Posts tagged “ireland

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 – Live Notes: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top Ten from tonight:

  1. Switzerland

  2. Latvia

  3. Malta

  4. The Netherlands

  5. Romania

  6. Moldova

  7. Armenia

  8. Azerbaijan

  9. North Macedonia

  10. Sweden

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

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Austria

  • Lithuania

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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

Let’s look at our auto-qualifiers!

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

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

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

FINALLY – Our Qualifiers

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

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

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

  • Sweden – as expected (3 for 4)

  • Russia – no surprises here (4 for 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

 

 Running Order

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

EO logo with Armenian flag

1

Armenia

Srbuk

Walking Out

Internal

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

2

Ireland

Sarah McTernan

22

Internal

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

3

Moldova

Anna Odobescu

Stay

National Selection

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

4

Switzerland

Luca Hänni

She Got Me

Mixed

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

5

Latvia

Carousel

That Night

National Final

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

6

Romania

Ester Peony

On a Sunday

National Final

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

7

Denmark

Leonora

Love is Forever

National Final

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

8

Sweden

John Lundvik

Too Late for Love

National Final

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

9

Austria

PAENDA

Limits

Internal

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

EO logo with Croatian flag

10

Croatia

Roko Blaževic

The Dream

National Final

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

EO logo with Maltese flag

11

Malta

Michela Pace

Chameleon

Mixed

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

EO logo with Lithuanian flag

12

Lithuania

Jurijus Veklenko

Run with the Lions

National Final

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

EO logo with Russian flag

13

Russia

Sergey Lazarev

Scream

Internal

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

EO logo with Albanian flag

14

Albania

Jonida Maliqi

Ktheju Tokës

National Final

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

EO logo with Norwegian flag

15

Norway

KEIINO

Spirit in the Sky

National Final

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

16

Netherlands

Duncan Laurence

Arcade

Internal

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

EO logo with North Macedonian flag

17

North Macedonia

Tamara Todevska

Proud

Internal

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

EO logo with Azerbaijani flag

18

Azerbaijan

Chingiz

Truth

Internal

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

My favorite ten

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Latvia

  3. North Macedonia

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. Albania

  6. Norway

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Russia

  10. Malta

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final One

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

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Azerbaijan

Aisel

X My Heart

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Iceland

Ari Ólafsson

Our Choice

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Albania

Eugent Bushpepa

Mall [Yearning]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Belgium

Sennek

Matter of Time

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Czech Republic

Mikolas Josef

Lie to Me

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Lithuania

Ieva Zasimauskaitė

When We’re Old

 National Final

Thoughts:

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

Israel

Netta

Toy

 Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Belarus

ALEKSEEV

Forever

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Estonia

Elina Nechayeva

La Forza [The Force]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Bulgaria

EQUINOX

Bones

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Macedonia

Eye Cue

Lost and Found

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Croatia

Franka

Crazy

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Austria

Cesár Sampson

Nobody but You

 National Final

Thoughts:

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

Greece

Yianna Terzi

Oneiro Mou [My Dream]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Finland

Saara Aalto

Monsters

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Armenia

Sevak Khanagyan

Qami [Wind]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Switzerland

ZiBBZ

Throwing Stones

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Ireland

Ryan O’Shaughnessy

Together

 Internal

Thoughts:

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

Cyprus

Eleni Foureira

Fuego [Fire]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Greece

  • Azerbaijan

  • Czech Republic

  • Cyprus

  • Finland

  • Israel

  • Bulgaria

  • Austria

  • Estonia

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Estonia

  2. Israel

  3. Belgium

  4. Belarus

  5. Austria

  6. Greece

  7. Bulgaria

  8. Croatia

  9. Ireland

  10. Armenia

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

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


Eurovision 2017 – Second Semi-Final: Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Make sure to keep refreshing the page throught the show!

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

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

 01 Serbia In Too Deep

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

02 Austria Running on Air

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

03 Macedonia Dance Alone

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

 04 Malta Breathlessly

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

05 Romania Yodel It!

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

 07 Hungary Origo

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

08 Denmark Where I Am

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

09 Ireland Dying to Try

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

10 San Marino Spirit of the Night

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

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

11 Croatia My Friend

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

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

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

12 Norway Grab the Moment

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

13 Switzerland Apollo

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

14 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia

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

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

14 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

16 Lithuania Rain of Revolution

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

17 Estonia Verona

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

18 Israel I Feel Alive

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

My Top Ten from tonight

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

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

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

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

Interval Act

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

A marriage proposal for Jana from Macedonia!!! Awwwww

Our Automatic Qualifiers

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

Now, on the results! Our ten qualifiers are:

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

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

 
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Contender or Pretender 2017: Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

There you have it – the ten songs that comprise the top of the betting odds at the time of starting Contender and Pretender 2017. As a recap:

Contenders:

-Belgium
-Bulgaria
-Italy

Pretenders:

-Armenia
-Australia
-Azerbaijan
-Ireland
-Portugal
-Romania
-Sweden

This may seem quite skewed, however, I truly believe that the winner will be from among Belgium, Bulgaria, and Italy. Since the start of this series, Ireland has fallen out of the top ten of the betting odds, replaced by France (who I have previously deemed as a legitimate contender).

So, in adding France to the fray, of the four contenders, who do I think will win?

Well, my opinion has not changed. I still think Bulgaria will pull out the victory this year in Kyiv, taking the Contest to Sofia for 2018.

Beautiful Mess is compelling, intricate, and heartfelt. Much more so than any of its closest competition. Italy is fun, but it will be a bit much for a lot of first time viewers. Belgium has been losing ground over the past week and will be going into the Contest on a downward trajectory. France, while beautiful and unique, just isn’t as captivating Bulgaria’s ballad. I think Bulgaria has the perfect mix of jury appeal and fan attraction to win this year.

What are your thoughts? Leave them below and/or on Twitter.

Stay tuned!! Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday I will be teaming up with DizzyDJC to bring you podcasts all throughout Eurovision Week. Stay tuned here, YouTube, or Twitter for the link to broadcasts!

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Contender or Pretender 2017: Episode Five – Armenia and Ireland

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been nearly a week already! We have reached the last two entries that are a part of this series: Armenia and Ireland! Armenia probably does not surprise many, but most are probably shocked (if not pleasantly surprised) to see Ireland make a late surge for the top ten of the betting odds going into Eurovision Week. But, does either country have what it takes to raise the crystal microphone?

