Posts tagged “moldova

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision Stagings for the Uninitiated

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

  3. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

  4. Russia 2008 – Believe performed by Dima Bilan

  5. Sweden 2012 – Euphoria performed by Loreen

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

  7. Azerbaijan 2013 – Hold Me performed by Farid Mammadov

  8. Ukraine 2011 – Angel performed by Mika Newton

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

  10. Belgium 2015 – Rhythm Inside performed by Loïc Nottet

  11. Moldova 2013 – O Mie performed by Aliona Moon

  12. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

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

  14. Russia 2011 – Get You performed by Alexey Vorobyov

  15. Sweden 2011 – Popular performed by Eric Saade

  16. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

  17. Malta 2013 – Tomorrow performed by Gianluca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2017 – Origo performed by Joci Pápai

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easily:

  • Greece

  • Iceland

  • Switzerland

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Latvia

  • Bulgaria

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

  • Serbia

  • Poland

  • Georgia

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

  1. Switzerland

  2. Poland

  3. Latvia

  4. Austria

  5. Iceland

  6. Denmark

  7. Albania

  8. Moldova

  9. San Marino

  10. Armenia

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • Iceland

  • Italy

  • Lithuania

  • Malta

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

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

See you next week!

EO logo with the Bulgarian flag

EO logo with Icelandic flag

EO logo with Lithuanian flag


Eurovision 2019 – Final Thoughts!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

Dutch Flag Map

Historical Markers

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

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

Other historical notes:

**updated with the corrected scoreboard

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

EO logo with Albanian flag

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

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

 

Israeli flag map

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

EO logo witch Dutch flag

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

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

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

 


Eurovision 2019 – Live Notes: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top Ten from tonight:

  1. Switzerland

  2. Latvia

  3. Malta

  4. The Netherlands

  5. Romania

  6. Moldova

  7. Armenia

  8. Azerbaijan

  9. North Macedonia

  10. Sweden

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

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Austria

  • Lithuania

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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

Let’s look at our auto-qualifiers!

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

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

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

FINALLY – Our Qualifiers

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

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

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

  • Sweden – as expected (3 for 4)

  • Russia – no surprises here (4 for 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

 

 Running Order

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

EO logo with Armenian flag

1

Armenia

Srbuk

Walking Out

Internal

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

2

Ireland

Sarah McTernan

22

Internal

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

3

Moldova

Anna Odobescu

Stay

National Selection

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

4

Switzerland

Luca Hänni

She Got Me

Mixed

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

5

Latvia

Carousel

That Night

National Final

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

6

Romania

Ester Peony

On a Sunday

National Final

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

7

Denmark

Leonora

Love is Forever

National Final

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

8

Sweden

John Lundvik

Too Late for Love

National Final

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

9

Austria

PAENDA

Limits

Internal

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

EO logo with Croatian flag

10

Croatia

Roko Blaževic

The Dream

National Final

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

EO logo with Maltese flag

11

Malta

Michela Pace

Chameleon

Mixed

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

EO logo with Lithuanian flag

12

Lithuania

Jurijus Veklenko

Run with the Lions

National Final

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

EO logo with Russian flag

13

Russia

Sergey Lazarev

Scream

Internal

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

EO logo with Albanian flag

14

Albania

Jonida Maliqi

Ktheju Tokës

National Final

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

EO logo with Norwegian flag

15

Norway

KEIINO

Spirit in the Sky

National Final

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

16

Netherlands

Duncan Laurence

Arcade

Internal

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

EO logo with North Macedonian flag

17

North Macedonia

Tamara Todevska

Proud

Internal

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

EO logo with Azerbaijani flag

18

Azerbaijan

Chingiz

Truth

Internal

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

My favorite ten

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Latvia

  3. North Macedonia

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. Albania

  6. Norway

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Russia

  10. Malta

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – 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 – Grand Final Live Notes!!

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

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

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

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

On to the show!!!

Parade of Nations

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

Opening Act

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

On to the songs!

