Posts tagged “belgium

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision Stagings for the Uninitiated

Hello Dear Readers!

Trying to pull together more playlists (and potentially updating old ones). This playlist was inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, Hella in Your Thirties; the hosts advertised EO and promised to release playlists of their favorite Eurovision stagings. Interestingly enough, this will also be the first playlist to have a corresponding Spotify song list.

These will be twenty of the songs with the most dynamic, impactful, mesmerizing, and/or effective stagings (in my opinion, duh). A few things to note, because I anticipate this post seeing traffic mostly from the US, all songs will be 1998-2015 since the EBU started geoblocking the Contest in the Western Hemisphere starting with 2016. Check out the honorable mentions for a bonus ten songs from 2016-2019. Also, because this might someone’s entry point to the Contest, I’m going to eschew some of the zaniest stuff because 1) the Contest is so much more than that and 2) it’s not really all that typical anymore.

Once again, all the songs come from the Televoting Era (post 1998) of the Eurovision Song Contest. Not every featured staging will be over-the-top; sometimes, less is more. Not every song is one that I like, but every staging is one that is memorable. Enjoy!

View the playlist here: Eurovision Staging for the Uninitiated
Find it on Spotify

So, unexpectedly, lots of winners on the list (songs 1-6), runner-ups (7, 12, 26), and a slew of Top Tens songs (8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20-22, 25, 27, 28-30). You can also see the countries with lots of strong stagings – Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova – all legendary stage show makers. And yes, 2016 deserves four songs – and really deserves more – watch those three shows!

  1. EO logo with latvian flagLatvia 2002 – I Wanna performed by Marie N

  2. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

  3. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

  4. Russia 2008 – Believe performed by Dima Bilan

  5. Sweden 2012 – Euphoria performed by Loreen

  6. EO logo with Swedish flagSweden 2015 – Heroes performed by Måns Zelmerlöw

  7. Azerbaijan 2013 – Hold Me performed by Farid Mammadov

  8. Ukraine 2011 – Angel performed by Mika Newton

  9. Moldova 2010 – Run Away performed by Sunstroke Project & Olia Tira

  10. Belgium 2015 – Rhythm Inside performed by Loïc Nottet

  11. Moldova 2013 – O Mie performed by Aliona Moon

  12. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

  13. EO logo with Belorussian flagBelarus 2007 – Work Your Magic performed by Dmitry Koldun

  14. Russia 2011 – Get You performed by Alexey Vorobyov

  15. Sweden 2011 – Popular performed by Eric Saade

  16. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

  17. Malta 2013 – Tomorrow performed by Gianluca

  18. EO logo with Maltese flagBulgaria 2007 – Water performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov

  19. Iceland 2010 – Je Ne Sais Quoi performed by Hera Björk

  20. Spain 2014 – Dancing in the Rain performed by Ruth Lorenzo

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS! But, these ten specifically for those in the Eastern Hemisphere or with a VPN.

  1. EO logo with Swiss flagSwitzerland 2019 – She Got Me performed by Luca Hänni

  2. Russia 2016 – You Are the Only One performed by Sergey Lazarev

  3. United Kingdom 2017 – Never Give Up on You performed by Lucie Jones

  4. Czech Republic 2019 – Friend of a Friend performed by Lake Malawi

  5. EO logo with Armenian flagArmenia 2016 – LoveWave performed by Iveta Mukuchyan

  6. Australia 2016 – Sound of Silence performed by Dami Im

  7. Hungary 2017 – Origo performed by Joci Pápai

  8. Belgium 2016 – What’s the Pressure performed by Laura Tesoro

  9. EO logo with Moldovan flagMoldova 2018 – My Lucky Day performed by DoReDoS

  10. Australia 2019 – Zero Gravity performed by Kate Miller-Heidke

What are some of your favorite stagings from the Contest’s recent history? What about from the early years, when almost every song was a person standing alone on a stage with a microphone? Should I do another list of insane and bizarre stagings?

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Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part One!

Hello Dear Readers!

In addition to Saturday’s Europe Shine a Light that will be celebrating the Contest, the EBU has put together Eurovision Song Celebration to specifically celebrate the 41 entries from this year. Tonight (Tuesday, 12 May – the date the first semi-final was supposed to happen) were the 17 songs of the first semi-final and the three automatic qualifiers who were going to vote (Germany, Italy, The Netherlands). The video is below. Beneath of that, I have crafted live notes for y’all! Enjoy and see you Thursday!

Eurovision Song Celebration 2020 – Part One (instead of Semi-Final One)

I guess I never did get the chance to review each song. So, I’ll do that here.

Swedish flag mapSweden This sounds like it was written by somebody who learned about American soul music and gospel through reading books. It hits all the right beats, and they’re voices and choreography are on point, but this song just feels kinda empty, yet still has that smugness we all associate with Swedish entries. Clearly, this would have qualified easily.

Belarus A deeply underrated song dragged down because the performers are clearly having a very good time but not in “a cool way” so folks overlook it. Personally, I think this could have shocked us all by qualifying (much like Belarus did last year).

Australia SBS is one of the two broadcasters (NDR – Germany – being the other) that promised to reveal what the ESC staging would have looked like. I look forward to that as the national final staging was good for Australia, but would need to be stronger and clown-free for the ESC stage. Love this song otherwise; I’m a big fan of indie music and this perfectly captures where that genre is in contemporary times. I think Oz would have continued its 100% qualification streak.

North Macedonia The fandom is comparing this song to Dance Alone (N Mak 2017), a song with a lot of love and hype but fell flat in Kyiv. Do I think North Macedonia learned its lesson that an average dance song requires a staging that matches its energy? Yes. Do I think it would be enough to qualify? Naw.

Slovenia While this song has grown on me over the course of the Eurovision season, it is still overwhelmingly dull. By far, the weakest entry this year. Which is a shame because her voice is stunning. Hopefully, things will be better next year.

LOVE genre changing. Is it me or are the Russian, Belarussian, and Croatian remixes bops? It’s probably just my Americanism showing, but bluegrass is nice.

lithuanian flag map

Lithuania Perhaps this year’s most overrated entry. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an inventive, intriguing song. And I like the message that being in one’s 30s doesn’t make one over the hill. I just do not quite understand the craze around this entry – is it just because of the dance?

Ireland Since this song was meant to be a Pride anthem, I’m going to use this opportunity to be catty. OMG a song about being *unique* and *individualized* done in the most cookie-cutter of approaches. Instead of singing about so-called authenticity, just be authentic! This would have finished 11th or 12th in the semi-final.

Russia The first time I saw this, I was already angry that it took so long for Channel One to release the song. And then I watched the music video. My jaw dropped – what is this madness?! Now, okay, I do love this song. So infectious; a gimmicky entry that doesn’t take itself seriously. Definitely would have qualified.

flag map of belgiumBelgium That gave me a bit of whiplash, are there two entries more different this year than Russia and Belgium? I also grew into loving this entry. It’s so mournful and passionate and slowly builds over time. It would have qualified on the backs of the juries.

Malta This gets right everything Sweden gets wrong. It’s contemporary soul-pop. Destiny has one of the most soulful voices I’ve ever heard this side of the Atlantic. Not to mention maintains the inspirational message that is generalizable for everyone, not just those in relationships. I think this song is clearly about finding one’s faith, but it is vague enough to get past the EBU censors. Can’t wait to see Destiny become the first JESC champion to win the adult version. It may not have been with this song, but she will be! All of My Love would also be a shoo-in for the Grand Final.

Croatia Hmm, this song is quite pleasant but not very remarkable. The club mix from earlier would have given this a much better chance at making an impact. Again, I don’t dislike the song, it’s just kinda – meh. Would not have qualified.

Azerbaijan For all the attention and love this song has been getting, I’m not sure it is as strong as it seems. It wouldn’t be the first Azerbaijani entry to have the love of the fandom and failed to qualify. Not saying it would, I think this would make the Final, but I don’t think it is as strong as people think it is. Still waiting for the Senhit demo to appear online.

Cyprus Our second American! With that said, this is a bit of a tedious track. I think it was aiming for that 90s trance-pop sound, but did not go far enough. So, it just has a dated sound that makes it melt into the background. Would have been left behind in the semis.

Norway A strong contender for the winner of the juries. It is a deeply impactful song that is well-sung with a memorable staging effect. I think it is a standard ballad, but is elevated by Ulrikke’s performance.

Israel Love that we get a new language added to the Eurovision family – Amharic. This song is so much fun and can put a smile on anyone’s face. Alene is also a captivating performer. I think it would have qualified.romanian flag map

Romania Not quite sure why Bulgaria is getting all the love while Romania is being mostly ignored. I like this because I like the contemporary sound and it is fun to sing along to. Though, I do hate the term “fake news” – that is likely due to my country’s current political situation. Likely would have qualified.

Ukraine Love folk infused contemporary entries. You can dance to this. You can sing along to it. You can just listen in awe. I wonder, though, if it has enough wide appeal to get it through. Poland tried an entry like this last year and landed just shy of qualifying, I feel like this could have done the same – breaking Ukraine’s 100% qualification streak.

Italy Another quintessentially Italian song from Italy. Is this song captivating? Yes. Are the lyrics describing the fact that one’s hometown will always be in your heart regardless of where you go relatable and painfully relevant? Yes. Is the composition radio-ready and stirring? Yes. Will this have been yet another Top Ten finish for Italy? Yes. Does this song excite or interest me? Not really.

Dutch Flag MapGermany Germany really swung for the fences with this c. 2010s club thumper. It is so much fun to sing and dance too, but a bit too dated to achieve the results that NDR was hoping for. I think it would have finished mid-table in the Grand Final.

The Netherlands Another strong ballad that would have challenged the likes of Italy and Norway for the top spot of the juries. I hate the way how this song abruptly ends. I do think, though, that the televote would have dragged it down to around 11~13th place.

 

I love the fan recap! Probably for the best that we don’t have to hear them sing, though that would be fun.

What a fun show!

 

Looking back, if this were a competitive event, I would predict the following qualifiers:

  • Sweden

  • Belarus

  • Australia

  • Lithuania

  • Russia

  • Belgium

  • Malta

  • Norway

  • Israel

  • Romania

My instincts are telling me that Azerbaijan and Ukraine would both progress at the expense of Belarus and Belgium. HOWEVER, every year there are always a few shock qualifiers for each semi-final, why would 2020 have been any different.

Of these 20 songs, what are my personal top ten?

  1. Malta

  2. Russia

  3. The Netherlands

  4. Australia

  5. Belgium

  6. Romania

  7. Germany

  8. Israel

  9. Norway

  10. Ukraine


Eurovision 2019….Several Months Later…

Hello Dear Readers!

Welcome to my wrap-up post, so happy you could join me. Today, we’ll be giving out some awards as well as taking a step back to look at this year’s Contest as a whole. As I’ve noted before, this is one of my favorite winners and am happy with many of the results from this year. Come join me as we honor some of the best and worst from Tel Aviv! Please note, I do not own any photos/videos used here – all rights reserved to the EBU unless otherwise noted.

Annual Eurovision Obsession Awards

Best Lyrics

EO logo with Russian flagWinner: Russia

Tears won’t fall
While pride stands tall
Maybe they can’t be heard or seen
But tears aren’t quiet things –

They scream

A powerful ballad of heartbreak working against the machismo. Just because you are a man does not mean you shouldn’t show emotion. I love how, even though this is a song about a relationship ending, it is really a deeper look at the power of feeling one’s feelings.

Runner-Up: Austria

‘Cause the face in the mirror
Just couldn’t look clearer right back through me
And how I’d like to say
It will be better tomorrow or any day

Yeah I’m talking ’bout you, you, you…
And the luck you try to find

A song about deep introspection and realizing that pushing beyond your limits for the sake of others leaves one empty and hurting. So powerful.

Honorable Mentions: Albania, Azerbaijan, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia

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

EO logo with Slovenian flagWinner: Slovenia

The stars are not always visible
Stay true to yourself
Don’t tell me to forgive you

I realize that this song is predominantly meant to capture the feeling of unconditional love between a young couple; but the lyrics make little sense. Perhaps these are common Slovenian phrases and ideas that just don’t translate well into English.

Runner-Up: Croatia

I dream of love
You dream of love
Angels of God
We all dream of love

So, one element of songs that do well in this award is lazy or unimaginative song writing. This one takes the cake in that regard. It is a standard, trite song hoping for a better tomorrow. Not saying that the message is bad, the lyrics are just poor.

Honorable Mentions: Estonia, Finland, Norway, San Marino

Best Dressed Award

Nevena Božović at rehearsal. Photo copyright EBU/Thomas Hanses

EO logo with Serbian flag

 

Winner: Serbia

A beautiful black dress, stunning silver accessories including a dynamic necklace, flowing blonde hair, and make-up that turns up the contrast. Everything about Nevena Božović’s outfit is amazing and worn with elegance.

Jonida Maliqi at the second dress rehearsal on Weds. Photo copyright EBU/Thomas Hanses

Runner-Up: Albania

Another black dress. Jonida Maliqi outfit perfectly blends traditional elements with contemporary design, just like the song Ktheju Tokës. It even had the added bonus of making the staging reminiscent of the Albanian flag when the stage was lit in red.

Honorable Mentions: Australia, Israel, Montenegro

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

Eliot during a rehearsal. Copyright EBU/Andres Putting

EO logo with Belgian flagWinner: Belgium

The outfit, in addition to looking awful, poorly fit Eliot; so, he looked even more mousy and small than he is. It was just a very poor outfit situation all-around. I’m not quite sure what happened here, but I hope Belgium gets their act together moving forward.

