General

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*Some of the country profiles have outdated info in the brief histories, EO apologizes for the error.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


The #SanMarinoPlan: A Way Forward for Microstates

Hello Dear Readers!

The 2016 Contest brought with it a new points format. The jury and televotes would no longer be combined on the country-level, as they had been since 2009, but each would be totaled individually before being combined to achieve the final results. While this reduces the bolstering of the middle-placed songs we saw under the previous system, it puts small countries that lack the population to support a televote at a disadvantage. In 2016, Sammarinese Flag MapSan Marino, a country of just 32,500 (fewer than the nearly 38,000 that attended Eurovision in 2001), which has historically always used 100% jury votes due to its small size required a televote in order for the new system to work. The solution? Create a composite score using a selection of countries (a list which has not been revealed) that stands in as San Marino’s televote. The EBU told us that this was to be employed if any country lacked either a jury or televote. San Marino is the only one for which this procedure was used. Understandably, the Sammarinese broadcaster, SMRTV, is not satisfied with this arrangement and has supposedly created a proposal to resolve this situation. How the EBU proceeds could be an influencing factor for how other small countries to continue participation (such as Albania and Moldova, both often use 100% jury as well in the past) and for others to return (such as Luxembourg, who is starting to see renewed fan interest in returning).

While we don’t know SMRTV’s exact proposal, which I have dubbed the #SanMarinoPlan, there are three likely avenues which SMRTV will pursue.

  1. Have Digame, the televoting partner, craft a new algorithm for smaller countries.

Right now, televoting depends on a certain raw number of votes to be certified. San Marino, with its modest population, just can’t reach the necessary threshold. However, San Marino has its own area code that differentiates it from Italy (0549), so it would be very easy to determine who is calling SMRTV’s numbers from San Marino. Whatever the current algorithm is for determining a statistically strong televote could be readily modified to fit a smaller scale. What makes this proposal difficult is that, with a smaller televote threshold, San Marino opens itself up to vote manipulation – a group could sponsor a bunch of folks to cross the border and use Sammarinese cell phones to vote for a particular country.

  1. Allow San Marino to create a second jury of non-professionals to create a televote.

SMRTV could gather a selection of citizens or hold official watch parties in the City of San Marino, Dogana, Domagnano, and/or other major population centers where they can collect votes and use those for their televote. It is incredibly easy to have people attend an event and cast ballots, collect these votes, and report the final results to the EBU. The biggest challenge with this proposal would be the increased cost to SMRTV. Hosing these events would cost money and they would need to have two (one for the semi-final and one for the Grand Final) in each chosen city. SMRTV would have the added difficulty of gathering fans (the largest cities only have a few thousand residents) and volunteers, as San Marino lacks its own OGAE (though, I’d gladly attend and host an event as a member of OGAE Rest of the World – we support San Marino and all the countries without their own OGAE).

  1. Create a system in which viewers in non-participating countries can vote to create stand-in televoting scores

The easiest way to reach the threshold would be to expand those eligible to vote through creating a portal through which those with IP addresses in a nonparticipating country could vote online/through the app. This would allow the EBU to have interactivity opportunities with new markets (like the US or China) without letting them participate. Depending on the popularity of this, they can institute it as some kind of back up televoting for all the countries that may need it (by randomly dividing received votes across all the countries that need a televote stand-in). The biggest difficulty, of course, is the vulnerability to being tampered with. More than that, though, it hurts the EBU’s chances for getting Luxembourg, Turkey, and other former competitors to return, as there would now be a way for interested fans to stay engaged without those broadcasters having to participate.

San MarinoPersonally, I think option two (SMRTV hosting viewing parties across San Marino) is the best choice. It engages fans with the Contest and ensures that the televotes are coming from within the country, reflecting the will of the Sammarinese public. However, the most realistic option would be to open voting to non-participating countries. This would allow the EBU to replace any country’s televote as needed (through randomizing the received votes). Additionally, it has the added bonus of engaging fans in countries not participating in the Contest without expanding the boundaries of the ESC. Now viewers in the US, Canada, Mexico, China, South Africa, etc., would be able to engage in the Contest on the same level as Europeans (and Australians) and the ESC would not have to allow those countries to compete. Furthermore, this can be facilitated through the official ESC app and would not significantly increase the cost to the EBU or require an in-country telephone partner.

What about the reverse situation? What if a country loses its jury vote?

Currently, the only solution for the loss of a jury vote is the composite scoring process detailed above. However, this is a more acceptable solution for this situation. The reason for the jury vote is to provide the perspective of music professionals to counterbalance the televote. It would be much harder to have a reserve of jurors in the event that a jury vote is nullified. Additionally, just as the EBU cannot duplicate the jury votes to generate a televote, it cannot duplicate the televote to achieve a jury vote. Nor can the EBU just discount the 58 points, as the new system is dependent upon an equal number of points in the juries and televotes.

 

Thoughts? Comments? Do you think any of these three plans would work? Do you have a different idea for what the #SanMarinoPlan could be?

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Eurovision for Beginners

Hello Dear Readers!

This year, a Eurovision is reaching a wider audience than ever before! I’d thought it would be a good idea to create a quick reference post for newbies to the Contest. Here are the top ten things you need to know in order to understand and enjoy Eurovision.

1. The Contest began in 1956 in order to bring together war-torn Europe. Starting with just seven countries, the Contest has exploded as Europe welcomed new countries. There are a total of 42 countries involved in ESC 2016, spanning the continent and beyond.

2. The participating countries are randomly split in half based on their voting history and must compete in one of either two semi-finals. Ten songs qualify from each semi-final and meet the automatic qualifiers in the Grand Final.

3. The automatic qualifiers are the host country, which is the defending champion, and the Big Five. These are the countries with the five largest television audiences in Europe and pay the most to the EBU (the organization that runs Eurovision). These countries are: France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

4. The competitors are broadcasting companies (typically government-run) that select a representative to fly the flag. Countries can choose their entries any way they like. Some opt for a competition in which artists compete with songs, some choose an artist and song internally, and some do a combination of these things.

5. Songs can be in any language, but most choose English (or partially English) to broaden their entry’s appeal. Songs cannot have offensive, overtly sexual, political, or overtly religious lyrics. All lyrics can be found, in English and French, on the official website: eurovision.tv.

6. All performers (singers, backing singers, and dancers) must be at least 16 on the day of their first night of competition. No animals are allowed on stage. All music must be provided by backing track, but all singing must be done live. Songs must be no longer than three minutes.

7. Voting results are a 50/50 combination of professional juries and public vote (televoting). Each country provides a jury of five music professionals; they watch the second dress rehearsal (the evening before the televised show) and cast their votes then. Televoting occurs during the televised show during a fifteen minute window after the last song is performed.

8. Every competing country, regardless if they qualified for the Grand Final, vote for the winner. The results of the jury are revealed, country by country. The televoting is then revealed in ascending order, from least points to most points.

9. The winning song has the honor of being reprised at the end of the show. The winning artist gets a crystal trophy shaped liked a microphone. The winning composers and lyricists receive plaques. The winning broadcaster and country get to host the Contest the following year.

10. The Eurovision Song Contest is for EVERYONE. This openness & inclusion, along with a past history of being kitschy and camp, have brought a lot of gay male fans to the ESC. However, despite stereotypes throughout Western Europe, Eurovision is enjoyed by all kinds of people across the world and has the goal of uniting us ALL through music for one a week a year.

Craving for more information about Eurovision? Check out my ESC Notes that give a look at the history, rules, and notable quirks about the Contest. They were written with a particular eye towards those new to the Contest.

ESC 2016 Write-ups

Want more information specific to ESC 2016? My country profiles will satiate your appetite as they cover information for each competing nation – their history and the background of their competing artists.

ESC2016 Country Profiles

Wondering how you can hear great hits from Eurovision’s past? I have assembled playlists capturing different elements of Eurovision. This includes an Eurovision for Beginners playlist with twenty of the most influencial and historically important entries of all time.

This year during the Second Semi-Final, two great productions were made wherein hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw explain the Contest in fun ways.

Expecting my thoughts and reactions to the jury show for the Grand Final? Check back in a few hours!

Support ESC Obsession and my trip to Eurovision! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision


Diversity at ESC2016

Hyvää Paivää – hei rakas lukijat!
And Hello Dear Readers!

There’s been an uptick in readers from Finland — kiitos että luit! And thanks to all of you for reading, regardless of where you are from!

Last year, we looked at race at the ESC and I expressed my pleasure that we were seeing more and more minorities as lead performers, particularly folks of African and East Asian descent. This year, there continues to be some racial diversity, but not as much as there should be in my opinion. This year, Norway is represented by a Sami woman – Agnete. This is awesome and would be akin to a member of a Cherokee tribe representing the US or an Aboriginal singer representing Australia (which happened somewhat when DR had Australian pop star Jessica Mauboy perform during the interval act of the second semi-final in 2014). Native peoples are an integral part of a nation’s history, particularly in looking back at how these people groups were often mistreated, disenfranchised, and systematically destroyed. Having a first-nation person representing a country shows that steps, perhaps small – perhaps big, have been made and are continuing to be made to heal past wounds.

Australia is also being represented by a minority. While Im was born in South Korea, she spent the majority of her life Down Under, as her family moved to Australia when she was a child. Im has received backlash since she was named Australia’s performer. Much how many non-white performers and soccer players (read: footballers) representing European nations must deal with, from opponents and their own countrymen. While we celebrate the Contest’s ability to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons (particularly gay men), we must not overlook the very real racism that still exists. Does this mean that every contestant needs to be non-white, no. Of course not. Does this mean that hosts need to do the same mindless pandering to racial minorities as they do to gay men? Again, of course not (if anything, there should be less pandering). But it does mean that when race-based issues around the Contest occur, they need the same attention and discourse that comes when an LGBTQ+ issue arises. Likewise, fan culture needs to promote and encourage racial diversity (actually, fan culture does a pretty good job of forcing any non-white, unattractive non-gay man into the realms of invisibility, but that is a conversation for another time) and call out people when they are not. This includes not just around skin color, but ethnicity, national origin, and religion as well.

One  country that has historically done a good job at bringing diverse performers to the Eurovision stage is France. They have been represented by persons and languages from across the French realm, including Corsica, Haiti, Congo, and Tahiti. This year, Amir takes the stage for his native France. His ethnic background is rather diverse, as his roots tie back to Morocco, Tunisia, and Spain as well as being ethnically Jewish and spending half of his life in Israel. Sandhja from Finland also has a multi-ethnic background, as her father is Finnish and her mother is Indo-Guyanan. Sandhja has often said that her identities, and the communities that they give her access to, inspire her music and performance.

