Posts tagged “finland

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 – Live Notes: First Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  • Greece

  • Portugal

  • Estonia

  • Iceland

  • Australia

  • Belgium

  • Czech Republic

  • Slovenia

  • San Marino

  • Cyprus

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

Opening Act:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, my favorite ten from tonight.

  1. Australia

  2. Czechia

  3. Slovenia

  4. Poland

  5. Georgia

  6. Montenegro

  7. Serbia

  8. Hungary

  9. Portugal

  10. Greeece

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

  • Australia

  • Cyprus

  • Iceland

  • Slovenia

  • Czech Republic

  • Portugal

  • Hungary

  • Greece

  • Belarus

  • Georgia

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

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

Auto Qualifiers:

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

Qualifiers!

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

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

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

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

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

  • Czech Republic – Woohoo! (4 for 6)

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

  • Iceland – no surprise (6 for 8)

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

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

Final Thoughts:

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


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: First Semi-Final

…and we’re back!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

Running Order

County

Performing Artist

Song Title

Selection Method

1

Cyprus

Tamta

Replay

Internal

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

2

Montenegro

D mol

Heaven

National Final

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

3

Finland

Darude &Sebastian Rejman

Look Away

Mixed

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

4

Poland

Tulia

Fire of Love (Pali się)

Internal

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

5

Slovenia

Zara Kralj & Gašper Šantl

Sebi

National Final

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

6

Czech Republic

Lake Malawi

Friend of a Friend

National Final

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

7

Hungary

Joci Pápai

Az en Apám

National Final

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

8

Belarus

Zena

Like It

National Final

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

9

Serbia

Nevena Božovic

Kruna

National Final

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

10

Belgium

Eliot

Wake Up

Internal

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

11

Georgia

Oto Nemsadze

Keep on Going

Mixed

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

12

Australia

Kate Miller-Heidke

Zero Gravity

National Final

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

13

Iceland

Hatari

Hatrið mun Sigra

National Final

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

14

Estonia

Victor Crone

Storm

National Final

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

15

Portugal

Conan Osíris

Telemóveis

National Final

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

16

Greece

Katerine Duska

Better Love

Internal

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

17

San Marino

Serhat

Say Na Na Na

Internal

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

My favorite ten

  1. Czech Republic

  2. Greece

  3. Portugal

  4. Australia

  5. Poland

  6. Serbia

  7. Slovenia

  8. San Marino

  9. Hungary

  10. Cyprus

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • Greece

  • Portugal

  • Estonia

  • Iceland

  • Australia

  • Belgium

  • Czech Republic

  • Slovenia

  • San Marino

  • Cyprus

    Eurovision Obsession logo

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

 

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


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final One

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

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Azerbaijan

Aisel

X My Heart

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Iceland

Ari Ólafsson

Our Choice

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Albania

Eugent Bushpepa

Mall [Yearning]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Belgium

Sennek

Matter of Time

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Czech Republic

Mikolas Josef

Lie to Me

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Lithuania

Ieva Zasimauskaitė

When We’re Old

 National Final

Thoughts:

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

Israel

Netta

Toy

 Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Belarus

ALEKSEEV

Forever

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Estonia

Elina Nechayeva

La Forza [The Force]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Bulgaria

EQUINOX

Bones

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Macedonia

Eye Cue

Lost and Found

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Croatia

Franka

Crazy

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Austria

Cesár Sampson

Nobody but You

 National Final

Thoughts:

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

Greece

Yianna Terzi

Oneiro Mou [My Dream]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Finland

Saara Aalto

Monsters

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Armenia

Sevak Khanagyan

Qami [Wind]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Switzerland

ZiBBZ

Throwing Stones

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Ireland

Ryan O’Shaughnessy

Together

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Cyprus

Eleni Foureira

Fuego [Fire]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Greece

  • Azerbaijan

  • Czech Republic

  • Cyprus

  • Finland

  • Israel

  • Bulgaria

  • Austria

  • Estonia

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Estonia

  2. Israel

  3. Belgium

  4. Belarus

  5. Austria

  6. Greece

  7. Bulgaria

  8. Croatia

  9. Ireland

  10. Armenia

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

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


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

Hello Dear Readers!

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

First Semi-Final, First Half

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

 

Albania

Lindita

World

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

Australia

Isaiah

Don’t Come Easy

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Azerbaijan

Dihaj

Skeletons

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Belgium

Blanche

City Lights

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Finland

Norma John

Blackbird

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

Georgia

Tamara Gachechiladze

Keep the Faith

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

Montenegro

Slavko Kalević

Space

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Portugal

Salvador Sobral

Amar Pelos Dois [Love for Both of Us]

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

Sweden

Robin Bengtsson

I Can’t Go On

Televised

Thoughts:

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

*There are three basic ways for a song to be chosen. Internal Selection which is when the broadcaster within a country chooses both the performing artist and the song completely on their own without help from a professional jury or the public. Televised Selection which is the exact opposite, both the performing artist and the song are selected through a competition (or set of competitions) in which some combination of professional jurists and the public vote on the winners. There are also Mixed Selections, in which either the performing artist or the song is selected internally and the other is selected through a televised process. The examples of that this year are Armenia, Greece and Israel. Greece internally selected Demy and had a televised final to select the song. Israel and Armenia had televised shows to select a singer and then internally selected the song.

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

Find the other reviews from this year here!

Support Eurovision Obsession on Patreon.
Follow @escobsession on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Sporcle


Diversity at ESC2016

Hyvää Paivää – hei rakas lukijat!
And Hello Dear Readers!

There’s been an uptick in readers from Finland — kiitos että luit! And thanks to all of you for reading, regardless of where you are from!

Last year, we looked at race at the ESC and I expressed my pleasure that we were seeing more and more minorities as lead performers, particularly folks of African and East Asian descent. This year, there continues to be some racial diversity, but not as much as there should be in my opinion. This year, Norway is represented by a Sami woman – Agnete. This is awesome and would be akin to a member of a Cherokee tribe representing the US or an Aboriginal singer representing Australia (which happened somewhat when DR had Australian pop star Jessica Mauboy perform during the interval act of the second semi-final in 2014). Native peoples are an integral part of a nation’s history, particularly in looking back at how these people groups were often mistreated, disenfranchised, and systematically destroyed. Having a first-nation person representing a country shows that steps, perhaps small – perhaps big, have been made and are continuing to be made to heal past wounds.

Australia is also being represented by a minority. While Im was born in South Korea, she spent the majority of her life Down Under, as her family moved to Australia when she was a child. Im has received backlash since she was named Australia’s performer. Much how many non-white performers and soccer players (read: footballers) representing European nations must deal with, from opponents and their own countrymen. While we celebrate the Contest’s ability to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons (particularly gay men), we must not overlook the very real racism that still exists. Does this mean that every contestant needs to be non-white, no. Of course not. Does this mean that hosts need to do the same mindless pandering to racial minorities as they do to gay men? Again, of course not (if anything, there should be less pandering). But it does mean that when race-based issues around the Contest occur, they need the same attention and discourse that comes when an LGBTQ+ issue arises. Likewise, fan culture needs to promote and encourage racial diversity (actually, fan culture does a pretty good job of forcing any non-white, unattractive non-gay man into the realms of invisibility, but that is a conversation for another time) and call out people when they are not. This includes not just around skin color, but ethnicity, national origin, and religion as well.

One  country that has historically done a good job at bringing diverse performers to the Eurovision stage is France. They have been represented by persons and languages from across the French realm, including Corsica, Haiti, Congo, and Tahiti. This year, Amir takes the stage for his native France. His ethnic background is rather diverse, as his roots tie back to Morocco, Tunisia, and Spain as well as being ethnically Jewish and spending half of his life in Israel. Sandhja from Finland also has a multi-ethnic background, as her father is Finnish and her mother is Indo-Guyanan. Sandhja has often said that her identities, and the communities that they give her access to, inspire her music and performance.

So, once again, why do we care diversity, particularly ethnic and racial diversity, at the Contest? Because the ESC is for EVERYONE. Just like how gay male fans get excited when an openly gay performer competes (such as Hovi Star from Israel), how excited would the many more number of Europeans who are non-white be for ethnic minority performers? Those who feel like they belong to the broader community are more likely to contribute and otherwise actively participate in the community. Furthermore, when someone feels systematically excluded, it can lead to lowered psychological and physical well-being for individuals who feel marginalized. Additionally, these are the people who are most likely to violently strike out against society. We see this in the US with mass shootings, we see this throughout Europe with riots and the rise of neo-Nazi groups, and we see this in the Middle East with groups like DAESH/ISIS that specifically recruit those who are made to feel like outsiders and radicalize them to the point of striking out against those that ostracized them. Clearly, incorporating more minorities as performers won’t prevent or stop groups like ISIS, but it will make it harder for them to recruit.

And, you know, help the Eurovision Song Contest work towards its mission to unite Europe, if only for one night.

Like Eurovision Obsession? Support Eurovision Obsession on Patreon.
Follow @escobsession on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Sporcle.

Correction: Article has been updated to correct the spelling of Jessica Mauboy’s name and correcting the name Australia uses for its First Nations people. Eurovision Obsession apologizes for the error.


ESC 2016 Reviews: First Semi-Final, Part One

Hello Dear Readers!

As promised, here is the first of our five sets of reviews this week. Here are the nine countries competing in the first half of the first semi-final.

First Semi-Final, First Half

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Armenian Flag Map

Armenia

Iveta Mukuchyan

LoveWave

Internal

Thoughts:

Initially, I was off put by the spoken portion at the beginning, but I think that the song picks up and I love how unique it is. Great sound and a lot of potential. This will most definitely qualify for the Final.
Croatian Flag Map

Croatia

Nina Kraljić

Lighthouse

Internal

Thoughts:

A truly epic, modern sounding ballad. Definitely not what I was expecting from Croatia; it’s very contemporary and captivating. I’m not sure of it’s final placing as of yet.
Finnish Flag Map

Finland

Sandhja

Sing It Away

Televised

Thoughts:

What a fun song! It’s a simple dance tune encouraging you to let the music take your cares away. It will definitely get Europe moving, but in a year of uptempo songs, I’m not sure if it will get Europe voting.
Greek Flag Map

Greece

Argo

Utopian Land

Internal

Thoughts:

Rap…yeah, not my favorite genre. An interesting choice to come out of an internal selection. I wonder if part of the thinking was a return to a more traditional Greek sound that brought the nation so much success throughout the 2000s and the first half of the decade. I think this will suffer the same fate as Montenegro 2013 – interesting, popular among the voters, weighed down by the juries.
Hungarian Flag Map

Hungary

Freddie

Pioneer

Televised

Thoughts:

The good: I love the sound and look of Freddie. I also like the composition. The bad: This song, it’s lyrics and production especially, is terribly generic. If the influx of eccentric entries is the legacy of last year’s Belgian and Latvian entries, then this is the legacy of Russia’s Million Voices.
Moldovan Flag Map

Moldova

Lidia Isac Falling Stars Televised

Thoughts:

My understanding is that the studio version of this song is better than its live version. However, I have what’s in front of me and, sadly, I do not think Isac’s voice is strong enough to carry this song. It’s bigger than she is and it results in a boring entry that does not go anywhere. Luckily, she has time to work on that between now and May.
Dutch Flag Country

The Netherlands

Douwe Bob Slow Down Internal

Thoughts:

After finding success with the genre in 2014, the Netherlands seems to be returning to country with another song that sounds as if it is straight from Nashville. I think this will get the Dutch back to Saturday night, but I’m not sure what it will do after that, especially since Douwe Bob’s name does not carry much weight outside of his home country.
Russian Flag Map

Russia

Sergey Lazarev You Are the Only One Internal

Thoughts:

Five years after the last hot Russian guy with a dance song fell flat at ESC, Russia is finally trying the combination again. The music video is quite amazing; it makes one forget that the song is fairly average (though, I like the dark undertones in the composition). If they are able to bring this production to the ESC stage, Russia will maintain its Top Ten streak.
Sammarinese Flag Map

San Marino

Serhat I Didn’t Know Internal

Thoughts:

REISSUED! San Marino switched out the original, classy version of I Didn’t Know for an outdated, disco-style version that will surely be lost among the pool of stronger dance entries this year. Whereas before, Serhat’s smokey voice drove the performance and the composition set us up for a distinctive song, a true ballad in a sea of uptempo numbers, now, we have a forgettable arrangement of a song that gives the impression of a grandfather trying to prove how “hip” he is. I’m so, so sorry San Marino, but this was a change for the worse. Instead of competing for the tenth qualification spot, you will be lucky to avoid last place.

