News Updates

San Marino Goes Internal

Hello Dear Readers!

As a part of the OGAE ROW points race for tickets for ESC 2020, I am keeping tabs on San Marino’s selection process. Unfortunately, this year, SMRTV has decided to revert to an internal selection as opposed to doing another national selection like their collaboration with 1in360 from last year. Anywho, this is my first post for their blog. Enjoy!

San Marino’s Entry is Slowly Becoming Clearer

San Marino under a magnifying glassSan Marino after the swirling of rumors and anticipation on social networks, the microstate’s participating broadcaster, Radiotelevisione della Repubblica di San Marino (SMRTV), made an unexpected announcement shortly before we all flipped our calendars into the new year. Not only would SMRTV not be working with 1in360 this year, but they have reached an agreement with an “international artist” who will be announced soon along with their song; we must only stand by for the official press conference in a few weeks. Head of Delegation Alessandro Capicchioni and the SMRTV team are optimistic that this will entry will bring about a change in fortune for San Marino, who has qualified for the Final only once.

The Sammarinese delegation noted they considered a variety of proposals (maybe that including holding a national final again) and that this was the best option. I didn’t know, nor did most of the Eurovision community, that San Marino had so many options available to them. SMRTV General Director Carlo Romeo had this to say in an official press release,

This year we have worked hard on several proposals, as the Israeli edition is important to us for many reasons. Eventually we chose the best project, fully supported and approved with a wonderful International artist. Fingers crossed, but I think we will have a very good entry. Good luck to all our friends and colleagues involved in the organisation of such an important TV event, a world-wide event based on a joyous combination of music and dialogue, spectacle and friendship.

While I am disappointed in the lack of a semi-final, let’s hope the right choices are being made as post-production of the entry wraps up. SMRTV hopes that this song, their tenth in the Contest, will be the chain of light leading San Marino out of the depths of the ESC scoreboard.


News Updates!!

Hello Dear Readers!

Some news highlights for you.

Check out this year’s edition of “Eurovision Songs by Lyric Description” quiz over at Sporcle: https://www.sporcle.com/games/ESCobsession/eurovision-2017-songs-by-description

This year, we will doing something new! I will be joining forces with the magnificent DizzyDJC to bring you podcasts before and after each live show during Eurovision week — Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday! Be sure to keep an eye out on twitter and our youtube channels (ESC Obsession and DizzyDJC) for updates.

Furthermore, in lieu of live notes, I’ll be hosting a YouTube live stream of each live show. Providing commentary and thoughts on each performance. I hope that this can provide an alternative to the commentary that American and Canadian viewers will be subjected to (or just an informed commentary for those who want to listen to a fan’s thoughts as opposed to some random journalist’s or host’s).

Hope to see you around YouTube in addition to here on the blog, Twitter, Sporcle, and everywhere else, dear viewers!

 

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February 2017 Update

Hello Dear Readers!

Sorry for the delay! It has been a crazy few months (including getting involved in politics, improv comedy, and joining a new research lab). And, worst of all, I will not be able to go to Eurovision this year 😦

ANYWAY – all of that to say, we’re getting back on track, slowly. First, I want to complete the series “Eurovision: More than just…” before the March deadline for all the final versions of the entries to be submitted. After that, we’ll have the same regular posts – the Danish Melodi Grand Prix, the weeklong series on all 43 entries, then various other posts, and a return of the live notes! I will making live notes about the Contest as I watch the semi-finals and Grand Final.

Additionally, I will be taking part on a new initiative, an online magazine dedicated to Eurovision! More details on that as more become available. However, ESC Obsession will be continuing on 🙂

Thank you for your patience and understanding, dear readers, I look forward to many more Eurovisions with you all!

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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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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!

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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!


The 2016 Reviews are Coming!

Hello Dear Readers!

Today, the Annual Reference Meeting is wrapping up in Stockholm. For those who do not know, the Reference Meeting is the three day conference where the various heads of delegation (the leading producers from each country’s participating television broadcasters) come together to discuss the final logistics for the two weeks of Eurovision as well as, more importantly, submitting the final versions of their entries.Eurovision_2016_Official_Logo Each delegation must submit the final lyrics (and their English and French translations, as needed), the final studio version of their entry, the karaoke track for their entry (instrumental + backing vocals), the final backing track for the ESC performance (only instrumental NO backing vocals), and the official music video for their entry. This is also the last the point in which the EBU can force countries to edit or change their entries for being too political, vulgar, etc.

Since everything is subject to change up to this point (looking at you Malta!), MaltaI do my best not to listen to any songs (other than the Danish entry) ahead of this date. This is helpful for several reasons. Each song will be on my radar for an equal number of weeks ahead of the Contest. Secondly, many countries are prone to change their arrangements, lyrics, and entire songs up to the Reference Meeting deadline. Albania and Iceland usually translate their songs into English and revamp the instrumentation of the track. Malta and Bulgaria did not even release their entries until the past few days. This being the first time that I know of in which Malta changed their entry after it won its selection special. Belarus has historically changed its entry, sometimes repeatedly, but has not the past few years.

In the coming weeks, expect my initial reactions and reviews for each entry for this year. Happy listening, everyone!

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Eurovision 2016 – And so it begins!

esc2016

Hello Dear Readers!

Officially, Eurovision kicks off at the end of March when all the competing countries have to turn in their official entries (and all related media). But, National Finals season, the period where each competing country selects its entry, has begun! Typically, AlbaniaAlbanian flag country kicks things off with Festivali i Këngës, held annually around Christmas Day. However, a growing number of countries have decided on an artist, a song, or both earlier and earlier. As of January 1, 2016, eight countries (Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, The Netherlands, and Russia) have selected an artist and one (Albania) has an artist and song selected. Germany had an artist selected, but, due to his controversial history, decided to go in another direction. A new artist has yet to be selected.

Yes! You read that correctly, Bosnia & HerzegovinaBosnian Flag Map is finally returning to the Contest after a three year absence! And it’s not alone. Bulgaria, Croatia, and Ukraine are returning to the Contest! Bulgaria and Croatia each last competed in 2013, and Ukraine last competed in 2014. Sadly, Turkey is not making a return after early rumors that it would. And, due to financial restraints, Portugal is once again withdrawing from the ESC.

Australian Flag MapUnsurprisingly, Australia was invited to return as a regular contender. Though, since they are no longer a guest, the country will have to compete in the semi-finals and hope to qualify for the Grand Final. I predict that there will be another song from Down Under on Saturday night.

Swedish Flag MapEqually as unsurprising, SVT, this year’s host broadcaster, has announced that there will be two hosts this year, the popular Petra Mede (who hosted the ESC solo in 2013) as well as last year’s winning performer Måns Zelmerlöw (who has several hosting gigs under his belt, including Melodifestivalen). The Green Room host (if there is to be one) has yet to be announced.

Those are the biggest news stories thus far for ESC2016, but as the National Finals begin in earnest, more news will surely break! Stay tuned for my post about my hopes and expectations for Stockholm from a fan standpoint as well as from that of an attendee.

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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.


2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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Nous avons seulement deux semaines!!! We’re two weeks away!!!

Hello dear readers!

We are two weeks away from the First Semi-Final!  We over the past couple of months, we have seen quite a bit by way of news, remixes, styling announcements, movements in the betting odds, and much more!

This year has seen a rise in native language entries.  However, with the hopes of attracting fans ahead of the Contest, many of those countries have released English versions of their songs that are used for radio airplay and performances in other countries.  Most of the time, these English versions are only loosely translated from the original – occasionally, they come with a remix, sometimes, they can even come out better than the original.  Here is a brief review of this year’s English translations.  This post is riddled with YouTube links – you’ve been warned!!

Croatian Flag MapCroatia – Hard Times (original: Mižerja) — sounds similar, but is not as mystifying as the original Croatian version.

Cyprus – If You think of Me (original: An Me Thimase) – there’s also a Spanish version! — the best thing about this song is her voice, the language doesn’t really matter.Cypriot Flag Map  I guess the original Greek is the best, but the three versions are all about the same in my book.

Estonia – New Way to Go (original: Et Uus Saaks Alguse) – Estonian Flag Mapthere’s also Spanish and Swedish versions! — like Cyprus, all of these versions sound essentially the same; it’s hard to even tell what language she’s singing in.  Interestingly enough, I think the Swedish version fits the melody the best, but again, these are so close, it’s not a big difference.

Hungary – One for Me (original: Kedvedsem) — Okay, so the English version loses a bit of Hungariran Flag Mapits zip, as it’s a translated version of the original, not the remix that Bye.Alex is taking to the Contest. Regardless, it definitely loses a lot of its charm and coziness – fully legitimizes his decision to stick to Hungarian at the Contest.

Italian Flag MapItaly – Necessary (original: L’Essenziale) — Yesh!  English is not his specialty.  Definitely keep it in Italian!  The language change brings out a lot of his weaknesses and the song loses a lot of its charm.

Macedonia – If I Could Change the World (original: Pred da se Razdeni)Macedonian Flag Map – and a nifty remix of it! — I like the English version, I think, equal to my affection for the original in Macedonian.  I think the remix they brought to the entry enhanced it.  While I think the remix enhances the entry, it’s due to the improved composition, not the language.

Sammarinese Flag MapSan Marino – Chrysalis (Fly) (original: Crisalide (Vola)) — Definitely a step down from the original Italian.  With the language change, Valentina Moletta’s thick accent comes out and drags the song down a bit.  I think the fact that this is in Italian is one of the major reasons it is receiving much better traction around Europe than her entry last year (aside from the fact that it has a thousand times more quality).

Serbia – Love is All Around Us (originally: Ljubav je Svuda) — The Serbian Flag Mapremix is unwarranted and unnecessary and makes the English version completely fizzle because of it.  So, clearly, I think the original was better.

Moldovan Flag MapMoldova already had an English version of O Mie, which I think is the only one that sounds better in English than the native tongue.  It’s called A Million and was the original version of the song before the broadcaster decided to submit the Romanian version of the song.  I think the Romanian version makes the song a bit too clustered; too many syllables per beat.

Apparently, France’s song L’Enfer et Moi was originally written in English.  There has to be an English demo version out there somewhere!!New French Flag Map  Though, France usually sits on its English versions until after the Contest, so I guess we just have to be patient.  I can’t wait to hear it!!

I don’t expect Israel, Greece, or Montenegro to translate their entries, as they typically don’t.  I’m holding out for an English version of Ég á Lif (Iceland) and a Dutch version of Birds from Anouk.

Oh – I love languages!!!!  And I love the CONTEST!!


Eurovision 2013: Semi-Final Running Order

esc2013 logo

Hello Readers!

As promised, here is my take on the winners and losers of the Semi-Final running order.  In case you do not know, for the first time in the history of the Contest, the producers are determining the running order.  The previous 57 editions of the Contest used random draw to determine the running order.  SVT’s defense for moving in this direction?  “It makes for a better show.” The Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the EBU Jon Ola Sand has said that the idea behind this move is to give each song a “chance to shine.”

I think they are misguided in their intentions.  I do not think that they can preserve the competitive integrity of the Contest without going back to the random draw.  Unfortunately, while fans (people who follow the Contest beyond the one week of May during which it takes place) are vehemently against this move, we only make up a small percentage of the total number of viewers and consumers of ESC, so, ultimately, our voice does not mean much.  So, essentially, we should saddle up and prepare ourselves for producer-determined running orders to stay.

With all that said, here’s my take on the running orders for the Semi-Finals!

Semi-Final One

Winners

Austria fits very nicely at the beginning of the show as it is a mid-tempo song with a big ending.  While it is a bit generic, going first will help make it a bit more memorable, as long as Natália Kelly’s vocals are stronger than they were in the national selection.Ukranian Flag Map

Ukraine is a song in a similar style to Russia, but is much more memorable.  It benefits from following What If in the running order.

Cyprus is a stirring ballad that has the potential to be sung flawlessly by Despina Olympiou.  While I still do not think that Cyprus has a chance of moving through, this the best option they could hope for, being sandwiched between two up-tempo songs performed by guys who don’t have nearly the same vocal abilities.

Losers

Slovene Flag MapSlovenia is a club track sandwiched by the two slowest entries in the Contest.  A juxtaposition between it and slower tracks – that’s okay; being the crazed, over-the-top dance-focused performance between two understated, simple songs – that’s an order for disaster.

Montenegro will find it difficult following the Netherlands.  It has been argued that the Netherlands got the raw end of the deal coming between Ukraine and Montenegro, but I think Montenegro loses out coming between the Netherlands and Lithuania.  While both of those entries are rather subdued, Montenegro will be come off as a bit mad with its dubstep and men in hazard suits.

Semi-Final Two

Winners

Finland benefits from being a crazy ball of energy between two very forgettable acts.  Unlike Montenegro and Slovenia in the first Finnish Flag Mapsemi-final, the two acts surrounding Finland, Azerbaijan and Malta, are not very musically interesting (when compared to, say, Croatia, the Netherlands, Lithuania, or Estonia).  Not only that, but people who like up tempo numbers will appreciate the fury of Krista Siegfrids after a serious of mid-tempo numbers in San Marino, Macedonia, and Azerbaijan.

Albania benefits in the same way as Finland.  The one of the few rock numbers this year, Albania follows a combination of four mid-tempo songs and ballads: Israel, Armenia, Hungary, and Norway.  People who like Albania also will most likely shy away from Georgia’s ballad, the pop-y goodness of Switzerland, and the sheer “uniqueness” of Romania, meaning that Albania will stick in folks’ minds at the end of the night.

Losers

San Marino, for all its merits, is not an overly remarkable or memorable entry. Latvia is.  Macedonia is.  Valentina Monetta will have to give a performance of a lifetime to make a lasting impression between those two songs.  Her producers also need to make sure they design a stage show that not only compliments the song, but helps it stand out.

Greece is in the same predicament as Slovenia, it’s a crazed, high-energy song sandwiched between two subdued, beautifully sung pieces (Iceland and Israel).  Fortunately for Greece, this is a rather good song that is already quite popular, the lousy position shouldn’t affect its chances of moving through too much.Hungariran Flag Map

Hungary is a sweet lullaby sandwiched between the rock ballad from Armenia and the techno track from Norway (there is a more specific genre in which Feed You My Love falls, but I can’t remember the name for it).  As soon as it was selected, MTV knew that it was going to be a struggle to ensure that the performance is memorable, the pressure to do this is intensified by performing between two very memorable entries.

