Eurovision 2015 – Vienna

ESC Write-Ups & Quizzes

Hello Dear Readers!

As you know, one of the primary objectives of Eurovision Obsession is to help introduce new people to the ESC. To that effect,each year since 2013, I have been posting the notes that I originally crafted for my Eurovision parties introducing my American friends to the Contest. These notes include a brief history of the Contest, a brief explanation of its rules, highlights for that particular year, an explainer of Eurovision Week, and profiles of each competing country. Additionally, for the more obsessed, EO has been making quizzes on the website Sporcle since 2015 for those who want to test their knowledge.

Below, you will find the complete collection of Eurovision Write-Ups and Country Profiles published on this website as well as links to each Sporcle quiz EO has produced.

Eurovision 2020 – Rotterdam

Eurovision 2019 – Tel Aviv

*Some of the country profiles have outdated info in the brief histories, EO apologizes for the error.

Eurovision 2018 – Lisbon

Eurovision 2017 – Kyiv

Eurovision 2016 – Stockholm

Eurovision 2015 – Vienna

Eurovision 2014 – Copenhagen

Eurovision 2013 – Malmö


Eurovision 2015 – Four Weeks Later

Hello Dear Readers!

I am home and have been ruminating upon this year’s Contest. Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting upon my experience in Vienna (post to come), the ESC itself (this post), and my hopes for next year (post to come). I am completely addicted to attending the event live — next year in Sweden! But, before I get personal or forward-thinking, let’s dive into my thoughts from this year and my annual awards!

General Thoughts: Overall, ÖRF put on a great show (even if the arena organization was poor), the production was good. I didn’t mind the three hosts and their writing seemed to get better each night.  I’m still not a fan of doing the winner’s reprise to start the first semi-final. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that it should stay at the start the Grand Final – as that is the show that the majority of those “almost 200 million viewers” watches. Some historical notes:

  • It’s the first time in the Semi-Final Era that we’ve had a “nul points” – let alone two! It’s the first nul points since 2003 (2009 gave us one in the semi-final) and the first multiple “nul points” since 1997 (Norway & Portugal) and the seventh time ever that multiple songs got nul points (1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1983, 1997).
  • Montenegro extends its qualification streak after five failed attempts. Not only that, it once again qualified with a song in Montenegrin. San Marino does not extend its streak of continually improving its result; this year, it failed to qualify after coming 24th in last year’s Final.
  • For the first time since the induction of 50/50 voting, the televote favorite (Italy) did not win. A win by Grande Amore would have been only the third non-English language victory since televoting began in 1998. Which, after seeing them go at only 75% power in the Jury Final, makes sense. Their jury final performance and their televised Grand Final performance were light years apart.
  • Albania was also brought down by the juries as it would have finished in the Top Ten via the televoters. In the semi-finals, the Czech Republic would have made their first ever Grand Final if it were 100% televoting. Conversely, Malta’s streak of qualifications was snapped by a low televoting performance.
  • Russia, Sweden, and Norway maintain their Top Ten streaks — Russia extends its to 4, Norway is at 3, and Sweden is now at 2. Thanks to Italy, the Big Five now have seven straight years of having at least one representative in the Top Ten.
  • And, while we’re talking about streaks, Denmark, not only broke its Top Ten streak, but also snapped its qualification streak at 7 (including last year’s auto-qualification). Iceland, which did not qualify until 2008, also snapped its streak at 7. Malta snapped its streak at 3. Whereas, Latvia qualified for the first time since 2008 (and its first Top Ten placing since winning in 2003).
  • And, the elephant in the room: Greece and Cyprus. There was an audible gasp when Cyprus revealed that there were only 8 points for Greece. This was the first time since 1991 that Cyprus has given Greece anything other than 12 points. Of Cyprus’ 32 years in the Contest, only 9 times has Cyprus not given Greece maximum points. Greece, which has had fewer opportunities to give Cyprus points, has given Cyprus 12 points every time it could since 1996 until this year.

Now, on to the Awards: For new readers, I hand out awards every year to noteworthy entries and their performers. A few things to keep in mind 1) this is my personal opinion, 2) I look at all the entries, not just the finalists, 3) this is all in good fun and sparks from my love of the Contest. One more note — all photos that appear are mine – I took those!

Best Lyrics

AzerbaijanWinner: Azerbaijan
“I once met peace, he said that he
Soon would have the answers to this hurt
And my mind was made up, I would never give up

No, I won’t sleep tonight
If tomorrow comes I’ll lose my mind
I won’t give up my right
I know every heart deserves a fight”

I know that I have mentioned my opinion of the strength and artistic merit of this song and I will again! This song is deep and communicates the existential struggle of a man fighting to reclaim himself and his identity. It’s a beautiful song with beautiful lyrics.

Runner-Up: Ireland
“I made the mess in your vision
And I see a debt to be paid
To give a little love was all I wanted
Give a little love was all my intent
I was playing with numbers
And I didn’t know what it meant”

Subtle, deep, stirring – Playing with Numbers tells the story of a young woman who spoiled a relationship due to selfishness and is now reflecting back on that fractured relationship. The song is deep, it’s genuine, and it draws you in to its narrative. Bravo!

Honorable Mention: Georgia, Malta, Czech Republic, Latvia, Australia

The “Huh?” Award: Given to the country the most questionable, lazy, or just plain nonsensical lyrics. In a year that gave us a lot of fairly straightforward entries and artistic songs, it was hard to choose. Though, there are a few cringe-worthy acts from this year.

MoldovaWinner: Moldova
“Yeah baby, let me show ya
You got me trippin’ over
‘Cause you got what I want, what I want
What I want, want, want, I want your love

I want your love, I want your love
I want your love”

Anytime you have verses that start with “Hey girl” – you know that you have song from a sleazy guy’s perspective. The entire song is fairly hitting that same point. Guy thinks a girl is pretty and starts catcalling her for three minutes.

Runner-Up: Greece
“I’m begging you, take me out of this fiery hell
Come back and save me, what happened wasn’t fair
Nothing left, all that I have is one last breath
Only one last breath

I’m begging you, take me wherever you have gone
I’m begging you, take me, don’t wanna be alone
All that I have is one last breath”

Mostly here because it is a song of longing and heartbreak, but the song builds and builds, becoming more and more powerful. That’s not how these songs are to be done. Had Greece just gone a few short miles to any former Yugoslav nation, then it would be okay. Or if the lyrics turned positive throughout. But neither of these are the case. Boo.

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Armenia

Best Dressed Award

 

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ArmeniaWinner: Armenia
I love their outfits – a perfect blend of traditional and contemporary styling. While the dark tones reflect the sombre images invoked by the song. Not to mention that the outfits are coordinated, but not matching – each is unique.

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Runner-Up: Switzerland
Sparkly dress, flowing cape, just enough exposed leg to be classy without being trashy. A perfect Eurovision outfit!

Honorable Mention: Latvia, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Belarus

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

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Winner: AustraliaAustralia
I am not quite sure who told Guy Sebastian that a blue suit jacket and yellow pants went together? They lied to him. He looks like he’s about to go off to vacation in the Caribbean instead of on Europe’s biggest stage. If Australia is invited back, let’s hope they have better stylists next year.

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Runner-Up: Portugal
Sorry for the blurry picture! But, given that she’s wearing some kind of leather catsuit-parachute combination outfit, it’s not a bad thing. I think it was meant to give her more of a “rocker” feel, but it was just…horrible.

Honorable Mention: The Netherlands (Barbara Dex Award winner!), Moldova

Best Staging Award

FranceWinner: France
There were a lot of fantastic stagings this year; however, only one performance gave me chills. When I was watching performance, as the screen went from rubble to a blue sky, I was mesmerized.  When the drummers came out, I got goosebumps! This simple, striking staging perfectly captures the tone and message of the song.

Runner-Up: Belgium
This song has a deeply futuristic sound – with its drum machine and mechanical tones. The choreography, the lighting, the outfits – everything about the staging reflected the style of the song.

