ESC2014 – A “Few” Weeks Later

Hello Dear Readers!

As I reflect upon this year’s Contest, several things come to mind. This was a great show! From the beautiful stage, to stunning entries, to the suspenseful voting, to the ultimate champion, I think this will be remembered as one of the best Contests in quite some time.

Speaking of the winner, I will be writing a post detailing my thoughts on Rise like a Phoenix‘s triumph. If you look at my live notes from the Final, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of what I will be writing about.

Before I get to my annual awards, I want to point out some of the historical notes from this year’s Contest.

A Year of Firsts

  • San Marino qualified for the Final for the first time and received Saturday night points for the first time, too. This was on Valentina Monetta’s third attempt (and final time for at least a while)
  • It is the first time Montenegro has made it to the Final as well as it’s first ever douze points.
  • Azerbaijan finished outside the Top Ten for the first time. With Montenegro and San Marino’s relative success and Azerbaijan’s low finish, surely now, more than ever, countries must be hopeful of their chances.
  • France achieved its first ever last place this year, narrowly avoiding nul points-land with the help of Finland and Sweden.
  • And the first time that I attended a Contest! (post to come)

A Year of Rarities
In addition to the first time events mentioned above, there are also several rare occurrences that happened this year.

  • The Netherlands not only started a qualification streak and Top Ten streak of two years running, but also finished Top Five for the first time since 1998 and with its best placing since winning in 1975.
  • Greece, which held the longest active streak for consecutive Top Ten finishes until 2012, now finds itself outside the Top Ten again just two years later. This is also among Greece’s worst placings to date.
  • Italy also hit a historic low, not only is this its first foray outside the Top Ten since returning, but is among its worst finishes historically as well.
  • For only the second time, Moldova failed to move through to the Final and finds itself in the unlucky spot of being lowest point gatherer for the semi-finalists.
  • For only the second time, all three Baltic states were shut out of the Final since Latvia completed the set in 2000, the previous being 2010.
  • Only three countries broke 200 points and only three more made it over the 100 point threshold indicating that the top point earners were adored throughout the continent and that the competition was otherwise quite close.
  • The voting sequence algorithm worked perfectly! Austria didn’t quite pull away definitively until only a few countries were remaining, making this one of the most exciting finishes in recent ESC history.

Continued Trends
Along with the new and rare occurrences, this year brought with it some of the trends we are used to seeing.

  • For the (fifth?) time since the introduction of the semi-final in 2004 have all five Nordic countries made it to the Final together and at least one made it to the Top Ten.
  • With the fall if Azerbaijan, Russia now owns the longest active streak of Top Ten finishes. It extended its success to three consecutive Contests. Russia takes the honor because Italy failed to get Top Ten this year. With two consecutive Top Tens apiece, Ukraine, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, and (surprisingly!) the Netherlands, all are following close behind.
  • The Big Five hangs tough by getting at least one of themselves in the Top Ten. Granted, it’s a far cry from 2012 when three of them made it, but it pushes the group’s streak to six. Keep in mind, this streak comes after a four year drought for the group in which they all frequented the Bottom Ten.

More fun with numbers here: escinsider.

Now, on to the awards!
Best Lyrics Award

NorwayWinner: Norway Silent Storm

“And there’s a silent storm inside me
Looking for a home
I hope that someone’s gonna find me
And say that I belong”

A haunting, poignant song written by Epsen’s cousin specifically about him. This personal connection contributed to Carl Epsen’s ability to utterly crush his performance. In fact, each time he has performed this song, he has done it better and better.

Honorable Mention: Austria, Moldova, and Sweden

The “Huh?” Award: Given to the country the most questionable, lazy, or just plain nonsensical lyrics.

DenmarkWinner: Denmark Cliché Love Song

“Scooba-dooba-dap-dap-di-di-die
Scooba-dooba-dap-dap-di-di-die
I love you
Another cliché baby”

1. There’s nothing cliché about loving someone
2. Even if it was, there’s nothing wrong with being cliché
3. Even f there was, why would you sing a song about it?