With all this said, I think the running order will matter much more in the Grand Final then in the semi-finals.  Taking into account the running orders, Internet chatter, betting odds, and Contest history, here are my updated predictions for the ten qualifiers from each semi-final.Georgian Flag MapDanish Flag Map

First Semi-Final

Second Semi-Final

Denmark Georgia
The Netherlands Norway
Russia Greece
Ukraine Azerbaijan
Moldova Switzerland
Ireland Albania
Belarus San Marino
Slovenia Iceland
Austria Romania
Serbia Finland

Stay tuned, as I will be starting a new series in a week or two.  It will be a Contender or Pretender series looking at the the top ten contenders in the betting odds: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, The Netherlands, Russia, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Azerbaijan (with the United Kingdom, San Marino, and Belarus hovering just outside the top ten).


Surprises of ESC2013 thus far

Hello Dear Readers!  Today was a big day – we finally have a running order for the semi-finals!  I will be making a post about that in the coming weeks.  You can find the running orders here: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=eurovision_2013_semi-final_running_order_revealed.

 

Instead, while I prepare that blog post, I will give you another one that has been mulling over in my mind.  The eight biggest surprises I’ve discovered thus far as I have been diving into ESC coverage.  This list is unranked.

 

  • Denmark is the big leader STILL.  Check the polling sites, the betting sites, the commentary sites – Denmark is the favorite to win come May!  This is not only surprising but rather pleasing!  As soon as I heard the song I thought it was a winner, then it took DMGP, and now it’s the big favorite to win.  How exciting!  Is it too early to say next year in Copenhagen (or perhaps Århus)?
  • Azerbaijan is nowhere to be seen. This goes beyond simply the fact that the Caucasus country is not on anyone’s radar in terms of succeeding.  Normally, AZ is throwing money at the Contest; normally, we would have seen at least one official music video, a remix, and several tour dates for the Azerbaijani entry to promote their song. Perhaps they don’t want to run the risk of winning again so soon.
  • The Netherlands is not only popular, but has a legitimate shot at winning. I love Birds, despite the fact that the lyrics require a lot of thinking about to help them make sense, it’s an amazing song and goes in a completely different direction than any other entry has for quite a while.  Apparently, Europe loves this, too.  And Anouk’s voice only sweetens the pot!
  • Albania is popular?! I don’t understand it, but apparently there’s a large group of people out there who think this song is amazing.  It’s okay, but I completely don’t understand the hype around this entry.
  • San Marino may actually qualify this year. Despite being slotted the #2 spot in the Second Semi-Final (in case you did not know, no country has ever won the Contest being performed in the #2 spot, but people have qualified out of the semi-final from it) which means it will be harder to maintain its impression in viewers’ minds, it is rather popular and has a chance to qualify.  It would be San Marino’s first ever trip to the Grand Final.
  • Lithuania and Montenegro have a strong fan following, France does not. Searching around the internet, I have come across a lot of fan rankings and Lithuania and Montenegro actually seem to be fairly well liked around the world wide web.  France, on the other hand, is not.  Despite the constant whining of fans that there are too many “ballads” (which, there not, it’s really no more than any other year) this fast and unique song is not appreciated.
  • Macedonia is getting a lot of backlash, still. Really, people?  I understand that Imperija was an amazing entry, it was off-tempo, powerful, and beautifully blended the pop and traditional musical styles of Macedonia.  However, Pred da se Razdeni fits these characteristics as well.  So, what’s the issue?

The number of non-English language songs is increasing. I think it speaks volumes that Moldova switched to Romanian.  More countries are using the ESC stage to display a part of their culture – their language.  I think this is a change for the better.  However, there has only been a few non-English entries that have had a serious shot at winning since 1998. Molitva.(SER2007) is the only non-English winner since the language rule was abandoned in 1999, and only the third since in the past twenty Contests (NOR1995, ISR1998, SER2007).  This year, Moldova is the most popular non-English entry, but still does not have much chance to win.


Eurovision 2013 – Heads of Delegations Meeting

esc2013 logo

Hello Friends!  I hope you enjoyed my preview of this year’s entries – feel free to read them again here: First Semi-Final: first half, second half; Second Semi-Final: first half, second half; Automatic Qualifiers.

While I was previewing the entries, the annual Heads of Delegation Meeting took place in Malmö.  During this meeting, the producers of the 39 various entries as well as representatives from each of the competing broadcasters come together to do several things to officially launch us into the final two months leading into the Contest:

1. Submit the final versions of their entries as well as submit the final version of their backing tracks for review.

2. Hear final updates from the host broadcaster, particularly the timeline of events for the next two months

3. Learn the schedule for rehearsals and Eurovision Week.

So, let’s go piece-by-piece, shall we?

1. Submit the final versions of their entries as well as submit the final versions of their backing tracks for review.

So, as you may or may not know, since 1999 to help save money and to cut down on logistical issues, the EBU gave host broadcasters the option of using an orchestra or not. Since no broadcaster has opted to use an orchestra, participating broadcasters must submit a backing track for their entries (i.e., participants can play their own music).  These backing tracks must be reviewed by the host broadcaster to ensure that they a) fit the three minute time limit, and b) are free of any kind of human vocals, real or synthesized.  France was caught in this way in 2008 and had to scramble to find backing singers to perform with Sébastian Tellier.  In 1999, Croatia was penalized 1/3 of their points for having synthesized vocals on their backing tracks (the EBU required the host broadcaster to begin reviewing backing tracks the following year).Moldovan Flag Map

This is also when a lot of entries go from native languages to English. This year, as far as I can tell, the only official change we had was from Moldova, which actually went the other way.  The song was originally announced to be in English, but on the first day of the meeting, Moldova announced that A Million would instead be sung in Romanian, under the title O Mie – which means “a thousand.”

2. Hear final updates from the host broadcaster…

One thing that SVT had been dragging their feet on was the design of the stage for this year’s Contest.  We got to see a basic sketch of the stage in February, but we finally get to see a final rendering.  The article can be found here.  Below is one of the pictures released by the EBU:

2013 Stage

As you can read in the accompanying article, the design was based on the wings of butterflies and moths, which provided the inspiration of this year’s design theme (which is at the top of this post).  The taller towers are based on butterfly wings.  The horizontal portion is based upon the wing pattern of a flying month.

3. Learn the schedule for rehearsals and Eurovision Week

We have the rehearsal schedule:

infographic_rehearsals-1

The first four days are for the first rehearsals of the semi-finals.  Each country will have ~45 minutes on stage to set camera angles, set lighting, see how the background looks, test sound, etc.  Then will have additional time in a back room to watch the rehearsal back.  Instead of press conferences, there will simply be interviews at the EuroClub. This saves time and stress. The second run-throughs are shorter (~30 minutes) and will be followed by press conferences. The automatic qualifiers will rehearse on the 11th and 12th.

Something else we learned was information regarding the running order.  Sweden, who had to randomly choose their spot, was drawn 16th in the running order of the Grand Final.  The Big 5 will randomly choose which half of the Grand Final they will participate in during their press conferences.  The qualifiers from the semi-finals will draw which half they will perform in during each of the press conferences following the semi-finals.  Speaking of which, SVT said that we will have the running order for the Semi-Finals no later than the 29th of March.  The deadline for the Grand Final is the 17th May at 3AM, literally just hours after the Second Semi-Final.

I do not know how I feel about Sweden knowing their spot so soon.  They should draw it after they’ve placed everyone else, that is the only way to avoid the situation where they maximize themselves by choosing favorable neighbors for their performance.  We’ll see…

Check in periodically, as I plan on doing several more posts in the run-up to the Contest, including a look at the semi-final running orders, the favorites to win, and at least one more post with predictions.


Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2013!

It’s that time of year again!  I open up my ESC coverage with live notes for the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix!  This year, DMGP takes us to Herning and gives us three lovely lady-hosts (currently in catsuits).  From my understanding, there are three big favorites thiDansk Melodi Grand Prix 2013s year. Simone, who returns to DMGP with the song Stay Awake and won the DR internet poll, leads the way.  Emmelie de Forest with Only Teardrops is ahead on the international opinion polls.  And Mohammed Ali, who achieved third place on the Danish iteration of X-Factor despite having Egyptian and Iraqi roots, with the song Unbreakable was announced as the big favorite during the DMGP pre-show.  A noticeable absence from the list, Danish representative from ESC2009 – Brinck, who performed Believe Again in Moscow for a respectable 13th place, who will be singing a song that he penned himself called Human.

Let’s see who wins!

As a reminder, the Danes have a one night national final format that they have been using since 2009 and amended last year.  Producers and executives at DR choose ten songs, six that were submitted and four “wildcards” late in the preceding year.  Those ten songs then compete in DMGP in three rounds.  In the first round, the songs are given a number (that stays with them) and perform in numerical order.  Then, using a combination of jury votes and popular votes (via SMS texts), three songs are selected to move through to the Super Final were they are performed again, this time, for al the marbles.  This is new since last year, when a song had to be removed at the last minute, DR decided to throw out the Knock-Out Round and have the top three from the first round go straight to the Super Final.  This year, the points will work a little differently.  There will be a total of 60 points available, 30 from the jury, 30 from the Danish public.  The jury reveals their votes one at a time; each juror gives the three acts either 1, 2, or 3 points.  The votes of the public are then revealed; their set of 30 points is divided proportionally to reflect the voting.  And a winner is crowned!

The Round of Ten

Song 1. Jeg Har Hele Tiden Vidst Det performed by Frederikke Vedel

The title translates to “I always knew it” and is one of only two songs in Danish this year (the other being Song 4 Rejs dig op performed by Louise Dubiel). What an awesome start to the show!!  I really like this song and the staging was very well done!  But fear that it did not make a big enough impact to stay in folks’ minds all the way through to the end of the tenth song.  Though, there’s usually one token Danish-language song in the next round, it will depend on Louise Dubiel’s performance if Vedel moves through to the next round or not.

Song 2. Human performed by Brinck

Brinck, as I said above, represented Denmark in Moscow back in 2009.  He’s ready to try again with a song he wrote himself.  I’m a little confused.  Is he singing in English and just mumbling?  Or is this a song in Danish with a few English lyrics?  Why does he sound so scared?  Is he still so scarred from his experience in 2009?  In DGMP2009 he had a strong performances, as well as in the semi-final in Russia.  It was the during the Grand Final that he started singing like he was scared, and apparently, he’s still scared.  He seems small on the big stage and his voice is lost in the music and backing singers.  It’s pleasant, but does not stand a chance of moving to the next round.

Song 3. I’m Not Alone performed by Kate Hall

Kate Hall is one of Denmark’s bigger pop stars and has some recognition internationally in Northern and Central Europe.  This song is nice, but very generic.  While the Danes do seem to like generic songs (see: any DMGP ever) I don’t see this one moving through unless the remaining songs are as uninspired as this one.  Not to mention, the Danes tend to be easily swayed by stage shows, and Hall botched a major note there.

Now, a short trip to Denmark’s ESC-ally as of late, Ireland.  With a cameo by the one and only Mr. Johnny Logan (if you’re new to ESC, Johnny Logan is the only performing artist to win twice, 1980 with What’s Another Year? and 1987 with Hold Me Now, both for Ireland, both are considered ESC classics.  He also wrote the 1992 Irish winner Why Me? performed by Linda Martin).

Now back to the show!

Song 4. Rejs dig op performed by Louise Dubiel

The song title translates to “Stand Up.”  This is a pleasant enough song and has all the making a dark horse – nice stage show, catchy tune, quirky singer, and a bit nationalistic.  I think this song might surprise a lot of folks (particularly Frederikke Vagel).

Song 5. We Own the Universe performed by Daze

Oh. My. Goodness!  What is up with her hair?!  I like the use of the lights like a keyboard.  The song is catchy and I can see it doing some real damage to the scoreboard.  This is the first song I would confidently say could move through to the next round.

Song 6. Stay Awake performed by Simone

I see why this is a favorite, but I do not say it was the strongest tonight, perhaps she’s saving herself for the Super-Final (she was eliminated in 2010 in the now defunct knock-out round after a stunning first round performance)?  This is a high energy song with a bright stage show, and Simone was just kinda, neutral.  I think it will move through due to its popularity and mass appeal, but she has to turn it up a few notches in the next performance.

The tour of countries with more wins than Denmark continues with…the United Kingdom.  We talk with two of the members of Brotherhood of Man, the third winner from the UK back in 1976 with Save Your Kisses for Me, one of the most commercially successful ESC winners ever.

Song 7. Invincible performed by Jack Rowan feat. Sam Gray

A cute guy, a hot beat, a dj (which is a gimmick in and of itself) with a gimmick (that ugly mask), a simple song with a refrain that even the most English-phobic Dane could sing along to – a recipe for success?  Not quite.  The Danes are rather nationalistic.  Having foreign songwriters don’t lower an entries chances as I doubt many viewers will realize this.  But a foreign singer?  Oh no!  Americans have failed at DMGP.  Icelanders have failed at DMGP.  I cannot imagine a Brit faring much better.  Eurovision.tv seemed to favor this song in its coverage of Denmark until recently when it began to focus on the next entry…

Song 8. Only Teardrops performed by Emmelie de Forrest

Irish whistle!  That’s why the international crowd likes this song.  This is my favorite, by far, thus far!  I can imagine this song being widely popular in Malmö, though naysayers might say Forrest’s voice is too similar to Loreen’s.  This song has good lyrics, a simple stage show (which, admittedly, would need to be enhanced on the international stage), and a slightly Celtic feel – I predict this to move to the Super Final and do very well

Song 9. Beautiful to Me performed by Albi

Hmm…another generic song in my opinion.  Not bad, just not great.

Song 10. Unbreakable performed by Mohammed Ali

How old is Ali, 12?  I see why he did not win X-Factor, his voice is not very good (at least, not tonight).  Perhaps the studio version of this song is why it’s so popular.  Oh wait, look at this staging – cool LED work, the lights go out, choreography, flames!  Almost distracts enough to look past Ali’s horri- crazy face paint on a dancer!!  What?!  No!  The song’s over.  I remember the beat….and a young looking guy…and cool staging!  Wasn’t I saying something negative about this song?  But listen to the crowd reaction, it must be good.

So, my favorite part: the recap!  I love how the crowd is going crazy for every song (except for the first one).  Time for rankings and predictions!

My Top Three Who I think will compete in the Super Final
(Song 8) Only Teardrops Song 6. Stay Awake
(Song 6) Stay Awake Song 8. Only Teardrops
(Song 1) Jeg Har Hele Tiden Vidst Det Song 10. Unbreakable

In the end, the three favorites I mentioned at the beginning had strong enough performances to move through.

Soluna Samay!  Lookee – she’s all grown up.  Glad she ditched the awful dreads from last year.  I like this song and its staging, she should hav re-entered DMGP with this!

Our fair hostess’ travels now takes her to the most recent country to join the Five Winners’ Club and close Danish ally – Sweden.  Eww…the Herrey’s – Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley (the winner from 1984) is, in my opinion, one of the worst songs to win the Contest.