Fly with Me performed by Artsvik

Why it is a contender: This song is unique with it’s varying tempos and ethnic flair. More than that, the song tells a story of trusting in love – always a popular sentiment at ESC. Furthermore, the composition is utterly captivating; each moment builds upon the last.

Why it is a pretender: The same compositional elements that make this song stand out are the same ones that can turn off viewers. The ever-shifting tempos and melodies make the song sound a bit cluttered and confused. By the end, the viewer is left trying to catch their breath.

Final Verdict: Pretender As much as I love this song, I just don’t see it captivating viewers enough to pull off a victory. I do think the juries will like it, so expect a Top Ten finish.

 

Dying to Try performed by Brendan Murray

Why it is a contender: Murray’s voice is certainly unique and it helps that he is rather adorable. The song is also something that many can relate to; it’s a love song with a heavy dose of reality.

Why it is a pretender: Murray’s voice isn’t for everyone. The composition is also not inherently interesting; subtly is rarely appreciated at Eurovision.

Final Verdict: Pretender I think this song will qualify for the Final. But there will be the eventual comparison between this and the other two young, male ballads – Australia and Bulgaria – and I just don’t think that this will stand up to those two in the minds of viewers seeing these songs for the first time at the Grand Final.

 

So, will Armenia build upon its recent success? Or will it just be too much for viewers? Conversely, will Ireland spark a new era of domination? Or will it be not enough for viewers? Leave your thoughts below and/or on Twitter!

Missed the previous episodes of Contender or Pretender? Click here to find them!

Check back later for the wrap of the series and my updated prediction for next week’s winner!

 

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

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Second Semi-Final

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

 

Austria

Nathan Trent

Running on Air

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Denmark

Anja

Where I Am

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

Hungary

Joci Pápai

Origo [Origin]

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

Ireland

Brendan Murray

Dying to Try

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Macedonia

Jana Burčeska

Dance Alone

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Malta

Claudia Faniello

Breathlessly

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

The Netherlands

O’G3NE

Lights and Shadows

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Romania

Ilinca feat. Alex Florea

Yodel It!

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Serbia

Tijana Bogićević

In Too Deep

Internal

Thoughts:

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

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

Find the other reviews from this year here!

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Eurovision 2016 – Wrap Up!

Hello Dear Readers!

It has been about a month and a half since the Grand Final in Stockholm, yet, I have still been Eurovisioning every day since as best I can – I’ve become quite active on Twitter and Instagram (both @escobsession). Typically, I like to watch the full Contest a time or two more before making this wrap up. I particularly like to rewatch the Final. Unfortunately, both the official Eurovision website and the official YouTube still have this year’s Contest blocked in the US (and, as I am told, Canada). Eventually, I was able to find a decent, fan uploaded version of the Contest on YouTube, but I shouldn’t have to go through these lengths. The beauty of the Contest in the modern era is that it stretches globally. Yes, the US had its first ever live broadcast of ESC this year (on the cable network Logo, which is dedicated to broadcasting LGBTQ+ themed content, my thoughts on this in a later post this summer), why would the EBU not want to build upon this by continuing to allow access to the Contest to fans in North America beyond May? Logo does not have the Contest streaming online. This needs to be rectified. With all the fuss being made over Russia losing, people have all but ignored this issue — and the EBU is shooting itself in the foot in the very markets that into which it is trying to expand.

Both the official website and YouTube block the Contest in the US and Canada

No ESC for those in the US or Canada 😦

With that said, let’s recap some of my thoughts from this year’s Contest!

General Reactions

I already hit the historical markers in my initial post after the Final. So these are just some of my thoughts and opinions.

  • I was incredibly skeptical about the new voting system. However, I actually really like it (for the most part)! Yes, Ukraine won neither the juries nor the televote, but it did come second with both a feat that neither Australia nor Russia matched (Australia was fourth in the televote, Russia was sixth with the juries). Furthermore, it made the voting sequence that much more exciting. It went from a clear Australian victory to a nailbiter of a finish! Particularly in the arena where we could barely see the screens and the scores. We had no idea who won until Ukraine was announced as the winner. And, the most exciting move of the night, Poland’s jump from last to eighth!

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

  • Truly, the best song won. Russia had an amazing stage show and Australia had a powerful performance, but neither You Are the Only One nor Sound of Silence matched 1944 in originality of composition nor in lyrical strength. As such, Ukraine emerged victorious.

  • Also, it’s nice that the winning song was not entirely in English. While it mostly was, it’s still nice to know that non-English can still do well. This was further reinforced by the success of France and Austria.

  • The show’s production was great, but, once again, the Swede’s gave us an overly crowded show. Love Love Peace Peace, the highlight of the infinite interval acts for many, would have been great as during the vote entertainment. The mockmentary Nerd Nation should have been a two-parter just for the semi-finals; if you didn’t watch the first two parts, you would have been lost for the conclusion. I also would have brought the Eurovision by Numbers to the Final, since so many people were watching the Contest for the first time across the world. Lastly, I would have moved Måns to the opening act (scrap the parade of nations, or, at least, the fashion show element that made it drag out forever) and let Justin Timberlake stand alone as the Interval Act as the votes were being verified.

  • Lastly, while I agree with the winner, I am overall surprised and disappointed in most of the results otherwise. The Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany all deserved much better placings than they got. Likewise, Lithuania, Sweden, and Malta all overperformed and finished higher than they should have.

So, now that you know my general reactions, let’s move on to the Annual Eurovision Obsession 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 Award

Serbia

Winner: Serbia

“I thought that it was supposed to hurt me
I thought that it was love,
I put my hands up but I won’t surrender
Don’t need what doesn’t serve me anymore

I lick my wounds
So that I can keep on fighting”

Throughout Goodbye (Shelter) we see a singer transform from abused partner to strong woman as she realizes that she deserves more than what she is getting from her relationship. This transition is beautifully mirrored in the composition as well as the performance.

UkraineRunner-Up: Ukraine

“When strangers are coming
They come to your house
They kill you all and say
We’re not guilty, not guilty

Where is your mind? Humanity cries
You think you are gods but everyone dies
Don’t swallow my soul
Our souls”

I have talked about this song many times on this blog, so I will keep it brief: powerful song with lyrics that highlight the parallels between the past and the present.

