Posts tagged “poland

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Americans

USA flag in EO logo

Hello Dear Readers!

Well, with Netflix releasing its…. Eurovision-inspired movie; I thought, “What better time to counterbalance the image of ESC being a trashy, campy, dumpster fire?” USA flag in EO logoEven more so now that the new executive supervisor, Martin Österdahl, has announced that he’s continuing the tradition of putting style-before-substance. But now is not the time for a rant (but there will be one – promise!).

Instead, since many Americans will be learning about Eurovision for the first time this week, I thought it would be a good idea to 1) remind folks of my Eurovision for Beginners, 2) remind folks of my Essential Eurovision playlist, and 3) create a Eurovision for Americans playlist highlighting the performing artists coming from the States, spent significant time in the US, or otherwise are American citizens regardless of where they spent their youth.

  1. EO logo with Union JackUnited Kingdom 1997 – Love Shine a Light performed by Katrina & the Waves

    The only winning song to be performed by an American! Katrina, who is from Kansas, and the Waves are also known for their hit Walking on Sunshine.

  2. Portugal 2017 – Amar Pelos Dois performed by Salvador Sobral

    Sobral (and his older sister who wrote the song) spent his middle and high school years in Florida

  3. Hungary 2014 – Running performed by András Kállay-Saunders

    Saunders was born and raised in New York City before moving to Hungary, where his grandmother was, and began his music career.

  4. Austria 2000 – All to You performed by The Rounder Girls

    Kim Cooper of the Rounder Girls is from Long Island, NY.

  5. Italy 1975 – Era performed by Wess & Dori Ghezzi

    Before pursuing his music career in Italy, Wess spent his life in Winston-Salem, NC. in 2009, he passed away in his hometown.

  6. EO logo with Albanian flagAlbania 2011 – Feel the Passion performed by Aurela Gaçe

    After building her career in Albania, Gaçe spent the majority of 21st Century in the US engaging with the Albanian immigrant community.

  7. Germany 2009 – Miss Kiss Kiss Bang performed by Alex Sings Oscar Swings!

    Oscar Loya is a singer and thespian from California. Bonus American! Dita Von Teese joined Alex and Oscar on the stage in Moscow.

  8. Yugoslavia 1990 – Hajde Da Ludujemo performed by Tajci

    Tajci retired from music soon after her appearance at Eurovision and moved to the US where she eventually settled in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  9. Greece 2008 – Secret Combination performed by Kalomira

    Former prom queen Kalomira is from Long Island, NY.

  10. Israel 2006 – Ze Hazman performed by Eddie Butler

    Butler and his brother also were a part of the group representing Israel on home soil in 1999. Butler is from Detroit.

  11. Cyprus 2020 – Running performed Sandro

    Born in Germany, Sandro’s American citizenship comes from his father. Sandro represented the USA at the prestigious New Wave Festival in 2009.

  12. EO logo with Austrian flagAustria 2013 – Shine performed by Natália Kelly

    While Kelly spent the majority of her life in Austria, she was born in Connecticut.

  13. Poland 2008 – For Life performed by Isis Gee

    Originally from Seattle, but now based equally in California and Italy, Gee represented the land of her ancestors.

  14. Bulgaria 2018 – Bones performed by EQUINOX

    LA-based producer and singer Trey Campbell and Flint, Michigan native & America’s Got Talent alum Johnny Manuel comprised two-fifths of the group EQUINOX.

  15. United Kingdom 2009 – It’s My Time performed by Jade Ewen

    The UK’s most recent foray into the Top Ten was, in part, provided by American lyricist Diane Warren.

  16. EO logo with Luxembourgish flagLuxembourg 1979 – J’ai Déjà Vu ça Dans Tes Yeux performed by Jeane Manson

    Manson, from Cleveland, OH, built a career as a model before entering music.

  17. San Marino 2017 – Spirit of the Night performed by Jimmie Wilson & Valentina Monetta

    Primarily an actor in musicals, Wilson is a Detroit native.

  18. Slovenia 2013 – Straight into Love performed by Hannah

    Hannah is from Fresno, CA, love took her to Slovenia, where her music career took hold.

  19. Cyprus 2006 – Why Angels Cry performed by Annet Artani

    Artani comes from America’s biggest city: New York, NY.

  20. Sweden 2020 – Move performed by The Mamas

    Member Ashley Haynes is from the US capital: Washington, DC.

  21. Albania 2017 – World performed by Lindita

    Lindita is from Kosovo, but moved to the US in 2013 and even took part in American Idol in 2016.

  22. Serbia 2020 – Hasta la Vista performed by Hurricane

    While none of the three singers in Hurricane are American, the group was formed in LA and remains based there.

  23. EO logo with Danish flagDenmark 1981 – Krøller Eller Ej performed by Tommy Seebach & Debbie Cameron

    Cameron comes from Miami, FL where she grew up and attended university before moving to Copenhagen.

  24. Germany 2010 – Satellite performed by Lena

    Another songwriter, this time Chicago-based Julie Frost, co-wrote and co-composed the only winning song – thus far – from the Big Five since the rule was instituted (she also wrote the 2012 DMGP entry Best Thing that I Got).

 

Additionally, I will be starting a series focused on American Eurovision media outlets and organizations, both those based in the US and those started by Americans in Europe. You can read the first entry which focuses on Eurovision Obsession, which you can consider an extended “About EO” page.

Many thanks goes to the WiwiBloggs article that served as the jumping off point for my research for this playlist.


Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easily:

  • Greece

  • Iceland

  • Switzerland

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Latvia

  • Bulgaria

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

  • Serbia

  • Poland

  • Georgia

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

  1. Switzerland

  2. Poland

  3. Latvia

  4. Austria

  5. Iceland

  6. Denmark

  7. Albania

  8. Moldova

  9. San Marino

  10. Armenia

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • Iceland

  • Italy

  • Lithuania

  • Malta

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

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

See you next week!

EO logo with the Bulgarian flag

EO logo with Icelandic flag

EO logo with Lithuanian flag


Eurovision 2019 – Live Notes: First Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

Since I do not have the privilege of being in Tel Aviv this year, I will be my usual live notes. Join me as I reveal my reactions and thoughts as the semi-final unfolds.

As a reminder, here are the ten songs I am predicting for qualification tonight (in no particular order):

  • Greece

  • Portugal

  • Estonia

  • Iceland

  • Australia

  • Belgium

  • Czech Republic

  • Slovenia

  • San Marino

  • Cyprus

Of course, this will likely change after seeing the songs performed live tonight. I’m excited!

Opening Act:

Interesting fashion choice, but this rendition is no less epic than anticipated.

Can’t say I am a fan of that disco ball dress, but it’s okay I guess

Cyprus: Why does her hair look so wet? What are her dancers wearing?! I like the use of the screen, a lot! Oh golly, she should have kept the jacket on. But the choreography was good. I now understand why she’s dropped in the betting odds, that was not great. But good enough, I think.

Montenegro: Clearly, they’ve been working on sounding like more of a cohesive unit. This is still a very cutesy song. It still will not qualify. They look and sound good, though!

Finland: The vocals could definitely be stronger. I guess the dancing lady is alright.

Poland: WHAT ARE THEY WEARING?! I also do not get this backing projection of their faces. I will say, the camera work is well done. And getting the audience to clap with them is a great idea.

Slovenia: Looking awfully casual, aren’t we. I guess it adds to the intimate feel of the staging. Wow! You can really tell that they have a tight connection. Wow! The staging fits them and this song so well.

Czechia: Love this dance off in the postcard. OMG I love this Eighties camera effect with the rectangles. This was fantastic – definitely the strongest thus far.

Hungary: I love the lights and the use of the screens. As expected, his vocals are on point. His look is not, but as the song goes on, he sings with more and more emotion.

Belarus: Those boots! Best boots since Ukraine 2009! Cool flips from the dancers. Great choreography in general from the dancers. Smart to go with a 90s aesthetic, it makes the song feel more in context. Just not sure, overall, how much appeal it has beyond the teen girl demographic. But they are huge and they vote, so…

Serbia: I love her outfit. and the use of the floor screen! Not sure the 3D water effects were necessary. Her voice is just as powerful and on point as on the studio version. Her biggest issue is that this sounds like a typical Balkan heartbreak ballad, despite being a song of love.

Belgium: The backing screens are well utilized. That is about all the positive I have 😦 He looks and sounds very scared and uncomfortable. I’m glad the crowd is clapping and trying to keep him going, but this just missing the mark, by a lot. Not to mention the costumes are awful; his jacket is WAY too big.

Georgia: That was a great postcard and a smart idea to show him so smiley ahead of this dark and dour song. While the marching silhouettes were weird and creepy, I like the bridge effect on the floor. The fire just adds to how dark this song sounds. It’s like a villain song from a cartoon musical.

Australia: That opening silhouette was powerful and perfect. Love the visual effects to make it look like she’s floating. Way to hit that big note, Kate! WOW! Now I know why Australia shot up the betting odds as soon as the first rehearsals started. This was wonderful!

Iceland: I am happy that they toned the sex aspect of their staging. The singer was a bit off but the screamer was fine. Idk, I am just not convinced that this can connect with most audiences, particularly in the age of juries.

Estonia: I feel like they’ve wasted the potential this stage to create amazing storm effects. His vocals are way off, though. and not by a little bit. And he keeps missing notes on the refrain which is the most important part. These effects at the end are too little, too late.

Portugal: So much energy in such a somber song. The dancer is great. I think this translated very well. Not “too” artsy like one might think. I still think this one qualifies.

Greece: Huh. Her voice is interesting, for sure. For such a high energy, powerful song, this feels quite dull. Just like Belgium, it’s as if someone sucked the soul out them right before they took the stage.

San Marino: Well, the second verse sounded miles better than the first. They should have had a male backing singer that could double his weak vocals. It started off low energy, but it’s picking up throughout the song. Sigh, I do not think SM will get through with this, its tenth entry.

Okay, my favorite ten from tonight.

  1. Australia

  2. Czechia

  3. Slovenia

  4. Poland

  5. Georgia

  6. Montenegro

  7. Serbia

  8. Hungary

  9. Portugal

  10. Greeece

And, more importantly, who do I think will qualify (in order of confidence):

  • Australia

  • Cyprus

  • Iceland

  • Slovenia

  • Czech Republic

  • Portugal

  • Hungary

  • Greece

  • Belarus

  • Georgia

Voting sequence interval act: Dana International is rarely a bad idea. But kiss cams are literally the worst. I wish she would sing one of her songs and not just this Bruno Mars one.

Interval Act: Quite liked the dj mix of ESC songs through history.

Auto Qualifiers:

Spain needs to sound better for the jury and live show at the end of the week. He sounds so breathy.
France’s staging is so smarmy – the words on the screen are so unnecessary.
Israel’s staging is the best one can do with such a boring song. At least he sounds good.

Qualifiers!