*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.

Like Eurovision Obsession? Help me go to Eurovision 2016! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision


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 Rockers

….And we’re back! After moving about 720 miles (~1155km), starting a graduate program, and dealing with various personal and health issues, I am back!  Thank you for your patience 🙂

So, Dear Readers, this week brings us another playlist. This time, we’re looking at rock songs. When most think of “Eurovision + rock music” they immediately go to Hard Rock Hallelujah (Finland 2006), and with good reason. It is a winning entry and one of the 20 most important ESC songs in history, in my opinion. However, there are many more rock entries that have graced the ESC stage. Below are twenty standout examples from the past few years.

When I say “rock music” — you may think of thrashing guitars and banging drums or power ballad that draws out every emotion or even your favorite eighties hairband. I tried to capture all of these styles (and more) below while also avoiding songs I have previously featured in a playlist. Again, I tried to curate a playlist with a nice flow. Enjoy!

Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Rockers

  1. France 2013 – L’Enfer et Moi performed by Amandine BourgeoisFrance

  2. Georgia 2011 – One More Day performed by Eldrine

  3. Finland 2007 – Leave Me Alone performed by Hanna

  4. Turkey 2010 – We Could be the Same performed by maNga

  5. San Marino 2008 – Complice performed by Miodio

  6. Finland 2015 – Aina Min Pitää performed by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät

  7. Belarus 2009 – Eyes That Never Lie performed by Petr ElfimovBelarus

  8. Armenia 2013 – Lonely Planet performed by Dorians

  9. Georgia 2015 – Warrior performed by Nina Sublatti

  10. Turkey 2008 – Deli performed by Mor ve Ötesi

  11. Ukraine 2010 – Sweet People performed by Aliosha

  12. Finland 2014 – Something Better performed by SoftEngine

  13. Slovakia 2012 – Don’t Close Your Eyes performed by Max Jason MaiSlovakia

  14. Iceland 2007 – Valentine Lost performed by Eiríkur Hauksson

  15. Italy 2014 – La Mia Città performed by Emma

  16. Switzerland 2012 – Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

  17. Finland 2008 – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa performed by Teräsbetoni

  18. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009 – Bistra Voda performed by ReginaBosnia & Herzegovina

  19. Albania 2011 – Feel the Passion performed by Aurela Gace

  20. Norway 2005 – In My Dreams performed by Wig Wam

Honorable Mentions: Turkey 2004, Czech Republic 2007, Cyprus 2007, Macedonia 2009, Cyprus 2011, Turkey 2011, Denmark 2011, Macedonia 2012

Fun Facts

  • YouFinland may have noticed that there was a lot of Finland in that above list. That’s because the Finns love rock music! Finland is home to some of the most vibrant and renowned death metal, hard rock, and heavy metal scenes.

  • The Armenian song from 2013 may seem a bit out of place, but it was composed by none other than heavy metal legend Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath fame.

  • Hard Rock Hallelujah is considered the only rock song to win the Contest. However, quite a few other rock songs have fared well, particularly entries from Turkey, which has three Top Ten rock entries (2004, 2008, 2010).

    Turkey

What’s your favorite rock song from ESC’s history? Do you appreciate the diversity in musical styles that we find at the Contest or would you prefer that most entries just stick to pop?

Finnish Flag MapAs a reminder, these weekly playlists are meant to help introduce you to the wide breadth of music from the Contest’s recent history. For various reasons, I am focusing on the “Televoting Era” of the Contest (1998 – present), furthermore, the majority of entries I am choosing come from after semi-finals were introduced in 2004. I also limit the lists to only 20 songs, to help make them more manageable for listening.

The most recent previous list: Eurovision for Dance Parties
Next Week: Eurovision for Breakups


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Anglophobes

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Anglophobes

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

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

  2. Slovenia 2002 – Samo Ljubezen performed by Sestre

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

  3. Belgium 2003 – Sanomi performed by Urban Trad

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

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

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

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

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

  6. AndorraAndorra 2006 – Sense Tu performed by Jennifer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  14. FinlandFinland 2010 – Tyolla Elää performed by Kuunkuiskaajat

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

  15. Albania 2012 – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

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

  16. MacedoniaMacedonia 2012 – Crno i Belo performed by Kaliopi

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

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

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

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

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

  19. Montenegro 2014 – Moj Svijet performed by Sergej Ćetković

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

  20. FranceFrance 2014 – Moustache performed by TWIN TWIN

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

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

Fun Trivia

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

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

  • Ireland and Malta have only strayed from English once.

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

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

What are your favorite non-English language songs?

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


Playlist of the Week – Eurovision for Beginners

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Beginners Playlist

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

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

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

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

Support ESC Obsession and my trip to Eurovision! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision


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!

Want to support me and the site? Support me on FundRazr!


ESC2014: Second Semi-Final Final Predictions

Tuesday’s spectacular show with its stunning performances and its historic qualifiers is now behind us as we face forward to tonight’s Semi-Final. This one is a bit more straightforward with fewer entries in limbo. Again, these predictions are based on the bookies and internet fan chatter.

Should make it through:
Greece
Romania
Norway
Israel
Ireland
Poland

Probably will make it through:
Austria
Macedonia
Malta
Finland

Fighting for the Final Spot:
Slovenia
Switzerland

No chance of moving through:
Georgia
Lithuania
Belarus

Slovenia – a strong composition that underwent a positive reworking to add a bit more Slovene and big notes. It’s such a captivating song!

Switzerland – a fun song with a charismatic performer. It stands out from the crowd and gets you whistling along with it

Both songs are folk-inspired, uptempo pieces performing towards the end of the show; both contrast the entries on either side of it. Both historically struggle to qualify and both have singers that will be “playing” instruments on stage. The difference lies in their support. The only predictable points are from culturally close countries (aka neighbors). Slovenia has fellow former Yugoslav republic Macedonia. Switzerland has Italy, Austria, and Germany all voting tonight. Advantage to the Swiss. I expect Sebalter to bring his homeland back to the Final.


ESC2014: Song Reviews – Semi-Final 2, First Half

As a recap — I am reviewing each song from the 2014 ESC.  Sorry for the low frills styling; the semester is coming to a close here at my university, so things are a bit crazy!  I will neaten things up and style it up later.

 

Maltese Flag Map1. MaltaComing Home performed by Firelight

This is another song with a heavy subject matter and another questionable choice to start the night given the slower tempo and sure-to-be heart-wrenching performance. I like this song; its feel and its lyrics. I really like the sentiment, as well. I think, though, that it will not capture the hearts of Europe, particularly since it is going first.

Keys to Success: Playing up the WWI connection that they have in the video and making the audience cry

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Being perceived as too slow or too heavy; a weak, understated performance

Personal Interest Score: 8

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 7

 

2. IsraelSame Heart performed by Mei FeingoldIsraeli Flag Country

I do not quite get the hype around this song. I do not think the composition fits Feingold’s uniquely deep voice all that well, but it remains one of the more popular songs thus far this year. Initially, I did not think that this song had much chance of succeeding, but that has changed now.

Keys to Success: Capitalizing on the dancehall sound this entry has

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Feingold’s deep voice going flat throughout the performance

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 8

Composite: 7

 

Norwegian Flag Map3. NorwaySilent Storm performed by Carl Espen

Quite a change from last year, eh?! This is another case of a song with a lot of unexplained hype. It is one of the bookies’ favorites, but lacks consistent fan support. Like many of the other slower tunes this year, this song lacks any kind of driving force or forward momentum. I think it will fall flat.

Keys to Success: Some kind of interesting use of LED and wind machine to capture the song’s lyrics visually

Potential Stumbling Blocks: A flat performance featuring Espen alone on stage

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 4

Composite: 5

 

Georgian Flag Map4. GeorgiaThree Minutes to Earth performed by The Shin & Mariko

Another folk entry, though, I think this one is a bit of a mess. It’s like an undisciplined gypsy tune. I don’t like the random off-tempo bits; they just confuse the ear. The lyrics also leave much to be desired.

Keys to Success: An action oriented performance showcasing the fact that this is a dance tune

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Expect name recognition and fancy guitar work to carry them (see Croatia 2007 or Albania 2013)

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 3

Composite: 4.5

 

Polish Flag Map5. PolandMy Słowianie – We Are Slavic performed by Cleo & Donatan

Such a fun song!! A sexy, girl-power song brings Poland back to the ESC in style. I think given the fact that this will be the first uptempo, club song of the night (and, really, is the only one in the first half) it will definitely earn Poland its first trip to the Grand Final since 2008.

Keys to Success: Get Europe dancing! Use the LED to project images of all kinds of Slavic ladies

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Depending so much on the sexual innuendo that the the tighter standards that the EBU will impose water down the staging (see: Austria 2012).

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 7

Composite: 8

Austrian Flag Map6. AustriaRise Like a Phoenix performed by Conchita Wurst

I love this song! I love that it sounds like something out of James Bond. I love that it has such a powerful message. And, most of all, I love the constant build throughout the arrangement. What I find most interesting, though, is that I like this singer much more as the drag queen Conchita Wurst then I do as himself (Tom Neuwerth).

Keys to Success: A grand staging: they cannot back away from this number.   they should make amble use of smoke machines, the LED background and stage.

Potential Stumbling Block: Wurst’s image can be a bit jarring for those who are not expecting it or are not use to this kind of drag; These big dramatic numbers are not for everyone

Personal Interest Score: 10

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 8.5

 

Lithuanian Flag Map7. LithuaniaAttention performed by Vilija

Umm…this song is a mess. The random shouting throughout, the strange composition, the dancing is okay, I guess. Though, the interesting thing about Lithuania is that it is so unpredictable. When you think it will do well, it fails (think 2007) and when you think it will fail, it succeeds (think about 2012).

Keys to Success: Nailing the choreography

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Anything short of a perfect performance

Personal Interest Score: 4

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 5

 

Finnish Flag Map8. FinlandSomething Better performed by Softengine

Not my favorite; it’s a bit bland and trite. The composition does not really go anywhere, and the singer’s voice is a bit grating. With that said, I do think that it is catchy and appeals to a wide audience. Just not me.

Keys to Success: Getting the rock band sound to come across on stage and having a look to match

Potential Stumbling Block: a la Belarus 2012, letting the production remove you from who you are and coming across as plain and unoriginal

Personal Interest Score: 4

Potential for Success: 7

Composite: 5.5


Rtd14: Looking Back at Finland

Merry Christmas!!  Or should I say, “Hyvää Joulua!” as the Road to Denmark takes us to Finland today.

FinlandAs you can see, I’m fairly lukewarm with the Finnish entries.  They’re generally okay, but I do not have a particularly strong affinity for any of them (at least, not these ones).  Finland, though, will always have a special place in my heart because Helsinki hosted the first Contest that I watched.  Speaking of which, let’s look at the first defending champion I saw.