So, once again, why do we care diversity, particularly ethnic and racial diversity, at the Contest? Because the ESC is for EVERYONE. Just like how gay male fans get excited when an openly gay performer competes (such as Hovi Star from Israel), how excited would the many more number of Europeans who are non-white be for ethnic minority performers? Those who feel like they belong to the broader community are more likely to contribute and otherwise actively participate in the community. Furthermore, when someone feels systematically excluded, it can lead to lowered psychological and physical well-being for individuals who feel marginalized. Additionally, these are the people who are most likely to violently strike out against society. We see this in the US with mass shootings, we see this throughout Europe with riots and the rise of neo-Nazi groups, and we see this in the Middle East with groups like DAESH/ISIS that specifically recruit those who are made to feel like outsiders and radicalize them to the point of striking out against those that ostracized them. Clearly, incorporating more minorities as performers won’t prevent or stop groups like ISIS, but it will make it harder for them to recruit.

And, you know, help the Eurovision Song Contest work towards its mission to unite Europe, if only for one night.

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Correction: Article has been updated to correct the spelling of Jessica Mauboy’s name and correcting the name Australia uses for its First Nations people. Eurovision Obsession apologizes for the error.


Safety and Security at Eurovision – Revisited

Hello Dear Readers!

In recent days, my post on Safety and Security seems to be drawing more readers and comments. The most recent of which recommended that I contact the head of security for the Contest. I thought this was a good idea! As such, I have included my message to Ms. Johannesen below and will be sure to let you all know if/when she replies.

Hello Ms. Johannesen,

My name is André. I maintain a Eurovision blog called Eurovision Obsession. I recently posted a piece on security at the Contest (https://eurovisionobsession.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/safety-and-security-at-eurovision/). A few readers had brought up the idea that I should reach out to you to learn more about what Stockholm is doing to prepare for the event.

I (and I think most fans) know that you and your team will keep us safe. I think, though, we would just like some idea of how, particularly those of use who will be attending the event in Stockholm. This will be my third Contest, and I can tell you that both the Danes and Austrians were not effective in how they managed the crowds (the Danes did handle things better than the Austrians did). Do you and your team have any information that I can share with my readership and other participants concerning safety at the Contest?

Thank you for your time!

Support ESC Obsession and my trip to Eurovision! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision


Changes to ESC Voting

Hello Dear Readers!

So, I realized that I did not address the voting change to the ESC announced in February and, figuring that I want to help you make the Contest easier for others to understand, I thought that I would give a handy explanation of the changes.

What is NOT changing:

  1. The results will still be 50% voting and 50% juries. (Semi-final qualifiers and the winner are decided by combining the results of televoting – the votes of those viewing at home – and professional juries)
  2. Final jury results will still be determined by combining the the full rankings of each juror and awarding points to the top ten.
  3. Countries will still call in their votes in a predetermined order based on the results of the juries.
  4. Televoting – via phones and SMS – will still be collected in a 15 minute interval during the show and will determine fifty percent of the final scores’ value.

What IS changing:

  1. Instead of combining the a country’s jury votes and televoting, they will remain separate. This means that, effectively, each country is handing out points twice: to the top ten countries in the jury’s ranking AND the top ten countries in the televoting.
  2. The points being announced by each country will be purely from the juries. This is being done for several reasons.
    1. It means that the interval act can be shorter because the jury votes can be read while the televotes are calculated, cutting down the length of the show in hopes of returning it to the appropriated three hour running time.
    2. Since 2011, an algorithm (or formula) for determining the order of how countries gave their votes has been in place based on the results of the juries. This algorithm is designed to give the voting sequence maximum suspense and excitement.
  3. The televoting from all the countries will be combined and revealed en masse after the jury votes are given. They will be given in ascending order, so the country with the fewest points will be read first all the way through the country receiving the most points.
    1. This makes the voting sequence more exciting because we’ll see countries fall back down the scoreboard only to rise back up.
    2. This makes it much harder to predict the winner before voting is over.
  4. There will now be twice as many points available, essentially setting up all the old point total records to be shattered. This year, with 42 participants, there will be a total of 4,872 points available (as compared to only 2,494 last year under the previous system).

The biggest issue that people dislike is that the juries’ votes are being read as opposed to the televoting public’s votes. But, as mentioned above, the jury votes are already collected, so having them be the ones read for each country makes more sense from a practical, time-saving point of view.

Unanswered Questions

The bigger question is what happens when either jury or televoting results are unavailable? We all know that some countries rely 100% on jury votes for assigning points (such as San Marino, which lacks the infrastructure to collect televotes). Others are forced to do this if there are irregularities found with their televoting (such as Moldova which often has issues getting enough people to televote). Conversely, some jury results are disqualified when their results appear to be suspect (as has happened with Azerbaijan and Macedonia in previous years). The new voting procedure indicates that an assortment of countries will be used to create a stand-in score for the missing points. How this amalgam score will be calculated, in terms of how stand-in countries will be determined and how many there will be, has yet to be revealed.

Additionally, information about tie-break procedures has yet to be released (as far as I know). Previously, in breaking a tie, the country with the higher total number of countries voting for it would be higher, after that, it was the country with more 12s, then 10s, etc. all the way down to 1s. For semi-finals, if there was still a tie at this point, the one performing earlier in the running order would move through. For the Grand Final, a tie would be declared. Under the new system, would the total number of countries be counted for each jury and televoting, or just total overall? When doing the countbacks (counting the number of 12s, 10s, 8s, etc.), is it by televoting or juries – or both? Will there be a new level added before a tie is declared (or we turn to the producer-determined running order, in the case of semi-finals) that gives the nod to the country with a higher televoting score? or jury score? This needs to be cleared up and publicized BEFORE the Contest. Time is running out EBU.

Overall, this is not a change to be afraid of. If you’re concerned or want to dive into the numbers, I point you to ESC Insight, were they break down the effects of the new system using numbers from past Contests. I look forward to seeing how the voting sequence will look this year!

Support ESC Obsession and my trip to Eurovision! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision


Safety and Security at Eurovision

🇧🇪 We zijn België. Nous somme Bruxelles. 🇧🇪

Belgian Flag Country

Our prayers and thoughts are with Belgium today.


Again, on another day after another senseless act of violence, of terrorism, we find ourselves mourning for the loss, rebuilding what has been destroyed, and trying to understand the pointless. There’s nothing more I can say that I have not already in the wake of the attack on Paris.

I will say, this further emphasizes the need for a coherent, thorough, and visible security presence in Stockholm. The Eurovision Song Contest is a major cultural event that brings all of Europe together. Not to mention that Sweden is an EU country and is known for its super-liberal policies as well as discrimination and violence towards Muslims and folks of Arab descent. This means that SVT cannot simply settle for rent-a-cop security guards or the Globen’s own security force. The city of Stockholm and the country of Sweden need to treat Eurovision as a high-risk event. There will be thousands of fans, many of whom will be aggravated, anxious, and aggressive adult men. Not only do we the fans need to be managed (and much better than in Austria) but if there is not a strong structure in place, then it will be incredibly easy for someone to sneak in with something they should not. SVT and Globen need to not only devise a strong security process, but communicate it.

SVT and Globen have the emails of every ticketholder.Swedish Flag Map They need to send out a dedicated email to all attendees discussing security policies and the what we can expect and rules we need to follow for attending the Contest. Not only that, but also at the arena, they need to have plentiful, visible signage for folks to see with diagrams and words in English, French, Russian, and Swedish.

But, additionally, they need to have a visible police presence. Maybe this is because I’m American, but seeing police. Seeing them, their cars, their dogs, their gear (including weapons) conveys that safety is a top priority and that they have people in position to protect us. And I’m saying that as a black man in the US.

Stockholm, please: Give us police and give us lots of them!


A Word on the Paris Attacks

🇫🇷 Nous sommes tous Français! 🇫🇷

In times like this, one is thankful for art. It can capture our pain, our loss, our despair. But it can also inspire, instill hope, and uplift. So, instead of some contrived words or inept speech in French, I simply leave you with France’s entry from the ESC this year: N’Oubliez Pas, which, I think, captures a perfect response in the face of terrorism. Yes, we mourn for the dead, feel for the injured, we must reclaim what is loss – but our spirits will never be quelched. We will keep going, getting stronger, with the memories of those who have fallen as our inspiraion.

Je suis ici ce soir au milieu de ces ruines
Pour vous parler d’espoir et vous chanter la vie
Et je fais le serment quand séchera le sang
De reconstruire ma ville bien plus belle qu’avant

Mais n’oubliez pas!

New French Flag MapIl ne me reste que des larmes
Ces quelques notes venues d’autrefois
Et le chant de nos prières, nos cœurs qui espèrent
Et le vide sous mes pas

Il ne me reste que les cendres
De mon village plongé dans le silence
Je ne suis qu’une blessure, un cœur sans armure
Comment survivre après ça?

Mais je suis là, je n’oublie pas
Dans mon village balayé par l’histoire
Et je vis là, n’oubliez pas
Effacée des cartes et des mémoires

Je me souviens du rire des enfants
La voix des hommes quand ils partaient au champ
Les fêtes des moissons, l’odeur dans les maisons
Les éclats d’amour et de joie

Mais je suis là, n’oubliez pas
Effacée des cartes et des mémoires

Quand ils sont arrivés, cachés derrière leurs armes
Ils étaient des milliers, ils riaient de nos larmes
Ils ont voulu détruire nos croyances sous leurs armes
Avec des mots de haine que l’on n’connaissait pas

Je suis ici ce soir au milieu de ces ruines
Pour vous parler d’espoir et vous chanter la vie
Et je fais le serment quand séchera le sang
De reconstruire ma ville bien plus belle qu’avant

Mais n’oubliez pas

English Translation

New French Flag MapOnly tears remain for me
These few notes from the past
And the song of our prayers, our hoping hearts
And the emptiness under my steps

Only ashes remain for me
Of my village plunged into silence
I am only a wound, a heart without armor
How do I survive after that?

But I’m here, I don’t forget
In my village swept away by history
And I live there, don’t forget
Erased from the maps and memories

I remember the children laughing
The voices of the men leaving for the field
The harvest festivals, the smell inside houses
The bursts of love and joy

But I’m here, don’t forget
Erased from the maps and memories

When they arrived, hidden behind their weapons
There were thousands, they laughed at our tears
They wanted to destroy our beliefs under their fire
With words of hatred which were unknown to us

I’m here tonight in the middle of these ruins
To talk to you about hope and to sing to you about life
And I swear that when the blood dries
I will rebuild my village even more beautiful than before

But don’t forget


Summer Projects!

Hello Dear Readers!

I wanted to give you an update on my plans for the summer. I’m moving to Oklahoma! I’m starting a Ph.D. program at Oklahoma State University. Okay – enough of my personal life. I’m sure that you’re much more interested in my Eurovision-related updates!

1. I have a post coming up regarding my experience in Vienna. I also plan on posting about my hopes for the 2016 Contest in Sweden. Additionally, I will be crafting a series looking at the next 60 years of the Contest, including the precedent set by Australia’s participation, the powershift back to the West, and the ever-increasing importance of production value, among other topics.