01 Israel I Feel Alive

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

02 Poland Flashlight

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

03 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia/Story of My Life

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

04 Austria Running on Air

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

05 Armenia Fly with Me

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

07 Moldova Hey, Mamma!

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

08 Hungary Origo

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

09 Italy Occidentali’s Karma

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

10 Denmark Where I Am

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

11 Portugal Amar Pelos Dois

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

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

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

12 Azerbaijan Skeletons

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

13 Croatia My Friend

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

14 Australia Don’t Come Easy

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

15 Greece This is Love

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

16 Spain Do It for Your Lover

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

17 Norway Grab the Moment

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

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

18 United Kingdom Never Give Up on You

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

19 Cyprus Gravity

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

20 Romania Yodel It!

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

21 Germany Perfect Life

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

22 Ukraine Time

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

23 Belgium City Lights

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

24 Sweden Can’t Go On

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

25 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

26 France Requiem

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

 

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

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

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

  1. Bulgaria

  2. Portugal

  3. Belgium

  4. Italy

  5. United Kingdom

  6. Belgium

  7. Romania

  8. Sweden

  9. Armenia

  10. Azerbaijan

And, who were my ten favorites from tonight?

  1. Hungary

  2. Armenia

  3. Belgium

  4. Portugal

  5. Bulgaria

  6. United Kingdom

  7. Denmark

  8. France

  9. Norway

  10. Poland

Voting Entertainment/ Interval, I guess

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

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

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

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

San Marino – more points to Portugal

Latvia – and the points continue for Portugal

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

Israel – Another 12 to Portugal

Montenegro – 12 to Greece

Albania – 12 points to Italy

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

Macedonia – first 12 for Bulgaria

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

Denmark – 12 to Sweden. surprise, surprise

Austria – 12 points to the Netherlands. Interesting

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

Spain – 12 to…Portugal (no surprise)

Finland – 12 points to Sweden (no surprise)

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

Greece – 12 points to Cyprus (no surprise)

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

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

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

Armenia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

Serbia – 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Germany – 12 points to Norway – interesting

Portugal – 12 points to Azerbaijan! Interesting…strategic?

Switzerland  – another 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Georgia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

Slovenia – 12 points to Portugal

Belgium – 12 points to Sweden – that was highly unexpected

Poland – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

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

Televote!

Spain is saved from null point land!

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

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

France got 90 points

Croatia got 103 points

126 points to Sweden

152 to Hungary – and quite the jump!

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

Romania – is next with a sizeable jump

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

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

264 points and third in the televote to Moldova

Bulgaria v. Portugal

337 points to Bulgaria

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

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

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

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

 

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Eurovision 2017 – First Semi-Final Recap and Podcast

Hello Dear Readers!

Yesterday was the First Semi-Final – which, despite all the issues in the organization, went very well! UA:PBC has, thus far, put on a great show with a beautiful stage (oh my goodness, it’s beautiful!) and fun hosts. Overall, I feel like the good from yesterday’s show outweighs the bad. First, a brief review.

Our qualifiers from last night: (in alphabetical order with their Grand Final half)

©EBU Thomas Hanses

  • Armenia (first half)

  • Australia (second)

  • Azerbaijan (first)

  • Belgium (second)

  • Cyprus (second)

  • Greece (second)

  • Moldova (first)

  • Poland (first)

  • Portugal (first)

  • Sweden (second)

The Big Five also had their drawing: Italy was drawn into the first half, while France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom join Ukraine in the second half of the show. This means there are only three spots left in the second half for qualifiers from tomorrow night’s semi-final. That plays to the benefit of Belgium and France whose primary competitors, Italy, Portugal, and Azerbaijan all take place in the first half and remaining favorites, Denmark, Bulgaria, and Romania have slim odds of getting into the later part of the show.

Some historical markers from last night:

  • Azerbaijan upholds its 100% qualification streak. Sweden extends its to seven (including its two automatic qualifications). Armenia extends its to 5. Belgium and Poland extend their qualification streaks to three.

  • Portugal’s qualification rate is now 50% since first qualification in 2008. Moldova gets its first qualification since 2013.

  • This is only the second time in history that there has not been at least one female host, the first being 1956 (the first Contest) in which Lohengrin Filipello hosted on his own. Conversely, 24 Contests have had solo women or exclusively women hosts.

My Reactions:

  • Pleasantly Surprised: Poland – I thought she sounded great last night and that song was well-staged (despite the volume issues); Portugal was amazing! I thought it was a good song before, but was absolutely taken aback by its awesomeness live yesterday

  • Disappointments: Australia – Isaiah sounded pretty off-key throughout the entire performance yesterday. Actually, many of the artists seemed off-key last night sadly. Cyprus’ staging (and subsequent qualification) were greatly disappointing.

  • Biggest Shock: Finland – a perfect performance of a perfect song with a failure to pass through to the Final.

  • Happiest Non-Surprise: Belgium – a great song and Blanche’s vulnerable performance was a good fit for the lyrics, very happy that this qualified.