Mahmood at the Grand Final. Copyright Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Runner-Up: Italy

Look at that shirt! It’s red and gold and it’s shiny. It does not seem to fit the song at all. I do not understand this outfit choice at all.

Honorable Mentions: Croatia, Cyprus, Portugal, Romania

Best Staging Award

EO logo with Swiss flag

Winner: Switzerland

Luca Hanni during rehearsals. Copyright EBU/Thomas Hanses

Made to look like a hot music video, She Got Me had a stunning, contemporary, hot staging. From the narrow perspective to open, to the constant use of red throughout, to the dance routine, to even having Luca Hanni wear a mesh shirt. Switzerland went all out and it paid off with the country’s first Top Ten placing since 2005.

Runner-Up: Australia

Kate Miller-Heidke during a rehearsal. Copyright EBU/Andres PuttingThe winner for the Marcel Bezençon Award for Artistry, Australia’s staging was magically, whimsical, and impressive. The interplay of the backing screen, her outfit, and their motions created this awesome floating effect. I didn’t have this one win because, unlike Switzerland, which got even sharper from the semi-final to the grand final, the Australian performance took a (small) step backwards.

Honorable Mentions: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Israel, Moldova, North Macedonia, San Marino

Worst Staging Award

EO logo with Croatian flagWinner: Croatia

Roko during rehearsal. Copyright EBU/Thomas HansesAngel wings equals an automatic zero in the staging department from me. Yes, even though angels are explicitly mentioned in the song. Not to mention there was just so much going on during Croatia’s three minutes. It was all just too much.

 

Runner-Up: France

Bilal Hassani and his dancers during a rehearsal. Copyright EBU/Thomas HansesWhen you have a song with the potential to inspire confidence in men, of all sexualities, who do not live up to masculinity ideals – you should capitalize on that and have a broad array of men on stage with you. France did not take this perspective. Aside from my general unease with the laying claim to the experiences of women to serve gay men’s purpose, when the song is literally called “King” shouldn’t that be the emphasis? Otherwise they should have titled the song “Moi” – no other lyric would have to change and the staging would have made more sense and felt more genuine.

Honorable Mentions: Germany, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom

“This is DC Calling” Award: Given to the most American sounding entry. This in NO way counts as an endorsement for the US entering the Contest, an idea which I staunchly oppose.

Winner: Estonia

The twang in Victor Crone’s voice, the vaguely inspirational message of the lyrics, the basic composition – this all screams contemporary Christian music (which I’ve said before). This would be right at home on any generic Christian station in the US.

Runner-Up: Sweden

Just like Storm is a generic contemporary Christian song, Too Late for Love is a generic R&B song – though, not quite as contemporary. John Lundvik actually hit the American sound twice, both with his own song and the one he co-wrote and co-composed for the United Kingdom.

Honorable Mentions: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom

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

EO logo with Cypriot flagWinner: Cyprus

Runner-Up: United Kingdom

Honorable Mentions: Greece, The Netherlands, North Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland

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

EO logo with Danish flagWinner: Denmark

So, an under-appreciated, yet very common ESC genre, is the children’s song. And what lyric can be more childish than “love is forever” when sung with such a saccharine smile. A cute song with a bubbly message and catchy hook. Love is Forever is clearly the most ESC entry this year at ESC.

Runner-Up: San Marino

Additionally, few things represent ESC as nonsense lyrics. Say Na Na Na fits this to a T. It’s so simple and fun, a perfect example of schlager.

Honorable Mentions: Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Norway, Poland, Spain

The “Shiri Maimon Travesty of the Year” Award

Israeli Flag Country

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

USA flag in EO logoWinner: Madonna’s performance

There were simply too many interval acts this year. This was, by far, the weakest of them all. Madonna is a legend who revolutionized culture and deeply impacted pop music. It may be time for her to ride off into that beautiful sunset. I know the retirement age in the US is 65, but I think she’s earned the ability to head home five years early.

Runner-Up: EBU bungling the Belorussian automated jury vote

Human error is to be expected from a human-run event. But still, for all of eternity, when watching this Contest back, this error will need to be pointed out and corrected for folks watching. It also shines a light on the still mysterious and needlessly clandestine algorithm used to calculate votes for missing juries and televotes. Show your work, EBU, we’re curious!

Honorable Mentions: Too many interval acts. UK coming last, Germany’s poor showing, Ireland’s poor performance

Closing Thoughts

Again, one of my favorite years and favorite winners ever. I am so happy to have been able to bring the Eurovision Obsession Awards back after missing last year. What are your favorites and least favorites from this year. Be sure to check-out my Final Thoughts if you have not already; they’ve been updated with the correct scoreboard and with links to the various media outlets I appeared on following ESC in May. Stay tuned for further posts as we celebrate Ten Years of Eurovision Obsession! As always, you can find @escobsession on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Sporcle.


Eurovision 2019 – Live Notes: First Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

Since I do not have the privilege of being in Tel Aviv this year, I will be my usual live notes. Join me as I reveal my reactions and thoughts as the semi-final unfolds.

As a reminder, here are the ten songs I am predicting for qualification tonight (in no particular order):

  • Greece

  • Portugal

  • Estonia

  • Iceland

  • Australia

  • Belgium

  • Czech Republic

  • Slovenia

  • San Marino

  • Cyprus

Of course, this will likely change after seeing the songs performed live tonight. I’m excited!

Opening Act:

Interesting fashion choice, but this rendition is no less epic than anticipated.

Can’t say I am a fan of that disco ball dress, but it’s okay I guess

Cyprus: Why does her hair look so wet? What are her dancers wearing?! I like the use of the screen, a lot! Oh golly, she should have kept the jacket on. But the choreography was good. I now understand why she’s dropped in the betting odds, that was not great. But good enough, I think.

Montenegro: Clearly, they’ve been working on sounding like more of a cohesive unit. This is still a very cutesy song. It still will not qualify. They look and sound good, though!

Finland: The vocals could definitely be stronger. I guess the dancing lady is alright.

Poland: WHAT ARE THEY WEARING?! I also do not get this backing projection of their faces. I will say, the camera work is well done. And getting the audience to clap with them is a great idea.

Slovenia: Looking awfully casual, aren’t we. I guess it adds to the intimate feel of the staging. Wow! You can really tell that they have a tight connection. Wow! The staging fits them and this song so well.

Czechia: Love this dance off in the postcard. OMG I love this Eighties camera effect with the rectangles. This was fantastic – definitely the strongest thus far.

Hungary: I love the lights and the use of the screens. As expected, his vocals are on point. His look is not, but as the song goes on, he sings with more and more emotion.

Belarus: Those boots! Best boots since Ukraine 2009! Cool flips from the dancers. Great choreography in general from the dancers. Smart to go with a 90s aesthetic, it makes the song feel more in context. Just not sure, overall, how much appeal it has beyond the teen girl demographic. But they are huge and they vote, so…

Serbia: I love her outfit. and the use of the floor screen! Not sure the 3D water effects were necessary. Her voice is just as powerful and on point as on the studio version. Her biggest issue is that this sounds like a typical Balkan heartbreak ballad, despite being a song of love.

Belgium: The backing screens are well utilized. That is about all the positive I have 😦 He looks and sounds very scared and uncomfortable. I’m glad the crowd is clapping and trying to keep him going, but this just missing the mark, by a lot. Not to mention the costumes are awful; his jacket is WAY too big.

Georgia: That was a great postcard and a smart idea to show him so smiley ahead of this dark and dour song. While the marching silhouettes were weird and creepy, I like the bridge effect on the floor. The fire just adds to how dark this song sounds. It’s like a villain song from a cartoon musical.

Australia: That opening silhouette was powerful and perfect. Love the visual effects to make it look like she’s floating. Way to hit that big note, Kate! WOW! Now I know why Australia shot up the betting odds as soon as the first rehearsals started. This was wonderful!

Iceland: I am happy that they toned the sex aspect of their staging. The singer was a bit off but the screamer was fine. Idk, I am just not convinced that this can connect with most audiences, particularly in the age of juries.

Estonia: I feel like they’ve wasted the potential this stage to create amazing storm effects. His vocals are way off, though. and not by a little bit. And he keeps missing notes on the refrain which is the most important part. These effects at the end are too little, too late.

Portugal: So much energy in such a somber song. The dancer is great. I think this translated very well. Not “too” artsy like one might think. I still think this one qualifies.

Greece: Huh. Her voice is interesting, for sure. For such a high energy, powerful song, this feels quite dull. Just like Belgium, it’s as if someone sucked the soul out them right before they took the stage.

San Marino: Well, the second verse sounded miles better than the first. They should have had a male backing singer that could double his weak vocals. It started off low energy, but it’s picking up throughout the song. Sigh, I do not think SM will get through with this, its tenth entry.

Okay, my favorite ten from tonight.

  1. Australia

  2. Czechia

  3. Slovenia

  4. Poland

  5. Georgia

  6. Montenegro

  7. Serbia

  8. Hungary

  9. Portugal

  10. Greeece

And, more importantly, who do I think will qualify (in order of confidence):

  • Australia

  • Cyprus

  • Iceland

  • Slovenia

  • Czech Republic

  • Portugal

  • Hungary

  • Greece

  • Belarus

  • Georgia

Voting sequence interval act: Dana International is rarely a bad idea. But kiss cams are literally the worst. I wish she would sing one of her songs and not just this Bruno Mars one.

Interval Act: Quite liked the dj mix of ESC songs through history.

Auto Qualifiers:

Spain needs to sound better for the jury and live show at the end of the week. He sounds so breathy.
France’s staging is so smarmy – the words on the screen are so unnecessary.
Israel’s staging is the best one can do with such a boring song. At least he sounds good.

Qualifiers!

  • Greece! As expected (1 correct out of 1 qualifiers)

  • Belarus – the power of a good staging (2 for 2)

  • Serbia! – unexpected but nice! (2 for 3)

  • Cyprus – again, no surprise (3 for 4)

  • Estonia – I guess he sounded better last night (3 for 5)

  • Czech Republic – Woohoo! (4 for 6)

  • Australia – again, perfect staging! (5 for 7)

  • Iceland – no surprise (6 for 8)

  • San Marino!! – the power of the running order, everyone! (6 for 9)

  • Slovenia – as expected, they’ve been a betting odds favorite for quite some time (7 out of 10)

Final Thoughts:

Cannot wait to see the final split scores. I am assuming Estonia and San Marino sounded better last night in the jury finals. Super stoked that San Marino finally qualified again! The song is fun and catchy, though, he needs to sound way better if he hopes to outdo Valentina’s 24th place. I am very pleasantly surprised by Serbia’s qualification. And saddened by Portugal’s lack of qualification. Cannot say that I am surprised by Hungary or Georgia, though I would have liked to see both move through. Georgia was just too dark, I think, and Hungary was a bit too low energy (listen to the studio version, there’s much more passion in it). Overall, I am satisfied. Australia, I think, was by far the strongest tonight. It will be interesting to see how these ten songs fare on Saturday.


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: First Semi-Final

…and we’re back!

Hello Dear Readers!

Standard reasons for my disappearance apply…life…school…dissertation…mental health issues…and I founded a Pride Festival! With that all said, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you or Eurovision and am stoked for next week’s shows! Per usual, since I listen to the songs before the show, I don’t watch the stagings until the broadcasts.

We start with the First Semi-Final, the weaker of the two, by far. As such, after the handful of easy to guess songs, it was difficult to pick through all of these songs that are so evenly matched to determine who would qualify. Let me know your thoughts!

Running Order

County

Performing Artist

Song Title

Selection Method

1

Cyprus

Tamta

Replay

Internal

Like Greece a decade ago, Cyprus is repackaging basically the same song it found success with last year. There’s actually a nifty video that has a mash-up of Fuego and Replay that drives the point home. Redundancy notwithstanding, Replay took a successful formula and continues to extend it with a driving rhythm, easy lyrics, and an equally as beautiful singer. Let’s see if they can stage it as well as last year’s song.

2

Montenegro

D mol

Heaven

National Final

Supergroups are rarely a good idea at Eurovision. These six all seem sweet and nice enough, and their voices work well together, but the song is just boring and unforgettable. I do not expect this to qualify.

3

Finland

Darude &Sebastian Rejman

Look Away

Mixed

This song, unsurprisingly, has an incredibly dated sound. Why five to ten years ago, it would have fit in well with the popularity of 90s dance retro sound, today it just sounds…old. I’m also not a big fan of these kind of, “let’s make the world a better place,” generic songs that have more talk than actual action.

4

Poland

Tulia

Fire of Love (Pali się)

Internal

I’m not sure how I feel about this song. Tulia is more than a bit creepy with the way they stand so still and look so blank and sing in unison. This song, though, it’s hard to pull away from; it grabs you and it’s hard to shake off. What does that mean in terms of their qualification chances? Ehh, not sure, but I don’t think they’re going to make it.

5

Slovenia

Zara Kralj & Gašper Šantl

Sebi

National Final

This song is immensely popular, so I think it will have no trouble qualifying. In fact, I think this could theoretically land Slovenia back in the Top Ten for the first time since 2001. Though, I think a more realistic expectation would be mid-table, much like There for You in 2015, which was also quite popular but not a strong competition song.

6

Czech Republic

Lake Malawi

Friend of a Friend

National Final

I really like this song – it’s so fun. It also has the added benefit of being incredibly catchy and easy to sing along to. I think that it should qualify, but I don’t expect it to repeat last year’s success. I’m thinking mid-table finish in the teens.

7

Hungary

Joci Pápai

Az en Apám

National Final

Pápai returns with an emotional song about his father. Unfortunately, it is not quite as moving as Origo. I think it depends on the staging, as we know his vocals are quite strong, as to whether he will qualify or not. I see this finishing somewhere between 8-12.

