Posts tagged “norway

Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part One!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lithuanian flag map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What a fun show!

 

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

  • Sweden

  • Belarus

  • Australia

  • Lithuania

  • Russia

  • Belgium

  • Malta

  • Norway

  • Israel

  • Romania

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

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

  1. Malta

  2. Russia

  3. The Netherlands

  4. Australia

  5. Belgium

  6. Romania

  7. Germany

  8. Israel

  9. Norway

  10. Ukraine


Eurovision 2019 – Grand Final Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Switzerland

  3. Australia

  4. Italy

  5. Sweden

  6. Iceland

  7. Malta

  8. Russia

  9. Norway

  10. Serbia

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

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

Opening Act

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

HERE WE GO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Azerbaijan

  2. The Netherlands

  3. Serbia

  4. North Macedonia

  5. Australia

  6. Malta

  7. Czech Republic

  8. Russia

  9. Spain

  10. France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINALLY we get to the votes!

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

The Juries

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

  • Azerbaijan: 12 to Russia, no shock there

  • Malta: 12 to Italy. Not too surprising

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

  • San Marino: 12 to Italy. NO surprise there

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

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

  • Estonia: 12 points to Sweden

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

  • Poland: 12 points to Australia – interesting

  • Norway: 12 to Czech Republic! Interesting.

  • Spain: 12 points to Sweden! Interesting.

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

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

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

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

  • Hungary: 12 points to Czechia, to too surprising

  • Moldova: 12 points to North Macedonia! Fun

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

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

  • Romania: 12 points to Australia

  • Cyprus: 12 points to Greece, of course

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

  • Australia: 12 points to Sweden

  • Russia: 12 points to Azerbaijan! Not too surprising

  • Germany: 12 points to Italy! Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Greece: 12 to Cyprus, of course

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

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

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

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

  • Finland: 12 points to big brother Sweden

  • Switzerland: 12 points to North Macedonia – quite unexpected

  • Slovenia: 12 points to Czech Republic! Fun times

  • Israel: 12 points to The Netherlands!

And Sweden wins the jury!

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

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

(30) That’s about as expected

(3) Awwww poor UK it deserved way more

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

(13) to Belarus

(0) OH NO! That’s just uncalled for!

(48) for Estonia

(54) for Serbia

(??) for Albania enough to get to 90

(59) for Slovenia not as much as expected

(24) for Greece, not too surprising

(291) for very popular song from Norway

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

(38) WHOA! Not too surprising

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

(51) for Denmark, not too bad

(20) for Malta, awwwww it deserved more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweden needs 253 televote points to win.

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

Dutch Flag Map

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

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

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

Thank you and goodnight!


Eurovision 2019 – 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.


Contender or Pretender 2018

Contender or PretenderHello Dear Readers!

Here we are, one week out from the Grand Final and the bookies are still unsure how to sort out their odds for winner. Good golly the betting odds have been extremely volatile this year! As of this (5 May) afternoon, the top ten in the betting odds looks like this:

  • Israel

  • Norway

  • Estonia

  • France

  • Czech Republic

  • Cyprus

  • Bulgaria

  • Sweden

  • Italy

  • Spain

Israel has maintained its position at the top, but all the others have been in flux. Estonia is back towards the top after spending the past two weeks lingering towards the bottom of these ten. Italy and Bulgaria have quietly been slipping further down the odds, while Norway and France have quietly moved up. And as Spain cracks the top ten, we say goodbye to Australia and Greece.

While many thought Finland’s push last week was am going to last, it was Cyprus that extended from about 30 in the betting odds to it’s current position of sixth.

While the betting odds leader hasn’t won a Contest since 2013 (as far as I can remember), every winner for as long as I have following the Contest has come from within this group bookies’ favorites. Interestingly, I still stand by my statements from last week: Austria and Montenegro are going to wildly out perform expectations while the Netherlands will climb the scoreboard as well.

Due to all the constant shifting, I’ve been unable to put together the Contender v Pretender…until today! We’re gonna do a lightning round – ten songs, ten breakdowns, ten verdicts. As always, we’re going to look at the songs in a random order.

CzechFlagMap1. Czech Republic

Lie to Me performed by Mikolas Josef

Why it’s a contender: A sexy song performed by a sexy singer that’s both catchy and unique.

Why it’s a pretender: The lyrics are a bit nonsensical and more conservative viewers will be turned off by the performance.

Final verdict: Pretender As much fun as this song is and as great a performer as Josef is, this song just isn’t a high enough quality to the level of support needed from both the juries and the televote. It will easily get Czechia its best placing to date.

Swedish Flag Map2. Sweden

Dance You Off performed by Benjamin Ingrosso

Why it’s a contender: Catchy, modern, with a slick staging – this is Sweden at its best.

Why it’s a pretender: Ingrosso’s vocals are not for everyone. The staging, while flashy, can actually be a bit distracting.

Final verdict: Pretender In a weaker year, I would say this song could win; however, with there being such an wealth of contenders (even Lithuania is floating just outside the top ten) I don’t think this song has the juice to reach victory.

Norwegian Flag Map3. Norway

That’s How You Write a Song performed by Alexander Rybak

Why it’s a contender: Previous winners tend to get a bump, particularly ones as popular and ever-present as Rybak. And say what you want about his offstage temper, the boy knows how to write a catchy song.

Why it’s a pretender: The song is catchy but rather vapid. Additionally, it’s not 2009 and I don’t know if the staging is contemporary enough to standout.

Final verdict: Contender This is one well-placed position in the running order from lifting Rybak into the hallowed realm occupied by only one: Johnny Logan. It’s catchy and he’s a big enough name to truly contend.

Italian Flag Map4. Italy

Non Mi Avete Fatti Niente performed by Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro

Why it’s a contender: It’s Italy, which has joined the ranks of Sweden, Ukraine, and Australia in the perennial conversation about potential winners. The song itself is well-delivered.

Why it’s a pretender: Full disclosure, I don’t much care for this entry, I think it’s pretentious. With that said, I also think that neither the composition nor the performance are all that interesting.

