Posts tagged “Eurovision Song Contest

ESC2015: Contender or Pretender

Hello Dear Readers! Time for our annual Contender or Pretender series! Once again, we have a slew of bookie favorites that I am taking upon myself to put through the ringer as we head into Eurovision Week 2015! I have selected the six entries that have the highest odds according to OddsChecker: Sweden, Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Australia, Italy, and Estonia. Interestingly enough, Norway and Lithuania, both early favorites, seem to be fading as the Contest draws near. Given the fact that the opening reception is occurring as I write this, we’ll just go through all of these fantastic songs together!

Swedish Flag MapSweden
Heroes performed Måns Zelmerlöw
Reason it’s a contender: Another year, another Swedish entry picked by bookies and fans alike to win. This year, we see Måns Zelmerlöw finally earn the Swedish ticket to ESC. A likable, attractive guy with a schlager song that is catchy, well composed, and fantastically performed.
Reason it’s a pretender: We have not seen a true schlager song win the Contest since Latvia back in 2002. Heroes, for all its merits, is full-blown Germanic pop meant for ESC: i.e., schlager. Fans tend to get less enthused for this style, particularly in the East.
Final Verdict: Contender! Since missing the Final in 2010, Sweden has only brought its top game to the Contest, this year is no different. The song has already been charting in several countries and the staging is impeccable. Expect another top three finish for Sweden.

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani Flag Map
Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Hüseynov
Reason it’s a contender: Well-written, well-composed, well-performed, Hour of the Wolf is a perfect confluence of elements of victory. After last year’s understated performance garnered Azerbaijan’s first ever finish outside the Top Ten, expect a stage show that dazzles!
Reason it’s a pretender: A tepid performance will result in this song being lost in the shuffle of ballads and washed out by the uptempo pieces.
Final Verdict: Contender! This song is the real deal. Everything about this song represents the heights of music composition and lyric writing. There is a rare gem of an artistic work like this at the Contest. This song has the potential to win and promote high standards of music within the Contest.

Slovene Flag MapSlovenia
There for You performed by Maraaya
Reason it’s a contender: The song is modern and relatable — and the song reflects the relationship between the husband and wife! It’s an easy song to sing along to and inspires an instant connection from the listener.
Reason it’s a pretender: Interestingly enough, up to date songs do not tend to win the Contest (with Euphoria being the notable exception). The singer’s voice is also a bit unique, which may rub some viewers the wrong way.
Final Verdict: Pretender! This song is lovely and cute, but not strong enough to help Maraaya lift the crystal microphone Saturday night. While this might be Slovenia’s strongest showing since 2011, I do not think that the song has gained enough steam to propel it beyond the stronger entries.

AustraliaAustralian Flag Map
Tonight Again performed by Guy Sebastian
Reason it’s a contender: The song is uptempo, fun, and incredibly easy to dance to. Guy Sebastian is charismatic and Australia has already shown that it will pull no punches in its quest for victory.
Reason it’s a pretender: There are a lot of folks out there that will angrily withhold votes for this song simply because Australia is not a European country. Additionally, R&B has not traditionally played well at the Contest.
Final Verdict: Contender! For as many people who will not vote for Australia, there are just as many who will. Guy Sebastian has the added bonus of already having some name recognition. The song is contemporary, fun, and, if performed flawlessly, has a real shot of sealing the deal for the Aussies!

Italian Flag MapItaly
Grande Amore performed by Il Volo
Reason it’s a contender: Fresh off its OGAE International victory, the Italian entry seems to be peaking around the right time. It is everything that one imagines when one thinks of Italian music – operatic tenors singing a dramatic song about love.
Reason it’s a pretender: The song is a bit old-fashioned and has an air of self-importance. Not to mention that Italy seems to always just fall short of its potential since its return to the Contest.
Final Verdict: Pretender! While this song did win the OGAE International Poll, which predicted both Sweden’s and Denmark’s victory, the poll is imperfect, as many of the others that have fared well in the poll have fallen flat at the Contest (for example: San Marino 2013). At the end of the day, Grande Amore is too dramatic and too predictable to bring the Contest back to Italy.

EstoniaEstonian Flag Map
Goodbye to Yesterday performed by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
Reason it’s a contender: The song is gritty and unexpected. Not only that, but the duo have decent chemistry together and the lyrics lend themselves to an unfolding narrative on-stage.
Reason it’s a pretender: The song is a little too edgy for a mostly family-oriented program. Many of the viewers who will be tuning in on the night may be turned off by the song’s subject matter and a couple with such a large age discrepancy.
Final Verdict: Pretender! This song appeals to many for its edge, but not enough to make-up for those who will be turned-off by it. Actually, I think Estonia will not only NOT win, but will finish with a disappointing final placing outside the Top Ten.

So, in summary: SwedenContenders:
Sweden
Azerbaijan
Australia

SloveniaPretenders:
Slovenia
Italy
Estonia

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Road to Denmark 2014: Looking Back at Albania

Welcome to the first in my series “Road to Denmark 2014: A Retrospective” in which I am looking back at all the entries between when I first started following the Contest in 2007 to now as I prepare to see the Contest live in Denmark next year.  I’m going through each of the 46 countries that have competed over the past seven years alphabetically starting with Albania!

