Posts tagged “germany

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Americans

USA flag in EO logo

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. Yugoslavia 1990 – Hajde Da Ludujemo performed by Tajci

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

  9. Greece 2008 – Secret Combination performed by Kalomira

    Former prom queen Kalomira is from Long Island, NY.

  10. Israel 2006 – Ze Hazman performed by Eddie Butler

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

  11. Cyprus 2020 – Running performed Sandro

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

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

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

  13. Poland 2008 – For Life performed by Isis Gee

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

  14. Bulgaria 2018 – Bones performed by EQUINOX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  18. Slovenia 2013 – Straight into Love performed by Hannah

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

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

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

  20. Sweden 2020 – Move performed by The Mamas

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

  21. Albania 2017 – World performed by Lindita

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

  22. Serbia 2020 – Hasta la Vista performed by Hurricane

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

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

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

  24. Germany 2010 – Satellite performed by Lena

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

 

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

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


Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easily:

  • Greece

  • Iceland

  • Switzerland

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Latvia

  • Bulgaria

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

  • Serbia

  • Poland

  • Georgia

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

  1. Switzerland

  2. Poland

  3. Latvia

  4. Austria

  5. Iceland

  6. Denmark

  7. Albania

  8. Moldova

  9. San Marino

  10. Armenia

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • Iceland

  • Italy

  • Lithuania

  • Malta

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

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

See you next week!

EO logo with the Bulgarian flag

EO logo with Icelandic flag

EO logo with Lithuanian flag


Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part One!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lithuanian flag map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What a fun show!

 

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

  • Sweden

  • Belarus

  • Australia

  • Lithuania

  • Russia

  • Belgium

  • Malta

  • Norway

  • Israel

  • Romania

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

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

  1. Malta

  2. Russia

  3. The Netherlands

  4. Australia

  5. Belgium

  6. Romania

  7. Germany

  8. Israel

  9. Norway

  10. Ukraine


Eurovision 2019 – Grand Final Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Switzerland

  3. Australia

  4. Italy

  5. Sweden

  6. Iceland

  7. Malta

  8. Russia

  9. Norway

  10. Serbia

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

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

Opening Act

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

HERE WE GO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Azerbaijan

  2. The Netherlands

  3. Serbia

  4. North Macedonia

  5. Australia

  6. Malta

  7. Czech Republic

  8. Russia

  9. Spain

  10. France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINALLY we get to the votes!

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

The Juries

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

  • Azerbaijan: 12 to Russia, no shock there

  • Malta: 12 to Italy. Not too surprising

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

  • San Marino: 12 to Italy. NO surprise there

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

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

  • Estonia: 12 points to Sweden

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

  • Poland: 12 points to Australia – interesting

  • Norway: 12 to Czech Republic! Interesting.

  • Spain: 12 points to Sweden! Interesting.

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

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

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

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

  • Hungary: 12 points to Czechia, to too surprising

  • Moldova: 12 points to North Macedonia! Fun

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

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

  • Romania: 12 points to Australia

  • Cyprus: 12 points to Greece, of course

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

  • Australia: 12 points to Sweden

  • Russia: 12 points to Azerbaijan! Not too surprising

  • Germany: 12 points to Italy! Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Greece: 12 to Cyprus, of course

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

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

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

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

  • Finland: 12 points to big brother Sweden

  • Switzerland: 12 points to North Macedonia – quite unexpected

  • Slovenia: 12 points to Czech Republic! Fun times

  • Israel: 12 points to The Netherlands!

And Sweden wins the jury!

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

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

(30) That’s about as expected

(3) Awwww poor UK it deserved way more

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

(13) to Belarus

(0) OH NO! That’s just uncalled for!

(48) for Estonia

(54) for Serbia

(??) for Albania enough to get to 90

(59) for Slovenia not as much as expected

(24) for Greece, not too surprising

(291) for very popular song from Norway

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

(38) WHOA! Not too surprising

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

(51) for Denmark, not too bad

(20) for Malta, awwwww it deserved more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweden needs 253 televote points to win.

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

Dutch Flag Map

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

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

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

Thank you and goodnight!


Eurovision 2019 – Grand Final Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

Finally, it is here: The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 in Tel Aviv! One of the greatest days of the year. So, what are we looking at? Well, an array of uptempo crowd-stoppers, a once-in-an-era ballad that has been a runaway odds-favorite since it was selected, and a piece of crossover-operatic-musical-whimsy.

For your ESC Parties:

  • Help your uninitiated friends with my Eurovision for Beginners

  • Check-out my ESC 2019 – Write-ups that provide a brief history of ESC, explains the rules, and gives an explanation of the songs.

  • Also check-out my 2019 Country Profiles – Grand Final Only which covers the 26 entries of the Grand Final – giving a brief history of each country, details of each entry, and a brief bio for each performing artist.