2. I am getting YouTube (escobsession) off the ground. You may have noticed a few playlists appearing on previous posts. My primary project will be building playlists of ESC songs from the past 10~15 years that align within a certain genres (including: hard rock, jazz, hipster, country/folk, and dance). The goal is that you will be able to spread the joy of Eurovision to doubters and/or encourage new fans through being able to easily forward to them a playlist of songs within a genre that they already enjoy. These will be published on Fridays – starting with “Eurovision for Beginners“!

3. I also will begin working on my book, The Beginner’s Guide to Eurovision, this summer. I spent the last year brainstorming and examining various formats. Not only that, I’ve been moving away from the main fan media sites to get a better view of the average person’s perspective of the Contest. The primary question I get, regardless of whether or not someone is familiar with the Contest, is: “Why are you so passionate about Eurovision?” This book is meant to, not only introduce people to the Contest, but to help instill increased excitement within the casual viewer.

4. Partnerships! I will be reaching out in an effort to “build bridges” with other fans, particularly within the US. Not only that, but I am working on establishing a partnership, working for a participating broadcaster. This would, of course, be a dream come true! But time will tell.


Attending My First ESC!

As noted in the “Road to Denmark” series, I attended the ESC for the first time in person!  For those who have not yet read my story, I first discovered the ESC when I was studying abroad in Denmark in 2007.  The Helsinki edition was the perfect time to be introduced to “Europe’s Favorite TV Show.”  The staging was impeccable, the hosts were brilliant, the acts were superb, and the victor, Molitva from Serbia, nothing short of absolutely amazing! I loved the semi-final, but the Grand Final is what got me hooked for life.

I swore that, if Denmark were ever to win, I would make the trip back to Dk in order to see the Contest firsthand.  Well, 2013 happened, Only Teardrops took the Crystal Microphone to Copenhagen, and I found myself on a plane to Copenhagen.

Actually, I found myself on a boat to Copenhagen. I spent the preceding week in Oslo visiting my brother and his wife.

Some new friends I made waiting to get into the arena.

Some new friends I made waiting to get into the arena.

Anyway, what did I find when I went to Eurovision Village? My people! For the first time in my life, I not only found myself amongst people who knew what ESC was, but among fellow fans! Furthermore, I was able to show-off my knowledge (and promote the blog!) and school some neophytes on a brief history of the Contest to help them better understand all the underlying drama and storylines of this year’s Contest.

More awesome folks I met!

More awesome folks I met!

For once, I felt understood.  I shared this common-bond with hundreds, thousands of others who had descended upon this converted shipyard, on this distant island, of the city of Copenhagen, in the north of Europe — all for the same reason.  I have done many things in my life, attended sporting events in stadiums holding 50, 60, 70 – even 100 thousand people.  I’ve performed in stadiums of that size as a part of a marching band.  I’ve attended pop concerts, rock shows, and classical performances (including the New York Philharmonic).  This was the first time, in a long time, that I felt connected to so many others – particularly strangers.  It was something akin to when I first performed with my college marching band all those years ago.  Only, without the butterflies in my stomach.

IMG_4839

That’s my photo! I took that!

It was also a dream come true to see the performances so close and to see ESC history made!  I saw two countries qualify for the first time ever (Montengero and San Marino – who I was representing with my scarf), I saw titans fall and underdogs succeed.  I got to see some of my all-time favorite ESC acts live (Sweden, Austria, Armenia, and the Netherlands from this year will be added to my top entries list).  I got to join hoards of singing fans in a giant, ESC chorus – before and during the show.  It was like some kind of Eurovision wonderland.  Those around me on Tuesday night, my first time in the arena, probably recall this big black guy jumping up and down – shouting excitedly.  I nearly fainted from how fast I was breathing.

I met some awesome folks from South Africa, Britain (England & Scotland), Germany, Denmark (obviously!), Russia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and San Marino.  ESC truly unites, not just Europe, but the world!  This was a sentiment that I repeatedly ran into as folks discovered that I was an American.  So, as a new friend told me, attending the ESC is addictive.  I have found this to be true.  I am currently working on my return to the Contest in 2015.  I hope to meet some of you, dear readers, and see old friends again in Vienna next May!

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Preparing for Summer

Hello Dear Readers!

You may remember that I was in Denmark when I first discovered the Eurovision Song Contest, all the way back in the spring of 2007.  The 52nd Edition remains one of my favorite, but of course, nothing compares to our first time.  I have vowed to return to Denmark in the event that they won ESC – and it did! So, I will be on my way back to Denmark come May 2014 (hopefully with a press accreditation).  What that means for the blog:

1. I will still have live notes for the semi-finals and Grand Final.  Instead of doing them during the televised shows, I will write them based on the second dress rehearsals (the ones in which the juries vote).  This, of course, would ideally happen if I can somehow manage to gain access to the press center so that I can type while watching – otherwise, we’ll have to move to a Plan B.

2. In honor of my return to the land where I first developed my “Eurovision Obsession,” I will spend the summer looking back at all the entries, country by country, from the past seven Contests, in alphabetical order – from Albania to the United Kingdom.

3. It seems like everyone and their mother are talking about the voting this year and the various controversies surrounding this year’s results.  I do not feel the need to dive into that conversation – but if there is some kind of official word from the EBU or they do release more information (like, the complete country-by-country split votes) then I will post something.  That has nothing to do with my travel to Dk next year, but just thought that I would let you know!

Also, I am embarking on the path of developing a logo – if anyone out there is able to help me with this endeavor, definitely let me know!


Eurovision 2013 – Updated Notes!

Howdy All!

As you prepare for the Grand Final, I have prepped documents giving a brief overview of the Contest’s history, rules, the voting system, and each participating country.  I have previously posted these, but thought it would be good idea to re-post them.  I have also updated the country profiles to include the Grand Final running order.  Keep them for yourself, share with friends, print them out and have them ready for the passing during your Eurovision Party — whatever works for you!

Eurovision 2013 Notes

ESC 2013 Country Profiles

Eurovision History Brief

Eurovision Voting Brief

Eurovision Rules Brief

Eurovision Week


ESC2013 – Final Preparations

esc2013 logo

As we head into the last few days ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 – Malmö, I thought it would be good idea to provide some resources to help your ESC preparations.  I have been hosting Eurovision Parties for the last two years with the small group of friends that I have converted to ESC fandom.  I have always written up brief profiles of the competing countries as well as several briefs detailing the ESC history, rules, and procedures – as well as notes about the current year’s edition.  I have decided to make these available for you to use at your own Eurovision parties (and/or personal edification). I’ll update with the running order numbers after they’re released next Friday morning.  On Sunday, I’ll have my final predictions for this year’s Contest!

ESC2013Eurovision History Brief

Eurovision Rules Brief

Eurovision Voting Brief

Eurovision Week

Eurovision 2013 Notes

ESC 2013 Country Profiles


Getting Back on Track

Howdy All!  I know that, by now, you expect me to have not only given a rundown on each of the entries, but be gearing up for my second round of opinions.  Well, life gets in the way (sorry) and my posts have not been getting up.  So this year, I will have five preview posts that will be going up throughout the first couple of weeks of April.  The first post will be my detailed look at this year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (if you want to know why I single out Denmark, please read the “About” section here) and the resulting Danish entry.  The next four entries will look at each half of the Semi-Finals (I will include Big Five entries with the Semi-Finals in which they are voting), my thoughts on each country’s chances based off of the competition that the entry had to beat out to make it to the ESC (remember, I don’t listen to entries before the night they are first performed at the Contest).  Additionally, after my five posts are live, I will begin snooping around chat sites and message boards as well as looking at the bookies’ predictions and create a second round of predictions in early May.  After that, look for my notes from the Contest the days immediately following each Semi-Final and the Grand Final.

So, I beg you to have a little more patience with me; I promise you it will be worth it!


My Top 100 from 2001-2010

Happy New Year everyone!  What better way to celebrate the new year than by looking back?  Even though selections for this year are well underway (welcome back Italy, Austria, Hungary, and San Marino!), I thought that the ending of the New Millennium’s first decade deserved it’s own Top 100 list, so here we are.  I am currently wrestling with YouTube to get the accompanying videos posted.  I will add the links into this post as I get them posted.  Secondly, as an act of consecration, I will be fasting from Eurovision for the next 36 days (think of it as kind of Lent come early).  As such, this will be my last post until early February.  But best believe that I will come back with my reviews and predictions for the all the countries that have selected artists up to that point, including a full write-up on Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2011.  So, without further ado, here is My Top 100 Entries to the Eurovision Song Contest from 2001-2010.

100.  Switzerland 2009 – Highest Heights performed by Lovebugs

A great rock song, it demonstrated that the Swiss are more than just makers of trendy ballads or vampiric dance songs.

99.  Lithuania 2007 – Love or Leave performed by 4Fun

A song that really grew on me, Love or Leave tells a the story of a woman who is no longer wants to be in the yo-yo relationship she is in.  Quite moving.

98.  Switzerland 2008 – Era Stupendo performed by Paolo Meneguzzi

Despite a less than stellar performance (this will be a recurring element throughout this list), I still enjoyed this song from the first listening.  I think Meneguzzi (on the studio version, at least) has the perfect voice for this song and the lyrics are pleasant.

97. Greece 2007 – Yassou Maria performed by Sarbel

What a fun dance number!  I am a little ashamed to say that I actually know the entire choreography from the live performance.  This song is simplistic and very entertaining.

96.  Cyprus 2007 – Comme Çi, Comme Ça performed by Evridiki

I love this – a song performed in a non-national language that’s not English.  2007 brought three acts with this interesting characteristic and I commend Contest veteran Evridiki for doing such a good job and creating one of the biggest fan favorites of that year.

95.  Ireland 2007 – They Can’t Stop the Spring performed by Dervish

This is a song best appreciated in its studio form; for one reason or another, the singer just didn’t seem to have it together on the night of the Final.  Despite this, the song itself is a lovely display of Celtic folk tradition in a contemporary form.

94. Germany 2009 – Miss Kiss Kiss Bang performed by Alex Swings, Oscar Sings!

A truly appreciated both of Germany’s big band numbers from the past ten years (with 2007 being the other one), the thing that sets Miss Kiss Kiss Bang apart is perspective.  2007’s entry is the stereotypical, “I do what she says because I have to” type of song whereas 2009 brought us more of a “I do what she wants because she lights passions within me” piece.  See the difference?

93.  Israel 2003 – Milim Iaahova/Words of Love performed by Lior Narkis

Can a love song be chauvinistic; Lior Narkis seems to think so.  Despite its unnecessarily sexed-up performance, this song still represents a successful implementation of a nifty idea.  It’s a shame, in my opinion, that multi-language songs tend not to do well.

