Posts tagged “denmark

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Americans

USA flag in EO logo

Hello Dear Readers!

Well, with Netflix releasing its…. Eurovision-inspired movie; I thought, “What better time to counterbalance the image of ESC being a trashy, campy, dumpster fire?” USA flag in EO logoEven more so now that the new executive supervisor, Martin Österdahl, has announced that he’s continuing the tradition of putting style-before-substance. But now is not the time for a rant (but there will be one – promise!).

Instead, since many Americans will be learning about Eurovision for the first time this week, I thought it would be a good idea to 1) remind folks of my Eurovision for Beginners, 2) remind folks of my Essential Eurovision playlist, and 3) create a Eurovision for Americans playlist highlighting the performing artists coming from the States, spent significant time in the US, or otherwise are American citizens regardless of where they spent their youth.

  1. EO logo with Union JackUnited Kingdom 1997 – Love Shine a Light performed by Katrina & the Waves

    The only winning song to be performed by an American! Katrina, who is from Kansas, and the Waves are also known for their hit Walking on Sunshine.

  2. Portugal 2017 – Amar Pelos Dois performed by Salvador Sobral

    Sobral (and his older sister who wrote the song) spent his middle and high school years in Florida

  3. Hungary 2014 – Running performed by András Kállay-Saunders

    Saunders was born and raised in New York City before moving to Hungary, where his grandmother was, and began his music career.

  4. Austria 2000 – All to You performed by The Rounder Girls

    Kim Cooper of the Rounder Girls is from Long Island, NY.

  5. Italy 1975 – Era performed by Wess & Dori Ghezzi

    Before pursuing his music career in Italy, Wess spent his life in Winston-Salem, NC. in 2009, he passed away in his hometown.

  6. EO logo with Albanian flagAlbania 2011 – Feel the Passion performed by Aurela Gaçe

    After building her career in Albania, Gaçe spent the majority of 21st Century in the US engaging with the Albanian immigrant community.

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

    Oscar Loya is a singer and thespian from California. Bonus American! Dita Von Teese joined Alex and Oscar on the stage in Moscow.

  8. Yugoslavia 1990 – Hajde Da Ludujemo performed by Tajci

    Tajci retired from music soon after her appearance at Eurovision and moved to the US where she eventually settled in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  9. Greece 2008 – Secret Combination performed by Kalomira

    Former prom queen Kalomira is from Long Island, NY.

  10. Israel 2006 – Ze Hazman performed by Eddie Butler

    Butler and his brother also were a part of the group representing Israel on home soil in 1999. Butler is from Detroit.

  11. Cyprus 2020 – Running performed Sandro

    Born in Germany, Sandro’s American citizenship comes from his father. Sandro represented the USA at the prestigious New Wave Festival in 2009.

  12. EO logo with Austrian flagAustria 2013 – Shine performed by Natália Kelly

    While Kelly spent the majority of her life in Austria, she was born in Connecticut.

  13. Poland 2008 – For Life performed by Isis Gee

    Originally from Seattle, but now based equally in California and Italy, Gee represented the land of her ancestors.

  14. Bulgaria 2018 – Bones performed by EQUINOX

    LA-based producer and singer Trey Campbell and Flint, Michigan native & America’s Got Talent alum Johnny Manuel comprised two-fifths of the group EQUINOX.

  15. United Kingdom 2009 – It’s My Time performed by Jade Ewen

    The UK’s most recent foray into the Top Ten was, in part, provided by American lyricist Diane Warren.

  16. EO logo with Luxembourgish flagLuxembourg 1979 – J’ai Déjà Vu ça Dans Tes Yeux performed by Jeane Manson

    Manson, from Cleveland, OH, built a career as a model before entering music.

  17. San Marino 2017 – Spirit of the Night performed by Jimmie Wilson & Valentina Monetta

    Primarily an actor in musicals, Wilson is a Detroit native.

  18. Slovenia 2013 – Straight into Love performed by Hannah

    Hannah is from Fresno, CA, love took her to Slovenia, where her music career took hold.

  19. Cyprus 2006 – Why Angels Cry performed by Annet Artani

    Artani comes from America’s biggest city: New York, NY.

  20. Sweden 2020 – Move performed by The Mamas

    Member Ashley Haynes is from the US capital: Washington, DC.

  21. Albania 2017 – World performed by Lindita

    Lindita is from Kosovo, but moved to the US in 2013 and even took part in American Idol in 2016.

  22. Serbia 2020 – Hasta la Vista performed by Hurricane

    While none of the three singers in Hurricane are American, the group was formed in LA and remains based there.

  23. EO logo with Danish flagDenmark 1981 – Krøller Eller Ej performed by Tommy Seebach & Debbie Cameron

    Cameron comes from Miami, FL where she grew up and attended university before moving to Copenhagen.

  24. Germany 2010 – Satellite performed by Lena

    Another songwriter, this time Chicago-based Julie Frost, co-wrote and co-composed the only winning song – thus far – from the Big Five since the rule was instituted (she also wrote the 2012 DMGP entry Best Thing that I Got).

 

Additionally, I will be starting a series focused on American Eurovision media outlets and organizations, both those based in the US and those started by Americans in Europe. You can read the first entry which focuses on Eurovision Obsession, which you can consider an extended “About EO” page.

Many thanks goes to the WiwiBloggs article that served as the jumping off point for my research for this playlist.


Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

Here we are! Eurovision Song Celebration Part Two! Celebrating the remaining the twenty-one songs of the 2020 Contest. Once again, I’ll be providing live commentary since I’ve not had occasion to release my thoughts on the songs previously. Like on Tuesday, my comments are below the video.

Greek flag mapGreece I think this is a serviceable pop song, definitely hearkens back Greece’s heyday in the 2000s. It definitely would have qualified but I’m not sure it would have been enough to restore Greece to the Top Ten.

Estonia I think this song is critically underrated. It is a powerful love song that I would happily have a first dance to. I am not quite sure why the fandom does not like this song, but I think it would definitely outperform expectations, though, likely would not have qualified.

Austria One of my favorites this year! I love the 90s R&B sound of this song and I think Vincent Bueno would have been a fantastic performer on the ESC stage. I look forward to seeing what he brings in 2021. I think this had a strong chance of qualifying, particularly with the large diasporas from Southeast Asian countries that would get behind him.

Moldova Another criminally underrated entry from this year. I think the overwhelming consensus is that this song is fine, but desperately average (think Cyprus from Tuesday night). I think this song is fantastic – engaging, interesting, and powerful. Unfortunately, I know I’m in the minority holding that opinion, so I do not think it would qualify.

Sammarinese flag mapSan Marino This is an interesting choice for the running order. But given how unique this song is (disco! likely a stage show with lots of glitter), it was probably difficult to find a place in the running order for it. For what it’s worth, this song really grew on me. Longtime readers will know that, in addition to Denmark, San Marino is my country of choice at Eurovision. Initially, I hated Freaky! but over the course of the past six weeks or so, I have just been utterly taken over by its infectious melody and refrain. Could have been a borderline qualifier for SM, which would be its first back-to-back qualification.

Interval — Ukraine was only 50% not English. Portugal 2017 was one of only three 100% non-English songs to win in the televoting era (Israel 1998 and Serbia 2007). With that said, generally speaking, the non-English to English ratio of songs in the Top Ten and qualifications tend to be representative. I really do love hearing these native language versions of songs and wish broadcasters made it a habit of recording and releasing the native language version when the song is in English/some other language.

Czech Republic I believe I am one of the three people in the fandom who think the song was improved by its “Africa” revamp that added more guitar and adjusted the instrumentation overall. I think it gives the song a bit more of an authentic feel and I hope he further embraces his Angolan roots in his song next year. The African diaspora is quite large. Not sure if this would qualify, especially coming after the glitter bomb that is San Marino and before the ball of female fury that is Serbia, but I think it would sneak through.

Serbia On the opposite side of the revamp spectrum, the revamp of Hasta la Vista is not as strong as the original. Not that it matters as I think would be a shoo-in qualifier. It’s memorable, it’s fierce, and all the girls (and gay bois) would send this through.

Poland One of my favorites this year. It is such a powerful song with a powerful message. It reminds me of the Shelley poem “Ozymandias” – basically, no matter how strong, how invincible, how beloved, we all fade away. This song goes the extra mile to highlight that we fall because of our hubris – we think we’re unstoppable, but we’re merely mortal. Do hate the revamped ending, it’s lame and takes away from the song, especially since she’s not the strongest live performer. I’m not sure what to make of Poland’s chances of qualification.

Iceland You don’t need me to tell you how popular Iceland is – y’all voted it the champion of EO’s inaugural Eurovision Tournament! I love this song, one of my absolute favorites this year and I think it had a very legitimate chance at victory. I wonder if RÚV is paying attention to all the love Think About Things is getting; the band has already said that they would take a direct ticket to Eurovision next year, but would not go through thr national selection process again, so, we’ll see.

Switzerland WHOA! This was one of the big favorites and it is the first song of the back half. Interesting choice, producers. This is my favorite song this year. By a lot. It’s so vulnerable, so honest, so different than anything else this year. With that said, I do not think it would win, but it would have secured Switzerland its first back-to-back Top Ten finishes since the early 1980s.

Interval If you haven’t watched the Eurovision Home Concerts, I would STRONGLY recommend it. They’re fantastic. Also, I love that they used Stand By, my favorite Sammarinese song, for Senhit’s background music.

Denmark The only folksy/country song this year. That automatically helps it stand out, even though it sounds like something from the early 2010s. I like this song quite a bit; it’s just so adorable and earnest. And Ben + Tan have great chemistry together. It breaks my heart that they won’t be able to return next year (DR very strictly uses Dansk Melodi Grand Prix to choose entries and winners of DMGP have to wait like three years or so before they’re allowed back in). I think this would have been another sure qualifier.

Albanian flag mapAlbania RTVSh – don’t think we didn’t notice that you released this music video, like, yesterday in order to have this out for the Celebration. I like this song for a lot of the same reasons I like Poland – it is a powerful song with a powerful message – this time about self-empowerment in the face of someone who is emotionally abusive. While I think this should be an easy qualifier, I’m not sure it would stand out without a stage show that matched its intensity.

Finland Another criminally underrated song. It’s the perfect anthem for the age of nostalgia that we find ourselves in – even more so as this pandemic has forced us to start thinking about our own mortality and futures. I cannot help but wonder how people would feel if he was a conventionally-attractive guy as opposed to bigger guy with a bad mustache. He sings with such power, emotion, and authenticity. I think it could have been a shock qualifier, but not sure it would have the juice to do so, particularly in this running order – with Albania hitting a lot of the same (figurative) notes and Armenia coming behind with what was sure to be a stunning stage show.

Armenia The more I hear this song, the more I think it would finish Top Ten. It is criminally infectious, they would surely have an insane dance routine that likely would have included Athena walking several boys on chains made from diamonds, and it’s one of the few true club tracks songs we have this year. And, again, who doesn’t like a song about a girl threatening a boy with marriage?

Portugal Oh, poor Portugal. This national final performance is both, flat in pitch and flat in emotionality. Which is a shame, I think the studio version of this entry is absolutely stunning. I just think Elisa has the stage presence to compete on the ESC stage, which makes it difficult to succeed – even more so when you have a ballad that requires a lot of power behind it.

Georgia I try my best to avoid speaking when I have nothing nice to say…but…I am not a fan of this song. I understand that it’s a big “F* YOU!” to Western Europe, which I understand and can see why that is message that needs sending. But I just don’t this song at all. The most positive thing I think to say is that the harmonies on the chorus are really stirring and powerful. When it appears on my playlist, I just skip to the last sixty seconds and enjoy it from there. This would likely qualify given that this is a sentiment felt across most of Eastern Europe and Georgia has Armenia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Poland, Albania, Latvia, Estonia, and the Czech Republic to support it in its message – not to mention the diasporas of those countries in the West.

Bulgaria The big favorite of the bookies. It was the selection of this song that knocked Iceland off the top of the betting odds. VICTORIA definitely captures that Billie Eilish bedroom-dream-pop sound that’s quite popular right now, but is somehow more genuine than her more famous counterpart. Now, do I like this as much as I do its nearest competitor (Romania)? No. But it’s a good song and I see why it was atop the betting odds. I think it’s an easy qualifier, not sure it could win.