Albania

Click for full size

Albanian flag countryAs you can see, I rate the Albanian entries fairly high.  Given that I am American, we generally view 75% as “average” and that is the mentality that I am bringing to these ratings.  Elements that I generally view as generic received a “7” with songs that I consider strong or weak having their scores adjusted accordingly.  A brief look at seven Albanian entries, then I’ll provide a deeper focus on a few select entries.

2007 – Hear My Plea – I actually really liked this song, it was so unique and stood out for everything else in the field. You could feel the longing in Ndoci’s voice.  I think that these entry suffered from being a bit too different without being memorably so.

2008 – Zemrën E Lamë Peng – An understated song that was aptly sung by one of the youngest artists to be on the ESC stage.  While I think the song is artistically valuable, it’s not really my cup of tea – it doesn’t really go anywhere musically.

2009 – Carry Me in Your Dreams – A fun song that is easy to sing along to.  This song seems to have a bit of a cult following, but RTSH seems to have clamped down on this song more than any other and it’s hard to find online (and the 80’s style music video has essentially disappeared from the internet). I like it and can’t wait for Kejsi Tola to make it back to the ESC stage.

2010 – It’s All About You – As you can see, this is my favorite Albanian entry thus far.  It is one I sing in the shower on a regular basis.  It’s fun, modern, and sung beautifully.  It’s a great, up-tempo love song.

2011 – Feel the Passion – Another personal favorite, despite the fact that the performance could have been stronger.  I like being able to shout at the top of my lungs when singing along with a song and this definitely provides those opportunities, not to mention the vaguely religious undertones of the lyrics.

2012 – Suus -The most successful Albanian entry to date.  Rona Nishliu is an amazing singer, though, I still maintain that her vocals were a bit off on the night of the Grand Final.  Whether I am listening to the original or the jazzed up English version, this song gets me every time.

2013 – Identitet – It’s always nice to see a genuine rock number at ESC; they add a bit of spice to the disco/ballad melange that the Contest typically is.  I am not a big fan of this particular song, but think it’s a valiant effort.

With that said, I do want to focus on one particular Albanian entry – 2012’s SuusAlbaniaThe reason that the Contest utterly captured me from the very first time that I watched it was the fact that I could understand the exact sentiments of the singers without knowing their language.  I could feel the heartbreak, I could celebrate the joy, I could lose myself in the frenzied state induced by certain entries.  Rona Nishliu exemplifies this.  This song is pure art, which does not have the best record at ESC.  But she was able to secure Albania’s best placing to date because her vocal performance transcended style and language.  During her semi-final performance, tears were brought to my eyes; I could feel my heart break when she kicked it up a notch in the Final.  Many casual viewers complain that the ESC lacks artistic merit and doesn’t make valuable contributions to culture (I vehemently disagree, of course) this song, and entries like it, strengthen the argument that ESC is a valuable aspect of pan-European culture.  Thank you Albania for sending Suus!

 

You can find all the entries here.  Next up in the series: Andorra


Eurovision 2013 – One Week Later

So, it’s been a week since Denmark’s third Eurovision victory – and what a week it has been!!  But more on the accusations, concerns, and speculations a little later – first, let’s wrap up Eurovision 2013…and we all know what that means – my annual awards!  I will give out awards for lyrics, outfits, American-ized sound, and general “ESC-ness.”  Additionally, I am adding awards for staging.  Please note, all photos are from the official ESC website: eurovision.tv.

Best Lyrics Award

Icelandic Flag MapWinner: Iceland

“Og ég trúi því, já ég trúi því
Kannski opnast fagrar gáttir himins
Yfir flæðir fegursta ástin hún umvefur mig alein”

Full disclosure here: my primary reason for liking these lyrics so much are their Christian undertones.  The whole song is sung vaguely to a “you” and how the love this person (or Deity) provides hope, light, and inspiration.

First Runner-Up: Croatia

“Zlata niman da te njime okitim
Samo ove ruke dvi da ti dušu zagrlim”

A simple love song – the singer has nothing more than love to offer his beloved.  The “misery” they keep singing is a reflection of this lack of material goods.

Second Runner-Up: Estonia

“Veel sulab jää ja õide puhkeb raagus puu
Iga lõpp ei ole muud kui algus uus
On vaja ööd, et päev tooks valguse”

Some might consider this song a bit trite, but I like it!  The hope it inspires, its optimistic attitude.  All of which are made more significant by the fact that Birgit is pregnant with her first child.

Honorable Mention: Greece, Cyprus, France, Israel

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

Winner: BelarusBelorussian Flag Map

“Solayoh, Solayoh, where the sun is always shining on ya
We play-oh, we play-oh to the rhythm of a cha-cha”

Yeah…if you’re going to make up words, go the whole way and sing the whole song in an imaginary language – none of this mix-and-match stuff.

First Runner-Up: Hungary

“Farkasok neveltek és
Táncolt egy délibábbal
Majd elillant csendesen”

Throughout the song, we learn that his love was raised by wolves, she embraces the seven continents, and dances with mirages.  What?  Who is this girl? Is she some kind of wild child?  How does one dance with mirages?