Now the promotion of junior Melodi Grand Prix.  I’m still not quite convinced it’s worth my time to watch Scandinavian fight it out on stage, especially since the three countries all submit multiple entries.  But it is a widely successful show and served as the basis for jESC.

Now, revealing the four songs to move through to the Super Final

Song 6. Stay Awake performed by Simone – of course!  Let’s see if she turns it up in the next round.  Her opponent will be…

Song 8. Only Teardrops performed by Emmelie de Forrest.  Yayayayayay!  My favorite song this year!

Song 10. Unbreakable performed by Mohammed Ali.  The only surprise here: that a Muslim can be popular in Denmark.  Good for him!

Super-Final

Song 6. Stay Awake performed by Simone

So, this song is definitely sexier and edgier than How Will I Know.  And ends much more awkwardly, I wonder if the song is actually longer and had to be shortened.  This was definitely a better performance than in round one, but I don’t know if it was enough to win.  She just doesn’t really have a strong enough voice for this kind of song.

Song 8. Only Teardrops performed by Emmelie de Forrest

Let’s see if Forrest can replicate (or even outdo) her first performance.  I wonder if the older Danes will think she’s too young…never mind, I’m reminded of my earlier comment regarding the popularity of Junior Melodi Grand Prix in the country.  Listen to that crowd reaction!  Folks were up and dancing!  I think we just saw a winning performance everyone.

Song 10. Unbreakable performed by Mohammed Ali

He’s almost guaranteed to carry the votes of the Denmark’s Muslim population.  Not just due to his heritage, but because of the nature of his song.  Denmark is an incredibly homogenous society (everyone looks the same and holds similar beliefs) and people of Eastern European and Arab descent who immigrate there often find themselves the victims of bullying and discrimination.  With that said, there are not enough immigrants, I think, to help him win.  I smell another third place finish for Mr. Ali.  Though, I will admit, his voice sounded much better this time around.

Oooh!  Brotherhood of Man is performing!!  I really do like this song a lot!  Wow – they look so different now, but still good for the age.  Now the Herreys, doing a lot o the original choreography from their winning performance – still don’t like the Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley, but at least they sound good – better than they did back in the 80s.  Johnny Logan!!!  Performing Hold Me Now – good stuff!  I love the ode to Eurovision history, Denmark!  Three of the most popular winners of all time (The Herreys are generally disliked except for in Scandinavia – Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, where they and their song are incredibly popular) all on one stage.  Lovely!

Now the jury votes –

Only Teardrops is the favorite of the jury receiving three “3 points” from the five jurors (two gave the song only 1 point).  Unbreakable leaves the jury round tied for first after receiving two 2 points and two 3 points.

Now the popular vote –

SevenDanish Flag Map points to Stay Awake.  Once again, Simone will go home without the DMGP trophy.  The winner isONLY TEARDROPS!!!  Good stuff.  The final scoreboard:

1. Only Teardrops – 26 points (11 from the jury, 15 from the public)

2. Unbreakable – 19 points (11 from the jury, 8 from the public)

3. Stay Awake – 15 points (8 from the jury, 7 from the public)

And, for the first time since 2008, there’s a Winner’s Reprise – lovely!!

Final Thoughts

For the first time since I have been watching DMGP (since 2007), I can honestly say that I liked all 10 songs that competed.  Don’t get me wrong, Human, Invincible, and Beautiful to Me aren’t great, but, in the end, I did like them.  And, for the first time since I’ve been watching DMGP, I fully, 100% agree with the winner.  It’s about time, too!!  Only Teardrops is the quintessential ESC song of the current era – young performer, hip beat, nice lyrics, lots of potential in its staging.

From here, as Emmelie de Forrest continues to perfect her vocal performance of the song, her producers have to make a decision about the staging of Only Teardrops.  What they had on stage tonight was nice for DMGP, but would be too underwhelming on the ESC stage.  If they want a toned down, simple staging, they need to tone down the LED work and give her a bit more room on stage so it seems less crowded.  On the other hand, I think this song, especially given its arrangement and the existing camera-angles, would benefit from a bit of a bigger staging, with more movement from the backing singers and dancers to and more sophisticated light work to maximize the camera angles that are already in place (as those are already pretty well done).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed DMGP this year.  I thought the three Super-Finalists were well deserved and that the best song did, indeed, win this year.  Congratulations to Emmelie de Forrest and the entire stage and songwriter team.  I look forward to seeing Denmark return to the Top Ten with this sure hit in Malmö.


Eurovision 2013 – Malmö — First Post

And so it begins!

Image

The new ESC season hasn’t yet officially started (the final-final list of participants will not be official until mid-December) and we already have a withdrawal and a return, artists for two countries (the Netherlands and Belgium), two countries already assigned to semi-finals (Denmark and Norway), and a whole lot of Swedish egotism.

Portugal, ESC’s beloved loser – 45 times without a victory, will not be participating in the upcoming edition of the Contest.  After moderate success in late 2000’s qualifying for the final and finishing in the middle of the pack from 2008-2010, Portugal has finally grown weary of trying.  RTP has not yet ruled out a return in 2014.

Armenian Flag MapArmenia, citing the fact that they have no ill regard for the Swedes, is returning to Contest after sitting out last year.  In case you haven’t heard, Azerbaijan and Armenia do not like one another and are politically and socially at odds, despite close cultural heritages and history.  A couple of years ago, the two countries tried to put politics aside and staged a friendly soccer match in Baku.  Unfortunately, the Azerbaijani security was not as tight as promised and the Armenian team’s safety was put in jeopardy.  Armenia did not want to risk a similar situation in Baku this year.  Since they have no such history with Sweden, the Armenians are happily returning to the Contest in Malmö.

The Netherlands were the first to announce an artist – Anouk.  A soulful singer that is rather successful in the Netherlands.  Listening to her work, she makes great ballads (which won’t help her much at ESC) and so-so uptempo songs (pop rock tends to be a bit, hit-or-miss).  I think she offers the Netherlands the best chance at returning to the Grand Final since 2008 (a wonderful song by a wonderful and beautiful singer that failed for unknown reasons).  I think her best bet is to make a high quality pop-rock number to sway the juries.  I predict Anouk leading the Dutch to the Final, but not doing much more after that.

Roberto Bellarosa, the reigning “Voix Belgique – français” (as the Flanders has its own version because the Walloons and Flemish don’t like toBelgian Flag Country play nice with one another).  Belgium is returning to the equation that worked the last time it went to Scandinavia, back in 2010, a cute boy with a sweet voice that knows how to work a ballad.  The question is whether or not Belgian songwriters do a better job for him than they did for Iris last year.  I’m still undecided on his chances until I can see some of his semi-final competition.

Due to Malmö’s central location in the Scandinavian region, Norway and Denmark were each randomly assigned to a semi-final to prevent a heavy fan turnout for one night and not the other…i.e., the EBU is trying to make sure both Norwegian Flag Mapnights sell out.  I’m not opposed to this, unlike the last major development…

Loreen, through her interpretation of the prolific entry Euphoria, brought the victory and ESC back to Sweden – undoubtedly, one of the Contest’s most enthusiastic countries.  Not only that, Sweden now joins France, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg in the five-wins club.  Sweden, at least in my opinion (and probably those of many Danes, Fins, and Norwegians) tends to change things for the sake of changing things.  In the US, we have a saying, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” – meaning, if something is working, there’s no need to change it.  This concept doesn’t exist in Sweden.  SVT has already started announcing ways they will regress the Contest to earlier traditions in order to freshen it up – things such as using only one host, not having a tagline, and putting the focus back on the participating countries.

One thing that has never been a part of the Contest has been a predetermined running order.  Since 1956, the running order of the entries has been decided by random choice.  In a move of enormous egotism and pride, SVT has proposed (and gotten permission for) having this year’s producers choose the running order of the entries.  We know that songs in 2nd position never win.  We know that songs performing towards the end of the night do better than songs that perform towards the beginning.  We know that performing around the advertising breaks can be harmful.  Aside from the fact that SVT will have to deal with known running order issues, an official from SMRTV (San Marino)Sammarinese Flag Map raised a point I didn’t even think about: “of course a great and well known artist would attract more interest than a ‘minor’ one and the organizers may want her/him to sing in the last positions to have a more thrilling show. Small countries are then disadvantaged because they do not normally have artists in the European charts. How can you defeat Blue, Humperdink, Kaas, or Anouk in terms of fame if you’re not England, France or Holland?” In making a “more exciting show” as SVT claims it’s trying to do, they will advantage countries that send popular artists, most likely coming from the UK, France, Netherlands, Serbia, and Russia.  Which leads me to my next point.  What are the checkpoints to prevent Sweden from using their position to positively impact the other four Nordic countries or Western European countries?

SVT’s main argument against the naysayers – “it’s the system used in Junior ESC.”  Well, aside from the fact that jESC has a fraction of the following as ESC (and growing smaller) and a fraction of the competitors.  It takes almost a full hour and a half to get through all the entries (compared to ~45 minutes in jESC), so running order means A LOT more to ESC.  I hope this is a one-time experiment.


Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2012

Howdy Folks!  Eurovision season has once again kicked off.  This year, I’ve decided to post my thoughts on Denmark first, followed by weekly updates on the other participants (starting with a recap of those chosen prior to Dk).  As a reminded, these notes are written live as i am watching the contest for the first time.

And we’re off!

 

I like the ode to the ever-improving placements for the Danish entries over the years.  DR has said they are in it to win it this year, and that little compilation sets the scene for this goal.  I like the dancers.  I don’t care for the stage at all; it’s like we’ve fallen back into the 1980s.  Judging by the crowd reactions as the performing artists are announced, 8 and 10 are the favorites.  I know that Valen:tine was a big favorite before being disqualified, so it should be interesting to see who wins. It’s good to know that things are pushing forward with full steam even though the top favorite is out.  I just hope the too much wind hasn’t been taken out of my beloved Denmark’s sails.  Introducing the jury…some of these artists actually sound good and might be worth investigating

 

Onwards to the songs!

1 – Take Our Hearts – Jesper Nohrstedt

Oh, the piano is still playing even though he stood up!  Well, if there’s one good thing about going back to the 80s is that we’ll get a decent laser light show.  And it’s always nice to get audience participation.  So, this song has radio appeal, I could even imagine one of my favorite artists, Greyson Chance, singing this.  The problem is, Chance is 13.  This song would be great for Junior Eurovision if Dk ever decides to return to it.

 

2 – Nowhere – Valen:tine

This song was a heavy favorite, but was disqualified because it was publically available before the September 1st cutoff date.  How sad, it’s a strong song and would have had a good chance in Baku, given that it would have been paired with a strong performance, of course.

 

3 – The Best Thing That I Got – Aya

This is the entry from the songwriting duo behind Germany’s 2010 winner Satellite.  First thing I notice, that hideous dress!  That alone is enough to derail a good entry.  Combined with the singer’s unintelligible singing, this entry has about as much chance of passing through to the next round as I do, and I am not even competing!  Which is a shame, it’s a nice song.  It had zero chance of even winning DMGP, let alone ESC, but it’s a nice song.

 

My Danish is too rusty to follow why they’re having this little non sequitor concerning German music.

 

4 – Reach for the Sky – Kenneth Potempa

Another uplifting song, somewhat forgettable.  Why does the singer sound like he’s out of breath?  This song definitely gets better as it goes along; it just takes too long to get there.  As if the composers meant for it to be four minutes long instead of three.

 

5 – Overflow – Ditte Marie

If this singer looks familiar to you, it’s because she competed last year as a part of Le Freak with the song 25 Hours.  Good to know she hasn’t lost any energy; though, this sounds a lot like her previous energy.  Let’s see if this will get her past her previous finish in the second round.  I like this song!  Am I the only one who thinks she sounds like Olivia Newton John?  The lyrics are a little questionable, but it’s a good song that would get Europe dancing.

 

And now a word from our traveling journalist.  Oh look, Maroon 5 and an assortment of nice pop and dance tunes.  Oh, I see Russian songs…TaTu, one would think they would show their entry from 2003.  And Dima Bilan.

I love this tune! It’s the Second Movement from Shostakovich’s Second Jazz Suite.

 

6 – Baby Love Me – Emilia & Philip

I guess the songwriters are Danish, as both of this couple is speaking English (I can’t place their accents, though).  I liked the effect of having two new, identically dressed piano players come out to continue the illusion of the music being played live.  It’s a pleasant song, but cannot win in the energy-addicted Denmark.  A true ballad, like this one, stands zero chance of winning DMGP.  Not to mention that, while nice, it’s a fairly average song.

 

7 – Forever I B Young – Suriya

This song is awful!  How and why did DR choose to have this compete?  This song = bad.

 

8 – Universe – Karen Viuff

What is she wearing?  How sad, this song has a real fighting chance.  Aside from the horrendous outfit, you can tell that Viuff is very nervous.  Her voice is wavering and she is not singing with much confidence.  I think this is as good a time as any to point out that it sounds like the Danes have followed the Swedes in having the backing vocalists recorded and piped in with the music; that, or they backing singers are well hid.  Either way, it’s a sad development.

 

And now, our journalist is in Norway.  Yay Nocturne!  Yeah, yeah, pander to the crowd NRK.  The Danes need to remember that, despite its records for sucking, Norway has more victory than Denmark for the time being, so we must keep the trash talking to a minimum.

 

9 – Should’ve Known Better – Soluna Samay

ACK!  What is she wearing?!  It seems bad outfits is the disease of the year at DGMP.  It’s a nice song, definitely one of the stronger entries on the night.  And, so far, the only one not involving the audience or bathing the entire arena in colored light.  Oh!  A glockenspiel!  Confetti?  So, is it safe to say that this group is confident?  Am I the only one singing Seal’s Crazy after hearing this entry?  Yikes, I hope there’s not more cries of plagiarism this year.

 

10 – Venter – Christian Brøns & Patrick Isaksson

Wait, this is the only song in Danish this year, isn’t it.  I don’t know if that’s a strength or not, unfortunately.  My experience with the Danes, they generally view an entry in a niche language (of which they consider their’s to be the utmost) to be a weakness.  So, the Netherlands demonstrated last two years that Europe doesn’t like adult contemporary done by men, particularly when it’s faux-rock.  So why did DR choose this song?  Oh, I think the audience reaction just gave me my answer.

 

My picks to move through to the final round:

4 – Reach for the Sky – Kenneth Potempa

9 – Should’ve Known Better – Soluna Samay

10 – Venter – Christian Brøns & Patrick Isaksson

 

Talking to the judges.  Lots of love for song three (The Best Thing That I Got).  Now we have out annual children’s contribution to DMGP, I believe these are all the competitors for the DMGPjunior.  Why are there always kids who try to rap?  Though, I always love these sort of things when they have competitors all sing together, particularly when those performers are children.  I am assuming that army of folks behind them that never seemed to get any close-ups were the back-up singers for all the entries.