Finnish Flag Map2007 – Leave Me Alone – An attempt at pop-rock that was better than the reception it received, but ended where it probably should have in its final placing.  It’s a pleasant enough entry and fun to sing along to if one is in an angry mood, but, generally, it’s rather generic.

2008 – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa – A true rock entry that slipped into the Final but then fell flat.  It’s not my cup of tea, but as I said in the Czech Republic post, these kind of songs bring a much needed diversity to the running order.

2009 – Lose Control –A beneficiary of the former jury system, which allowed a wild card to move through to the Grand Final. It’s a slapdash song that is alright, but not much.  The singing is better than the rapping and the presentation was a bit of a mess – it did better than it probably should have.

2010 – Työlki Ellää – A fun song and I think one of the more popular Finnish entries among the fans.  It’s fun and catchy; I don’t know a lick of Finnish, but I can sing along to the chorus!  The presentation was fitting, but in the end, the song just wasn’t quite memorable enough.  (Finland would have done better with this song)

2011 – Da Da Dam – A song with surprising success.  I think it was generally overlooked, but it brought Finland back to the Final and gave us a soothing song about a boy trying to save the planet.  Again, I’m fairly lukewarm on the song, but it is rather pleasant.

2012 – När Jag Blundar – First time we here Swedish on the ESC stage since the open language rule went back into effect in 1999 and it comes from Finland!  The song is quite forgettable, but it has a wonderful story behind it.  Karlsson’s brother wrote the song about their mother; both were on stage to honor her with their performance.  Oh, so very sweet!

2013 – Marry Me – My feelings about this performance are already documented on this blog.  I will say, though, that the song is fun and a bit inventive and guaranteed that it will be remembered for quite some time, particularly if it continues to be used for gay marriage campaigns.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: FinlandFinland 2009.  As I said, despite finishing 12th in its semi-final, Lose Control qualified for the Grand Final thanks to the former jury system that was present in 2008 and 2009.  I’m going to use this as a nice little soapbox to restate my love of the jury system from 2010-2012.  I loved the way the old 50/50 system worked – it was simple math.  This new ranking system is not ideal and it’s more complicated than it needs to be.  Though, I appreciate the new steps being add in starting this year – where each jury member’s individual ranking will be revealed along with the voting results.  This is not retroactive, unfortunately, but it should stay standing going forward.

Previous stops along the Road to Denmark!  Come back tomorrow for France!


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!


Eurovision 2013 – Live Notes for the Second Semi-Final

After a few days of thinking about it, I am still fairly satisfied with the results of the First Semi-Final – let’s hope that tonight will be equally as satisfying (if not more!).  A lot of people seemed shocked that none of the former-Yugoslav countries made it through, despite the fact so many of them were in the First Semi-Final together.  Now the big question is: “Who will they all vote for in the Grand Final (since Macedonia most likely will not be in the Final)?”  I can tell you now, Serbia will vote for Russia, Croatia & Slovenia will vote for Italy, and Montenegro & Macedonia will vote for Albania.

Something interesting going on with the draws for the halves of the Grand Finals:

Estonia, the Netherlands, Russia, Lithuania, Belgium, Moldova, Belarus, Spain, Germany, and France have all been drawn into the first half of the Grand Final – that means only three songs qualifying tonight will join them; all the rest will be in the second half.  What does that mean, the Netherlands, Russia, and Germany, who all had outside shots of winning, have much slimmer hopes now.  Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Norway – the remaining favorites (who all will most likely qualify tonight) have had their chances increased! as they will probably land in the second half of the show.  Italy also sees its slim hopes alive, as it is in the second half, and as I said previously, if it is close to Azerbaijan, it will surely still votes from last year’s host as it is the better male ballad between the two.  San Marino, who is a dark horse this year, could also see itself land in higher than expected spot if it qualifies for the Final and gets drawn to the second half.

Onward to the Second Semi-Final!

I was 8 for 10 in my predictions from Tuesday night – not too shabby!  Below are my initial thoughts on who will qualify for Grand Final from tonight’s show:

-San Marino

-Azerbaijan

-Finland

-Iceland

-Greece

-Israel

-Norway

-Albania

-Georgia

-Switzerland

I think San Marino is poised with its best chance to qualify since joining the Contest.  It has a good spot in the running order and is a big fan favorite (it got second place in the OGAE Fan Poll); but, we have seen fan favorites fall before.  Same goes for Norway – it is the kind of thing that would succeed in the Grand Final, but may not do well in a semi-final.  With a strong performance, Switzerland could join the Netherlands and Belgium in the Final – wouldn’t that be a sight!  Anyway, I’m super excited for this – so let the show began!

Opening Act:

I’m rather liking this Opening Act! I think it’s called dance symphony or something like that.  That was pretty awesome!

OH MY GOODNESS – What is our host wearing?!  And what’s up with her hair?!  And why did she compare herself to Indira Gandhi and Mother Theresa?

On to the entries!

Latvian Flag MapLatvia Here We Go performed by PeR

OH MY – this went from zero to sixty in a blink of an eye!  There’s…so…much…sequins – does that jacket really need to be so bright and silver?  Is that guy playing an iPad attached to a guitar?  I get it, he represents today, the keytar represents the 80s and the those two guys represent the 90s, the era from which this song was taken.  That was better than expected – but still rather silly.

San Marino Crisalide (Voda) performed by Valentina MonettaSammarinese Flag Map

Already some positive crowd reaction and it hasn’t started yet.  Looking at this robe she’s wearing – will there be a costume change?  Yes! the first since, what, 2009?  Remember when costume changes used to be the staple of the Contest?  Now the wind machine has taken over.  Well done (except for that last note, which was rather botched), though not quite as strong as I was hoping it would be.

Macedonian Flag MapMacedonia Pred da se Razdeni performed by Lozano & Esma

I like how Esma’s portions of the postcard all show off how famous and decorated she is.  Where’s Lozano’s glasses?  What is Esma wearing?  Is she sick?  Why is her voice so hoarse?  I wonder if Lozano came over to hug her to let her know it was time to start wrapping up the song.  If they had any hope of moving through, they needed a flawless performance.  This, unfortunately, was not it.  It looks like there will not be any former Yugoslav nations in the Final this year (the first time since they started joining the Contest in 1993).

Azerbaijan Hold Me performed by Farid MammadovAzerbaijani Flag Map

Is he singing in English?  Oh, yeah, he is.  He mumbles a lot.  Oh cool!  It’s like his shadow there in the box.  WHOA!  That guy is upside-down!  Does that lady’s dress need to be so long?  Oh – the box is actually a money machine full of little paper hearts!  Whoops – Farid dropped that last note.  His vocals were about as expected – okay, whiny and a bit nasally, but that’s his voice. That guy in the box is much like the sand artist for the Ukraine from 2010, makes the stage show so unique, it’s hard not to like it.

Finnish Flag MapFinland Marry Me performed by Krista Siegfrids

She looks so much more mature with her hair down – I actually think that hinders the song a bit.  Well, this most definitely gets the “Campiest Act of the Year Award.”  Was that part supposed go like that – because on the studio version she says “Yeah” one more time and for a longer amount of time.  And the timing seems rather off for launching back into the chorus.  And I roll my eyes at the girl-girl kiss – really?  That just cheapens everything.  But it’s a cheap song, so perhaps it will work well for them.

Hahaha – yes Petra, folks just tuning in are probably freaking out if the first thing they saw was that Finnish act.  I really like this Lynda Woodruff character – she’s funny!  And I loved the reference to Bonnie Tyler.

Malta Tomorrow performed by GianlucaMaltese Flag Map

I bet Malta is happy they got an advert break between themselves and Finland – gives us time to readjust ourselves.  There was a lot of energy in those first few entries, and we have to recalibrate.  I like the words on the screen, it gives the act a sing-along feel; like, we’re all on that beach with him and his friends in the postcard.  That’s such a sweet song – the whole thing is rather adorable.  Still don’t think it has a shot of moving through, though.

Bulgarian Flag CountryBulgaria Samo Shampioni performed by Elista Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov

And Europe’s favorite Bulgarian percussion duo is back on the ESC stage.  The only act to get Bulgaria to the Grand Final (back in 2007, they got 5th place), they’re hoping for a repeat after Bulgaria’s participating broadcaster polled people and found that folks wanted a ethno-club track in Bulgarian for ESC.  That bagpiper is a bit creepy.  Glad to hear that Elitsa’s voice is much stronger (and more frequently on key) than in 2007.  The bagpiper seems to have evolved into some kind of creepy tribal man – how strange.  This whole package – the song, the performance – just…kinda…strange.

Iceland Ég á Líf performed by Eythor IngiIcelandic Flag Map

Not a strong start out of the gate.  That big note was amazing!!  It completely wipes out the fact that the rest of the song was performed marginally (as compared to the studio version).  There’s his backing singers!  All I can think about is that big note in the middle – and it was amazing!  Well done!

Greek Flag MapGreece Alcohol is Free performed by Koza Nostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis

Oh cool – their instruments light up!  The energy here is maybe not as high as Latvia or as manic as Finland, but it feels Oh! so much more genuine.  While those other two acts may be a bit more dazzling, this one infects you and wants to get you up and moving and dancing and singing.  I thoroughly enjoyed that!

Israel Rak Bishvilo performed by Moran MazorIsraeli Flag Country

Wow, listen to that crowd reaction!  What a shame, that would be such a nice dress if it didn’t go all the way down to her belly button (apparently, it originally went lower before they thought better of it).  So, she’s only 21, but the combination of hair, glasses, and dress makes her look like she’s in her 40s.  Which works for this song, since it has such a mature sound and would seem disingenuous if she appeared her age.  Oh, she hit the high note, but was smart enough to not linger on it as it was getting away from her.  AMAZING!  Her voice is so powerful, it’s awe-inspiring.

Armenian Flag MapArmenia Lonely Planet performed by The Dorians

His voice sounds like a gospel singer – it’s really soulful.  Too bad this song is trite and dull.  Oh, spoke a little too soon, he’s gone a bit screechy.  If we’re trying to save the world – why so many pyros?  All that smoke cannot be good for the ozone.  Ouch – he botched that last note.

Hungary Kedvesem performed by Bye.AlexHungariran Flag Map

Who knew Europe had hipsters?  I like this song and I like reprising the cartoon from the music video in the background.  That was rather pleasant.  Unfortunately for Hungary, pleasant does not go far at the ESC.

Norwegian Flag MapNorway Feed You My Love performed by Margaret Berger

Is it me, or does the timing seem off?  Like, Margaret Berger is just ahead of the beat and that the whole song is a few clicks faster than it should be.  It kinda feels like she’s phoning in this performance.  The one from Norsk Melodi Grand Prix was much more emphatic.  I know she’s a favorite to win – but we’ve seen favorites fall in the semi-final and after with great performances.  With a song that is this different and this out-of-the-ordinary, you cannot risk having a less than awesome performance.  I think she left herself vulnerable here.

Lys Assia!  Glad to see her out of the hospital and looking good (she was hospitalized last week for pneumonia – she said that she thought that she was dying).  We weren’t expecting to see her this year – but here she is!  Great to have you Ms. Assia!  I wish every winner was as endeared to the Contest as she is.

Albania Identitet performed by Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar SejkoAlbanian flag country

Whoa!  We don’t need to be that close to Bledar!  The camera was, like, literally on his cheek!  Everyone seems to like this song so much – I think it’s because it’s the only rock song this year…and it has that killer guitar solo, but still.  It’s alright, but it could be better.

Georgian Flag MapGeorgia Waterfall performed by Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani

People compare this song to In a Moment Like This (Denmark 2010) and Running Scared (Azerbaijan 2011).  I don’t think it’s anything like 2011’s winning song; it’s much more powerful and emotive.  It is a lot like the Danish 2010 entry, though, “Eurovision by numbers” they say.  It worked then and I see no reason it won’t work now.

