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EUROVISION BY JAZ X EUROVISION UNION | Reacting to another blogger’s top 10 Melodifestivalen entries from the last 10 years

Fun fact: It’s been a hot minute (as in about three years) since I collaborated with anybody via this here blog. So when my talented and equally ESC-centric amigo Anita from Eurovision Union floated the idea of a pre-Melodifestivalen fling between our sites, I was like:

What we decided to do, just before the 2019 competition kicks off this Saturday (!!!) is each make a list of our top 10 favourite Melfest tracks from the last ten years (that length of time was hard enough…having any more songs to choose from would be torture). Then we’d swap our rankings and judge each other’s awful and/or excellent tastes when it comes to Europe’s biggest and best NF. So that’s what we’re doing today, basically!

Here’s Anita’s judgment of MY top 10 Melfest entries, 2009-2018. Check out her site if you haven’t already, because it is a Eurovision news-and-review lover’s fantasy land. And then keep reading mine to see what I think of her top 10 songs.

PS – By the way, we decided to consider songs that won Melfest as Eurovision entries, so we haven’t included any on either of our lists. If we’d forced ourselves to consider Loreen, Måns, Sanna etc, there wouldn’t have been room for anyone else.

 

 

#1 | Good Lovin’, Benjamin Ingrosso (2017)

There are two things you need to know about me in case you didn’t already: firstly, I’m a big Benjamin Ingrosso fangirl; and secondly, I was there in Friends Arena two years ago when he performed this song live at the Melfest final (something I drop into conversations as often as possible). I’m telling you this stuff so you’re prepared for the doubly-special place Good Lovin’ has in my heart. Should it have been his winning entry instead of Dance You Off? Definitely not. Were the giant baked-potato-in-foil props a good idea? Not so much. But those things aside, this is just one song in an endless string of slick, catchy and super-streamable Scandipop produced by Benjamin. It was a great Melfest debut for him and I listen to it on a far too regular basis. Nope, can’t fault your taste on this one, Anita.

 

#2 | Hold On, Nano (2017)

I may as well lay my cards on the table immediately: when I was sitting there in Friends Arena back in 2017 (told you I liked to mention that at every opportunity), it was Nano I wanted to win. Looking at it now, I’m glad Robin Bengtsson got his turn – but in a parallel universe, Hold On made for an awesome Eurovision entry and didn’t need treadmills to do it. One of my favourite things about Nano, this song and his performance of it was that none of it screamed typical Melfest. It was polished but had rough edges, was presented with more shadow than light, and wasn’t fronted by a buff, precision-choreographed teenage male soloist with perfect teeth and a head packed with hair product. Nano gave us something that felt true and stood out for that reason. Overall, his entry was like Rag ‘n’ Bone Man meets Rudimental, and I was totally there for it.

 

#3 | My Heart Is Refusing Me, Loreen (2011)

The original but not the best – that’s how I’d describe Loreen’s Melfest debut. That’s only because what came after it was Euphoria, and no mere mortal could ever hope to top that (or have something they’d done prior be considered better). MHIRM had substance and style, and it’s aged well enough that it could probably compete in 2019 and nobody would say it was dated. I’ve always liked the slow-burn structure of the song – how it builds into a dance track with a dark-disco feel gradually over three minutes, never making me feel like waiting for the climax to come is boring. Melfest 2011 is actually the first edition of the NF I watched as a fan who actually knew what ‘NU KÖR VI!’ meant, and I remember this song being my top pick at the time…and being devastated when it failed to get out of Andra Chansen. In all honesty, I think it’s a better song than eventual winner Popular, but it probably wouldn’t have the hit the heights of 3rd place at Eurovision.

 

#4 | Youniverse, Molly Sanden (2016)

Okay, so it wasn’t third time lucky for Molly at Melfest…and we haven’t seen her there since (she’s been too busy releasing epic non-competition music, most of which can be found on her latest album Större). But Youniverse was a solid effort, once you get past the wordplay of the title which messed with my mind at first. The writer and former English major in me loves the imagery and perfectly-rhymed lyrics – I mean, ‘We’re stars wrapped up in skin, the light comes from within’ is practically poetry. And the part of me that appreciates atypical pop songs (as opposed to cookie cutter, ultra-predictable pop songs) applauds the electronic dance-pop of the verses that alternates with the power ballad-esque choruses. There was something missing from the overall Youniverse package that prevented it from stopping Frans – and a few other acts – in his tracks, and it’s not my favourite Melfest entry of Molly’s (that “honour” goes to 2012’s Why Am I Crying?). But it’s sophisticated, unique and as I said, solid.

  

#5 | Put Your Love On Me, Boris René (2016)

Realistically, I could sum up how I feel about this number in one word, and that word would be YAAASSSSS!!! But you guys know my motto is ‘Why use one word when you could use 1500?’. So here goes. Who would have expected an ex-soccer player to contribute more to the Melfest lineup than some fancy footwork? Boris René delivered that by the truckload, but he also had a) above average vocal abilities, b) tons of charisma, and c) a heart that was IN A LITTER BOX. I don’t care if it’s supposed to be ‘little box’, I hear litter every time. Regardless, this entry is 100% pure joy and makes me so happy whenever I hear it (which is at least once a day, voluntarily). I’m glad Boris used the same formula for his follow-up Her Kiss, which is equally as effective as a musical happy pill. Either song popping up on a top 10 list is just plain old-fashioned good taste. 