 

Oh, and now is the moment!  The three finalists!  Oh, he played Dansevise!  One of my favorite winners, and by far, the best Danish entry to date, including whichever one of these nine win.  Oh, a note for those who may not know, in lieu of the two semi-final battles and a final (the format of the previous three DMGPs), there will be just a final of three songs.

 

And the final will be…

1. Take Our Hearts (I predicted this song originally, then thought better of it and put down #4 instead, grrr!  This is why one should go with one’s instincts)

vs.

10. Venter (the crowd seemed to love it)

vs.

9. Should’ve Known Better

 

Now an introduction of the international jury: Rybak, Alex Sparrow, Ell & Nikki, AySel, and a slew of pop artists with whom I am unfamiliar.

 

Pictures of the hosts doing things that could never be shown on American television, particularly family shows like this one.

 

1. Take Our Hearts

The weakest of the three, in my opinion.  So Nohrstedt better step up his game.  Aside from being a bit too excited, he seems to be doing better.  And then he botches a big note.  Actually, that wasn’t too bad.  He definitely sung his little heart out.  But will it be enough?  I’m not sure.

 

And now the host is playing Ding Dong on the marimba.

And now we’re in Azerbaijan, presumably to answer the question of whether all Azerbaijan is American in sound as their ESC entries.  Let’s see…Running Scared, Lady Gaga, an Azerbaijania Lady Gaga, something that actually sounds ethnic, and now some Azerbaijani dancing (which looks a lot like the oro dances from the Balkans).

 

9. Should’ve Known Better

I think it was better than the first time, but I still wouldn’t call that a winning performance.  And that outfit!  If I had to judge against the prior song, I would say it was a draw. This one might get an edge because I think it had a better performance and is different enough from the previous three entries to sound as if it were different.

 

So, we went from hearing some of the better winners (Dansevise, Nocturne, Fairytale) and must suffer through a rendition of one of the worst winners – Diggiloo Diggiley.

 

10. Venter

They need a good performance to pull off a win.  It’s only so much populist support will do.  Some of the harmonies that they missed the first time around are better this time and the one did not try to hit the big note he botched the first time, but playing it safe won’t get you victory.  I think that this song appeals to older Danes (as evidenced by the dancing ladies) and may get their support, and the win if the young people are split over the first two.  Not that I think it should win, I would now rank it third among these three.

 

Hmm…who to pick, who to pick?  Despite my comments, I think Venter is out of the running, so it comes down to the song 1 and song 9.  The former of the two, I think, pumped up the crowd more, but the latter had a longer lasting impression and was better sung.  The recap is important – for song #1, they showed him botching two huge notes.  For song #9, they showed a truly exceptional clip from the performance.  Hmm…I’m split.  I’m going to flip a coin….I’m going to guess song #9 – Should’ve Known Better.

 

And now the host is screeching through Fairytale.  Save us Alexander Rybak!  Oh look an, electronic violin!  No broken strings here!  Aww, how sweet, he’s singing Fly on the Wings of LoveHold Me Now!  I wonder if he’s hinting that he will come back and try to win again.  Satellite!  hmmm…I can’t place that one, but it’s awesome.  Did we really need this adaptation of Hard Rock Hallelujah?  And now we’re back to Fairytale!

 

And now the results:  First the international juries

Norway:

song 10, 8 points

song 9, 10 points

song 1, 12 points

hmm…no nul points this year.

 

Russia: proving again that English language education in Russia is not that great

10 – 8pts

9 – 10pts

1 – 12pts

 

Germany:

10 – 8pts

9 – 10pts

1 – 12pts

 

I’m noticing a pattern.

 

Azerbaijan:

10 – 8pts

1 – 10pts

9 – 12pts

We should’ve known that the Azerbaijani’s were going to vote unpredictably.

 

Now, song #1, Take Our Hearts, has a four point advantage over song #9.

 

The Danish jury:

10 – 8pts

1 – 10pts

9 – 12pts

Looks like the Azerbaijanis and the Danes were on the same wavelength.

 

So, that’s:

1. Take Our Hearts – 56 points

9. Should’ve Known Better – 54 points

10. Venter – 40 points

 

 

Yay!  More Dansevise!  I think choir-arranged ESC songs are good things.  And now we have A Friend in London.  What!  The Backstreet Boys?  No, no, just one of them, Howie I think his name is.

 

The juries account for 50% of the voting, the Danish public account for the other 50%.  So, we are about to learn who the winner is!

 

10 – 48pts

and they get third place.

 

And the winner is…

#9 – Should’ve Known Better!  Hey, I do believe I predicted that one to win.

With a total score of 110 points, Should’ve Known Better takes the DMGP2012 crown by a margin of eight points.  How exciting.  These two songs were so close in quality to one another; it was quite an evenly matched battle.

 

Unfortunately, a hotly contested battle does not necessarily mean that the winner is amazing, for even two mediocre competitors will battle each other closely.  Not that these songs are mediocre, but neither one has what it takes, at least not in their current forms, to win the ESC.  I think Should’ve Known Better will qualify for the final, but it will fall short of DR’s goal of winning the Contest.  Even with a new costume, a more confident performance, and some fine tuning of the arrangement, I don’t if this song has what it takes to overcome the competition in Baku.  We will see.

 


ESC2011: Semi-Final Two

Here’s Part Two of my preview for this year’s Contest.  Once again, it looks as if the Second Semi-Final will be the stronger of the two heats, how does this always seem to happen?  From a returning champion (Israel) to one of ESC’s most beloved novelty acts (Moldova) to a singer who garnered international attention after reading results last year (Sweden).  Oh, it’s going to be an awesome show, of that I am sure.  While the Ukraine, Sweden, Moldova, Israel, Denmark, and Ireland all seem like sure things this year, I think this Semi-Final will bring us a few surprises.  Also in this post, I will discuss the three automatic qualifiers who will be voting in Semi-Final 2, France, Germany, and…ITALY!!!

Bosnia and Herzegovina – Love in Rewind performed by Dino Merlin

Typically, former Top Ten placers tend to be a shoo-in for a spot in the Final, even if their previous song was terrible (which Mr. Merlin’s was).  Funniest online comment: “This guy is like a mix of Cat Stevens and Ringo Starr.  The coolest grandpa ever.”  And the bookies predict this finishing in the top ten.  I’m not convinced from the lyrics and internet buzz that this entry has what it takes to make the Top Ten, but I definitely think that it will pass through to the Final.

Austria – The Secret is Love performed by Nadine Beiler

When it comes to Austria, the entries I like do poorly and the entries I hate do well, judging by the competition Beiler beat out to make it to Düsseldorf, I am assuming she is going to do well.  Okay, that’s not fair, as there were several songs I did really like from this year’s Austrian selection.  Most of the buzz focuses around her powerful voice, not so much around the song, and we all know that this is a SONG contest not a talent search – better luck next year Austria.

Netherlands – Never Alone performed by 3JS

Not all things are better with age.  Having done a little research on the 3JS when they were first selected to represent the Netherlands, I liked a lot of their stuff, now, hearing the four songs that failed to win Nationaal Songfestival 2011, I don’t have much faith in the Dutch this year and neither do the bookies.  But the fans (all 20 of them) seem to love it – which, given their small numbers doesn’t mean much, but an interesting point came up, this song should be fodder for the juries and this prediction might just ring true.

Belgium – With Love Baby performed by Witloof Bay

An a capella group, how exciting!  In the US, a capella is predominated nowadays by university students, so it’s a very different experience for me to see a group of middle aged folks performing a capella, but they’re really good.  I hope and pray that they make it to the Final (apparently, LAT2006 is the only other entry to ever be done a capella, it got 16th).  The bookies think that this entry will do horribly, but it’s Belgium – the only country to succeed with a song in an imaginary language (though, they also failed with a similar concept six years later).  So, if any country can pull this off, it’s Belgium.

Slovakia – I’m Still Alive performed by TWiiNS

So, the TWiiNS bring us Slovakia’s first-ever English language entry and it’s reception is….piss-poor.  People don’t seem to necessarily love it, with the general consensus being, “it’s good enough for the Final.”  With such lackluster support I turn to the bookies who seem to feel similarly.  Songs that fall in this position tend to finish right outside the top ten of their semi-final.  So I would expect Slovakia to get 12th or 13th place in the Semi-Final, narrowly missing its first trip to the Finals.

Ukraine – Angels performed by Mika Newton

Again, the Ukraine has a controversy around its national selection, but at least this time, it was all taken care of prior to the entry submission deadline.  With that said, Ukraine had a stereotypically strong national final this year, I predict that this song will do what all but three Ukraine entries have done before, finish in the Top Ten on Saturday (but it won’t win).

Moldova – So Lucky performed by Zdob şi Zdub

Another returning artist that I wished had stayed home; the Moldovan rockers are back at the ESC, though this time they are minus the grandma.  It’s interesting to see how the tide turns in online comments.  The same people who have been routinely trashing the ballads and the poppier entries seem to love this and vice versa.  With that said, I just can’t see Moldova succeeding with this kind of level of negativity going on.  I expect them to make the Final (partially because people will recognize the band’s name, partly because Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine are all in this Semi-Final) but to not do all that well once they get there.

Sweden – Popular performed by Eric Saade

I remember this guy from last year; he had a wretched song that got second place in Melodifestivalen.  I also remember that his stunning good looks while reading the votes for Sweden last year helped that same wretched single land on some top 100 charts around Europe.  This year’s Melodifestivalen reminded viewers why the Swedes had the biggest, most watched, most popular, and most successful national selection year after year, and I think it will continue it’s role as a kingmaker.  Expect Eric Saade to restore some honor to the Swedish throne and land a Top Ten placing for the land of ABBA.  With that said, I have a feeling I will dislike this act and its show.  Saade has openly stated that he wants to cheapen ESC by promoting an increase in stage performers so that there can be “big pop acts” apparently six people isn’t enough for him.  He also dislikes the fact that he can’t use backing vocals.  I think how successful he is come the Grand Final will dictate a lot about where the ESC goes in the future, particularly since there is a new Supervisor at the helm who will be looking for ways to make his mark on the Contest.  I plan on doing a blog entry regarding this topic in the weeks following the Contest, regardless of how the Swedes finish.

Cyprus – San Aggelos S’Agapisa performed by Christos Mylordos

Like many other songs, this entry seems to have a high percentage of positive comments, but a low number of comments overall.  CyBC has done a very poor job of promoting this song and that, and only that, is the reason Cyprus will be left behind in the Semi-Final despite an easy 12 from Greece.

Bulgaria – Na inat performed by Poli Genova

Okay, I can’t even bear to make it through a recap of the Bulgarian selection (don’t worry, I went back and finished it); this does not bode well for its winner. With that said, there seems to be a healthy level of support for this entry so Bulgaria just might sneak into the Final after all, I think it will come down to how she does in the Second Dress Rehearsal, actually, when the juries cast their votes.

Macedonia – Rusinka performed by Vlatko Ilievski

Time for another funny comment from the web: “song is bad…video is funny…boys are cute.”  If you think seeing Azerbaijanis and Armenians (or Serbs and Albanians for that matter) whine amongst themselves on the various ESC forums was annoying, you haven’t seen anything you’ve read the dialogue between Macedonians and Greeks – sickening is what it is!  Anyway, Macedonia never seems to be able to get any love; it has always been an “also ran” at the ESC and I don’t foresee this entry changing that.  Short of some sort of miracle, Macedonia will most likely be sent home in the Semi Finals yet again.

Israel – Ding Dong performed by Dana International

The fabulous diva returns to the Eurovision stage after winning it all for her native Israel back in 1998.  Back then, she made herself an icon and a heroine for many queers across Europe, not only that, but her victory helped lead a revival for the Contest into the new era of exciting stage shows, and televoting.  Winners are all but guaranteed a spot in the Final, so I don’t expect the Semi-Finals to be that big a hindrance for her.  Though, like many returning artists from pre-2004, she needs to be ready to handle how much the Contest has changed over the last decade, including the more elaborate stage performances, the advent of the semi-final (which, for those that make the Final, mean nine rehearsals on top of the two performances), and the return of the jury something Dana International didn’t have to contend with in 1998 or in 2008 when she returned as a song writer (while the juries voted in the semi-finals of 2008, Israel was a clear favorite to progress that year and easily sailed through to the Final).  Though, she has stayed fairly involved over the years, so I imagine these changes won’t affect her too much.  I am inclined to listen to the fans and my own personal preference for Ms. Dana International – I expect this to be in the Top Ten.

Slovenia – No One performed by Maja Keuc

Hmmm, for the first time in a long while, Slovenia seems to have garnered a lot of positive interest from the bookies and from the fans.  Honestly, I must say that I am a little surprised at how well Slovenia is being predicted to do this year.  I expect this song will move through to the Final, but I dare not venture a guess on it’s final placing.

Romania – Change performed by Hotel FM

Romania seems to be getting similar coverage as the Slovenian entry, just less of it.  So I think that this song will also progress on to the Final, but I feel confident in saying that it will not be a Top Ten hit barring some kind of miracle.

Estonia – Rockefeller Street performed by Getter Jaani

Surprisingly, this is a big bookie favorite, something that is new for Estonia (even when it won in 2001, it was quite a surprise)!  The lyrics seem very interesting, and I have seen the magically appearing wand from the National Final.  There seems to be a lot of negative feedback about her voice, but a lot of positive feedback about the song otherwise.  What she lacks in voice quality can more than be made up in a stage show – and they’ve already promised us a good one.  I think this will be Top Ten for sure.

Belarus – I Love Belarus performed by Anastasiya Vinnikova

What is this, the jESC?  That’s the only place for outright patriotic songs; there is no way Europe will stand for this, I don’t care how catchy a tune it is.  Interestingly enough, it’s not biggest longshot to win the Contest according to the bookies.  Also curious, it’s a song about her love for her motherland, but it’s in English, can you say “неконгруэнтность”?  Expect this song to finish near the bottom of the Semi-Final.

Latvia – Angel in Disguise performed by Musiqq

This song seems to not be getting much attention from anyone, fans or bookies.  My impression is that it is a pleasant song, but not memorable, which is a kiss of death for this competition.  Not to mention, R&B/hip-hop tends to not do very well at ESC; so I expect this song to flounder behind in the semi-finals.

Denmark – New Tomorrow performed by A Friend in London

It’s a pretty lousy song, but the bookies seem to like it.  Fan forums are dominated by the plagiarism/not plagiaism controversy.  For an in-depth look at my opinions regarding this entry and the controversy, click here.

Ireland – Lipstick performed by Jedward

Once again the Emerald Isle disappoint with another gag act.  Despite the trend towards more serious ballads and elaborate pop entries over the past few years, Jedward comes this year to strick another blow for comedic acts.  Due to the twins prior success on X-Factor (leading to massive name recognition), this song will probably go through to the Finals.  Hopefully, it will fail, but I think it stand a decent shot at Top Ten.