Honorable Mention: Latvia, Sweden, Estonia

Worst Staging Award

Winner: The NetherlandsNetherlands
A flysuit that earned the dubious Barbara Dex Award, questionable camera angles that prevented any kind of connection with the song, and a disorganized collection of backing singers – this staging is just a mess. The sad thing is, this song was getting some traction and could have snuck into the Final, had the staging been anything like the Selection Special when the song was revealed or the Eurovision in Concert. Unfortunately, it was not.

Runner-Up: Germany
Not that I think Black Smoke deserved its nul points, but the fact that her back was to the audience for the entirety of the first verse did not help. It’s a break-up song, so, why was she trying to be sexy? No one got that joke.

Honorable Mention: Azerbaijan, Spain, San Marino — all three are more here for missed opportunities than for a bad staging

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

GermanyWinner: Germany
Perhaps I should start calling this the “Germany Award” as I feel like this country wins more often than not in this category. It’s a 90’s-style, R&B song that would fit perfectly with this current kick of “rhythmic pop” that is so popular in the US.

Runner-Up: Australia
Uptempo R&B pop — there’s no way that this would not be a Top Ten hit in the US.

Honorable Mention: Iceland, Estonia, Ireland

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

AustraliaWinner: Australia
Australian artists tend to do quite well in the US. Not to mention, Guy Sebastian already has some notoriety in the States from a rap collaboration he was a part of a few years back. As I said above, this song would be destined for the top of the US charts if it got a formal American release.

Runner-Up: Albania
I’ve actually heard this on the radio here! Granted, it was satellite radio and it was playing songs that were getting traction on YouTube, but still! That means there are already some Americans who are listening to this song.

Honorable Mention: Cyprus, Italy, Ireland

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

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SerbiaWinner: Serbia
Normally, Serbia gets these kind of awards for its Balkan ballads. This year, it sent a campy, anthematic dance number. This is the kind of thing that comes to mind when most non-fans think of the Contest.

Honorable Mention: Montenegro
Balkan ballad of heartbreak in a Serbo-Croatian dialect composed by Žjelko Joksimović — YES, this is Eurovision.

Honorable Mention: The United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden

Israeli Flag CountryThe “Shiri Maimon Travesty of the Year” Award: In 2005, a true work of art was entered into the ESC; Israel was represented by Shiri Maimon with the song Hasheket Shinish’Ar.  Not only did this song not win, but the winning song that year was not even worthy to be performed on the same stage as the Israeli entry.  For me, that was the biggest travesty in Eurovision history.  Each year, I hand out this award to the biggest disappointment of the Contest.

GermanyWinner: Nil Points for Austria and Germany
Historically, songs coming last on the night were clearly lacking – they were either ludicrous, poorly performed, or blatantly terrible. This is doubly so for songs in null points-land. AustriaThe fact that both, Austria and Germany, had good songs that were more-than ably performed with memorable staging, makes their lack of points unbelievable and uncalled for. It’s sad that these two songs will go down in history for scoring the infamous nil points despite being strong entries.

Runner-Ups: Malta & Ireland failing to qualify for the Grand Final
Two strong songs with deep meaning and interesting lyrics. Both were well performed and modestly staged. These songs are true musical gems and it’s unfortunate that they did not move through.

Honorable Mention: Hungary moving through to the Grand Final

Final Thoughts
Overall, this was a historic Contest and not just because it’s the 60th Edition! Sweden sets its sights on Ireland’s record, we have a double null points, Australia competes at long last (setting a dangerous precedent in the eyes of many), and we have a victor that was selected by the juries but not the televoting public (which will invariably lead to rule changes for next year, I’m sure). Not to mention that there was a near riot with Russia being in the lead for so long during the voting.  While I am disappointed that a few of my favorites did not do as well as I would have liked, many of them (Belgium, Latvia, Sweden, and Australia, amongst others) were quite successful! I think the shows were well produced, the entries were strong, and the voting was exciting. It was a great year for the ESC and I look forward to next year’s show in Sweden!


First Reactions to the Eurovision 2015 Grand Final

Hello Dear Readers!

Wow! What a show! Twenty-seven fantastic performances, exhilarating mid-voting & interval acts, and voting that kept us on edge until nearly the end. Some initial reactions and notes from Saturday night:

Swedish Flag Map-Congratulations to Sweden! It’s second win in four years, and sixth overall. Sweden now stands alone in second place in all-time victories. The UK, France, and Luxembourg are now in third place with five wins. Ireland is still in first with seven – Sweden is setting its sights on the coveted top spot. Rumor has it that it will be in Gothenburg next year, not Stockholm, but we’ll see.

Latvia-Overall, I am not too surprised by the Top Ten; I was only 60% accurate. I am very happy that both, Latvia and Belgium, were able to make it to the Top Ten, that they did not cancel each other out. I am disappointed that Azerbaijan did not make it, but I guess it’s nice to see that it is starting to normalize within the Contest as opposed to always being in the top – like what Armenia starting experiencing in 2011.

Germany-Biggest Surprise: We have the first nul points in a Grand Final since the UK in 2003. Not just one, but two: Germany and Austria. It is the first time a host country has received the infamous score and only the second time a host has come last (the Netherlands came joint last in 1958). Regardless of your opinion of these two songs, neither deserved nul points. The performances were solid, the songs are catchy, and it’s inconceivable that, among forty countries, not a single one found a single point for either. It’s mind-boggling and I am sure will be a source of chatter within the fan community for years to come.

Russia-Fans are desperately and deeply split on Russia. On one side, we have people who oppose Russia’s politics (on multiple fronts) and view their entries as an extension of Putin. On the other side, we have fans that argue that we must be neutral and that Russia’s song deserved its widespread support. I try to stay out of the arguments, but given it is becoming one of the biggest issues (and not just with Russia, but Azerbaijan as well), I feel like I must comment. Personally, I think that if we think Russia should not compete, then we must petition the EBU to punish Russia, which could include blocking them from participation in Eurovision programming (ESC, JESC, Young Musicians, etc.). Until the EBU decides to take action, we must treat every competitor with respect. We can also take action by not attending an event in a country we protest and pressuring our broadcasters to withdraw in a year that we think that a country has politics contrary to the ideals of the Contest.

France-The Big Five (except Italy) all ended up at the bottom if the scoreboard. The UK missed an opportunity to capitalize on a truly unique and fun entry. France was screwed by its running order position (again! Just like 2013). Spain was a victim of its own over-production. Germany, inexplicably, earned zero points – why, I have no idea. It seemed like country really tried to do its best this year, so, as of right now, I have no suggestions for improvement other than to lick their wounds and move forward with renewed optimism.

Austria -The production was lovely, even though I thought it was a bit too heavy on promoting Conchita; her agent must be amazing. I appreciated that there were nods to the gay male fans, but we were not lifted up as the “ideal fans” or the only fans out there (something that I fear Sweden will return to doing, especially if Petra Mede is invited back to host). The organization left much to be desired, which I will dive into in a future post about my experience in Vienna.

-Finally, something needs to be done about this flag situation that’s become much worse since the standing section was introduced in 2013. The easiest solution would be to build a stage that is higher up or at least raise the angle of the cameras. It will result in much different kids of shots, but would help alleviate the problem.

I spent a combined total of 34.5 hours standing in queues ahead of the show. Most of those hours were outside, many in the rain, some in crowded, tight spaces. At times, we asked ourselves “why we were doing this?” And had to constantly remind ourselves that, despite the rain, despite the disorganization of the security staff, despite the pushing, shoving, and disrespect from other fans – experiencing the show was going to be worth it.

And it was. It simply was.

Not just for the reasons I mentioned at the top of this post, but also for the community. The new people that I met, the people I saw again from last year, and the overall crowd. I love Eurovision, not just for the combination of geography, pop music, and competition, but for ideal of unifying a continent (and beyond!) for a week. ESC is at its best is when shared in community. I guess that’s why I started this blog, to expand my ESC community. So I want to thank you, my dear readers, for it is you that helps keep this passion, this Eurovision Obsession, going and growing.