Honorable Mention: Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany

The “Huh?” Award

Given to the country the most questionable, lazy, or just plain nonsensical lyrics.

IrelandWinner: Ireland

“Just touch who you wanna, kiss who you gotta
Fight like we’re winners, love like beginners
Dance like you mean it, sing like you feel it
Everything’s better standing out in the sun”

Aside from advocating sexual assault (you should NEVER touch or kiss whoever you want without consent), the lyrics are otherwise a trite mess of cliché optimism and hollow saying.

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

“The sky is tumbling
It’s coming down, coming down
The wildest fire
Is burning out, out

And when our fall torn us to pieces
All of our love turned into dust
We’re the brightest falling stars”

Essentially, the main argument of the song is that the relationship is ending – so why not go out in a blaze of glory? This is not a healthy relationship goal. If things are over, just let them end. That is that.

Honorable Mention: Sweden, The Netherlands, Montenegro

Best Dressed Award

Albania

Winner: Albania

Albania dress

She almost looks like an award statue, doesn’t she? Just an utterly gorgeous dress that fits her well. Too bad the majority of the act was against a gold background so you barely saw it (I took this photo during some of the brief blue moments).

 

AustraliaRunner-Up: Australia

Australia outfit

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Dami Im’s dress. But it’s elegant and distinctive, much like Dami Im herself.

Honorable Mention: Estonia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

So many awful outfits this year, sadly. This was probably the hardest category to choose a winner for.

Italy

Winner: Italy

Italy outfit

Sparkly, brown overalls. Need I say more? Italy got my vote for the Barbara Dex Award this year.

AzerbaijanRunner-Up: Azerbaijan

Azr outfits

So…much…gold… Honestly, what the heck are they wearing? In the music video, Samra has on this really nice black gown. This glittery, gold catsuit is just…awful. And, to make matters worse, it doesn’t even fit the tone or message of the song.

Honorable Mention: Croatia (Barbara Dex Award winner), Spain, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Hungary, Belarus, Lithuania

Best Staging Award

Russia

Winner: Russia

Russia performance

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

Come on, was there ever any doubt? This staging was incredible! The first time we saw him walk on the screen during the First Semi-Final dress rehearsal, we all gasped. And each time, it was equally as amazing. The staging was just stunning; so much so, it inspired hoards of angry fans to complain when Russia lost.

ArmeniaRunner-Up: Armenia

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

Talk about doing a lot with a little! Armenia had a solo performer by herself on stage and created a dazzling show that seamlessly incorporated pyrotechnics, slick camera angles, quick-cutting shots, and nifty image overlaying. Who needs an LED screen when you can work magic with cameras?

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Georgia, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands, Iceland, Ukraine

Worst Staging Award

Estonia

Winner: Estonia

Estonian perfomance

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

Yeah, you have a sexy, Bond-esque song with a very attractive, young singer. This should have been a great stage show. Instead, we are left with this, seemingly casino-inspired act that makes Juri seem more creepy than alluring. Also, he was lost in the staging; he was this little man on this giant red stage.

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

Moldova performance

Normally, I would have the video of the performance. But thanks to the EBU, that is not possible.

I am starting to feel bad with just how critical I am being with Moldova’s entry this year. Unfortunately, they took a poor song with a poor message, gave it to a singer who was a poor fit for the composition, and staged it with few visuals and a random astronaut. This is a dance number – why were there no dancers? This is a song literally called “Falling Stars” why were there no spark curtains or other pyrotechnics? Just…so many things done wrong this year, Moldova.

Honorable Mention: Slovenia, San Marino, France, Croatia

“This is DC Calling” Award: Given to the most American sounding entry. This in NO way counts as an endorsement for the US entering the Contest, an idea which I staunchly oppose.

Winner: Sweden

Sweden was deemed "a contender" in last year's series.

It feels like a hipster anthem, doesn’t it? From Frans’ look to his sarcastic tone – the song is just one big “screw you” to whoever he’s singing to. This wins the DC Calling Award because so many young people today have this kind of attitude and I could totally imagine a random American high school student saying these words.

Runner-Up: Czech Republic

It is my understanding that, to most Europeans, Americans are a religious bunch who often work their faith into everything, including our pop music. I Stand is vague in who the target of the song is, but, at least to me, it is a song about the power of faith – ironic, since the Czech Republic has the highest percentage of atheists of any nation.

Honorable Mention: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Israel

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

ItalyWinner: Italy

This is a passionate, yet innocent, love song that is just the perfect tempo for a first dance. If No Degree of Separation made its way across the Atlantic, it would quickly ascend the list of most popular wedding songs, without a doubt.

NetherlandsRunner-Up: The Netherlands

Douwe Bob has perfectly captured the contemporary, country sound that is ever-so-popular in the US. I think that Slow Down would be considered a welcome change to the “stadium country” that has swept the genre over the past decade. This would quickly climb the country, and pop, charts.

Honorable Mention: Australia, Finland, United Kingdom, Bulgaria

The “Spirit of ABBA” Award

Given to the most stereotypical and/or traditional ESC entry

BelgiumWinner: Belgium

A happy dance tune? Check! Lyrics that make you feel good about yourself and the world? Check! Some cool choreography that you can try to mimic in your living room? Check!  Belgium checked all the right boxes to carry the spirit of schlager that typifies the Eurovision genre.

United KingdomRunner-Up: United Kingdom

A fun song about the uplifting power of friendship performed by a duo that looks like they are genuinely friends off-stage. A fun song that got the audience, both at home and in the arena, involved. That’s definitely bringing the continent, and world, together!

Honorable Mention: Finland, Spain, Croatia

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.

Winner: United Kingdom getting 24th place

United KingdomAfter years of dubious entries, songs that I liked, but left most of Europe cold, the BBC finally put real effort in finding the British entry. They used a public vote, got artists and songwriters that captured modern British pop music, and selected a song that was catchy, fun, contemporary, and even had two attractive boys – just for good measure. Joe & Jake (and their backing singers) gave outstanding performances for both the juries (Grand Final dress rehearsal) and the televoting public, yet still somehow finished third last. I am still miffed as to how this happened. I know Electro Velvet was devastated by their finish last year, I can only hope that Joe & Jake continue to perform together and eventually return and finish higher up the scoreboard.

