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LAST FIVE TOP FIVE | Portugal (A Luta É Alegria to Amar Pelos Dois)

Well, it’s official: we’re heading to Lisbon, Portugal’s perennially beautiful capital city, for Eurovision 2018!

When I say ‘we’, I don’t necessarily mean ‘you and me’ – I have no idea whether you’re going or not (let me know below!), and my plans for the upcoming contest are up in the air somewhere running around with Nathan Trent. But as Eurovision fans/freaks, we collectively discovered via Tuesday’s RTP press conference that next year’s contest will be held in the MEO Arena, in Lisbon, on May 8th, 10th and 12th.

A massive shocker? Not so much. But even non-surprising news is good news, for those of us who despair during the off-season and need something Eurovisual to be developing as often as possible to feel complete. Of course, there has to be some filler between the end of one contest and the start of another…and that’s where I come in. I’m full of it (filler, that is) this post-contest, pre-NF period, which brings me to today’s post: the start of a brand new series here on EBJ that I hope *crosses fingers, touches wood and prays to the Lordi simultaneously* you guys will enjoy.

For however long I feel like it, every now and then, I’ll be choosing a country currently competing in the ESC and taking a look back at their last five entries (whether they’ve skipped years or not). After reviewing and scoring each song, I’ll finish off by rating them from worst to best on an ultra-professional scale ranging from ‘Don’t play that song again!’ to ‘That sounds good to me!’ (thanks for entering the comp with really appropriate song titles, Nicki French and Josh Dubovie…though the irony of using the name of a dreadful song to highlight great ones has not escaped me). You’ll be able to vote for your favourite of each country’s last five entries too, and share your own ranking. Got it? Awesome.

I couldn’t think of a better or more relevant way to start this Last Five Top Five series than by checking out the Eurovision evolution of reigning champs/hosts-to-be Portugal. They’ve definitely had more misses than hits of late – but which songs are which as far as I’m concerned? Keep reading to find out…and have your personal top five prepared!

 

 

The Stats

  • Last five participations 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017
  • Last five results 18th (DNQ), 13th (DNQ), 11th (DNQ), 14th (DNQ), 1st
  • Qualification record 1/5
  • Winners 1
  • Top ten places 1
  • Last places 0

 

The Entries

2011 | A Luta É Alegria by Homens Da Luta

I have a fair bit of respect for this song. My reasons for that are threefold: it’s multidimensional, blending traditional Portuguese sounds with folk elements for a unique finished product; it was performed totally in Portuguese, which is always welcome at Eurovision (that goes for any language other than English in this day and age, though I do draw the line at Klingon); and it’s a message song with enough quirk to make it dairy-free (i.e. it’s not cheesy). Having said all of the above, it wasn’t a highlight of the 2011 contest for me, and while it’s certainly not a big blot on Portugal’s participant history, I don’t think it’s a highlight for them either.

My score 6 points

 

2012 | Vida Minha by Filipa Sousa

Portugal went…well, full Portugal back in Baku, with Filipa’s fado number that came pretty close to qualifying (it finished 13th in its semi final). I’ll admit that I have to be in the right mood to really enjoy this genre, but even so, I find this entry utterly average. It’s not quite as dramatic as it needs to be, and the chorus is lacking in the essential catchy quality that you need to succeed. Once again I applaud Portugal for having sent something so true to their musical roots as a country – but like Filipa’s eventual result, Vida Minha is okay, but not great. In MY opinion, obviously.

My score 5 points 

 

2014 | Quero Ser Tua by Suzy

Ethnopop? Now here’s a genre I tend to fall in love with at the drop of a hat (or the beat of a tribal drum) – especially when its flag is flown by someone as effervescent and enthusiastic as Suzy. Quero Ser Tua isn’t ideal for the lactose intolerant among us (meaning there is a hint of cheesiness present) and by 2014 standards, it was a little dated. But I love the fact that it managed to successfully fuse the oh-so-Portuguese sounds that we’re accustomed to with an energetic tempo and dance vibe so irresistible, it probably had Jon Ola Sand tapping his foot under the Official and Very Important EBU Executive Supervisor’s Table.

My score 8 points 

 

2015 | Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa by Leonor Andrade

This is definitely the least stereotypically-Portuguese entry we’ve seen at Eurovision in the last five years that Portugal has competed. That’s not why I like it, but I do like it a lot. Sure, it’s not the most exciting song on the planet given that everything about it is middling – the tempo, the level of dynamism, the staging…everything, bar Leonor’s dominatrix costume which she may or may not have worn to a bunch of questionable parties since. But the melody is really nice, the chorus is sweet, and the Portuguese adds interest to what would be a bog-standard radio track in English.

My score 10 points 

 

2017 | Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral

Finally, we come to the only truly successful song Portugal have sent to the ESC in recent times – and their most successful song ever. I understand that a lot of fans may not love this, but at the same time I feel compelled to scream ‘HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS?’. It’s as spellbinding as the entire Harry Potter series, and Salvador is…well, his name doesn’t help make the perfect portmanteau that is ‘Salvadorable’ for nothing. No, Amar Pelos Dois wasn’t my favourite entry of the year, but when something makes you weep in the short space of three minutes (and not because it’s so bad that you can’t contain your sorrow) it’s seriously special.

My score 10 points

 

 

Now I’ve revealed my chronological verdicts on Portugal’s last five ESC entries, I’ll let you in on the not-so-secret secret (since I’ve already allocated my scores) of how they rate on my official Last Five Top Five scale – from ‘Don’t play that song again!’ to ‘That sounds good to me!’ (the super-scientific ends of the spectrum as explained in the intro to this post).

 

 

So it’s parabéns yet again to Salvador Sobral, whose winning song of 2017 stands head and shoulders above anything Portugal have sent to Eurovision in the past – and definitely since 2011. Would you agree with that, or do you prefer the tracks from Homens Da Luta, Filipa Sousa, Suzy or Leonor Andrade? Make your decision and see how it measures up to everyone else’s.

 

 

It’ll be interesting to see what Portugal pulls out of their hat in 2018 as their select their very first host entry. Here’s hoping they can follow Bulgaria’s lead and keep riding their (very) recent wave of victory-dance-worthy results. Who knows – maybe this time next year, Amar Pelos Dois will be second on my LFTF scale.

Speaking of which, share your worst-best Portuguese ranking for 2011-2017 in the comments, and we’ll see if we agree on anything. Just a warning for anyone who might rate the five songs in exactly the same way as I did: THIS WILL BE MY FACE.

 

 

 

 

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 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…

 

 

 

And Now, For The Not-So-Beautiful Messes: The five biggest on-stage mistakes of Eurovision 2017

Didn’t see this coming in the wake of last week’s top 5 performances of 2017 countdown? Well, neither did I. Consider my face officially palmed.

