more cohesive and modern after the first thirty seconds, I’d score it better, but it carried on how it started (just getting more shouty as it went along). I don’t think I ‘get’ it. 3 points.

Armenia’s score 4.5

 

 

 

My thoughts If this was the Eurovision Adorableness Contest, Austria would be an Italy-level favourite right now. Nathan Trent is the most precious person on the planet – as far as I can tell from his press/profile videos without knowing him personally – and that’s the sort of thing that should shine through when he’s on stage, hopefully singing the shiz out of the equally sweet Running On Air. How could anyone hate this song? It’s a prime piece of feel-good inspo-pop (if that term catches on, I want full credit) that just avoids being cheesy, thanks to Nathan sounding more like a smooth R & B singer than an overly-keen finalist on The X Factor performing their potential winner’s single. The low-key, contemporary-sounding verses really show off his voice, while the catchy – if slightly passé-sounding by comparison – chorus is so easy to sing along to, it’s practically impossible to resist. Although the entry doesn’t have the same energy as Belgium’s did last year, What’s The Pressure is what it reminds me of because it’s three minutes of pure happiness that could turn any frown upside down. We need a few tracks like that to give us a break from the intensity of Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, et cetera: all of the countries who’ve taken a more heavy-going approach (in song style, subject matter or both). Running On Air is fun without being too fluffy, full of affirmations but not in an eye-rolling way, and has its own little space in this year’s line-up that lets it stand up and shout from the top of a mountain (somewhere in the Alps, obviously) ‘I’M HERE AND I AM JUST AS LOVABLE AS LOIN D’ICI!’. Seriously, if Nathan doesn’t make it to the final it will be just as heartbreaking as when I watched a shattered Jüri Pootsmann slink out of the green room in Stockholm, followed by a borderline suicidal Stig Rästa. It cannot happen! Except…it could. I don’t have Austria down as a dead cert to qualify, as they’re on stage second after Serbia and before Macedonia (in the middle of girl power on full blast, in other words). But my fingers will be crossed for Nathan, being a guy with a mid-tempo easy listener, to make his presence felt when sandwiched between two more in-your-face female pop numbers. If he can’t, I will make myself available for post-semi comfort hugs if he’s willing to fly to Australia to receive them. 8 points.

My mum says… Austria is a lot easier for me to love than Armenia – musically, that is, as I’m sure both countries are beautiful in their own way. I really liked this song. It sounds very mainstream compared to a lot of the other entries (it could be a Maroon 5 album track) but I’m not such a snob that I’d let that deflate my enjoyment! I see this as simple, straightforward pop that I’m imagining will have bucketloads of mass appeal. 8 points.

Austria’s score 8.00

 

 

My thoughts When you consider that Finland could have sent a song about “loving yourself” (in the privacy of one’s own home, hopefully), a song about kissing someone else’s paradise (also in the privacy of one’s own home, PLEASE GOD) or a song featuring the lyric ‘What would the X-Men do if they came to the rescue?’ (which they very nearly did, as Zühlke’s Perfect Villain finished second), it’s nothing short of merciful that they chose Norma John’s Blackbird instead. Remove all of those questionable UMK entries from the equation, though, and Blackbird remains an absolutely beautiful song, and easily one of the best ballads – if not THE best ballad – competing in Kyiv. It reminds me so much of Norway’s A Monster Like Me from 2015, which will always hold a special place in my heart as a piano ballad so powerful, it had me reaching for something to wipe my wet eyes with every time I heard it. I’m not saying the two songs sound particularly alike, but they have the same pared-back, minimalist lyrical content; the same musical interlude which sort of needs the singer/s to do something during it, but it’s still stunning when they just stand there awkwardly; and yes, that same haunting and emotional quality that makes me want to weep. Whenever Leena (not Norma, as you might expect) launches into the chorus with her crystal-clear-plus-a-hint-of-fragility voice, unleashing that ‘Now you remind me of something I’ll never have’ line upon an unsuspecting world, I turn into a tsunami of tears (and I haven’t even been jilted recently, so I hate to think what state this song would put me in if I was freshly heartbroken). There’s a shiver down my spine and goosebumps all over my body too, and you know what the last song to have that effect on me was? 1944. Before you accuse me of being delirious in thinking that Norma John have mad Francesco Gabbani-defeating skills and will win the contest, that’s so NOT what I’m thinking. I know Finland isn’t going to do what Ukraine did last year, since lightning doesn’t strike twice – not two years in a row at Eurovision, anyway. But Blackbird’s ability to move me makes it special. It deserves to do well in the comp in a way that Sing It Away (an easy song to sacrifice) couldn’t. This song, IMO, is not disposable – it’s integral to have in the final. 10 points.

