Posts tagged “malta

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 Song… Celebration – Part One!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lithuanian flag map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What a fun show!

 

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

  • Sweden

  • Belarus

  • Australia

  • Lithuania

  • Russia

  • Belgium

  • Malta

  • Norway

  • Israel

  • Romania

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

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

  1. Malta

  2. Russia

  3. The Netherlands

  4. Australia

  5. Belgium

  6. Romania

  7. Germany

  8. Israel

  9. Norway

  10. Ukraine


Eurovision 2019 – 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 – Grand Final Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Switzerland

  3. Australia

  4. Italy

  5. Sweden

  6. Iceland

  7. Malta

  8. Russia

  9. Norway

  10. Serbia

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

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

Opening Act

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

HERE WE GO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Azerbaijan

  2. The Netherlands

  3. Serbia

  4. North Macedonia

  5. Australia

  6. Malta

  7. Czech Republic

  8. Russia

  9. Spain

  10. France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINALLY we get to the votes!

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

The Juries

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

  • Azerbaijan: 12 to Russia, no shock there

  • Malta: 12 to Italy. Not too surprising

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

  • San Marino: 12 to Italy. NO surprise there

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

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

  • Estonia: 12 points to Sweden

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

  • Poland: 12 points to Australia – interesting

  • Norway: 12 to Czech Republic! Interesting.

  • Spain: 12 points to Sweden! Interesting.

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

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

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

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

  • Hungary: 12 points to Czechia, to too surprising

  • Moldova: 12 points to North Macedonia! Fun

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

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

  • Romania: 12 points to Australia

  • Cyprus: 12 points to Greece, of course

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

  • Australia: 12 points to Sweden

  • Russia: 12 points to Azerbaijan! Not too surprising

  • Germany: 12 points to Italy! Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Greece: 12 to Cyprus, of course

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

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

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

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

  • Finland: 12 points to big brother Sweden

  • Switzerland: 12 points to North Macedonia – quite unexpected

  • Slovenia: 12 points to Czech Republic! Fun times

  • Israel: 12 points to The Netherlands!

And Sweden wins the jury!

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

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

(30) That’s about as expected

(3) Awwww poor UK it deserved way more

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

(13) to Belarus

(0) OH NO! That’s just uncalled for!

(48) for Estonia

(54) for Serbia

(??) for Albania enough to get to 90

(59) for Slovenia not as much as expected

(24) for Greece, not too surprising

(291) for very popular song from Norway

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

(38) WHOA! Not too surprising

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

(51) for Denmark, not too bad

(20) for Malta, awwwww it deserved more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweden needs 253 televote points to win.

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

Dutch Flag Map

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

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

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

Thank you and goodnight!


Eurovision 2019 – 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: Contender or Pretender!

Contender or Pretender logo

Hello Dear Readers!

It is time again for our annual Contender or Pretender series! And, for 2019, it’s all in one easy-to-read post. This series looks at the top ten of the betting odds prior to the start of rehearsals and attempts to figure which ones are truly challenging for victory (contenders) and which ones do not stand a realistic chance at winning (pretenders). Per usual, the ten entries will be examined in random order.

  1. Sweden

  2. Italy

  3. Switzerland

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. The Netherlands

  6. Russia

  7. Greece

  8. Cyprus

  9. Iceland

  10. Malta


Country: Sweden
Entry: Too Late for Love

Performed by: John Lundvik
Written by: John Lundvik, Anderz Wrethov, and Andreas “Stone” Johansson
Composed by: John Lundvik, Anderz Wrethov, and Andreas “Stone” Johansson

Why it is a contender: It is a strong (by European standards) R&B song that stands out from the crowd. It has a compelling collection of performers who know how to command the stage. The song is also quite catchy and warm.

EO logo with Swedish flag

Why it is a pretender: It’s schlager reminiscent of the 90s era of the Contest. There also is not a lot of strong precedent of people of color doing well at the Contest.

Final Verdict: Pretender! Aside from racism still being a very rampant part of Europe, this song is just too generic to actually win. I imagine that it will continue the trend we’ve seen with Sweden over the past few Contests, big jury score with a moderate to low televote.

 


Country: Italy
Entry: Soldi [Money]

Performed by: Mahmoud
Written by: Charlie Charles, Dario “Dardust” Faini, Alessandro Mahmoud
Composed by: Charlie Charles, Dario “Dardust” Faini, Alessandro Mahmoud

Why it is a contender: It’s super-contemporary, and quite biting. Plus, Italy always seems to have an automatic boost at ESC. The composition is also quite intriguing – immediately grabbing your attention and forcing you to listen.

Why it is a pretender: More diversity issues…Muslims are not exactly well-received throughout the continent. Furthermore, rap is not very successful at the Contest, with only two rap songs ever finishing in the Top Ten (Greece 2011 and Romania 2017).