  • Greece! As expected (1 correct out of 1 qualifiers)

  • Belarus – the power of a good staging (2 for 2)

  • Serbia! – unexpected but nice! (2 for 3)

  • Cyprus – again, no surprise (3 for 4)

  • Estonia – I guess he sounded better last night (3 for 5)

  • Czech Republic – Woohoo! (4 for 6)

  • Australia – again, perfect staging! (5 for 7)

  • Iceland – no surprise (6 for 8)

  • San Marino!! – the power of the running order, everyone! (6 for 9)

  • Slovenia – as expected, they’ve been a betting odds favorite for quite some time (7 out of 10)

Final Thoughts:

Cannot wait to see the final split scores. I am assuming Estonia and San Marino sounded better last night in the jury finals. Super stoked that San Marino finally qualified again! The song is fun and catchy, though, he needs to sound way better if he hopes to outdo Valentina’s 24th place. I am very pleasantly surprised by Serbia’s qualification. And saddened by Portugal’s lack of qualification. Cannot say that I am surprised by Hungary or Georgia, though I would have liked to see both move through. Georgia was just too dark, I think, and Hungary was a bit too low energy (listen to the studio version, there’s much more passion in it). Overall, I am satisfied. Australia, I think, was by far the strongest tonight. It will be interesting to see how these ten songs fare on Saturday.


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Norway

Alexander Rybak

How You Write a Song

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Romania

The Humans

Goodbye

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Serbia

Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

Nova Deca [New Children]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening

Who We Are

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Denmark

Rasmussen

Higher Ground

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Russia

Julia Samoylova

I Won’t Break

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

DoReDos

My Lucky Day

National Final

Thoughts:

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

The Netherlands

Waylon

Outlaw in ‘Em

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Australia

Jessica Mauboy

We Got Love

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Georgia

Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao

For You

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Poland

Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer

Light Me Up

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Malta

Christabelle

Taboo

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Hungary

AWS

Viszlát Nyár [Summer Gone]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Latvia

Laura Rizzotto

Funny Girl

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Sweden

Benjamin Ingrosso

Dance You Off

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Montenegro

Vanja Radovanović

Inje [Frost]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Slovenia

Lea Sirk

Hvala Ne [No Thanks]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Ukraine

MÉLOVIN

Under the Ladder

National Final

Thoughts:

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

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

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

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Ukraine

  • Romania

  • Australia

  • Montenegro

  • Poland

  • The Netherlands

  • Moldova

  • Norway

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Sweden

  2. Latvia

  3. Ukraine

  4. Montenegro

  5. Norway

  6. Australia

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Poland

  10. Malta

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

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


Eurovision 2017 – Grand Final Live Notes!!

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

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

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

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

On to the show!!!

Parade of Nations

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

Opening Act

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

On to the songs!

01 Israel I Feel Alive

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

02 Poland Flashlight

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

03 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia/Story of My Life

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

04 Austria Running on Air

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

05 Armenia Fly with Me

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

07 Moldova Hey, Mamma!

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

08 Hungary Origo

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

09 Italy Occidentali’s Karma

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

10 Denmark Where I Am

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

11 Portugal Amar Pelos Dois

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

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

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

12 Azerbaijan Skeletons

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

13 Croatia My Friend

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

14 Australia Don’t Come Easy

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

15 Greece This is Love

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

16 Spain Do It for Your Lover

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

17 Norway Grab the Moment

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

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

18 United Kingdom Never Give Up on You

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

19 Cyprus Gravity

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

20 Romania Yodel It!

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

21 Germany Perfect Life

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

22 Ukraine Time

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

23 Belgium City Lights

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

24 Sweden Can’t Go On

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

25 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

26 France Requiem

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

 

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

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

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

  1. Bulgaria

  2. Portugal

  3. Belgium

  4. Italy

  5. United Kingdom

  6. Belgium

  7. Romania

  8. Sweden

  9. Armenia

  10. Azerbaijan

And, who were my ten favorites from tonight?

  1. Hungary

  2. Armenia

  3. Belgium

  4. Portugal

  5. Bulgaria

  6. United Kingdom

  7. Denmark

  8. France

  9. Norway

  10. Poland

Voting Entertainment/ Interval, I guess

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

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

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

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

San Marino – more points to Portugal

Latvia – and the points continue for Portugal

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

Israel – Another 12 to Portugal

Montenegro – 12 to Greece

Albania – 12 points to Italy

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

Macedonia – first 12 for Bulgaria

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

Denmark – 12 to Sweden. surprise, surprise

Austria – 12 points to the Netherlands. Interesting

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

Spain – 12 to…Portugal (no surprise)

Finland – 12 points to Sweden (no surprise)

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

Greece – 12 points to Cyprus (no surprise)

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

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

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

Armenia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

Serbia – 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Germany – 12 points to Norway – interesting

Portugal – 12 points to Azerbaijan! Interesting…strategic?

Switzerland  – another 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Georgia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

Slovenia – 12 points to Portugal

Belgium – 12 points to Sweden – that was highly unexpected

Poland – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

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

Televote!

Spain is saved from null point land!

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

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

France got 90 points

Croatia got 103 points

126 points to Sweden

152 to Hungary – and quite the jump!

