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The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 3 (The Show + The Results)

Well…I was all set to start this post with a ‘Hey, at least I managed to finish these awards before the 2017 contest came out on DVD!’ (like that would have been an achievement anyway). But MY BAD, missed the boat on that one. So instead, I’ll open with a ‘Hey, at least I managed to finish these awards before my 2017 DVD arrived in the mail!’. True fact.

The reason for my lateness is the same as always: life, its craziness, and the annoying need to prioritise ‘other stuff’ over Eurovision stuff. It sucks, doesn’t it? But I figure that if you love the ESC as much as I do (unconditionally, and with a burning desire not unlike the one Kasia Mós mentions in Flashlight) then you won’t care which contest I’m discussing and when. A.k.a. you won’t mind that I’m still talking about the 2017 show like it happened two weeks ago.

On that note, here’s the last lot of EBJEE trophies for the year feat. the awards for The Show and The Results! You’ll find all of the remaining People’s Choice Awards below too, so if you can remember who/what you voted for (the polls were open back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, after all), then you’ll now be able to see if your picks came out on top.

Enjoy, and let me know who your show/results statuettes would go to in the comments…

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Oleksandr Skichko, Timur Miroshnychenko Winner Volodymyr Ostapchuk

I have to agree with you guys on this one. In a strange turn of events, I personally thought that Timur – who’s co-hosted Junior Eurovision twice – was the weakest host (or at least the most wooden. If you’d touched him on any of the three show nights you’d have gotten a splinter). Oleks was an improvement, but Vova’s role as the class clown (and, I can’t deny, his Disney prince-level good looks) gave him extra appeal.

 

Honourable Mention/s Oleks + Vova’s Eurovision medley (SF2), Jamala – ‘Zamanyly’ (SF1) Winner ONUKA megamix (the final)

I’m a little surprised that ONUKA was the overwhelming winner of this award, but that’s probably my Jamala superfan status skewing my perspective (I would willingly watch her gargle the alphabet). It was no Love Love Peace Peace, but the megamix was another example of Ukraine putting all their best musical feet forward when they had the chance.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jana Burčeska reveals she’s pregnant…then gets proposed to! Winner The Ukrainian butt-flasher takes the shine off Jamala’s new single

Unlike in 2010, when Jimmy Jump crashed Spain’s performance and fooled us all into thinking it was supposed to happen for a good ten seconds, we all knew something was up when one of Ukraine’s own (draped in an Australian flag, which had all of us Aussies dying of embarrassment for a while) put the ass into the class of Jamala’s satellite stage serenade. It was the most iconic OMG moment of the 2017 contest by far.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s The Netherlands Winner Italy

Am I the only person disappointed in the postcards this year? They were both boring and a little bit all-over-the-place. Still, like shopping in a secondhand store, if you take the time to sift through all the crap you will find a few gems. The revelation that Amy Vol is a shoplifter (well, she would be if she didn’t have two sisters stopping her) nearly secured the Netherlands this trophy, but Italy’s group of Gabbanis was unbeatable. If that restaurant was real I’d be booking a table ASAP!

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner Finland

Now I know how Iceland’s DNQ made Greta fans feel last year. Back then, I was all ‘Whatever!’ as someone who thought Hear Them Calling was pretty mediocre. But then Blackbird came along and broke my heart with its failure to make the final. I still don’t get it, and I can imagine myself in the same situation fifty years from now (as I wave my walking stick around wildly and croak stuff like ‘Norma John were robbed!’ at randoms on the street).

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Australia

No country’s qualification this year really, truly shocked me. But (and it physically pains me to say this) after Isaiah’s semi performance, I had serious doubts about Australia going through. I still think I was right to worry, and it gives me heart palpitations knowing that if it wasn’t for the juries, it would have been third time unlucky for us.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Portugal Winner Sweden

It’s safe to say that when we’re making our semi predictions each year, the little list of countries in the ‘Definite’ category always includes Sweden. Even in 2010, the only year they didn’t qualify (which I’m still not over, BTW), they were confidently predicted to make it. In my mind there was no way in the world – this one, or any parallel universes that happen to exist – that Robin Bengtsson was going to miss out on the final. Another Anna Bergendahl he was not.

‘I DID NOT SEE THIS COMING!!!’ said no one ever.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic Winner Lithuania

On the other end of the spectrum lies Lithuania, whose mammoth NF marathon did not produce a surefire success this year. Rain of Revolution was the complete opposite – a for-sure failure that only outdid expectations by NOT finishing last in its semi. Fusedmarc’s night wasn’t the kind that Donny Montell was waiting for.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria’s 2nd, Portugal’s 1st, Sweden’s 5th Winner Moldova’s 3rd

When it comes to Eurovision, the population of Struggletown often includes Moldova. They’ve taken the serious approach before (2007, 2013), and brought the fun (2005, 2008, 2012), but neither had ever taken them higher than 6th place – and that was back in their debut year of ’05. Enter Sunstroke Project (take two). Their performances of party anthem Hey Mamma ticked every box without being try-hard, and whenever I think about the fact that they got such a great result, I want to weep with happiness. I guess Kyiv’s a good luck charm for Moldova!

 

Honourable Mention/s Latvia’s 18th in the semi Winner Finland’s 12th in the semi

What more can I say about this without shaking salt into a blackbird-shaped wound? Finland’s 12th was undeserved because Norma John should have been higher, not lower. Hashtag heartbroken; hashtag sadface; hashtag stop using hashtags outside of social media, Jaz.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Germany’s 25th Winner Spain’s 26th

If the ‘it’ in ‘do it for your lover’ = gallantly volunteer to finish dead last in the final so nobody else has to, then Manel lived up to his song title like a champion. I personally would never launch a hate campaign against DIFYL (in certain contexts, it’s an enjoyable listen) but I knew it was headed for position 26 on the scoreboard. Aurally it’s not a competitive song, and visually it came off tacky and amateurish (not Manel’s fault). The shock value of Spain’s result was zero.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland’s DNQ, Moldova’s 3rd Winner Italy’s 6th

You guys voted, and I can’t deny that you picked a major-league shocker. All those YouTube views! All those OGAE poll points! All those months as bookies’ fave to win! All that pre-show hype! It seemed like Italy had the win signed, sealed and delivered to Francesco’s door before rehearsals even began in Kyiv. Once they did, it was either a win or a solid top 3 result on the cards…wasn’t it? Well, no, as it turned out. Italy was even squeezed out of the top 5, by the same country (Sweden) that nudged 2016 OGAE winner France into 6th last year.

 

 

 

That’s it! I have to say, it’s a relief that I finally get to roll up the EBJEE red carpet for another year and move on to some of the awesome Eurovision entertainment I have planned for you this off season. But first, I want to know what you thought of this third and final awards announcement – and as I said in the intro (scroll up for about a half hour and you’ll find it) which people and places you’d pick as your personal winners. Let’s see if we have anything in common…even if the fact that we’re all Euronerds means we’ve needed to agree to disagree from the very beginning of our fan lives.

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 2 (The Performances)

It’s lucky these awards aren’t being broadcast on TV, because nobody would have hung around until the ad break dividing parts 1 and 2 was over. What can I say? Life gets busy sometimes, and since nobody as yet has offered to pay me to talk about Eurovision, other things often have to be prioritised so I can continue to have a roof over my head and eat regular meals.

Hopefully this second slice of trophy-giving will be worth the wait for those of you who enjoyed the first. Back then (last week…totally vintage times), I gave numerous back-pats to the artists and songs of Kyiv 2017. This time, the spotlight’s shining on what happened when those songs were taken to the stage by those artists. Every element of the performances – from backdrops, props and dancers to costumes and vocals – has at least one award in its honour, and the winners weren’t all decided by me. Yes, that means there are more People’s Choice results below for you to feast your ESC-admiring eyes on!

So sit back, relax and do it for your lover…’it’ being checking out my performance awards and nothing more. Get your mind out of the gutter.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner United Kingdom

With Lucie being a stage star and all, you’d expect her to project serious emotion via both her facial expressions and flailing limbs (i.e. arm flourishes). She did…but there were times when her inner drama switch was turned up way too high, to the point where she looked like she was in physical pain. There is a border between theatrical stage emoting and Eurovision stage emoting, and I think Lucie stayed in theatre territory when she should have crossed over to the other side. Still, I’m rewarding her here for every angtsy look and death-grip hand gesture she poured into her performance. An A for effort is all yours, Luce.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria Winner Norway

There wasn’t half as much hi-tech trickery on the stage/screen in Kyiv as there was in Stockholm – no holograms of naked Belarusians, for instance, could be seen (you can decide if that was a great loss or not). Both Bulgaria and Norway opted for on-screen graphic overlays – the TV equivalent of the little drawings you can do on your Instagram stories – to pimp their performances. But I’m putting Norway in pole position, because they had some technical trickery going on in their audio presentation as well as their visual presentation. I still can’t wrap my head around exactly how JOWST was manipulating those ‘kill, kill, kill, kill’ bits (live sampling/bending/looping/ warping?) but at least he wasn’t just standing there pretending to DJ like we’ve seen in past contests.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Hungary

Getting emotional doesn’t always involve a box of tissues. Joci Pápai’s performance for Hungary wasn’t a sad one per se, but it was the most dynamically emotional of the year in that it featured two very different outpouring feelings. Throughout the verses and choruses of Origo, Joci portrayed the pain of forbidden love and of being a target for prejudice in a very vulnerable, mournful way – then changed gears for the rap, venting his frustration and anger over similar issues. Part of what I love about the song is the range of emotions embedded in it, as well as Joci’s talent for conveying them with authenticity.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Portugal

This was a hard one for me to narrow down, because both Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois DID involve me fumbling for a box of tissues. But there was a delicateness to Salvador’s rendition of his song that gave me goosebumps as well as wet eyes. The lyrics, too, have the power to destroy an old romantic like myself, despite the fact (or perhaps due to the fact) that he’s professing a love big enough to sustain a two-person relationship, when I can’t even beguile a guy into buying me flowers.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland, Hungary Winner Moldova

When a massive part of your appeal revolves around a musical instrument – the sax played by Epic Sax Guy, obviously – you know you’re using it wisely. With both sax and violin providing serious fun for Moldova’s 2 x 3 minutes on stage, Hey Mamma’s live wouldn’t have been the same without them, even though we weren’t actually hearing the boys play (it matters less with instruments like these than when you’re watching someone rip into a solo on a clearly unplugged electric guitar).

 

Honourable Mention/s The UK’s mirror shell Winner Azerbaijan’s blackboard

You voters out there surprised me a little with this one, but majority rules! Dihaj’s blackboard was definitely a standout addition to 2017’s string of acts-with-props, and made Daz Sampson’s blackboard from 2006 look even tackier than it did at the time. Although I must say, his was more explicitly relevant to his song’s subject matter – between the board, the ladder and the horse-head man, Dihaj has a LOT of explaining to do.

This looks less like one of the daydreams that Dihaj is into and more like one of my nightmares.

 

Honourable Mention/s Hungary, Moldova Winner Sweden

For most of the backing singers and/or dancers who weren’t hidden from view, staying in tune and in time would have been the biggest challenges. Robin Bengtsson’s visible backup crew, however – feat. previous Melfest contestant and ESC backer-upper Alvaro Estrella – not only had to provide vocal support and smooth moves, but do both while walking on treadmills. And we thought Ukraine’s hamster wheel dude from 2014 had a tough job! The quartet pulled it off perfectly, though, and had a big hand in Sweden’s fourth consecutive top 5 finish.

 

Honourable Mention/s Cyprus Winner Sweden

Because treadmills. Too cool for school choreography coupled with an element of danger will win out every time. Handy Hint No. 362: Next time you’re at a party trying to impress someone, why not try moonwalking barefoot on a bed of nails?

 

Honourable Mention/s France, Portugal Winner United Kingdom

It was a shiny gold showstopper for the UK this year, and though that wouldn’t be my personal pick for best backdrop, I can see the attraction. The graphics were perfectly timed to the music and made the stage virtually disappear, as if Lucie were actually singing in space (not the sexy kind Slavko was referring to, but normal, otherworldly space). The numerous glitter explosions at pivotal moments of Never Give Up On You oozed Eurovision sophistication.

A Eurovision star + actual stars…what more could you want?

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Israel

You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve forgotten a country in this category, because there were times when it seemed like every second act on stage had found a way to incorporate their giant face/body/boobs (oh, Malta) into their performance. The country that did it best, in my opinion, was Israel, because it wasn’t OTT or used just for flashiness. Super-sized Imri didn’t stay on the screens for the entire song – instead he was used to literally illustrate the ‘breaking me to pieces’ line of I Feel Alive’s chorus. The added bonus was that we all got to stare at not one, but two Imris for a fleeting yet fabulous amount of time.