Final Verdict: Contender! Aside from the facts that this song won the OGAE fan poll and has been jockeying at the top of the betting odds, this song is quintessential of today’s sound. Soldi has more sales, streams, and views than any other Eurovision song this year, by far.


Country: Switzerland
Entry: She Got Me

Performed by: Luca Hänni
Written by: Laurell Barker, Frazer Mac, Luca Hänni, Jon Hällgren, Lukas Hällgren
Composed by: Laurell Barker, Frazer Mac, Luca Hänni, Jon Hällgren, Lukas Hällgren

Why it is a contender: A contemporary song in the vein of Fuego performed by a hot guy who is an equally as good dancer. It sounds like something one hears in the clubs or at special events – i.e., it has mass appeal and gets folks moving!

Why it is a pretender: It is a bit of a generic song with two others, Malta and Cyprus, that have similar sounds that will siphon off points. Hänni has also shown himself to be not the strongest live performer.

Final Verdict: Contender! This song has been insanely popular since its release and has the added benefit of being a male-driven song when its nearest competitors are female. Expect Switzerland to not only reach the Top Ten for the first time in a long time, expect it to challenge for victory.


Country: Azerbaijan
Entry: Truth

Performed by: Chingiz
Written by: Borislav Milanov, Trey Campbell, Pablo Dinero, Hostess, Joacim Persson
Composed by: Borislav Milanov, Chingiz Mustafayev, Trey Campbell, Pablo Dinero, Hostess, Joacim Persson

Why it is a contender: Azerbaijan is back! This is the blend of ethnopop and ridiculousness that Azerbaijan has made itself known for in its earlier years. Chingiz is particularly hot and is a showman.

EO logo with Azerbaijani flag

Why it is a pretender: Even at its height, Azerbaijan never truly threatened for victory. And the one year it did win, was a matter of surviving when the televote and jury vote were deeply split. This song is also a bit dramatic and stands out in not necessarily a good way.

Final Verdict: Pretender! Aside from the fact that Azerbaijan does not have a great track record of success since Turkey resigned from the Contest, Truth does not really have enough quality to surpass the stronger entries and not enough flair to surpass the flashier entries.


Country: The Netherlands
Entry: Arcade

Performed by: Duncan Laurence
Written by: Duncan de Moor, Joel Sjöö, Wouter Hardy
Composed by: Duncan de Moor, Joel Sjöö, Wouter Hardy

Why it is a contender: A powerful song of heartbreak arising from naiveté, sung powerfully by a beautiful boy. Not only that, the song is simple and direct, which has been a successful combination as of late.

EO logo witch Dutch flag

Why it is a pretender: Laurence has not proven himself to have the strongest stage presence. Not only that, the song’s simplicity can cause it to get lost among the array of uptempo songs, particularly if the producers give it a poor spot in the running order.

Final Verdict: Contender! Just like Portugal in 2017 and Israel in 2018, Netherlands has been atop the betting odds since it was released by the Dutch broadcaster. This song also is consistently popular across the web.


Russian flag mapCountry: Russia
Entry: Scream

Performed by: Sergey Lazarev
Written by: Sharon Vaughn, Dimitris Kontopoulos
Composed by: Philip Kirkorov, Dimitris Kontopoulos

Why it is a contender: The song is dynamic, we know that Lazarev is good for performing a stunning stag show. He’s attractive and has a good voice. Not to mention, precedent currently shows that a Russian singer returning to the Contest after finishing in the Top Ten wins (Dima Bilan was runner-up in 2006 and then won in 2008).

EO logo with Russian flag

Why it is a pretender: This song, much like his previous one, is more style than substance. The juries have also repeatedly shown a distaste towards Russia, and it seems unlikely to change this year.

Final Verdict: Contender! Russia has been aiming towards victory since it last won. Expect this year to have an even more amazing stage show than we saw in 2016 and for Russia to soak up a higher percentage of jury votes as other songs, which are more similar, split points.


Country: Greece
Entry: Better Love

Performed by: Katerine Duska
Written by: Katerine Duska, David Sneddon
Composed by: Katerine Duska, Leon of Athens, David Sneddon

Why it is a contender: Better Love is an easy to sing along with anthem celebrating love. It’s catchy and Duska is a character. If the staging is in the same vein as the music video, this act will stand out quite a bit.

Why it is a pretender: Anthems, while catchy, rarely succeed outside of the arena and with those beyond the core demographics of the fan base. Furthermore, if the staging is in the same vein as the music video, this act will be seen as a more than a bit overtop and overwhelming.

Final Verdict: Pretender! As much as I would love to be able to pronounce that Greece has returned to its former glory, it’s just not the case. Duska will have to work hard to nail the vocals and carry the same attitude she has become known for. Expect this to be one of the bigger favorites that fall short of the Top Ten.