8

Belarus

Zena

Like It

National Final

Blatantly going for the teen girl vote, Belarus hopes that Zena, this year’s youngest performer, can get them back to the Final for the second time in three years. Unfortunately, this song is rather generic and will seem even more so coming between two emotion-driven songs in Hungary and Serbia. Expect this song to languish behind in the semi-finals.

9

Serbia

Nevena Božovic

Kruna

National Final

I love the power of this song and Božovic sings this amazingly. Unfortunately, I don’t think this song has mass appeal. It is a standard Balkan ballad without any kind of notable composition or lyrics that set it apart. I do not have much hope for this one, but would be pleasantly surprised to see it succeed.

10

Belgium

Eliot

Wake Up

Internal

I like this song, but do not quite understand why it is so high on people’s lists and with the bookies. To me, this is a generic pixie-dream-boy song, but, we know that Belgium does well with these (see 2010, 2013, and 2015) though, this is nowhere near as strong as Rhythm Inside or Me and My Guitar.

11

Georgia

Oto Nemsadze

Keep on Going

Mixed

This is perhaps one of the most powerful songs, in terms of vocal delivery, in recent memory. Unfortunately, the song is so intense that I fear he comes off as angry. On top of that, the song is not very accessible – it lacks a catchy a melody or lyrics – so, expect this to fare quite poorly.

12

Australia

Kate Miller-Heidke

Zero Gravity

National Final

Interestingly, this is Australia’s fifth entry, but the first time that it is sending a white person. A testament to that country’s cultural shift of appreciating and promoting diversity. With that said, this song is quite pleasant to listen to and she’s such a fun performer. Australia has always been a jury favorite and I see no reason why this would change things this year. Expect Australia to qualify easily and challenge for the Top Ten.

13

Iceland

Hatari

Hatrið mun Sigra

National Final

Since the advent of the semi-final 16 years ago, Iceland has qualified eight times, every year from 2008-2014. But its recent string of failures will likely turn around this year. Hatrið Mun Sigra is a bookies darling and has a hoard of devoted fans. Will it actually finish in the Top Ten? Perhaps, it is the only rock song this year, but it will likely not get anywhere close to the top.

14

Estonia

Victor Crone

Storm

National Final

This is song has all the trappings of contemporary Christian music – easy to sing along to, super basic composition, and vaguely inspiring lyrics. Just like CCM, though, this song will have wide appeal because it is meant to burrow itself into your brain. In this semi-final, Estonia should easily qualify, but probably will fall flat in the Final.

15

Portugal

Conan Osíris

Telemóveis

National Final

Another head-scratcher, but, like Poland and Iceland, strangely captivating. Unlike Poland and Iceland, though, Telemóveis is more widely popular and appealing. It is a modern take on Portuguese fado music – as haunting as this traditional genre tends to be but with an updated sound that is both, intriguing and interesting. Definitely going to qualify and potential return Portugal to the Top Ten for only the third time.

16

Greece

Katerine Duska

Better Love

Internal

A song built to be an anthem (likely for the sizeable gay male fan base), Better Love is a traditional Eurovision song, like one would expect from the Swedish juggernaut. Why the song is a bit average in its construction, Duska is a great singer and this song is likely to trigger a sense of familiarity in listeners who associate this sound with Eurovision. This is likely to finally return Greece to the Top Ten for the first time since 2013.

17

San Marino

Serhat

Say Na Na Na

Internal

Serhat returns with a song actually designed to be uptempo. Like in 2016, it is hard to truly predict where this song will end up. It is fun and catchy, but not high quality. However, Serhat is popular among the fans and was able to achieve 12th in the semi-final with a weaker song three years ago. I think it has what it takes to qualify, but it will be close.

My favorite ten

  1. Czech Republic

  2. Greece

  3. Portugal

  4. Australia

  5. Poland

  6. Serbia

  7. Slovenia

  8. San Marino

  9. Hungary

  10. Cyprus

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • Greece

  • Portugal

  • Estonia

  • Iceland

  • Australia

  • Belgium

  • Czech Republic

  • Slovenia

  • San Marino

  • Cyprus

    Eurovision Obsession logo

But, more importantly, do I think any of these songs have a legitimate shot at winning?

 

Quite frankly, no. Don’t get me wrong, I think Cyprus, Greece, and Portugal can break into the Top Ten, but none of them are legitimate contenders (more in my upcoming Pretender or Contender series later this week).


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

Here we are, at the end of another initial reviews week. I’m sure many of you feel vindicated, many of you feel confused, and some of you may even be angry – no matter how you feel, thanks for reading 🙂

In case you missed it, here are my song reviews:
Semi-Final One
Semi-Final Two
Automatic Qualifiers

Preferences

First things first, which songs did I like the most? Check out this year’s ESC Obsession 2018 Preference Bracket to find out.

Looking for your own bracket? Here is this year’s blank bracket for you and your ESC friends to fill out! ESC Obsession 2018 Eurovision Tournament

But, which songs currently comprise my personal Top Ten heading into the Contest?

  • Armenia

  • Belarus

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Czech Republic

  • Estonia

  • Israel

  • Greece

  • Latvia

  • Sweden

Predictions

As a quick refresher, I predicted that these songs would finish in the Top Ten: (in no particular order)

  • Israel

  • Estonia

  • Austria

  • Australia

  • Czech Republic

  • Italy

  • Germany

  • Montenegro

  • The Netherlands

  • Sweden

Of, these, I thought five had a legitimate chance at victory: (again, in no particular order)

  • Austria

  • The Netherlands

  • Czech Republic

  • Montenegro

  • Australia

Currently, Australia and Czech Republic are both in the top ten of the betting odds, meaning, that I will discuss them more in next week’s Contender or Pretender series. Let’s dive into the three other entries receiving little attention from the bookies.

Austria – From the very first time I heard this song, it sounded like a winner to me. From the composition and style to the lyrics to the how smooth César Sampson is. This song may not be on too many radars right now, but it will shoot towards the top of the scoreboard, I can feel it. Now, since I first heard this song in March, I have seen videos of him performing it live, and it does not quite translate, at least, not during the preview concerts. Ultimately, this impacts his betting odds, but it won’t affect his final position with the juries and televoters on the night. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s truly difficult for a person of color, particularly a Black person, to be particularly successful at ESC. I honestly think this can be a counterexample to that opinion.

Montenegro – This song is on no one’s radar and actually falls towards the bottom of the betting odds currently. So, why on earth do I think it can win? Several reasons: 1) it’s one of only a few true and well ballads, 2) it’s a very classic Balkan sound, 3) the other four former Yugoslav nations will struggle to reach the Final, let alone seriously compete, leaving Montenegro there to soak up all their big points as well as from other Balkan allies not voting for Bulgaria, and 4) it’s a high quality song! The composition alone is worthy of victory. The singing is right on and the lyrics are captivating. This song should narrow those odds greatly once it qualifies and then we’ll see just how big it will go. Again, without any other former-Yugoslav country (and really, any Balkan country not named Greece or Bulgaria) having a legitimate shot at even qualifying, I think Montenegro will do quite well.

The Netherlands – A song that started on everyone’s radar as it is performed by a one-half of a runner-up duo, it’s country rock – a genre not often heard (if ever) on the ESC stage, and it was one the first to be selected. Don’t underestimate the power of a well done song that is unlike any other in the competition. The real question is whether enough country and rock fans will be voting to bring the Netherlands up the scoreboard, as I think it will only finish in the high single digits/low teens among the jury. It is most definitely not a traditional Eurovision entry like Austria and Montenegro, but that just may be its saving grace.

Who do I think will actually win? Well, you need to check out my prediction bracket! ESC Obsession 2018 Prediction Bracket

The bigger story here is that, for as long as I have been keeping this blog (December 2009), no victor has come from outside the top ten folks according to the betting odds. This is going to be an interesting year – a well-deserved anomaly for Portugal, hosting for the first time ever after so many failed attempts.

Come back next week for the annual Contender or Pretender series where I break down each of the top ten songs according to the betting odds and determine which ones have a legitimate shot at victory and which are merely distractions.

Until next time, find me on Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, or YouTube, all @escobsession


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final One

By far, Tuesday the stronger of the two semi-finals. Not just in my opinion, but also that of the bookies…and the majority of fan sites and Youtube playlists I’ve come across. It’s going to be a tough road for all those middle of the road entries.

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Azerbaijan

Aisel

X My Heart

 Internal

Thoughts:

It’s hard to believe that, after finishing in the Top Ten each of its first eight years in the Contest, Azerbaijan has not gotten back there since first failing in 2014. This will not return them to the Top Ten. It is a competant entry and should easily qualify, but it’s just too forgettable in a year full of strong songs.

Iceland

Ari Ólafsson

Our Choice

National Final

Thoughts:

Ehh…why? This song is not only dull and boring, but it is patronizing on top of it. This would have been average by early 2000s standards when this kind of stuff was en vogue, no, this will not break Iceland’s current streak of non-qualifiers.

Albania

Eugent Bushpepa

Mall [Yearning]

National Final

Thoughts:

Three entries, three forgettable acts. It’s almost as if the producers want to dump the weaker stuff first when folks are still late to tune in. This song is a bit bland and lacks much depth. The lyrics give it more intrigue, but, short of an amazing, life-altering staging, I doubt this will have much impact with either the juries or the televoters.

Belgium

Sennek

Matter of Time

 Internal

Thoughts:

The biggest beneficiary of the running order, I think, it will be the first strong song on the night, preceded by three weaker songs in one of the strongest semi-finals since the two show model was adapted in 2008. I love this song, personally, and think it also benefits from being the only James Bond-esque entry in the Competition.

Czech Republic

Mikolas Josef

Lie to Me

National Final

Thoughts:

So much fun! Czechia has succumbed to the common strategy of throwing a hot guy at their problems in what is bound to be its most popular and successful entry to date. Despite Josef’s hotness and the amazing composition, the lyrics to this song are…poor at best. Give them a read, they make very little sense.

Lithuania

Ieva Zasimauskaitė

When We’re Old

 National Final

Thoughts:

The biggest loser in the running order. This is already a weak, forgettable song; though, it is incredibly sweet. It is sandwiched between two of the most popular and distinctive entries this year. As I said, this song is super sweet, but stands NO chance of making any kind of lasting mark. It will likely finish last.

Israel

Netta

Toy

 Mixed

Thoughts:

Love it! It’s fun, memorable, catchy, immediately sing-along-able, and distinctive. I don’t think it’s a winner, but should easily return Israel to the Top Ten. I’ll

Belarus

ALEKSEEV

Forever

National Final

Thoughts:

I LOVE this entry, despite its dubious past (it was in a previous competition early last year in Belorussian, but they reworked the composition and switched it to English with the blessing of the EBU). It’s so haunting and captivating. It may just squek into the Grand Final, but I cannot imagine it doing well once it got there); I especially worry about his life vocals.

Estonia

Elina Nechayeva

La Forza [The Force]

National Final

Thoughts:

Another song that I absolutely love! It is utterly awesome and, like the majority of operatic songs at ESC, should have no problem qualifying for the Final. The question is: what will it do once it gets there? No operatic song has ever cracked the Top Ten. Not sure if this will change that.

Bulgaria

EQUINOX

Bones

 Internal

Thoughts:

So mysterious! I rather enjoy it, but am not quite sure what to make of it. The lyrics and composition linger with you long after listening. But, the questions are: 1) can an ethically diverse group succeed and 2) Can a weird song do well? It’s quite contemporary, but not really mainstream. We’ll see.

Macedonia

Eye Cue

Lost and Found

 Internal

Thoughts:

Upon repeated listens, this song seems like less of a hot mess, but, it’s still a hot mess regardless. This is not two, but three songs smashed together. Why? Heaven only knows. I don’t dislike this song, but I cannot see it changing Macedonia’s misfortunes.

Croatia

Franka

Crazy

 Internal

Thoughts:

An intriguing song that’s not completely put together. I like it; I think this song is sexy, but not captivating. As such, I cannot see it qualifying out of this semi-final, maybe it would out of Thursday’s line-up.

Austria

Cesár Sampson

Nobody but You

 National Final

Thoughts:

I really like this song. Even more so, I think it will be highly succesful and be a legitimate title contender. It is captivating, interesting, well-performed, continually builds throughout the duration of the song. I think that this should be considered for victory.

Greece

Yianna Terzi

Oneiro Mou [My Dream]

National Final

Thoughts:

Whoa! Talk about a haunting song that stops the show! It’s dark, it pulls you in, deeper and deeper – by far, Greece’s strongest and most unique entry in quite some time (maybe since 2013, incidentally, its last time in the Top Ten).

Finland

Saara Aalto

Monsters

Mixed

Thoughts:

A fun and contemporary song. We’ve had transexuals, cross-dressers & drag queens, gay men, and bisexuals but is Aalto Eurovision’s first out lesbian? While the composition is fun and the generic inspirational lyrics achieve their purpose, I have a feeling this might this year’s most overrated entry.

Armenia

Sevak Khanagyan

Qami [Wind]

National Final

Thoughts:

Joining Georgia, Armenia is submitting its first ever entry in its national language. It’s a captivating and intriguing song that teeters between broody and dark. This lack of a distinct tone will be this song’s undoing and prevent Armenia from returning to the Top Ten.

Switzerland

ZiBBZ

Throwing Stones

National Final

Thoughts:

Hmm, this song feels generic. I have a feeling, though, if this was coming from Sweden or Romania, it would be in victory conversations. It is from Switzerland, as such, it will most likely fall flat. I don’t dislike this song, but I’m not crazy for it either.

