Posts tagged “Austria

ESC 2016 Reviews: First Semi-Final, Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

The second half of our First Semi-Final. Nine songs and lots to say. Missed yesterday’s? Check out the reviews for the first half here.

First Semi-Final, Second Half

Country

Performing Artist Song Selection*
Austrian Flag Map

Austria

Zoë

Loin d’ici (Far from Here)

Televised

Thoughts:

I always love it when countries who opt to send a non-native language song do so in something other English. The last time I can think of this happening is Romania in 2012 sending an entry in Spanish. The song is pleasant, but sounds like something for children. I’m not sure how it will translate to the ESC stage. However, I think this is a fantastic example of a singer that lacks a big voice choosing a song that perfectly fits their range and abilities.
Azerbaijani Flag Map

Azerbaijan

Samra

Miracle

Internal

Thoughts:

Anyone else think of Ariana Grande when listening to this? I mean this in a good way. After a few years of sending heartfelt, artful entries that languished in the midtable, Azerbaijan is ready to return to the Top Ten with an imported pop song. Definitely not a contender for the title, but will definitely finish really well on Saturday night.
Bosnian Flag Map

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala

Ljubav je (Love Is)

Internal

Thoughts:

Not just the return of BiH, but of Deen who represented the country back in 2004. So far, I love the blend of traditional sounds, of a classical sound with a more contemporary composition. The song is, like many others, generic and– oh, more rap… Well then. Despite the composition, this is not a cheerful song. I don’t know how I feel about it personally, but I don’t it will do well in May.
Cypriot Flag Map

Cyprus

Minus One

Alter Ego

Internal

Thoughts:

Hmm, some nice pop rock. While it may seem edgy, the genre has a pretty good history at the Contest. Even if they don’t place well, they’ll still probably sell well, which is a major goal for all the songs and the EBU. I like this song, it’s not my favorite, but I like it well enough.
CzechFlagMap

Czech Republic

Gabriela Gunčíková

I Stand

Internal

Thoughts:

By far! the best Czech entry to date. This will not only get CR to the Grand Final, it will land them in the Top Ten. I would even go as far as to say that this has an outside chance of winning. It’s a heartfelt, powerfully sung ballad amongst dance songs, folk-rock, and generic pop tunes.
Estonian Flag Map

Estonia

Jüri Pootsmann

Play

Televised

Thoughts:

I like when Estonia goes outside the box. Last year, when discussing the eccentric entries from Belgium and Latvia, I thought about the legacy they could leave if they perform well. This is it! A song that is deeply unique but with a catchy hook. It further stands out because Pootsmann’s voice is so deep (and he’s incredibly cute!) – a rarity in pop music.
 Icelandic Flag Map

Iceland

Greta Salóme

Hear Them Calling

Televised

Thoughts:

Salóme’s back! This time sans violin and a hot stage show. Perhaps Iceland’s best chance at winning since…2005 when they came in with really high odds (2009 went well for them, but remember Is it True? mostly rose to the top completely under the radar). A great song, by a beautiful woman, with a beautiful voice, and an amazing stage show. Definitely Top Ten material.
Maltese Flag Map

Malta

Ira Losco

Walk on Water

Mixed

Thoughts:

Okay, at first I was upset that Chameleon got dropped – it was a decent song and it was what the Maltese people wanted. But this song is fantastic; definitely an upgrade, which is a rarity for these post-selection song changes. Among the first semi-final, I would say that this is the most distinctive dance tune and will easily qualify. What it does in the Final is dependent upon its running order position.
Montenegrin Flag Map

Montenegro

Highway

The Real Thing

Internal

Thoughts:

Hmmm, definitely an interesting song. It has an early-90s rock vibe about it. Personally, I think it’s a bit boring. Though, it will most definitely be towards the back of the running order, it has the opportunity to leave an impression. I just don’t think it will be a positive one. I think Montenegro’s qualification streak stops here.