Final verdict: Pretender Not only is this a weaker entry, but given the producers’ propensity towards maximum differentiation, I imagine this will end up swallowed up by the entries of either side of it.

Spanish Flag Map5. Spain

Tu Canción performed by Amaia Romero & Alfred Garcia

Why it’s a contender: A classic Eurovision style song; Spain has slowly worked its way up the betting odds. Pretty, sweet, and trans-lingual (i.e., you can readily understand it without speaking Spanish).

Why it’s a pretender: It’s a bit too simple and could easily be swallowed up in year marked by loud pop and synthetic trumpet.

Final verdict: Contender Much like last year where the final came down to two ballads in a year dominated by uptempo songs, this may just have what it takes to pierce through and make a lasting impact.

Bulgarian Flag Country6. Bulgaria

Bones performed by Equinox

Why it’s a contender: Haunting, passionate, unique. Groups do not always go over well, but they have pretty good chemistry.

Why it’s a pretender: Is this song too weird and too out there for your typical ESC fan? Unfortunately, the fact that Equinox is an ethnically diverse group only hampers their chances.

Final verdict: Contender Last year we saw what can happen when the juries give  strong support, Australia ended up in the Top Ten with only two points from the televote (we saw the opposite effect in 2016 where the public thrust Poland into the Top Ten despite minimal points from the juries). This song, as long as it is sung well, can outperform “Don’t Come Easy” and can therefore win.

Cypriot Flag Map7. Cyprus

Fuego performed by Eleni Foureira

Why it’s a contender: Incredibly contemporary, passionately performed, and wide appeal to fans from two of the three key demographics (teen girls and gay men). Once rehearsals began, Fuego shot up the betting odds like something I’ve never seen before.

Why it’s a pretender: There’s a reason this song took so long to *catch fire* – it is inherently average.

Final verdict: Contender This song is *burning up* the betting odds thanks to a sizzling staging. As such, the producers will do all they can to place the song towards the end of the running order in as sweet a spot as possible.

New French Flag Map8. France

Mercy performed by Madame Monsieur

Why it’s a contender: It’s a very French entry and in a year where national sounds and languages are retaking the narrative, this song leads the pack. The composition is intriguing and the performance is lovely.

Why it’s a pretender: It’s a very French entry, leaving a feeling of mild confusion and disconnect. The lyrics are also difficult for me to understand.

Final verdict: Pretender As much as I personally like this song, it doesn’t have the wide appeal necessary in a winner.

Estonian Flag Map9. Estonia

La Forza performed by Elina 

Why it’s a contender: It most definitely stands out and is performed flawlessly.

Why it’s a pretender: Opera, while having a near perfect qualification record, it has never finished in the Top Ten.

Final verdict: Pretender This is my favorite song this year, but I just cannot see a world where it wins. Opera just isn’t popular enough.

Israeli Flag Country10. Israel

Toy performed by Netta

Why it’s a contender: Top of the betting odds for the duration of ESC season, this is a massively unique, fun, empowering song. Despite its supermodern composition, it is still easy to follow and engage with.

Why it’s a pretender: This the type of song that elicits strong opinions and those who are not so fond of it are out there. It is also more reminiscent of something you’d see at Junior Eurovision than at the ESC.

Final verdict: Pretender Controversial prediction, I know. But, I can’t see this song garnering enough jury support to win

Final verdicts:

Contenders

Pretenders

Norway

Czech Republic

Spain

Sweden

Bulgaria

Italy

Cyprus

France

Estonia

Israel

So, that leaves four potential winners from this bunch. Of these four, right now, I would have to say CyprusCyprus might be the bedt choice. It’s picking up steam and interest at just the right time while the others all seem to be stagmating or slipping. Interestingly enough, with Portugal’s victory last year, Cyprus now has the dishonor of having the most victories without a win, at 34. If Cyprus were to win, that title would fall to Iceland.


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 – Second Semi-Final Recap and Podcast

Hello Dear Readers!

As we anxiously await the forthcoming Grand Final, some thoughts on last night’s Second Semi-Final. I think this semi-final suffered from a lot of nervous performers with shaky performances. Additionally, there seemed to be a plague of poor stagings (more on that below). But first, here are our qualifiers (in alphabetical order with their semi-final half in parentheses):

Photo ©EBU Andreas Putting

  • Austria (first half)

  • Belarus (first half)

  • Bulgaria (second half)

  • Croatia (first half)

  • Denmark (first half)

  • Hungary (first half)

  • Israel (first half)

  • The Netherlands (first half)

  • Norway (second half)

  • Romania (second half)

Some Historical Markers from last night

  • Romania maintains its 100% qualification record. Hungary extends its streak to seven straight qualifications, reaching back to 2011. Austria extends its streak to four. Croatia, the Netherlands, and Israel have now all qualified twice in a row.

  • Bulgaria also has qualified twice in a row for the first time ever (and only third time overall). Denmark and Norway both return to Grand Final after missing it last year (for Norway) and each of the past two years (Denmark). Belarus qualifies for the first time since 2014.

  • Serbia and Lithuania’s streaks of qualifications end after two straight and Malta fails to make a second straight qualification. Macedonia has not qualified since 2012, Ireland since 2013, Switzerland and San Marino since 2014, and Estonia since 2015.

My Reactions

  • Biggest Disappointment: Austria and Ireland, two of my favorite songs, were both terribly performed last night. I could barely make it through Austria’s performance. I hope that Nathan Trent’s singing is better tomorrow night.

  • Biggest Shock: I am still shocked by how well I thought Romania and Croatia (two songs I do not like) did. They performed their hearts out and deserved their qualification.

  • Macedonia and Switzerland, while I think there might have been some nullification effect on one another, I think both were just missed opportunities. They both had strong, popular songs this year and A) staged them poorly and B) did not sing at their best abilities. Just, disappointing.

  • I think the Netherlands had the best performance on the night, followed closely by Bulgaria. They could possibly make a huge splash tomorrow, especially with the help of the juries.

  • France, Germany, and Ukraine had very questionable stagings. Read more about it in my live notes.