My mum says… It’s not often that music manages to choke me up, but Blackbird is so beautiful, and so beautifully melancholic, I nearly had to wipe away some tears. It’s so different to all of the other ballads I’ve heard – more subdued and less dramatic, but somehow even more emotional. Leena’s voice is just perfect for expressing all of that emotion, and she has an Adele-like way of making you feel what she’s feeling, even if you’re not experiencing it first-hand. It’s stunning. 10 points.

Finland’s score 10.00

 

 

 

My thoughts EPIC SAX GUY IS BACK!!! The man who inspired the most famous Eurovision meme in the history of memes is returning to the contest with his fellow Sunstroke Project boys, but sans guest vocalist Olia Tira this time. That’s not news to anyone reading this, I’m guessing, but I do know something you don’t know: exactly how I feel about Hey Mamma. But don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. To put it simply, I love it. It’s so different to 2010’s Run Away – i.e. very light-hearted and lots of fun, as opposed to intense and fast-paced – that it’s hard to compare the two, but I personally prefer Hey Mamma. Trying to win over one’s in-laws is a struggle that so many people can associate with, and the fact that Moldova has produced a song that brings some humour and happiness to the situation is worth a round of applause. I’ve also found myself clapping for the insanely catchy verses and chorus, plus the inclusion of not only another top-notch sax riff, but a violin riff too. Oh, AND another copy-worthy dance that accompanies the sax riff (feat. less groin thrusting this time). Clearly, this entry shares some ingredients with Run Away, as do the songs of repeat artists that came before the Sunstroke Project (Paula Seling & Ovi, for example) – I mean, when a formula proves fairly successful, why pinball in a totally different direction on your next try? But this is everything we know and love about the boys in a new and improved package. A controversial opinion? Probably, if you think this song is garbage. But the ESC needs light and shade to make it more exciting, and Moldova – not for the first time – aren’t taking things too seriously, song-wise. Instead, they’ve given us all a Euroclub banger that will also be a banger played at Club Le Jaz’s Loungeroom (and in unrelated news, if you’re currently in Kyiv for Eurovision purposes, I hate you with a passion). Everyone needs some saxual healing from time to time. We’ll have to wait and see if the results reflect that, or if Moldova will fail to get out of their semi for the fourth year running. Even if they don’t qualify, if nobody forgets to remove their accreditation badge for the broadcast it’ll be a step up from 2016. 10 points.

My mum says… Ohhhhh no. Not a fan! This sounds like a song that was written in ten minutes after the composers forgot they had a deadline for it, and it’s really obvious. It comes across so…naff. My favourite part was when it finished, and I’ll be happy to not hear it start ever again – even though the look on Jaz’s face when I told her this was a look that could kill. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so they say. 2 points.