*There are three basic ways for a song to be chosen. Internal Selection which is when the broadcaster within a country chooses both the performing artist and the song completely on their own without help from a professional jury or the public. Televised Selection which is the exact opposite, both the performing artist and the song are selected through a competition (or set of competitions) in which some combination of professional jurists and the public vote on the winners. There are also Mixed Selections, in which either the performing artist or the song is selected internally and the other is selected through a televised process. The only example of that this year is Malta, which had a televised selection, but opted to change the song through an internal selection process after Ira Losco won.

So, who do I think will qualify from this semi-final? What are my favorite songs?

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

Austria Estonia
Armenia
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Czech Republic
Croatia Iceland
Czech Republic Malta
Estonia Azerbaijan
Iceland Russia
Malta
Finland
The Netherlands
Cyprus
Russia Austria

More importantly, who do I think, from the First Semi-Final, will be competing for the crown?

Well, overall, I think that this is the stronger of the two semi-finals. With that said, I think that three songs have the ability to seriously contend for the victors trophy.

Iceland – It might finally be Iceland’s year.Iceland The Nordic countries tend to do well when in Sweden, and since Denmark, Norway, and Finland all have weaker entries, Iceland could take advantage of the situation and challenge for the crown. This is a fully complete song. It is performed well by an attractive artist with some name recognition (since she competed in 2012), the composition is moving, and the lyrics are perfectly balanced between being understandable without being too simple.

Russia – A strong pop tune delivered by a cute guy.Russia If this was Sweden or Azerbaijan, I would say that it would be the outright favorite to win. However, Russia still has an uphill climb due to its policies (domestic and foreign) that are…less than ideal. While Russia did manage second place last year, the field of entries is stronger this year. It will take a truly slick performance to stand a chance of capturing the victory.

Czech Republic – A beautiful ballad that is powerfully sung.Czech Republic It stands out in a field of uptempo pop songs and dance tunes. While just getting to Saturday night will be a win in itself for the Czech Republic, this song has everything it takes to go the distance. Watch for this to make a big move on the scoreboard at the Grand Final!

In addition to these three songs, I think that Azerbaijan and Malta will find themselves back in the Top Ten come Saturday night.

**Of course, these are my initial predictions without doing any research into fan sites, internet comments, or betting odds. Stay tuned for future posts (including Saturday’s) with more nuanced predictions and, of course, the 2016 edition of Contender or Pretender.

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Hopes for the 2016 Contest

esc2016

Hello Dear Readers!

Well, we now have our breakdown of who is in which semi-final, we’re up to nine artists selected without a song, and five complete entries known! With more revealed just about every weekend, Eurovision season is in full swing! So, as we await the final song list and their final forms (due in mid-late March), let’s go over some hopes and dreams for this year’s Contest.

Design:

The theme for this year is “Come Together” and the logo is a IKEA style disco ball!

Eurovision_2016_Official_LogoI can’t take credit for that joke, a friend in a Facebook-based fan club made it first. But still, the design leaves much to be desired. As we know from previous years, the design can often give us ideas of the final stage design. In 2013, Malmö gave us a backdrop based on the wing patterns of maths and butterflies. Denmark gave us boxes that mimicked the geometric design of their crystal emblem. And Vienna recreated the bridge from its logo as the upper bound of the stage. Having gotten my fan ticket for “Standing Right” I know that the stage will be a bit of a peninsula, surrounded by fans on three sides. I wonder if they will have a circular screen or if the stage itself will be round, allowing increased standing area for fans and exposure for those in the seats. What I hope for, more than anything, is that we will not get an overabundance of lame puns and dirty jokes based upon the slogan. A boy can dream, I guess.

Hosts:

We know that the ever-popular Petra Mede and last year’s winning artist IMG_6290Måns Zelmerlöw will be our hosts for the Contest. While many love Mede, I think she is just okay. She is funny and capable, but I think she relies too heavily on gay jokes. As I have said before, ESC is for everyone, not just gay men. Sadly, I know it will be more of the same, especially since Zelmerlöw is trying to fight an image that he is homophobic (at one point in the past, he made a comment, while on a talk show that gets its guests drunk, that he thought allowing gay couple to adopt was not a good idea. He has since recanted this statement and has made many efforts to put it behind him). While I, myself, am a gay man and I know that a sizeable chunk of ESC fans in attendance are gay men, the majority of the audience is not. Pandering to the base is rarely, if ever, a good route to take. My hope from the hosts is that Petra Mede will not be wearing any of the hideous dresses she had on in 2013. Or, really, any hideous dresses in general.

