Posts tagged “latvia

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision Stagings for the Uninitiated

Hello Dear Readers!

Trying to pull together more playlists (and potentially updating old ones). This playlist was inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, Hella in Your Thirties; the hosts advertised EO and promised to release playlists of their favorite Eurovision stagings. Interestingly enough, this will also be the first playlist to have a corresponding Spotify song list.

These will be twenty of the songs with the most dynamic, impactful, mesmerizing, and/or effective stagings (in my opinion, duh). A few things to note, because I anticipate this post seeing traffic mostly from the US, all songs will be 1998-2015 since the EBU started geoblocking the Contest in the Western Hemisphere starting with 2016. Check out the honorable mentions for a bonus ten songs from 2016-2019. Also, because this might someone’s entry point to the Contest, I’m going to eschew some of the zaniest stuff because 1) the Contest is so much more than that and 2) it’s not really all that typical anymore.

Once again, all the songs come from the Televoting Era (post 1998) of the Eurovision Song Contest. Not every featured staging will be over-the-top; sometimes, less is more. Not every song is one that I like, but every staging is one that is memorable. Enjoy!

View the playlist here: Eurovision Staging for the Uninitiated
Find it on Spotify

So, unexpectedly, lots of winners on the list (songs 1-6), runner-ups (7, 12, 26), and a slew of Top Tens songs (8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20-22, 25, 27, 28-30). You can also see the countries with lots of strong stagings – Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova – all legendary stage show makers. And yes, 2016 deserves four songs – and really deserves more – watch those three shows!

  1. EO logo with latvian flagLatvia 2002 – I Wanna performed by Marie N

  2. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

  3. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

  4. Russia 2008 – Believe performed by Dima Bilan

  5. Sweden 2012 – Euphoria performed by Loreen

  6. EO logo with Swedish flagSweden 2015 – Heroes performed by Måns Zelmerlöw

  7. Azerbaijan 2013 – Hold Me performed by Farid Mammadov

  8. Ukraine 2011 – Angel performed by Mika Newton

  9. Moldova 2010 – Run Away performed by Sunstroke Project & Olia Tira

  10. Belgium 2015 – Rhythm Inside performed by Loïc Nottet

  11. Moldova 2013 – O Mie performed by Aliona Moon

  12. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

  13. EO logo with Belorussian flagBelarus 2007 – Work Your Magic performed by Dmitry Koldun

  14. Russia 2011 – Get You performed by Alexey Vorobyov

  15. Sweden 2011 – Popular performed by Eric Saade

  16. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

  17. Malta 2013 – Tomorrow performed by Gianluca

  18. EO logo with Maltese flagBulgaria 2007 – Water performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov

  19. Iceland 2010 – Je Ne Sais Quoi performed by Hera Björk

  20. Spain 2014 – Dancing in the Rain performed by Ruth Lorenzo

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS! But, these ten specifically for those in the Eastern Hemisphere or with a VPN.

  1. EO logo with Swiss flagSwitzerland 2019 – She Got Me performed by Luca Hänni

  2. Russia 2016 – You Are the Only One performed by Sergey Lazarev

  3. United Kingdom 2017 – Never Give Up on You performed by Lucie Jones

  4. Czech Republic 2019 – Friend of a Friend performed by Lake Malawi

  5. EO logo with Armenian flagArmenia 2016 – LoveWave performed by Iveta Mukuchyan

  6. Australia 2016 – Sound of Silence performed by Dami Im

  7. Hungary 2017 – Origo performed by Joci Pápai

  8. Belgium 2016 – What’s the Pressure performed by Laura Tesoro

  9. EO logo with Moldovan flagMoldova 2018 – My Lucky Day performed by DoReDoS

  10. Australia 2019 – Zero Gravity performed by Kate Miller-Heidke

What are some of your favorite stagings from the Contest’s recent history? What about from the early years, when almost every song was a person standing alone on a stage with a microphone? Should I do another list of insane and bizarre stagings?

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Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easily:

  • Greece

  • Iceland

  • Switzerland

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Latvia

  • Bulgaria

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

  • Serbia

  • Poland

  • Georgia

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

  1. Switzerland

  2. Poland

  3. Latvia

  4. Austria

  5. Iceland

  6. Denmark

  7. Albania

  8. Moldova

  9. San Marino

  10. Armenia

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • Iceland

  • Italy

  • Lithuania

  • Malta

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

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

See you next week!

EO logo with the Bulgarian flag

EO logo with Icelandic flag

EO logo with Lithuanian flag


Eurovision 2019 – Final Thoughts!

Hello Dear Readers!

Well, there you have it; another Eurovision in the books. This one was, in my opinion, one of the most entertaining and diverse Contests we’ve had in a while, even if the songs were not as strong as in recent years. And, of course, I’m happy to have seen my favorite win. So, let’s take a breath, take a step back, and take a look at ESC 2019.

Which I will be doing on KUSH 1600AM at 8am US Central Time on Monday (20 May) (of Cushing, Oklahoma, USA – Part One & Part Two) and with the EuroWhat? Podcast this upcoming week to talk with Ben and Mike about this year’s results!

Dutch Flag Map

Historical Markers

This is the fifth Dutch victory, after the Netherlands won in 1957, 1959, 1969, and 1975. They are now tied for third for all-time victories along with the United Kingdom, France, and Luxembourg (Ireland is first with seven wins, Sweden is second with six). Arcade is only the eleventh winner to be performed by a solo male (Rise Like a Phoenix is not counted, as its credited artist is the female character Conchita Wurst).

This is only the second time the final scoreboard had to be adjusted after the Contest. The first was in 1998 when Croatia was docked 1/3 of its points after the EBU ruled the synthesized male chorus on the backing track broke the “spirit of the rule” requiring all lyrics to be live (this is the reason all backing tracks must be turned in ahead of time in March). The EBU announced that, due to human error, the wrong jury votes were calculated on behalf of the disqualified Belorussian jury. The jury from Belarus was disqualified due to sharing video of the jury deliberation process from the First Semi-Final; this is against the rules and the EBU punished them accordingly. Using a secret algorithm, the EBU calculates automated scores for disqualified juries or televotes. This had been used quite a few times since the new voting system was introduced in 2016. The results read live on air during the Contest were reversed, resulting in the bottom ten of the automated ranking receiving points as opposed to the Top Ten. After several fans noted how weird the votes were given what one would predict for Belarus, the EBU eventually reissued the Belorussian jury points, resulting in several changes to the scoreboard, including North Macedonia now being the jury champion and Israel receiving null points from the juries.