Eurovision is about people – die-hard fans, noobs, casual viewers, Europeans (regardless of their national origin), and non-Europeans alike. While we can argue about who should participate and how, we must all agree that the shared experience of enjoying the Contest is open to everyone. Thank you for your readership and I look forward to seeing how this blog continues to grow and expand into the future!

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Stay tuned for my wrap posts from this year’s event, including my annual awards and a post about my time in Vienna!


Reactions to the Second Dress Rehearsal

Hello Dear Readers!

After a rousing jury final and a good night’s rest (as short as it was), I have some reactions and updated predictions for you!

Overall, the jury final was great! Almost every act came to win; even the hosts jokes were better! So, some reactions:
Helped their case:
-France — I git goosebumps during her performance. This is not a song that fans will necessarily go for, so a strong jury performance was required and it was delivered.
-Serbia — the big favorite in the hall was Serbia. People were going wild throughout the song and the recaps. The performance was on point and the energy level was through the roof.
-Australia — the song is fun and catchy and a fan-favorite. But the performance was unbelievable! It will be hard for the juries to ignore it.

Still have work to do:
-Poland — their were some very prominent pitch issues throughout this performance which took away from the overall quality of the song. Big notes only work if the harmonies align properly. She’s going to need a strong performance for the televoters tonight to make up her lost points.
-Russia — there was definitely something lost between Tuesday and tonight. Everything was there, technically, but it lacked energy and felt forced. The spark that propelled this song up the bookies rankings needs to return for tonight or Russia can find itself on the outside of the Top Ten.
-Hungary & Romania — as I write this, I struggle to remember either performance. This is partly due to the underwhelming nature of the songs and partly due to the power of the songs around them. I’m not sure what either can do to help themselves at this point other than not doing things to hinder themselves.

New Predictions:
After months of listening to the songs, weeks of reading analysis and fan opinions, and days of watching live performances, here is my updated Top Ten prediction:
Sweden
Latvia
Serbia
Australia
Italy
Russia
Azerbaijan
Albania
Lithuania
Georgia

At this point, I would not be surprised if any of these songs win. Add Belgium, Estonia, and Norway to that list for all possible winners. We have more parity this year than in the recent past. The voting is bound to be close!

Right this second, I think Serbia can pull out the victory. It is catchy, empowering, and masterfully-performed. We very well can be back in Belgrade next year. Then again, my opinion os constantly shifting, so, we’ll see!

Enjoy the Final tonight!


Notes for Eurovision 2015!

Hello Dear Readers!

As I do each year, I have provided some notes to help you put this year’s Contest into historical perspective. Feel free to print them and have them on hand for your Eurovision party or just read them and be the most knowledgeable person in the room!

Eurovision 2015 Write-ups


Thoughts on the Second Semi-Final

What can I say about the second seni-final? Wow!

There were more uptempo numbers and a larger crowd than Tuesday. Both of which led to a really awesome atmosphere in the arena. I’ll be interested to see how it translates to television. So, a few notes:

-I was 80% accurate with my predictions. I did not guess that Cyprus nor (happily) Latvia were going to qualify. Instead, I thought that Ireland and Iceland would.
-Montenegro extends its qualification streak to two! No entry composed by Žjeljeko Joksimović (SM2004, BH2006, SER2007, SER2012) has fallen outside the Top Ten. This may be the year that changes, time will tell.
-Like Belgium, Latvia is a favorite of mine that falls into the “experimental pop” category i discussed previously. If either (or both!) song performs well on Saturday, can you imagine the impact upon the Contest? It will (hopefully) be resounding.

We now have our full 27 finalists. Things are made much more difficult for our qualifiers from the Second Semi-Final, as only a small number of spots in the second half of the running order remain. Though, Austria won from spot #11 last year.


Reaction to the First Semi-Final

Whoa! What a show! Every act brought their best, with the exceltion of Belarus – which was truly underwhelming, lacking the energy that this song deserves.

A few things:
-Per usual, I was 70% accurate in my predictions. I picked Macedonia, Denmark, and Belarus instead of Hungary, Armenia, and (happily) Belgium.
-Best surprise: Moldova. The performance was on point! It trotted the line of exciting without going over-the-top.
-Second surprise: Greece. It was actualy exciting! The song was so wonderfully performed and the crescendo to the final moments was exhilerating.
-Biggest surprise: Belgium’s qualfication! I love this song but had little faith in it moving through due to its style (as I discuss in a previous post).
-The first semi-final is the weaker of two BUT the performers set a high bar. I feel even better about my prediction of Albania being in the Top Ten. I am now thinking that Belgium might work its way up there, too. Knowing that tomorrow’s are *better*, I am super-excited for the Second Semi-Final!


ESC 2015 – Final Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

Well, it’s finally here: Eurovision Week 2015!!! It’s a little late, but what’s a 60th edition without a bit of pomp and fanfare? Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, my annual Notes and Country Profiles will be coming at you ahead of your Eurovision Parties on Saturday!

Per usual, I want to make my final predictions ahead of the semi-finals! Once again, I will be attending the Contest live! (If you have not seen my previous posts, I have a FundRazr campaign!) What this means is that I will not have live notes this year, but will instead do a quick recap and reaction after each semi-final and the Grand Final. You can still expect my wrap-up post and awards after the Contest.

Without further ado, here are my final predictions for this year! These predictions are based upon internet chatter, betting odds, and Contest history. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below!

Qualifiers from First Semi-Final: I do not foresee too many surprises, except for maybe a bloated Armenian entry being left behind.Greek Flag Map

  • Greece
  • Estonia
  • Macedonia
  • Serbia
  • BelarusBelorussian Flag Map
  • Russia
  • Denmark
  • Albania
  • Romania
  • Georgia

Qualifiers from the Second Semi-Final: A lot of the heavy hitters are on tonight. While San Marino has improved its placing each year, even finally qualifying for the Final last year, that trend will end in Vienna.Lithuanian Flag Map

  • Lithuania
  • Ireland
  • Montenegro
  • Norway
  • Israel
  • AzerbaijanIcelandic Flag Map
  • Iceland
  • Sweden
  • Slovenia
  • Poland

Prediction for the final Top Ten: There’s a lot of parity this year. Unlike the bookies, I do not think it will be a runaway victory for Sweden. It’s going to be an intense battle for the crystal microphone – and I very much look forward to it!Albania

    • Sweden – the big favorite and catchiest song this year
    • Lithuania – cute and the duo has fantastic chemistry
    • Albania – the song is captivating and has been sliding beneath the radar
    • Azerbaijan – a rare gem in artistic creation at the Contest
    • Australia – fun, catchy and makes you want to dance with the one you love!
  • Italy – everything you think of when contemplating Italian musicItaly
  • Slovenia – quirky, endearing and easy to sing along to
  • Russia – a powerfully sung entry about peace
  • Norway – dark, mysterious and masterfully sung
  • Ireland – it’s time for Ireland to return to the Top Ten and this serious, contemplative number can do just that

AzerbaijanAnd the winner is….Azerbaijan! I am predicting that we’ll be heading back to Baku (or possibly Ganja) in 2016. After last year’s *relative* failure (by Azerbaijani standards), İctimai Television has gone to new lengths to bring a soul-searching, moody, meaningful entry to Eurovision this year.


ESC2015: Contender or Pretender

Hello Dear Readers! Time for our annual Contender or Pretender series! Once again, we have a slew of bookie favorites that I am taking upon myself to put through the ringer as we head into Eurovision Week 2015! I have selected the six entries that have the highest odds according to OddsChecker: Sweden, Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Australia, Italy, and Estonia. Interestingly enough, Norway and Lithuania, both early favorites, seem to be fading as the Contest draws near. Given the fact that the opening reception is occurring as I write this, we’ll just go through all of these fantastic songs together!

