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Lights and Shadows: Reviewing the good, the bad and the OMG results of Eurovision 2017

Hey guys! This is the kind of post that should have gone up about five minutes after the Eurovision final ended on Saturday, but I have been internet-less (cue Psycho shower scene music) for the whole week up until this point. So please excuse the slowness.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but on the weekend Portugal did something pretty cool by winning that Eurovision final after more than half a century of trying. No biggie.

Okay, okay…like Ron Burgundy, Portugal’s win IS kind of a big deal. And obviously you already know what went down during the show – from Austria’s giant moon to a flag-draped Ukrainian’s moon (of a different kind) and everything before, in-between and after.

The more-than-convincing win by Salvador Sobral with Amar Pelos Dois is one for the ages. Salvador is a quirky and precious gift to humankind (the Michael Cera of Eurovision, if you will) and APD is a stunning song, lovingly crafted by his equally talented sister Luisa. I’m so glad we got to witness the two of them come together (Stockholm 2016 slogan pun not intended, believe it or not) to perform the best ESC winner reprise in contest history:

I’M NOT CRYING. YOU’RE CRYING.

That’s three years in row now that the Eurovision victory lap has moved me to tears, for one reason or another. If the thought of heading to Lisbon next May wasn’t appealing enough, whoever takes the trip (which might include me!) will also get to see at least one Sobral sibling perform live. BRB, off to plaster a sticker on my loose change jar that says ‘PORTUGAL FUND’.

Of course, many of us were expecting to start up an Italy fund over the weekend, if we hadn’t already. While Francesco Gabbani + gorilla hardly crashed and burned, such a steaming hot favourite finishing outside of the top 5 is flabbergasting.

Occidentali’s Karma wasn’t the only song to end the night in an unexpected place. There were plenty of surprises – good and bad – on the semi and final scoreboards…and then the full split results were made public and provided even more open-mouth moments. It’s customary for every Eurovision-related site to pick all of those results apart like a chicken carcass, so that’s what I’m (finally) doing today. Sans the grease that accompanies picking apart an actual chicken carcass. Sorry for the visual, vegetarians.

FYI 1.0: I’m not too bothered about points, because there are (other) Eurovision nerds out there who can crunch numbers with ease (I can’t) and have beaten me to it anyway. I’m more interested in other stats: agreements and disagreements between the televoters and juries; which countries continued to succeed and which countries fell off the ‘We’re Good At Song Contests!’ wagon; who outdid all of their previous results and who hit a brand new low…that sort of thing. If you want to know how many jurors from Eastern Europe gave five or more points to countries in Western Europe (or something like that), you won’t find that info here.

FYI 2.0: I like to ramble. Even if this is your first time visiting EBJ, then this overly-long intro will have made that clear. So before you go on and read this post (which I hope you do ‘coz it’s interesting, I promise), find a comfortable seat and some energy bars to have by your side – or, as Ilinca from Romania says between bouts of yodeling, ‘Get another coffee, get another one to make it through’. Wise, wise Ilinca.

Now let’s look back at the rankings from the semi finals and the final of Eurovision 2017, and see what stands out for better…or for worse.

 

 

Semi final 1

 Split results stats

  • Countries the juries and televoters agreed on were Portugal and Greece, but they both ranked Sweden, Armenia, Iceland and Latvia
  • The biggest differences of opinion were over Australia (2nd J, 15th T), the Czech Republic (7th J, 18th T) and Belgium (13th J, 3rd J). Fortunately for televoters, the juries didn’t manage to keep Blanche out of qualifying range.

 

 Combined results stats

  • Portugal won a semi for the first time this year. Their previous highest qualification came from a 2nd placing in 2008.
  • Moldova’s 2nd place overall equals their best semi result ever – they also finished 2nd the last time the contest was held in Kyiv in 2005.
  • For Sweden, this was the fifth semi final in a row (host years excluded, of course) in which they’ve finished in the top 3.
  • Australia maintained its 100% qualification record – it could be worse with two semi participations – alongside Azerbaijan (slightly more impressive given they’ve participated in nine semis).
  • The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Portugal (they didn’t compete in Stockholm), Moldova and Greece.
  • The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Georgia, the Czech Republic and Latvia.

 

Moldova’s out-of-the-ordinary strong result and Sweden’s predictably excellent one put a smile on my Post-Eurovision-Depression-ravaged face. I’m also pleased with Isaiah’s 6th place, since after his performance last Tuesday I wasn’t sure Australia would even get to the final at all.

I’m not surprised by Georgia’s narrow miss of the final based on the flawless performance Tamara gave during the broadcast. I’m guessing she didn’t miss a beat, note or dramatic arm flourish during the jury show either.

I feel a bit better about losing Blackbird now that we know Finland wasn’t totally disregarded. The juries just found a few other songs that catered more to their tastes (or better met the criteria they were supposed to be searching for).

Latvia’s last place has left me shook. The juries ranking it right at the bottom makes some sense, but I expected the public to go for this particular pimp-slot song in a big way. Then again, I didn’t vote for it, and apparently I wasn’t alone.

 

 

Semi final 2

Split results stats

  • The countries juries and televoters agreed on this time were Bulgaria and Ireland, with Serbia, Switzerland, Macedonia, Lithuania and San Marino ranked closely with both.
  • It was a different story for the Netherlands (2nd J, 9th T), Austria (4th J, 14th T), Malta (8th J, 18th T), Croatia (13th J, 5th T), Romania (15th J, 3rd T) and Estonia (17th J, 6th T). The jury got their way with Estonia, but not with Malta.

 

Combined results stats

  • After qualifying for only the second time ever last year, Bulgaria did it for a third time in style by winning the second semi.
  • Hungary achieved their equal best semi result in history, with Joci doing what Magdi Ruzsa managed in 2007.
  • This semi saw Romania pick up their 100% qualifying record where they left off in 2015.
  • Switzerland may have missed out on a spot in the final for the third time in a row, but 12th place isn’t bad considering they placed dead last in their 2015 and 2016 semis.
  • Despite having a hotly tipped song up their sleeve, Macedonia failed to make it out of the semis for the fifth consecutive year.
  • The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Norway, Romania (after being expelled like a naughty school kid last year), Belarus and Denmark.
  • The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Serbia, Malta and Lithuania. Where’s Donny Montell when you need him?

 

Nothing warms my (formerly cold, unfeeling) heart more than seeing Hungary’s Origo – my favourite entry of 2017 – so high in the combined ranking. I figured Joci’s rap would repel a lot of juries, but they still had him in their top 10.

I was a little surprised to see that Denmark just scraped through, but I’m biased when it comes to Anja and Where I Am. Maybe I should have seen it coming. I’m not shocked that she had more jury appeal than televoter appeal. Claudia Faniello did too, but with worse consequences.

San Marino actually finished far lower than I thought they would. Because a) Valentina and Jimmie put on a good show in spite of the material they were working with, and b) I figured I shouldn’t underestimate a Sammarinese disco song after last year, I’d prepared for them to claw their way into 12th-14th territory. Serhat must be pretty pleased with himself now!

 

 

The final

I’ve noted each country’s jury (J) and televote (T) ranking below in the overall ranking.

Split results stats

  • Just like in the semis, the juries and televoters only agreed on the ranking of two countries – Portugal and Bulgaria (who’d also been ranked first by both in their respective semis).
  • It was a close call for Italy, Azerbaijan, Greece, Israel, Germany, Belarus and Spain, who were all ranked reasonably equally by J and T. The televoters’ way would have seen Austria finish last, but the juries elevated Nathan to 16th place overall (which I’m thankful for, because I couldn’t bear to watch that adorable human fall victim to a total lack of love).
  • The biggest disagreements between J and T were over Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Romania and Hungary. Australia gets the award for the largest gap between rankings, with a jury 4th and a televoting 25th.

 

Combined results stats

  • We all know that the entire top 3 – Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova – achieved their best-ever results on Saturday. Portugal and Moldova also made massive leaps after each failing to even qualify the last time they competed. This time last year, Bulgaria had just reached a best-ever placing of 4th, so well done to Kristian for improving on Poli’s already stellar result.
  • Belgium hit the heights of the top 10 for the third time in a row, and Sweden finished 5th for the second time in a row. Consistent!
  • Australia continued their top 10 trend despite receiving the second-lowest amount of public votes, while Norway found themselves back on the left side of the scoreboard after a non-qualification last year. Prior to 2016, the last time Norway had finished outside of the top 10 was 2012.
  • The Netherlands ended up in 11th place again – Douwe Bob did the same last year. Cyprus came 21st for the second straight year. More consistency!
  • 19 of the 26 finalists were also in the Stockholm grand final. Of those 19, 8 improved on their 2016 final placings and 8 dropped down. The most notable dropper is Poland, who went from 8th then to 22nd
  • In terms of host entries, Ukraine put in one of the worst performances – on the scoreboard, not on the stage – of the last decade. Austria’s 26th place with nul points from 2015 obviously outdoes O.Torvald’s 24th place (with 36 whole points) but those are the only two host entries to sink that low in recent years.
  • Spain found themselves in the bottom 5 again this year, after Barei finished 22nd in 2016. This is the first time since 1999 they’ve come last, though, which might seem surprising since they’ve had such bad luck for so long.
  • Germany, on the other hand, managed to better their last few results despite finishing second last. They trailed the pack of participants in both 2015 and 2016, so Levina shouldn’t be too One box of tissues, tops.

 

On Portugal’s win…was Amar Pelos Dois my favourite entry this year? No. Do I agree with everything Salvador said in his spontaneous slash controversial victory speech? No, but that’s more to do with the way he said it (and he’s easily defendable on that front). Am I happy that he and Portugal won the contest last weekend? HECK YEAH!!! Simple, beautiful and emotional – and yes, more about feeling than fireworks, although fireworks are fine – this winning song will be a timeless classic.

Bulgaria and Moldova achieving their best-ever results makes me do a happy dance every time I think about it (so I’d better avoid attending funerals for a while #inappropriate). Kristian’s placing was expected, but the Sunstroke Project outdid even their own expectations, I suspect. I feel strangely like a proud mother (as opposed to the hard-to-impress kind they sang about).

5th place (again) for Sweden is solid if not sensational. They had some tough competition to take out this year, and winning was never a realistic possibility. But they get to hold on to their Eurovision powerhouse title for at least another year.  

Poor Italy. After all of that buildup and so much time spent as the bookies’ fave to win, they didn’t even make the top 5. After seeing Francesco’s performance, I got the impression it wasn’t a winner, but I still thought top 3 was going to happen for him. Nope. Interestingly, France won the OGAE vote last year, like Italy did this year, and also went on to finish 6th. Spooky.

It proved to be a non-event with the juries, but Hungary’s Origo – my beloved #1 song of the year – was thankfully boosted into the top 10 by the televoters (including me…it got about 15 of my 20 votes). Since their 2011 comeback, Hungary has qualified for the final every year and has finished in the top 10 three times. Not too shabby.

On the other hand, Australia was virtually ignored by televoters but adored by the juries. I don’t really understand either response, but I can’t help being thrilled in my own biased way that we made the top 10 yet again.

I figured France was a goner after Alma appeared on stage last looking very lonely and not leaving much of an impression behind her. But 12th? Tré bien! The song definitely deserved that left-side finish, even if the staging left something to be desired.

I thought Israel might do a little better, but I think we all saw Spain’s wooden spoon coming – even before Manel sealed the deal with that cringeworthy vocal fail. I think he’s sweet, and he doesn’t deserve the hate he got before the contest and will probably get now – but I also hope Spain learns a lesson from his lack of success.

 

 

Lastly…the comeback acts, then versus now

Kyiv was a more successful contest for:

  • Sunstroke Project 22nd in 2010/3rd in 2017

…and that’s it! The trio should be particularly grateful for their success, because every single other returning artist had a worse result than they did when they last competed.

  • Koit Toome 12th in 1998/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017
  • Laura Põldvere DNQ (20th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017*
  • Omar Naber DNQ (12th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (17th in semi) in 2017
  • Valentina Monetta 24th in 2014/DNQ (18th in semi) in 2017

*I’m calling Laura’s result this year worse because with Suntribe in 2005, she beat five other countries. This year, she only beat four.

 

 

Okay…I THINK I’ve gotten all of my scoreboard-related thoughts out of my system. Parabéns if you made it all the way through, and parabéns to Portugal for being the cherry on top of a contest with such discussable ingredients. I mean, EVERY Eurovision has an aftermath worth having in-depth conversations about that really confuse everyone outside of the ESC bubble. This one, though, will easily keep us going until the 2017/2018 national final season starts – or until Junior Eurovision in November, if that floats your Naviband-esque boat (it keeps mine extremely buoyant, BTW. Yes, I’m a JESC fangirl).

On that note, if there’s a result or ranking you’re burning to comment on, you’re in the right place. Did Eurovision 2017 pan out how you thought it would, or has it SHOCKED YOU TO YOUR VERY CORE and given you Koit Toome face?

 

Whatever you’re thinking, type it down below. I’m not willing to shut up about this contest until Lisbon’s (maybe) so let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.

 

Until next time – when I’m planning on counting down my top 10 performances of Eurovision 2017 – muitas felicidades!

 

 

 

Portugal, proposals and some pretty terrible predictions: My post-semi + pre-final thoughts on Eurovision 2017!

Well, Eurovision week has flown by faster than Belgium’s betting ranking dropped after the first round of rehearsals (fortunately for Blanche, they’ve crept up again). The countdown to the grand final is on, and at the last minute, Kyiv 2017 has become a bit less ‘Where in Italy are we going next year?’ and a bit more ‘Where else could we be going next year?’. But more on that later.

First, I’m going to take a quick look back at the semi finals. They may not have lived up to Stockholm’s in terms of slick production, interval entertainment value and host awesomeness (Petra, Måns, and Edward af Sillen’s genius scripting skills left three sizeable pairs of shoes to fill) but they definitely delivered on great performances from 36 countries on a sensational stage, and on qualifier shocks.

 

Semi Final 1: Treadmills, twirling braids and bye bye Blackbird

The best of Ukraine was on show on Tuesday night, with rapper Monatik kicking things off; Verka Serduchka playing a part (I’m always happy to see the namesake of my car, Vercar Serduchcar); and reigning champ and all-around goddess Jamala nailing performances of 1944 and Zamanyly. That was all on either side of/in-between the 18 acts competing for the first ten final tickets, of course.

This was the weaker semi final as far as my personal favourites were concerned – and I do think there were more disposable songs on offer, which made parting with them less painful. That was before I knew what was to come when our non-green-room hosts Vova (I may have misheard that nickname for the majority of the show) and Oleksandr announced the qualifiers. But before I have a good old groan of ‘WHY, GOD, WHY?!?!?’ about that, here are my top 5 performance highlights of the night.

  • Sweden Yeah, like you didn’t know this was coming. As a Swedeophile who saw Robin win Melodifestivalen in the flesh, I was never going to be anything less than psyched to see him at Eurovision. I Can’t Go On was a great show opener, and Mr. Bengtsson made all the right moves. We expect perfectly polished performances from Sverige, and that’s what we got.
  • Finland Norma John are another act that made barely noticeable changes to their national final performance for ESC purposes. They didn’t need to overhaul Blackbird’s presentation, because it already had all the power it needed to be stunningly heartbreaking. At least, that’s what I thought.
  • Moldova I’d single out the Sunstroke Project as my absolute evening highlight. Everything about Hey Mamma on the Eurovision stage was on point – energetic, irresistible and fun without being tacky, AND it had a costume reveal. I danced my butt off to this one, and burned a lot of calories in the process. Thanks, Moldova!
  • Cyprus Theft of Loïc Nottet’s backdrop aside, Cyprus made a massively positive impression on me, which is just what I was hoping for as a Gravity Kudos to Hovig for finding the point of balance (pun totally intended) between singing in tune and working one’s way through complicated choreography. You can’t say the man’s not multitalented.
  • Armenia The most impressive thing about this was Artsvik’s hair, which had obviously been braided by angels who then moved along to work their magic on O’G3NE’s vocal chords. That’s a compliment, because her costume, vocals and staging were all excellent. The whole package did justice to what’s one of the most unique songs in the 2017 contest.

 

 

Other performances to note include Georgia’s – Tamara blew me away even though I’m not a big fan of Keep The Faith ; Montenegro’s, during which Slavko’s sass level was off the charts, but his spinning braid stole the show; and Iceland’s, because Svala wore Baby Spice platform sneakers and actually looked good (something I aspired to back in 1998). Sadly, none of these three countries made the cut when it came to qualifier crunch time. So who did? And more importantly, how accurate were my pre-show predictions?*

*If I’m honest with myself, I know you probably don’t care how right I was…but I do, so let me be narcissistic for a second.

I pulled Poland out of my predicted ten at the last second, but in favour of Cyprus. Finland was already on my list as a certain qualifier, so it’s safe to say that I didn’t see their DNQ – Finland’s third in a row – coming. And when I watched Norma John’s performance again, looking for reasons as to why they didn’t make it, I couldn’t see any (partly because I was weeping over the emotional lyrics and my vision was blurred). This fail to advance will go down in history as one I will NEVER be able to figure out. I figure Finland must have finished 11th or 12th, which we’ll find out soon after the final, but even that doesn’t make sense to me. So if you have the answer, I’m begging you to tell me what it is so I can get some closure!

Finland excepted, I was happy with the results of this semi. Australia managed to make it through (possibly by the skin of our teeth) which was obviously a huge relief, and it gave me the warm fuzzies to see Moldova (who last made it to the final in 2013) and Portugal (they haven’t seen a Saturday night since 2010!) qualify.

How much pleasure, and how much pain – if any – did the semi final one blood puddle (it wasn’t a full-on bloodbath, after all) give you? How did your predictions pan out? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Semi Final 2: A pregnancy, a marriage proposal and another early exit for Estonia

Three things happened during Thursday’s second semi final that I hadn’t expected, and none of them had anything to do with the eventual qualifiers. The first was that Vova and Oleks actually attempted to live up to Love Love Peace Peace, which was a bad idea (though I appreciate the effort and the Ukrainian feel their musical number brought to the proceedings). The second – and third – were the two Major Life Event Checklist boxes that Jana Burčeska managed to tick off in one night (as I sat on my couch in a very glamorous pair of pajamas with only a farting dog for company). As you know, she revealed her pregnancy via her video postcard, only to be proposed to about an hour later by her boyfriend in the green room. It’s lucky Macedonia DIDN’T qualify, because she might have exploded with happiness (and that’d be a lot harder to clean up than the confetti that’s apparently banned from this year’s show).

Jana’s performance didn’t do much for me, but there were plenty that did. Here are five of my second semi highlights: 

  • Hungary Origo is my favourite entry of the year, and Joci did everything I was hoping for on a stage much bigger than he had to work with at A Dal. Nerves didn’t affect him, the fire jets added more visual interest and the use of the satellite stage for the violinist worked like a dream. FLAWLESS.
  • Denmark Umm, speaking of flawless…after Joci came blonde bombshell Anja, who may have done exactly what she did in DMGP (down to wearing the same red dress, which was a welcome change from the clown swimsuit she wore during rehearsals) but nailed every second of it. I love Where I Am too, a lot of that has to do with Anja’s powerful delivery.
  • Croatia Yes, this was a personal highlight! I couldn’t help being amazed at Jacques’ ability to sing a solo duet live with ease, but the comic relief of his performance is what made it stock in my memory. The half-and-half costume, those turns from “pop” camera to “opera” camera…it was exactly what I was hoping to see (and laugh at continuously for three minutes).
  • Norway This was very similar to what won JOWST the right to represent Norway, but it was SO much slicker. And after a success slump with Agnete in 2016, it was fantastic to see Norway present such a cohesive and current package. I also really like Aleksander’s hat, so that helped.
  • Bulgaria Even though I’ve seen countless Junior Eurovision performers take to the stage with confidence and talent beyond their years, there’s something compelling about Kristian Kostov, who’s a little older but still the youngest artist in the adult contest this year. His voice is amazing, and his stage persona is ‘cool as a cucumber’, and packed with genuine (or well-faked) feeling.