Moldova’s score 6.00

 

 

 

My thoughts If a genie ever appears in front of me and grants me three wishes, I’m convinced I’ll just wish for the same thing three times to make 110% sure that it happens. That thing would be for some random, Eurovision-appreciating Sammarinese resident to win the lottery, and be able to bankroll San Marino’s contest participations until Ralph Siegel has fallen off the perch and cannot physically (or spiritually, fingers crossed) do it. That has to be the explanation for his constant creation of half-baked, cringe-worthy songs that have been composed by the numbers from an instruction book called ‘How To Write A Song That Sounds Like It Was Recorded In 1978 And Yet Would Still Have Been Regarded As Bollocks Back Then.’ Obviously, Serhat took the reins in Stockholm and, with a group of other misguided music “professionals”, produced something remarkably similar to a Siegel song – but at least it had entertainment value! Spirit of the Night, performed by the artist ESC fans most associate with San Marino and an artist no one has ever associated with San Marino, has none. It’s just a big wheel of cheese feat. approximately sixteen unnecessary key changes and a lyrical “conversation” that makes me want to go one better than Vincent Van Gogh and cut both of my ears off to save me from ever having to hear it again. Valentina Monetta – and no doubt Jimmie Wilson too – is so much better than this, yet NONE of her four (!) entries have shown her musical talents off to their fullest. She’d be far more suited to singing the Czech song, or something like it, in Italian. But the Monetta-Siegel saga continues. My favourite thing about San Marino 2017 is the dynamic between ValMon and Jimmie, who seem to have a great time together and can somehow perform this horror show with genuine enthusiasm (something I’ve managed to pick up on despite the waves of secondhand embarrassment that wash over me every time I see the two in action). I’d be happy for them to qualify, if there was some way they didn’t have to take Spirit of the Night through as well. But with the rules being as they are, I give this duo full permission to stay behind in the semi final. 2 points.

My mum says… Actually, maybe Moldova isn’t so bad after all. Not when compared to this THING, anyway. All right, so the singers are enthusiastic, and do their best to get us all on board with the spirit of the night (speaking of, was this song’s writer drunk on some sort of spirit when he decided it qualified as a semi-decent song suitable for public exposure?). But apart from that, I can’t find any redeeming features here. It’s like the theme from a terrible 1970s movie that no amount of popcorn could make worth watching. Sorry, San Marino, but what an epic fail! 1 point.

San Marino’s score 1.5

 

 

 

My thoughts Omar’s one of two artists making their Eurovision comeback in Kyiv after first participating in the same city in 2005. Like Estonia’s Laura, he’s been chipping away at a second shot at representing his country between then and now, but it wasn’t his time (again) until 2017…though many would say it should have been BQL’s time this year. But that’s another story for the post-contest conversations about which countries effed up royally in retrospect. Omar’s pulled a Sunstroke Project by taking something more uplifting and less intense than his previous entry to this contest – but on this occasion, I don’t think it’s for the better. On My Way is no Stop, which I think we can all agree (and I accept no opposition to this) was ROBBED a place in the ’05 final. However, if we pretend that never existed for the sake of viewing On My Way objectively, it’s not a bad man ballad. Sure, it’s dated – Omar’s openly said that he wrote it a decade ago and has been saving it (perhaps hoping that this sort of song would come back into fashion, which sadly for him it hasn’t). But I feel far more positively about it than most other fans do. I like how symphonic and soaring it is, especially in the chorus: it’s just as big and bombastic as you’d expect. I don’t like how clichéd and overly-simplistic the lyrics are, considering they’re the mind child of someone who’s lived in London for years and speaks fluent English. But the decent melody and Omar’s flawless vocal delivery (the star attraction) distract me from that lyrical dumb-down. I feel like I can compare the whole vibe of this entry to Ott Lepland’s Kuula, though that was far superior in every way. But the grand man ballad style and stage presentation of this song are cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately, Slovenia seems to be lost without Maraaya (hence the BQL mention) and seem destined for another DNQ. At the very least, they’ll scrape into the final and end up with a right-side score after that. 7 points.

My mum says… Okay, Omar – if you want to be on your way, I’m happy to help you along. I’ll even be a temporary bellboy and carry your bags. Anything to get you moving out of hearing range! As powerful as this song might be, I wanted it to stop pretty soon after it had started, because it just goes on and on (and on some more) in an “inspirational” way that would make it fit right in on an episode of Glee featuring a performance at a high school graduation. Eurovision, not so much. Well, not in terms of fitting in enough to win voters over, anyway. 1 point.

