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Retro Rankings | Istanbul 2004

If you’re like me, under the impression that Malmö’s Eurovision could not possibly have happened more than a few months ago, think again…and then collapse in shock when you realise we’re just over four weeks away from contest 59. Here’s hoping there will actually be a stage for this year’s contestants to perform on by then. Right now, all eyes are on Amsterdam’s Eurovision In Concert, which will give us more of an insight into who’s going to nail and who’s going to fail the show proper. But since I’m not currently en route to the Netherlands (and not bitter at all about that *grumbles very bitterly indeed*) I have the opportunity to continue on my quest to cram in as many posts as possible before the big event.

My reviews, predictions, and mini-series of Malmö flashbacks are soon to come, but today I thought I’d head back in time to contest 49, which took place ten whole years ago in Istanbul. I’ve done some Retro Rankings in the past (which you can check out here) and I thought it would be interesting to choose the 2004 contest this time around, not long after ranking 2014 for the first time. Back then, 36 countries competed, six of whom have since opted out of the ESC. The quality of songs was pretty low IMO, but among the hideous and sleep-inducing entries were some absolute gems. Without further ado, here is how I rate all 36 a decade later.

Just one thing…I haven’t commented on all of the songs, so if you want a reason for the position of one I’ve left ambiguous, just ask. Also, here’s a recap of the Class of Istanbul for those of you who need a pre-ranking refresher.

 

Now, my rankings. For real this time.

 

1. Serbia & Montenegro/ Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović – 2004 may have been a crappy year, song-wise, but it did introduce me to what would become my favourite Eurovision entry OF ALL TIME! Sorry to put that so aggressively. ŽJ’s first and best contest foray is hauntingly beautiful on the first listen and equally so on the 567, 869th listen (which is around about where I’m up to) and I’ve never come across anybody who doesn’t agree with that to some extent. If you happen to be that person and make it clear to me, I may get violent.

Serbia and Montenegro were more than all white.

Serbia and Montenegro were more than all white.

2. Ukraine/ Wild Dances by Ruslana – Despite my love for the above, I would never dream of questioning whether Ukraine deserved their one and only win to date. In fact, this has to be one of the most deserving winners ever. Even if we cast the perfect performance, costumes and whip-cracking aside, the song itself is still a flawless example of ethno-pop/rock. Ruslana knew how the ESC should be done (and she’s also available to be hired for parties as a Xena impersonator, FYI).

3. Turkey/ For Real by Athena – The relaxed approach many host countries take with their entries (with the pressure to win off/desire to win again nonexistent) often results in effortless success, because they’re not trying too hard. When Turkey hosted, their entry was chill, quirky and fun, but energetic enough to get the crowd going like no other. I’m actually having to clamp my mouth shut as we speak to stop myself from bursting into that chorus. Up, I wanna bring you up…

4. The Netherlands/ Without You by Re-Union – In the first year of televised semis, the Netherlands made the final with this cruisy sing-along song (and nothing short of Anouk got them back there). It didn’t do much once Saturday night came, ending the evening in 20th place, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It may be humble (meaning many viewers would have used it as their toilet break) but it provided some sweet relief from the more extravagant efforts.

5. Austria/ Du Bist by Tie Break – In case you didn’t know, I love a boyband. Naturally, for me, Eurovision + boyband = JACKPOT. Prime Minister, Eden, Blue…I’ve squealed hysterically over them all. So it is that as lame as Du Bist was on a fancy stage in a mahusive arena – and as lazily as the three guys were dressed for such an event – I still give it the thumbs up.

It wasn't Casual Friday, but Tie-Break clearly didn't get the memo.

It wasn’t Casual Friday, but Tie-Break clearly didn’t get the memo.

6. France/ A Chaque Pas by Jonatan Cerrada

7. Albania/ The Image of You by Anjeza Shahini

8. Spain / Para Llenarme De Ti by Ramón

9. Belgium/ 1 Life by Xandee – Eurodance magic, that’s what this is. Not once have I watched/listened to it without doing the dance steps Xandee and her backup duo/lady and gentleman lover (that hip rolling bit gives everything away) bust out at the beginning. Because YOLO – which is coincidentally what the 2014 version of this song would be called.

10. Slovenia/ Stay Forever by Platin

11. Germany/ Waiting For Tonight by Max

12. Iceland/ Heaven by Jónsi

Before there was Greta and Jonsi, there was Just Jonsi. And his finely sculpted cheekbones.

Before there was Greta and Jonsi, there was Just Jonsi. And his finely sculpted cheekbones.

 

13. Poland/ Love Song by Blue Café

14. Norway/ High by Knut Anders Sørum – Norway had the unfortunate honour of being last in the ’04 final, and not for the first or last time, I have to wonder why. High was far from Wild Dances amazeballs territory, but it was much less yawn-worthy than a bunch of other finalists, and had an anthemic quality that worked well in the arena.

15. Latvia/ Dziesma Par Laimi by Fomins & Kleins

16. Belarus/ My Galileo by Alexandra & Konstantin

17. Romania/ I Admit by Sanda Ladosi

18. Russia/ Believe Me by Julia Savicheva

19. Bosnia & Herzegovina/ In The Disco by Deen – Before B & H brought us such spellbinding masterpieces as Lejla and Bistra Voda, they had this to offer. There’s quite a contrast there, you might say. I don’t hate this – it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, and I think of it as the rich man’s version of Hungary 2009 – but I much, much prefer the Bosnia & Herzegovina that gave us class…not ass.

"See my vest, see my vest, plus my bronzed and hairless chest..."

“See my vest, see my vest, plus my bronzed and hairless chest…”

20. Sweden/ It Hurts by Lena Philipsson

21. Greece/Shake It by Sakis Rouvas

22. Estonia/ Tii by Neiokõsõ

23. FYR Macedonia/ Life by Toše Proeski

24. United Kingdom/ Hold On To Our Love by James Fox – Just looking at this written down makes me yawn. Like so many entries the same year, the UK’s was perfectly nice, but extremely boring. Adding to my pain is the fact that their NF that year had at least three better options, including one of my favourite NF songs EVER from a boyband (!) called Hyrise. Hashtag if only.

 25. Cyprus/ Stronger Every Minute by Lisa Andreas

26. Malta/ On Again…Off Again by Julie & Ludwig

Ludwig's attempts at serenading Julie didn't go so well...

Ludwig’s attempts at serenading Julie didn’t go so well…

27. Croatia/ You Are The Only One by Ivan Mikulic

28. Denmark/ Shame On You by Thomas Thordarson

29. Israel/ Le’ha’amin by David d’Or – I’m sorry to say that when David opened his mouth to sing his first note, it marked the first time I laughed out loud at anything Eurovision-related (which says a lot since Year Lordi was the first contest I saw). There are decent elements in this song, but that voice! I just can’t take it seriously. It’s a case of what I now refer to as ‘The Curse of Cezar’ – only it didn’t work out so well for non-qualifier David.

30. Finland/ Two To Tango by Jari Sillanpää

31. Monaco/ Notre Planète by Maryon

32. Ireland/ If My World Stopped Turning by Chris Doran – And the ‘Why Bother?’ Award for Most Pointless Attempt to Win Eurovision goes to…Chris Doran! Let’s have a round of applause, if you’re not unconscious. Brian McFadden of Westlife fame (here I go again with the boybands) co-wrote this snoozefest, and because I know he’s capable of writing way better stuff, I blame him entirely for this faux pas.

33. Andorra/ Jugarem A Estimar-nos by Marta Roure

34. Portugal/ Foi Magia by Sofia

35. Lithuania/ What Happened To Our Love by Linas & Simona

36. Switzerland/ Celebrate by Piero & the Music Stars – Piero and his music “stars”* remain the only act to have received zero points in a semi final, and there’s no confusion as to how that happened. Celebrate was like a low-grade JESC entry, only performed by adults dressed like children, which made it so much worse. The lyricist clearly had the reading comprehension skills of a four-year-old.