With that, I now conclude my coverage of the Second Semi-Final.  For those who like summaries, I predict the following ten entries will move forward to the Grand Final: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ukraine, Moldova, Sweden, Israel, Slovenia, Romania, Estonia, Denmark, Ireland.  Sorry, no real surprises here, there is just too much evidence to go against the popular opinion.  Now, looking ahead to the automatic qualifiers who will be voting on Thursday.

Italy – Madness of Love performed by Raphael Gualazzi

WELCOME BACK ITALY!!!  Yay, it’s always good when a previous winner (not to mention a founding ESC member) returns to the Contest, it’s even better when that former winner is a Contest titan!  Fans have been begging Italy to return since the day it left and will jump at the chance to vote for Italia come Saturday.  The bookies, too, are showering Italy with much love with the general consensus pointing to a Top Ten placing.  With that said, there seems to be a small, but LOUD contigent that really hates this song – but that is the same contigent who seem hate anything that not a fast club thumper, so I am not quite sure how much we should worry about them.  I think Italy will be in the Top Ten.  Many fans of the song fear that they will be in the bottom ten.  I hope regardless of its finish, Italy doesn’t withdraw from the Contest again.

Germany – Taken by a Stranger performed by Lena

So, Dana International is not the only winner trying to pull a Johnny Logan this year, Lena is back and becomes only the third artist (behind Lys Assia and Corrie Brokken) to attempt to defend her crown in the year immediately following her victory.  If she wins again, does that mean she will continue competing for Germany?  It’s amazing to see how much Lena has grown and matured over the past year.  She still has that funky accent, but who cares?  It’s become a part of her performance at this point.  Interestingly enough, the runner-up song, Push Forward appears to be much more popular among the fans, but domestic and international, than Taken by a Stranger.  I think Germany will have a respectable finish (somwhere in the top fifteen songs), but it will not win again.

France – Sognuperformed by Amaury Vassili

France, for only the second time, enters a song employing Corsican, a language closer to Italian than French.  France is entering the Contest as the favorite among bookies and fans, not a heavy favorite, as Estonia, the UK, and Sweden are expected to battle it out for the vicotry.  I just don’t quite see it.  He’s not the first opera singer to take on Eurovision and he won’t be the last.  One thing every opera-inspired entry seems to shar in common: overratedness.  Remember SWE2009 – Malena Ernman was supposed to be an easy pick for the top ten; she finished in the bottom five.  And what about SLO and LAT2007?  They were both heralded as the first to bring opera to the Contest, both received a lot of fan love and support and neither one made it to the Top Ten.  I’m not saying that France can’t win, I just wouldn’t put money on it.

My predicitions for the Top Ten come the Grand Final on Saturday:

France, UK, Italy, Sweden, Greece, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Estonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina.

In terms of a winner, I just can’t say.  The fans are all over the place, and I just can’t see any of the current top three (France, UK, Estonia) winning right now.  I also doubt Sweden will be able to give a winning performance given the rigor of the stage show they plan to put on.  So we will see.

I now bid you adieu.  My next posts will be my Notes from the Contest – live commentary I write as I am watching the Contest for the first time.  Until then, happy readings!  Only 14 days left until the Grand Final!


A Word on Denmark’s 2011 Entry

Every year, one or two entries at the ESC stir up a bit of controversy due to claims of plagiarism by fans.  This year, Denmark’s entry New Tomorrow by A Friend in London is the center of the controversy.  So, in lieu of my typical review of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, I want to use my annual post about the Danish entry to discuss this situation.

To set the stage for this post, I will recap my thoughts about this year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix.  I was vastly disappointed in this year’s DMGP.  The production, the staging, the songs, the outcome – no where as good as the last two years were.  Not to mention the whole thing was a sham; New Tomorrow was slated to win from its announcement as a contender and it destroyed the competition.  With that said, I strongly disliked the song, and already know that 2011 will be the first Contest since 2008 in which I will have to suffer through having to listen to an entry – unfortunately that entry comes from my own Denmark.  New Tomorrow is corny, generic song with lyrics better fit for a classroom of four year olds than the stage of a major international song competition.

After A Friend in London’s victory, fans around Europe screamed in outrage, claiming that the song was plagiarized.  There are allegedly four songs from which  the band has “borrowed”: Face 2 Face by Future Trance United, Shine by Take That, Yasashii Uta by Mucc, and Sing For Me by Andreas Johnson.  Despite the fact that I love Shine, I will admit that all of these songs are horribly generic and they all have an eerily similar refrains to one another.  Undoubtedly, all four songs share a similar progression throughout the melody in question.  The questions is: do these notes progress exactly the same between New Tomorrow and any of these (or other) songs?

I think the Eurovision Times blog best describes the process for musical plagiarism to be determined. “We have to remember that one can not accuse a song of being plagiarism if it just resembles another song. Plagiarism

is not a sentiment of ‘Déjà vu’ and there are clear rules to determine whether something is plagiarism or not. First a complaint by the other song’s authors has to be filed. Then the song will be analysed. For a song to be plagiarism it has to have a sequence of eight notes that are exactly identical with the other song.”  As a musician, I have a better ear for this kind of stuff than the average person, but I am still no expert.  I think the strongest case comes in the form of Andreas Johnson’s Sing for Me (though, there is also a strong resemblance to Mucc’s Yasashii Uta).  The key, I think, lies in melody when the lyrics are: “In this crazy, crazy world” – it is at this point that New Tomorrow (and the other songs) separate from each other.  A Friend in London follows this progression in their song (the words in parenthesis indicates the direction the pitch moves between syllables): “In (up) this (up) cra- (same) -zy (same) cra- (same) -zy (down) world.”  Andreas Johnson: “sing (up) for (up) joy (same) sing (same) for (same) eve- (up) -ry (down) man (same) wo- (same) man (same) boy (same) and (same) girl.” Notice the slight difference.  Due to my lack of knowledge of the Japanese language, I can’t do a similar thing for the Yasashii Uta, but I can tell that around where “crazy, crazy world” occurs in New Tomorrow, instead of going downward pitch, Yasashii Uta goes upward.  Again, I am no expert in these things, but that’s how I hear it.  Shine and Face 2 Face deviate enough in the second half of their refrains that there is less ambiguity regarding those cases.

My verdict: New Tomorrow is unoriginal and generic, but in the end, does not meet the requirements for plagiarism as there is no way to prove (or disprove) whether A Friend in London heard these other songs and were influenced by them.  If anything, all of these songs were influenced by Kitarō’s Silk Road Suite (1979).  If you agree or disagree with my opinion, leave a (civil) comment and check out this video on YouTube, where someone has spliced together the similar melodies from Silk Road, Yasashii Uta, Sing for Me, and New Tomorrow so that listeners can judge for themselves whether there is plagiarism afoot.  Obviously, the video’s creator’s opinion is incredibly self-evident (you can see it in the title alone) but I suggest you close your eyes, give the video a few listens, and reach your own conclusion.


BIG NEWS!!!

Let’s see, it’s December 2nd, we’re six days past the deadline for countries to declare their participation in ESC 2011 (in which Italy declared its return and France has yet to issue an official statement either way) and about a week away from the EBU meeting set to determine the fates of Lichtenstein broadcaster 1FLTV and Qatar broadcaster Qatar Radio (as well as Kazakhstan’s Kazakhstan 1 and Kosovo’s RTK-1, both have expressed at least moderate interest in participation in the ESC), and a couple of weeks ahead of the Reference Group meeting that decides the Big 4(5) and whether Hungary’s DunaTV can compete for the country.  We only have five artists decided (The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Cyprus, and Bosnia & Herzegovina) and no songs selected, yet this is already shaping out to be a historic Contest.

For starters, Mr. Svante Stockselius, the heralded head of Eurovision who is stepping down from his position, is going out with a bang.  After making it one of his administration’s top priorities, he finally got Italy to quit pouting on the sidelines and rejoin the fun that is Eurovision (expect an entry regarding Stockselius’ legacy in the coming weeks).  Italy is back, but is hemming and hawing about whether they want to become automatic qualifiers.  Given their history, they probably feel as if they don’t need to pay the extra dues, but in not doing so, they deny another country the chance at victory.  The Reference Group will be meeting in mid-December to discuss this issue.  And while we’re talking about the big money countries, why has there not been any official word from France?  They had a top ten placing in 2009 and got 12th in Oslo – why would they not participate?!

Also returning for certain in 2011, Austria – who have so often whined about the voting at the Contest – is returning.  They left the Contest, again, after a dismal showing in 2007.  But before I launch into a rant about Austria…

Hungary, a much belied but passionate country, nonetheless, is trying its darnedest to return after an absence last year.  The former ESC broadcaster in Magyar, MTV, no longer has the budget to participate or even broadcast the Contest (hence Hungary’s withdrawal in 2010) and private broadcaster Duna TV took over the role of ESC provider in the Central European country.  Now, Duna TV is trying to get approval from the Reference Group (the very same one that is weighing Italy’s level of participation).

Also awaiting the approval of ruling bodies, Lichtenstein and Qatar.  Lichtenstein should easily be in as long as they can pay their dues.  Qatar presents an interesting conundrum for the EBU.  I am sure they would love to expand their market in the the Middle East, especially with a country that’s willing to play nice with Israel.  The issue is: the bounds of the European Broadcasting Area is 30ºN and 40ºE, which come together somewhere in Saudi Arabia, to the north of and to the west of Qatar…i.e., Qatar is outside of the EBA.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, if there’s money to be had – then it won’t matter.  BUT the EBU have used these boundaries to deny Kazakhstan’s K-1 entry. The official website and OikoTimes have both said that Qatar magically fits within the EBA, but have simply said that because the southern boundary of the EBA is 30ºN runs through several countries in Northern Africa and Saudi Arabia, and Qatar is north of the southern boundaries of these countries, it is within the EBA.  Confused? So am I!  Regardless of how this works out, I would be happy with the decision.  If they deny entry to Qatar Radio, then they will be sticking to their rules and regulations.  If they allow Qatar in (and, thus, they will have to let in K-1, too) then I would welcome the addition of a fixture country from the Middle East into the Contest.  Both Lichtenstein and Qatar have pending ESC debuts on the line and eagerly await the EBU’s decisions.

By Christmas, we should know just how historic the Contest in 2011 will be!


Eurovision 2011 – Germany: First Blog Entry!

One thing that I love about the Eurovision Song Contest is that it never sleeps.  The 2010 edition was not even fully wrapped up (we’re still waiting for an official release of all the countries’ individually split votes) and news about next year’s Contest has already started coming out

As we all know by now, the Contest will be held in Germany next year following Deutschland’s victory in Oslo.  And no fewer than eight cities are said to be in the running to host the Contest, including previous hosts, Frankfurt Am Main and Munich, as well as Lena’s hometown of Hanover.  While Germany has the resources to make Moscow’s record spending in 2009 look like chump change, I have a feeling that they will stick closer to the minimalist route taken by Oslo this year, though, hopefully not quite as minimal – it would be lovely to bring back the opening acts to the Semi-Finals (hmmm…I seem to remember a handsome blogger making a suggestion for these a few months back here).  What I think would be really cool, and make it appear as if it costs more money then it actually does, would be to host all three nights in three different cities.  Germany has two broadcasters, ARD and NDR, one could easily take over each semi-final and they could come together for the Grand Final.  They could go for a north/south thing, as NDR is literally “Northern German Radio.”  Or, better yet, they could go for the East/West thing, having a big city on each side host a semi-final and then have the Grand Final be in Berlin to emphasize Germany coming together.

Germany was the first to announce their representative for 2011.  In a feat not seen since the first years of the Contest, the winning performer will be trying to defend her crown.  Lena will become only the third performer (after Lys Assia and Corry Brokken) to compete in the year immediately following her victory.  No performer, aside from Irish golden boy Johnny Logan, has ever won more than once.  So, this could make for an interesting event, as traditionally, the winning performer opens up the Final with a reprise of the previous year’s winning song and whatever new thing they want to do.  I predict that letting Lena open up the Final will be out of the question, though, she may open up the first Semi-Final.  This will uphold tradition (sort of) without letting Lena perform twice in one the night.  Though, the EBU may not allow this unless the other automatic qualifiers get to do something similar…can you say medley!

Not to be outdone, the Netherlands has already announced its performer as well: 3JS (that’s the Three J’s, not 3-J-S).  This seems to be a smart decision on TROS’ part, as the group makes inoffensive adult contemporary music.  It also looks like they will continue the Dutch language streak, as that seems to be their language of choice.  Information regarding their song selection will be released at a later date.  I will say, we can probably expect something along the lines of a Me and My Guitar (BLG2010)/Life Looks Better in Spring (CYP2010) type of song.  Last year set two precedents for the Contest, a youth movement which hasn’t been seen since Sandra Kim’s controversial win in the mid-eighties, and a movement towards unadorned entries.  Molitva started this trend back in 2007, but it seems to have really caught on now.  Anyway, look for these guys to return the Netherlands to their frill-less entry ways.

Israel may withdraw in 2011 due to possible conflict between the rehearsal dates & first Semi-Final and two major Israeli holidays.  Apparently, a similar situation occurred in 2008, but it did not stop the nation from competing then.  However, Israel has set out once before due to conflicts with holidays, 1980.  Originally, IBA was just supposed to relinquish hosting duties, as it could not afford to host two contests back-to-back.  However, when the Contest date was announced, Israel withdrew completely because it conflicted with a national memorial day.  The Netherlands and France have both also withdrawn due to conflicts with national happenings.  The Dutch withdrew in 1985 and 1991 because the date of the Contest coincided with the Dutch day for Rememberance for the Dead and France withdrew in 1974 due to the death of President Georges Pompidou.  Something else also happened in 1980, Morocco competed.  While they claim to have withdrawn due to a poor result (after finishing 18 out of 24, the king of Morocco is quoted as saying that as long as he lives, the country will never compete in ESC again).  Many in the ESC world believe that Morocco actually refuses to return due to Israel’s presence.  Let me ask you something, if Morocco had finished in the Top Ten, do you really think Israel’s presence would have stopped the nation from showcasing it’s musical greatness at the next Contest, I think not!  Anyway it does raise the interesting notion that if Israel does indeed sit out, Muslim nations (i.e. Lebanon) might make formal debuts at the Contest – an interesting prospect.  I expect the debate over this topic to rage until Israel either announces its intent to compete or formally withdraws.

Speaking about withdraws, Hungary’s new ESC broadcaster Duna TV is said to be making great efforts to ensure participation in Germany, while Andorra and San Marino are both still crying poor.  Additionally, one country that has just been crying for the last few years has announced its intention of returning.