Country: Cyprus
Entry: Replay

Performed by: Tamta
Written by: Alex Papaconstantinou, Geraldo Sandell, Viktor Svensson, Albin Nedler, Kristoffer Fogelmark
Composed by: Alex Papaconstantinou, Geraldo Sandell, Viktor Svensson, Albin Nedler, Kristoffer Fogelmark

Why it is a contender: A sexy lady singing a catchy song that exudes a confidence that many aspire to have. And, if Fuego is any indication, the Cypriot broadcaster has top choreographers and directors on hand to plan a stunning performance.

Why it is a pretender: This song is pretty much a carbon copy of Fuego, as such, these kinds of duplicates rarely surpass the achievements of their predecessor.

Final Verdict: Pretender! Don’t get me wrong, I am quite confident that this will finish in the Top Ten. However, I do not think it will come close to winning. There are simply too many stronger entries in the field this year and too many direct comparisons for this to overcome.


Country: Iceland
Entry: Hatrið mun Sigra [Hatred with Prevail]

Performed by: Hatari
Written by: Einar Hrafn Stefánsson, Klemens Nikulásson Hannigan, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson
Composed by: Einar Hrafn Stefánsson, Klemens Nikulásson Hannigan, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson

Why it is a contender: As the strongest rock song this year, Iceland gets a boost to its interest. Not only that, but the overall outlandishness of Hatari’s persona is enough to draw an abundance of attention.

Why it is a pretender: The outlandish nature of Hatari is a double-edged sword and will likely turn off many viewers. Lordi in 2006 had the added benefit of a generally inoffensive song (though, it was not without controversy), with a title like “Hatred will Prevail,” this entry will surely turn off the millions of casual viewers who will be casting the bulk of votes on Saturday.

Final Verdict: Pretender! Hatari is no Lordi and I doubt that they can reproduce the Finnish band’s success. Not to mention, novelty acts have been losing popularity over the past decade and, regardless of Hatari’s level of sincerity, they will come off as a mere gimmick. I’m not sure if this even has enough to reach the Top Ten.


Country: Malta
Entry: Chameleon

Performed by: Michaela
Written by: Joacim Persson, Paula Winger, Borislav Milanov, Johan Alkenäs
Composed by: Joacim Persson, Paula Winger, Borislav Milanov, Johan Alkenäs

Why it is a contender: Like Cyprus and Switzerland, this song is in the same vein as Fuego and is more than capably performed by the young Michaela. It’s a catchy and assertive song that will get folks up and moving.

EO logo with Maltese flag

Why it is a pretender: Unlike most of the songs on this list, Malta has direct competition with Cyprus and Switzerland. As such, there will be direct comparisons that Chameleon will have to deal with that the Netherlands or Russia will not.

Final Verdict: Pretender! As much as I think this is the strongest entry between the three Fuego copies, it is consistently performing behind the other two among fan votes and throughout most of the betting odds. Furthermore, few teenagers have the stage presence enough to win the Contest. I do think it will finish in the Top Ten.


Contender or Pretender 2019: Recap!

So, there you have it, the top ten in the betting odds heading into the rehearsals divided into serious contenders and those pretending to challenge for the win. A quick recap of this year’s predictions:

Contenders:

Italy
Switzerland
The Netherlands
Russia

Pretenders:

Sweden
Azerbaijan
Greece
Cyprus
Iceland
Malta

A few other songs not currently in the top ten of the betting odds to put on your radar?

None this year, I truly think one of the four above contenders will win. I do think we’ll see some surprises (per usual) in the Top Ten come the Grand Final. I think Australia will return to it (since the crafting of this series, Australia has moved into the betting odds top ten). France has also moved into the Top Ten, but France has not had much luck when going in with betting favor (see: 2009, 2011, 2016, and 2017). Spain and North Macedonia will also be much higher than usual, likely in the Top Ten. I think both songs are strong and stand out among those around it in the crowd.


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

 

 Running Order

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

EO logo with Armenian flag

1

Armenia

Srbuk

Walking Out

Internal

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

2

Ireland

Sarah McTernan

22

Internal

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

3

Moldova

Anna Odobescu

Stay

National Selection

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

4

Switzerland

Luca Hänni

She Got Me

Mixed

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

5

Latvia

Carousel

That Night

National Final

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

6

Romania

Ester Peony

On a Sunday

National Final

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

7

Denmark

Leonora

Love is Forever

National Final

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

8

Sweden

John Lundvik

Too Late for Love

National Final

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

9

Austria

PAENDA

Limits

Internal

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

EO logo with Croatian flag

10

Croatia

Roko Blaževic

The Dream

National Final

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

EO logo with Maltese flag

11

Malta

Michela Pace

Chameleon

Mixed

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

EO logo with Lithuanian flag

12

Lithuania

Jurijus Veklenko

Run with the Lions

National Final

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

EO logo with Russian flag

13

Russia

Sergey Lazarev

Scream

Internal

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

EO logo with Albanian flag

14

Albania

Jonida Maliqi

Ktheju Tokës

National Final

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

EO logo with Norwegian flag

15

Norway

KEIINO

Spirit in the Sky

National Final

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

16

Netherlands

Duncan Laurence

Arcade

Internal

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

EO logo with North Macedonian flag

17

North Macedonia

Tamara Todevska

Proud

Internal

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

EO logo with Azerbaijani flag

18

Azerbaijan

Chingiz

Truth

Internal

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

My favorite ten

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Latvia

  3. North Macedonia

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. Albania

  6. Norway

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Russia

  10. Malta

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final 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 – Second Semi-Final: Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Make sure to keep refreshing the page throught the show!