RomaniaRunner-Up: Romania’s Disqualification

This is less about Romania not being able to participate (TVR should have to pay their debts, they have owned up to this fact), but the fashion in which it was done. These debts are years old. The EBU could have penalized them in December (when they paid their entry fee and the list of participants was finalized), in March (when the heads of delegations met and entries had to be formally submitted), or in May (after the Contest). But no, the EBU instead opted to discipline Romania in the most humiliating way possible. Waiting for the deadzone that is April to ensure maximum exposure of the event so that it could publicly shame Romania and TVR.

Honorable Mention: Iceland failing to qualify, Czech Republic getting 25th, Lithuania getting 9th

Final Thoughts

Eurovision_2016_Official_LogoWell, another Contest is in the books. It was utterly amazing to be there in person, though, Standing Right sucked. And I am still bitter about how much I had to pay and how long I queued to have such a subpar – particularly since it was a great financial burden. Speaking of which, going to Eurovision this year contributed to what has been my worst time financially – though, it brought something to light for me.

By my age (28), my parents were married with two kids, my eldest sibling had been married for several years, my next oldest sibling had just gotten married, and my last sibling (also older) had just gotten engaged. And then there’s me. Single. No kids. Just my education and Eurovision. Being there in Sweden, seeing the “Eurovision by Numbers” video, the “What’s Eurovision?” opening act from the second semi-final, the “Peace Peace Love Love” interval act, and having Ukraine win – a song which I loved from the start and truly thought was the best entry – it all reminded me just how much I love Eurovision and the role it plays in uniting all kinds of people.

I always say that the combination pop music, geography, and competition is what drew me to Eurovision – and that’s true – but what keeps me there is the genuine community that the Contest breeds. When else can one be connected to over 200 million other people worldwide? When else can one lose themselves in music that transcends boundaries, that is as much visual as it is auditory, and allows you to participate in the realized dreams of 42+ performing artists?

Is Eurovision perfect? No! Of course not (and I’ll be going into its various shortcomings throughout the summer in a series of blog posts), but it is awesome. Eurovision is so much more than a song contest, it’s a community – it’s the people, the culture, the forums, the traditions, the opportunities, the dreams — the connections that it makes possible between all of these things and more. Eurovision connects countries, people groups, generations, allies & enemies, strangers & friends. Attending ESC, watching it, engaging with it – it allows me to be a part of that intricate web human connection.

I don’t currently have a family of my own, but I hope to some day. And when I do, I know that Eurovision will be there – allowing me to share an integral part of myself with those I love and for them to join in my passion. Indeed, it will help us all “come together.”

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Reaction to the Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

There you have it! Our last ten finalists!
Latvia
Poland
Israel
Serbia
Lithuania
Australia
Bulgaria
Ukraine
Georgia
Belgium

Georgian Flag MapQuite interesting that, unlike Tuesday, the qualifiers are well spread out; there are no more than two that performed consecutively last night.

Some historical markers from last night.

Ukrainian Flag Map-Ukraine extends its 100% qualification streak. Georgia extends its to four. Belgium and Poland get their first back-to-back qualifications and Latvia gets its second (last time was 07-08).
Bulgarian Flag Country-Bulgaria qualified for only the second time (last was 2007). While it will be Australia’s second final, it’s the country’s first qualifying from the semi.
Irish Flag Map-Georgia may very well be the qualifier with the lowest betting odds of all time. Conversely, Nicky Byrne – former pop star, professional goalkeeper, and presenter – and Ireland’s lack of qualification will make it harder to recruit stars in the future.
-Donny Montell got a measure of revenge after Kaliopi beat him in Baku (2012).
Lithuanian Flag Map-For the first time since 1970 (when all five did not participate), this will be the first time with one or fewer Nordic countries to be in a Final since Sweden joined Denmark in the Contest back in 1958.

My reactions:
Macedonia-Deeply saddened by Macedonia’s failed qualification, especially since Kaliopi is so awesome. I guess third time was not the charm, but I hope she returns in the future.
Israel-Surprised by Georgia’s qualification and taken off-guard by Israel’s. Though, I am most disappointed in Lithuania’s qualification (especially since neither Macedonia nor Norway made it).
Belgium-While I originally contended that Semi-Final One was stronger, after last night and the results, Semi-Final Two definitely was more entertaining and proved itself to have the harder hitting entries. Probably because it was much more competitive as fewer spots were uncertain.

Now that we have our qualifiers, there’s nothing to it but to do it! Tonight we have our Jury Final and tomorrow, the Grand Final! USAComplete with an unnecessary performance from Justin Timberlake. I am so excited to see who will win! Check back tomorrow for my reaction to the Jury Final and final predictions!

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ESC 2016 Reviews: Second Semi-Final, Part One

Hello Dear Readers!

My march through the 23 competing songs continues with the first half of the Second Semi-Final. Just because I noted that the First Semi-Final is stronger yesterday, does not mean that I think the Second Semi-Final is full of slouches. In fact, I think there are some real gems here.

Second Semi-Final, First Half

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Australian Flag Map

Australia

Dami Im Sound of Silence Internal

Thoughts:

Once again, Australia brings it hard! I really like this! I think it will qualify for the Final, but I’m not sure how well it will do once it gets there. There’s a lot of power ballads this year – and a lot of highly produced entries. Where this song may have once stood out, it will now be among many others of similar note, particularly in the Final.
Belorussian Flag Map

Belarus

Ivan Help You Fly Televised

Thoughts:

Sorry Belarus, this is a swing and a miss. Like Moldova, I fear that this song is too big for the singer, Ivan cannot quite meet the demands of the song. There are quite a few notes just beyond his range, particularly at the song’s climax.
Irish Flag Map

Ireland

Nicky Byrne Sunlight Televised

Thoughts:

Hmmm…still waiting for this song to start going somewhere. It starts at about a 7 out of 10 and stays there the entire time. At one point, the music goes out and comes back in super strong – and it’s only…meh. This reminds me of the generic contemporary Christian stuff that I don’t really want to hear outside of church.
Israeli Flag Country

Israel

Hovi Star Made of Stars Televised

Thoughts:

Hey! This song actually goes somewhere. That’s exciting. Granted, it’s not very far, but it’s an improvement over Ireland. The song is alright, the lyrics are a bit generic, but Star’s voice is nice. It will be interesting to see how the song is presented on the stage in May. I imagine it will be another one requiring lights to be held up in the audience.
Latvian Flag Map