Staging:

IMG_4703As I said in my recap of 2015’s Contest, I loved almost every production decision made by the host broadcaster this past year; it’s the closest to a production that I, myself would have designed that we have seen. I would love to see Sweden carry on the tradition of highlighting the history of the Contest and tying the past, present, and future together. So many great songs have graced the stage of the ESC; it’s a shame that most fans today do not know anything older than 2010. Focusing on the history would be great – especially since Sweden is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Carola’s win in 1991. The biggest thing I would like to see changed is the voting and interval act. A few years ago, a trend began where we had entertainment during the voting sequence as well as an interval act. I have no doubt that this has contributed to each of the past three Contests running way over time. My hope for the production is that we will go back to a tight 15 minutes for voting, where we get our two recaps and production clips. And that the interval act returns to being a succinct, yet entertaining, way for the host country to promote an artist/itself.

The Fan Experience:

Last year, this was the biggest issue in the way how Vienna hosted the Contest.Austria

  1. There were two security companies hired, one for outside the arena and one for inside the arena. In addition to the arena staff itself. None of these three entities talked to one another. Nor were they prepared for the madness and aggression of ESC fans.
  2. The security companies and the staff refused to listen to the experienced fans that offered suggestions for how to make things run smoothly for the standing areas. The Danes developed a good system that was fair and articulated (it took four days, but it still got developed). The outside security took five days before they even started paying much attention to the queue and did little to control things once the gate opened. Not only that, the indoor security crew targeted those of us who were not white, often holding us back unnecessarily and preventing us from progressing forward.
  3. Those with fan accreditation not only got to queue inside with snacks, but they were let into the standing area before the arena opened for everyone who was queuing outside. I understand that fan accreditation comes with perks, but this is totally unfair to those of us waiting in the cold (and rain) to enter the arena. Why not have a specific seating section reserved for accredited fans. If they would rather stand, than they need to queue like everybody else.

SwedenMy hope for the fan experience is that SVT builds upon the experiences of previous hosts and have an orderly, communicated plan of action for admitting those in the standing zone into the arena in a fair and safe way. Not only that, all security and ushering teams need to be in communication and on the same page with one another. Not only that, but SVT needs to communicate that ESC fans are on the same level of aggression and energy as any sports match or other major event. That, more than anything, seemed to be the issue in Vienna, the security was completely unprepared for the number and aggression of the ESC fans. The racial discrimination I and others faced was also a major problem, but there’s not much SVT can do about that other than diviersity training ahead of the event (which would be a great idea).

What are your hopes for this year’s Contest?

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Christmas!

Merry Christmas Dear Readers — and Happy New Year!

This week’s playlist features Eurovision artists singing traditional and contemporary Christmas songs. Once again, twenty songs curated for your enjoyment, plus a bonus gift at the end! If y’all like this list, let me know, and I’ll be sure to make a new one each year!