I actually have the awesome Anita from Eurovision Union to thank for inspiring this companion piece to that post: a countdown of the countries that didn’t, in my opinion, get it all right in terms of their song’s staging and/or performance in Kyiv. I’ve deliberately not made this about the five worst performances, since there wasn’t a single country that I’d say got everything wrong (although one came close). Instead, I’ve singled out the elements in a handful of acts – dodgy vocals, horrifying costume choices, bad backdrops etc – that dragged them down…and in the case of a few, may have had a hand in their non-qualifications.

Have your say on the biggest stuff-ups of Eurovision 2017 in the comments. Remember, honesty is the best policy (and there’s no fun in 24/7 sunshine and rainbows, so get critical!).

Oh, BTW – you can (and should!) still vote in the People’s Choice polls of the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. They’ll close in a few days’ time and the results will be revealed soon after that, so do your Eurofan duty while you have the chance!

 

 

 

#5 | Montenegro steers clear of OTT…for worse, not for better

I’m starting with something that was too inoffensive rather than too offensive, especially considering the source. From my very first listen of Slavko Kalezić’s Space, I was expecting to see it on stage in the campest and most fabulous fashion imaginable. I’m talking buff, topless male dancers who had marinated themselves in body glitter in the hours leading up to the show; galaxy-inspired visuals that alternated between dramatic (for the verses) and flamboyant (for the choruses; and plenty of overuse of the core Eurovision elements – wind and fire. I was confident in Slavko’s ability to make this dream of mine come true, given that he was to 2017 what Tooji was to 2012 – only Space didn’t require the reining in of camp that Stay did. So you can imagine my disappointment when he appeared on the Kyiv stage by himself, with only a mediocre costume change and his beloved Rapunzel braid for company. It’s not that he couldn’t command the stage on his own, because he strutted around like a boss and did the hairycopter with full enthusiasm. But when a song so obviously calls for one to go full gimmick on its ass, one should obey. Space needed more colour, more choreography and a crowd (of five other people) to be everything non-Eurovision fans think the contest is. Not so much to give it a shot at qualifying, since that was unlikely to ever happen (sadface), but just to make the most of the saucy, sassy lyrics; the fun, upbeat vibe; and Slavko’s larger-than-life personality.

 

#4 | Switzerland sugar-coats their staging of Apollo

I’ve got a job for you: take all of the 2017 entries that were chosen via a national final, and compare how they were staged initially to how they were staged at Eurovision. For the most part, you’ll notice that not many changed drastically, and those that did mostly improved on their presentation. Timebelle’s Apollo, then, is the exception and not the rule, because it went downhill between NF season and contest week. In fact, the only way Switzerland went up was by sticking Miruna at the top of a spiral staircase, which she eventually descended anyway (in stilettos, without breaking a sweat or any bones, which does deserve a high five). What we saw and what we heard clashed like crazy. Apollo benefited way more from the dramatic and modern NF staging, which could have been built on for ESC purposes. Yet that was discarded in favour of cheap and predictable background graphics, the inexplicable staircase (Why was it there? What did it add?), and an equally inexplicable yellow dress that I thought was less Beauty and the Beast inspired and more like the repurposed outer layer of a certain big bird who lives on Sesame Street. And let’s not forget more pastel shades than you’d find in the maternity wing of a major hospital. Overall, the look of this would have worked wonders for the right song (minus the tacky backdrop) but it took a good song and made it below-average. If I were Switzerland, I’d be contacting Sacha Jean-Baptiste right now to book her for Eurovision 2018.

 

#3 | Australia’s hit-and-missed high note

Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy bringing this up in conversation time and time again. However, as patriotic and proud of Isaiah’s work in Kyiv as I am, I can’t deny that when we’re talking about the biggest broadcast boo-boos of the year, that notorious note he aimed for during the semi final HAS to be mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing the guy drop a note while he was singing his heart out on The X Factor last year, so perhaps the grueling rehearsal and media schedule of Eurovision took its toll…or maybe it was a combination of nerves and trying too hard. Whatever the cause, to say that Isaiah failed rather than nailed that note – one accompanied by a pyro curtain, which is the international symbol for ‘This is the moment that’s supposed to win you over and secure your votes’ – would be an understatement. It turned out to be a moment that had me convinced Australia had just lost out on a spot in the grand final instead. Thankfully, because his jury semi performance was more X Factor and less cringe factor, Isaiah did slip through in a still remarkably high sixth place. He then went on to make up for the vocal mishap to end all vocal mishaps on the Saturday night, though it has to be said that the initial pyro note still wasn’t up to scratch. Whenever I watch either of his performances back in the future, my hand will be hovering over the mute button as the two-minute mark approaches.

 

#2 | Albania dresses Lindita up for a wacky wedding…WTF?!?

I could complain until the cows come home about all of the questionable costuming choices made by the 2017 delegations. Belgium? Should have worn the jumpsuit from the flag parade. Poland? Shouldn’t have worn white. Israel? What were they thinking putting him in a shirt when shirtless clearly would have been the best way to go? But right at the top of the heap – though at the bottom of the pile in terms of suitable sartorial selections – is undoubtedly Albania. I don’t know what kind of performance Lindita’s ‘Vegas showgirl meets drunken 3am Vegas bride’ outfit would be appropriate for, but it was just plain ridiculous when paired with World. I don’t get the thought process behind it, assuming there was one. It proved to be such a distraction that I couldn’t even concentrate on Lindita’s mind-blowing vocals, which hadn’t been an issue when she won Festivali I Këngës with the song formerly known as Böte. Unfortunately, this look wasn’t a one-off, as she wore something equally frightening (in nude, not white) on opening ceremony night. She obviously felt pretty and powerful on both occasions – she doesn’t strike me as a person who’d wear what she was told if she wasn’t 100% happy about it – but in my eyes, a black bin liner would have been a better choice both times. You know, like the one Croatia’s Nina Badrić wore back in 2012.

 

#1 | Spain’s…well, everything 

Many of us fans felt sure about two things prior to this year’s contest. One, that Italy would walk it, and two, that Spain would finish dead last. We may have been wrong about the former, but the latter did its predicted duty. Poor Manel – he had a terrible time at Objetivo Eurovisión thanks to The Mirela Incident, and then couldn’t prove anyone wrong by defying our ESC expectations of him. You might wonder why, if you’re unacquainted with both Do It For Your Lover and his rendition of it in Ukraine. Well, the song was weak to start with – great for roaring down the road in a convertible on a summer’s day en route to the coast, but too much of a repetitive flatliner to stand up in a song competition. It could have been saved by some genius stage concept, who knows…but Spain had the total opposite up their hibiscus-patterned shirt sleeve. The surfer idea was good in theory, but the execution was on par with High School Musical 2, if High School Musical 2 had been lumped with a production budget of $100. Low-quality graphics – including a Kombi van that kept on rocking without any danger of anyone knocking, an overhead shot of Manel and his band on surfboards that they just didn’t pull off, and a general air of over-casualness – made the package pretty unappealing. The fact that it was an entire verse before anyone turned around to face the camera/audience was also a turn-off. And just when we thought Spain might scrape enough points to NOT finish 26th, Manel’s voice decided to re-break at a pivotal moment, which sealed the deal. I’m sorry for seeming extra bitchy about this (you must be craving sunlight after all this shade I’ve thrown) but I’m being cruel to be kind. Both Manel and Spain deserve a LOT better.