Latvia

Justs Heartbeat Televised

Thoughts:

After Animata’s smashing success last year, Latvia voted in another experimental-sounding song. It’s not as dark or as captivating or as well performed as Love Injection, but it’s a nice attempt. I don’t know if it will get Latvia back to the Final, but it should at least do respectably.
Lithuanian Flag Map

Lithuania

Donny Montell I’ve Been Waiting for This Night Televised

Thoughts:

Another returning artist (to go along with BiH, ICE, BUL, and MAC), though I will say that Montell looks the most different (well…maybe not as different as Deen), but I do not think the blond hair is good for him. The song is alright, no better or worse than Love is Blind, not as catchy but a little less polished (in a good way). Umm, I don’t think this song has what it takes to qualify in this competitive year that’s full of so much parity.
Macedonian Flag Map

Macedonia

Kaliopi Dona Internal

Thoughts:

Oh, Kaliopi, each time she competes, the song is so different, yet she always nails it. Unfortunately, what helped Crno i Belo be successful in 2012, aside from the intense marketing campaign, was the intense emotional connection you could feel she had with the song and the fact that it was a pure rock song, neither of which come through here. I’m not sure if she will qualify, sadly, though I quite like the song.
Polish Flag Map

Poland

Michał Szpak Color of Your Life Televised

Thoughts:

So, I try to refrain from making negative comments about performers’ appearances, but his look and the way how his producers are shooting him, are very early 90s (in a bad way). The song is nice. It’s better than I thought it was going to be. Szpak has an interesting voice, but the composition fits it well. It just might sneak through to the Final.
Serbian Flag Map

Serbia

ZAA Sanja Vučić Goodbye (Shelter) Internal

Thoughts:

I see that Serbia is sending us another diva. Oh! Some vaguely ethnic fluting! I’m not going to lie, I really like this entry. Not just that, but I think it has that hard to capture “sound” of a winner. Could we be back in Serbia next year, perhaps! If not, I could definitely imagine this song extending Serbia’s Top Ten finishing streak, particularly if performed well!
Swiss Flag County

Switzerland

Rykka The Last of Our Kind Televised

Thoughts:

Another attempt to capture the pop sounds of today. It’s definitely not bad, but I don’t find it to be notable. It’s a pleasant entry with a nice composition. Rykka has a very pretty voice. I just don’t find the song to be remarkable.

*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.

Don’t forget to checkout the reviews for the First Semi-Final first half and second half!

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Balladeers!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

View the playlist here: Eurovision for Balladeers

  1. Poland 2008PolandFor Life performed by Isis Gee

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

  3. Estonia 2012 – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2007 – Unsubstantial Blues performed by Magdi Rúzsa

    Monaco

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

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

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

  11. Malta 2005 – Angel performed by Chiara

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

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

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

    Spain

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

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

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

  18. Sweden 2014 – Undo performed by Sanna Nielsen

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

  20. Sweden 2006 – Invincible performed by Carola

    United Kingdom

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS!

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Christmas!

Merry Christmas Dear Readers — and Happy New Year!

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

Find the playlist on YouTube: Eurovision for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Nox (Hungary 2005) – Szent ünnep

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

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

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

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

  15. Litesound (Belarus 2012) – Shooting Star

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

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

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

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

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

  21. Bzikebi (JESC Georgia 2008) – Ave Maria

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

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

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


Playlist of the Week – Eurovision for 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).

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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!


ESC 2015 – Final Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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ESC2014 – Second Semi-Final Reaction

Wow!  The second semi-final was stunning but definitely not as strong as the first semi-final. My reactions to last night’s show.

Fulfilled Expectations
Romania, Greece, and Norway all moved through, as was to be expected. While I think Romania has only an average entry, Norway is only average, and Greece is complete rubbish. In fact, you could see the lead singer constantly motioning to the backing vocalists to sing louder throughout the entire song. The trampoline adds NOTHING.

Surprises
Israel had a very strong performance – absolutely spectacular!  It was definitely a major shock that the song didn’t move on to Saturday. I imagine that her jury performance was weak.  It was also quite a shock to see Belarus make it through as well. This song was not very highly rated and the performance was a bit weak, not to mention there were not many of Belarus’ traditional supporters voting, only Georgia.

Disappointments
Macedonia has a great song, but the staying and performance were flat! The sexiness from the video, the uniqueness from the debut performance, the edge from both – completely missing. Macedonia missed a great opportunity. Likewise, Ireland also missed the boat.   Casey’s singing was uncertain and lacked any kind of passion.  Also, the dancers were unnecessary, or, at least, could have had better choreography. Ireland had a sure thing and let it slip through there hands.

History (kinda)
For only the second time, Poland made it out of the semi-finals. Switzerland and Slovenia qualified for the Final for only the third time (it’s the fourth time for the Swiss, but they automatically qualified in 2006). Along with Poland, the Netherlands, Montenegro, and Sam Marino, this year’s final will have quite a few countries with little Saturday night experience.

Running Order
Now that we have a running order for the final, I can say that I think much higher of the chances of the UK.  It closes the show, follows a tame ballad in San Marino, and will be balanced against the much weaker Ukraine that will be opening the show. The Netherlands also has a legitimate shot at success from its draw position and following the manic, overdone performance of Denmark.  My final predictions will be posted after I see the jury performances tonight!


ESC2014: Second Semi-Final Final Predictions

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

Should make it through:
Greece
Romania
Norway
Israel
Ireland
Poland

Probably will make it through:
Austria
Macedonia
Malta
Finland

Fighting for the Final Spot:
Slovenia
Switzerland

No chance of moving through:
Georgia
Lithuania
Belarus

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

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

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


ESC2014 – Song Reviews: Second Semi-Final, Second Half

Irish Flag Map9. IrelandHeartbeat performed by Can-Linn feat. Kasey Smith

A good song, but it takes a bit to get into it. Once the first refrain hits, the groove definitely takes over, but it takes a while to get there. I will be curious to see how it transitions to the larger ESC stage.

Keys to Success: Emphasizing the Celtic influences in the song and having strong choreography.