Other historical notes:

**updated with the corrected scoreboard

North Macedonian flag mapThis is the best ever placing for North Macedonia (2nd 1st in the jury, 8th 7th place overall) and its first ever Top Ten finish.
This is the best ever placing for San Marino (10th in the televote, 20th 19th overall).
This is the second time that the victor was neither the top in televote nor among the juries (Ukraine 2016 was the first).

This is the third time that Italy has been a runner-up (1974 and 2011 are the others).
This is Switzerland’s best finish (third place) since coming in second back in 1993.
This is the Azerbaijan’s first Top Ten finish since 2013, when it was runner-up.
This is the first Top Ten finish for Iceland since 2009, when it was runner-up. This is also its first qualification since 2014.

British flag mapThis is only the fourth last place for the United Kingdom (2003, 2008, 2010).
This is the third year in a row, and fourth time in five years, that the host country came in the bottom ten.

Finally, Sweden retains the top spot for longest streak of Top Ten finishes, which now stands at 6.
Behind it is Italy, which now has three consecutive Top Ten finishes.
Australia maintains its 100% qualification record.
Montenegro now has the longest non-qualification streak, which now stands at 4.
Unsurprisingly, Sweden has the longest qualification streak at 9, having made the Final every year since 2011.

My Thoughts

EO logo with Albanian flag

I am ecstatic that some of my favorite songs did so well, particularly the Netherlands and North Macedonia. So, after all of the performances this week, what are my favorite ten songs from the Contest?

10. Albania
9. Russia
8. Moldova
7. Malta
EO logo with Czech flag6. Georgia
5. Australia
4. Czech Republic
3. North Macedonia
2. Latvia
1. The Netherlands

 

Israeli flag map

This was quite the year! I think this was perhaps one of the most entertaining and engaging Grand Finals in quite some time. It was also one of the longest. Come on EBU! Five interval acts is way too many. The section with the past winners and runner-ups performing each other’s songs was fantastic! The Ilan Raichel Project was lovely and I quite enjoyed them. The mentalist was superfluous. The Gal Godot video could have been at any other point in the night – perhaps the beginning. The opening act could have clipped down the video or simply replaced it with Gal Godot before the parade of nations. And the Madonna section was unnecessary and bad — we did neither needed it nor wanted it. We can cut the show back down to three hours – or at least down to three and a half. We can do this! It’s not that difficult. Otherwise, I think KAN did a fantastic job – the stage was beautiful. I look forward to what AVROTROS will do next year in the Netherlands — I already have a hotel in Rotterdam; crossing my fingers that it hosts, since it is the only major city not to host a Eurovision thus far.

EO logo witch Dutch flag

And, before I go, I want to congratulate AVROTROS on a job well done. This victory was eight years in the making. It started with the TROS (the broadcaster’s previous incarnation) deciding on a new approach: taking Eurovision seriously. They began by connecting with the Dutch music industry, calling upon Anouk, one of the country’s biggest stars, to restore the county to its former glory. Since Birds became the first Dutch entry in nine years to qualify for the Final and first in thirteen Contests to finish Top Ten, the Netherlands has consistently sent industry stars, resulting in five qualifications (out of six Contests), including a second place in 2014 and now this victory. AVROTROS is a perfect example of a country deciding to actively pursue winning, giving musicians the freedom to craft their own song and performance, and not being afraid to take the long game approach. Hmm, perhaps a few other countries can follow this model and give established artists free reign to create strong entries on their own, just saying. The Dutch music industry is not nearly the strongest one on the continent…

One more friendly reminder: I will be featured on KUSH 1600AM at 8am US Central Time on Monday (20 May) (of Cushing, Oklahoma, USA – Part One & Part Two) and with the EuroWhat? Podcast this upcoming week to talk with Ben and Mike about this year’s results!

Another fantastic Contest that I will be watching for years to come. Many strong entries, a great production, and a winner with whom I fully agree. I cannot wait to attend next year!

 


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 – Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

Preferences

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Belarus

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Czech Republic

  • Estonia

  • Israel

  • Greece

  • Latvia

  • Sweden

Predictions

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

  • Israel

  • Estonia

  • Austria

  • Australia

  • Czech Republic

  • Italy

  • Germany

  • Montenegro

  • The Netherlands

  • Sweden

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

  • Austria

  • The Netherlands

  • Czech Republic

  • Montenegro

  • Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Norway

Alexander Rybak

How You Write a Song

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Romania

The Humans

Goodbye

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Serbia

Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

Nova Deca [New Children]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening

Who We Are

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Denmark

Rasmussen

Higher Ground

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Russia

Julia Samoylova

I Won’t Break

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

DoReDos

My Lucky Day

National Final

Thoughts:

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

The Netherlands

Waylon

Outlaw in ‘Em

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Australia

Jessica Mauboy

We Got Love

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Georgia

Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao

For You

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Poland

Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer

Light Me Up

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Malta

Christabelle

Taboo

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Hungary

AWS

Viszlát Nyár [Summer Gone]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Latvia

Laura Rizzotto

Funny Girl

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Sweden

Benjamin Ingrosso

Dance You Off

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Montenegro

Vanja Radovanović

Inje [Frost]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Slovenia

Lea Sirk

Hvala Ne [No Thanks]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Ukraine

MÉLOVIN

Under the Ladder

National Final

Thoughts:

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

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

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

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Ukraine

  • Romania

  • Australia

  • Montenegro

  • Poland

  • The Netherlands

  • Moldova

  • Norway

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Sweden

  2. Latvia

  3. Ukraine

  4. Montenegro

  5. Norway

  6. Australia

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Poland

  10. Malta

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

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


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

Hello Dear Readers!

Ready for part two of semi-final one? Below the table are my predictions for qualifiers out of this semi-final! Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Armenia

Artsvik

Fly with Me

Internal

Thoughts:

Armenia was the final one to reveal its song – and it was worth the wait! Dark, complex, and takes us on an auditory journey. Heavily influenced by Armenian folk tunes and style, the song ultimately ends on a hopeful note. Love it!