Ireland

Ryan O’Shaughnessy

Together

 Internal

Thoughts:

A pretty song, not dissimilar from last year, but not as good in my opinion. A simple song about a guy being betrayed by his wife. A simple composition that puts the listener at ease. Like Croatia, I think this song might be more successful if it was in the weaker Second Semi-Final, as such, I don’t think it has enough juice to qualify out of the First.

Cyprus

Eleni Foureira

Fuego [Fire]

National Final

Thoughts:

A very contemporary and American-sounding entry, I can see this flying through to the Final and potentially cracking the top five to give Cyprus its best finish to date. Potentially. It won’t because I have no reason to believe that Cyprus knows how to properly stage a song, but the important thing is that it could.

*Selection of the competing song can be internal (selected by producers or a secret jury), come through a national selection (singers with songs competed against each other), or mixed (either the song or the artist was picked internally and the other was picked in a national final)

So, who do I think will qualify? (in no particular order)

  • Armenia

  • Greece

  • Azerbaijan

  • Czech Republic

  • Cyprus

  • Finland

  • Israel

  • Bulgaria

  • Austria

  • Estonia

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Estonia

  2. Israel

  3. Belgium

  4. Belarus

  5. Austria

  6. Greece

  7. Bulgaria

  8. Croatia

  9. Ireland

  10. Armenia

And, more importantly, who do I think has a legitimate shot at winning?

More on this next week, but, right now Austria and Czech Republic are the two I think have the best shot at victory. I know that Israel has dominated the betting odds, but each of the last two years, the leader in the betting odds has been the same throughout the entire pre-season and going into the Final and ended up not winning (2016 – Russia. 2017 – Italy). Bulgaria (which has been rising) and Estonia (which has been falling) are towards the top of the betting odds, but as of my initial reviews, I don’t think either has what it takes to win.


Eurovision 2017 Grand Final Recap and Podcast

Hello Dear Viewers!

Well, there you have it – the 62nd edition of Europe’s Favorite TV Show is in history books. Wow, wow, wow – and quite a bit of history was made! First, a brief recap of our Top Ten:

  1. Portugal
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Moldova
  4. Belgium
  5. Sweden
  6. Italy
  7. Romania
  8. Hungary
  9. Australia
  10. Norway

In case you were wondering, I was 7 for 10 for predicting the Top Ten finishers. I predicted that the UK, Armenia, and Azerbaijan would all make the Top Ten, and they did not. Hungary, Norway, and Australia all got in there instead.

Some Historic Markers:

  • This is Portugal’s first ever victory. Until this year, Portugal had the record with most entries without a victory (this was their 49th attempt across 53 years); a mantle that now passes to Cyprus who has now competed 34 times without a win.
  • This is the first completely non-English song to win Eurovision since 2007 and only the third since the start of the televoting era (1998 – Israel, 2007 – Serbia).
  • This is also Bulgaria and Moldova’s highest ever placings. Previously, Bulgaria’s best finish was last year with 4th place with If Love Was a Crime performed by Poli Genova (her second time representing the country). Moldova’s best finish was back in 2005 when it debuted and finished 6th with Boonika Bate Doba performed by Zdub şi Zdub (their first time representing the country).
  • Speaking of Bulgaria, this is the third time Kristian Kostov has come runner-up in a major competition, having done so previously on The Voice: Kids in Russia and on X-Factor Bulgaria.
  • Sweden extends its Top Ten streak to four. Australia and Belgium extend theirs to three. Bulgaria starts a streak with its second consecutive Top Ten finish.
  • This is Spain’s fifth last place finish. It also stops Germany’s last place streak at two.

My Reactions:

  • Pleasant Surprises: I’m happy to see so many songs of high quality in the Top Ten, particularly Portugal, Bulgaria, Belgium, Italy, and Hungary. Even moreso, I’m so happy that three of the four non-English songs finished in the Top Ten and that France, which had a 50/50 song, finished in a respectable twelfth.
  • Disappointments: Moldova is a lot of fun, but I really did not want it to finish so high. It is also disappointing that the UK finished so low (though, its best in quite a few years); Denmark’s low placing is also quite disappointing given how strong its song was.
  • Biggest Shock: The huge discrepancy between jury and televote for Australia – 171 from the juries, but only 2 from the televote. Yet, it still finished in the Top Ten. Hmmm…this is a bit crazy, another argument to have the juries score the same performances as the televoters to avoid this kind of situation in the future.
  • Happiest Non-Surprises: Belgium’s success was brilliant! Fourth place, some argue is too low, but I think is a great finish for a fantastic song. Spain came last – the song was poor and poorly performed AND it helped Germany break its last place streak.

What a fantastic show! Below is my podcast with DizzyDJC. Check back this time next week for my final wrap-up post, including my Annual Awards! As well as some exciting news about the future of the site! See you all soon!

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Eurovision 2017 – Grand Final Live Notes!!

Hello Dear Readers and Welcome to the live notes for the Grand Final of Eurovision 2017!!! Kyiv hosts the 62nd edition after previously hosting the 50th back in 2005. Tonight, 26 songs battle it out to be crowned the victor – but who will win?

Bulgaria, at least, that is my pre-show prediction. I think the rest of the Top Ten will be comprised of: The Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, and Romania. That can (and probably will) change after we see the 26 performances tonight, but those are my thoughts heading into the show.

**Be sure to keep refreshing the page to see my notes as they appear.

Also, if you’re new or just want some info about this year’s Contest, you can find my ESC Notes and Country Profiles here!

On to the show!!!

Parade of Nations

I still think this is a pointless exercise. But the sparks and the effect of them appearing seemingly out of nowhere is pretty cool.

Opening Act

Boo!! No opening act. Another reason to get rid of the parade of nations.

On to the songs!

01 Israel I Feel Alive

IMRI sounds really off tonight. The dancing is on point, though. Oh, just when I thought he had righted the ship, he misses the big note.

02 Poland Flashlight

I’m guessing Poland didn’tfinish too high on Tuesday to be assigned the cursed #2 spot. This seems less emphatic and enthusiastic than on Tuesday. Still good, though. Especially that last note!

03 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia/Story of My Life

So much fun!! They are so into this — definitely taking hold of this moment. Ha – she almost fell! Very good performance; they definitely gave it their all.

04 Austria Running on Air

He sounds WAY better than Thursday night. Still not good enough to make a big impact, but he should definitely be proud with how he did tonight.

05 Armenia Fly with Me

Another fantastic performance from Artsvik – listen to the crowd reaction! Definitely going to the Top Ten.

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

Uh oh, someone seems to be flat. It sounds, like, she is sick, maybe? But they still sound great — their harmonies are just a little less tight than usual.

07 Moldova Hey, Mamma!

Still fun, still exciting, still not going to get into the Top Ten. But I think they’ll finish better than they did in 2010 (22nd place).

08 Hungary Origo

He seems markedly less nervous and has better pacing than on Thursday. Wow! You can feel his passion burning in that rap verse. This could do better than I thought; I probably still not Top Ten, though.

09 Italy Occidentali’s Karma

Our first major contender of the night, let’s see how this goes. Still do not understand the hype. I just don’t. Maybe there’s something about seeing it in person? But my god, the crowd sounds like they’re about to go marching forth.

10 Denmark Where I Am

Stronger than Tuesday, for sure, but still not at the level of her DMGP performance. Definitely good enough for a Top Ten finish, I think, though.

11 Portugal Amar Pelos Dois

Amazing! I just got goosebumps! Even better with Tuesday. He even fixed the part where he backed too far away and wasn’t picked up by the mic. Loved it! Oh, it might actually win. It is number two in the betting odds.

Speaking of odds sitting at third is Bulgaria, which is second-last in the running order tonight.

That was an awesome joke “(from Twitter) ‘I can’t believe in a few hours it will all be over and we’ll be wondering what to do with the rest of our lives.’ (Host) ‘Us, too.'”

12 Azerbaijan Skeletons

Better than Tuesday, but still not good enough to seriously contend for victory. I think Azerbaijan will, however, easily be waltzing back into the Top Ten.

13 Croatia My Friend

I still think this staging comes off as silly. Well, less impressive with the stronger competition ahead of him. He sounded great – it’s just a terrible song.

14 Australia Don’t Come Easy

Definitely better than Tuesday — WAY better! But still a lot of missed notes. There are too many strong songs tonight for this to do well.

15 Greece This is Love

Yikes! That was a big note to miss. I didn’t notice that before, the dancer on the left is also a backing singer. Yikes – she missed another note at the end of a verse. Nope – not going to be Greece’s triumphant return to the Top Ten, but not last place either, so, good?

16 Spain Do It for Your Lover

And if you had any doubts about the vocals being live, that cracked note is your proof. I bet Germany is happy because now they may not get last.

17 Norway Grab the Moment

He sounds spot on tonight. Really good – only makes me like this song more. Perhaps it’ll finish in the 11-15 range. Good, but not great in a year of strong competitors.

Hahahaha! Måns! I love this host-training montage.

18 United Kingdom Never Give Up on You

A love ballad from the UK to Eurovision, haha. Very well done, I see why this song shot up the betting odds over the course of the week. Wow! The UK just might find itself back in the Top Ten.

19 Cyprus Gravity

Why is he so flat? I still think that this staging is oh so very weak compared to what it could be. Even just one silks dancer would have been amazing. At least his vocals seemed to have leveled out.

20 Romania Yodel It!

Ugh, this song is so bad. At least their performance is still good. I can’t believe that this song will probably do well tonight. Hopefully, it will be no where close to the top spot.

21 Germany Perfect Life

This is an average song that is staged quite poorly. Maybe she has done enough to beat out Spain and avoid being the third straight last place finish for Germany.

22 Ukraine Time

This gets two bumps 1) for being from the host country and 2) for being this year’s only rock song. It is alright. I think we’ve heard better ones through the years. But, despite the supercreepy head on stage with them, they did a good job and will probably finish in the 11-15 range.

23 Belgium City Lights

She still looks kind of scared – so, I guess that’s just how she looks. Despite the fear in her eyes, I think she still has a commanding presence on stage. She forces you to pay attention. Well done! Belgium back to the Top Ten!

24 Sweden Can’t Go On

I keep forgetting that he is purposefully singing gravely and low – I think it’s supposed to be sexy. This song is just obnoxious, though. I know Sweden is trying to protect its Top Ten streak (three in a row, including a winner), but this song does not deserve to be in the Top Ten. There are so many more that have greater artistic value (for example: Hungary, Belgium, Portugal) or more genuine performances (for example: Croatia, Romania, the Netherlands) that deserve that spot more.

25 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

He’s behind Italy and Portugal in the betting odds, but not by much. He needs to bring his top performance if he hopes to win — performing so close to the end does not guarantee a strong placing (just ask the UK). Wow! Started a bit shaky, but he definitely finished strong! Is it enough to win? I’m not sure. Portugal, UK, and Belgium all gave pretty amazing performances as well of their strong songs. Not to mention that Italy sounds like he raised an army with his. We’ll see, it should be close!

26 France Requiem

I am so confused by France’s staging. Why is she alone and without dancers? Is everything spinning? She is stunningly beautiful, though. Hmmm, maybe not enough for the Top Ten, but should finish with a respectable position.

 

And there you have it! One of these 26 songs will be our new champion. But who will it be?!

Well, I think that it will come down to Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, and the UK. Which, I guess, isn’t too surprising. I think these had the best performances tonight and captured audience interest while also garnering jury support. I think Italy will be super popular among the televoters while Portugal and the UK will be favorites among the jury. Ultimately, I think one song will garner enough support from both to claim victory: Bulgaria. I know, boring that my prediction has not changed, but I still think that this song has what it takes to win. And I think it will be quite close, with Portugal coming second within a reasonable margin.

So, who do I think will be in the Top Ten?

  1. Bulgaria

  2. Portugal

  3. Belgium

  4. Italy

  5. United Kingdom

  6. Belgium

  7. Romania

  8. Sweden

  9. Armenia

  10. Azerbaijan

And, who were my ten favorites from tonight?

  1. Hungary

  2. Armenia

  3. Belgium

  4. Portugal

  5. Bulgaria

  6. United Kingdom

  7. Denmark

  8. France

  9. Norway

  10. Poland

Voting Entertainment/ Interval, I guess

While I think Ruslana, contemporary-traditional Ukrainian fusion music, and Jamala were all super awesome — I don’t understand why this is happening during voting. This is why shows keep running over, because they try to do a thousand things. I bet Jamala is going to be the Interval Act – adding yet more time. This should be a tight, three-hour show. Let last year’s winning artist (in this case, Jamala) open the show with a reprise and whatever new single they are hoping to promote (and get rid of the parade of nations), keep the voting to a tight 15 minutes, and move the entertainment back to the interval act, which can be shorter thanks to the fact that fan votes can continue to be verified while the jury votes are provided. It just doesn’t make sense.

LET THE VOTING BEGIN!! Here are the jury votes!

Sweden – Whoa! Sweden gave its twelve to Portugal. That’s highly unexpected (and no points for Norway) Portugal will either run away with these points or fall flat

Azerbaijan – No Russia, now to its twelve goes to…Belarus.

San Marino – more points to Portugal

Latvia – and the points continue for Portugal

OMG IBA from Israel is shutting down! Bombshell announcement live on air! Maybe Morocco and Lebanon will finally return?

Israel – Another 12 to Portugal

Montenegro – 12 to Greece

Albania – 12 points to Italy

Malta – surprise, instead of the UK their 12 goes to Italy

Macedonia – first 12 for Bulgaria

It’s going to be interesting to see where points from the former USSR will go without Russia. And from the former Yugoslav with Croatia being the group’s only representative.