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Girl rock doesn’t always fare the best, just look at Ireland’s 2009 effort

Personal Interest Score: 7

Potential for Success: 7

Composite: 7

 

Belorussian Flag Map10. BelarusCheesecake performed by Teo

The more I listen to this song, the more it grows on me. It’s fun, but rather shallow. The composition is definitely a unique one. I like it, which surprises me!

Keys to Success: A minimal staging that reproduces the music video and all its fun

Potential Stumbling Block: Belarus has a bad habit of doing its staging, so it could easily do that here

Personal Interest Score: 8

Potential for Success: 6

Composite: 7

Macedonian Flag Map11. MacedoniaTo the Sky performed by Tijana

I liked this song from my first listen. It has a nice driving composition and the song fits her voice quite well. The issue is, Macedonia rarely does well and I do not know if this song will have enough support to make it out of the semi-final.

Keys to Success: I’ve said this before, but a strong staging with just two dancers would be best

Potential Stumbling Blocks: an off-key performance; too minimalist with just Tijana and her backing singers

Personal Interest Score: 8

Potential for Success: 6

Composite: 7

 

Swiss Flag County12. SwitzerlandHunter of Stars performed by Sebalter

A fun song! Another one that I really like. However, this seems to be getting absolutely no coverage. In fact, I barely remember it being covered when it won. It does not help that this song has to come right before Greece, either, as that song will erase the memory of whatever come before it.

Keys to Success: The lead singer is the key to success – focus on him and his energy

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Switzerland last year let its high energy number lose all of that joy by the time it reached the stage in Malmö, that cannot happen again

Personal Interest Score: 8

Potential for Success: 5

Composite: 6.5

 

Greek Flag Map13. GreeceRise Up performed by Freaky Fortune feat. RiskyKidd

Not my favorite. Like Finland, this is a song with a lot of press and coverage and positive coverage that I just do not get. It’s okay and kinda breaks out the typical Greek mold. It will do well because it is Greece, but it stands no chance of winning.

Keys to Success: Being from Greece; a high energy performance

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Focusing too much on the rap portion and RiskyKidd

Personal Interest Score: 5

Potential for Success: 8

Composite: 6.5

Slovene Flag Map14. SloveniaRound and Round (Spet) performed by Tinkara Kovač

The differences in the new version are subtle enough that the song still sounds relatively the same, but drastic enough that the song sounds better and is a bit more impactful. I think the flute is a nice touch.

Keys to Success: Using angles and camerawork to create the dizzying effect that is seen in both, the original and new, videos

Potential Stumbling Blocks: A pedestrian performance that leaves the audience bored, particularly since it is sandwiched between Greece and Romania

Personal Interest Score: 7

Potential for Success: 5

Composite: 6

 

Romanian Flag Map15. RomaniaMiracle performed by Ovi & Paula Seling

The dynamic Romanian duo return with a song about half the quality of Playing with Fire. Unfortunately, I think we might see a repeat of 2011, when a mediocre song from a popular country takes the crown because there was no stand out favorite (though, Sweden this year is amazing!!). It will be interesting to see where this falls as the fan polls come out.

Keys to Success: Fixing the pitch issues from the national final performance

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Not fixing those pitch issues; a hokey staging

Personal Interest Score: 5

Potential for Success: 9

Composite: 7


Eurovision 2013 – One Week Later

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

Best Lyrics Award

Icelandic Flag MapWinner: Iceland

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

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

First Runner-Up: Croatia

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

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

Second Runner-Up: Estonia

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

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

Honorable Mention: Greece, Cyprus, France, Israel

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

Winner: BelarusBelorussian Flag Map

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

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

First Runner-Up: Hungary

“Farkasok neveltek és
Táncolt egy délibábbal
Majd elillant csendesen”

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

Second Runner-Up: Montenegro

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

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

Honorable Mention: Lithuania, Serbia, Macedonia

Best Dressed Award

Winner: ItalyItaly

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

Runner-Up: Norway    norwayoutfit2

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

Second Runner-Up: Malta
malta outfits

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

Honorable Mention: Moldova, Georgia, Ireland, The Netherlands

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

Winner: Serbia
Serbia outfits

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

First Runner-Up: Romania
romania outfits

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

Second Runner-Up: Belarus
belarus outfits

Bright…shiny…death by sequins…

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

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

Winner: Azerbaijanazerbaijan performance

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

First Runner-Up: Denmark

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

Second Runner-Up: France

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

Honorable Mention: Italy, Moldova, San Marino

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

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

Winner: SloveniaSlovene Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Switzerland

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

Second Runner-Up: Moldova

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

Honorable Mention: Greece, Russia, Finland

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

Winner: GermanyGerman Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Sweden

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

Second Runner-Up: Greece

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

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

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

Winner: BelarusBelorussian Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Georgia

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

Second Runner-Up: Denmark

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

Honorable Mention: Russia, Malta

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

Israeli Flag CountryWinner Moment: Israel failing to qualify

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

First Runner-Up: San Marino failing to qualify

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Moldova, United Kingdom, Macedonia, Greece

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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


Eurovision 2013 — Grand Final Live Notes…Live!

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Actual Top Ten

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

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

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

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

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

And Azerbaijan is officially second!

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia – no surprises here

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

Montenegro – what’s up with that echo?

Denmark – No real surprises here.

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

Greece – Denmark breaks 200 and Azerbaijan regains second place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

135 for Denmark, 113 for Ukraine, 100 for Azerbaijan

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

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

Spain – Italy is back in the Top Ten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romania – Azerbaijan is now only 7 points behind Denmark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love the sequence of over-the-top endings!

Poor Linda Martin, no need to attack her.

Yay, more history!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor cameraman, he must have drawn the short straw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brace yourselves everyone – here comes Romania!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BTW, my pre-Contest prediction for Top Ten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Everyone!


Eurovision 2013 – Live Notes for the First Semi-Final!

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Hello Readers!

It’s that time of year again – when Europe comes together to choose one song to rule them all over the next year.  For the 58th time, the Continent is unifying in this way to select the 61st winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest (remember, 1969 had four winners).  The first stage in this process is the semi-final round in which 33 songs enter, but only 20 will advance to the Grand Final.  Tonight in the First Semi-Final, 16 entries battle for ten available spots.  Tonight we will the big favorite (Denmark), one of the biggest names competing this year (the Netherlands), an American (Slovenia), an American-born singer (Austria), the first jESC participant to be a lead singer (Serbia), and two The Voice champions (Belgium and Russia).  As I have done the past five years, I will be taking notes as I watch the show for the first time and will post them (after some light editing for fixing abbreviations and typos).  Given that I live in the US and have a full time job, I cannot post notes live during the semi-finals because I will not be watching them until evening my time.