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

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

 01 Serbia In Too Deep

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

02 Austria Running on Air

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

03 Macedonia Dance Alone

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

 04 Malta Breathlessly

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

05 Romania Yodel It!

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

 07 Hungary Origo

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

08 Denmark Where I Am

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

09 Ireland Dying to Try

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

10 San Marino Spirit of the Night

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

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

11 Croatia My Friend

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

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

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

12 Norway Grab the Moment

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

13 Switzerland Apollo

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

14 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia

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

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

14 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

16 Lithuania Rain of Revolution

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

17 Estonia Verona

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

18 Israel I Feel Alive

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

My Top Ten from tonight

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

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

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

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

Interval Act

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

A marriage proposal for Jana from Macedonia!!! Awwwww

Our Automatic Qualifiers

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

Now, on the results! Our ten qualifiers are:

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

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

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

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Second Semi-Final

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

 

Austria

Nathan Trent

Running on Air

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Denmark

Anja

Where I Am

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

Hungary

Joci Pápai

Origo [Origin]

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

Ireland

Brendan Murray

Dying to Try

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Macedonia

Jana Burčeska

Dance Alone

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Malta

Claudia Faniello

Breathlessly

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 

The Netherlands

O’G3NE

Lights and Shadows

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 

Romania

Ilinca feat. Alex Florea

Yodel It!

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Serbia

Tijana Bogićević

In Too Deep

Internal

Thoughts:

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

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

Find the other reviews from this year here!

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ESC2016 – Final Pre-Contest Thoughts and Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

And just like that, another Eurovision week is upon us! I write this from the plane on my way to Stockholm and I can barely contain my excitement. This year, we see an increase in uptempo songs, a decrease in national languages, and ample amounts of awesome. Let’s take a dive into some of our final thoughts, opinions, and predictions heading into Contest.

New Hope for Poor Performers

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For the first time since 2011 (and I would argue since 2003), France has a legitimate shot at winning the Contest. Even you remember, I’ve previously picked France as the winner of this year’s Contest. It has been steadily rising in the betting odds since March and has been topping fan polls across the Internet, including the famed OGAE fan club poll which has historically picked the winner more often then not (though, everything after the first position tends to range wildly). France brings a song with an enthusiastic performer who respects and enjoys the Contest, lyrics that are fun and catchy, and a composition that’s highly contagious. Even if France doesn’t win, it’s bound to get its best placing since 2009 (its last time in the Top Ten) and possibly even since 1991 (its last time in the top three).

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Other countries with poor track records are also poised to achieve new heights. The Czech Republic looks like it will easily qualify for the Final, which, if achieved, would be a first for the country. The Czech Republic is the only competing nation this year to never reach the Final.  My love for the song has been quite evident on this blog, and I still contend that it is a real dark horse this year that, cannot only give the CR its best finish to date, but truly challenge for the victory.

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Bulgaria also is poised for new heights. Bulgaria has reached the Final only once before, 2007, but when it did, it finished in the Top Ten. This looks like it will be the case once more. If Love was a Crime is immensely popular, as is its performer Poli Genova (who’s fresh off hosting duties for JESC), and is the first instance of Bulgaria being in the betting odds’ top ten heading into the Contest. Expect another Bulgarian success story.

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Finally, Croatia has been steadily collecting fans and support over the past few months. While it has not received the same attention it once did, Lighthouse is poised to bring Croatia back to the Final for the first time since 2009.

Missing Expectations

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I don’t want to spend too much time here, as I don’t wish pour on anyone. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least think about some songs currently slated to do well that will fall flat. First, Italy has been a hot topic ever since the selection was announced. Even though Italy has not been a heavy favorite to win, it has been hovering between 8th and 12th in the bookies’ odds and featured heavily in fan discussions across the web. However, I just don’t think that the song has the immediacy needed to succeed in a Contest mostly determined by folks seeing the song for the first time. One needs to listen and relisten to No Degree of Separation to truly appreciate it, a requirement that most of the viewing audience will not have fulfilled. CyprusCyprus has become a popular pick for those looking outside the heavy favorites for a candidate. It is considered the strongest rock entry this year and features a lead singer who has recently started making a name for himself in Western Europe via France’s version of The Voice. However, the song is still poppy enough to not truly distinguish itself from the competition. It will need a strong, memorable performance in order to qualify and I am currently not confident in predicting this.