Cyprus

Hovig

Gravity

Internal

Thoughts:

In recent years past, I would have thought this was a sure candidate for victory. However, in a year that is full of this style of music, it gets lost in the shuffle. I like it a lot and think it has a great beat; not much faith it will do much, still on the fence about its chances to make the Final.

Czechia

Martina Bárta

My Turn

Internal

Thoughts:

Another example of a great song that just doesn’t stand out from the crowd of entries this year. I think Czechia’s (note, the legislature voted last year to make the official English name “Czechia”) best hope is to dominate the jury show with a large enough lead to make the Final.

Greece

Demy

This is Love

Mixed

Thoughts:

This song, to me, is quite generic! It’s fun and uplifting, however, so there’s that. Aside from the positivity, there’s not much to this song, unfortunately. Will it reverse Greece’s fortune and return it to the Final? Yes! Will it do much once it gets there? Nope.

Iceland

Svala

Paper

Televised

Thoughts:

I’m not sure what to make of this song. I like it, but it’s a bit odd. I’m not sure if it has mass appeal, especially since it’s in the same vein as Norway from last year. A song that seemed popular but fell flat. I think it depends on whether the staging is engaging without being overwhelming.

Latvia

Triana Park

Line

Televised

Thoughts:

I really like this song, but am not sure why. It’s not too different from Iceland, but there’s a bit more of an edge here that Paper lacks. Like Iceland, however, I worry that Line doesn’t have the mass appeal to attract enough votes from either the juries or the televote to progress to the Final.

Moldova

SunStroke Project

Hey, Mamma!

Televised

Thoughts:

SunStroke Project returns (this time without Olia Tira) to produce another viral Saxophone-Guy meme with this catchy, but trashy, song. Actually, the song isn’t so much trashy as the video is. Other than that, this song is so danceable!!

Poland

Kasia Moś

Flashlight

Televised

Thoughts:

This song is unassuming, mysterious, and intriguing. I think it could be a true dark horse this year; given that the vocal performance is strong, of course. I think this might be one of my favorite compositions from this year.

Slovenia

Omar Naber

On My Way

Televised

Thoughts:

I loved Naber’s 2005 song, Stop. This year’s song…not so much. I don’t dislike it as much as I think it’s a bit boring. As much as I want Slovenia to do well, it won’t be with this song. In fact, I’m afraid it might finish last in the semi-final.

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

 

So, who do I think will qualify from this semi-final? What are my favorite songs?

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

Armenia

Armenia

Australia

Albania

Azerbaijan

Latvia

Belgium

Portugal

Cyprus

Finland

Finland

Poland

Greece

Azerbaijan

Moldova

Iceland

Poland

Moldova

Sweden

Czechia

More importantly, who do I think, from the First Semi-Final, will be competing for the crown?

Well, overall, I think that this is the weaker of the two semi-finals. With that said, I think that two songs have the ability to seriously contend for the victors’ trophy.

Belgium – Probably the most popular song on Youtube rankings; it will be interesting to see how this song fares in the OGAE fan poll. This song is super-contemporary and stands out from the crowd. It has a very captivating melody and Blanche has a mesmerizing voice.

Poland – This has real potential to be a dark horse in this year’s Contest. It’s dark, mysterious, and will get a fantastic boost if staged properly. As long as the performance is competent, it will have a legitimate chance to contend for the win.

In addition to these three songs, I think that Sweden and Armenia will find themselves back in the Top Ten come Saturday night.

Check back tomorrow for Semi-Final Two
Find the other reviews from this year here!

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Contender or Pretender 2016 – Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

Sorry for the brief delay — but we’re back!

This week, we looked at the ten songs with the highest betting odds this time last week, which are mostly the same, though with some shifting. France has narrowed its odds against Russia for the top spot. Italian Flag MapThe biggest thing is that Armenia has been pushed out and Italy has moved into the bookies’ top ten favorites. My opinions on Italy have not changed. In addition to Italy, I think that Czech Republic (which has narrowed its own odds to 12th, thus far) is the other song outside the bookies’ top entries with a legitimate chance of winning; I truly think that it will be the dark horse this year.

So, let’s review. Songs that I believe are contenders:
Russia
Serbia
France
Australia

and songs that I believe are pretenders:
Sweden
Armenia
Latvia
Bulgaria
Ukraine
Malta

Looking at the four songs deemed to be contenders, how do I rate their chances?

RussiaWell, Russia has dominated the betting odds since mid-March and has a very strong following among the fan community and Sergey Lazarev is very attractive and unafraid to bare skin. However, the song is rather trite and, while the live vocals will probably be great, the staging promises to be over-the-top. I also think that it will come off as a weak imitation of Heroes.

SerbiaSerbia presents a strong song that is bound to keep the country in the Top Ten. A powerful song that promotes girl power will definitely do well. However, songs with R&B stylings have a checkered history at the Contest and trying to conflate the sound with a Balkan-themed presentation (which seems like the most likely event) will confuse viewers enough to prevent Serbia from winning.

AustraliaAustralia brings, perhaps, the strongest vocalist to the Contest this year. The song is captivating and will stand out in a field of uptempo numbers with its dramatic composition and easy to relate to lyrics. However, Sound of Silence has not been making the rounds of the preview concerts or radio play as the other entries have. It will lack recognition among the viewers and juries.

 

France is peaking at the right time; J’ai Cherché has been steadily rising in the betting odds over the past eight weeks. FranceWhen first selected, the song was around 15th in the betting odds, now it is a close second. The lyrics are catchy, fun, and balances French and English well. It has a contemporary composition that makes you want to sing and dance. Amir is a handsome guy who knows how to command a stage. Right now, I would say that France has the best chance of winning Eurovision 2016! Next year in Paris? Cannes? Lyon? Marseilles? or Nice? Perhaps, France just needs to not sabotage themselves with a horrendous staging and pray that they get drawn into the second half of the running order so that SVT doesn’t drown them again with a crap song position.

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Contender or Pretender 2016: Latvia and Bulgaria

Hello Dear Readers!

We now reach the halfway point of our this year’s series. Two countries that have a pretty rough history at the Contest come with strong songs this year: Latvia and Bulgaria! Two contemporary songs that will definitely leave an impression on the night.