  • Just sad that San Marino failed to qualify. I think SMRTV may blame it on their small size, but, actually, it’s because it continually chooses dated songs with lame stagings. More on this in a forthcoming summer series.

So, there you have it my reactions to the Second Semi-Final. My excitement for the Grand Final is through the roof! Hear more about mine (and my friend DIZZYDJC) below in our podcast from today!

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Eurovision 2017 – Second Semi-Final: Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Make sure to keep refreshing the page throught the show!

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

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

 01 Serbia In Too Deep

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

02 Austria Running on Air

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

03 Macedonia Dance Alone

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

 04 Malta Breathlessly

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

05 Romania Yodel It!

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

 07 Hungary Origo

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

08 Denmark Where I Am

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

09 Ireland Dying to Try

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

10 San Marino Spirit of the Night

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

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

11 Croatia My Friend

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

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

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

12 Norway Grab the Moment

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

13 Switzerland Apollo

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

14 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia

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

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

14 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

16 Lithuania Rain of Revolution

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

17 Estonia Verona

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

18 Israel I Feel Alive

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

My Top Ten from tonight

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

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

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

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

Interval Act

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

A marriage proposal for Jana from Macedonia!!! Awwwww

Our Automatic Qualifiers

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

Now, on the results! Our ten qualifiers are:

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

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

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

Hello Dear Readers!

It was incredibly difficult for me to narrow this down to just ten songs I think will progress to the Final. In this regard, Russia’s quitting made things a little easier for me.

Belarus

Naviband

Historya Majho Žyccia

[Story of My Life]

Televised

Thoughts:

A great folksy song and one of the few not in English. I’ve loved it from my first listen, I think that it’s such a fun song to sing along to. I think there’s enough non-lyrics that everyone can sing along without having to speak Belorussian.

Bulgaria

Kristian Kostov

Beautiful Mess

Internal

Thoughts:

Such a powerful voice from such a young guy! A great ballad that maintains its sensitivity without getting boring. I like it more and more each time I listen to it. I particularly enjoy the composition and how it continually pushes us through the song.

Croatia

Jacques Houdek

My Friend

Internal

Thoughts:

Definitely an original piece. I think that it’s…interesting. The composition is definitely stirring. The singing is well done. The lyrics are uplifting. The choice to mix English and Italian in this way…interesting.

Estonia

Koit Toome & Laura

Verona

Televised

Thoughts:

A well-done ballad that is well delivered by Koit Toome and Laura. A song about a love turning sour (but hopefully not tragic). It’s definitely a bit more unique, but I’m still on the fence about its chances. It has widespread appeal without sounding overly generic, so, I want to err on it doing better than one would expect.

Israel

Imri

I Feel Alive

Mixed

Thoughts:

A fun dance tune. It’s in danger of being loss in the mix of things because it’s not overly distinctive. However, Imri seems like a really fun performer and has had to battle for this opportunity longer than most thanks to Israel’s selection process this year. There’s definitely hope, yet!

Lithuania

Fusedmarc

Rain of Revolution

Televised

Thoughts:

I think this is a song about undergoing a personal revolution – changing for the better along life’s journey. It’s certainly interesting and unlike any other song this year. It’s a bit weird, but intriguing, but will not make the Final.

Norway

JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann

Grab the Moment

Televised

Thoughts:

I really like this song, but maybe it’s a bit too contemporary to succeed. The composition is quite textured; the song is infinitely interesting musically. I also love the lyrics about transcending that internal negative voice that holds us back in life.

San Marino

Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson

Spirit of the Night

Internal

Thoughts:

When the rest of the Contestants step forward into club, San Marino returns full-scale to the discotheque. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy Monetta is back — and I am always happy when an American takes the stage. However, why give two jazz singers a disco song?

Switzerland

Timebelle

Apollo

Televised

Thoughts:

Switzerland has sent a compelling pop tune that sounds like it came off the radio and into the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s not my particular favorite, but it’s a good song. And, more importantly, it’s a strong, competitive song.

*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 examples of that this year are Greece and Israel. Greece internally selected Demy and had a televised final to select the song. Israel had a televised show 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)

Bulgaria

Hungary

Denmark

Ireland

Estonia

Denmark

Hungary

Bulgaria

Israel

Norway

Macedonia

Belarus

The Netherlands

Austria

Norway

The Netherlands

Serbia

Serbia

Switzerland

San Marino

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

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

Denmark – Powerful, R&B-esque ballad performed powefully by a popular, pretty singer. I think this song has all the components needed for victory – strong melody, interesting lyrics, well-designed staging, and flawless performance (if DMGP is anything to go by).

Bulgaria – The best ballad this year, by a long shot! With the release of the music video, my hopes for this song have gone down some; hopefully the staging does not mirror the music video. I think Kostov may actually have the stage presence to bring the Contest to Sofia.

In addition to these songs, I think that Macedonia will find itself in the Top Ten for the first time ever and Switzerland will return to the Top Ten for the first time since 2005 come Saturday night.

Find the other reviews from this year here!

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Reaction to the ESC2016 Grand Final!

Eurovision_2016_Official_Logo

Hello Dear Readers!

Wow wow wow! What a show! My favorite song won, the voting was incredibly exciting, and each entry was performed amazingly. I wanted to put out a reaction post for you all and then my normal recap post with my Annual EO Awards towards the end of this week or next (depending on how quickly I can process my photos without my computer).

So, we have a top ten, of which, I predicted only 6. Sad, as I was batting with 80% accuracy with the semi-finals, but you can’t with them all.
1. Ukraine
2. Australia
3. Russia
4. Bulgaria
5. Sweden
6. France
7. Armenia
8. Poland
9. Lithuania
10. Belgium

Some historic markers of note from this year’s Grand Final:
Ukrainian Flag Map-For only the second time, a country that was neither an automatic qualifier nor won its semi-final, was victorious. Just like in 2004, Ukraine was second in the semi-final but won the Contest.
-With 534 points and 17 sets of twelve, Ukraine has set the bar for this new voting system. We’ll see how long this record stands. FINorwegian Flag MapCongratulations to Norway 2009, that will eternally be enshrined as the highest point total under the previous system (1975-2015). And Sweden 2012, which will always hold the record for most sets of 12 points.
-This year, we also saw the best finish for a host nation since 2012.
Russian Flag Map-Russia extends its Top Ten streak to five, Ukraine and Sweden take theirs to three, and Australia and Belgium start streaks with their second consecutive Top Ten finishes. Norway’s streak ended (though, that happened with its elimination on Thursday night).