 

#6 | To The End, YOHIO (2014)

I bet you thought as this point that I was going to be annoyingly complimentary about all of Anita’s Melodifestivalen favourites. Well, it took a while, but we’ve arrived at one that I don’t dislike exactly…but I definitely don’t think of it as a personal best of mine either. To The End was YOHIO’s attempt to go one better than he did in 2013, when he lost out to Andra Chansen’s very own You by Robin Stjernberg (now there’s a song I love). To me he pulled an Ulrik Munther and tried too hard to succeed, ending up with an entry that didn’t quite recapture the magic of the first. Of course, this is my opinion – and I’m not saying that 2013’s Heartbreak Hotel was the greatest song on the planet – but I much preferred his debut to what came the year after. The show’s results reflected that, with To The End finishing 6th. Though having said that, 2014 was a way, WAY stronger Melfest year than 2013.

 

#7 | Bröder, Linus Svenning (2014)

Here’s a song that’s more emotionally-charged than most found at Melfest, and I was feeling all of the feels from Linus when he competed with it. The style of the song is great, building on a piano ballad beginning to end as more of a rock/power ballad. And Linus sells it so well, with more vulnerability than you might expect to vibe off someone with so many body modifications. As a package, this reminds me of LIAMOO’s Last Breath in its simplicity and authentic, true-to-the-artist nature. Unfortunately, when Linus came back in 2015, a lot of his authenticity was lost in Forever Starts Today, which tried so hard to be a step up that it backfired. But I digress. I’m supposed to be talking about Bröder, and that gets a big thumbs up from me even if I’m not as obsessed with it now as I was back then.

 

#8 | Blame It On The Disco, Alcazar (2014)

This is a classic case of knowing your lane and staying in it. Basically, Blame It On The Disco is Alcazar doing what Alcazar have always done and do best, and do I have any complaints about that? Um, no. My personal favourite from their competition back catalogue is Stay The Night (2009), but this is a close second…and to my surprise, it nearly finished second in Melfest. It does have everything one could possibly want from a Swedish schlager song and performance – including sequins, choreography, a key change, pyro, plenty of (machine-made) wind…and of course, the trio entering the stage from within a giant mirror ball. And, if you can manage to look past all of that, the song itself is a pretty good slice of its genre – with a singalong chorus that’s harder to escape than the hedge maze in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A-ARE WE GONNA PARTY TONIGHT? Well, I couldn’t possibly say no, Alcazar.

  

#9 | Begging, Anton Ewald (2013)

It pains me to say that I knocked this off my own top 10 list (as reviewed by Anita…hit up the link at the start or end of this post to see it) at the last second. Why I love it so much and what makes it special is that Anton served us a 1950s Hollywood look and dance moves to match, all the while delivering a song that was contrastingly cutting edge. It was an interesting combo at least and an iconic one at most. I don’t want to admit that Anton himself, whose vocals are average but who has the face of a ridiculously attractive angel, at all influences my longstanding appreciation of this track, but I will admit it because I’m only human. His follow-up Natural had the same effect, though I genuinely think both are great dance songs that most other national finals would kill to have on their programs. Begging lived up to its title and actually did have me begging for more. 

 

#10 | Busy Doin’ Nothin’, Ace Wilder (2014)               

Am I allowed to say ‘the original but not the best’ again? We all have our preferred song from the Ace Wilder Melfest trilogy, and I’m afraid to confess (literally, in case somebody flies into a rage and tries to attack me) that this one isn’t mine (Wild Child is my favourite, if you must know). Busy Doin’ Nothin’ is a cracker though, and if it hadn’t been for Queen Sanna and the incredible Undo, I would happily have sat back and let Sweden send it to Eurovision. There’s something endearing about a thirty-something woman styled like and armed with all the angst of a hormonal teenager shouting repeatedly that she doesn’t want to adult – which we can all identify with. I know that sounds sarcastic, but I’m serious. When a song is this catchy and current, it can contain both yelling and attitude without either being a dealbreaker.

 

 

And that, my friends, is that. I hope you enjoyed my reaction to somebody else’s NF faves, and aren’t too disappointed that there was nothing I could honestly trash. I guess birds of a feather really do flock together, because the girls behind Eurovision Union and Eurovision By Jaz both have great musical taste. In fact, if you check out Anita’s judgment of my top 10, you’ll notice we have a few songs in common. SPOOKY.

One last reminder: see my song picks on Eurovision Union here!

 

 

What do YOU think of Anita’s Melfest top 10? Who would make it into your 2009-2018 best-of list? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

A very Scandinavian Super Saturday (feat. the results of your Melfest votes)

Hey, people who read my blog! Tonight is a great big fat night on the NF calendar, with impending host country Denmark and last year’s hosts Sweden going head-to-head with their respective finals. There’s also the Slovenian final to look out for, plus semis in Norway and Portugal and an alleged revelation from Russia…and that’s not all. Yikes, right? Unlike likely Melodifestivalen winner Ace Wilder (spoiler alert!) I suspect none of us will be busy doin’ nothin’ this evening. In fact, we’ll be busy doin’ a heck of a lot. Here’s a more in-depth look at what you’ll be dividing your time between.