Slovenia’s score 4.00

 

 

There go another six songs into the ‘Reviewed Like A Boss’ pile! This is where they ended up:

  1. Finland (10.00)
  2. Austria (8.00)
  3. Moldova (6.00)
  4. Armenia (4.5)
  5. Slovenia (4.00)
  6. San Marino (1.5)

I’d shed a tear over Finland winning this round, but I think I’ve used up enough boxes of tissues over Blackbird (plus I need to save some crying energy for Norma John’s performances next week). Austria follows not too far behind, and Moldova not too far behind them. Armenia and Slovenia – after being dragged down by Mrs. Jaz – finish in the lower-middle range, which I don’t think will happen for either of them in the actual contest (take from that what you will). San Marino, suitably, is as far behind here as Ralph Siegel is behind the times when it comes to writing a good pop song.

Next time, we’re zipping around Europe – and a little further afield – to bring you potentially bitchy opinions on Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro and Spain. What do two different generations of Australians think of Isaiah? And more importantly, how will my MOTHER react to the most pornographic song in Eurovision history (which is obviously Montenegro’s, not Australia’s)? You’ll have to come back to get the answers to those questions. Keep an eye on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (or subscribe over there –>) to be the first to know when I’ve posted. Your feeds and inboxes are already being bombarded with Eurovision anyway, so it can’t hurt…

 

 

Happy Almost-ESC Week!

 

 

 

 

Malmö Reviews | Part 4 (San Marino-United Kingdom)

It’s getting closer and closer, people! And by ‘it’, I am of course referring to my birthday. But don’t worry, you’ve still got a few months to think of an epic gift to give me.

What’s that you’re saying? Eurovision is even nearer than that? So it is. Oh well, I guess I’d better talk about that then.

Three days. Three days until the first semi final. I am über pumped, which is odd considering I won’t be watching it until Friday, when it’s broadcast over here in Australia. But we are getting a pre-show documentary to compensate for the wait. Plus, we have a rather awesome Eurovision website of our own (www.sbs.com.au/eurovision) which I encourage you to check out and be impressed by. Anyway, point is, I’ve only reviewed 31 of the 39 entries so far, and there are only three days to do the rest AND make some extremely inaccurate predictions. So here is Step One of getting that stuff done: my final lot of reviews. These are my musings on San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UK. Have a look-see and let me know how you feel about these eight songs.

 

SAN MARINO

Crisalide (Vola) by Valentina Monetta

SanMarino13Better than 2012: Yes

IMO: I’m not going to bring the Facebook song…ah, I mean, the “Social Network” song, into this review. This is a new year, San Marino has a new song, and the genuinely talented Valentina has the opportunity to be taken seriously with Crisalide. This entry, despite also being a brainchild of Ralph Siegel (who’s way past his use-by date if you ask me) is up there with Complice – SM’s horrendously underrated debut – as their best ever. Last year, Lithuania gave us one minute of ballad and two of disco dance pop, whereas here we have two minutes of lovely Italian waltz and one minute of disco dance pop. Both combinations work for me. I find myself thinking with Crisalide that I would have been happy to have either a full song of the waltz, because it is so beautiful, or 100% of the catchy up-tempo, but as it stands I’m glad to have both. The transition between styles is smooth, and makes for a nice surprise when you’re hearing it for the first time and expect the ballad to continue to the end. Valentina will no doubt thrive on the whole package of being able to sing in her own language, and in a genre (or two) more suited to her voice and age (no 37-year-old jazz-trained singer should be strutting around in leather pants screeching about cybersex). I’m expecting a long, floaty dress. I’m expecting wind. I’m expecting a heck of a lot of Ikea lighting. And I’m hoping for a Sammarinese qualification for the first time.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.  