Bulgarian Flag CountryIndividual Country Historical Markers:
-Bulgaria reached its highest place ever, besting their 2007 finish by one spot. Australia also reached its highest position, beating last year’s finish by three places.
Polish Flag Map-Poland and Lithuania get their second best finishes ever. Armenia tied its second best finish (after getting seventh in 2010).
-France was the top Big Five country for the first time since 2001.
-Croatia, Georgia, and Serbia all had their lowest finish ever in a Final.

Some of my reactions to the Grand Final:
-I was rather skeptical of the new voting system. While it needs greater transparency, it definitely made things quite exciting!Ukraine This had to have gone better than they could’ve imagined.
-I’m shocked Ukraine won, but incredibly happy that it did! It was my favorite song this year and, I think, one of the most significant, meaningful, and artistic entries in the Contest ever.
Lithuania-I’m equally shocked by the success of Lithuania and Israel, as I find both songs to be generic and underwhelming. On the flip side, I’m shock and disappointed by Spain, UK, and Czech Republic’s finish. They all had fantastic entries that deserved more points. In the case of Spain and UK, great running order positions and very memorable, catchy pop tunes. Spain had a legitimate chance of winning after amazing performances Friday and Saturday; I just don’t get it.
Swedish Flag Map-Finally, while I loved each aspect of the voting entertainment and the interval acts, there was just too much! “Love Love Peace Peace” could’ve been the voting entertainment after the interview with Justin Timberlake. JT’s performance should’ve been moved to the Interval Act alongside Måns. The “Nerd Documentary” should have just been for the semi-finals. This year’s show could’ve easily stayed under three and half hours (if not three) if SVT didn’t go overboard with everything.

Congratulations to Ukraine!!Ukrainian Flag Map 1944 earned its victory through telling a meaningful story through a captivating composition and an emotional performance. I look forward to its impact on next year’s Contest and the show that Ukraine will give us!

Check back soon for my end of Eurovision wrap-up!


Diversity at ESC2016

Hyvää Paivää – hei rakas lukijat!
And Hello Dear Readers!

There’s been an uptick in readers from Finland — kiitos että luit! And thanks to all of you for reading, regardless of where you are from!

Last year, we looked at race at the ESC and I expressed my pleasure that we were seeing more and more minorities as lead performers, particularly folks of African and East Asian descent. This year, there continues to be some racial diversity, but not as much as there should be in my opinion. This year, Norway is represented by a Sami woman – Agnete. This is awesome and would be akin to a member of a Cherokee tribe representing the US or an Aboriginal singer representing Australia (which happened somewhat when DR had Australian pop star Jessica Mauboy perform during the interval act of the second semi-final in 2014). Native peoples are an integral part of a nation’s history, particularly in looking back at how these people groups were often mistreated, disenfranchised, and systematically destroyed. Having a first-nation person representing a country shows that steps, perhaps small – perhaps big, have been made and are continuing to be made to heal past wounds.

Australia is also being represented by a minority. While Im was born in South Korea, she spent the majority of her life Down Under, as her family moved to Australia when she was a child. Im has received backlash since she was named Australia’s performer. Much how many non-white performers and soccer players (read: footballers) representing European nations must deal with, from opponents and their own countrymen. While we celebrate the Contest’s ability to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons (particularly gay men), we must not overlook the very real racism that still exists. Does this mean that every contestant needs to be non-white, no. Of course not. Does this mean that hosts need to do the same mindless pandering to racial minorities as they do to gay men? Again, of course not (if anything, there should be less pandering). But it does mean that when race-based issues around the Contest occur, they need the same attention and discourse that comes when an LGBTQ+ issue arises. Likewise, fan culture needs to promote and encourage racial diversity (actually, fan culture does a pretty good job of forcing any non-white, unattractive non-gay man into the realms of invisibility, but that is a conversation for another time) and call out people when they are not. This includes not just around skin color, but ethnicity, national origin, and religion as well.

One  country that has historically done a good job at bringing diverse performers to the Eurovision stage is France. They have been represented by persons and languages from across the French realm, including Corsica, Haiti, Congo, and Tahiti. This year, Amir takes the stage for his native France. His ethnic background is rather diverse, as his roots tie back to Morocco, Tunisia, and Spain as well as being ethnically Jewish and spending half of his life in Israel. Sandhja from Finland also has a multi-ethnic background, as her father is Finnish and her mother is Indo-Guyanan. Sandhja has often said that her identities, and the communities that they give her access to, inspire her music and performance.

So, once again, why do we care diversity, particularly ethnic and racial diversity, at the Contest? Because the ESC is for EVERYONE. Just like how gay male fans get excited when an openly gay performer competes (such as Hovi Star from Israel), how excited would the many more number of Europeans who are non-white be for ethnic minority performers? Those who feel like they belong to the broader community are more likely to contribute and otherwise actively participate in the community. Furthermore, when someone feels systematically excluded, it can lead to lowered psychological and physical well-being for individuals who feel marginalized. Additionally, these are the people who are most likely to violently strike out against society. We see this in the US with mass shootings, we see this throughout Europe with riots and the rise of neo-Nazi groups, and we see this in the Middle East with groups like DAESH/ISIS that specifically recruit those who are made to feel like outsiders and radicalize them to the point of striking out against those that ostracized them. Clearly, incorporating more minorities as performers won’t prevent or stop groups like ISIS, but it will make it harder for them to recruit.

And, you know, help the Eurovision Song Contest work towards its mission to unite Europe, if only for one night.

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Correction: Article has been updated to correct the spelling of Jessica Mauboy’s name and correcting the name Australia uses for its First Nations people. Eurovision Obsession apologizes for the error.