 

 

Do you agree with any of my picks, or do you think I’M the one making the mistakes? Which competing countries of Eurovision 2017 made the wrong decisions when it came to putting on the best possible show?

 

Next time…you’ve voted (I hope) and now the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award winners – People’s Choice + my personal choices – can be made public. First up, I’ll be handing out (pretend) trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs – followed by The Performances, The Show and The Results. The celebration of Kyiv’s bests and worsts will continue, and you’d be as crazy as Lindita Halimi’s costume designer if you missed it!

 

 

 

GRAB THE MOMENT | Vote in the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards People’s Choice polls!

Yes, it’s that time again – when, in the wake of Eurovision and in the midst of PED, a heap of ESC-themed sites feel compelled to hand out some trophies of their own. They may not be fancy, microphone-shaped Kosta Boda glass, but they give every country, artist, backing singer and man with horse mask on the chance of taking one home.

In the immortal words of Martina Bárta, now it’s my turn. The EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards, as they’ve been branded the past few years, are back! But before I give out any awards personally, I need you guys – yes, YOU (I love that shirt, by the way…it’s totally your colour) – to decide on some winners for me. That’s not because I’m too lazy to choose them myself, but because I love having input from anyone who takes the time to read this blog, and I definitely want to know what you thought were some of the highlights and lowlights of Kyiv 2017. So here we are.

This year, there’s not one…not two…not three…*ten minutes later* but TWELVE People’s Choice Awards up for grabs. I’ve tried to keep the nominees as numerous as possible, but if I haven’t listed someone/something that you REALLY want to vote for, leave me a comment and I will count it as a valid vote. The rules? Well, you can only vote once (on any one device, so feel free to hijack all of the phones/computers/tablets in your household) but you can make multiple choices on each poll – so if you’re struggling to decide, for instance, whether Oleks, Vova or Timur was the best host, just vote for all three.

Who says I’m not generous?

You’ve got one week to vote (and to spread the word so all of your Eurofan friends get to have their say too). Now go forth and pick your personal winners!

 

 

Miss Congeniality

She’s friendly, she’s fun, and she’s the female singer of 2017 you’d choose to hang out with above all others. It’s about personality rather than looks for this award (although all of these ladies are beautiful on the outside AND the inside).

 

Mr. Congeniality

Now it’s time to pick the most personable male artist who charmed both fans and the media in Kyiv. You’d take a road trip with him without hesitation, because you’d be guaranteed a great time and a lot of laughs.

 

Teen Act of the Year

Years and years of experience can come in handy when handling Eurovision…but teenagers can do pretty well for themselves too. All of 2017’s teen acts finished in the top 10, but which one was your favourite?

 

Dancefloor Filler of the Year

Whether you were in the Euroclub, at a Eurovision party or home alone in your pajamas, there had to be at least one song this year that you could NOT resist dancing to – and you’ll be playing it again any time you need to add some life to a future party!

 

Best Music Video

We don’t get preview videos from every single country competing in the contest (this is the one area where Sweden shows weakness) but the bunch we do get often bring their A-game. 2017 was no exception – let’s see which video you think is the best of the best.

Check out all of the nominees here.

 

Best Prop/Gimmick

The Eurovision stage sees more stand-out props and gimmicks than any other, and they (usually) add something special to a performance. Vote for the little – or large – extra something that impressed you the most this year.

 

Best Use of the Backdrop

The sky is the limit these days when it comes to pimping performances via high-def screenage. It’s a missed opportunity if the background isn’t used to a country’s advantage, but there weren’t many missed opportunities in Kyiv! Which backdrop wowed you when you laid eyes on it?

 

Best Performance From the Big 5

There are always musical hits and misses from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – but this award is for the country that stood out on stage when compared to their fellow automatic finalists (the hosts not included).

 

The Host With The Most

It’s a hard job, choosing between three attractive Ukrainian men – but somebody has to do it! Oleks, Vova and Timur took the reins between them this year, but only one can be crowned the Host With The Most. Take your pick.

  

Opening/Interval Act of the Year

We were spoiled this year when it came to pre and in-between song entertainment, with Ukraine trotting out a bunch of its biggest stars – including ESC 2016 winner Jamala three times (fine by me). Without comparing anything to Love Love Peace Peace, decide on your no. 1 performance.

Check out all of the nominees here.

 

OMG Moment of the Year

There were many jaw-on-the-floor occurrences this year, including the moment rehearsal viewers spotted a questionable (a.k.a. penis-like) image front and centre on one of Latvia’s screens (which had to be covered up). Which one had you shaking your head in disbelief?

 

The ‘How Did THAT Happen?’ Award for Most Shocking Result

Speaking of shocking…even the most talented predictor wouldn’t have seen some of the Eurovision 2017 scoreboard placements coming. Some countries defied expectations while others failed when we thought they’d flourish. Choose your personal WTF result below!

 

 

Congrats, your work here is done. Thanks for taking the time to vote…and if you didn’t but you’re still reading this, then GET BACK UP THERE AND DO YOUR DUTY!

Drop by EBJ next week for the full results of the People’s Choice Awards – and find out who won all of the other trophies in the categories of The Artists, The Songs, The Performances, The Show and The Results. Things may kick off a little sooner, so if you want to know exactly when, be sure to subscribe in the sidebar, or follow me on Twitter/Instagram.

 

Until then, stay fabulous!

 

 

 

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 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 2 (The Performances, Costumes + Results)

Eurovision 2014. My awards. Very delayed second half. No further introduction necessary.

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The Performances

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Axel Hirsoux
Basim
Carl Espen
Conchita Wurst
Sergej Četković
Teo

DISCLAIMER: The Conchita persona may be a feminine one, but the majestic voice that comes out of her is, biologically, Tom Neuwirth’s. Therefore I’m classifying Conchita’s vocal performance as a man’s. In this category, she sure showed the boys who’s boss. Soft and vulnerable when it needed to be and all-powerful at every other moment, Tom’s voice never wavered – not even during the notoriously second-rate winner’s reprise (which is excusable). I’d have to give the Money Note of the Year Award (if I’d thought of including one) to that final ‘flaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame!!!’ for sure.