 

SERBIA

Ljubav Je Svuda by Moje 3

Serbia13Top 10 material: No

IMO: Say halo to a Serbia we’ve never seen before at Eurovision. A Serbia that’s less classy and more…brassy. Less ‘OMG’ and more OTT. You get the idea. I’m not as big a fan of this Serbia as I am of the one that brought us Marija, Jelena and Željko, but I can get on board with them for the sake of my weakness for a catchy pop song. Let’s get a couple of facts straight: firstly, if this was Love Is Everywhere, in English, it would be extremely mediocre. The Serbian language has managed to elevate it to an above-average level, for my taste. Secondly, would I be as keen on it if Nevena, the first person to represent her country at JESC and ESC as a main artist, was not involved? Probably not. I’m so excited by her presence that I would have enjoyed three minutes of the trio dragging their manicured nails down a blackboard. Fortunately, Ljubav Je Svuda is much more pleasant to listen to. I like that each of the girls has their own moment in the spotlight, but that they do come together as a cohesive group when needs be. I’m also a sucker for that less-than-original but still effective concept of devil/angel/conflicted soul in the middle. That’s why it’s a such a shame to know that concept will not be illustrated visually via the costumes. The red, gold and white of the national final has been binned in favour of what I hear are Georgia’s JESC costumes from 2011. On the back of that, all the non-Serbian speakers unaware of the song’s story will see three attractive women in wacky outfits, singing a good but not great pop song quite well. I have to wonder how many of them will vote for it.  

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.  

 

SLOVENIA

Straight Into Love by Hannah

Slovenia13Sounds like: Radioactive by Rita Ora

IMO: This is one of the most radio-friendly entries of the year – a dance song that sounds like a lot of other dance songs, with a smattering of dubstep. It isn’t going to lead to any love it/hate it arguments between anyone: the lyrics are fairly generic, the chorus is fairly strong, it’s totally inoffensive…I don’t have much to say about it, to be honest. It’s okay, I like it, but I don’t love it. Whereas Cascada has a very powerful, stadium-worthy dance song, Hannah’s is tamer and less infectious. It does have the potential to be performed very well though, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be another middling song made excellent by way of top-notch staging and costuming. I’m not worried about Hannah’s ability to deliver a polished vocal judging by her previous live performances. She’s a confident performer and, as irrelevant as this is, possibly the Kaliopi of 2013 – a.k.a. the nicest girl on the block. I wouldn’t want her to crash and burn, but without so many elements working in Slovenia’s favour, she’ll have trouble pushing higher than 12th or 13th in her semi.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.  

 

SPAIN

Contigo Hasta El Final by El Sueño De Morfeo 

Spain13Better than 2012: No

IMO: As you may remember, Spain gave me exactly what I wanted from them last year. As a result, I’m going to be a hard fan for them to impress for the rest of eternity. Exhibit A: Contigo Hasta El Final. Not impressed. However, I’m not repulsed, so you ESDM supporters can put away your rotten fruit, thank you very much. This song is interesting, light and sing-along-able, without the cheese of such entries as Que Mi Quiten Lo Bailao. I like how it begins in one form and develops into another by the end. But, like the Danish song, by that end it hasn’t made me feel anything in particular. I want to rave about it, but I can’t. And I can’t see a finish anywhere near as good as Pastora Soler’s forthcoming. I can imagine myself driving along the Spanish coast in an open-topped sports car, sunglasses on, bandanna in my hair and this on repeat though. Come to think of it, is anybody up for a road trip? And if so, do you have a sports car and a spare flight ticket to Spain?

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.  

 

SWEDEN

You by Robin Stjernberg

Sweden13Best lyric: ‘I reach for the horizon whenever I’ve got days of doubt bringing me down.’