The Swiss Wiggles just never took off.

The Swiss Wiggles just never took off.

 

* While they were onstage, their star status was easily challenged. But they did give a decent a cappella performance in the green room which was worth at least one point.

 

I’ve had my say, so now it’s your turn. Do you think I’m crazy putting the Swiss on the bottom and that Piero should be Celebrate-ed instead? Did Ruslana whip-crack her way into your heart, or do you think Wild Dances was overrated? Whatever your opinion on the entries of Istanbul, let me know below!

 

NEXT TIME: Malmö gets the full recap treatment as I look back on the stats, results and best bits of Eurovision 2013.

 

Spotlight on…Serbia

This upcoming weekend is a busy one, and there may be some hard decisions for you guys wanting to watch as many finals as possible. But those are first world problems, people, so quit your complainin’.

If you’re someone who has always wanted to see a singer make the transition from Junior Eurovision to adult, might I suggest the final in which that may actually happen – Serbia’s Beosong. Opening the 15-strong semi final on Saturday night will be a trio made up of, among two others (duh) Nevena Božović, who represented her country at JESC 2007 and ended up in 3rd place.

Even if you don’t give a failed backup dancer’s two left feet about JESC alumni, you should be interested in watching Beosong, because let’s face it: Serbia have never sent a bad song to Eurovision.* Sure, their history only extends back to 2007, giving them less opportunities to have royally screwed up…but plenty of other relative newcomers to the contest have proven themselves inconsistent (or consistently rubbish) when Serbia has not. In light of that, and the fact that entry number seven is on its way, let’s take a look at that short but sweet history while you’re deciding whether or not to take my advice and watch Beosong. Or just watch it of your own volition.

 

* This is my opinion, of course. But if you disagree, YOU ARE WRONG, WRONG, DAMMIT!

 

 hbserbia

SERBIA: THE STATS

Debut 2007 – 1st with Molitva by Marija Šerifović

Entries 6

Wins 1 – 2007

Silver medals 0

Bronze medals 1 – 2012

Best result 1st – 2007

Top 10 finishes 3/6

Top 10 success rate 50%

Top 5 finishes 2/6

Top 5 success rate 33%  

Wooden spoons (last places!) 0

Semi final qualifications 4/5

Qualification success rate 80%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry Ovo Je Balkan by Milan Stanković (2010)/ Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (2012).

It still makes me weep a little that Milan didn’t make the top 10, by that much (which wasn’t actually that much, I suppose, but enough to mourn the loss). OJB was and still is everything I look for in a Eurovision song – it’s ethnic, catchy, fun, and allows you to dance on your kitchen table without looking completely stupid. Not to mention the performance, which opened my eyes to a whole new world of bubble-wrap wear.

It doesn’t get much better than that, which is why I have to tie it, not better it, with Željko’s latest piece of genius for Serbia. This song was basically all I love about his compositions stuffed into three minutes, albeit stuffed in a very elegant way. Epic, atmospheric Balkan ballads are my weakness, and nobody does them like ZJ (except maybe Regina).

mszj

I can’t pick between their songs, but I can tell you who has the better haircut.

 My least favourite entry As you may have gathered from the intro, those words do not compute with me where Serbia is concerned. I can’t pick one. I have loved everything they’ve ever sent, and if we were factoring in Serbia and Montenegro’s entries as well, that would not change. If we were factoring in just Montenegro…well, let’s just say two heads republics were better than one. But Serbia has the magic touch. Čaroban.

More of the memorable

Molitva by Marija Šerifović (2007) – winning Eurovision on your first go as an independent nation? Now that’s something to impress your friends with at dinner parties. Marija’s victory was unexpected and proved that English isn’t always the best bet for success. Ya hear that, Iceland?

Oro by Jelena Tomašević (2008) – knock, knock, who’s there? Why, it’s Željko again! He worked his magic for the third time on home turf, also finding time to co-host the show. Jelena did him justice, and gave the dry ice machine industry a real boost.

Cipela by Marko Kon & Milaan (2009) – this came so close to qualifying it isn’t funny (honestly, this not making the final was the most upsetting event of 2009) but I have consoled myself by playing it to death over the years.

Their best stage show Čaroban. If you’ve got a retro-sounding song, you may as well run with it. The Serbian delegation went all out in Düsseldorf, matching their costumes, choreography and slightly nauseating backdrop to their Sixties-inspired number. That was what I call entertaining.

Their best costume/s Marija Šerifović and the Beauty Queens. Is red, white and black not THE greatest colour combo on the planet? These ladies made me want to hire a suit for my school ball that year. I reckon if they’d worn double denim or something, they wouldn’t have won anything, unless it was the Barbara Dex award.

I dig the 'feminine groomsman' look.

I dig the ‘feminine groomsman’ look.

 

Their best vocalist/s Marija Šerifović. It really all came together for her, didn’t it? Her voice was great, but it was the emotion that made it greater. You’d never guess she’d sung it too many times to count during rehearsals and whatnot; it was like she was feeling every lyric for the first time. *Insert mock-vomiting here*.

 

 

So, will you be watching Beosong this weekend? Which Serbian entry has been your favourite so far?

 

My all-time ESC 50: the Top 10 revealed!

Alright. I think I’ve kept you waiting long enough. Granted, I did mean to post this three or four days ago, but life kind of got in the way (damn you, life!) and so here we are. It’s well and truly time to bring this countdown to an end and put all of you out of your misery in the process, because I know* you’ve been glued to your wifi enabled devices for the last 96 hours straight, praying to the Eurovision gods that I would post the last part.

I’ve decided to say less than usual about each song, simply because when it comes to the ones you really, really, REALLY love, you shouldn’t have to justify that love with a ramble (as much as I adore rambling). I’ve said a few words, but I’m mostly letting the songs speak for themselves.

Let me know what you think of my choices, as well as which entries would make your list of the best-ever.

 

* I may or may not have accidentally typed ‘I know’ instead of ‘I like to think’. Whoops.

#10

Rivers of words between us
Sometime they will take us away…

Kicking off the list today is a timeless classic of an entry – its country’s last prior to a fourteen-year absence. It was the perfect song for the world’s most musical language. My 10th favourite Eurovision song of all time is:

Fiumi Di Parole by Jalisse (Italy 1997)

 

#9

There, love, where the bells toll, you will forever be mine alone…

You know I love a dramatic Balkan ballad, and the fact that this one was performed by a boy band made it that much more appealing. It’s a great song that was enhanced by a cleverly choreographed stage show. My 9th favourite Eurovision song of all time is:

Zauvijek Moja by No Name (Serbia & Montenegro 2005)

 

#8

Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, love’s carving it in the stone…

The 2006 contest was my first, and despite the presence of Lordi in all their prosthetic glory, my strongest memory has less to do with Finnish monster rockers and more to do with women climbing out of pianos to the sound of top-notch Russian pop. My 8th favourite Eurovision song of all time is:

Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006)

 

#7

It’s hard, it’s hard, when a longing by moonlight is here for a while and then escapes…

The second time Dana International entered the contest, it was as a writer, not as a performer. Who would have guessed the Diva herself could create such a spine-tingling (yet rousing) ballad? Credit also goes to the person who sung it, a man known as ‘The Yemenite Angel’. My 7th favourite Eurovision song of all time is:

The Fire In Your Eyes by Boaz (Israel 2008)

 

#6

I knock and hope that you don’t hear me
You open the door, as if you don’t care…

Here’s an entry that didn’t make the final, much to the horror of many, who thought the reason had to be the singer’s rather casual choice of costume. The song was full of light and shade, and combined ballad elements with rockier ones – a hybrid that grabbed my attention. My 6th favourite Eurovision song of all time is:

Stop by Omar Naber (Slovenia 2005)

 

#5

No borders, no flags, from up there, the world is just beautiful…

The message of this song rings so true with the ESC, and just reading the English translation gets me all choked up. Beautifully atmospheric, it scored the country it was representing one of their best-ever results (though I think it deserved to place a little higher). My 5th favourite Eurovision song of all time is:

Keine Grenzen – Żadnych Granic by Ich Troje (Poland 2003)

 

 

#4

There’s no tomorrow, no today
It’s easy when a song finds your heart…

We know what happens when a Balkan ballad meets a boyband, but what happens when it meets military? Magic, that’s what. This entry quickly became my favourite of the year, and I championed it even though I knew it had no chance up against a certain boy with a violin. My 4th favourite Eurovision song of all time is:

Bistra Voda by Regina (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009)

 

 

#3

A scent of wind and pain follows me like a shadow
Are you sighing after me somewhere? Where are you hidden from me?