Recap of Initial Thoughts and Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Norway – lovely dance tune and an eccentric love songNorway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Czech RepublicCzech Republic!

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

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

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ESC 2016 Reviews: Second Semi-Final, Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

Nine more semi-finalists to review! Once again, not as strong as the First Semi-Final, but definitely a lot of good songs. And definitely some interesting ones.

Second Semi-Final, Second Half

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Albanian flag country

 Albania

Eneda Tarifa

Fairytale

Televised

Thoughts:

I don’t understand why they decided to translate this song into English. The original Albanian was just fine – sure, the song’s composition needed a bit of retooling, but there was no need to change languages – especially since language does not seem to have much bearing on Albania’s final placing. I, personally, find this to be one of the more compelling, midtempo power ballads thus far, but I’m not sure how the song will translate to the ESC stage.
Belgian Flag Country

 Belgium

Laura Tesoro

What’s the Pressure

Televised

Thoughts:

So, apparently Tesoro is 19, even though she looks like she’s 12 and this sounds like something from JESC. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig the dynamite disco beat to this track. However, I’m not sure if the song has a mature enough sound to it; the lyrics are rather mundane. Nevertheless, the song is funky and fun and uplifting without being trite. It will be interesting to see Belgium send another dance heavy performance to ESC.
Bulgarian Flag Country

 Bulgaria

Poli Genova

If Love Was a Crime

Internal

Thoughts:

An interesting song. definitely better than Na Inat. Bulgaira, and Genova herself, are fresh off hosting the JESC and decided to take some of that production value and apply it here. This is the most mainstream song that I have ever heard Bulgaria present. In this weakened semi-final, I definitely think it will move through to the Grand Final – for only the second time in Bulgaria’s history!
Danish Flag Map

 Denmark

Lighthouse X

Soldiers of Love

Televised

Thoughts:

My initial thoughts on this song can be found in the DMGP 2016. Essentially, I like it a lot but thought that the Danes had stronger options available to them. This opinion remains unchanged after hearing it within the context of the Second Semi-Final. While each of the last two times the Contest was in Sweden, Denmark finished victorious, that streak will end this year. I am just hoping that this song qualifies for the Final.
Georgian Flag Map

 Georgia

Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz

Midnight Gold

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely a song that stands out! I’m shocked that this could win a national selection show; though, Georgia has shown that it is most definitely a land of experimental and eccentric artists, young and old. However, this might be too out there for the mainstream audience of the adult ESC. I am predicting this to languish behind in the semi-finals.
Norwegian Flag Map

 Norway

Agnete

Icebreaker

Televised

Thoughts:

“I’ll be your icebreaker/When you’re stuck in frozen water.” Really? Is this best that could be done? Also, anyone else think that the transition into the chorus is kind of awkward, like, the song stops and skips a bit, the first time, I thought something was wrong with my video feed. With that said, like Serbia, this song has that “sound” of a winner. And, we know that Norway’s first victory came on Swedish soil — in fact, Norway tends to do well in Sweden.
Romanian Flag Map

 Romania

Ovidiu Anton

Moment of Silence

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely an 80s rock opera inspired song; Queen immediately came to mind while listening to this song. I enjoyed it, but overall find it so-so. However, we know that Romania tends to do well as does 80s rock (generally), so I would bet for this song to move through to the Final.
Slovene Flag Map

 Slovenia

ManuElla

Blue and Red

Televised

Thoughts:

Another country song, a little poppier than the Netherlands, but definitely Nashville-inspired. I’m not quite sure what this song is about, though. Is she saying that she’s moved on and is happy that her ex is now blue (meaning sad)? Or is she saying that they’ve gone through ups and downs and now colors no longer matter because they have love and each other? The song is happy, but it could really go either way. Much like this entry’s odds at qualifying for the Final.
Ukrainian Flag Map

 Ukraine

Jamala

1944

Televised

Thoughts:

Hmmm…I’m surprised that they allowed this song to compete without a lyrics change. Officially, the song is about the forced migration of Crimeans to Central Asia by the USSR; the Crimean Tatar language portions are direct quotations from Jamala’s grandmother who lived through this event. However, it would be naïve to think that this song lacks a sharp, current context. It ends with her saying “Because you took away my peace/I couldn’t spend my youth there/I couldn’t enjoy my motherland.” This is clearly referencing Russia in Crimea, past and present. The fact that the EBU allowed it to stand as is shows Western Europe’s sympathy for the situation in Ukraine. This is my favorite song thus far between both semi-finals. I also think it well deserves a place in the Top Ten and that it will earn its spot there, as well.

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

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

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

Australia Ukraine
Belgium
Serbia
Bulgaria
Macedonia
Denmark Australia
Norway Belgium
Poland Denmark
Romania Norway
Serbia
Israel
Switzerland
Bulgaria
Ukraine Latvia

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

Serbia – A diva-driven song about getting over a relationship.Serbia Well performed, well written, and well composed. While I think this song will be limited depending on where it falls within the running order, it should most definitely be considered a stronger contender to win ESC and return the Contest to heart of the Balkan peninsula, probably either back to Belgrade or to Novi Sad.

NorwaySerbiaUkraine is the only song from the Second Semi-Final that I think has the ability to win (as I said, this is the weaker of the two). However, both Norway and Ukraine have really strong songs that I think will finish in the Top Ten.

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

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Christmas!

Merry Christmas Dear Readers — and Happy New Year!

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

Find the playlist on YouTube: Eurovision for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Nox (Hungary 2005) – Szent ünnep

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

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

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

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

  15. Litesound (Belarus 2012) – Shooting Star

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

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

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

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

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

  21. Bzikebi (JESC Georgia 2008) – Ave Maria

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

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Rockers

….And we’re back! After moving about 720 miles (~1155km), starting a graduate program, and dealing with various personal and health issues, I am back!  Thank you for your patience 🙂

So, Dear Readers, this week brings us another playlist. This time, we’re looking at rock songs. When most think of “Eurovision + rock music” they immediately go to Hard Rock Hallelujah (Finland 2006), and with good reason. It is a winning entry and one of the 20 most important ESC songs in history, in my opinion. However, there are many more rock entries that have graced the ESC stage. Below are twenty standout examples from the past few years.