 

This semi served up far more than five epic performances, and others I’d say fall into that category include Austria’s, because it was beautiful and adorable in equal measure; The Netherlands’, what with O’G3NE’s incredible sisterly harmonies; and San Marino’s. Yes, I said San Marino’s. What can I say? Valentina and Jimmie were having so much fun on stage, they almost made Spirit of the Night seem tolerable. It wasn’t a night of good spirits in the end, though, since they didn’t progress from the semi. Here’s who did (like you didn’t already know) compared to who I thought would go through.

Yet again, I had Norway in only to drop them out at the last minute, replacing them with Croatia. As I said, I’m super glad JOWST did qualify, but I feel super sorry for Estonia, who couldn’t shake off the Shock DNQ Syndrome they developed last year. But this time, I found it easier to figure out what went wrong. Verona didn’t work live in the way they’d opted to present it, and the dynamic between Laura and Koit was…well, weird. Koit’s über-dramatic facial expressions were up there with Croatia’s entire performance in the hilarity stakes, and have now become a meme, so that’s something.

I have to admit, although I do love Verona as a song, I didn’t bat an eyelid when it didn’t qualify because I was too busy doing a celebratory dance over Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark and Hungary.

Did any of the second semi’s winners get you on your feet (with excitement or shock value)?

 

  

And final-ly…some grand final opinions and predictions

The 2017 final has turned out to be a banger, musically-speaking. There are strings of songs in the running order that’ll barely give us time to take a breath.

 

Israel will be an ovary-bursting opener – so much so that we might still be fanning ourselves when Poland (in the dreaded second slot) takes their turn. Moldova through Denmark is a worrying stretch for me, since it involves three of my favourite entries mixed in with the two bookies’ favourites. Belgium-Sweden-Bulgaria is an interesting run too. France isn’t as strong a closer as we’ve gotten accustomed to: from what I’ve seen and heard, Alma’s too small on the big stage, and her voice has its wobbly moments.

I’m not going to analyse the running order, because plenty of other sites have already done it with way more finesse than I would, but let’s just say it’s raised some questions, and made the competition a little less predictable.

 

The biggest question is one I’ll have a go at answering…

 

Who’s going to win?

I’ve been back and forth on this one. A month ago, I had a gut feeling that Italy was going to finish second. Then I gave in and decided Francesco had it in the bag. Now I’m totally confused and unsure what to expect when the votes come in feat. dramatic music and the kind of tension that brings on heart palpitations (if it’s anything like the Stockholm voting sequence, which nearly killed me).

Realistically, we could be looking at a Fairytale-type landslide for Italy. But the real fairytale ending would be a Portuguese win. If they can do it, it will be their first in 49 attempts (48 if you don’t count 2006’s Coisas De Nada as an attempt to win Eurovision, which TBH you probably shouldn’t).

In doubt about Salvador’s classic song and quirky performance style combining to produce a scoreboard topper? Well, in a last-minute shocker, he’s loosened Francesco Gabbani’s unwavering grip on the odds-on favourite title to become the current favourite to win – and his performance from Tuesday’s semi final has been viewed 1.5 million times, making nearest rival Blanche’s 980k view count look pretty paltry by comparison.

It’s clear Portugal has captured a lot of imaginations (and votes…DUH!) and as someone who didn’t totally get the hype until I suddenly found myself reaching for the tissues during Salvador’s semi performance, I can say that it’s not too late for the country to charm even more people with voting power.

Bulgaria has to be noted as a contender, but I don’t see Beautiful Mess as winning material. Top 3 or top 5, yes.

To throw in a few random, much less likely potential winners – how hilarious would you find it if I named the United Kingdom and Romania? Lucie Jones’ staging is literally gold standard, and she’s scored herself a great performance spot. I still think people are getting a little over-excited, and that a lower top 10 placing is more likely for the UK, but stranger things have happened. Romania would be the perfect package if they actually had something coming out of their cannons. You never know, though…the slogan of next year’s contest could be ‘Yodel It!’. Alex and Ilinca would need one hell of a televote score to make that a possibility, though.

When it comes to the crunch – meaning I’m about to stop fence-sitting – I still think Italy will win, but not by a massive margin. And if Eurovision doesn’t travel to Milan in 2018, then it’ll probably head to Lisbon. I’d be totally fine with that, having spent a half hour this morning Googling photos of the Portuguese capital and swooning at the sheer beauty of it.

But does Salvadorable outshine namaste, alé?

 

Predicting the top 10, and the bottom 5 😦

Without further ado, this is my best guess at the top 10 – a.k.a. the most sought-after bunch of positions. But I really have no idea what’s going to happen. What else is new?

#worsteurovisionpredictorontheplanet.

  1. Italy
  2. Portugal
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Romania
  5. Sweden
  6. Armenia
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Belgium
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Moldova

Now let’s head down to the opposite end of the scoreboard. This is my predicted bottom 5:

  1. Greece
  2. Poland
  3. Ukraine (sorry!)
  4. Germany
  5. Spain

Seriously, though…douze points, fifty million dollars and a muffin basket for anyone who can nail either end of the scoreboard down before the final begins.

 

Speaking of which, the hours before said final are now in single digits, so I’m going to sign off and try to get a power nap in so I don’t fall asleep during the show (thank god Malta didn’t qualify, or I’d definitely be having a snooze). Whether you’re prepping for a fabulous Eurovision party or getting ready to go it alone tonight, I hope you enjoy what’s left of this year’s contest. Join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz if you want (which you totally should) – and if you don’t, then I’ll see you on the other side when we have the next 1944.

MUCH EXCITE.

 

May the best song (according to the majority of televoters and/or jury members, obviously) win!

 

 

 

 

Maltese mishaps, mimes and Mariam’s Mzeo: My review + wrap-up of Junior Eurovision 2016!

WARNING: Things are about to get very honest.

Just like that, Junior Eurovision is done and dusted for another year – but none of us who tuned in are likely to forget about it that easily.

Sadly, that’s not because Malta outdid their spectacular show from 2014, but because Sunday’s contest was a bit of a shambles from start to finish (on the part of the adults in charge, not the kids competing). With the most rushed artist parade in history; painfully scripted host dialogue that Ben Camille and Valerie Vella stumbled over like they were running through a booby-trapped trail in the dark; camera operators spending more time in full view than out of it, á la Eurovision 2015; a venue that was far too intimate and therefore lacked atmosphere; AND the cherry on top, when Valerie single-handedly destroyed the tension buildup of the voting by blurting out the remaining amount of points, this was the most amateur JESC of all time. The fact that Malta has handled it with ease before makes it that much worse that things went so downhill this year.

Let’s cross our fingers for Tbilisi to take on the challenge with more finesse (which, TBH, wouldn’t be hard) if we happen to head there in 2017. Because, moving on from my endless list of complaints, my congratulations must go out to this year’s winner Georgia: the Ireland of Junior, only Georgia’s on top of their game now, and they don’t dwell on ancient victories which will soon be outnumbered by Sweden’s.

Hashtag burn.

You’d be forgiven for thinking it was JESC 2013 all over again, as a pint-sized brunette in a poofy white dress belted her way to the win with a powerful ballad. But we subbed in Mariam Mamadashvili for Gaia Cauchi this time, and watched her take the first-place trophy out by creating a truly magical moment on the Mediterranean Conference Centre stage. Hers wasn’t a triumph that everybody saw coming – particularly those of us who refrained from viewing the rehearsals – but, much like Italy’s the last time JESC met Malta, it became inevitable and was very much deserved.

Sixteen other stars shone pretty bright on Sunday, too – but not all of them could end the night on a note as in-tune as every single one that came out of Mariam’s mouth. So let’s hit rewind and review what went down from the start of the performances to THE MOST PRECIOUS REPRISE IN EUROVISION HISTORY (as seen above). I promise I’ll try to stay positive about all of it.

FYI…this is a long one, so you might want to grab a cup of tea and/or call in sick to work for the next three days. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

  

The performances

Ireland Zena’s start to the show was a nice one, but I found everything about it to be a bit messy (and not in a deliberate, that-totally-works kind of way, like her hair). I didn’t like the addition of an English chorus (clichéd lyrics never win me over). As for her dress…well, now we know what would happen if Yohanna’s Eurovision gown got together with a piñata and had a really ugly baby. So much for staying upbeat, Jaz.

Armenia The bad bits were average, but the good bits were great! Tarber is one of my personal favourites of the year, and it was just as entertaining to watch as it is to listen to. Anahit & Mary’s harmonies weren’t exactly on fleek (as Kisses would say) and I wish they’d been styled more in line with the music video (Mary’s hair in particular). If we’re talking fashion, I also think the costume-reveal outfits would have been more effective as dresses made up of both fabrics the girls started out wearing. But that’s just me being picky. Correct, but picky.

Albania Klesta is so sweet, and she can definitely sing (with more power than one would expect from such a small person). But this fell a little flat, and I think it’s because she couldn’t fill the stage with a presence like Mariam did. Besoj is a beautiful song, but it would work better at adult Eurovision, being sung by someone older and more experienced like Elhaida Dani.

Russia I was having heart palpitations in the lead-up to Sofia’s performance – Water of Life floats my boat like nobody’s business. Overall, it wasn’t as slick and powerful as I was hoping (since I wanted it to win) but I loved the girls’ outfits and choreography. Sofia was a stellar lead vocalist, too.

Malta This song, on the other hand, makes me want to rip my ears off. But I can’t deny that Christina (like everyone else residing in Malta) is one heck of a singer. She nailed every note, and unlike Klesta, had all the charisma she needed to fill the stage despite having no one else up there with her. Expect to see her at MESC the minute she’s old enough.

Bulgaria I’ve made it pretty clear already that I think Lidia is absolutely adorable, and that I plan on adopting her ASAP. Apart from one vocal slip-up, she charmed her way through her performance of Valsheben Den. The last thirty seconds really would have benefited from some backup vocalists supporting her visually instead of just aurally. On her own, she ended up looking very tiny and lonely.

Macedonia I applaud Macedonia for their top-notch vocals, cool choreography, and gorgeous rose gold costumes (I would quite like a catsuit like Martija’s to wear on Christmas Day, but it’s probably not that flattering after excessive amounts of turkey and pudding). Unfortunately, the whole thing would have been more at home in Kyiv next year than it was in Valletta for JESC. Still, an A+ for effort.

Poland I have one word for this: FLAWLESS. ‘Perfection’ also comes to mind. We got a stunning dress, graphics and vocals from Olivia, and in her case, I didn’t mind the last-minute addition of English. My only complaint? Why did the audience not cheer louder and longer for her?

Belarus And the Award for Most Improved Since Initial Selection goes to…Belarus, without a doubt! Alex’s breathless, shouty vocals from back then had clearly been whipped into shape. The whole three minutes was slick, entertaining, and the most Junior an entry can be without going too far. Extra kudos is deserved here for extreme multitasking – I’m not even sure I could get on a hoverboard without breaking something (on my body or someone else’s), let alone sing pitch-perfectly while riding one.

Ukraine A gigantic upside-down umbrella would have been OTT enough…but this was a Ukrainian performance, so why stop there? Throw in a couple of mimes as well. What either of these gimmicks had to do with Sofia’s song I don’t know, so they just left me very confused and distracted. Pretty dress though. She can reuse it for her future wedding.

Italy I’d say that Fiamma’s delivery of Cara Mamma was a cute overload, but it was actually just the right level of cuteness – if it were a bowl of porridge, it would be the one Golidlocks would opt for. Her costume (if you can call it that) was too casual for my liking, but even so, she had me melting into a puddle on the floor because AWWWWW. The simplicity of this after the OTT of Ukraine made it come across even better.

Serbia Whoever hit the hoverboard second was going to be unfavourably compared to the one who hit it first – too bad for Dunja. There wasn’t anything terribly wrong with her performance, though like Lidia, she could have used some backup. She also had the glitteriest case of dandruff I’d ever seen, and I’m still unsure whether I liked that look or not. All in all, Serbia didn’t get the party pumping like they should have.

Israel This was another performance in which some parts were great and others were messy, which didn’t give the best overall impression. Shir & Tim’s vocals were okay. They had decent chemistry and nice costumes (as you may be able to tell, I put a lot of stock in what people are wearing). I was hoping this would be presented in a more atmospheric way, which would have made it more memorable.

Australia We Are is weak, and there wasn’t much Alexa could do to elevate it. She sang reasonably well if not perfectly, and her engagement with the camera and the audience proved the worth of her time on The Voice Kids. But, as I expected, I wasn’t left feeling strongly about this in a positive or negative way. It was just…there.

The Netherlands I think I’ll be spelling ‘fun’ k-i-s-s-e-s from now on, because these three were the life of the party! The costumes they eventually chose were atrocious (had they just been renovating and repainting a Barbie Dream House? And why was one of the outfits beige?) but apart from that, this was Junior Eurovision in a psychedelically-patterned nutshell.. The energy was unrelenting, and the vividness of the 80s flashback was extreme (and I wasn’t even born until 1991). I loved every second.

Cyprus I’m still not convinced that George isn’t Sakis Rouvas after seven years of plastic surgery (has anyone seem him since Moscow?), but I am convinced that his performance kicked butt. There was no other pure ethno-pop – with drums! – competing in 2016, so this really stood out.

Georgia Last but not least (literally), was another heart-melter. Mariam had the dress that Fiamma didn’t, and elegantly powered her way through the classically beautiful Mzeo without missing a single note. She made serious magic on that stage, and she didn’t even have to saw someone in half to do it. At this point, the doorway to victory was wide open, and she strolled right through it.

 

If I had to filter those seventeen down to my top five, I’d go with (in random order) Russia, Macedonia, Poland, Belarus and Georgia. But all of the competing kids did themselves proud.

Speaking of the kids…I have to draw attention to the level of cute on display at this year’s contest. I’ve never wanted to adopt so many children at once in my life, so watch out, Angelina Jolie – your record may be about to be broken.

Now, before we move on from the performances to the voting and results, let’s take a look back at the entertainment between them.

  

The interval acts

Poli Genova Good golly, Miss Poli! Fiercer than ever and just as adept at doing the chicken dance without looking like a loser, she had the few people who could actually fit into the MCC on their feet.

Destiny Chukunyere Why, oh why wouldn’t they let her sing? Sing live, I mean. She was put to better use as a mime than the kids accompanying Sofia Rol on stage. Pre-recorded vocals aside, Destiny’s reprise of Not My Soul was pretty enjoyable. The other song she performed was…different. And slightly inappropriate at times.

The common song This was more of a cheesefest than a quattro formaggio pizza party for the entire population of Europe. I must be getting old and bitter, because I did not enjoy it at all. The reappearance of extreme miming didn’t help matters.

Jedward Let’s just say that, while their hair may have gotten even higher since their ESC days, the twins’ musical talents haven’t improved much. I never thought I’d say this, but stick to the expert judging, boys!

 

The voting + the results

The end of a Eurovision event is usually the most exciting part – and with the JESC 2016 voting echoing that of ESC 2016 (which nearly killed me), it was bound to be worth waiting for.

It was, but it also turned out to be confusing in the way it was presented. For starters, we had the child spokespersons reading out the adult jury votes. Then we had the expert jurors announce their scores one by one. Then came the combined points from the kids’ jury, read out by the adult hosts. Given that all of this took place at 2am my time, you can understand how it seemed to be less than straightforward. But it certainly delivered on tension, until Valerie made the slip-up that brought one heck of a crescendo to a screeching halt. After that, this is what we were left with: 

  1. Georgia 239
  2. Armenia 232
  3. Italy 209
  4. Russia 202
  5. Australia 202
  6. Malta 191
  7. Belarus 177
  8. The Netherlands 174
  9. Bulgaria 161
  10. Ireland 122
  11. Poland 60
  12. Macedonia 41
  13. Albania 38
  14. Ukraine 30
  15. Israel  27
  16. Cyprus 27
  17. Serbia 14

The scoreboard wasn’t a carbon copy of this after the adult jury points had been presented: though many countries stayed put throughout the final two voting segments, the adults ranked The Netherlands 3rd and Belarus 4th, while Italy and Russia would eventually rise up to 3rd from 6th and 4th from 9th respectively.

The adult jury gave their top points to Georgia; the kids’ jury gave theirs to Armenia; and the expert jury gave theirs to Russia. All three ranked Australia 5th, which was the only across-the-board agreement. Some of the most drastic differences of opinion? Russia (top three with the KJ and EJ, 9th with the AJ); Georgia (1st with the AJ, 8th with the EJ); and Malta (2nd with the KJ, 10th with the EJ).

Opinions also differed among the three expert jurors (a.k.a. the two expert jurors and Jedward) – Mads handed his douze to Italy, Christer gave his to Belarus, and Jedward rewarded Russia with their top score.

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The scoreboard after the adult jury votes (top left), the expert jury votes (top right), and the kids’ jury votes (bottom).

 

If we combine the twelve points from both the AJ and the KJ, it leaves us with Georgia scoring 11 sets – the same number of countries that received at least one top score.

Three countries finished in the same position they performed in. Armenia performed second and came second, Russia performed fourth and came fourth, and Cyprus performed 16th and came…you guessed it, 16th! The same thing happened twice last year. Fortunately for Georgia, Mariam bucked the trend by finishing first after performing last. This is the fourth time that has happened in JESC history – the final songs to be performed also won in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The countries that improved on their last results were Georgia, Italy, The Netherlands, Australia, Ireland, Russia, Macedonia and Poland. The countries that did NOT improve were Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine, Malta, Albania, Israel and Cyprus. As for Armenia and Bulgaria…well, they ended up in the exact same positions as last year.

Another “interesting” fact…there were only two songs that were performed without any English lyrics. One won, and the other came last.

If you were wondering what I thought of the final results, then I’ll tell you – there were some shocks and surprises, and a few injustices, but the right entry won…even if it wasn’t my favourite. I always believe that the eventual winner is the true winner, simply because they won according to the rules of the contest. But Mariam’s Mzeo is definitely more of a Waterloo than an I Wanna – i.e. it’s a song I can get on board with, rather than a song I’ll quietly resent for years.

I can also live with my far-and-away favourite Russia finishing fourth – the same position my #1 entry reached in 2015. And as I predicted Armenia would come second, I’m not going to complain about that. Underrated IMO were Poland, Macedonia and Cyprus. Overrated was Australia (so if you hear news of me being deported to Greenland, you’ll know why). Then again, the bulk of the points were based on the performances at the jury show on Saturday – and unless you were there in the MCC at the time, you’ll never know how they differed from the televised versions.

 

So, was this the greatest Junior Eurovision ever? Umm, no. Was it up there (or down there) with the worst? Production-wise and host-wise, yes (in my honest opinion. You’re welcome to disagree). Can Malta do better? Of course, we know that. But what we did get out of the show was seventeen enjoyable performances from seventeen talented acts that must have had Jedward feeling insanely inferior; a voting sequence that had us on the edge of our seats almost until the very last second (DAMMIT, VALERIE!); and an insight into how uncomfortable Christer Björkman is when he’s not in total control of such proceedings.