IMO: Where do I begin? I was pretty fond of Mr. Stjernberg around the time he lost the Swedish Idol title to Amanda Fondell (who he then beat in Melodifestivalen by a mile…in her face much?). Then he went and won MF against all the odds, an event that MADE my national final season. Ever since then, I’ve realised that this is the most enthusiastic I’ve ever been about a host entry. I adore this song, and there’s nothing you-ou-ou-ooh-oh-oh can say that will change my mind. It’s something relatively different from Sweden, and whilst it definitely smacks of ‘we don’t want to win two years in a row’ (as did the whole of Melfest) I think it has the goods to give the hosts a respectable result. At least, I hope it does. It’s contemporary without resorting to dance or dubstep, and though some would say the chorus is full of yodeling, I reckon the repetition is a hook that people will remember (and since when was yodeling in a pop song a bad thing anyway? Laura Omloop, Gwen Stefani, hello?). I just love everything about this. Yes, even the screech Robin does towards the end. It takes talent to screech in tune like that. Speaking of which, I don’t know what the critics are referring to when they talk about his voice in a negative way. Maybe my ears are malfunctioning, but on every occasion I’ve heard the guy sing live it’s been great (sans that emotional reprise at Melfest). Plus, he’s cute as a button and his surname is really fun to say. What more do you people want?!

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!  

 

SWITZERLAND

You And Me by Takasa

Swiss13Better than 2012: Yes

IMO: The main problem I find with Swiss entries is that they’re chosen so early on in the season, and because they aren’t the strongest of songs (generally speaking) by May they’ve well and truly fallen by the wayside. I really liked You And Me back in December, when Takasa (which sounds like some sort of Japanese greeting) were still known as Heilsarmee, but I have to admit, I’d kind of forgotten about it amongst the Ukraines and Italys of the other 38 songs. Forcing myself to recall it for this review, I’ve realised I do still enjoy it. There’s something endearing about the whole thing, and not just because there’s a grandpa involved (he’s old even when compared to the Babushki, so here’s hopng he lives until the semi-final). I can’t help smiling when the chorus kicks in, despite the lyrics being quite cheesy. It’s the ‘ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah’. I also get the feeling that Takasa believe in this song and what it’s about, and have a good time performing it. I just wish they’d been more adventurous with their wardrobe choice for Malmö. White shirts and ties are basics, ladies and gents, and unless they’ve been vomited on by the Glitter Glue Monster, they rarely have a place at Eurovision. Costume is one area where this entry could have been amped up. Having not seen a rehearsal, I’m left to assume there’s something in the staging that does so instead.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

UKRAINE

Gravity by Zlata Ognevich

Ukraine13Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Since the glory days of Ruslana, Ukraine hasn’t put a foot wrong with regards to the quality of their entries (yes, I am one of the few people that liked Razom Nas Bahato) even if they haven’t always done spectacularly well. They do have a 100% qualification record – the upkeep of which is now resting on Zlata Ognevich’s shoulders. I think she can relax. Gravity, despite the “unusual” staging we’ve been hearing about from rehearsals, is going to the final, y’all. It’s a ballad of Disney proportions (and we all know Disney songs are awesome) that conjures up visions of Rafiki raising Simba to the heavens atop of Pride Rock…while Zlata belts out nonsensical lyrics in the background. Does anyone care about the nonsense when she’s belting like she does? I don’t. Her voice is incredible, and perfectly suited to a vocally demanding song like this. I love the tribal/fantasy vibe of the whole shebang. Having said that, there are entries I like better, and I’m not under any delusions that this will win. Unless certain other participants sleep through their alarms and miss the contest, it’s not happening. But the Ukraine has (almost) always done Eurovision well, and Gravity keeps the trend going.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.  