When I say “rock music” — you may think of thrashing guitars and banging drums or power ballad that draws out every emotion or even your favorite eighties hairband. I tried to capture all of these styles (and more) below while also avoiding songs I have previously featured in a playlist. Again, I tried to curate a playlist with a nice flow. Enjoy!

Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Rockers

  1. France 2013 – L’Enfer et Moi performed by Amandine BourgeoisFrance

  2. Georgia 2011 – One More Day performed by Eldrine

  3. Finland 2007 – Leave Me Alone performed by Hanna

  4. Turkey 2010 – We Could be the Same performed by maNga

  5. San Marino 2008 – Complice performed by Miodio

  6. Finland 2015 – Aina Min Pitää performed by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät

  7. Belarus 2009 – Eyes That Never Lie performed by Petr ElfimovBelarus

  8. Armenia 2013 – Lonely Planet performed by Dorians

  9. Georgia 2015 – Warrior performed by Nina Sublatti

  10. Turkey 2008 – Deli performed by Mor ve Ötesi

  11. Ukraine 2010 – Sweet People performed by Aliosha

  12. Finland 2014 – Something Better performed by SoftEngine

  13. Slovakia 2012 – Don’t Close Your Eyes performed by Max Jason MaiSlovakia

  14. Iceland 2007 – Valentine Lost performed by Eiríkur Hauksson

  15. Italy 2014 – La Mia Città performed by Emma

  16. Switzerland 2012 – Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

  17. Finland 2008 – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa performed by Teräsbetoni

  18. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009 – Bistra Voda performed by ReginaBosnia & Herzegovina

  19. Albania 2011 – Feel the Passion performed by Aurela Gace

  20. Norway 2005 – In My Dreams performed by Wig Wam

Honorable Mentions: Turkey 2004, Czech Republic 2007, Cyprus 2007, Macedonia 2009, Cyprus 2011, Turkey 2011, Denmark 2011, Macedonia 2012

Fun Facts

  • YouFinland may have noticed that there was a lot of Finland in that above list. That’s because the Finns love rock music! Finland is home to some of the most vibrant and renowned death metal, hard rock, and heavy metal scenes.

  • The Armenian song from 2013 may seem a bit out of place, but it was composed by none other than heavy metal legend Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath fame.

  • Hard Rock Hallelujah is considered the only rock song to win the Contest. However, quite a few other rock songs have fared well, particularly entries from Turkey, which has three Top Ten rock entries (2004, 2008, 2010).

    Turkey

What’s your favorite rock song from ESC’s history? Do you appreciate the diversity in musical styles that we find at the Contest or would you prefer that most entries just stick to pop?

Finnish Flag MapAs a reminder, these weekly playlists are meant to help introduce you to the wide breadth of music from the Contest’s recent history. For various reasons, I am focusing on the “Televoting Era” of the Contest (1998 – present), furthermore, the majority of entries I am choosing come from after semi-finals were introduced in 2004. I also limit the lists to only 20 songs, to help make them more manageable for listening.

The most recent previous list: Eurovision for Dance Parties
Next Week: Eurovision for Breakups


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Dance Parties

Hello Dear Readers!

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


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Dance Parties

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

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

Fun Trivia

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

What are your favorite ESC songs to dance to?

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


Playlist of the Week – Eurovision for Beginners

Hello Dear Readers!

As the summer begins, I thought it would be a nice idea to start building playlists to help you engage with the Contest and share your love with others. What better way to start this weekly tradition than with a rundown of twenty of the most influential songs from the history of the Contest, from 1956 to Today.

Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Beginners Playlist

But why did I select these twenty tunes? Each of these songs are an integral strand within the epic tapestry of Eurovision. Whether they changed the direction of the Contest, brought a new wave of interest and fans, or represented a broader change in European societies, each song has played a role in making the Eurovision Song Contest what it is today.