Latvian flag mapLatvia Our final competitive song for Semi2, an anthem about throwing off the shackles of expectations of womanhood overtop a sick beat. Yeah, I cannot imagine a world where this does not qualify.

France Ugh. I want to like song but dear God does it drone on. I like it better in the original, where it’s a love song to France and not to a specific lady. While likely not a last place entry, France would have dropped to the bottom of the Big Five.

United Kingdom An average song. It’s in offensive and would likely secure a decent amount of 1-4 points splattered from across Europe (mostly from Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, and Australia – but, you know). Here’s the thing, James Newman has written several hits and has two Grammy nominations. That’s the kind of stuff he needs to bring, not this neutered stuff. In all likelihood, the BBC will bring him back next year. They need to set him loose to write a song that could actually do something.

Spain This is another wasted opportunity, I think. He’s one of Spain’s biggest stars and they send him with a (good but) dated tune. It’s okay to give him something dated, but you got to make sure it slaps, and this does not. I know this is already somewhat club-track-esque, next year send him something that we could hear playing in the clubs tonight! They can keep this style while still kicking the composition up a notch….or three.

Another great show! Again, LOVE the fan recap. Is there a way to find the full version of those three girls doing the Latvian song?

Looking back, if this were a competitive show, who do I think would qualify?

Easily:

  • Greece

  • Iceland

  • Switzerland

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Latvia

  • Bulgaria

More difficult: I honestly think just about every remaining entry has a legitimate shot at qualifying, but, if push came to shove:

  • Serbia

  • Poland

  • Georgia

I would prefer to see some other songs in there instead, but I think this is the most likely set of qualifiers. But what are my top ten from tonight? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Switzerland

  2. Poland

  3. Latvia

  4. Austria

  5. Iceland

  6. Denmark

  7. Albania

  8. Moldova

  9. San Marino

  10. Armenia

Now that we have heard all 41 songs in context, what is my final Top Ten of the Eurovision 2020 Season. Good question! I’ll figure this out while I’m calculating a winner from among the some of the major fan media polls.

OH! I’m going to be compiling seven of the biggest fan media polls that offered alternatives to the ESC this year, including Eurostream, Eurovision Online, WiwiBloggs, and OGAE. Check back next week (assuming everyone gets their results in by Sunday) to find out who I would crown the unofficial ESC 2020 winner.

In the meantime, what are my predictions? I think the Top Ten, remembering that this is a compilation of fan polls not the actual Contest with full professional juries and casual folks, will be:

  • Armenia

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • Iceland

  • Italy

  • Lithuania

  • Malta

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

Who do I think has an actual chance at victory? I do not think it will be any surprise: Iceland, Lithuania, and Bulgaria are the three songs I think have the best chance at victory. A real hot take, I know. So, I won’t waste your time going through each song’s merits at this point other than – these seem to be the three most beloved songs of 2020.

See you next week!

EO logo with the Bulgarian flag

EO logo with Icelandic flag

EO logo with Lithuanian flag


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 – Grand Final Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

The time is finally here – the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019!!! I cannot believe it and I am beyond excited – as I am sure all of you are. Thank you for joining me for these live notes, it is always nice knowing that there are others watching with me (or, at least, reading them afterwards).

As I mentioned earlier today, my prediction for tonight’s winner is The Netherlands. And my prediction for the full Top Ten is:

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Switzerland

  3. Australia

  4. Italy

  5. Sweden

  6. Iceland

  7. Malta

  8. Russia

  9. Norway

  10. Serbia

And my prediction for last place is: Germany. As with the semi-finals, this may change after seeing all twenty six songs tonight. And, before the show kicks off, I want to let everyone know that I will be featured on KUSH 1600AM at 8am US Central Time on Monday (20 May) (of Cushing, Oklahoma, USA) and joining the EuroWhat? Podcast this upcoming week to talk with Ben and Mike about this year’s results!

And, with that, we now have the beginning of the Grand Final. Let’s watch, shall we – here we go!

Opening Act

Oh, wow, I enjoy this little opening video with Jon Ola Sand and Netta. The parade of nations is a lot of fun. Diva!!!! Woohoo! Winner twenty years ago and the first to win with the televote. For those who do not know, this is Ilanit singing Ey Sham – the first ever Eurovision entry from Israel back in 1973. And now Golden Boy from 2015. Anyone who remembers this song had to expect it to be here tonight. I do enjoy how KAN (the brand name of the host broadcast IPBC) is interweaving history and old clips throughout the shows.

HERE WE GO!

Malta: Not as strong vocally as Thursday, but much better energy. I think enough to land it in the Top Ten.

Albania: Again, I love her dress. And WOW – her vocals are so much stronger than on Monday. Not sure if this is enough to get Top Ten, but she will probably do better than expected.

Czech Republic: So much fun! You can tell they are having a great time up there. Still going to finish mid-table, I think, but they’re going to be remembered for a while as one of the most fun entries to the Contest.

Germany: I missed most of it due to technical difficulties. But what I heard was great! I still don’t know if this song is all that popular, but they should be proud of what they accomplished.

Russia: He sounds miles better than he did on Thursday…for the most part. But this is song and staging are both much weaker than his previous entry and this year presents many more challenges.

Denmark: So much fun. And we know children’s songs do well. And she sounds better than Thursday; less lost on the big stage. Is it enough to finish higher than 14th? Probably not.

San Marino: We know that I am a shill for all things San Marino. Serhat sounds miles better than on Tuesday. Several friends are pointing out to me that they may be going for the “so bad it’s good” vote. You cannot deny that this song is pure energy

North Macedonia: She’s going for tears, but it just makes her voice sound wonky. But, the power of her voice is still unquestioned. This song, it’s so deep and she is conveying the passion she’s feeling behind it so thoroughly. Oh my goodness, I don’t think this could be any better.

Sweden: Another performance, another easy Top Ten for the Swedes. I still do not think this will win, but it’s going to do very well.

Slovenia: Sounding a bit off tonight. I originally had this finishing around eleventh. But I’m thinking it’s going to be lower than that with this performance.

Cyprus: Unpopular opinion: This song will not finish on left-hand side of the scoreboard. It is and average song, but there are much stronger faster entries this year that will knock this down.

The Netherlands: My pick to win. And my favorite entry this year. His passion and performace are about 1000x better than Thursday. Is it enough, though? This early in the running order….not sure. But I hope so! We’ll see how some of the other favorites do later tonight.

Greece: Much better than on Tuesday, by miles. Greece might just go and fill the hole left by Slovenia. It can finish around 11th, I think.

Israel: Meh. He sings this song just fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a smug, self-important song with a smug, self-important presentation. And we’re getting a better version of that later with France.

Norway: A fun song; though, I still do not quite understand this song’s popularity. I still think this a very underwhelming staging for such a dynamic song. Clearly the crowd is very much into this! Though, that is rarely an indicator of success.

United Kingdom: This song has one chance, Michael Rice gives a flawless, powerful vocal performance. …And we did not get that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s serviceable, but he’s performed better at the preview events. It had some bright moments, but overall, I do not think it will be enough. It benefits from being before a commercial break, but still.

Iceland: Well, they sound and look better than on Tuesday. Definitely going to do well with the televote but the juries will kill this.

Estonia: Well, he sounds a lot better than Tuesday, but still not very good. It does get better as it goes along. But this just is not good. And will be forgotten coming between Iceland and Belarus.

Belarus: That was good. Not great, but definitely not bad. On par with her performance on Tuesday. Maybe Belarus will finish mid-table, but I cannot see any higher than that.

Azerbaijan: I love that wail at the start. I think this will do so much better than I thought, perhaps even finish Top Ten. Chigiz’ vocal performance was beyond perfect.

France: See, Israel, this is how you do a smug and self-important song. It’s fun, powerful, and completely lacks self-awareness. France will not finish Top Ten, but it might get another 11th under its belt.

Italy: WHAT IS HE WEARING?! That shirt is awful. The song is a powerful one and his performance of it conveyed a lot of that energy. I’m just not sure if it has the mass appeal or connection required to succeed.

Serbia: Another powerful, passionate performance. I truly think she can reach the Top Ten. It’s going to be hard with the Swiss entry coming right behind, but still, this is a Balkan ballad at its best.

Switzerland: By far, the best staging at the Contest this year. We may have just witnessed a winning performance, everyone. That was fun, well-delivered, and very contemporary. I think it will easily take the televote; but not sure how the juries will rate it.

Australia: If Switzerland has the best staging, this is right behind it. But with a higher quality song and a stronger singer. This may have been a winning performance and may have knocked the Netherlands out of the top of the juries list; but not sure how the televote (which traditionally does not like Australia) will rate it.

Spain: He sounds a bit out of breath. But this song is still super fun. I don’t understand the use of the light up puppet man. Not sure if this is enough to get into the Top Ten, but should give Spain a more than respectable finish.

Phew! This may not be one of the top Contests ever, but it surely is one of the hardest to predict. After hearing all the songs and hearing the recap, how I would rate my personal top ten from tonight:

  1. Azerbaijan

  2. The Netherlands

  3. Serbia

  4. North Macedonia

  5. Australia

  6. Malta

  7. Czech Republic

  8. Russia

  9. Spain

  10. France

Now, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? Not sure…

10. Serbia
9. Spain
8. Norway
7. Sweden
6. Russia
5. Italy
4. Iceland
3. Switzerland
2. Australia
1. The Netherlands

I’m sticking to my guns!! I think The Netherlands will win but, more like how Ukraine did in 2017, by placing second/third on both, the televote and the juries. I think Switzerland will win the televote and Australia will win the juries. Let’s see what happens.

Interval Act One (during the voting – past winners and runner-ups): I LOVE THIS INTERVAL ACT. I want the recordings of these folks doing these covers. EBU – I will give you money for this. Please make it available. One of the best interval acts to date.

Interval Act Two (also during the voting – The Idan Raichel Project): I really like this! Very traditional music and sound and look; also showing off the diversity of Israel. This should have opened the second semi-final so that we could speed things up tonight.

Interval Act Three (also during the voting – The Mentalist): Yeah, yeah, it’s entertaining. The fun part was seeing Tamta from Cyprus freak out. Hahaha

Interval Act Four (also during the voting – Netta): This is a silly song. It’s fine, but not necessary. It should have been a part of her performance on Tuesday (that’s why the winner reprise should be at the Final so the artist can premier another song).

Interval Act Five (also during the voting – Madonna): Madonna turns 61 this year. I think we are at about three too many interval acts at this point. And this is, by far, the weakest. And we just get to the voting sequences please!

In other news, a friendly reminder, I will be featured on KUSH 1600AM at 8am US Central Time on Monday (20 May) (of Cushing, Oklahoma, USA) and joining the EuroWhat? Podcast this upcoming week to talk with Ben and Mike about this year’s results!

Interval Act Six (post voting – Gal Godot): This was nice but could have been earlier, like, during an advert break or something.

FINALLY we get to the votes!

In case you’ve forgotten, because I nearly have, I predicted the Netherlands to win, but not come in first in either — Australia to win the juries and Switzerland to win the televote.

The Juries

  • Portugal: Whoa! no points for Spain? And YAY! points for the Netherlands

  • Azerbaijan: 12 to Russia, no shock there

  • Malta: 12 to Italy. Not too surprising

  • North Macedonia: 12 to Italy! Oh, that is unexpected

  • San Marino: 12 to Italy. NO surprise there

  • The Netherlands: love the shade thrown at Madonna. 12 for Sweden

  • Montenegro: 12 to (let me guess, Serbia?) yup

  • Estonia: 12 points to Sweden

    Don’t forget, the jury votes are ordered to be the most entertaining, so right now does not bare too much on the later votes.

  • Poland: 12 points to Australia – interesting

  • Norway: 12 to Czech Republic! Interesting.

  • Spain: 12 points to Sweden! Interesting.

  • Austria: 12 to North Macedonia! Well deserved, but unexpected

  • United Kingdom: 12 to North Macedonia! OH! Yay!

  • Italy: Some technical issues: 12 to Denmark. Man, the juries are all over the place tonight!