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

Romania – is next with a sizeable jump

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

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

264 points and third in the televote to Moldova

Bulgaria v. Portugal

337 points to Bulgaria

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

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

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

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

 

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Eurovision 2017 – First Semi-Final Recap and Podcast

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

©EBU Thomas Hanses

  • Armenia (first half)

  • Australia (second)

  • Azerbaijan (first)

  • Belgium (second)

  • Cyprus (second)

  • Greece (second)

  • Moldova (first)

  • Poland (first)

  • Portugal (first)

  • Sweden (second)

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

Some historical markers from last night:

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

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

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

My Reactions:

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

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision 2017 Song Reviews (Finally!) — Recap!

Eurovision Obsession logo

Hello Dear Readers!

So, there you have it, my initial thoughts on the 2017 Eurovision field of entries. It was hard this year to choose top contenders, so many songs sound similar and parceling out those that were stronger from the weak wasn’t easy. Amongst those that sound different, I’ve tried to identify which ones were memorable for the right reasons. Below is my first prediction for 2017’s Top Ten and winner!

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

  • Armenia – it’s dazzling and intriguing; captivating and unique.

  • Azerbaijan – a return to form and powerful pop song

  • Belgium – unique, current, and incredibly popular

  • Bulgaria – the strongest ballad this year

  • Denmark – stands out with its R&B sound

  • France –  even better than last year, very French, yet still accessible

  • Italy – certainly one of the smarter entries in ESC history, very entertaining, too

  • Macedonia – this year’s strongest entry from the former Yugoslav

  • Poland – dark and stirring, will outperform expectations for sure

  • Sweden – well-done schlager with a flashy stage routine

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

Denmark, Bulgaria, France

Denmark
Anja has an amazing voice and the song is well composed. However, R&B does have a dicey history at the Contest. Will the audience be able to get behind this song, even though it strays from the traditional pop style?

Bulgaria
Perfectly capturing the styling of the modern ballad, Bulgaria brings its most competitive entry to date. However, Kristian Kostov, while supremely vocally-talented, is one of the youngest performers this year, I wonder if he has the stage presence to convey this kind of song. Will Bulgaria be able to build on its success from last year by putting together a useful staging and promotional work?

France
An intriguing entry that does a strong job of displaying the French aesthetic without scaring those who are non-French. However, this song requires a well done staging, and we all know that is most definitely NOT France’s department. Can Alma guide the production process enough to ensure that the song presentation is both meaningful and enjoyable without it becoming a distraction?

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

Bulgaria! Ultimately, I think Kostov has the look, sound, and stage presence to aptly perform this haunting – yet relatable – ballad. The music is stirring, yet not overly complex and the lyrics are captivating without being inaccessible. And, without Russia around, there will be more points up for grabs, particularly for those from Slavic backgrounds. Though, this song will definitely appeal to Westerners as well.

I definitely look forward to diving deeper into these entries, commentary, and internet buzz. Even more than that, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below or catch up with me on Twitter!

 

Once again, ESC Obsession has created a Eurovision Tournament Bracket for you! Forty-two songs enter, only one can survive. Seeded by their current betting odds, this bracket sets up a series of duels until one song comes out on top. Whether you want to think about the competition in a new way, compare your picks with friends, or simply are having trouble determining your favorite entry this year – the bracket is for you! Feel free to download it, feel it out, share it around. Post about it here and/or Reddit! I’ll post mine next week.

ESC 2017 Tournament

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

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Armenia

Artsvik

Fly with Me

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Cyprus

Hovig

Gravity

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Czechia

Martina Bárta

My Turn

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Greece

Demy

This is Love

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Iceland

Svala

Paper

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Latvia

Triana Park

Line

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

SunStroke Project

Hey, Mamma!

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Poland

Kasia Moś

Flashlight

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Slovenia

Omar Naber

On My Way

Televised

Thoughts:

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

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

 

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

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

Armenia

Armenia

Australia

Albania

Azerbaijan

Latvia

Belgium

Portugal

Cyprus

Finland

Finland

Poland

Greece

Azerbaijan

Moldova

Iceland

Poland

Moldova

Sweden

Czechia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!


ESC 2016 Reviews: Second Semi-Final, Part One

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Second Semi-Final, First Half

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Australian Flag Map

Australia

Dami Im Sound of Silence Internal

Thoughts:

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

Belarus

Ivan Help You Fly Televised

Thoughts:

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

Ireland

Nicky Byrne Sunlight Televised

Thoughts:

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

Israel

Hovi Star Made of Stars Televised

Thoughts:

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

Latvia

Justs Heartbeat Televised

Thoughts:

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

Lithuania

Donny Montell I’ve Been Waiting for This Night Televised

Thoughts:

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

Macedonia

Kaliopi Dona Internal

Thoughts:

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

Poland

Michał Szpak Color of Your Life Televised

Thoughts:

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

Serbia

ZAA Sanja Vučić Goodbye (Shelter) Internal

Thoughts:

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

Switzerland

Rykka The Last of Our Kind Televised

Thoughts:

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

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

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

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Balladeers!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

View the playlist here: Eurovision for Balladeers

  1. Poland 2008PolandFor Life performed by Isis Gee

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

  3. Estonia 2012 – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2007 – Unsubstantial Blues performed by Magdi Rúzsa

    Monaco

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

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

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

  11. Malta 2005 – Angel performed by Chiara

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

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

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

    Spain

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

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

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

  18. Sweden 2014 – Undo performed by Sanna Nielsen

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

  20. Sweden 2006 – Invincible performed by Carola

    United Kingdom

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS!

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for 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!)


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.


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.


First Video Posted – ESC 2014 Dark Horses!

As promised, my first YouTube video has been published looking at who I think will surprise us at the Contest this year.  You can view it here: http://youtu.be/36YzhL83Ofo.

