Posts tagged “Cyprus

ESC2016 – Final Pre-Contest Thoughts and Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

And just like that, another Eurovision week is upon us! I write this from the plane on my way to Stockholm and I can barely contain my excitement. This year, we see an increase in uptempo songs, a decrease in national languages, and ample amounts of awesome. Let’s take a dive into some of our final thoughts, opinions, and predictions heading into Contest.

New Hope for Poor Performers

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For the first time since 2011 (and I would argue since 2003), France has a legitimate shot at winning the Contest. Even you remember, I’ve previously picked France as the winner of this year’s Contest. It has been steadily rising in the betting odds since March and has been topping fan polls across the Internet, including the famed OGAE fan club poll which has historically picked the winner more often then not (though, everything after the first position tends to range wildly). France brings a song with an enthusiastic performer who respects and enjoys the Contest, lyrics that are fun and catchy, and a composition that’s highly contagious. Even if France doesn’t win, it’s bound to get its best placing since 2009 (its last time in the Top Ten) and possibly even since 1991 (its last time in the top three).

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Other countries with poor track records are also poised to achieve new heights. The Czech Republic looks like it will easily qualify for the Final, which, if achieved, would be a first for the country. The Czech Republic is the only competing nation this year to never reach the Final.  My love for the song has been quite evident on this blog, and I still contend that it is a real dark horse this year that, cannot only give the CR its best finish to date, but truly challenge for the victory.

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Bulgaria also is poised for new heights. Bulgaria has reached the Final only once before, 2007, but when it did, it finished in the Top Ten. This looks like it will be the case once more. If Love was a Crime is immensely popular, as is its performer Poli Genova (who’s fresh off hosting duties for JESC), and is the first instance of Bulgaria being in the betting odds’ top ten heading into the Contest. Expect another Bulgarian success story.

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Finally, Croatia has been steadily collecting fans and support over the past few months. While it has not received the same attention it once did, Lighthouse is poised to bring Croatia back to the Final for the first time since 2009.

Missing Expectations

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I don’t want to spend too much time here, as I don’t wish poor on anyone. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least think about some songs currently slated to do well that will fall flat. First, Italy has been a hot topic ever since the selection was announced. Even though Italy has not been a heavy favorite to win, it has been hovering between 8th and 12th in the bookies’ odds and featured heavily in fan discussions across the web. However, I just don’t think that the song has the immediacy needed to succeed in a Contest mostly determined by folks seeing the song for the first time. One needs to listen and relisten to No Degree of Separation to truly appreciate it, a requirement that most of the viewing audience will not have fulfilled. CyprusCyprus has become a popular pick for those looking outside the heavy favorites for a candidate. It is considered the strongest rock entry this year and features a lead singer who has recently started making a name for himself in Western Europe via France’s version of The Voice. However, the song is still poppy enough to not truly distinguish itself from the competition. It will need a strong, memorable performance in order to qualify and I am currently not confident in predicting this.

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Malta seems to be losing favor rapidly. When Walk on Water was initially announced, it was immediately considered a serious contender to win. There was serious conversation back in March about the Contest being in Malta so soon after the country hosted the JESC (which it will do again this fall). However, since then, it has steadily fell in the bookies’ odds and now, not only sits outside the top ten but is predicted to struggle to qualify, a stark contrast to conversations just weeks ago.

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Finally, Sweden has been on the exact opposite ride as France. When If I were Sorry won Melodifesrevalen, it was immediately a serious contender to win. This was the conversations held around the fan community, the news media, and the bookies injected Sweden right behind heavy favorite Russia. However, since then, Sweden has consistently been falling in the odds and losing steam among the fan community. What looked to be an easy Top Ten placing just a few weeks ago now looks like it will be a struggle to receive a respectable placing.

Unpopular Opinion

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So, let’s face it. Moldova has one of the weakest entries this year. The song is trite and predictable. Lidia Isac, while she is beautiful and appears to be super sweet, is not the right singer for this tune. With that said, Moldova is best poised to capitalize on Romania’s unexpected absence. Since Moldovans and Romanians have a shared cultural history, it is fair to think that Moldova would do better than expected on this alone. Now, with Romania being removed at the last second, it stands to gain the near entirety of support from a diaspora that has made Romania one of the few countries to never miss the Final. So, do not be surprised when you see Falling Stars on Saturday night – though, expect it to fall flat in the Final.

So, finally, who do I predict to qualify from each semi-final?