Find the playlist on YouTube: Eurovision for Christmas

  1. Kuunkuiskaajat (Finland 2010) – Talven Ihmemaa (Winter Wonderland)

  2. Tina Karol (Ukraine 2006) – Тиха Ніч (Silent Night)

  3. Carola (Sweden 1983, 1991, 2006) – I Wander as I Wonder

  4. Alexander Rybak (Norway 2009) – Tell Me When (Christmas Song)

  5. Anna Vissi (Greece 1980, 2006; Cyprus 1982) – Min Xehnas

  6. Juliana Pasha (Albania 2010) – Krishtlindje te bardha

  7. Ruslana (Ukraine 2004) – Добрий вечір, тобі

  8. Patricia Kaas (France 2009) – Merry Christmas Baby

  9. Paula Selig (Romania 2010, 2014) – Sus, la Porta Raiului

  10. Nox (Hungary 2005) – Szent ünnep

  11. Il Volo (Italy 2015) – I’ll be Home for Christmas

  12. Guy Sebastian (Australia 2015) – Someday at Christmas

  13. Yohanna (Iceland 2009) – Don’t Save it All for Christmas Day

  14. Hera Björk (Iceland 2010) & Chiara (Malta 1998, 2005, 2009) – The Christmas Song

  15. Litesound (Belarus 2012) – Shooting Star

  16. Maria Haukaas Storeng (Norway 2008) – All I Want for Christmas is You

  17. Dino Merlin (Bosnia & Herzegovina 1999, 2011) – Božić Je

  18. Charlotte Perrelli (Sweden 1999, 2008) – Låt Julen Förkunna

  19. Olsen Brothers (Denmark 2000) – We Believe in Love/Så er det Endelig Jul/Feliz Navidad

  20. Celine Dion (Switzerland 1988) – O Holy Night

  21. Bzikebi (JESC Georgia 2008) – Ave Maria

Honorable Mention: Dana (Ireland 1970) – It’s Gonna be a Cold, Cold Christmas; Olivia Newton John (UK 1974) – Christmas Waltz; Bonnie Tyler (UK 2013) – Merry Christmas; Edsilia Rombley (Netherlands 1998, 2007) – This Christmas; Polina Gagarina (Russia 2015) – Опять Метель; and many, many more!

!חג מולד שמח! عيد ميلاد مجيد
Καλά Χριστούγεννα! Wesołych Świąt – Bożego Narodzenia! Веселого Різдва’ – Христос Рождається’! Khrystos Rozhdayetsia! Vesel Božić! Happy Christmas! Весела Коледа! Bon Natale! Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi! Sretan Božić! Mutlu Noeller! Joyeux Noël! გილოცავ შობაახალ წელს! Milad bayramınız mübarək! Glædelig Jul! Bellas Festas! Vrolijk Kerstfeest! Schöni Wiehnachte! Hyvää Joulua! Nadolig Llawen! Счастливого рождества! Il-Milied it-Tajjeb! Priecïgus Ziemassvºtkus! Frohe Weihnachten! ¡Feliz Navidad! God Jul! Христос се роди! Շնորհավոր Ամանոր և Սուրբ Ծնուն! Gëzuar Krishtlindjen! Bon Nadale! Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket! Gleðileg jól! Nollaig Shona Dhuit! Buon Natale! Linksmų Kalėdų! Среќен Божик! Feliz Natale! Blithe Yule!  Vesele Vianoce! Schéi Chrèschtdeeg!

Or as my Southern friends here in the US say: Merry Christmas, Y’all!! 🎅


Playlist of the Week – Eurovision for Beginners

Hello Dear Readers!

As the summer begins, I thought it would be a nice idea to start building playlists to help you engage with the Contest and share your love with others. What better way to start this weekly tradition than with a rundown of twenty of the most influential songs from the history of the Contest, from 1956 to Today.

Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Beginners Playlist

But why did I select these twenty tunes? Each of these songs are an integral strand within the epic tapestry of Eurovision. Whether they changed the direction of the Contest, brought a new wave of interest and fans, or represented a broader change in European societies, each song has played a role in making the Eurovision Song Contest what it is today.