 

After two semi-finals (live notes for the first and second semis) short on surprises (hmm, Portugal failing and Belarus qualifying might be the two biggest ones), We turn to a Grand Final with a running order that may turn things over completely. Let’s look at the top ten in the betting odds (post-jury final):

  1. The Netherlands (performing 12th)

  2. Australia (performing 25th)

  3. Switzerland (performing 24th)

  4. Sweden (performing 9th)

  5. Italy (performing 22nd)

  6. Iceland (performing 17th)

  7. Russia (performing 5th)

  8. Azerbaijan (performing 20th)

  9. France (performing 21st)

  10. Norway (performing 15th)

First reactions: Cyprus, Greece, and Malta are completely out of the top ten (guess they truly were pretenders). Australia and France have moved into the top ten, while France peaked around third place and started dropping again, Australia has firmly placed itself into the second position behind the Netherlands after qualifying on Tuesday night.

If the Netherlands was in the second half, I would say it was an easy win for the Dutch. While 12th is a good spot, it is surely not the sure thing that, say, 22nd is. So, now the door is open for the likes of Switzerland (which has the strongest staging and performance across the 41 entries), Italy (whose edge and novelty helps it standout), and Australia (a powerful and captivating song that has shot up the odds á la Cyprus 2018).

 

In my opinion, the winner will be one of these four

The Netherlands     Australia      Italy     Switzerland

Dutch Flag Map

 

 

The Netherlands, my personal favorite, is perhaps one of the highest quality entries to date. It is earnest, honest, and heart-breaking. It also suffers from a singer without much stage presence leading to a boring, trite staging.

 

 

Australian flag map

 

Australia is perhaps the most fun “believe in yourself” song we’ve seen since, perhaps, Austria 2014. It has the magic of a Disney song and a whimsical staging that is absolutely stunning. It also is a song from a country that historically fares quite terribly with the televoters surrounded by two equally as mesmerizing stagings and songs (Switzerland and Spain).

 

 

 

Italian flag map

Italy is a powerful, dark song that stirs deep emotions in the listener performed passionately from a country that is quite popular with juries and televoters. However, it is staged in such a way to diminish this impact – much brighter than it should be; not to mention, juxtaposed to France (which is preceding it), it may come off as over dark.

 

 

 

 

Swiss flag map

Switzerland, much forlorn and forgotten on the Eurovision stage, has come with the tightest, most interesting, most dynamic performance this year and beyond. Unfortunately, this is a rather generic song that is like so much else we hear on the radio; plus, the juries historically drag down the Swiss.

 

 

Taking all of this into consideration, right now, if I had to predict the winner (and I do, since I am a decade-long ESC blogger), I believe that The Netherlands will win!

EO logo witch Dutch flag

I have believed this from the first time I heard the song and am choosing to stick to my instincts on this. Its quality as a composition, as a lyrical work, and in Duncan Laurence’s sheer vocal talent will all shine through. I think the Netherlands will handedly win the jury vote and, furthermore, will finish top five among the televote, though, not number one, but still high enough to win the Contest.

I think the top ten will comprise of:

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Switzerland

  3. Australia

  4. Italy

    Icelandic flag map

  5. Sweden

  6. Iceland

    Maltese flag map

  7. Malta

  8. Russia

  9. Norway

  10. Serbia

And who will be in the Bottom Ten? I hate thinking of the negative, but again, I must make a prediction:

Cypriot flag map

  1. North Macedonia

  2. Cyprus

  3. Denmark

  4. Belarus

  5. Israel

  6. Albania

  7. Estonia

  8. San Marino

  9. United Kingdom

  10. Germany

As y’all know, I love North Macedonia, Albania, and Denmark – but I cannot see them succeeding (this is doubly so as Albania was put in the 2nd slot, which is generally reserved for the weakest ballad).

Quite frankly, while my prediction average needs to go back up (it’s back down below 80%, currently) as long as the Netherlands wins, I will be happy. I cannot wait to see how this turns out!

Happy Eurovision Everyone!
Be sure to come back tonight so you can follow my live notes as the Contest unfolds.


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

We are storming right along with song reviews. Now, we turn to the six songs automatically qualifying for the Grand Final: Israel + the Big Five.

Votes in Semi:

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

1

Germany

S!sters

Sister

National Final

Another sweet song; this one is about two women overcoming catty infighting. There’s a lot of mixed feelings about this song among the fan community; but I like it. It’s inspiring and just makes you feel good when you hear it. With that said, it is likely that this will take Germany back to the bottom of the scoreboard. Just not sure how much mass appeal it has.

1

Italy

Mahmood

Soldi

National Final

The other big favorite after the Netherlands, the first rap song that has real potential to win (and only the second predicted to do well). Soldi has the added bonus of winning the OGAE fan club vote, which is 5-7 in predicting the winner in its 13-year history. Clearly, Italy will continue its dominance among the Big Five; and perhaps, we’ll be back in Rome next year.

1

United Kingdom

Michael Rice

Bigger than Us

Mixed

The UK continues to send strong, yet underappreciated, songs. We’ll see how the running order treats the Brits this year. Rice is a powerful singer and this is a very likeable song with appeal to both, the juries and the older folks who watch ESC. I imagine this will finish mid-table, which isn’t too bad for the UK which has been struggling these past few years.