92.  Turkey 2005 – Rimi Rimi Ley performed by Gülseren

The first cheerful song of heartbreak I’ve heard.  She sings about how much she misses her love, and how she wants him to come back, but the song is up-tempo, bouncy, and Gülseren performs with a big ol’ smile on her face the entire time.  It’s an interesting combination of melancholy and pep.

91.  Romania 2007 – Liubi, Liubi I Love You performed by Todomondo

In my opinion, this is one of the most innovative songs ever to be on the Eurovision stage.  You have a nice, simplistic verse translated into six languages, then stapled together so that those languages can be presented next to one another.  The concept of each singer presenting a little of the culture of their language’s speakers is even better!  What a great song, a great concept, and a prime educational opportunity.

90.  Denmark 2002 – Tell Me Who You Are performed by Malene

In my opinion, this song is of the same caliber of Never Let You Go and better than Fly on the Wings of Love; however, instead of bringing Denmark more glory, she got last place!  I think this is a beautiful song that is tastefully understated.

89.  Georgia 2008 – Peace Will Come performed by Diana Gurtskaya

This is a powerful call to action with one of the niftiest costume changes in Contest history.  Ironically, it would be “military aggressions” at the root of Georgia’s withdrawal the following year.

88. Poland 2008 – For Life performed by Isis Gee

When I get married, I think that this might be my wedding song.  It’s a beautiful, heartfelt ballad (Gee wrote it with her husband in mind) that was admirably performed, twice!

87. Bulgaria 2009 – Illusion performed by Krassimir Assimov

An exhilarating popera entry from a countertenor who is able to not be creepy when he hits those ridiculous high notes.  Unfortunately, he was sick during the performance and so his ill-equipped and overzealous backing singer had to fill in for a lot of what, on the recorded version, Assimov had sung.  Though, I think this is a good example of an awesome song that, had it stuck to its studio version in competition, would have done a lot better.  Instead, the backing vocals were overly emphasizes (above and beyond what was needed to cover for the sick Assimov) and destroyed a great song.

86.  Switzerland 2010 – Il Pleut de l’Or performed by Michael von der Heide

I didn’t like this song much the first time I heard it, but it really grew on me.  From the sung drum beats to the exaggerated slide to von der Heide’s overly-flamboyant choreography, it is just a fun song.

85.  Russia 2006 – Never Let You Go performed by Dima Bilan

Once Mr. Bilan won in 2008, his runner-up performance in Athens was all but forgotten.  But I think Never Let You Go is superior to Believe.  While the latter was able to finally lift Russia to the Winners’ Circle with an inspirational message of believing in oneself, the Athens effort from 2006 is a haunting love song.  The composers and lyricists were able to combine intimate lyrics with spine-tingling music.  Unfortunately, the choreographer couldn’t come through.

84.  Slovenia 2005 – Stop performed by Omar Naber

Another song with killer music, the composers were able to take a simple scale motif and turn it into a haunting melody.  The lyrics are so-so and bit repetitive, hence, why it’s only number 84 on my list.

83. Bulgaria 2007 – Water performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankoulov

One of the most inventive and creative entries in Eurovision history!  Too bad the live vocals were not up to par.  The performance was amazing though; they showed why they are Bulgaria’s top percussionists.

82. Spain 2005 – Brujeria performed by Son del Sol

Thanks to my blind stumbling around YouTube, this was the first Eurovision song I heard after watching ESC 2007.  It’s a fast tempo, very-Spanish style entry from the Big Four country – I don’t know why it is so often forgotten when Spain’s recent entries are discussed.

81. Spain 2009 – La Noche Es Para Mi (The Night Belongs to Me) by Soraya Arnelas

What a great song from Spain!  It’s a fun dance tune, but I think it suffered from trying to do too much.  There was no need for the “C’mon and take me, c’mon and shake me”; there’s a pure Spanish version out there and that’s what should have been performed.  And the intro at the beginning – why on earth would they mess with a song that was already popular?  Had Spain left the song that won its national final alone, then they wouldn’t have earned one of the worst results of a song performing last in the running order.

80. Latvia 2009 – Probka performed by Intars Busulis

The best gag act in Eurovision history!  It is musically intriguing, the lyrics tell an interesting story, and the staging is quite well done.  This song suffers from being serious non-serious entry, fans just didn’t know what to make of it.

79. Latvia 2007 – Questa Notte performed by bonaparti.lv

Talk about popopera, I don’t know why Eurovision.tv heralded Sweden 2009 as the first popera on the Eurovision stage, 2007’s Slovenian and Latvian acts definitely came first.  Anyway, this act brought a lot of class to the ESC stage and was beautifully performed by six very talented tenors.  One more thing I love about this act, it was in Italian, even though it was from Latvia…beautiful (see entry #96 for explanation).

78. Croatia 2008 – Romanca performed Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents

Such a fun song.  It took me a few times to understand the lyrics, but I think I finally understand the meaning of the song to be that love stories never change through time; that it is fact that people have fallen in love, are falling in love, and will continue to fall in love until the end of time.  I also love the dancer and her beautiful dress.

77. Ireland 2010 – It’s for You performed by Niamh Kavanaugh

If all else fails, go back to you’re wheelhouse, or so must have gone the logic in Ireland in 2010.  Kavanaugh, the second in the Emerald Isle’s historic three-straight victories in the 90’s, took us back to 1992 with It’s for You, a classic, Irish style ballad.  Unfortunately, Europe was looking ahead, not behind, and the unthinkable happened – Kavanaugh (and her Irish ballad) ended up near the bottom of the scoreboard.  It didn’t help that her vocals weren’t as strong as they were seventeen years before, but it was still a shock for me.

76. Norway 2008 – Hold On, Be Strong performed by Maria Haukaas Storeng

What a great message of hope for those of us struggling with loneliness.  Though a little cheesy, it propelled Norway back into the Top Ten with a heartfelt performance.

75. Armenia 2008 – Qele, Qele performed by Sirusho

I will admit, I don’t love this song as much as I used to.  I think seeing in the context of the Contest, and how of all the acts, it improved the most in terms of its performance from semi-final to Grand Final.  I still think the lyrics are bit simplistic, but, gosh darn it, it’s such a fun song to dance to.

74. Albania 2009 – Carry Me in Your Dreams performed by Kejsi Tola

This song was immediately one of my favorites because it had one of the best translation jobs I’ve seen in the Contest, too rarely does a song keep so much of its original lyrics when translated into English. The song was inventive, but the performance and music video were quite lacking.  I got the idea that the stage show was supposed to be a dream, but why was Tola wearing a tutu?  I realize that she’s young, but come on, a lot more could have been done.  And the music video, soooooo outdated!  It was like something out of the 80s.

73. Slovenia 2002 – Samo Ljubezen performed by Sestre

Another song of hope, only delivered much more entertainingly.  I enjoy this song, but it just doesn’t make a lasting impression when listened to.

72. Belarus 2005 – Love Me Tonigh performed by Angelica Agurbash

A love this song, it is ridiculously fun to sing along to and can provide a song for the intimate nights with the spouse.  If only the vocal performance during the live performance wasn’t so…horrid.

71. Slovenia 2007 – Cvet Z Juga performed by Alenka Gotar

Of the four opera inspired acts I have seen on the ESC stage, this was probably the most well done musically.  It has that classic, stereotypical spooky opera sound with the staging to go along with it.  Not to mention that Gotar has an amazing voice.  This, along with a few other entries in my top 100, suffers from the 2007 curve – Serbia’s victory set the trend for higher quality music, leaving songs that were vastly superior in their own time in the dust.  Hence, two years ago, this would have been in my Top 20, and now, it is only number 71.

70. Slovenia 2006 – Mr. Nobody performed by Anžej Dežan

Slovenia has a way with music, another simple music motif turned into an intriguing and layered melody.  And the lyrics told quite the story, from meeting to heartache.  Oh, “tell me, who’s the lucky hero?!”

69. Greece 2009 – This is Our Night performed by Sakis Rouvas

One of many of the high energy dance numbers sent by Greece, not to mention a stellar performance to go along with it.  I also like this song because it is so much fun to sing along to – it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite Greek entries of the past decade.

68. Malta 2007 – Vertigo performed by Olivia Lewis

Probably the biggest sufferer of the 2007 Curve that resulted in so many of my favorite songs from Helsinki being pushed to the bottom of my playlists as 2008, 2009, and 2010 supplied superior musical quality.  For the first year the Contest was in my life (essentially, up until the 2008 Contest in Belgrade) this was probably my favorite entry, even after I had retroactively watched 2004-2006 by the time the Contest was staged in Belgrade. Once I became more experienced with the Contest, I saw just how weak the lyrics and stage performance was for Vertigo. Unfortunately, its intriguing melody alone was not enough to keep this one-time favorite in my top 50.

67. Estonia 2010 – Siren performed by Malcolm Lincoln & ManPower 4

What a lovely throwback to the 80s!  The song is lacks in lyrical complexity, it more than makes up for in sheer quirkiness of music and performance.  Not that the lyrics aren’t worth merit, I definitely credited the duo for writing a song with as sophisticated a double entendre as Siren – you have the literal siren that sounds at various throughout the song as well as the figurative meaning of a siren being an alluring woman who leads men to their doom.

66. Macedonia 2005 – Make My Day performed by Martin Vučić

It’s about time a man made a song about standing up to a controlling girlfriend that is up-tempo and empowering.  Vučić performs ableably and the music is textured enough so that its simplicity isn’t noticed.  The reason I don’t rank this song higher is that it is generally forgettable, despite it’s infectious “Lej la, la la, lej la” refrain.

65. Germany 2010 – Satellite performed by Lena

In one of the most evenly matched Contests to date, Germany was able to pull off a decisive victory with Satellite.  It’s a fun song that fits Lena perfectly.  I definitely like this arrangement more than the original that Lena’s competitor sung – it sounds more genuine, like someone who’s only 19 would actually say these things to their boyfriend.  I particularly love that Lena was an amateur and that she went from average high school student to international superstar over the course of six months – it truly inspires us all.  With all that said, I don’t think this was the strongest song in 2010 and think that I can name at least four other songs of higher quality that competed, as well as about six songs that I liked better.

64. Russia 2001 – Lady Alpine Blue performed by Mumiy Troll

Many belie this song because of its nonsensical lyrics, but I find this song inexplicitly hypnotic.  I don’t know quite know if it’s the music or the singer’s voice or just the way how everything comes together on this song – it’s just a captivating song.

63. Moldova 2009 – Hora Din Moldova performed by Nelly Ciobanu

I will spare you the details of how much fun I have singing and dancing to this song.  It’ll suffice to say that this I think this is one of the most fun entries in the history of the Contest.  And the staging was just adorable.  I think I would rate this song higher if I could more easily distinguish between her Moldovan and English.