White suits, traditional instruments and Željko Joksimović have long been key to contest success. When they united to represent one of my favourite ESC countries in Athens, none of them disappointed. If I could only use one word to describe the song and/or the performance, it would be ‘stunning’. My 3rd favourite Eurovision song of all time is:  

Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006)

 

 

#2

No more sad songs on lonely nights, no more seeking the wrongs or rights of it… 

I expect some of you to question this one. Then again, some of you may think it should have won rather than been pipped by a repetitive pop number (which also made my list, unfortunately). Power-ballad perfection, it was a runner-up in the late 80s and now it’s the runner-up on my list. My 2nd favourite Eurovision song of all time is:

Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (United Kingdom 1989)

 

 

This is the moment! If I didn’t think you guys had already guessed what my favourite was, I’d ask for a drum roll.

Oh, what the heck. *Insert Drum Roll Here*

 

#1

When I think of you I’m afraid of loving you again…

This entry is on my list for pretty much the same reasons as Lejla, only there’s something especially haunting about it that I love a little bit more. It may be the fact that I get goosebumps every time I hear it (and I think I’ve heard it about 1829813103084 times). That’s what makes my favourite Eurovision song of all time:  

Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)

 

 

The final fifty

#1/ Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)

#2/ Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (United Kingdom 1989)

#3/ Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006)

#4/ Bistra Voda by Regina (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009)

#5/ Keine Grenzen – Żadnych Granic by Ich Troje (Poland 2003)

#6/ Stop by Omar Naber (Slovenia 2005)

#7/ The Fire In Your Eyes by Boaz (Israel 2008)

#8/ Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006)

#9/ Zauvijek Moja by No Name (Serbia & Montenegro 2005)

#10/ Fiumi Di Parole by Jalisse (Italy 1997)

#11/ Wild Dances by Ruslana (Ukraine 2004)

#12/ Nocturne by SecretGarden (Norway 1995)

#13/ Džuli by Daniel (Yugoslavia 1983)

#14/ Tell Me Who You Are by Malene Mortensen (Denmark 2002)

#15/ Kuula by Ott Lepland (Estonia 2012)

#16/ Northern Girl by Prime Minister (Russia 2002)

#17/ Heaven by Jónsi (Iceland 2004)

#18/ Rijeka Bez Imena by Maria (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2007)

#19/ The War Is Not Over by Walters & Kazha (Latvia 2005)

#20/ Reise Nach Jerusalem by Sürpriz (Germany 1999)

#21/ Od Nas Zavisi by Karolina (Macedonia 2002)

#22/ Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler (Spain 2012)

#23/ Rändajad by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)

#24/ Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (Serbia 2012)

#25/ Hemel En Aarde by Edsilia Rombley (Netherlands 1998)

#26/ Rock Me by Riva (Yugoslavia 1989)

#27/ This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)

#28/ Suus by Rona Nishliu (Albania 2012)

#29/ Diamond of Night by Evelin Samuel & Camille (Estonia 1999)

#30/ Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey 2003)

#31/ Ein Bisschen Frieden by Nicole (Germany 1982)

#32/ Work Your Magic by Koldun (Belarus 2007)

#33/ Anytime You Need by Hayko (Armenia 2007)

#34/ Ovo Je Balkan by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)

#35/ To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak (Poland 1994)

#36/ O Meu Coração Não Tem Cor by Lúcia Moniz (Portugal 1996)

#37/ Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium 2003)

#38/ Horehronie by Kristina (Slovakia 2010)

#39/ Die For You by Antique (Greece 2001)

#40/ Love In Rewind by Dino Merlin (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2011)

#41/ My Star by Brainstorm (Latvia 2000)

#42/ Never Ever Let You Go by Rollo & King (Denmark 2001)

#43/ Forogj Világ by Nox (Hungary 2005)

#44/ Dansevise by Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann (Denmark 1963)

#45/ Lako Je Sve by Feminnem (Croatia 2010)

#46/ Euphoria by Loreen (Sweden 2012)

#47/ Nur Ein Lied by Thomas Forstner (Austria 1989)

#48/ Il Faut Du Temps by Sandrine François (France 2002)

#49/ Solo by Alsou (Russia 2000)

#50/ Follow My Heart by Ich Troje (Poland 2006)

 

Voila! I hope you’ve enjoyed the countdown.

Until next time…

 

My all-time ESC 50: The Countdown (Part 3)

Bonjour, and welcome to the third chapter of my all-time countdown. You know the drill by now, so I won’t embark on a huge rambling intro; all I’ll say is that you may have some serious doubts about my sanity in a few minutes’ time. I apologise in advance, but only for making you recoil in horror – not for my particular (and in my eyes, perfectly acceptable) taste in music!

 

 

 

 #30 – Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey 2003)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJksu8XxZCo

After two years of winning songs that were regarded as more ‘meh…’ and ‘OH DEAR GOD!’ than douze points by fans, a pint-sized Turkish singer wearing harem pants and body glitter gyrated into the contest with a cracking ethno-pop number and changed the game. EWTIC is Turkey in their finest form. The core riff never fails to get me up and hip-shaking.

 

#29 – Diamond of Night by Evelin Samuel & Camille (Estonia 1999)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV3xhRffg6Y

I have a soft spot for Estonia in the ESC (excluding the “song” they sent in 2008) which well and truly extends to this entry, a mystical ballad that could have been lifted from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack. Evelin’s vocal in the chorus is verging on glass-shattering, but the fact that she performs it so on pitch makes it spine-tingling rather than eardrum-bursting. I particularly love Camille’s violin solo, more so in the extended studio version.

 

#28 – Suus by Rona Nishliu (Albania 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=671tCjePT3w

This is the first of a few songs in this group which I assume will have you all gasping in disbelief, but trust me – a few months ago I would have done exactly the same thing. The first few times I heard it, I hated it; but then I watched the preview video, and something changed. Then I saw it live in the semi and I was spellbound. Rona is a spectacular vocalist, and actually moved me to tears with her emotional performance. Pure class.

 

#27 – This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH5cowCvCX4

Again, please respect my right to have an opinion. This song is one of the most-played on my iPod, simply because…well, just because. Contrary to many fans, I don’t find it depressing or boring at all – I’d say it’s more anthemic. Anna didn’t quite pull it off live, but she and her party-dress-and-Converse combo will always be much loved by yours truly.

 

#26 – Rock Me by Riva (Yugoslavia 1989)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW9Xbwn8kwo

Yes, you read that right – the much-maligned winner of ’89 is this high on my list. Why, you ask? Because it’s catchy, it’s fun, and I get a kick out of listening to it. It’s as simple as that. I will add that it was very well performed on the night, and I do love the red/black/white colour scheme (a popular choice for Eurovision success).