 

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Cristina Scarlat
Hersi
Mei Finegold
Paula Seling
Ruth Lorenzo
Sanna Nielsen

Like you thought I was going to pick someone else. I now realise that a lot of what I said above also applies to Sanna. The woman’s got both the soft vulnerability and the lung-busting power down pat. Her vocal was clear as crystal every time I had the pleasure of hearing it (which was many, many times, all of them voluntary) not to mention effortlessly executed. Undo was engineered to show off her voice, and I commend it for a job well done.

 

u
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Norway
Spain
Sweden

Also known as ‘The Goose-Bump Arouser Award’ (for a sexier option) this goes to the performance that had a certain something special; something that connected with me emotionally and gave me the chills. Despite the little sob I had over Sweden in the first semi, I’m giving this to Norway, because Carl had me covered in goosebumps. Plus, I’m fairly sure my spine actually tingled at one point, and unless I had a spider down the back of my jumper (OH DEAR GOD) there’s only one explanation.

 

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Austria
Belgium
Hungary
Moldova
Spain

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To win this award, artists can have made Oscar-worthy facial expressions on stage (hence the title) or been backed by emotional interpretive dance, or…I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. In the battle of diva drama fought between Conchita and Ruth Lorenzo, it’s Conchita who has the edge, because she managed to ooze drama despite standing in the same spot for her entire performance. There were minimal arm flourishes and hair flicks, and yet, her three minutes were more dramatic than an entire season of Days of Our Lives (though with the acting level on that show, that doesn’t say much). You go, girlfriend. Just not to drama school, ‘cause you’re already qualified.

 

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France
Iceland
Malta
Norway
Slovenia
Switzerland

Like Conchita without her beard (sorry for mentioning her so much, but it’s gonna carry on all year) who is Tinkara without her flute? Having never seen her minus the flute (apart from in her postcard) I’m starting to wonder if she’s had it surgically attached. It added a nice (albeit mimed) touch to the performance, and the way she wielded it made her look even more like some kind of magical lady-warlock, which worked for me.

 

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Azerbaijan (the trapeze artist)
Denmark (the banner to end all banners)
Greece (the trampoline)
Montenegro (the figure skater)
Romania (the hologram effect)
Ukraine (the hamster wheel)

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You know it’s been a good year for props/gimmicks when you’re torn between a trampoline and a giant hamster wheel. In this case, I’m going for the hamster wheel. Ukraine proved once again that they are the masters of on-stage equipment by taking a pared-down version of Svetlana Loboda’s Hell Machine and pimping it out with a fine specimen of male flesh (i.e. a hot dude) to illustrate – I can only assume – the passing of time. As Greece would have, Ukraine get bonus points for having their singer interact with the prop rather than just sing in front of it.

 

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Austria
Armenia
San Marino
Ukraine

Normally, I like my wind machines turned up to maximum. I’m talking 130km/h gusts that blow even the most gelled-down hair in history into a frenzy. But this year, I found myself appreciating the subtlety of Armenia’s wind machine use. With Aram Mp3 not in possession of a flowing mane, all the breeze did was give his jacket some lift, but that had a big effect – adding more impact to the dubstep portion of Not Alone. If he’d been blown off the stage by 130km/hr gusts, it wouldn’t have been the same. Although it would have been amusing…

 
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Belarus
Denmark
Estonia
Hungary
Israel
Lithuania

Dance made up the bulk of the Estonian ingredients this year, after all. It may not have
ultimately worked in their favour, but Tanja and her man-friend had moves that deserve applause *insert a smattering here*. Apparently Tanja can sing in any position, and that knowledge was used to advantage as she ran, jumped, lunged, and got thrown around all over the place, all the while contributing more to the total vocal than Jedward did in 2011 and 2012 combined. I’m 90% admiration, 10% envy. Okay…60/40.

 

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Austria
Greece
Iceland
Montenegro
Poland
Slovenia

Say what you like re: the beard winning the contest, but you can’t deny that Austria’s entry was just as well-groomed in every other respect. As has been the norm for a while now, there was a lot of background screening to work with on the Eurovision stage, and in terms of using that to complement the rest of the elements (song, costume etc) I think Austria nailed it. Their background was gold and fiery and gave Conchita wings so she could literally (pardon the blatant misuse of ‘literally’) rise like a phoenix. If it was predictable, it’s only because we all knew what kind of visuals would suit the song.

 

z2
Armenia
Finland
Sweden

031

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This has been the mantra of many a Swedish entry in the period between Melodifestivalen and Eurovision, with the likes of Eric Saade and Loreen barely changing costume from one to the other, let alone anything else. In the not-so-curious case of Sanna Nielsen, her people hit on a lighting scheme that was simple but so effective, and almost served as a physical prop. So they didn’t sacrifice it for the big show; they just made it even more impressive. I’m now hoping to receive my very own light cage for my birthday this year. Ikea sells those, right?

 

z3
Greece
Poland
Portugal
Russia
Ukraine

It isn’t just an overload of props and/or gimmicks that sends a performance into OTT territory (which isn’t always a negative…if you can’t tie your hair to someone else’s and ride a see-saw whilst brandishing a light saber and dancing in unison in front of a giant sun at Eurovision, where can you?). Poland’s entry was choreographed and costumed to perfection, but it’s their determination to be boob-inclusive at all costs that wins them this gong. Those butter-churning, stain-removing girls had pretty much all of their charms on display despite the contest being a family show. I guess a lot of parents no longer have to give their kids the sex talk.

 

z4
Lithuania (excuse me sir, but your hands appear to be IN MY DRESS!)
Moldova (Cristina literally tears her hair out)
Romania (awkward hug…such an awkward hug)

I am a huge fan of your average costume reveal. Plaid pants are ripped off to expose sequined short shorts? Great, thanks InCulto. Three-piece suit becomes evening gown by the end of the song? Best part of Latvia ‘02. But it turns out that not-so-average costume reveals have the ability to freak me out, as demonstrated when Cristina Scarlat became so irritated with her overgrown weave, she went and yanked it right off. I applaud Moldova for trying something new, but if hair-pulling isn’t the final frontier, what is? Navel lint? Splinters? Teeth?

 

z5
Austria – 19%
Iceland – 4%
Israel – 6%
The Netherlands – 35%
Poland – 13%
Sweden – 15%
Ukraine – 8%

A lot of countries presented us with the total package this year. In fact, more did than didn’t, and disappointingly, there were zero train wrecks. But the country that impressed y’all the most by a long shot was the Netherlands, and though my vote went to Poland, I can see why. Dressed to perfection, Ilse and Waylon performed like the pros they are, using what could have been a very awkward microphone situation to their advantage. It was intimately staged and graphically effective. Let’s hope the trend continues for the Dutch in Austria.