Ooh!  Sopho missed both big notes in that key change – badly!  Disappointing, but they’re going through.  This type of song is too popular and both Armenia and Azerbaijan are voting tonight.

Switzerland You and Me performed by TakasaSwiss Flag County

Another change from the studio version – the girl lead singer gets the second verse.  In case you were wondering, the bass player is 95 and is now the oldest person to ever compete in the Contest.  I don’t know.  I love this song, but it is definitely lacking energy – it just is not very dynamic tonight.  Disappointing.

I find it interesting that calling themselves “Salvation Army” and wearing their uniforms was too political and religious, but Krista Siegfrids can kiss a girl in protest on the stage (something that Russia was forbidden from doing in 2003) and use her song for political activism….interesting…

Romanian Flag MapRomania It’s My Life performed by Cezar

WHAT IS HE WEARING?!?!  What is up with the awful outfits this year?!  Are those dancers naked?  Why are they red, like, they’re covered in blood or something?  Oh, time for “Spot the Backing Singer!”  Oh look, a lady covered in gold.  Oh my gosh!  He’s so tall!  Wait, I think he’s on stilts.

Oh!  Thanks Petra – I guess the backing singer was under Cezar’s vampire cloak.

And, there you have it!  In an hour’s time, we will have the last ten songs to enter the Final.

Any else reminded of Jedward by the Latvian duo?  They jump around, where a small country’s worth of sparkles, and sing off key.

Overall, I am somewhat disappointed.  This was supposed to be the stronger of the two semi-finals, with three favorites (Norway, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), a major fan favorite (San Marino), and a bunch of my personal favorite entries (Macedonia, Switzerland, etc.) but everyone seemed to be under-performing except for Azerbaijan, Greece, and Israel – I hope all three move through!

My Top Ten Who I Think Will Qualify
Israel Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Greece
Greece Israel
Malta Norway
San Marino Albania
Hungary Georgia
Latvia Armenia
Switzerland Iceland
Norway Malta
Iceland San Marino

Excuse me, I stand corrected, Moran Mazor is actually 22.

I love the history bits!

Haha San Marino!  I noticed that this time they used the faster part of the song as opposed to the slower half in the second recap (in the first recap, the slower half was used).  I guess if people only remembered half of it, they wanted to make sure that they remembered to vote for them!

Interval Act:

Darin!  A major Swedish pop star and Melodifestivalen loser (he got 4th in 2010).  He’s attractive but his voice is not that good.  But he’s a pop start, so I guess that’s a winning combination.

And now we have Agnes.  Who has not competed in Melodifestivalen (yet) but did win the second season of Swedish Idol (Darin was runner-up the preceding season).  I liked her bit better than Darin’s songs, but I am not about to run out and buy either of their albums.

Why isn’t Amadine Bourgeious not in the arena for this semi-final?

The Actual Qualifiers Are:

-Hungary!  Whoa!!  That was not expected! (0 for 1)

-Azerbaijan – no surprise here (1 for 2)

-Georgia – they need to step up their game if they hope to contend for the victory (2 for 3)

-Romania – What…the…Heck!  How did this happen? (2 for 4)

-Norway – I was getting scared after Romania got through…Oh, I hopw San Marino makes it!! (3 for 5)

-Iceland – yay! (4 for 6)

-Armenia – it’s a weak song, but well performed (5 for 7)

-Finland – big reaction!  I wonder if it will be as popular on Saturday (6 for 8)

-Malta – nice, but now a more deserving entry (San Marino or Israel) will not make it (7 for 9)

-Greece – right, I forgot they hadn’t moved through yet (8 for 10)

Final Thoughts:

What just happened?  I like Kedvesem but it did not deserve to go through.  Romania…what?!…how?  I’m so confused!!!  How on earth did he garner enough points to move through?  How did Israel and San Marino fail to garner enough points to progress?  What?!  My head hurts.  I can’t think about what just happened.  San Marino had so much fan support.  Israel was such a high quality entry – what?  Romania?  What? How?  I give up.  Let’s just look at the running order:

Break down of who landed where

The three unlucky entrants that will be in the first half on Saturday: Finland, Malta, and Armenia

All others are in the second half.

They just released the running order (remember, I’m watching the semi-final in the evening (American East Coast time) since I work during the day)

  1. France
  2. Lithuania
  3. Moldova
  4. Finland
  5. Spain
  6. Belgium
  7. Estonia
  8. Belarus
  9. Malta
  10. Russia
  11. Germany
  12. Armenia
  13. The Netherlands
  14. Romania
  15. United Kingdom
  16. Sweden
  17. Hungary
  18. Denmark
  19. Iceland
  20. Azerbaijan
  21. Greece
  22. Ukraine
  23. Italy
  24. Norway
  25. Georgia
  26. Ireland

France gets to open the show – and interesting choice when Spain or Malta might have been provided an easier, smoother opening.

Lithuania gets the kiss of death with the second spot – not that it had much chance to win, anyway.

Finland is sandwiched between two ballads, which will either smother it or boost its ratings, I’m not sure.

The Netherlands once again finds itself at the end of the first half, sandwiched between two very different songs, Armenia (which will probably a slightly smoother transition than Ukraine) and before Romania (which will probably wipe out the Netherlands from people memories with its craziness).

The United Kingdom is much higher in the running order than expected, given the name recognition of Bonnie Tyler (compared to Anouk, who is always as late in the running order as possible, most likely due to her celebrity).

Interestingly enough, with the producer chosen running order, all the favorites are at the end of the show:

18. Denmark

20. Azerbaijan

22. Ukraine

23. Italy

24. Norway

25. Georgia

This has never happened before, where so many betting favorites are lumped together and with prime running order position.  Russia is the only favorite not in that run because it was drawn in the top half of the show.  I’m interested to see how this affects the show, I imagine that it will lead to a more even point spread.  Since many favorites tend to be knocked out by running order position (think Russia last year or Azerbaijan in 2010) points were easily pooled into one or two acts.  This year, the favorites are all together at the end of the show, they will all be vying for points against one another – I think my prediction of a tie just might come to fruition!

Finally, Ireland closes the show.  In my opinion, this song should not even be in the Final, now it will most likely finish in the Top Ten.  Oh well, at least it’s not a bad song.

I think I’ve recovered from Romania’s qualification, but, yikes! it was still so unexpected.  I guess its 100% qualification record survives another year.  Okay, so, we can all take Friday to recover, reflect on what has happened on Tuesday and Thursday, and prepare for the Grand Final – I’ll see y’all here Saturday!  I’m posting my live notes live this year!  So don’t miss out!


Eurovision 2013 – Final Predictions!!!

2013 Desktop

Here we are, less than one week out from the First Semi-Final!  With rehearsals in full swing, we are seeing some of the last throws of changes and adjustments ahead of next week’s shows. Below, I will be giving my final review and predictions for each entry – pulling in everything I know and have learned in terms of history, betting odds, and fan chatter.

I’ll give a brief review of every entry, then dive deeper into who I think will win.

Starting with the First Semi-Final:

Austrian Flag MapAustria – It’s a very pleasant song, but I do not think it will have a very lasting impact.  It may sneak into the Final, but it will not do anything once it gets there.

Estonia – This song has definitely grown on me since the first time I heard it.  It’s still quite dull, though, and will make zero impact on the night.  I fear that it will be struggling to avoid last place.

Slovenia – I love this song! And the fact that Hannah Mancini is American only makes me like it all that much more.  Unfortunately, there’s usually only room for one club track in ESC and Norway owns it this year. Even within its own semi-final, Slovenia is less memorable (and appears earlier than) Montenegro and will likely suffer because of it.

Croatia – Classy, simple, clean – it’s lovely.  It will garner points for being so culturally true, but it will suffer from beCroatian Flag Maping so early and so slow. Like Austria, I think it might sneak into the Final and then just sit there.

Denmark – This is the big favorite to win, I loved it since the first time I heard it at DMGP.  If this song is not in the Top Five, I would be shocked.

Russia – Dina Garipova has a beautiful voice, but this song is sooo bland.  It will do well given that its Russia and I wholeheartedly expect this to finish in the Top Ten.

Ukraine – I’ve said it before, the retooled version is miles better than the original, but it’s still a bit too theatrical, I think, to challenge for a win. I think being from the Ukraine will get the entry some points as will the sheer power of Zlata Ognevich’s voice. Unfortunately, the feedback from rehearsals is not good and her chances are sinking.

Dutch Flag CountryThe Netherlands – Anouk is a rather amazing performer and the chatter is that she is keeping her presentation simple, which is perfect for this song.  I think there’s a lot of positive buzz around this song but the Dutch’s stock seems to be dropping. I think she will qualify, but struggle to reach the Top Ten.

Montenegro – I’m still on the fence about this song, personally.  Depending on the mood of the voters, I think this could take the last qualifying spot away from Austria or Croatia.

Lithuania – The song doesn’t entirely make sense and it’s not very dynamic.  I think this will be challenging Estonia for last place on Tuesday.

Belarus – I think of this year’s 39 entries, Belarus’ stock dropping faster than anyone else. When Solayoh was revealed, it was immediately counted as a contender to win. Now, people think it will be lucky to qualify – which I think it will do as long as the presentation is decent.

Moldova – I think this is the most underrated entry – I think it’s captivating, well-sung, and not getting any bad press – look out! Moldova is up to big things!Irish Flag Map

Ireland – I think this is in a similar situation as Slovenia, except Ireland is a much more popular and successful country than Slovenia or Montenegro in ESC. I think that it will qualify for the Final, but not do too much after that.

Cyprus – Another one of my absolute favorites this year. But, like Estonia, I think it is a bit too dull to do anything.  I think it benefits from being expertly sung (particularly, following Ireland) but I do not think Serbian Flag MapDespina Olympiou’s fantastic vocals will be enough to bring success to Cyprus this year.

Belgium – This song gets better each time I hear it.  Unfortunately, viewers only have one time to listen and Roberto Bellarosa is not necessarily a great live singer.

Serbia – This song is a hot mess, and I think it’s stock is also headed in the wrong direction. It has all the makings of a dud.

Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-Denmark

-Russia

-Ukraine

-The Netherlands

-Ireland

-Austria

-Montenegro

-Croatia

-Belarus

Danish Flag Map-Moldova

I think Denmark is the only one from this bunch that can actually win.

Take a quick breath.  Ready?  Onward to Semi-Final Two.

Latvia – I never particularly cared for this song.  I recently looked up their other song from the Latvian, Sad Trumpet, it’s amazing, which makes me dislike this song even more.

San Marino – Already proving itself to be SM’s most popular entry, it scored a second placing in ESCToday/OGAE’s Annual Poll of Clubs.  I think this could surprise a lot of folks and finish Top Ten.

Macedonian Flag MapMacedonia – I love this song and do not understand why it’s being panned across the web. Anyway, I have very low expectations for this entry.

Azerbaijan – I think Azerbaijan’s weakest entry yet, but it will benefit from the fact that Turkey is not voting. They even released a Turkish language version (which is awful, by the way) in order to capitalize on the Turkish diaspora.

Finland – Like Belgium and Estonia, this song has definitely grown on me and she has a cult following across Europe. But, most Finnish entries seem to garner a cult following of some degree (I’m thinking of 2010, especially) and still not go anywhere. I’m thinking that this will qualify and finish mid-table.

Malta – I really like this, it’s adorable, genuine, and very sweet.  I do not think, though, that it will make a lasting impression on the night, but it could sneak through.

Bulgaria – Not as good as Voda, I think it will fall flat.Bulgarian Flag Country

Iceland – This song is a bit captivating and is generally well-received throughout the fan-sites.  I think it will qualify and has a chance to sneak up the scoreboard.