Austria, which last graced the Eurovision stage back in 2007 when the Contest was in Helsinki, announced its intention to return to the Contest.  Yay!  I always like it when countries return, especially former winners.  Apparently, Germany’s victory was enough for them to stop whining about the voting system and compete again.  Maybe they can bring Luxembourg and Italy back with them…  Especially since, without Italy, there will only be 24 countries in the Final next year.


Pre-Contest Predictions: 2010

It is my understanding that there are seven “favorites” this year, i.e., songs that have a high chance of winning the Contest: Denmark, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Germany, Croatia, and Slovakia.  Each of these countries have a more than fair shot at winning , and compelling reasons that they will fail.

Denmark: Probably the top favorite this year, the Danes are sending a middle of the road contemporary pop song in A Moment Like This performed by Chanée & N’Evergreen.  This has a wide appeal, but for every fan who likes this song or hates this song, there are two that are tepid.  That’s a whole lot of lukewarm people!  The Danes will probably get votes because people feel that they have to vote for them, not necessarily because they have the best song, not to mention N’Evergreen is a big star in Russia, meaning that bordering countries probably also love him.

Armenia: One of the more anticipated entries due to the uncommonly high interest the Armenian national selection.  Eva Rivas carried her nation’s national selection with the song Apricot Stone, with the support of Lys Assia.  The song seems to be an unoffensive ballad (in the traditional sense, in that it is a song that tells a story); however, it seems to be a call to arms for diaspora voting.  The singer, herself, said that the song is about not forgetting one’s roots and returning to one’s homeland, if just in your heart.  But maybe I am reading too much into this interpretation.

Azerbaijan: Often referred to as the most overrated act this year, the “Land of Fire” will be represented by Drip Drop performed by Safura.  All of a sudden, any female who wants to sing R&B is a Beyoncé rip-off?  What a joke!  R&B has been around long before Beyoncé was born and will survive long after she’s dead and forgotten.  People are trying to find ways of putting down the Azerbaijani entry without any real evidence of the song being poor; this should stop!  However, there is a lot of money and publicity being thrown at this entry, meaning that it is probably weaker than the bookies are letting on.  What’s the old saying, “the more something’s advertised, the less you need it.”

Israel: The Middle East nation is being represented by Milim performed by Harel Skaat.  He’s a cute boy singing one of this year’s many ballads.  Has anyone else noticed that all of Skaat’s songs sound the same, or is it just me?  I listened to the four songs that lost at K’dam, and had a hard time telling them a part from one another.  With that said, no one’s stock has dropped hotter than Israel’s.  When Milim was first selected, just about every news outlet predicted that it would be a winner; now you would be hard pressed to find this prediction outside of the Harel Skaat fan club.  However, the song remains popular on fan sites and among the bookies, and hey! I like Mr. Skaat.

Germany: Satellite performed by Lena is the German entrant this year.  From what I gathered, this is a very contemporary song without being weird, which accounts for its high popularity; is it finally time for the Teutonic colors to fly during the ESC winner reprise once again?  How can the only country with the most particpations (54 this year) have only a single victory?  Germany has a tendency to send things that are very American in sound.  From big band (2009, 2007) to girl group bubble gum pop (2008) to country (2006) to blue-eyed soul (2004), Germany seems to be searching for the right answer on this side of the Atlantic.  Just last year, they shook two half-naked Americans at their troubles, and still failed to get past 20th place.  That’s not to say that USA spells trouble at the ESC.  This year, the Germans are looking to taking advantage of the “indie” sound that has become so popular in the US over the past five years.  However, this year, the German entry has been very well received despite its American sound.  There is concern regarding whether Lena can handle the pressure of performing on the ESC stage, only time will tell.

Croatia: Feminnem returns to the Eurovision Song Contest, with a new style and a new flag.  Representing Croatia this go ’round, the three ladies have slowed things down a bit with the song Lako je Sve.  Due to a heart tht is made at the end of the performance, there are cries that the group is copying the end of the 2007 winner Marija Šerifović (SER – Molitva).  Again, this is an example of fools blowing smoke.  Whether or not Feminnem was influenced by the 2007 performance is irrelevant, what about the song?  There seems to be nothing but positive things being said about this song, however, there are far fewer comments being made than for most of the other favorites.  All positive is good, but a lack of attention is not.

Slovakia: For me, this is the most unexpected favorite this year.  Slovakia has few neighbors participating this year (Poland and Ukraine (which is a completely different diaspora for the most part)) and has not had much success with any previous entry.  Despite this, Herhronie performed by Krisitna is among the most well-received songs this year.  It is an up-tempo number that differs dramatically from the other entrants and is in the weaker (much weaker) semi-final of the two.  Not only that, voting for Slovakia would be a novelty for most people.  Though, to be a novelty, it would mean that people are not used to voting for Slovakia in the first place.  Therefore, there’s no guarantee that people will magically start voting for the country this year, despite the popularity the song is experiencing.

My predictions:

Can the “Queen of Backing Singers” Hera Bjork take her country “back” to the Top Ten?

First Semi-Final Qualifiers (in no particular order): Iceland (quickly becoming a fan favorite), Greece (it’s Greece!), Albania (up-tempo; benefactor of a weak semi-final), Moldova (up-tempo; benefactor of weak semi-final), Slovakia (a favorite to win), Belgium (nothing but positive reviews), Serbia (benefactor of a weak semi-final), Portugal (benefactor of a weak semi-final), Latvia (different enough to make it unique), Russia (it’s Russia, benefactor of weak semi-final)
Left Behind: Estonia (too eccentric for most people), Finland (maybe too folksy for most people), Bosnia & Herzegovina (poor reviews), Poland (small, yet strong fan base – key word is small), Malta (it’s Malta), Macedonia (poor reviews), Belarus (reviewed as boring, yet pleasant – key word is boring)

Does Jon Lilygreen & The Islanders have what it takes to keep the other border entries at bay?

Second Semi-Final Qualifiers (in no particular order): Armenia (it’s Armenia and a favorite to win), Israel (Harel Skaat = cute boy!; it’s a favorite to win), Denmark (wide audience appeal; Russian pop star; it’s a favorite to win), Sweden (big and strong fan base; it’s Sweden), Azerbaijan (it’s a favorite to win; too much money thrown into it to fail), Ireland (it’s a past winner; one of the more popular ballads), Croatia (it’s a favorite to win; one of the more popular ballads), Turkey (it’s Turkey), Romania (big and strong fan base), Cyprus (strong fan base; benefactor of the fact that more than half of the songs get into Final)

Will Sweden return to the Top Ten after a three year absence?

Left Behind: Lithuania (too eccentric for most people), Switzerland (small and strong fan base – key word is small), Ukraine (too much controversy; poorly received song), Netherlands (poorly received song), Slovenia (poorly received song), Bulgaria (might slip in, but most likely won’t; it’s Bulgaria), Georgia (not strong enough to displace one of the ten qualifiers)

Final Top Ten (in no particular order): Denmark (see above), Germany (see above), Armenia (see above), Azerbaijan (see above), Iceland (popularity is going uphill at just the right time), Sweden (there’s usually at least one surprise in the Top Ten each year, this is my prediction for it), Croatia (see above), Israel (see above), Greece (it’s Greece), Norway (big fan favorite; home turf bump)
Winner (Question that must be answered to secure victory): Denmark (Can the Russia-based pop star N’Evergreen secure some votes from the East?), Germany (Can Lena turn her nervous energy into star power?), or Armenia (Can Eva Rivas be as convincing to all of Europe as she was to her own country?)


Notes on the 2009 Contest in Moscow

Once again, this was written live, as I am watching the contest.  The Semi-Finals were written live with the contest, but I had to watch the Final later as I had social obligations during the day (as the Contest comes on at three in the afternoon for me).  I had someone else access the site for me so that I could not see who won ahead of seeing the Contest.

Pre-Show Predictions

I don’t mind taking a step out on a limb and making a few predictions prior to the show on who I think will be going on and eventually win.  Like last year, I am using various polls and bookies sites from around the web.

From the first semi-final: Belarus, Sweden, Armenia, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Iceland, Macedonia, Portugal, Malta

From the second semi-final: Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, Greece, Lithuania, Albania, Ukraine, the Netherlands

Top Ten Prediction: Russia, United Kingdom, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey, Israel, Switzerland, Malta, Sweden, Lithuania

Shortlist of Victors (in order of how much I believe in them): Malta, Norway, Ukraine, Sweden, United Kingdom

First Semi-Final

Montenegro: Just Get Out of My Life Andrea Demirović

Like last year’s Montenegrin entry which led off the contest, this was a nice way of starting off the contest, but honestly, no chance of moving through, and look, it didn’t!

Czech Republic: Aven Romale Gipsy.cz

BLAH!  This is entertaining, but once again, I expect the Czech Republic to be at the bottom.  I mean, don’t Europeans generally dislike Gypsies not named Carmen?

Belgium: Copycat Patrick Ouchène

I must say, the huge stage allows for a lot of awesome LED work.  This song wasn’t bad, even though it was in the style of Elvis.  I don’t think it will go through, but it was entertaining none the less.

Belarus: Eyes That Never Lie Petr Elfimov

If Diaspora and neighbor voting were to come into play, it would most definitely be for this song.  It’s okay, but not really worthy of the Final.

Sweden: La Voix Malena Ernman

I really like her dress, her upper-body blends into the background, and the bottom part looks like it’s flowing.  Whoa, what was that gurgling sound she made?  It won’t hurt her tonight, but Saturday it may be the difference between top five and top fifteen.

Armenia: No Par (Jan Jan) Inga and Anush

It sounds like something from Turkey – so naturally, I love it.  It’s dark and slightly spooky.  It will probably be strong enough to continue Armenia’s dominance, and land them once again in the Top Ten on Saturday.

Andorra: La Teva Decisió (Get a Life) Susanne Georgi

This entry is okay, but once again, Andorra will not progress to the Final, despite their use of an internationally known star.  Maybe next year will be their year…

Switzerland: The Highest Heights Lovebugs

A nice soft rock number from the Swiss in the Keane/Fray tradition.  Like San Marino last year, due to the singer’s voice, this song may take a few listens to really appreciate.  It might benefit from the fact that two more countries make it through than don’t.  But it will depend on the strength of acts following it, particularly Bulgaria, Macedonia, Finland, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Turkey: Düm Tek Tek Hadise

Unlike her bff (best friend forever) Kate Ryan, Hadise chose to compete with a song that sounds just like rest of her successful singles.  How smart of her.

Israel: There Must Be Another Way Noa and Mira Awad

I really like this, it’s upbeat, and inspirational.  I like Come Dance with Me a lot more, but this is great, and the message alone will probably get them to Saturday.

Bulgaria: Illusion Krassimir Avramov

Countertenor = spooky!  And unlike Azerbaijan last year, this guy isn’t nearly as attractive or charismatic.  I see this song not progressing pass tonight.

Iceland: Is It True? Yohanna

Dubbed this year’s “dark horse,” I am a little disappointed with this.  While this is a great song and performance, the website billed Yohanna as a soul singer, but she sounds like any other pure-singing pop artist, along the lines of LeAnne Rimes or Dusty Springfield.  She should be a shoo-in for Saturday, but it all depends on her performance then.  Like Sweden, I think she has the possibility of being top five or top fifteen.

Macedonia: Neshto shto ke ostane Next Time

This song isn’t much, pretty forgettable actually.  It has a very nineties feel to it as well.  I think it will move through simply because 10 out of 18 move through, but it will be stomped in the final when it goes up against the superior pre-qualified and Thursday night acts.

Romania: The Balkan Girls Elena Gheorghe

Well, I can think of five countries that will vote for this song tonight, hmm…they all seem to be from the same region of Europe….  I think I would like this more as a dance number that emphasized the music more than the singer than as this indiscriminate pop song.  Another forgettable performance, Switzerland’s chances get better and better…

Finland: Lose Control Waldo’s People

Ooh!  Fire twirlers!  Usually rap/spoken word is the kiss of death in this Contest.  But this song has been getting so much press…I don’t know, the song isn’t bad, and provides some much needed pep after a long string of slower acts.  And who doesn’t like the idea of helping homelessness?  I’m not sure, I’m on the fence about this one.

Portugal: Todas as Ruas do Amor Flor-de-Lis

How colorful!  What a pleasant entry!  I hope that it moves through, but I don’t think that it will.  But I hope it does.  It is one of those songs that one can’t help but smile when listening to it.

Malta: What If We Chiara

Chiara, Chiara, Chiara!  No, you are better than this!  Despite this not being one of her stronger performances, I stand by my earlier prediction when I said that as soon as she won the Maltese selection special, she had her hole punched through to the Final.  I will say, though, this is her best outfit out of the three she has worn in competition, but the strong is not as strong as Angel.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Bistra Voda Regina

I like this, I didn’t think I was going to, but I did.  This will most likely move through to the Final, it’s stirring and emotional. – Did you notice the people chanting “Malta!” after their performance, though?

My favorites on the night:

1. Armenia

2. Sweden

3. Portugal

4. Bosnia & Herzegovina

5. Switzerland

Who I think will progress on to the Grand Final:

1. Sweden

2. Armenia

3. Turkey

4. Iceland

5. Macedonia

6. Israel

7. Portugal

8. Malta

9. Bosnia & Herzegovina

10. Switzerland OR Finland (Not both!)

Results:

1. Turkey (big surprise there)

2. Sweden (another shocker)

3. Israel (yay!  Go songs about peace!  I was really hoping that they would go through; wouldn’t it be great if Israel continued to send Arab artists?)

4. Portugal (yay!  happy songs deserve to go through)

5. Malta (didn’t I say that she was going, this semi-final performance was a mere warm-up exercise – and from the way it sounded, she needed it)

6. Finland (there’s goes Switzerland’s chances)

7. Bosnia & Herzegovina (another good choice)

8. Romania (WHOA!  Where did that come from?  Those aforementioned five countries I suppose)

9. Armenia (yay, spooky sisters!)

10. Iceland (again, not a surprise…it looks like this dark horse has legs!  I wonder, given the fact that this country essentially just collapsed from mismanagement, if they win, would they have the money to host it?)

General Comments

Hosts: These are definitely the JV hosts, now I see why they are bringing in new folks for Saturday.  Not that these two are bad, but I’ve never seen a host have to stop and read the cards in the middle of hosting.  Let’s hope she’s a bit more fluid on Thursday!  Haha!  Wow, they’ve had two dress rehearsals, one of which was earlier today, and they still weren’t sure how to start the voting together?!  Putin cannot be happy with this.