 

#25 – Hemel En Aarde by Edsilia Rombley (Netherlands 1998)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkLJd9p8Xgc

Edsilia kind of crashed and burned in Helsinki, but almost a decade earlier she’d brought the Netherlands one of their best results ever with this quite frankly amazing up-tempo ballad. She’s a powerhouse singer (if you watch this performance, listen out for the growl) and engaged the audience so well. The Dutch should be proud of this one.  

 

#24 – Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (Serbia 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9x9VbJzaDQ

Ah, Željko, the master of the slow-burn Balkan ballad. I had high expectations of him coming into this year’s contest, and boy, were they met! The beauty in this song is everywhere, and like Suus it was one of the classiest entries this year. My favourite parts are the instrumental break after the first chorus, and the final thirty seconds, although I am pretty much infatuated with everything from 0.00-3.04.  

 

#23 – Rändajad by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGiVnhfXs0

Estonia crop up once again (and not for the last time) at #23, with Sandra “Perfect Hair” Nurmsalu and her fellow urban symphonists. What makes their song so special for me is partly the atmosphere, and partly the Estonian, which sounds so beautiful and mysterious. I suppose the mysteriousness has to do with my not remembering what the heck the lyrics mean. Ignorance can be bliss after all.

 

#22 – Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler (Spain 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8J1b62wOao

I waved a Spanish flag for the first time this year, all thanks to the powerhouse that is Pastora and the song-writing machine that is Thomas G:son. As a sucker for a big ballad a la several recent Spanish national finalists (Nada Es Comparable A Ti by Mirela, En Una Vida by Coral etc) there was zero chance of my disliking the one that made it to Baku. That money note gets me every time.

 

#21 – Od Nas Zavisi by Karolina (Macedonia 2002)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLMWrBzyDQ8&feature=related

It’s not just the costume reveal that makes me love Karolina’s first contest foray, though I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of it (who can go past a good piece of body armour?) Od Nas is a hard one to describe – is it a ballad? Is it ethnic soft rock? Or is it a hybrid? Maybe it’s that very uncertainty that I’m attracted to…

 

The End. For the moment, anyway. Next time the countdown will continue, but until then please keep the feedback coming! I’m really enjoying all the varying verdicts, as well as hearing which songs you guys would name as your most loved. It’s amazing how different opinions can be. Obviously, mine is the right one, but I will humour you with yours.

Just kidding!

 

Baku 2012: My overview of semi final 2

It’s Sunday afternoon, so in approximately nine hours I will know who won Eurovision 2012. The final finished at about 6am my time, which would have been a more respectable hour of the evening for many of you, I’m sure (I swear I’m only a little bit jealous). I did have a dream last night involving Can Bonomo and Pastora Soler, but I don’t think that signified a whole lot other than the fact that I have Baku on the brain right now.

Anyway, last night the second semi was screened here in Oz, and to be honest, it made the first one look like a rehearsal, it was that brilliant! For those of you still interested in my delayed verdicts, here’s a rundown of that very strong semi.

 

LE HIGHLIGHTS 

–  The contrast between Serbia’s opening act and Montengro’s was massive. It was a big moment for me to see Željko back on the ESC stage. He set the standard, and brought a level of class and atmosphere to the line-up that Rambo Amadeus could only dream of as he snoozed on top of his giant donkey.

–  Kaliopi’s performance for Macedonia was excellent, as was Eva Boto’s for Slovenia. Unfortunately only Kaliopi managed to qualify, but she really deserved it (from what I’ve seen, she’s a genuinely lovely lady, and she can sing like a champ). I’m very happy that FYROM managed to make the final for the first time since 2007, after years of just missing out.

–  I can’t not mention the country everyone wanted to see in this semi –Belarus. JOKE! I’m talking about Sweden, of course. Loreen’s performance may have been exactly the same as it was at Melodifestivalen, but Eurovision has never seen anything like it before – especially where the intimacy of the camera angles in concerned. At this point, I’m pretty certain we’re heading to Stockholm next year.

–  Some people make swans out of napkins; others make life-size ships out of bedsheets. Turkey apparently falls into the latter category, and to that I say ‘BRAVO, me hearties!’

–  Estonia and Norway, my two favourites in this semi, lived up to my expectations and then some. I am still mourning the loss of the extended version of Kuula, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the pants off Hott – as I am now calling him –  Lepland’s shorter rendition (Insert Joke About His Pants Coming Off Here). Tooji was amazing. I don’t think there was ever a time when a slot in the final didn’t have his name stamped on it in big glittery letters.

–  My final highlight has to be the interval act, comprised of Dima Bilan, Marija Serifovic, Alexander Rybak, Lena and Ell/Nikki, all of whom looked a lot skinnier than they did when they won, for some reason. Together they more than made up for the lack of interval entertainment the night before, even though neither Ell nor Nikki could seem to recall the lyrics of Waterloo. Fail. I would have loved to see Lordi there too, though. How great would a traditionally Azerbaijani version of Hard Rock Hallelujah have been?

 

LE LOWLIGHTS

–  Again, there weren’t many low points in my opinion. There were a few performances that just didn’t work for me on varying levels though – Belarus, for example, who I think may have cost themselves a place in the final by choosing to rework their song from its original pop-rock version into a messy pop-disco version (with a smidge of rock on the side).

–  I was also let down by Ukraine’s performance, which was a bit chaotic and too colourful for my retinas to enjoy, no matter how many times Gaitana told them to. There’s no doubting her ability to give a cracking vocal performance, but everything else just didn’t mesh. I was hoping for an army (well, a group of five as the EBU rules allow) of backing singers who could belt out the nanananananana’s, but what I got was some tie-dyed trumpet players and Gaitana herself taking care of the nana’s, which didn’t do justice to the studio version. I’m also not sure how fringes and flower garlands fit in with the vibe of the song. If the woman was a bridesmaid at a cowboy wedding it would make more sense.

–  Lastly, Max Jason Mai and his abs (which were on display, as hoped for by many) disappointed. I don’t know if it was just me, but he seemed to be off-key for most of his three minutes.

 

LE SHOCKS AND SURPRISES

–  I was mildly surprised to see Portugal’s Filipa pulling an Angelina Jolie, with a leg on display. It was definitely the most exciting part of her performance.

–  As much as I despise the Georgian song this year, I have to say that they put on a good show, so that was a pleasant surprise. I expected to spend the duration of I’m a Joker smothering myself with a cushion, but I found myself watching, and even tapping my foot to the beat a little. Don’t tell anyone, for God’s sake.

–  With so many strong songs in this semi, there was going to be some gems left behind. For me, Slovenia’s failure to qualify was a shock, and I am going to miss it tonight! Similarly, Lithuania’s qualification straight off the bat shocked me. I do love me some Donny, but I figured he was destined for failure alongside his sparkly blindfold.

 

LE RESULTS

The lucky ten this time around were Lithuania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Ukraine, Sweden, Macedonia, Norway, Estonia, Malta and Turkey, which means I was 80% right in my predictions again. Not bad.

Waiting for Estonia to be announced nearly killed me. I knew Norway would go through, but Ott wasn’t a sure thing – I was just hoping against hope for him to advance. Luckily he did, or I might not have been alive to write this post.

Malta’s qualification surprised me, but it made me happy too, because the tiny island always want a place so badly and they’re always so grateful on the rare occasions they get one. I don’t expect them to get anywhere in the final, but I don’t think that will matter much.

Turkey is back in the final after a year of failure that shocked us all – although the dastardly EBU made sure to leave Can until last to make us wonder if it would happen again. As the final country to snatch up a place on Saturday, Turkey made sure the level of the final would be sky-high.