Second Runner-Up: Montenegro

“Kik i bas zaraza razara, niko neće poć’ utvrđenog pazara
Opet sjutra utabanim stazama, s mojima visim ne mislim o parama”

A song about going to a never-ending party, with lots of ways to lose your money and with plenty of scantily clad women.  It’s like a flashback to the 90s! Really, just a rather vapid song, lyrically.

Honorable Mention: Lithuania, Serbia, Macedonia

Best Dressed Award

Winner: ItalyItaly

A big improvement from last year!  Marco Mengoni was impeccably dressed in a sharp green suit, good stuff!

Runner-Up: Norway    norwayoutfit2

Her dress, which was only slightly altered from the one she wore at Norsk Melodi Grand Prix, fit the attitude of the song perfectly.  Tight, alluring, but covers enough to leave a bit of mystery in the air.  Perfect.

Second Runner-Up: Malta
malta outfits

Their outfits perfectly fit the feeling of the song and the persona of the singers.

Honorable Mention: Moldova, Georgia, Ireland, The Netherlands

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

Winner: Serbia
Serbia outfits

Moje 3 won the Barbara Dex Award this year.  Need I say more?

First Runner-Up: Romania
romania outfits

His outfit was not only awful, but he had the nerve to complain that people continually compared him to Dracula.  Let’s see, you’re from Romania, you have a black cloak that has a collar as high as your head, and you rise up throughout your song while surrounded by people who look as if they’re covered in blood (and nothing else!) – yeah, those comparisons are going to be made.

Second Runner-Up: Belarus
belarus outfits

Bright…shiny…death by sequins…

Honorable Mention: Israel, Bulgaria, Petra Mede (I know she wasn’t competing, but her dresses were awful)

Best Staging Award: a new award this year – I often talk about the performances and thought that I should formally recognize the best ones

Winner: Azerbaijanazerbaijan performance

The idea of using a dancer to shadow Fariid Mammadov was genius.  Its execution was even more brilliant.  They established the box man’s purpose, which allowed him to be a bit more freeform later in the performance. Smashing!

First Runner-Up: Denmark

Frankly. this staging was designed to make this entry look like a winner – and it worked.  Well done!

Second Runner-Up: France

It was very simple, but Amandine Bourgeois excelled on stage and brought the passion and the fire!

Honorable Mention: Italy, Moldova, San Marino

I don’t want to add another negative award for worse staging, so I won’t.  Though, I do want to say that Belarus was way over the top.

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

Winner: SloveniaSlovene Flag Map

Not just because Hannah Mancini is American, but in a year with a lot of ethnopop, this one brought the least “European” feel to the Contest this year.

First Runner-Up: Switzerland

They reminded me a lot of generic Christian rock – which I guess makes sense given Takasa’s background.

Second Runner-Up: Moldova

Very much a 1990’s R&B sound to this song.

Honorable Mention: Greece, Russia, Finland

“The 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

Winner: GermanyGerman Flag Map

It’s Cascada.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this song on the radio in a month of so.

First Runner-Up: Sweden

One of the more modern entries this year, I think You would fit perfectly with the current Top 40 in the American charts.

Second Runner-Up: Greece

While the metaphors and intricacies of the lyrics would be lost on most in the US, it’s a great party song and the masses would jump behind the “Alcohol is free” lyrics and ska sound.

Honorable Mention: Moldova, Hungary, Finland, Norway, United Kingdom

The “Spirit of ABBA” Award: Give to the most stereotypical ESC entry – especially apropos due to this year’s location in Sweden!

Winner: BelarusBelorussian Flag Map

Campy – yes!  Dodgy lyrics – yes!  Over-the-top stage performance – yesyes!!

First Runner-Up: Georgia

I have said this and so have many commentators and commenters: “this song is Eurovision by numbers.” Just your standard, carbon cut ESC song.

Second Runner-Up: Denmark

Also considered tobe a bit generic, this year’s Danish entry was flashy and vaguely ethnic, two classic elements to many ESC entries.

Honorable Mention: Russia, Malta

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

Israeli Flag CountryWinner Moment: Israel failing to qualify

This year, Israel had a very strong composition, with well written lyrics, and an amazing singer.  Yes, her dress was ridiculous and distracting, but not so much so that it warranted Israel’s failing so greatly.

First Runner-Up: San Marino failing to qualify

This song was a huge fan favorite, and rightfully so.  Granted, Valentina Monetta’s vocals were not as strong as they could have been, it was still a huge shock and disappointment that Crislide (Vola) failed to make it to the Final.

Second Runner-Up: France scoring only 23rd place.

Amandine Bourgeois was flawless on the night and deserved a Top 15 spot, if not Top Ten.  She was sunk by her position in the running order.

Honorable Mention: Finland allowed to have its girl-girl kiss (Krista Siegfrids admitted that it was a political move, but was still allowed to do it anyway)

And finally, the biggest award of them all…My Top Ten!  While I like all of the songs, these are my ten favorites taking into consideration the lyrics, music, live performance, and studio performance.  Songs are ranked from 10 – 1, with one being my most favorite song.