This is the tenth year of the televised semi-final (but only the fifth year of the dual semi-finals).  That sets this year up to be historic – some things I expect to happen this year that we haven’t seen in quite a while (or ever):

1. The Netherlands will qualify for the Grand Final (for the first time since 2004). It’s been ten years – they have to!  The Netherlands have sent some of its biggest stars in the past (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), but never one quite as big as Anouk.  And, this is the best song that the country has sent in a while.  It’s not too often that history is on the Netherlands’ side.

2. Montenegro will also qualify – probably the most popular Montenegrin entry to date and already one of the most commercially successful entries this year, Igranka.

3. Romania will fail to qualify – something that has never happened before.  Again, the law of averages says it must happen eventually and this year seems like as good a time as any for it to come to pass.

4. We will see a tie (or at least a really, really close result) in the Grand Final.  It only took until the 14th Contest for the first tie to occur (1969), then, 22 years passed before the next one (1991).  It has now been 22 years since the last tie, and I think we’re due for one!  I just hope they have an interesting and suspenseful way of going through the tie-break procedure (as opposed to just having the computer do it automatically).

As a reminder, I predicted that these songs would move through based on fan chatter, betting odds, history, and personal opinion:

-Denmark

-Russia

-Ukraine

-The Netherlands

-Ireland

-Austria

-Montenegro

-Croatia

-Belarus

-Moldova

I will make my final predictions during the interval act.  Onward!!

Opening Act:

I like this opening video – Malta to Germany to Greece to France to Russia to Ireland to Macedonia to Israel – I love how Euphoria seems to have swept over all of ESC-land.  And now all these beautiful flag-butterflies arrive in Malmo.  I’m loving this children’s choir!

This is great!!  I love this re-interpreted version of the song.  I love that everyone is signing (though, it’s always fun to be reminded that sign language changes across country boundaries).  I love that Loreen disappeared into the crowd and that the host just came out of the stage.  I wonder if that will be the last we see of Loreen, probably. 😦

The host: For the first time since the mid-90s, we will have only one host to guide us – and she’ll be doing that with her loud, British accent and bright, shiny dress!

The stage looks cool, but a little dated.  Like, this almost looks like a Contest from the early nineties.

On to the entries!!

Love the postcard idea – show the artist in their home country with a flag butterfly floating around!!  Yay!

Austria Shine performed by Nataliá KellyAustrian Flag Map

Where did all this vibrato come from?  Every note warbles.  Uh oh, that big note was not nearly big enough.  Sorry Nataliá, I just don’t think that was enough to get you through (especially since they got rid of the sparkle shower that she had in the national selection).

Estonian Flag MapEstonia Et Uus Saaks Alguse performed by Birgit Õigemeel

So, Birgit Õigemeel is pregnant!  Ooh, black and white!  As if to say, “we don’t think our song is quite dull and dated enough.”  Oh, here comes the color!  That was a pleasant effect; so is having her out on the satellite stage with the backing singer just over her shoulder. The addition of that big note was nice; it definitely gave this song a bit more oomph!  Still don’t think it was enough to qualify, but I don’t think it will be last.

Slovenia Straight Into Love performed by HannahSlovene Flag Map

I don’t know how I feel about them using that beat between each entry.  Ooh!!  She keeps missing those big notes in the refrain.  Her dances trot the line between entertaining and distracting.  Well hid backing singers – I almost lost that round of “Spot the Backing Singer” (they’re behind the stage right butterfly wing).  I love this song – but that performance was a mess!  This will probably be last.

Croatia Mižerija performed by Klapa s MoreCroatian Flag Map

I love how big their voices are!  That was quite pleasant!  I still think Estonia is the best thus far, but this is quite good; a close second!

Denmark Only Teardrops performed by Emmelie de ForestDanish Flag Map

I recognize some of those places in the postcard!!

The crowd reaction is huge!!  And it hasn’t even started yet.

Why are the backing singers up so loud?  This performance is exactly like it was at DMGP – whoops, spoke too soon, there’s confetti here.  This was good, and since she’s the heavy favorite, she’ll sail through tonight, but she’ll have to step up her game on Saturday if she hopes to win.  But that ending (and the whole thing, actually) looked and felt a lot like a winner’s reprise, which I am sure was on purpose.

I liked the tagline bit, particularly the “Don’t complain, it’s even more expensive in Norway.”

Russian Flag MapRussia What If? performed by Dina Garipova

Ahh!  The beat is annoying, I keep expecting Euphoria to start.

Time for another round of “Spot the Backing Singers!”  Nevermind, there they are.  Ooh, she botched some notes there.  This is a revamp from the studio version where she sings mostly on her own.  The choral effect is really effective!!  It actually makes me like this song and the lights throughout the auditorium are lovely!  I know I’ve written off Russia previously, but that was really good and reestablishes this entry as a legitimate contender in my book.

Ukraine Gravity performed by Zlata OgnevichUkranian Flag Map

What was the point of having that tall guy carry her out?  It’s distracting, from his presence to his outfit – just dumb.  It already seems like a much more tacky staging after the beautiful one we just saw from Russia.  I like the backing singers coming out of the ground.  She has a beautiful voice and she is dressed splendidly…but…this is still a weak song in my book, musically and lyrically.  Coming into tonight, I thought this was the most overrated entry, seeing it here has done nothing to change that opinion.  It will most definitely open the Grand Final if it is drawn in the first half, of that I am sure.

Dutch Flag CountryThe Netherlands Birds performed by Anouk

Ooh, I can’t wait to hear this!!

Hmmm…her voice seems a bit off, like, just below where it is supposed to be.  Don’t know if we needed to see the backing singers there.  I still think this is the classiest song in the competition this year; and the staging fits it perfectly.  Not sure if it will go through (despite my immense enthusiasm for this song).

Montenegro Igranka performed by Who SeeMontenegrin Flag Map

This is madness!!  I’m a little dizzy for watching this.  Props to the cameramen and directors, they are doing an excellent job capturing the craziness of this song and performance.  Interesting choice to have her sing without backing singers – I think it added to the “lost in space” vibe.  I think this one will be close.