Greece – Great song! It will definitely qualify, but how will it do? I think it depends on the running order – if it’s surrounded by two ballads (like it is in the semi-final) I think it has a real shot of being Top Ten, otherwise, it will finish mid-table.

Israel – The question is, will the amazingness of this song be outweighed by the horrendous fashion and hairstyle?  Probably.

Armenian Flag MapArmenia – Meh. This song is decent, but still not great.  I do not think it will do that well, but may qualify on virtue of the fact that over half will move through.

Hungary – I really, really like this.  But it’s so soft I think that it will be loss among the shuffle.

Norway – This song is very different from the grand majority of ESC entries, which means that it will either be wildly successful or fail greatly. It has a lot of fan support and haunts you long after listening – it’s bound to do well.

Albania – This song seems to be fairly popular, but I do not know why.  It will benefit from being the only rock song in the Contest this year.

Georgia – “Eurovision by Numbers” is the phrase that everyone seems to be throwing around for this entry.  I agree, but I don’t mind – it’s a fantastic entry in my opinion and can challenge for the win.Swiss Flag County

Switzerland – I love this song but it seems to be getting mixed reviews. I think it’s just good enough to qualify (when was the last time the Dutch and the Swiss were in a Final together? 2003 I think).

Romania – Romania will be the next country with a 100% Final qualification rate to fall (as Turkey did in 2011 and Georgia did in 2012).

The Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-San Marino

-Azerbaijan

-Finland

-Iceland

-Greece

-Israel

-Norway

-Albania

-GeorgiaGeorgian Flag Map

-Switzerland

I think Georgia and Azerbaijan are the most serious contenders.

Whew!  Blink a few times – maybe take a sip of water – onward to the Final!!

France – I love! this song.  It’s great!  For some unknown reason, no one else seems to.  New French Flag MapI think with a really good presentation (Amandine Bourgeois alone on stage (the backing singers can be off-camera on the catwalk – like Sweden last year) with flames that grow higher throughout and begin to dance by the end), this song could be a dark horse.

Germany – I like this a lot, I wonder if Europe will get up and dance or be tired of all the club tracks between last year and this year. I think Cascada, on name alone, will be able to break the Top Ten.

Italy – In my opinion, this is the most overrated song this year. Everyone is talking about how much they love it and how great it is, but I do not see what separates this entry from Iceland or Israel (or even Cyprus and Estonia for that matter) – they’re all well sung ballads in my opinion. Expect it to fight with Georgia for jury points.

Spanish Flag MapSpain – I really like this entry, it’s really sweet and I love the Celtic sound (the band is from northern Spain, where Celtic Galician region is).  However, it will merely be a palate cleanser between whatever two song its performed between. I don’t think it will be last.

Sweden – I think this song has great potential, but I have yet to see Robin Stjernberg perform this song live well.  While the viewing public may not care as much, the juries will (remember Russia 2011?).

United Kingdom – I like it; it’s grown on me. Most of the comments I see and the betting odds all seem to have this song doing well (except for Britons, but after following the Contest since 2007, Briton Flag MapI do not think there is a single thing the BBC can do that won’t make British fans whine).

Bottom Line: Which of these six do I think can finish in the Top Ten?

-Italy

-Germany

So, who’s going to win?

I think there are only four legitimate contenders: Denmark, Italy, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

Danish Flag MapDenmark – the big favorite among the fans and the bookies – by a country mile!  This song’s biggest challenge is whether it can withstand being in a field of 26 others. If this song is stuck in the first half of the Grand Final, then it can sink.  It’s a great song, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression; if it’s mixed with other pleasant entries (like Switzerland, the UK, Spain) or more memorable entries (like Ukraine or Norway) then it will be forgotten by the average viewer.Italian Flag Map

Italy – perceived, by just about everyone, as the strongest ballad in the field this year.  If Marco Mengoni has to worry about Eythor Ingi (Iceland) being within close range, then I he’ll also have to worry about losing votes to him.  The two songs are similar in appearance, tone, and mood and can split votes, resulting in lower placings for both of them.

Georgian Flag MapGeorgia – a powerful, stirring ballad that represents one of the best efforts of ESC legend Thomas G:son.  Conversely, the drawback from of having a renowned ESC composer writing for you – all his songs have a similar sound and put this song at risk of sounding generic.

Azerbaijan – Turkey is not competing, leaving Europe’s biggest diaspora up for grabs and ripe for the picking for mini-Turkey:Azerbaijani Flag Map Azerbaijan.  Everything about this entry is average – thehttps://eurovisionobsession.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=608&action=edit singing, the lyrics, the music; I also doubt Azerbaijan wants to host again so quickly after last year’s Contest.

I stick by my prediction from a few weeks ago, Denmark and Georgia will be battling it out for victory.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday when I will be posting my annual live notes! Every year, I take notes as I am watching the Semi-Finals and Grand Final and post them here for your reading pleasure!  The shows occur at 3PM here, so I have to watch the semi-finals later in the day (hence why the notes are posted the following day). I will try to keep my Grand Final notes on here live this year after Twitter failed me last year – so be sure to check back in on Saturday!

ESC2013 Logo Facebook Cover

ESC2013 Facebook Cover


Eurovision 2013: Semi-Final Running Order

esc2013 logo

Hello Readers!

As promised, here is my take on the winners and losers of the Semi-Final running order.  In case you do not know, for the first time in the history of the Contest, the producers are determining the running order.  The previous 57 editions of the Contest used random draw to determine the running order.  SVT’s defense for moving in this direction?  “It makes for a better show.” The Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the EBU Jon Ola Sand has said that the idea behind this move is to give each song a “chance to shine.”

I think they are misguided in their intentions.  I do not think that they can preserve the competitive integrity of the Contest without going back to the random draw.  Unfortunately, while fans (people who follow the Contest beyond the one week of May during which it takes place) are vehemently against this move, we only make up a small percentage of the total number of viewers and consumers of ESC, so, ultimately, our voice does not mean much.  So, essentially, we should saddle up and prepare ourselves for producer-determined running orders to stay.

With all that said, here’s my take on the running orders for the Semi-Finals!

Semi-Final One

Winners

Austria fits very nicely at the beginning of the show as it is a mid-tempo song with a big ending.  While it is a bit generic, going first will help make it a bit more memorable, as long as Natália Kelly’s vocals are stronger than they were in the national selection.Ukranian Flag Map

Ukraine is a song in a similar style to Russia, but is much more memorable.  It benefits from following What If in the running order.

Cyprus is a stirring ballad that has the potential to be sung flawlessly by Despina Olympiou.  While I still do not think that Cyprus has a chance of moving through, this the best option they could hope for, being sandwiched between two up-tempo songs performed by guys who don’t have nearly the same vocal abilities.

Losers

Slovene Flag MapSlovenia is a club track sandwiched by the two slowest entries in the Contest.  A juxtaposition between it and slower tracks – that’s okay; being the crazed, over-the-top dance-focused performance between two understated, simple songs – that’s an order for disaster.

Montenegro will find it difficult following the Netherlands.  It has been argued that the Netherlands got the raw end of the deal coming between Ukraine and Montenegro, but I think Montenegro loses out coming between the Netherlands and Lithuania.  While both of those entries are rather subdued, Montenegro will be come off as a bit mad with its dubstep and men in hazard suits.

Semi-Final Two

Winners

Finland benefits from being a crazy ball of energy between two very forgettable acts.  Unlike Montenegro and Slovenia in the first Finnish Flag Mapsemi-final, the two acts surrounding Finland, Azerbaijan and Malta, are not very musically interesting (when compared to, say, Croatia, the Netherlands, Lithuania, or Estonia).  Not only that, but people who like up tempo numbers will appreciate the fury of Krista Siegfrids after a serious of mid-tempo numbers in San Marino, Macedonia, and Azerbaijan.

Albania benefits in the same way as Finland.  The one of the few rock numbers this year, Albania follows a combination of four mid-tempo songs and ballads: Israel, Armenia, Hungary, and Norway.  People who like Albania also will most likely shy away from Georgia’s ballad, the pop-y goodness of Switzerland, and the sheer “uniqueness” of Romania, meaning that Albania will stick in folks’ minds at the end of the night.

Losers

San Marino, for all its merits, is not an overly remarkable or memorable entry. Latvia is.  Macedonia is.  Valentina Monetta will have to give a performance of a lifetime to make a lasting impression between those two songs.  Her producers also need to make sure they design a stage show that not only compliments the song, but helps it stand out.

Greece is in the same predicament as Slovenia, it’s a crazed, high-energy song sandwiched between two subdued, beautifully sung pieces (Iceland and Israel).  Fortunately for Greece, this is a rather good song that is already quite popular, the lousy position shouldn’t affect its chances of moving through too much.Hungariran Flag Map

Hungary is a sweet lullaby sandwiched between the rock ballad from Armenia and the techno track from Norway (there is a more specific genre in which Feed You My Love falls, but I can’t remember the name for it).  As soon as it was selected, MTV knew that it was going to be a struggle to ensure that the performance is memorable, the pressure to do this is intensified by performing between two very memorable entries.

With all this said, I think the running order will matter much more in the Grand Final then in the semi-finals.  Taking into account the running orders, Internet chatter, betting odds, and Contest history, here are my updated predictions for the ten qualifiers from each semi-final.Georgian Flag MapDanish Flag Map

First Semi-Final

Second Semi-Final

Denmark Georgia
The Netherlands Norway
Russia Greece
Ukraine Azerbaijan
Moldova Switzerland
Ireland Albania
Belarus San Marino
Slovenia Iceland
Austria Romania
Serbia Finland

Stay tuned, as I will be starting a new series in a week or two.  It will be a Contender or Pretender series looking at the the top ten contenders in the betting odds: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, The Netherlands, Russia, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Azerbaijan (with the United Kingdom, San Marino, and Belarus hovering just outside the top ten).


Eurovision 2013 – First Half of the Second Semi-Final

esc2013 logo

Hello!  If you are new to Eurovision Obsession (or haven’t been here in a while) I am in the middle of a series.  Each day this week I am previewing one half of each semi-final, and the Grand Final on Friday.  Over the past two days, I examined the First Semi-Final, on Monday I looked at the first half and yesterday, the second.

Azerbaijan Hold Me performed by Farid MammadovAzerbaijani Flag Map
Immediately, I think this is stronger than the majority of entries from the First Semi-Final (links to my thoughts on the First Semi-Final are above).  It’s a strong entry from a very popular country that has never seen the wrong side of the Top Ten.  I do not think there’s any question that this will be a Top Ten song, if not a competitor for the Winner’s Circle.

Bulgarian Flag CountryBulgaria Samo Shampioni (Only Champions) performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov
Our favorite Bulgarian percussionists are back hoping to return Bulgaria to the Top Ten.  Unfortunately, this song is not a strong as Voda, but it’s close, the question is, would Voda be competitive nowadays?  We’ll see.  Even the traditional chanting makes a return in this song – good stuff! I do not understand how this did not win originally; it’s light years better than Kismet.  Perhaps the co-writer of Kismet did not see anything wrong with the final version but instead wanted to give Bulgaria a better shot of succeeding (in case you did not know, Kismet was to be the song for Bulgaria, but the third author of the song challenged it on grounds that he was not consulted on the final version.  To avoid issues around copyright and plagiarism, Bulgaria simply moved to the runner-up song).