  • Albania: 12 points to North Macedonia. This is not surprising, the two countries swap lots of points

  • Hungary: 12 points to Czechia, to too surprising

  • Moldova: 12 points to North Macedonia! Fun

  • Belarus: 12 points to (N Mak?) Israel! and finally the last country with zero points gets some

  • Armenia: 12 points to Sweden. Interesting, only 5 points to Russia

  • Romania: 12 points to Australia

  • Cyprus: 12 points to Greece, of course

    Whoa!! Halfway, North Macedonia has a commanding lead. Let’s see if it can hold on to it.

  • Australia: 12 points to Sweden

  • Russia: 12 points to Azerbaijan! Not too surprising

  • Germany: 12 points to Italy! Fun

  • Belgium: 12 points to Italy – back up to third place

  • Sweden: It’s about time the Netherlands gets another 12.

  • Croatia: 12 to Italy — interesting point distribution for their points

  • Lithuania: 12 points to the Netherlands! And the charge begins in earnest

  • Serbia: 12 points to (N Mak, for sure) yes, of course

  • Iceland: 12 points going to (Sweden?) Yup. None to Denmark or Norway, though, haha

  • Georgia: 12 points to the Czechs. I am pleasantly surprised by how well they are doing.

  • Greece: 12 to Cyprus, of course

  • Latvia: 12 to (the Netherlands?) Yup!

  • Czech Republic: 12 points to (Sweden?) Yup

  • Denmark: 12 points to (Sweden, of course) – Yep

  • France: 12 points to (the Dutch, I hope!) – Woohoo

  • Finland: 12 points to big brother Sweden

  • Switzerland: 12 points to North Macedonia – quite unexpected

  • Slovenia: 12 points to Czech Republic! Fun times

  • Israel: 12 points to The Netherlands!

And Sweden wins the jury!

Now the Televote! Remember, this year, the points will be revealed in ascending order of the juries’ ranking

(50 points) Aww, poor Spain. They deserved so much more than what they got.

(30) That’s about as expected

(3) Awwww poor UK it deserved way more

(65) to San Marino – I think the most ever for SM

(13) to Belarus

(0) OH NO! That’s just uncalled for!

(48) for Estonia

(54) for Serbia

(??) for Albania enough to get to 90

(59) for Slovenia not as much as expected

(24) for Greece, not too surprising

(291) for very popular song from Norway

(186) for the punk rockers from Iceland – enough to finish in the Top Ten? maybe

(38) WHOA! Not too surprising

(32) Told you it would not perform as well as expected

(51) for Denmark, not too bad

(20) for Malta, awwwww it deserved more

(244) as expected, a big haul for Russia, but not going to be close to victory

(212) Wow, not as much as expected for Switzerland, but definitely going to be its best finish in quite some time

(7) Only seven for the Czech Republic! Wow.

(131) for Australia, not too shabby, definintely better than the Aussies have been getting lately

(100) for Azerbaijan – not bad, they’ll be happy to finish in the Top Ten for the first time in years (since 2013)

(253) for Italy, good to get it back to the lead!

So, winners usually get about 500, so between one of the final three, the winner is remaining still

(261) That is a hefty haul and enough for first place!

(58) Very little for N Mak but not too surprising – Its first ever Top Ten finish!

Sweden needs 253 televote points to win.

And the winner is: The Netherlands!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Sweden only got 93)

Dutch Flag Map

Wowza! First win for the Netherlands since 1975 (Ding Dang Dong performed by Teach In). And I predicted this since March. I truly think the best song won – despite not having a great staging. Other quick historic markers: Switzerland’s first Top Ten finish since 2005. The first ever Top Ten finish for North Macedonia! The Netherlands now moves into a tie with France, Luxembourg, and the UK for the third most wins (at 5) – having won in 1957, 1959, 1969, 1975 and now 2019. San Marino got its best ever placing (20th) and Azerbaijan is back in the Top Ten for the first time since 2013. Sweden now has six consecutive Top Ten placings. Italy is next with three. Sergey Lazarev, who represents Russia, finished third in 2016 with “You Are the Only One” has finished third again this year with “Scream.”

EO logo witch Dutch flagFor my personal statistics, I correctly predicted the winner – The Netherlands – and did so at every point. I was also 80% on my Top Ten estimate, I thought Spain and Serbia would make it, but instead, North Macedonia and Azerbaijan did, both of which I am happy about.

Wow! Just, wow. Expect a more comprehensive summary tomorrow as well as be sure to listen out for me next week. I will be featured on KUSH 1600AM at 8am US Central Time on Monday (20 May) (of Cushing, Oklahoma, USA) and joining the EuroWhat? Podcast this upcoming week to talk with Ben and Mike about this year’s results!

Thank you and goodnight!


Eurovision 2019 – Live Notes: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

Times for the Second Semi-Final and to select the final ten qualifiers for the Grand Final! Eighteen countries compete, these plus Germany, Italy, and UK vote, and we get ten more songs for Saturday.

As a reminder, here is my pre-show prediction of qualifiers:

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

These will likely change after hearing and seeing the songs live tonight. So, let’s go!

No interval tonight. Just too many hosts, none of whom are all that interesting unfortunately.

Armenia: I like her look and I think she sounds great! While the overall staging and camera work are good, I think she looks and sounds small, like the space is owning her and not the other way around. Nice pyro effect. OH! She botched that big note. Let’s hope it’s not in the recap. Though, I do not think it is enough to stop her from qualifying.

Ireland: I love her outfit! She sounds super mousy. Is that purposeful? Love the retro look and feel of this staging. She has zero energy, though. I think she’s perhaps too focused on hitting all of her cues and not just singing the song. Some nice shots of Irish fans going wild. Aside from her lack of energy, I think this is as good as it could have been.

Moldova: Oh!! Sand art, we haven’t seen that since Ukraine 2011. As much as I enjoy this song, I don’t know if that gimmick is enough to move this song through. I am LOVING this sand artist and her effects, especially those footsteps. And I love their outfits; they look beautiful. Is it enough? Not sure, we’ll see.

Switzerland: WHOA! Absolutely love this camera work. This staging is perfect. The singing is amazing – both Luca and his backing singer should be very proud of themselves. This is the first song thus far (including Tuesday) that I can feasibly see winning. Let’s just say, I am happy to already have my hotel in Zurich booked for next year (along with a few other places).

Latvia: One of my favorites this year. I love this faux black & white look of the staging. This is a perfect example of a ballad with a lot of energy in it. It’s slow, but she and her backers are still singing fully and you can feel their investment in this. I don’t think it would have taken anything away to have the extra two ladies on stage with her.

Romania: They’re going with the same horror movie aesthetic from the music video. I like that choice – bold but a calculated risk. Hate her outfit, though. She could stand to articulate more, but even without clear words, the madness she’s singing about comes through. Great voice!

Oh, golly, Conchita Wurst is back! And with a brand new look. Actually, my understanding is that Tom Neuwirth actually moved away from Conchita as his primary act and is trying to draw more attention to the more masculine persona “WURST.”

Denmark: I see they are duplicating the DMGP staging. Glad to see the hear the audience get so into it. Love how diverse her collection of performers are. That was nice and pleasant. Not sure if it is enough, though.

Sweden: I am not the biggest fan of this song, but even I can’t help but sing along and be caught up in it. What the heck are his backing singers wearing?! Well done, another easy qualifier.

Austria: I totally appreciate her vulnerability. She is conveying that brokenness of the lyrics very well. I still don’t think it is engaging enough to qualify, but I think this is the best possible performance that this song could have.

Croatia: So, why I like this song well enough, but don’t see a path forward for it. It is impressive that he can sounds so good laying on his back. So, I do not quite get the staging, did he die in the lava and is now among those “angels of God?” Also, I think having literal angel dancers is a bit much. It didn’t work for Bulgaria in 2010, cannot see it helping now. Oh no! He missed that big note towards the end – otherwise, a flawless vocal performance.

Malta: Definitely playing up to her youth, here. The staging is SO MUCH FUN! You can tell they’re having a good time up there. This is also the way how one effectively makes a huge stage small. Another Top Ten performance tonight.

Lithuania: He sounds good and his hair looks nice. This song is just mediocre and overall less impressive than Croatia, which is the other mediocre song tonight.

Russia: Let’s see if this lives up to 2016’s staging. I do think it may have been a mistake to try to rely on his voice so much. Oh! his reflections is sentient. He’s certainly a pop singer. Not gonna lie, I was hoping for a more dynamic staging.

Albania: One of my absolute favorites this year. Let’s see how it goes. I think the backing singers are a bit too loud. It creates this cacophony instead of textured harmonies. I do love her outfit, though, very tradition yet contemporary. Just as I was about to say how her vocals were great, she botched many of those final notes.

Norway: Schlager at its best, everyone. It’s a lot of fun. And I enjoy how the graphics capture the idea of calling out to Sami spirits (which is what the song is about). Just everything about this feels dated, though. The smart money would be on this qualifying, but I am not sure.

The Netherlands: The big favorite and my favorite. Let’s see. Oh! The use of the backing vocals for the refrain is perfect! I don’t quite understand the piano, especially one that is so small. But I think he doesn’t have much stage presence, so the piano is there to give him something to distract himself with so he doesn’t let his nerves take over. The use of lighting is on point!

North Macedonia: Oh, the fleet of reflections is cool. Don’t like her dress, but it’s not heinous. If you’re going to do such a basic, stripped down staging, your vocals must be dazzling. So far, so good. Oh! Love the images being projected on the back. They should have kept it going when she started singing again. Oh! Keeping the backing vocals quiet until the climax was a good decision. Again, a great vocal performance without much energy behind it.

Azerbaijan: Glad to see Azerbaijan back to its over-the-top stagings. The robotic arms are a perfect touch to emphasize the futuristic tone of the composition. Hmm, not sure those high notes are translating as well as they could. Fun.

And there we have it! The eighteen songs from tonight. Time for the recap.

My Top Ten from tonight:

  1. Switzerland

  2. Latvia

  3. Malta

  4. The Netherlands

  5. Romania

  6. Moldova

  7. Armenia

  8. Azerbaijan

  9. North Macedonia

  10. Sweden

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order):

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Austria

  • Lithuania

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

I think Austria and Lithuania did enough tonight (and, more likely, last night) to push ahead of Albania and Denmark in my predictions. Again, I know the smart money is on Norway to qualify, but, I don’t know, I just don’t think it will.

Interval Act – Shalva Band: So, apparently, this group was supposed to represent Israel this year, but didn’t want to perform on Saturday (which is necessary for Grand Final competition) for religious reasons. So, they gave them this spot instead. Wow, these girls’ voices are amazing! Yeah, this song would do way better than Home in the Grand Final. Oh, well.

Let’s look at our auto-qualifiers!

Germany: My biggest guilty pleasure this year. Meh., they really should have kept the turning table. But they do sound great. Don’t like their outfits, though.

Italy: His outfit is awful. And I hope he has a bit more energy for the real thing. This was one of the big favorites until rehearsals began, I guess now I know why.

United Kingdom: The staging for this is confusing. The BBC has enough money to afford more than some generic space effects. The thing this song has going for it is Michael Rice’s voice, so he better step it up tomorrow night and Saturday.

FINALLY – Our Qualifiers

  • North Macedonia – Woohoo! Well deserved! (1 correct out of 1 countries)

  • The Netherlands – Yay! High quality song right here! (2 for 2)

  • Albania – pleasant surprise! Her jury performance must have been great (2 for 3)

  • Sweden – as expected (3 for 4)

  • Russia – no surprises here (4 for 5)

  • Azerbaijan – woohoo! shaking off last year’s fluke (5 for 6)

  • Denmark – whoa, guess I should have stuck with my gut on this one. Hopefully this means Lithuania won’t make it? (5 for 7)

  • Norway – No surprise, I guess, but I still didn’t anticipate it (5 for 8)

  • Switzerland – Probably the strongest performance tonight, so, makes sense (6 for 9)

  • Malta! No surprise, well deserved, as well! Happy for Malta to break its non-qualification streak (7 for 10)

Well, another semi-final in the books. Only Friday’s jury show and Saturday’s Final are left. We await the drawing of halves and the final running order. In the meantime, who do I think from among these ten has a legitimate shot at victory? Well, the Netherlands, still, and Switzerland. My goodness, Switzerland looked like a winner right away. The Dutch song is still the highest quality one this year, I think, and who I think should win. It may all come down to the running order.

Thanks for joining me on this ride. See y’all Saturday!