Latvia

Heartbeat performed by Justs

Latvian Flag MapWhy it is a contender: Building upon last year’s success, Latvia brings another super-modern piece composed by Animata. The song is mysterious and has flashes of brilliance throughout. Justs also ably performs the song and there is sure to be another stunning performance onstage (rumor has it that Animata will also choreograph the stage show for Stockholm).

Why it is a pretender: The lyrics are a bit nonsensical. There is not much of a story or a meaning that is easy to gather. The composition, while unique, is a far cry from Love Injection, the captivating song that gave Latvia its best finish since winning in 2003.

Final Verdict: PretenderLatvia This song has been popular since it won Latvia’s Supernova and the right to represent the country in Stockholm. However, as mentioned above, this song is a poor imitation of last year’s entry. Part of Love Injection‘s success can be attributed to its uniqueness and its flawless performance. While Justs has a great voice and a good look, the song just won’t be able to make a mark in a crowded field of decent songs.

Bulgaria

If Love is was a Crime performed by Poli Genova

Bulgarian Flag CountryWhy it is a contender: Oh, the difference five years can make. In 2011, Genova would have been happy to reach the Final with Na Inat, now she is performing a song that could reasonably win. Why? This is a song that’s catchy, fun, and easy to understand. However, it is also contemporary and stylized with modern tones.

Why it is a pretender: Well, Bulgaria does not have a history of making wise decisions in regards to staging at the contest. They often go too big or too small or just plain….off. These quirks are off-putting and, in trying to capture the super-modern stylings of this song, there is a lot of potential for awful outfits and superfluous (that is, unnecessary) backing dancers.

Final Verdict: PretenderBulgaria Let me start by saying: “I love this song!” And I think that it will do well. However, between a lack of confidence in Bulgaria’s ability to properly stage the song and the fact that modern tunes don’t appeal to all, I just don’t think that this song has what it takes to lift the crystal trophy in May.

We have now looked at Sweden, Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Latvia, and Bulgaria. Who’s next? Ukraine and France! Come back tomorrow!

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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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First Reactions to the Eurovision 2015 Grand Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was. It simply was.

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

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

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


Reactions to the Second Dress Rehearsal

Hello Dear Readers!

After a rousing jury final and a good night’s rest (as short as it was), I have some reactions and updated predictions for you!

Overall, the jury final was great! Almost every act came to win; even the hosts jokes were better! So, some reactions:
Helped their case:
-France — I git goosebumps during her performance. This is not a song that fans will necessarily go for, so a strong jury performance was required and it was delivered.
-Serbia — the big favorite in the hall was Serbia. People were going wild throughout the song and the recaps. The performance was on point and the energy level was through the roof.
-Australia — the song is fun and catchy and a fan-favorite. But the performance was unbelievable! It will be hard for the juries to ignore it.

Still have work to do:
-Poland — their were some very prominent pitch issues throughout this performance which took away from the overall quality of the song. Big notes only work if the harmonies align properly. She’s going to need a strong performance for the televoters tonight to make up her lost points.
-Russia — there was definitely something lost between Tuesday and tonight. Everything was there, technically, but it lacked energy and felt forced. The spark that propelled this song up the bookies rankings needs to return for tonight or Russia can find itself on the outside of the Top Ten.
-Hungary & Romania — as I write this, I struggle to remember either performance. This is partly due to the underwhelming nature of the songs and partly due to the power of the songs around them. I’m not sure what either can do to help themselves at this point other than not doing things to hinder themselves.

New Predictions:
After months of listening to the songs, weeks of reading analysis and fan opinions, and days of watching live performances, here is my updated Top Ten prediction:
Sweden
Latvia
Serbia
Australia
Italy
Russia
Azerbaijan
Albania
Lithuania
Georgia

At this point, I would not be surprised if any of these songs win. Add Belgium, Estonia, and Norway to that list for all possible winners. We have more parity this year than in the recent past. The voting is bound to be close!

Right this second, I think Serbia can pull out the victory. It is catchy, empowering, and masterfully-performed. We very well can be back in Belgrade next year. Then again, my opinion os constantly shifting, so, we’ll see!

Enjoy the Final tonight!


Thoughts on the Second Semi-Final

What can I say about the second seni-final? Wow!

There were more uptempo numbers and a larger crowd than Tuesday. Both of which led to a really awesome atmosphere in the arena. I’ll be interested to see how it translates to television. So, a few notes:

-I was 80% accurate with my predictions. I did not guess that Cyprus nor (happily) Latvia were going to qualify. Instead, I thought that Ireland and Iceland would.
-Montenegro extends its qualification streak to two! No entry composed by Žjeljeko Joksimović (SM2004, BH2006, SER2007, SER2012) has fallen outside the Top Ten. This may be the year that changes, time will tell.
-Like Belgium, Latvia is a favorite of mine that falls into the “experimental pop” category i discussed previously. If either (or both!) song performs well on Saturday, can you imagine the impact upon the Contest? It will (hopefully) be resounding.

We now have our full 27 finalists. Things are made much more difficult for our qualifiers from the Second Semi-Final, as only a small number of spots in the second half of the running order remain. Though, Austria won from spot #11 last year.


ESC Sees some Racial Diversity!

This year, diversity is taking the forefront at ESC, this is Conchita Wurst’s legacy. I, for one, am quite excited that we are finally diving deeply into this issue. Diversity is more than merely having folks of different backgrounds present, it’s incorporating the variety of differences into the event, organization, etc. and celebrating our unity through celebrating our variance. Armenia’s supergroup, Genealogy, is built on this principle; celebrating the wide breadth of the Armenian diaspora through having each continent represented within the group.

ESCInsight has a fantastic article looking at disabilities and the Contest, something brought to light through due to various forms of ability represented this year: the band members from Finland each have a developmental disorder, Monika from Poland has paralysis, and Bianca Nicholas, one half of Electro Velvet from the UK ha,s cystic fibrosis. I won’t dive into disabilities here, no need to rehash what has already been discussed so well.

France is no stranger to having artists from its former colonies to represent the mosaic of the French people. AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO

France is no stranger to having artists from its former colonies to represent the mosaic of the French people.
AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO

I do want to talk about the racial diversity at this year’s Contest. In addition to the smattering of black background singers that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, we have several black lead artists, from Latvia and Switzerland.  And Maimuna from Belarus and Guy Sebastian from Australia are of Asian descent. Between these lead artists, the backing vocalists, and backing dancers – this will probably be one of the most ethnically diverse Contests on record.