Swedish Flag MapSweden
Heroes performed Måns Zelmerlöw
Reason it’s a contender: Another year, another Swedish entry picked by bookies and fans alike to win. This year, we see Måns Zelmerlöw finally earn the Swedish ticket to ESC. A likable, attractive guy with a schlager song that is catchy, well composed, and fantastically performed.
Reason it’s a pretender: We have not seen a true schlager song win the Contest since Latvia back in 2002. Heroes, for all its merits, is full-blown Germanic pop meant for ESC: i.e., schlager. Fans tend to get less enthused for this style, particularly in the East.
Final Verdict: Contender! Since missing the Final in 2010, Sweden has only brought its top game to the Contest, this year is no different. The song has already been charting in several countries and the staging is impeccable. Expect another top three finish for Sweden.

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani Flag Map
Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Hüseynov
Reason it’s a contender: Well-written, well-composed, well-performed, Hour of the Wolf is a perfect confluence of elements of victory. After last year’s understated performance garnered Azerbaijan’s first ever finish outside the Top Ten, expect a stage show that dazzles!
Reason it’s a pretender: A tepid performance will result in this song being lost in the shuffle of ballads and washed out by the uptempo pieces.
Final Verdict: Contender! This song is the real deal. Everything about this song represents the heights of music composition and lyric writing. There is a rare gem of an artistic work like this at the Contest. This song has the potential to win and promote high standards of music within the Contest.

Slovene Flag MapSlovenia
There for You performed by Maraaya
Reason it’s a contender: The song is modern and relatable — and the song reflects the relationship between the husband and wife! It’s an easy song to sing along to and inspires an instant connection from the listener.
Reason it’s a pretender: Interestingly enough, up to date songs do not tend to win the Contest (with Euphoria being the notable exception). The singer’s voice is also a bit unique, which may rub some viewers the wrong way.
Final Verdict: Pretender! This song is lovely and cute, but not strong enough to help Maraaya lift the crystal microphone Saturday night. While this might be Slovenia’s strongest showing since 2011, I do not think that the song has gained enough steam to propel it beyond the stronger entries.

AustraliaAustralian Flag Map
Tonight Again performed by Guy Sebastian
Reason it’s a contender: The song is uptempo, fun, and incredibly easy to dance to. Guy Sebastian is charismatic and Australia has already shown that it will pull no punches in its quest for victory.
Reason it’s a pretender: There are a lot of folks out there that will angrily withhold votes for this song simply because Australia is not a European country. Additionally, R&B has not traditionally played well at the Contest.
Final Verdict: Contender! For as many people who will not vote for Australia, there are just as many who will. Guy Sebastian has the added bonus of already having some name recognition. The song is contemporary, fun, and, if performed flawlessly, has a real shot of sealing the deal for the Aussies!

Italian Flag MapItaly
Grande Amore performed by Il Volo
Reason it’s a contender: Fresh off its OGAE International victory, the Italian entry seems to be peaking around the right time. It is everything that one imagines when one thinks of Italian music – operatic tenors singing a dramatic song about love.
Reason it’s a pretender: The song is a bit old-fashioned and has an air of self-importance. Not to mention that Italy seems to always just fall short of its potential since its return to the Contest.
Final Verdict: Pretender! While this song did win the OGAE International Poll, which predicted both Sweden’s and Denmark’s victory, the poll is imperfect, as many of the others that have fared well in the poll have fallen flat at the Contest (for example: San Marino 2013). At the end of the day, Grande Amore is too dramatic and too predictable to bring the Contest back to Italy.

EstoniaEstonian Flag Map
Goodbye to Yesterday performed by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
Reason it’s a contender: The song is gritty and unexpected. Not only that, but the duo have decent chemistry together and the lyrics lend themselves to an unfolding narrative on-stage.
Reason it’s a pretender: The song is a little too edgy for a mostly family-oriented program. Many of the viewers who will be tuning in on the night may be turned off by the song’s subject matter and a couple with such a large age discrepancy.
Final Verdict: Pretender! This song appeals to many for its edge, but not enough to make-up for those who will be turned-off by it. Actually, I think Estonia will not only NOT win, but will finish with a disappointing final placing outside the Top Ten.

So, in summary: SwedenContenders:
Sweden
Azerbaijan
Australia

SloveniaPretenders:
Slovenia
Italy
Estonia

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ESC Sees some Racial Diversity!

This year, diversity is taking the forefront at ESC, this is Conchita Wurst’s legacy. I, for one, am quite excited that we are finally diving deeply into this issue. Diversity is more than merely having folks of different backgrounds present, it’s incorporating the variety of differences into the event, organization, etc. and celebrating our unity through celebrating our variance. Armenia’s supergroup, Genealogy, is built on this principle; celebrating the wide breadth of the Armenian diaspora through having each continent represented within the group.

ESCInsight has a fantastic article looking at disabilities and the Contest, something brought to light through due to various forms of ability represented this year: the band members from Finland each have a developmental disorder, Monika from Poland has paralysis, and Bianca Nicholas, one half of Electro Velvet from the UK ha,s cystic fibrosis. I won’t dive into disabilities here, no need to rehash what has already been discussed so well.

France is no stranger to having artists from its former colonies to represent the mosaic of the French people. AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO

France is no stranger to having artists from its former colonies to represent the mosaic of the French people.
AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO

I do want to talk about the racial diversity at this year’s Contest. In addition to the smattering of black background singers that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, we have several black lead artists, from Latvia and Switzerland.  And Maimuna from Belarus and Guy Sebastian from Australia are of Asian descent. Between these lead artists, the backing vocalists, and backing dancers – this will probably be one of the most ethnically diverse Contests on record.

Why is This Important?

Gaitana raised a lot eyebrows when selected to represent her home country, Ukraine. Photo credit: mirror.co.uk

Gaitana raised a lot eyebrows when selected to represent her home country: Ukraine.
Photo credit: mirror.co.uk

As the ESC continues to increase its brand globally, it needs to increase the presence of non-white folks onstage to broaden its appeal. While many European countries tend to fall along the bottom of global diversity scales, no country is 100% singular in its ethnic make-up. Furthermore, Europe is slowly becoming more diverse. As we reaffirm that ESC is for all, we must then ensure that all are actually represented on stage. This holds especially true as we discuss the legacy of colonialism among Western nations, the increasing immigration in the North, and the various people groups throughout the East, all of these contribute to the diversity across the continent. Just as the LGBTQ+ Community often exclaims, “visibility matters;” seeing people who look like you, as a member of the minority, in prominent places (such as onstage in a starring position at Europe’s Favorite TV Show) helps you feel more represented, connected, and a part of the larger society. This, in turn, leads to increased positive feelings and welfare. I am not arguing that increasing the ethnic diversity of Contest performers will singlehandedly improve race relations across Europe, but it can certainly play a part in it.

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Experimental Music at the ESC

One thing that I enjoy about the Junior ESC is that the kids, much more than the adults, experiment with music – submitting songs that are out there, that are crazy contemporary – and seeing success with them. Georgia is a prime example, so many of its entries are quite off-the-wall. In 2008, Georgia even won with a song that I would say is the most experimental that we have ever heard on an ESC stage, junior or adult.

We are used to maybe one experimental entry (usually from Bulgaria), but this year, we have two truly experimental entries: Belgium and Latvia. And two more that are pushing the limit: Georgia and Spain.

Beyond Modern

Belgian Flag CountryBelgium and Latvia can be said to be “beyond modern,” their sounds are unlike any other – past or present. Compare this with Australia and Estonia, both of which sound like something off the current pop charts, and Denmark and the UK, which both harken back to past musical eras. Rhythm Inside and Love Injection sound more like art pieces than pop songs. Both toy around with rhythm and melody; both stretch the singer’s abilities to capture the feelings of the songs. The biggest advantage that these entries have is standing out so drastically from the other thirty-eight songs. They’ll make an immediate impact and will not be soon forgotten.

Personally, I like rather enjoy both songs; both are currently in my my personal Top Ten. However, I do Latvian Flag Mapnot think either song has a chance of doing well. I think that qualification would be a victory for both. The juries have shown that they tend to favor well-sung ballads and catchy pop tunes above all else. The public may not be ready for such futuristic tunes, especially since neither has a strong chorus that can lodge itself in your head.