2

Israel

Kobi Marimi

Home

Mixed

I appreciate the power of Marimi’s voice and the inspiring message of the song. But Home is so boring. I just..I can’t even. And Marimi looks so smug. I just…I can’t even. Expect this to continue the recent trend of host nations falling flat.

2

Spain

Miki Núñez

La Venda

National Final

Spain is back, baby! Well, it has a fun song that is both catchy and contemporary. Unfortunately, there are much stronger entries this year, but Spain should be back in the Top Ten with La Venda. You just can’t help but smile and dance when you hear this.

2

France

Bilal Hassani

Roi

National Final

While Toy was an anthem that was merely stolen & adopted by the gays, this is an anthem built for gays, by gays. The composition, the lyrics, even Hassani’s voice – none of these indicate that this should be good. But when this song comes on, I swear, rainbows shoot out of me. Expect this to light up rainbow flags across the continent and end up in between 11th and 15th.

How do I rank these six songs for my personal preference?

  1. Germany

  2. Spain

  3. France

  4. Italy

  5. United Kingdom

  6. Israel

How do I think they will finish (relative to one another) in the Grand Final?

  1. Italy

  2. Spain

  3. France

  4. United Kingdom

  5. Israel

  6. Germany

But, more importantly, do I think any of these songs has a chance at victory?

Italy is a legitimate contender for victory. Which, as I said before, is weird because it is a rap song. I think it captures a certain angst or frustration that so many experience without a positive outlet for it. This song is wildly popular, won the fan poll, has the highest streaming numbers, and is perhaps the most modern song this year. We could very well end up in Rome (or Naples or Venice or Milan…) next year.


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

Preferences

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Belarus

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Czech Republic

  • Estonia

  • Israel

  • Greece

  • Latvia

  • Sweden

Predictions

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

  • Israel

  • Estonia

  • Austria

  • Australia

  • Czech Republic

  • Italy

  • Germany

  • Montenegro

  • The Netherlands

  • Sweden

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

  • Austria

  • The Netherlands

  • Czech Republic

  • Montenegro

  • Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

So, we already know for sure six qualifiers: the Big Five (France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and Germany) and Portugal (our defending champion). But, even with a bye out of the first round, do any of these songs have a chance of winning?

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Portugal

Cláudia Pascoal feat. Isaura

O Jardim [Garden]

National Final

Thoughts:

A pretty song that is certainly stirring. It won a weak and dated national selection; which means that this is vulnerable to another home turf letdown. I don’t think we’ll have a disaster we saw in Austria or Norway these past ten Contests, but don’t expect it to do all that well.

 France

Madame Monsieur

Mercy

National Final

Thoughts:

I like this song, but I’m not sure how it will perform. On one hand, the French are on a role and this song is certainly contemporary. But on the otherhand, the lyrics are confusing and I think this is reflected in composition. I don’t know, I think it will depend on its final running order slot to see how it fares on the night.

 Germany

Michael Schulte

You Let Me Walk Alone

National Final

Thoughts:

Ehh, this is definitely enough to pull Germany out of its recent slump. But I, personally, do not really enjoy this song. I think it’s boring and listless. But I think a ballad devoted to a dead mother will do well.

 Italy

Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro

Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente [You’ve Done Nothing to Me]

Mixed

Thoughts:

I do not like this at all. I just don’t get it. Condescending lyrics, uninspired composition, and two singers without much chemistry. It will probably do well, because Italy generally does well, but Top Ten may be a stretch.

 Spain

Amaia & Alfred

Tu Canción [Your Song]

National Final

Thoughts:

It’s been a while since we’ve heard an old-fashioned, Eurovision ballad duet. It sounds like something from the past, but not in a bad way. It sounds like what one would compose when thinking of a “stereotypical Western ESC ballad.” Depending on its running order slot, it could do quite well for itself.

 United Kingdom

SurRie

Storm

National Final

Thoughts:

This song subtly grew on me over time. I like its message and think it goes at the standard inspiration delivery in a novel way. I worry about its immediate impact effect. It will most likely continue Britain’s current trend of not doing well, but not failing.

*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, which songs do I think have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top ten? (in no particular order)

  • Italy

  • Germany

How would I rank them for myself? (in order)

  1. Portugal

  2. United Kingdom

  3. France

  4. Spain

  5. Germany

  6. Italy

And, most importantly, do I think any of these six songs have what it takes to win?

NOPE. While Italy will most likely do well, it is not strong enough nor memorable enough to take the crown. Likewise, Germany is going to do well, but sad songs rarely have the steam needed for victory (just ask Serbia & Montenegro 2004).

Check back tomorrow for our recap, our first prediction for who will win, and the reveal of the ESC Obsession bracket!


Eurovision 2017 – Grand Final Live Notes!!

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

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

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

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

On to the show!!!

Parade of Nations

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

Opening Act

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

On to the songs!