 

The Costumes

z6
Cleo and the Slavic girls – 26%
Emma – 13%
Molly – 4%
Pollapönk – 9%
Suzy – 2%
The Common Linnets – 28%
Tinkara Kovač – 11%
Vilija – 7%

bdcl

When you think to yourself, ‘How would I dress this act?’ and can’t come up with anything better than the reality, you know costuming has been well-executed (either that or it’s so horrific, you couldn’t imagine anything worse). In this case it’s the former, and I applaud your choice of Best Dressed for 2014. Waylon would have had a hard time going wrong, so it really came down to Ilse – and fortunately, she appeared on stage looking like a country Americana angel. From the retro bouffant hairdo to the tips of her stilettoed pumps, she was glorious.

 

z7
Kasey Smith
The Shin & Mariko
Tijana Dapčević

wdtd

What happens when you combine button-up track pants and a tuxedo? A fashion faux pas, that’s what. Throw in some wack blue shoes that match your stunning but completely out-of-place chandelier earrings, and you’ve got one steaming hot mess. Oh Tijana. Suitability for the entry aside, she looked lovely from the neck up. From the neck down, though, it was 100% WTF. And now you know exactly where my Barbara Dex vote went this year.

 

z8
Andras Kállay-Saunders
Firelight

I know, I know – not every song calls for a backless, crystal-encrusted leotard with a feathered mullet skirt and matching platform boots (particularly not Running). But as I’m convinced that Richard Edwards wore the same outfit to Malta’s rehearsals as he did for the live shows, Firelight nabs this one.

 
z9
Emma
Kasey Smith
The Slavic girls
Twin Twin

033

Between them, these nominees had just about every body part on display (and if you’re wondering about Twin Twin, I have two words for you…DEM SHORTS). But I’d be crazy if I didn’t recognise Poland as the sauciest by far. Although, it wasn’t so much the Slavic girls’ costumes that were x-rated as the lack thereof.

 

z91

Cristina Scarlat
Kasey Smith

Because your average maxi dress is much easier on the eye than a part flouncy, part asphyxiating mix of…whatever that gold thing was a mix of. Also going against this creation was the fact that Kasey could hardly move in it, which made her look very uncomfortable on stage.

 

z92
Cleo
Lorent (Twin Twin)
Ruth Lorenzo
The Tolmachevy Sisters
Vilija

034

It may be forehead-pulsingly tight, but Cleo’s high braid feat. festive materials is one hairstyle from this contest that I’m desperate to copy. Unfortunately, I’m lacking the length of hair necessary to pull it off, so I hope it’s still a relevant look in, say, twelve months. #whocares, #gonnadoitanyway.

 

The Results

z93
Estonia
Israel
Lithuania
Portugal

I really, truly thought Estonia had the final in the bag. The upside to the choreography’s failure to see them through is that I can now insist to anyone who’ll listen (and even those who won’t) that Sandra should have walked Eesti Laul and would have been dangerous in the final she would have made for sure, blah blah blah. Nonetheless, I remain flabbergasted that one of my certainties back at prediction time turned out to be a DNQ.

 

z94
Montenegro
Poland
San Marino
Switzerland

Third time lucky is a legitimate thing, and Valentina Monetta knows that now. Let’s just hope she didn’t get one taste of glory and wants more next year (there has to be SOMEONE else from San Marino who can sing). ValMon’s qualification got her this trophy because it was the only one that literally made my jaw drop. I didn’t shut my mouth for hours, and was planning on suing the EBU for extreme dehydration.

 

z95
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Greece
Romania
Sweden
Ukraine

As we would later discover, this wasn’t Greece’s most successful year (STILL not over it) but even in an off year, they flew into the final with the greatest of ease. They are part of the exclusive 100% Club, which consists of those countries that have never failed to advance from a semi, so it’s always a safe bet when you put cash on them to go through. That’s not to say it’s impossible for them to DNQ, but the day that happened would be a shocking one (and a good one for all the pigs sprouting wings).

 

z96
Albania
Belgium
Georgia
Latvia

As admirably authentic as it was (and bonkers) there was never any hope for Three Minutes To Earth as far as I’m concerned. There was a possibility it wouldn’t come last in its semi, but even that was slim. Still, The Shin and Mariko gave a great performance, so if you’re reading this, guys…don’t hurt me.

 

z97
Armenia
Spain
Switzerland
United Kingdom

In terms of entry quality and results, Armenia (thankfully) made us forget all about Malmö’s double denim incident courtesy of Dorians. 4th may not have been the win they were hoping for, but I think Sirusho would agree that it beats the heck out of 18th.

 

z977
Austria
Finland
Hungary
The Netherlands
Sweden
Ukraine

Hungary is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with, and their national final A Dal one of the strongest I’ve ever followed. I have this sneaking suspicion we could be heading to Budapest within the next few years. Running’s somewhat unexpected top 5 placing built on this. I think we were all skeptical of the entry’s ability to push past the subject matter and be judged as a ‘package’ – the package being a well-performed, contemporary song that wasn’t nonsensical fluff, lyrically speaking. Fortunately, it was, and that makes me go WOOHOO HUNGARY YOU GO GIRLFRIEND. Et cetera.

 

z978
Azerbaijan
France
Greece
Poland

Like I said…soooooo not moving on from this travesty. It’s been two months and I still cry myself to sleep, sobbing ‘ri…ii..iiise upp!’. Just kidding. I don’t say that. I only weep. Even Kalomira clone Eleftheria (the only other recent Greek act to not hit the heights of the top 10) did better than Freaky Fortune. I realise this was an open year, and points were going all over the place, but IMO Greece should have been at least where Romania ended up. I guess holograms > trampolines.

 

z979
Austria
Belarus
Germany
Georgia
Sweden
Ukraine

There came a point – a sad, sad point – where I knew Sanna wasn’t quite going to go all the way, despite her victory in the OGAE vote. But after her amazeballs performance in semi one, I was convinced that the haters would be left with many unfortunate emotions to undo when she easily made the top 5. The bronze medal represents a great performance by a great act that was just missing that something extra that would have made it a winner.

 

z980
Azerbaijan – 19%
Estonia – 17%
France – 9%
Greece – 17%
Russia – 15%
United Kingdom – 23%

The last award of the 2014 EBJEEs (I hear your collective sigh of relief) is also a People’s Choice Award. You voted, and it turns out that Molly’s lack of success shocked you more than anybody else’s (or in Russia’s case, shocked you more than the twins getting that high). You’d think we would have learnt to never overestimate the UK after 2011 (though I still maintain Blue were robbed in part) but nope – here we all were again, gushing about a UK entry that wasn’t crap and/or sung by someone who lived in world sans Eurovision. All dreams of Manchester 2015 were dashed when the points just trickled in, in contrast to the flooding they were doing for Austria and the Netherlands.

 
At long last, I’m done! Hallelujah. Hard rock hallelujah. Thank the Lordi! And other ESC-related puns. My trophy table is now empty, and it’s time to move on to random filler until Junior Eurovision – now with 100% more Greece and Cyprus – comes along. I will be keeping an eye on the Austrian developments over the coming months, i.e. claiming I knew that INSERT CITY NAME HERE would get the hosting honours, so I hope you’ll join me. I promise I’ll be entertaining.