 

PS – Read on to the Melfest section to see the results of last week’s poll, and whether they’ve influenced my prediction at all.

PPS – Getting to that section may take while. Seriously – this is a long post. Go grab yourself a cup of tea, or better yet, an energy drink, and get reading.

 

Norway: the semis continue!

I have a confession to make: I didn’t have the time to follow Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix this year.

Having followed it the last few years and enjoyed myself immensely, I had every intention of doing the same thing in 2014. Unfortunately, life (and a bunch of other NFs) got in the way, and last night I realised it wasn’t going to happen, what with the first semi final taking place pretty much as I was accepting that. Oops.

But the show must, and did, go on without me. Three songs out of five are through to next Saturday’s final – Heal by Mo (which I have previewed and quite enjoyed), Needs by Dina Misund, and High Hopes by Linnea Dale. Tonight, another five songs will compete for another three places. They are:

  1. Hele Verden by Cir.Cuz
  2. Right Now by Martine Marbel
  3. Sing by Oda & Wulff
  4. Taste of You by Knut Kippersund Nesdal
  5. Hit Me Up by Charlie

I can’t offer any educated insights here, but I can offer uneducated ones. Based purely on title/name appeal, I like the look of Hele Verden, Right Now and Hit Me Up. It’s a given that at least one of those will qualify to the final, but that won’t stop me from gloating when that happens, just to warn you.

Tomorrow night, it’s the same deal with lucky last semi three, featuring:

  1. Bensin by Moi
  2. Ain’t No Love In This City No More by El Cuero
  3. Who Needs The Universe by Ilebek
  4. Sole Survivor by Elisabeth Carew
  5. Silent Storm by Carl Espen

I’m interested to (eventually) hear Bensin, Who Needs The Universe and Sole Survivor in this group. I’m also interested to hear whether anyone has the potential to reach or top the standard of Margaret Berger – i.e., is Norway keen to keep the ESC in Scandinavia for another year, or are they just not that bothered?  

 

Denmark’s MGP seeks someone to fly the home flag

Speaking of not being bothered…here’s Denmark! DMGP was very strong last year, and we all know what came of that. I’d like to take a moment to remind you of one my personal favourites from back then.

What could have been *sigh*…but it was Emmelie de Forest who took the win, then again in Malmö. That’s why we’re all referring to Denmark as ‘the host country’ this season, isn’t it? So, in saying that, the host country chooses its entry tonight, and whichever song wins can be guaranteed a rapturous applause in the Eurovision final.

That song will be one of ten entries competing in Odense, listed below in running order.

  1. I Choose U by Bryan Rice
  2. Your Lies by Rebekka Thornbech
  3. Feeling The You by Sonny
  4. She’s The One by Danni Elmo
  5. Vi Finder Hjem by Emilie Moldow
  6. Right By Your Side by GlamboyP
  7. Before You Forget Me by Nadia Malm
  8. Cliché Love Song by Basim
  9. It Hurts by Anna David
  10. Wanna Be Loved by Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez

I chose to be lazy here and only listen to the snippets a few times over.

The impression I got was that Denmark definitely don’t want another win; but at the same time, give these songs a chance and you’ll probably find quite a few that will give the Danes a middling to decent result, which won’t embarrass them.

Here’s my top five:

I Choose U Bryan Rice is my ultimate ‘one who got away’. He 110% should have gone to Eurovision in 2010, but was left languishing in second place. Four years later, he’s back with a song that doesn’t have the same impact as his last, but is perfectly good radio pop with a great tempo.

Feeling The You The disco sound is having a revival, no? I blame that for my attraction to this cheesy funkfest. It can’t have anything to do with that nonsensical title, which could either refer to Sonny’s penchant for sexual harassment or some kind of heightened vibe-sensing ability he possesses.

Vi Finder Hjem This reminds me of something you’d find in the Swedish preselection for Junior Eurovision, which suits me just fine. Extra points for singing in Danish!

Cliché Love Song Damn, this is catchy. And I wish some other songs would be this honest. For example, Dina Garipova’s What If would be Shamelessly Lame Ballad Wired To Rake In The Points, and Solayoh would’ve been Off-The-Shelf Ethnopop Five Years Past Its Use-By Date.

Wanna Be Loved Very European dance pop. Not original, but a decent example of what it is.

Now, who among these five and the leftovers will succeed Emmelie as the Danish rep? I always have a hard time predicting DMGP, but working on the basis that my favourites hardly ever win it, I’m going to guess Danni Elmo or GlamboyP. If I was to get lucky and have a most-liked take out the comp, it’d be Bryan Rice or Basim.

What do you think? Who’s going to fly the Danish flag on home ground?

 

This is it: Melodifestivalen reaches its exciting conclusion

And I’ll be getting up at 3am to tune in! I am so P.U.M.P.E.D, my mini Swedish flag is practically quivering with excitement.

This is the ten-strong lineup for tonight, accompanied by some bite-sized reviews.  