BulgariaWhere most songs like this fail, though, is in the staging. They often try too hard to have a staging that matches the uniqueness of their entry – often to ill-effect. Look at that Bulgarian compilation again, how many of those entries would have been more successful if the staging was stronger? If you have read my live notes, you know that I have an expression “DEDF” – Decent Entry Derailed by Fashion. Both of these entries are at potential to fall prey to this. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Rhythm Inside is putting Loïc in a steampunk costume with a glowing piece over his heart. Throughout the song, he sheds the mechanical aspects, as if he’s becoming more human. However, while this could be done well – the tendency would be to go over the top; steampunk can go from supercool to scary and I fear that your typical stage director would not know the difference. Likewise, Love Injection could very well be enhanced by repeating the staging from the Latvian national selection, adding in some new light effects and possibly some chain elements; but how quickly would this devolve into some kind of dominatrix outfit? (Very quickly!)

Good luck to both Belgium and Latvia – I hope both delegations highlight their songs positively on stage without going overboard. But, these two are not the only ones experimenting this year, two more are giving us unique entries, albeit not quite as extreme.

Pushing the Envelope

Spanish Flag MapLess dramatic than Belgium and Latvia, Spain and Georgia both have songs that challenge traditional music expectations. Both songs have echoing, booming refrains that are easy to sing along with. Both songs have complex layers that create textured, intriguing pieces that captivate the listener. Both are different enough to avoid easy comparisons with the other entries, but neither are so otherworldly that they will scare off the casual viewer.

Like Belgium and Latvia, there will be a lot of temptation to go overboard with the staging of these acts.Georgian Flag Map Spain needs to focus on lighting effects – Edurne’s voice speak for itself (no pun intended). We don’t need dancers and a lot of graphics, just some well queued spotlights and coloring. Georgia has a bit more leeway. I would recommend reproducing the video, bringing women that represent different female warriors from around the world (or at least, around Europe) and from various time periods, from Maltese knights to modern British soldier, from ancient female heroins to tribal fighters. Again, good luck to Spain and Georgia, may commonsense and good taste prevail!

As we celebrate the 60th Contest, we are presented with a wide array of options, various genres are represented, from swing to punk rock to popera. This year, that diversity of music includes an increased number of songs that push the limits of modern music; that can be considered “experimental.” Regardless of the ultimate final placing of these songs, their presence alone enriches the ESC field of entries and promotes variance, hereby keeping the Contest relevant as it enters its seventh decade.

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Early Contenders for 2015!

Hello Dear Readers!

So, we have the forty official, final entries for the 60th addition of the Eurovision Song Contest! Already, I would say that are some definite front-runners, some potential dark horses, and some legitimate contenders for last place. I am also sure that there have been some that have risen to the top of fan circles – but I have been mostly avoiding reading fan stuff in-depthly for now. I wanted to evaluate the songs uninfluenced by outside opinion. As I said last week, I think there are six songs that, out the gate, have shown themselves to be strong and capable of taking the crown in May: Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Italy, and Australia. Now, whether or not these six stay at the top throughout the next month and a half, we’ll see.

Usual Suspects

Sweden – Heroes performed by Måns Zelmerlöw

Swedish Flag MapWhy I think it can win: The prime example of Swedish schlager at its best. It’s upbeat, fun, and incredibly easy to sing along to. Not only that, it has an amazing staging to go along with it (as the Swedes tend to stick to the same basic staging from Melodifestivalen at ESC).  Throw in the fact that Zelmerlöw is a likeable, attractive guy and you have the makings of a strong entry that can bring Sweden into striking distance of Ireland’s record.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: A legitimate music video (right now, a lyric video exists and the national final version exists). A music video would give the fans something to latch on to, including, possibly,  a “Heroes” dance.

Norway – A Monster Like Me performed by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett

Norwegian Flag MapWhy I think it can win: Norway is building upon the model established by the Netherlands over the past two years — present a dark, emotional song with a sombre performance to accompany it. Norway’s duet takes this to a whole new level and bares the souls of the performers.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: The duo needs to work on their on-stage chemistry. It is my understanding that this was originally a Mørland solo piece that was redeveloped to add Scarlett. Which is fine; they sound lovely together; but they are still somewhat stiff on stage. The whole staging needs to be revamped, actually, to better highlight the power of the song. Right now, the staging is a bit of a distraction. Their voices are great; but they need to sell the story of the song.

Azerbaijan – Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Hüseynov

Azerbaijani Flag MapWhy I think it can win: It’s genuine, soulful, emotional, and well-performed. The lyrics are heartfelt and the composition balances traditional tones and contemporary sound beautifully. We also know that Azerbaijan makes one heck of a stage-show. I am imagining that there will be a dancer dressed up as a wolf; how awesome would that be!

How it can improve its chance of taking the crown in May: Working the pre-show concerts. Azerbaijan needs to get the song out there and in front of fans. Make sure that it is as recognizable as some of the more distinct acts out there. Otherwise, it would be lost as just another Azerbaijani entry.

New to the Party

Italy – Grande Amore performed by Il Volo

Italian Flag MapWhy I think it can win: Italy has always had strong entries since its return, even last year’s mess of a performance was a decent song. This year, though, I believe they are entering with a legitimate shot at victory. The song is powerful, the singing is incredible, and it represents everything that people across the globe think that Italian music is: sweet tenor tones of love.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: Like Azerbaijan, Italy needs to work the pre-Contest circuit. It needs to make sure that everyone is singing along to Grande Amore heading into the Grand Final; not just singing it, but crying due to it. Not only that, but the guys’ honey tones need to be pure for the Jury Final (second dress rehearsal) AND the Grand Final performances.

Lithuania – This Time performed by Monika Linkytė & Vaidas Baumila

Lithuanian Flag MapWhy I think it can win: The first real chance Lithuania has to win the Contest since its debut. The song is fun, the two of them have amazing chemistry, and the potential for an outstanding staging (could you imagine several costume changes that show their relationship progressing through time – that would be awesome!). It’s cute and plays on the fantasy of a perfect romance that so many of us have.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: While the onstage chemistry is great, the live vocals need some work. Like Norway, it was a solo song retconned into a duet, though, having two performers make more sense here. The two of them need to work on singing in unison more effectively and working with the backing singers to ensure things blend properly.

Australia – Tonight Again performed by Guy Sebastian

Australian Flag MapWhy I think it can win: A soulful, R&B song performed by someone with international success already; from a country that will get a lot of votes for the sheer novelty of it competing from outside of Europe. The song is super modern and sounds like it could’ve been pulled from the charts. Not to mention, a successful run by a current star would help make the ESC stage more appealing to Western stars, which will ultimately raise the profile of the Contest in the bigger markets (i.e., the UK should dip into its musical industry). Not to mention, Australia will most likely get a sweet spot in the running order due to Sebastian’s name and the fact that it is Australia.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: It helps that there seems to be an endless stream of articles about Australia’s participation. However, there are just as many fans out there who will not vote for Australia due to the fact that it is not in Europe as those that will because of its novelty. In order to woo the middle group, Australia needs to go on a charm offensive; remind people why Guy Sebastian is already an international star. Oh, and ensure that they draw into the second half of the running order.

What do you think? Do any of these six have what it takes to lift the crystal microphone in Vienna?
Stay tuned for more articles as news develops, fan favorites arise, songs experience popularity dips, and I reconsider who could win!

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2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

We have reached the submission deadline – all songs are *final* — i.e., the artists and songs are set, though minor lyrical or compositional changes might be made (for a fee, of course). At this point, all 40 participating countries have submitted their performing artists, the official lists of lyricists and composers, the official studio version, the official karaoke version (may have backing vocals), the official backing track (no vocals at all), and a music video/video clip (if no music video has been made yet).