Finland Marry Me performed by Krista SiegfridsFinnish Flag Map
Going in the exact opposite direction as Cyprus, Finland turns 360º from last year’s entry and heads straight for the 90s.  Unfortunately, it’s equally as weak, but without the nice sentiment of being written by a sibling pair for their mother.  It’s kinda annoying, actually, but not in an endearing way like ICE2006.  Speaking of Iceland…

Icelandic Flag MapIceland Ég á Lif (I’ve Got a Life) performed by Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson
It’s about time we heard some Icelandic on the ESC stage!  It’s been absent for 14 years! Too bad this song is somewhat boring.  It’s pretty, no doubt, but definitely a little dull.  Though, I do like the orchestration a lot; it gives the song a bit more of an anthem feeling, which makes sense given the lyrics.  And the lyrics are vaguely Christian, definitely a plus!

Latvia Here We Go performed by PeRLatvian Flag Map
Awww….a boy band that raps.  The rapping is better doen than a lot of other ESC rap songs, but given that Latvia does not have the clout of Greece, the only nation to successfully land a rap song in the Top Ten, I imagine this song will linger behind in the semi-finals.

Macedonian Flag MapMacedonia Pred da se Razdeni (Before the Dawn) performed by Esma & Lozano
I like this a lot!  I think it is one of the best matching of contemporary and folk traditions we’ll see on the ESC stage.  With that said, without any other former Yugoslav nation, I’m not sure if Macedonia stands much of a chance without some kind of amazing performance in the semi-final (it does have Albania to help it out, but one country is not enough to push it forward).  But the country can pride itself on putting out another high quality act for the second straight year!  Also, I don’t quite understand the need to change songs; the original selection, Imperija, is just as good as this one, if not better.  Either way, Macedonia will be staying in the semi-finals, I’m sure.

Malta Tomorrow performed by Gianluca BezzinaMaltese Flag Map
I’m beginning to get the sense that Malta is nothing but sunshine and smiles.  Gone are the power ballads and bellowing ladies, here are the guys who just want to sing about love and good times.  This song is so fun and bouncy and tells a fun story.  I hope they don’t screw it by giving it a poor staging.  I think you get a nice couple of dancers to act out the story, keep Bezzina and his three backing singers off to the side and out of the way of the unfolding story, and this song has a decent shot of qualifying.

Sammarinese Flag MapSan Marino Crisalide (Vola) (Chrisalis (Fly)) performed by Valentina Monetta
Everyone’s favorite social media star is back!  Once again, I’ll just like to remind everyone that she was brought to SMRTV’s attention due to her jazz singing, which is her specialty.  With that said, this song is a thousand times better than her entry last year!  I don’t know if the tempo change is necessary…or the key change.  Let’s hope they have a ribbon climber on stage, that would definitely add to epic-ness of this song and give them a shot of moving through to the Grand Final.

What do I think about the first half of the Second Semi-Final?

My Order of Preference How I think the final scorecard will look
Macedonia Azerbaijan*
Azerbaijan Malta+
Malta Bulgaria+
San Marino San Marino+
Iceland Iceland+
Bulgaria Latvia
Finland Finland
Latvia Macedonia

*Who I think will definitely move through to the Grand Final
+May move through to the Grand Final depending on the second half of the Second Semi-Final

Check back tomorrow for the second half of the Second Semi-Final!


ESC2012 – Semi Final One – Live Notes

Hello lovely readers!  I may not have been able to do my usual round of pre-Contests posts as thoroughly or as often as I would have liked, but I am here now for the live notes – which are really the best part of the blog, in my opinion.  Per usual, I am writing these notes live as I am watching the Contest.  A few things to note, I have the lyrics for each song pulled up, because, how can you judge a song contest without knowing the lyrics.  Secondly, I know that, traditionally, I do not listen to the songs before they premiere live at the Contest, but this year, due to the extreme tightness of my schedule, I had to in order to get my prediction pieces done.  So, I am actually quite familiar with the songs which is a major shift from how I normally write these live notes.  Additionally, unlike previous years, I have not read about the stagings of the songs.  Normally, I don’t listen to the entries and read about the rehearsals, this year, I am doing the reverse.  Also, look for my tweets – #eurovisionobsession.

 

With that said, here are my pre-Contest predictions for who will qualify:

Greece             Iceland

Cyprus             Denmark

Romania          Switzerland

Russia              Hungary

Ireland             Moldova

Since these have not changed since my previous post, I will not go into detail as to why I chose each of these songs.

 

So, let’s begin!

 

Opening Act:

What an interesting arena!  So many diamonds; definitely the most unique arena I’ve seen thus far for a Contest. The stage is rather nice, though!  Looks like there’s not going to be an opening act for the semi-finals this year again.  Did that third host say that she’s a lawyer?  Why is a lawyer hosting?  Did she remember to say Spain in the Big Five?  (“France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom” I don’t think she did).

 

No, El, Azerbaijan is not in Europe.

 

I see that Azerbaijan has returned to showing off the country for the post cards.

 

On to the entries:

Montenegro – Euro Neuro performed by Rambo Amadeus

Crna Gora has been saving up money for two years, and this is the best staging they could afford?  I guess it works for the song.  Speakin of which.  It’s interesting, but I don’t quite think Europe will get it.  Hopefully, Mr. Amadeus can avoid a null point.

 

Iceland – Never Forget performed by Greta Salóme & Jónsi

Gereta’s voice is a little off.  I think that she put down the violin, or least wait until the instrumental break.  Not necessarily a winning performance, but I think good enough to get them through to the Final.

 

Greece – Aphrodisiac performed by Eleftheria Eleftheriou

Is the background singer so loud on purpose?  This just feels so…cheap.  This song had the potential for a really amazing performance, but instead, they settled for depending on a background singer to provide the majority of the vocal support, a scantily clad singer, and some weak dance moves.  I know I said that this was My Number One rebirthed, but it’s not, it’s nowhere close.  As much as I dislike My Number One, it won because it was fresh and well-performed.  This was just stale.

 

Latvia – Beautiful Song performed by Anmary

She might have been born in 1980, but this entry and its staging is rather 1970.  At least she and her backing singers are modestly clad. So, aside from the fact that this song is fairly forgettable, it’s rather presumptuous.  I hate when entries declare themselves the winners and talk about all the fame that will result.  But, I guess, what more could we expect from Latvia?

 

Albania – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

I don’t know why the press give artists so much flack for performing in their own language, I rather prefer it.  Excellent use of lights for the high notes!  If only she remembered to hold the microphone up to her mouth the entire time.  Did you hear that crowd reaction?  They loved it!  What a heart-wrenching performance – woohoo!  This is one of my favorite entries – and this is why!  Great job!  She should move through, but she probably won’t, unfortunately.

 

Romania – Zaleilah performed by Mandinga

The moon walk would have been so much better if the mouthpiece of the bagpipe was actually in his mouth.  Fire!  Romania, right now, is the country to beat.  I know that they can count on twelve points from Moldova and Spain, and probably several others.

 

Switzerland – Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

Whoa, that was a cool camera effect – that long shot to close up to long, again at the start of the first chorus.  I wonder why he isn’t using the catwalk – this seems like the perfect song for that ­– oh, there goes his brother, he took off down that thing!  I wonder why they didn’t really show it.  Fire!  This is, what, the third or fourth pyrotechnics of the night?  But, where is the wind machine?  I do believe the Swiss are headed back to the Final.

 

I like these postcards – they’re doing a great job of showing off the country.  I just thought of something, are those little diamonds in the audience this year’s green room?  That would be rather interesting and I imagine rather frustrating for the artists who want to relax and decompress after their performance.

 

Belgium – Would You? performed by Iris

This is a sweet song, but ultimately rather forgettable.  But she’s giving her all.  I love it when a competitor, who probably realizes that she’s outmatched, still gives her all.  Way to go Belgium!  There’s no reason for you to feel bad about the outcome, Iris, you did the best you could with a weak song.  Hold your head up high!

 

Finland – När Jag Blundar performed by Pernilla

I love how they make the flags on the Crystal Hall’s exterior!  This song has a sweet story.  The singer’s brother wrote it in honor of their mother (who’s there in Baku with them).  I assume that’s him on the cello.  What a wonderful sight for their mother to behold.  I hope all three of them cherish these three minutes, because I doubt they will happen again.  Thank you Finland for singing in NOT English, even if it isn’t your official language.  I find it funny that we have to go to Finland to get an entry in Swedish, the first time the language has been on the ESC stage since 1998.  A pretty song, but will be forgotten, much like Belgium.

 

Israel – Time performed by Izabo

Anyone else find it interesting that they talk about Azerbaijan being a “holy land” right before Israel’s performance?  I like the 70’s sound of this song; I could totally image roller skating to this song.  Unfortunately, even though Europe is behind the times, it’s not so far back that it will appreciate this entry to the fullest.  The guitarist has his own mic, why is he coming over to the lead singer’s?  What an interesting use of the backing singers.

 

San Marino – The Social Network Song (Oh Oh Uh Oh Oh) performed by Valentina Monetta

This postcard fits nicely, as Monetta is a jazz singer by profession.  Her eyes are so big!  And her voice is so small!  I’m sorry, but this sounds like something adults make to entertain children (the lyrics referring to sex aside, of course).  Why is there a pilot and a doctor?  Sorry, San Marino, another year in the semi-finals for you – better luck next year!  How much more fun would this performance be if they had actual Facebook pages and Tweets floating around behind them, of fans from the 42 participating countries?

 

Cyprus – La La Love performed by Ivi Adamou

This always reminded me of something that Rihanna could sing.  And like the Bahamian singer, Ivi is stunningly beautiful and sings just flat throughout her song.  Again, we have the issue of backing singers who are too loud.  Is the dance routine so rigorous that we need to have all four ladies at full blast to help Ivi out?  The dance break and the bridge had some amazing camera direction – good job whoever directed this performance.  While I like this song, the overbearing backing singers gave it a bit of an amateurish sound.  It was more like something you would expect at a local community musician expo, not a continent-wide song pop contest.  Hopefully, it’s better on Saturday.

 

Denmark – Should’ve Known Better performed by Soluna Samay

I don’t understand the bassist’s outfit – it seems rather out of place.  Aside from that, this is nearly identical to the MGP performances of this song.  There’s something that can be said for consistency.  Well, actually, her voice is a little less whiny this time around, which is a very good thing.

 

Russia – Party for Everyone performed by Buranovskiye Babushki

Didn’t we already see that Baku is a sunny city?  That’s a giant oven they have on stage!  Which I guess makes sense since the song is about a them preparing a party for their children and grandchildren.  The audience seems to be getting really into it! I wonder if they have enough pastries for everybody?  That little short one has some nice moves!

 

Are they allowed to use the term “Golden Girls”?

So, I was right about the green room being out in the arena.  Wow!  Valentina Monetta has a rather deep voice!

 

Hungary – Sound of Our Hearts performed by Compact Disco

I wonder, if for the Final, every postcard is just going to say “Azerbaijan: Land of Fire!” and show things burning throughout the country.  This entry is so…smug.  Like the singer is saying, “Look at me!  I am singing about the human condition!  Aren’t I so artsy!  Be inspired by me!”

 

Austria – Woki Mit Deim Popo performed by Trackshittaz

Whew!  They’re keeping this thing moving – it’s only been 70 minutes since they’ve started and we’re already just about done with the presentation of the entries.  Uh oh, I think the timing was slightly off with lighting effects.  I’m glad they went with pole dancers as opposed to just three girls who shake their butts while holding poles.  I’m glad that they toned down the entry from the National Selection performance, but they may have went a little too far – it definitely lacked a lot of the electricity it had during when they won in Austria.

 

Moldova – Lăutar performed by Pasha Parfeny

So, I’m a HUGE fan of the song he took to the Moldovan national selection last year, Dorule.  This song cannot touch the awesomeness that is Dorule.  Though, this is pleasant and has a decent shot of moving through to Saturday, I think.  It would have been more effective if there was an actual trumpet on stage somewhere, either one of the backing dancers could hold it or just a giant trumpet on the LED screen, something!  There’s one at the end, at least.  The choreography was really great, though.