Oh, and I also got my Tweet read out loud (albeit attributed to a boy named Yaz) so that was a personal highlight.

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What were your overall impressions of JESC 2016? Do you think Malta nailed or failed their second attempt at hosting? And how did your favourite songs end up faring in the competition? If there’s something you want to say, I’m listening…a.k.a. monitoring the comments section below.

I’ll be back soon with a few more Junior-themed posts (sorry to those who can’t stand it, but I’m not willing to let go just yet) before launching into some Stockholm flashbacks – after all, it has been SIX MONTHS since the final. Then, it’s on to NF season we go, and this time, I really mean that (in case you hadn’t heard, I’m off to Melodifestivalen in March!).

Basically, I have all the Eurovision you need to get you through the next few months. And then the rest of your life, probably.

 

Until next time…

 

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IT’S JESC 2016 TIME! The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 revealed + my predictions for the show

Welcome to the day all of us Junior Eurovision fans have been waiting for since the conclusion of the adult contest in Stockholm: show day!

 

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In a matter of hours, the 2016 edition kicks off in Valletta, and I couldn’t be more excited if I tried (and I have). I hope you are too – I don’t want to be the only one on the planet who’s pretty close to peeing their pants.

Let’s leap straight in to the stuff I promised to cover in the title of this post, because a) I don’t want the show to start before I’ve even made my predictions, and b) I want to distract you from the fact that I just admitted to being close to wetting myself (I must have temporarily mistaken the slogan of JESC 2016 for #embarrass). So here are some rankings and predictions for your reading pleasure (fingers crossed).

 

Calculated and complete: The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 for 2016 (plus my personal pre-show ranking, just because)

Just as the countdown to the contest itself was on this week, so too was the countdown to the unveiling of the EBJJJ’s post-review ranking (well, it was in my mind, anyway). After four rounds of reviews and mini-rankings, it’s time for me to pull the Cloth of Intrigue away with a magician-like flourish, and let you see who ended up where. Voila!

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So there you have it. Russia, after scoring more sets of douze than any other country, takes first place, followed by Armenia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Poor Cyprus (and I am a little outraged by this) were relegated to rock bottom, which I hope will not be the case after the actual show is over. I’ll probably do a quick analysis this week of how the actual results compared to the EBJJJ version, so keep an eye out for that – the differences are sure to be drastic!

In case you were curious, here’s my personal ranking as of right this second. I got my way a few times, and I didn’t even have to rig anything. Woohoo!

  1. Russia
  2. Armenia
  3. The Netherlands
  4. Ukraine
  5. Macedonia  
  6. Poland 
  7. Bulgaria
  8. Cyprus
  9. Albania
  10. Israel
  11. Italy
  12. Georgia
  13. Belarus
  14. Australia
  15. Serbia
  16. Ireland
  17. Malta

How does yours compare, and what do you think of the EBJJJ’s collective Top 17? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Bets on (but not literally): Predicting the winner, loser and all of the results in-between

I say ‘not literally’ because I’ve never been confident enough in my predicting powers to gamble any of my savings on them. Removing money from the equation takes some of the pressure off, but I’ve got to say – I thought the absence of televoting would make trying to foresee the results easier, but it really makes it harder!

The outcome of JESC has never been decided by 100% jury voting before, so it’s impossible to say with certainty (unless you’re psychic) what will happen in a few hours’ time, and what happened as a result of yesterday’s jury final. Who knows how each jury will react/reacted to each performance? Not me, that’s for sure. But when it comes to the following questions, I have made the effort to come up with some answers…

 

FTW? Bulgaria. Yes, ladies and gents – for the first time in my history of being a Eurovision fan, I am calling this one outright (instead of super-gluing the seat of my pants to the fence by predicting at least three countries to win). I’ve only very recently had the feeling, especially after hearing reports on the rehearsals, that Bulgaria may be about to win their first ever Eurovision event – just six months after Poli Genova achieved their best result yet. My reasoning behind this is pretty simple: I think Valsheben Den is one of the few competing songs (if not the only one) that offers something to all three juries. I can also clearly see the credits rolling over a reprise from Lidia, which is often a good indication of a song’s potential to win (as stupid as it sounds). She’s adorable and engaging, her vocals and her costume (from the little I’ve heard and seen) are on point/fleek, and the song is catchy, memorable and uplifting. WHOLE PACKAGE ALERT! They may not be boasting my absolute favourite entry of JESC 2016, but I would be perfectly happy to witness Bulgaria win with what they do have.

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Could Lidia outdo Krisia, Hasan & Ibrahim’s second place today? Quite possibly!

Dark horse FTW? Poland. It’s time for a beautifully-sung ballad to win again, basically, and if it isn’t the up-tempo, inspirational, almost tribal ballad from Bulgaria, I have a sneaking suspicion that it could be Poland’s more traditional number. There was something magical about Nie Zapomnij from the start, and it has continued to grow on me and give me THE FEELING ever since. The pathway to victory is more mountainous for Poland than for Bulgaria, so that’s why I see Olivia as the dark horse to Lidia’s bright, white prancing pony. But watch out for this one, guys. If it doesn’t go all the way, it’ll at least outrank both of Poland’s previous results – and outscore both of their existing point totals.

The rest of the top five? Armenia, Russia, Macedonia. Armenia are better at being the bridesmaid than they are at being the bride, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Last year, I was convinced Mika would come second despite having everything required for a win, and I was right (for once). I have a similar feeling about Anahit & Mary – though really, anywhere in the 2nd-5th range of positions could come easily to them. Russia would be my ideal pick to emerge on top as Water of Life is my absolute favourite entry…but nobody’s talking about them as a potential winner anymore, and something is crooked enough about the chemistry and all-around appeal of the group and song on the JESC stage to convince me that it’s just not to be *wails like Rona Nishliu at a funeral*. Predicting Macedonia to make the top five may be a bit ambitious on my part (as I’m not sure the older jurors will go for it) but it deserves to be towards the top. If Martija doesn’t even grace the top ten with her presence, I will personally take it upon myself to beat up Jedward with an oversized can of hairspray (even if it wasn’t their fault).

sofia-fisenko-russia-water-of-life-project-jesc-2016-junior-eurovision-3-600x400

Russia has sent an incredible song to JESC this year, but it’s looking less likely than ever that they’ll be rewarded for it.

The lower left-hand side of the scoreboard? Georgia, Malta, Belarus, Italy. We’re talking 6th-9th places here, so just out of the top-ten-in-adult-Eurovision equivalent that is the top five. Georgia, if I’m honest and all of a sudden, could actually win (as it turns out, Mzeo is kind of epic and has been getting the round of applause to end all rounds of applause during rehearsals), but if they don’t, I think they’ll drop down to about 6th. Malta (my least favourite) will no doubt get a boost as the home country, but I just don’t think Parachute has the substance to squeeze into the top five á la Federica’s Diamonds in 2014. Belarus would be in with a better chance if televoting was happening (hello, hoverboards!) but as the situation stands, they may have to settle for less. I think Italy’s class will win over the adult juries to an extent, and perhaps the expert juries too, unless Cara Mamma is completely overshadowed by other ballads.

The upper right-hand side of the scoreboard? Israel, The Netherlands, Cyprus, Australia, Serbia. Each of these countries has something that’s likely to stop them from steamrolling over a lot of their rivals. For Israel, it’s going up against arguably stronger and more memorable ballads. For The Netherlands, it’s racking up the points when their song is geared more towards the kids’ jury than any of the others. For Cyprus, it’s bypassing the potential jury opinion that Dance Floor lacks the technicality of a worthy winner. For Australia, it’s the same issue Israel will have, as well as a general lack of ‘wow’ factor. And for Serbia, it’s an underwhelming presentation that has been closely compared to the superior one from Belarus. Together, they’ve got about 99 problems, and making it over to the left side of the scoreboard is definitely one.

australia-second-rehearsal

Australia hasn’t upped their game between 2015 and 2016 – so we shouldn’t expect a better result! Great outfit, though…

Right at rock bottom? Albania, Ukraine, Ireland. It causes me physical pain to predict such low places for two of these countries, but I really do think they’ll all have trouble capturing substantial votes from any of the juries – Ukraine and Ireland in particular. I’d love to be proven wrong and see Albania and Ukraine perform better, but I’m preparing myself for the worst.

 

These predictions – plus some highly scientific calculations which involved guessing which entries would appeal to which jury (kids, adults and/or expert) – come together to create a leaderboard that looks like this: 

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Armenia
  3. Poland 
  4. Russia
  5. Macedonia
  6. Georgia
  7. Malta
  8. Belarus
  9. Italy
  10. Israel
  11. The Netherlands
  12. Cyprus
  13. Australia
  14. Serbia
  15. Albania
  16. Ukraine
  17. Ireland

I reserve the right to delete this and pretend I never produced it if the real results are vastly different.

Do you agree or disagree with my guesses? Is there an obvious, in-the-bag winner in your opinion, or are we in for a shock that has all of our jaws on the floor?

  

Finally – the five things I’m most looking forward to seeing when JESC meets Malta again!

Because ten’s too many, and one would just be lazy.

  • Finding out how Malta has approached JESC in 2016 versus how they approached it in 2014. Will it be similar, yet somehow very different – and in many ways, so much better – as with the ESC in Malmö VS in Stockholm?
  • Finally checking out the performances from my favourites – and some of my non-favourites – after not watching any of the rehearsals in order to maintain an element of surprise. Russia, Poland, Macedonia, Cyprus and Australia (obviously) are among the countries I can’t wait to see on the stage for the first time.
  • Werking it when Poli Genova does her duty as an interval act. There’s no doubt she’ll bring back fond memories of the awkward white girl dancing I did during her opening party set at the Euroclub in May. SUCH GOOD TIMES.
poli_genova_at_jesc_2015

From last year’s host to this year’s ESC, Poli’s come full circle and rejoins the JESC party for 2016. Say yay!

  • Seeing some familiar faces back on the JESC stage – albeit as spokespersons when the adult jury points are announced. The 2015 artists who have been chosen to make a comeback of sorts are Mika from Armenia, Misha Smirnov from Russia, Ruslan Aslanov from Belarus (my winner of last year) and Anna Trincher from Ukraine. Reigning JESC champ Destiny Chukunyere will also be there to announce the kids jury results (after joining Poli as an interval act) and it’s always great to see her smiling face.
  • Watching the results unfold in a year with no precedent for what will take place. Honestly, I’ve based a big chunk of this post on wild guesses because I have no clue what the ending to the JESC 2016 story will be. It could be a happy one, if Russia, Bulgaria, Armenia or Poland take the win (to name a few); or an unhappy one, if Malta manage to do the double with a song that would be the Running Scared to Not My Soul’s Euphoria, if you know what I mean. I’m practically dying of curiosity at this point, so bring it on, Valletta!

What are you most looking forward to this afternoon/tonight/tomorrow morning/whenever? As long as it’s Junior Eurovision-related, I want to know. Although if it’s about your dog, I’m happy to have a conversation about that too.

 

Wherever you are and however you’re tuning in, I hope you have a very merry JESC, and get the results of your dreams (unless they’re different to the results of my dreams, in which case SCREW YOU I WANT IT TO GO MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY!!!).

 

Enjoy the show.

 

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REVIEWS | The EBJ Jury (Finally) Judges Eurovision 2016 (Part 7)

I’M BACK! I guess that’s one thing I have in common with the likes of Kaliopi, Donny Montell, Poli Genova, and that one guy from Lighthouse X who played keyboard for Emma Marrone in Copenhagen.

I, however, am back in multiple senses of the word. Not only am I back at home in Australia, but I’m also back blogging after what feels like an eternity away, on the ground in Stockholm writing with the awesome ESC Insight team. In actual fact, it was only three weeks – but what an incredible blur that three weeks turned out to be! I have SO much to tell you guys, if you’re willing and able to hear it over the next few months (what can I say? It’s going to take a while for everything to come screaming back to me).

In the meantime, if you’re feeling even a hint of the Post-Eurovision Depression that I am (and I haven’t even gone back to work yet…that’ll be the true reminder that life is going back to boring *hopes my boss never sees this*) you might want to ease the pain by checking out Insight’s epic coverage of Eurovision 2016, feat. in-depth articles, thought-provoking videos and hilarious podcasts. Because this is my blog and I’m allowed to be narcissistic here, may I recommend checking out my pieces first? Like any proud mother, I want to show off my babies. In this case, quadruplets.

Because I’m so keen on retrospective ramblings, I’ll be filling you in on what went down in and out of the Press Centre in Stockholm as time goes on (feat. such juicy gossip as the 2016 act who called me their ‘new best friend’, and the 2016 act who I witnessed being manhandled out of the Euroclub at 3am the morning after the final. SUCH JUICINESS). But for now, I’ve got some pre-ESC loose ends to tie up – a.k.a. some outstanding business to take care of, a.k.a. some very, very late reviews to make public.

My life got so crazy in the lead-up to my Eurotrip, I didn’t have a spare second to post the last part of the EBJ Jury’s 2016 reviews, or the subsequent EBJ Jury Top 43 (including the dearly departed Romania). And if I thought I’d have time to post those while I was away, I WAS WRONG. Hectic rehearsal schedules and far-too-frequent celebrity-spotting took care of that. And now, here I am – we have a wonderful new contest winner who nobody should be bloody complaining about even if 1944 ain’t their cup of coffee, and I’m yet to review it. I am definitely un-Frans-like and very sorry about this.

I won’t drag said reviews out any longer – I’ve already created the longest cliffhanger in history, after all. So, let’s make like Barei and say hey hey hey to today’s panel of Jaz-approved judges.

  

TODAY’S EBJ JURORS

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Remember, you can meet the entire EBJ Jury properly here.

Ali, Rory and I are FINALLY about to review Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine – a.k.a. Zoë, Gabriela, Sandhja, Kaliopi, Agnete, Sanja AND Jamala. It’s all about girl power on this occasion, but who will prevail? Jamala, the actual Eurovision champ? Zoë, the fan favourite? Or someone else? Read on to find out, and let us know which of these ladies’ songs keeps your boat most buoyant in the comments below!

Oh, and FYI…all of the following reviews except mine were written before the contest took place, so if they seem to be totally unaware of the final results, that’s why. Just pretend it’s April, and all will be well.

FYI again (this is the last one, I promise)…this is one heck of a mammoth post. You might want to prepare yourself a pot of tea and a supply of Plopp to get you through this one.

 

  

Austria

Ali So, what do we have here? If one cares to delve beyond the overt ‘sweet’ simplicity, there is much to be found: a solo guitar’s rollicking strumming conjuring a roaming minstrel; strings (in pizzicato, then sweeping legato, and later pulsing staccato) which weave the ever-evolving landscape through which we are drawn; our singer, with gentle hope and resolve in her voice, in the throes of affirming to the spirit that is leading her, how faithfully she will follow. The destination? A country far from here, where the people, in a naïve search for paradise, are singing. A rhythmic, driving repetition sets our singer’s steady, determined pace, despite the apparent distance, and the dangers of straying into futility (‘si la route nous semble sans issu’), or into the despair of the abyss (‘même si on sera perdu’). There is a poignancy and potency in the fact that our pilgrim (coincidentally, no doubt?) adopts not her native tongue, but the language of the victims of some of the more notorious of those atrocities. The path proposed here is to faithfully follow the song and the music. Indeed, the spirit to which our pilgrim addresses herself is the music itself: when it sings, she sings too; when it flies, so does she; if it soars, she follows it, unencumbered by doubt. The song’s title, and the lyrics of its chorus, are the ever-present reminder that this place we seek is indeed ‘far from here’. The revolving ‘seasons’ in the (official) video, and the ever-flowing chord progressions, reinforce that this trek may indeed be never-ending. But equally, the chorus’s hopeful, trance-like mantra also reminds us that what matters is the journey itself. Those who glibly dismiss this song as ‘cotton candy’, ‘girly’, and calculatedly faux-nostalgic have failed to see the wood for the trees. Though cloaked in ‘lightness’, what we are invited to experience here is by several country miles the most profoundly philosophical and spiritual of all of this year’s creations. It delivers a lasting, symbolic homage to that ultimate musical pilgrimage, the song contest itself. But then again, maybe it’s just another DNQ fanwank?

Rory I’m just going to put it out there: I’m not a fan of Zoë this year. Austria had some really great artists in their NF – LiZZA, Céline/Farna and Bella Wagner (to a very broad extent) – and they went with a song with a very schlager beat to it, and it’s all in French. I’m not hating on her, okay? I’m just saying that with some other very different artists in their selection, Austria had a lot of other options. I can see why they picked Loin D’ici  – the staging in itself was a show, coupled with her USP of singing in a completely unofficial language of her country. However, with an über-poppy, almost tween-ish beat to it, I can’t see it appealing to non-Eurovision fans. There’s making yourself stand out and there’s taking the p***, and I think that Austria might JUST have overshot it this year…maybe it’s a bit of a reality check? We’ll have to wait and see.

Jaz I’m going to start by reminding you again that I’m the only person reviewing and scoring this bunch of songs AFTER Eurovision (because everyone else managed to get their act together beforehand. I’m the one who let the team down). If I’d commented on Loin D’ici back in April when I was supposed to, I’d actually have a very different take on it to the one I have now. When Austria first crowned Zoë as The Makemakes’ successor, I was pretty horrified, to be honest. As cute and whimsical as the song was/is, the tragically stale Eurodance beat that kicks in after the first chorus made me want to call on Conchita Wurst to float down from the heavens (obviously she’s still alive, but I just figure she hangs out up there being perfect most of the time) and save us all from such dated un-fabulous-ness. Upon arriving in Stockholm, it became clear that Zoë was a massive fan favourite, partly due to her song being such a tribute to stereotypical Eurovision anthems of a time gone by – I was nearly danced to death by the horde of devotees basking in her Euroclub performance on Opening Party night. And I still didn’t get it. In fact, even now, I’m not about to give Loin D’ici a douze. But after being subjected to the song more times than I would have if I’d stayed home this year, I started to…well, hate it a lot less. I don’t doubt that there is as much depth under the song’s surface as Ali states, but what I rather like about it now is the face-value sweetness and light, and the almost-irresistible melody that becomes a karaoke dream once you’ve wrapped your tongue around the French lyrics. And Zoë herself is so precious, it’s hard to insult anything she’s had a hand in. I also may want to borrow from her extensive collection of frou-frou strapless dresses one day, and if I’m mean to her, there’s zero chance of that happening.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 12
  • Fraser 6
  • James 5
  • Jaz 6
  • Martin 7
  • Nick 4
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 5
  • Wolfgang 12

Austria’s EBJ Jury score is…7.11

 

 

Czech

Ali The Czech Republic’s Saturday night cherry is still unpopped, so I will try to say some encouraging things here. The intro of simple lilting piano and a slow current of low strings is very promising. The chorus’ melody is pared-back but engaging, and the pace is elegant and restrained. Gabriela has a stunning voice, and is certainly gentle enough on the eye, in a Tanya Plibersek kind of way. Plus, her floral afro in the video is the most impressive I have ever seen. Alas…the lyrics of I Stand lurch between lazily clichéd and waywardly clunky, and the narrative is befuddledly (yeah, befuddledly) circuitous, with the result that – in contrast to our songstress, who professes to ‘always care’ – I find myself quickly giving up caring about her, her various travails, and anything her song has to tell me. We can’t tell who the hero is supposed to be: on one hand, the song seems to be trying to celebrate Gabby’s own resilience; but on the other hand, it’s a ‘better half as saviour’ song. And those lyrics! ‘I’ve worn the path, I’ve hit the wall’? Did the lyricists even care what these idioms mean when they tossed them in? It jars when I hear ‘head’ attempting to rhyme with ‘cares’, ‘rain’ with ‘fall’, et cetera. Can we blame Bill Gates for the fact that the spell-checker failed to flag that the past tense of ‘to fall’ is ‘fell’, not ‘fall’? And who decided Gabby should spend the video lying down whilst saying ‘I stand’? The problems with the story and words were all easily avoidable, which makes them all the more exasperating. The unfortunate result is that I end up not giving two hoots about whether she’s standing, squatting, or doing the downward-facing dog.