  1. SwitzerlandRefrain performed by Lys Assia — Switzerland 1956
    The first winner, the self-proclaimed “Mother of Eurovision” and ever tenacious Lys Assia represented her home country on home soil during the first ever Eurovision. She went on to represent Switzerland two more times.
  2. Nel blu dipinto di blu (Volare) performed by Domenico Modugno — Italy 1958
    If not the most well-known and successful song to come from the Contest, it is among the top ones. Covered by some of the world’s most famous artists, translated into a multitude of languages, Volare continues to be performed to this day. It also remains a point of contention – to this day – throughout the ESC fan community that this did not win.
  3. LuxembourgPoupée de Cire, Poupée de Son performed by France Gall — Luxembourg 1965
    Enter the youth movement. At the time, France Gall was the youngest singer to perform a winning entry and the song talks about her feeling like a “doll of straw” being contorted to appeal to a mass audience. A message that spoke to the youth of the 60s and continues to speak to hearts of those today.
  4. Waterloo performed by ABBA — Sweden 1974
    Artists have become big years after the Contest, they have been big going into the Contest, but only one artist has ever become big as a direct result of winning Eurovision: ABBA. Entering the night as a Swedish pop group, ABBA became international superstars after winning the Contest in Brighton.
  5. IsraelHallelujah performed by Gali Atari and Milk & Honey — Israel 1979
    The third time a country successfully defended its title, Hallelujah is an anthem of peace that continues to be used throughout the continent to harken the need for love and understanding, Israel even had the singers perform it when Jerusalem hosted the Contest again in 1999 as a tribute to those who were being impacted by the Balkan War. The song remains a classic for hardcore fans and casual viewers alike.
  6. Making Your Mind Up performed by Buck’s Fizz — United Kingdom 1981
    Eurovision has become synonymous with over-the-top, glittery, gimmicky performances for those who grew up or fell in love with the Contest in the Eighties and Nineties. This winning entry started that trend. Heads were turned when the guys ripped the girls’ skirts off to reveal shorter ones underneath: and thus, the ESC costume change was born!
  7. GermanyEin Bißchen Frieden performed by Nicole — Germany 1982
    Germany (or “West Germany” at the time) was one of the founding countries of Eurovision. It had competed in every Contest, but had never won. This all changed with the Ralph Siegel-penned entry performed by a 17 year old high school student. Not only was this Germany’s first win, but it set a record for point accumulation and margin of victory.
  8. IrelandHold Me Now performed by Johnny Logan — Ireland 1987
    Seven years after performing Ireland’s winning song in 1980, Johnny Logan returned to the ESC stage to represent the Emerald Isle with a song he coauthored. Logan was the first, and so far only, artist to be the performer for two winning entries. He picked up a third winner’s trophy as an author of the 1992 winner Why Me? This is also what sparked the Irish domination over the next ten years: five victories, a second place, and two other Top Ten finishes.
  9. Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi performed by Céline Dion — Switzerland 1988
    Two years before her big break, Céline Dion was a rising star in the francophone (French-speaking) world and was asked to represent Switzerland. Not only is Céline Dion one of the biggest artists to compete on the ESC stage, she had one of the most harrowing victories, beating out the UK by only one point.
  10. NorwayNocturne performed by Secret Garden — Norway 1995
    Notorious for its lack for lyrics (only 24 words), Nocturne is the only non-Irish victory between 1992-1996. Despite this fact, it is known as the most “Irish-sounding” song to win the Contest – with the heavy emphasis on the violin and harp. It remains one of the most popular songs from the 90s.
  11. Just a Little Bit performed by Gina G — United Kingdom 1996
    United KingdomThe only other non-winner on the list, this Contest classic is one of the most commercially successful ESC songs in history. Finishing a mere 8th, this song’s lack of a victory remains highly controversial. The song came into the Contest riding high in the charts and continued this dominance after the ESC. It is one of the most popular ESC songs from the 1990s and can routinely be heard on dance floors around the world. While many fans may disagree with placing this song amongst the company of others on this list, I believe that its unprecedented (and unmatched) commercial success throughout and beyond Europe helps it earn its spot among the top twenty.
  12. Diva performed by Dana International — Israel 1998