 

Ireland – Waterline performed by Jedward

Hey, their hair is even worse than it was last year!  WHAT ARE THEY WEARING?!?!  I think we have this year’s Barbara Dex award.  Perhaps they were aiming to get the infamous title renamed for themselves.  Why are they jumping around, this is not that kind of song.  They’re singing is not awful, but this song is dated and forgettable.  If they didn’t have the name recognition that they did, this song would be dead last tonight.  With any luck, Albania did enough to displace them from the projected Top Ten.

 

My Ten Favorite from tonight:

1. Albania

2. Romania

3. Iceland

4. Belgium

5. Denmark

6. Cyprus

7. Finland

8. Russia

9. Switzerland

10. Moldova

 

My Predictions for who will qualify to the Final (in no particular order)

Romania (probably the strongest performance of the night, all things considered)

Denmark (mass appeal soft ballad that was well sung)

Iceland (it’s a contender for victory and was performed well-enough to make it through to Saturday)

Cyprus (not a strong performance, but benefits from the fact that more than half make it through)

Greece (it’s Greece)

Russia (this song is immensely popular and makes people smile)

Ireland (yuck! but Jedward is popular enough to move through)

Switzerland (they had a strong performance)

Hungary (good enough song to move through, despite the singer’s smugness)

Albania (I think she did enough to earn a spot and Moldova did not)

 

Interval Act:

That’s amazing!  I see why this guy was awarded the highest Azerbaijani honor for a musician.  It’s amazing, though, how similar musical and dance traditions can be across regions.  His drumming is not far off from what one would expect in an Afro-Cuban tradition.  And the dancing is not dissimilar from Balkan and Middle Eastern dances (which makes sense given Azerbaijan’s location).  It’s amazing how different we all are from one another, yet so like each other at the same time.  I love it!

 

All six of the pre-qualified entries are amazing and have a legitimate shot of being Top Ten (with Spain, in my opinion, having the best chance of winning among them).  This year has yielded many great entries; unlike last year where there were many entries that were all equally average, this year we have a lot of songs that are equally strong.

 

I see that Jon Ola Sand is still not yet comfortable speaking on camera.

The actual qualifiers:

A. Romania – I am 1 for 1 in predicting the finalists, thus far

B. Moldova – 1 for 2

C. Iceland – 2 for 3

D. Hungary – 3 for 4

E. Denmark – 4 for 5

F. Albania – 5 for 6 (ooh!  I wonder whom else I got wrong in addition to Moldova, hopefully Ireland)

G. Cyprus – 6 for 7

H. Greece – 7 for 8

I. Russia – 8 for 9 (and the audience goes wild!)

Either Ireland or Switzerland will get left behind, I’m guessing it’s the latter of the two, unfortunately

J. Ireland – 9 for 10 (yuck!)

 

Final Thoughts:

First, El talks like a Kindergarten teacher.  I don’t know if it’s intentional or just his accent, but it’s a bit annoying.

 

Second, I was 9 for 10 with the pleasant surprise of Albania making it through to the Final and the unpleasant correct prediction of Ireland moving through.  The song is weak, the performance is weak, and I hope it gets crushed on Saturday.

 

Other pleasant surprises: Belgium was surprising good.  I was not expecting much from since the song was so lackluster, but Iris gave a great performance.  She gets my award for best on the night!  Also, three out of the five non-English entries (Romania, Russia, and Albania) made it through – good for them!

 

Drawing for starting positions for the Final

Romania – 14, so, we can expect at least a decent placing for them

Moldova – 26, lucky man, that will definitely give him a boost.  Maybe even top 15.

Iceland – 7, <insert sad trombone sound here> that might just slay there chance of contending for victory, but it will open the door for Spain (and possibly even Italy)

Hungary – 2, looks like Hungary will be back in the bottom five with that spot

Denmark – 15, dare I say a Top Ten finish for Ms. Samay, depends on who’s around her, I think

Albania – 3, well, she did say she’s just happy to be there and have the chance to sing again

Cyprus – 8, she still has an outside chance of winning, but should still finish Top Ten

Greece – 16, Top Ten is assured for the Hellenic Republic

Russia – 6, they come right before Iceland, which might actually help Iceland’s chances

Ireland – 23, blah! now they will get a placing much higher than they deserve

What we know now:

1. United Kingdom

2. Hungary

3.

4.

5.

6. Russia

7. Iceland

8. Cyprus

9. France

10. Italy

11.

12.

13. Azerbaijan

14. Romania

15. Denmark

16. Greece

17.

18.

19. Spain

20. Germany

21.

22.

23. Ireland

24.

25.

26. Moldova


ESC2011: Notes on the Grand Final

Eurovision Song Contest 2011: Düsseldorf

The Grand Final!!!

After a very eventful year, in which we saw one of the most active Supervisors step down, a new Supervisor be appointed, the return four countries to the Contest – including Italy!, and the fielding of a record-tying 43 entries, and two winners coming returning with the hopes of being the next Johnny Logan, the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 is here, live from Düsseldorf, Germany!

Looking at the running order, it looks as if most of the favorites to win (Estonia, Sweden, France, even Ireland and Hungary) fall in the first half of the running order.  Which doesn’t necessarily spell doom – except for dark horse candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina who landed in the deadly number two spot, but it does give a bolster to the United Kingdom, the only favorite to fall after the halfway point (it’s number 14).  Additionally, Austria (#18) and Serbia (#24), both of which have been picking up steam since qualifying, could benefit the most from the running order and both may end up surprising a lot of fans throughout Europe.  After consulting the blogosphere, reviewing history, and watching the recap of songs from the second dress rehearsal, I think this year’s winner will be either Sweden or France.  I think the rest of the Top Ten will include UK, Ireland, Estonia, Denmark, Austria, Serbia, Germany, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I have this feeling, and I’ve had since even before the semi-finals just from looking at fan sites and bookies, that this year will be the first in which the juries and the televoters disagree.  This will mean one of three things will happen.  1) The televoters’ favorite will win, leaving those who prefer juries outraged.  They will most likely shout something about how the winner is of low quality or something like that.  2) The juries’ favorite will win, leaving conspiracy theorists and teenyboppers whining about the Contest being rigged or some other nonsense like that.  3) The juries’ favorite and the televoters’ will cancel each other out and an entry that received a top five placing on both lists will come out the winner.  Resulting in no one being happy or satisfied – except those of us who like the 50/50 system and realized this is exactly the sort of thing that’s supposed to happen with it.

And now, it’s 3 PM on the East Coast (that’s 17:00 CET) and the Grand Final is beginning!!!  Onward to the show!

Opening Act: Hosts!  Where’s the reprise of Satellite?  We were promised Stefan Raab’s band reprising the song on Lena’s behalf!  Oh, here it is.  Hmmm….I’ll bet you anything that the producers had to talk Raab out of wearing his gold outfit from 2000.  The German’s really don’t do humor all that well (though, tonight was better than the other two nights), but they have picked up Big Band quite well.  I love the flags on stage!!!  LENA!  I didn’t think she would be allowed to open the show since she’s also a competitor. HA!  It’s a good thing I don’t get seizures.  That was quite a fun opening, yay!  It puts Satellite in a whole new context, it was great!

It always gives me chills to think that hundreds of millions of folks are watching this along with me, all throughout Europe, and all throughout the world.  I love it!

01. Finland – Da Da Dam performed by Paradise Oskar

I love how volatile the crowd is in the arena – they’re singing along!  In my notes for the Second Semi-Final, I remarked on how the crowd might make it hard for BiH to stay on beat.  An article posted this morning on eurovision.tv confirmed this with the artist’s own words.  The solution was for Dino Merlin to wear two ear pieces instead of just one, I see Paradise Oskar has decided to do the same.  This was quite a pleasant way to start off the Contest.  The crowd obviously loved it and the singer also seemed to enjoy himself, I hope he places well.

02. Bosnia & Herzegovina – Love in Rewind performed by Dino Merlin

Awesome!  Minus the miscued clapping at the end.  I absolutely love this song!  It sucks that its second in the running order and not twenty-second, then it could actually stand a chance of winning.  I hope that he is at least able to pull off a Top Ten finish.

03. Denmark – New Tomorrow performed by A Friend in London

I guess the event crew said no to the ball idea.  Having just one is quite lamed compared to the bunches they had at DMGP, especially since that one ball fell to the ground.  He also took a different route back to the stage then he used on Thursday, was that a security issue or did he just forget which catwalk he was supposed to use?  It was alright, not as good as Thursday, but it will still do respectable – but it definitely leaves the door open for someone to nab its Top Ten spot.

04. Lithuania – C’est Ma Vie performed by Evelina Sašenko

I am assuming she is using Estonian sign language, or is that English Sign Language as well?  Sašenko’s voice is definitely stronger now than it was on Tuesday.  I always love it when the performers improve from semi-final to final, it’s just great!  Go Lithuania, go!

05. Hungary – What About My Dreams? performed by Kati Wolf

Better than Tuesday, but still not all that great on stage.  I think that she will end up in the mid-teens – people will vote because it’s an awesome club track, but her weak vocals will hamper Hungary’s chances of returning to the Top Ten.

06. Ireland – Lipstick performed by Jedward

Having gone back and watched the music video for this song, and paying more attention to the LED show, I realized something.  This goes beyond the normal gag act.  It goes beyond the normal desire to just bring ridiculousness to the ESC stage.  This whole entry isn’t about humor and fun, it’s about Jedward.  The whole point of this is to bring more attention to the twins; it’s a self-glorifying and pompous entry.  I hope it fails.

07. Sweden – Popular performed by Eric Saade

I don’t like this song anymore than I like Lipstick, but at least this entry is about the performance and the Contest, not the artist himself.  Saade, who generally has very weak vocals, is much sounding much better than he did on Thursday and when he was in Melodifestivalen.  Honestly, they still mistimed the breaking glass?  Why didn’t he just bring the demolition team with him from Stockholm?  I, personally, don’t think that was a winning performance – but hey, I said that three years about Russia and had to eat my words.   Either way, Sweden will do very well despite their position in the running order.

08. Estonia – Rockerfeller Street performed by Geeter Jaani

Come on Jaani, I know you have a magician in your delegation; now prove that he is worth the money that y’all are paying him – I want to see more tricks and illusions than we did on Thursday!  Grrr….lazy illusionist.  Jaani definitely sounded better than she did two days ago, but I am still disappointed with this performance on a whole.

09. Greece – Watch My Dance performed by Loucas Yiorkas featuring Stereo Mike

I am still in disbelief that this was able to win the Greek national selection.  I really like the staging of this entry, but I still don’t get it.  I think this song could really have been so much better.  Oh well, it’s Greece, so I’m sure it will still get plenty of points (and I know one country that will definitely be giving it 12 points), though, I don’t think that it will achieve a Top Ten placing.

10. Russia – Get You performed by Alexey Vorobyov

Wow, much better than Tuesday!  Oh, that was great!  And loved the flip and the how the lights on their backs spelt out Alex.  I think Mr. Vorobyov just bought himself a place in the Top Ten.

11. France – Sognu performed by Amaury Vassili

Another favorite takes the stage.  It’s funny, because this isn’t a song that particularly strikes someone as something that could Eurovision, regardless of what era of the Contest we’re talking about.  But it’s impeccably arranged, except the ending, which was just awkward.  Hmm….I’m not feeling too strong about this one either.  Let’s see what the rest of the night has to offer.

12. Italy – Madness of Love performed by Raphael Gualazzi

AMAZING!  I literally got chills from that performance!!!  I’m speechless.  Why is this not a favorite to win the Contest.