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Believe In Me by Bonnie Tyler

UK13Sounds like: Deixa-me Sonhar by Rita Guerra

IMO: First things first – why is it so difficult for the UK to nab themselves a young (or just ineligible for a senior’s card) up-and-comer with a catchy, current pop song? Ireland can do it. It cannot be that hard. And yet, here we are again with a formerly famous singer who needs a walking frame to get around (I may have made that up) and who’s bringing a fusty mid-tempo ballad to Eurovision. It didn’t work last year, so why would it work 12 months later? Whew. Now that’s out of my system, allow me to be less cruel to Bonnie for the following reasons: a) She’s practically a spring chicken compared to Engelbert Humperdinck; b) Believe In Me is a better song than Love Will Set You Free in my opinion – much more accessible and instant, and with a nice American country feel; and c) It’s because of her that THE greatest literal music video of all time exists (sample it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UULlroFAVuI ). Yes, I wish that the UK had someone more like Ryan Dolan for 2013, with a less generic song that had a better chance of success. But this is the UK, and unfortunately it’s not surprising that we’ve got what we’ve got from them. So I personally am trying to ‘believe in Bonnie’. Her song is a decent way to pass the time waiting for another I Can to come along.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.  

 

Well, that’s it. My reviews are complete, and after all the typing I only have arthritis in one hand – winning!

There are two more orders of business to take care of before I bid you adieu, however. Firstly, my mini-ranking of the above eight entries:

  1. Sweden 12
  2. Ukraine 10
  3. San Marino 10
  4. Serbia 8
  5. United Kingdom 7
  6. Switzerland 7
  7. Spain 6
  8. Slovenia 6

Secondly, the moment when I ask your opinion (and I really do want it). How do you rank the songs from San Marino to the UK? Where do we agree and disagree? I know you’ve got thoughts, so get ‘em out in the comments!

And now, until next time…adieu.

 

(Speaking of) NEXT TIME: I’m cutting it fine, but there’s still time for a good old Prediction Special! Find out where I’m at on who will impress, disappoint, qualify and win, and see if we’re on the same wavelength. 

 

Selection Season Day 5: Germany and Austria make (hopefully) sweet music + extra bits!

Hello everyone, and Happy Valentine’s Day, blah blah blah. I’ve decided to take a break from sifting through the sack of cards and gifts I got from secret admirers in the post to talk Eurovision (what a sacrifice) and since there is quite a lot of talking to do, I’m going to get straight into it.

 

Random news of the week…

 esb

…from Bulgaria: there I was thinking that the announcement of the Bulgarian artist would be of no interest to me whatsoever because I wouldn’t have a clue who they were and would still have to wait to hear the song to form an opinion, when BAM! BNT revealed that they’d rounded up their most successful representatives ever to try and turn Bulgaria’s luck around. Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov (who must be looking pretty rough these days. She’s probably okay) drummed their way into 5th place back in 2007, which is far and away Bulgaria’s best result in ESC history since that was the only time they’ve appeared in the final. This exciting turn of events (for those of us who liked their entry Water, that is) is the result of that super-massive survey BNT put out last year to get “the people’s” opinion on what they should send to Eurovision to get the best result possible. All I can say is, thank you people! And may we see more epic drumming and chain-mail outfits when the guys step on stage in Malmö.

…from Finland and Norway: two blonde bombshells, two very different songs, and at least one satisfied customer came out of Saturday’s double decision. As expected, Margaret Berger blitzed Bombo to take out the 2013 Melodi Grand Prix in Oslo, whilst over in Finland, Krista Siegfrids won over the public and jury by asking them to marry her. Let’s just hope they don’t accidentally marry Margaret instead, who was also wearing a white dress. How embarrassing. I really like both of these entries, but Margs would get my vote, if I could give one. Oh wait, I can! And you can too. Find out how at the end of the post, if you make it that far.

…from San Marino: this is technically news of last week, I think, but up until now I haven’t had a chance to mention it. Yes, she of The Social Network Song will be singing for San Marino again, which no doubt sent some of you into a state of shock, unable to log in to Facebook for hours. I reckon Valentina deserves another chance though, singing a more age-appropriate and generally less bonkers song, because she actually can sing. Fingers crossed we get that from Crisalide, which sounds über promising to me. If it’s good, the only problem Miss Monetta will have to face is getting people to take her seriously only a year after she uttered both ‘cybersex’ and ‘so you wanna make love with me?’ on the ESC stage.