Coming later, final semi-final one predictions as well as ESC2014 Contest Notes!


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

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

 

Maltese Flag Map1. MaltaComing Home performed by Firelight

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 8

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 7

 

2. IsraelSame Heart performed by Mei FeingoldIsraeli Flag Country

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 8

Composite: 7

 

Norwegian Flag Map3. NorwaySilent Storm performed by Carl Espen

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 4

Composite: 5

 

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

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 3

Composite: 4.5

 

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

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 7

Composite: 8

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

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 10

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 8.5

 

Lithuanian Flag Map7. LithuaniaAttention performed by Vilija

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

Keys to Success: Nailing the choreography

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Anything short of a perfect performance

Personal Interest Score: 4

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 5

 

Finnish Flag Map8. FinlandSomething Better performed by Softengine

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 4

Potential for Success: 7

Composite: 5.5


ESC 2011 – [Three] Weeks Later

Howdy everyone!  Sorry that this post is a little later than usual – this entry took much longer to write than it was supposed to.  Without further ado, here are my ESC Awards and Final Thoughts for this year’s Contest.

Best Dressed Award:

Winner: Iceland
The guys looked oh so classy in their vests and ties.

First Runner-Up: Slovakia
What the TWiiNS lacked in vocal power they more than made up for in style. I loved the gold and silver dresses that they had on.

Second Runner-Up: The Netherlands
More classy apparel – there’s something about suits that just make people look nice.

Honorable Mention: Norway, France, Italy, Azerbaijan

“Most in Need of a Costume Change” Award:

Winner: Ireland
If this was any act other than Jedward, those hideous red jackets would have derailed that song’s chances of even getting out of the semi-finals.

First Runner-Up: Croatia (Dress #1)
What a hideous garmet!  Her costume change didn’t come fast enough!  I liked the pink dress, though.

Second Runner-Up: Israel
Dana International made this list not just because she wore a very questionable dress, but because she’s known for being on the cutting edge of fashion and this thing that she wore was just…ish.

Honorable Mention: Slovenia, Albania, Romania

I’m scrapping the “Cutest Boy” and “Cutest Gal” categories because they’re somewhat pointless.  Instead, I will be replacing them with the “Best Lyrics” and “Huh?” Awards.

Best Lyrics:

Winner: Albania
“Let me share my song with you, just feel the passion/Love’s the message shining through, a chain reaction…Zot, qe këngën ma ke fal, më lerë të ndarë [God, you who has given me the song, let me share it]/Nuk ka ngjyrë e nuk ka fjalë, muret s’e mbajnë [It has no colour and no words, walls can’t hold it]”
Any song that sings about the glory of God and how much the singer wants to spread the message is a-okay in my book!

First Runner-Up: Bosnia & Herzegovina
“If you take this life from me today…You’ll just find two, three songs of mine/Hundred worries of mine/Your love, your love in rewind…”
Is he talking to a partner?  To the mirror?  To God?  All three?  Someone else?  Is this at the end of a relationship or on a deathbed?  We don’t know because they are endless possibilities – that’s what makes these lyrics so great.

Second Runner-Up: San Marino
“Oh, this life, something so beautiful but hard at the same time…Tonight, can we pretend there’s no more time?/Let’s lock our doors and leave this endless world outside”
While there aren’t groundbreaking lyrics, they are well-written and go far beyond the typical ESC lyrics.

Honorable Mention: Italy, France, The Netherlands, Serbia

“Huh?” Award: Given to the entry with the most questionable, lazy, or just plain nonsensical lyrics

Winner: Armenia
“Boom, boom! Chuka, chuka! Your kiss is like a-, like a-.”
Not only is this lazy writing, but it’s just silly.  “Chuka” is not a word.  “Your kiss is like a, like a,” “like a” what?  You can’t just end a sentence there without any hint to what you’re referring to.  Being a feel good pop song is no excuse for pitiful songwriting.  Somebody should be ashamed of him/herself.

First Runner-Up: Israel
“Ding dong, say no more./I hear silent prayers and they take me high…and fly/I know where to go and I’m coming now!”
Normally, I love Dana International’s songs, but Ding Dong is simply weak. From the verses I get an idea of what the song is about, but this refrain (lyrics above) makes absolutely no sense!

Second Runner-Up: Norway
There are only about eight unique lines of text in this song!
This song is quite lazy lyrically, but at least it’s fun to dance to.

Honorable Mention: Ukraine, Sweden

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

Winner: Spain
Feel good beats and a pleasant message; a surprisingly original song that continued the Spanish’s tradition of sending authentic entries to the Contest – Spain takes home the ever-so-prestigious Spirit of ABBA Award for 2011.

First Runner-Up: Estonia
Complete with pop-tastic beats, vapid lyrics with some questionable aspects (“One, Two, Seven, Three”), and a fun stage performance.

Second Runner-Up: Belarus
One reason I love the ESC is because of the intense nationalism; however, this song fails because it’s about loving Belarus but is completely in English.

Honorable Mention: Armenia, Norway

“This is D.C. Calling” Award: Given to the most American sounding entry

Winner: Azerbaijan
I think Azerbaijan has either won or placed for this award each of the last three years.  Yet again, the Azerbaijanis send a generic pop song to the Contest and it serves them well.  In fact, it makes me a little proud that it won, and then I remember that there were a slew of entries that were more deserving.

First Runner-Up: Sweden
Aside from the fact that Eric Saade is a pop star due to his looks (and most definitely not for his voice), this song’s questionable lyrics and egocentrism (how many love songs do you know that includes the word “I” more times than it does “you”) would make it feel right at home in the American pop scene.