    The first year in which televoting was used, Israel stormed to victory on the back of Dana International, a transgender woman who was known for her foot-stomping, club anthems. Not only did Diva bring a new genre to the forefront of the Contest, but it also brought to light an oft-ignored population. As a transwoman, Dana International became an icon, not just for transpeople, but for all members of the LGTBQ population across Europe. While there have been various drag acts to compete in the years since, Dana International remains the only transperson to compete.
  13. Fly On the Wings of Love performed by The Olsen Brothers — Denmark 2000
    One of the biggest surprises to win the Contest, fewer entries had lower odds of winning than Fly on the Wings of Love. But, the song was an instant hit across Europe, endearing itself in the hearts of young and old across the continent. The song is often cited as one of the best to win, particularly in the 2000s.
  14. Wild Dances performed by Ruslana — Ukraine 2004
    UkraineIn its second year, Ukraine won the Contest with a foot-stomping dance track. This entry is important because it pushed forward two trends of the early 2000s: the rise of Eastern Europe and the increased importance of a catchy stage show. While Estonia and Latvia both won just a few years previously, 2004 saw a rise in the success of Eastern European nations as the Contest was larger than ever before with the advent of the semi-final, which eliminated the need for regulation and the all of Eastern Europe was able to compete simultaneously. Wild Dances is also infamous for being a fairly simple song that won due to its amazing choreography; inspiring acts that continually got more and more outlandish.
  15. FinlandHard Rock Hallelujah performed by Lordi — Finland 2006
    Breaking the records set by the United Kingdom in 1997, this song reached new heights in points acquisition and margin of victory. Hard Rock Hallelujah remains the most successful hard rock song and one of Finland’s twelve Top Ten placings, only finish in the Top Five. This entry broke the Contest out of the cycle of pop tunes and ballads that have dominated it for most of its history. Since, there have been a variety of rock songs as well as experimental entries.
  16. SerbiaMolitva performed by Marija Šerifović — Serbia 2007
    Not only was this the first winner that I ever saw, but Molitva represents a turning point for the Contest. It beat out zanier entries that, no doubt, would have been victorious just years before, setting the Contest on a track towards stronger compositions and lyrics while simultaneous scaling back the spectacle of performances. Not only that, but Molitva remains one of only two non-English songs to win the ESC in the televoting era (Israel 1998 being the other).
  17. Fairytale performed by Alexander Rybak — Norway 2009
    The current record holder for total points accumulated and margin of victory (and, at the time, most 12pts and many other point records), Fairytale was written, composed, and performed by Alexander Rybak. The song went on to chart in almost every European country, reaching gold and platinum status in a variety of nations. It was the first winner to achieve major commercial success in the 2000s and helped to bring relevancy back to the Contest.
  18. Satellite performed by Lena — Germany 2010
    Another song that raced up the scoreboard and European music charts. Satellite not only continued a trend of commercial success for ESC winners, but restored faith in the Contest for many in Western Europe who had figured no country in the west stood a legitimate shot at winning the ESC. This revitalized the Contest and the following year saw the return of Austria and Italy, the latter of which was returning from a 13 year absence.
  19. SwedenEuphoria performed by Loreen — Sweden 2012
    The records mentioned above that Norway 2009 once held, those were broken by this entry – Sweden’s fifth victory: Euphoria. The song was known for the stunning performance, the easy to learn lyrics, and the choreography that Loreen performed on stage. Euphoria joined the ranks of the few songs to land on music charts outside of Europe and Australia since the 1970s, reaching the charts in throughout the Americas and a few countries of Asia and Europe.
  20. Rise Like a Phoenix performed by Conchita Wurst — Austria 2014
    AustriaIn a year in which political and economic turmoil could be found throughout the continent, a singer purporting to represent peace, understanding, and acceptance performed a song about rising up despite being hurt. While Rise Like a Phoenix did not have the commercial success of its most recent predecessors, it remains an anthem of rising above those that wish to do you harm, whether it be in relationships or in a society that wishes to tear you down.

Honorable Mention: Dansevise (Denmark 1963), No Ho l’Eta (Italy 1964), La La La (Spain 1968), the four winners of 1969, Ding-A-Dong (The Netherlands 1975), Diggi-loo Diggi-ley (Sweden 1984), Love Shine a Light (United Kingdom 1997), Sanomi (Belgium 2003), Tonight Again (Australia 2015)

What songs do you think are integral to Eurovision’s history?
Stay tuned next week, our playlist will be Eurovision for Anglophobes, a playlist of twenty of the best non-English language songs in the post-language rule era (1999 and onwards).

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