Rory When I saw that the Czech Republic would be interested in taking part in Eurovision again after last year’s failure to reach the final, I thought that they must be crazy. But with I Stand, I am so grateful that they’ve continued on their quest for a Eurovision qualification – which I’m guaranteeing they’re going to get with this song. Gabriela is more used to singing rock and gothic songs, but this is a really pleasant departure from her comfort zone. The lush beats and strings really bring out the best in her vocals. The peak of the song definitely comes out at the end of the song with that screech in the lead-up to the last chorus, which just lets out so much emotion and care and you can really feel that. My one concern is how they’re going to stage the song: with Hope Never Dies, they managed to understage it, because there wasn’t really anything that made you remember the performance. With I Stand, they have to play it really carefully…maybe they can get her to be like in her music video and lie down while her hair is covered by layers of flowers? Regardless, best of luck, Czech Republic!

Jaz They may not have traveled far in the final, but congratulations must go to the Czech Republic (Czechia?) for making it to Saturday night for the first time. There were several other songs I’d have preferred to see among the last 26 standing, but it’s always nice when a struggling country finds a surprising degree of success. That said, I understand why Gabriela didn’t find any on final night. Her performance was pretty much perfect – from flawless vocals with just the right amount of emotion present, to the stunning geometric floor-and-wall patterns; from her bridal-esque outfit to the timely hair-release that thankfully didn’t end the same way as Moldova’s in 2014. But…I never found I Stand to leave much of a lasting impression, and in the final, it was up against at least twenty songs that were more memorable. That’s not to mention the fact that the Czech Republic were handed the dreaded second slot to perform in, which we all know to be legitimately cursed. Hopefully, however, this progression from the semis is a stepping stone to further success for the country in 2017. It’s got to be one of the reasons they’ve already confirmed for next year’s contest.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 2
  • Fraser 8
  • James 12
  • Jaz 5
  • Martin 6
  • Nick 4
  • Penny 5
  • Rory 12
  • Wolfgang 8

The Czech Republic’s EBJ Jury score is…6.89

 

 

Finland

Ali Apart from heartily fist-bumping the underlying ‘song-as-therapy’ message, I do dig a ditty that gets me lip-syncing along with it, and wiggling my ample tuchas (apologies for the unsolicited visual!), especially in a year that’s weighed down by dollops of dirges. Throw in some snappy brass riffs, a lively percussion track, a swag of ohh-ohh-ohh-oh-oh’s, a positive ‘friend-in-need’ message, and some evocative lyrics – ‘When heavy waters try to break you, you will be singing for life’ – and, hot-diggidy, I find myself in total lock-step: ‘YEAHHH!’. If Sandhja and her team are able to extract maximum engagement, joyfulness and life by connecting sympathetically with the cameras and the audience, then why can’t this (pretty please?) at least get through to the final?

Rory I’m going to go against the grain and say that I actually enjoy Sing It Away. I’ve a big guilty pleasure for funk, and Sandhja delivers in that aspect in ways that acts like the KMGs (Belgium 2007) couldn’t. This is sleek, sophisticated, and builds up before exploding into the chorus. I do think Sandhja needs to work on her live vocals, if she plans on moving as much as she did at UMK as she will onstage, just because it might prove to be a problem. I don’t see an issue with this making a connection, but in the ferocious first half of Semi Final 1, she’ll have to make sure her performance is memorable. That being said, singing lines like ‘I WANT YOUR BALLS AWAY!’ will definitely give her that edge (it’s supposed to be ‘All my troubles away’, but I can’t bring myself to correct it every time I hear it!). Hopefully, Europe won’t listen to her and will give her their balls in the form of votes, but it’s really a 50:50 chance!

Jaz I had some ridiculous favourites in UMK this year (Thief, Shamppanjataivas, and the comparatively normal On It Goes) as well as some songs I detested (mainly just the bookies’ number one, No Fear). Sing It Away fell in neither of those categories, but I was mighty relieved when Sandhja beat Saara Aalto nonetheless. Her song did all it could do at Eurovision – it served as an excellent-but-disposable show opener, so easily sacrificed that it might be better for us to think of it as part of the first semi’s opening act than as an actual competition song. I don’t dislike it – it’s fun and funky, and Sandhja has the personality required to pull it off and convince us that she will sing ‘it’ away (it’s great how the ‘it’ is open for interpretation. Got dandruff? She’ll sing it away. Been run over by a parade float full of schlager stars? Sandhja’s got you covered). But it lacks the fire and some of the energy that saw counterpart What’s The Pressure sail into the final and squeeze into the top 10. It’s almost as if it won UMK by accident because the decision-makers couldn’t choose between Saara and Mikael – a kind of DMGP/Eurovision 2011 situation. And that doesn’t give you a contest winner…Eurovision 2011 aside. But we’re all still scratching our heads over that one, aren’t we?

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 10
  • Fraser 5
  • James 7
  • Jaz 6
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 3
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 7
  • Wolfgang 3

Finland’s EBJ Jury score is…5.89

 

 

Macedonia

Ali Unlike Nika (from Georgia) and his muddied bed partner, I don’t smoke. But I will definitely be buying myself a cigarette lighter to take along to the second semi-final, just so I can do the old ‘waving-the-ciggy-lighter-back-and-forth-to-the-slow-chorus’ thing to this big, hearty Balkan tavern ballad. Sometimes it can be satisfying when a song delivers (with aplomb) a totally ‘no-surprises’ offering. Even though I have not been overly generous with my points here, this in my book has an ample supply of plombs. Staying with a more classical structure, this builds in all the right ways, and Kaliopi’s voice, as always, intoxicates us with the smokiness of an Islay single malt. There is some loss of momentum from having an unadumbrated middle verse (in contrast to the modern trend of cutting it short, e.g. Norway this year), but it is worth the price, because it makes us savour the ‘bring-it-home’ chorus all the more. Being one of only three songs this year (count them) that are entirely in a LOTE, and therefore arguably less ‘accessible’ to the full spread of jurors and televoters, qualifying is far from a ‘gimme’, but one can live in hope. Who is Dona? I have no idea. But all in all, I’m very glad someone thought she/he/it was worth singing about.

Rory DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, GLAAAAAAD I MET! Oh wow, Kaliopi is back with a bang and I’m secretly enjoying it. I must admit, I was expecting something along the lines of Crno i Belo, but with Dona, I feel like I’ve been transported back to the late 80s/early 90s, with a power ballad like this. Of course, we’ll have to see how she delivers this onstage to get a feel of how it could do in the long run, but with only half the vocal range required to sing Dona than to sing Crno i Belo, I think Kaliopi will slay BIG TIME with this. Whether it qualifies or not, however, is a completely different story. I’m very sorry, but I’ve got nothing else to say about Macedonia…unless you want to hear me sing DONUT, DONUT again!

Jaz The following sentence will tell you what I think about Dona in a nutshell: I didn’t have high expectations of Kaliopi’s second official ESC entry given that I didn’t love her first…and as expected, I like this even less. That’s not to say that I detest it – and, as with a few other 2016 songs, frequent exposure during the rehearsal period ensured that it grew on me – but it’s too dated and over-dramatic for my taste. Even Kaliopi, a singer whose power knows no bounds (she can shatter glass with a single note, so it’s a good thing she wasn’t performing in the Crystal Hall this time) seemed to struggle to give her all to the demanding Dona, just ever-so-slightly. It’s for that reason that her highest-of-high notes at the end of the song never quite measured up to the clarity and pitch-perfection of Jamala’s. There are things about this track that I like – more so the gentler verses than the big, domineering choruses. But even from the beginning, I have trouble paying attention to Kaliopi for three whole minutes, without wondering if a song I like better is coming up next in my playlist/the semi. It usually always is. I thought Macedonia would make it to the final if mainly on artist name alone, but I have no issues with the fact that they didn’t.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 5
  • Fraser 6
  • James 12
  • Jaz 3
  • Martin 4
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 6
  • Wolfgang 5

FYR Macedonia’s EBJ Jury score is…5.44

 

 

Norway

Ali A lot of good, solid, ‘play-to-our-strengths’ Lapp/Nordic buttons are being pushed here, and coupling that with Agnete’s fine voice and presence, I think this may manage to sneak (break?) through to the final. Many listeners have reportedly found the tempo change for the chorus unsettling, if not disappointing, given that by all indications it was otherwise building into a Euphoria-esque up-tempo dance number. But I think, in context, it works: after all, an ice-breaker is not a particularly fast-moving vessel. And having the brakes go on the pace at that point also reinforces the arduousness of the effort our Agnete would need to put in to liberate her ‘stuck’ friend. However, the storyline here lacks traction: a lot of the song is spent cataloguing the reasons why this ex-and/or-potential partner is extremely high maintenance, if not an outright cad/cadette, so we aren’t given much of a feel for why Agnete would be so determined to save him or her. Indeed, perhaps this cad/ette would benefit from spending a bit of reflection time stuck in the ice – sorry, I mean in the ‘fro-o-o-zen water’…a.k.a. ice?

Rory I’m not really sure what to make of Icebreaker. I mean, I can see how many people could enjoy the metaphor that she’s going to be the ship to free us all from the ice we’ve been stuck in (maybe that’s why I’ve been so hypothermic), but the song just leaves me feeling…empty. There’s nothing in here for me to like or dislike. It’s just…neutral, if you get what I mean. Agnete’s vocals are exceptional and I’m sure that that will work in her favour, but the song is just very lacklustre – which is highly ironic, as I should really be enjoying this sort of genre! Norway will easily sail through to the final, just because it has a few reliable countries making its case. As for the final, I can’t exactly put my finger on their exact finishing position – it could be the bottom of the left-hand-side of the scoreboard or the top of the right-hand-side. It’s definitely a Mar(Vegi)mite song this year, a lot like I Feed You My Love – you either love it or you hate it. Suffice to say, I don’t eat Mar(Vegi)mite, so you’re better off asking someone else!

Jaz Love, hate or feel indifferently towards Icebreaker, you have to applaud Norway for managing to send two entries to Eurovision this year without breaking any rules: the first, an atmospheric Euphoria-esque dance banger; the second, an intense I Feed You My Love-style anthem that I do not recommend listening to if you have a headache coming on. The stark tempo and genre changes in Agnete’s song were initially arresting in all the wrong ways for me, back when I was still bitter that Afterglow didn’t win NMGP. But as I’ve gotten more accustomed to them, I actually think the track takes a risk that could have paid off under better circumstances. It’s adventurous in a way that we hadn’t heard at Eurovision before, and the overall effect is edgy, dramatic and powerful. It’s just a shame that Agnete was too poorly pre-ESC to trek the promotional trail (i.e. attend any pre-parties, or press conferences on the ground in Stockholm) or reshape her performance much from the national final stage. I always expected Icebreaker to have a 50:50 shot at qualifying, but if Agnete’s path to the contest had been as smooth as everyone else’s, I think she might have slotted in to Saturday night. I would have loved to see her there as I actually get multiple kicks out of this song now – but just making it through rehearsals and the broadcast was a win for her, at the end of the day.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 4
  • Fraser 2
  • James 4
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 5
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 5
  • Wolfgang 7

Norway’s EBJ Jury score is…4.89

 

 

Serbia

Ali This has huge potential, and I really want to like it. But ZAA’s stage performance will be the decisive factor. In the official video, her melodramatic gestures and facial expressions are a bit OTT, and borderline comical. This obviously tends to detract from the real potency of the song’s conflict-laden atmosphere. A more constrained presentation would more powerfully convey the inner struggle inherent in the theme. She also has to get the audience on side. One way to help do this would have been to have ZAA herself singing (with backing vocalist accompaniment) the sympathetic ‘whoa-oh-oh-ohhs’ that follow the chorus — but admittedly, that would leave her without a decent breather, so may have sapped her energy for the big finish. In terms of the song itself, I know the temptation would naturally have been to give ZAA opportunities to demonstrate her undoubted virtuosity, but I do find it a bit off-putting how, in each half of the chorus — in contrast to the controlled tension of the notes and dynamics in the verses — the notes at the end of the first two lines wobble round like a learner driver trying to work out which gear to use: ‘Every time I say goodby-Y-y-Y-yyye …’. Anyway, the ingredients are all there for ZAA to make this either a Eurovision classic or a Eurovision calamity. Hey, Laura T – you need to have a chat to ZAA about pressure, STAT!

Rory This year, Serbia has me questioning a lot of things. First off, I very much appreciate sending an unknown singer to Eurovision, but why give her two names? ZAA Sanja Vučić? Could it not just be her? The song is pleasant enough to listen to, but when it comes to the subject matter – domestic violence – I just feel like it’s ripping off András Kallay-Saunders, but with a more mature vibe to it. Secondly, Sanja is a singer who – with ZAA – normally plays ethnic-indie music (see her video for Irie&Kool for a proper reference), so why get her to sing a ballad that is so pop, it oozes Charlie Mason? Finally, why does she make so many facial expressions and jagged movements, some of which don’t even work in time with the music? I just feel like this has been very forced and I think that had she been given a more alternative song, or a song in a genre she’s more experienced in, she’d give a more convincing performance. Nevertheless, her vocals are amazing, and the versatility and flexibility of her music makes her incredibly adaptable. But I feel RTS just took a shot in the dark, and that it might not pay off.

Jaz When it comes to controversial song subject matter at Eurovision, I’m an advocate. I think it’s important for music to be used to address issues other than love and fairytales and happy endings and falling stars and donuts (say whatever you want, Kaliopi…we all know your entry is an ode to Krispy Kremes). Not all the time, but sometimes. That’s partly why I hold Hungary’s Running and Ukraine’s 1944 (which I’ll be gushing over in a minute) in such high regard. Serbia’s Goodbye (Shelter) has the kind of ambiguous lyrics that could refer to a verbally-abusive or extremely strained relationship, as much as to a physically-abusive one. That makes it less uncomfortable to listen to, but it also gives it less of an identity and less strength, message-wise. Having said that, I still believe it’s a powerful song – a rocky Balkan ballad delivered with a maturity you might not expect from a normally happy-go-lucky 22-year-old like Sanja. Given that she reined in the jerky performance style we saw when Goodbye was presented on Serbian TV, there was nothing vocally or visually wrong with her performance. Perfect colour scheme, perfect graphics, perfect costumes, perfect choreography…every piece was in place. But I still didn’t love the song enough to back it as a potential winner. It certainly deserved its place in the final, but it didn’t move me, and I understand why it didn’t bother the top 10.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 3
  • Fraser 6
  • James 4
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 12
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 12
  • Rory 4
  • Wolfgang 6

Serbia’s EBJ Jury score is…6.55

 

 

Ukraine

Ali Never has there been a more soulful song about the swallowing of souls! I can report that, on more than one occasion, in the course of listening to 1944, I have detected on my upper cheeks the inexplicable presence of salt water. Jamala will indeed win many a heart with her ‘Negro-spiritual’-like timbre, and prodigious vocal range. Whether a largely uninitiated TV audience will be able to pick up on the full gamut of what is being laid out before them here is very doubtful. It may, for example, be vulnerable to the predictable Norton-esque derision for being too ‘dreary’, ‘serious’, etc. We shall see. The lyrics may have benefited in some places from having their nuances honed, to ease them back from the brink of what might be perceived as hyperbole, but that is a very minor quibble, in the context of the subject matter. If this is not in the final, the universe will be very much the poorer for it.

Rory There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll sound biased on this, but 1944 is my favourite song of the 2016 contest by millions and millions of miles. When I first heard the song on February 5th, the day before it was due to be performed at the national selection in Ukraine, it LITERALLY reduced me to tears – I’m not even exaggerating. The song is just so beautiful and emotive, it gives me goosebumps every single time I listen to it – you know that every note Jamala sings is one that she feels for both herself and her fellow Crimean Tatars. Turning to the dark side of the song, I am clearly stating that there’s no political intent in 1944 whatsoever. Jamala has said in an interview that politics aren’t her cup of tea (sorry Valentina Monetta – Jamala doesn’t get you!), and that there was no political motive behind the song. The fact that some people see a political aspect to it is just a coincidence. 1944, with its breaking-beats, Crimean Tatar lyrics and climax with the final chorus (along with that scream that just gives me the shakes every time – it’s like she’s releasing her soul whenever she reaches that note) give it that edge to stand out a mile in the semi final, and all skeptics will be proven wrong when it easily qualifies – it might even win the semi! Personally, Jamala is my winner of the whole contest, but will she actually win? She’s definitely top 10 or top 5 material. I could go on all day about her, and about 1944 and her other songs, but I won’t bore you to death. I will let you know that Ukraine is my #1 for this year’s Eurovision, in case that wasn’t already clear. DAVAI UKRAÏNA!

Jaz I’m not quite sure how to articulate my affection for 1944. ‘Affection’ is an understatement, really. This song had me hypnotised from the first few seconds of my first listen, partly because it was so different to what I was expecting – Jamala’s previous entry in a Ukrainian NF, Smile, was way too cheesy and repetitive for me, and I figured she’d be offering up something similar this time. FACEPALM!! I’ll admit, I didn’t realise how versatile she was as an artist. I did realise that her vocal range is beyond incredible, and 1944 shows that off to the fullest, while simultaneously allowing her to tap in to her emotions. I don’t think it’s just her acting abilities that give Jamala the skill to make past pain feel fresh every time she performs this song – it’s also the fact that this song is about a specific experience, even though she wasn’t around to live it. It’s the most substantial song that competed in Stockholm, and the most experimental, and I’m still over the moon that it managed to win the whole contest when its divisiveness could have dragged it down. It’s everything a winning song should be made of, in my opinion – it’s unique, contemporary, brilliantly performed (without the staging overshadowing the sound), and has something real to say. To some, it might be a vehicle for a wailing Eastern European woman; to me, it’s a victory for inventiveness and significance in a contest where the appeal of the last few winners has been in the artist’s persona (Austria 2014) and the high-tech trickery of their performance (Sweden 2015)…not to take anything away from Conchita or Måns (you guys know I love them both). Let’s also not forget that, with so few songs that weren’t entirely in English competing in 2016, not only did one of those win, but it was the one featuring a language new to the Eurovision stage. As Petra and MZW declared during ‘That’s Eurovision!’, music is a language that we all know how to speak, and Jamala’s Crimean Tatar transcended tongue barriers to entrance jurors and televoters everywhere (and make me cry in front of thousands of strangers). That’s one heck of an artist, and one heck of a song.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 10
  • Fraser 8
  • James 12
  • Jaz 12
  • Martin 8
  • Nick 6
  • Penny 8
  • Rory 12
  • Wolfgang 12

Ukraine’s EBJ Jury score is…9.78

 

 

And with judgment passed on Jamala, I finally get to say this…we’re done! It took ever-so-slightly longer than I’d intended, as I said at the start – and involved me deviating to a different hemisphere for a few weeks – but the EBJ Jury has officially reviewed all 42/43 entries of Eurovision 2016. I think a round of applause and some hysterical screaming is warranted here.