Denmark – 12 to Sweden. surprise, surprise

Austria – 12 points to the Netherlands. Interesting

Norway – 12 to Bulgaria (and not Denmark or Sweden, surprisingly)

Spain – 12 to…Portugal (no surprise)

Finland – 12 points to Sweden (no surprise)

France – 12 points to Portugal (much to Belgium’s chagrin – zero points from their French friends)

Greece – 12 points to Cyprus (no surprise)

Lithuania – 12 points to Portugal (yea, I’m sensing a runaway)

Estonia – 12 points to Bulgaria (keeping them in the realm of closeness)

Moldova – 12 points to (let me guess….) Romania — no surprise.

Armenia – 12 points to Portugal!

Time for a breather – wow so fast, these votes! I think Portugal will handily win the Jury. The question is, how will it do with the televote?

Bulgaria – 12 points to Austria? That was unexpected. Strategic?

Iceland – 12 points to Portugal. Oh yeah, two out of four Nordic countries, definitely going to win the jury vote.

Serbia – 12 points to Portugal

Australia – 12 points to (the UK?) Yep. First time they sent 12 points to the motherland, fyi

Italy – 12 points to Azerbaijan?! Huh. Strategic?

Germany – 12 points to Norway – interesting

Portugal – 12 points to Azerbaijan! Interesting…strategic?

Switzerland  – another 12 points to Portugal

The Netherlands – 12 points to (wait! only 2 points to Belgium?!) Portugal

Ireland – 12 points to Belgium! (can’t think of the last time Ireland gave 12 points to the UK)

Georgia – 12 points to Portugal!

Cyprus – 12 points to Greece (I love how the spokesperson even knew that everyone already knew that their points were going to Greece)

Belarus – 12 to Bulgaria (benefiting from the lack of Russia, I bet)

Romania – 12 points to (Italy?) the Dutch! wow wow!

Hungary – 12 points to Portugal! Maintain the lead, but its definitely not as thick as it was. But, win or not, Portugal will definitely get its best ever placing tonight.

Slovenia – 12 points to Portugal

Belgium – 12 points to Sweden – that was highly unexpected

Poland – 12 points to Portugal!

United Kingdom – (yes, Katrina, we all know who you are) 12 points to Portugal!

Croatia – 12 points to Hungary – well deserved, I’d say

Czechia – 12 points to Portugal, 94 points ahead of Bulgaria

Ukraine – final 12 points from the juries – 12 points to Belarus! Whoa!

Portugal has won the jury votes by 104 points, leading Bulgaria who is 60 points ahead of Sweden. Australia led Ukraine by 109 at this point last year.

Televote!

Spain is saved from null point land!

And there goes the UK’s shot at the Top Ten

A lot of interesting televote points…And a lot of low point values. All the ones outside the top ten of the televote have fewer than 90 points

France got 90 points

Croatia got 103 points

126 points to Sweden

152 to Hungary – and quite the jump!

Italy – 208 WOW!!! Way underperforming for the bookie and fan favorite going into the Contest

Romania – is next with a sizeable jump

Portugal, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Belgium left to receive points

255 points to Belgium (WOW – how many points did Moldova get?!)

264 points and third in the televote to Moldova

Bulgaria v. Portugal

337 points to Bulgaria

MEANING THAT PORTUGAL HAS WON (with an addition 376 points)

WOW Our first new winner since 2011 (Azerbaijan) and PORTUGAL’s first ever victory!!! It took 49 attempts and a lot of shame, but Portugal has finally won. It is no longer the country with the most participations without a victory (Cyprus now takes that helm with 30 participations without a win). Congratulations and next year in Lisbon! Also, great job Ukraine, after a lot of confusion and craziness, you put on a fantastic show!

Awww, he has his sister (who wrote and composed the song) up there with him to sing the winner’s reprise as a duet with him. A beautiful moment for a beautiful song. A well-deserved, well-earned victory for Portugal.

Check back tomorrow for our wrap-up podcast with DizzyDJC as well as my wrap-up article about the Grand Final.

 

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Eurovision 2017 – First Semi-Final Recap and Podcast

Hello Dear Readers!

Yesterday was the First Semi-Final – which, despite all the issues in the organization, went very well! UA:PBC has, thus far, put on a great show with a beautiful stage (oh my goodness, it’s beautiful!) and fun hosts. Overall, I feel like the good from yesterday’s show outweighs the bad. First, a brief review.

Our qualifiers from last night: (in alphabetical order with their Grand Final half)

©EBU Thomas Hanses

  • Armenia (first half)

  • Australia (second)

  • Azerbaijan (first)

  • Belgium (second)

  • Cyprus (second)

  • Greece (second)

  • Moldova (first)

  • Poland (first)

  • Portugal (first)

  • Sweden (second)

The Big Five also had their drawing: Italy was drawn into the first half, while France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom join Ukraine in the second half of the show. This means there are only three spots left in the second half for qualifiers from tomorrow night’s semi-final. That plays to the benefit of Belgium and France whose primary competitors, Italy, Portugal, and Azerbaijan all take place in the first half and remaining favorites, Denmark, Bulgaria, and Romania have slim odds of getting into the later part of the show.

Some historical markers from last night:

  • Azerbaijan upholds its 100% qualification streak. Sweden extends its to seven (including its two automatic qualifications). Armenia extends its to 5. Belgium and Poland extend their qualification streaks to three.

  • Portugal’s qualification rate is now 50% since first qualification in 2008. Moldova gets its first qualification since 2013.

  • This is only the second time in history that there has not been at least one female host, the first being 1956 (the first Contest) in which Lohengrin Filipello hosted on his own. Conversely, 24 Contests have had solo women or exclusively women hosts.

My Reactions:

  • Pleasantly Surprised: Poland – I thought she sounded great last night and that song was well-staged (despite the volume issues); Portugal was amazing! I thought it was a good song before, but was absolutely taken aback by its awesomeness live yesterday

  • Disappointments: Australia – Isaiah sounded pretty off-key throughout the entire performance yesterday. Actually, many of the artists seemed off-key last night sadly. Cyprus’ staging (and subsequent qualification) were greatly disappointing.

  • Biggest Shock: Finland – a perfect performance of a perfect song with a failure to pass through to the Final.

  • Happiest Non-Surprise: Belgium – a great song and Blanche’s vulnerable performance was a good fit for the lyrics, very happy that this qualified.

So, there you have it my reactions to the First Semi-Final. Heading into tomorrow, I think that the Second Semi-Final is going to be equally as, if not more so, awesome. Hear more about mine (and my friend DIZZYDJC) below in our podcast from today!

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Contender or Pretender 2017: Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

There you have it – the ten songs that comprise the top of the betting odds at the time of starting Contender and Pretender 2017. As a recap:

Contenders:

-Belgium
-Bulgaria
-Italy

Pretenders:

-Armenia
-Australia
-Azerbaijan
-Ireland
-Portugal
-Romania
-Sweden

This may seem quite skewed, however, I truly believe that the winner will be from among Belgium, Bulgaria, and Italy. Since the start of this series, Ireland has fallen out of the top ten of the betting odds, replaced by France (who I have previously deemed as a legitimate contender).

So, in adding France to the fray, of the four contenders, who do I think will win?

Well, my opinion has not changed. I still think Bulgaria will pull out the victory this year in Kyiv, taking the Contest to Sofia for 2018.

Beautiful Mess is compelling, intricate, and heartfelt. Much more so than any of its closest competition. Italy is fun, but it will be a bit much for a lot of first time viewers. Belgium has been losing ground over the past week and will be going into the Contest on a downward trajectory. France, while beautiful and unique, just isn’t as captivating Bulgaria’s ballad. I think Bulgaria has the perfect mix of jury appeal and fan attraction to win this year.

What are your thoughts? Leave them below and/or on Twitter.

Stay tuned!! Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday I will be teaming up with DizzyDJC to bring you podcasts all throughout Eurovision Week. Stay tuned here, YouTube, or Twitter for the link to broadcasts!

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2017 Contender or Pretender: Episode Three – Portugal and Belgium

Hello Dear Readers!

Today we look at probably the two most surprising members of the Top Ten betting odds, Belgium (who has been doing fairly well in recent years) and Portugal, who, as far as I know, has never been in the top ten of the betting odds going into Eurovision week. Two very different songs that both stand out from the crowd, but, does either have what it takes to win?

Portugal

Amar pelos Dois performed by Salvador Sobral

Why it is a contender: A heartfelt ballad that sounds like it was dropped from the 1940s. This is a high quality composition with a gentle performance that helps it transcend its simple lyrics. Portugal is the perpetual underdog and has the support of a big swath of the fandom behind it.

Why it is a pretender: Only nine times has Portugal ever reached the Top Ten, the most recent of which, 1996, was its highest placing: 6th place. History’s arrow does not seem to be pointing in Portugal’s direction. Not to mention, for many casual viewers and those that turn to Eurovision for vapid schlager, this slow ballad will be more chore than enjoyment.

Final Verdict: Pretender While I commend Portugal for sending a truly artistic song, but it’s just too simple to win. I think Portugal may have a legitimate shot at the Top Ten, but lacks the power to overcome more memorable ballads or the outshine the up-tempo numbers.

Belgium

City Lights performed by Blanche

Why it is a contender: This is perhaps the most unique of the EDM-inspired entries this year. Blanche’s deep voice makes her standout from all the other female singers and delicateness of the song will help give it broader appeal. The song is also catchy without being repetitive.

Why it is a pretender: It’s unique, but is it too unique? Depending on its staging and how its start position, this song could seem too weird to too different to make a real impact in the minds of televoters.

Final Verdict: Contender This song simply stand out in a positive way. I think the juries will also take to it quite strongly given how rare it is to hear a solo pop singer with such a low voice sing so well. I think the composition is captivating enough to linger in the minds of viewers and jurors alike throughout the night.

Hmm, Belgium at one point was towards the top of the betting odds, not it’s floating around the tenth spot. Portugal has solidly been sitting in the top five since mid-March. It will be interesting to see how these songs do in Kyiv. You thoughts?

Missed the previous episodes? Find the table of contents here!
Missed our special announcement? Never fear! It’s right here.

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Eurovision 2017 Song Reviews (Finally!) — Recap!

Eurovision Obsession logo

Hello Dear Readers!

So, there you have it, my initial thoughts on the 2017 Eurovision field of entries. It was hard this year to choose top contenders, so many songs sound similar and parceling out those that were stronger from the weak wasn’t easy. Amongst those that sound different, I’ve tried to identify which ones were memorable for the right reasons. Below is my first prediction for 2017’s Top Ten and winner!

As of right now, I predict that the following songs will be in the Top Ten (in alphabetical order):

  • Armenia – it’s dazzling and intriguing; captivating and unique.

  • Azerbaijan – a return to form and powerful pop song

  • Belgium – unique, current, and incredibly popular

  • Bulgaria – the strongest ballad this year

  • Denmark – stands out with its R&B sound

  • France –  even better than last year, very French, yet still accessible

  • Italy – certainly one of the smarter entries in ESC history, very entertaining, too

  • Macedonia – this year’s strongest entry from the former Yugoslav

  • Poland – dark and stirring, will outperform expectations for sure

  • Sweden – well-done schlager with a flashy stage routine

With that said, who do I think will contend for the title of ESC victor? Well, so far, my thoughts have not yet changed.

Denmark, Bulgaria, France

Denmark
Anja has an amazing voice and the song is well composed. However, R&B does have a dicey history at the Contest. Will the audience be able to get behind this song, even though it strays from the traditional pop style?

Bulgaria
Perfectly capturing the styling of the modern ballad, Bulgaria brings its most competitive entry to date. However, Kristian Kostov, while supremely vocally-talented, is one of the youngest performers this year, I wonder if he has the stage presence to convey this kind of song. Will Bulgaria be able to build on its success from last year by putting together a useful staging and promotional work?

France
An intriguing entry that does a strong job of displaying the French aesthetic without scaring those who are non-French. However, this song requires a well done staging, and we all know that is most definitely NOT France’s department. Can Alma guide the production process enough to ensure that the song presentation is both meaningful and enjoyable without it becoming a distraction?

Ultimately, if I had to choose one song right now as the winner. I would choose…

Bulgaria! Ultimately, I think Kostov has the look, sound, and stage presence to aptly perform this haunting – yet relatable – ballad. The music is stirring, yet not overly complex and the lyrics are captivating without being inaccessible. And, without Russia around, there will be more points up for grabs, particularly for those from Slavic backgrounds. Though, this song will definitely appeal to Westerners as well.

I definitely look forward to diving deeper into these entries, commentary, and internet buzz. Even more than that, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below or catch up with me on Twitter!

 

Once again, ESC Obsession has created a Eurovision Tournament Bracket for you! Forty-two songs enter, only one can survive. Seeded by their current betting odds, this bracket sets up a series of duels until one song comes out on top. Whether you want to think about the competition in a new way, compare your picks with friends, or simply are having trouble determining your favorite entry this year – the bracket is for you! Feel free to download it, feel it out, share it around. Post about it here and/or Reddit! I’ll post mine next week.

ESC 2017 Tournament

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Eurovision 2017 Song Reviews (Finally!) – First Semi-Final, Second Half

Hello Dear Readers!

Ready for part two of semi-final one? Below the table are my predictions for qualifiers out of this semi-final! Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Armenia

Artsvik

Fly with Me

Internal

Thoughts:

Armenia was the final one to reveal its song – and it was worth the wait! Dark, complex, and takes us on an auditory journey. Heavily influenced by Armenian folk tunes and style, the song ultimately ends on a hopeful note. Love it!