 

Honourable Mention/s Romania Winner Croatia

I don’t know if I hate to say this or not, but the ESC isn’t as crazy as it used to be – maybe it’s the influence of recent winners having been pretty pared-back on stage. There weren’t many acts that threw everything they could think of at their staging in 2017, but we can’t say Croatia was one of them. To name a few of their staging elements: violinist, cellist, half-and-half costume, giant Jacques x2, LED lightning, an instrumental duel, pyro jets AND a pyro curtain, massive sunflowers and a rainbow. The pyro operator in particular must have needed a nap after that…I know I did!

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Sweden Winner Moldova

This award goes to the most perfectly-wrapped package of the year – the country that brought their A-game to vocals, costumes, choreography, staging, lighting and anything else you can think of. Obviously, Portugal and Bulgaria were flawless – but Sunstroke Project managed to corral more performance bits and pieces than Salvador and Kristian had to work with into a cohesive and ridiculously fun whole. And it all seemed to come so naturally.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s France Winner Italy, United Kingdom

We have a tie! I can’t say I’m surprised that Germany and Spain didn’t even come close to winning this People’s Choice prize. Nor did I see this rush of love for the UK coming, but I do get it. As over-emotional as she got at times, Lucie’s performance was vocally perfect and looked stunning on screen. And who wouldn’t get a kick out of Francesco’s three minutes? If you didn’t raise your arms and do that dance along with Gabbani + Gorilla, I have major concerns about you.

 

Honourable Mention/s Artsvik, Tamara Gachechiladze Winner O’G3NE

This is NOT an award the Netherlands would have won back in 2015, when Trijntje Oosterhuis’ black dress (*shudder*) was replaced by the reception tent for a Goth wedding (*double shudder*). But the classic little black dresses – plus one catsuit – worn by O’G3NE this year and suitably sparklified for the occasion, were gorgeous. I’m glad they didn’t go too matchy-matchy, and were able to get the girl group look even though every Vol sister wore a different style. Where do I get my own version?

FYI, these outfits will also double as appropriate attire for Verka Serduchka’s funeral one day.

 

Honourable Mention/s Joci Pápai, Sunstroke Project Winner Robin Bengtsson

One of the minor changes made to Robin’s Melfest performance for Eurovision was a suit swap – matte blue for shiny purple. You’d think I’d be too busy admiring the man IN the suit to notice such a thing, but because it was such a cool costume choice (yes, right down to the lack of socks, which somehow makes the look more crisp) I noticed.

Freaking beautiful (HAD TO).

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Martina Bárta Winner Lindita

If you read my biggest Eurovision 2017 mistakes post, you’ll already know that my eyes felt violated by the very sight of Lindita’s Vegas bride getup. If you didn’t, then you should know that my eyeballs may never fully recover from the experience of seeing her take to the stage in something so atrocious.

 

Honourable Mention/s Ksienija Žuk Winner Artsvik

I love braids, but I’ve only mastered the basic kinds – so I’d be keen to have the contact details of whoever worked their magic on Artsvik’s mane. That was art. It should be on display in the Louvre.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kasia Mós, Lindita Winner Anja Nissen

I know some of you will want to hit me with an inflatable Israeli hammer over this one, but I’m entitled to my (many, many, ESC-related) opinions! Anja just blows me away with the sheer power of her voice every time – there’s a reason she won The Voice here in Australia. Her diva vocal is always ready for action, and it’s so forceful I wouldn’t be surprised if her fire curtain was set off by the woman herself, in a Carrie-like moment of explosive kinetic energy.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jacques Houdek, Salvador Sobral Winner Kristian Kostov

Again, remember: THIS IS SUBJECTIVE. I was torn between Salvador and Kristian, aware that Salvador’s voice is more unique…but Kristian’s silky smooth, beyond-his-years vocals won my internal battle. He looks so young (and IS so young) and then he opens his mouth and it’s all maturity and polish and confidence, and I’m sold. I’m expecting big stuff from this kid.

 

Honourable Mention/s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner O’G3NE

Who else? Even if all 42 acts of 2017 had been groups, O’G3NE would have reigned supreme. Having sung together as siblings for so long, their harmonies are incomparable and absolutely perfect, always. I would happily listen to them all day long, and I’m convinced they could sing That Sounds Good To Me and make it appealing. That’s how good they are!

 

Honourable Mention/s Anja Nissen, Kasia Mós Winner Lindita

She may have worn a dress designed by the devil himself (or at least the devil’s personal seamstress), but not even that could distract from Lindita’s epic money note, one which first knocked our socks off (though not Robin Bengtsson’s, since he wasn’t wearing any) back in December 2016 when World was Botë and she won Festivali I Këngës. I have to bring back the word amazeballs just to describe it. She should become a deep sea free diver or professional balloon blower-upper with a lung capacity like that.

 

Honourable Mention/s Georgia Winner Hungary

Don’t get me wrong – Joci’s performance at A Dal was great, and a worthy winner of the NF. But I was worried Hungary would leave it be and not adapt it to fit the far bigger and grander stage of Eurovision. I also thought Joci was a little nervous and restrained back then. Fast forward to May, though, and the confidence and fire jets were out in full force. Hungary were one of only two countries to use the satellite stage too, which proved they’d really thought about how to expand on the A Dal staging. Mission accomplished!

 

 

And that concludes the second segment of the EBJEEs ceremony for 2017! Your butts must be pretty numb by now, so I’m sure that’s a relief. Still to come is the third and final part which will feature the awards for The Show: i.e. the hosts, interval acts, postcards and results. That’ll be a short one, so the only butt trouble you’ll have is if you fall asleep after reading it and then wake up with a butt on your hands (is that not the opening line of Verona?).

Between now and then, though, let me know what you thought of today’s awards. Where would your trophies go? Did the People’s Choice Awards pan out your way this time? All polite or constructively critical opinions are welcome in the comments.

 

TTYL Eurofam!

 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

As O.Torvald would say, it’s TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME! The trophies have been polished, the red carpet has been unrolled, and I’m ready to start giving out my Eurovision Excellence Awards to the countries, artists and songs that competed in the 2017 contest.

The ceremony will take place in three parts (since I went a little crazy with the amount of awards this year). Following on from this first installment will be The Performances, then The Show + The Results – but today, I’m acknowledging the musicians and the music that made 2017 so awesome…and in some cases, the opposite. You’ll also find out the full results of five People’s Choice Awards, with the rest to be revealed in Part 2 and Part 3. Thanks to everyone who voted in the PC polls, by the way – there were more of you than I expected, and I’m so grateful for your input. I hope you’re happy with the outcomes, but if you’re not you can’t blame me. #offthehook.

Now, without further ado, I’m going to get the first lot of EBJEE trophies off to their new owners before they get dusty. Sit back, relax and enjoy (or get outraged by) the awards for The Artists + The Songs!

 

 

THE ARTISTS

Honourable Mention/s Robin Bengtsson, Salvador Sobral Winner Imri Ziv

He may be hot in an ‘I spend longer in front of the mirror each morning than any girl I know’ kind of way – but hot is hot, right? Those eyes! That smile! Those biceps! Those abs! I won’t go any further down because a) I like to keep things mostly non-smutty around here, and b) you get where I’m going, I’m sure. It’s rumoured that Israel’s finest Imri has a thing for Anja Nissen – and who could blame him – but if she spurns you, Mr. Ziv, it’s highly likely that I’ll be available as a consolation prize.

 

Honourable Mention/s Amy Vol, Lisa Vol, Shelley Vol (O’G3NE) Winner Anja Nissen

Speaking of the stunning Anja, here she is as the winner of the Hottest She Award (imagine how attractive the kids would be if she and Imri got together!). I couldn’t really choose anyone else despite the tough competition, since I have a massive girl crush on her. She’s the ultimate blonde bombshell, drop-dead gorgeous from top to toe…except when she appeared on the Kyiv stage during rehearsals in that notorious and absolutely hideous circus/swimming costume. But NOBODY could have pulled that off (not unless they were a clown competing in the Synchronised Swimming event at the Olympics). Anyway, I’m bowing down to your beauty, Anja!

 

Honourable Mention/s Ilinca, Ksienija Žuk Winner Alma

Apparently Alma has a certain je ne sais quois (both the French and Hera Björk puns are intended) that gave her the edge over the other nominees, though not by much. This award probably isn’t what she’d like to have won recently, but the fact that so many Eurofans would be happy to call her their BFF has to be flattering.

 

Honourable Mention/s Francesco Gabbani, Kristian Kostov  Winner Nathan Trent

I have one thing to say about this result: YAAASSSSS! Well done guys, on voting an actual Mr. Nice Guy (nice guys finish last on the televote, but not overall) the winner of this year’s Mr. Congeniality EBJEE. Nathan Trent is a precious angel sent to Earth to bring pure happiness and light into all of our lives, and anyone who dares dispute that should be burnt at the stake. Or be ignored, one of the two.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kristian Kostov, Sunstroke Project Winner Jacques Houdek

I’m not sure which Jacques to give this trophy to – they might have to share custody of it like a pair of divorced parents with their only child. Regardless, this is an award well deserved by a man – yes, just the one…I’ll let the joke die now – who managed to bring both incredible talent and a LOT of laughter (hvala, Hrvatska, for the comic relief) to this year’s Eurovision. Like Conchita’s facial hair, Jacques’ two voices made him instantly memorable and almost overshadowed every other aspect of his entry. We’ll never see a duet quite like this again.

 

Honourable Mention/s Nathan Trent, Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner Sunstroke Project

Picking a winner for this award was a no-brainer for me, but I did very briefly ask myself which nominee’s concert I’d be the most keen to sit through. The answer, of course, was Sunstroke Project’s – though technically, I wouldn’t be sitting through it so much as dancing my ass off through it. All three of the guys are party-starters in their own right, and look like they could happily live on stage. They’re energetic, enthusiastic and charismatic, and can get even the most stubborn butts off seats without even trying. Born to entertain? Heck yes.

 

Honourable Mention/s Blanche Winner Kristian Kostov

This was one of the smallest categories for 2017, and two of the teens ended up monopolising most of the votes – 91%, in fact. Contest runner-up Kristian beats Blanche yet again, and if that’s partly due to his more confident handling of the whole Eurovision experience – as well as his higher placing on the scoreboard – then I’d say it’s the right result. Still, anyone so fresh-faced who can get up on such a big stage and sing their fully-functioning, youthful heart out deserves a high five. Great job, kids.

 

 

THE SONGS

Honourable Mention/s Gravity, Lights and Shadows Winner Perfect Life

Now, I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism here. Even if a song is almost identical in some way to another, it doesn’t mean it was purposely plagiarised. Still, you have to wonder about that oh-so-familiar sound layered underneath the lyrics of Levina’s Perfect Life. Everyone has heard David Guetta’s Titanium, and I find it hard to believe that anyone could come up with a beat and riff combo so similar and not think ‘Hang on…I know this from somewhere.’ TBH, it’s a shame that Perfect Life doesn’t sound even more like Titanium – i.e. that it didn’t ramp up and become an equally powerful dance banger.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Amar Pelos Dois, Beautiful Mess Winner Grab The Moment

A predicable pick? Probably not. But Grab The Moment has a set of lyrics that are interesting, full of clever rhymes (no love/above level stuff in sight) and SO neatly phrased and tightly packed. It’s wordier than I usually like my songs to be, but the rap-like delivery helps make it the modern pop masterpiece it is. Plus, there’s loads of room for lyrical interpretation, which is right up my alley as a former English major. This is my highlight: ‘Getting kinda heavy on my shoulders, try to stand straight but I’m boneless, got a pocket full of prose while I’m walking on my toes and I’m coping with a map that is roadless.’ Remind yourself of the rest here.

 

Honourable Mention/s Skeletons Winner Space

As much as I’m confused (rather than amazed) by “thorn jeans”, I can’t go past Slavko’s Space as the 2017 song with the most WTF words. It’s not that they don’t make sense, because they do. They’re just so…erotically charged. Not to mention all over the place – there’s a ton of space references, obviously, but one minute the lovers in question are Bonnie and Clyde and the next they’re possessed with superpowers. I commend the line in the chorus that connects writing a story with body language *slow clap*. But ‘Wet dreams…come into me from within’? TMI, Montenegro.

 

Honourable Mention/s Lights and Shadows Winner Amar Pelos Dois

This is a very subjective award, hence why I didn’t make it a People’s Choice. It’s for the entry that I personally didn’t rate too highly pre-contest, but grew to love between then and now. I never disliked eventual winner Amar Pelos Dois, but I didn’t love it and I definitely didn’t get the hype surrounding it (why was it second in the odds? I had no idea). For some reason, though, when I saw Salvador’s performance in the first semi final, I ‘got’ it. I was teary-eyed, my heart was warmed and I finally fell in love with the simplistic, romantic beauty of the song. Better late than never.