In the unofficial Australian vote over at www.sbs.com.au/eurovision, it was Sweden who topped the list, followed by Norway and Malta. Finishing our top five were Estonia and Slovakia. Apparently my fellow countrymen and women love their off-key rock and roll.

 

To those of you who Eurovision 2012 is over for, I hope you enjoyed it. There’s still a bit of a wait for me, and so far I’ve escaped finding out the winner by holing myself up in my bedroom and getting excited about seeing the Big 6, particularly Italy and Spain, on stage for the first time.

Just because the contest has come to an end doesn’t mean I’m going to stop posting hilarious (cough) Eurovision-themed posts. For me the party lasts 365 days a year – or 366, in this year’s case – and you’re all invited!

Jaz x

 

PS – What were your highs and lows from the second semi???

 

Baku Reviews: Part 5 (Norway-Serbia)

Norway

Stay/ Tooji

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: When your favourite song in a national final wins that national final against all the odds (well, several odds) you’re not going to complain. By ‘you’ and ‘your’, I of course mean ‘me’ and ‘my’, because that’s what happened to yours truly with Norsk MGP 2012. I absolutely adore Tooji and his song, and no amount of ‘Hello, Eric Saade 2.0!’ jibes from you lot will change that. Stay has it all – it’s current, it’s catchy (so very catchy…), it’s dance friendly, it’s ethnic, it’s just repetitive enough AND it has one of those brilliant breaks before the last chorus where we all get to pump our fists in the air and shout ‘yah!’  To top it all off, Tooji can sing (above Eric Saade-level), dance, and be good-looking all at the same time. Plus, in his spare time he’s a child protection consultant (AWW!). What more could a girl want? In a Eurovision act, I mean.

Everything else: As suggested by the above gush-fest, I have nothing bad to say about Norwaythis year. They are in the tough second semi, but they’ve got a decent draw and I think they’ll make the final.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!

 

Portugal

Vida Minha/ Filipa Sousa

Better than 2011: Yes

The good stuff: Another year, another drama-filled Portuguese ballad…only applies if we forget Homens da Luta ever existed (I’m sure many people would like to). The man responsible for Portugal’s 2008 entry, Senhora Do Mar – as well as a bunch of entries for other countries – Andrej Babić, is back with a song that actually reminds me of that one a bit. It’s not one of his best efforts, but it’s not bad. As mentioned, it’s more dramatic than an episode of Days of Our Lives, which opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities for staging (hopefully including interpretive dance and a dress with a massive skirt that Filipa can toss around like a bullfighter’s red rag. Oh, and a wind machine dialed up to Level Rip-Your-Hair-Out-By-The-Roots). Filipa herself is a very capable vocalist, so she should turn out a good performance.

Everything else: If I didn’t have the Senhora comparison to jog my memory, I would not be able to recall how the heck this song goes. For some reason, every time I listen to it I immediately forget the entire three minutes. There’s proof on the WWW that I am not the only one to have experienced this phenomenon, and that does not bode well for Portugal’s chances of success. Although, let’s face it, Portugal’s chances for success are never that high.  

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 5 points.

 

Romania

Zaleilah/ Mandinga

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: After last year’s boring-after-three-listens entry Change, it gives me great pleasure to say that Romania is back to their Eurovision best. Mandinga is made up of a bunch of happy-go-lucky musical men and one super-hot, scantily clad frontwoman, so it’s like they’ve taken InCulto and Ani Lorak and smooshed them together to form an unstoppable act – and that’s before we even get to their song. Zaleilah is a part Spanish, part English bundle of summer-hit fun that should raise the roof on semi night. The construction workers who slaved away on the Crystal Hall for months won’t be too pleased about that, but everyone else will be when Romania sails through to the final.

Everything else: Again, there are uncertainties over lead singer Elena’s live vocal abilities. Apparently, at Eurovision in Concert this song was mimed (tut tut!) and I’m not sure, but I think the national final performance was too. Unfortunately, Zaleilah is not a song in which weak vocals can be disguised. If the leading lady isn’t up to scratch in that department, this could sound dreadful, army of backing singers or no army of backing singers. For now, I’m going to assume that she is so amazing live she didn’t want to make any of the other artists feel inferior pre-Eurovision, so she decided to lip-sync all the way down the road to Baku.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!

 

Russia

Party for Everybody/ Buranovskiye Babushki

Better than 2011: No

The good stuff: It’s good that the grannies will be able to build themselves a church in their hometown as a result of their representing Russia. It’s also good that Engelbert Humperdinck now has ladies to flirt with at the after-parties who won’t think he’s a creepy old man (in fact, they’ll probably think he’s a dashing young whippet). It’s also, also good that we get to hear a new language at the contest in Udmurt.

Everything else: I’m sorry, but I just don’t get this song. No, it’s not because I desperately wanted Dima Bilan to win the Russian final (even though I did). I just don’t like it. It wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a film about a murderous clown who rides around on a miniature bicycle and hacks innocent people to death with a knife he conceals in his giant shoe – and anything that fits that particular bill does not make for an enjoyable listen IMO. However, I’m not going to label it a loser, because being 100% mean to the grannies would be like slapping my own grandmother across the face.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 4 points.

 

San Marino

The Social Network Song/ Valentina Monetta

Top 10 material: No

The good stuff: Please don’t throw anything at your screen pretending it’s me when I say this…but I actually like this song. I’m not sure why, and I know it’s wrong, but I do – kind of like the enjoyment one gets from squeezing a particularly horrendous pimple. If I block out the horror that is the video clip and ignore the shocking lyrics, I find it listenable, and even – brace yourselves – catchy (I cannot use that word often enough). That’s the thing with Ralph Siegel, Germany’s ESC addict. Some of his songs are awesome (Reise Nach Jerusalem, for example) and some are dripping in cheese (Let’s Get Happy) but all of them, without fail, get stuck in your head to the max.

Everything else: When this song was called out on its blatant product placement and we knew it would undergo a rewrite, I hoped that rewrite would make it better. Unfortunately, replacing ‘Facebook’ with ‘social network’ did the impossible and made it worse. The lyrics are so cringe-worthy they make those from Switzerland’s 2004 semi-final loser Celebrate sound like prize-winning poetry. In addition, there’s that frightening video clip I mentioned earlier. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. It’s three nightmarish minutes of ill-fitting t-shirts and teeth and creepy old men who want to have cybersex, that you will never get back. Gross.

Winner, loser or grower: Because I can’t get past the lyrics, loser – 3 points.

 

Serbia

Nije Ljubav Stvar/ Željko Joksimović

Reminds me of: Paradise by Coldplay

The good stuff: The day ZJ was announced as Serbia’s 2012 representative is up there with the greatest in my life to date, no exaggeration. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration. Anyway, that’s not surprising to those who know my all-time favourite ESC entry is Lane Moje, closely followed by Lejla, which ZJ composed. His fans expected big things from him musically, but does Nije Ljubav Stvar deliver? In a word, OBVIOUSLY! This man can do no wrong in my eyes (save for getting together with Jovana Janković instead of me) and he’s taking another epic, ethnic Balkan ballad to the contest after four years away. I love how the song starts off so quietly before building into a final minute that knocks your socks off, even if you’re not wearing any. It’s got light and shade and ZJ written all over it.

Everything else: My only complaint is that I want it to go on for longer than the allowed three minutes. A song like this deserves at least five. Regardless, it should be a magical opener for the second semi final (as opposed to tragic-al, as it will be in semi 1).

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!  

 

NEXT TIME: I review Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine in the penultimate episode of the Baku Reviews!