Second Runner-Up: Switzerland
This pleasant song sounds like something that would grace the indie scene – possibly an indie artist’s one hit song.

Honorable Mention: Russia, Serbia

“Pond Leaper” Award: While I think every song would be able to find a niche here in the USA, these are the songs I think would be the most popular.

Winner: Hungary
Kati Wolf actually sounds like everyone’s favorite diva-to-hate: Celine Dion, except she’s singing a disco-esque song.  This would be eaten up over here!

First Runner-Up: Iceland
An incredibly sincere and heart-warming ballad with a sob story to go along with it that make the lyrics that much more poignant.

Second Runner-Up: Slovenia
A powerful R&B-pop song about a woman scorned that could just have easily been sung by Christina Aguilera, yeah, this song would do quite well on the Billboard charts.

Honorable Mention: Italy, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina

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

Winner: The Netherlands getting last place
First off, this was a really hard award to hand out this year, as I am not gravely offended by any of the results this year (not even Sweden’s third place or Ireland’s eighth).  However, the Dutch presented a well-written song with a strong arrangement; I understand that no one in Europe likes the Dutch, but the juries could have at least given the 3JS more points.  This was an undeserved last place for the Netherlands (unlike some of their others).

First Runner-Up: San Marino failing to qualify
I know the Sammarinese have set the goal, at least for now, of using Eurovision as a way of proclaiming their existence, but they had a decent shot of progressing through to the Final this year (and would have if the jury votes had stood alone).  I hope the tiny country keeps trying to qualify.  How awesome would it be to have a Contest in San Marino!

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

10. Iceland – powerful lyrics, light melody, great performance

9. Serbia – the lyrics are well-written and authentic, the music is fun, and the performance was strong and energetic

8. Belgium – despite the cheesy lyrics, the arrangement of this song was phenomenal

7. Slovenia – the lyrics are original and tell a story, the music captures the mood as the song progresses, and the Kuec is a powerful singer.

6. Norway – it’s fun, it’s easy to sing along to, it brings a new language to the ESC stage.

5. Germany – Lena 2.0: sexier and more mature than the previous model, this eerie song is as unique as it is captivating

4. Switzerland – how can you not like this song? It sounds like something that a person might sing to their partner before proposing.

3. Albania – it’s a powerful song about the awesomeness of God.

2. Bosnia & Herzegovina – great lyrics, great music, great performance – even more so, it’ll help me introduce the Contest to more of my American friends.

1. Italy – this song is well written, well composed, awesomely performed; very few songs give chills when the first time I hear it performed, but this one did. Bravo Italy!

Final Thoughts:
The biggest story that seems to be coming out of this year’s Contest isn’t the fact that Azerbaijan won but this issue with the juries that seems to continually pop up – Italy won the jury voting, Russia was utterly destroyed by the juries, and the UK didn’t fare too much better.  Let’s not forget that the juries judge songs based upon their hit potential AND their artistic merit.  People complain that Italy’s song has no hit potential, well, they’re overlooking the fact that his album hit number one in Italy, France, and Germany – three of the largest music industries in Europe and the album charted elsewhere.  It really irritates me that people are still whining about them after all this time (case in point, an Oikotimes blog article: http://www.oikotimes.com/eurovision/2011/06/03/jury-system-must-be-abandonded/).  I am ignoring the article, as it’s misinformed and frustrates me (the juries were brought back for the 2008 Contest after complaints – dating back four years – that the semi-final system introduced in 2004 was effectively shutting out Western countries from the Final, Russia’s victory in 2008 merely prompted the EBU to move the juries into the Final.  Macedonia’s two consecutive shut outs at the hands of the jury prompted the body to move 50/50 system into the semi-finals in 2010).  Additionally, yes, the constant rehearsals and PR demands can wear out a performer, but that’s a part of the Contest.  There are four performances that matter for songs that qualify into the Final, if singers and dancers can’t perform four times at 100% then they really don’t deserve to win.  Eric Saade and co. of Sweden was able to give four strong performances and they probably had the most demanding performance of any of the forty-three entrants.  I agree with a few of those who left comments, the juries should have to vote on the night of the Final, simply so that they are judging the same thing as the viewing audience – though, I don’t mind the idea of making performers be consistent.  Additionally, someone complained about bloggers, journalists, lawyers, and producers being allowed to be on juries.  Let’s not forget, while the musicians are the ones who make the music, it’s the media and executives that determine what songs become hits and which ones do not.  Trust me, if the juries were purely artists and researchers, then there would be many more disagreements between the juries and televotes than Italy and Lithuania. I also want to remind one of the comment leavers that in 2008 they having the juries in the semi-finals only, and it resulted in even more anger and controversy when Russia won. If anything, the variance between the two groups that we saw this year only demonstrates how important it is that this 50/50 system stays in place; it seems to be doing its job.  How else would weak songs from popular countries such as Turkey, Armenia, and Norway be kept out so that higher quality entries could go through to the Final?

Speaking of which, one of the Eurovision Radio contributors raised an interesting point on the June 1st show – did Azerbaijan win because Turkey was not in the Final?  It makes sense that AZR was able to pick up votes that otherwise would have went to Turkey, particularly from the televoters.  Conversely, the two songs were so different, maybe it would not have made a difference if Turkey had qualified or not – at least not when it came to the jury side of things.  It will be very interesting to see the legacy that Running Scared leaves behind.  I think it definitely continues the trend of more serious entries winning over more frivolous ones.  However, it is the definition of generic pop song, hopefully, next year won’t be full of robotic acts that try to repeat AZR’s success.  I do hope that inspires more broadcasters to ship their acts around the continent to promote their entries, particularly for Eastern songs to go out West and vice versa.