So, there you have it my reactions to the First Semi-Final. Heading into tomorrow, I think that the Second Semi-Final is going to be equally as, if not more so, awesome. Hear more about mine (and my friend DIZZYDJC) below in our podcast from today!

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

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Armenia

Artsvik

Fly with Me

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Cyprus

Hovig

Gravity

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Czechia

Martina Bárta

My Turn

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Greece

Demy

This is Love

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Iceland

Svala

Paper

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Latvia

Triana Park

Line

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

SunStroke Project

Hey, Mamma!

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Poland

Kasia Moś

Flashlight

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Slovenia

Omar Naber

On My Way

Televised

Thoughts:

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

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

 

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

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

Armenia

Armenia

Australia

Albania

Azerbaijan

Latvia

Belgium

Portugal

Cyprus

Finland

Finland

Poland

Greece

Azerbaijan

Moldova

Iceland

Poland

Moldova

Sweden

Czechia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision 2016 – Wrap Up!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

No ESC for those in the US or Canada 😦

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

General Reactions

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

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

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Lyrics Award

Serbia

Winner: Serbia

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

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

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

UkraineRunner-Up: Ukraine

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany

The “Huh?” Award

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

IrelandWinner: Ireland

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

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

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Sweden, The Netherlands, Montenegro

Best Dressed Award

Albania

Winner: Albania

Albania dress

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

 

AustraliaRunner-Up: Australia

Australia outfit

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

Honorable Mention: Estonia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

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

Italy

Winner: Italy

Italy outfit

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

AzerbaijanRunner-Up: Azerbaijan

Azr outfits

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

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

Best Staging Award

Russia

Winner: Russia

Russia performance

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

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

ArmeniaRunner-Up: Armenia

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

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

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

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

Worst Staging Award

Estonia

Winner: Estonia

Estonian perfomance

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

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

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

Moldova performance

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

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

Honorable Mention: Slovenia, San Marino, France, Croatia

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

Winner: Sweden

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

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

Runner-Up: Czech Republic

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

Honorable Mention: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Israel

Pond Leaper Award

While I think each song would find a niche here in the USA, I think this song would be the most popular

ItalyWinner: Italy

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

NetherlandsRunner-Up: The Netherlands

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

Honorable Mention: Australia, Finland, United Kingdom, Bulgaria

The “Spirit of ABBA” Award

Given to the most stereotypical and/or traditional ESC entry

BelgiumWinner: Belgium

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

United KingdomRunner-Up: United Kingdom

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

Honorable Mention: Finland, Spain, Croatia

Israeli Flag CountryThe “Shiri Maimon Travesty of the Year” Award

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

Winner: United Kingdom getting 24th place

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

RomaniaRunner-Up: Romania’s Disqualification

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

File Jul 03, 4 03 34 PM

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Reaction to Dress Rehearsal (Jury Show) of First Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

The Jury Show for the First Semi-Final was last night. What a show! There were definitely some questionable choices when it came to staging; however, each entry was performed at top level. My general reactions to specific acts will come tomorrow as I don’t want to give anything away. I will say, though, that the influence from last year’s winner can definitely be seen. There’s an array of stunning visuals on display. Also, the interval act is amazing! And powerful!

After last night, a few songs still have work to do:
CzechFlagMapCzech Republic – she started off a bit shaky and the whole first verse was off key. She righted the ship by the refrain, but there is damage done.

Moldovan Flag MapMoldova – the staging choice was… interesting, but her vocals were strong. She’ll need another strong performance to have any hope tonight.

Estonia – this is one of my favorite songs this year, but the performance was weak. Estonian Flag MapThe staging comes off a but lazy, and his overall demeanor was a bit tired; he lacked energy from start to finish. He’ll need to turn things around tonight and really come alive.

My predictions will stay the same from Sunday with one exception. GreeceI’m switching out Moldova for Greece. Utopian Land went big in the hall and the performance was spot on.

So, that means, I think our finalists will be: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Malta, the Netherlands, Russia. I think either Russia or the Netherlands will be the top winner tonight.

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ESC 2016 Reviews: First Semi-Final, Part One

Hello Dear Readers!