Natural by Anton Ewald – I’ve finally figured out what isn’t clicking here. It’s too forced, too try-hard, too ‘I want to come back and WIN, damn it.’ I loved Anton last year, and I still think he has the face of a Hollywood heartthrob (and the voice of Eric Saade on an off day) but Natural is one club banger that will stay in the club.

Songbird by Ellen Benediktson – And the award for Song Most Likely To Send Me To Sleep goes to Sporty Spice lookalike Ellen! I was shocked when this qualified straight through, because it is nice, but boring as Sanna Nielsen’s outfit. Bless the girl, but she will be my toilet break.

Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar – The schlager-tastic trio has sucked me in with their hypnotically catchy chorus circa 2002, and I no longer dread the thought of them winning. That is partly because they won’t be winning. But they will more than make up for the lack of bedazzling on Sanna.

Alcazar's motto: peace, love, and a sh%!load of sequins.

Alcazar’s motto: peace, love, and a sh%!load of sequins.

Yes We Can by Oscar Zia – Perhaps it’s my secret addiction to cheesy Disney Channel movies talking here, but I LOVE this one. Oscar is adorable, can bust a move and has the voice of an angel (when compared to Anton Ewald). Combine those pros with the karaoke dream that is Yes We Can, and I for one am sold.  

Bröder by Linus Svenning – I’m so happy this came out of AC, because it was one of my favourites in the first semi. It’s one of just two Swedish-language songs in the final, which coupled with the sad back story makes it all the more special. I don’t expect it to do much tonight, but it will stand out in the line up.

Survivor by Helena Paparizou – She made it (almost) all the way! I’ve grown to love Survivor, and the already-established love I had for Helena herself means there is a whole lotta love from me to this entry. I’ve been singing this in the shower, back-to-back with Undo, constantly for the last month. My neighbours are not amused.

Just call her a survivor, already!

Just call her a survivor, already!

To The End by YOHIO – I still prefer Heartbreak Hotel, but this has grown on me. I have to admit though, my favourite thing is that the big, brash performance is going to make Sanna’s simplified staging a breath of fresh air. I think YOHIO’s chances of winning have waned, but he should do okay with this.

Undo by Sanna Nielsen – Sanna is a perfect human, and this is a near-perfect lady ballad IMO. You can take your Wrecking Ball comparisons and shove them somewhere intimate, because there is no way you’ll ever see Sanna swinging across the stage astride a heavy-duty piece of destruction equipment. I do hope to see her swinging into first place during the voting, however.

Efter Solsken by Panetoz – I love these guys, their sound, and their irresistible choreography. They are definitely a collective ray of sunshine in this competition, and if there was to be a shock winner, I’d want it to be them.

Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder – This song is an ear worm and a half. It’s also interesting and modern enough that it would make a good winner. I’m skeptical of Ace’s live vocal abilities (she’s no rival for Sanna in that department) but if Eric Saade can win Melfest, singing prowess is obviously not that important…

The outcome of Melfest 2014 isn’t going to be as hard to predict as DMGP, or as I initially thought. We’ve seen how the acts performed in the semis, we’ve seen the betting odds, and we have our gut instincts to guide us. Still, I was that hopeless during the semis and AC that I needed all the help in the world to make my prediction. That’s why I recruited you guys to vote for who you thought would win tonight.

Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for voting – the numbers were bigger than I expected, and I appreciate every click made. Secondly, HERE ARE THE RESULTS!

mfpr2

 

It was a close one between Ace and Sanna at first, but perhaps poor Sanna is destined to be second-best.

I’m not so sure she can defy that destiny this evening. The result comes down to televotes from the Swedish public, as well as vote cast by a variety of international juries. Last year, the juries took victory away from YOHIO and boosted Robin into what became a winning position. Not to sound too dramatic, but acts will suffer at the hands of either Sweden or the juries. It’s the way of the system.

I’m calling Girl Power to overcome the suffering, in the form of either:

Ace – I had a feeling about her before the poll results proved her so popular. I don’t think the juries will love her, but Sweden does/will, and they could give her the boost required so that a middling jury score won’t matter.

Ellen – Hers was a shock qualify, and I still don’t get it. But apparently there’s something about her I’m missing. Songbird is understated where Busy is aggressive, and sometimes less is more. The victory may depend on how many people have migraines.

Sanna – I am Team Sanna. I want her in Copenhagen, dammit. She’s tried six times in the past, and I’m not convinced she’ll get over the line now, but I can’t discount her. She has a decent draw, and based on downloads Sweden has responded well to Undo. The juries should rate it too, so if it’s not quite a win for Sanna, it will be a good result.

If she wins, it'll undo her sad for sure.

If she wins, it’ll undo her sad for sure.

If you’re watching Melfest tonight, join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz. I’m excited to share my first (and probably only) live NF of the season with anyone who’ll have me. We can share witty 140-character quips until the sun rises (or until the show is over and you go to bed at a reasonable hour, if that’s your situation). See you there?

 

Sans Scandinavia (i.e. elsewhere in Europe)…

I think this post has gone on long enough, so I’ll just gloss over the rest of this weekend’s happenings.  