62.  Norway 2010 – My Heart is Yours performed by Didrik Solli-Togen

This was a decent title defense effort, though I agree with a lot of the chatter online that says that the song may be better suited for a musical than a music competition.  I also think the original arrangement during the Norsk Melodi Grand Prix was better, when it was just Solli-Togen and violins, and I think that this song fell into the trap of adding backing vocalists and a bigger instrumentation in order to make the song more ‟dynamic and dramatic.”  I truly enjoy this song but think that the second verse could have been written better.  As much as I hate to admit it, “I watch you at night” is not necessarily the best line to put into a love song.

61. Estonia 2004 – Tii performed by Neiokõsõ

Another captivating song without much reason to be. The style and staging are too close to pagan tradition for my tastes, but it’s a moving song nevertheless.  The lyrics seem to take a generic message of feeling as if one lacks control over one’s own life and turns it into an homage to fate.  However, because the song is such that it is a chant, it just comes off as five girls singing to themselves and not a real pop song.

60. Ukraine 2009 – Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl) performed by Svetlana Loboda

This is the ultimate guilty pleasure song, something that you like but don’t tell others that you like it.  It’s fun, it’s allows you to sing at the top of your lungs, and try to exude the power that Loboda did during her stage performance.  The reason this song isn’t higher on the list is because of the lyrics.  Aside from going “Boom” whenever a word couldn’t be thought of to fit into a line, the lyrics come off as “Be my valentine…or else!”  Violence is never sexy.

59. Norway 2007 – Ven A Bailar Conmigo performed by Guri Schanke

The Spanish flair to this Norwegian entry is what initially drew me to this song.  It’s fun to dance and sing along to and the lyrics make sense.  I even liked the staging where the costume change did the ever-so-rare short dress to long dress change.  This song is just so bubbly!

58.  Belgium 2003 – Sanomi performed by Urban Trad

A historic entry for the Contest, this was the first (and so far, most successful) entry in a “constructed” language.  I would argue that it’s one of the most important entries of the past ten years, if not in the history of the Contest (at one of the more historic Contests).  It’s a very relaxing song to listen to and is a quintessential example of what Americans consider “trendy Euro music.”  This is quite an enjoyable entry.

57.  Armenia 2009 – Jan Jan performed by Inga & Anush

One of the more memorable stagings of an entry since the Contest started becoming more elaborate in its presentation.  Despite the songs suspect lyrics, it is still a great dance tune and quite original.  The songwriters were able to successfully combine traditional Caucasian folk elements with modern Western pop music (which I think is the reason why the sister pair was chosen).  I thoroughly enjoy this song.

56.  Lithuania 2010 – Eastern European Funk performed by InCulto

I think the theme of enjoyable, fun songs has been well established on this list.  What sets this song apart is its ska sound, not something I would expect from Europe, let alone Eastern Europe.  Not only that, the song’s quirky and clever lyrics, which narrowly slipped by the EBU censures, gives the song an esoteric spin.

55. Albania 2010 – It’s All About You performed Juliana Pasha

Talk about an unexpected power, Pasha really showed her pipes with this song.  The song was well written, well composed, and, in its final form, well orchestrated.  The addition of the background vocals was an amazing decision that greatly enhanced the entry and helped Albania continue its streak of making it into the Final.

54. Turkey 2008 – Deli performed by Mor ve Ötesi

This is a strong rock entry from Turkey and is one of the country’s rare Turkish-language entries since 1998.  Not to mention, it’s quite fun to sing along to.  Again, this is an entry with “interesting” lyrics, but the music and performance more than make up for this shortfall.

53. Lithuania 2001 – You’ve Got Style performed by Skamp

What a cool song.  This retro entry just makes you want to throw on some bellbottoms and an applejack and hit the local roller rink!  The song was well performed on the night; though, the stage was huge, so it is a little confusing as to why the band seemed to be crowding each other.

52.  Greece 2003 – Never Let You Go performed by Mando

An awesome, R&B style song that should have done much better than it did.  Mando has an amazing voice and this song was well suited to her.  I can only say that the staging was quite boring, especially given the competition Greece stood against that year.  Though, it’s important to note that Greece has since sent only titillating entries (save for 2006) since 2003 and have yet to fall outside of the Top Ten since 2003.

51.  Belgium 2008 – O Julissi performed by Ishtar

Belgium’s second attempt with a constructed language, O Julissi is much more fun and entertaining than Sanomi, but a lot less successful.  One thing that hurt Ishtar was the transition from the Belgian national qualifier (a small stage with a supportive audience) to the stage in Belgrade (a much bigger stage with a neutral audience).  While they seemed to have gotten the crowd in Belgrade excited, the energy just didn’t seem to transfer to the television viewers.  Not to mention, the lead singer got quite winded during the song, diminishing its effect.  Despite all this, I still love this song.

50.  The Netherlands 2010 – Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie) performed by Sieneke

One of the most divisive songs from 2010, people either hated or loved this song; I fall in the latter camp.  For starters, its the first Dutch entry in Dutch in ages.  Secondly, it’s so infectious.  Thirdly, it’s old-fashioned tune and staging set it apart from the competition, not disadvantage it.  This entry was the most popular Dutch entry in a long time, both in the Netherlands and abroad, so something must have been done correctly.

49.  Finland 2002 – Addicted to You performed by Laura Voutilainen

Another disco-esque song from the past ten Contests makes my list.  This song is surprisingly soulful for any entry from the ESC, let alone from the land of hard rock, tango, and accordion folk.  I’m quite “addicted” to this song.

48. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

This song won the hearts of Europe with its electrifying performance and incredible musical arrangement (but surely not its lyrics).  I was captivated from the very first time I watched the winning performance – and I am still held captive by this song.

47. Greece 2006 – Everything performed by Anna Vissi

A truly stirring song; I didn’t fully appreciate it until a few months after I watched the 2006 Contest.  Vissi so poignantly transmits the heartache of the lyrics.  The performance lived up to the level of drama that this song demanded.  This is just a great song all around.

46. Israel 2008 – Fire in Your Eyes performed by Boaz

This is another song with a great musical arrangement and dramatic performance.  The lyrics are a little confusing, particularly the few lines in English, but Boaz and his backing singers did such a great job of delivering the song that no one seemed to notice.

45. Croatia 2004 – You Are the Only One performed by Ivan Mikulić

In my opinion, Mikulić has one of the biggest notes of the decade during this performance.  Who hasn’t daydreamed of singing this song to a special someone, especially those of us who don’t exactly have a long list of ex-partners?  What really makes the song special is that, despite it’s lyrics, the music still has that former-Yugoslav sadness in it.

44. Armenia 2007 – Anytime You Need performed by Hayko

Another powerful ballad, I especially like the addition of the Armenian language lyrics thrown in at the end.  This song had a flawless performance, with flawless lyrics, and flawless music – it’s so tender and genuine.

43. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

Talk about fun songs, this has to be one of the most fun entries to date (not to mention one of the funniest).  It perfectly encapsulates folk music with pop while delivering a message of empowerment while pulling off some incredible dance moves in crazy high stilettos.  If you’re a woman and some undesirable guy starts to hit on you, make him tuck his tail and run by proudly proclaiming that, “Not a single blade of grass has grown where I’ve stuck my high heel!”

42. Bulgaria 2008 – DJ, Take Me Away performed by Deep Zone & Bathazar

Bulgaria is known for sending kind of off-the-wall, experimental entries, so who better to grace the ESC stage with a dance house track than the Balkan nation?  Especially since it worked out so well for them the previous year.  For as cool and inventive as the song was, I thought that the performance left something to be desired.  But, this song is just so much fun to sing and dance to, it’s all right.

41. Belgium 2007 – Love Power performed by The KMG’s

When I saw this song live, I literally said, “What was that?!”  The live performance is unforgettable, but not in a good way.  When I listened to the studio version for the first time the following day, I automatically fell in love with the song.  It’s light and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s the perfect fluff piece that, had it been executed properly, could have provided some break to the monotony of ballads and power ballads that flooded the ESC stage in 2007.  Normally, I think the music videos for ESC entries are, well, lame – but this one is hilarious.  If you have yet to see it, I suggest that you hightail it back over to YouTube to check it out!

40. Turkey 2006 – Süperstar performed by Sibel Tüzün

Talk about a song for seduction, if you weren’t the least bit melted by this sizzling song and Tüzün’s sultry performance, then you must not have been paying attention.  One of the sexiest songs to grace the Eurovision stage and my music collection.

39. Ukraine 2006 – Show Me Your Love performed by Tina Karol

Not to often will I say that the live performance of a song is better than the studio version, but this is definitely the case.  Free of the studio’s technology, Karol has a chance to really let her voice soar and bring a whole new power to the lyrics.  The music is also well done; it’s always nice when an accordion can be worked in tastefully.

38. Switzerland 2005 – Cool Vibes performed by Vanilla Ninja

Lyrical issues aside, this song is great.  From the soft oboe at the beginning to the ghouly backing vocals of the refrain to the timpani that sounds at the finale, this is a beautiful musical piece.  Not to mention, Vanilla Ninja give an amazing performance of the song.

37. Estonia 2009 – Rändajad performed by Urban Symphony

I think this entry is an example of effective use of simplicity.  The lyrics, the music, the performance, they were all very simple – but the song made a huge impact, both on the night and among fans.  This is Estonia’s best entry, from a popularity standpoint and from a quality standpoint, thus far.

36. Slovenia 2001 – Energy performed by Nuša Derenda

This song is an effective dance tune (with dance being techno’s more pop-friendly brother), if only Slovenia had been able to make the piano fly like in the music video – it would have won for sure!  I love the lyrics of this song and think that Derenda had a near-flawless delivery.

35. Israel 2010 – Milim performed by Harel Ska’at

One of the biggest travesties of the decade, if not the entirety of the Contest’s history, Milim should have been the winning entry at the 2010 Contest.  I mean, c’mon, it is the first entry to win all three Marcel Bezançon Awards – doesn’t that count for something (I know it doesn’t)?  This song is beautiful in every way.  The lyrics have so much more meaning than the average run-of-the mill ESC song.  The music is perfectly timed.  And the Final performance was unbelievably heartfelt and genuine (yes, even the cracked note) – not to mention that Ska’at is easy on the eyes.  There’s no reason why Skaat shouldn’t have been hoisting the crystal microphone at the end of the night.

34. Sweden 2008 – Hero performed by Charlotte Perelli

I want to start by saying that I like the idea of having the performance start in black and white, but, while the Melodifestelaven folks were able to effectively arrange this effect, those in Belgrade were not quite as successful.  Issues with the performance aside, this is a quintessential Eurovision song, schaleger at its best.