Why is This Important?

Gaitana raised a lot eyebrows when selected to represent her home country, Ukraine. Photo credit: mirror.co.uk

Gaitana raised a lot eyebrows when selected to represent her home country: Ukraine.
Photo credit: mirror.co.uk

As the ESC continues to increase its brand globally, it needs to increase the presence of non-white folks onstage to broaden its appeal. While many European countries tend to fall along the bottom of global diversity scales, no country is 100% singular in its ethnic make-up. Furthermore, Europe is slowly becoming more diverse. As we reaffirm that ESC is for all, we must then ensure that all are actually represented on stage. This holds especially true as we discuss the legacy of colonialism among Western nations, the increasing immigration in the North, and the various people groups throughout the East, all of these contribute to the diversity across the continent. Just as the LGBTQ+ Community often exclaims, “visibility matters;” seeing people who look like you, as a member of the minority, in prominent places (such as onstage in a starring position at Europe’s Favorite TV Show) helps you feel more represented, connected, and a part of the larger society. This, in turn, leads to increased positive feelings and welfare. I am not arguing that increasing the ethnic diversity of Contest performers will singlehandedly improve race relations across Europe, but it can certainly play a part in it.

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Experimental Music at the ESC

One thing that I enjoy about the Junior ESC is that the kids, much more than the adults, experiment with music – submitting songs that are out there, that are crazy contemporary – and seeing success with them. Georgia is a prime example, so many of its entries are quite off-the-wall. In 2008, Georgia even won with a song that I would say is the most experimental that we have ever heard on an ESC stage, junior or adult.

We are used to maybe one experimental entry (usually from Bulgaria), but this year, we have two truly experimental entries: Belgium and Latvia. And two more that are pushing the limit: Georgia and Spain.

Beyond Modern

Belgian Flag CountryBelgium and Latvia can be said to be “beyond modern,” their sounds are unlike any other – past or present. Compare this with Australia and Estonia, both of which sound like something off the current pop charts, and Denmark and the UK, which both harken back to past musical eras. Rhythm Inside and Love Injection sound more like art pieces than pop songs. Both toy around with rhythm and melody; both stretch the singer’s abilities to capture the feelings of the songs. The biggest advantage that these entries have is standing out so drastically from the other thirty-eight songs. They’ll make an immediate impact and will not be soon forgotten.

Personally, I like rather enjoy both songs; both are currently in my my personal Top Ten. However, I do Latvian Flag Mapnot think either song has a chance of doing well. I think that qualification would be a victory for both. The juries have shown that they tend to favor well-sung ballads and catchy pop tunes above all else. The public may not be ready for such futuristic tunes, especially since neither has a strong chorus that can lodge itself in your head.

BulgariaWhere most songs like this fail, though, is in the staging. They often try too hard to have a staging that matches the uniqueness of their entry – often to ill-effect. Look at that Bulgarian compilation again, how many of those entries would have been more successful if the staging was stronger? If you have read my live notes, you know that I have an expression “DEDF” – Decent Entry Derailed by Fashion. Both of these entries are at potential to fall prey to this. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Rhythm Inside is putting Loïc in a steampunk costume with a glowing piece over his heart. Throughout the song, he sheds the mechanical aspects, as if he’s becoming more human. However, while this could be done well – the tendency would be to go over the top; steampunk can go from supercool to scary and I fear that your typical stage director would not know the difference. Likewise, Love Injection could very well be enhanced by repeating the staging from the Latvian national selection, adding in some new light effects and possibly some chain elements; but how quickly would this devolve into some kind of dominatrix outfit? (Very quickly!)

Good luck to both Belgium and Latvia – I hope both delegations highlight their songs positively on stage without going overboard. But, these two are not the only ones experimenting this year, two more are giving us unique entries, albeit not quite as extreme.

Pushing the Envelope

Spanish Flag MapLess dramatic than Belgium and Latvia, Spain and Georgia both have songs that challenge traditional music expectations. Both songs have echoing, booming refrains that are easy to sing along with. Both songs have complex layers that create textured, intriguing pieces that captivate the listener. Both are different enough to avoid easy comparisons with the other entries, but neither are so otherworldly that they will scare off the casual viewer.

Like Belgium and Latvia, there will be a lot of temptation to go overboard with the staging of these acts.Georgian Flag Map Spain needs to focus on lighting effects – Edurne’s voice speak for itself (no pun intended). We don’t need dancers and a lot of graphics, just some well queued spotlights and coloring. Georgia has a bit more leeway. I would recommend reproducing the video, bringing women that represent different female warriors from around the world (or at least, around Europe) and from various time periods, from Maltese knights to modern British soldier, from ancient female heroins to tribal fighters. Again, good luck to Spain and Georgia, may commonsense and good taste prevail!

As we celebrate the 60th Contest, we are presented with a wide array of options, various genres are represented, from swing to punk rock to popera. This year, that diversity of music includes an increased number of songs that push the limits of modern music; that can be considered “experimental.” Regardless of the ultimate final placing of these songs, their presence alone enriches the ESC field of entries and promotes variance, hereby keeping the Contest relevant as it enters its seventh decade.

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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: Semi-Final One – final predictions

As we count down the minutes until we start the First Semi-Final, I thought that I’d give you my predictions now since I will not have live notes this year.

These final predictions are based upon further listens, bookie predictions, and fan chatter.

Making it through easily:
Ukraine
Sweden
Armenia
Hungary
Azerbaijan

More than likely going through:
Russia
The Netherlands
Belgium
Estonia

Battling for the final spot:
San Marino
Montengro
Portugal
Moldova

Not going through:
Albania
Latvia
Iceland

San Marino – Valentina’s third attempt. She’s at the top of her game, but the song doesn’t leave a lasting impression

Montenegro – Is a theoretical jury magnet, but is there enough fan support to push it through?

Portugal – being one of the few uptempo songs in a sea of ballads will make it stick out, but will Suzy’s vocals be enough to carry it through?

Moldova – historically has a strong track record of qualifying but the song might be too modern for viewers.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to San Marino and Montenegro. I give the edge to ESC veteran Valentina Monetta and San Marino. I think the two are even jury-wise but I think SM will get a bit more of the televote.