 

Selection Season Day 12: The beginning of the end

Oui, we are getting closer and closer to having a full 42 (which may turn into 41, but more on that later…) with only Belgium, Azerbaijan and the UK still to choose/reveal their songs for Iris, Sabina and Engelbert. I’ve been very busy this week, and so today’s post is jam-packed with all I couldn’t cover as it happened. Better late than never, right?  

 

More songs, more reactions

The last seven days have continued the gap-filling for Baku in spectacular fashion, with nine more songs now part of the 2012 family – a family with more offspring than the Brady Bunch and the Octo-Mom combined.

Now, before you read my reactions and abuse me because I forgot to mention Sweden, I must tell you that I always feel the need to give Melodifestivalen a segment all of its own. It is, after all, almost as huge as Eurovision itself (technically huger if you consider the amount of shows/weeks/locations/wind machines involved). So you’ll have to wade through my verdicts on Bosnia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, San Marino AND Serbia’s entries to get to Sweden (if you don’t know what happened there a) where have you BEEN? Holidaying in an Amish caravan park? and b) here’s a clue: even a blindfolded Donny Montell would’ve seen it coming). Commence your wading.

 

Bosnia &  Herzegovina (Korake Ti Znam by MayaSar): When I was researching Maya, I listened to her Bosnian hit Nespretno. I was both surprised that she is already an established artist and not just the tartan keyboard lady from Dino Merlin’s performance in Düsseldorf, and taken with how interesting the song was. Interesting is again how I would describe Korake Ti Znam, and not in a bad way. It’s a song that makes you pay attention to figure out where it’s going. I don’t know quite where that is myself, but I know I enjoy the journey. If Maya sounds as good live and solo as she does in studio, hers will be three minutes to look forward to.

Greece (Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou): With Cyprus in the same semi final, I wonder if Ivi and Eleftheria will cancel each other out (I also wonder why someone would name their daughter ‘Eleftheria’ when their surname was ‘Eleftheriou’, but that’s another matter). With these two countries you’ve got two young and pretty girls singing catchy dance-pop, and though Aphrodisiac has the ethno-pop thing going on, the sameness is present. Will it lead to the downfall of one or both? I personally like Greece’s song better, and I think if only one were to qualify, it would be Greece because it always is. Still, Cyprus does have another strong entry that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked, so hopefully there’s a chance for both to go forward.   

Moldova (Lăutar by Pasha Parfeny): This reminds me so much of one of my favourites of Year Oslo – Ovo Je Balkan from Serbia. Consequently I’m loving it. It’s one of those songs verging on the novelty (based mainly on the NF performance) so it has that element of fun, but it’s not a joke of an entry. I’m not easily impressed, but I’m easily pleased, and anything that’s catchy AND ethnic will get my vote. Not literally, of course. Sadly, that is impossible…sob.

Milan Stankovic - Lego hair = Pasha Parfeny?

Montenegro (Euro Neuro by Rambo Amadeus): This was everything I expected and more, and that’s all I can say. Apart from WHY, Montenegro, WHY?

Portugal (Vida Minha by Filipa Sousa): The fact that I listened to this for the second time about five minutes ago and I can’t remember how it goes is not a good sign. I do remember liking it a little more this time, but I could still take it or leave it, which surprises me since the song was written by Andrej Babić, a Croatian who has written five ESC entries since 2003, all of which I am a fan of.

Romania (Zaleilah by Mandinga): Now this is what I’m talking about – Romania doing catchy, ethnic pop and doing it so well. It’s everything I want in a song really, and it should get the Crystal Hall audience going. I’m not expecting the Zaleilah to become the Macarena of the 2010s, but I’d shake my thing to it if it came on at a party, for sure.

San Marino (Facebook Uh, Oh, Oh  by Valentina Monetta): Uh oh indeed. German Ralph Siegel is responsible for some Eurovision brilliance, but this is not an example of that. I do think that if its subject matter was anything, and I mean anything, else, it would be a nice, poppy if not groundbreaking number. But as it stands, Mark Zuckerberg is soon to be mentioned on the ESC stage for the first time. That is if disqualification isn’t on the cards, as many fans are hoping it is, in which case will San Marino be able to come up with an alternative, or will it be bye, bye, Italy Junior? The next few days will tell.

And to think, this photo is the least scary thing about this year's Sammarinese entry...

Serbia (Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović): Since the split of Serbia and Montenegro, Serbia has flourished in Eurovision whilst Montenegro has floundered. That is not about to change in 2012. Željko’s entry was the most anticipated, and so had a lot to live up to. For me, it has well and truly succeeded in that mission. I love the instrumental start, the way it builds, ZJ’s always-reliable vocals, and the epic second half. I love it all!

 

A brief mention of Melodifestivalen

I mean, I want to go on and on about it, but I want you guys to stay awake more. Speaking of staying awake, I managed to do so a week ago as I watched the live stream of the MF final at 3am on Sunday morning. I use the word ‘stream’ very loosely in this context, considering that mine was pausing every ten seconds before catching up with itself (sometimes it’s so hard living in Australia and having a dodgy Internet connection). But all the pixilation was worth the thrill of seeing my favourite final live for the first time. The show was amazing, from Eric Saade’s all-dancing, semi-miming opener, to Sarah Dawn Finer’s hilarious sketch in which she put on such a convincing British accent I did not realise it was her, to Helena Paparizou’s de-schlagered rendition of Popular, the voting, and everything in between.

The real winner of the night was of course Loreen, whose surprise when the final points put her on top was so genuine it made me love her even more. She should have been in the final last year, so I reckon her predictable but deserved win with Euphoria was fated. The song is dance gold (and from the buzz, could be ESC gold also), but the pared-back staging and perfect vocals are what really make the entry special – at least, they will if they are carried through to Baku, which I think is likely. Loreen’s sitting pretty on top of both the digital and physical charts in Sweden right now, but can she get that high at the big show? Stockholm 2013 does have a ring to it.

 

Sweden's entry for 2012: Wind Machine 34D001F featuring Loreen

PS – I have to mention my beloved Danny Saucedo, who was forced to look happy and applaud as he was pipped into second place for the second year running. I wonder if SVT will make him announce the Swedish votes wearing a Loreen t-shirt just to keep things consistent. Poor, poor Danny. Come back next year with an unbeatable song, please!

PPS – If you want to relive Melodifestivalen (and who wouldn’t) the official CD is available online now. I recommend the Scandipop Facebook store for fast shipping and good prices. There you can also pre-order the DVD, set for release on the 30th, something I was quick to do being desperate to see the show sans stoppages.

 

Forever no more

First, it was ‘We don’t know about Per Sempre’. Then it was ‘Si, si, that’s the one!’. Now, in what we hope is a final decision but understandably may not be, Italy have announced that Nina Zilli will be singing L’amore é Femmina instead of her San Remo Song Festival entry at Eurovision. And just when I was really getting into it!

I do have to say, though, the change of mind is not an entirely horrendous change to have made. L’amore… is very catchy (and dare I say, swinging) and a lot more instant than Per Sempre, so it may have a better chance in the final; although I don’t think many of us saw Raphael Gualazzi’s song making waves last year, and lo and behold, it came second. Perhaps Nina will fail miserably in Baku while, in a parallel universe, Per Sempre Nina will flourish.

Perhaps I should save my predicting for later?

 

Is that all there is?

No, but there’s not a whole lot more. As mentioned way back in my intro, there are just three countries left who are yet to finalise their entries. Belgium and the UK are pretty set on what they’re doing, but the hosts are not – there’s a rumour of a song tonight and a video Monday, among others. Considering the deadline, this is what should be happening:

Belgium– Saturday the 17th

Azerbaijan (song announcement tonight)/ UK– Monday the 19th

Whether that happens or not, we are coming to the end of Selection Season for another year. I’ve got to say that I’ve really enjoyed it, in all its craziness.