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

  • CzechFlagMapCzech Republic has returned! Probably on the back of Austria and Hungary’s (and, to a lesser extent, Poland’s) success last year. Returning alongside the Czech Republic are Cyprus and Serbia. Who would’ve thought that Czech Republic would be back before perennial Top Ten-er Turkey?
  • Ukraine has withdrawn (for obvious reasons), but Greece continues to compete (despite having bigger problems to deal with). Let’s hope they don’t win to avoid the political and economic firestorm that would surely ensue.
  • Armenia deciding that it wants people from all over the world. Genealogy has a representative from the Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia, with an Armenian at the center. That Armenian – Inga Arshakyan; one half of the twin sister group Inga & Anush who you may remember from 2009’s Contest.
  • Sammarinese Flag MapSan Marino gives us not one, but TWO Junior Eurovision artists.
  • Germany had some crazy stuff happen. In short, the winner of Unser Song für Österreich, Andreas Kümert and his song Heart of Stone, after winning by a landslide decided to turn down the honor of representing Germany in Vienna. Second-place finisher, Ann Sophie and her song Black Smoke, will be going to Vienna instead. For her part, the host did a good job of handling the unprecedented situation.

AustraliaAnd, the biggest WTF of the ESC2015 thus far: AUSTRALIA!!!!

  • What. The. Mess!! The Aussies will be participating in ESC for the first and (most likely) only time. Yes, the EBU has decided to allow longtime observer Australia to participate in the ESC after decades of loyal viewership. This is meant as a one-time only affair. Unless, of course, Australia wins! In that case, SBS (the Australian broadcaster) will co-host the Contest next year with a European broadcaster in Europe. I guess, theoretically, Australia could compete forever if it always wins.  Wouldn’t that be something!  I wonder how many consecutive victories would be required before SBS would be allowed to host the Contest Down Under? And with international star Guy Richie performing the entry, SBS is not going small, but more on that below!

So, without looking at other blogs, commentary, or any other source of opinions, here is my quick assessment of this year’s 40 contenders! This is the first time I am hearing each song. My comments are in blue.

Semi-Final One (Australia, Austria, France, and Spain are voting)

  • Armenia – Face the Shadow performed by Genealogy: The refrain is nice, but the verses are kinda wonky. Overall, I generally like the sound; though, musically, it’s a really weird mash-up of styles. I predict it making the Grand Final and then falling flat.
  • Belgium – Rhythm Inside performed by Loïc Nottet: He surely is a good Belgian Flag Countrylooking guy! His voice kinda sounds like a male Sinéad O’Connor. I think I like the song. This seems a bit too experimental for ESC; I cannot see it doing well unless it gets surrounded by two WEAK entries AND the performance/staging is flawless.
  • Estonia – Goodbye to Yesterday performed by Elina Born & Stig Rästa: I don’t particularly care for this. I also do not think that this will do all that well; it’s not all that captivating at all. Perhaps they will spruce up the performance a bit for Vienna.
  • Finland – Aina Mun Pitää (I Always Have To) performed by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät: Definitely not my style of music at all. Finland has seen some success with hard rock, but this is not exciting or enthralling or even interesting. It’s the least rock rock song I think I have heard. And it feels like it is too short. I predict last place; perhaps even a null points.
  • Greece – One Last Breath performed by Maria Elena Kyriakou: If the last few years proved anything, it’s that Greece is not invulnerable. This ballad is not of high quality – it needs significant work before I think it has a serious chance at anything other than bottom ten at the Grand Final.
  • Macedonia – Autumn Leaves performed by Daniel Kajmakoski: I enjoy this, especially when compared to the previous three. It feels like it lasts a bit longer than it should, but at least it does not feel stagnant like so many other mid-tempo songs can. I think it can qualify for the Final, not sure after that.
  • Moldova – I Want Your Love performed by Eduard Romanyuta: Finally, an uptempo dance number! (Not words I thought I would ever say) It’s quite generic, but is completely different than any of the other songs in the first half. I anticipate Belgium will open the show and this will be performed around fourth or fifth to energize the audience. I think it will definitely qualify and finish mid-table.
  • The Netherlands – Walk Along performed by Trijntje Oosterhuis: The Dutch Flag CountryNetherlands reached the Top Ten two years in a row on the back of darker, soul-bearing songs.  So, it makes complete sense that they would turn their back on that equation and go back to generic, understated pop (that’s sarcasm, by the way). This is a pleasant song that leaves little impact. I anticipate The Netherlands being left behind once again in semi-finals.

We’re at the halfway point of the first semi-final and I am not impressed. So far, Belgium and Moldova are the top two entries in my mind.

  • Albania – I’m Alive performed by Elhaida Dani: More generic pop, yay (more sarcasm). I do not see Albania qualifying with this song, though, if the live performance as emotionally raw as 2012’s Albanian entry, then this song will have the ability to shock a lot of people.
  • Belarus – Time performed by Uzari & Maimuna: Belarus is great at pop numbers and this is no different. I think this is a real contender to finish in the Top Ten – especially if they can pull off a magic trick reminiscent to the end of the music video. I don’t think it is strong enough to win, though.
  • Denmark – The Way You Are performed by Anti Social Media — see my thoughts here
  • Georgia – Warrior performed by Nina Sublatti: The first of two songs withGeorgian Flag Map this title this year (which, I believe is a first). I definitely like it. This is what Georgia is best at: off-centre, groundshaking pop. I think it will move through on the back of its woman empowerment theme, though, I think it will fall outside of the Top Ten.
  • Hungary – Wars for Nothing performed by Boggie: So, a clear cry for peace in this tumultuous time that we are living in. Too bad this song is disparately boring. It will get some points for its message, but not many.
  • Romania – All Over Again performed by Voltaj: Romania, more than any other country, has the uncanny ability to perform well with mediocre songs. I foresee this year continuing that trend. A weak song will end up in the low teens because Romania has a strong backing across Europe.
  • Russia – A Million Voices performed by Polina Gagarina: With Armenia, Russian Flag MapBelarus, and Serbia voting, there is no way Russia is not making the Final. This song, much like Albania’s, is not that great, but an amazing live performance can help it outperform. Like Albania, there is a stunning singer delivering the song, unlike Albania, Russia has a huge diaspora throughout Europe that will support it and lift this song into the Top Ten.
  • Serbia – Beauty Never Lies performed by Bojana Stamenov: So, not bad, though, songs with huge tempo changes have a checkered past at the Contest. I’m not sure how well it will do. Though, against this competition, I think it will definitely move through to the Final despite the size-bias that we often see play out at ESC.

BelarusSo, that is the first semi-final. I cannot say that I am, at this point, overly enthusiastic about any of the songs. Though, there are a few gems: Serbia, Belarus, and Georgia all have decently strong entries, in my opinion. Russia, Belgium, and Albania are all at potential for greatness with a convincing live performance. I think Moldova will sneak through, and Greece, Romania, and Armenia will qualify based on the strength of their legacies.

Semi-Final Two (Australia, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom)

  • Czech Republic – Hope Never Dies performed by Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta: Hmmm…interesting number. I am not convinced that it will do well, but I think it is right around a 9-12 finish in the semi-final. Definitely, the Czech Republic’s strongest entry to date.
  • Ireland – Playing with Numbers performed by Molly Sterling: Not really my thing. I also think that the sound is neither contemporary enough nor “retro” enough to make a big impact at ESC. I see another year left in the semi-final for Ireland.
  • Lithuania – This Time performed by Monika Linkytė & Vaidas Baumila: This song definitely has potential. I think that the two of them need to Lithuanian Flag Mapwork on singing together; their chemistry on stage is fantastic already. The kiss is a fun gimmick. This is definitely Lithuania’s strongest entry in recent years and, given the relative balance in strength, is the first real contender for victory I have heard.
  • Malta – Warrior performed by Amber: Our second warrior this year. Not as strong as Georgia; this is more formulaic and makes a much smaller impact. If this makes it to the Final, I think it will be due to weak competition, not its own merits.
  • Montenegro – Adio (Goodbye) performed by Knez: This is a good song, but overall, unremarkable in my opinion. It is rather stagnant; it does not build or captivate. Definitely not ŽjeIjko Joksimović’s (famed Contest composer, performer, and host) best work. I do think Montenegro will be returning to the Final.
  • Norway – A Monster Like Me performed by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett: Is it me or is there an increase in duets this year? This is the exact opposite Norwegian Flag Mapof Lithuania; they sing well together, but avoid having to display chemistry by standing back-to-back. The song is not fun and perky, but is instead stirring with a dramatic edge. I think it should also be considered a contender for the win.
  • Portugal – Há um Mar Que Nos Separa (There’s a Sea that Separates Us) performed by Leonor Andrade: I think this does not quite know what it wants to be. It starts like a rock number, but then pulls off the throttle and then purrs the rest of the way. They need to work on that arrangement if they really want this to succeed.
  • San Marino – Chain of Light performed by Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini: One of the first to announce its artists, but one of the last to reveal a song; San Marino was definitely trying to stay in the media at each step of the way. It’s interesting how different Perniola sounds now then just a few years ago at JESC, definitely more mature. This song goes from dark to light; i.e., the composition captures the lyrics well. SM’s qualification hinges on the staging – can SMRTV devise a stage show that reflects the composition?