Applause and screaming should also be directed at our winner for this round, who also won the actual contest and therefore gets to be the reigning champ until Sweden wins again next year: Ukraine!

  1. Ukraine (9.78)
  2. Austria (7.11)
  3. Czech Republic (6.89)
  4. Serbia (6.55)
  5. Finland (5.89)
  6. FYR Macedonia (5.44)
  7. Norway (4.89)

Austria finishes surprisingly strongly (as they did IRL) in second place, with the Czech Republic and Serbia not too far behind. Finland and FYR Macedonia could only muster up mediocre scores, and it looks like I was basically the sole supporter of Norway in the EBJJ. Today’s top 4 qualified in Stockholm, while the bottom 3 didn’t – so I guess as a group, we’re pretty perceptive. Or psychic.

Of course, there’s still one loose end left to tie up, and it’s the EBJ Jury Top 43. Each round of reviews has featured its own mini-ranking, but meanwhile, I’ve been busy combining and tie-breaking until I’ve been left with one big list of favourites, and…not-so-favourites. Next time, that ranking will be revealed – and since the 2016 comp has taken place, I’ll be comparing it to the actual Top 42 to see if my elite assembly of Eurovision freaks (I mean that in the most affectionate of ways) managed to predict any of the results correctly. Hint: we actually did!

I’ll (hopefully) see you then, as I continue to play catch-up and fill you in on all the details of my first, fabulous ESC experience. Over the next month or so, you can expect some belated national finalist playlists; my extensive gallery of 2016 doppelgangers; a series of Stockholm photo albums that will send you to sleep; and the annual EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence, in which you get to play a bigger part than ever (if you want to). Watch out for all of that – it’s on the way to help ease your PED. And mine, of course. I don’t do anything unless there’s something in it for me.

#honestyisthebestpolicy.

 

Hej då!

 

2015sig

 

 

 

Malta fulfill their Destiny: Looking over the performances (and the leaderboard) of JESC 2015

Since Junior Eurovision 2015 came to a conclusion on Saturday night, I’m sure you’re already aware that we have our winner. Even if you’re repulsed by the mere mention of mini-Eurovij, you’d have heard that Malta’s Destiny Chukunyere destroyed her competition and clinched the tiny island’s second victory in three years with the party-starting Not My Soul. The thirteen-year-old triumphed over Armenia’s Mika by nine points – quite a massive margin by JESC standards – and in the process, nabbed the record for the highest-ever score in the contest. Mika has a record of his own to take home, too, scoring the highest amount of points for a non-winner in Junior history.

Although I did call Malta to win, it wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for (and even though Armenia wasn’t my ideal winner, I would have preferred them to take it out instead). But you can’t help being happy for a country that is fast becoming to JESC what Sweden is to ESC – i.e. a superpower. Plus, there’s no denying that Destiny is an incredible talent, and it’s likely we’ll see her pop up in Malta’s NF MESC the split second she’s sixteen. She’ll be shattering windows and Ming vases simultaneously with her voice by then, so there’s something to look forward to (unless you’re the owner of said windows/vases).

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I’ll get back to the results later on in this post. Right now, I’m going to answer the question nobody asked: what did I think of Bulgaria’s first-ever Eurovision event?

Well, there’s not much I could complain about. The stage was super-cool, and like last year’s, could easily accommodate the adult contest. Hostess Poli was confident and competent, and sported a hairstyle that only she – and maybe Gwen Stefani – could rock. The postcards showed off Bulgaria’s beauty to the fullest, and featured the contestants for the first time since 2013 (I was hoping that’d make a comeback). And the interval acts were actually reasonably entertaining (meaning I didn’t traipse outside to watch my lawn grow while waiting for the show to go on). Sweeping a bit of shoddy camera-work aside, I’d say that the exercise was a big success for Bulgaria – and hopefully a good practice run for hosting Eurovision sometime while I’m still around to see it (though as countries like Portugal have competed for 40+ years and never won, I won’t hold my breath…and as some countries continue to nail JESC and fail ESC, I ALSO won’t hold my breath. Basically, no breath of mine will be held over this).

Now, the biggest drawcard of any Eurovision event is the performances of the participants, right? *assumes you all agreed enthusiastically*. So let’s have a look back at the seventeen acts that battled it out for a place on the figurative podium (there should be an actual podium, I reckon), to see who shone, who needed more polishing, and who…well, the terminology I was going to use would be too cruel for children.

 

From Serbia to Montenegro and everyone in-between, here are my thoughts on the competing seventeen!

These are all my own opinions, of course, and you are free to agree or disagree in the comments. Let’s get cracking so you know just what you’re agreeing/disagreeing with!

Serbia A very red, and violent – what with all those arm movements (no wonder there were no backing dancers…at least one of them would have ended up with a black eye) – performance from Lena opened the show. She had amazing intensity for someone who ordinarily, I’d want to pinch the cheeks of because they’re SO CUTE, and vocally, she was almost entirely on point – that shaky final note the exception. Much ljubav for the lyrically-aligned hand tatts!

Vocals 9/10 Staging 8/10 Costumes 9/10 Overall 8.5/10

 

Georgia Speaking of intensity, The Virus’ front man Data was frighteningly intense during Georgia’s performance. The group’s choreography and vocals weren’t as slick as what we’re used to from Georgia, and I felt like a bit of energy was missing. The girls’ costumes were great though. I love me some houndstooth, and I suppose it’s more sophisticated than the pajamas and towel turbans I was expecting/hoping for.

Vocals 7/10 Staging 6/10 Costumes 8.5/10 Overall 7/10

 

Slovenia I could listen to Lina sing all day long, so I was really looking forward to song number three. Vocally, she did not disappoint – the clarity of her voice was unreal. Her cutesey dress and sparkly sneakers also got my tick of approval, but I wasn’t 100% sold on the Frozen-esque visuals Slovenia opted for. I feel like a cool lighting scheme (a spotlight and some of Serbia’s redness, perhaps) would have been more suitable.

Vocals 10/10 Staging 8/10 Costumes 9/10 Overall 9/10

 

Italy The reigning champions (in case the overwhelming Bulgarian-ness made you forget that Italy won last year) put on a pretty good show, better than I thought they would. It was fun and competent, though lacked a little charisma. I loved the graffiti-type backdrop, which made the somewhat dated Viva feel fresher. You could say it brought the song back to viva. Or you could not be annoying like I am, and leave puns out of it.

Vocals 8.5/10 Staging 8/10 Costumes 7/10 Overall 8/10

 

The Netherlands Shalisa is so gorgeous, and would have lit up the camera even without her shiny jacket on and those candles burning. I love Million Lights, but it’s not particularly cohesive, and neither were the accompanying dancers – I didn’t really get how some of their moves related to the song. ‘Disjointed’ is how I’d describe the sound and staging, as much as I want to say otherwise.

Vocals 8.5/10 Staging 6/10 Costumes 8/10 Overall 7/10

 

Australia My eyes were moist during Bella’s turn, so I hate to imagine what state her mother was in. Another Australian debut was always going to be a big moment for me, and I applaud our well-choreographed and attractively metallic stage show. Bella’s Christina Aguilera impression was bang-on, too (#shegotthegrowl), and I adored her pants as much as I moon over Måns Zelmerlow’s leather pair…though for different reasons.

Vocals 9.5/10 Staging 9.5/10 Costumes 9.5/10 Overall 9.5/10

 

Ireland Following directly on from an excellent debut performance was another excellent debut performance – albeit one that lost its ability to spine-tingle thanks to some distracting graphics. That dodgy, badly-animated floating ship behind Aimee made me seasick. Dry ice was used to its maximum potential here, however, and it looked like Aimee was floating on the ocean herself. Fortunately it didn’t invade her lungs and ruin her vocals.

Vocals 9/10 Staging 6.5/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 8/10

 

Russia Wow. Unexpected wow. This really impressed me! As much as I like Mechta, I was convinced Mikhail’s live rendition would be flat and boring (like it was at the Russian NF). But Russia seemed to have cut a mix of the song that had far greater impact in the arena. I loved the mood set by the moon prop and the dry ice (boy, that machine got a workout on Saturday), the dancer, the appropriately dreamy feel created by the blue and white colour scheme…it was all lovely. Well done, Russia.

Vocals 8.5/10 Staging 10/10 Costumes 9/10 Overall 9/10

 

FYR Macedonia Okay, bad bits: the vocals were in tune but a bit wobbly, and the costumes looked like they’d been fished out of a charity shop bargain bin after Britney Spears had dropped off a load of stuff circa 1999. The good bits? Well, Ivana and Magdalena avoided creating car-crash TV (that came later) and seemed to have fun on stage. Energetic choreography and good stage presence all round helped elevate this from amateur to enjoyable.

Vocals 7/10 Staging 8.5/10 Costumes 6/10 Overall 7/10

 

Belarus This was everything I was hoping it would be, Volshebstvo being my favourite entry of the year (in case you weren’t around when I mentioned that the other 500 times). Belarus used the backdrop to perfection, and Ruslan’s vocals were insanely good, as always. His camera and crowd engagement was top-notch until he finished off with that ultra cheesy wink (WHY, RUSLAN, WHY?). Pretending that never happened, I’d call this the total package.

Vocals 10/10 Staging 9.5/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 9.5/10

 

Armenia Mika also had a (bright pink) package, signed, sealed and delivered to the door of victory…or something like that. Armenia’s stage show would have been drooled over by Georgia, who didn’t carry off the boy/girl/girl/girl dynamic half as well (plus, effortless, quirky fun used to be their forte). Mika is such a little star, and I think he’s going to have a bright future – perhaps as an Armenian representative in adult Eurovision one day (he said he’d be happy to do it when he answered my question during the winners’ press conference!).

Vocals 9.5/10 Staging 10/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 9.5/10

 

Ukraine Waterfalls, sharks, forests, mechanical human-sized flowers…a list of what Ukraine didn’t incorporate into Anna’s stage show would be shorter than a list of what they did. This was OTT, even by Eurovision standards, with too many colours and too many vistas on the backdrop making things messy. Anna’s Pochny z Sebe is like a vanilla cupcake, not a ten-tiered marzipan-enrobed masterpiece fit for a royal wedding – it only needed minimal decoration.

Vocals 8.5/10 Staging 6/10 Costumes 7/10 Overall 7/10

 

Bulgaria Not bad, Bulgaria. There was possibly a bit too much going on here as well (rainbows! Ribbons! Unflattering cummerbunds!) but in comparison to Ukraine, Gabriela and Ivan’s performance was simplicity personified. Both kids’ vocals were strong individually, and together…well, it could have been much worse.

Vocals 9/10 Staging 7/10 Costumes 8.5/10 Overall 8.5/10

 

San Marino Epic staging and brilliant costumes couldn’t disguise the weaknesses in Kamilla’s voice, and she looked very uncomfortable on stage (whether that was due to nerves or her Aliona Moon-esque height off the ground, I don’t know). With a more competent vocalist, this could have been a contender for the top five.

Vocals 5/10 Staging 10/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 7/10

 

Malta Destiny can sing – we all know that. She certainly didn’t emit a single off-key note on the night, and did her best to full up a big stage without the aid of backing singers, dancers, or trumpet players. Her personality and stage presence are larger than life, but I still wish she’d had some (or all) of the above with her. Company is what her performance was missing for me, because it certainly wasn’t missing soul (obvs, since THEY CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY HER SOUUUUUUL) or spark.

Vocals 10/10 Staging 7.5/10 Costumes 7/10 Overall 7.5/10

 

Albania Mishela is another soloist who could have used some backup to bring her song to life, but again, I really liked her performance anyway. Her voice is amazing, and so was that dress (though I know I’m in the minority, I wouldn’t give her a Junior Barbara Dex Award). If I could have given her some advice beforehand, I would have said ‘Smile! This is JESC, not a funeral’. It definitely wasn’t the death of Albania’s JESC journey, if her eventual result is anything to go by.

Vocals 10/10 Staging 7/10 Costumes 10/10 Overall 8.5/10

 

Montenegro Oh dear. What WASN’T wrong with this? Unsuitable colour scheme and costumes, half-hearted attempts to create a fun, tropical atmosphere on stage, and woeful vocals were all present and accounted for. Judging by the way Jana fiddled with her earpiece, then hissed at her backing dancers as soon as she struck her final pose, I’d say some technical problems may have been afoot. Hell hath no fury like a woman with a malfunctioning in-ear monitor.

Vocals 5/10 Staging 6/10 Costumes 5/10 Overall 5/10

 

That was the show from my point of view, and based on the marks I’ve awarded as if I’m a musical theatre teacher examining my protégées, here’s my ranking of the performances:

  1. Armenia
  2. Belarus
  3. Australia
  4. Slovenia
  5. Russia
  6. Albania
  7. Serbia
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Italy
  10. Ireland
  11. Malta
  12. FYR Macedonia
  13. San Marino
  14. Ukraine
  15. Georgia
  16. The Netherlands
  17. Montenegro

Hmm…that doesn’t quite match up with the actual results, does it?

 

Taking a look at the leaderboard

Speaking of which, here are the actual results, for anyone who needs a refresher (which I would totally understand given that I’m so late in posting this wrap-up…as usual):

  1. Malta (185)
  2. Armenia (176)
  3. Slovenia (112)
  4. Belarus (105)
  5. Albania (93)
  6. Russia (80)
  7. Serbia (79)
  8. Australia (64)
  9. Bulgaria (61)
  10. Georgia (51)
  11. Ukraine (38)
  12. Ireland (36)
  13. Montenegro (36)
  14. San Marino (36)
  15. The Netherlands (35)
  16. Italy (34)
  17. FYR Macedonia (26)

There’s only so much you can say without knowing the split results (even though they might not prove to be that interesting). I’ll save a more in-depth scoreboard analysis for when they’re released, but here’s a few observations for the meantime.

  • Malta’s win marks their third top five result in a row – not bad for a country that only squeezed in to that section of the scoreboard once during their first eight years of participation.
Malta-Champion-Destiny-Chukunyere-Credit-EBU-Elena-Volotova-Vladimir-Dudakliev-604x272

How could you NOT be happy for that face? (Photo: EBU, Elena Volotova/Vladimir Dudakliev)

  • Armenia’s second place takes their total of runner-up trophies to three. They have also won once and come third twice, and are yet to finish outside of the top ten.
  • Five countries achieved their best placements ever in 2015: Slovenia, Albania, Australia, Ireland and Montenegro. For Australia and Ireland, that was always going to be the case; but two-time competitor Slovenia reached the top three for the first time in any Eurovision event, and Albania equaled their best-ever ESC result from 2012. DambaYAY!
  • Italy, on the other hand, experienced a fall from grace that could only have been more unfortunate if they’d come last. From winning last year on their debut to just sidestepping last place, it’s hard to predict how they’ll fare if they decide to return in 2016.
  • Belarus added to their collection of commendable results with Ruslan’s fourth place. They have now won twice, come third twice, and appeared in the top five eight times out of thirteen participations. The same can’t be said about their record in the adult contest…
  • Bulgaria might have done better than many of us expected, but they actually performed pretty poorly for a host entry. The past five home representatives have finished 4th (Malta in Malta, 2014), 2nd (Ukraine in Kyiv, 2013), 7th (the Netherlands in Amsterdam, 2012), 5th (Armenia in Yerevan, 2011) and 5th again (Belarus in Minsk, 2010).
  • FYR Macedonia (a.k.a. the Norway of JESC) came last for the third time in Sofia. IMO, there was a different country starting with ‘M’ that should have taken out the wooden spoon this year.
  • If you’re wondering how my pre-show predictions panned out, then prepare to laugh at my ineptitude! Yes, I did peg Malta as a possible winner, but I only guessed three of the top five correctly – Malta, Armenia and Belarus – and unlike last year, only predicted one country in the exact right place (FYR Macedonia in 17th). I massively underestimated Albania (though can you blame me?) and massively OVERestimated Australia (I blame bias for that one). How did you do?

 

I’m going to take my leave now in order to wallow in the murky waves of PJED (Post-Junior Eurovision Depression) – although the prospect of the upcoming delayed Aussie broadcast of the show, complete with our own commentary team and whatnot, is easing the pain. I’ll be back with a fun-sized amount of further JESC coverage before looking ahead to Stockholm 2016 – a party that we’ve just discovered will be attended by a) Bosnia and Herzegovina (where did they end up getting funding from? I hope to hell it wasn’t Ralph Siegel) and b) Kaliopi, Miss Congeniality of the world. I will be there too, but how much ‘there’ might depend on tomorrow’s ticket sales working in my favour. Wish me luck as I attempt to snap up the same thing that everybody else wants!

 

Until next time,

 

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JUNIOR EUROVISION HAS ARRIVED! The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 + predictions for Sofia’s spectacular show

It’s D-day, guys. #discover day. Saturday, for those less JESC-inclined. For the rest of us, though, the next best thing to Eurovision is about to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, and we (I can safely assume) are very, very excited!

There are mere hours until a certain European – or perhaps Australian – takes over from Vincenzo Cantiello as Junior Eurovision champion incumbent, and I am more than ready to find out who that child is. But before that, there’s some important business to take care of: the business of predicting. Attempting to guess what’s going to happen at any given Eurovision event is tradition, and I don’t like to break from tradition. You can see where this is going, right?

3, 2, 1, predictions!

Oh…hang on. There’s one teensy thing I forgot I had to do first. But you’ll like it, I promise.*

 

*I can’t REALLY promise that.

 

Revealed: The EBJ Junior Jury’s complete ranking, from #1 to #17

Whether you’re an EBJ regular or a random, you’ll be aware that over the past few weeks, myself and seven other JESC devotees have been both extremely catty and extra complimentary in reviewing Sofia’s seventeen competing entries. If you want to revisit all the highs and all the lows, follow Gaitana’s lead and be my guest.

  • Part 1, feat. Armenia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Serbia
  • Part 2, feat. Italy, Malta, Russia and Slovenia
  • Part 3, feat. Australia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine
  • Part 4, feat. Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino

I totted up the top four/five at the end of each round of reviews, but being a fan of a soap opera-style cliffhanger, flatly refused to reveal the full ranking until I was gosh darned ready – i.e. when the suspense had pulled up at the intersection of Unbearable Street and Just Tell Us Already Avenue (in the suburb known as Jaz’s Overactive Imagination). That moment, my friends, has arrived. Without further ado, feast your eyes on this collaborative ranking of the Class of (JESC) 2015.

ebjjj17I’m very happy to report that my hands-down favourite from the start, Belarus, topped the list in the eyes (and ears) of the EBJ Jury. I should think so, too…I didn’t bribe them for nothing! Also in our top five are the highly regarded songs from Slovenia, Armenia and Australia, with Albania making a bit of a curveball appearance. I don’t expect Mishela, as lovely as she and her song are, to dambaje her way to such heights tonight. See my scoreboard prediction below if you want to find out where I think she will finish.

Our gracious first-time hosts Bulgaria didn’t fare so well with the EBJJJ, limping into last place. If that’s their fate in the actual contest, at least Gabriela and Ivan will be spared the humiliation of mimicking The Makemakes’ goose egg – thanks to the ‘Douze points for everybody, dance’ Junior rule, none of the kids will be jetting out of Sofia empty-handed. Bless ‘em.