 

But don’t worry – if, by chance, you like reading EBJ, I’m not going anywhere. In the few months left before Baku, I’ll be taking a look at the best of the 2012 national final runner-ups, reviewing all 42 (or 41) entries and bringing you a month of Düsseldorf in Rewind to recapture the magic of the 56th contest before we arrive at the 57th. Oh, and there is the all-important prediction special, of course. It’s going to be a hectic few months, but I’m always willing to push aside study for blog’s sake!

 

Jaz x

 

Selection Season Day 11: Finals, finals, everywhere!

As Kurt Calleja keeps telling us, this is the night; the night of four finals, two of which hold particular significance to the avid fan. There’s no time to waste! Here’s a wrap-up of the week’s results, plus all that’s ahead as we continue to fill up the blank spaces on the list of 2012 entries.

 

In with the old AND the new, say Russia and Slovakia

Q: Whose recent snapping up of a ticket to Baku could possibly make Engelbert Humperdinck, one of the oldest Eurovision contestants of all time, feel like a veritable spring chicken?

A: The Russian grannies, of course! Buranovskiye Babushki managed to do what has only been done once before (by a posse of latex-encased Finns in giant shoes) and beat Dima Bilan at something Eurovision related.

BB even made it into my state paper...if that's not granny power then I don't know what is!

This time, it was the Russian national final on Wednesday evening. Party for Everybody is the song the as yet unconfirmed number of nanas (I don’t want to cruel, but some of them are in danger of kicking the bucket prior to May) will be performing in the hope that they’ll raise enough cash to build a church in their home town. AWWWWWWW!!! Despite my pre-NF prayers that Dima would win – which he may have had it not been for Yulia, whose vocal abilities have not undergone much work since the days of Tatu, unlike her face – I can’t be mad at a bunch of sweet old ladies who just want to build a place of worship to, well, worship in. That could well be The Story of 2012, the background tale that clinches their qualification as an untimely death did forIceland last year.

Speaking of qualifying, will Slovakia’s rock number get them to the final for the first time? I have already mentioned this, but last week they announced that the artist they picked months ago but then un-picked (they love to mess around, our Slovakia), Miro Šmajda, will in fact be representing them, only under the name of Max Jason Mai. Luckily, he’s just as…well, flaming hot, particularly in the torso region, as he was when he was Miro. Not that a spectacular six-pack will win him any prizes at Eurovision. What could is his song Don’t Close Your Eyes. Some say it’s the country’s best chance yet, but I say that was Horehronie. Still, middling-to-fair rock has qualified before, even when sung by more unfortunate-looking folks.

 

Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Sweden: the Saturday forecast

So tonight is THE night of the selection season, thanks to Serbia and Sweden. I am definitely someone who’s been waiting for Željko Joksimović to present his fourth song for Europe, as well as following Melodifestivalen so closely it’s about to take a restraining order out on me. But don’t get me wrong – I’m just as curious to see what Portugal and Romania have in store for Baku. I’m hoping both can improve on their songs and in turn results of Düsseldorf.

Let’s get back to Serbia (I can’t help myself). Željko is practically Eurovision royalty, having notched up a 2nd, 3rd and 6th place as a performer and/or composer as well as hosting the show in 2008. Two of his three previous entries are up there with my favourite ESC songs ever, and the other isn’t far behind. Naturally, we have big expectations, and the issue with those is they are so easily unmet. It’s good to have such faith in an artist, though. Željko’s proved thrice times over he’s worth it, so I say let’s keep our expectations up here (I’m pointing to my ceiling, by the way). Don’t start making up “SERBIA 2013” t-shirts or anything yet…okay, maybe a mug, or a key-ring.

Now let’s talk Sweden ↓

 

Melodifestivalen, Episode VI

The MF final is always an occasion of both great sadness (‘cause it’s nearly over) and happiness (I don’t need to explain that). In 2012 it’s also a face-off between the single-named soloists, Loreen and Danny. If the bookies and fans are correct, it’s going to be one of them carrying the weight of Sweden on their padded shoulders. There are actually other acts/songs competing – hard to believe, I know – and here they are:

  1. Shout It Out by David Lindgren
  2. Jag Reser Mig Igen by Thorsten Flinck & Revolutionsorkestern
  3. Mystery by Dead by April
  4. Why Start A Fire by Lisa Miskovsky
  5. Baby Doll by Top Cats
  6. Euphoria by Loreen
  7. Soldiers by Ulrik Munther
  8. Mirakel by Bjorn Ranelid feat. Sara Li
  9. Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandén
  10. Amazing by Danny

My favourites: Dead by April, Lisa, Loreen, Ulrik, Molly and Danny.

My picks (the potential winners): Mystery, Euphoria and Amazing.

It’s a strange concept: death growl meets Eurovision. But if there’s any act that can possibly give Loreen/Danny the heave-ho, I reckon it’ll be Dead by April. I don’t really think they’ll win, but I’m just saying, if Loranny (as I am now calling the pair because I’m sick of typing both their names) happen to get abducted by a criminal syndicate hired by Ulrik or Molly (they may look innocent but trust me, they’re harboring psychotic tendencies), I think DBA will end up on top.

Loreen should have been in the final last year, but she’s getting a do over now and you can bet your bottom she wants the top prize. She’s a phenomenal vocalist, and her performance in the semi was the perfect amount of simplicity and show – plus, she’s going in as the favourite and had been #1 on Swedish iTunes for weeks. All she needs is to impress the international juries, and it’s hello Azerbaijan.

Loreen is nearly blown away by her own talent

Danny too, has a heap going for him. He was 2011’s runner-up (as was Eric Saade who came back a year later and won), he’s nabbed the coveted last spot in the running order (as did Saade), he’s a great performer with a striking stage show and a good song, AND he’s also done well in the digital charts. Should he find favour with the juries, it may finally be his time.

My prediction: In my heart it’s Danny, but in my head it’s Loreen, and when it comes to placing a bet you have to use your head. In the fight for 2nd place, I’m thinking Danny, DBA and Ulrik. Molly should improve on the last place from her previous Globen outing. As for this year’s wooden spooner, I’m thinking Top Cats. If they do come last, they may have to change their band name…

 

What’s next?

Because there is life after Melodifestivalen, no matter how bleak it may seem.

The entry deadline is looming, so the next week will be a busy one. Here’s the schedule, not including the BBC’s vague “next few days” song presentation announcement for the UK:

Sunday the 11th – Moldova        

Monday the 12th – Greece

Wednesday the 14th – Montenegro (song presentation), San Marino (artist announcement)

Thursday the 15th – Bosnia & Herzegovina (song presentation)

Friday the 16th – San Marino (song presentation)

Saturday the 17th – Azerbaijan, Belgium (song presentations x 2)

So we should have a 42-strong list of entries by next Sunday, but whether we will…that’s another matter. There always seems to be one country that waits until the very last minute to make everything official. Tut tut.

 

Don’t forget to join me on the regular social networking sites (@EurovisionByJaz) tomorrow for an in-depth gossip about What Happened Last Night (which for most people is various drunken activities that need to be slowly pieced together, but for ESC fans is various mini song contests that need to be rapidly and bitchily dissected).

 

Jaz x

 

An EBJ top 10: the best of the runners-up!

We are, of course, in national final mode at the moment, but there are still lulls in the action which mean I have nothing to talk about. This current lull is thanks to Belarus, who decided to change the date of their selection for the second time last week (as of my writing it’s now February 14th). I can’t talk about something that isn’t happening, which only leaves France’s song presentation from Sunday. Since I’m not sure how I feel about that yet, I have one option, and one option only. I didn’t want it to come to this, but it’s time for…ANOTHER TOP 10!