 

Honourable Mention/s Dance Alone, Verona Winner Occidentali’s Karma

This trophy doesn’t have to go to a song that was hyped by fans and then under-performed according to expectations, but this year it is. Occidentali’s Karma was predicted to be a runaway winner by a lot of fans in the lead-up to the show, racked up more views on YouTube than any entry preceding it, and stormed to victory in the OGAE Poll. And then, just like France did last year off the back of winning that poll, it finished 6th. As soon as I saw Francesco’s final performance, I knew that my gut feeling of months previously had been right – Italy wasn’t going to win. Falling away from the top five, for a song with so much expected of it, this was Sognu all over again.

 

Honourable Mention/s I Can’t Go On, I Feel Alive Winner Hey Mamma

It was the most successful dance track to take part in the Kyiv contest, and now the Sunstroke Project’s Hey Mamma gets another gong to add to the our engraved with ‘Moldova’s Best-Placed ESC Entry Ever.’ I have zero complaints about your choice here, people! There’s something about a good bit of sax that makes dancing more or less irresistible, and as such I can guarantee that this song will frequent the official Euroclub playlist for years to come.

 

Honourable Mention/s Occidentali’s Karma Winner City Lights

And it’s Belgium by a millimetre! The standard of preview videos was pretty high this year, and I personally wouldn’t have chosen City Lights as my favourite. Still, I can’t fault its stylish, slightly unsettling (in a good way) vibes. The isolation of being ‘all alone in the danger zone’ is expertly brought to the screen, while the titular lights have a mind of their own. Overall, it’s just as cool as the song.

 

Honourable Mention/s Keep The Faith Winner Fly With Me

Some songs are just so much better to watch than to listen to – they just come to life when performed live. Artsvik’s Fly With Me, a song that is a perfectly good but not great audio track, was given the royal treatment for Eurovision, and that gave me a new respect for it. The backdrop emphasised the ethnicity of the song as did the choreography, while the pyrotechnics upped the drama. Excellent costume choices were the cherry on top.

 

Honourable Mention/s Space Winner City Lights

And now, vice versa! Belgium’s performances over the past few years have been epic, but there was a question mark over Blanche’s ability to command an audience and take control of her nerves. She faltered in the semi, but in the end pulled off a much, MUCH better performance in the final and earned her 4th place. Even so, City Lights is a radio dream rather than a live one. The slick production and disembodied, distant sound of Blanche’s recorded vocals (minus the distraction of her looking like she wants to run screaming off the stage) is what I love about the song, and it’s just not as impressive in the ESC context.

 

 

That’s all for today/tonight, guys. I hope you enjoyed the show, and didn’t get too drunk and end up tripping and falling into a stranger’s lap which turned out to be the lap of Jon Ola Sand. It’s very awkward when that happens, let me tell you.

Who would you have given these awards to? Are you shocked by some of the People’s Choice percentages? Can I discuss Eurovision 2017 right up until Eurovision 2018 without annoying you? Let me know in the comments – it’s free (although every swear word directed at me costs $50).

 

Until next time, when 2017’s performances will be in the spotlight…

 

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…podium-placed trios from Eurovision’s past and present!

‘The top three is the place to be’ – Jaz, 2016. That’s a quote that that must hold truth because it rhymes. And because it just does. I mean, if you entered a contest and neither first nor second was on the cards, third wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize (and there’d probably be an actual consolation prize involved too. Bonus!).

What I’m trying to say is that the upper echelons of the Eurovision scoreboard are the spaces every act wants to be occupying by the end of final night. Making the top 10 is awesome; the top 5, even better. But it’s the bronze, silver and gold positions that everyone aims for, and that have been secured by countless douze-attracting songs since the ESC’s early days.

As such, I thought it was about time to shine the spotlight on the best of the best in that department – at least as far as I’m concerned (as always, you’ll get your chance to disagree with me afterwards). So, with that in mind, here’s a countdown of my favourite top three trios from the entirety of Eurovision history *insert trumpet fanfare feat. dubstep breakdown here*.

By the way, this post was inspired by the Rio Olympics (gold, silver and bronze medals, reaching the “podium”…you get the idea), and yes, it was supposed to be published in August. Oops. Well, if orange is the new black and forty is the new thirty, then I guess October can be the new September. So it’s not even that late, really.

Let’s get into it!

 

 

#10 | Harrogate 1982

Ein Bißchen Frieden by Nicole (Germany), Hora by Avi Toledano (Israel), Amour On T’Aime by Arlette Zola (Switzerland)

pp1A little peace, a little dance and a little love kick off my countdown based on their collective strength. Sometimes less is more (yes, even at Eurovision), and that was extra evident in 1982 when the Bucks Fizz Skirt-Ripping Schtick™ was succeeded by Nicole’s sentimental ballad. That’s not to say that an in-your-face, high energy piece of pop didn’t have its place – it snapped up second, as a matter of fact. Hurray for Hora! Subtlety sandwiched Israel, however, with Germany on top and Switzerland’s Arlette in third. The ranking was right, I reckon.

My personal top pick Ein Bißchen Frieden

 

#9 | Brighton 1974

Waterloo by ABBA (Sweden), Si by Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy), I See A Star by Mouth & MacNeal (The Netherlands)

pp2I don’t doubt that the right song and act won Eurovision in Brighton. Anyone who does deserves to be decapitated with a vinyl copy of Arrival, to be honest. But ABBA had some stiff competition snapping at their platform heels back then, in the form of some great songs that have stood the test of time. Gigliola’s comeback Si nearly secured her a second contest win, with its grandiose sophistication proving she wasn’t ‘too young’ anymore. I See A Star is serious fun that didn’t have quite the same earworming ability as Waterloo, but made a wonderful impression nonetheless. All three songs are Seventies gold (ABBA pun possibly intended).

My personal top pick Waterloo

 

#8 | Dublin 1995

Nocturne by Secret Garden (Norway), Vuelve Conmigo by Anabel Conde (Spain), Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (Sweden)

pp3Mystery and drama were the buzz words of the ’95 top three, with Sweden and Spain having one apiece up their respective sleeves and Norway boasting both (massive sleeves were clearly the go back then). I must admit that Vuelve Conmigo, the fan favourite, pales in comparison to the songs that surrounded it on the scoreboard, in my opinion. But that’s not an indication of how inferior I think it is. It’s actually an indication of how deep my love is for Nocturne, and in particular, Se På Mig. Ja, my Swedish bias is still alive and kicking.

My personal top pick Se På Mig

 

#7 | Copenhagen 2014

Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst (Austria), Calm After The Storm by The Common Linnets (The Netherlands), Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden)

pp4Once again, two broadly similar songs were divided by something totally different with Copenhagen’s highest-scoring trio. Austria = a big, Bond-type ballad performed to perfection by a hot woman in a stunning dress. Sweden = a big, electro-tinged ballad performed to perfection by a hot woman in a stunning dress. The Netherlands = the sleeper hit that few of us saw coming until we saw it on the Hallerne stage. To sum up, that’s three awesome songs with charismatic artists and impressive staging elevating them even higher. 

My personal top pick Undo

 

#6 | Rome 1991

Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (Sweden), C’est le Dernier Qui a Parlé Qui a Raison by Amina (France), Kan by Duo Datz (Israel)

pp5If I must momentarily hop off the top-three train at Justification Station for this one, then I’ll do so in numbers. 1 – Carola. 2 – Dreamy, ethnic pop from France with an exotically long title. 3 – Carola. 4 – Duo Datz upping the fun and the size of their shoulder pads. And 5 – CAROLA! Let’s face it (if you’re reading this as a fellow Carola enthusiast, you’ll agree): the entries below hers could be utter crap and she’d still drag up the quality because she’s so fabulous. However, they weren’t. In fact, France’s was so magnifique, it lost to Sweden’s entry on countback rather than by points.

My personal top pick Fångad Av En Stormvind 

 

#5 | Istanbul 2004

Wild Dances by Ruslana (Ukraine), Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović & Ad-Hoc Orchestra (Serbia & Montenegro), Shake It by Sakis Rouvas (Greece)

pp6There’s a clear weak link in this top three for me, and I can’t just Shake It off (#seewhatIdidthere). But the mind-blowing brilliance of the other two entries more or less cancels that out. Ukraine’s first winner (I’m so happy we can say that now) is iconic on Planet ESC for being whip-cracking ethno-pop perfection that stood head, shoulders and skimpy leather outfits above the rest. Apart, of course, from a little thing I like to call MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE EUROVISION SONG WITHOUT QUESTION. Sometimes, I even call it Lane Moje. It’s the pinnacle of Balkan ballads, and I refuse to hear otherwise.

My personal top pick Lane Moje

 

#4 | Riga 2003

Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey), Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium), Ne Ver, Ne Bojsia by tATu (Russia)

pp7One of the most tense voting sequences ever – possibly the most nail-biting in the era of random point-giving orders – took place in 2003, if you can remember that far back in time (I know it seems like five years ago, but it was actually THIRTEEN). Favourites Russia had the least impressive entry of the three fighting for first place, but even when they’re not brilliant, they’re far from bad. In a turn of events echoed in 2016, Russia finished third. Ahead of Ne Ver were the epic Sanomi and the oh-so-Eurovision ethnopop of Every Way That I Can, both of which helped make this a tremendous top three.

My personal top pick Every Way That I Can  

 

#3 | Brussels 1987

Hold Me Now by Johnny Logan (Ireland), Lass Die Sonne in Dein Herz by Wind (Germany), Gente Di Mare by Umberto Tozzi & Raf (Italy)

pp8I’m not about to dispute a win by Mr. Eurovision himself (not to be confused with Mr. Lordi, who prefers distressed leather and hard rock to white suits and power ballads). Hold Me Now is my number one – the only treasure I’ll ever haaaaave – of Johnny Logan’s three ESC winners, no doubt. Still, there was some great stuff mere points behind it. German reggae totally works when Wind are responsible for it, and LDSIDH always has me searching for sunshine and craving piña coladas. Gente Di Mare just makes me admire the effortless class of Italian music.

My personal top pick Hold Me Now

 

#2 | Vienna 2015

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden), A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina (Russia), Grande Amore by Il Volo (Italy)

pp9Last year’s gold, silver and bronze-winning musical masterpieces were another example of vastly different songs fighting for first place. It was dance-pop with an Avicii-esque country twang (SHRN…or at least SHAYA, meaning so hot a year ago) that topped the table, followed by a peace ballad feat. the traditional Eurovision key change, which in turn was followed by the sexiest Italian opera I ever did see. That’s variety, my friends, and I for one LOVED it.

 My personal top pick Heroes

 

#1 | Athens 2006

Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (Finland), Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia), Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina)

pp91None of these three entries are my favourite of all time, but their overall awesomeness sent them shimmying straight to the top of my list (Lejla is up there with my most beloved Balkan ballads, anyway). Hard Rock Hallelujah was a winner that opened the minds of non-rock lovers and surprised those who didn’t think something so heavy could succeed in the contest. Dima Bilan’s first ESC trip displayed Russia’s talent for fusing R&B with pop (and their talent for stuffing people into pianos). And Lejla…well, let’s just say that Željko Joksimović is capable of working his magic (in a way that would have impressed Koldun) for countries other than just Serbia and/or Montenegro.

My personal top pick Lejla

 

 

That brings me to the conclusion of this countdown – and let me tell you, it’s reminded me in a big way of what it takes to enter top three territory at Eurovision (I was asking for a friend). In case you didn’t get the memo, ‘it’ = stuff like lots of white, whips, horns (the musical and monster kind)…basically, anything lifted from the lyrics of Love Love, Peace Peace. Who would have thought?

Now, since I’ve showed you mine, it’s time for you to show me yours. Which top three entries from ESC history have impressed you the most – a collection of classic chansons, or a more modern first, second and third? Let me know in the comments so I can judge your poor taste as much as you’ve judged mine. It’s more fun if we all get to bring out our inner bitches so they can party together!

 

Until next time,

 

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PS – If you suspected that Stockholm 2016 might make it on to my list, then you should know that I purposefully omitted it. That’s because I didn’t think enough time had passed since Ukraine, Australia (!) and Russia topped the table to determine whether they make up a classic top three; one that holds its own against the rest and will do for years to come. For the record though, it would have made my personal top 5.

 

The 2016 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards: Part 2 (The Performances, The Costumes and The Results!)

I’M NOT DEAD!!! Say yay yay yay! *insert foot shuffle here*

I figured I’d open this post in such a morbid yet somehow still optimistic manner because, as it’s been such a long time since I’ve popped up on my own blog to chat song contests (one in particular), I wanted to confirm that I haven’t been run over by an errant Ukrainian hamster wheel or anything. I’m just slack and/or disorganised. But now I’m BACK and disorganised, which is much better.

Today, it’s time to conclude the EBJEEs for 2016 (sadface/happyface). Better late than never, right? Actually, my motto (as of right this second) is, if you beat the host city announcement, then you’re not too late. And guess what? The EBU is still having a Pitch Perfect-style riff-off (I assume) to determine whether Kyiv, Dnipro or Odessa will be painted Eurovision next May. If they’ve finished up by the time you’re reading this, then I still pipped them at the post. And also, congratulations KyivDniproOdessa! I KNEW you’d be the chosen one. All along. Knewwww it.