I think this year a very distinct line was drawn in the sand between the performance entries (Ireland, Sweden, Russia, Estonia, etc) and the entries of artistic merit (Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, etc), and I think this is why the jury issues seem to be louder than anything else, especially with this being the first time that the juries and televoters disagree.  It will be very interesting to see if this divide continues to grow next year, or will the entries start to converge back towards the middle; let’s hope for the latter!

I will leave you with a note about the entry I think that was the most overlooked and downright ignored.  Spain’s Que Me Quiten lo Bailao – They Can’t Take Away the Fun from Me performed by Lucía Pérez was a fun entry that was among the favorites of all in attendance at my Eurovision party.  Its lyrics offered a refreshingly different message than any other song for quite a few years, the music was bouncy and lighthearted, and the performance was just perfect for the song.  I hope the result doesn’t discourage Ms. Pérez; though, she’s a seasoned professional, so I doubt that it will.  Either way, Muy Bien España!

With that, I close out my blogs on the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 – Düsseldorf.  In the upcoming year, I will be posting entries about Svante Stockselius, his legacy and the challenges he left to be faced by Jon Ola Sand, news and thoughts about the upcoming Contest in Baku, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (held in Yerevan, Armenia this year), and news and thoughts about entries as they become available.


ESC2011: Notes on the First Semi-Final

Eurovision 2011 – Düsseldorf

FIRST SEMI-FINAL!

At long last the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 is finally here!  And, for the first time since 1997, taking place in Western Europe outside of a Nordic country (something I will explain more in-depthly in a later blog).  A bit of history now, 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary Luxembourg’s first victory (1961), Nous les Amoureux performed by Jean-Claude Pascal and the 25th Anniversary of Belgium’s only victory (1986), J’Aime la Vie performed by Sandra Kim.  How awesome would it be if Luxembourg had returned this year, on the golden anniversary of its first victory?  Surely that story would have outshines Italy’s return (or at least shone as brightly).  I am bursting with excitement and anticipation to see if the bookies are right to pick France, Sweden, and Estonia as the three countries to battle it out for the top spot.  Personally, I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the first year since the new scoring system was introduced that there will be a difference between the jury selection and the televoting.  I think fans will go with the electrifying performance from Sweden that Mr. Saade has promised us while the jury may go for the classical and reserved entry from France. Who knows, maybe Estonia will be able to split the difference and reclaim the crown. I will be saving my revised prediction of the winner for my live commentary notes on Saturday.

As always, please remember that I write this commentary live, the first time I see the Contest.  Also, I do not mean to offend any person, peoples, or countries and try to be tactful yet entertaining in my notes.  I also want to point out that each of these performers, all 43 of them, are already winners, having won their country’s national selection process, whether it be wooing voting audiences, professional juries, or clandestine television executives.  They all deserve respect and appreciation just for making it this far.  So, without further ado – Enjoy!

As usual, being the fan of wild speculation that I am, I will present to you my predictions for the ten qualifiers from tonight’s semi-final. Again, please remember I am basing these predictions off of 30 second preview clips, the bookies’ numbers, and the ever-so-important web chatter.  My prediction is that: Armenia, Turkey, Greece, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Hungary, Russia, Norway, Poland, and Albania will make it through. I think, despite the huge promotional tour and EuroClub party, San Marino just won’t be able to keep up with the countries that most can place on a map (for those who don’t know, San Marino is an enclave country within Italy).  I think Serbia shot itself in the foot with its retro-sound this year.  And Finland and Georgia just won’t be able to charm the audiences as much as the web folk think they will.  All others never stood that good of a chance of moving through anyway – but I do wish everyone the best of luck!

The Opening Act: 😦 Another semi-final without an opening act.

Wow! Could Stefan Raab’s accent be anymore generically German?  Wow, what a high percentage of jokes to fall flat in such a short amount of time.  I think Italy got the same amount of (if not more) applause than Germany. Really, did they let Raab write all of these jokes?  Please tell me that they will have better jokes and banter on Thursday and Saturday.  Another year with voting at the beginning of the show; I still don’t like this.

Looks like the postcards will return to the theme of presenting the host country, but at lest they incorporate folks from the upcoming country and the slogan in that country’s language.  Not to mention the shot of the performers at the very beginning.

01. Poland – Jestem performed by Magdalena Tul

This is a pleasant enough song and a decent way in which to start off the show, but the performance is a little lackluster…the little dance break was a nice touch, but I think it is too little, too late. She has to hope that others will put up an equally as tepid performance, which I don’t foresee, especially with the up-tempo Norwegian act that will most likely obliterate any memory of the Polish act from viewers mind.

02. Norway – Haba Haba performed by Stella Mwangi

You can definitely tell that she is a rapper turned singer – and I can understand the Norwegian people’s disappointment that she won (though, she won in a landslide, so they can’t complain too much). I will say it’s nice to see black people on the ESC stage, especially one that is favored to do well.  Despite Mwangi’s weak vocals, the performance is pretty exciting and the song is well-arranged to give the backing singers a bigger role. It’s just such a pleasant song, it definitely felt like a Stella Mwangi concert, not a one song performance.