33. Croatia 2010 – Lako je Sve performed by Feminnem

In my notes from the 2010 Edition, I say something along the lines of “One’s thing is obvious after that performance: Feminnem came to win.”  Despite the results, I stand by that statement, I think it was one of the most perfectly executed, perfectly sung entries of the decade.  This song achieves to delicate balances: it tells the rare “woman cheats on man and begs for forgiveness” story, and it is done tastefully and the music is dramatic without being melodramatic.  Also, this is miles better than Feminnem’s other entry, Call Me (despite the latter’s built-in tribute to the Contest).

32. Portugal 2009 – Todas As Ruas Do Amor performed by Flor-de-Lis

I don’t have much to say about this entry, other than: What a sweet song!  The lyrics to this song are just adorable and the music and performance fit them perfectly.

31. Turkey 2002 – Leylaklar Soldu Kalbinde performed by Beket Bengisu & Grup Safir

The refrain alone is enough to get this song on this list.  The reason I have ranked this song so highly is because the way in which the music and the singer’s voice fit together; I think Bengisu’s deep alto is perfect for the arrangement of this song.  I think that the arrangement also heralds back to the early 90’s, which fits impeccably with the style in which the lyrics are written.

30. Russia 2009 – Mamo performed by Anastasia Prikhodko

I am not quite sure why so many people disliked this song – it is a heartbreaking ballad that is painfully sung by Prikhodko, not to mention the nifty aging trick on the CGI screens.  Speaking of a great use of the screens, the performance is staged in such a way that it’s almost as if a chorus of Prikhodko heads are singing, until the lights shine upon the backing singers.

29. Andorra 2006 – Sense-Tu performed by Jenny

There’s only one plausible reason as to why this song finished last, Jenny commuted a cardinal sin of European entertainment, BBWBS: Being Big While Being Sexy.  In the US, the sizzling lyrics, the tantalizing performance, the epic music – this would have been a hit (if in English).  This song is, by far, Andorra’s best entry to date.

28. Ukraine 2007 – Dancing Lasha Tumbai performed by Verka Serduchka

Probably the most fun song on this list, definitely something that catches one’s attention!  It’s loud, it’s glitzy, it’s hilarious – one of the most well done gag acts in the history of the Contest and one of the most successful.  The song is just so infectious, it’s impossible to resist!

27. Romania 2005 – Let Me Try performed by Luminiţa Anghel & Sestem

A powerful love song that helped bring sparks to the ESC stage, what’s not to love about this entry?  Sestem’s music provides the ideal accompaniment the lyrics.  You can feel the desperation coming through in the musical arrangement and in Anghel’s voice – flawless.

26.  Iceland 2008 – This is My Life performed by Euroband

I liked this song a lot when I heard it for the first time during the second semi-final; I loved this song when I heard it at the Final.  There was a tangible improvement from Thursday to Saturday, and it made the big notes seem that much bigger and the lights that much brighter.  While I am a little dismayed that the English lyrics don’t really match the Icelandic ones, I still enjoy them and prefer their message to the song’s original one.  I also love the dance beat that this song has.

25. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2007 – Rijeka Bez Imena performed by Marija

This is the song that introduced me to the soul stirring power of the former-Yugoslav’s heartbroken ballads.  The lyrics are indomitable – “with this heartache I will die,” how powerful!  The music seals the deal, though, not just creating an ebb and flow for the singer’s voice to follow, but doing so in such a way that draws the listener into the song as an undertow draws in a swimmer.

24. Ireland 2003 – We Got the World Tonight performed by Mickey Joe Harte

I will go to my deathbed saying that this song should have won the Contest back in 2003.  It combines sweet lyrics with an unassuming melody – just a perfect meeting in the world of pop music.

23. San Marino 2008 – Complice performed by Miodio

If there ever was an epic pop-rock song to grace the stage of ESC, this is it.  The boys of Miodio take melodrama to a whole new level with this song, but in a completely awesome way.  The desperation and persistence with which this song is sung only make the words come alive that much more.  I think it is also worth noting that the music, and how it kind of trails off at the end fit the song quite well.

22. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

It was this song’s victory that made me fall in love with the Contest.  Had Serbia not won in 2007, I probably would not have become the obsessed super-fan that I am now.  I remember thinking halfway through Šerifović’s performance, “This Contest is over; she has just won it for Serbia.”  It was the perfect song winning off of a perfect performance.  The music was dramatic, the lyrics were personal and moving, and Šerifović’s ability to belt out the notes was unmatched, probably the clearest cut, and most deserving, victor of the decade.

21. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

A former goodwill ambassador to the United Nations, Ani Lorak tore up the Eurovision stage unmercifully.  She continued the Ukraine’s tradition of powerful divas with this stunning dance number.  The lyrics are words of empowerment and the music makes the heart beat faster.  While I think the staging could have been better, this song still wows listeners, even in its studio version.

20. Azerbaijan 2010 – Drip Drop performed by Safura

I really do think that Safura let her nerves get the best of her, especially on the Final night.  Listening to her in the Azerbaijani national selections, she was amazing.  Listening to her doing the promotional performances, amazing.  Listening to her at the actual Contest…not so much.  Pitchy performance aside, the song tells a compelling story and the music is properly arranged.  The reason this song makes my top twenty is because of how dramatic it is, especially the bridge, “I don’t cry…And be lost in myself, again…”

19. Germany 2006 – No No Never performed by Texas Lightening

Apparently, this is the most popular German entry in Germany…and it’s quite understandable as to why.  It’s a sentimental love song without being sappy, “My loves burns just like eternal flame, and you feel it when I’m calling your name.”  It’s a wonder as to why this song didn’t finish better than it did.  The reason this song is in my top twenty is because it’s easy to sing along to, the lyrics are deceptively simple, and the style is unexpected.  Who would have thought that the Germans would send a country act?

18. Turkey 2009 – Düm Tek Tek performed by Hadise

“Can you feel the rhythm in my heart?  The beat is going: Düm Tek Tek!” Come on, when a song pauses so that everyone can shout together it’s deserves to be in a Top 100.  When that same song consistently delivers itself in a sexy package with a hot choreography, it deserves to be in the Top 50.  When that same song has a killer dance beat wrapped up in an ethno-pop package, it deserves to be in the Top Twenty.

17. Iceland 2009 – Is It True? performed by Yohanna

Talk about deceptively simple, this song has a very basic melody with very basic lyrics, but it’s stunning.  Yohanna’s performance is what knocks this song into my top twenty.  The way how she belts out the notes and the way how the song builds and builds until that huge note third time through the chorus, “Is it true, Is it over? Did I throw it all awa…y?”

16. Portugal 2008 – Senhora do Mar (Negras Águas) performed by Vânia Fernandes

This song is impossible not to love.  The performance of this song, particularly during the Semi-Final, was breath-taking.  The fact that this was the first Portuguese entry to qualify for the Final since 2004 and remains one of the country’s most popular entries makes the song that much more remarkable.  What makes this song deserve a Top Twenty placing for me is how dark the song’s music is and how the music helps paint the image of this whaler’s wife waiting on the edge of the sea for her husband to return.  The winds, the waves, they’re all there.

15. The Netherlands 2008 – Your Heart Belongs to Me performed by Hind

At the time, this was my favorite entry from 2008 and remains as my favorite Dutch entry to date.  The reason why this song is so good (other than Hind’s great voice and looks) is because this song grabs you from the first beat and doesn’t let go (literally, when she sings, “Your belongs to me,” she means it!).  Unlike other dance-y pop numbers, this song steps above them with its intricate musical style.  The musical arrangement harks back to almost, kiddie music (just look at the music video) while Hind’s voice and the lyrics provide a mature tone to the song.  Well done Netherlands, well done.

14. Hungary 2009 – Dance With Me performed by Zolí Adok

Bet you didn’t see this one coming!  This is in my top twenty because 1) it’s my favorite dance number from the Contest. 2) It’s insanely infectious “C’mon dance with me, make me lose my way!  Dance with me, make my body sway…”  Tell me the song isn’t now stuck in your head.  3) It’s just a sexy song (not the performance, but the music, the lyrics, the music video).

13. Serbia & Montenegro 2004 – Lane Moje performed by Žečjko Joksimović & The Ad Hoc Orchestra

This is the song that really defined the former Yugoslav countries’ heartbreak ballads.  Molitva (SER2007), Lejla (BiH2006), Lijepa Tena (CRO2009), Rijeka Bez Imena (BiH2007), Oro (SER2008), etc…  Lane Moje is in my Top Twenty because, while it may not have been the very first one of it’s kind, it certainly set the stage for all the ones that followed.

12. Serbia 2008 – Oro performed by Jelena Tomašević featuring Bora Dugić

This song is in my Top Twenty because the way how everything fits together.  The circular motion of the music and the lyrics perfectly reflect the title Oro (a circular dance that has a unique variant in each Balkan culture).  The way how the melancholy lyrics play off the affectionate good night wish, “Nuna ney…[Wake me on St. Vitus Day, to look at him again].” (translated from the original the Serbian lyrics) is genius.  What a perfect title-defense effort and I hope that Serbia can find its way again (not that I dislike 2009 and 2010, but it’s no 2007 or 2008).

11. Norway 2009 – Fairytale performed by Alexander Rybak

Never before in history has a song so dominated the competition as Fairytale dominated the other 41 songs in Moscow.  The song itself packages folk music in a nice, cute package, from the innocent lyrics (“But when I do, We’ll get a brand new start!”) to the bubbly backing singers’ “Duh, do, dah.”  The fact that Alexander Rybak wrote, composed, and performed the song virtually all by himself (the first to do so and win, I think) top off the reasons as to how this song earned its way into my Top Twenty.

10. Hungary 2008 – Candlelight performed by Csézy

A song that could dominate the Adult Contemporary charts in the US if given the chance, Candlelight is a perfect example of what makes that genre so compelling.  The lyrics, the music, the way in which they fit together to form this large, aural sweeping motion – it’s the utter definition of a romantic ballad.  This earns a spot in my Top Ten because of how transcending the song is, no matter how many times I hear it – I’m transported to a romantic scene (“I will fly tonight, forever keep you in my heart/Make it feel so right when you love me by sweet/Candlelight, hold me till the morning shine/All my fears subside when I look into your eyes.”)  Anytime a song can inspire such vivid imagery so consistency, it deserves a spot at the top.

9. Austria 2005 – Y Así performed by Global.Kryner

Before this entry, who ever would have thought of trying to meld Latin music with polka?  This song is innovative and catchy, poppy yet intriguing, and has a yodeler!  This song makes my Top Ten because of its effective use of polka (not an easy feat), its use of Spanish (“Bailar como Latina/El ritmo puro de la música alpina/Y así, y así /Y así baila la chica del Caribe”,) the unique story that it tells, and this is one of the most fun songs I’ve seen at the Contest.