…from Sweden: speaking of ESC stages, SVT have released an artist’s rendition of sorts of the Malmö stage from above. It didn’t take long for the criticism to start rolling in, which I find ridiculous because you can’t exactly judge what the thing will look like IRL from a 2D illustration. Be patient, guys. When the real stage gets built and it sucks, then you can go to town trashing it.

 

Valentine’s Day? No, it’s Unser Song Für Malmö Day! 

UNSER-~1 

And thank heavens for that. There’s always at least one country picking their entry on V-Day, which I really appreciate because I get to talk about that instead of the fact that yet again, I coincidentally have no Valentine *weeping noises*. This year, it’s Germany, straying from the Unser Star format for the first time in a while. It’s Unser Song in 2013, and I am pleased to say it looks like that song will be a good one. Here’s the line up.

  1. Meerstern, Sei Gegrüßt by Die Priester feat. Mojca Erdmann
  2. Change by Finn Martin
  3. Little Sister by Mobilée
  4. Heart On The Line by Blitzkids mvt.
  5. Lalala by Betty Dittrich
  6. The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory
  7. Craving by Saint Lu
  8. Nackert by LaBrassBanda
  9. Elevated by Nica & Joe
  10. Lieblingslied by Mia Diekow
  11. One Love by Söhne Mannheims
  12. Glorious by Cascada

There are only one or two rubbish numbers in there, so the odds for another gold-star worthy pick from Germany are high. Personally, I’m hoping for one of these:

The Righteous Ones I LOVE this. In fact, this song can be my Valentine, because it is brilliant (and would never cheat on me). It’s an 80s-inspired synth-pop-electro-rock masterpiece with knobs on, and it’s my favourite of the lot.

Glorious okay, so you can easily compare this with Euphoria (gloooooorrious/ euphooooooorrria – come on) and a million other songs, but damn, it is catchy. Cascada are pretty well known internationally, and that would give them an edge of sorts if they won USFM.

Change this is decent pop with a nice sentiment, and less of the fanfare that’s sure to come with the previous two songs.

Little Sister Lena Meyer-Landrut had no hand in this, but it sounds like she could have. Infectious indie-pop may not do as well at Eurovision when she’s nowhere to be seen, but it could be worth a try.

Craving How many cigarettes/bowls full of sandpaper does it take to get that voice? That’s not a joke, it’s a serious question. Raspy Saint Lu has a unique entry up her sleeve that’s really growing on me.

I think it’s going to be Blitzkids, Betty, Ben or Cascada coming out on top tonight. What do you think? Who could keep Germany in the top 10?

 

Österreich Rockt Den Song Contest

Do they? Do they really? Because I’m seeing Austria boring the song contest rather than rocking it, with a selection like this.  

Feels Like Home by Yela

Rise Above The Night by Falco Luneau

Back To Fantasy by The Bandaloop

Shine by Natália Kelly

Give Me A Sign by Elija

Tomorrow night, these five will battle it out to represent Austria in May, if they can stay awake long enough to perform after hearing each other. Feels Like Home is cruisy but very forgettable. Rise Above The Night is just plain forgettable. Back To Fantasy is the most exciting of them all, about a 6 on the Scale of Excitement. Shine isn’t bad, but is (yet again) forgettable and has a super awkward key change. Give Me A Sign is my favourite, and yet I still can’t remember how it goes.

Bring back Trackshittaz!

Or in the event that that’s not possible, give the victory to The Bandaloop or Elija. That is all.

 

POLL TIME: have your say!

Have you been wondering who would win Eurovision if it was held right now? Me neither, but I did do this poll last year, and I figured it was time to do it again. So…

 

Thanks for voting (assuming you did. If you didn’t, DO IT NOW!). I’ll bring you the highly predictable results this weekend, along with other stuff that is 99.4% likely to include Melodifestivalen. Until then…

 EBJ Signature