Now, let’s unroll that red carpet and find out which performances, costumes and results of Stockholm ’16 are taking home my fancy trophies – plus those you guys handed out by voting in the People’s Choice polls way back when.

 

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THE PERFORMANCES

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Australia

There was only one true, that-totally-makes-sense choice I could settle on when selecting this trophy winner: the winner of the whole contest. Tingles down the spine were just one of many effects Jamala’s triumphant performance had on me personally, and countless others I’ve interacted with. Also afflicting those of us who aren’t cold, unfeeling, soulless robots (JK…but how can you watch her in action and feel nothing?): body-spanning goosebumps, hairs from scalp to shins standing on end (what? It was too cold in Stockholm for me to shave my legs) and extremely leaky eyeballs. Nobody can pour pain into a performance like Jamala, and as such, 1944 – on or off the Eurovision stage – reduces me to a sniveling mass of admiration every time.

 

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia

We tend to see different types of drama at Eurovision: for example, the overblown kind created by an artist with overly-expressive eyebrows and the tendency to wave their arms all over the place until at least one backing singer has a black eye; and the kind helped along by dry ice, interpretive dance and violent lighting schemes. Then there’s Academy Award-winning drama, in which a performer feels every word they utter with every fibre of their being, and conveys that both down the camera and to the crowd. Enter Jamala (again). Everything about her performance, vocally and visually, was dramatic without being overly so, and it all culminated in a (crystal clear, totally in tune) screech that, if the ESC were the Oscars, would have secured her a golden statuette for sure.

 

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Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Australia

Sweden’s win last year ensured that the 2016 contestants would be keen to outdo and/or build on the projection screen concept that Måns’ team so cleverly devised. After all, one winner usually leads to a flood of copycats. A handful of countries pushed the boundaries of technological staging in Stockholm, and at the forefront was undoubtedly Russia. Sure, their stage show was OTT and didn’t really help tell the “story” of You Are The Only One…but I don’t think it was meant to. It was designed to impress the shiz out of us, and it certainly did that. The moment that made it the most innovative – the most unlike anything we’d seen before at Eurovision – was Sergey scaling the screen and then rotating on it, prompting musings of whether he or the prop were the main attraction. It also prompted us to ask ‘He’s still alive, right?’ after that infamous rehearsal fall, but the less said about that, the better. JUST KIDDING – I love talking about it.

siebjee

 

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Winner Bosnia & Herzegovina Honourable Mention/s Hungary, The Netherlands

As we all know, instruments are used as props more than music-makers at Eurovision nowadays. That doesn’t stop them from being used to great advantage. In the case of Bosnia & Herzegovina 2016, the cello has never been sexier. Ana Rucner let loose with her futuristic one (once she’d shed her rather UN-sexy cellophane cape, that is), and it was epic. And what is a Balkan ballad without at least one instrument bringing it to life? I guess we should ask Montenegro, who figured an ice dancer would be a good substitute back in Copenhagen.

 

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Winner Russia’s projection screen Honourable Mention/s Armenia’s multiple Ivetas

The first People’s Choice Award on this occasion is very well deserved, I’ll admit. Like you guys did, I’ll also give kudos to Russia for putting maximum effort into their entry this year, despite it not paying off to the extent they’d have liked. After all, that screenus maximus was nothing if not an attention-grabber, and it was used very calculatedly to try and outdo the Heroes staging that started it all (that’s not an assumption. I sat and heard Philipp Kirkirov say so during the first Russian press conference). There are a number of ways You Are The Only One could have been performed to amplify it as an entry, but this method gave it a serious ‘wow’ factor.

 

ebj6

Winner Bulgaria Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan, Belgium

Any country that makes the chicken dance cool again (slash cool for the first time in history) should receive a high five at least. Bulgaria assigned the chorus of If Love Was A Crime its own set of moves that quickly became irresistible in terms of attempting to copy them (or was that just me?). Sassy, fun and a little bit off-the-wall – just like Poli herself – they helped make Bulgaria’s appearance in this year’s contest extra memorable.

 

ebj7

Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Austria, France, Latvia

In a time when you can back your act with pretty much anything (a naked hologram of yourself frolicking with wolves, for instance), it’s hard to haul yourself to the top of the heap. Ukraine’s collection of colours, textures and trees (well, just the one tree), however, did just that. It complemented the story and dynamics of 1944 so perfectly, I can’t personally look past it. That tree “exploding” out of Jamala at the song’s climax is one heck of an iconic image.

jbebjee

 

ebj8

Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan

The likes of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan are famous for throwing everything and the kitchen sink – sometime, several kitchen sinks – at their Eurovision performances. To prove that point, note that only one of them didn’t  in 2016 (and note how it worked in their favour). Russia takes this trophy home, though, for putting on a show so in-your-face, it practically screamed ‘VOTE FOR US! WE WANT TO WIN! WE DON’T NEED AN OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATER THIS TIME!’. Factor in the lack of correlation between the lyrics of YATOO and what we saw Sergey getting up to on stage, and you’ve got OTT for the sake of OTT. That’s, like, the highest level of OTT.

 

ebj9

Winner Bulgaria, Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Armenia, Russia

To win Eurovision, you need a cohesive package in which all aspects are on point. If having that up your sleeve doesn’t ensure a podium placing, it should at least drag you away from the depths of the dreaded bottom five. That’s what happened to Ukraine and Bulgaria this year – a win for the first time in over a decade and a best-ever result. Excellent vocals? Check. Brilliant songs? Yep. Perfect costumes? You know it. Setting the scene by pimping the stage? Of course. Both countries had it all going on.

 

ebj91

Winner Poland’s baffling televote boost Honourable Mention/s Justin Timberlake is announced as an interval act

As someone who was standing in the thick of it i Globen, I can confirm that thousands of jaws required picking up off the floor in the wake of Poland’s leap from last place to the top ten. Of all the stuff we didn’t see coming re: the 2016 contest, this was the most unpredictable – despite Poland’s apparently domineering diaspora (which didn’t help them during the Polish slump period of 2004-2011). But, whether you love, hate or ‘meh’ Color of Your Life, you have to admit that this particular leaderboard leapfrog made for a priceless Eurovision moment (and GIF).

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ebj92

Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria

Is Laura Tesoro a cyborg programmed to be constantly cheery and have unflagging energy? I think so. Has she ever been to a party and not been the life of it? As if! Can I have a smidgen of her sparkling personality if there’s any to spare? I’ll leave it to her to answer that question.

 

THE COSTUMES

ebj93

Winner Australia Honourable Mention/s Azerbaijan, Malta

Call me biased if you want to, but I feel like I’m just stating the obvious when I say that the Steven Khalil-designed, diamonte-encrusted creation Dami Im donned for her performances was STUNNING. The arm bling and sparkly stilettos slathered frosting on a look that said ‘This is what Glinda the Good Witch would wear to her wedding.’ It is also what I would like to wear to my wedding. Or to the supermarket. Whichever aisle I happen to walk down first, basically.

dibdebjee

 

ebj94

Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Finland  

It’s not often that a costume single-handedly destroys a country’s chances of contest success. The last time that happened was also in Sweden, when Moje 3’s circus clown couture clashed with Ljubav Je Svuda’s good-and-evil concept, untying what could have been a neatly-wrapped package and making a mess instead. Fast forward three years, and Jamie-Lee allowed the same thing to happen to her, refusing to sacrifice – or even tone down/adapt – her love of manga style for the sake of Ghost. A song that good deserved visuals that would have told its story – not detracted from it completely, leading to a discordance that couldn’t be ignored.

jlwdebjee

 

ebj95

Winner Slovenia Honourable Mention/s Armenia

Most of this year’s artists kept their goodies in the jar, if you know what I mean (and I’m guessing you do). Slovenia’s ManuElla wasn’t one of them. Rather than opting for the military-themed, backing singer-assisted costume reveal from ye olden national final days, she decided to take care of everything concerning revealing all on her own. The result was…well, boobage that the brain behind Trijntje Oosterhuis’ slashed-to-the-waist number might consider risqué. I’m not here to shame a fellow female, but wouldn’t an outfit that was less of an anatomy lesson and more ‘blue and red’ have made more sense?

 

ebj96

Winner Bulgaria Honourable Mention/s Poland, Spain

An undercut that kicks butt was all it took for our favourite Bulgarian to take out this award. Good golly, Miss Poli – you OWN that half-and-half hairstyle like nobody else. I can’t wait to see what you do when you get bored of it. Maybe we’ll find out when Eurovision 2021 rolls around?

 

THE RESULTS

ebj97

Winner Måns Zelmerlöw Honourable Mention/s Petra Mede 

It was the Very Intelligent People (as Petra likes to label her fans) versus the Månsters for this People’s Choice category, and – somewhat shockingly – the latter were the force to be reckoned with. I guess the fact that MZW did double duty as Eurovision’s reigning champ/chief repriser and an all-singing, all-dancing, all-charming co-host gave him a slight edge over Queen Petra.

 

ebj98

Winner ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ Honourable Mention/s The fashion show of flags

I DID NOT FORESEE THIS. I thought ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ had passed us all by without making any impact whatsoever. It’s not like it was a masterpiece of musical theatre that poked the right amount of fun at the ESC while warning future competitors to steer clear of clichés. I mean, nobody even requested that it be released as a single!

Hashtag sarcasm. Hashtag ‘Love Love, Peace Peace’ is amazeballs and we all know it.

 

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Winner Iceland Honourable Mention/s Estonia

Estonia’s failure to qualify may have upset me the most (I have permanent tear tracks on my face from the flood that ensued when Jüri was left behind in semi 1…sob!) but Iceland missing out shocked me to my very core. I was never the biggest fan of Hear Them Calling, but I was 110% convinced it would sail through to the final in spite of Sergey Lazarev’s performance overshadowing Greta’s. I still can’t believe Iceland was beaten by San Marino. Come to think of it, I can’t believe ANYONE was beaten by San Marino.

 

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Winner Georgia Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic

Midnight Gold was gold as far as I’m concerned, and I’m not a massive psychedelic rock fan by any means. I wanted it to qualify more than Danny Saucedo wanted to win Melodifestivalen 2012, but I didn’t think it actually would. As it turns out, I was wrong, and that’s fine by me. Go Georgia!

 

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Winner Russia Honourable Mention/s Australia

Even if Russia hadn’t been the pre-contest favourite (and during-contest favourite), the thought of them failing to qualify this year would have been a ridiculous one. The thought of Russia not qualifying any year is ridiculous, really – but Sergey was a standout on stage, as we always knew he would be.

 

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Winner San Marino Honourable Mention/s Montenegro

I’m still in shock that Serhat came what can only be described as ‘far too close’ to progressing from Tuesday to Saturday night. But, at the end of the day, he still didn’t make it, and that’s what the Eurovision gods had long since ordained (the 12th place was their version of a belated April Fools’ joke, I assume).

 

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Israel

You guys chose the transformation of Laura Tesoro as the worthy winner of this trophy. Belgium certainly upped the ante and glitteriness of her performance between NF and IF (international final, obviously), transforming it from something that looked at home on an intimate stage to something that filled a massive one – and filled Globen with masses of energy and positive vibes.

ltebjee

 

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Winner Ukraine Honourable Mention/s Australia, Denmark

Sorry/not sorry, haters…but I’m so dedicated to Team Jamala, I hold conversations exclusively in 1944 lyrics (I can’t wait to go trick-or-treat doorknocking at Halloween and greet homeowners with the likes of ‘When strangers are coming, they come to your house, they kill you all’. How suitably scary!). As such – and because Her Holiness had so much of herself, and so much of her family’s heartbreaking true story invested in her Eurovision entry – I am adamant that Ukraine won fairly, squarely and deservedly. They earned the absolute shiz out of that triumph.

 

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Winner Estonia Honourable Mention/s Italy

In a semi final that had the words ‘San Marino’ printed in the program, the country that would finish in last place should have been easy to predict. Even when Serhat put on something of an endearing performance *she admits reluctantly*, it seemed like Finland’s Sandhja was going to step into seventeenth instead. What I did not expect was for poor, poor Estonia to fall as flat as possible and end up rock bottom. NOT COOL, EUROPE…and not at all deserved.

 

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Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Denmark  

Everyone else on the planet knew what those who voted for Lighthouse X during DMGP didn’t: that the trio didn’t have a hope in heck of qualifying from a Eurovision semi. They were charming enough to avoid finishing last on the Thursday night – and they didn’t use constipation as inspiration for their choreography, á la Rykka – but they lacked the fire (not even Azerbaijan-level pyro would have saved them) and the x-factor to proceed any further. No crystal ball was needed to foretell that outcome.