01 Israel I Feel Alive

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

02 Poland Flashlight

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

03 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia/Story of My Life

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

04 Austria Running on Air

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

05 Armenia Fly with Me

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

07 Moldova Hey, Mamma!

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

08 Hungary Origo

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

09 Italy Occidentali’s Karma

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

10 Denmark Where I Am

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

11 Portugal Amar Pelos Dois

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

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

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

12 Azerbaijan Skeletons

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

13 Croatia My Friend

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

14 Australia Don’t Come Easy

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

15 Greece This is Love

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

16 Spain Do It for Your Lover

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

17 Norway Grab the Moment

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

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

18 United Kingdom Never Give Up on You

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

19 Cyprus Gravity

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

20 Romania Yodel It!

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

21 Germany Perfect Life

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

22 Ukraine Time

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

23 Belgium City Lights

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

24 Sweden Can’t Go On

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

25 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

26 France Requiem

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

 

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

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

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

  1. Bulgaria

  2. Portugal

  3. Belgium

  4. Italy

  5. United Kingdom

  6. Belgium

  7. Romania

  8. Sweden

  9. Armenia

  10. Azerbaijan

And, who were my ten favorites from tonight?

  1. Hungary

  2. Armenia

  3. Belgium

  4. Portugal

  5. Bulgaria

  6. United Kingdom

  7. Denmark

  8. France

  9. Norway

  10. Poland

Voting Entertainment/ Interval, I guess

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

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

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

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

San Marino – more points to Portugal

Latvia – and the points continue for Portugal

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

Israel – Another 12 to Portugal

Montenegro – 12 to Greece

Albania – 12 points to Italy

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

Macedonia – first 12 for Bulgaria

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

Denmark – 12 to Sweden. surprise, surprise

Austria – 12 points to the Netherlands. Interesting

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

Spain – 12 to…Portugal (no surprise)

Finland – 12 points to Sweden (no surprise)

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

Greece – 12 points to Cyprus (no surprise)

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

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

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

Armenia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

Serbia – 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Germany – 12 points to Norway – interesting

Portugal – 12 points to Azerbaijan! Interesting…strategic?

Switzerland  – another 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Georgia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

Slovenia – 12 points to Portugal

Belgium – 12 points to Sweden – that was highly unexpected

Poland – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

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

Televote!

Spain is saved from null point land!

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

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

France got 90 points

Croatia got 103 points

126 points to Sweden

152 to Hungary – and quite the jump!

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

Romania – is next with a sizeable jump

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

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

264 points and third in the televote to Moldova

Bulgaria v. Portugal

337 points to Bulgaria

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

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

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

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

 

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Eurovision 2017 Song Reviews (Finally!) – Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

Only six more reviews for this year! Among the Big Five, there seems to be a sharp divide between title contenders and bottom-dwellers.

Automatic Qualifiers

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

 

Ukraine

O.Torvald

Time

Televised

Thoughts:

This will benefit from being the only rock song this year and the hometown entry. I think the song is alright, but definitely distinctive. I don’t think it will get in the Top Ten, but will definitely outperform the 19th place Ukraine got back in 2005 (the last time we were in Kyiv).

 France

Alma

Requiem

Internal

Thoughts:

So whimsical! I rather enjoy this song and could definitely help France repeat in the Top Ten (and possibly, dare I say, contend for the crown!). The splash of English in the refrain is just the right amount, much like last year. Though, if France is serious about winning, than it needs to ensure to give Requiem the staging it deserves (as I’ve discussed previously).

 Germany

Levina

Perfect Life

Televised

Thoughts:

Germany followed my recommendation to return to the original Ünser Star format. Ultimately, after defeating other contenders, Levina competed against herself with two songs in the final show’s super-final. This one is cheerful, but not all that interesting. Won’t be last place, but definitely not going to win.

Italy

Francesco Gabbani

Occidentali’s Karma [Westerner’s Karma]

Televised

Thoughts:

A thoroughly intellectual song (give the lyrics a read) about the futility of Westerners trying to adapt Eastern customs that are at odds with Western values. I think the song is okay, but in just the brief glimpses of what I’ve seen online, this is a heavy favorite to win right now.

Spain

Manel Navarro

Do it for Your Lover

Televised

Thoughts:

Another controversy for a Spanish entry (this is the jury’s favorite and went against the fan’s favorite). This song is…very California…and lazy…and lame. It’s overly repetitive to the point of being boring.

United Kingdom

Lucie Jones

Never Give You Up on You

Televised

Thoughts:

Probably the most popular (among the British) entry in at least a decade. It’s a bit drab and uninspired to me, but at least it’s another contemporary song despite last year’s stumble. It sounds like it could be a radio hit.

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

So, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? How would I rank these songs?

Predicted Top Ten Finishers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 6
(Starting with my most favorite)

France

France

Italy

Germany

Ukraine

Italy

United Kingdom

Spain

More importantly, who do I think will be competing for the crown?

France – Probably my favorite song this year, this song will most definitely build upon last year’s success – especially if it is given a proper staging. This song is distinctly French, yet still accessible. It is catchy and fun and whimsical without seeming childish or simple.

Italy – The other big fan favorite along with Belgium, thus far. Interesting staging, intelligent lyrics, and sung in the much-loved Italian language. And, unlike several other Italian performers, Gabbani actually seems like he wants to win and bring the Contest back to Italy (maybe they’ll host it in Milan or Palermo this time around).