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

While the First Semi-Final is packed full with average level songs, the second semi-final is a juggernaut, containing six of the top ten of the bookies’ favorites within it. Definitely one of the strongest semi-finals to date. So, who is going to survive?

 

 Running Order

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

EO logo with Armenian flag

1

Armenia

Srbuk

Walking Out

Internal

This song represents an intriguing phenomenon. When you listen to it, you’re rocked by its banging composition and the powerful vocals. But as soon as it’s over…you forget it. Which puts its position in the running order – first – as a particularly bad omen. It needs to hope for a perfect 30 second clip for the recap to survive this gauntlet of a semi-final.

2

Ireland

Sarah McTernan

22

Internal

This is a cute song and an adorable singer. However, it is not very memorable and I am unsure of McTernan’s ability to perform live. I think this is a serviceable song and will likely give Ireland a respectable finish, but not a qualification.

3

Moldova

Anna Odobescu

Stay

National Selection

I love this song. It’s powerfully sung, has an interesting composition, and is not just a standard “please don’t leave me” song. However, it is a bit dated and has not exactly been tearing it up on the charts. Sadly, it is not going to qualify, but I do quite like it.

4

Switzerland

Luca Hänni

She Got Me

Mixed

WHOA! When was the last time that Switzerland had a contemporary song that was at the top of the betting odds? Now, personally, I think this song is a bit overrated, but I definitely get its appeal. The beat is fun, the lyrics are simple, and I imagine the dance routine will be outstanding. Expect the Swiss’ fourteen year dry spell to come to an end.

5

Latvia

Carousel

That Night

National Final

One of my favorites this year. Smooth, simple, and just plain groovy. Unfortunately, like Moldova, this is not a popular song. Unlike Moldova, I do not quite understand why. It is contemporary and stands out from the crowd. Expect this to fall flat in the arena and one television, unfortunately.

6

Romania

Ester Peony

On a Sunday

National Final

A fun and interesting song that helps you feel better about that break-up. If this was just about any other year, then it would be an easy qualifier. If this was on Tuesday, it would be an easy qualifier. In this semi-final, though, I’m not sure it can survive.

7

Denmark

Leonora

Love is Forever

National Final

This song is so adorable and Leonora is so sweet. It is exciting that, after 21 years, Denmark is finally sending a song that has a significant amount of non-English, but heartbreaking that DR is shying away from using the Danish language. This is likely to finish in the 8-12 range. It might sneak into the Final, but at the expense of songs with stronger betting odds.

8

Sweden

John Lundvik

Too Late for Love

National Final

In my opinion, the most overrated song in the Contest this year. It is a serviceable R&B song, but overall fairly generic. There are various, potentially problematic situations I am seeing around the ESC community around his backing singers (great articles here and here about the subject). I know this song is likely to finish in the Top Ten, but I think there are better entries that it will be blocking.

9

Austria

PAENDA

Limits

Internal

Like Denmark, this is a sweet song. Unlike Denmark, though, this song is not very interesting or captivating. While PAENDA is adorable and her voice is ethereal, this song is just…boring.

EO logo with Croatian flag

10

Croatia

Roko Blaževic

The Dream

National Final

This song is great for vocal warm-ups. One of the last things I do to make sure I’m ready to go. Otherwise, this song does not have too much merit. The lyrics are trite; the composition is basic – but his voice is amazing! I hope he comes back next year with a good song.

EO logo with Maltese flag

11

Malta

Michela Pace

Chameleon

Mixed

So, this song is often compared with Cyprus and Switzerland. While it is also quite popular, it is languishing behind the other two in the betting odds, despite being a stronger song in my opinion. A clear qualifier, for sure, and likely to finish in the Top Ten.

EO logo with Lithuanian flag

12

Lithuania

Jurijus Veklenko

Run with the Lions

National Final

My least favorite song, by far. The lyrics are poor, the composition is unappealing, and his voice is not a good fit for either. While this song may have had a chance in a weaker semi-final, there is no way it is qualifying.

EO logo with Russian flag

13

Russia

Sergey Lazarev

Scream

Internal

Sergey Lazarev is back! And hoping to reproduce the magic Dima Bilan was able to generate with his return trip in 2008 (Bilan achieved second place in 2006 before winning in Belgrade). Lazarev is back two Contests later after a Top Ten placing (remember, Russia skipped 2017) and, if his music video is any indication, he’s going to be bringing another astounding stage show. Expect this to qualify and threaten to win.

EO logo with Albanian flag

14

Albania

Jonida Maliqi

Ktheju Tokës

National Final

Another one of my favorites, a deeply powerful song. Like Georgia, this song has a distinct national flair to it. Unlike Georgia, this song is assertive instead of aggressive and captivating instead of frightening. Despite these advantages, I’m not sure it will qualify; I’m thinking 8-12th place for this.

EO logo with Norwegian flag

15

Norway

KEIINO

Spirit in the Sky

National Final

This is a fun song that attempts a genre that one only sees at Eurovision – the blending of traditional folk with schlager. This song does it quite well, too. The energy is amazing and the three of them work well together. However, there’s always a song each year that is high in the odds but fails to qualify; I think this might be it for 2019.

16

Netherlands

Duncan Laurence

Arcade

Internal

Another one of my favorites. Like Austria last year, from the first moment I heard this I thought it sounded like a winner. And, unlike Austria last year, this is leading the betting odds. It is contemporary, it is powerful, and Laurence is amazingly attractive. These come together to form a perfect storm for a potential winner.

EO logo with North Macedonian flag

17

North Macedonia

Tamara Todevska

Proud

Internal

A powerful song about female empowerment; like a mature version of Toy. This might be NMak’s best chance at qualifying in ages. Todevska has already proven that she can perform well on the ESC stage; this time, though, she has a song worth her amazing talent. I expect this to qualify but not quite reach the Top Ten.

EO logo with Azerbaijani flag

18

Azerbaijan

Chingiz

Truth

Internal

Finally, Azerbaijan is back with a song that is eccentric, unique, and will have an inherently interesting staging – just like in its golden years. A real banger of a song by a hot guy with a composition that is stunning. I cannot wait to see what it looks like on the stage in Tel Aviv.

My favorite ten

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Latvia

  3. North Macedonia

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. Albania

  6. Norway

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Russia

  10. Malta

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

Oh my goodness, yes! The Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Malta, and Sweden all have legitimate chances at victory. All are in the top ten of the betting odds and will be memorable when standing against the other entries in the field. Realistically, I do not think Malta and Sweden are as serious contenders as the other three, but they should be taken seriously.


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final Two

Hello Dear Readers!

Thursday brings us a weak, but still competitive semi-final. Perennial qualifiers, like Romania, Russia, and Australia, should have no trouble moving through. Sweden and Norway will be there to support one another along with Denmark.

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Norway

Alexander Rybak

How You Write a Song

National Final

Thoughts:

So, breaking the promise he made with Marija Šerofović a few ago, Rybak is back with his attempt to pull a “Johnny Logan” (the only performing artist to win twice). Rybak knows how to write a catchy song. This will get stuck in your head, whether you want it to or not. Clearly, this song is much weaker than Fairytale, but it should do well with a “previous winner bump.” It will most likely finish Top Ten, but it won’t get anywhere close to winning.

Romania

The Humans

Goodbye

National Final

Thoughts:

A bland, forgettable song and potentially the first Romanian entry to fall short of qualifying. I strongly doubt it, but the important thing is that it could be. It’s not a bad song and the lyrics aren’t bad, it just melts into the background, particularly this year.

Serbia

Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

Nova Deca [New Children]

National Final

Thoughts:

This song is a hot mess. Oh golly! I do not understand it. The performance is weird and off-kilter. The composition makes little sense. The lyrics are simple and lack depth. I just don’t understand how this song was made.

San Marino

Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening

Who We Are

National Final

Thoughts:

This song has such great potential. For starters, rap does quite poorly at Eurovision; Brening adds nothing to the entry with her lame verse (conversely, the songs they had her compete with in the selection were great). The lyrics for the rest of the song are not as impactful as the songwriters probably think they are. The song is well performed by Jessika, but it’s severely average. SM is at a disadvantage and must try harder if it hopes to qualify again.

Denmark

Rasmussen

Higher Ground

National Final

Thoughts:

Sigh. This is an average song and I don’t have any strong feelings about it. It also will benefit from having both Norway and Sweden in this Semi-Final. However, Sweden is an unreliable alliance member and there is a lack of other friendly nations to buoy it above its averageness.

Russia

Julia Samoylova

I Won’t Break

Internal

Thoughts:

This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I liked Flame is Burning way more than this trite inspirational piece. It will qualify, of course, but I doubt it will continue Russia’s Top Ten streak.

Moldova

DoReDos

My Lucky Day

National Final

Thoughts:

I like this song so much! It has big shoes to fill after Moldova achieved a new best placing last year. In my opinion, this song has a better composition and overall sound than Hey, Mamma! and is just more enjoyable, at least to me, and that hat from the music video better make an appearance in Lisbon!

The Netherlands

Waylon

Outlaw in ‘Em

Mixed

Thoughts:

This song will do well because Waylon was one half of the Common Linnets (the performers of the runner-up entry in 2014). This also has the distinction of being the only country song this year, which also helps it. Again, I have no strong feelings about this song either way.

Australia

Jessica Mauboy

We Got Love

Internal

Thoughts:

I think this has a chance of outperforming Australia’s second place from 2016. The song is truly inspirational, has an amazing singer who knows how to perform and is not a stranger to the Eurovision stage. Plus, it’s is quite catchy! It doesn’t hurt that Mauboy is stunning, as well. I think we may be packing our bags for Germany after an Aussie win.

Georgia

Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao

For You

Internal

Thoughts:

Georgia joins Armenia for its first ever entry in its national language. Unlike Armenia, this song lacks depth, interest, or anything that makes it stand out. I cannot imagine this song qualifying, even out this weaker semi-final.

Poland

Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer

Light Me Up

National Final

Thoughts:

I like this song and think it is quite contemporary. I think it will continue Poland’s qualification streak, but finish midtable in the Grand Final. This is a beneficiary of being in the weaker semi-final and following a weak entry.

Malta

Christabelle

Taboo

National Final

Thoughts:

While this song is uptempo and intriguing, it is forgettable. It’s one of those things that, I remember when I hear it, but otherwise, cannot really recall it. This will be right on the border of qualification and will benefit from a poor performance from another midlevel entry.

Hungary

AWS

Viszlát Nyár [Summer Gone]

National Final

Thoughts:

Our requisite hard rock entry. Not quite sure how this made it through the Hungarian selection, but here we are. Not my cup of tea, at all. From my understanding of rock music, this is not even that strong of a screamo song. It likely will not qualify for the Final.

Latvia

Laura Rizzotto

Funny Girl

National Final

Thoughts:

I really like this one. It is dark and draws you into it; the composition is particularly captivating. I don’t think it’s mainstream enough to qualify, but of course, I said something similar in 2015. I think following the screaming of Hungary and coming ahead of the slick Swedish song, it will be lost.

Sweden

Benjamin Ingrosso

Dance You Off

National Final

Thoughts:

The first Swedish entry I like since Heroes. This song is just so infectious, I can’t see it NOT finishing in the Top Ten on Saturday night. Of course, the last time Sweden failed to reach the Top Ten was 2013, and this song is miles ahead of You (though, I did like that song, too).

Montenegro

Vanja Radovanović

Inje [Frost]

National Final

Thoughts:

The only true Balkan ballad this year, this strikes me as Joksimovic-lite. I think this will easily qualify. Honestly, this is my dark horse candidate for this year; I think Montenegro is going to surprise a lot of folks.

Slovenia

Lea Sirk

Hvala Ne [No Thanks]

National Final

Thoughts:

Yet another mess of a song. I don’t know what it is about the former-Yugoslav countries this year, but they are submitting some poorly composed songs. This song is at least interesting…well…not really. It’s average and will once again leave Slovenia towards the bottom of the Semi-Final scoreboard.

Ukraine

MÉLOVIN

Under the Ladder

National Final

Thoughts:

So catchy! So modern! And MÉLOVIN is quite the performer. This seems like a song designed specifically to capture the ears and hearts of the massive teenage girl fan population. Ukraine will easily finish in the Top Ten, the first time with a male singer not in drag.