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Malta seems to be losing favor rapidly. When Walk on Water was initially announced, it was immediately considered a serious contender to win. There was serious conversation back in March about the Contest being in Malta so soon after the country hosted the JESC (which it will do again this fall). However, since then, it has steadily fell in the bookies’ odds and now, not only sits outside the top ten but is predicted to struggle to qualify, a stark contrast to conversations just weeks ago.

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Finally, Sweden has been on the exact opposite ride as France. When If I were Sorry won Melodifesrevalen, it was immediately a serious contender to win. This was the conversations held around the fan community, the news media, and the bookies injected Sweden right behind heavy favorite Russia. However, since then, Sweden has consistently been falling in the odds and losing steam among the fan community. What looked to be an easy Top Ten placing just a few weeks ago now looks like it will be a struggle to receive a respectable placing.

Unpopular Opinion

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So, let’s face it. Moldova has one of the weakest entries this year. The song is trite and predictable. Lidia Isac, while she is beautiful and appears to be super sweet, is not the right singer for this tune. With that said, Moldova is best poised to capitalize on Romania’s unexpected absence. Since Moldovans and Romanians have a shared cultural history, it is fair to think that Moldova would do better than expected on this alone. Now, with Romania being removed at the last second, it stands to gain the near entirety of support from a diaspora that has made Romania one of the few countries to never miss the Final. So, do not be surprised when you see Falling Stars on Saturday night – though, expect it to fall flat in the Final.

So, finally, who do I predict to qualify from each semi-final?

First Semi-Final
(In alphabetical order)

Second Semi-Final
(Also in alphabetical order)

Armenia

Australia

Azerbaijan

Belgium

Croatia

Bulgaria

Czech Republic

Latvia

Iceland

Lithuania

Hungary

Macedonia

Malta

Norway

Moldova

Poland

The Netherlands

Serbia

Russia

Ukraine

And more importantly, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? (Also alphabetical)
Armenia, Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Spain, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine

Most importantly, who’s going to win?!
Well, my heart says Czech Republic, as it is the best full package we are being presented with this year. However, if I were to place a bet, my money would be on France for all the reasons mentioned above. Moreover, it is one of the most memorable songs this year,which is quite a feat. All it needs is a decent place in the running order (which isn’t a guarantee with SVT) to all but seal its victory. Next year in Paris?

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Stay tuned. I’ll be posting my annual ESC notes tomorrow (with a return of the country profiles!) As well as updated predictions after each dress rehearsal and a reaction after each show. It’s bound to be an another great year for the Eurovision Song Contest!

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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: Malta and Australia

Hello Dear Readers!

So, here we are, the last episode of Contender or Pretender for 2016 (aside from tomorrow’s recap post!). Today, we are taking a closer look at the last two songs to be within the top ten of the bookies’ odds: Malta and Australia! Two powerful, diva-driven entries – one is a love ballad the other is about a fractured relationship. Let’s dive into them!

Malta

Walk on Water performed by Ira Losco

Maltese Flag MapWhy it is a contender: Losco returns to the Contest with a powerful pop song that is bound to captivate audiences. The composition is moving and slowly builds throughout its duration. Losco’s voice is great and she is a seasoned performer. The lyrics are simple without being needlessly repetitive.

Why it is a pretender: While it is an uptempo song, it’s not particularly catchy or easy to sing-along to. I also think, in a year with so many uptempo pop tunes, it would very easy for this song to be lost in the mix, particularly with a poor spot in the running order.Malta

Final Verdict: Pretender This song is not getting much traction among the fan community and is mostly being looked over for more provocative entries (such as Ukraine or Latvia) or more contemporary songs (such as Russia or France). Malta, while a strong entry, will most likely be lost among the entries and will have the lowest Final result of any of the ten songs that we are looking at this week.

Australia

Sound of Silence performed by Dami Im

Australian Flag MapWhy it is a contender: The song is powerful and, arguably, is the strongest of the female-led power pop ballads this year. It is performed by a beautiful woman with an incredibly powerful voice with experience in competing (Im won X-Factor Australia). The song stands out amongst the crowd of uptempo entries.

Why it is a pretender: Diva entries tend to perform well, but don’t usually win. In the last twenty years, only three diva-driven entries have won (Austria 2013, Serbia 2007, and Israel 1998; not to be confused with the female-led pop songs that have dominated the past two decades). This song also falls prey to not being overly catchy, not necessarily a bad thing in such a melancholy song, but it means Sound of Silence will not be very memorable – which is a drawback when performed in an array of 26 songs on Saturday night.

Final Verdict: Contender AustraliaThis song leaves a big impression and Australia is a rather popular country already. Not to mention that Im’s voice is possibly the best one in the Contest this year. This song will most likely receive a strong position in the running order and a decent stage show. Even without either, the song is powerful enough to leave an impression and the lyrics are readily relatable for the average person.