  1. SwitzerlandRefrain performed by Lys Assia — Switzerland 1956
    The first winner, the self-proclaimed “Mother of Eurovision” and ever tenacious Lys Assia represented her home country on home soil during the first ever Eurovision. She went on to represent Switzerland two more times.
  2. Nel blu dipinto di blu (Volare) performed by Domenico Modugno — Italy 1958
    If not the most well-known and successful song to come from the Contest, it is among the top ones. Covered by some of the world’s most famous artists, translated into a multitude of languages, Volare continues to be performed to this day. It also remains a point of contention – to this day – throughout the ESC fan community that this did not win.
  3. LuxembourgPoupée de Cire, Poupée de Son performed by France Gall — Luxembourg 1965
    Enter the youth movement. At the time, France Gall was the youngest singer to perform a winning entry and the song talks about her feeling like a “doll of straw” being contorted to appeal to a mass audience. A message that spoke to the youth of the 60s and continues to speak to hearts of those today.
  4. Waterloo performed by ABBA — Sweden 1974
    Artists have become big years after the Contest, they have been big going into the Contest, but only one artist has ever become big as a direct result of winning Eurovision: ABBA. Entering the night as a Swedish pop group, ABBA became international superstars after winning the Contest in Brighton.
  5. IsraelHallelujah performed by Gali Atari and Milk & Honey — Israel 1979
    The third time a country successfully defended its title, Hallelujah is an anthem of peace that continues to be used throughout the continent to harken the need for love and understanding, Israel even had the singers perform it when Jerusalem hosted the Contest again in 1999 as a tribute to those who were being impacted by the Balkan War. The song remains a classic for hardcore fans and casual viewers alike.
  6. Making Your Mind Up performed by Buck’s Fizz — United Kingdom 1981
    Eurovision has become synonymous with over-the-top, glittery, gimmicky performances for those who grew up or fell in love with the Contest in the Eighties and Nineties. This winning entry started that trend. Heads were turned when the guys ripped the girls’ skirts off to reveal shorter ones underneath: and thus, the ESC costume change was born!
  7. GermanyEin Bißchen Frieden performed by Nicole — Germany 1982
    Germany (or “West Germany” at the time) was one of the founding countries of Eurovision. It had competed in every Contest, but had never won. This all changed with the Ralph Siegel-penned entry performed by a 17 year old high school student. Not only was this Germany’s first win, but it set a record for point accumulation and margin of victory.
  8. IrelandHold Me Now performed by Johnny Logan — Ireland 1987
    Seven years after performing Ireland’s winning song in 1980, Johnny Logan returned to the ESC stage to represent the Emerald Isle with a song he coauthored. Logan was the first, and so far only, artist to be the performer for two winning entries. He picked up a third winner’s trophy as an author of the 1992 winner Why Me? This is also what sparked the Irish domination over the next ten years: five victories, a second place, and two other Top Ten finishes.
  9. Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi performed by Céline Dion — Switzerland 1988
    Two years before her big break, Céline Dion was a rising star in the francophone (French-speaking) world and was asked to represent Switzerland. Not only is Céline Dion one of the biggest artists to compete on the ESC stage, she had one of the most harrowing victories, beating out the UK by only one point.
  10. NorwayNocturne performed by Secret Garden — Norway 1995
    Notorious for its lack for lyrics (only 24 words), Nocturne is the only non-Irish victory between 1992-1996. Despite this fact, it is known as the most “Irish-sounding” song to win the Contest – with the heavy emphasis on the violin and harp. It remains one of the most popular songs from the 90s.
  11. Just a Little Bit performed by Gina G — United Kingdom 1996
    United KingdomThe only other non-winner on the list, this Contest classic is one of the most commercially successful ESC songs in history. Finishing a mere 8th, this song’s lack of a victory remains highly controversial. The song came into the Contest riding high in the charts and continued this dominance after the ESC. It is one of the most popular ESC songs from the 1990s and can routinely be heard on dance floors around the world. While many fans may disagree with placing this song amongst the company of others on this list, I believe that its unprecedented (and unmatched) commercial success throughout and beyond Europe helps it earn its spot among the top twenty.
  12. Diva performed by Dana International — Israel 1998
    The first year in which televoting was used, Israel stormed to victory on the back of Dana International, a transgender woman who was known for her foot-stomping, club anthems. Not only did Diva bring a new genre to the forefront of the Contest, but it also brought to light an oft-ignored population. As a transwoman, Dana International became an icon, not just for transpeople, but for all members of the LGTBQ population across Europe. While there have been various drag acts to compete in the years since, Dana International remains the only transperson to compete.
  13. Fly On the Wings of Love performed by The Olsen Brothers — Denmark 2000
    One of the biggest surprises to win the Contest, fewer entries had lower odds of winning than Fly on the Wings of Love. But, the song was an instant hit across Europe, endearing itself in the hearts of young and old across the continent. The song is often cited as one of the best to win, particularly in the 2000s.
  14. Wild Dances performed by Ruslana — Ukraine 2004
    UkraineIn its second year, Ukraine won the Contest with a foot-stomping dance track. This entry is important because it pushed forward two trends of the early 2000s: the rise of Eastern Europe and the increased importance of a catchy stage show. While Estonia and Latvia both won just a few years previously, 2004 saw a rise in the success of Eastern European nations as the Contest was larger than ever before with the advent of the semi-final, which eliminated the need for regulation and the all of Eastern Europe was able to compete simultaneously. Wild Dances is also infamous for being a fairly simple song that won due to its amazing choreography; inspiring acts that continually got more and more outlandish.
  15. FinlandHard Rock Hallelujah performed by Lordi — Finland 2006
    Breaking the records set by the United Kingdom in 1997, this song reached new heights in points acquisition and margin of victory. Hard Rock Hallelujah remains the most successful hard rock song and one of Finland’s twelve Top Ten placings, only finish in the Top Five. This entry broke the Contest out of the cycle of pop tunes and ballads that have dominated it for most of its history. Since, there have been a variety of rock songs as well as experimental entries.
  16. SerbiaMolitva performed by Marija Šerifović — Serbia 2007
    Not only was this the first winner that I ever saw, but Molitva represents a turning point for the Contest. It beat out zanier entries that, no doubt, would have been victorious just years before, setting the Contest on a track towards stronger compositions and lyrics while simultaneous scaling back the spectacle of performances. Not only that, but Molitva remains one of only two non-English songs to win the ESC in the televoting era (Israel 1998 being the other).
  17. Fairytale performed by Alexander Rybak — Norway 2009
    The current record holder for total points accumulated and margin of victory (and, at the time, most 12pts and many other point records), Fairytale was written, composed, and performed by Alexander Rybak. The song went on to chart in almost every European country, reaching gold and platinum status in a variety of nations. It was the first winner to achieve major commercial success in the 2000s and helped to bring relevancy back to the Contest.
  18. Satellite performed by Lena — Germany 2010
    Another song that raced up the scoreboard and European music charts. Satellite not only continued a trend of commercial success for ESC winners, but restored faith in the Contest for many in Western Europe who had figured no country in the west stood a legitimate shot at winning the ESC. This revitalized the Contest and the following year saw the return of Austria and Italy, the latter of which was returning from a 13 year absence.
  19. SwedenEuphoria performed by Loreen — Sweden 2012
    The records mentioned above that Norway 2009 once held, those were broken by this entry – Sweden’s fifth victory: Euphoria. The song was known for the stunning performance, the easy to learn lyrics, and the choreography that Loreen performed on stage. Euphoria joined the ranks of the few songs to land on music charts outside of Europe and Australia since the 1970s, reaching the charts in throughout the Americas and a few countries of Asia and Europe.
  20. Rise Like a Phoenix performed by Conchita Wurst — Austria 2014
    AustriaIn a year in which political and economic turmoil could be found throughout the continent, a singer purporting to represent peace, understanding, and acceptance performed a song about rising up despite being hurt. While Rise Like a Phoenix did not have the commercial success of its most recent predecessors, it remains an anthem of rising above those that wish to do you harm, whether it be in relationships or in a society that wishes to tear you down.