Tonight

  • Russia will supposedly make an internal selection, having set an NF date and pushed it back already.
  • Slovenia’s EMA final, featuring 2005 rep Omar Naber and a song co-written by Hannah Mancini, begins and ends.
  • Portugal’s Festival da Canção kicks off with a semi.

Sunday

  • Sergej Četković’s song for Montenegro will be premiered. According to Wikipedia it’s called Moj Svijet, which means it’s very unlikely to actually be called Moj Svijet.

Tuesday (not part of the weekend, but worth a mention)

  • Greece decides which of four acts to send to Denmark, presumably flying economy or with the baggage.

 

Alright. I’ve talked at you for long enough. I’ll let you go and prepare your viewing snacks and test your flags for wave-ability and flex your pumping fist. Me, I’ll be setting my alarm for a very silly hour of the morning and choosing the pajamas that would be best suited to watching Melfest.

#AustralianESCfanproblems.

Enjoy your evening, ladies and gents!

EBJ Signature

 

Vote, vote, vote for the winner! Of Melodifestivalen, that is…

Hello there. So, in my last post, I promised that Melodifestivalen madness would take over my next ramble, with a poll AND a top 10 focused on what is the most Eurovision-like national final around. I intend to keep that promise, however…now that the Melfest final is full up for another year, I couldn’t resist getting my poll on early, for reasons such as a) I don’t want to be the absolute last person to do it; b) I want to give you guys more time to vote; and c) I seriously need help predicting the winner of this year’s comp, and I figured this might help with that. I’ll add my Top 10 Melfest entries of the last five years into this post later in the week, but right now, let’s get our poll awn, y’all!

I’m asking you – yes, you (love that shirt, by the way) – this very important question. This isn’t about who should win Melfest in your opinion; it’s about who you believe will sing their way into the good graces of Sweden and the international juries and head off to Copenhagen in May.

Consider your choice carefully…the correctness of my upcoming prediction depends on it!

Spread the word and get your friends, family, mailman, newsagent and that creepy guy staring at you on the bus to vote for the likely winner. Le results will be revealed prior to Saturday’s final (duh!) so get in while it still makes sense.

BRB…voting myself.

 

Copenhagen Chat | My thoughts on the news of the week

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

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

 

The hosts with the most (maybe) are… 

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

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

1

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

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

 

Something Better from Finland, and a Swiss star-hunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Melfest: it’s well and truly on!

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

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

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

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

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

What did you think of Melodifestivalen’s first installment?

 

Spanish surprises: the national final five

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

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

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

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

 

Super Saturday #2 – what’s on?

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

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

 

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

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

 

 See you Saturday!

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Mediocrity, Melodifestivalen and UMK: Welcome to February!

Madonna once said “Time. Goes. By. So. Slowly.” You can hear it for yourself on that dodgy yet somehow appealing song she did a few years ago that sampled ABBA. But let me tell you, she was a lying harlot, because literally one minute ago it was New Year’s Eve (well, not literally…but bear with my exaggeration) and now, it’s freaking February! I’ve had to change my calendar already, and that is not what I call a leisurely passing of time.  

On the plus side, February is going to make up for the pathetic showing January put on, national final-wise. The next four weeks are packed with preselections, beginning with this Super Saturday we’re about to experience. That means I won’t be posting the retro ranking I promised at the end of my last post just yet, but I plan to squeeze it in amongst all of the NF reviews and predictions that are coming your way via moi this month.

Firstly, it’s time to check out the main events of this evening, direct from Finland, Switzerland, and (saving the best for last) Sweden. Get excited, guys!

 

Who will Finnish first in the Finnish final?

UMK-2014

During its warm-up period of advancements and eliminations, Finland’s UMK has sent a whopping FOUR WHOLE SONGS packing. Eight remain in with a chance to succeed Team Ding Dong in Copenhagen.

  1. Something Better by Softengine
  2. Hope by Hanna Sky
  3. God/Drug by MIAU
  4. Going Down by Lauri Mikkola
  5. Shining Bright by MadCraft
  6. Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola
  7. Top of the World by Clarissa feat. Josh Standing
  8. Selja by Hukka Ja Mama

Up until yesterday, I hadn’t listened to any of the Finnish songs, wanting to make the result a brand-new discovery. But having heard only good things about the finalists (bar the odd snarky comment) I couldn’t resist stopping by Youtube and feasting my ears on one of those handy recap videos made up of thirty-second snippets.

My verdict? Well, any seasoned ESC fan knows you can’t judge a song by one listen of an excerpt. That’s why I’m still holding out hope that I’m more impressed by the full song that wins than I was by any of the snippets. Don’t get me wrong, there was some promising stuff in there – but you UMK followers out there had me thinking I was going to be blown away by each and every one, darn you.

The songs that did appeal to me on snippet alone: God/Drug, Sängyn Reunalla and Top of the World. I’ve seen some of these crop up in the fandom (i.e. on social media/in blog comment sections) as favourites, and there’s a 50% chance one of them will win, so…happy face?

Truth is, I don’t have the authority to predict UMK 2014. But since I distinctly remember saying ‘meh’ to a snippet of Marry Me this time last year, that may be irrelevant.

Those in the know – what do you think? Who’s got the goods to represent Finland in Denmark?