*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)

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Ukraine

  • Romania

  • Australia

  • Montenegro

  • Poland

  • The Netherlands

  • Moldova

  • Norway

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Sweden

  2. Latvia

  3. Ukraine

  4. Montenegro

  5. Norway

  6. Australia

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Poland

  10. Malta

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

More on this next week, but, right now Australia, Montenegro, and The Netherlands all have legitimate opportunities to win. I know that the Dutch entry is not towards the top of the betting odds and that Montenegro is in no one else’s conversation, but I think both are unique enough and of a high enough quality to pull off a surprise win. Fun note, if Montenegro does pull off the victory, it would be the lowest odds victor (a title currently held by Latvia 2002). I think Australia is an easy choice to pick as a winner for all the reasons I mentioned above.


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 – Second Semi-Final Recap and Podcast

Hello Dear Readers!

As we anxiously await the forthcoming Grand Final, some thoughts on last night’s Second Semi-Final. I think this semi-final suffered from a lot of nervous performers with shaky performances. Additionally, there seemed to be a plague of poor stagings (more on that below). But first, here are our qualifiers (in alphabetical order with their semi-final half in parentheses):

Photo ©EBU Andreas Putting

  • Austria (first half)

  • Belarus (first half)

  • Bulgaria (second half)

  • Croatia (first half)

  • Denmark (first half)

  • Hungary (first half)

  • Israel (first half)

  • The Netherlands (first half)

  • Norway (second half)

  • Romania (second half)

Some Historical Markers from last night

  • Romania maintains its 100% qualification record. Hungary extends its streak to seven straight qualifications, reaching back to 2011. Austria extends its streak to four. Croatia, the Netherlands, and Israel have now all qualified twice in a row.

  • Bulgaria also has qualified twice in a row for the first time ever (and only third time overall). Denmark and Norway both return to Grand Final after missing it last year (for Norway) and each of the past two years (Denmark). Belarus qualifies for the first time since 2014.

  • Serbia and Lithuania’s streaks of qualifications end after two straight and Malta fails to make a second straight qualification. Macedonia has not qualified since 2012, Ireland since 2013, Switzerland and San Marino since 2014, and Estonia since 2015.

My Reactions

  • Biggest Disappointment: Austria and Ireland, two of my favorite songs, were both terribly performed last night. I could barely make it through Austria’s performance. I hope that Nathan Trent’s singing is better tomorrow night.

  • Biggest Shock: I am still shocked by how well I thought Romania and Croatia (two songs I do not like) did. They performed their hearts out and deserved their qualification.

  • Macedonia and Switzerland, while I think there might have been some nullification effect on one another, I think both were just missed opportunities. They both had strong, popular songs this year and A) staged them poorly and B) did not sing at their best abilities. Just, disappointing.

  • I think the Netherlands had the best performance on the night, followed closely by Bulgaria. They could possibly make a huge splash tomorrow, especially with the help of the juries.

  • France, Germany, and Ukraine had very questionable stagings. Read more about it in my live notes.

  • Just sad that San Marino failed to qualify. I think SMRTV may blame it on their small size, but, actually, it’s because it continually chooses dated songs with lame stagings. More on this in a forthcoming summer series.

So, there you have it my reactions to the Second Semi-Final. My excitement for the Grand Final is through the roof! Hear more about mine (and my friend DIZZYDJC) below in our podcast from today!

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Eurovision 2017 – Second Semi-Final: Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

It is Thursday of Eurovision Week and we all know what that means: time for the Second Semi-Final! Tonight we will get the last ten qualifiers for Saturday’s Grand Final. As a reminder, the qualifiers for tonight will join the Big Five (Spain, Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom), our defending champs & host (Ukraine), and Tuesday’s ten qualifiers (Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, and Sweden).

Make sure to keep refreshing the page throught the show!

It’s starting! I love starting with a recap of Tuesday.

…what are the hosts wearing?! No. Not good. I do love a good ESC medley! Euphoria! Fairytale! My Number One (which was the winner the last time we were in Ukraine). Rise like a Phoenix! Definitely not a bad openning act. I always enjoy a reinterpretation of songs into a new folk style.

 01 Serbia In Too Deep

They seemed to have scaled back the epicness of song; why? This is wholly underwhelming. This song is nice, but forgettable. The dancer didn’t add much other than some additional eye candy.

02 Austria Running on Air

Oh no, he sounds a bit underpitch and he’s singing with zero emotion. I also don’t understand this staging – why is there a moon? Oh no, he just botched the big note. I love this song but this is just a poor presentation of it.

03 Macedonia Dance Alone

Interesting to put the backing singers so dominatingly right at the beginning lime that. That was also a poor model walk she is doing. Her outfit is cute, though. I understand the use of the mic effect, but I can barely hear her. She is certainly selling this as hard as she can as a dance number. Ummm…..I’m just not sure how to react. Definitely a HUGE missed opportunity for Macedonia, but it might be enough to qualify.

 04 Malta Breathlessly

I don’t understand this backing scene choice. It should be black amd white images of her and her lover. Not random gifs of her singing. Really pretty dress! No one can say that her voice is not good, but this song is just so drab and boring.

05 Romania Yodel It!

I like the toy soldiers. The cannons look cool – but I don’t know why they’re there. Oh! That’s why — pretty cool. As much as I dislike this song, it is, so far, the strongest performance tonight — by a mile.

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

Oh! Love those outfits! Oh my goodness, they sound amazing hitting those harmonies! Honestly, I was expecting their outfits to turn white during the climax towards the end. Very good – definite qualifier, I think.

 07 Hungary Origo

 He seems to be going a bit fast amd is a bit ahead of the beat. But things seemed to habe caught up with the violin. Cool! Was not expecting the flames. I don’t what it is, but the camerawork just seems — not good – they should have goven the producers better camera choreography to work with. It doesn’t help that he looks so uncomfortable on stage.

08 Denmark Where I Am

Why does her voice sound weird? Did they leave a mic effect on? She seems out of breath as well, like she can’t quite fully support her singing. She hit that big note, though! Too much backing singer on this performance; I hope they turn them down for Saturday.

09 Ireland Dying to Try

Why the hot air balloon? Oh, missed a note there. He’s so adorable, though. Uh oh. He missed that big note. And just barely made the biggest one. Disappointing. This is one of my favorite songs this year and this performance is just flat.

10 San Marino Spirit of the Night

What are they wearing?! Why are they so sparkly?! They have really good chemistry together. Despite the fact tat this is a fairly dated sounding disco-track, given the quality of performances tonight, it has a legit chance to qualify. I think my friend called this the “song of a thousand key changes” — most definitely. They at least nailed them all.

Man, San Marino had a black American guy and now Croatia has a big guy, it’s like Eurovision producers wanted me to feel particularly represented on stage.

11 Croatia My Friend

Oh my goodness, this turning back and forth is silly. As is that glove he is wearing. He sounds good, though. Bad song, but well performed.

–sorry for the interruption, my town is under tornado warning and I had to take shleter– 

**All clear! Picking up where we left off.

12 Norway Grab the Moment

I like the camera effects and how digitized he looks during the refrain and his face is featured on the screen. I know the desire to keep it simple is tempting, but I wish they had added a bit more dynamic elements to the staging, particularly to the climax at the end.

13 Switzerland Apollo

LOVE the dress, hate the hair. Her voice seems to be dancing in the edge of in tune and out of it. I feel the same as I did after Macedonia, just a huge missed opportunity. Maybe enough to qualify, maybe not.

14 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia

Love the wite and blue aesthetic! They started off a bit shaky, but their voices leveled out. Some much energy and fun – fireworks!! That screen is fun and that’s a huge crowd reaction!

Time for this year’s youngest competitor and my predicted winner:

14 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

Love this overhead shot during the first verse! He gets a bit off pitch during the refrain. Love the interplay between the camera, the special effects, the background, and the lyrics – beautifully staged! As good as that was, not sure I’d rate that higher than Portugal’s performance Tuesday. I’ll be interested to see what happens Saturday night when thy can go head-to-head.

16 Lithuania Rain of Revolution

I see they are reproducing their national final performance… includingn that terrible hairstyle. They should have invested in actual spark showers. The animated ones just don’t have the same effect. And, honestly, coming after a song like Bulgaria only makes this, with its super-synthesized instrumentation, sound a bit fake and dated.

17 Estonia Verona

Mic issues! I wonder if they will deemed bad enough to call for a second performance. Vocal issues! I wonder if they will be bad enough to stop this from qualifying. I do love the camera effect making it look like they were on two completely different stages throughout the first verse and bridge. They don’t seem to have much chemistry; maybe that’s why they barely interact with each other throughout the performance. I know this is a big fan favorite, but I remain unimpressed.

18 Israel I Feel Alive

He knows how to work a camera! Which, I guess takes away from his weak vocals. The staging was a lot of fun — quite dazzling.

My Top Ten from tonight

  1. The Netherlands
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Croatia
  4. Norway
  5. Belarus
  6. Denmark
  7. Israel
  8. San Marino
  9. Switzerland
  10. Romania

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • Romania
  • Denmark
  • Bulgaria
  • Israel
  • The Netherlands
  • Belarus
  • Switzerland
  • Serbia
  • Estonia
  • Norway

Voting Sequence EntertainmentMore Verka (Ukraine 2007 and probably one of the modt popular entries to date)! And yay for talking to fans 🙂

Interval Act

The dancing is really cool. I never know quite what to make of it, but it’s certainly interesting and much appreciated.

A marriage proposal for Jana from Macedonia!!! Awwwww

Our Automatic Qualifiers

  • France – whoa! All the spinning is dizzying, which I guess is the point.
  • Germany – why is she in a dress that matches the background. She’s just going to get lost in the production. Maybe Germany is aimig to break Norway’s most last places record?
  • Ukraine – that head is CREEPY!!! It looks like a possessed baby doll. 

Now, on the results! Our ten qualifiers are:

  • Bulgaria! Woot, woot – we could legitimately be heading to Sofia next year (1 for 1 in my predictions)
  • Belarus – well deserved! (2 for 2)
  • Croatia – not surprised, just didn’t think this and Belarus would both make it (2 for 3)
  • Hungary – one of my favorites, but he’s going to need a much stronger performance Saturday (and Friday) night (2 for 4)
  • Denmark – Gå Danmark!! (3 for 5)
  • Israel – no surprise here (4 for 6)
  • Romania – ugh (5 for 7)
  • Norway – good stuff (6 for 8)
  • The Netherlands – well earned, best performance of the night (7 for 9)
  • Austria – complete shocker!! (7 for 10)

Well, there you have it. Ten qualifiers. Macedonia completes its fall from grace going from big favorite to non-qualifier in six short weeks. Come back tomorrow for my full thoughts and my next podcast ahead of Saturday’s Grand Final! 

 
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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!) – Second Semi-Final, First Half

Hello Dear Readers!

Our second semi-final. Sadly, Russia has decided to not participate this year due to…all the political things. This is sad because 1) I always hate to see a country withdraw and 2) I loved Flame is Burning. Oh well, such is life. It does open up one more qualifier spot in this competitive semi-final (as Russia always qualifies). Again, song reviews are in alphabetical order because…I’m lazy.

Second Semi-Final

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

 

Austria

Nathan Trent

Running on Air

Internal

Thoughts:

A lovely, upbeat song that can’t help make one feel happy when listening to it. Honestly, it’s such a simple song. It’s only shot at making the final, though, is probably on the back of Trent’s charisma — cute boys tend to do well.

 

Denmark

Anja

Where I Am

Televised

Thoughts:

See my Live Notes on DMGP 2017 for my full thoughts on this entry. It’s a strong entry that will not only make it to the Final, but will most likely end in the Top Ten.

 

Hungary

Joci Pápai

Origo [Origin]

Televised

Thoughts:

This song is one of the most unique, not just this year, but this decade. It’s dark one of the few that follows in the footsteps of 1944, mysterious and about a serious issue (this focuses on the prevailing racism, particularly against the Romani peoples), but this has a message of hope (and faith!).

 

Ireland

Brendan Murray

Dying to Try

Internal

Thoughts:

Such an intriguing voice and such a sweet song. The sentiment of the lyrics is definitely one with which I can relate. While it seems like a love song, it’s truly more of a song of loneliness and longing. I want nothing more than for this song to win; unfortunately, this semi-final is too strong and this song just is not captivating enough, especially being in the first half of the show. It could very well be the beneficiary of Russia’s withdrawal.