10. Azerbaijan I was lukewarm on this song until I saw the performance – wow!
9. Israel A captivating song from the first note
8. Hungary Smooth, understated, quite nice
7. Denmark A lovely song that is catchy and uncomplicated
6. San Marino Unexpected and entertaining, well sung
5. Slovenia This song is pure energy (it’s a shame about the live performance, though)
4. The Netherlands Powerful, quiet, and contemplative that perfectly builds throughout
3. Switzerland Fun and catchy, a love song that dares to pop
2. France Dark, powerful, and devilishly addictive
1. Norway Mysterious, very modern, and utterly captivating – live or in studio

Honorable Mention: Moldova, United Kingdom, Macedonia, Greece

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I will comment on the voting controversies (essentially, various countries are concerned that several entries receiving a lot of support from the televote received little to no points in the final point awarding) other than to say that I agree with the general consensus of the ESC blog world: people were not prepared for just how much the new voting system was going to affect the final scores.  I agree, the EBU should repeat what they did in 2009 and reveal the full split vote, showing the jury vote and televote for each country for each of the three shows.  Their rationale of “protecting countries that did not reach the televoting threshold” is suspicious and disconcerting (especially since they have not released the guidelines for what this threshold would be for each country, either).  Anyway, for more detailed look, you can go to one of my favorite ESC blogs and read his article on the voting.

I will also talk briefly about the Marcel Bezaçon Awards, the annual awards given to the Press’ favorite act, the best performance (as deemed by the commentators), and the best composition (as voted by the composers of the 39 competing songs).  Georgia won the Press Award (probably because of how stereotypically ESC it sounded).  Many complaining that Italy or The Netherlands should have won, but given that both of the performing artists canceled some press interactions and generally had an air of nonchalance, there was no way the Press would vote for them.  Azerbaijan won the Commentator’s Artistry Award; while I do no think any one would objectively say that Farid Mammadov was the best performer this year, the entire staging of the Hold Me definitely warranted Azerbaijan winning this award.  Finally, Sweden won the composition award.  I’m not quite sure how or why, it’s not bad, but there were many more with better compositions (such as Norway, Germany, or Greece), but the composers thought it was best so it won.  I imagine because it was one of the least divisive entries (the three I listed tend to have people who love or hate them, few that just like them).

Overall, I am satisfied with the results.  I’m still shocked that Romania seems to have broken the curse of the counter-tenor and landed a 13th placing.  I’m also pretty shocked that Belgium did so well with Love Kills as well.  But, as I say every year, the final placings are the ones that were deserved based on the lyrics, music, and performances during the second dress rehearsals and live telecasts.  I can’t wait until for my dvd to come in the mail!

Looking Forward

I won’t put too much here, as I will save my hopes for next year for after we learn a bit more about ESC2014.  But, I hope the DR makes some changes from this year’s Contest.

-I hope that we go back to a random draw.  Honestly, I did not see a big difference in the mix of musical styles or overall flow of the night, but I know there are a lot of angry folks around the Continent and can put their blame towards the producer-derived running order.

-I hope that the Contest will be more accessible.  I said it before, the sheer intensity and frequency that SVT pandered to gay male fans was annoying and unnecessary (which I am saying as a gay guy) and, more importantly, made this year’s Contest less accessible.  Now, it requires a disclaimer before I show it to my friends who are not gay males (which is the grand majority of them).

-I hope that DR chooses to host the Contest in the soon to be built Hans Christian Anderson Arena in Copenhagen.  CPH is by far the easiest and least expensive city to get to in Denmark (not to mention that I’ve already reserved my hotel room).  Also, the planned arena would be smaller than Parken, which would give the arena a more cozy (or hygge) feel.  And, since the arena is not yet built, they can optimize it for the Contest.  If Azerbaijan can build an arena in one year, surely Denmark can.

Going forward, I plan on posting a last ESC2013 entry once the split votes are revealed.  Throughout the summer, I will be posting articles about each of country’s entries since 2007 (my first year watching the Contest) highlighting my ones, key strengths and challenges moving forward, and one thing they can do to achieve a better result next year.


Eurovision 2013 — Grand Final Live Notes…Live!

Thanks for reading my live-live notes! It was fun, but difficult, but overall, worth it! I hope to make this a tradition (at least for the Grand Final).  If you did not come to this post until after the Contest, you’ll notice that it is in reverse chronological order, so scroll to the bottom and read your way back to the top of the page.  I have hyperlinked each individual performance (click the country’s name).  If you want to follow along in real time, here’s the link to the Grand Final on the official website.  Good night!

Final Thoughts

Looks like I am still batting .800.  Not too shabby!  I had predicted that Germany (finished 21st) and Georgia (finished 15th) would be in the Top Ten and sorely missed the call there.  I also predicted that the UK would finish in the Top 15, nope.  I did call Sweden finishing 14th, though, so that’s pretty sweet!  Overall, I’m quite happy with the results.  While I do not think Denmark was the strongest in any one field (lyrics, composition, performance), I thought it had the best package.  This is a situation similar to Norway’s win 2009.  Now, all three Scandinavian countries have won since 2009 (that’s 3 out of 4 years!) – expand that to include all the Nordic countries (add in Finland and Iceland) and they have 4 victories since 2006 and a slew of Top Ten placings.  I know people in the West like to whine about the East, but it’s the Nordic bloc that has taken control of the Contest. Not a bad thing, since all five of those countries take the Contest very seriously and tend to produce very strong entries.  It will be interesting to see next year.  DR is not as aggressive about change as SVT is (and, really, who is), so I am hoping that some things will revert – like, we’ll go back to random draw for the running order and we won’t have the host try to end the show early.  Denmark won a long time before Petra announced it, so everything just seemed a bit awkward.