In case you were wondering (which is highly unlikely, I know), here’s a rundown of the top scores handed out by each of my jury members. Not all jurors reviewed all of the entries – in fact, I was the only one who did – so keep that in mind when you’re about to mutter ‘Well, there’s no accounting for taste.’

  •  Jaimie (Australia) 10 points to Armenia
  • James (UK) 10 points to Slovenia
  • Jaz (Australia) 12 points to Belarus and Slovenia
  • Liam (Australia) 7 points to Ireland
  • Lukman (Australia) 10 points to Belarus
  • Mrs. Jaz (Australia) 8 points to Italy
  • Penny (USA) 12 points to Belarus
  • Rory (Ireland) 12 points to Albania

With three sets of douze points being awarded to Belarus, have we chosen a champ you can bet on? Or have we jinxed Ruslan right out of trophy territory? All will be revealed in a few hours’ time.

To officially conclude my 2015 JESC reviews, I’d like to thank all of my jury members for taking part – some at quite short notice. You guys are awesome, and if we were in the same room right now, I’d give you the high five of the century.

Now, onto what you probably started reading this post for: some predictions!

 

Looking into my (cloudy) crystal ball and getting all psychic on Sofia

Let’s start the proceedings with some standard guesses re: who’s going to hit, who’s going to miss, and who’s going to have it all. I’m the CEO of Never Ever Watch The Rehearsals Enterprises, so the following predictions are based on what I’ve heard about the run-throughs, plus my personal opinions of how the songs will fare.

 

The slickest staging Armenia/Belarus. Armenia never fail to entertain, and from what I’ve heard, they’ve really got their shiz together this year, bringing some of the fun from Mika’s music video to the Arena Armeec stage. Belarus will be replicating Ruslan’s NF performance, having adapted it a little to bring it up to JESC standards. It’s sure to be simple, but super-duper effective.

The most jaw-dropping vocals Australia/Belarus/Ireland/Malta/Serbia/Slovenia…I could go on. Once again, the 10-15-year-olds of Europe (and Australia…) are singing like they’ve been doing it for decades, and given that flashy vocals were a big part of Italy’s winning formula in 2014, the ability to make us all go ‘Wow!’ could be crucial. My top picks for tonight are Australia and Ireland. If there aren’t any voice-breaking incidents in the Belarusian camp, listen out there too.

The most cutting-edge costumes Armenia/Georgia/San Marino. I’ll admit, I have caught glimpses of these guys in costume, so this isn’t so much of a prediction as an educated opinion. It’s all about colour for Armenia and Georgia, whereas San Marino is going for shattered-glass chic. Believe it or not, it works.

The best backdrop Belarus. Trees are always a crowd pleaser. Hey, prettiness! Hey, symbolism!

The coolest choreography Armenia. Because if they don’t, it just wouldn’t be Junior Eurovision. And I would not know what the heck to do with myself.

The total package Armenia, Australia, Belarus. This trio should have sight and sound fully covered, and that’s what makes them frontrunners for the win.

A positive surprise San Marino. Both in terms of performance and result, I’m hoping Kamilla will surpass expectations.

A negative surprise Ukraine. Usually you can trust Ukraine to nail the visuals and mechanics of their stage performance, but I hear they’ve gone all Amanecer and thrown everything at Anna, including a giant lotus flower and a CGI shark. What the?

Biggest cheer from the crowd Armenia/Bulgaria/Malta. Bulgaria gets a free pass on this one as the host country – even if they’d sent two aggressive feral cats to hiss through a duet (which, let’s face it, is actually a semi-decent way of describing the dynamic between Gabriela and Ivan) they’d be received with rapturous applause. Armenia’s Love and Malta’s Not My Soul will get the audience going in a big way as two of the most energetic songs on the program.

 

Now, to bring out the big guns…guns that fire pixilated love hearts á la Armenia’s. Decoded, that means it’s time to predict the final results.

One of the bajillion things I love about JESC is its unpredictability. For some reason, this contest is always harder to predict than its adult counterpart, which can be frustrating as well as wonderful. 2015 is just as unclear-cut as the previous few editions have been – even in terms of who’s going to finish last, which is usually the easiest call to make – but I’m not going to let that stop me from making a fool of myself! Here’s how I think the leaderboard of Junior Eurovision 2015 is going to look just before the winner’s reprise and the roll of the credits.

 

The bottom five

Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Italy, Montenegro

If I HAD to call it: Montenegro 13th, Italy 14th, Albania 15th, Bulgaria 16th, FYR Macedonia 17th

 

The mid-rangers (a.k.a. the meat in the scoreboard sandwich!)

Georgia, Ireland, The Netherlands, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Ukraine

If I HAD to call it: Georgia 6th, Slovenia 7th, Ireland 8th, Ukraine 9th, San Marino 10th, The Netherlands 11th, Russia 12th

 

The top five

Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Malta, Serbia

If I HAD to call it: Belarus/Malta 1st/2nd (I CANNOT call it, okay?!?), Armenia 3rd, Australia 4th, Serbia 5th

 

Call it controversial (even if it isn’t, just to make me feel badass) but I’ve had a gut instinct that Belarus, my favourite entry of the year, is going to fare a lot better than some believe. I don’t want to tempt fate and ruin Ruslan’s chances, but I ignored the similar instinct I had about Italy last year, and we all know what went down in Malta. The thing is, I’m not anywhere near certain that Belarus will win – perhaps because many parallels can be drawn between their package of singer and song, and Italy’s last year, and I’m wondering if voters and juries will go for the same thing two years in a row. But, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Ruslan’s rehearsals, and provided he kept his voice in check (generally and hormonally-speaking) for the jury final, he would have raked in the points – and as some countries, including Australia, are using 100% jury vote *mutters angrily about not being able to vote*, televoters have less power here. Basically, I think things look very good for Belarus, and if they don’t win, it’ll be at least a return to the top five for them.

Belarus-secind-rehearsal-photo-2-600x400

Ruslan had better hope the dry ice doesn’t go all Nina Sublatti on him tonight… (Photo: Wiwibloggs)

If I’m not about to witness my favourite song win a Eurovision event for the third consecutive time, however, then it’s got to be a win for Malta (which I’m steeling myself for as it’s not an outcome I’d be thrilled about…NO NO NO!) or Australia. Armenia could take it out too, but I’m convinced Love is the kind of song that will come second or third rather than go all the way. With adult jury influence heavily in play, “junior” Junior entries have struggled to beat their more mature rivals, and I suspect that trend will continue here. But top five is almost a certainty for Armenia again.

There’s a big space between the top five and bottom five that has to be filled, but it’s ridiculously hard to predict how. Georgia has a good chance of almost being back on form this year, because they know how to put on a show, and Gabede is a song that stands out (not necessarily for all the right reasons, but it’s definitely memorable). I’m crossing my fingers for Ireland to finish in the upper mid-table region, or surprise me and do even better. The Netherlands and Russia won’t perform terribly – which is a relief for me because I really like Million Lights and Mechta – but they’re just not memorable enough to battle for anything other than to squeeze into the top ten. This is, of course, in my opinion, but I am incredibly knowledgeable AND have an impeccable prediction record. Not.

Mikhail-Smirnov-Russia-Junior-Eurovision-2015-rehearsal

Mikhail’s fairly well suited to JESC, and his backing dancer’s all white. (Photo: Wiwibloggs)

I’m pretty sure that FYR Macedonia, who once upon a time sent absolute gems to JESC, is going to be to Sofia 2015 what Croatia was to Malta 2014 – i.e. the loser (sorry, kids, but when there’s an über-accurate word for a situation, you’ve just got to use it). I don’t mind Pletenka, but even I can hear that it’s repetitive and monotonous, and maybe a little too amateur in comparison to the other sixteen songs. But I’m happy to be wrong if it means FYR Macedonia defies expectation, does okay and then decides to return to the comp next year.

 

Finally…the five things I’m most looking forward to seeing tonight

I don’t think this segment requires an intro.

  • Seeing how Bulgaria handle their hosting duties. Malta did an amazing job in 2014, and I’m sure Bulgaria can measure up. With Poli Genova at the helm, the night’s got to be rocking.
  • The performances from my personal top three. I’ll be on the edge of my seat when Belarus, Slovenia and Ukraine have their minutes in the spotlight, hoping for the best (or, in Ukraine’s case, hoping the shark thing was a joke).
  • Australia making their JESC debut. There was a time I would have laughed at you for fifteen straight minutes if you’d even implied that we Aussies would have a delegation at mini-Eurovij, all the whole wishing it would happen. Now it IS happening, and I am psyched.
bella-paige-australia-second-rehearsal-600x400

‘My girls here we goooooooo…to the supermarket, to buy some more alfoil for this dress.’ (Photo: ESC Daily)

  • Speaking of Australia…I’m awaiting our point delivery with eagerness too. Hopefully our jury has made the kind of choices that compensate for a lack of public vote. Although, we’re relying on an ex-Wiggle here…
  • And, to finish off, Vincenzo’s reprise of the stunning Tu Il Primo Grande Amore. I’m keen to see if his sass levels are still higher than a kite a year on from his victory. I’ve no doubt his voice remains spectacular.

 

I think I’ve said all I need to say before the show kicks off – or at least, all I have time to say, as I’ve got to go and have a pre-contest nap so I don’t pass out halfway through the recap. I’ll be doing some live tweeting tonight if you want to meet me on Twitter (I’m @EurovisionByJaz, in case you didn’t know).

Until then, if you catch sight of the comments section and feel like using it, give me one or all of your predictions for JESC 2015! I hope, no matter how right or wrong you turn out to be, you enjoy the show. I know I will, even if it does mean hauling my butt out of bed at two o’clock in the morning.

Merry JESC!

 

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From ‘Heroes’ to zeroes: Reviewing the Eurovision 2015 semi and final scoreboards, all the way from first to worst

Ah, yes. What a gift the combo of Sweden’s winning song title and Austria/Germany’s double nul-points has been to Eurovision journalism! Just to warn you – this may not be the last time I make use of the heroes/zeroes thing. But, in my defence, it is particularly relevant to today’s post:, even though today’s post isn’t particularly relevant.

Allow me to explain: it’s been over a fortnight since the first semi final of Eurovision 2015; over a week since the final; and three days since May came to an end (WHAT THE?!?!). That means it’s beyond time I did what everyone else has already done: look back on this year’s results. I’m going to pretend the lateness is intentional because I want to stand out from the crowd, when really it’s due to me being a slowpoke and taking this long to mould everything I want to say into something readable. You guys know by now that there’s waiting involved (for other people) in everything I do. It’s part of my charm…I hope.

At long last, though, I have performed a results analysis on all three nights of Viennese competition (feel free to applaud before reading any further). You won’t find a dissection of every single split and combined figure from all forty countries below – if you want the specifics, you can seek them out yourself here) – but you will find:

  • Some brief opinions on the final re: everything except the performances (since I already reviewed all 27 performances in my previous post);
  • An overview of how the Australian televoters and jurors ranked the finalists, and a reminder of where our first (but not last?) final points went; and
  • Plenty of stats from/observations of the split and combined scoreboards of the final and both semis.

So, in the words of Eurovision groove master Guy Sebastian: let’s (oh) get on it, (ooh) get on it!

 

The ESC 2015 final: A Twitter-friendly, Jaz-eye view on everything BUT the performances

‘Twitter-friendly’ = brief. I am capable of being short and sweet, you know.

Having said that, it would take at least two or three Tweets to make all of this info public.

  • The opening You had me at ‘flying Conchita in sparkly jumpsuit’. The Building Bridges theme song was a bit too JESC for ESC in my opinion, but I could learn to love it. The intro in its entirety was too long-winded. Nearly half an hour before song no. 1? Give me a break. A shorter break.
  • The hosts Alice, Mirjam and Arabella became slightly more appealing as the shows progressed – by final night, they were almost charismatic. But the main reason I was happy for them to have camera time was so I could stare at their outfits (Austrian design gets my tick of approval!). Conchita, as Green Room host, left the other three ladies in her glittery wake. #QUEEN.
  • The postcards As adorable as something can be when that something isn’t a puppy. These pre-performance featurettes were somewhat similar to last year’s – all thematically linked, but all unique in what they depicted each act doing, this time around Austria. It’s obvious there’s a lot to do over there, and if showing us that was ORF’s way of increasing tourism, it’s worked on me. But I think I’ll leave the bungee jumping to Monika and Vaidas.
mvpc

Monika and Vaidas, hoping they’ll be out of their body casts in time to perform at Eurovision. Spoiler alert: they were.

  • The interval acts An interval act has to be really, really, really good for me to watch it without thinking to myself ‘Is this STILL going? Me want results!’. Unfortunately, Mr. Percussionist didn’t fit that brief. But Conchita’s mini-medley was fabulous – I could watch and listen to her all day long. Can we have Conchita at Eurovision every year in some capacity? She can be the new Lys Assia (even though we still have the old Lys Assia).
  • The voting sequence The most exciting one we’ve sat through in years…but more on that later. I will say now that I’m legit going to start a petition to stop that ‘We don’t need to hear the results from any more countries to know that so-and-so is the winner! Congratulations! Oh, but I suppose we’d better hear the rest…’. HATE. IT. WITH. A. PASSION. It’s unnecessary, and disrespectful to the countries who are yet to announce their points and who aren’t in first place on the scoreboard. Yet it’s becoming a contest trend. Ugh.
  • The end result I more or less covered this last time, but in terms of the winner and where we’re headed in 2016 as a result, I’m RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY. CAPS LOCK IS TOTALLY NECESSARY TO GET ACROSS TO YOU JUST HOW HAPPY I AM. Take Eurovision as seriously as Sweden does, and there’s no reason you can’t win twice within four years. I expect them to equal and overtake Ireland’s winning tally in the not-too-distant future.

swwwThat is all.

 

‘Straya’s say: A little look-see at the points from the land Down Under

Speaking of Eurovision strutting back to Scandinavia next year…with Australia-in-the-ESC-for-keeps advocate Christer Björkman in a position of power where the 61st contest is concerned, it’s becoming more and more likely that we Aussies will be invited back to the party. I’ll make my thoughts on this matter public when the time’s right. For now, let’s just have a nosy at Australia’s debut grand final votes.

The Aussie points were presented by our beloved newsreader Lee Lin Chin (can’t help wishing it’d been me though). Lee Lin may not look like a badass (in fact, if Twitter is to be believed, she looks more like a certain extra-terrestrial, which I think is a very cruel and not at all amusing comparison) but I can assure you that her appearance is deceiving. She swept her sass to one side for her result-reading time, ever the professional when she needs to be. Here are the points she revealed to Europe and beyond:

  • 1pt Georgia
  • 2pts Israel
  • 3pts Estonia
  • 4pts Norway
  • 5pts Serbia
  • 6pts Belgium
  • 7pts Latvia
  • 8pts Italy
  • 10pts Russia
  • 12pts Sweden
Eurovision-Lee-Lin-Chin

Seeing red: Alice and Mirjam pale in comparison to the resplendent Lee Lin Chin.

As it turned out, Australia’s combined result was in keeping with quite a few other countries’ results. Our top three – Sweden, Russia and Italy – matched the Belgian and Latvian top threes exactly. Romania, Spain, Israel and Portugal also deemed Måns, Polina and Il Volo worthy of top points, in one order or another.

In addition, we predicted the eventual top six, not including ourselves (obviously) and with Belgium and Latvia in the wrong places. I don’t think that’s an indication of our collective psychic prowess so much as an indication that a handful of countries were almost universally popular this year.

So that was the combined result. Now, let’s banana split it a bit.

The Australian jurors’ top threes:

  • J1 Amanda Pelman – Russia, Sweden, Cyprus
  • J2 Richard Wilkins – Russia, Italy, Sweden
  • J3 Danielle Spencer – Russia, Belgium, Sweden
  • J4 Ash London – Sweden, Belgium, Russia
  • J5 Jake Stone – Russia, Sweden, Norway

Russia and Sweden were particularly popular with our jury, making it into all five members’ top threes. Italy, a little surprisingly, only featured once (who knew Richard Wilkins had such good taste? Amiright, Aussies?) as did Cyprus and Norway. Belgium was ranked second twice.

The Australian televoters’ top three:

Sweden, Belgium, Serbia

Clearly, we were feeling some Serbia ljubav that the jurors – who ranked Bojana 9th in the final – were not. This could have something to do with our sizeable Serbian population, or it could be down to the bulk of early-morning voters being Eurovision fans easily sucked in by the oh-so-ESC anthem of self-love that is Beauty Never Lies. Or it could be neither. I didn’t vote for Serbia, so you’ll have to direct any whys to someone who did!

The Australian jurors’ bottom threes:

  • J1 Amanda Pelman – Belgium, Poland, Montenegro
  • J2 Richard Wilkins – Armenia, Israel, Albania
  • J3 Danielle Spencer – Poland, Armenia, Slovenia
  • J4 Ash London – Germany, Montenegro, Slovenia
  • J5 Jake Stone – Armenia, United Kingdom, Slovenia

Reading the above as places 24, 25 and 26, you can see that Slovenia was ranked last three times. I’m somewhat taken aback by this. Could it be because Marjetka’s voice left a bad taste in multiple mouths (a.k.a. bad sound in their ears)? Or was there a widespread aversion to those damn headphones? My confused face is well and truly on. Interesting here is Belgium’s appearance, when Loïc was ranked in the top five of three other jurors. These bottom threes are a lot more varied than the top threes, with nine different countries appearing (as opposed to six appearing in the top threes).

The Australian televoters’ bottom three:

France, Albania, Azerbaijan

Now you can see just how different the tastes of televoters and juries can be. Without any specific criteria to assess the songs/performances against, we ranked three countries that barely factored into the jury’s bottom three at all 24th, 25th and 26th. For further comparison, our jury ranked France 21st, Albania 23rd and Azerbaijan…6th. It doesn’t take a genius to determine which party Elnur was more appealing to (and that wasn’t the case in Australia alone).

 

So, all of the above was Australia’s first – but, as we’ll be forced to say until who knows when, perhaps not last – contribution to the final results. ‘What results?’ I hear you ask. ‘It’s been that long since the final actually happened that I can’t remember a thing about them!’. Well, fear not, because I’m about to refresh your memory.

 

Final-ly…an overview of the expected and ‘OMG!’ outcomes of Eurovision 2015’s last hurrah

This year’s voting sequence really was an epic one. The algorithm employed by the EBU to make the results as exciting as possible can only do so much when it has to be based on the jury votes. Often the addition of the televotes screws it up completely (i.e. it’s quite obvious who’s going to win when we’re only a quarter of the way through the announcements).

But this year, we were treated to a spectacle in which Russia took an early lead and held it with both hands for the entire first half of the sequence. Then, Sweden slowly but surely closed the gap, overtook Russia, then built up their own lead. By the time there were five or so countries left to announce their points, we knew Måns had Polina beat – but that’s far, far later than usual. The tension up to that point nearly killed me.

Knowing how the sequence ended will make future viewings much less taxing, and I intend to enjoy many of those in the coming months. How come? For the result that was in my favour for the first time. For Guy Sebastian personally thanking the artists from the countries that gave Australia high points (*melts*). For Måns’ priceless facial expression when it dawned on him that he’d won! I could go on, but instead I’ll jump into the promised scoreboard overview.