Cyprus

Hovig

Gravity

Internal

Thoughts:

In recent years past, I would have thought this was a sure candidate for victory. However, in a year that is full of this style of music, it gets lost in the shuffle. I like it a lot and think it has a great beat; not much faith it will do much, still on the fence about its chances to make the Final.

Czechia

Martina Bárta

My Turn

Internal

Thoughts:

Another example of a great song that just doesn’t stand out from the crowd of entries this year. I think Czechia’s (note, the legislature voted last year to make the official English name “Czechia”) best hope is to dominate the jury show with a large enough lead to make the Final.

Greece

Demy

This is Love

Mixed

Thoughts:

This song, to me, is quite generic! It’s fun and uplifting, however, so there’s that. Aside from the positivity, there’s not much to this song, unfortunately. Will it reverse Greece’s fortune and return it to the Final? Yes! Will it do much once it gets there? Nope.

Iceland

Svala

Paper

Televised

Thoughts:

I’m not sure what to make of this song. I like it, but it’s a bit odd. I’m not sure if it has mass appeal, especially since it’s in the same vein as Norway from last year. A song that seemed popular but fell flat. I think it depends on whether the staging is engaging without being overwhelming.

Latvia

Triana Park

Line

Televised

Thoughts:

I really like this song, but am not sure why. It’s not too different from Iceland, but there’s a bit more of an edge here that Paper lacks. Like Iceland, however, I worry that Line doesn’t have the mass appeal to attract enough votes from either the juries or the televote to progress to the Final.

Moldova

SunStroke Project

Hey, Mamma!

Televised

Thoughts:

SunStroke Project returns (this time without Olia Tira) to produce another viral Saxophone-Guy meme with this catchy, but trashy, song. Actually, the song isn’t so much trashy as the video is. Other than that, this song is so danceable!!

Poland

Kasia Moś

Flashlight

Televised

Thoughts:

This song is unassuming, mysterious, and intriguing. I think it could be a true dark horse this year; given that the vocal performance is strong, of course. I think this might be one of my favorite compositions from this year.

Slovenia

Omar Naber

On My Way

Televised

Thoughts:

I loved Naber’s 2005 song, Stop. This year’s song…not so much. I don’t dislike it as much as I think it’s a bit boring. As much as I want Slovenia to do well, it won’t be with this song. In fact, I’m afraid it might finish last in the semi-final.

*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 examples of that this year are Armenia, Greece and Israel. Greece internally selected Demy and had a televised final to select the song. Israel and Armenia had televised shows to select a singer and then internally selected the song.

 

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)

Armenia

Armenia

Australia

Albania

Azerbaijan

Latvia

Belgium

Portugal

Cyprus

Finland

Finland

Poland

Greece

Azerbaijan

Moldova

Iceland

Poland

Moldova

Sweden

Czechia

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 weaker of the two semi-finals. With that said, I think that two songs have the ability to seriously contend for the victors’ trophy.

Belgium – Probably the most popular song on Youtube rankings; it will be interesting to see how this song fares in the OGAE fan poll. This song is super-contemporary and stands out from the crowd. It has a very captivating melody and Blanche has a mesmerizing voice.

Poland – This has real potential to be a dark horse in this year’s Contest. It’s dark, mysterious, and will get a fantastic boost if staged properly. As long as the performance is competent, it will have a legitimate chance to contend for the win.

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

Check back tomorrow for Semi-Final Two
Find the other reviews from this year here!

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Eurovision 2017 Song Reviews (Finally!) – First Semi-Final, First Half

Hello Dear Readers!

Here are my reviews for the first half of the first semi-final. I have kept them in alphabetical order because, frankly, I had written this before the running order was revealed and do not really have the time to reorder everything. Overall, I think this semi-final is the weaker of the two. However, there are some real gems that, sadly, I do not think will make the Final.

First Semi-Final, First Half

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

 

Albania

Lindita

World

Televised

Thoughts:

So epic! So powerfully sung! Still not 100% sure what she is saying; honestly, she could have left it in Albanian without much difference. Love the song – but it probably will not get Albania back to the Final.

 

Australia

Isaiah

Don’t Come Easy

Internal

Thoughts:

A well-done ballad; Australia once again brings a strong entry. However, I do not think this will continue its uphill trajectory of success (i.e., it’s not going to win). Will definitely make the Final, but it will be a stretch to see it in the Top Ten.

 

Azerbaijan

Dihaj

Skeletons

Internal

Thoughts:

A dazzling number. It definitely sounds more conventional than Dihaj’s more experimental look and sound, but still a great number. It’s been a long time since Azerbaijan wowed us with a stunning staging. I am thinking this might bring that back (as well as Azerbaijan’s place in the Top Ten).

 

Belgium

Blanche

City Lights

Internal

Thoughts:

Already a heavy favorite, this is definitely another side of the contemporary sound. I really like it, though, not quite sure I’m seeing it as a winner just yet. Blanche’s voice is definitely unique; not too often you hear a female singer’s voice be quite that deep which might be a big part of her appeal.

 

Finland

Norma John

Blackbird

Televised

Thoughts:

Haunting, simply haunting. Each time I hear this song, I like it more and more. Her voice is so captivating and the arrangement perfectly captures the lyrics. I wonder how it would sound in Finnish…

 

Georgia

Tamara Gachechiladze

Keep the Faith

Televised

Thoughts:

This song delivers a powerful message that is well sung. However, it comes off a bit self-important and I predict a lot of controversy around the staging come April. I do like the song, but think it has little chance to make it to the Final.

 

Montenegro

Slavko Kalević

Space

Internal

Thoughts:

When people ask me for a good example of “gay pop,” I can now point to this song. And, if you’re curious as to what makes this “gay pop” – here is my rationale: the composition is a dance track with a disco feel (plus disco trumpets!) and, even more so, the erotic nature of the lyrics and music video. With that said, I think the song is a good club track, but a poor competition piece.

 

Portugal

Salvador Sobral

Amar Pelos Dois [Love for Both of Us]

Televised

Thoughts:

A lovely, understated ballad. My initial thought was that it could stand out in this field of EDM and power ballads; however, I just don’t think Sobral has the stage presence nor is the composition enchanting enough to make much impact.

 

Sweden

Robin Bengtsson

I Can’t Go On

Televised

Thoughts:

I like to think of this as discount-Måns Zelmerlöw. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is very well done schlager. But not much more than that. Even with a slick staging, this will merely be another Swedish Top Ten song that doesn’t really challenge for victory.

*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 examples of that this year are Armenia, Greece and Israel. Greece internally selected Demy and had a televised final to select the song. Israel and Armenia had televised shows to select a singer and then internally selected the song.

What are your thoughts on these songs? My outlook is fairly bleak on most of them, but I’ve been surprised by semi-final results before. Just see my reactions to ANY of the semi-finals on this blog over the years (this is ESC Obsession’s 8th Contest!).

Find the other reviews from this year here!

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Eurovision 2016 – Wrap Up!

Hello Dear Readers!

It has been about a month and a half since the Grand Final in Stockholm, yet, I have still been Eurovisioning every day since as best I can – I’ve become quite active on Twitter and Instagram (both @escobsession). Typically, I like to watch the full Contest a time or two more before making this wrap up. I particularly like to rewatch the Final. Unfortunately, both the official Eurovision website and the official YouTube still have this year’s Contest blocked in the US (and, as I am told, Canada). Eventually, I was able to find a decent, fan uploaded version of the Contest on YouTube, but I shouldn’t have to go through these lengths. The beauty of the Contest in the modern era is that it stretches globally. Yes, the US had its first ever live broadcast of ESC this year (on the cable network Logo, which is dedicated to broadcasting LGBTQ+ themed content, my thoughts on this in a later post this summer), why would the EBU not want to build upon this by continuing to allow access to the Contest to fans in North America beyond May? Logo does not have the Contest streaming online. This needs to be rectified. With all the fuss being made over Russia losing, people have all but ignored this issue — and the EBU is shooting itself in the foot in the very markets that into which it is trying to expand.

Both the official website and YouTube block the Contest in the US and Canada

No ESC for those in the US or Canada 😦

With that said, let’s recap some of my thoughts from this year’s Contest!

General Reactions

I already hit the historical markers in my initial post after the Final. So these are just some of my thoughts and opinions.

  • I was incredibly skeptical about the new voting system. However, I actually really like it (for the most part)! Yes, Ukraine won neither the juries nor the televote, but it did come second with both a feat that neither Australia nor Russia matched (Australia was fourth in the televote, Russia was sixth with the juries). Furthermore, it made the voting sequence that much more exciting. It went from a clear Australian victory to a nailbiter of a finish! Particularly in the arena where we could barely see the screens and the scores. We had no idea who won until Ukraine was announced as the winner. And, the most exciting move of the night, Poland’s jump from last to eighth!

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

  • Truly, the best song won. Russia had an amazing stage show and Australia had a powerful performance, but neither You Are the Only One nor Sound of Silence matched 1944 in originality of composition nor in lyrical strength. As such, Ukraine emerged victorious.

  • Also, it’s nice that the winning song was not entirely in English. While it mostly was, it’s still nice to know that non-English can still do well. This was further reinforced by the success of France and Austria.

  • The show’s production was great, but, once again, the Swede’s gave us an overly crowded show. Love Love Peace Peace, the highlight of the infinite interval acts for many, would have been great as during the vote entertainment. The mockmentary Nerd Nation should have been a two-parter just for the semi-finals; if you didn’t watch the first two parts, you would have been lost for the conclusion. I also would have brought the Eurovision by Numbers to the Final, since so many people were watching the Contest for the first time across the world. Lastly, I would have moved Måns to the opening act (scrap the parade of nations, or, at least, the fashion show element that made it drag out forever) and let Justin Timberlake stand alone as the Interval Act as the votes were being verified.

  • Lastly, while I agree with the winner, I am overall surprised and disappointed in most of the results otherwise. The Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany all deserved much better placings than they got. Likewise, Lithuania, Sweden, and Malta all overperformed and finished higher than they should have.

So, now that you know my general reactions, let’s move on to the Annual Eurovision Obsession Awards!

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

Best Lyrics Award

Serbia

Winner: Serbia

“I thought that it was supposed to hurt me
I thought that it was love,
I put my hands up but I won’t surrender
Don’t need what doesn’t serve me anymore

I lick my wounds
So that I can keep on fighting”

Throughout Goodbye (Shelter) we see a singer transform from abused partner to strong woman as she realizes that she deserves more than what she is getting from her relationship. This transition is beautifully mirrored in the composition as well as the performance.

UkraineRunner-Up: Ukraine

“When strangers are coming
They come to your house
They kill you all and say
We’re not guilty, not guilty

Where is your mind? Humanity cries
You think you are gods but everyone dies
Don’t swallow my soul
Our souls”

I have talked about this song many times on this blog, so I will keep it brief: powerful song with lyrics that highlight the parallels between the past and the present.

Honorable Mention: Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany

The “Huh?” Award

Given to the country the most questionable, lazy, or just plain nonsensical lyrics.

IrelandWinner: Ireland

“Just touch who you wanna, kiss who you gotta
Fight like we’re winners, love like beginners
Dance like you mean it, sing like you feel it
Everything’s better standing out in the sun”

Aside from advocating sexual assault (you should NEVER touch or kiss whoever you want without consent), the lyrics are otherwise a trite mess of cliché optimism and hollow saying.

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

“The sky is tumbling
It’s coming down, coming down
The wildest fire
Is burning out, out

And when our fall torn us to pieces
All of our love turned into dust
We’re the brightest falling stars”

Essentially, the main argument of the song is that the relationship is ending – so why not go out in a blaze of glory? This is not a healthy relationship goal. If things are over, just let them end. That is that.

Honorable Mention: Sweden, The Netherlands, Montenegro

Best Dressed Award

Albania

Winner: Albania

Albania dress

She almost looks like an award statue, doesn’t she? Just an utterly gorgeous dress that fits her well. Too bad the majority of the act was against a gold background so you barely saw it (I took this photo during some of the brief blue moments).

 

AustraliaRunner-Up: Australia

Australia outfit

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Dami Im’s dress. But it’s elegant and distinctive, much like Dami Im herself.

Honorable Mention: Estonia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

So many awful outfits this year, sadly. This was probably the hardest category to choose a winner for.

Italy

Winner: Italy

Italy outfit

Sparkly, brown overalls. Need I say more? Italy got my vote for the Barbara Dex Award this year.

AzerbaijanRunner-Up: Azerbaijan

Azr outfits

So…much…gold… Honestly, what the heck are they wearing? In the music video, Samra has on this really nice black gown. This glittery, gold catsuit is just…awful. And, to make matters worse, it doesn’t even fit the tone or message of the song.

Honorable Mention: Croatia (Barbara Dex Award winner), Spain, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Hungary, Belarus, Lithuania

Best Staging Award

Russia

Winner: Russia

Russia performance

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

Come on, was there ever any doubt? This staging was incredible! The first time we saw him walk on the screen during the First Semi-Final dress rehearsal, we all gasped. And each time, it was equally as amazing. The staging was just stunning; so much so, it inspired hoards of angry fans to complain when Russia lost.

ArmeniaRunner-Up: Armenia

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

Talk about doing a lot with a little! Armenia had a solo performer by herself on stage and created a dazzling show that seamlessly incorporated pyrotechnics, slick camera angles, quick-cutting shots, and nifty image overlaying. Who needs an LED screen when you can work magic with cameras?

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Georgia, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands, Iceland, Ukraine

Worst Staging Award

Estonia

Winner: Estonia

Estonian perfomance

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

Yeah, you have a sexy, Bond-esque song with a very attractive, young singer. This should have been a great stage show. Instead, we are left with this, seemingly casino-inspired act that makes Juri seem more creepy than alluring. Also, he was lost in the staging; he was this little man on this giant red stage.