Anyway, I have complained a lot about SVT’s production, but I want to note some highlights: the opening and interval acts were all top notch.  While I think they got a little too cheeky with the humor during tonight’s interval act, overall, it was funny and well done.  Sarah Dawn Finer did an amazing job (though, I do wonder if anyone bothered calling the Herrey’s or Charlotte Perelli who also won for Sweden in 1984 and 1999, respectively) both as Lynda Woodruff and when she sung.  I want to go find her now!  I loved the postcards – they really helped endear you to each performing artist. And I thought the stage was really nifty (though, it was a little too easy to hide backing singers) – so well done there!

More to come in my usual “One Week Later” post.  I will also go through and clean up this post for typos, correct factual mistakes, and add images and links to the performances.

Actual Top Ten

1. Denmark (1 for 1)
2. Azerbaijan (2 for 2)
3. Ukraine (3 for 3)
4. Norway (4 for 4)
5. Russia (4 for 5)
6. Greece (5 for 6)
7. Italy (6 for 7)
8. Malta (7 for 8)
9. The Netherlands (8 for 9)
10. Hungary (8 for 10)

I like that Denmark brought their own confetti to add to that which was already falling.  Many said that the Danish staging was made to look like a winner – and it was! It looked good, it sounded good, it had strong lyrics, and a strong composition.  It had huge support from fans, analysts,  and bookies alike.  It was song that was destined to win, albeit, I don’t think anyone (other than maybe the bookies who had this at much lower odds than everyone else) expected it to win by so much.

Boo SVT Boo!!!!!!  You cut off the winner’s reprise – that is wholly unacceptable!

Yay – time for the Winner’s Reprise!!  Not a close race like I was hoping for, but the outcome that I had wanted, most definitely!  I promised myself that I would go to the Contest if Denmark were to win – looks like I’m heading back to Land of the Danes!  As soon as the host city is officially announced – I will be booking plane tickets and hotel rooms (or couches of friends) and heading to the place where I first discovered the Contest back in 2007.

I love that she is walking through the flags of all the other countries – awesome!!  Even better, I predicted this win way back when she took DMGP!

And Azerbaijan is officially second!

It’s a race for second! Azr is back in after Switzerland!

I think they just wanted to get Denmark moving.  We’re already 25 minutes over the 3 hour allotment.

What’s the point of announcing a winner if we’ll keep going to the spokespersons?  Is it simply because no Contest is complete without Cyprus officially giving 12 points to Greece?

We won’t get to the last few (Cyprus, Croatia, Switzerland, and Lithuania) — I like the light effect on her dress.

Macedonia – interesting, she forgot to say “Former Yugoslav Republic of ” before Macedonia, I think she’s getting tired. The FYR folks seem to be lining up behind Denmark. Fun!

Georgia – no surprises here

Slovenia – now the entire top 8 is over 100pts. 12pts to Denmark.

Montenegro – what’s up with that echo?

Denmark – No real surprises here.

Ireland – poor Ireland, they’re on track for their second last place finish.

Greece – Denmark breaks 200 and Azerbaijan regains second place.

France – And the Danes are just outside of 200 points.  I don’t think she’ll crack 300, though.

Iceland – no surprises here.  If I haven’t already, I am officially calling this for Denmark (I think I did earlier, but just in case I did not)

Germany – 12 to Hungary?  Interesting, not too surprising.  First slip up like that from a spokesperson in quite a few years.

Estonia – when will people learn, leading a vote announcement with “Our neighbors…” is not a good idea and will not buy you any love from the fans.

Malta – Oh – Azr! not expected!  Looks like I’ll be eating crow for my words about the UK entry, it’s not doing too well.

Russia – no real shock except for 8pts to Belgium.  But the sentiment seems rampant in Russian art that “love kills,” so I guess that’s why it got so many points.

Belgium – interesting to see where the points go without Turkey in the competition – The Netherlands, they’re fun neighbors to the north!  Yay, at least Anouk got one 12 for the Netherlands.  Good stuff.

Bulgaria – Armenia?  how strange. Oh, Ukraine narrows the gap to a mere 14 points.

And Eric Saade knows a thing or two about leading at the halfway point, only to see that lead slip away.  Though, Denmark’s lead is stronger than his was in 2011.

135 for Denmark, 113 for Ukraine, 100 for Azerbaijan

Latvia – It’s funny, you can hear the annoyance in Petra’s voice as she tries to get people to talk faster.

Belarus – first big points for Russia, who is also holding tight, like Norway. And Ukraine breaks 100.

Spain – Italy is back in the Top Ten.

Finland – Hungary is definitely doing better than expected.  Denmark has a 36 point lead over second place Ukraine.

Italy – Still no points for poor Estonia 😦 And Denmark stretches it’s lead.

Armenia – Interesting, Norway, I think, has only gotten one big point, but it is racking up a lot of small ones and staying in the mix of the Top Ten.  And the Ukraine is making a play for the top.