 

scoreboard-2015-eurovision

 The top five (a.k.a. the five countries I predicted as potential winners, by some miracle):

1. Sweden (365)

2. Russia (303)

3. Italy (292)

4. Belgium (217)

5. Australia (196)

  • The televoters’ top five consisted of Italy, Russia, Sweden, Belgium and Estonia. The juries chose Sweden, Latvia, Russia, Australia and Belgium as their favourites. Sweden becomes the first country in the combined jury/televoting era to not win the televote and still win the entire contest.
  • Sweden and Italy were the only countries to receive points from everyone but themselves. Sweden’s lowest score was a 4 from Greece; Italy’s was a single point from Belarus and Lithuania.
  • Sweden scored twelve sets of 12 points, to Italy’s nine and Russia’s five. Belgium received three sets, including one from Hungary, and Australia nabbed two, from hosts Austria and winners Sweden.
  • Måns’ victory is Sweden’s second in four years and their sixth overall (watch out, Ireland!). If you’re still not convinced that they know how to succeed at Eurovision, just take a look at their track record, starting at 2011: 3rd, 1st, 14th (as the 2013 hosts, you can cut them a bit of slack), 3rd, and 1st. If the pattern continues, the winner of Melodifestivalen 2016 should prepare themselves for a mid-table finish at the ESC.
  • The winning margin of 62 is the biggest since Sweden last won in 2012. Back then, Loreen defeated the Buranovskiye Babushki by 113 points.
  • Russia is the runner-up for the second time in four years. They haven’t finished outside of the top ten since 2011.
  • Italy makes up for last year’s misstep with their second-strongest finish since their comeback, also in 2011 (a lot happened/has happened in/since 2011).
  • Belgium can be proud of their first top five finish since 2003. Only three countries – Azerbaijan, Malta and Montenegro – saw fit to leave Loïc pointless.
  • Australia rounded out the top five with points from all but six countries. We found ourselves the third favourite of seven countries, scoring a very respectable 8 points from Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, San Marino, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

 

The rest of the top ten:

6. Latvia (186)

7. Estonia (106)

8. Norway (102)

9. Israel (97)

10. Serbia (53)

  • After a string of non-qualifications between 2008 and 2014, Latvia not only advanced to the final (just behind Sweden) but rose up the ranks into the top ten for the first time in ten years. This amazing success (seriously…I’m SO proud) was helped along by three sets of 12 points. If the contest had been completely decided by the juries, Aminata would have finished second.
  • Estonia also makes a return to good fortune after Tanja’s surprise DNQ in Copenhagen, despite not scoring any douze points. Neither did fellow top ten finishers Norway and Israel.
  • Speaking of Norway…Mørland & Debrah’s eighth place is Norway’s second in a row, and their third top ten result in a row.
  • Israel pulled a Latvia/Estonia, with a happy ending that was a long time coming. Having not seen a final since 2010, it took a sixteen-year-old in the body of someone twice that age to get them there. Nadav and his shiny sneakers secured Israel’s best placing since 2008.
  • Rounding out the top ten was Serbia, scoring just 53 points. This is the lowest score for a 10th-placed entry since Croatia squeezed in with 42 points in 2001.

 

The mid-to-low table finishers:

11. Georgia (51)

12. Azerbaijan (49)

13. Montenegro (44)

14. Slovenia (39)

15. Romania (35)

16. Armenia (34)

17. Albania (34)

18. Lithuania (30)

19. Greece (23)

20. Hungary (19)

21. Spain (15)

22. Cyprus (11)

  • Azerbaijan didn’t quite manage to manoeuvre their way back into the top 10, but their 12th place is a big improvement on last year’s 22nd place, which was their worst-ever placing by far. After finishing 8th with their debut entry in 2008, then enjoying successive top five results between 2009 and 2013, it still seems like they’ve lost their touch a bit. But perhaps jumping from 22nd to 12th is evidence that they’re clawing their way back up. Will we see an equally impressive leap to 2nd place in 2016?
  • Montenegro can bask in the glory of their most successful Eurovision to date as an independent nation, while Adio composer Željko Joksimović can only wonder what went wrong as he contemplates his first finish outside of the top ten. For Montenegro, though, 13th place in the final is a coup. After their first semi-final qualification in Copenhagen, they seem to be surfing a little wave of success.
  • Greece scored less than last year, but received a (slightly) higher placing with Maria Elena’s ballad than they did with Freaky Fortune’s dance banger. If the latter had represented Greece in down-tempo Vienna, I suspect the country would have fared a lot better.

 

The bottom five:

23. Poland (10)

24. United Kingdom (5)

25. France (4)

26. Germany (0)

27. Austria (0)

  • Poland finished 15th in the televote, but the juries weren’t keen on In The Name of Love at all and ranked Monika last.
  • After two years of avoiding the bottom five, the UK found themselves back there once again. France languishes in the lows of the bottom five for the fourth time in a row (ouch). Still, with four whole points to her name, Lisa Angell doubled Twin Twin’s measly two points from 2014.
  • The double-whammy of woe for Germany and hosts Austria is the first of its kind since 1997, when both Norway and Portugal got the goose egg. Germany wasn’t ranked last with the televoters (25th) or juries (20th), so got a particularly raw deal. Austria did rank last in the televote, but 13th in the jury vote.

And that, ladies and gents, was the final. Before I wrap up this momentous post, let’s whiz through the semi results as well.

 

A snapshot of the semi-final scoreboards, split and combined

Here are the combined results of semi final 1:

  1. Russia (182)
  2. Belgium (149)
  3. Estonia (105)
  4. Georgia (98)
  5. Romania (89)
  6. Greece (81)
  7. Armenia (77)
  8. Hungary (67)
  9. Serbia (63)
  10. Albania (62)
  11. Moldova (41)
  12. Belarus (39)
  13. Denmark (33)
  14. The Netherlands (33)
  15. FYR Macedonia (28)
  16. Finland (13)
  • The winner of this semi, with the televoters, juries and overall, was Russia. This is the second time Russia has won a semi they’ve participated in – the Buranovskiye Babushki also won theirs in 2012.
  • Placing last, Finland achieved their worst result in Eurovision semi history. But if it had been purely up to us televoters, PKN would have qualified!
  • Four of the ten qualifiers did not qualify last year – Belgium, Estonia, Georgia and Albania (Serbia did not participate in 2014).
  • The televoting top three = Russia, Estonia and Belgium. The jury top three = Russia, Belgium and Greece.
  • Loser of the televote was FYR Macedonia; loser of the jury vote was Finland.
  • Only Russia and Georgia were ranked equally by the televoters and the juries. Both parties did agree on three of the eventual top five, with Russia, Belgium and Georgia appearing at the top on both sides of the split vote. The televoters also had Estonia and Romania in their top five, while the juries had Greece and The Netherlands up there.
  • The most drastic differences between the televotes and jury votes involved Armenia (6th T, 12th J); Serbia (7th T, 13th J); The Netherlands (15th T, 5th J); Finland (10th T, 16th J); and Estonia (2nd T, 9th J).

I predicted nine of the ten qualifiers (thinking Denmark would qualify in place of Serbia…d’oh!) but only predicted the correct finishing positions of Russia, Greece and Albania. How did you do?

 

Here are the combined results of semi final 2:

  1. Sweden (217)
  2. Latvia (155)
  3. Israel (151)
  4. Norway (123)
  5. Slovenia (92)
  6. Cyprus (87)
  7. Lithuania (67)
  8. Poland (57)
  9. Montenegro (57)
  10. Azerbaijan (53)
  11. Malta (43)
  12. Ireland (35)
  13. Czech Republic (33)
  14. Portugal (19)
  15. Iceland (14)
  16. San Marino (11)
  17. Switzerland (4)
  • This semi’s televote, jury and overall winner was Sweden. This marked Sweden’s third semi final win after 2011 and 2012 victories.
  • Unfortunately for Switzerland, they lost a semi for the third time. Piero & the Music Stars and Michael von der Heide also finished last in 2004 and 2010.
  • Three of the qualifiers did not qualify last year – Latvia, Israel and Lithuania (Cyprus did not participate in 2014).
  • Azerbaijan recorded its worst-ever result in a semi final, qualifying tentatively in 10th.
  • The televoting top three = Sweden, Israel and Latvia. The jury top three = Sweden, Latvia and Norway.
  • Loser of the televote was Switzerland; loser of the jury vote was San Marino.
  • This time (Lithuanian pun not intended) three countries – Sweden, Cyprus and Portugal – were ranked equally by both parties, while Sweden, Latvia, Israel and Norway were agreed upon in both top fives. The televoters had Poland in their top five, while the juries had Malta in the mix.
  • In semi no. 2, the split revealed big disagreements regarding Malta (12th T, 5th J); Ireland (16th T, 7th J); and Poland (4th T, 16th J).

I also predicted nine out of ten qualifiers in this case (a personal best), under the impression that Iceland would qualify instead of Poland. Oops. Again, I managed to guess three finishing positions – Sweden’s, Malta’s and Ireland’s. Better luck next year to me, and to you if you couldn’t see the future so well either!

 

 

That’s all for today (as if it wasn’t enough for a lifetime) but rest assured that I have serious posting plans for the nest few months.

Up next will be my argument in favour of retaining the jury vote in the wake of Sweden’s “controversial” triumph. Then, you’ll have your chance to vote in the People’s Choice categories of the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards 2015 (woohoo?); the EBJEEs themselves will take place; I’ll reveal my top 10 performance highlights from Vienna and my picks for the national final runners-up who probably should have gone to Eurovision; and I’ll be publishing my exposé on all the lookalikes from the Class of ’15.

I hope you’ll drop by for some or all of these (hopefully) exciting events! In the meantime, let me know what you thought of this year’s voting sequence, results and winner. Please note that members of the Anti-Måns Brigade may be given the cold shoulder for a few days.

Just kidding.

Until next time…

 

nsig

 

Drummer boys, golden boys and Italian stallions: My very Swede Eurovision final experience (Part 1)

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: it’s taken me an eternity to put this post-final post together. It’s a good thing I’m not a news service, or being paid to run this blog – because if that was the case, I’d be failing epically at the former and be über undeserving of the latter (but if anyone wants to pay me for running this blog, I promise I’ll lift my game and work hard for the money).

My lame excuse for the lateness is the fact that all I’ve been capable of since Saturday night/Sunday morning *considers moving to Europe to eliminate the need of saying stuff like that anymore* is basking in the glow brought on by my favourite song winning Eurovision for the very first time. My beloved Sweden, and Måns, and his leather pants (like I could bypass any opportunity to mention those) won the 60th contest on the weekend, fairly and squarely and in accordance with all EBU rules and regulations – a concept some people are struggling with.

After a voting sequence that was pointing us in an easterly direction for about half the time, Sweden began to close the gap, eventually taking the lead, then building up a decent point buffer from there. It wasn’t a battle for victory on par with the likes of 2003 in terms of how profusely my palms (and some other places we won’t discuss) were sweating, but it was the most exciting round of results we’ve seen in a while. For once, that algorithm designed to disguise the winner for as long as possible excelled itself.

This year’s contest featured a lot of firsts for me and many of my fellow Australian fans. Watching live, voting, and cheering on our own country became part of the package, and I did all of this on Saturday night/Sunday morning (seriously, AAGH!) at an epic live screening party in Perth. Held at The Backlot private cinema, the soiree was organised by some esteemed and very awesome members of the Aussie Eurovision community – Kate Hansen, Renee Pozzi and Kingsley Dawes. With a 2014 Euroclub evening AND this screening under our rhinestone-encrusted belts, we Perth peeps are well on our way to making our city the Eurovision capital of Australia…or at least one of them. I send Il Volo-endorsed grande amore to Kate, Renee and Kingsley, for the effort and attention to detail put into the party planning and execution. Douze points for everyone!

evpR1st

A little more re: the party, for those of you who want to know just how EBJ spent her Eurovisionmas…draped in flags, nearly fifty of us fans (among them several interstate visitors, including Sharleen from ESC Insight) drank from light-up glasses, weighed up the pros and cons of Marta Jandová tossing her shoes aside during the second semi final, and went bonkers when Guy Sebastian took to the Wiener Stadthalle stage. This was the closest I’ve ever been to sharing the Eurovision experience with a crowd of fans, and it was made even more memorable by the fact that we were Australians cheering on Australia in our first – but potentially not our last – appearance in the contest. I mean, we sang along to Tonight Again like we were competing in the Group Karaoke World Championships or something (which we totally would have won, by the way). And afterwards, I really did want to ‘do’ the night again. But I couldn’t. Thanks for the false hope, Guy.

evpR2nd

Anyway, in addition to the drinking, singing, dancing and voting, there was a Best Dressed competition – I’m dubbing it ‘The Anti-Barbara Dex Award’ – judged by a well-known radio personality, and won by Daryl Dickson, a.k.a. ConchiDaz. To top it all off, we gave out some points of our own, with the douze going to Italy even though we were allowed to vote for Australia (don’t let anyone tell you we’re biased). It seems the boys from Il Volo really did have sway over the SMSing public.

All in all, I had a blast, and I’m not sure I can bear to sit at home by myself, on my couch, watching a delayed broadcast of the final, ever again. And on that note, allow me to make public my intentions for May 2016. It probably won’t shock you to learn that I want to be on the ground in Stockholm/Göteborg. Not only that, but I want to be in the Press Centre, with laminated accreditation hanging around my neck. After ten years of being a Eurovision obsessive, I want the live experience with all the trimmings. As Jade Ewen might say if she was as excited as I am right now, it’s beyond my time.

I promised myself that if Sweden won in Vienna, I would do everything possible to make my Eurovision dream a reality (killing two birds with one stone, as Sweden is at the top of my travel list) and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Nothing’s for certain, unfortunately, but if I don’t make it in 2016, I want to be able to say I tried my best. I have a year to go for it, and as fast as that year will go by, I will make the most of it – planning, saving, and generally annoying the crap out of my friends who have attended the contest by constantly asking them inane questions. Brace yourselves, guys.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. Every other Eurovision site in existence may have already reviewed the grand final, but in the spirit of being better late than never, I’m doing it today. Since there’s a massive amount to talk about, I’m going to stick with the performances only at this point – the meat in the ESC sandwich. You’re cordially invited to accompany me on my tour through the bum-numbingly long, but brilliant evening.

 

finaleeeee

The conclusion to Eurovision 2015 turned out to be a great one – not half as weak as I’d thought it would be earlier in the season. In spite of some (i.e. a LOT of) shaky camera work, and a string of second-half ballads that put our abilities to stay conscious to the test, I enjoyed every minute of it. I would say ‘every three minutes of it’ as I’m about to review all 27 performances…but that’s not technically true.

Let’s begin on a positive note (#musicalpun).

 

The good

Any country that manages to have a hundred people backing their singer without breaching the six-person rule deserves a high five – so high five, France! N’oubliez Pas is a slow burner of a song, but the many (many, many) drummer boys, 3D and 2D, who joined Lisa in the last thirty seconds, made the crescendo worth the wait. It put me in mind of a better-executed attempt of Ukraine 2012.

Israel’s Nadav told us to come here and enjoy (although he didn’t make good on his promise to show us Tel Aviv) and I was more than happy to allow myself to be bossed around by a teenager on this occasion. Tonight Again aside, Golden Boy is the song I’d most like to have seen performed live, just to experience the energy and atmosphere it stirred up in the Stadthalle.

TH00087_31

I hate to break it to Nadav, but his backing dancers might have more claim to the throne of fun than he does. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

I can’t deny (see what I did there?) that Armenia turned a shambolic studio song into a successful live one. The theatricality of Face The Shadow means it was bound to be better in this environment. Awesome outfits, great graphics and a possible lawsuit from Cadbury due to the use of so much purple later, I’m verging on being pro-Genealogy.

Ah, Sweden. If any country knows how to do Eurovision and make it look effortless, it’s Sverige. The subtle and not-so-subtle changes made since Måns won Melodifestivalen took something perfect, and somehow turned it into something even more so. I am glad no changes were made in the leather pants department. Måns should bring out his own line of those things.

Australia’s debut was a mighty good one. I am so gosh darn proud of Guy, who spent his ground-time in Vienna charming the press and fans – and then, when it came to his big moment, charming us all over again. His performance of Tonight Again couldn’t have gone down better, and he even pulled off beige trousers (not literally. Eurovision is a family show, and I don’t think anyone would be considering Australia as a permanent participant if that had happened).

Belgium’s performance was undoubtedly the coolest thing I have ever seen on an ESC stage. I already raved about it in my semi 1 review, but I’m still in awe of the minimalist monochromatic visuals, and the cutting-edge choreography, and the fact that I’m talking about Belgium in such a positive light right now. ‘Once agaaaaain Motherrrr’ BELGIUM.

TH00087_108

Loïc, wondering if his forward-combed hairdo was the most stylish selection for Eurovision. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Montenegro put on a show that was the love child (or should I say ‘ljubav’ child?) of Molitva and every stage show that has ever been associated with the name ‘Željko Joksimović’. And it was totally on point as a result. Unfortunately we’ll never know how Knez felt about it, as his face is incapable of displaying anything other than slight surprise.

Let’s forget what happened later on in the evening for Germany and just focus on…you know what? I can’t. Nul points? For THIS? We’ll discuss exactly how that happened later, but Ann Sophie was incredible on that stage, in that jumpsuit (where she found one that actually flattered her behind, I don’t know). She took saucy and sultry to a new level, and her vocals didn’t have the slightly irritating nasally sound they had during Germany’s drama-filled NF.

Latvia’s Aminata is such a revelation. She may be teeny tiny, but her voice is huge, and note-perfect every time. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the reason she didn’t get to represent Latvia last year was so she could come back this year and take them to a place they hadn’t been in years: the final. In return, she required at least four people to take her to the toilet, because there’s no way that dress was pee-friendly.

Tugging on our heartstrings for Romania, Voltaj looked good, sounded good, and got their message across in a non-sickening manner. Even the post-performance cut to the kid from the music video melted my heart and brought a tear to my eye…okay, maybe not. But it didn’t make me roll my eyes, which makes it a success by my standards.

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Why have giant hamster wheels or Trojan horses when you can have suitcases and shipping containers? (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Polina Gagarina had a song at her disposal that Eurovision winners are made of, and put on a show worthy of a winner too. A few more Olympic ice skaters by her side, and Russia may have gone all the way.

I know I didn’t warn you that this post may contain sexual references, but here’s one: Italy was orgasmic. Stunning in every possible respect, and spine-tingling from start to finish. I actually died a little bit when Gianluca winked at the camera, and I refuse to be ashamed of that.

 

The not-so-good

There was something missing in Slovenia’s performance (and unfortunately, it wasn’t the headphones). Here For You in studio is brilliant, but radio-ready songs can be challenging when one must figure out how to plonk them on a stage in an aesthetically-pleasing way. The camera work wasn’t up to scratch, but as I mentioned before, that wasn’t exclusive to the Slovenian performance.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love A Monster Like Me, and for those keeping tabs, yes, I still have a lady crush on Debrah and her majestic mane of tangle-free wonderment. But I found the lighting and the costuming Norway opted for so incredibly unsuitable for such a dark and moody song. It was distracting, and that’s definitely not good. I hate to bring The Dress into the Eurovision bubble, but what was white and gold should really have been black and blue.

 

The WTF?!

Did the United Kingdom look at a bunch of old Eurovision clips and think to themselves ‘anything you can do, we can do better!’ and then throw everything they’d seen into the same performance? That’s the impression Electro Velvet gave me. Safura’s light-up dress from 2010 was a clear influence, as were Cristina Scarlat’s ratty hair extensions from 2014 (Bianca’s brunette version being used to disguise the hefty battery pack responsible for lighting up her dress). The duo’s vocals were very good, and the staging could have been a lot worse – but it still had ‘WTF?!’ written all over it.