Today, it’s all about the songs that had to settle for silver, but to me are pure gold. Read the title, read the list, then tell me below which second-place songs are your most loved. If you want, I mean…I’m not forcing you. ???  

#1.

Lane Moje by Zeljko Joksimović (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)

"If I just reach a teensy bit further, maybe I can grab the trophy before Ruslana gets her hands on it..."

The 2004 winner from Ukraine was a whip-cracking, hair-flicking, leather-rocking wild woman known as Ruslana, and there’s no doubt she deserved her victory. The entry she beat (possibly literally, and into submission) to nab first place was a much more understated but still dramatic affair, from a multitalented Serbian we all know as Zeljko Joksimović; an entry I am proud to call My Favourite Eurovision Song of All Time – even if Kanye West interrupts me and tells me that actually, it was Ruslana who had the best entry ever. Whatevs, Kanye – Lane Moje never fails to give me goosebumps and that’s how I know it’s the one.

#2.

Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (UK 1989)

‘Why does she always mention this song?’ is the line most of you would sing on reading this. Unfortunately I don’t have a proper answer for you, because I can’t explain my undying love for the man with the braid and the oh-so-eighties power ballad he and his band brought to the ESC before I was even born. It just is.

#3.

Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006)

The 2006 contest was my first Eurovision (gasp!) and so I have many fond memories of the acts and songs – not all of which include latex monster masks, surprisingly. Dima Bilan, his mullet, and the piano that was suffering from a serious infestation of painted lady definitely stick in my head, as does his song. Yes, I actually do talk about the music sometimes. Russians know how to do pop, that’s for sure.

#4.

Is It True? by Yohanna (Iceland 2009)

I have a bit of a girl crush on Yohanna, I must admit. I think the moment of realisation came in Moscow, not with that dress, but with that note – the clear-as-crystal money note that may as well have been subtitled with ‘Iceland is going to rake in more points than Carola has had visits to the Fountain of Youth.’ The pitch perfection of her voice helped make Is It True? a ballad extraordinaire that would have topped the ‘09 lot had Alexander Rybak never been born/given a violin.

#5.

All Out of Luck by Selma (Iceland 1999)

Selma was Gina G when Gina G should have been Gina G. I.e. had the real Gina G performed Just A Little Bit in the ’99 contest, it would have done a whole lot better than it did three years previously, and possibly would have had to battle All Out of Luck for a top-end finish. As things stand, Selma had the right song at the right time, a song that still has the power to get people (a.k.a. me) up and dancing (a.k.a. flinging my arms about and knocking ornaments off my shelf).

#6.

To Nie Ja by Edyta Gorniak (Poland 1994)

Another ballad? Well, these babies have a knack for getting close, but not close enough, to the Eurovision trophy.Polandgot their best ever result on their first ever attempt with this cracking ballad. Thinking of it now makes me wish they would change their minds about withdrawing, go and fish Edyta out of her nursing home and give her a similarly ear-pleasing tune to perform in Azerbaijan.

#7.

Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium 2003)

Does anyone else compulsively mimic the onstage hand movements when this song comes on? I’ll assume yes to make myself feel less weird. Anyway, I think Urban Trad and their imaginary-language ethnic entry surprised everyone in Rigawith second place. Sanomi  may have been pipped by Sertab Erener’s glittery belly button back then, but to this day it remains a favourite of mine. That’s despite the fact that it reminds me of a sewing machine (you know, Janome? The well known brand of…ah, forget it).

#8.

Solo by Alsou (Russia 2000)

Speaking of glittery belly buttons, here’s one that apparently wasn’t glittery enough to ooutshine two middle-aged men with a vocoder. It did beat a bunch of skinny college guys in flares though, which counts for something. ‘It’ is also known as the torso of Alsou, whose 2000 runner-up is yet more proof of the Russian pop prowess.

#9.

Rock Bottom by Lynsey De Paul & Mike Moran (UK 1977)

These days you can enter a song in the ESC called, oh, I don’t know, My Number One or We Are The Winners, and good things can happen. In the past, however, you had to sing Last Place or This Is Going to Fail Miserably…or Rock Bottom, if you wanted to do well. I guess it was about not jinxing yourself.

#10.

Are You Sure? by The Allisons (UK 1961)

Yes I am sure. Sure that I love this song (boom tish). It may seem like a random addition to this list, but I am a girl of eclectic taste – sometimes – and so here we are. It’s a catchy little number that was sung, not by a trio of poofy-haired, synchronised teenage girls as the group name would allude, but by two grown men with more product than poof in their luxurious locks.

 

A little something extra…here are the ones that just missed out:

Eres Tu by Mocedades (Spain 1973), Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (UK 1993), Never Ever Let You Go by Rollo & King (Denmark 2001), Shady Lady by Ani Lorak (Ukraine 2008) and We Could Be The Same by MaNga (Turkey 2010).

 

COMING UP: Another Saturday brings a song from Malta and semis from Scandinavia, and I put the spotlight on a record-breaking ESC country.

 

JESC challenge: #22 – #26

Day 22: Best lyrics

My Song for the World by Tom Morley (UK 2003)

“…if I became a star, I’d try so hard to move this world with my heart. Singing songs of hope and peace so people know it can be achieved…”

Corny? Yes. Do I care? No; I just get all teary and patriotic…even though I’m not British.  

Anders by Trust (Belgium 2007)

“…mama, do I have a heart, mama? Look at me standing here, mama, what did I do wrong, mama? Is this what I deserve? Am I bad? I feel pain, mama. I’m not made of stone…”

This is probably my favourite JESC song to repeat ‘mama’ an infinite number of times. My favourite of all time is by the Spice Girls, but that’s irrelevant.

 

Day 23: Favourite non-JESC song by JESC artist

Malena/ Prošao Sam Sve by Dino Jelusić

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6BuA2lowDA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R8nRD5HuDs

I have to admit, I had trouble with this one, because I generally spend more time delving into the back catalogues of big ESC artists than the little ones. Luckily Dino saved me, thanks to what I like to call the ‘Eric Saade’ effect: insanely attractive male singer has me listening to anything they produce whether I like it or not because I am shallow and I can’t help myself. Having said that (and having also exposed one of my many pathetic tendencies) I genuinely do like these songs (and most of Eric’s as well), especially the latter and the story behind it.

 

Day 24: Best group song

A Day Without War (2010)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuieHr7ZJv8

Good old Princess Diana! Er, I mean Dima Koldun. Potayto potarto. His collaboration with the 14 participants of 2010 (the backing dancers missed out) for this song remains one of my favourite bits of Minsk.

 

Day 25: Favourite JESC country

Almost there:

Belarus

Netherlands

Sweden

Ukraine

But my favourite is:

Serbia. I’m aware that they are currently M.I.A from JESC (see below), but thanks to such musical amazingness as Učimo Strane Jezike (2006), Piši Mi (2007), Uvek Kad u Nebo Pogledam (2008) and Čarobna Noč (2010), I can’t choose any other for my favourite.

 

Day 26: Withdrawing country you miss most

Almost there:

Denmark

Spain

San Marino (because we had hardly been acquainted when we parted. Sob!)

But my most missed is:

Serbia, as hinted above. Naturally I’m going to miss my favourite participating country! I’m just grateful the withdrawing didn’t extend to big Eurovision as well, both because I love Serbia in that too, and because all my Christmases have come at once with the announcement of Zeljko Joksimovic’s representation, something that would never have happened had they opted out of Baku. Obviously. Please come back to Junior next year, la Serbie.

 

COMING UP: The finale of the epic JESC challenge; another Time-Warp Tuesday; my top 10 Junior songs of all time; aaaaannnnnddd (insert drum roll here) my all-important prediction special for the rapidly approaching 9th edition! You don’t want to miss any of it. Well, I hope you don’t.