Norway – the party has been going for nearly 3 hours, Tooji. More big points for Malta!  Do I see an underdog trying to make a run?  No big points for Denmark?  Interesting.  Interesting that Sweden got their 12.

Azerbaijan – 8pts for Malta! The tiny nation climbs to 6th.

Moldova – only ten for Romania? 12 goes to? Ukraine – not surprising.

Romania – Azerbaijan is now only 7 points behind Denmark.

Hungary – Malta is holding tough!  Azerbaijan is trying to keep things close, I wonder if it can close the gap (13 points).

Ukraine – the voting is going so fast! Thanks for slowing things down a bit.  Belarus?  Interesting.

Serbia – first FYR country gives their 12 to…Denmark.  Okay – I think I need to start looking for flights to Copenhagen.

Israel – another unpredictable country. I feel like the same guy gives their points every year.

United Kingdom – only 1 point for Ireland?  Interesting. Hmmm…Denmark has taken the lead.  I wonder if they will relinquish it?  Still too early to call it.

Austria – Azerbaijan is the only surprise, but it was a good performance.  It really annoys me that Azerbaijan tends to hold a Turkish flag – boo!  Support your own country!

The Netherlands – Way to screw things up producers! You revealed the 12 pointer way too early! and on the wrong country! yay neighbor voting in the West! And Roberto isn’t even Flemish!

Albania – Italy! Is this the beginning of a run to the top?

Sweden – way to go Petra, better she caught her issue now, as opposed to later. Finally, Sweden plays the part of a nice neighbor.

San Marino – only 4 points for Italy.  and our first 12 goes to: Greece! Not expected, but who can guess the minds of the Sammarinese

Another awful outfit for our lovely host.  Voting time!!

Oh, it’s Melodifestivalen regular and Lynda Woodruff player: Sarah Dawn Finer.  What a beautiful voice!

I love The Winner Takes it All!  And she’s doing an amazing job with it!  Who is this?

Ooh! I wonder why this is like the second or third time that they’ve gone to Jon Ola without him being ready – but given there is a singer ready, I’m assuming that was planned.  OOh!  Judging by what he said, he makes it sound like it will be a tie – and they’re going through to see who the winner is after the countback — how awesome would that be!!

Aww…he’s reminding us why pop stars do not equal good host.  I’m guessing he’s just nervous.

Everyone’s favorite dancing, overrated singing Swede – Eric Saade!

Love the sequence of over-the-top endings!

Poor Linda Martin, no need to attack her.

Yay, more history!!

Two and a half hours, Petra, two and a half hours.

What?!  That’s all the Carola that we get?  The woman that brought the wind machine to ESC gets only five seconds after all the promotion they did around her appearance, I thought she would at least get to do a medley of her three ESC songs, especially her winner (that we only got three seconds of).

In case you were wondering, Sweden has the highest rate of lactose intolerance in the world.

The video they have preceding the Interval Act is hilarious! (though, they started it a little early, but it was quickly corrected)  How is it that Sweden seems to be allowed to cross all sorts of lines that the EBU typically shuts down (there was a guy with several penises drawn on his face and a bare bottom)?  Azerbaijan would not have been allowed to get away with a lot of this.  I was wondering why Petra was wearing yet another awful outfit – it’s to make fun of her country – yay!  Interestingly enough, this outfit is her least awful.  And she just said “titties” on pan-European television. An entry would not have been allowed to get away with this.  What is going on?  Why is SVT allowed to do whatever it pleases? Oh, more pandering to the gays.  yay.  I expect a lot of backlash in tomorrow’s papers across the Continent.

My Top Ten on the Night Who I think will be Top Ten
Iceland Denmark
Italy Germany
France Azerbaijan
Norway Italy
Azerbaijan Norway
Denmark Georgia
Estonia Ukraine
The Netherlands The Netherlands
Belgium Greece
United Kingdom Malta

What is Loreen wearing?!  I like that she’s back, but I hate the idea of a song being performed during the voting sequence. It distracts from the competitors, especially when they are not running the voting numbers throughout the sequence – which is utterly silly for them to not do.  Boo SVT.  Oh!  My Heart is Refusing Me the song she lost Melodifestivalen in 2011(?) with, but it went on to be a big hit. And, of course, Euphoria complete with stage lift!

After the recap, I think the entries that stand out the most to me are: Greece and France.  That’s it for now.  Top Ten for the night soon to follow.

Poor cameraman, he must have drawn the short straw.

Ireland Only Love Survives performed by Ryan Dolan — those drummers are just a bit much in my opinion.  Why does the standard ESC answer to falling odds always seem to be throwing half-naked people at their problem? Ryan is a bit off tonight – too much pressure closing the show?  I think with the strength of singers we have this year, the vocal performance is going to play a bigger part than ever – I don’t think he has the chops to compete.  This is a nice diddy and he’s singing well enough but that won’t be enough, in my opinion. It’s a nice close to the show, but I don’t expect Ireland to finish higher than, maybe, 14th or so.