 

Swiss-appointment in Die Grosse Entscheidungsshow  

Moving on to tonight’s second final, I must give you a warning: prepare yourself for a rather bitchy Jaz.

In all my history as an NF follower, I have never been impressed by the Swiss line-up, but I’ve always been able to console myself with the few musical gems present. Unfortunately, things have taken a turn for the even worse this year, because Switzerland is bringing us what I believe to be the worst national final line-up of ALL. TIME. I don’t even think Kanye West would interrupt me to disagree.

I actually miss Piero and his music stars. Oh dear god.

This year’s final is making me miss Piero and his music stars. Oh dear god!

For years I’ve been wondering what Switzerland’s problem is. Why have we been getting stuff on a par with The Wiggles’ Big Red Car year after year, save a couple of brief, shining examples of semi-decent music? This year, each Swiss broadcaster even had to go through an ‘Expert Check’ stage to whittle down their submitted list of songs to the best of the best (or so we were led to believe) and yet, the six songs remaining are a woeful bunch, IMHO. Perhaps the ‘experts’ in question thought their role was to sniff out any signs of potential Eurovision success and destroy them. If so, that misinterpretation has left us with these:

  1. Au Paradis by Christian Tschanz – gravelly-sung, inoffensive (read: boring) guitar pop. The only saving grace is that, since it’s in French and I hardly know any, I have no idea if the lyrics are up to the cringe-worthy standard of the English-language entries.
  2. Together Forever by 3 For All – okay, so the accordion riff is catchy, but everything else, title and group name included, is pure Swiss cheese. It makes me sicker than the thought of Engelbert Humperdinck in a mankini.
  3. La Luce Del Cuore by Nino Colonna – not awful, but forgettable. The kind of song that wouldn’t make it past the first evening of San Remo.
  4. I Still Believe by Yasmina Hunzinger – I hope you’re hungry, ‘cause here’s another hunk of Swiss cheese! This is 2014, and I think it’s beyond time for the rubbish ballads about believing and achieving and having faith and uniting as one to be shelved. Or preferably, binned.
  5. Une Terre Sans Vous by Natacha & Stéphanie – this actually borders on being nice, but that doesn’t stop it from being bland. If it goes to Copenhagen, expect it to be everybody’s toilet break song.
  6. Hunter of Stars by Sebalter – last but not least, a more alternative version of boring guitar pop. Some of the lyrics make no sense, which I happen to prefer over lyrics that encourage us to join hands and all that crap. Send this, Switzerland. Why not?

So yeah, you could say I’m disappointed in the Swiss. Last year’s Grosse Show at least had the likes of Carrousel, Jesse Ritch and Melissa raising the bar. This year, I can’t express enthusiasm for any particular song to win, and that makes me sad.

I can say who I think will win, and that’s 3 For All, Yasmina or Sebalter. Do you agree? Am I being too negative, or do you think Switzerland should just stay home and think things over this year?

 

Saturday’s saving grace, straight from Sweden

My Swiss rant is out of the way, so let’s get on to the good stuff. Melodifestivalen has arrived!

Call it a cliché, but Melfest has long been my favourite NF. The standard is always high (unless they’ve won Eurovision the year before) and it always attracts a great mixture of big names and relative unknowns. Last year Melfest provided my top ESC-related moment of the year when Robin Stjernberg emerged from Andra Chansen and won. I’ll never forget the look on his face when it dawned on him what had happened.

You could say Robin was taken by surprise...

You could say Robin was taken by surprise…

Winning saw him represent Sweden in Malmö Arena last May, and fittingly, that’s the location of tonight’s first semi final, which will begin and end with two of the aforementioned big names.

The eight competing songs were released earlier this evening. Here’s the running order.

  1. To The End by YOHIO
  2. Aleo by Mahan Moin
  3. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  4. Casanova by Elisa Lindström
  5. Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella
  6. Songbird by Ellen Benediktson
  7. Bygdens Son by Sylvester Schlegel
  8. Survivor by Helena Paparizou   
They're a handsome bunch, but are their songs as attractive?

They’re a handsome bunch, but are their songs as attractive?

It’s all about the soloists tonight, but – let’s not kid ourselves – mainly YOHIO and Helena. They may be getting a lot of love, but they’ll also be judged harshly on their previous efforts, YOHIO for Melfest 2013 and Helena for Eurovision 2001 and 2005. Did To The End and Survivor impress, or did the newer-comers leave the old-timers in their dust? Well, here’s my top 4.

Aleo this ain’t no cookie-cutter ethno-dance track, which means it’s not as instant as the Allez Ola Olés of the world, but I like that it keeps veering into unexpected places.

Bröder I expected heavy metal and death growls from the pierced and tattooed Linus (yes, I know what they say about books and covers and judging and whatnot) but this is actually really nice. There are heavier parts that allow him to get rough, but generally it’s quite nice. There’s some emotion in there that got me.

Bedroom hands down my favourite of the semi, this is a ridiculously catchy dance track that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio anywhere, if it weren’t for the risqué subject matter. I really hope this goes through, but that depends a lot on whether Alvaro can pull off a decent live vocal. If he can’t, it could be a train wreck.