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

First Semi-Final, First Half

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Armenian Flag Map

Armenia

Iveta Mukuchyan

LoveWave

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Croatia

Nina Kraljić

Lighthouse

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Finland

Sandhja

Sing It Away

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Greece

Argo

Utopian Land

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Hungary

Freddie

Pioneer

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

Lidia Isac Falling Stars Televised

Thoughts:

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

The Netherlands

Douwe Bob Slow Down Internal

Thoughts:

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

Russia

Sergey Lazarev You Are the Only One Internal

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Serhat I Didn’t Know Internal

Thoughts:

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

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

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Dance Parties

Hello Dear Readers!

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


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Dance Parties

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

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

Fun Trivia

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

What are your favorite ESC songs to dance to?

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


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!


Reaction to the First Semi-Final

Whoa! What a show! Every act brought their best, with the exceltion of Belarus – which was truly underwhelming, lacking the energy that this song deserves.

A few things:
-Per usual, I was 70% accurate in my predictions. I picked Macedonia, Denmark, and Belarus instead of Hungary, Armenia, and (happily) Belgium.
-Best surprise: Moldova. The performance was on point! It trotted the line of exciting without going over-the-top.
-Second surprise: Greece. It was actualy exciting! The song was so wonderfully performed and the crescendo to the final moments was exhilerating.
-Biggest surprise: Belgium’s qualfication! I love this song but had little faith in it moving through due to its style (as I discuss in a previous post).
-The first semi-final is the weaker of two BUT the performers set a high bar. I feel even better about my prediction of Albania being in the Top Ten. I am now thinking that Belgium might work its way up there, too. Knowing that tomorrow’s are *better*, I am super-excited for the Second Semi-Final!


2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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ESC2014: Semi-Final One – final predictions

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

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

Making it through easily:
Ukraine
Sweden
Armenia
Hungary
Azerbaijan

More than likely going through:
Russia
The Netherlands
Belgium
Estonia

Battling for the final spot:
San Marino
Montengro
Portugal
Moldova

Not going through:
Albania
Latvia
Iceland

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

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

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

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

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

 


ESC2014: Song Reivews – Semi-Final 1, Second Half

Continuing right along with our song review!

 

Ukrainian Flag Map9. UkraineTick-Tock performed by Mariya Yaremchuk

This will definitely benefit from its running order position. A fun song that will have no problem wooing listeners with its uptempo beat and what is likely to be a lively performance.

Keys to Success: a tastefully done LED clock and choreography

Potential Stumbling Blocks: botched notes, an overwhelming LED clock

Personal Interest Score: 7

Likelihood of Success: 9

Composite:8

 

10. BelgiumMother performed by Axel HirsouxBelgian Flag Country

hmm…the jury is still out on this one, I think it can potentially sneak through to the Final, but, perhaps, more than any other song, this one depends on the vocal performance. Hirsoux won the Belgian ticket because of his vocals – he now has to build upon that performance just to make it out of the semi-final.

Keys to Success: Vocals, purely a strong performance from Hirsoux

Potential Stumbling Blocks: anything short of a stunning performance and this song will fall flat

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 6

 

11. MoldovaWild Soul performed by Cristina ScarlatMoldovan Flag Map

This song is so dark, but it’s so stirring. It’s a bit creepy, but it’s haunting. It unsettles you, but it also establishes itself as being in control. It’s hard to explain, but I think I like it.

Keys to Success: instead of focusing on Scarlat, the performance instead needs a dancer that captures the song’s message

Potential Stumbling Blocks: going over the top with its staging; any kind of demon imagery

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 7

Composite: 8

Sammarinese Flag Map12. San MarinoMaybe performed by Valentina Monetta

Each Sammarinese entry outperforms the last, so this may finally be the year that Monetta and the microstate finally make it to Grand Final. This is her strongest attempt thus far and I think they made the right choice with English as Fose just isn’t as good (I just said Maybe is stronger than Crisalide and that English is a better choice than Italian in this instance – discuss!)

Keys to Success: well-placed wind machine, lots of love from the audience

Potential Stumbling Blocks: aside from a cruddy running order position, Monetta will have lost fan support from last year, as this song doesn’t seem to be making the same sort of waves

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 7.5

 

13. PortugalQuero Ser Tua performed by SuzyPortuguese Flag Map

Portugal returns to the ESC without missing a beat. This is a “very Portuguese” entry. Unfortunately, I predict a “very Portuguese” placing with lower score than it probably deserves. It’s a generic, but decent, song

Keys to Success: Spain voting in its semi-final as well as the returning country bump, enthusiastic performance and audience participation

Potential Stumbling Blocks: a lackluster performance that assumes that the composition is strong enough to convey the party atmosphere (it’s not)

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 4

Composite: 5

 

Dutch Flag Country14. The NetherlandsCalm After the Storm performed by The Common Linnets

The Common Linnets are very similar to the Civil Wars – folksy, understated, and haunting. This song is a little too much so, I think, to be successful on a stage like ESC. I like the song; I like its tone – I just don’t think that Europe will respond well to it.