What do you think? Does Malta’s song make you want to perform miracles? Does Australia’s offering make you wish for silence? Leave your comments below!

There you have it! The ten songs with the best betting odds heading into the Contest: Sweden, Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, France, Malta, and Australia. Tomorrow, we’ll recap these entries as well as look at my thoughts for possible dark horses that will surprise us in Stockholm.

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Recap of Initial Thoughts and Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

So, there you have it, my initial thoughts on the 2016 Eurovision field of entries. After listening to the 43 songs, nearly non-stop, all week, I am still able to stand by my predictions. While there are a few songs I like better now than a week ago, such as Poland, Belgium, and Cyprus, but most stayed about the same.

So, Italy has finally released its ESC-version of No Degree of Separation. My opinion is unchanged. I still think that this song is boring.

As of right now, I predict that the following songs will be in the Top Ten (in alphabetical order):

  • Armenia – much like 2014, Armenia has sent us an outstanding, unique entryBulgaria

  • Azerbaijan – a pop entry that recreates the formula that has brought AZR so much success these years

  • Bulgaria – is replacing the United Kingdom in my Top Ten prediction because it is catchy, it is unique without being inaccessible, and just fun

  • Czech Republic – powerful ballad that I think has a real solid chance to sneak up the leaderboardFrance

  • France – fun, catchy, definitively French without being too French

  • Iceland – mysterious, gripping, and impactful – musically and visually

  • Malta – powerful pop tune sung by someone with ESC experience, a lot of potential for success

  • Norway – lovely dance tune and an eccentric love songNorway

  • Serbia – powerful song about overcoming a bad relationship that will have the backing of most of the Balkans

  • Spain – most popular dance tune this year, uplifting, and will definitely get every viewer up and dancing

  • Sweden – host country bump plus a young, contemporary sound (though, I don’t care for this song)Spain

  • Russia – electric dance track, surely bound to outperform Russia’s last attempt with this style (2011) by a country mile!

So, with that said, who do I think will contend for the title of ESC victor? Well, so far, my thoughts have not yet changed.

Iceland, Czech Republic, Russia, Serbia, and Spain.

IcelandIceland is mysterious and has the benefit on being on Nordic soil. However, there is balance when it comes to dark songs; is it dark enough to captivate viewers without scaring them away?

Czech Republic is my vote for dark horse of the year; it’s an utterly riveting song that is sung magnificently. Though, will it leave a big enough mark to win, especially if it is in the first half of the night at the Grand Final?

Russia is the bookies’ favorite thus far and has quite the fan following. It’s fun and invites the audience in. Will Russia’s real life politics derail their chances at ESC? Will the song be able to woo the juries better than in 2011?

SerbiaSerbia is another option for a dark horse. I know Croatia is supposed to be tops among the former Yugoslav countries, but I think Serbia has broader appeal when it comes to televotes. But, will the song come across authentic, as it is the least “Balkan” sounding entry from Serbia thus far?

Spain is probably the best dance entry this year and is the brightest (that is, uplifting) song, as well. But, will the staging be able to live up to the energy of the song without detracting from the music?

Ultimately, if I had to choose one song right now as the winner. I would choose…

Czech RepublicCzech Republic!

I Stand is, in my opinion, the most complete song this year when taking into account the lyrics, the composition, and the performance. It catches your attention and has the benefit of being a powerful ballad amongst a sea of uptempo numbers. It will stand out, regardless of where it is in the running order, and will take the crown – being the first true ballad to win the Contest since 2011.

Make sure to come back tomorrow for a special blog post introducing a new ESC Obsession tradition!

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ESC 2016 Reviews: First Semi-Final, Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

The second half of our First Semi-Final. Nine songs and lots to say. Missed yesterday’s? Check out the reviews for the first half here.

First Semi-Final, Second Half

Country

Performing Artist Song Selection*
Austrian Flag Map

Austria

Zoë

Loin d’ici (Far from Here)

Televised

Thoughts:

I always love it when countries who opt to send a non-native language song do so in something other English. The last time I can think of this happening is Romania in 2012 sending an entry in Spanish. The song is pleasant, but sounds like something for children. I’m not sure how it will translate to the ESC stage. However, I think this is a fantastic example of a singer that lacks a big voice choosing a song that perfectly fits their range and abilities.
Azerbaijani Flag Map

Azerbaijan

Samra

Miracle

Internal

Thoughts:

Anyone else think of Ariana Grande when listening to this? I mean this in a good way. After a few years of sending heartfelt, artful entries that languished in the midtable, Azerbaijan is ready to return to the Top Ten with an imported pop song. Definitely not a contender for the title, but will definitely finish really well on Saturday night.
Bosnian Flag Map

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala

Ljubav je (Love Is)

Internal

Thoughts:

Not just the return of BiH, but of Deen who represented the country back in 2004. So far, I love the blend of traditional sounds, of a classical sound with a more contemporary composition. The song is, like many others, generic and– oh, more rap… Well then. Despite the composition, this is not a cheerful song. I don’t know how I feel about it personally, but I don’t it will do well in May.
Cypriot Flag Map

Cyprus

Minus One

Alter Ego

Internal

Thoughts:

Hmm, some nice pop rock. While it may seem edgy, the genre has a pretty good history at the Contest. Even if they don’t place well, they’ll still probably sell well, which is a major goal for all the songs and the EBU. I like this song, it’s not my favorite, but I like it well enough.
CzechFlagMap

Czech Republic

Gabriela Gunčíková

I Stand

Internal

Thoughts:

By far! the best Czech entry to date. This will not only get CR to the Grand Final, it will land them in the Top Ten. I would even go as far as to say that this has an outside chance of winning. It’s a heartfelt, powerfully sung ballad amongst dance songs, folk-rock, and generic pop tunes.
Estonian Flag Map

Estonia

Jüri Pootsmann

Play

Televised

Thoughts:

I like when Estonia goes outside the box. Last year, when discussing the eccentric entries from Belgium and Latvia, I thought about the legacy they could leave if they perform well. This is it! A song that is deeply unique but with a catchy hook. It further stands out because Pootsmann’s voice is so deep (and he’s incredibly cute!) – a rarity in pop music.
 Icelandic Flag Map

Iceland

Greta Salóme

Hear Them Calling

Televised

Thoughts:

Salóme’s back! This time sans violin and a hot stage show. Perhaps Iceland’s best chance at winning since…2005 when they came in with really high odds (2009 went well for them, but remember Is it True? mostly rose to the top completely under the radar). A great song, by a beautiful woman, with a beautiful voice, and an amazing stage show. Definitely Top Ten material.
Maltese Flag Map

Malta

Ira Losco

Walk on Water

Mixed

Thoughts:

Okay, at first I was upset that Chameleon got dropped – it was a decent song and it was what the Maltese people wanted. But this song is fantastic; definitely an upgrade, which is a rarity for these post-selection song changes. Among the first semi-final, I would say that this is the most distinctive dance tune and will easily qualify. What it does in the Final is dependent upon its running order position.
Montenegrin Flag Map

Montenegro

Highway

The Real Thing

Internal

Thoughts:

Hmmm, definitely an interesting song. It has an early-90s rock vibe about it. Personally, I think it’s a bit boring. Though, it will most definitely be towards the back of the running order, it has the opportunity to leave an impression. I just don’t think it will be a positive one. I think Montenegro’s qualification streak stops here.

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

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

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

Austria Estonia
Armenia
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Czech Republic
Croatia Iceland
Czech Republic Malta
Estonia Azerbaijan
Iceland Russia
Malta
Finland
The Netherlands
Cyprus
Russia Austria

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 stronger of the two semi-finals. With that said, I think that three songs have the ability to seriously contend for the victors trophy.

Iceland – It might finally be Iceland’s year.Iceland The Nordic countries tend to do well when in Sweden, and since Denmark, Norway, and Finland all have weaker entries, Iceland could take advantage of the situation and challenge for the crown. This is a fully complete song. It is performed well by an attractive artist with some name recognition (since she competed in 2012), the composition is moving, and the lyrics are perfectly balanced between being understandable without being too simple.

Russia – A strong pop tune delivered by a cute guy.Russia If this was Sweden or Azerbaijan, I would say that it would be the outright favorite to win. However, Russia still has an uphill climb due to its policies (domestic and foreign) that are…less than ideal. While Russia did manage second place last year, the field of entries is stronger this year. It will take a truly slick performance to stand a chance of capturing the victory.

Czech Republic – A beautiful ballad that is powerfully sung.Czech Republic It stands out in a field of uptempo pop songs and dance tunes. While just getting to Saturday night will be a win in itself for the Czech Republic, this song has everything it takes to go the distance. Watch for this to make a big move on the scoreboard at the Grand Final!

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

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

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The 2016 Reviews are Coming!

Hello Dear Readers!

Today, the Annual Reference Meeting is wrapping up in Stockholm. For those who do not know, the Reference Meeting is the three day conference where the various heads of delegation (the leading producers from each country’s participating television broadcasters) come together to discuss the final logistics for the two weeks of Eurovision as well as, more importantly, submitting the final versions of their entries.Eurovision_2016_Official_Logo Each delegation must submit the final lyrics (and their English and French translations, as needed), the final studio version of their entry, the karaoke track for their entry (instrumental + backing vocals), the final backing track for the ESC performance (only instrumental NO backing vocals), and the official music video for their entry. This is also the last the point in which the EBU can force countries to edit or change their entries for being too political, vulgar, etc.