Survivor how could I say no to Helena? Again, I had expectations that were defied, because this is not a schlager-scented club banger. It’s more of a pop ballad, with a strong chorus and verses. It doesn’t scream “WINNER!” but it should do her well.

Now, for prediction time…half of these semi-finalists will advance in some way as normal – the top two to the final, and the third and fourth-placers to Andra Chansen (which, as we now know, is not at all a sign they can’t possibly go on and win). This seems like an easy semi to predict as far as the finalists go, but we’ll see how what happens. This is what my gut is telling me:

To the final: YOHIO and Helena.

To Andra Chansen: Linus and Alvaro.

I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the favourites got bumped to Andra. Melodifestivalen has been both incredibly predictable and shockingly random in the past. Either way, it’s good to hear the show back at the usual standard, as indicated by this first lot of entries. I don’t think SVT will be in it (a.k.a. Eurovision) to win it again just yet, but it seems they’d like a stronger result than last year’s.

 

The tasty leftovers: what else is happening tonight?

This is a Super Saturday and a half, folks. Finland, Switzerland and Sweden aside, here’s what you can be watching while your non-Eurovision fan friends go out and socialise.

Heat 1 of Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin

Heat 2 of Hungary’s A Dal

Semi 1 of Latvia’s Dziesma

Show 8 of Lithuania’s Eurovizijos Dainu Konkursa

For a comprehensive list of what’s on, when, and where you can tune in, visit the guide over at Wiwi Bloggs. 

 

No matter what you choose as your Saturday night viewing, I hope you enjoy it. And don’t go too hard – the rest of February’s weekends will be just as busy, so you’ll need some energy for those. I know I’ll have a great time posting this ASAP then going to bed because I can’t be bothered getting up at 3am to watch a wonderful but highly predictable Melfest semi (which would be my NF of choice, obvs). Maybe I’ll dream of the day Switzerland becomes an ESC force to be reckoned with? 

 

What are you watching tonight? Who should win where? And, if you’re reading this post-Saturday night…OMG, what was up with that result?

 

Selection Season Day 3: Icelandic, Maltese and Scandinavian action

Do you know what day it is? No, it isn’t some important anniversary that you’ve forgotten about (although, if you missed my birthday last year I’m still not speaking to you. Harumph!). It is, of course, Super Saturday – the first Super Saturday of the selection season. Tonight, both Iceland and Malta wrap up their national finals (which for Malta pretty much means going through the same lengthy process that they did for last night’s semi), Norway gives away three more spots in the MGP final, and host country Sweden kicks off my absolute favourite NF, Melodifestivalen.* Boy, there is going to be a lot of results to squeal about/be horrified by on Sunday morning! That’s if you aren’t planning on watching any of the finals. For those who are otherwise engaged or just need their beauty sleep, and those who will be tuning in, here’s an overview of the SS schedule, with 23% more picks and predictions and no added sugar.

* I know there are even more things happening, but I am just a mere mortal and can’t feasibly cover them all. Sob.  

 

Söngvakeppnin: Who will follow Salomé (and Jónsi)?

Honestly, I haven’t got a heap to say about Iceland at this point. I’ve decided to make Söngvakeppnin one of the finals for which I don’t listen to all the songs and get my hopes up about which one I want to win, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t. This year, I’ll be listening to the island’s rep for the first time with zero expectations…unless it’s Birgitta. There’ll be a few expectations there.

Anyway, this is the field of competitors who’ll be battling it out for a ticket to Malmö:

  1. Ekki Líta Undan by Magni Ásgeirsson
  2. Lífið Snýst by Svavar & Hreindís
  3. Ég á Líf by Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson
  4. Meðal Andanna by Birgitta Haukdal
  5. Til þín by Jógvan Hansen & Stefanía Svavarsdóttir
  6. Vinátta by Haraldur Reynisson
  7. Ég Syng! by Unnur Eggertsdóttir

Lucky number one Magni was the wildcard finalist, so it’s unlikely he’ll win. That’s good news for the others, who now have a 1 in 6 chance of success. Kind of.

And that’s about it from me, apart from a warning I feel I must give you: try not to fall in love with the Icelandic version of the winning song, won’t you? It will no doubt be rewritten in or reverted back to English about five seconds after the reprise. 

 

Malta’s mini ESC

Ah, Malta. Malta and their strange, strange ways. It is a mystery to me why they even have a semi final when they don’t use it to weed out all of the average stuff. Last night, as always, the initial round took place and zapped many people of the will to live with its immense length. 16 of the 24 entries made it through to the final (what an achievement! The odds were in nobody’s favour!) and tonight will be more of the same. Or slightly less of the same, it’s still a ridiculous setup. The less songs there are to choose from, the less chance voters are going to make a mistake, right?

Well, it is what it is, and what it is…well, is, a mammoth final full of artists we’ve seen try to get to Eurovision time and time again – Richard Edwards, Dorothy Bezzina, Claudia Faniello and Amber, to name a few. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them come out on top. But the one I want most for Malmö is Kevin Borg, who tried to represent Malta before he moved to Sweden…and won Swedish Idol. That win means two things – firstly, he can sing and sing well, and secondly, if he goes to Eurovision the Swedish public will probably back him – and that bodes well for a decent Maltese showing. 