Keys to Success: choreography, have two dancers act out the lyrics, they need to capture the song’s message visually

Potential Stumbling Blocks: being seen as a boring entry on a night of many ballads

Personal Interest Score: 8

Likelihood of Success: 3

Composite: 5.5

 

15. MontenegroMoj Svijet performed by Sergej ĆetkovićMontenegrin Flag Map

If RTCG knew that they would be on the night of “too many ballads,” they may have invited <<last year’s performers>> back to make them standout. As it is, this beautiful, peaceful entry will be loss among a night with many, many slow songs

Keys to Success: well-designed LED backing could increase interest in the song

Potential Stumbling Blocks: it’s not a captivating song, so anything short of a budget busting staging will result in a poor placing

Personal Interest Score: 7

Likelihood of Success: 1

Composite: 4

Hungarian Flag Map16. HungaryRunning performed by András Kállay-Saunders

A pretty serious topic – a child running away from home and her abusive father – for a pop song competition. I think if this is done right, Hungary can have Europe crying, and voting, for this entry.

Keys to Success: the staging should be just Kállay-Saunders and the dancer from the music video on a black stage with beams of light creating shadows and an air of mystery, no one and nothing else

Potential Stumbling Blocks: over-complicating the staging with lots of dancers or over complex LED work

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 8

Composite: 8.5


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.


Eurovision 2013 — Grand Final Live Notes…Live!

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Actual Top Ten

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

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

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

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

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

And Azerbaijan is officially second!

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia – no surprises here

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

Montenegro – what’s up with that echo?

Denmark – No real surprises here.

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

Greece – Denmark breaks 200 and Azerbaijan regains second place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

135 for Denmark, 113 for Ukraine, 100 for Azerbaijan

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

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

Spain – Italy is back in the Top Ten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romania – Azerbaijan is now only 7 points behind Denmark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love the sequence of over-the-top endings!

Poor Linda Martin, no need to attack her.

Yay, more history!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor cameraman, he must have drawn the short straw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brace yourselves everyone – here comes Romania!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BTW, my pre-Contest prediction for Top Ten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Everyone!


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

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Hello Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Denmark

-Russia

-Ukraine

-The Netherlands

-Ireland

-Austria

-Montenegro

-Croatia

-Belarus

-Moldova

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

Opening Act:

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

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

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

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

On to the entries!!

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

Austria Shine performed by Nataliá KellyAustrian Flag Map

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

Estonian Flag MapEstonia Et Uus Saaks Alguse performed by Birgit Õigemeel

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

Slovenia Straight Into Love performed by HannahSlovene Flag Map

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

Croatia Mižerija performed by Klapa s MoreCroatian Flag Map

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

Denmark Only Teardrops performed by Emmelie de ForestDanish Flag Map

I recognize some of those places in the postcard!!

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

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

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

Russian Flag MapRussia What If? performed by Dina Garipova

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

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

Ukraine Gravity performed by Zlata OgnevichUkranian Flag Map

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

Dutch Flag CountryThe Netherlands Birds performed by Anouk

Ooh, I can’t wait to hear this!!

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

Montenegro Igranka performed by Who SeeMontenegrin Flag Map

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

Lithuanian Flag MapLithuania Something performed by Andrius Pojavis

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

Belarus Solayoh performed by Alyona LanskayaBelorussian Flag Map

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

Moldovan Flag MapMoldova O Mie performed by Aliona Moon

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

Ireland Only Love Survives performed by Ryan DolanIrish Flag Map

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

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

Cypriot Flag MapCyprus An Me Themase performed by Despina Olympiou

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

Belgium Love Kills performed by Roberto BellarosaBelgian Flag Country

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

Serbian Flag MapSerbia Ljubav je Svuda performed by Moje 3

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

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

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

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

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

Interval Act

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

I don’t get modern dance.

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

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

Who Actually Qualified

Here we go!  Moment of truth!

Moldova Good stuff! (1 for 1)

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

Ireland No real surprise there (2 for 3)

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

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

Denmark Well, duh! (4 for 6)

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

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

Ukraine No surprise here (7 for 9)

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Medium Surprise: So did Belgium.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m so excited for Thursday!!