In the meantime…Part 2 of the awards: discuss.

 
What do you think of my picks and your picks of the performances, costumes and results from Copenhagen?

 

(An extremely overdue) Spotlight on…Slovenia

Once upon a time, there was a girl from Australia who had a blog devoted to the amazeballs Eurovision Song Contest, and she loved to post hilarious articles there on a very regular basis. Then, one January – a month usually peppered with selections for ESC entries – she found herself faced with four weeks of emptiness, with barely a national final to be seen anywhere. But, rather than leaving her blog as empty as this January, she made a vow to herself that she would fill it with many more hilarious yet random posts to entertain all one of her readers, up until February when NF madness was scheduled to resume.

Yeah…that didn’t work out too well, did it?

I know this because the aforementioned Australian girl is me (I bet you didn’t see that coming) and I’ve had such a chaotic start to 2014 that I haven’t graced this blog with my presence for more than two weeks. That’s like, six months by my standards. For that, I apologise to a totes cray extent, and to anyone who does not follow me on Twitter (where I have actually made an appearance over the last fortnight) and thought I was dead, I’m also very sorry. I’ll send the sympathy cards and floral wreaths back ASAP.

I want y’all to know that I am back with a vengeance and pumped to cover the upcoming craziness of February, beginning with the finals of Finland and Switzerland and the first semi of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen (!!!) all happening this coming Saturday. So I hope you’ll join me for the season, and if you’re doing something similar, let me know so I can join you back. It’s all about #JoinUs this year, remember?

Now that the crappy excuses and apologies are out of the way, allow me to introduce my penultimate non-NF-themed post.

Recently, Slovenia became the final country to confirm that they’ll be in Copenhagen, taking the total of competitors up (or should I say down?) to 37. It’s been a year of casualties, with not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR countries withdrawing – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Serbia. On the plus side, we are welcoming two countries back into the family, with Poland and Portugal returning after brief breaks. But it’s Slovenia I want to focus on today, for without them, we’d be sitting un-pretty at 36 – which sounds a lot less impressive than 37.

So to thank Slovenia for obeying the command to #JoinUs, I’m devoting a whole post (minus this super-long intro) to their time in the ESC. Since 1993, they’ve had more than their share of musical misfortune, but there have been some diamonds amongst the rough. Here are the Slovenian stats, and my picks of their bunch.

 

SLOVENIA: THE STATS

hbslovenia

Debut 1993 – 22nd place with Tih Dezeven Dan by 1X Band

Entries 19

Wins 0

Silver medals 0

Bronze medals 0

Best result 7th – 1995, 2001

Top 10 finishes 3

Top 10 success rate 17%  

Top 5 finishes 0

Top 5 success rate 0%  

Wooden spoons (last places!) 1 – 2013 (semi final)

Semi final qualifications 2/10

Qualification success rate 20%

 

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Cvet Z Juga by Alenka Gotar (2007). Before Krassimir Avramov and Cezar, there was Alenka (and before Alenka, there was Sertab Erener opening the 2004 final, but let’s not get into that now). Alenka lent her operatic vocal to a mystical, dramatic and eventually thumping ethno-dance number that had me at hello – or at least, the first word of Slovene. Even if the wind-machine heavy, palm-lit performance is discounted, I love this entry, and I guess I’m not alone – it’s one of only two Slovenian songs to qualify since the introduction of the semi system.

Two very honourable mentions must go to:

  • Stop by Omar Naber (2005), a beautiful builder of a ballad marred by an overly-casual outfit choice, and;
  • Vrag Naj Vzame by Rebeka Dremelj (2008), an infectious Europop track marred by staging resembling BDSM vampire porn.

 

My least favourite entry

Narodnozabavni Rock by Ansambel Žlindra & Kalamari (2010). ‘Narodnozabavni’ is a fun word to say, but that’s about the only plus to this unfortunate hybrid of folk and rock. I can’t help thinking a straight folk song would have been infinitely better, because not only did the two genres not mesh pleasantly in this instance, but the rock dated the whole thing by about thirty years.

 

More of the memorable

For A Thousand Years by Darja Svajger (1999) – known for that line, which in Darja’s accented English sounded like “I trample in your arse”. I really hope she doesn’t.

Samo Ljubezen by Sestre (2002) – the song was fine. Quite catchy, but not that notable. It was the three men in glittering flight attendant outfits singing it that made things interesting.

Sestre pulled off red lipstick better than I ever could.

Sestre pulled off red lipstick better than I ever could.

Stay Forever by Platin (2004) – depending on how you feel about PDAs on the Eurovision stage, this was either sweet or gross. Personally, I like this song, and the smooch was an understandable warm-up for the wedding these two apparently had a few days later.  

No One by Maja Keuc (2011) – with this killer song, that killer voice and those killer boots, I wouldn’t want to cross Maja.

Verjamem by Eva Boto (2012) – many fans labeled this Molitva 2.0, but I think it captures the best aspects of 2007’s winner. A.k.a. the mystique, atmosphere and snazzy costumes.

“Moooolitvaaa...ah, I mean...verjameeem.”

“Moooolitvaaa…ah, I mean…verjameeem.”

 

Their best stage show

Straight Into Love by Hannah (2013). I think Slovenia stepped up the staging with this one. It was slick, contemporary, and in no way did those metal masks remind me of Vrag Naj Vzame. As a former taker of dance lessons, I always pass judgment on choreography, and the dance moves that Hannah’s man posse busted were top-notch. A nod of approval also goes to the lighting guy/gal, who lit this to perfection. All in all: #NAILEDIT.

 

Their best costume/s

Maja Keuc. The girl was walking fierceness in her metal-plated, chain-covered minidress, accompanied by leather accents, including those infamous boots. I don’t know how she managed to walk or sit down, let alone strut around the Düsseldorf stage the way she did, but I do know she would have been well prepared for a sexy battle with all of that body armour on.

No fridge magnet was safe with Maja on the scene.

No fridge magnet was safe with Maja on the scene.

  

Their best vocalist/s

Darja Svajger/Alenka Gotar/Maja Keuc. Slovenia almost rivals Ukraine as the sender of powerhouse female vocalist (if not in a string of successful results). Despite her accent issues, two-timer Darja delivered one heck of a ballad, with the humbler notes and epic screamers coming equally as easy to her. Alenka took things to a new level – as in a key so high it had never been heard by the human ear before – and somehow made it pleasurable. And Maja proved herself the Slovenian teenage version of Christina Aguilera with her pitch-perfect performance of the tricky (as it is when I attempt to sing it in the shower) No One. They’re all pretty different voices, so I can’t pick between them, but sharing #1 shouldn’t be a problem for a country that’s never made the top 5 IRL.