 


ESC2014: Song Reviews – Semi-Final 1, First Half

Hello Dear Readers!

Welcome to my annual song review. As a recap, I will do a brief review of each song, in performance order. Monday (today) I will talk about songs 1-8 of the first semi-final, tomorrow, songs 9-16. Wednesday, will be songs 1-8 of the second semi-final, Thursday, the 9-15 of the second semi-final, and Friday brings the automatic qualifiers (the Big Five + Denmark). On Tuesday and Thursday, I will also give my predictions of who will be moving through to the Final.

This year, I’m going to try something new. Instead of merely reviewing the songs and offering a blank prediction, I’m going to try to better quantify my thoughts. Each song will have three scores. A personal interest score, so this is purely based my opinion of song. A likelihood of success score, which is how well I think it will do at the Contest. Both scores will be on a scale of 1-10 (one being low, 10 being high). The third number will be a composite score, merely an average of the other two.

I will also give tips for a song to achieve its potential (“Keys to Success”) as well as things to avoid (“potential stumbling blocks”).

Without further ado, let’s begin!

1. ArmeniaNot Alone performed by Aram MP3Armenian Flag Map

I love this song. I think it is a perfect marriage between the classical-style ballad and rock dubstep. Its two halves achieve a harmony that perfectly captures the lyrics. The vocal performance is also very strong. I’m excited to see this live on stage! I do not quite understand why this song was selected to go first, it’s too out there, I think.

Keys to Success: reproducing the music video onstage with two dancers, using flashing lights to enhance the drama of the vocals

Potential Stumbling Blocks: not making the transition vocally between the two styles on stage

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 9

Composite: 9

Latvian Flag Map2. LatviaCake to Bake performed by Aarzenmnieki

Umm…not quite sure what to say about this song. It sounds like something you would sing with a bunch of four year olds. With that said, this song is fairly inoffensive (unless, of course, it’s an innuendo for marijuana). Just not really my cup of tea.

Keys to Success: creating a fun environment in the performance – they need to get folks up and dancing and singing along

Potential Stumbling Blocks: it’s following a douzy of a song and could easily get lost in the mix

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 3

Composite: 4.5

3. EstoniaAmazing performed by TanjaEstonian Flag Map

It’s an upbeat, but hokey number. It’s not all that memorable and will likely fall flat. It is an okay song, just nothing special.

Keys to Success: if Tanja can pull off the choreography from the music video while singing live, she just have a chance of overachieving

Potential Stumbling Blocks: a flat performance with muted dancing

Personal Interest Score: 7

Likelihood of Success: 5

Composite: 6

 

Swedish Flag Map4. SwedenUndo performed by Sanna Nielsen

I think that we may be returning to Sweden sooner than we all thought. This song is amazing! The lyrics, the composition, the staging – it’s great! There’s no reason to believe that this entry to will finish anywhere below third.

Keys to Success: reproducing the Melodifestivalen performance, but with a better outfit

Potential Stumbling Blocks: a flat performance lacking emotion or with much pitchiness

Personal Interest Score: 8

Likelihood of Success: 10

Composite: 9

 

5. IcelandNo Prejudice performed by PollapönkIcelandic Flag Map

Another song that sounds like it was made for children. A very straightforward message. While the video is nice, I hope they focus their staging on all forms of discrimination that happen across the continent (particularly religious and ethnic) as gays are only one group that are discriminated against. The song itself is okay – little too silly for my tastes.

Keys to Success: fun performance – get Europe dancing and clapping; use the video screens to show people coming together

Potential Stumbling Blocks: I can foresee this performance being over the top and scaring the audience

Personal Interest Score: 5

Likelihood of Success: 7

Composite: 6

 

Albanian flag country6. AlbaniaOne Night’s Anger performed by Hersi

In a complete other end of the spectrum, we go from kid pop to 90’s folk rock. The title does not really fit the composition or the performance. It has an air of someone thinking that they’re rocking much harder than they actually are.

Keys to Success: following Iceland, people will be craving something normal; fully invest in the nostalgia that the song creates in its 90’s sound

Potential Stumbling Blocks: being a fairly flat song, anything short of a stunning performance will result in a lack of an impression on the voting audience and jurors

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 3

Composite: 4.5

 

7. RussiaShine performed by The Tolmachevy SistersRussian Flag Map

Russia’s sweethearts return to the ESC stage, becoming the first jESC lead performers to be lead performers at the real ESC. They won Europe’s hearts once before can they do it again? Probably not, but they will go a long way to help people forget about all the craziness that has characterized the country of Russia in 2014. The song is fairly flat, but they’re voices are so angelic.

Keys to Success: focus solely on the Twins and they’re connection to the Contest; woo the voters with their pretty voices

Potential Stumbling Blocks: it’s not an exciting song, so they need to avoid letting it be flat or otherwise flaccid in its performance

Personal Interest Score: 8

Likelihood of Success: 8 at the end of the day, it’s hard for Russia not to do well at the ESC

Composite: 8

Azerbaijani Flag Map8. AzerbaijanStart a Fire performed by Dilara Kazimova

Another understated song, this is will be a tough climb for Kazimova. While the composition and lyrics are very artistic, the onus is completely on her to maintain the tone of the song without putting the voters and jurors to sleep. This could really go either way. Honestly, I just think it’s too plain and too slow to capture Europe’s hearts; this could potentially be Azerbaijan’s first entry outside the Top Ten.

Keys to Success: keep the staging understated and let the entire focus be on Kazimova’s voice

Potential Stumbling Blocks: it’s the third consecutive ballad and is the slowest, by far, definite danger of boring the viewers

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 8

Composite: 8.5


Eurovision 2013 – Live Notes for the Second Semi-Final

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

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

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

Onward to the Second Semi-Final!

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

-San Marino

-Azerbaijan

-Finland

-Iceland

-Greece

-Israel

-Norway

-Albania

-Georgia

-Switzerland

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

Opening Act:

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

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

On to the entries!