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

Moldova performance

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

I am starting to feel bad with just how critical I am being with Moldova’s entry this year. Unfortunately, they took a poor song with a poor message, gave it to a singer who was a poor fit for the composition, and staged it with few visuals and a random astronaut. This is a dance number – why were there no dancers? This is a song literally called “Falling Stars” why were there no spark curtains or other pyrotechnics? Just…so many things done wrong this year, Moldova.

Honorable Mention: Slovenia, San Marino, France, Croatia

“This is DC Calling” Award: Given to the most American sounding entry. This in NO way counts as an endorsement for the US entering the Contest, an idea which I staunchly oppose.

Winner: Sweden

Sweden was deemed "a contender" in last year's series.

It feels like a hipster anthem, doesn’t it? From Frans’ look to his sarcastic tone – the song is just one big “screw you” to whoever he’s singing to. This wins the DC Calling Award because so many young people today have this kind of attitude and I could totally imagine a random American high school student saying these words.

Runner-Up: Czech Republic

It is my understanding that, to most Europeans, Americans are a religious bunch who often work their faith into everything, including our pop music. I Stand is vague in who the target of the song is, but, at least to me, it is a song about the power of faith – ironic, since the Czech Republic has the highest percentage of atheists of any nation.

Honorable Mention: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Israel

Pond Leaper Award

While I think each song would find a niche here in the USA, I think this song would be the most popular

ItalyWinner: Italy

This is a passionate, yet innocent, love song that is just the perfect tempo for a first dance. If No Degree of Separation made its way across the Atlantic, it would quickly ascend the list of most popular wedding songs, without a doubt.

NetherlandsRunner-Up: The Netherlands

Douwe Bob has perfectly captured the contemporary, country sound that is ever-so-popular in the US. I think that Slow Down would be considered a welcome change to the “stadium country” that has swept the genre over the past decade. This would quickly climb the country, and pop, charts.

Honorable Mention: Australia, Finland, United Kingdom, Bulgaria

The “Spirit of ABBA” Award

Given to the most stereotypical and/or traditional ESC entry

BelgiumWinner: Belgium

A happy dance tune? Check! Lyrics that make you feel good about yourself and the world? Check! Some cool choreography that you can try to mimic in your living room? Check!  Belgium checked all the right boxes to carry the spirit of schlager that typifies the Eurovision genre.

United KingdomRunner-Up: United Kingdom

A fun song about the uplifting power of friendship performed by a duo that looks like they are genuinely friends off-stage. A fun song that got the audience, both at home and in the arena, involved. That’s definitely bringing the continent, and world, together!

Honorable Mention: Finland, Spain, Croatia

Israeli Flag CountryThe “Shiri Maimon Travesty of the Year” Award

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

Winner: United Kingdom getting 24th place

United KingdomAfter years of dubious entries, songs that I liked, but left most of Europe cold, the BBC finally put real effort in finding the British entry. They used a public vote, got artists and songwriters that captured modern British pop music, and selected a song that was catchy, fun, contemporary, and even had two attractive boys – just for good measure. Joe & Jake (and their backing singers) gave outstanding performances for both the juries (Grand Final dress rehearsal) and the televoting public, yet still somehow finished third last. I am still miffed as to how this happened. I know Electro Velvet was devastated by their finish last year, I can only hope that Joe & Jake continue to perform together and eventually return and finish higher up the scoreboard.

RomaniaRunner-Up: Romania’s Disqualification

This is less about Romania not being able to participate (TVR should have to pay their debts, they have owned up to this fact), but the fashion in which it was done. These debts are years old. The EBU could have penalized them in December (when they paid their entry fee and the list of participants was finalized), in March (when the heads of delegations met and entries had to be formally submitted), or in May (after the Contest). But no, the EBU instead opted to discipline Romania in the most humiliating way possible. Waiting for the deadzone that is April to ensure maximum exposure of the event so that it could publicly shame Romania and TVR.

Honorable Mention: Iceland failing to qualify, Czech Republic getting 25th, Lithuania getting 9th

Final Thoughts

Eurovision_2016_Official_LogoWell, another Contest is in the books. It was utterly amazing to be there in person, though, Standing Right sucked. And I am still bitter about how much I had to pay and how long I queued to have such a subpar – particularly since it was a great financial burden. Speaking of which, going to Eurovision this year contributed to what has been my worst time financially – though, it brought something to light for me.

By my age (28), my parents were married with two kids, my eldest sibling had been married for several years, my next oldest sibling had just gotten married, and my last sibling (also older) had just gotten engaged. And then there’s me. Single. No kids. Just my education and Eurovision. Being there in Sweden, seeing the “Eurovision by Numbers” video, the “What’s Eurovision?” opening act from the second semi-final, the “Peace Peace Love Love” interval act, and having Ukraine win – a song which I loved from the start and truly thought was the best entry – it all reminded me just how much I love Eurovision and the role it plays in uniting all kinds of people.

I always say that the combination pop music, geography, and competition is what drew me to Eurovision – and that’s true – but what keeps me there is the genuine community that the Contest breeds. When else can one be connected to over 200 million other people worldwide? When else can one lose themselves in music that transcends boundaries, that is as much visual as it is auditory, and allows you to participate in the realized dreams of 42+ performing artists?

Is Eurovision perfect? No! Of course not (and I’ll be going into its various shortcomings throughout the summer in a series of blog posts), but it is awesome. Eurovision is so much more than a song contest, it’s a community – it’s the people, the culture, the forums, the traditions, the opportunities, the dreams — the connections that it makes possible between all of these things and more. Eurovision connects countries, people groups, generations, allies & enemies, strangers & friends. Attending ESC, watching it, engaging with it – it allows me to be a part of that intricate web human connection.

I don’t currently have a family of my own, but I hope to some day. And when I do, I know that Eurovision will be there – allowing me to share an integral part of myself with those I love and for them to join in my passion. Indeed, it will help us all “come together.”

File Jul 03, 4 03 34 PM

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Reaction to the Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

There you have it! Our last ten finalists!
Latvia
Poland
Israel
Serbia
Lithuania
Australia
Bulgaria
Ukraine
Georgia
Belgium

Georgian Flag MapQuite interesting that, unlike Tuesday, the qualifiers are well spread out; there are no more than two that performed consecutively last night.

Some historical markers from last night.

Ukrainian Flag Map-Ukraine extends its 100% qualification streak. Georgia extends its to four. Belgium and Poland get their first back-to-back qualifications and Latvia gets its second (last time was 07-08).
Bulgarian Flag Country-Bulgaria qualified for only the second time (last was 2007). While it will be Australia’s second final, it’s the country’s first qualifying from the semi.
Irish Flag Map-Georgia may very well be the qualifier with the lowest betting odds of all time. Conversely, Nicky Byrne – former pop star, professional goalkeeper, and presenter – and Ireland’s lack of qualification will make it harder to recruit stars in the future.
-Donny Montell got a measure of revenge after Kaliopi beat him in Baku (2012).
Lithuanian Flag Map-For the first time since 1970 (when all five did not participate), this will be the first time with one or fewer Nordic countries to be in a Final since Sweden joined Denmark in the Contest back in 1958.

My reactions:
Macedonia-Deeply saddened by Macedonia’s failed qualification, especially since Kaliopi is so awesome. I guess third time was not the charm, but I hope she returns in the future.
Israel-Surprised by Georgia’s qualification and taken off-guard by Israel’s. Though, I am most disappointed in Lithuania’s qualification (especially since neither Macedonia nor Norway made it).
Belgium-While I originally contended that Semi-Final One was stronger, after last night and the results, Semi-Final Two definitely was more entertaining and proved itself to have the harder hitting entries. Probably because it was much more competitive as fewer spots were uncertain.

Now that we have our qualifiers, there’s nothing to it but to do it! Tonight we have our Jury Final and tomorrow, the Grand Final! USAComplete with an unnecessary performance from Justin Timberlake. I am so excited to see who will win! Check back tomorrow for my reaction to the Jury Final and final predictions!

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Reaction to Second Dress Rehearsal (the Jury Show) of the Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

Belorussian Flag MapLast night was the second rehearsal of the second semi-final; the one the juries viewed and rated. Unlike Tuesday, the vocal performances were a bit scattered, but each staging was on point! There are definitely some cool uses of holograms, projectors, and lights throughout the 18 songs. Definitely another night to stay close to the screen.

There are, of course, some entries with work left to do.
Australian Flag MapAustralia – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dami Im probably has the best voice in the Contest this year. However, she struggled last night. She was out of tune for the first half of the song.Swiss Flag County

Switzerland & Slovenia both suffered similarly. They were either nervous or intimidated and it showed, thoroughly. Their performances lacked the same zeal that we saw in their national finals.

Slovenian Flag MapAll the automatic qualifiers had weak performances last night. I was particularly disappointed by Italy. She had such a great music video, but the staging was dull and she gave a soulless performance of the song. But the UK and Germany also disappointed in their performances. Hopefully, on Friday and Saturday, when they count the most, they’ll come through.Italian Flag Map

Surprisingly good was Belarus. I still think the song is weak, but the staging is quite nice! And IVAN performed really, really well.

Belgium also gave a great show and demonstrated why she was worthy of the final position.

My predictions are staying the same. Belgian Flag CountryMostly because, the songs with the most to overcome, Israel, Albania, and Belarus, while all gave fantastic performances, just didn’t do enough, I think, to bump any of the other ten out of qualifying. So, I think we’ll see: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Poland, and Ukraine again in the Final. What’re your predictions?

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ESC 2016 Reviews: Second Semi-Final, Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

Nine more semi-finalists to review! Once again, not as strong as the First Semi-Final, but definitely a lot of good songs. And definitely some interesting ones.

Second Semi-Final, Second Half

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Albanian flag country

 Albania

Eneda Tarifa

Fairytale

Televised

Thoughts:

I don’t understand why they decided to translate this song into English. The original Albanian was just fine – sure, the song’s composition needed a bit of retooling, but there was no need to change languages – especially since language does not seem to have much bearing on Albania’s final placing. I, personally, find this to be one of the more compelling, midtempo power ballads thus far, but I’m not sure how the song will translate to the ESC stage.
Belgian Flag Country

 Belgium

Laura Tesoro

What’s the Pressure

Televised

Thoughts:

So, apparently Tesoro is 19, even though she looks like she’s 12 and this sounds like something from JESC. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig the dynamite disco beat to this track. However, I’m not sure if the song has a mature enough sound to it; the lyrics are rather mundane. Nevertheless, the song is funky and fun and uplifting without being trite. It will be interesting to see Belgium send another dance heavy performance to ESC.
Bulgarian Flag Country

 Bulgaria

Poli Genova

If Love Was a Crime

Internal

Thoughts:

An interesting song. definitely better than Na Inat. Bulgaira, and Genova herself, are fresh off hosting the JESC and decided to take some of that production value and apply it here. This is the most mainstream song that I have ever heard Bulgaria present. In this weakened semi-final, I definitely think it will move through to the Grand Final – for only the second time in Bulgaria’s history!
Danish Flag Map

 Denmark

Lighthouse X

Soldiers of Love

Televised

Thoughts:

My initial thoughts on this song can be found in the DMGP 2016. Essentially, I like it a lot but thought that the Danes had stronger options available to them. This opinion remains unchanged after hearing it within the context of the Second Semi-Final. While each of the last two times the Contest was in Sweden, Denmark finished victorious, that streak will end this year. I am just hoping that this song qualifies for the Final.
Georgian Flag Map

 Georgia

Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz

Midnight Gold

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely a song that stands out! I’m shocked that this could win a national selection show; though, Georgia has shown that it is most definitely a land of experimental and eccentric artists, young and old. However, this might be too out there for the mainstream audience of the adult ESC. I am predicting this to languish behind in the semi-finals.
Norwegian Flag Map

 Norway

Agnete

Icebreaker

Televised

Thoughts:

“I’ll be your icebreaker/When you’re stuck in frozen water.” Really? Is this best that could be done? Also, anyone else think that the transition into the chorus is kind of awkward, like, the song stops and skips a bit, the first time, I thought something was wrong with my video feed. With that said, like Serbia, this song has that “sound” of a winner. And, we know that Norway’s first victory came on Swedish soil — in fact, Norway tends to do well in Sweden.
Romanian Flag Map

 Romania

Ovidiu Anton

Moment of Silence

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely an 80s rock opera inspired song; Queen immediately came to mind while listening to this song. I enjoyed it, but overall find it so-so. However, we know that Romania tends to do well as does 80s rock (generally), so I would bet for this song to move through to the Final.
Slovene Flag Map

 Slovenia

ManuElla

Blue and Red

Televised

Thoughts:

Another country song, a little poppier than the Netherlands, but definitely Nashville-inspired. I’m not quite sure what this song is about, though. Is she saying that she’s moved on and is happy that her ex is now blue (meaning sad)? Or is she saying that they’ve gone through ups and downs and now colors no longer matter because they have love and each other? The song is happy, but it could really go either way. Much like this entry’s odds at qualifying for the Final.
Ukrainian Flag Map

 Ukraine

Jamala

1944

Televised

Thoughts:

Hmmm…I’m surprised that they allowed this song to compete without a lyrics change. Officially, the song is about the forced migration of Crimeans to Central Asia by the USSR; the Crimean Tatar language portions are direct quotations from Jamala’s grandmother who lived through this event. However, it would be naïve to think that this song lacks a sharp, current context. It ends with her saying “Because you took away my peace/I couldn’t spend my youth there/I couldn’t enjoy my motherland.” This is clearly referencing Russia in Crimea, past and present. The fact that the EBU allowed it to stand as is shows Western Europe’s sympathy for the situation in Ukraine. This is my favorite song thus far between both semi-finals. I also think it well deserves a place in the Top Ten and that it will earn its spot there, as well.