 

So that’s Slovenia, 1993-2013, as I see them. Well, me and the official numbers. I wonder what they’ll serve up for Copenhagen? Being the last country to say oui may give you the impression that it was an “oh, alright, I suppose we’ll be there” kind of decision, rather than a well thought-out one. But the fact that they’re going ahead with the old faithful NF EMA says otherwise. Perhaps they just wanted to keep us all in suspense so we’d realise how much we’d miss them if they withdrew…though apparently, the real reason was stalling so they could look under their collective couches and scrimp together the loose change needed to fund participation.

All that really matters in the end is that magic number – 37. It may not indicate that the ESC is getting bigger every year, but it is at least a solid number that’s giving us two substantial semi-finals. Don’t be depressed about it. Make like Ping Pong, and *sings tunelessly* “ooooohh ohhhhh, be HAPPY!”.

 

Let’s talk Slovenia. Whether it’s highlights, lowlights, or expectations for 2014, I want to hear them!

 

NEXT TIME: In my last post before the madness of February begins, I’m traveling back in time to rank the Class of Riga ’03…and just to warn you, Jemini are NOT getting zero points from me.

 

Spotlight on (and welcome back!)…Poland

Eurovision 2014 is still months away, but there’s already been casualties, and some major ones at that. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, and (worst of all, if I may pick one) Serbia (NOOOOOOOOO!) have all said non to Copenhagen, and it sucks. But with a lack of cash being a popular reason for withdrawal, no amount of EBU bribery (unless, of course, the bribe is of the monetary variety) is going to get them back. So instead of dwelling on who won’t be buying airfares to Denmark, let’s focus on who will.

Back in the competition next year we have Bosnia & Herzegovina (which eases the pain of Serbia’s exit a little bit), Portugal, and Poland. Whilst it’s only been a year’s break for B & H and Portugal, Poland hasn’t shown up since failing to qualify for the third time in a row in 2011. Evidently, they’re ready to give it another try (and I don’t mean not qualifying), and I for one am super glad to have them back. To celebrate what will hopefully be a worthwhile return on the twentieth anniversary of their debut, I’m casting a spotlight on their ESC history right here, right now. Refresh your memory or get to know Poland as they were, 1994-2011.

 

poland

POLAND: THE STATS

Debut 1994 – 2nd place with To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak

Entries 16

Wins 0

Silver medals 1 – 1994

Bronze medals 0

Best result 2nd – 1994

Top 10 finishes 2/16

Top 10 success rate 12.5%

Top 5 finishes 1/16

Top 5 success rate 6%

Wooden spoons (last places!) 1 – 2011 semi final

Semi final qualifications 1/7

Qualification success rate 14%

 

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Keine Grenzen, Zadnych Granic by Ich Troje (2003). Not only is this my favourite from Poland, it’s also one of my favourite Eurovision songs of all time (let’s just say that when Poland are good, they’re really, really good). Who would have thought that a message song largely carried by a guy who, in his own words, can’t really sing – and in my own words, sounds like he lives on a diet of gravel – would be so beautiful? I think it works because it isn’t a cheesy kind of message song, á la What If and a million others from ESC history. If you check out the translation you’ll see it’s not sickeningly sweet, and is actually very pertinent to the contest created to unite Europe. Plus, it has a stunning melody and structure, and builds into something worth waiting two-and-a-half minutes for.

 

My least favourite entry

Time To Party by the Jet Set (2007). Most of the Polish entries I don’t like are boring, not bad. But this terrible piece of trash (if you know what I mean…I’m being incredibly subtle here) I file away in the ‘Why, God, Why?’ category, alongside such gems as Switzerland 2004. Okay, so the chorus could be less catchy, but lyrically and just generally – yeuch! If you’re not convinced, allow me to present you with a few lyrical samples:

“Every little moment is so special for me. I’m a little bit crazy, crazy, like a baby, uh.” BRB, off to puke.

“Hey guys, you really know what I like, just like that…you know that I’m really hot.” Modesty is always appreciated. Unfortunately, the Jet Set has none.

If you still think Time To Party has some redeeming features, then I respect your right to have your own opinions, but at the same time, I’m afraid there is NO HOPE FOR YOU.

 

More of the memorable

To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak (1994) – A close second-favourite of mine, this spectacularly-sung ballad gave Poland an epic debut result. In my mind, it should have beaten Ireland, but since there was an (inexplicable) sixty point winning margin, I can’t really justify that.

Ale Jestem by Anna Maria Jopek (1997) – This didn’t make much of a splash on the scoreboard, but I reckon it’s an interesting, pleasantly folksy number that’s definitely memorable in comparison to some of Poland’s other entries.

Follow My Heart by Ich Troje (2006) – They didn’t qualify on attempt #2 (it still hurts…) but Ich Troje rocked my socks yet again in Athens. I really dug those elaborate outfits, too.

For Life by Isis Gee (2008) – I really like this, based on everything except Isis’ oompa-loompa spray tan (if that was her natural colour I apologise, but I find it hard to believe anyone could have come into the world so orange).

Legenda by Marcin Mrozinski (2010) – Memorable mainly because Marcin had one of his backup dancers in a headlock at one point. That’s what you get when you try to overshadow the main artist, I guess.

Jestem by Magdalena Tul (2011) – A prime example of a great entry ruined by chaotic staging, inappropriate lighting and unsuitable costumes. The visuals should have been slick, sexy, and heavy on black leather and studs. Still, Mags wasn’t the only one to be let down by staging in Düsseldorf, was she…coughBluecough.  

 

Their best stage show

For Life. Poland brought out the dry ice and string instruments (which were played by people who hopefully didn’t choke on said dry ice) for this soaring ballad, which was performed to perfection by Isis in her striking blue gown with matching, lusted-after-by-Jaz bracelet. The aspect I really liked about this performance was Isis’ move down the catwalk to the mike stand, just in time for the first of several money notes. I don’t think catwalks are used often enough in the ESC when they’re available, so I applaud anybody who does elect to use them – especially when that person is wearing massive high heels.

 

Their best costume/s

Ich Troje. Like I said, these babies were elaborate, and like something out of a period drama (I think they also served as inspiration for Eric Saade’s Masquerade video). Maybe they distracted a little from the song, which is always a danger when you give your seamstress free reign over the fabric bolts AND bedazzler, but you can’t say they weren’t eye-catching, particularly with Michał’s festive green hair setting things off.

You know your costume's a big deal when you have to hang on to someone else in case you fall over.

You know your costume’s a big deal when you have to hang on to someone else in case you fall over.

 

Their best vocalist/s

Edyta Górniak. Who cared that she had forgotten to change out of her nightgown when she was attacking the song like that? Only someone who lives to rally against sleepwear on the ESC stage, that’s who. Edyta’s vocal was full of light and shade, i.e. soft ByeAlex moments and epic Pastora Soler moments (only she pre-dated both of those guys) and she nailed all of them without breaking a sweat. Sometimes it’s the singer that makes a song great, and in this case, top-notch vocals certainly made To Nie Ja! what it was/is. I can’t imagine it having the same impact with a lesser vocalist in charge.