Halfway through the Second Semi-Final and things are a bit more hopeful at this point. The semi-final two is typically the stronger one and this year falls within that expectation. Two songs have already impressed me to the point of thinking of them as true Contenders. Let’s see what the second half has in store!

  • Azerbaijan – Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Huseynov: That is one awesome song title! The song makes me feel like I am out West, exploring the desert on horseback, which I guess is the point. Definitely the strongest entry thus far. We might be heading back to Baku in 2016.
  • Cyprus – One Thing I Should Have Done performed by John Karayiannis: It’s like we’ve stepped back into the early 90s! I really like the song but I think it has zero chance of moving through to the Final.
  • Iceland – Unbroken performed by Maria Ólafs: The song is a bit generic for me, but I think it has a real chance of achieving a Top Ten finish. However, I do not think that is will win (maybe with a strong performance + good position in the running order), but it will definitely be successful.
  • Israel – Golden Boy performed by Nadav Guedj: A very Bollywood-style Israeli Flag Countryentry. I hope it has the staging to match! It’s definitely a fun song and should stand out among the more serious entries of this semi-final. Again, being one of the few true, uptempo dance numbers will definitely help its case.
  • Latvia – Love Injected performed by Aminata: That was highly unexpected. Definitely WAY different than your typical ESC entry. I am thinking that it is a little too different. There is no real melody and her voice is a little jarring. I do not see this qualifying; though, I do like it!
  • Poland – In the Name of Love performed by Monika Kuszyńska: This song definitely gets better as it goes along. I like it and think a lot higher of its chances at the end of it than I did at the beginning, which is exactly what one wants in their entry: improving opinions throughout its duration.
  • Slovenia – Here for You performed by Maraaya: I like this! The song is a bit quirky, but not too much so. I fear, though, that the stage performance is going to be weird and derail its chances for success because it will alienate the viewers and confuse the juries.
  • Sweden – Heroes performed by Måns Zelmerlöw: Finally, Zelmerloöw makes it to the ESC! Wow! This Melodifestevalen performance! I cannot wait to see this on stage in Vienna. The song is also catchy, but captivating; multifaceted, but understandable. Definitely another serious contender to win!Swiss Flag County
  • Switzerland – Time to Shine performed by Mélanie René: There’s definitely a Native American vibe going on in the video, but it is not really reflected in the composition. This strikes me of a revamped My Time (UK 2009) – a repetitive song about empowerment, but this one is more uptempo. I think, again, its success depends on its placement in the running order.

AzerbaijanSo, the second semi-final is definitely the stronger of the two, but that is fairly standard at this point. I see four, legitimate contenders to carry the crown: Azerbaijan, Sweden, Norway, and Lithuania. I also see a Top Ten entry in Iceland. The last five is a crapshoot dependent on performance, staging, and the running order. For right now, let’s say the other five qualifiers will be Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, Slovenia, and Malta.

Automatic Finalists

  • Australia – Tonight Again performed by Guy Sebastian: Make no mistake about it, Australia looks to return next year. And the only way to do that is to win. This song, and the selection of international R&B star Guy Sebatian, gives Australia a legitimate shot of taking the crown. Personally, I think the song is fun and a good balance of catchy and intriguing. All it needs is a good running order slot.
  • Austria – I Am Yours performed by The Makemakes: I really like this. Austria has done a good job of setting itself up to do well on home turf without the risk of winning in consecutive years.New French Flag Map
  • France – N’oubliez Pas (Don’t Forget) performed by Lisa Angell: France returns to its roots with a traditional ballad. This will definitely help the French avoid another last place, but I do not see it making a major impact on the scoreboard.
  • Germany – Black Smoke performed by Ann Sophie: I like this song; it’s stands out as being unique, despite its 90s sound. I foresee this quickly becoming one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I do not foresee Black Smoke making a significant impact in Vienna, especially seeing how badly it was beaten in Unser Song.
  • Italy – Grande Amore (Great Love) performed by Il Volo: Like France, Italy is returning to its roots – a dramatic, tenor-driven, epic ballad of Italian Flag Maplove. Expect this song to collect jury votes and those of ESC’s older viewers. I will be interested to see how they stage this song; whether they will tell a story or simply put the guys on stage to sing their hearts out. I predict a Top Ten finish.
  • Spain – Amanecer (Dawn) performed by Edurne: Spain, seeing how successful it can be with emotional, power ballads, is trying its hand once again at the genre with its most epic attempt yet. Anyone else notice the date of the Grand Final inscribed inside the ring in the music video? I like it, but I have a feeling that it will not translate to the stage like it does to music videos – we’ll see, I guess.
  • United Kingdom – Still in Love with You performed by Electro Velvet: Oh, the faux-20s sound that was so popular in the 90s (hmmm, definitely a seeing a trend here). Usually, inside jokes come from the French, but the Brits attempt an entry that sounds and looks like something that will go over the heads of most watching the Contest (including yours truly). Hmm..not sure how it well it will do.

AustriaOf the automatic qualifiers, I think Italy, Austria, and Australia have the strongest entries, though, I think all of them are good. Germany, Spain, and the UK are probably my favorite.

As a recap, the 20 qualifiers that I think will join the automatic qualifiers: Serbia, Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Belgium, Albania, Moldova, Greece, Romania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Iceland, Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, Slovenia, and Malta. Of the 27 projected finalists, I think the Top Ten will be (in no particular order):

  • Australia
  • Italy
  • Lithuania
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Azerbaijan
  • Iceland
  • Spain
  • Austria
  • Belarus

IfSweden the Contest were to happen today, I would predict that these countries had the best chance of winning: Azerbaijan, Norway, Sweden, Lithuania, Australia, and Italy. Come back in a few days’ time for my more in-depth review of each of these six entries!

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Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2015

The new DMGP logo

The new DMGP logo

And thus, it begins! In what is shaping up to be one of the more unique Contest years, let’s hope the the actual shows live up to all the craziness that is happening. But, before we dive into the news , my first post of the new season, as always, focuses on Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2015!

Danish Flag MapPer usual, these are live notes.  I am writing this as I am watching this for the first time. I do go back and edit for typos, but that is it. Given that my favorite song rarely wins DMGP, I am predicting that my predictions will be way off once again!

Hmm, just from the opening, the production value seems quite a bit lower than in the recent past. DR is probably still recovering from all the expenses of hosting the Contest last year.

Here we go!

Song One: Love Me, Love Me performed by Sara Sukurani
I’m not quite sure what she is wearing; it’s rather awful. I do love the Bollywood sound to this song. The dance portion is not all that interesting – if she were to win, it would need to be spruced up tremendously. Not a bad song, nor a bad way to start off the evening. I do not, however, think we will be hearing this song again tonight.

Ahhhh…is this social media pandering going to be happening all night? Oh look, a post about the hosts. Yay. (That’s sarcasm, by the way)

Funny video, but I would prefer for us to move through the songs as uninterrupted as possible. All the extra stuff can happen before and after.