Honorable Mention: Dansevise (Denmark 1963), No Ho l’Eta (Italy 1964), La La La (Spain 1968), the four winners of 1969, Ding-A-Dong (The Netherlands 1975), Diggi-loo Diggi-ley (Sweden 1984), Love Shine a Light (United Kingdom 1997), Sanomi (Belgium 2003), Tonight Again (Australia 2015)

What songs do you think are integral to Eurovision’s history?
Stay tuned next week, our playlist will be Eurovision for Anglophobes, a playlist of twenty of the best non-English language songs in the post-language rule era (1999 and onwards).

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Reactions to the Second Dress Rehearsal

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the Final tonight!


ESC 2015 – Final Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Early Contenders for 2015!

Hello Dear Readers!

So, we have the forty official, final entries for the 60th addition of the Eurovision Song Contest! Already, I would say that are some definite front-runners, some potential dark horses, and some legitimate contenders for last place. I am also sure that there have been some that have risen to the top of fan circles – but I have been mostly avoiding reading fan stuff in-depthly for now. I wanted to evaluate the songs uninfluenced by outside opinion. As I said last week, I think there are six songs that, out the gate, have shown themselves to be strong and capable of taking the crown in May: Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Italy, and Australia. Now, whether or not these six stay at the top throughout the next month and a half, we’ll see.

Usual Suspects

Sweden – Heroes performed by Måns Zelmerlöw

Swedish Flag MapWhy I think it can win: The prime example of Swedish schlager at its best. It’s upbeat, fun, and incredibly easy to sing along to. Not only that, it has an amazing staging to go along with it (as the Swedes tend to stick to the same basic staging from Melodifestivalen at ESC).  Throw in the fact that Zelmerlöw is a likeable, attractive guy and you have the makings of a strong entry that can bring Sweden into striking distance of Ireland’s record.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: A legitimate music video (right now, a lyric video exists and the national final version exists). A music video would give the fans something to latch on to, including, possibly,  a “Heroes” dance.

Norway – A Monster Like Me performed by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett

Norwegian Flag MapWhy I think it can win: Norway is building upon the model established by the Netherlands over the past two years — present a dark, emotional song with a sombre performance to accompany it. Norway’s duet takes this to a whole new level and bares the souls of the performers.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: The duo needs to work on their on-stage chemistry. It is my understanding that this was originally a Mørland solo piece that was redeveloped to add Scarlett. Which is fine; they sound lovely together; but they are still somewhat stiff on stage. The whole staging needs to be revamped, actually, to better highlight the power of the song. Right now, the staging is a bit of a distraction. Their voices are great; but they need to sell the story of the song.

Azerbaijan – Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Hüseynov

Azerbaijani Flag MapWhy I think it can win: It’s genuine, soulful, emotional, and well-performed. The lyrics are heartfelt and the composition balances traditional tones and contemporary sound beautifully. We also know that Azerbaijan makes one heck of a stage-show. I am imagining that there will be a dancer dressed up as a wolf; how awesome would that be!

How it can improve its chance of taking the crown in May: Working the pre-show concerts. Azerbaijan needs to get the song out there and in front of fans. Make sure that it is as recognizable as some of the more distinct acts out there. Otherwise, it would be lost as just another Azerbaijani entry.

New to the Party

Italy – Grande Amore performed by Il Volo

Italian Flag MapWhy I think it can win: Italy has always had strong entries since its return, even last year’s mess of a performance was a decent song. This year, though, I believe they are entering with a legitimate shot at victory. The song is powerful, the singing is incredible, and it represents everything that people across the globe think that Italian music is: sweet tenor tones of love.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: Like Azerbaijan, Italy needs to work the pre-Contest circuit. It needs to make sure that everyone is singing along to Grande Amore heading into the Grand Final; not just singing it, but crying due to it. Not only that, but the guys’ honey tones need to be pure for the Jury Final (second dress rehearsal) AND the Grand Final performances.

Lithuania – This Time performed by Monika Linkytė & Vaidas Baumila

Lithuanian Flag MapWhy I think it can win: The first real chance Lithuania has to win the Contest since its debut. The song is fun, the two of them have amazing chemistry, and the potential for an outstanding staging (could you imagine several costume changes that show their relationship progressing through time – that would be awesome!). It’s cute and plays on the fantasy of a perfect romance that so many of us have.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: While the onstage chemistry is great, the live vocals need some work. Like Norway, it was a solo song retconned into a duet, though, having two performers make more sense here. The two of them need to work on singing in unison more effectively and working with the backing singers to ensure things blend properly.

Australia – Tonight Again performed by Guy Sebastian

Australian Flag MapWhy I think it can win: A soulful, R&B song performed by someone with international success already; from a country that will get a lot of votes for the sheer novelty of it competing from outside of Europe. The song is super modern and sounds like it could’ve been pulled from the charts. Not to mention, a successful run by a current star would help make the ESC stage more appealing to Western stars, which will ultimately raise the profile of the Contest in the bigger markets (i.e., the UK should dip into its musical industry). Not to mention, Australia will most likely get a sweet spot in the running order due to Sebastian’s name and the fact that it is Australia.

How it can improve its chances of taking the crown in May: It helps that there seems to be an endless stream of articles about Australia’s participation. However, there are just as many fans out there who will not vote for Australia due to the fact that it is not in Europe as those that will because of its novelty. In order to woo the middle group, Australia needs to go on a charm offensive; remind people why Guy Sebastian is already an international star. Oh, and ensure that they draw into the second half of the running order.

What do you think? Do any of these six have what it takes to lift the crystal microphone in Vienna?
Stay tuned for more articles as news develops, fan favorites arise, songs experience popularity dips, and I reconsider who could win!

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2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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ESC2014 – Second Semi-Final Reaction

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC2014: Second Semi-Final Final Predictions

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

Should make it through:
Greece
Romania
Norway
Israel
Ireland
Poland

Probably will make it through:
Austria
Macedonia
Malta
Finland

Fighting for the Final Spot:
Slovenia
Switzerland

No chance of moving through:
Georgia
Lithuania
Belarus

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

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

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