Honorable Mention: Estonia, United Kingdom, Georgia

Best Dressed Award

Photographer Andres Putting/Eurovision

Credit Andres Putting/EBU

With Ilse DeLange in a pretty white dress and Waylon in a nice black suit and his trademark hat, the Common Linnets’ not only look demure, but are perfectly dressed to fit the style and sound of their song The Calm After the Storm.

Honorable Mention: Montenegro, Ukraine, Spain, and Russia

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

Winner: The United Kingdom

UK.c.AndresPutting

Credit Andres Putting/EBU

What. The. Heck!!  Bright gold, form-fitting, short dress?  Feathers?! Have we learned nothing from Joan Franka? Feathers are never a good idea, particularly in that vast amount of numbers. This entry was predicted to contend for the crown. The outfit was one of various reasons why it did it.

Honorable Mention: Macedonia, France, and Georgia

Best Staging Award

Winners: Ukraine & Sweden

I couldn’t decide between these two. Ukraine’s hamster wheel and clock imagery fit the song perfectly. It allowed Marija Yaremchuk to move around, without being distracting or getting out of breathe.  Meanwhile, Sweden had an tasteful, toned down performance with Sanna in her cage of light. Again, the use of the lights reflected the song, particularly mirroring the melodic growth throughout.

Honorable Mentions: Switzerland (all the fun of the music video), Montenegro (the figure skater was an amazing addition), and Austria (being alone on stage allowed the power of the song to shine through)

Worst Staging Award

Winners: Italy

Despite an amazing music video that captures the attitude and edge of this song, the staging came off as immature and disorganized.  There are many directions that they could have taken this to bring that same intensity to the stage in Copenhagen, even using that awful outfit she had, and they utilized none of them.

Honorable Mentions: France (a hot mess), Armenia (would have been much improved with the addition of dancers/actors), and Ireland (the dancers were distracting and unnecessary)

“This is DC Calling” Award: Given to the most American sounding entry

NetherlandsWinner: The Netherlands

No real surprise here.  The song was intentionally written in the tradition of American folk music so there is little wonder that I think that this is the most “American” sounding song for this year.

Honorable Mention: Spain (nice, big American sounding ballad), Denmark (generic pop music!), Ukraine (strong female-driven pop tune), and Estonia (dance number with big notes)

“The Pond Leaper” Award: While I think each song would find a niche here in the USA, I think these songs would be the most popular

Winner: UkraineUkraine

The pop diva will always rule the American airwaves. Add to that the current increase in American sympathies for Ukraine and I think that Tik Tok would be a huge hit in the US. Not to mention it’s so catchy! And who doesn’t like a cute guy in a hamster wheel?

Honorable Mention: Norway (heartfelt, genuine ballad, much like Sam Smith or Mary Lambert), The Netherlands (see above), Ireland (great dance beat)

The “Spirit of ABBA” Award: Given to the most stereotypical and/or traditional ESC entry

Winner: Belarus

BelarusCatchy pop tune with questionable lyrics: Check
Slick dance moves: Check
Surprisingly popular amongst the fans and juries: Check!
Cheesecake is a fun song that is not only infectious but also innocuous. While we can debate over the content of the music video, we can agree that lyrics are from the perspective of a guy worn out in his relationship, not a voice we get to hear very often. Also, it’s worth noting that this is the second straight year that Belarus has won this award. Will it go for three in a row in 2015?

Honorable Mention: Sweden (a traditional, schlager-ballad), Portugal (fun, Iberian dance tune), Denmark (complete with gibberish lyrics to enhance catchability of the tune)

Coming up
Normally, this is where my final thoughts would appear, but further debriefing is required for this year’s historic finish. Check back soon for my article on Austria’s victory.

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