13. Switzerland – In Love for Awhile performed by Anna Rossinelli

Her voice is a thousand times clearer, stronger, and more accurate than it was on Tuesday.  The Swiss are in it to win it!  While I don’t think the Helvetica Confederation will be hosting the Contest again next year, I think they are definitely showing some real signs of fight this year, more so than in years past, despite the fact that the Swiss has been sending its best performers to the last few Contests.

14. United Kingdom – I Can performed by Blue

The screens with their faces are a little much, don’t you think?  Are they trying to prove they’re still attractive despite their age?  I don’t know if this entry is all that much different than Sweden’s.  The choreography and staging isn’t as strong, but the vocals are many times better.  Despite my love for Italy and Switzerland, I think this was really the first performance that could win on the night.  The test is to see whether Moldova’s ADHD performance can erase Blue’s memory or not.

15. Moldova – So Lucky performed by Zdob şi Zdub

I absolutely love the horns in this song.  Interesting, the outrageousness of this song serves almost like a palate cleanser.  It will most likely overpower any lingering thoughts and reflections about the preceding acts (who should all thank their lucky stars that voting goes throughout all the performances) and reset folks for the remaining ten.  I still liket his song, but think that Zdob şi Zdub will be unable to repeat their success.

16. Germany – Taken by a Stranger performed by Lena

I loved the postcard, and how it focused on the hosts.  Why would people compare this to Satellite, they’re two completely different songs, though I think both are perfect for Lena.  Satellite was the perfect song for the young, bright-eyed girl she was last year and Taken by a Stranger is the perfect song the mature, alluring young woman she is now.  I LOVED THAT ENDING!  The shattering lights into sparks, the intersecting spotlights, that sexy look at the end.  GREAT!  Not Johnny Logan great, but Carola great – I think Lena will definitely find herself in the Top Ten.

17. Romania – Change performed by Hotel FM

While many performers are better in the Final, some are better in the Semi-Final – Hotel FM falls into this latter category.  I don’t know if they were nervous following the host country (which can definitely be intimidating), or if they were afraid Taken by a Stranger would make Change seem unsophisticated and immature in comparison (which it does), if they are just tired and fatigued from the endless rehearsals, or have spent too much time at the EuroClub – but the vocals were weak (not bad, just weak) and Romania will find itself outside the Top Ten once again.

18. Austria – The Secret is Love performed by Nadine Beiler

Beiler’s voice is definitely better tonight which should make her entry seem even stronger when juxtaposed against the preceding act (sorry Romania).  If this was the early 90s, I would say that we just witnessed a winning performance.  For better or worse, it is not the early 90s, and thus, this song will probably not win.  But I think Beiler and her backing singers have done Austria proud and will get at least a respectable placing.

19. Azerbaijan – Running Scared performed by Ell/Nikki

Ell and Nikki are fighting to avoid becoming AZR’s first entry to fall outside of the Top Ten, which they are in danger of doing given the strength of the favorites and the surprise success stories (SUI, AUS, etc…).  I like this song and the fact that AZR continually brings the most American sounding entry, year after year.  But I don’t know if this song, let alone the performance, is strong enough to carry the Land of Fire into the Top Ten.

20. Slovenia – No One performed by Maja Keuc

This song could definitely benefit from its running order position.  Her voice is so much stronger than it was on Thursday, though I wonder if this song would be even more effective if she had performed the original Slovene version Vanijia.  I thought it was a well-done performance but it’s impossible to predict where she will fall when the dust settles.

Hmm, the voting numbers…I have vague memories regarding Italy, Ireland, Sweden, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.  The rest are quite fuzzy.

21. Iceland – Coming Home performed by Sjonni’s Friends

This is one of those songs that make you feel good as you listen to it, but leaves you as soon as the song is over.  I think this song will fall to the bottom of the scoreboard, even though it deserves to be in the Top Ten.

22. Spain – Que me quiten lo bailo – They can’t take the fun away from me performed by Lucía Pérez

And the children’s hit parade continues…like Denmark’s song, the Spanish entry sounds like something you would sing with four year olds.  Though, I find this entry much less annoying than the Danish one, in fact, it’s somewhat enjoyable.  Though, I would have thought there would be more color and dancing and a party atmosphere on stage, so I was a bit disappointed with the staging.  Expect another middle of the pack finish for the Spanish.

23. Ukraine – Angel performed by Mika Newton

Technical difficulties?  Or were they just late in getting the sand table out on stage?  Ten to one, the table was positioned incorrectly and the aerial camera was not picking it up.  Newton’s voice was many times better tonight than it was on Thursday.  Ukraine will probably find itself outside of the Top Ten because I think this song is just too…difficult…for most people and jurors.  I think musically and lyrically it is a song that must be digested slowly, and thus it is not an easy pop song to grab hold to.

24. Serbia – Čaroban performed by Nina

😦  I’m disappointed.  This is a great song that had the chance to make a really big splash.  But, like Romania, Nina seems to have shot her wad in the Semi-Finals.  While this performance is still good, it’s not as electrifying and exciting as the one on Tuesday.  I am not quite sure where this one will fall on the scoreboard.

25. Georgia – One More Day performed by Eldrine

Whew, Sophio’s pitch throughout the first verse is quite flat.  That was alright.  Not as good as Tuesday, and it provided a bit of a flat ending to the show, though. It should have been a much more electrifying.  Oh well, Georgia will finish in the middle of the pack.

What is Anke wearing?!  It’s not bad, it’s just, different. Checking the clock now…whoa!  It’s already five!  This show is running long!  We’re about a half hour behind where we should be.  Listen to those crowd reactions during the recap, Switzerland and the UK have, by far, gotten the loudest cheers – discounting Germany of course.  Moldova and Ireland also got some noteworthy cheers.

My Top Ten on the Night My Predicted Top Ten
 1. Italy 1. United Kingdom*
 2. Switzerland  2. Sweden
 3. Bosnia & Herzegovina  3. Bosnia & Herzegovina
 4. Iceland  4. Switzerland
 5. Germany  5. France
 6. Russia  6. Estonia
 7. Moldova  7. Russia
 8. Estonia  8. Ireland
 9. Spain  9. Moldova
 10. Austria  10. Germany

*normally, I go on to predict further results, those I think will end up in the teens and those I think that will be at the bottom, but I just can’t do it this year, I think there are too many unknowns this year and that all the entries are just so close to one another in quality.

**whenever I change my prediction for winner (2008, 2010) my original guess wins.  So, I guess even though I think the UK will win, France or Sweden probably will because fate likes making me eat my words.

Interval Act: That was alright.  It seemed as if it was a little short.  And, apparently, it was, as Jon Ola Sand is not ready to authorize the hosts to start calling the participating countries to receive their votes.

Stalling for time….HAHAHA – Anke screwed up the line, twice.  I love how Stefan is using Te Deum to “tear down” the wall separating the stage from the green room. Oooh, they are keeping the Green Room open for the voting sequence, exciting!

The Voting Sequence!  This year, instead of randomly revealing the votes, they are arranged to help maximize the suspense of the voting sequence.

Russia – Dima Bilan!  Low points for UK, France, and Sweden.  Boos abound for Ukraine.  Hmmm, 12 points to AZR, I guess because Armenia wasn’t there and they hate Georgia.

Bulgaria – the UK’s first 12 of the night, and unexpected one from Bulgaria, that has to bode well for Blue’s chances.

The Netherlands – Denmark gets the Dutch twelve?  Whoa.

Italy – It’s been a long time since Rome has called in.  10 to UK and 12 to Romania?  Wow, I my mind is boggled.

Cyprus – I predict yet another 12 for Greece.  Yep…a let the boos reign down.

Ukraine – Ruslana!  Azerbaijan is doing much better than expected.  And an unexpected 12 to Georgia.

Finland – 12 to Hungary, which makes sense, given the Finns love of dance tracks.

Norway – no surprises here!

Armenia – Only ten for Georgia?  Without Israel around who gets the 12?  Oh, the Ukraine.

Macedonia – Do I hear a 12 for Serbia? Whoa!  Only 8.  Ah, that makes sense, 12 for BiH.

Iceland – no surprises.

Slovakia – yay!  The Swiss are saved from null pointes land.

United Kingdom – why no boos for the predictable 12 to Ireland?

Denmark – only 10 for Sweden, where do the 12 go? Ireland?!  boo

Austria – Only 10 for Germany, for who are the 12?  BiH?  That’s definitely a surprise!

Poland – Lithuania?  how random.

Sweden – ireland, eww.

San Marino – italy gets 12, of course

Germany – no surprises

AZR – Safura! nothing exciting here

Slovenia – that’s a new guy, equally as annoying, though.

Halfway point – Sweden is in the lead, Azerbaijan is surprisingly in the second, and Denmark is, inexplicitly, in third.

Turkey – Of course, 12 to AZR, but what about 8 and 10?  Georgia, no surprise.  BiH, no surprise.  12 to AZR, no surprise.

SUI – Wow, BiH just might pull this off!

Greece – 12 to France, beginning of a comeback or too little too late?

Georgia – Sophia! they always have such random points.

France – Spain gets 12 and France stays true to the alliance.

…I am preparing for my own Eurovision Party this evening, so I can’t comment on each country’s votes as they come up.  I am noticing Azerbaijan and Greece are both doing unexpectedly well and France is not.

Malta –This Contest is officially over, Azerbaijan has won.  Baku 2012!

With one country left, the Azerbaijani performers are just now freaking out and getting excited, apparently, while both seem to be music folks and know about languages, neither one seems to be good at math.  They won a long time ago.

Yay, Italy is welcomed back to the Contest with a second place finish!

Hmm…Nikki seemd to have grabbed the wrong flag.   I know Azerbaijan and Turkey are close, but gosh darn it!  Celebrate the victory for your country – the trophy that you are bringing to Azerbaijan.

Final Thoughts on the Grand Final:

So, a few things to note, this is only the sixth duo to win the Contest.  It will be the farthest east the Contest will have ever traveled.  Estonia and Hungary were stomped, and became this year’s favorites to be shown as drastically overrated.  France also proved itself to be quite overrated as well.  Two Big Four countries came in the Top Ten – Italy (2nd) and Germany (10th).  While this victory for Azerbaijan was completely unexpected by most folks out there (including me), I am very happy that an entry that was truly about the song (not it’s artists, not its performance, not even its historical significance) won.  It will help continue this trend of the ESC being about good music more than about being a good show – besides, when the music is good, the entertainment value follows.  Congrats Azerbaijan, I am sure you made many, many people very rich with your win tonight, as did Italy with its second placing.  I look forward to the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 – Baku (or any other city that might host it).  I guess this makes up for the Eurovision Dance Contest folding right before it was supposed to go to there.  I can’t help but think back to my thoughts before the Contest.  I genuinely think that Azerbaijan was probably second or third on both the juries’ list and the televoter’s list, that Sweden won the televote (but was ranked low with the juries) and that Italy won the juries (but was ranked low with televoters), and that Azerbaijan was able to split the difference and take the crown.  We’ll know for sure once they release the split votes next month.  Though, I guess that should be taken with a grain of salt, I was only 4/10 for the Top Ten and WAY off for the winner, though, I am pretty sure this is the worst I’ve ever done in predicting a Top Ten.

While I can’t say that Azerbaijan was my favorite entry, I am satisfied with the results.  Though, I am rather afraid of the kind of hate speech and ignorance that will be splashed all around the ESC fan sites by those who hate any country east of Germany not called Greece.  I am also very happy that Italy got second, hopefully it will continue on in the Contest.  I also think it is a good sign that Switzerland and Austria both made the Final, hopefully both of those countries will continue on as well (though, I don’t think the Swiss ever had plans of discontinuing participation).

Y’all can expect a final wrap-up article (“ESC2011- One Week Later”) sometime in the next week or so.  There I will have my thoughts regarding the finishing positions of the various countries, hand out my annual awards, and take a look forward to next year.