Missed by previous review posts? Find them here:

First Semi-Final: First Half, Second Half

Second Semi-Final: First Half, Second Half

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my summary post and get my first prediction for who will ultimately win in May.

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Analyzing the Big Five: Germany

Hello Dear Readers!

Today we move on to Germany. The only Big Five country to win since the rule was introduced, Germany had a wave of success at the turn of the decade, but promptly fell back to bottom of the scoreboard.

Recent History
2006 – 15th place with No No Never by Texas Lightning
2007 – 19th place with Frauen Regier’n Die Welt performed by Roger Cicero
2008 – 23rd place with Disappear performed by No Angels
2009 – 20th place with Miss Kiss Kiss Bang performed by Alex Swings, Oscar Sings
2010 – 1st place with Satellite performed by Lena
2011 – 10th place with Taken by a Stranger performed by Lena
2012 – 8th place with Standing Still performed by Roman Lob
2013 – 21st place with Glorious performed by Cascada
2014 – 18th place with Is it Right? performed by Elaiza
2015 – 27th place (last) with Black Smoke performed by Ann Sophie
2016 – 26th place (last) with Ghost performed by Jamie-Lee Kriewitz

German Flag MapGermany has had a wide diversity of entries, from swing (2007, 2009) to dance (2013) to country (2006) to R&B (2015) to polka-pop (2014). Sadly, despite the relative strength of each entry, most have fallen on the wrong side of the scoreboard. 2010 was a standout year for Germany, as Satellite stormed to victory, making Germany the only Big Five country to win since the rule was introduced in 2000. Lena became only the third person to attempt to defend her title the following year, and got tenth. Finally, using the same formula that selected Lena, Germany chose its entry for 2012 and retained a position in the Top Ten.

So, what’s gone wrong?
The easiest answer would be that Stefan Raab is not involved. Every entry he has touched – 1998 (songwriter), 2000 (songwriter and performer), 2010 (producer), 2011 (producer), 2012 (judge for the selection show) – has gotten Germany into the Top Ten. But why? Why was the period from 2010-2012 so successful and every other year before and since have not been? Stefan Raab brought more than a producer’s touch to NDR, he brought a marketing machine. Satellite was common on radios across Europe ahead of the Contest. By the time the Contest came around, it was already a popular tune that felt familiar to viewers. Taken by a Stranger and Standing Still weren’t played as much, but still had a strong marketing plan around it. In 2013, Cascada, a popular dance-pop group with a worldwide following (arguably, the biggest name at the time of their participation in Eurovision in recent years), took the German banner to Malmö. Perhaps NDR thought that Cascada’s name alone would generate points, perhaps they thought the betting odds would protect them, perhaps they did not anticipate Natalie Horler’s (the lead singer) lackluster vocal performance – regardless, NDR did not promote Glorious as they should and now seem to be trapped in a broken system of lackluster promotional efforts. 2014 and 2015 had news coverage that focused much more on the selection than the song itself.  Every marketing piece for 2016’s entry was 100% focused on Jamie-Lee’s interest in Korean culture. Perhaps it was to preemptively head off questions about the staging, but, like 2013-2015, it meant the song was still relatively unknown.

This is the issue. The story is bigger than the song…in a song contest. See the issue here? Stefan Raab, yes, promoted his artists, but never lost sight of the main focus: getting the song in front of viewers.

How can Germany improve in 2017?

GermanyReturn to a winning formula. In 2010 and 2012, NDR (and ADR) used Raab’s format Unser Star für Oslo/Baku. The process is simple; Unser Star conducted a talent search, the top singers then compete in a typical talent show format, the final two compete with the same songs. Each artist’s best song is chosen to moved into a super-final. The people and the judges then select the best of the two. This ensures that strongest song-artist pair is selected.

We know Lena’s version of Satellite, but here is the version by Jennifer Braun, the other Unser Star finalist in 2010. Though, the super-final featured Jennifer Braum singing I Care for You.

Likewise, in 2012, Roman Lob’s final competitor Ornella de Santis had a version of Standing Still. Her super-final song, though, was “Quietly.”

All of this to say, Germany needs to return to this method of choosing its entry. NDR doesn’t even need to bring back Stefan Raab for Unser Song to work, just the concept. Given the recent string of poor finishes, Germany needs to return to a formula that works!

What’s the worst thing Germany can do?

Continue with its current format of Unser Song; which is essentially just a traditional national selection. Actually, the worst thing Germany can do is have yet another selection controversy. Whether its a winner abdicating the trophy or an internal selection gone awry, NDR needs to have a solid format that locks in the winner. Germany can no longer allow its song to be outshined by the story behind its selection.

There are almost 82 million people in Germany, I’m sure there are plenty of them who would love the chance to fly the Duetsche colors in Ukraine. Bring back Unser Star and return to the Top Ten.

What do you think? Is an undiscovered artist who emerges as the champion at the end of a crucible of a reality television talent search the answer for Germany? Should NDR and ADR just break down and beg Stefan Raab to come back from retirement to run things again? And, more importantly, can Germany reclaim points from the German diaspora throughout Central Europe?