 

Macedonia

Jana Burčeska

Dance Alone

Internal

Thoughts:

A catchy song about being happy on one’s own. While I have preferred most of Macedonia’s other entries, this one isn’t bad. To me, it’s a bit generic, but fun. Macedonian fans will be happy to be back in the Grand Final and, possibly, in the Top Ten for the first time.

 

Malta

Claudia Faniello

Breathlessly

Televised

Thoughts:

A powerfully sung ballad. However, unlike in previous years where this kind of entry would make a significant impact, this year, it comes off as a bit boring and dated. I’m sure Faniello will give a stunning performance; I just don’t think this song is captivating enough to get it to the Final.

 

The Netherlands

O’G3NE

Lights and Shadows

Internal

Thoughts:

Alternatively, whereas Malta sounds a bit dated (old-fashioned in a bad way), the Dutch entry sounds “vitange” – that is, old-fashioned in a good way. Their harmonies are tight, the lyrics are inspirational, and the composition is catchy.

 

Romania

Ilinca feat. Alex Florea

Yodel It!

Televised

Thoughts:

Ugh. Probably my least favorite song this year. Let’s see, yodeling doesn’t do well at Eurovision (just ask Austria 2005). Nor does rap (just ask UK 2006 or Finland 2009). I presume that, since we’re talking about Romania, two wrongs will indeed make a right; unless Romania becomes the next country to have its 100% qualification streak snapped.

Serbia

Tijana Bogićević

In Too Deep

Internal

Thoughts:

A powerful song that is unique and intriguing! I imagine there will be silk dancers to further the aesthetic from the music video. I think, though, as I have listened through the songs over and over, this is one that I continually forget – despite its power. It will make the Final, but I think it will do surprisingly little.

*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.

Find the other reviews from this year here!

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Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2017 – Live Notes

Image result for dansk melodi grand prix 2017

So, had to wait about two weeks after the event, but never fear – I did not watch it nor did I know who won. Luckily, DR broke tradition and made DMGP amazingly easy to find and watch. For those who are new, DMGP works quite simply. DR (Danmarks Radio, the Danish broadcaster that competes in Eurovision) selects ten songs after an open cattle-call for entries; typically, the ten chosen entries tend to be from professional producers and singers (though, every so often, an independent artist or producer makes it onto the show). All ten songs compete in a televised Final; the three songs with the highest combined score between the jury and televotes move on to a super-final. The winner is the song with the highest percentage of the combined televote and jury score. Typically, the jury is comprised of previous performers and producers. This year, they decided to use five super-fans of DMGP/ESC to create the jury.

These are my notes from watching DMGP 2017 for the first time (having not heard the songs ahead of time). I’m trying something new this year, instead of just using generic comments to sum up my thoughts, I’m scoring each song according to the four aspects that make for a strong ESC entry: composition (the music), lyrics (the words), staging (how the song is presented), and performance (how well the singers and dancers do). I will rate songs on a scale from 1 to 5 within each dimension.

Okay, I think that’s everything – on to the show!

 

Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2017

We are back in Herning for DMGP – the first thing that strikes me is how much the production has been scaled down this year. Is that screen even LED? A few years ago, Herning hosted an amazing event; this year looks more like the DMGPs of old, back when they were forgettable. So, Dansevise is one of my all-time favorite entries and I love that they have the competing artists perform it together. Great message of unity and a strong callback to Denmark’s storied history. Actually, the hosts make it quite clear that DMGP this year is entirely focused on returning Denmark to its former glory. DK, with three victories (1963, 2000, 2013) and Grand Final qualifications from 2008 through 2014 (including four Top Ten finishes), has been one of the most successful countries in recent years. However, Denmark has failed to reach the Grand Final of ESC each of the last two Contests, and has finished towards the bottom of its semi-final both times. DR is being explicitly clear: they want Denmark to be successful again at all costs (I guess, the reduced DMGP budget is to save up for a bigger production in Kyiv).

They’re interviewing the jury now; they’ve been sequestered in their own room (as opposed to sitting by the stage). I like the notion of using fans instead of professionals; though, I wish they had a more diverse (in terms of age and gender) panel. Eurovision fans come from a wide variety of backgrounds, if the goal is to find a song that appeals to everyone and will do well, then DR needs a more representative panel of persons.

Anyway, on to the songs!

Song #1. One performed by Ida Una

Ugh – a peace song – and a trite one at that. It’s simple, but not catchy, It’s trying to be modern, but comes off a but immature in its overall sound. The staging is decent, at least. Though, her singing is not the best.

Composition: 4           Lyrics: 2          Staging: 4            Performance: 2

Average: 3 (out of 5) Squarely average – sounds about right. I would think this song has an uphill climb to get to the superfinal.

Song #2. Vesterbro performed by Thomas Ring

Whoo! A Danish-language song (there always tends to be one), probably won’t win because of it (the Danes have not selected a Danish-language song since 2005). I think it’s a great song; actually, I’ve encountered this before on YouTube without realizing it was a part of DMGP. Unlike the preceding entry, this song successfully achieves a mature, modern sound.

Composition: 4           Lyrics: 3          Staging: 3            Performance: 4

Average: 3.5 I don’t think the staging was enough to get it through, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets to the superfinal.

Song #3. Color My World performed by Rikke Skytte

Definitely a lot of thought went into the staging for this one. It makes a simplistic song seem more artistic than it probably is. By “simple song,” I mean that the composition doesn’t really do much and that the lyrics are fairly weak.

Composition: 3           Lyrics: 2          Staging: 5            Performance: 4

Average: 3.5 Definitely the strongest entry thus far, but the night is still early.

Song #4. Where I Am performed by Anja

Another heavily produced composition. But, unlike the others, this song gas more emotion and sounds more human. This is an example of “less is more” staging; she doesn’t seem to be at a disadvantage with the cheaper staging. It allows more focus on her and her powerful voice.

Composition: 3           Lyrics: 4          Staging: 5            Performance: 5

Average: 4.25 Super strong! It has a 90s sound without sounding dated.

Song #5. Big Little Lies performed by Calling Mercury

In a complete reversal from the previous entry, this has a dated, 2000s sound. The composition doesn’t build or go anywhere, it just kinda…sits there, which is great for a doctor’s office or an elevator, but terrible for a pop song contest. The silhouettes in the staging are a nice touch, though.

Composition: 2           Lyrics: 3          Staging: 3            Performance: 3

Average: 2.75 Forgettable song coming to your local shopping mall soon.

Song #6. Smoke in My Eyes performed by Anthony

Whoa! Completely different song here! I think that the lyrics are sad – but the composition is so much fun! Yeah, maybe not as catchy as it needs to be, but definitely a strong contender. He and the backing singers have great chemistry. This is definitely a strong choice for victory in my book (at least, thus far!)

Composition: 4           Lyrics: 5          Staging: 5            Performance: 4

Average: 4.5 Lots of fun, eye-catching, definitely a memorable entry and a favorite to win. It should sweep into the superfinal.

Song #7. Warriors performed by Rene Mackon

Don’t know if he just started off wonky or what, but his voice is off. The song sounds modern (like, a discount OneRepublic) but the staging is so 80s (in a bad way); it’s distracting. Probably the weakest entry thus far.

Composition: 3           Lyrics: 3          Staging: 1            Performance: 2

Average: 2.25 Nope! Even the climax of this song felt flat.

Song #8. Northern Lights performed by Sala Vidoo

If you ever think wearing a disco ball is a good idea – you’re wrong. It’s NEVER a good idea. The lyrics of this song don’t really make sense. Also, the composition and the dance/movements seem very-Japanese: that’s cultural appropriation (i.e., using someone else’s culture without properly giving it context; it perpetuates the idea that other cultures are merely there to be used like items in a store). Despite this, I would say that the composition is fairly decent.

Composition: 4           Lyrics: 1          Staging: 1            Performance: 3

Average: 2.75 This is the kind of song that will grow on your; however, it has one chance to make an impression. Plus, the cultural appropriation rubs me the wrong way.

Song #9. Hurricane performed by Jeanette Bonde

The mirror effect only works if the two sides look the same. I honestly thought that this was two different people until the camera switched to normal. Also, the outfit is not good. Both the staging and the composition get better as the song continues. Sadly, her singing does not. The lyrics are also quite repetitive.

Composition: 3           Lyrics: 2          Staging: 3            Performance: 2

Average: 2.5 Not really all that great. It’s not terrible, just not good. I bet the studio version is better, though.

Song #10. A.S.A.P. performed by Johanna Beijbon

Her pants make me sad. Okay, so, this is merely a vapid pop tune (she called it “party pop disco”). Fun to dance to, not much for a competition- And that’s a missed big note…

Composition: 4           Lyrics: 1          Staging: 1            Performance: 2

Average: 2 No! This is schlager at its worst.

 

Scores of all Ten Performances
Smoke in My Eyes (Song #6) 4.5
Where I Am (Song #4) 4.25
Vesterbro (Song #2) 3.5
Color My World (Song #3) 3.5
One (Song #1) 3
Big Little Lies (Song #5) 2.75
Northern Lights (Song #8) 2.75
Hurricane (Song #9) 2.5
Warriors (Song #7) 2.25
A.S.A.P. (Song #10) 2

This is a rare instance of my predictions aligning with how I would personally rate the songs. With that said, the three songs I think will move forward to the superfinal are:

Smoke in My Eyes (Song #6)

Where I Am (Song #4)

Vesterbro (Song #2) — I am selecting this over Color My World because 1) I like it better, 2) I hope that the only Danish-language entry can be successful, 3) there’s more potential for where this song can go

So, who actually qualified?

One (Song #1) – I guess a boring song about peace can still do well at these kind of competitions.

A.S.A.P. (Song #10) – The weakest song; it merely combines all the worst traits of a “stereotypical” ESC song.

Where I Am (Song #4) – well, at least I got one right. This song should easily win; it’s miles ahead of the other two.

Time for the songs to be presented once more. This time, for all the marbles!!

Song #1. One performed by Ida Una

Still sounds fairly generic and uninspiring. Her singing is not as strong as it was before. I think that this song will finish third.

Song #4. Where I Am performed by Anja

I can’t help but think about Tell Me Who You Are, Denmark’s 2002 entry that came in last (though, I love that song). I don’t like this song as much as that one; however, I think ESC is at a place where a song like it won’t fail so badly again.

Song #10. A.S.A.P. performed by Johanna Beijbon

I understand this song’s appeal, but it’s weak. If it wins, it’ll be another year stuck in the semi-finals for Denmark. This kind of music is not Eurovision anymore. Schlager has been doing less and less well, and this is a poor example of that genre. C’mon Denmark, let’s live in the present, not the past.

Prediction

  1. Where I Am
  2. A.S.A.P.
  3. One

Rather enjoyed the interval act! I love the idea of a medley of some of the most successful and popular Dansk Melodi Grand Prix entries. I think that this does a good job of driving home the point that DR is actively trying to do well at ESC again, a complaint that they’ve doubtlessly received each of the past two years.

Ouch! A.S.A.P. only got 10% of the vote.

And the winner is…

Where I Am (song #4) performed by Anja

Predictions for Kyiv

Song #4 wins in a landslide, garnering 64% of the vote. While not the strongest song (then again, probably none of the entries tonight would have a strong chance to win in Kyiv), it is the most deserving champion among the three superfinalists and will most likely get Denmark back to the Grand Final in May. The bigger question is, what will it once it gets to Saturday night?

That depends on several factors: its competition and its position, neither of which can I determine at the moment. Building a prediction based upon the song in and of itself, I think that it will finish mid-table, so, 12-18th on the night. I think that it will score highly with the jury, but only moderately so with the voting public. I think people will recognize it to be a good song, but not groundbreaking. I hope that Denmark takes whatever its final position is as inclination that refocusing on victory is a step in the right direction.


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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Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016!

denmark_2016_poll-620x330Hello Dear Readers!

Welcome to my annual live notes for the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix! Ever since I studied in Denmark back in college (2007), I have considered it to be my second home country – and I always cheer for them in ESC. Those of you who have been following me for years know that my ESC coverage for the new year starts in earnest with my live notes from DMGP! As a reminder, live notes are my Denmarkrunning commentary; I write them as I watch the show for the first time. This year, I am fortunate enough to be able to watch the show live online (dr.dk) – which I always love doing; sharing the moment with all of Denmark!