Postcards: I think the cityscapes are of the country, not Russia, right?  I felt like I saw that famous bridge in Sweden, but that’s really the only landmark I could make out.  I guess I have to brush up on my sightseeing guides from lesser traveled countries.  I was wondering if they would incorporate the Miss World pictures, apparently they did!  Aren’t computers great?  I do wonder, if Kosovo had gotten EBU status and competed, if their “beauty” would have looked like a fat man, just to spite them, or do you think that they would have been fair?  Same for Georgia, would they have had one of those high-maintenance, controlling looking beauties to demonstrate that Russia thinks that they’re self-centered ingrates?

Greenroom: Why are the greenroom hosts always such cheesy fast-talkers?!  Why can’t we have better greenroom personalities?

Interval Act: I thoroughly enjoyed the interval act.  It was a massive male military choir and drummers paired with a gypsy dance troupe (oh, the irony!).  It was quite entertaining, they sung what I can only assume to be classical-icized Russian folk songs.   And look at this, former pop superstars and the Russian ESC 2003 representatives T.a.T.u shows up, and has the military choir sing backing vocals for them!  While I think all five pre-qualifiers are really great and that the Big Four will all do better than they have been recently, I think that only France and Spain have what it takes to win based off of those preview clips.

Generally Speaking:  This reminds me of the 1998 contest.  I like every, or just about every, song but I don’t really love any of them.  There’s a lot of greatness this year, but awesomeness is scarce!  If I had to guess, than I would say that either Bosnia & Herzegovina or Romania was the jury’s selection, and they probably displaced either Switzerland or Macedonia.

Second Semi-Final

Croatia: Lijepa Tena Igor Cukrov ft. Andrea Šušnjara

Is this seriously the first costume change of the contest?  I feel like I had to have missed one in the first semi-final, even though I’ve seen it like, three times already.  Anyway, a pretty song with a very disappointing performance, more practice is needed!  This better not move through, despite the fact that I think it will get a lot of plays on my iPod.

Ireland: Et Cetera Sinéad Mulvey and Black Daisy

Not bad, a typical girl rock number.  The internet polls predict a poor outcome for this song, but I don’t believe that Ireland will miss the final two years in a row (which would be a first, by the way).

Latvia: Probka Intars Busulis

Probably one of the best comedic songs in ESC history, he has a great voice and the act is entertaining.  I don’t know how this one will play out, I think it depends on some of the other border acts, Serbia, Cyrpus, Denmark, and Estonia.  Though, right now, I am feeling positive about this one.

Serbia: Cipela Marko Kon and Milaan

Yay for funky accordion!  I’m on the fence about this one, too!

Poland: I Don’t Wanna Leave Lidia Kopania

This will not move through due to a poor vocal performance (though, the judges rate the second dress-rehearsal, not the live performance, so if she was amazing in rehearsal, she might still make it to Saturday).

Norway: Fairytale Alexander Rybak

Yay for fiddlin’ Norwegians.  I can’t seem to recall what happened the last time Norway sent a violin player…maybe you could refresh my memory…. 😉  I will say, for the favorite, his singing isn’t all that great.  On Saturday, his vocals will have to be much stronger if he hopes to wrestle the trophy away from Chiara, Patricia Kaas, or Sakis.

Cyprus: Firefly Christina Metaxa

I don’t know if she’s dating a writer or what, but the website constantly talked about this song and how pretty it is, and how pretty Christina is, how sweet it was that her brother wrote the song for her, how she is the youngest person this year, etc…  Maybe it’s like professional athletes, the ones who are the nicest to the press get the most coverage.  Anyway, this song didn’t have much hope coming into tonight, and she most definitely did not help her case with that vocal performance.  All she can do is hope that her rehearsal was strong enough to impress the judges.

Slovakia: Let’ tmou Kamil Milulčik and Nela Pocisková

Why does Slovakian sound so angry when it is sung?  Another pretty song that must rest on the jury’s involvement, their vocal performance (especially the female) is not up to par.  What a shame, like Croatia, Poland, and Cyprus, this was a pretty song that was not justly served by its performers.

Denmark: Believe Again Brinck

Go Denmark!  After the first eight songs, this one better progress to the Final and complete the Nordic family.

Slovenia: Love Symphony Quartissimo ft. Martina Majerle

I’ve been looking forward to this song ever since I learned that there was a group called “Quartissimo” playing a song entitled Love Symphony in the Slovene national selection program.  This song sounds like a sexed up Nocturne.  A little disappointing when gauged against my excitement, but I think it will move through.

Hungary: Dance with Me Zoli Ádok

Oh yes, this was Hungary’s third choice.  I’m sure it will do very well. Yeah, now I know why it was MTV’s third choice, and am wondering why it was that high.  It’s not bad, and I am sure I will be dancing to it in the not so distant future, but it will be stomped come voting time (at least it should be).

Azerbaijan: Always AySel and Arash

This popular song comes from the Land of Fire (how ironic that “snow boots” is the term paired up with this country)!  Apparently, it was supposed to just be AySel, but Arash decided that since he wrote and composed the song, he deserved to perform it, too.  He also cited the fact that he was already a big international star as well.  I don’t know, I think I would have like it better had she performed alone as originally planned, though, that’s not to say that her vocals weren’t flawed, too.  This song had too much press coming in not to progress to Saturday.

Greece: This Is Our Night Sakis Rouvas

He could come out, fall flat on his face, and walk off the stage and progress to the Final.  Like Tuesday for Chiara, this is a mere warm-up for the real thing for Sakis.  Obviously a better song than Shake It (this one has more than six unique lines!), but not nearly as entertaining or fun.  Though, at least he’s not growling or snarling this time.  This is the first favorite I am willing to remove from my list of possible winners.  Despite some really cool stage props (A moving walkway and a giant stapler with a Greek flag on it, oh boy!), I just don’t think this song has what it takes to win.

Lithuania: Love Sasha Son

This would be termed “blue-eyed soul” here in the US, a white person singing R&B, well.  Apparently he’s one of the biggest stars in Lithuania, and an important figure in their music history.  I like it, this song should move through, but I don’t know if it will.  I look to Albania or Estonia to stumble to let this one in.  Actually, I think I take back what I said about Slovenia, this might make it through instead.

Moldova: Hora din Moldova Nelly Ciobanu

Awesome music!!!  Many times better than Balkan Girls, unfortunately, tonight’s competition is much stiffer than Tuesday’s and this will probably be a casualty to that fact.  And the muddling of the English lyrics definitely does not help her case.

Albania: Carry Me in Your Dreams Kejsi Tola

Like Iceland and Cyprus, Kejsi is a mere teenager, barely eligible to compete in the real ESC.  More so than Iceland, and less so than Cyprus, Kejsi is showing her age, and not taking control of the 50m stage.  I will be surprised if this moves on.

Ukraine: Be My Valentine!  (Anti-Crisis Girl) Svetlana Loboda

A female from the Ukraine, gee, all she has to do is exist and she will be in the top ten Saturday.  A good performance might result in a top three placing.  Another performance like this one and she will be the Ukraine’s first sub-top10 since 2005.  Nix that, everything from the drumming on will put her in the top ten, easily.  She better not win, though!  There are too many great songs this year for this one to take the trophy.

Estonia: Rändajad Urban Symphony

Another dark horse competitor, and another entrant for best dressed.  I really like this song, it’s dark and intriguing.  And continues the tradition of having a very strong instrumental aspect.  I hope this moves through to Saturday.

The Netherlands: Shine The Toppers

A great message from the most reported on artist this year.  I don’t think it will be enough to get the Netherlands through, but I think it would be a nice touch if it does go through.  I will say, this is probably the most glitzy, most attention-grabbing Dutch entry to date.

My favorites on the night:

1. Estonia

2. Moldova

3. Denmark

4. Slovenia

5. Lithuania

Who I think will progress on to the Grand Final:

1. Ireland

2. Norway

3. Denmark

4. Latvia

5. Azerbaijan

6. Greece

7. Ukraine

8. Estonia

9. Lithuania OR Poland (but NOT both)

10. The Netherlands OR Albania (but NOT both)

Results

1. Azerbaijan (told you so!)

2. Croatia (!!!  Not overly unexpected, but not deserved)

3. The Ukraine (surprise, surprise)

4. Lithuania (yay! But there goes Poland’s chances)

5. Albania (again, not a big surprise, but I don’t think the performance warranted progression)

6. Moldova (!!! wow, that was highly unexpected!  Does this mean Ireland won’t go through?)

7. Denmark (go Denmark go!)

8. Estonia (yay!  Probably the best performance tonight)

9. Norway (gee, one favorite through, I wonder who will be the last country revealed)

10. Greece (and the other favorite is through)

General Comments

Opening Act: Yeah, what a nice opener!  Crazy cool LED matryoshka dolls, an awesome musical act, and dancing bears!  All that was missing was Stalin and Putin look-a-likes doing a sabre dance and oro!

Advert Breaks: I love ESC history, the first one looked back at past winners (‘56, ‘75, ‘98, ‘04, ‘07, ‘08) and had them talk about the Contest during their time and the Contest today.  Our second advert break takes us back to the greenroom and our greenroom host, his corny jokes, and his lack of articles.

Hosts: These two are much better than on Tuesday night.  It seemed that the solution was to have them speak less French, ironic, since this is the semi-final in which France votes.  But still, more work needs to be done.  Let’s hope that Saturday’s duo is better.  I will say that I am impressed with Andrej’s knowledge of geography, he always manages to name a major city in each country that qualifies.

Interval Act: A ballet with very familiar sounding music.  I can’t believe we have had two opening acts and two interval acts, and still none of that squat-kick dance that the Russians are so famous for.  Another word on the UK entry, with both Lloyd Weber and Warren, you think that the lyrics would be a little less repetitive, in the 30 second clip they played of the song the phrase “my time” must have been repeated at least a dozen times.

Generally Speaking:  Tonight, I think, is more reminiscent of the 1999 contest, I liked fewer songs, but the ones I do like, I really, really like.  Though, I will say, this is the first time in which I have liked every song in the contest (assuming that the five already through to the final are as good throughout as their clips portray them being).  Which would make this the most favored Contest I have seen.  One thing I would really like to see incorporated for the two semi-finals are tributes to the gold anniversary (50 years) and the silver anniversary (25 years) winners.  The songs could easily be adapted into the folk tradition of whatever country is hosting.  Een beetje, despite being annoying, could have been incorporated, even if just instrumentally, during the journey parts of the fairytale story.  And how easy would it have been to play Diggi-loo, diggi-ley instead of Waterloo or Diva, or just add it to the list of songs in the medley.  Though, given the fact that both of these songs are quite annoying, maybe it’s a tradition that should be started next year.  Luckily, there’s no annoying song in the Final this year to continue the tradition.  I also see there’s a trend towards the folk this year (Romania, Moldova, Norway, Croatia, Armenia, Portugal).  If one is to believe the bookies and fan polls/sites, one of the favorites (Norway, Malta, Turkey, France – remember, I already struck Greece off this list) will to take the crown, but expect the unexpected in a strong placing from Iceland, Portugal, and Estonia, the three remaining so-called “dark horses.”  So, now the questions is, what countries will NOT do well?  In a Final with 25 strong entries, it is a shame that ten countries will have so few points that their final placing will not even be dubbed “respectable.” Here’s my unfortunate bottom ten, all of which I think have the potential to be top ten songs in any of the contests after 1995 (when current music trends first started to develop): (in no particular order) Moldova, Romania, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Finland, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Armenia.

Grand Final

Preshow Predictions: Listed in no particular order

-Top Ten: France, Malta, Norway, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey, Iceland, Greece, Sweden

-Bottom Ten: Moldova, Romania, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Finland, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Armenia

-Contenders for the Trophy: Malta, Norway, France, Turkey, Iceland

Lithuania: Love Sasha Son

A roar of applause before he even starts, that’s a good sign.  That was really good, and I still like the fire in his hand at the end.  I just don’t know if it will be good enough to overcome being first.  I would say this song has a chance of being in the top ten if the competition wasn’t as notable and/or it was later in the night.  Oh well.

Israel: There Must Be Another Way Noa and Mira Awad

That’s a new dress for Noa, isn’t it?  I think, overall, this is better than it was on Tuesday, though, it still had a lot of pitch problems.  If this song is anthing higher than 15, than it is entirely due to its message, and not the performance.

France: Et s’il fallait le faire Patricia Kaas

Wow, with her composure and the crowd reactions, it almost feels as if the first two acts were just the opening acts for her.  And, I think it is worth noting, for a forty-something, she oozes sex appeal, maybe it’s her cabaret style and voice.  Wow!  This song is so haunting, and her dancing just adds to it.  Listen to the crowd!  If this isn’t a top ten, I will be shocked, and say that France has a legitimate reason for withdrawing next year.

Sweden: La Voix Malena Ernman

The two most seasoned performers perform one after another, and both are struck down by their early appearance in the evening.  Both women look like they could be femme fatales in a film noir.  I must say, as good as this was, it will fall under the first disappointment of the evening; it was not as good or as dynamic as it was on Tuesday, and the last note was slightly sour.  Hopefully, she still gets top ten.

Croatia: Lijepa Tena Igor Cukrov ft. Andrea Šušnjara

Much better than Thursday, but I still can’t help but feel as if this is a “poor man’s version” of Lejla or Lane Moje.  Just a generic Yugoslav heartbreak ballad, guaranteed some votes, but probably not too many.

Portugal: Todas as Ruas do Amor Flor-de-Lis

I have to say this before they start, I love the LED for this song!  Another beautiful performance of this delightfully cheery song, too bad I don’t think it is strong enough to compete with the others, just look at what’s next on the docket, Iceland and Greece, two favorites to win entering tonight!

Iceland: Is It True? Yohanna

I was about to write this off as another disappointment, but the last 45 seconds or so definitely saved this song.  However, despite its status as a favorite, I think it will suffer from the same problem as Lithuania, a great song and performance, just not quite good enough to receive the placing it deserves because it has come so early in the night.

Greece: This Is Our Night Sakis Rouvas

Like when France performed, Sakis makes Yohanna seem like his opening act.  However, unlike Patricia, his performance (despite its flawless choreography) isn’t worthy of a victory.  If it wasn’t for the judges I would say we might have another Ruslana win on our hands – in which an exhilirating performance outweighs other aspects of the entry, in 2004 it was the poor lyrics, this year would be the subpar vocals.

Armenia: No Par (Jan Jan) Inga and Anush

Not as good as Tuesday night, and will probably result in Armenia’s lowest placing to date (dear I say it, a non-top ten finish for the Armenians!).

Russia: Mamo Anastasiya Prykhodko

An entry in Ukrainian for the Russians!  How about that!  The singing faces are kind of eerie, especially since her backers make it sound as if they are a part of this creepy clone choir.  I assumed this song is about a woman trying to seek comfort from her mother after heartbreak, but the crying older version of the singer makes me think that she is crying for her mother and her situation, in which case the LED shows that the singer is now old and in the same situation.  Either way, a creepy LED with a ghostly/eerie song, that was sung decently.  Russia + being host country = a better placing than deserved.