Song Two: Mi Amore performed by Tina & René
Oh, our requisite Thomas G:son song for DMGP. A light year for the prolific Swedish  composer, only five songs throughout Europe this year. For me, this song is the definition of generic. Not all that inspiring and rather repetitive. It will not stand up to the competition in Vienna. I hope, for Denmark’s sake, it does not win. I don’t dislike the song, in terms of its musical merit, I just think it’s a weak entry competitively.

So, now we begin introducing the regional juries. This year, DR is reverting to a selection process not unlike its pre-2010 days. DR has divided the country into regions and has given each a jury in the selection process.

The audience vote is a little different.  There are 290 points available. The points are divided amongst the ten songs in accordance with the percentage of the popular vote that it yields.

DR decided to use regional juries and scrap their balance of ONE jury and several popular votes that has been in use since 2010. Interestingly enough, 2010 is when Denmark started its recent string of success. I wonder if this move is as much about avoiding winning, after bearing the expense of hosting last year, as it is about trying to increase nationwide buy-in for the winner. Perhaps DR is just trying to capitalize on the increased interest in the Contest while it can.

Song Three: Når Veje Krydses performed by Marcel & Soulman Group
I almost always like the Danish-language songs in DMGP – and this is no exception. It has a sweet melody, a catchy melody, and a strong performance. The soulful sound is also quite nice! It’s the well ahead of the previous two in my opinion.

Song Four: Hotel A performed by Cecilie Alexandra
Interesting sound…is she singing in English?  Yes.  All of a sudden, Love Me, Love Me is sounding a lot better. The refrain is well articulated and easy to sing along to. However, much like Song Two, this one is pleasant but weak. Ultimately, I cannot see it moving forward tonight. I can’t help but feel that this song was just short of being awesome; I’m not quite sure what is missing, but it just feels incomplete.

Song Five: Love is Love performed by Andy Roda
I don’t know if his voice is strong enough to pull this song off. I am thinking that he is just nervous. This is alright.  Oh! Love the glitter! Hoping it has the same effect that Only Teardrops‘ confetti did? Hmmm…I would say that this is the second strongest song thus far.

Hmmm, halfway through and I am not overly confident that Denmark will return to the Top Ten in Vienna. Let’s hope the second half has some stronger entries!

Song Six: Tæt på Mine Drømme performed by Julie Bjerre
She looks like a child, but is dressed like a middle-aged woman – at least, they are not trying to make her look overly sexy. There is something very 80s about this entry. Personally, this is my third favorite thus far behind songs three and four, but I think, thus far, it is the strongest entry. It is catchy; the singer is cute; the song is pleasant yet memorable. The eighties-style staging captures the song’s sound well and Bjerre’s voice is right on.

Song Seven: The Way You Are performed by Anti Social Media
When one pictures male Danish teenagers, I am pretty sure they are precisely the image that comes to mind. THAT is not the sound I was expecting with a name like “Anti Social Media.” There are definitely some articulation and pronunciation issues, which harkens to the question, “What’s wrong with songs in one’s own language?” Right – if you have ever read my converage on DMGP, you know that I believe that the Danes generally believe that their language, though pretty, would inhibit a song’s success. Therefore, I think Danish language entries have a disadvantage at DMGP.  Whereas the previous song had a distinct 1980s sound, this one had a distinct 1970s sounds to it. What’s next, disco? I think the song still needs some work, but I would put its chances second to song six (despite what I just said about Danish-language entries).

Song Eight: Suitcase performed by Anne Gadegaard
Despite the fact that the backing vocals are a bit too loud, I really like the staging and performance. The song is crazy catchy and tells a story. The camera work is also quite nice. By far, the strongest entry to be performed tonight. This sounds like it would fit right in on the Eurovision stage. More confetti! Though, they lose their effect if the camera is inside the confetti shower. I really like it, though! At this point, this is my choice to win.

Song Nine: Manjana performed by Babou
What language is he singing in? I can barely hear him over the music. Okay – he’s singing in Danish. It only took a verse and a half to figure that out. I do like the sound of the entry, though. It makes me want to get up and dance – which I believe is the point. This volume imbalance has been going on all night. Hmm…I think it is a strong entry. It’s making me think about how I am balancing all the entries against one another.

Song Ten: Summer Without You performed by World of Girls
They described the song as “girl power” and that is the sound – kinda of bubblegummy and very girly. It definitely harkens back to the nineties girl groups, in sound and look. The pause was interesting – as was the slow-motion at the end. Just a lot of interesting staging choices. Not my favorite, but I can understand its appeal.

Okay, so, all the songs have been performed. My predictions for the Top Three:
1. Song Eight – Suitcase
2. Song Nine – Manjana
3. Song Ten – Summer Without You

I think that Suitcase is the best song and the other two are the most infectious. Manjana is the token Danish-language song that will move through, as one (just one and never more) usually finishes in the top three.

Once again, DR seems to have saved the strongest songs for the second half of the show. Which is not fair, but whatever. I am tired of talking about my dislike for producer-decided running orders. ANYWAY, while songs 6-10 are all in the same realm of strength, I think that the three above have the best chances of success tonight and in Vienna.

In terms of my favorite three:
1. Song Three – Når Veje Krydses
2. Song Eight – Suitcase
3. Song Six – Tæt på Mine Drømme

And now, the results of the five juries:
First region (Zealand) in: Hotel A takes the initial lead
Second region (Middle Jutland) puts The Way You Are in a tie with Hotel A
Third region (Southern Jutland & Fyn) has technical difficulties!
Fourth region (Copenhagen) breaks the tie and puts The Way You Are in first.
Back Region Three (Southern Jutland & Fyn) – and more top points for boys with the 70s sound.
Fifth Region (Northern Jutland) extends the lead for The Way You Are.

It is strange to me that they would show the juries’ points BEFORE closing the voting lines. Wouldn’t that influence the audience’s votes?

Now, last year’s winner Basim sings an unexpectedly serious song (when compared to Cliché Love Song) that actually sounds pretty cool. Oh, I should have known that annoying song was going to be performed.

And now, our annual commercial for MGP (the junior song contest that inspired JESC). Every year, the entrants from MGP come and perform their group song to raise awareness and interest for their competition in just a few weeks time.

And now, the results of the audience’s vote read in the order of their eventual final placing
Song 1, only 13 points
Song 5, only 8 points
Song 9 – 35 points (guess I was way off in my prediction!)
Song 10 – 34 points (see above)
Song 2 – 20 points
Song 3 – 18 points
Song 4 is out of the running with only 18 points from the audience
Song 6 gets 38 big points, but it is not enough to stay alive

And now, the winner! I am either really right (for only the second time for DMGP – 2013 being the first) or really wrong

Song 7 gets a whopping 48 points. Not being quick with math, I am not sure if the remaining points are enough for my favorite, Song 8, to catch up.  It needs 65 to win. Let’s see!

D’oh! it gets only 58 points, falling a mere seven points short of victory.
The quintessential Danes and their 70s song win Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2015!

While I do not think that the boys are ready, the juries, and a good portion of the audience, think that they are.

Okay, so, as I listen to their Winner’s Reprise, I think the following things are necessary for them to be successful in Vienna (be mindful, I am much better at predicting ESC success than success at DMGP)
Denmark1. They need to work on their enunciation of English – this is a common ailment amongst non-native speakers, but winners of the modern era have had pretty good diction. There’s no advantage to singing in English if people cannot understand you.
2. There outfits need to coordinate. They need to dive into their seventies sound – where matching suits and put the backing vocalists in coordinated dresses. Think Armenia’s entry from the 2012. The boys of Compass Band were dressed for the era.
3. They need to play up to the fact that they are young, likeable guys. Everyone likes cute young people with catchy songs. They need to avoid negative press and just present themselves as ordinary, European guys.

With a little work, this song could reach the Top Ten. If you think that tween girls are one of the primary ESC demographics, Anti Social Media should have them on lock. I don’t mention gay men, as that demographic is more associated with dance tunes, divas, and hot men (as opposed to younger guys). Ultimately, I think this song is a shoo-in for the Grand Final but will find itself outside the Top Ten. While I think they will achieve a respectful finish, I just don’t see them improving their performance and staging enough to compete seriously on a pan-European level.

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