8. Georgia 2007 – Visionary Dream performed by Sopho

Talk about epic entries!  The performance (with those swords), the music, Sopho’s voice – this song is just so powerful!  Everytime Sopho sings the words, “Sailing thorough my story!  Sharing my history!” I’m just blown away.  The reason this song is in my Top Ten is because it’s incredibly cathartic; every time the song explodes in musical array, I explode with it.  It’s arranged in such a way that it always takes me by surprise each time that I listen to it.

7. Israel 2005 – Hasheket Shinish’Ar performed by Shiri Maimon

To those who regularly follow the blog, you know that I often invoke the name of Shiri Maimon when talking about “travesties” at the Contest; times when I so vehemently disagree with the results that I feel an injustice has occurred.  There is absolutely no reason this song should have lost, especially to that Greek mess that was My Number 1.  But the reason this song is in my Top Ten is because it is unbelievably stirring and heartbreaking – even before I knew what the lyrics meant.  What makes the song even more astounding is that Maimon is generally a sexed-up pop singer, so she really steps out of her comfort zone and showcases her pipes.  Lovely job!

6. Turkey 2003 – Every Way That I Can performed by Sertab Erener

Talk about a dominant personality!  This is a Top Ten song because the lyrics are those of a heartbreak ballad, “I’ll cry, I’ll die, to make you mine again!  I’m in love with you, I’ll do all you want me to…,” but it is delivered in an aggressive, powerful way – as if the man who broke Erener’s heart is the sorry one.  It’s this contradiction that intrigues me so, that makes me love this song so much, and probably what helped Turkey win in 2003.

5. Moldova 2008 – A Century of Love performed by Geta Burlacu

A jazzy love song.  I think the music video does a great job of showcasing why I love this song; it is effective and applicable at every level of a relationship – from puppy love to ageless romance.  “This is all I mean, be my everything, and remember, our dreams together…” what beautiful lyrics.  The music can take you to an intimate jazz lounge or a cozy night a couch with a that special someone.  This is a Top Five song because I listen to it every day.  I listen to it everyday because, to me, it’s a quintessential romantic song that should be a part of every couple’s soundtrack.

4. France 2009 – Et S’Il Fallait le Faire performed by Patricia Kaas

This is the ultimate love song – a tale of a love so fanatic, so impassioned that the singer is willing to do anything for her beloved, “Until being nothing more but the shadow of your nights/Until being nothing more but a shadow that follows you/And if it had to be done” (translated from the French lyrics).  Not that I advocate for this kind of devotion, but Kaas so beautifully sings the song that it’s all right.  Her vocals and her performance are breathtaking; there’s a reason why she won the Bezençon Artist Award in 2009.  Another reason this song is in my Top Five, how unmistakably French this song is.  In an era of the Contest when songs are starting to sound more and more like each other, this song sticks out as a distinct ethnic fingerprint.

3. Russia 2010 – Lost and Forgotten performed by Peter Nalitch & Friends

In my opinion, this is one of the most misunderstood acts out there.  It’s a genuine heartbreak ballad delivered so painstakingly that it’s impossible to resist.  Also, like many other songs from 2010, Lost and Forgotten is done in a style that harks back to an earlier time in music history, this time to the 1960’s.  The reason I love this song so much that it’s number three on my list is because of how genuine the group delivers the song – from the woeful lyrics, “Would you believe, Lord of Mercy?,” to the simulated phone call, “ ‘What are you doing man?’ ‘I’m looking at her photos…’,” to Nalitch’s painful wail near the end of the song.  From the first listening, this song touched me in ways that few have.

2. Sweden 2009 – La Voix performed by Malena Ernman

Popopera at its best.  While I have all four opera-inspired entries on this list, this song blows them away with its clever lyrics and Ernman’s stunning performance.  La Voix blows away the 98 preceding songs on this list because of its originality (it’s opera…from Sweden!), its musical arrangement (dynamics, texture, contrast!), and Ernman’s singing prowess that makes the song come alive.  This song made an immediate impact on me, so much so, that I quickly was able to memorize it and have performed it on several occasions.  Not to mention that this is, by far, the most popular song among those I introduce the Contest to.  There’s something special about La Voix, and that’s why it’s number two.

1. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006 – Lejla performed by Hari Mata Hari

Interesting, all three of the Željko Joksimović composed songs made my Top Twenty; that man is talented!  I love this song so much; within three months, I had listened to it over 100 times, at least thirty more times than the next song, which I had for three years prior to adding Lejla to my music library.  I love this song so much, I wrote and directed a short movie based upon it (can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEnGcdWi2xA)This song is number one on my list because it master’s each of the three things I look for in an ESC entry, lyrics, music, and performance.  Lyrically, I was instantly moved by the sorrowful words, “Dove, my dove/Bring her tears instead of a song/I’m leaving, as if I’m guilty/For loving the one who I am not allowed to.” (translated from the Bosnian lyrics).  Before I understood the lyrics, I understood the music.  The music is so unbelievably fitting for this song – the music swells at the right moments, it pauses at the right moments, it suddenly gets loud and softens at just the right moments.  The music is just impeccably timed.  Hari Mati Hari’s performance is subtle yet makes a lasting impact.  The stark white clothing against the black backdrop, the use of mixed sex backing singers, the way how they all come together at the end.  The performance looks so effortless and is enacted smoothly.  What really sells me is the end, everything comes together at the final line.  The six performers walk forward in the a line during the last stanza to build up to the final line.  In marching band, they will tell you that one of the most powerful motions a band can do is march forward in a horizontal line.  Then the music drops out as the lead singer utters those most painful words, ‘For loving you…” all the pain and anguish the song talks about is summed up in those words.  And then, those explosive final word, the name of the cursed beloved.  The singer is left all alone, the music comes roaring back, and we hear the singer’s pained cry, “Lejla!”  There’s has yet to be better entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in my opinion.


A Word on Switzerland

As promised, I will devote an entire entry to Switzerland, a country that, in recent years, has become one of my favorites.

DJ Bobo, Paolo Meneguzzi, The Lovebugs, and Michael von der Heide, these are the four most recent representatives for the Swiss.  Interestingly enough, they are all Swiss nationals, going against the common misconception that Switzerland never sends one of its own to the Contest (you send one Canadian and you will never be able to live it down).  These four artists also some of the biggest names in the Swiss music industry across various genres: dance, adult contemporary, rock, and pop/schalger, respectively.  Apparently, success in the Swiss music industry doesn’t mean much, as each act failed to reach the Grand Final.  This hurts double when you add in the fact that each song charted in Switzerland and, at least the first three, were predicted to have a strong chance of restoring Swiss pride at the Contest (sorry Michael).

But why did these songs fail?   Each song seemed to have garnered a strong and vocal fan base prior to the Contest.  Each song seemed to have gotten a bunch of publicity beforehand.  DJ Bobo’s Vampires are Alive garnered protesters who claimed the song glorified the occult (apparently, no one seemed to notice a new book series written by Stephanie Meyer starting to catch popularity around the same time).  The Highest Heights also benefitted from a lot of early press as The Lovebugs had a connection to the band U2.  Despite the hype, despite the fan bases, despite the use of various genres, each song fell short of expectations.

Switzerland, while consistently putting in a lot of effort into their entry, seems to fail to realize the importance of promotion.  While Michael von der Heide did a better job than his predecessors in performing around Europe, the Swiss continue to shy away from showcasing their act around the continent.  Azerbaijan, Turkey, Bosnia & Heregovina, Ukraine are just several countries that have articles about their acts flood the pre-Contest press coverage because, traditionally, they go from country to country across the entirety of Europe promoting their entry, because, as I have said many times, only the Greeks can do well without trying.  While everyone whines about these countries having large diasporas, what happened when the United Kingdom tried their trick of trotting their act around the continent in 2009, Jade Ewen finished in fifth place, the best placing of a Briton act in six years.  If Switzerland hopes to rediscover success, it will need to do a much better job at promoting its entry.

One possibility seems to have presented itself, in the form of the self-proclaimed “mother of Eurovision” Lys Assia.  She has said, countless times, that Switzerland should send her back to the Contest.  We know she is a competitor; she represented the Swiss five times.  We know she can produce, as she has already won, and has scored several top placings – though, the 50’s/early 60’s was a completely different era for the Contest.  Niamh Kavanaugh showed that it takes more than being a past winner with a pleasant ballad to woo votes from the jury and audience with her woeful placing in Oslo. Lys Assia, being the inaugural winner, gets a proverbial free pass to the Final, but can she capitalize on it?  She is known for going throughout Europe traveling to various Eurovision events and National Selections.  I assume that she performs at these things already, how difficult would it be to add a new song to her setlist to follow Refrain?  Lys Assia could be the solution that the Swiss need, but only if they use her properly.


A Word on the Juries

And we’re back!  The official split votes have been released by the EBU and fans are in an uproar.  A third of them sing the praises of the 50/50 system, despite the fact some of their favorite songs were eliminated, a third of them love the juries and want only jury voting, and some detest the juries (with a fiery passion, I might add) and want them to be promptly removed from future Contests.

Before we begin looking into the results, I think I will take a moment to explain who the juries are and what their purpose is.