Be sure to check out my analyses on the other Big Five countries!

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Analyzing the Big Five: How can they get better?

Hello Dear Readers!

As decided by you on Twitter, the first series this summer will be on the Big Five – looking at their past ten entries (only six for Italy, as it rejoined in 2011) and determining their best path for success going into 2017. I’ll be examining them in reverse alphabetical order: United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.

But first, who are the Big Five, how did they get their status, and how do they *keep* their status?

Who are the Big Five?
In short: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Big Five

In more detail: the Big Five are the countries (and by countries, I mean participating broadcasters – remember, Eurovision is a competition between tv broadcasters) who (1) give the most money to the EBU – without their contributions, Eurovision would simply lack the funding to exist and (2) have (historically had) the largest television audiences in Europe. Simply put, France (France 2 + 3), Germany (NDR), Italy (RAI), Spain (RTVE), and the United Kingdom (BBC) have the greatest potential for the number of viewers of ESC. More viewers equals more money generated from advertisers. It also means more potential buyers of ESC merchandise.

How did they get their status?
Imagine it’s the nineties. Yugoslavia has split up and other Communist nations are slowly starting to look towards the West. In 1993, the EBU tried having a pre-selection show to handle all the new countries that sprung up in the East. It accomplished its goal, but this was not a permanent solution. As more countries wanted to participate, 1996 brought another pre-selection show. Juries would listen to songs from every country looking to participate (except the previous year’s winner, Norway) and select the songs joining the prequalified entries in Oslo. The German entry, Planet of Blue, did not qualify. 1996 was one of the lowest watched Contests, losing lots of money for the EBU. Why? Because Germany had unprecedentedly low viewership. After a few more years without a preselection, the EBU implemented a relegation system. Needless to say, the EBU did not want to risk another situation in which a major broadcaster had low viewership, especially since Italy had decided to stop participating altogether after 1997. When setting the rules for relegation, exempted would be the four countries with the largest tv audiences and financial contributions. Therefore, Germany, France, UK, and Spain would never be relegated – and thus, the Big Four rule was introduced. When the semi-final was introduced in 2004, the Big Four rule was maintained; these four countries and the top ten from the previous year would automatically qualify for the Final. When Italy rejoined the Contest in 2011, it was determined that it should join its peers and create the Big Five.

Why do they keep their status?
In case you doubt their contributions, keep in mind how many countries don’t know from year to year if they will be able to participate due to finances. When the EBU provides money for those broadcasters, it is typically from the dues of these five countries as well as from the revenue generated from their content. For example, San Marino was able to participate in 2008 because RAI, a major stockholder in SMRTV at the time, wanted to test the waters for an Italian return. They helped fund San Marino’s 2008 debut and helped them return in 2011. This happens beyond Eurovision; as broadcasters need funds (or the waiving of dues payments) to operate – the EBU is able to provide assistance because the Big Five broadcasters provide a substantial portion of funding. The debts that caused TVR (Romania) to withdraw in 2016 and could possibly dissolve BHRT (and its subsidiary RTRS) (Bosnia & Herzegovina) were built by loans that the EBU was able to provide thanks to the Big Five broadcasters.

From a competition standpoint, it may not seem fair that these five always qualify, especially since their entries as of late (~past sixteen years) have not done too well. The fact remains, there would be no Contest without these five countries – from their financial contributions that help other European broadcasters operate, to the advertising revenues they bring to the EBU, to the audiences they provide for Eurovision and year-round programming, the Big Five are as vital today as they have ever been to the Contest.

So, why haven’t they been doing too well these past ten years? Well…it depends on the country. We’ll spend the next two weeks examining each one’s recent history, identifying potential weak spots, and giving suggestions for 2017.

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ESC 2016 Reviews: Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

Only six more reviews for this year! Silly Italy has yet to premier the ESC-version of No Degree of Separation, so I was forced to review the original, full length, 100% Italian version from San Remo.

Automatic Qualifiers

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Swedish Flag Map

 Sweden

Frans

If I Were Sorry

Televised

Thoughts:

Not a fan of this. Sweden really doesn’t want to win back-to-back, huh. The lyrics are essentially saying, “Hey! If I owed you an apology, then I wouldn’t be such a jerk to you, but, here we are.” Yeah, not all that good. The composition is reminiscent of Cheerleader and other poorly composed pop songs.
New French Flag Map

 France

Amir

J’ai cherché (I Searched)

Internal

Thoughts:

I think that France has finally got it! While I have been an ardent supporter of its entries, I think this one is their best chance since 2010 at success (I say that knowing that they were favorites to win in 2011, but I never thought Sognu stood a chance). There’s just enough English to help the song be catchy, but the bulk of the lyrics are in French. The song, though, sounds very much like folk-pop sound that’s ever-so-popular right now (Imagine Dragons, X Ambassadors, HAIM, etc.). I expect this to get France into a respectable position this year!
German Flag Map