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Eurovision 2013 – Final Predictions!!!

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

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

Starting with the First Semi-Final:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-Denmark

-Russia

-Ukraine

-The Netherlands

-Ireland

-Austria

-Montenegro

-Croatia

-Belarus

Danish Flag Map-Moldova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-San Marino

-Azerbaijan

-Finland

-Iceland

-Greece

-Israel

-Norway

-Albania

-GeorgiaGeorgian Flag Map

-Switzerland

I think Georgia and Azerbaijan are the most serious contenders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Italy

-Germany

So, who’s going to win?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nous avons seulement deux semaines!!! We’re two weeks away!!!

Hello dear readers!

We are two weeks away from the First Semi-Final!  We over the past couple of months, we have seen quite a bit by way of news, remixes, styling announcements, movements in the betting odds, and much more!

This year has seen a rise in native language entries.  However, with the hopes of attracting fans ahead of the Contest, many of those countries have released English versions of their songs that are used for radio airplay and performances in other countries.  Most of the time, these English versions are only loosely translated from the original – occasionally, they come with a remix, sometimes, they can even come out better than the original.  Here is a brief review of this year’s English translations.  This post is riddled with YouTube links – you’ve been warned!!

Croatian Flag MapCroatia – Hard Times (original: Mižerja) — sounds similar, but is not as mystifying as the original Croatian version.

Cyprus – If You think of Me (original: An Me Thimase) – there’s also a Spanish version! — the best thing about this song is her voice, the language doesn’t really matter.Cypriot Flag Map  I guess the original Greek is the best, but the three versions are all about the same in my book.

Estonia – New Way to Go (original: Et Uus Saaks Alguse) – Estonian Flag Mapthere’s also Spanish and Swedish versions! — like Cyprus, all of these versions sound essentially the same; it’s hard to even tell what language she’s singing in.  Interestingly enough, I think the Swedish version fits the melody the best, but again, these are so close, it’s not a big difference.

Hungary – One for Me (original: Kedvedsem) — Okay, so the English version loses a bit of Hungariran Flag Mapits zip, as it’s a translated version of the original, not the remix that Bye.Alex is taking to the Contest. Regardless, it definitely loses a lot of its charm and coziness – fully legitimizes his decision to stick to Hungarian at the Contest.

Italian Flag MapItaly – Necessary (original: L’Essenziale) — Yesh!  English is not his specialty.  Definitely keep it in Italian!  The language change brings out a lot of his weaknesses and the song loses a lot of its charm.

Macedonia – If I Could Change the World (original: Pred da se Razdeni)Macedonian Flag Map – and a nifty remix of it! — I like the English version, I think, equal to my affection for the original in Macedonian.  I think the remix they brought to the entry enhanced it.  While I think the remix enhances the entry, it’s due to the improved composition, not the language.

Sammarinese Flag MapSan Marino – Chrysalis (Fly) (original: Crisalide (Vola)) — Definitely a step down from the original Italian.  With the language change, Valentina Moletta’s thick accent comes out and drags the song down a bit.  I think the fact that this is in Italian is one of the major reasons it is receiving much better traction around Europe than her entry last year (aside from the fact that it has a thousand times more quality).

Serbia – Love is All Around Us (originally: Ljubav je Svuda) — The Serbian Flag Mapremix is unwarranted and unnecessary and makes the English version completely fizzle because of it.  So, clearly, I think the original was better.

Moldovan Flag MapMoldova already had an English version of O Mie, which I think is the only one that sounds better in English than the native tongue.  It’s called A Million and was the original version of the song before the broadcaster decided to submit the Romanian version of the song.  I think the Romanian version makes the song a bit too clustered; too many syllables per beat.

Apparently, France’s song L’Enfer et Moi was originally written in English.  There has to be an English demo version out there somewhere!!New French Flag Map  Though, France usually sits on its English versions until after the Contest, so I guess we just have to be patient.  I can’t wait to hear it!!

I don’t expect Israel, Greece, or Montenegro to translate their entries, as they typically don’t.  I’m holding out for an English version of Ég á Lif (Iceland) and a Dutch version of Birds from Anouk.

Oh – I love languages!!!!  And I love the CONTEST!!


Eurovision 2013: Semi-Final Running Order

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Hello Readers!

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

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

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

Semi-Final One

Winners

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

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

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

Losers

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

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

Semi-Final Two

Winners

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

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

Losers

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

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

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

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

First Semi-Final

Second Semi-Final

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

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