 

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Winner Poland Honourable Mention/s San Marino

The bulk of ‘It Should Have Been Margaret!’ t-shirt wearers were stopped in their tracks when Michał was catapulted from the lowest of scoreboard lows to the upper echelons of the top 10, all thanks to the televoting. That moment was many things – shocking and impressive among them – but easily explainable? Nope. I find it hard to believe that Polish diaspora is that influential, and even though I really liked Color of Your Life, I’m also confused by the possibility of such an outpouring of voter-at-home love…especially when the juries completely dismissed Poland. COLL was not a song that made you go ‘Yep, the televoters will LOVE that, but the juries’ll hate it.’ If anything, I’d have had it the other way round. To sum up, *insert giant question mark here*.

 

 

And that, my fellow Eurovision freaks, is that! My collapsible table of trophies is empty, and it’s time to roll up that red carpet for another year. I hope you enjoyed the 2016 edition of the EBJEEs in some respect, because I definitely enjoyed bringing it to you (even if it took a little longer than I’d initially planned).

Stay tuned to le blog over the coming weeks if you’re interested in the OGAE Second Chance Contest, the Olympics, random album reviews and lookalikes – I’ve got content concerning all of the above in the pipeline for August (and it IS all ESC-related, I swear).

While you’re waiting for that, why not tell me what you thought of today’s award winners? Did your People’s Choice votes go to waste, or did you get your way? Which performances, costumes and results of Eurovision 2016 do you think deserve some extra credit? Let me know below. I live for your feedback!

Well, I don’t live for it…but I like it.

 

Until next time,

 

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The 2016 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards: Part 1 (The Artists, The Songs and The Singing!)

Good evening Europe, and everywhere else that’s relevant!

You’ve just made the excellent decision to tune in to the super-delayed first episode of the 2016 EBJEEs: that is, the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. There’s no time like way after the official, Justin Timberlake-less Eurovision DVD has been released to do something like this, right? Not when this is the earliest I’ve been able to get around to it. Better late than never, that’s my motto.

So, if you’re ready for the ceremony to begin, great. If not, too bad – it’s (finally) happening. Today/tonight, I’m presenting second-rate statuettes in the categories of The Artists, The Songs and The Singing, including many of the People’s Choice Awards voted on by you fabulous people last week. Get excited!

Please???

*Academy Award-worthy intro music plays* Välkommen till…

 
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THE ARTISTS

 

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Winner Freddie Honourable Mention/s Amir, Douwe Bob

It’s award number one (my number oooonnne) and the EBJ Express has already arrived at Objectification Station – and I’m not sorry, no. There was an array of dashing dudes on display at this year’s contest, and as I was actually there (!) I can attest to the true, in-the-flesh attractiveness of each and every one. So, to those of you who thought Serhat was SerHOT, I say this: not even he could compare to the heartthrob ex-basketball player from Hungary. I mean, even in a one-on-one battle between Freddie and Måns Zelmerlöw, Hungary would quite possibly have the edge over Sweden. They’d definitely have a height advantage.

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Winner Samra Honourable Mention/s Iveta Mukuchyan

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, rather than the ear – which is how Samra came to be awarded this trophy by yours truly. She may have suffered from some vocal issues in Stockholm (several of her rehearsals would have had Jemini reaching for earplugs) but she is a stunner, and the cameras would have had zero complaints about focusing on her for three minutes…except that perhaps, three minutes wasn’t long enough to have her in their sights. If I sound lecherous here, it’s because I have a girl crush on Samra the size of Siberia, with symptoms that include a slack jaw and plans to write a dissertation on how someone can look that incredible in a skintight metallic onesie.

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Winner Amir Honourable Mention/s Sergey Lazarev

Well, you guys are off to a good start with your picks. I couldn’t have voted better myself! He may not have won Eurovision (although 6th is a win by recent French standards) but Amir absolutely won our hearts – cheesy, but true – with his general adorableness and charm, on and off stage. If there’s one act from ESC history that would be ideal to take home to meet the parents, it’s this guy. My parents are available, Mr. Haddad, if you’re interested…

 

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Winner Poli Genova Honourable Mention/s Zoë, Laura Tesoro, Sanja Vučić

Not unpredictably, Poli out-polled a force-field of girl power to take home the Miss Congeniality trophy. Anyone who wouldn’t jump at the chance to hang out with her, and help her search for any dress of hers that might be missing at the time (Junior Eurovision in-joke alert) is not a person I’d like to associate with. That may sound harsh, but COME ON!!! Poli’s personality and pizzazz is so strong, I’m pretty sure it was responsible for powering her light-up ILWAC costume. Isn’t that what everyone looks for in an amigo?

 

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Winner Laura Tesoro Honourable Mention/s Poli Genova

This award goes to the artist whose onstage charisma and energy eclipsed that of their competition, and who should never give up their career in showbiz because that would be an absolute waste. Belgium’s Laura may still be a teenager, but she performs like a pro from way back. She lit up the Globen stage every time she stepped on it (seriously, I don’t even think the tech guys had anything plugged in during her performances, á la Poli), and was so effervescent I would have blamed it on an illicit substance if she wasn’t so darn innocent. This girl was THE one to watch this year, and she’ll be one to watch for a long time to come.

 

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Winner Ira Losco Honourable Mention/s Dami Im

A Eurovision runner-up returning to the contest will always be a talking point – especially when that runner-up remains the rightful winner in the minds of many fans. But add in the rehearsal week revelation that Ira Losco had a kanelbulle in her oven – and a costume change that, among other things, elegantly emphasised that – and you have a walking water-cooler moment on your hands (and a Walk On Water moment). This was a case of Conchita-itis, in which a country’s artist is a more prominent part of their package than their song.

 

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Winner Laura Tesoro/Zoë Honourable Mention/s Frans

It’s a tie! A tie I could have broken if I’d been bothered. But I think both Laura and Zoë – practically senior citizens compared to runner-up Frans – deserve this award for dealing with the media, performance and competition aspects of the contest like pros. Zoë, in particular, should receive a high five for managing to sing in tune at all times when she probably couldn’t even hear herself over the screaming that followed her wherever she went.

 

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria

Belgium snapped up this award last year too – and yet, white outfits aside, Loïc’s backing brigade couldn’t have been more different from Laura’s. The latter helped elevate the energy of What’s The Pressure in a live context, meaning that what would still have been a brilliant show if Laura had been by herself on stage became THA BOMB, DOT COM. Interacting with her and with the audience, they sang and danced their way straight into the #squadgoals hall of fame.

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 THE SONGS AND THE SINGING

 

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Winner If I Were Sorry Honourable Mention/s Alter Ego

Songs that sound the same as other songs have not (necessarily) been plagiarized. I’m a firm believer in a grey area existing where musical resemblances are concerned. As such, I’m not saying that Sweden’s 2016 ESC entry was partly stolen from some other random song I never knew existed until someone decided IIWS was a rip-off of it. But there is some aural twinning going on here, and I don’t think that can be denied. Here’s proof.

 

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Winner Hear Them Calling Honourable Mention/s Loin D’ici, Say Yay!

Everyone’s definition of a ‘fanwank’ is probably different – which explains why my decision not to include Italy as a nominee here was met with a little criticism. I do agree with this winner though, on the basis of a fanwank being a song that is drooled over and put up on a pedestal by the Eurovision community, only to crash and burn once it emerges from the pre-show bubble and enters the competition. Austria may have had a happy ending, but Iceland? Not so much.

 

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Winner Sound of Silence Honourable Mention/s Ghost, Play

2016 was a strong year for lyrics that weren’t…well, crap. For lyrics that could actually be enjoyed by a former English major who adores symbolism and detests clichés. The best set of words put to song in my opinion was Australia’s. And no, I’m not letting nationality overtake objectivity right now. There was something simple yet so inventive about the Sound of Silence lyrics, particularly in the verses. My favourite line of the lot would have to be ‘Tidal waves of tears are crashing, no one here to save me drowning.’ The imagery! The metaphors! The non-cheesy rhyme! SO MUCH YES. And, okay…maybe a little bit of bias.

 

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Winner I Didn’t Know Honourable Mention/s Soldiers of Love

Now we travel from the good to the gouda – by which I mean check out the cheese! Not to mention the inconsistencies in tense and a distinct lack of sanity. San Marino/Turkey, what were you thinking allowing lines like ‘I got to be inside your mind and hide into your arms’ (ouch) to represent you on a global platform, in 2016?

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Winner If Love Was A Crime Honourable Mention/s What’s The Pressure

Poli’s performance of ILWAC at the Euroclub on Opening Party night (though technically, it was the morning after Opening Party night) was one of my ESC trip highlights, so I’m thrilled to be able to metaphorically present her with this award on behalf of all of y’all. I can confirm that the dancefloor couldn’t have been fuller during her three minutes that evening/morning – though I probably don’t have to, because even if you were in Antarctica at the time, you’d have heard the chants of ‘Oh, day mi lyubovta!’. Epic times. Prepare yourself, future fiancé, because the DJ will be playing this on repeat at our wedding.

 

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Winner Loin D’ici Honourable Mention/s Color of Your Life

In terms of the songs that grew on me ‘more and more each day’ as Serhat would croak from the window of his favourite hangout Sleaze Palace: The Disco, Austria made the most impressive transition. The throwback to a time long gone by that is Loin D’ici irritated the strudel out of me initially, especially when I compared it to the contemporary offerings from Armenia, Latvia and Ukraine. But I was won over by a) its charm as an homage to twee French pop, b) Zoë’s general loveliness, and c) the reaction both she and the song received in the Euroclub and in Globen (it was too cute to resist).

 

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Winner Made of Stars Honourable Mention/s What’s The Pressure

As much as Eurovision these days is about presenting audiences with a live music video rather than a live, concert-style performance (if you want to succeed, that is), there are some songs that feed off a flesh-and-blood crowd and come to life as a result. Made of Stars is one of them. There is a passion in the delivery of the song via Hovi that is lacking when you listen to the studio version, or when you watch the official, drone-dominated video. Those are my thoughts, anyhow. Perhaps it’s the theatricality of song and artist that needs to be seen and heard outside of a box to be appreciated.

 

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Winner Ghost Honourable Mention/s The Last of Our Kind

 And then, there’s the other end of the Swarovski-encrusted microphone stand. I personally believe that Germany’s Ghost was one of the best songs in the competition this year, but the mismatched live performance destroyed and detracted from it. Listening to it in studio, without the distraction of Jamie-Lee’s Halloween costume test-run (I think she was supposed to be a cocktail umbrella) is a totally different experience – for the better.

 

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Winner No Degree of Separation Honourable Mention/s You Are The Only One

What is the significance of Francesca’s music video happenings? Who knows. Does anyone care? Nope. It’s beautifully shot and interesting to watch, and there was actual effort put into the making of it. Much better than a budget video or *gasp* no video bar a national final performance. Not that I’m demanding or anything…

 

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Winner Bulgaria Honourable Mention/s Australia, Norway

If I had a gripe about anything to do with Eurovision 2016, it’s the postcards – not because they sucked (they didn’t), but because they just weren’t very memorable. They were beautifully shot, but none of the artists were handcrafting their country’s flag out of foodstuffs, or participating in risky extra-curricular activities in the host city. I’m bestowing the trophy for best of the bunch to Bulgaria though, because watching Poli Genova go about her daily business (albeit a glossy version that includes getting ink done) could never fail to be fascinating.

 

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Winner Michał Szpak Honourable Mention/s Hovi Star, Sergey Lazarev

What do you get when you cross Captain Hook with someone who can carry a song single-handedly without the support of any detectable backing vocalists? Michał Szpak, that’s who. Hovi Star had the emotion and Sergey Lazarev had the singing/dancing combo down pat, but Michał powered through each of his performances of Color of Your Life with ease – and, as I said, without any contribution (as far as I could hear and see) from another singer who’d been stuffed in the wings. The Jedward syndrome-suffering Azerbaijani delegation must have been very jealous indeed.

 

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Winner Dami Im Honourable Mention/s Jamala

There were two ladies who stood head and shoulders above the rest when it came to singing the pants off their respective songs (though not the pants off themselves. That would have been unfortunate for Jamala). Honestly, my vote would have headed in a Ukrainian direction, but Australia topping this poll is obviously reason for a happy dance from me. You can’t argue that Dami is an incredible vocalist, and she managed to give her all for the entire Eurovision fortnight without dropping a single note. You keep doing you, Dami, ‘cause it’s awesome to witness.

 

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Winner Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz

Honourable Mention/s Joe & Jake, Minus One

This one’s a bit of a surprise to me, even though there were no Il Volos to speak of in 2016 and so the bar was set a little lower. Don’t get me wrong – I’m totally pro-Georgia, and Nika and his Lolitaz sounded more or less studio-perfect during their performances. I’m just shocked that the majority of you guys thought so too.