  • Juries are comprised of five music related persons from each country, and must represent various age and professional demographics.  Typically, juries are comprised of record company executives, professional musicians, former participants, music professors/researchers, and music graduate students.  Essentially, the juries are supposed to reflect those at all positions of the music industry within each country.
  • Jurors are not allowed to be connected to any of the competing performers, songwriters, or composers, regardless of whether they compete in the Final or not.  This is particularly to protect against jury members who may be from a multi-national record company voting for artists signed to their company in another country.
  • The names of jury members tend to be released, ever so slowly, by each individual broadcasting company and can usually be found on Wikipedia.
  • Juries are specifically instructed to judge songs based on music quality, lyrical quality, and the “hit potential” (that is, chance that the song will become widely popular throughout the continent).  As professionals, jurors are supposed to be able to balance these three aspects.
  • The juries make their votes during the second dress rehearsal, not the final performance shown on television.  Remember, each performer has at least five rehearsals, two practice runs the week prior to the Contest (during which they have a forty minute period and a thirty minute period to perfect their stage show) and three dress rehearsals – two the day before the performance and one the day of the performance.  Songs qualifying from a semi-final have to go through three more dress rehearsals before the Final.  That means that performers can have a lot of fatigue going into the televised show, which may or may not be evident during a rehearsal.  This accounts for some of the disparity between televoters and jurors.
  • Common misconceptions about the jury:
    • “The juries are unprofessional and their make-up is clandestinely kept hidden.” – I think I just dispelled that belief
    • “The juries are susceptible to being bribed.” – It is true that a record company or a broadcasting executive could do this, but why?  Time has shown over and over again that most of the songs that are successful after the Contest are not necessarily the ones that place well, but have the most promotion before the Contest, so, if these people are going to sink money in anything, it will be pre-Contest promotion, not bribery.  Additionally, most broadcasters do not actually want to win, the Contest has always been a bigger investment than payout (especially this year).
    • “The juries do not know which songs will be hits, just look at X.” – This year’s big example is France, which has spent almost three weeks atop the French pop charts, spent time in the top ten of several border countries, and charted in the top 100 of several others.  Allons! Ola! Olé! would have been eighth if televoting alone was considered, but was drag down to twelfth (which is a very respectable finish) due to a meager twenty-second place from the jury.  However, this song has gained popularity due to the fact it was created for the French World Cup coverage.  Belgium has seen much more international success across Europe and was given much higher marks by the jury than by televoters.
    • “The juries are morons!  How could they like Y over Z!” – The Contest is, always has been, and will remain, a matter of taste.  As I said earlier, what may taste (or in this case, sound) good during the second dress rehearsal to the jury may not be as good during the televised performance, and vice versa.
    • “The juries are biased/vote politically.” – And the televoters don’t?  Diaspora has been a part of the Contest since the beginning.  Whether votes are given by juries, the general public, or a combination of the two, Diaspora voting will thrive.  For those who do not know what “Diaspora voting” means, essentially, it is both, when immigrants vote for their home country and when countries vote for those with similar cultures/music industries (i.e., their neighbors).  The former is exemplified in the fact that Turkey receives so many votes from Germany, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Belgium, and France.  The latter is demonstrated by the historic voting blocs, the Nordic coutnries, the former Yugoslav countries, the former USSR, Greece & Cyprus, and (traditionally) Malta-Ireland-UK (despite themselves).  These votes are obviously not political (go to the streets of Sarajevo and ask a Bosnian to give you his opinion of Serbia, or go to Belgrade and ask a Serb what she thinks of the Bosnians) so please stop calling them such!
    • “The juries and the 50/50 voting system is the only thing keeping the Contest from collapsing” – This is a quintessential hyperbole (i.e. a really big exaggeration).  I think the thing keeping the Contest from collapsing is that long list of sponsors that we see at the end of the Final, the dues paid by the participating broadcasters, and the taxpayers who give those broadcasters their money.  It is a stretch to say that broadcasters would pull out if not for the voting system (with Austria being the only country to withdraw due to the televoting process – all other countries withdrew due to financial reasons or really poor showings (looking at you Czech Republic)) as most realize that success comes and goes for everyone unless you’re Greece, then it just comes.

If you want to know more, the official rules regarding juries can be found here: Jury Rules.


Additions I would like to see at the ESC…

Given that it has been a relatively quiet few weeks in the Eurovision world, I thought it would be fun to think about traditions I would like to see started at this year’s Contest.  Given that it is the 55th running, now seems like a great time to start!

-A special tribute to the golden anniversary (50 years) and silver anniversary (25 years) winners.  It would be so easy to incorporate the winning song from 50 years ago into the opening act of the first semi-final, and the winner from 25 years ago into the second semi-final’s opening act (and the Final’s opening act should continue the tradition of reprising the previous year’s winning song).  I am not saying that the entirety of the songs need to be performed, but some kind of recognition and at least the refrain needs to be highlighted.  Know thy history!  While I think Norway will probably choose to only honor their own past two victories (1985-La det Swinge and 1995-Nocturne) prior to 2009 – which does contain the silver anniversary winner (1985), I have a feeling France’s 1960 winner Tom Pillibi will be no where to be found.

-Allow the automatic qualifying countries (the Big Four and the host country) to perform during the interval acts of the semi-final they are compelled to broadcast and vote in.  This will allow a formal presentation of the song during the semi-final like many of them want, without the added pressure of having to qualify.  Besides, it’s hard to win if the fans haven’t heard the song live before the Final.  Since 2004, the only song to win without being in the semi-final was My Number One (GRE2005).  It would level the playing ground for the automatic qualifiers.

-A new rule that makes the Big Four responsible for hosting the Contest should the defending champion decline to do so.  While this has not been an issue for quite some time (since 1980, to be exact), but almost became one in 2008 when it was unclear if Serbia would be able to host amidst all the political uproar around Kosovo.  In 2008, the EBU was ready to call in the Ukraine, as it had the second place entry in 2007 (Dancing Lasha Tumbaii).  However, now that only the Big Four and the host country qualify for the Final, wouldn’t that had forced Serbia, the defending champion to the semi-final, and given their automatic qualifier spot to the Ukraine?  That hardly seems fair, but neither does forcing the host to qualify, either.  So, I suggest, to avoid this situation with the present system that we have, the automatic qualifiers be the Big Four (Five if Italy ever stops pouting and returns to the Contest) and the defending champion country (i.e., the country that won the previous year).  Thus, in the event that a defending champion doesn’t want to or can’t host the Contest (usually for money reasons), then a Big Four country should pick up the slack as to not disturb the balance.

-Limit composers to one country.  As it stands right now, singers can only represent one country in one given year, but songwriters (composers and lyricists) can compete for various countries and will be included on the winner’s list for whichever of their songs win.  This is not fair; they should be limited just as singers and other performers on stage are limited.  In 2007, famed Swedish composer Thomas G:son had his name on both, the Norwegian entry and the Spanish entry.  This should not be, but every year, some of the same composers enter four or five songs, multiple ones to their home country’s selection program (unfairly bolstering their odds of winning) and/or several songs to selection programs in other countries.  Every now and then, one composer or lyricist strikes it lucky, and wins in multiple countries.  This is wrong, this composer now has that much greater of a shot of winning the Contest as the others.  The fair thing to do would be to make a rule stating that all individuals associated with an entry (lyricists, composers, singers, backing vocalists, backing dancers, etc…) be barred from being associated with a second entry within the same Contest.  That way, every entry is unique and independent from the other.

The first three ideas I have been carrying around in my head for a long time, and wanted to get them out there before the EBU develops them on its own (like the two semi-finals idea, mine!).  The fourth one is new, but I like it!


My Approach to the ESC

I take the ESC very seriously and in its entirety; its history, its flaws, and its awesomeness!  I will try to breakdown my views of each aspect.

  • ESC…History – There are certain winners that I hate (GRE2005, EST2001, SWE1984, and NET1959).  And certain other victors that I don’t quite care for (FIN2006, LAT2002, ITL1990, UK1969, etc…).  And certain ones that I like, but don’t think should have won (RUS2008, UKR2004, etc…).  Regardless of how I feel about the victors, I accept them because there is nothing that I can really do about it.  That means I try not to let myself get drawn into the online bickering of whether a song “deserved” to win or not; I take the view that if a song is able to woo the televoters/jury into awarding that country’s points, then it is deserving of the victory.  Though, I do like discussing whether other songs should have won, I prefer lifting up songs as opposed to knocking them down.
  • ESC…Flaws – If there was one aspect to the Contest that has irked the fans the most, and caused the most heated of discussions, it is the voting system. From the “undemocratic” juries to the “uninformed and biased” televoters to the seemingly unsatisfactory compromise that is the current voting system. Personally, I like the voting system in place from 2013 – 2015; I think it strikes a healthy balance between the jury and the televoters. But the biggest issue seems to be diaspora voting (obviously, not political (except for Malta’s votes in 2007; Armenia and Azerbaijan’s non voting for one another) since most of the Balkan nations hate one another – as do most of the former Soviet states and Russia). This is when countries with similar cultures vote for one another (UK/Ireland; Nordic/Baltic Bloc, former-Yugoslav Bloc, former-USSR Bloc) and large immigrant populations voting for their home nation (Turkey’s votes from France, Belgium, Germany, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, for example). This obviously happens, whether we are using juries or televoting. The only way around this fact is to have participants participate without revealing the country from which they are from and all singing in the same language. This will never happen. However, under the blended systems, most of the same countries get big points from traditional friends, a lot of the smaller and medium point values seem to be adjusted. All of a sudden, Spain is giving points to Norway, Norway is giving points to Croatia, and Croatia is giving points to Estonia, all of which are rare occurrences. I say the ESC reverts back to this scoring system.
  • ESC…Awesomeness – In order to truly bask in the glory of the Contest, I believe that it must be approached as it once was, without the listening to any of the entries other than one’s own home country. This way, one can more accurately judge the performance on the night and not the one that has the best studio version; part of a victorious song must be the performance on the night, and this is lost when everyone can listen to the song ahead of the night. My slate should be as blank as possible prior to the running of the Contest. However, I am weak. So, I wait until the all the entries are submitted in their final forms – the Heads of Delegation Meeting in March. This is the longest I can wait. The good news is, my prediction accuracy was not negatively impacted by this, hahaha.

As I said, I am a Eurovision purist and probably (I think) one of the biggest fans in the world. Is it perfect, no, but I can move past this because its flaws and history cannot mar its awesomeness.


My History with the ESC

I was 19 and studying abroad in Denmark when I discovered the Eurovision Song Contest, and never before in my life had I felt an innate yearning toward something.  Not having any idea as to what the ESC was, I had no expectation for what was going to happen beyond my host family saying “It’s just like American Idol” (a statement that I loathe, and is a pet peeve of mine) and the one semi-final I saw of that year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (which I did not quite grasp the purpose behind when I viewed it).  Learning that DQ won over the more deserving James Samson a few weeks later, I had low hopes for the contest for which he qualified himself.

Imagine my surprise on Thursday, May 10th when the first semi-final came on.  I was captivated from the start of the Opening Act!  I was so intrigued by the concept of countries competing against each other with original songs; I was hooked from the first notes of “Water” through the final chords of “Questta Notte.”  So hooked, that the next day, while buying souvenirs for family, when I heard a song from the Contest playing over the store’s loud speaker, I ran to the clerk and demanded to know where the store had purchased the album.  Twenty minutes later, I am on the train heading back home (having canceled my evening plans in the city) with my brand new CD.  Eighty minutes later, I am listening to my favorites from the previous night and listening to the fourteen contenders I had yet to hear.  Come Saturday, the evening of the 12th, I was more than ready to watch the Grand Final!  The only problem was that my host parents were not too keen on watching it, given that Denmark did not qualify for the Final.  After some back and forth, I convinced them to turn it on right as Te Deum was starting.  I was once again mesmerized.  But it was seeing Marija Šerifović’s performance, and seeing Molitva win, that made me a true fan.  Had any other song won, I do not think that my obsession would have developed.

With that said, had I saw any of the previous additions, I do not think that my passion for the Contest would have grown to the heights that it has.  I would know, thanks to YouTube, I have seen each of the 51 winning performances preceding 2007, as well as the full running of the Contests from 1998-2006 (and I am continuing to work backwards through time).  In addition, I watched the 2008 and 2009 via the website (and many, many times after that via the official DVD).  Recently, I began watching the Junior edition of the Contest, but both times, only after knowing who won.

I look forward to what the future has in store for the Eurovision Song Contest: possibly an Arabic nation fixture in Qatar, possibly the return of Italy or one of the other countries whining on the sidelines, possibly even the political headache of a possible entry attempt from Kosovo.