Lithuanian Flag MapLithuania Something performed by Andrius Pojavis

I think they need a dancer here, just a one woman dancing around Andrius on stage.  This song still does nothing for me.  I do not see it doing anything.

Belarus Solayoh performed by Alyona LanskayaBelorussian Flag Map

Did she seriously just emerge from a giant disco ball?  Is she out of breath?  I can barely hear her.  And when I do, it sounds more like she’s shouting than singing.  Ooh, she botched those big notes there.  Nice pyrotechnics.  When this song was chosen, there were a lot of high hopes and expectations for it, I think those are completely gone now; Belarus will be lucky just to qualify.

Moldovan Flag MapMoldova O Mie performed by Aliona Moon

Aliona Moon, I think because of how red her hair is, always looks like a character from the Final Fantasy series to me.  What’s up with her hair?  It’s like something from The Flintstones or The Jetsons; why isn’t jetting out to the side like in the national final?  I hope you’re paying attention, Slovenia, that’s how you use three male dancers.  Amazing vocals!  Amazing song!  Amazing staging (love the dress and the riser)!  Why is this song not getting more respect?!  Most definitely the dark horse this year; expect Moldova to finish Top Ten on Saturday.

Ireland Only Love Survives performed by Ryan DolanIrish Flag Map

Ooh, shirtless men!  Oh, just when I was going to say that his vocal performance was better than anticipated, he botches that huge note at the beginning of the chorus.  His voice is a bit whiny.  I don’t know, I’m on the fence.  This one might sneak through, but I think that Estonia might take its spot in the Final.

Love the feature on Australia!  Fun how the first Contest broadcasted there was when Sweden gained victory number two!

Cypriot Flag MapCyprus An Me Themase performed by Despina Olympiou

I love the staging of the opening, well done!  She missed that big note going into the last run through of the chorus and again on that second to last note.  Otherwise, this was an amazing performance.  I always appreciate it when a performer goes out on stage with a nice, tasteful, simple performance by themselves.  Well done, well done!

Belgium Love Kills performed by Roberto BellarosaBelgian Flag Country

Perhaps Belgium could have loaned one of its dancers to Lithuania, as, together, they’re a little creepy.  This is going to sound meaner than it is supposed to, but Roberto Bellarosa looks like a robot.  He’s showing zero emotion – is that intentional?  This was better than expected, but I still don’t think that it will do anything.

Serbian Flag MapSerbia Ljubav je Svuda performed by Moje 3

WHAT.  ARE.  THEY.  WEARING?!?!?!?!  If I didn’t already know the lyrics, I would think this is a song about two lesbians fighting over a girl.  It was smart to have the backing singers so that the main three could act out the song, but again, there was something lost – that was…not good.

My Top Ten for the night Who I Think Will Qualify
Moldova Denmark
The Netherlands Russia
Russia Moldova
Denmark Ukraine
Cyprus The Netherlands
Ukraine Belgium
Montenegro Montenegro
Estonia Estonia
Ireland Croatia
Belgium Ireland

I find it interesting that Montenegro chose to use just the part of Nina singing as the recap clip.

Also, I find it interesting that they are not showing the numbers throughout the entire voting sequence.

I love the history clips though!!  Yay for cherishing history!

Interval Act

Hmm…we seem to have a bunch of people dancing in the snow to a deconstructed version of Euphoria.

I don’t get modern dance.

They should have just made the entire interval act Lynda Woodruff – that segment was awesome!

Boo Sweden, boo!  Why are you showing us the postcards for the automatic qualifiers?  Though, I do love that Natalie Horner (lead singer of Germany’s Cascada) is wearing an American flag t-shirt.

Who Actually Qualified

Here we go!  Moment of truth!

Moldova Good stuff! (1 for 1)

Lithuania What?!?!?!?!?!  I guess Belgium is not moving through (1 for 2)

Ireland No real surprise there (2 for 3)

Estonia She had enough tonight to pull it through! (3 for 4)

Belarus Hmm….interesting….that performance was a hot mess!  Guess Croatia is not moving through (3 for 5)

Denmark Well, duh! (4 for 6)

Russia Again, not surprise here, she was great tonight! (5 for 7)

Belgium Interesting.  Didn’t think Belgium and Lithuania would both go through, guess Montenegro will not be moving through (6 for 8)

Ukraine No surprise here (7 for 9)

The Netherlands oohh, why did they have to pause for so long?  That was almost too much anticipation for me to bear! (8 for 10)

Final Thoughts

That was a very satisfying semi-final.  Three surprises.

Small Surprise: Estonia performed well enough to make a lasting impression.

Medium Surprise: So did Belgium.

Big Surprise: Lithuania is going to be performing again on Saturday night.  Shocking!

In the end, I am satisfied with the songs that are moving through.  I love Slovenia, but Hannah sounded awful tonight.  I also loved Cyprus, but no one expected that song to get to the Final.  I am so happy that the Netherlands have made it back to the Final, finally, after waiting so long (in case you did not know, the last time the Netherlands qualified for a Final was 2004, the first year with a televised semi-final).  I’m a little disappointed that Croatia did not progress, but, again, not too surprising given that it was buried amongst a lot of popular female ballads.

In the end, the juries and the public made the best decisions.  An interesting note about the draws that happened during the press conference, with the exception of Denmark, Ukraine, and Ireland, all the songs were drawn for the first half of the show.  That means several things:

1. Estonia will probably end up being second in the running order again.

2. The Netherlands have most likely lost its shot of winning

3. Denmark’s chances have exponentially increased as it will most likely be placed towards the end of the running order (since it’s so popular) giving it amble opportunity to leave a lasting impression.

I’m so excited for Thursday!!

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Eurovision 2013 – Final Predictions!!!

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

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

Starting with the First Semi-Final:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-Denmark

-Russia

-Ukraine

-The Netherlands

-Ireland

-Austria

-Montenegro

-Croatia

-Belarus

Danish Flag Map-Moldova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-San Marino

-Azerbaijan

-Finland

-Iceland

-Greece

-Israel

-Norway

-Albania

-GeorgiaGeorgian Flag Map

-Switzerland

I think Georgia and Azerbaijan are the most serious contenders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Italy

-Germany

So, who’s going to win?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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