Georgia Waterfall performed by Nodi Tatishvili & Sopho Gelovani — the final ballad on the night, which will give it a big boost in the voting, both jury and televotes. The fact that this is also a standard ESC ballad (composed by ESC legend Thomas G:son) will also help it out a lot. What will not help – Sopho singing like she did on Thursday night. She was off-key for a large part of the second half of the song starting at the big note. Tonight – she’s doing better (Nodi is a little off) but will it be enough?  Ex that, she’s flat for that last note.  I don’t know – with Italy, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, and Ukraine all turning in flawless performances, I think Georgia just sung their way out of contention.

Norway Feed Your My Love performed by Margaret Berger — in case you didn’t know, she’s a DJ – that’s why she’s dj-ing in the postcard.  She needs a stronger performance here than she gave in the semi-final if she hopes to stay in contention. And she gave it!! Listen to the audience – that could win! I just wonder if Europe will appreciate her sound.

Italy L’Essenziale performed by Marco Mengoni — Mengoni brings the song that he won Sanremo with – given how big and competitive that contest is, we know that this song is battletested and proven in competition.  I think the press, who seem to be rating this song lower than the bookies, are down on this song because he was very nonchalant throughout his time in Malmo.  I think he was flawless during that performance and thrown down the gauntlet.  Italy has reached the Top Ten each of the last years since returning to the Contest, there’s no reason it won’t do the same now (especially with all the former Yugoslav nations out of the running and looking to someone to throw votes at).

Ukraine Gravity performed by Zlata Ognevich — still don’t quite get the giant (apparently it’s a reference to Easter European folklore).  His footsteps still don’t align with the camera shakes. I think this year we are seeing some of the best vocalists we have seen at the Contest in a long time – that was vocally amazing. The song is going to be hit or miss for a lot of folks, so I don’t think it will win, but it will be Top Ten for sure.

Greece Alcohol is Free performed by Koza Nostra fest. Agathon Iakovidis — this song has actually sneaked its way into the oddsmakers’ top ten. It’s so different than everything else – not to mention that it’s staged and performed so well.  And, the fact that it’s Greece doesn’t hurt either.  This song will probably finish in the 5-10 range.

Azerbaijan Hold Me performed by Farid Mammadov — I think his nerves may be getting him, his voice is a little flat and his hand shaky, but he still sounds fairly good (or, at least as good as he can sound). Great performance!  This will definitely be contending for a top spot.

Iceland Ég á Líf performed by Eythor Ingi — flawless performance – utterly flawless.  I think this could also shock a lot of folks, too!  What a strong year this is shaping up to be.

Denmark Only Teardrops performed by Emmelie de Forrest —  Huge crowd reaction for Denmark!  Amazing performance!  Well done well done — Gå Danmark!  This song has winner dripping all over it – I think we just saw a winning performance.

And now we begin our run of heavy hitters – songs 18 (Denmark), 20 (Azerbaijan), 22 (Ukraine), 23 (Norway), 24 (Italy), and 25 (Georgia) are all in the top ten of the oddsmakers.

Hungary Kedvesem performed by Bye.Alex — still a bit dull but he sounds just like he does every time he performs this song.  Apparently, there’s enough hipsters and indie fans to get this song to the Final, but are there enough to get Bye.Alex and Kedvesem on the better side of the scoreboard – probably not.

Sweden You performed by Robin Stjernberg — not as big a crowd reaction as the home performance usually gets, interesting.  Now it’s time for Stjernberg to prove that he actually can sing this song live.  Those two dancers are rather distracting.  That big note is a lot better than when we typically hear it.  Still not great, but better.  With the host country bump, this should finish around 12th or so.

United Kingdom Believe in Me performed by Bonnie Tyler — big crowd reaction for Ms. Tyler. She’s rather off-key 😦  But she just seems to be warming up – there she goes! Love the camera effect for this last run through of the chorus!! The stage lift is nice, unneccessary, but nice.  Huge crowd reaction – though!  Good stuff.  I hope that she is able to prove her countrymen wrong, as Britons seem to be the only folks who don’t think this song can finish in the top half of the entries (it’s 11th or 12th in the odds right now).

Romania It’s My Life performed by Cezar — Not the first operatic act in the Final (not at all) as Cezar thinks he is, but he is the first countertenor who uses his supreme range throughout the entire song to qualify for the Final.  Still not quite sure how he did, though. Still cannot find his backing singer, she’s hidden well! Yeah, still not convinced that this song can do much, Europe has never gone for countertenors before, I don’t think it will now.  Past operatic acts never finished higher than mid-table and I do not expect this one to.

Brace yourselves everyone – here comes Romania!

The Netherlands Birds performed by Anouk — if you don’t understand the lyrics – want to understand why the album this comes from is called Sad Singalong Songs, or just want to feel blue, watch the official video (after the Final, of course). I wonder how big an impact following the advert break will be – I wonder if she was placed here to help bring people back faster.  Oh my, the fans are really into this one! As I’ve said before, this song could shock a lot of folks and win (or at least finish Top Three).

I’m getting tired of all the pandering to the gays.  Really? Really? Do we really need so much pandering?  I think not.

The crowd preemptively cheered for Anouk, only to realize that Petra Mede was on stage.  Then cheered again for Lynda Woodruff – who’s skits are awesome!  Love the viking helmet!  I love how she’s acting as if ABBA is the Swedish royal family – hilarious!!