 Germany

Jamie-Lee

Ghost

Televised

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness. I so hope that they change her outfit for the Final. Otherwise, this will be a DEDF (decent entry derailed by fashion) and a shoo-in for the Barbara Dex Award. I do quite like the song once I look past what she’s wearing. This will most definitely restore respect in Germany after last year’s nul points.
Italian Flag Map

 Italy

Francesca Michielin

No Degree of Separation

Televised

Thoughts:

So, for whatever reason, Italy has not released the ESC-version of the song. What’s the difference,” you may ask. Well, the San Remo version is too long, clocking in at a full 48 seconds over the three minute time limit begging the question, what are the composers going to trim? Additionally, she will sing the refrain in English fthe last time through, as she did in the acoustic version of the song available online. Personally, I find the song to be boring and lifeless. Given that it’s Italy, I imagine it will still do respectably, perhaps just outside the Top Ten.
 Spanish Flag Map

 Spain

Barei

Say Yay!

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely a high energy, fun song. Quite uplifting! This strikes me as the more adult version of the Belgian entry. I think it will do quite well. Hmm, will this stand out amongst the other dance songs this year? With a good spot in the running order and a great staging, I think it can definitely be a Top Ten entry. Otherwise, it will be another midtable finish for Spain. I cannot stress this enough, a powerful, dance-driven staging is the key to this entry’s success.
Briton Flag Map

 United Kingdom

Joe & Jake

You’re Not Alone

Televised

Thoughts:

So, the UK has finally decided to send a song that could actually compete on the British charts. This sounds like every other generic, Brit pop song I hear on the radio. The key to that statement, on the radio – this sounds like a something that will get teen girls (and their parents) everywhere singing along. Will it win? Definitely not. But could it get the UK back into the Top Ten for the first time since 2009, most definitely!

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

So, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? How would I rank these songs?

Predicted Top Ten Finishers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 6
(Starting with my most favorite)

France
France
Spain
Germany
United Kingdom
Spain
United Kingdom
Italy
Sweden

More importantly, who do I think will be competing for the crown?

Spain – While I think each of the automatic qualifiers have a quality song,Spain I only think that Spain has a legitimate shot at the hoisting the trophy. This song is catchy, danceable, and makes you feel good. The best thing about it: from the very first listen you can sing along and jam along with it. This definitely will bring honor back to Spain and possibly the victory.

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

Missed by previous review posts? Find them here:

First Semi-Final First Half and Second Half.

Second Semi-Final First Half and Second Half.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my summary post and get my prediction for who will ultimately win in May.

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


Eurovision 2016 – And so it begins!

esc2016

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Balladeers!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

View the playlist here: Eurovision for Balladeers

  1. Poland 2008PolandFor Life performed by Isis Gee

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

  3. Estonia 2012 – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2007 – Unsubstantial Blues performed by Magdi Rúzsa

    Monaco

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

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

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

  11. Malta 2005 – Angel performed by Chiara

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

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

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

    Spain

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

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

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

  18. Sweden 2014 – Undo performed by Sanna Nielsen

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

  20. Sweden 2006 – Invincible performed by Carola

    United Kingdom

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS!

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Break-Ups

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Songs for the Heartbroken

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


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for the Heartbroken

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

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

Eurovision for Heartbreakers

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


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Heartbreakers

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

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

Fun Facts

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Dance Parties

Hello Dear Readers!

Do you like to dance? Do you like to party? Well, good news! This week’s playlist will help you do both of those things! I tried to have a good mix of styles, countries, and finishing positions. No notes this week as most of the songs are fairly self-explanatory, but I did my best to curate a party playlist for you all!


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Dance Parties

  1. Israel 2015 – Golden Boy
  2. Germany 2013 – Glorious
  3. ArmeniaArmenia 2008 – Qele, Qele
  4. Hungary 2009 – Dance with Me
  5. Poland 2011 – Jestem
  6. Montenegro 2013 – Igranka
  7. France 2010 – Allez! Ola! Olé!
  8. Portugal 2014 – Quero Ser Tua
  9. The Netherlands 2008 – Your Heart Belongs to Me
  10. LithuaniaLithuania 2010 – Eastern European Funk
  11. Cyprus 2012 – La La Love
  12. Serbia 2011 – Čaroban
  13. Estonia 2014 – Amazing
  14. Moldova 2015 – I Want Your Love
  15. Norway 2007 – Ven a Bailar Conmigo
  16. AlbaniaAlbania 2006 – Zjarr e Ftohte
  17. Turkey 2009 – Düm Tek Tek
  18. Greece 2007 – Yassou Maria
  19. Romania 2012 – Zaleilah
  20. Ukraine 2006 – Show Me Your Love

Honorable Mention: Moldova 2010, Turkey 2007, Russia 2012, Ireland 2013, Ukraine 2008, Azerbaijan 2009, Norway 2012, Macedonia 2014, Hungary 2011, Austria 2007, Serbia 2010

Fun Trivia

  • While animals are not allowed on the stage, puppets are; and in 2008, Ireland sent their humorous comedy puppet Dustin the Turkey.
  • LuxembourgWhile the title of the 1963 winner from Denmark, Dansevise, translates to “dance song,” the first, truly uptempo song to win the Contest was 1965’s Poupé de Cire, Poupée de Son from Luxembourg (which is featured on my playlist Eurovision for Beginners).
  • Of the 63 winners in Eurovision history through 2015 (remember, four songs won in 1969), only 29 (46%) have been moderate to uptempo. Thirteen of which (45%) of those came in the televoting era (1998 to today).
  • TurkeyGreece and Turkey are, generally, the most renowned for their ethnic-pop infused dance numbers. Highlights include: Greece – 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2013; Turkey – 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2012.