What a great opening! First, we’re reminded that each of the last two times that Sweden hosted the Contest: Denmark has won. Perhaps 2016 will continue this pattern?

The hosts singing a rousing song about the glory of Danish music, their closeness with their neighbors to the north (Sweden), and the hope for a great show!

As a reminder, DMGP is determined from a mix of jury and televoting. The ten competing songs are all performed. We have a voting period. Then the top three songs according to a 50/50 combination of jury and televoting move through to the superfinal. These three songs are performed again. We then have another voting period. This year, the winner is determined soley by the votes of the public which are revealed in reverse-order. The public’s votes are distributed proportionately.

Our expert jury, who’s points account for one half of our final score – a songwriter from Satellite, president of the MGP fan club, Chanée (half of the duo from Denmark in 2010), the director from 2014’s Contest, and a music producer.

 

Song 1Rays of Sunlight performed by David Jay

This song is a lot of fun! The performance is great. Why the arrangement is a nice and the lyrics are swell – the song is just a bit too corny, for my taste. Maybe it will grow on me, but right now, I’m a bit lukewarm on it.

Song 2 Heart Shaped Hole performed by Simone

While this is not the song co-written by winning performer Emmelie de Forest (that is song 10), this song brings to mind Rainmaker and Hunter and Prey, two of de Forest’s post-Contest songs. Despite this, I think the song is really great! The oversized heart is also a nice touch – particularly as it raises her up a bit. I don’t quite understand the point of the dancers, as they’re barely onscreen. Very strong song!

Song 3Breakaway performed by Bracelet

Hoping that their dual Danish-Swedish heritage works to their advantage. What are they wearing?! It’s like they want to try to be loud and edgy, but they don’t take any real risks with it; overall, their look is just kind of weak. The song is rather repetitive, but not in a good way. While it may appeal to the hoards of preteen girls watching, I just don’t see this song having mass appeal.

Song 4Blue Horizon  performed by Sophia Nohr

I like this, but think that it tries too hard to be “different and unique” — this is what we would refer to a “hipster” song here in the States. It’s alright, I don’t think it will move through to the superfinal, but it’s not bad.

Song 5  – The Wrong Kind performed by Veronicas Illusion

It’s nice to have another uptempo song, but this isn’t very good. There’s a lot of flashing lights and sounds and dances. It’s just a complete mess. The song is only okay. I am not impressed and don’t anticipate this song being very popular tonight.

So, halfway through, I think songs 1 and 2 are so far the strongest; but  neither are all that stunning. Interestingly, we don’t really see the usual attempts of capturing last year’s magic of Heroes, A Million Voices, or Grande Amore. Perhaps the second half will present a few examples?

Song 6  – Soldiers of Love  performed by Lighthouse X

I don’t care for their voices; at least, not when they sing individually. Despite this, Soldiers for Love is, thus far, the most complete song we’ve seen. The performance and staging are modest, but in a good way. The song is catchy without being overly repetitive. The music is nice. It will just be a matter of whether the Danes can get past their aversion to military metaphors and vote for them.

Song 7  – Who Needs a Heart  performed by Kristel Lisberg

Again, I do not particularly like her voice. I like her outfit, but not those of her backing singers. Umm….this song is okay. It would definitely need to some beefing up and reworking if it somehow wins tonight. But since I do not see that as a major possibility, I don’t think that it will be an issue.

Song 8  – Break It Good  performed by Jessica

Hmm, a reggae-inspired song. I cannot say that I was expecting something like this. But I cannot imagine this song doing well either tonight in DMGP or on the stage in Stockholm. Also, what the heck is she wearing?

Song 9  – To Stjerner performed by Muri & Mario

Our one and only Danish language song tonight. It really is a shame the DR does not promote more Danish language stuff — it’s been almost twenty years since we’ve last heard Danish on the ESC stage. I like the sound of the song; it’s very different and stands out from the crowd. The acrobat is also a nice touch. Once again, the singer’s voice needs some work, in my opinion. But I like the song and think that it could do well in Sweden, but not so much here.

Song 10  – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen

This is the song co-written by Emmelie de Forest; it has a bit of controversy, because de Forest had performed it at a few, smaller concerts a few years ago. After consulting with the EBU, it was determined that those public performances were not big enough to warrant eliminating the song. Oh no, it sounds like she’s sick or something, her voice just sounds off. As the winner of The Voice Australia, I was imagining a stronger performance. It’s a shame, because this sounds like a song that has a real  shot of, not only winning tonight, but challenging for the crown in Stockholm. Hopefully, the Danish public and the jury look past her rough start and vote for this song!

 

So, my thoughts on our ten songs from tonight.

My Top Five

  1. Song 6 – Soldiers of Love performed by Lighthouse X
  1. Song 2 – Heart Shaped Hole performed by Simone
  1. Song 10 – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen
  1. Song 9 – To Stjerner performed by Muri & Mario
  1. Song 1 – Rays of Sunlight performed by David Jay

Who I think will make it to the Superfinal

  1. Song 10 – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen
  1. Song 6 – Soldiers of Love performed by Lighthouse X
  1. Song 2 – Heart Shaped Hole performed by Simone

I know what you’re thinking, “he just chose his top three songs to move through to the superfinal. That’s not very smart.” And you’re both wrong and right. I chose the three songs that I think have the best shot of moving through to the Superfinal; they just so happened to be my favorite three from the night. You’re right in that I do not have a very good history with picking successful entries at DMGP. But hey – no one’s perfect!

Our annual choir of kids.  Yadda yadda yadda. Small talk with hosts and guests. Yadda yadda yaddda.

Okay, and our three qualifiers are….

  1. Song 2 – Heart Shaped Hole performed by Simone
  1. Song 6 – Soldiers of Love performed by Lighthouse X
  1. Song 10 – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen

 

Buahahaha! I was 3 for 3, 100% correct! That’s exciting! Now another sketch (which, by the way, these sketches are funny, to imagine that her as this tough-as-nails, Godfather-type character, is pretty cool).

Okay, and onwards to the Superfinal. This is for all the marbles. The songs need to be in full glory this time around in order to be crowned in victory.

Song 2  – Heart Shaped Hole  performed by Simone

Her voice is amazing, just as strong as the first time around. However, I don’t feel like this is any better than earlier tonight; it’s merely the same level of performance. She needs to give us more in the last third of the song. Here we go…building up to the final climax…and…meh. A very good job, no doubt, but will it be good enough to leave a massive impression and knock off the other two.

It’s about time we talk about Dansevise, one of my favorite ESC winners of all time! It’s such a haunting song, particularly the guitar rift, which is what we’re focusing on here in this video.

Song 6  – Soldiers of Love performed by Lighthouse X

They’re voices need to be stronger and clearer this time around. So far, so good. It’s good, but I just can’t keep thinking about the 3JS (Netherlands 2011) when I listen to this song. I really like this song, and think it could compete on the ESC stage, however, I just don’t think it has enough to beat either of the other two songs, even with this slightly better performance in the Superfinal.

Song 10  – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen

So, I think this is hers to lose at this point (which is interesting, as Denmark is not known for choosing non-Danish performers, even when they have Danish heritage). You can see it in her eyes, she’s performing with this look of confidence, as if she’s already won. Listen to the crowd! That was a good performance. Again, her voice was not as strong as it could have been, but I think she gave a great performance.

After last year’s failure, Denmark is striking back with three very strong songs that all are worthy of bringing the trophy back to Denmark. I like Soldiers of Love a lot, but I just do not think that it has what it takes to outperform the other two songs in the voting. It’s not as captivating as the other two and the singers are less appealing to the general audience.  So, while I think that Heart Shaped Hole is the better song and the better-performed song, I have a feeling that Never Alone is going to easily win tonight. Which, honestly, might be the better, strategic choice for DR, as Nissen is Australian which unlocks loyalty voting from Australia, the UK, and Ireland. The song is also more uptempo and more uplifting; it’s catchy and the singer is pretty. We’ll see.

Okay, so now we’re talking about Swedish winners. Oh! A fun picture of Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden 2015) with a pile of beer. A short interview with C​​harlotte Perelli (Sweden 1999…and 2008). And now, a performance from Loreen (Sweden 2012), who’s as pretty as ever and singing a lovely version of the ever popular Euphoria.

Danish Flag MapFinal Resutls!

So, Heart Shaped Hole gets third place…and the winner is…Soldiers of Love! Of course it is. Right when I predicted that it would come in last. Honestly, I think Denmark would be well off with any of these three songs. This is my favorite song from tonight. It will be interesting to see how the song takes shape between now and when the final version is due in mid-March. As I say above, I think that this song has a very strong chance to do well at the ESC and I look forward to supporting the song in Stockholm!

 

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Hopes for the 2016 Contest

esc2016

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Design:

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

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

Hosts:

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

Staging:

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

The Fan Experience:

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

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

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

What are your hopes for this year’s Contest?

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for 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?


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Christmas!

Merry Christmas Dear Readers — and Happy New Year!

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

Find the playlist on YouTube: Eurovision for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Nox (Hungary 2005) – Szent ünnep

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

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

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

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

  15. Litesound (Belarus 2012) – Shooting Star

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

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

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

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

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

  21. Bzikebi (JESC Georgia 2008) – Ave Maria

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

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for 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


Reaction to the First Semi-Final

Whoa! What a show! Every act brought their best, with the exceltion of Belarus – which was truly underwhelming, lacking the energy that this song deserves.

A few things:
-Per usual, I was 70% accurate in my predictions. I picked Macedonia, Denmark, and Belarus instead of Hungary, Armenia, and (happily) Belgium.
-Best surprise: Moldova. The performance was on point! It trotted the line of exciting without going over-the-top.
-Second surprise: Greece. It was actualy exciting! The song was so wonderfully performed and the crescendo to the final moments was exhilerating.
-Biggest surprise: Belgium’s qualfication! I love this song but had little faith in it moving through due to its style (as I discuss in a previous post).
-The first semi-final is the weaker of two BUT the performers set a high bar. I feel even better about my prediction of Albania being in the Top Ten. I am now thinking that Belgium might work its way up there, too. Knowing that tomorrow’s are *better*, I am super-excited for the Second Semi-Final!


ESC 2015 – Final Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

Well, it’s finally here: Eurovision Week 2015!!! It’s a little late, but what’s a 60th edition without a bit of pomp and fanfare? Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, my annual Notes and Country Profiles will be coming at you ahead of your Eurovision Parties on Saturday!

Per usual, I want to make my final predictions ahead of the semi-finals! Once again, I will be attending the Contest live! (If you have not seen my previous posts, I have a FundRazr campaign!) What this means is that I will not have live notes this year, but will instead do a quick recap and reaction after each semi-final and the Grand Final. You can still expect my wrap-up post and awards after the Contest.

Without further ado, here are my final predictions for this year! These predictions are based upon internet chatter, betting odds, and Contest history. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below!

Qualifiers from First Semi-Final: I do not foresee too many surprises, except for maybe a bloated Armenian entry being left behind.Greek Flag Map

  • Greece
  • Estonia
  • Macedonia
  • Serbia
  • BelarusBelorussian Flag Map
  • Russia
  • Denmark
  • Albania
  • Romania
  • Georgia

Qualifiers from the Second Semi-Final: A lot of the heavy hitters are on tonight. While San Marino has improved its placing each year, even finally qualifying for the Final last year, that trend will end in Vienna.Lithuanian Flag Map

  • Lithuania
  • Ireland
  • Montenegro
  • Norway
  • Israel
  • AzerbaijanIcelandic Flag Map
  • Iceland
  • Sweden
  • Slovenia
  • Poland

Prediction for the final Top Ten: There’s a lot of parity this year. Unlike the bookies, I do not think it will be a runaway victory for Sweden. It’s going to be an intense battle for the crystal microphone – and I very much look forward to it!Albania

    • Sweden – the big favorite and catchiest song this year
    • Lithuania – cute and the duo has fantastic chemistry
    • Albania – the song is captivating and has been sliding beneath the radar
    • Azerbaijan – a rare gem in artistic creation at the Contest
    • Australia – fun, catchy and makes you want to dance with the one you love!
  • Italy – everything you think of when contemplating Italian musicItaly
  • Slovenia – quirky, endearing and easy to sing along to
  • Russia – a powerfully sung entry about peace
  • Norway – dark, mysterious and masterfully sung
  • Ireland – it’s time for Ireland to return to the Top Ten and this serious, contemplative number can do just that

AzerbaijanAnd the winner is….Azerbaijan! I am predicting that we’ll be heading back to Baku (or possibly Ganja) in 2016. After last year’s *relative* failure (by Azerbaijani standards), İctimai Television has gone to new lengths to bring a soul-searching, moody, meaningful entry to Eurovision this year.