Since Spain’s rehearsals had caused the watching press to laugh rather than applaud, I expected to do the same when Edurne made her televised Eurovision appearance. But the stage show torn out of the ESC 2006 playbook, feat. a costume reveal, OTT arm movements and some very dramatic dance moves (I did feel a bit like I was watching an episode of Dancing With The Stars) actually worked for me. Even I wouldn’t call it sedate, however.

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Spain’s performance was a hair-raiser…at least for Edurne. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Here’s a fun fact about Georgia’s Nina Sublatti: she’s not asthmatic. How do we know this? Because she was engulfed in an overload of dry ice during the final, and when it dissipated, she wasn’t on the floor in a wheezing heap of feathers and thigh-high boots. The person in charge of dispensing said dry ice at this time is probably out of a job by now (or at least left the arena with a Sublatti boot-mark on his forehead).

 

If I might interrupt myself (I just checked with me and I say it’s okay)…I do realise I’m rambling here, so try to keep the rest of my performance reviews brief. Expect more in-depth dishing on the good ones listed above when I rank my top 10 performances of the year in a near-future post.

 

The rest

There was nothing wrong with Estonia’s performance, apart from how mildly infuriated I was by Elina wearing pink lipstick instead of red (which would have complemented the smoky retro-glamour feel of Goodbye To Yesterday so much more). ESCrush update: I am still strangely attracted to Stig. He can jingle his keys at my door any time.

Speaking of lips…Lithuania suffered a mishap when Vaidas and Monika got a little too into their ‘one kiss’ (which was technically their 498th kiss, if I’ve done the math correctly) and missed the next line of This Time. Oops. This performance was too cheesy for my taste in the second semi, and it continued to be so in the final.

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‘If we squeeze our eyes shut hard enough, maybe all of our competition will be gone when we open them!’ (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

I’m still not 100% sold on Beauty Never Lies lyrically-speaking, but the reaction Serbia received before, during, and after Bojana’s performance was something to behold. I would have killed to have been in the crowd for the up-tempo section of the song (although it probably would have been me who was killed or maimed in that seething mass of hysterical, hip-shaking fans).

ORF placed Cyprus between Sweden and Australia, which was good for us in terms of musical variety, but not so good for John in terms of being remembered. I hate to say it, but I think the  Aussies erased him from most people’s memories.

The Makemakes represented Austria on home soil with pride, a flaming piano and a member of Occupational Health and Safety personnel waiting in the wings with a fire extinguisher. There was nothing to criticise here, but there was nothing that would compel people to pick up their phones and vote for the host country either. Hence, I figure, why they placed last with the televoters.

Greece’s Maria Elena pulled off the best Céline Dion impression of the year whilst dressed as Delta Goodrem at the Logie Awards (Aussie reference alert!). That’s pretty much all that happened. There were no bouzoukis, no trampolines and no shouts of ‘OPA!’. Is it wrong of me to miss stereotypical Greece?

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Maria reaches out for the Hollywood Tape after one last breath resulted in some, ahem, shifting. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Poland won on the prettiest staging front – their blossoming background was blooming beautiful. I did find myself focusing more closely on that than on anything else though. It’s almost like the floral graphics are to Poland 2015 what the butter-churning, laundry-doing ladies were to Poland 2014.

Hungary’s wars to succeed in the contest pretty much did amount to nothing. I was actually quite transfixed by Boggie’s performance, and I do think Hungary staged Wars For Nothing as well as they possibly could have. But positioned in the viewer fatigue zone in slot 22 of 27, they were bound to struggle with such a sleepy song.

Azerbaijan appear to have lost their Eurovision touch to an extent. How they managed to make a man-filled glass box which eventually filled with rose petals as a woman with the world’s longest dress train belted towards it NOT be a distraction from their entry, then two years on pare things right back with two interpretive dancers who WERE a distraction, beats me. Should we be impressed by that?

A change of outfit and a less out-of-control vocal from Elhaida Dani meant Albania crept up a bit in my estimations…but just a bit. I wasn’t blown away. I do feel like the originally-selected Diell would have blown me away, but it was nice to have Albania in the final again even if all I felt was a slight breeze.

 

 

I suspect that this post may have gone on longer than the actual final at this point (now the most drawn-out in Eurovision history) so I’m going to bring it to an abrupt end right now. ‘Right now’ of course meaning ‘in a few minutes after I’ve gotten around to it.’

There was obviously a lot more to Eurovision 2015 than just the performances – take flying Conchita, for example. But I’ll leave my thoughts on that marvelous moment, plus the rather exciting voting sequence and the intricacies of the scoreboard, for next time.

If you can’t wait, I have to wonder why you haven’t read all of the results analyses published by numerous other ESC websites promptly after the final. You guys know my motto is ‘never do today what can be worked on over the next three or four days and then finally completed when it’s to your liking but when your readers are starting to think you might have died.’ Fear not – á la Elhaida, I’m alive (ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi). And I’m already halfway through the belated scoreboard scrutinisation, so it will be up prior to Eurovision 2020, I promise.

Before it does go live, be sure to let me know what you thought of the Viennese final. Of the 27 acts that made it to Saturday, which ones impressed you and which ones did you use as a toilet break (a much-needed break if you were involved in a drinking game during Spain’s performance)? And, how did you watch the final? From the comfort of your couch, at a party, or in the arena until you were poked in the eye by a flagpole and were carted screaming off to First Aid? I want all the details. Think of me as someone who’d read your diary if you left it unattended. But nicer.

 

nsig

 

VIENNA 2015 | It’s the final countdown, so let’s pick a winner (and squeeze in a review of semi two)!

Welcome to Eurovision final Saturday, random person or regular reader (I think I have at least one of those…)!!! This day has the ability to be both the best and worst of the year, depending on just how much you love Eurovision. If you’re head over heels like me – and I’m going to assume you are – then you have to be prepared to be extremely excited one minute, and extremely depressed the next. The 60th contest is nearing its conclusion, and that brings with it Loreen-levels of euphoria as well as the kind of unshakeable sadness that Anita and Michele must have felt when they found out they were going to be lumped with a Ralph Siegel song. We feel you, guys.

This is where we are as I type this: 13 countries have fallen at the semi stage, and 27 remain in contention to succeed Conchita and give one of their broadcasters a very expensive coup. By the end of the evening, 26 of these participants will have lost (an unfortunate way to put it, perhaps, but technically true) and one will have won the opportunity to take the snazzy glass microphone home and display it on their mantelpiece (after Instagramming an “artistic” shot of it, of course). It’s time to take a punt at just which country and act that will be – and to take a guess at where all 26 losers will end up.

Before I get to that, it’s time for a quick (don’t take that too seriously coming from me) rundown of the second semi final, held two days ago and already reviewed by everyone else. What can I say? Being fashionably late is my trademark.

 

Semi final two was not vastly different to the first, except in song quality – I thought it was clearly the stronger one. Our three hosts were slightly less wooden, Conchita put them all to shame yet again with her easy charm and radiant glow (I think I love her a little bit), and the postcards continued to be precious. The 17 performances were what made the difference, so let’s focus on those.

These were the ten qualifiers, in performance order:

  • Lithuania I like cheese as much as the next person (assuming the next person doesn’t have an intolerance to dairy) but This Time is too cheesy even for me. Lyrically and performance-wise, this was dripping with the stuff. I found it artificial, not cute. Not that it matters, because it qualified anyway.
  • Montenegro Never underestimate the power of Željko Joksimović! The Balkan tropes were out and proud during this performance, and if Knez had been wearing a Željko mask, nobody would have picked up on it (and the cardboard would have looked more realistic than Knez’s actual face).
  • Norway I adore this song so much I’d marry it if I could. But the colour scheme – the warm lighting and the white outfits – doesn’t embrace the darkness and moodiness of the song, and prevents Norway’s overall package from being a slick one in winning contention. The harmonies were lovely as ever, though.
  • Israel Nadav really IS the king of fun! One of the few floor-fillers in this year’s contest, Israel got the party started at last and qualified for the first time in five years. They also provided us with frequent shots of some golden shoes that Herreys would die for.
  • Latvia Speaking of qualifying for the first time in a long time…Aminata used her incredible voice and artfully flailing arms to full advantage, taking Latvia into the final after six years of DNQs.
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Who knew that all Latvia needed to succeed was a decent cactus impression?

  • Azerbaijan Well, there wasn’t a big Perspex box involved here (always a disappointment) but I’d watch and listen to this performance any day over last year’s Azeri snoozefest. The dancers are verging on distracting from Elnur’s vocal – a big selling point of the entry.
  • Sweden Call me biased, what with my unconditional love for Sweden and Måns’ leather pants and all, but this was perfection. It was a carbon copy of the Melodifestivalen performance give or take a cone-headed cartoon man, sure, but why fix what ain’t broken? Possible winner status = cemented.
  • Cyprus Two words: surprisingly good. I didn’t rate this song too highly in studio, but John was engaging and vocally on his game. Not to mention the fact that he rocked specs on stage in the way of 2007 champ Marija Šerifović. I give a big tick to Cyprus’ use of the background too.
  • Slovenia I wanted Maraaya to wow me, but sadly, they did not. The combination of Marjetka’s ever-present headphones and her standing pretty statically the whole time made the performance quite introverted and not very energetic (in spite of the efforts of the air violinist). I still really like the song though, and clearly I’m not the only one.
  • Poland The prettiest staging of the night. I am a little surprised this advanced, but it proves that Poland can opt for the opposite of busty butter-churners and still get somewhere. And yet I still miss the busty butter-churners…

 

Now, my thoughts on the seven non-qualfiers (also in performance order, because it just works, okay? Get off my back!):

  • Ireland All is absolutely forgiven for Ireland’s shocking staging of Heartbeat in Copenhagen after this. Molly was always going to be a borderline qualifier if she qualified at all, and it just didn’t happen for her on Thursday. But I really enjoyed her time on stage – or playing the piano in the middle of a forest. I couldn’t tell which.
  • San Marino That’s what I did when I wasn’t laughing at Michele’s opening ‘No!’. Nothing, not Michele’s sass or Anita’s pretty dress, could have saved this from being bottom of the heap. I hope you’re happy, Ralph.
  • Malta I think the reworked version of Warrior is what let this down – it just fell flat in the stadium (from a TV viewer’s perspective, anyway) and had little lasting impact. Amber herself looked and sounded better. Malta made great use of the background, but that’s not enough.
  • Portugal Like Sertab Erener when she got her heel stuck in the Istanbul stage vent, Portugal was going nowhere fast. Leonor also looked and sounded decent, but she looked strangely angry during the choruses.
  • Czech Republic As several people told me I would, I didn’t mind this live. Marta and Václav have great chemistry on and off stage, and if they’d been in a theatre mid-way through The Phantom of the Opera, they would have received a standing ovation (the theatrical equivalent of a sure place in the final). It would have been great for the Czech Republic to earn their first final place, but it wasn’t to be. Gee, I hope Marta didn’t take off her shoes and throw them at Václav in anger. Oh wait…
  • Iceland The poofy dress may have worked for me in the end, but it wasn’t enough of distraction from the shrill vocal and the fact that Unbroken is one long chorus. Iceland will miss the final for the first time since 2007, and María will be throwing away her tin of gold body paint.
  • Switzerland Melanie Réné was probably my non-qualifier of the night. I’ll admit that Time To Shine is an anticlimactic song, but this performance took me by surprise. Loved the costume, loved the drummers, loved the lighting scheme (I’m big on lighting this year). Job well done, Switzerland.

 

In terms of predictions, I managed to call 9/10 again – Iceland being my downfall this time (the Nordics have not been kind to me). It turns out that there’s only enough room in the final for golden shoes, not golden feet (and extreme, off-key repetition). I failed to predict Poland as a qualifier, but I’m happy enough to see them go through.

How did you go with your predictions? Prepare to spill all as you venture on into my guesses for the outcome of the grand final – coming to you live from Vienna in a matter of hours!

 

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The running order

Slovenia, France, Israel, Estonia, United Kingdom, Armenia, Lithuania, Serbia, Norway, Sweden, Cyprus, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Greece, Montenegro, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Hungary, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Albania, Italy

It seems the theory that a producer-orchestrated running order will always result in the most entertaining and varied string of songs isn’t a reliable one – at least when the producers leave some of the draw to chance. With a heap of ballads pulling the second half out of the hat, ORF have had no choice but to compile a very down-tempo latter part of the proceedings. We’d better all choreograph some interpretive dance moves suitable for Hour of the Wolf, because after Golden Boy, Still In Love With You and Tonight Again, there’s more or less NOTHING to woki our popos to.

Slovenia should set a good tone for the show, however, and Israel will elevate the energy levels as we head into a long home stretch. If reports on the UK’s rehearsals are to be believed, it will be a positive to get their performance out of the way early on. Sweden can win from a reasonably early 10th slot if they’re meant to – Austria did it in 2014 from 11th. I hope discussion on Australia finally making its ESC debut in the 12th slot won’t overshadow the next country on stage, Belgium, who could be in store for their best result in a very long time.

Funky Germany’s scored a decent position between two ballads, but I suspect Ann Sophie will struggle anyway. Latvia, on the other hand, might benefit from being in a similar situation. Love Injected is nothing if not a standout song, and preceding Poland will probably suffer as a result. The final six songs will be hard to stay awake for, if I’m honest. Albania, I hope, will pep us all up enough so that we can be blown away by Italy, who will close the 2015 contest (I’m not 100% happy about them being last, but I can understand ORF’s reasoning).

Like I said and like we all know, the song that’s meant to win will win from any position, which means there’s still hope for Italy. But it doesn’t look like we’re going to have a repeat of 2003 here, when Turkey won after performing 4th (sorry, Estonia!). We might well have a repeat of 2003 in terms of voting though – back then, Turkey beat Belgium by 2 points, who in turn beat Russia by a single point. My fingers will be crossed for a nail-biter finish in that vein.

 

Highlights of the night: my expectations

Justifying myself in brief, Twitter-esque form, these are the countries I’ll be hanging out to see in action:

  • France An army of drummers that doesn’t breach the six-person rule? I’m intrigued, France.
  • Israel It may have been Pink who wanted to get the party started on a Saturday night, but it’s Nadav who’ll be the party-starter on this occasion.
  • United Kingdom Will Electro Velvet salvage a shambles, or will this be car crash television? I’m morbidly keen to find out.
  • Norway Because no matter how unsuitable I think the mise en scène is, A Monster Like Me is one of my goosebump songs. I actually don’t know what would happen to my body if they’d nailed the lighting and costuming.
  • Sweden The favourite. MY favourite. Need I say more?
  • Australia Uh, hello! I never thought the day would come that I could cheer my own country on in the ESC. I cannot wait for this moment.
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‘Do whatcha whatcha whatcha want…as long as that’s voting for Australia!’

  • Belgium This is just…so freaking cool. Bravo, Belgium!
  • Austria The cheer received by the host country is always up there with my favourite final moments. I don’t expect this to be any exception.
  • Montenegro It’s a Balkan ballad. There’s mountains in the background and minimalist dressing in the foreground. This was made for me!
  • Latvia Like Belgium’s, Latvia’s song is weird in the best possible way. Love Injected, and Aminata’s interpretation of it, is spellbinding. This could be a surprise success.
  • Spain I hear everything except the kitchen sink (though I’m not convinced they haven’t swathed that in sequins and secreted it somewhere on stage) has been thrown at Edurne’s performance, and I can’t say I’m not keen to find out if it’s true – and if it works.
  • Italy We have to wait a long time to see Il Volo smoulder their way through Grande Amore, but I have no doubt it’ll be worth it.

 Let me know which acts you’re most looking forward to down below.

 

So, who’s going to take the trophy home?

I still believe this is an open year, despite one country in particular rising up the ranks and overtaking one of the long-standing bookies’ favourites. I don’t think we have a clear-cut champ just yet…but I reserve the right to change my mind once the votes start coming in and everyone rushes to book a hotel room in Sochi for May 2016.

No matter how biased it may seem, I cannot discount Australia as a potential winner – even based on novelty value alone. We have a good position in the first half, and Guy Sebastian is fronting a catchy, energetic pop song that will be remembered even if it’s just by association – like, ‘Hey! Let’s vote for the Australian song!’. The juries will give him a boost thanks to his impressive vocals. I don’t necessarily think Tonight Again deserves to win, but would I complain if it did? Um, no. I’d be screaming my head off, actually.

Italy outclassed all others in the OGAE vote, and while that doesn’t always signal impending success, it’s not devoid of clout. I wish Il Volo were performing prior to the point where viewer fatigue will set in, but I’m convinced they will make a big impression even as the last act on stage. Even if they f%#k up completely, I’m going to vote for them.

Russia has come out of nowhere to be a danger to the holy trinity of Sweden, Italy and Australia, who sat on top of the odds list for months. Polina is currently second-favourite to win, and though I will be disappointed if she does – not because it’s Russia, but because the song and performance don’t do much for me – I won’t be shocked. Russia won Eurovision seven years ago with a white-clad singer, and there’s a real chance they could do the same again. Polina definitely looks better in that dress than Dima Bilan would.

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I can’t deny that Russia is on the white track to win.

My last pick for a probable winner has to be the favourite, Sweden. Måns is almost guaranteed to give Sweden another podium finish, but with Polina snapping at his heels (in a very ladylike manner) the landslide win a lot of us expected is no longer likely. I still believe he has a fighting chance, and I hope the nineteen or so votes I’ll be texting his way will contribute to that. LYCKA TILL SVERIGE!

What’s that? You also want a dark horse? Well, since I aim to please, here’s one: Belgium *insert dramatic soap opera music here*. Loïc, like Polina, has upset the apple cart of pre-contest favourites, having overtaken Australia. He’s sitting in fourth position behind Sweden, Russia and Italy, and this excites me greatly. A Belgian win is a lot to ask, but there is something masterful about the package of Rhythm Inside – the precision, the quirk, how cutting-edge it is – that speaks to me. This is memorable for all the right reasons, and I would LOVE Eurovision to have a winner that’s so out-of-the-stereotypical-box. But if it’s not to be, and Loïc ends up snugly in the top 10 or even the top 5, that will also be worth celebrating.

 

Top half VS bottom half of the table: Who’ll finish where?  

If you’re up for predicting the entire final scoreboard from #1-#27, points included, I’m not going to stop you. I am going to stop myself, however. That could only end in disaster. Instead, I’ll have a stab at predicting which countries will finish on the left side of the scoreboard (i.e. at or close to the top of the table) and which countries won’t be so lucky, as Zdob şi Zdub would say.

Top half Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden

Bottom half Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom

No doubt they’ll be one or two countries that succeed against the odds, but I’ve given up on trying to figure out who they are. Given up or run out of time, one of the two.

 

 

On that note, like Nadav Guedj, I’ve gotta go, bye-bye. I’m off to a cinematic live screening of the final tonight/tomorrow morning, and I’m taking a gigantic flag cape with me (it’s an all-occasion kind of garment, but I thought it would do alright for this). I’m sorry to have rushed this post, but life is hectic at the moment, and to be honest, the occurrence of the ESC isn’t helping! But I’m more than happy to give it some priority time.

I’ll be back, as always, to dissect tonight’s results and discuss any fallout with you guys. In the meantime, hit me up with your predictions. Where is Eurovision headed in 2016? Who’s going to score jaw-droppingly well, and who’s going to fall flat at the final hurdle? Will we get the tense-as-heck voting sequence we’ve been waiting for? Tell me what you think in the comments.

 

Until Eurovision no. 60 comes to an end…

nsig