Latvian Flag MapLatvia Here We Go performed by PeR

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

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

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

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

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

Azerbaijan Hold Me performed by Farid MammadovAzerbaijani Flag Map

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

Finnish Flag MapFinland Marry Me performed by Krista Siegfrids

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

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

Malta Tomorrow performed by GianlucaMaltese Flag Map

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

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

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

Iceland Ég á Líf performed by Eythor IngiIcelandic Flag Map

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

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

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

Israel Rak Bishvilo performed by Moran MazorIsraeli Flag Country

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

Armenian Flag MapArmenia Lonely Planet performed by The Dorians

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

Hungary Kedvesem performed by Bye.AlexHungariran Flag Map

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

Norwegian Flag MapNorway Feed You My Love performed by Margaret Berger

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

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

Albania Identitet performed by Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar SejkoAlbanian flag country

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

Georgian Flag MapGeorgia Waterfall performed by Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani

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

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

Switzerland You and Me performed by TakasaSwiss Flag County

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

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

Romanian Flag MapRomania It’s My Life performed by Cezar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love the history bits!

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

Interval Act:

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

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

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

The Actual Qualifiers Are:

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

-Azerbaijan – no surprise here (1 for 2)

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

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

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

-Iceland – yay! (4 for 6)

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts:

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

Break down of who landed where

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

All others are in the second half.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. Denmark

20. Azerbaijan

22. Ukraine

23. Italy

24. Norway

25. Georgia

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

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

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


Eurovision 2013 – Final Predictions!!!

2013 Desktop

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

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

Starting with the First Semi-Final:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-Denmark

-Russia

-Ukraine

-The Netherlands

-Ireland

-Austria

-Montenegro

-Croatia

-Belarus

Danish Flag Map-Moldova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-San Marino

-Azerbaijan

-Finland

-Iceland

-Greece

-Israel

-Norway

-Albania

-GeorgiaGeorgian Flag Map

-Switzerland

I think Georgia and Azerbaijan are the most serious contenders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Italy

-Germany

So, who’s going to win?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESC2013 Logo Facebook Cover

ESC2013 Facebook Cover


Eurovision 2013 – First Half of the Second Semi-Final

esc2013 logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC 2012 – Two Weeks Later

Howdy All!

I was hoping to publish this last week, but decided to wait to see if the EBU would release the split jury/televoting results.  They have yet to do so and I have grown tired of waiting.  If there’s anything significant, you can expect another post!

 

Best Dressed

Winner: France

A beautiful dress that I thought was used brilliantly throughout the performance, particularly when the wind machine was used.

Second Place: Serbia

Not just Joksimović, but the whole ensemble was dressed splendidly.

Third Place: Portugal

I like her dress; I don’t care what others think.

Honorable Mention: Bosnia & Herzgovina, Azerbaijan, Romania

 

Most In Need of Costume Change

Winner: Ireland

Really, really, do I need to explain this decision?

Second Place: Switzerland

There clothes were not too bad, but their hair was horrendous.

Third Place: Italy

I didn’t much care for her dress or her shoes, or the combination of the two items.

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Denmark, San Marino

 

Best Lyrics:

Winner: Bosnia & Herzegovina

“Nemoj mi kvariti dan, nikad mi nije bilo teže/Ti nisi živio sam u zlatu paukove mreže/Kao ja…Korake ti znam”

The lyrics tell a story of woman trying to salvage a relationship.  The tale that unfolds in the lyrics really draws you in.  Bravo!

Second Place: Spain

“Perdóname si no supe amarte, amor/No era mío el corazón/Quédate conmigo, quédate conmigo/Si no estás, no sale el sol”

Talk about trying to salvage a relationship, Quédate Conmigo poignantly captures the desperation one feels as you try to keep your love from walking away.

Third Place: Azerbaijan

“But I still wanna keep us alive/But it’s cold, cold, cold, cold when the music dies /t’s all black and white and there’s no sunrise/When the music dies”

Completing the pattern is a third song about a woman trying to save a relationship.  I love this song because of how final the lyrics are, the singer knows she’s at the end of line this is her final effort.  Also, the use of repetition is highly effective, as each time “cold” is sung it becomes more emphatic, more desperate.

Honorable Mention: Iceland, Macedonia, Finland

 

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

Winner: Russia

“Kırdžjalom žon-žon-žon, ektom mi kuaž-kuaž alji/Kırdžjalom žon-žon-žon, ektom mi kuaž-kuaž alji/Party for Everybody – Dance!”

The lyrics are rather repetitive, both the refrain and the actual stanzas.

Second Place: Ukraine

“You can be my guest!/People, be my/Guest!/Welcome People!/Na na, na na…”

Gaitana stated that she likes to write simple lyrics so that everyone can understand them.  Mission Accomplished.

Third Place: San Marino

“Oh oh, ooh oh oh…/Everybody loves you so/Ooh ooh, ooh oh oh…/Everybody lets you know/Do you wanna be more than just a friend?”

Arguably, it can be said that this was a satirical song.  However, I’m surprised that it was allowed to be performed given how many sexual references were littered throughout it.

Honorable Mention: Montenegro, Georgia, Switzerland

 

“Spirit of ABBA” Award: Give to the stereotypical ESC entry

Winner: Latvia

Mindless pop music – check.  Simple lyrics – check.  Unbelievably catchy tune – check.  Yep, this passes all the tests of standard schlager.  Congratulation Anmary of Latvia!

Second Place: Serbia

Returning Serbia to its roots, Joksimović crafted a beautiful ballad of heartbreak that the region has become known for.

Third Place: United Kingdom

Eurovision, past, present, and future, has truly always been about the ballads.  And the UK brought a strong one this year, definitely in line with a lot of what has been successful on the ESC stage through history.

Honorable Mention: Romania, Malta, Russia

 

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

Winner: Slovakia

Normally, upon playing entries for friends, one is bound to hear comparisons between it and the American music market.  This year, only one elicited an immediate response in this vein – Slovakia.

Second Place: Norway

From the presentation to the costuming to the composition itself, this sounds like something that could easily have been produced in New York or LA.

Third Place: Cyprus

The first time I heard this song, I couldn’t help but think of Rihanna.  I think that fact that Cypriots went completely with dance music and forewent any ethno-undertones also contributed to this award.

Honorable Mention: Romania, Germany, Denmark

 

“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: Cyprus

Because Americans love dance tracks, particularly ones that are still pop-y enough to receive a lot of radio airplay.

Second Place: Austria

Because Americans love anything imploring them to shake their booty.