2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2015

The new DMGP logo

The new DMGP logo

And thus, it begins! In what is shaping up to be one of the more unique Contest years, let’s hope the the actual shows live up to all the craziness that is happening. But, before we dive into the news , my first post of the new season, as always, focuses on Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2015!

Danish Flag MapPer usual, these are live notes.  I am writing this as I am watching this for the first time. I do go back and edit for typos, but that is it. Given that my favorite song rarely wins DMGP, I am predicting that my predictions will be way off once again!

Hmm, just from the opening, the production value seems quite a bit lower than in the recent past. DR is probably still recovering from all the expenses of hosting the Contest last year.

Here we go!

Song One: Love Me, Love Me performed by Sara Sukurani
I’m not quite sure what she is wearing; it’s rather awful. I do love the Bollywood sound to this song. The dance portion is not all that interesting – if she were to win, it would need to be spruced up tremendously. Not a bad song, nor a bad way to start off the evening. I do not, however, think we will be hearing this song again tonight.

Ahhhh…is this social media pandering going to be happening all night? Oh look, a post about the hosts. Yay. (That’s sarcasm, by the way)

Funny video, but I would prefer for us to move through the songs as uninterrupted as possible. All the extra stuff can happen before and after.

Song Two: Mi Amore performed by Tina & René
Oh, our requisite Thomas G:son song for DMGP. A light year for the prolific Swedish  composer, only five songs throughout Europe this year. For me, this song is the definition of generic. Not all that inspiring and rather repetitive. It will not stand up to the competition in Vienna. I hope, for Denmark’s sake, it does not win. I don’t dislike the song, in terms of its musical merit, I just think it’s a weak entry competitively.

So, now we begin introducing the regional juries. This year, DR is reverting to a selection process not unlike its pre-2010 days. DR has divided the country into regions and has given each a jury in the selection process.

The audience vote is a little different.  There are 290 points available. The points are divided amongst the ten songs in accordance with the percentage of the popular vote that it yields.

DR decided to use regional juries and scrap their balance of ONE jury and several popular votes that has been in use since 2010. Interestingly enough, 2010 is when Denmark started its recent string of success. I wonder if this move is as much about avoiding winning, after bearing the expense of hosting last year, as it is about trying to increase nationwide buy-in for the winner. Perhaps DR is just trying to capitalize on the increased interest in the Contest while it can.

Song Three: Når Veje Krydses performed by Marcel & Soulman Group
I almost always like the Danish-language songs in DMGP – and this is no exception. It has a sweet melody, a catchy melody, and a strong performance. The soulful sound is also quite nice! It’s the well ahead of the previous two in my opinion.

Song Four: Hotel A performed by Cecilie Alexandra
Interesting sound…is she singing in English?  Yes.  All of a sudden, Love Me, Love Me is sounding a lot better. The refrain is well articulated and easy to sing along to. However, much like Song Two, this one is pleasant but weak. Ultimately, I cannot see it moving forward tonight. I can’t help but feel that this song was just short of being awesome; I’m not quite sure what is missing, but it just feels incomplete.

Song Five: Love is Love performed by Andy Roda
I don’t know if his voice is strong enough to pull this song off. I am thinking that he is just nervous. This is alright.  Oh! Love the glitter! Hoping it has the same effect that Only Teardrops‘ confetti did? Hmmm…I would say that this is the second strongest song thus far.

Hmmm, halfway through and I am not overly confident that Denmark will return to the Top Ten in Vienna. Let’s hope the second half has some stronger entries!

Song Six: Tæt på Mine Drømme performed by Julie Bjerre
She looks like a child, but is dressed like a middle-aged woman – at least, they are not trying to make her look overly sexy. There is something very 80s about this entry. Personally, this is my third favorite thus far behind songs three and four, but I think, thus far, it is the strongest entry. It is catchy; the singer is cute; the song is pleasant yet memorable. The eighties-style staging captures the song’s sound well and Bjerre’s voice is right on.

Song Seven: The Way You Are performed by Anti Social Media
When one pictures male Danish teenagers, I am pretty sure they are precisely the image that comes to mind. THAT is not the sound I was expecting with a name like “Anti Social Media.” There are definitely some articulation and pronunciation issues, which harkens to the question, “What’s wrong with songs in one’s own language?” Right – if you have ever read my converage on DMGP, you know that I believe that the Danes generally believe that their language, though pretty, would inhibit a song’s success. Therefore, I think Danish language entries have a disadvantage at DMGP.  Whereas the previous song had a distinct 1980s sound, this one had a distinct 1970s sounds to it. What’s next, disco? I think the song still needs some work, but I would put its chances second to song six (despite what I just said about Danish-language entries).

Song Eight: Suitcase performed by Anne Gadegaard
Despite the fact that the backing vocals are a bit too loud, I really like the staging and performance. The song is crazy catchy and tells a story. The camera work is also quite nice. By far, the strongest entry to be performed tonight. This sounds like it would fit right in on the Eurovision stage. More confetti! Though, they lose their effect if the camera is inside the confetti shower. I really like it, though! At this point, this is my choice to win.

Song Nine: Manjana performed by Babou
What language is he singing in? I can barely hear him over the music. Okay – he’s singing in Danish. It only took a verse and a half to figure that out. I do like the sound of the entry, though. It makes me want to get up and dance – which I believe is the point. This volume imbalance has been going on all night. Hmm…I think it is a strong entry. It’s making me think about how I am balancing all the entries against one another.

Song Ten: Summer Without You performed by World of Girls
They described the song as “girl power” and that is the sound – kinda of bubblegummy and very girly. It definitely harkens back to the nineties girl groups, in sound and look. The pause was interesting – as was the slow-motion at the end. Just a lot of interesting staging choices. Not my favorite, but I can understand its appeal.

Okay, so, all the songs have been performed. My predictions for the Top Three:
1. Song Eight – Suitcase
2. Song Nine – Manjana
3. Song Ten – Summer Without You

I think that Suitcase is the best song and the other two are the most infectious. Manjana is the token Danish-language song that will move through, as one (just one and never more) usually finishes in the top three.

Once again, DR seems to have saved the strongest songs for the second half of the show. Which is not fair, but whatever. I am tired of talking about my dislike for producer-decided running orders. ANYWAY, while songs 6-10 are all in the same realm of strength, I think that the three above have the best chances of success tonight and in Vienna.

In terms of my favorite three:
1. Song Three – Når Veje Krydses
2. Song Eight – Suitcase
3. Song Six – Tæt på Mine Drømme

And now, the results of the five juries:
First region (Zealand) in: Hotel A takes the initial lead
Second region (Middle Jutland) puts The Way You Are in a tie with Hotel A
Third region (Southern Jutland & Fyn) has technical difficulties!
Fourth region (Copenhagen) breaks the tie and puts The Way You Are in first.
Back Region Three (Southern Jutland & Fyn) – and more top points for boys with the 70s sound.
Fifth Region (Northern Jutland) extends the lead for The Way You Are.

It is strange to me that they would show the juries’ points BEFORE closing the voting lines. Wouldn’t that influence the audience’s votes?

Now, last year’s winner Basim sings an unexpectedly serious song (when compared to Cliché Love Song) that actually sounds pretty cool. Oh, I should have known that annoying song was going to be performed.

And now, our annual commercial for MGP (the junior song contest that inspired JESC). Every year, the entrants from MGP come and perform their group song to raise awareness and interest for their competition in just a few weeks time.

And now, the results of the audience’s vote read in the order of their eventual final placing
Song 1, only 13 points
Song 5, only 8 points
Song 9 – 35 points (guess I was way off in my prediction!)
Song 10 – 34 points (see above)
Song 2 – 20 points
Song 3 – 18 points
Song 4 is out of the running with only 18 points from the audience
Song 6 gets 38 big points, but it is not enough to stay alive

And now, the winner! I am either really right (for only the second time for DMGP – 2013 being the first) or really wrong

Song 7 gets a whopping 48 points. Not being quick with math, I am not sure if the remaining points are enough for my favorite, Song 8, to catch up.  It needs 65 to win. Let’s see!

D’oh! it gets only 58 points, falling a mere seven points short of victory.
The quintessential Danes and their 70s song win Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2015!

While I do not think that the boys are ready, the juries, and a good portion of the audience, think that they are.

Okay, so, as I listen to their Winner’s Reprise, I think the following things are necessary for them to be successful in Vienna (be mindful, I am much better at predicting ESC success than success at DMGP)
Denmark1. They need to work on their enunciation of English – this is a common ailment amongst non-native speakers, but winners of the modern era have had pretty good diction. There’s no advantage to singing in English if people cannot understand you.
2. There outfits need to coordinate. They need to dive into their seventies sound – where matching suits and put the backing vocalists in coordinated dresses. Think Armenia’s entry from the 2012. The boys of Compass Band were dressed for the era.
3. They need to play up to the fact that they are young, likeable guys. Everyone likes cute young people with catchy songs. They need to avoid negative press and just present themselves as ordinary, European guys.

With a little work, this song could reach the Top Ten. If you think that tween girls are one of the primary ESC demographics, Anti Social Media should have them on lock. I don’t mention gay men, as that demographic is more associated with dance tunes, divas, and hot men (as opposed to younger guys). Ultimately, I think this song is a shoo-in for the Grand Final but will find itself outside the Top Ten. While I think they will achieve a respectful finish, I just don’t see them improving their performance and staging enough to compete seriously on a pan-European level.

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ESC2014 – Contender or Pretender: Episode Two

Hello Readers!  If you are just joining us, I am reviewing the top six entries according to the bookmakers and determining whether they are legitimately in the running for the crown (contenders) or merely overrated (pretenders).  I previously anointed Sweden as a contender and Ukraine as a pretender.  Today, we’re looking at Denmark and Armenia.  I had to think long and hard about both of these entries and have actually reversed my original thoughts on both.

Denmark

Danish Flag MapSong: Cliché Love Song     Performing Artist: Basim

Why it is a contender: Basim has a million-dollar smile and delivers the song well.  He also capitalizes on the Bruno Mars style music (I like to call it “Pop & B”) that is quite popular right now.  The song also has a trademark big note that allows it to really quite stick in the viewers’ and judges’ minds (for better or for worse).  Not to mention that this entry will be running in the 23rd spot, a prime location and DR has plenty of time to strategize how to best pad it with weaker entries on either side.

Why it is a pretender: The song, while catchy, can be rather annoying.  The lyrics are not that strong, either.  Plus, that big note can come back to bite Denmark in the butt if Basim botches it (think Israel 2010).

Final Verdict: Contender While the song gets continually less likeable with each listen, the stars are aligned for Basim to lead the Danes to the ever-so-rare back-to-back victory.  This will hold doubly true if predicted favorite Norway stumbles in the second semi-final (but more on Norway in the next C.or.P episode).

Armenia

Armenian Flag MapSong: Not Alone     Performing Artist: Aram MP3

Why it is a contender: This song just sticks out.  In a year full of ballads, country/folk, and dance, Armenia sticks out as a modern piece of music.  In that regard, it needs to draw comparisons to Sweden 2012 – an entry that stood out from the field for being so unique and ear- (and eye) catching.

Why it is a pretender: There was another modern piece of music that year in Baku – Montenegro’s entry Euro Neuro.  While Montenegro surely did not have the same expectations as this year’s Armenian entry, it, too, drew attention for the same reasons: off-centre song that pushed the limits of how music is defined.  Not Alone does not follow typical melodic patterns, lyrical traditions, and is much darker in its performance interpretation than most ESC entries.

Final Verdict: Pretender This is probably the hardest one to call.  Every strength that this song has could be equally argued as a weakness – at least as far as ESC success is concerned.  With the added news that it will be Aram MP3 alone on stage for the performance; it makes me think that this song will go over the heads of most who are viewing and voting.  I still love this song, though.