First Semi-Final
(In alphabetical order)

Second Semi-Final
(Also in alphabetical order)

Armenia

Australia

Azerbaijan

Belgium

Croatia

Bulgaria

Czech Republic

Latvia

Iceland

Lithuania

Hungary

Macedonia

Malta

Norway

Moldova

Poland

The Netherlands

Serbia

Russia

Ukraine

And more importanlty, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? (Also alphabetical)
Armenia, Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Spain, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine

Most importantly, who’s going to win?!
Well, my heart says Czech Republic, as it is the best full package we are being presented with this year. However, if I were to place a bet, my money would be on France for all the reasons mentioned above. Moreover, it is one of the most memorable songs this year,which is quite a feat. All it needs is a decent place in the running order (which isn’t a guarantee with SVT) to all but seal its victory. Next year in Paris?

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Stay tuned. I’ll be posting my annual ESC notes tomorrow (with a return of the country profiles!) As well as updated predictions after each dress rehearsal and a reaction after each show. It’s bound to be an another great year for the Eurovision Song Contest!

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ESC 2016 Reviews: First Semi-Final, Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

First Semi-Final, Second Half

Country

Performing Artist Song Selection*
Austrian Flag Map

Austria

Zoë

Loin d’ici (Far from Here)

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Azerbaijan

Samra

Miracle

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala

Ljubav je (Love Is)

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Cyprus

Minus One

Alter Ego

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Czech Republic

Gabriela Gunčíková

I Stand

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Estonia

Jüri Pootsmann

Play

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Iceland

Greta Salóme

Hear Them Calling

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Malta

Ira Losco

Walk on Water

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Montenegro

Highway

The Real Thing

Internal

Thoughts:

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

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

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

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision 2016 – And so it begins!

esc2016

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Balladeers!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

May this year bring you much love to light your lives, much hope to embolden your spirits, and laughter to brighten your days (and nights)!

This week, we turn our gaze to the most notorious of ESC genres: ballads! Historically, “ballads” were stories that were sung. People who sung these stories were called “troubadours” (much like the title of Dutch winner from 1969). Over time, the term “ballad” became more associated with the musical style than the lyrical content, particularly since most were stories love.

The music style is typified, generally, by a slow pace, a lack of musical complexity, and usually only one (or two) primary vocalist. Since the beginning, this has been the dominant musical genre of ESC entries, to the chagrin of some (who prefer more uptempo songs), but to the joy of many! This week, for the final Playlist of the Week, the focus is on ballads.

Once again, twenty songs from the Televoting Era (post 1998) of the Eurovision Song Contest. I curated this list to provide an array of ballads, some are the traditional story style, most are slow, heartfelt love songs. All are ballads. Enjoy!

View the playlist here: Eurovision for Balladeers

  1. Poland 2008PolandFor Life performed by Isis Gee

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

  3. Estonia 2012 – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

  4. Monaco 2005 – Tout de Moi performed by Lise Darly

  5. Italy 2011 – Madness of Love performed by Raphael Gualazzi

  6. Cyprus 2004 – Stronger Every Minute performed by Lisa Angel

  7. Hungary 2007 – Unsubstantial Blues performed by Magdi Rúzsa

    Monaco

  8. France 2001 – Je N’Ail Que Mon Âme performed by Natasha St-Pier

  9. Romania 2009 – Pe-O Margien De Lume performed by Nico & Vlad

  10. Spain 2012 – Quédate Conmigo (Stay with Me) performed by Pastora Soler

  11. Malta 2005 – Angel performed by Chiara

  12. Portugal 2009 – Todas as Ruas do Amor performed by Flor-De-Lis

  13. Azerbaijan 2015 – Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Huseynov

  14. Ireland 2010 – It’s for You performed by Niamh Kavanagh

    Spain

  15. United Kingdom 2002 – Come Back performed by Jessica Garlic

  16. Israel 2005 – Hasheket Shinish’ar performed by Shiri Maimon

  17. Germany 2004 – Can’t Wait Until Tonight performed by Max

  18. Sweden 2014 – Undo performed by Sanna Nielsen

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

  20. Sweden 2006 – Invincible performed by Carola

    United Kingdom

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS!

United Kingdom 1998, Slovenia 1999, Denmark 2002, Azerbaijan 2011, Finland 2012

What are some of your favorite ballads from the Contest’s recent history? What about from the early years, when almost every song every year was a ballad? Is there a decade of ballad style that particularly speaks to you?