Azerbaijan: Always AySel and Arash

I see a new contender for best dressed, Miss AySel.  Arash’s vocals are much better than they have been.  While the fact that this song is from Azerbaijan means that it will do well, I can’t think of a single mixed-sex duet that has won, or even placed that well – excluding the married pair from Denmark in 1963, but that was different, only the woman sung then.  It will be top ten, but it will not win; I will go so far as to say that it has no chance of winning.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Bistra Voda Regina

This song keeps popping up in top ten polls across the internet, and I really like it, but I just don’t think it has what it takes to be in the top ten this year.  Another good performance, but I still don’t think that it is a dynamic enough of a song to be in the top ten, especially this year.

Moldova: Hora din Moldova Nelly Ciobanu

Interesting that “chudo” (miracle) was the word for this entry, as in, it was a miracle for it to make it to the Final, and it will be a miracle if it finishes higher than 20th.  Though, I do love this song; it’s high energy and a lot of fun.  I am happy that her enunciation is much better tonight than it was a couple of days ago on Thursday.  She and this song remind me of a de-sexed Severina (CRO2006).

Malta: What If We Chiara

High hopes for Malta, as I am, apparently, the last person who still has faith in Chiara at this point.  This is definitely her weakest song, and probably the hardest to sing of the three.  I think she was a thousand times better than she was on Tuesday, and that the jury votes will buoy her back into the top ten.  However, I think that she will fall short, yet again.

Estonia: Rändajad Urban Symphony

It is unfortunate that this song follows the one entry that they don’t contrast against, I definitely think that it will dampen their ability to garner televotes.  But it is a really strong performance, just like Thursday’s, maybe a nudge or two better (I think that she was slightly more into it tonight than she was last time).  I think this is another one that will be helped out by the juries’ presence this year.

Denmark: Believe Again Brinck

Go Denmark!  Oikotimes said that this song could benefit from the “Dora Effect,” in which neither the juries’ favorite nor the televote favorite wins, but a song that did moderately well in both does, as what often happens in Croatia (“Dora” is the name of the competition to select a song for ESC).  I think that he sounds better tonight, but more removed, more robotic.  It should get a respectable finish, but not top ten.

Germany Miss Kiss Kiss Bang Alex Swings, Oscar Sings

This updated big band song is “extra ordinary.”  I like it, but it is a bit forgettable.    Though the Germans are trying to use double sex appeal by shaking half-naked Americans at their ESC inadequacy.  Too little, too late.  Now, had Alex and Dita been prancing around like that from the beginning of the song, it might have been a bit more effective.

Turkey: Düm Tek Tek Hadise

People said that this song went through purely via Hadise’s name, as her vocals were poor on Tuesday, I disagree.  I think her vocals are poor tonight!  Okay, not poor, but definitely absent; she relied on the backing vocalists a lot more than I have ever heard.  She better not win!  Though, she will probably get twelves from Germany and France thanks to their Turkish immigrants, and from Belgium and the Netherlands, where she is a huge star.

Albania: Carry Me in Your Dreams Kejsi Tola

Not bad, but not dynamic.  I already like this song, and this performance hasn’t made me like it anymore or any less.  Not only that, but I have a feeling that the next songs (bookie- and ESCToday-favorite Norway and the overpowering Ukrainian woman of the year) will make one forget about poor little Albania.

Norway: Fairytale Alexander Rybak

Favored over Greece and Turkey among bookies and on ESC Today’s fan poll, I expect a lot out of young Mr. Rybak.  Who, I have just noticed, isn’t that much older than Albania’s Tola.  I really like this song, even though his live vocals aren’t as good as the studio version.  Cute boy + good stage act with tumbling and folk dancing + cute backing singers with well-balanced vocals + Norwegian violin = a really strong feeling that we will hear this song again tonight.  Patricia and Sakis might have a strong case against him, but I think that it is really up to Jade (UK) and Soraya (Spain), at this point, to keep Alexander from reprising Fairytale.

Ukraine: Be My Valentine!  (Anti-Crisis Girl) Svetlana Loboda

I really like the thing where they spin her upside-down.  This act puts Ruslana to shame, she’s more commanding, the choreography is more stunning, and the song doesn’t have nonsensical lyrics!  Though, I don’t think she has the vocal power that Ruslana had, and thus isn’t quite as captivating, the act just comes off as a bit too busy, and slightly desperate.

Romania: The Balkan Girls Elena Gheorghe

I still have no idea how this song made it to the final over Switzerland, Macedonia, or Belarus (all three were songs that experts said had a lot of potential).  I think that in the future, this song will be seen as a nice commercial from Romania: it’s pleasant, she’s nice to look at, but in the end, the song just isn’t strong enough to fit into the contest, it will probably join Germany on the bottom of the final scoreboard.

United Kingdom: It’s My Time Jade Ewen

The much awaited UK entry, from two of the biggest people in the world of music.  Maybe pop lyrics +  musical theatre will equal a return to the winner’s circle for the UK.  Sir Lloyd Weber did his part, he chose a good talent and the arrangement is beautiful.  Ms. Warren failed, this song is so repetitive.  Though, honestly, no more repetitive than a lot of other songs, it’s more noticeable because I understand what she is saying.  Jade did a decent job, it just wasn’t stunning or exhilarating, though, it did get a really good response from the crowd. I think the Lloyd Weber name and the hype surrounding the entry will propel it into the top ten, but it will not win.

Finland: Lose Control Waldo’s People

Like Romania, Croatia, Moldova, etc… a really good entry that I genuinely like, but there is zero chance of the Finns (or any of the others I mentioned) winning.

Spain: La noche es para mi Soraya

Now for the rainbow coalition’s song, written by Swedes, Greeks, and Spaniards, this song stretches from all over Europe.  Really hot music, but Soraya’s vocals do leave one wanting, I think that she probably has just been waiting too long to perform.  One thing she has going for her, since she is last, she will probably steal a lot of Sakis’ votes from people who like the up-tempo dance numbers.  I like the disappearing trick, it makes the performance a bit more memorable.

My favorites on the night:

1. France

2. Estonia

3. Norway

4. Malta

5. Moldova

6. Bosnia & Herzegovina

My Shortlist of Possible Winners (in the order of my belief in them):

1. Norway

2. Spain

3. Greece

4. France

5. Malta

Rounding out the Top Ten: United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Turkey, Iceland

Results: Rules regarding the jury: http://www.eurovision.tv/upload/press-downloads/2009/2009_juryvotingfinal.pdf

1. Norway 387

2. Iceland 218

3. Azerbaijan 207

4. Turkey 177

5. United Kingdom 173

6. Estonia 129

7. Greece 120

8. France 107

9. Bosnia & Herzegovina 106

10. Armenia 92

20. Germany 35

21. Sweden 33

22. Malta 31

23. Lithuania 23

24. Spain 23

25. Finland 22

Awards:

Best Dressed

Estonia, United Kingdom – Elegant dresses from both countries

Most in Need of a Costume Change

Czech Republic – “Super Gypsy,” c’mon!

Cutest boy & girl

Boy: Norway, Lithuania – a virtual tie, I would say Norway has the slight edge because he’s only one year older than I am.

Girl: Azerbaijan, Portugal – Both AySel and the Portuguese gal are cute, I think the Flor-de-Lis singer gets the edge because she keeps crying, apparently she only started singing with the band eight months ago, and now look, she took Portugal back to the Grand Final.

Spirit of ABBA Award

Romania – fun girl time!

Andorra – bubblegum to the extreme!

This is D.C. Calling… (the most American entry):

1. Azerbaijan – standard pop song here

2. Iceland – she sings with a power that I don’t often see in Western European girls, and without the underlying threat of violence of Eastern European girls

3. Germany – c’mon, they had two Americans on stage!

Songs that Americans would like (if they were in English):

1. Lithuania – Blue-eyed soul from the Baltic

2. Iceland – A powerful, well-sung ballad that I think anyone would enjoy

3. Azerbaijan – a generic pop song, I don’t think there’s too many places this would fail

The Shiri Maimon Travesty Award

While I think that Sweden & Spain both deserved at least a top 15 placing, the biggest travesty has to go to Turkey, Hadise should NOT have been in the Top Ten!  This is an example of big names garnering points at its worst.

Worst in Show

It is hard for me to choose a song for this award, as I liked all 42 of them, so I will be basing this off of the performance.  I think the weakest performances came from Poland and Turkey.  Poland was lackluster on Thursday night, and Hadise never really showed why she was a pop superstar, though she did demonstrate why she didn’t win Belge Idol.

Best in Show

It is hard not to choose Norway after those dominating results, but I think I will have to choose either France or Estonia.  Both countries gave powerful, stunning performances that launched them into the Top Ten.  In France’s case, what should have been the top three, but a poor draw in running order hampered her chances.

General Comments:

Opening Act: A human matryoshka doll, cool!  The narrator, was he speaking Russian?  It didn’t sound like any Russian I have ever heard before.  Cirque du Soleil is crazy, I saw them in an Imax theatre on a school field trip once, and it was mind boggling, though, a little boring – “oh, they’re doing another impossible contortion/acrobat thing, great.”  I really like the thing with Dima Bilan, having him fly in, then walk through the door/wall/paparazzi to a techno mix of Believe.  I just want to reiterate my love for winning song reprisals as the Final’s opening act (take that ESC 2003 – Riga (and a slew of others)!)  I wonder if any entrants next year will be flying around during their performance.

Advert Breaks: The first one comprised of a lady on the street getting people to sing for her, including some soldiers.  It was funny and cute, and a good way to spend time as many countries showed commercials.  I really enjoyed the Russian myth debunking segment during the fifteen minute voting time.  Whoa!  An advert in the middle of voting!  What is this, the United States?!  Hahaha!  t.A.T.u.!  That’s hilarious!

Interval Act: This is nuts!  Not only is it some kind of crazy 2D-water-ballet, but they are smashing the audience and the participants.  Wait!  Where is the green room that they can have one of these aquariums come down on them?  Is it merely just behind the stage where fans can’t get to them?  I guess that’s better than having it way off somewhere, especially at the end, when they are trying to have the reprisal and they have to wait for the winners to come to them.  I think that this act was a little weak, especially compared to those over the past few years, it definitely seemed like one of those things where you had to be there to really enjoy it.

Voting: (After the first country) With Spain giving their 12 to Norway, I am ready to call this contest already for the Norwegians.  (After the two countries) This is only strengthened by Belarus giving them their 12.  He has to have won if he was able to sway these two countries who normally wouldn’t give Norway anything.  (After ten countries) The Russians surely know how to keep the votes rolling, I’ve never seen the voting go this quickly.  I like how the votes come from within the arena.  (After all 42 countries have reported) Okay, I will not bore you with all of my various notes, comments, and witticisms from the voting process.  Here are a few of my more interesting notes.  Sweden did the unthinkable – they gave Denmark 0 points!  And several other countries broke rank and gave their traditional allies few points: UK, Spain, Andorra, and Belgium each gave France 3 or fewer points.  There were more, but these were the ones I noticed.  Like clockwork, Cyprus gave 12 points to Greece (at a point that was too little, too late, I might add) and the audience booed.  General Comments – Spain deserved to be higher.  Her performance was adequate, certainly better than a certain Benelux artist representing Turkey, there is no reason she should have been 23!  Sweden, while it is a great song, had a compartively lackluster performance, and Europe as a whole doesn’t seem to be crazy for popera (remember Slovenia and Latvia from 2007?).  One last note, Norway may have broke the record for most points in a single Eurovision with 387 points, shattering Lordi’s (FIN2006) record of 292, and the record for biggest margin of victory – 169 points, shattering Katrina and the Wave’s (UK1997) record of 70 points.  And Norway may have broke the records for most top points (16-twelves) breaking Katrina, et al. & Helena Paparizou’s (GRE2005) shared record of 10 “douze pointes.”  Norway did not break the record for highest percentage of points available.  He received only 79% of the maximum points available to him (482) which falls about a percentage point and a half short of Brotherhood of Man’s (UK1978) mark.  Despite this last shortcoming, I think this will go down as one of the best Eurovision winners ever, up there with UK1978, UK1997, GER1982, IRE1980, etc… and some of the other more dominating victors.

Generally Speaking: Aside from my notes above (liking all the entries, Norway going down in history) I do have a few more comments.  This year seemed to mark a bit more of a return to old Eurovision, with more ballads, fewer up-tempo songs, and more folksy songs.  Not only that, I really like the inclusion of the jury, now we have countries who previously ignored others giving them twelves (case in point, Serbia, Spain, Slovenia, Ukraine, Israel all gave Norway 12 points, and a slew of others gave the eventual winners 10 and 8 points).  Norway might be the first country, ever, to receive points from every other country in the contest.  And with the exception of Turkey, Portugal, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic, Norway received at least eight points from everyone (TUR-3, POR-5, ROM-5, ALB-7, BUL-2, CZR-3).  Also, we had our first null points since 2004, as the Czech Republic finally, after twice receiving only single digit points, received no points from anyone in the first semi-final.

With all that said, I think that this year was significant in a number of ways.  First, music…next year we will probably see a lot more folksy entries, and a lot more serious entries from the West.  Look at France and the UK, they finished in the Top Ten for the first time in ages because they took the contest seriously this year.  Let’s hope they continue showing this kind of effort in the future.  Moldova and Romania both had surprised success with their very folksy, very culture specific songs.  Second, the event…the Russians threw an ESC unlike any seen before; they had the largest stage, the most extravagant opening and interval acts, four hosts plus two extra personalities for advert breaks, and the largest draw of press peoples.  Oslo (or some other Norwegian city) will have a heck of a time trying to top this year!  Third, bitterness…ESC fever is waning in Switzerland, Germany, and Spain, all of which put a lot of effort in their entries this year.  Unfortunately, someone had to come in the lower positions on the scoreboards, and it was them.  I don’t think Germany or Spain are going anywhere, but Switzerland (along with Cyprus and Malta) all worry me for withdrawal in the next couple of years if their fortunes don’t turn around.  Just look, the mighty Chiara fell to the bottom five this year!  Malta may not recover from that blow.  Lastly, history…I already said that Fairytale will live on for quite some time, but this year’s Contest as a whole will as well.  The Russians, aside from their first two hosts, put on quite the show, and the 42 participants were strong.  The drama was high and the end result was surprising, Norway set multiple records, Iceland returns to the runner-up spot, and returning entrants from Greece and Malta, the two that everyone thought would be dueling in the Final, came nowhere close to top position, they didn’t even come anywhere close to any of the Top Five.  The contest is shifting, and hopefully for the better.  The juries definitely brought a new dynamic, and I can’t wait to see the extracted votes in the near future as eurovision.tv publishes them par the rules.

All of this to say, THIS YEAR WAS AWESOME!!!