Third Place: Germany

Because it’s an unexpected, anti-love ballad, Loeb looks and sounds like your standard indie-pop artist, and the song is catchy enough to have wide-appeal.

Honorable Mention: Italy, France, Hungary, United Kingdom

 

The “Shiri Maimon Travesty of the Year” Award: In 2005, a true work of art was entered into the ESC; Israel was being 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.

 

Winning Moment: Iceland finishing 20th

This, in my opinion, should have been vying for victory.  It was an amazing performance of an amazing composition with amazing lyrics.  Of all the entries this year, this one, I think, had the best combination of parts.

 

Second Place: United Kingdom getting second to last place

This was an amazing ballad, well-deserving of a spot in the Top Ten.  It’s a downright shame that this entry faired so poorly.

 

Now, the big award…My Top Ten Award: Given to my ten favorite songs from the Contest.  Like last year, I liked every song enough to put it on my iPod (with one exception), but only ten of them can make this list.  The winners are ranked from tenth to first (most favorite).  These songs were the ones good enough to grab my attention and affection from the first moment I heard it at the Contest and have gotten the most plays on my iPod.

 

10. United Kingdom – A wonderful ballad performed by a legend

9. Iceland – A powerful song of lost love

8. Israel – Fun, catchy, and quirky

7. Norway – Great to sing along to!

6. Belarus – This song really grew on me once I looked up the lyrics

5. Italy – The song is dynamic and exciting; not to mention it keeps jazz relevant at the Contest

4. Sweden – An emotional and haunting song, truly beautiful

3. Spain – An impassioned ballad that truly connects the listener to the singer’s pain

2. Cyprus – Fun, catchy, and easy to sing along – and dance – to

1. France – My favorite entry despite the performance on Saturday night because of the lyrics, the music, the originality of the composition; I love Anggun’s voice on this track and love how all the various elements of the song come together as one.

 

Final Thoughts

First and foremost, kudos to Azerbaijan for a job well done!  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the event went.  Even though they did run over on the Final, I thought the pacing of the performances was great.  I enjoyed the postcards (even if they were a bit repetitive) and the interval acts.

Unlike the last couple of years, I do not have any major complaints or qualms about how things ultimately went down and have not seen too much backlash.  Should Norway have been last, probably not, but hey – they’ve done it more than anyone else, so it’s not very surprising.  Did a few songs outperform where they should have ended up, yes.  Did a few songs score lower than they deserved, yes.  Was there any outrageous placements, not really.  2012 was a year with minimal controversy.  I think it’s also worth noting that the Greeks have finally fallen from grace; for the first time since 2003, the Hellenic Republic has fallen outside the Top Ten.  I wonder if this is a reflection of Europe growing tired of them sending the same song every year (I doubt that) or more a reflection of the strength of competition this time around (much more likely).

Overall, a good (but not great) year for the ESC.  There were strong entries that were beautiful examples of artistry and there were entries meant more for entertainment purposes.  The entirety of the Big Five seem to be taking the Contest very seriously and are seeing the fruits of their labor.  In fact, just about every country seems to be taking it seriously, and those that don’t seem to be competing with gag entries that actually stand a chance of doing well.  Overall, I’m pleased with the outcome as well as the trend that Sweden’s victory sets.  Serious entries with heartfelt performances are still winning and the results are diverse enough that no one can complain of bloc voting.  Of the Top Ten, three were from the former USSR, one was Nordic, and one was Yugoslavian (the three blocs considered to be the most powerful).  Of the remaining five, three hailed from Western Europe, one was Turkey, and one was a country with one of the most unremarkable ESC records out there (Albania).  While I don’t think this Contest was particularly historic, I do think it will be remembered as one of the smoothest and least controversial ones to date.


ESC2012 – Semi Final One – Live Notes

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

 

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

Greece             Iceland

Cyprus             Denmark

Romania          Switzerland

Russia              Hungary

Ireland             Moldova

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

 

So, let’s begin!

 

Opening Act:

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

 

No, El, Azerbaijan is not in Europe.

 

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

 

On to the entries:

Montenegro – Euro Neuro performed by Rambo Amadeus

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

 

Iceland – Never Forget performed by Greta Salóme & Jónsi

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

 

Greece – Aphrodisiac performed by Eleftheria Eleftheriou

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

 

Latvia – Beautiful Song performed by Anmary

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

 

Albania – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

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

 

Romania – Zaleilah performed by Mandinga

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

 

Switzerland – Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

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

 

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

 

Belgium – Would You? performed by Iris

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

 

Finland – När Jag Blundar performed by Pernilla

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

 

Israel – Time performed by Izabo

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

 

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

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

 

Cyprus – La La Love performed by Ivi Adamou

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

 

Denmark – Should’ve Known Better performed by Soluna Samay

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

 

Russia – Party for Everyone performed by Buranovskiye Babushki

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

 

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

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

 

Hungary – Sound of Our Hearts performed by Compact Disco

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

 

Austria – Woki Mit Deim Popo performed by Trackshittaz

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

 

Moldova – Lăutar performed by Pasha Parfeny

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

 

Ireland – Waterline performed by Jedward

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

 

My Ten Favorite from tonight:

1. Albania

2. Romania

3. Iceland

4. Belgium

5. Denmark

6. Cyprus

7. Finland

8. Russia

9. Switzerland

10. Moldova

 

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

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

Denmark (mass appeal soft ballad that was well sung)

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

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

Greece (it’s Greece)

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

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

Switzerland (they had a strong performance)

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

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

 

Interval Act:

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

 

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

 

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

The actual qualifiers:

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

B. Moldova – 1 for 2

C. Iceland – 2 for 3

D. Hungary – 3 for 4

E. Denmark – 4 for 5

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

G. Cyprus – 6 for 7

H. Greece – 7 for 8

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

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

J. Ireland – 9 for 10 (yuck!)

 

Final Thoughts:

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

 

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

 

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

 

Drawing for starting positions for the Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we know now:

1. United Kingdom

2. Hungary

3.

4.

5.

6. Russia

7. Iceland

8. Cyprus

9. France

10. Italy

11.

12.

13. Azerbaijan

14. Romania

15. Denmark

16. Greece

17.

18.

19. Spain

20. Germany

21.

22.

23. Ireland

24.

25.

26. Moldova