*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)

Australia Ukraine
Belgium
Serbia
Bulgaria
Macedonia
Denmark Australia
Norway Belgium
Poland Denmark
Romania Norway
Serbia
Israel
Switzerland
Bulgaria
Ukraine Latvia

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

Serbia – A diva-driven song about getting over a relationship.Serbia Well performed, well written, and well composed. While I think this song will be limited depending on where it falls within the running order, it should most definitely be considered a stronger contender to win ESC and return the Contest to heart of the Balkan peninsula, probably either back to Belgrade or to Novi Sad.

NorwaySerbiaUkraine is the only song from the Second Semi-Final that I think has the ability to win (as I said, this is the weaker of the two). However, both Norway and Ukraine have really strong songs that I think will finish in the Top Ten.

**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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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!


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Break-Ups

Hello Dear Readers!

I thought this week, I would try something different. Instead of the usual twenty song playlist, I decided to craft two ten-song playlists – one for the heartbroken and one for heartbreakers. It’s no secret that Eurovision is full of love songs, but there are also quite a few anti-love songs. Here are twenty on both sides of the equation that I think are worth a listen. As a reminder, these songs come from the Televoting Era (1998 – onwards) with focus on recent years.

Songs for the Heartbroken

It’s never fun to be dumped — unless you can turn that pain into a successful song at Eurovision! These songs capture the anguish, remorse, loss, and pain that the end of a relationship can bring.


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for the Heartbroken

  1. DenmarkDenmark 2012 – Should’ve Known Better performed by Soluna Somay
  2. Serbia 2008 – Oro performed by Jelena Tomašević
  3. Cyprus 2010 – Life Looks Better in Spring performed by Jon Lilygreen and the Islanders
  4. Iceland 2009 – Is it True? performed by Yohanna
  5. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2007 – Rijeka Bez Imena performed by Maria
  6. GreeceGreece 2015 – One Last Breath performed by Maria Elena Kyriakou
  7. Sweden 2004 – It Hurts performed by Lena Philipsson
  8. Russia 2010 – Lost & Forgotten performed by Peter Nalitch and Friends
  9. France 2009 – S’Il Fallait le Faire performed by Patricia Kaas
  10. Serbia & Montenegro 2004 – Lane Moje performed by Željko Joksimović

Honorable Mention: United Kingdom 2002, Portugal 2003, Slovenia 2006, Serbia 2012, Cyprus 2015, Montenegro 2015

Eurovision for Heartbreakers

Not every relationship ends in despair, in fact, oftentimes, one person is happy that the relationship is over. Sometimes their emotions can be joy, relief, excitement — just happy to be free of a bad relationship. These songs are for those who are feeling great to be single.


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Heartbreakers

  1. GermanyGermany 2015 – Black Smoke performed by Ann Sophie
  2. Slovenia 2005 – Stop performed by Omar Naber
  3. Cyprus 2007 – Comme Çi, Comme Ça performed by Evridiki
  4. Italy 2012 – L’Amore È Femmina (Out of Love) performed by Nina Zilli
  5. Macedonia 2005 – Make My Day performed by Martin Vučić
  6. Slovenia 2011 – No One performed by Maja Keuc
  7. BelarusBelarus 2014 – Cheesecake performed by Teo
  8. Lithuania 2007 – Love or Leave performed by 4Fun
  9. Belgium 2013 – Love Kills performed by Roberto Bellarosa
  10. Denmark 2014 – Only Teardrops performed by Emmelie de Forest

Honorable Mention: Andorra 2006, Ukraine 2008, Denmark 2009, Poland 2011, Israel 2014, Estonia 2015

Fun Facts

  • Ballads of heartbreak and sadness are most known for coming from the former Yugoslav countries, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.Serbia Furthermore, one man, Željko Joksimović is behind some of the most famous and successful entries for these countries as composer and occasional performer:
    • 2004 – he performed Lane Moje, he won the semi-final but ultimately finished second
    • 2006 – he composed Lejla, which Hari Mata Hari performed for Bosnia & Herzegovina. This is not only my favorite ESC song ever, but its third place is the best BiH finish to date.
    • 2008 – in addition to hosting, he composed Serbia’s title defense effort Oro, finishing sixth.
    • 2012 – his triumphant return as a performed, he performed his self-composed entry Nije Ljubav Stvar, finishing in third place.
    • 2015 – he composed the Montengrin entry Adio, which only finished 13th, but is only the second Grand Final qualifier for Montenegro, and its highest ever finish.
  • As female-led songs become more popular, we’ll see more and more heartbreaker songs.
  • Interestingly enough, songs on both sides of the break-up spectrum range in tempo and tone.

The most recent previous list: Eurovision for Rockers
Next week: Eurovision for Baladeers


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Anglophobes

Hello Dear Readers!

Language has had a tough time at the Eurovision Song Contest. Songs could be in any language until the language rule was adopted in 1966; from that point on, songs had to be in an official language of the participating country. The rule was abolished from 1973-1977, but re-implemented from 1978. As the breadth of countries increased, the EBU saw a need to allow more freedom for participants. Starting in 1999, countries have since been able to compete in any language they wish. Almost immediately, English became the predominant language of the Contest, with a few holdouts (namely France and Portugal) generally sending entries in their own languages. Many choose to sing in English to broaden the appeal of their song; additionally, many argue that the language rule favors countries with English as an official language (the UK, Ireland, and Malta) and cite the unprecedented success of both Ireland and the UK in the 90s as examples. Interestingly enough, the only year that televoting and the language rule overlap, 1998, a non-English song (Diva, which was in Hebrew) won; however, all three English entries finished in the Top Ten.

Whether you long for the days of national languages appearing in full force or you just enjoy the breadth of diversity of the Contest, this week’s playlist is for you! It features 20 fan favorite (and personal favorite) entries of the Televoting-era (1998 onwards) that do not contain a single word in English. Enjoy!


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Anglophobes

  1. Spain 2001 – Dile Que la Quiero performed by David Civera

    One of Spain’s most popular and successful entries, this song decisively won Spain’s national selection and came in 6th place in Copenhagen. The song is a declaration of love and loyalty.

  2. Slovenia 2002 – Samo Ljubezen performed by Sestre

    SloveniaAs discussed in last week’s playlist, Dana International’s victory opened for more LGBTQ culture on the ESC stage. Sestre was a musical group comprised of three of Slovenia’s top drag queens. The title translates to “Only Love” and the song calls for everyone to love everyone else.

  3. Belgium 2003 – Sanomi performed by Urban Trad

    The infamous imaginary language entry, Sanomi came second to Turkey by two points in one of the Belgiumclosest Contests in history. There have been one and a half other entries in constructed languages. The Netherlands sent Amambanda in 2006, which was sung partially in Dutch and partially in a fictional language. Belgium again sent an imaginary language entry in 2008, O Julissi, but it failed to get out of its semi-final.

  4. Russia 2003 – Ne Ver’, Ne Boisia performed by t.A.T.u.

    The infamous t.A.T.u. took to the stage for Russia, one of the few artists to compete at the height of Russiatheir popularity. Coming in third, a mere three points from first place Turkey, there’s a lot that can be said about this entry. Focusing on the language, it’s worth noting that was only in Russian due to an error made by the delegation. This song, like much of t.A.T.u’s work, talks about standing out and against a society trying to tear you down.

  5. Serbia & Montenegro 2004 – Lane Moje performed by Željko Joksimović

    Winning the semi-final, but ultimately coming second in 2004, Lane Moje was the song that introduced the Contest (and the continent) to one of its most popular and successful stars: Željko Joksimović. He went on to compose three other Top Ten entries (BiH2006, SER2008, SER2012), Montenegro’s second qualifying and best placing entry (2015), and co-hosted the Contest in 2008, the first year with two semi-finals. Like every song composed by Jooksimović for the Contest, Lane Moje is about heartbreak and longing for a lost love.

  6. AndorraAndorra 2006 – Sense Tu performed by Jennifer

    My favorite Andorran entry, this song is sultry, its performance was sexy, and its lyrics tell a good story. Unfortunately, it finished last in the semi-final. This entry is a song of empowerment, as Jennifer sings about moving on from a bad relationship.

  7. CyprusCyprus 2007 – Comme Çi, Comme Ça performed by Evridiki

    Rarely does a country submit a song in a language that is neither its own nor English. 2007 saw three such entries – Romania (which contained six languages), Latvia (sung in Italian), and Cyprus’ French language rock song. Despite not qualifying for the Final, this entry is one of the most popular from the 2007 ESC and from Cyprus, winning several fan awards after the Contest. The song describes a so-so (bland) relationship that has grown stale and Evridiki’s intentions of leaving because of it.

  8. Bulgaria 2007 – Voda performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankoulov

    BulgariaThe one and only entry from Bulgaria to qualify for the Grand Final, Voda features two of the most prominent percussionist in the country. The song stands out for its trance composition and the traditional folk style of the singing. It finished fourth in Helsinki. The song, written in a folk tradition, is about s search for life’s meaning using thirsting after water as a metaphor.

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

    PortugalThe first time that Portugal ever qualified from a semi-final, this haunting song sparked a three year run of qualifications for the much maligned country. The song captures the painful sorrow of a woman waiting for her husband to return from going out to sea – much appropriate for Fernandes, who is from an island off the coast of Portugal.

  10. Spain 2008 – Baila Chiki Chiki performed by Rodolfo Chikilicuatre

    SpainOne of the most pronounced gimmick entries to take the ESC stage, Baila Chiki Chiki is fun song crafted by its comedian artist. It teaches a four part dance to the audience.

  11. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009 – Bistra Voda performed by Regina

    The second Bosnian song to the Macel Bezençon Composer Award, this rock Bosnia & Herzegovinaentry is perhaps the biggest fan favorite from the country. Despite lyrics that may or may not harken back to the days of Communism, the song remains a Contest classic.

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

    One of the most popular and well-known singers from France, Patricia Kaas performed the song that most recently landed France in the Top Ten. The tale of all-consuming love was a major favorite among the juries.

  13. GreeceGreece 2010 – Opa! performed by Giorgos Alkaios & Friends

    The first Greek entry in Greek since the language rule was lifted, maintained the nation’s streak of Top Ten placings. Interestingly enough, Giorgos Alkaios, who is much better known for his ballads, wrote this song of overcoming the past with the hopes of finding a new young artist to sing it. Not finding a suitable performer, he took the song to Oslo, himself.

  14. FinlandFinland 2010 – Tyolla Elää performed by Kuunkuiskaajat

    A fun song, this is the most recent entry to take the stage in Finnish. Despite having a large fan following, the song failed to make the Grand Final.

  15. Albania 2012 – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

    The only song with a title in Latin in ESC history, this song shattered perceptions about what “a ESC song” should sound like. Nishliu’s unique voice conveys heartache like few others.

  16. MacedoniaMacedonia 2012 – Crno i Belo performed by Kaliopi

    One of the few qualifications for Macedonia, Crno i Belo marks the return of Kaliopi who was the singer of the Macedonian song in the 1996 preselection, Samo Ti. This song was written by her ex-husband and is, understandably, about a fracturing relationship.

  17. Italy 2013 – L’Essenziale performed by Marco Mengoni

    A epic song of love, this entry was third consecutive Top Ten finish for Italy. Mengoni insisted that the song remain wholly in Italian, making it the first to do so since Italy’s return in 2011.

  18. HungaryHungary 2013 – Kedvedsem (Zoohacker Remix) performed by Bye.Alex

    Only Hungary’s third Top Ten song, Kedvedsem was wildly popular for its catchy melody and easy to sing-along to lyrics. The title translates to “Sweetheart” and is a love song to the unique girl that captured Bye.Alex’s heart.

  19. Montenegro 2014 – Moj Svijet performed by Sergej Ćetković

    The first-ever Montenegrin to qualify for the Grand Final. This gentle song talks of a world of peace, understanding, and love. The performance also features a dancer on rollerblades made to look like an ice skater.

  20. FranceFrance 2014 – Moustache performed by TWIN TWIN

    The first time ever that France finished in last place, this rap song tells the story of man who has everything but the one thing he wants: a mustache.

Honorable Mention: Italy 2015, Portugal 2014, France 2013, Finland 2012, Estonia 2012, Austria 2012, Estonia 2009, Russia 2009, Albania 2008, Latvia 2007, Slovenia 2007

Fun Trivia

  • The United Kingdom, despite having a vast array of languages represented within its population has never submitted a song that was not in English.

  • Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are the only countries to never submit a song that was not at least partially in a national language.

  • Ireland and Malta have only strayed from English once.

  • Sweden and Denmark have clauses where winning songs must be translated into English regardless of the original language of the entry.

  • Finland’s most recent non-English song was När Jag Blundar, which was sung in Swedish!

What are your favorite non-English language songs?

Missed last week’s playlist? Eurovision for Beginners
Next week, we’ll be looking at Eurovision for Dance Parties!


Eurovision 2015 – Four Weeks Later

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

Best Lyrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Armenia

Best Dressed Award

 

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

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

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

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

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

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

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

Best Staging Award

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

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

Honorable Mention: Latvia, Sweden, Estonia

Worst Staging Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Iceland, Estonia, Ireland

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Cyprus, Italy, Ireland

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: The United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Hungary moving through to the Grand Final

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


First Reactions to the Eurovision 2015 Grand Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was. It simply was.

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

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

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