Kevin Borg, trying to locate the end of the MESC national final

Kevin Borg, trying to locate the end of the MESC national final

Of course, what I want and what we’ll get are very different things, and since I haven’t had a spare 5364849 hours to listen to all of Malta’s options, anyone could win. I just hope the best choice possible is made.

 

Norsk MGP, semi number three

There are just four places left in the Norwegian final for 2013 – three for tonight’s qualifiers and one for a usually random and undeserving wildcard. This last semi has a bit of everything to choose from: soft-metal, dance, country, pop-rock, tropical hip-hop…you get the picture. I’ve found I can’t trust Norway to choose the best offerings (IMO) when there’s a lot of same-same, so it will be interesting to see where the votes go here.

  1. Utopia by Gothminister
  2. Bombo by Adelén
  3. Sweet and Heavy by Lucky Lips
  4. Awake by Gaute Ormåsen
  5. The Young by Anina
  6. Not Afraid by Winta
  7. I Love You Te Quiero by Sirkus Eliassen

These are the entries I’d be texting my thumbs off for if I could:

Bombo – I knew I was going to love this just from the title, and if you liked Mandinga in Baku you’ll probably love it too. It has more of a dance feel than Zaleilah, but it’s a similarly irresistible fusion of Spanish and English that will get you bum-shaking in no time. Norway has sent ethno-pop to the ESC two years in a row now, and I’d be thrilled if they did it again.

Awake – this is unassuming, radio-friendly fodder that could get stuck in the semi just as easily as it could slip into the final. But it’s enjoyable to listen to, and in this instance that’s enough for me.

I Love You Te Quiero a Norwegian version of Trackshittaz, anyone? This is another (part) Spanglish gem with a super catchy chorus, and is one of the few almost guaranteed to be as good live as it is in studio. Watch out for these guys.

 So those are my preferences. But (you knew that was coming) I’m predicting advancement for Gothminister, Lucky Lips and Anina this evening, with Anina the only one of the three I wouldn’t mind winning MGP. At the moment, the forerunners are Gromth and Margaret Berger, who won their respective semis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Last year, Tooji placed second in his semi before storming to victory in the final. So if your favourite song didn’t beat all the others, don’t despair.

 

Last, but not at all least: Melodifestivalen!  

If you can hear woo-hooing from wherever you are right now, it’s just me. I am SO pumped for Melfest, and I can’t believe how fast it has rolled around.

melodifestivalen2013ql1_

Semi #1 will be held in Karlskrona, and whilst most of the artists I’m dying to see are in later semis, the lineup is impressive. And here it is.

  1. Skyline by David Lindgren
  2. Burning Flags by Cookies ‘N’ Beans
  3. Paris by Jay-Jay Johanson
  4. Gosa by Mary N’diaye
  5. Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Förlora by Eric Gadd
  6. Heartbreak Hotel by YOHIO
  7. Porslin by Anna Järvinen
  8. We’re Still Kids by Michael Feiner & Caisa

As I write this, it’s mid-afternoon and the full songs are yet to be released, so I’ll have to get back to you with my picks and predictions in a few hours.

A few hours later…

I’m back! And sorry to say, quite disappointed. The first semi of Melfest 2012 was all ‘bam! Bam! BAM!’, the bams naturally representing one awesome song after another. This year, it was more like ‘poof. Poof. Poof?’ However, I don’t believe you can 100% make up your mind on a song by the first listen, so I’ll wait for these to grow on me. The best at this point, for me, are:

Burning Flags this is a side of Fredrik Kempe I don’t think I’ve seen before, but I like it. The chorus is killer (though I don’t get how anyone’s supposed to see those burning flags if their eyes are closed) and the whole thing is generally powerful. I mean, it makes me feel like I could bench press my couch or something.

Gosa no other song in Melfest this year is likely to have the title repeated in it as often as this. It’s tribal, it’s dance, it’s a little bit nuts…I’m sold.

Heartbreak Hotel can I just take a second to say what a beautiful creature YOHIO is? He is a stunning example of androgynous flesh. Anyway, his entry is more hardcore than you’d expect, but far from reaching the hideousness level of Gromth in MGP. The bridge kicks butt.

We’re Still Kids is that Epic Sax Guy I hear backing Michael and Caisa? Unfortunately not, but this song makes me think of him and that’s good enough.

Now, who will go where? In case you’re a Melfest newbie, there are two final tickets up for grabs per semi, as well as two spots in the Andra Chansen (Second Chance) round. And I’m about to tell you who’ll get them. Maybe.

For the final, it’s Cookies ‘N’ Beans (also known as Biscuits ‘N’ Lentils) and YOHIO as far as I’m concerned, but I’m also prepared to be spectacularly wrong. I think we’ll see a Timoteij situation with David Lindgren, who’ll go to Andra alongside Anna Järvinen.

Or will he…because I can never ever be sure.

 

If you’re still there, congrats on making it all the way through this post, and I’m sorry if I sucked more energy out of you than the Maltese semi. There’s just so much happening in ESC-land as we speak, I could ramble on about it for ages. And basically have.

See you on the other side of Super Saturday!

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