 

 

And now, some good news for those of you with numb bums: this evening’s (if it isn’t night time where you are, just pretend) ceremony has reached its conclusion! The EBJEEs will continue in a few days as I present my personal – as well as the remaining People’s Choice – awards in the categories of The Performances, The Costumes and The Results. So don’t return those fancy outfits you undoubtedly hired for the occasion just yet. There’s still a whole lot of Eurovision 2016 left to talk about!

 

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The 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 2 (The Performances, The Costumes + The Results)

Pull up a comfortable chair (you’re going to be sitting in it for a while), have food and drink within reach (you’ll need the sustenance), and generally prep yourselves for the second and final installment of the 2015 EBJEEs!

I won’t lie – it’s a mammoth ceremony. But it might just be worth it: if you voted in the People’s Choice polls, you’ll find out today whether your remaining favourites won out in the end. Plus, if you make it all the way through, I’ll give you a gift basket full of gratitude and appreciation for your dedication. You won’t be able to sell it on eBay, but hopefully it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy (once you get the feeling back in your behind after sitting down for so long).

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking!

 

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 THE PERFORMANCES

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Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Nadav Guedj, Uzari

You can send threatening notes my way calling me biased, but I’d like to see you argue against Australia’s pride and joy (at this moment in time and exclusively among Eurovision fans) possessing a flawless set of pipes. Even suffering from a cold, as he was in the days leading up to the final, Guy Sebastian demonstrated his usual smooth-as-silk singing technique, and reminded us all why he won Australian Idol back in the day.

 

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Winner Aminata Honourable Mention/s Bojana Stamenov, Polina Gagarina

Barely able to reach the ‘You Must Be THIS Tall To Ride’ marker when queuing for a rollercoaster ride, Aminata’s powerful vocals defy her petite size. Transitioning between crystal-clear high notes and big belters with ease, the control she had over her voice was second to none in this year’s contest as far as I’m concerned. If Beyoncé is #flawless, we’re going to have to come up with a whole new word for Aminata. Aminatamazing? Aminaterrific? The suggestion box is officially open.

 

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Winner Il Volo Honourable Mention/s Genealogy, Mørland & Debrah Scarlett

Singing separately, Gianluca, Ignazio and Piero are mesmerising. Singing together, they send me on a trip to Goosebumpsville, USA, every time (it’s starting to get expensive). The force that is high-quality operatics shouldn’t be underestimated, and high-quality operatics is what we got from the boys whenever they opened their mouths in Vienna. Perfection is spelled I-L V-O-L-O from now on.

 

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Winner Italy Honourable Mention/s Latvia

Let’s talk about Italy for the second time in thirty seconds, shall we? There’s something about an epic vocal performance that sends shivers down my spine. This is particularly true when the performance is given by a trio of hot Italian men…and when one of said men winks at the camera and turns me into a sad excuse for an independent woman who don’t need no man. In addition to the shivers, Il Volo also had every hair on the back of my neck standing up each time they launched into Grande Amore’s explosive chorus. As a result, I resembled a fuzzy triceratops, but it was totally worth it.

 

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Winner Spain Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic, Greece

A dramatic song like Amanecer needs a dramatic performance to go with it, and Spain certainly delivered in that respect. They didn’t rely solely on Edurne’s ability to look super-intense and wave her arms around at every opportunity; instead, they switched the drama into overdrive by adding a costume change, an aggressive dance sequence and a gale from the wind machine into the mix. Subsequently, Spain’s performance rated more highly on the drama scale than an entire year’s worth of Days Of Our Lives episodes.

 

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Winner Austria Honourable Mention/s France, Switzerland

In a move that gave a more literal meaning to Paula and Ovi’s Playing With Fire, The Makemakes’ Dominic set his piano alight at the pivotal point of I Am Yours – a cool (though not temperature-wise) way of spicing up the staging of the cruisy, down-tempo number. It didn’t help Austria score any points, but the risk factor and fresh take on pyrotechnics deserves recognition.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Lithuania, France

Sweden grabs this People’s Choice Award in very convincing style, with 58% of the votes. It’s not surprising when you consider just how much Måns’ projected stick man and all that jazz had to do with his win. The gimmick made a good song great, and made the performance of that song superior in terms of innovation and creativity.

 

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Winner Greece Honourable Mention/s Georgia, Spain, Switzerland

Maria Elena had everything one needs to pull off a classic Eurovision lady ballad: a big voice; flowing locks; a floor-sweeping gown; and the ability to fake enough anguish to moisten her eyes, but not so much to actually let a tear go and ruin her mascara. All that was required top it off was wind – and boy, did she get it! As much as I want to opt for the logical pun here and say I was blown away by Greece’s performance, I wasn’t. But if it hadn’t been for that manufactured breeze, the climax of One Last Breath would have lacked impact.

 

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Israel, Sweden

Robotic movements coupled with perfect pirouettes and the occasional face-grab? What a work of art. Belgium’s combo of geometric and organic movements was as complementary to Rhythm Inside as the black-and-white costumes and boxy backdrop. The choreography also played a big part in Loïc and his dance crew snapping at Måns Zelmerlöw’s heels in the creativity stakes.

 

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Winner France Honourable Mention/s Latvia, Poland

Back in 2012, Ukraine neatly sidestepped the six-person stage rule by featuring a crowd of fist-pumping – and it must be said, tacky-looking – party-goers on the screens behind Gaitana. The idea was good, but the execution was poor. Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll see that France took the same idea, and made it work. A digital army of drummers (plus a smaller contingent of living and breathing drummers) appeared behind Lisa Angell, and with that, the last thirty seconds of her performance and its atmosphere were elevated by a mile.

 

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Winner Spain Honourable Mention/s Moldova

No amount of gimmicks is too many – not according to Edurne’s team. It’s a worry when a song is deemed so unentertaining, it needs every backdrop, costume reveal, dance move and wind machine setting known to man to bring it to life (say what you will about Sweden, but at least they limited themselves to lighting and projection). Still, I can’t say I minded the OTT much on this occasion. As I said earlier, Amanecer is a dramatic number, and you have to admire Spain for carrying that through to the staging as well.

 

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Winner The Netherlands Honourable Mention/s The Czech Republic

I’m sure we’d all have forgiven The Netherlands if that horrendous opening shot had been a mistake. But, believe it or not, it was included on purpose. An entire verse of Trijntje eyeballing the camera with netting draped over her face didn’t say ‘I’m on the Eurovision stage and loving it!’ so much as ‘I’m being held hostage by an embittered fisherman who’s threatening to slap me with a sea bass unless his demands are met.’ And yet, rather than feeling sorry for her, all I could do was laugh. ‘WTF?!?’ is an understatement.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Belgium, Australia, Latvia

This People’s Choice poll was a close one, with Belgium leading until the last minute. Ultimately, it’s contest winner Sweden that can add another trophy to their collection as the All-Rounder of the Year – the country that had the best package of song and performance. Year after year, Sweden puts the ‘vision’ into Eurovision in a big way, and 2015 was no exception. Not only visually spectacular (and I’m not just talking about Måns) but vocally top-notch and full of energy, there was nothing lacking in what they had to offer most recently. This award is well-deserved.

 

 

THE COSTUMES

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Winner Nina Sublatti Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie, Genealogy

What with Nina being the fierce, take-no-prisoners kind of woman she is, Georgia needed to dress her in something that said ‘I’m a sexy goth, and if you come near me without my permission I’ll whip a Chinese throwing star at your forehead.’ Thankfully, they did, and I am now crushing on an ESC costume like I did when Maja Keuc made Perspex platforms and provocative body armour a thing in Düsseldorf. I.e. to a crazy extent.

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Winner Trijntje Oosterhuis Honourable Mention/s Trijntje Oosterhuis

Well, there was one thing The Netherlands did better than anyone else this year. Upon seeing what Trijntje opted to wear for the show after trying out several alternatives, that haphazardly-cut, boob-baring dress suddenly didn’t look so bad. I guess she’s not one of those people who can wear a bin bag and still look fabulous.

 

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Winner Moldova’s hot cops Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie

I’m mainly referring to the object of Eduard’s affection (and her teeny-tiny, totally non-regulation police hotpants) here. But the sprayed-on shorts the men were wearing were also grounds for arrest, and for covering the eyes of any children present. How those guys managed to move to the music without something splitting is a mystery.

 

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Winner Debrah Scarlett Honourable Mention/s Loïc Nottet

Adventurous hairstyles were few and far between in Vienna, with nobody even coming close to a Rona Nishliu-style DEAR LORD WHAT IS THAT ON HER HEAD?!? So the conventional but undeniably stunning hairdo of Debrah Scarlett wins this People’s Choice Award. Affixed with an empty pie tin repurposed as artful headwear (zoom in on Norway’s performance and you’ll probably spot some crust crumbs) Debrah’s fiery mane of curls was anything but monstrous. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that mane on my own scalp stat (minus the pie tin).

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THE RESULTS

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Winner Conchita Wurst Honourable Mention/s Alice Tumler

This wasn’t a competition, really…at least not a close one. ORF made a big mistake failing to convince Conchita to host the entire show. She’s everything a great host is made of: articulate, humorous, charismatic, and gorgeous to look at (nobody looks more banging in an evening gown).

 

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Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Moldova

2015 wasn’t exactly a year of jaw-dropping moments. I can’t say that any of the DNQs had me clutching my chest and feeling faint at the sheer shocking-ness of their occurrence. However, I did have Denmark down as a qualifier, thinking that as usual, the safe and competent song they were fielding would get them into the final. It did not, which was a little surprising…but not devastating, if I’m honest.

 

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Winner Albania Honourable Mention/s Poland

As much as I’m Alive has grown on me in the month or so since Eurovision, I still don’t 100% understand how it got through. Elhaida’s cape game was strong in semi final one, but girl veered right off the in-tune tracks and straight into screech territory for her last thirty seconds on stage. Ouch.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Russia

For the long-standing bookies’ favourite, there were no questions surrounding qualification. It wasn’t even worth arguing against Sweden winning their semi. We know from the Bergendahl Incident of 2010 that the Swedes can trip up when it comes to making the final, but there was no way 2015 was going to resemble that ABSOLUTE TRAVESTY, thank heavens.

 

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Winner San Marino Honourable Mention/s Portugal

Poor Anita and Michele. Come back next year (after you’ve given Ralph Siegel the flick) and you might have a chance.

 

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Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Romania, Switzerland

I don’t know if it’s down to better acoustics in the hall or a voice-box transplant, but Eduard went from putting all his energy into dancing and giving us the vocal performance of nobody’s lifetime, to putting most of his energy into dancing – there was even a backflip thrown in this time – and actually sounding passable. The Jedward Effect of having backing singers do most of the heavy lifting had to have something to do with it.

 

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Winner Australia Honourable Mention/s The Netherlands, Sweden

As awesome/bizarre as it would have been to see Australia win Eurovision, I never really thought it was going to happen with Tonight Again. After Guy’s outstanding live performance, though, a top five placement was not out of the question – and when we nabbed one over Latvia, I felt it was fair (not that I would’ve complained if Australia and Latvia had finished the other way round). When I do the math, 5th seems just right. The song deserved top ten, the performance deserved top five, and the vocal was deserving of the win.

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Austria, France

I’ve said this a dozen times already, but even ignoring the fact that Germany wasn’t ranked last in the televoting or jury voting and still ended up at the bottom (no pun intended, if you know what I mean), I remain confused as to how Ann Sophie was so wronged. As if she hadn’t been traumatised enough during the German NF! There was nothing deserving of nul in her sassy, sexy performance, and I for one am outraged that Black Smoke is now the only Eurovision song in history to finish 27th in the final.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Russia

Aside from a last-minute challenge from Russia, and the possibility of Italy trampling all over their competition, Sweden was the one to beat this year. From the millisecond Måns won Melfest, he was the odds-on favourite to win Eurovision, and he didn’t disappoint those who’d put money on him. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t think Russia was going to snatch victory (after Polina’s final performance and until halfway through the voting sequence, that’s EXACTLY what I thought was going to happen) but the obvious winner that few of us discounted did turn out to be the actual winner. I don’t think Sweden’s sixth victory blindsided anyone.

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Austria

Yep, we’re in agreement – Germany wuz robbed! Since Stefan Raab relinquished control of the German entries, the country’s fortunes have taken a nosedive. As such, we might have expected Ann Sophie to finish mid-table or lower. What none of us expected was to see her sitting as low as possible on the scoreboard, with the host nation and a big fat zero keeping her company. WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO? On the plus side, Ann Sophie is now a member of a rather exclusive club of losers, and will be remembered in a way that whoever finished, say, 22nd (I literally had to Google that to remind myself that it was Cyprus) will not.

 

 

And that, my European song competition-obsessed friends, is it *insert relieved round of applause here*. There are no more trophies left to hand out to the Class of ’15, which the likes of Lithuania will be sad to hear considering they didn’t get one (not This Time….HAHAHA).

I hope you enjoyed this year’s awards. Thanks again to everyone who voted in the People’s Choice polls – I promise there will be more of those, feat. more nominees, in 2016.