 

Just because they’re not a hotshot kind of country when it comes to Eurovision, don’t assume Poland won’t be in it to win it next year. You never know when a country will surprise you with a cracking song – and if they do happen to send one, they may even not screw it up with crappy staging!

While we’re waiting for Poland (and everyone else) to choose their song, here’s something to think about…

 

Are you happy to have Poland back in the contest? What have been your highlights and lowlights from their past participations?

 

Counting down to JESC: Limassol 2008

There are just days until Junior Eurovision 2012 (something that could’ve been said this time last year, but the amount of days would have had more digits) and boy, have I got a lot of stuff to cram in to such a short period! There’s playlists to be made, reviews to be finished (I should probably start them first), doppelgangers to track down…yikes. Time-wasting is not an option, so let’s get on with the JESC countdowns. Today I’m rewinding four years to when Cyprus hosted its first contest of any sort.

This was Limassol! 

 

 

The stats

Edition: 6th

When: 22nd November, 2008

Where: Spyros Kyprianou Athletic Centre, Limassol, Cyprus

Motto: ‘Fun in the sun’

Hosts: Alex Michael & Sophia Paraskeva

Broadcaster: CyBC

Entries: 15

Debutants: 0

Returnees: 0

Withdrawals: 2 – Portugal, Sweden  

Interval acts: Dima Bilan, Evrdiki, and all the participants performing Hand In Hand

First place: Georgia

Last place: Bulgaria

Most douze points: 8 – Georgia

  

The entries

Romania/ Salvaţi Planeta by Madalina & Andrada

Armenia/ Im Ergi Hnchyune by Monica

Belarus/ Sertse Belarusi by Dasha, Alina & Karyna

Russia/ Spit Angel by Mihail Puntov

Greece/ Kapoia Nychta by Niki Yiannouchu

Georgia/ Bzz… by Bzikebi

Belgium/ Shut Up by Oliver

Bulgaria/ Edna Mechta by Krastyana Krasteva

Serbia/ Uvek Kad U Nebo Pogledam by Maja Mazić

Malta/ Junior Swing by Daniel Testa

Netherlands/ 1 Dag by Marissa

Ukraine/ Matrosy by Victoria Petryk

Lithuania/ Laiminga Diena by Eglė Jurgaitytė

Macedonia/ Prati Mi SMS by Bobi Andonov

Cyprus/ Gioupi Gia by Elena & Charis

 

The scoreboard

  1. Georgia – 154

  

  1. Ukraine – 135
  2. Lithuania – 103
  3. Malta – 100
  4. Macedonia – 93
  5. Belarus – 86
  6. Russia – 73
  7. Armenia – 59
  8. Romania – 58
  9. Cyprus – 46
  10. Belgium – 45
  11. Serbia – 37
  12. Netherlands – 27
  13. Greece – 19
  14. Bulgaria – 15

 

My top 5…

…songs

Macedonia – maybe I’m biased because Bobi is Australian. Then again, maybe this song is just awesome. I thought Macedonia had the contest sealed up, in the bag and then handed to them on a silver platter with Prati Mi SMS…but top 5 is nothing to complain about (unless you’re Danny Saucedo).

Malta – this is my favourite Maltese JESC entry, and possibly my favourite of all the songs they’ve sent to any Eurovision-related event. It’s so much fun that Daniel never needs to tell me more than once to come and join his junior swing!

Belgium – another year, another ballad from Belgium that, at least in my eyes, should have scored better than it did. I guess songs like this are too boring for a lot of people to pick up the phone for, but I dig them.

Greece – it’s not exactly happy and bouncy, but it’s catchy and it makes me want to salsa (which is odd considering it’s a Greek entry). I think it was underrated, but let down a bit by Niki’s performance.

Ukraine – irresistible dancey fun! Why is it that songs about sailors and whatnot are always/usually so good? Then again, I think Ukraine could send a song about ingrown toenails to JESC or ESC and it would sound amazing.

…voices

Macedonia – here’s someone who improved with age. He was great in ’08, and if you Youtube his Australia’s Got Talent performances, you’ll hear him sounding even better.

Bulgaria – you can’t blame a #vocalfail for Krastyana coming last.

Malta – if he’s still got it, I’d expect to see him vying to represent Malta in the ESC someday soon.

Netherlands – one of the older contestants, Marissa managed to keep up with the up-and-comers.

Georgia – I don’t think much of this “song”, but I reckon the trio harmonise well, and do the tricky things required with ease.

…costumes

Serbia – yellow is my favourite colour (fun fact!) so it’s not surprising that I loved Maja’s outfit. I wanted a jacket just like hers back then. If I’m honest, I still do.

Malta – how dapper was Daniel in his tie and braces? I’m also a big fan of a spotty dress, as worn by his stage partner and by Belgium’s Femke last year.

Georgia – their group name was Bzikebi, and their song was called Bzz…. What were they going to dress as, unicorns? But these costumes were as cute as they were predictable.

Ukraine – again, Diana Gurtskaya could’ve seen this one coming (*offensive joke alert*) but that doesn’t stop it from being adorable.

Lithuania – I don’t get the fuss with this song, but Eglė looked so sweet with her pigtails and Peter Pan collar and long socks.

Clockwise, from bottom left: Maja, Daniel, Bzibeki, Victoria, and Egle.

 

My bottom 5… 

…songs

Armenia – I don’t know why, but I find this so annoying. It’s not catchy, it’s hard to sing along to, her voice is weird…okay, maybe that’s why.

Georgia – does this even belong in this category? Does a few minutes’ worth of buzzing really constitute a song? If it does, there are a lot of people making music every time they use their electric toothbrushes.

Lithuania – as I said, I don’t get why people love this so much. It’s okay, but the ‘wa-oh, wa-oh-oh’ bits irritate me so much.

Cyprus – I don’t mind this, but I had to pick something! I will say that I have to be in the right mood to listen to it, or it just seems like noise.

…voices

Armenia – I’m not saying Monica can’t sing. I’m just not a fan of her voice. I feel like she’s trying too hard to get the notes out sometimes. I can say that with absolute authority because I am a singing expert *insert laughter here*

Greece – from someone who tried too hard to someone who was a bit lacklustre: I got the impression Niki didn’t want to be on stage (nerves?) and it showed in her voice.  

…costumes

Bulgaria – there’s no sartorial pairing quite like stripes + gaudy and distracting plastic glasses + PVC aprons with pants underneath, is there? I really like this song, but those outfits were bad. Perhaps they were the reason Bulgaria came last.

Krastyana and her shiny, stripey kohorts

 

Did you love or hate Limassol? Let me know below ↓ 

 

PS – What do you think of the special JESC Month header? Not bad for someone without Photoshop, right? Right???