Since everything is subject to change up to this point (looking at you Malta!), MaltaI do my best not to listen to any songs (other than the Danish entry) ahead of this date. This is helpful for several reasons. Each song will be on my radar for an equal number of weeks ahead of the Contest. Secondly, many countries are prone to change their arrangements, lyrics, and entire songs up to the Reference Meeting deadline. Albania and Iceland usually translate their songs into English and revamp the instrumentation of the track. Malta and Bulgaria did not even release their entries until the past few days. This being the first time that I know of in which Malta changed their entry after it won its selection special. Belarus has historically changed its entry, sometimes repeatedly, but has not the past few years.

In the coming weeks, expect my initial reactions and reviews for each entry for this year. Happy listening, everyone!

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Balladeers!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

View the playlist here: Eurovision for Balladeers

  1. Poland 2008PolandFor Life performed by Isis Gee

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

  3. Estonia 2012 – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2007 – Unsubstantial Blues performed by Magdi Rúzsa

    Monaco

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

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

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

  11. Malta 2005 – Angel performed by Chiara

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

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

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

    Spain

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

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

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

  18. Sweden 2014 – Undo performed by Sanna Nielsen

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

  20. Sweden 2006 – Invincible performed by Carola

    United Kingdom

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS!

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Christmas!

Merry Christmas Dear Readers — and Happy New Year!

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

Find the playlist on YouTube: Eurovision for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Nox (Hungary 2005) – Szent ünnep

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

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

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

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

  15. Litesound (Belarus 2012) – Shooting Star

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

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

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

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

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

  21. Bzikebi (JESC Georgia 2008) – Ave Maria

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

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

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


Eurovision 2015 – Four Weeks Later

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

Best Lyrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Armenia

Best Dressed Award

 

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

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

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

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

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

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

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

Best Staging Award

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

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

Honorable Mention: Latvia, Sweden, Estonia

Worst Staging Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Iceland, Estonia, Ireland

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Cyprus, Italy, Ireland

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: The United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Hungary moving through to the Grand Final

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


2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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ESC2014: Second Semi-Final Final Predictions

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

Should make it through:
Greece
Romania
Norway
Israel
Ireland
Poland

Probably will make it through:
Austria
Macedonia
Malta
Finland

Fighting for the Final Spot:
Slovenia
Switzerland

No chance of moving through:
Georgia
Lithuania
Belarus

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

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

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


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

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

 

Maltese Flag Map1. MaltaComing Home performed by Firelight

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 8

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 7

 

2. IsraelSame Heart performed by Mei FeingoldIsraeli Flag Country

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 8

Composite: 7

 

Norwegian Flag Map3. NorwaySilent Storm performed by Carl Espen

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 4

Composite: 5

 

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

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 3

Composite: 4.5

 

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

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 7

Composite: 8

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

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 10

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 8.5

 

Lithuanian Flag Map7. LithuaniaAttention performed by Vilija

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

Keys to Success: Nailing the choreography

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Anything short of a perfect performance

Personal Interest Score: 4

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 5

 

Finnish Flag Map8. FinlandSomething Better performed by Softengine

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 4

Potential for Success: 7

Composite: 5.5


Eurovision 2013 – One Week Later

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

Best Lyrics Award

Icelandic Flag MapWinner: Iceland

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

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

First Runner-Up: Croatia

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

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

Second Runner-Up: Estonia

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

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

Honorable Mention: Greece, Cyprus, France, Israel

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

Winner: BelarusBelorussian Flag Map

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

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

First Runner-Up: Hungary

“Farkasok neveltek és
Táncolt egy délibábbal
Majd elillant csendesen”

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

Second Runner-Up: Montenegro

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

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

Honorable Mention: Lithuania, Serbia, Macedonia

Best Dressed Award

Winner: ItalyItaly

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

Runner-Up: Norway    norwayoutfit2

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

Second Runner-Up: Malta
malta outfits

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

Honorable Mention: Moldova, Georgia, Ireland, The Netherlands

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

Winner: Serbia
Serbia outfits

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

First Runner-Up: Romania
romania outfits

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

Second Runner-Up: Belarus
belarus outfits

Bright…shiny…death by sequins…

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

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

Winner: Azerbaijanazerbaijan performance

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

First Runner-Up: Denmark

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

Second Runner-Up: France

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

Honorable Mention: Italy, Moldova, San Marino

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

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

Winner: SloveniaSlovene Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Switzerland

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

Second Runner-Up: Moldova

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

Honorable Mention: Greece, Russia, Finland

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

Winner: GermanyGerman Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Sweden

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

Second Runner-Up: Greece

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

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

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

Winner: BelarusBelorussian Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Georgia

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

Second Runner-Up: Denmark

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

Honorable Mention: Russia, Malta

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

Israeli Flag CountryWinner Moment: Israel failing to qualify

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

First Runner-Up: San Marino failing to qualify

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Moldova, United Kingdom, Macedonia, Greece

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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