I still have a bit of Vienna-themed business to take care of here on EBJ, before I move on and look ahead to JESC in Bulgaria, and the 61st ESC in A City Yet To Be Named (don’t rush, EBU/SVT…I need more time to conduct accommodation research). There won’t be a dull moment here during the off-season, so do drop by over the coming months. I can assure you that, unlike Ann Sophie and The Makemakes, you’ll never have a nul-point experience!

 

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COMING UP I count down my top ten national finalists who should/could have gone to Vienna; and you’ll be seeing double as all the doppelgangers of ESC 2015 are exposed!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Candy Music by CANDY (Georgia 2011)

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

 

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

Faller by Erik Rapp (Sweden 2011)

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

 

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

Mitt Mod by Lova Sönnerbo (Sweden 2012)

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

 

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

Cum Să Fim by Rafael (Moldova 2013)

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

 

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

We Are One by Sofia Tarasova (Ukraine 2013)

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

 

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

Nebo by Anastasia Petryk (Ukraine 2012)

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

 

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

Det Är Dit Vi Ska by Eliias (Sweden 2013)

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

 

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

Zo Verliefd (Yodelo) by Laura (Belgium 2009)

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

 

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

Mama by Vladimir Arzumanyan (Armenia 2010)

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

 

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

 

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

Du by Mimmi Sandén (Sweden 2009)

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

 

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

 

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

 

COMING UP

x  Spotlight on…Austria

x  Song Battles: ESC vs JESC

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

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

 

The 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

In incredibly scintillating news, I received my Eurovision 2014 DVD in the mail last week. Well, it was exciting for me. And now I’m thinking, what better time to reveal the winners of my contest awards for this year? At least that’s what I’m telling myself, to distract from the fact that it’s taken me THIS LONG to get my s%!t together and post them. But hey – this way you can be sitting down watching your DVD while you read this, and reminding yourself why the winners are worthy…or, as will probably be the case with many of you, questioning my terrible judgment. But remember, you got to choose the winners of six awards this year, three of which will be revealed in this first installment of the EBJEEs. There were almost 150 votes in today’s People’s Choice-ers alone, so thanks for making the decisions in such vast (by this blog’s standards) numbers!

I won’t ramble on about the specifics of Part 1. You know the deal by looking at the title of this post. I’m just going to leave you to enjoy the “ceremony” in which 17 trophies will be handed out, and hopefully accepted without incident – i.e. NOT in the style of Dana International in Jerusalem. Keep an eye out for the People’s Choice Awards, because the full voting results are included.

*clears throat*

Ladies and gentlemen and everyone in-between, this is…

ebjees14

The Artists

a
Andras Kállay-Saunders
Nikolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune)
RiskyKidd
Sebalter
Theofilos Pouzbouris (Freaky Fortune)
Topi Latukka (Softengine)
Waylon (The Common Linnets)

046

Between them, Freaky Fortune and Riskykidd more than upped the hotness quotient in Copenhagen. But with Theofilos being on the short side (as a woman of stature, I tend to steer clear of diminutive men) and Nikolas having had some dodgy hair moments, I have to give this first gong to the sheer beauty that goes by the stage name of Riskykidd. At 19, he’s slightly too young for me (I hate how that time has come already) but I’m still going to bask in the ambience of his chiseled cheekbones and often intense ‘wrong side of the tracks’ vibe.

 
b
Cleo
Conchita Wurst
Dilara Kazimova
Kasey Smith
Maria Yaremchuk
Paula Seling
Ruth Lorenzo
Tanja

047

This is always a tough category, and it’s unlikely that we’re all going to agree on the result (this also extends to the ‘He’ award. Sorry if Riskykidd doesn’t do it for you). My personal preference is the hot tamale from Spain, via the UK/US, Ruth Lorenzo. With or without a faceload of slap, with a retro updo or rocking the wet look, in a fancy frock or holey hand-me-downs, this woman looks stunning. I look at her and the main word that comes to mind is ‘bombshell’. FYI, others include ‘How come my eyebrows never look that perfect?’, ‘Wearing a red lip: any tips, Ruth?’ and ‘How you doin’?’. I guess you could say I’ve developed a girl crush.

 
c
Conchita Wurst
Men of Pollapönk
Nicolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune)
Sebalter

There was no beard more talked about this year than Conchita’s, and I’m not just referring to the talk regarding Eurovision. In fact, I don’t expect another beard to become as much of a household name (in my house, it’s called Frank) for the rest of 2014. It is perfectly-groomed facial hair that graces the chin/cheek/upper lip area of a stunning woman, and that makes it a beard with a difference. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time talking about a beard in my life. Such is the power of Frank.

 
d
Basim – 20%
Heiðar Örn Kristjánsson (Pollapönk) – 9%
Jöran Steinhauer (Aarzemnieki) – 24%
Nikolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune) – 7%
Sebalter – 39%
Teo – 2%

You guys chose – and pretty firmly – Sebalter as your Mr. Congeniality for 2014! The Swiss fiddler/whistler/waistcoat-wearer beat out Latvia’s Jöran by 15%, presumably with his on and off-stage charm and charisma. By all accounts, he’s friendly and funny, making him as nice on the inside as he is on the outside (as far as some are concerned…he’s no Lepland/Mengoni for me personally).

 
e
Conchita Wurst – 15%
Mei Finegold – 15%
Ruth Lorenzo – 25%
Sanna Nielsen – 15%
Suzy – 15%
Tijana Dapčević – 17%

Someone else who’s good inside and out is Ruth Lorenzo, who bumped Tijana to take out the Miss Congeniality award with a quarter of the votes. Far from the fiery, fierce stereotype of your average hot-headed Spaniard (and I emphasise, stereotype…Spanish women, don’t get mad) Ruth is cool, calm and collected, and from what I’ve seen, always willing to give anyone a bit of her time. She’s a woman I’d want to be friends with – in fact, when I’ve finally nailed down Kaliopi and Hannah Mancini as half of my ladies’ wolfpack, Ruth will be next on the list.

 
f
Basim
Emma
Pollapönk
Sebalter
Teo
Twin Twin

I get the feeling these guys never have an off night. Then again, I think I’d be constantly energetic and entertaining too if I got around in a bright blue (or *insert the colour of your choice here*) suit. With a matching velour tracksuit for lazy time, of course. As a band catering to children and adults, Pollapönk have to have the enthusiasm to cover all bases. They definitely conserved it for their six minutes in the spotlight.

 
g
Conchita Wurst – the bearded lady
Elaiza – underdogs of USFD
Paula Seling & Ovi – Eurovision royalty return
The Tolmachevy Sisters – JESC (t)winners
Valentina Monetta – third time’s the charm

Conchita Wurst

She made up a considerable amount of the discussion bulk within the ESC bubble, and basically all of it in the outside world, making many of us wonder why something so simple as a five o’ clock shadow (albeit an exquisitely-groomed five o’ clock shadow) was causing such a stir. There can be no other rightful winner of this award than Conchita, who I’m sure doesn’t rock the beard with the intention of it being a gimmick, but doesn’t have much of a choice. If beardless Nadine Beiler had donned the gold lace and busted out Rise Like A Phoenix, we’d be headed to Amsterdam next year.

 

The Songs

h
Austria
France
Greece
Latvia
Malta
Sweden

Moustache may not sound eerily similar to another song on the whole – although I could make a case for it being a masculine, less raunchy version of Katy Perry’s Peacock – but the verses ignited such loud screeches of ‘PLAGIARISM!’ for their resemblance to Stromae’s Papaoutai, I’ve got to give this one to Twin Twin. Plagiarism or not, I’m indifferent. I love both songs, so I’m just going to congratulate both artists on stumbling upon a catchy string of notes. And make a plea with Stromae to one day represent Belgium.

 
j
Austria
Estonia
Romania
Spain
Sweden

Dancing In The Rain is one of those songs you’d only hear at Eurovision. There are so many elements that make it come off as contrived for the purpose, i.e. the mix of languages and those massive money notes, which may not be in Spanish, but can be roughly translated to ‘I’m trying so hard to push FTW, I may burst into smithereens’. I’ll admit that you could say the same re: My Beloved Sweden, but as Sweden = more than a fanwank in the end, and Spain = not quite as much, I’m not going to.

 
k
Austria
Azerbaijan
Montenegro
Norway
Spain
Sweden

Speaking of Sweden (as I have done way too often since Sanna won Melfest and will continue to do for the rest of eternity), my bias towards Undo cannot be totally quashed for the purposes of these awards. There were some damn good ballads competing in Copenhagen, but as Sanna’s has given me the feels/goosebumps from the first listen through to my most recent, and because I actually cried during her semi-final performance (hey, it was a freaking long time coming, and I was emotionally invested, okay?!?) it’s far and away my Ballad of the Year. My apologies if that gives you a sad that’s hard to undo.

 
l
Azerbaijan
Georgia
Montenegro
Poland
Portugal
Slovenia

They were thin on the ground this year, so anything with a vaguely traditional instrument thrown in has made the shortlist. But five have made way for the half-folksy, half-hip hop, all sexy Youtube sensation that is My Słowianie. The song somehow manages to be divisive and edgy as well as perfect for Eurovision and appealing to its audiences, which couldn’t be achieved by the likes of Igranka. Carried with attitude and talent by Cleo (Donatan’s actual contribution is yet to be measured) it’s everything I want from my ethno-pop – yet miles away from your typical examples of the genre.

 
m
Denmark
Estonia
France
Greece
Israel
Portugal

This isn’t a difficult category to narrow down for me, because every year there’s at least one entry that I CANNOT HELP shaking my thing to. These songs have some kind of force that catapults me off my couch and has me doing my best Shakira imitation before my brain has had time to process what’s happened. In 2014, I was a little torn between Greece’s trumpets and Portugal’s wa-wa-wehs, and I’m still not sure what swayed it in Greece’s favour, but as the MC and big boss of these awards, I don’t have to justify my decision. Instead, I’m just going to twerk a bit, as the mere mention of Rise Up has awoken the mysterious booty-shaking powers within. BRB.

 
n
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Finland
Georgia
The Netherlands
Russia

There was a decent amount of songs that I didn’t ‘get’ initially this year. Something Better made a huge leap in my estimations – so much so that I went from wishing Finland had literally chosen something better to digging the heck out of it (whilst still holding a candle for some other UMK gems). It was the live performance and ‘more is more’ approach to lighting that helped win me over. The song is a stadium anthem that, when it won UMK, wasn’t in the right setting to show it off to full advantage. Plus, the months between the NF and the ESC gave Softengine time to polish up (and grow up).

 
o
Russia
Ukraine

ENTERTAINMENT-DENMARK-EUROVISION-SONG-CONTEST

Just a couple of not-so-special songs IMO were elevated by aesthetics this year – elevated all the way into the top 10, in fact, which in Russia’s case was particularly surprising to me. The Tolmachevy sisters’ three minutes on stage featured everything but the kitchen sink (though I’m not convinced that wasn’t hidden away somewhere in amongst the see-saws and staffs and papier-mâché suns). But, with pared-back costumes and seamless choreography that utilised all of those props, I couldn’t stop watching. This is one example of why the Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t always live up to its name.

 
p
France
Greece
Romania
Slovenia

I may be referring to studio versions here, but Moustache also works better in another kind of studio – the intimate TV kind, as opposed to a massive arena with a massive stage to fill. When it comes to listening though, the studio version is cleaner and slicker. Plus, you’re not being distracted by a failed attempt to use a big space in the right way.

 
q
France – 4%
Hungary – 11%
Iceland – 15%
Moldova – 4%
Poland – 37%
Spain – 7%
Switzerland – 22%

There were faux game shows, dramatic storylines and wayward servings of spaghetti to choose from, but you guys went for what I will re-title ‘Breast Preview Video’. Poland wins! And by a decent length from Switzerland, too. I can’t say I’m in total agreement with this, but the video certainly stays true to the statement being made by the song. It’s not as though setting it in a convent and having the Slavic girls churn butter very clinically whilst wearing ankle-length habits would have made sense.

 
r
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Denmark
Germany
Macedonia
Poland
Portugal
Slovenia
United Kingdom

All the contestants went out of their way making their #MyEurovisionFlag, though some clearly put in more effort than others (a painting, Valentina?? Really? At least Suzy chose to paint herself). As such, this is the biggest, toughest and probably most subjective category of the entire EBJEEs. My pick is host country Denmark, for its mix of effort and creativity (see Valentina? More non-canvas painting!) and daringness in not only repurposing a heap of ancient furniture, but also a stretch of road that I’m sure got Basim and his buddies in trouble with the local council.

 

That’s Part 1 taken care of, and it’s now time for intermission. The line for the toilets will be long, but since Part 2 won’t be coming to you for a few days, don’t be concerned. Just before you go, it’s time to let the disagreement ensue…

 

Tell me what you’re thinking re: the People’s Choice winners, and my personal picks.