What are your favorite ESC songs to dance to?

Missed last week? Eurovision for Anglophobes
Next Week: Eurovision for Rockers (prepare for a lot of Finland and Turkey!)


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


Eurovision 2015 – Four Weeks Later

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

Best Lyrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Armenia

Best Dressed Award

 

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

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

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

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

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

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

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

Best Staging Award

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

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

Honorable Mention: Latvia, Sweden, Estonia

Worst Staging Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Iceland, Estonia, Ireland

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Cyprus, Italy, Ireland

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: The United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Hungary moving through to the Grand Final

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


First Reactions to the Eurovision 2015 Grand Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was. It simply was.

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

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

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


2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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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.


First Video Posted – ESC 2014 Dark Horses!

As promised, my first YouTube video has been published looking at who I think will surprise us at the Contest this year.  You can view it here: http://youtu.be/36YzhL83Ofo.

Coming later, final semi-final one predictions as well as ESC2014 Contest Notes!


ESC2014: Song Reviews – Automatic Qualifiers

This is the final allotment of song reviews.  I’ll be having a recap soon, so stay tuned!

Danish Flag MapDenmarkCliché Love Song performed by Basim

This song ebbs and flows with me; sometimes I like it, sometimes I think it’s silly. I don’t know. Obviously, he cannot leave the giant Danish flag in the staging; that’d be a one-way ticket to the wrong side of the scoreboard. I think the biggest advantage for the host country is knowing their starting order before knowing everyone else’s – that way, they can easily surround themselves with weaker entries. Let’s see what DR decides to do.

Keys to Success: Focusing on Basim’s million-dollar smile, putting weak ballads on either side of it

Potential Stumbling Blocks: A crazy staging or keeping the giant Danish flag around

Personal Interest Score: 7

Potential for Success: 8

Composite: 7.5

New French Flag MapFranceMoustache performed by TWIN TWIN

This song is a blast! It’s silly and definitely fits into the French archetype – there seems to be a joke that no one else seems to be in on. Unlike 2007 and 2008, this song is rather accessible to the everyday listener. I foresee a fun, silly, colorful staging for this one, which will help them overcome what will surely be a poor draw number.

Keys to Success: Being fun and let all of Europe enjoy the performance with them

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Toning down the staging in an attempt to appeal to the middle

Personal Interest Score: 8

Potential for Success: 6

Composite: 7

 

German Flag MapGermanyIs it Right? performed by Elaiza

Another song that I enjoy tremendously. The sound is a bit dated, but I think Elaize pulls it off well. It’s also nice to see the accordion, as there seems to be a dearth of those this year. I think that this song has the ability to sneak up on folks. No one is really paying attention to it, but I think it will be close to the top.

Keys to Success: A nice, minimal performance, like how she won the German selection

Potential Stumbling Blocks: An over-the-top performance, with lots of lights and fog

Personal Interest Score: 8

Potential for Success: 8

Composite: 8

 

Italian Flag MapItalyLa Mia Città performed by Emma

No jazz or ballads this year, Italy is sending rock. If the song itself isn’t enough to let you know that this song stands out, watch the music video – it’s a trip! I am not sure of this song’s chances at success, but so far, Italy cannot seem to fail since it has returned to the Contest.

Keys to Success: Letting the composition and performance stand for itself

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Trying to reproduce the music video – I think it’s too out there to appeal to the typical viewer

Personal Interest Score: 7

Potential for Success: 9

Composite: 8

Spanish Flag MapSpainDancing in the Rain performed by Ruth Lorenzo

I do not know if you have seen the videos from Eurovision in Concert, but Ms. Lorenzo was, by far, the best performer. She was amazing in Amsterdam. It will be interesting to see if that strong performance returns for the actual competition. This song is jury bait, but she needs to nail it in order to woo the viewing public.

Keys to Success: Reproducing the Eurovision in Concert performance, or even topping it

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Anything less than a flawless performance will doom her

Personal Interest Score: 7

Potential for Success: 6

Composite: 6.5

 

Briton Flag MapUnited KingdomChildren of the Universe performed by Molly

Another song with a lot of hype that I do not understand. The composition is pedestrian, I don’t quite get the song’s message, and Molly’s voice is alright. I am not quite sure why this song is getting so much support from the bookies, but I just don’t see it being any more successful than any of other recent UK entry, both of which, I think, are better than this one.

Keys to Success: Somehow creating a universe within the arena – using LED lights, audience bracelets, etc.

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Keeping the staging simple

Personal Interest Score: 6

Potential for Success: 7

Composite: 6.5