Armenia Lonely Planet performed by The Dorians — Another song that leaves me curious on how it slipped through to the final. The timing sounds off, like the singer is slightly behind the music.  He got pipes, though! The pyro is unnecessary.  Still do not think it will make the Top Ten, but then again, I didn’t think it could qualify.

Germany Glorious performed by Cascada — I have yet to hear this song performed, in a big concert style like this, in which Natalie Horner (Cascada’s singer) was on key throughout the song.  It’s such a foot stomper, and Cascada is so big, that it probably won’t effect the fan vote at all (I wholeheartedly expect Germany to be top five in the televote) but I wonder if the juries will bring down the score.

Something has just come to mind.  The advert break is usually after song 12.  I wonder if they will push it back for Anouk or if the are subjecting her to following it (a spot that is notorious for hurting the entry).  Not only would following the advert break be a disadvantage, but coming before the craziness that is Romania would not help things.

Russia What If? performed by Dina Garipova — uh oh, first notes were a little off.  Is someone nervous?  She looks it.  She’s recovered, but not as strong as on Tuesday, I think.  Still, though, a solid performance.  There’s every reason to believe that this will finish in the Top Ten.

Malta Tomorrow performed by Gianluca — this song is so adorable, and the lyric video in the background is great. It fits the song so well.  As I said on Thursday, it definitely gives you that sing-a-long on the beach feel, which is what they are going for.  Hey! That one random fan guy was singing along, but facing away from the stage.  Hahaha!

Belarus Solayoh performed by Alyona Lanskaya — much better than on Tuesday.  The staging is still much too busy, but Lanskaya sounded a thousands times better.  Only a couple of times was she screaming, hmm…she may be moving back into my predicted Top Ten.

Estonia Et Uus Saaks Alguse performed by Birgit — Is it me, or does she look naked during this black and white portion? Still a very lovely ballad, still a bit forgettable, still beautifully sung.  And still, all I can think about is France and Amandine’s awesome performance, sorry Estonia.  Great song, though!

Belgium Love Kills performed by Roberto Bellarosa — he definitely seems to have a bit more stage presence this time around.  I guess qualifying gave him the confidence he needed. His dancers are so creepy! And that look he just gave the camera (right after that big note) was a bit deranged!  Overall, a much better performance than on Tuesday – well done young man!! Is he crying? No one expected Belgium to be here, not even him, I suppose.

Spain Contigo Hasta el Final performed by ESDM — another contender for last place.  Not because it’s a bad song (actually, it’s an amazing song; it’s not too often you hear Spain embracing the Celtic roots of Galicia (they sent a major Galician artist in 2011, but gave her a thoroughly Spanish song) but because it’s kinda of just there for most ESC fans.  Did she just change her dress? Let that be a warning – don’t ESC and type, my friends. Iteresting choice to go full throttle, then pull it back.  Love the floating lamps! Is it just me, or was she flat throughout that whole song?

Finland Marry Me performed by Krista Siegfrids — a bit less energy at the beginning here. I hated this song, then liked it, then loved it, then hated it again.  And the part at the end of the performance is silly and, in my opinion, demeaning – but that’s a post for another time. Ably performed once again, albeit with a little less enthusiasm and energy tonight.  The question is, will she be able to garner enough points from the more conservative populaces (particularly those in the East) to land a decent placing?  Not sure.

Moldova O Mie performed by Aliona Moon — her voice is not quite as strong as on Tuesday. And her hair does not seem as high, either. Though, I will say, the song is captivating enough that I forgot about her backing dancers for the entire first half of the song. Awesome! Maybe not Top Ten, though, since it is so early in the Running Order.

Lithuania Something performed by Andrius Pojavis — Still not quite sure how this got through to the Final. It’s pleasant I suppose.  The lyrics still don’t make any sense to me. I predict a near bottom finish for this song.

France L’Enfer et Moi performed by Amandine Bourgeois — That was a heck of a performance – bravo!!  Amandine is going to shock a lot of folks when she scores well, I think.

BTW, my pre-Contest prediction for Top Ten

1. Denmark
2. Georgia
3. Norway
4. Ukraine
5. The Netherlands
6. Italy
7. Azerbaijan
8. Moldova
9. Greece
10. Russia

France is opening for us this year! An interesting choice, but I guess it can inject some energy into the fans – but what kind, I’m not sure. Like any French girl, Amandine loves trying on new clothes.

As I said before, Azerbaijan’s biggest fear is to have Italy too close, and they’re only four songs away, with Italy going after AZR, I predict that neither will win because of this, opening the door for a brawl between Denmark, Norway, and Georgia.  Though, given the semi-final performances, Denmark is the strongest of the three.

Whoo!!  I’m stoked – this promises to be a close a Contest with the five biggest favorites are stacked together at the end of the running order.

Clearly, Sweden does not seem to have any good fashion designers because this is Petra’s third straight ugly dress.

I find it interesting that only Gianluca of Malta got a huge fan reaction – perhaps he’ll bring Malta back to the Top Ten this year?

So, I really liked the opening clip of the caterpillar heading to Malmo.  And I really like opening song.  I know it’s supposed to feel like the opening of the Olympics, but it feels more like the Junior ESC when every country gets introduced.  I do love it, though!

This year I am writing notes live and then immediately posting so remember to refresh your browser.

Hello Everyone!