 

NEXT TIME: Before they get too dusty, I’ll be handing out EBJEE trophies in the categories of The Performances, The Costumes and The Results.

 

The story so far: My verdict on Copenhagen before it’s FINAL-ly final time!

I’m back! After close to a week of social media avoidance, I’ve witnessed both semi final 1 and 2 on Aussie TV with much DIY banner-waving and popcorn consumption, and I can now temporarily rejoin you all in Eurovision Land before I have to hunker down again to avoid final spoilers. I’m going to take advantage of this, not just by checking my backlog of Twitter notifications and comments, but by having my say on the semis in brief, and taking another look ahead at the final now the participants and running order is locked in. 3, 2, 1, go!

 

SEMI FINAL 1

Together, Pilou, Lise and Nikolaj were no Petra Mede or Anke Engelke, but despite their lame jokes and the lack of segue from ‘Good evening, Europe!’ into postcard numero uno (unless our broadcast was edited down…grr) they hosted without fault. Of course, they had an amazing setting and massive audience to work with, which helped.

As someone who can take or leave Only Teardrops, I tolerated the semi-opener by Emmelie de Forest, and quite enjoyed the Ugly Duckling interval act as a lover of fairy tales (that guy’s sequined tracksuit WILL BE MINE! Mwahahaha!). But it’s the performances of the competing songs and the results that we really want to discuss, right? Here’s what I thought.

 

My performance highlight/s

  • Sweden – Having been invested in Sanna from the moment she was announced as a Melodifestivalen contestant (yet again) and Undo being my #1 song of the contest, my best hope for victory, my shoulder, my shelter, my satellite – oops, veering off into Hirsoux territory there – Sweden’s performance was always going to float my boat. What I did not expect was to burst into tears at the end of the three minutes. I think it was a combination of excitement, emotion and…well, my general pathetic-ness, let’s face it. I welled up when Sanna won Melfest, so I should have seen this coming. She was spellbinding, as usual. Perfection with a blonde bob and in black lace. #creepymuch?
  • Iceland – Pollapönk dried my tears, coming straight after Sanna and brightening everything up. They looked sharp, sounded great, oozed personality and all in all just had a great time up there, and as a result I did too. I’m finally on board with their decision to sing in English now. Watching them, I thought to myself ‘this has GOT to be a qualifier.’
  • Albania – Aside from the tattoo (that’s got to be the most painful postcard of all time) I have to give props to Hersi for singing so beautifully. I love the sound of her voice. Also, she didn’t look hideous as I may have predicted she would earlier this week. I had to pick someone!
  • Russia – Here was proof that good staging can make you love a mediocre song. I enjoyed everything about this performance, even though I’m still not sure how most of it – the hair thing, the see-saw, the Perspex light sabers, etc – was relevant to the song or its message. All I know is that it looked awesome. The twins’ vocals were on point too, and they looked very nice. I didn’t see the immature act I was expecting.
  • Ukraine – Again, an A+ for staging goes to Russia’s non-BFF Ukraine. That hamster wheel was used to full advantage, both by Maria and her man friend (who I’m assuming wasn’t asthmatic or anything since he had to run pretty much the entire time) in what was a simple but effective staging device. This was actually pared back by Ukrainian standards, but after the initial shock of Maria not being carried onstage by a giant, I appreciated it.
  • Portugal – This was old-school Eurovision that still worked like a charm IMO. The crowd was very responsive to it. It was full of energy and Kati Wolf Suzy had the best costume of the night – she looked UH-MAYZING. I didn’t want this performance to end, and I really wanted it to qualify. Sniff.

 

My performance lowlight/s

  • Moldova – First things first: nobody was terrible in this semi. No-one looked awful, sang badly or fell into the moat around the stage (that was a bit of a disappointment). But if I had to choose my least favourite act, it would have to be Moldova because a) it wasn’t as slick a performance as we usually get from them; b) the costuming was fine, but I expected more; and c) WHAT THE %@!* WAS WITH THAT HAIR THING? Whatever happened to tearing off a part of your dress or something? The classics are still okay, guys. Which is more than I can say for Cristina’s scalp right about now.

 

The qualifiers

  • Montenegro – What else can I say except YEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS! It could have gone either way, but I’m so happy it went this way. Welcome to the final, Montenegro!
  • Hungary – Our Australian commentators were surprised by this, but I wasn’t, and I doubt you were either.
  • Russia – Saved by staging, Russia went through and broke the JESC Curse. I’m glad some Junior alumni have finally made it to Saturday night.
  • Armenia – Duh. That is all.
  • Azerbaijan – How shocking for Azerbaijan to qualify! Ha. Ha. They turned out a perfect performance as always.
  • San Marino – My jaw actually hit the floor here. As lovely as Valentina looked and sounded, you CANNOT tell me this wasn’t a pity vote in large part. I’m convinced this qualified 10th and stole a final spot from Portugal or Estonia. Still, congrats to SM for making the final for the first time alongside Montenegro.
  • Ukraine – Another shocker here. Who on earth foresaw it happening?
  • Sweden – I was having palpitations by the time Sanna went through, so thank god they didn’t leave her ‘til last. I may not have been here to type this.
  • Netherlands – Riding the wave of Anouk, are we? CATS will add some genre variety to the final.
  • Iceland – I’m not sure why Iceland was left until last, but woop woop! I desperately wanted them to fill the final spot, and I got my wish.

 

How accurate were my predictions?

Fairly, but far from totally! I correctly predicted 7 of the 10 qualifiers, stumbling on Estonia, Belgium and Moldova. After seeing Axel and Cristina in action, I changed my mind, but it was too late to change my prediction. I am shocked by Estonia’s fail, and I bet Tanja is too…but can I just say, Estonia – if you’d picked Sandra, that would not have happened!

 

 

SEMI FINAL 2

This was a semi where I knew I was going to lose a country I liked, and to make matters worse, everyone was on top form. Kind of. I didn’t mention the postcards earlier, but I found them very interesting viewing again, and I can’t wait to see the final six. Australia was represented with a song-and-dance that could have been less cringe-worthy, and by the lovely Jess Mauboy who did us proud despite some vocal wavering (having seen the doco about her trip to the ESC broadcasted beforehand, I put it down to nerves). The other interval act, featuring Europe’s finest dancers (who videoed themselves and submitted it to eurovision.tv) was great. Now, on to the main event: the competing entries.

 

My performance highlight/s

  • Poland – That’s it…I’m running away to Poland to be a Slavic girl. This was freaking EPIC! It ticked all of my boxes (not that I normally have a check-box for ‘gratuitous display of boobs’). Cleo has everything a star attraction needs to have, plus attitude in spades; the costumes were as folk-mod awesome as I knew they’d be; handkerchiefs were used to great effect…the list goes on.
  • Austria – How could you not be impressed by the power of Conchita? Standing on that platform in her gold dress, looking like a particularly glam Academy Award statuette, she sung the crap out of RLAP like she always does, with a passion that never once appeared forced. Dana International, eat your heart out.
  • Lithuania – This was everything I didn’t expect it to be and more. In the minority I may be, but I LOVED it. Vilija looked amazing (even in a leather tutu), sung like a champ and looked totally unfazed by the man who refused to come out from beneath her skirt. 110% on point.
  • Finland – Yes, the adorable boys from Softengine did win me over some way with their simple but perfect-version-of-what-it-was performance. They get a gold star for using lighting to add so much to the visual of their act, and lead singer Topi gets a mug of hot lemon and honey tea to conserve his screamability for tonight.
  • Greece – You know I’m a little obsessed with Greece this year (song-wise and man candy-wise) so naturally, I was jumping for joy (get it?) after their appearance. It doesn’t take a stack of cash to entertain, and that’s exactly what they did, with the crowd (and moi) going crazy for Rise Up. Plus, thanks to Lise, we now know that Nikolas has a cat called Gary, and that is invaluable information.

 

My performance lowlight/s  

  • Ireland – Again, there were no train wrecks in this semi, which was a bit disappointing actually (somebody better screw up BIG during the voting to make up for it) but Ireland’s performance was rather messy and uncomfortable. Kasey’s costume was distracting because it looked like she was wearing three different outfits at once, so that wasn’t the best either. 

 

The qualifiers

  • Switzerland – Every time the Swiss qualify, I go ‘aww!’, whether I like the song or not. Hunter of Stars has a certain charm, so I was pleased to ‘aww!’.
  • Malta – Yeah, they did. There was never a question.
  • Slovenia – I’m not sure of where all the votes came from to get Tinkara in the top 10, but she’ll add some ethnicity to the final.
  • Norway – I want to congratulate and hug Carl so badly, assuming his ‘silent storm’ isn’t a metaphor for irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Poland – YESYESYESYESYESYES!!! Happiness for Jaz is when the Slavic girls make it through when she didn’t think they would.
  • Romania – Ugh. I was secretly hoping they’d miss out so I could laugh, but alas, Paula & Ovi are set to lame it up in the final. I’ll only keep the sound on to hear Paula’s glass-breaking note sequence.
  • Greece – I’m as happy as a guy in spandex on a trampoline. Which is very.
  • Belarus – That’s right, Anti-Cheesecake Brigade. We did it.
  • Finland – As with Slovenia, I am slightly confused as to where all the interest for this came from, but as the boys are so cute and were so competent, I say well done Finland!
  • Austria – This was always the one that would be left until last. I’ve never seen anyone so relieved as Conchita was to nab that final spot.

 

How accurate were my predictions?

Slightly more so than in Semi 1! I scored 8/10 this time around, with Israel and Macedonia being my incorrect predictions. But with Poland (one of my favourites) and Switzerland (it’s always precious when they qualify) replacing them, I’m happy I was wrong.

 

 

A WORD BEFORE THE FINAL BEGINS…

Right now I’m in that brief gap of time between having seen both semis on Aussie TV, and when the final begins in real time (which I won’t see until Sunday night). Having now seen all but the auto-finalists perform once, I feel it’s only fair I get to update my predictions for what’s going to go down on the scoreboard in the final. And not just because two of the countries I predicted to win didn’t even qualify *blushes*. So…

 

Who will win?

I’m not much surer of this than I was when I last predicted, but at least now I can say it will definitely not be Estonia or Israel (hashtag FAIL). This contest is still wide open, and all I can do is have a stab in the dark. So here are my stabs:

  • Armenia – It’s the favourite. I’ll feel like the world’s biggest moron if I take Aram out of the equation and then he wins.
  • Austria – It’s powerful, memorable and interesting. A dated-style winner maybe, but a worthy one based on Conchita’s power and passion alone.
  • Malta – There’s just something comforting about this that draws you in, and if it draws enough jury members and televoters in…
  • Spain – This is too typical-ESC for me to want it to win, but it has a decent draw, and Ruth has the potential to out-diva Conchita.
  • UK – There was already so much going for this entry, and then the UK only go and get drawn in the plum spot of 26! The BBC couldn’t have hoped for a better slot. If waiting all that time to perform doesn’t affect Molly negatively, there’s a good chance she could take this.

 

Who will make the top 10?

Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden and the UK. I still feel like I’m being too obvious, and there’s sure to be a few surprises up there, so…don’t laugh at my terrible predicting skills. Not to my face, anyway.

  

Who will be left at the bottom?

Surely it’s San Marino? I know I said that about the loser of semi 1, but my god…it has to be, right? I really wish we didn’t have wait until song 25 to sit through it, but I suppose the UK will look even better coming afterwards. If you’re looking for a shock loser (which we’ve had more than once in recent history) I’d say unless it’s a favourite, it won’t be that shocking.

 

Who’s not going to do as well as we think?

Romania. Okay, so not everyone is convinced Miracle will be exactly that, but it has none of the spark that Playing With Fire had. It’s relatively early on in the draw, and I think it will be overshadowed.

 

Who’s going to do better than we think?

Poland and/or the Netherlands. One’s big, brash and full of boobs and the other’s super humble (guess which is which!) but I have this feeling either one (or perhaps both) could defy expectation and neither be considered too OTT or get lost in the field.

 

With all of that said (‘at long last!’ I can hear you saying) it’s time for me to go to bed while those of you in Europe and those of you planning to watch the final live online get your celebration on, damn you. To be honest, I’m still none the wiser about where we’re headed for the 60th ESC, and that is very exciting. The chances of a runaway victory are slimmer than the chances of this being the last we hear of Valentina Monetta (she’s like Freddy Krueger…no matter what happens to her, she will rise again and attempt to murder you in your sleep) so the voting sequence should be a nailbiter. But before that, we have 26 performances to watch. I hope you make the most of every moment, and that the final doesn’t go by as fast as the semis did. I’ll be back early next week to join you all in the throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. Let’s ride it out together by dissecting every little detail of Eurovision 2014.

 

May the best song (preferably in my opinion) win!

 

Hit me up with your highlights and lowlights of the semis, plus your picks for the winner!