03. Albania – Feel The Passion performed by Aurela Gaçe

This is a bubble song (one that has an equal chance of moving through or staying behind) so she needs a really strong performance to convince the televoters as this does not sound like something the juries would like. She definitely gets stronger as the song goes on.  I really like this but I don’t think she is quite powerful enough to grip Europe (think of her as a lite version of Ukraine’s Svetlana Loboda from 2009).

04. Armenia – Boom Boom performed by Emmy

Yuck! Her voice is grating – how did this win the Armenian selection?  The other songs seemed to be a much better match for her weak voice.  “Boom boom, chucka chucka, you kiss is like a, like a” what is this dribble?  This sounds like some UK rubbish!  Or better yet, something from the wasteland years of the Contest in the early 2000s.  Armenia, I suppose, wants to test the strength of their diaspora. This song shouldn’t move past tonight (though it probably will), but I think it will definitely be Armenia’s first entry to fall outside the Top Ten.

05. Turkey – Live It Up performed by Yüksek Sadakat

After Lena’s success last year, I guess Turkey thought it would be a good idea to send a singer with a heavy accent.  I don’t understand why he just didn’t sing in Turkish.  I also am very confused by the dancer in the sphere.  For those with any doubt that the music is piped in, the keyboardist pretends to play his notes on the camera.  Oh, I see, the dancer “breaks” out of its shell.  It’s an alright song.

I liked the little video during the advert break, it was great to see all the different artists singing the same song.  It reminds you that ESC is a friendlier competition than most.

06. Serbia – Čaroban performed by Nina

I love the retro sound and I positively love the lyrics.  I think the staging is also quite cute and perfectly fits the song.  My biggest fear is that televoters will whine about the retro-ness of the song, despite its awesomeness.  My favorite song thus far.

07. Russia – Get You performed by Alexej Vorobjov

What a cute boy!  I dig the intro, though, I’m not quite sure what he said.  This was good until the refrain began, then it turned into a Justin Beiber song, complete with lazy lyrics and cheesy kid-bop choreography.  This is okay, the staging (particularly the glowing lights on their backs) is by far better than the song itself.

08. Switzerland – In Love for a While performed by Anna Rossinelli

Hahaha!  That was awesome – they had all four Swiss languages represented in the postcard!

The dress is much too sexy for this song and staging.  Oh, I think the Swiss had a really strong chance of charming Europe this year, but I think Rossinelli is letting her nerves get the best of her because I refuse to believe that if her voice was this shaky when she was performing on the streets, the songwriter would have continued walking past her.  At this point, the Swiss’ only hope is for some major catastrophes to arise throughout the next few performances, particularly Georgia’s.

09. Georgia – One More Day performed by Eldrine

From little kids on the playground to a screeching rock band – quite the transition!  I didn’t want to like this song because I thought Eldrine’s lead singer got a raw deal, being replaced for unknown reasons after she led the group to victory.  But I do like this despite myself.  Rapping!  Oh, no, no, no!  Georgia doesn’t have the diaspora of Armenia, Greece, Turkey or any of those other countries that can send whatever they want and still do well.  Georgia has to work for votes and nothing stops European votes faster than rappers.

10. Finland – Da Da Dam performed by Paradise Oskar

Welcome back?  Welcome who back?  Finland has always been here.  Welcome back to people who took a 30 second advert break?

Let the parade of cute boys continue!  The melody and the harmony don’t seem to fit together all that well.  “Call to Action” songs tend to be received with high applause or stern consternation, I’m not sure which this will receive.  It helps that it is contrasted against two up-tempo numbers.  I’m not sure what to make of this one.

11. Malta – One Life performed by Glen Vella

Has any song with this message or title ever done well?  Let’s see, Belgium 2004, nope!  Macedonia 2004, not really!  Austria 2007, nope!  Malta 2011, nope!  This song is okay; I think Vella’s vocals could be better for a renowned vocal coach.  I do want to give Malta props for a relatively subdued stage show as I am sure the was great temptation to make it wild and exuberant.

12. San Marino – Stand By performed by Senit

Yay!  Welcome back San Marino!!!  I think this song has an awkward arrangement.  It doesn’t know if it wants to be a rock ballad or a pop ballad or an R&B ballad and it’s this weird mix of all three; I think it would have behooved the Sammarinese delegation to take advantage of Senit’s jazzy voice and arrange this song to be a jazz ballad.  Putting it in Italian would have made it even better.  With that said, I think this song is about one to two years late, and would have fared much better in Belgrade or Oslo then hear in Germany.  Oh well, hopefully San Marino will continue to find money for the Contest and come back next year.

13. Croatia – Celebrate performed by Daria

Whew!  This intro is too low for her.  Wow!  Daria is bringing back the costume change!  Interesting, at one point, costume changes came standard with most entries, now it a rarity and makes Croatia stand out.  However, I don’t think the two stunning costume changes are enough to push this through to the Final.  That second costume change was dazzling, by the way!

14. Iceland – Coming Home performed by Sjonni’s Friends

Come one Iceland, now’s your chance to capitalize on following two weaker entries.  I like this, though I think that the performance is a bit hammy.  There are some vocal issues to take care of, but these are six professionals and I am sure they will tighten up their performance come Saturday.

Is it appropriate to interview an entrant while voting is going on?  I think not.  Come one Germany, you’re better than this!

15. Hungary – What About My Dreams? performed by Kati Wolf

The biggest favorite tonight, she has a lot of support from fans and bookies alike.  So many comments remark on her voice.  I think there’s a reason she only got sixth on X-Factor.  I think this is probably one of the more overrated acts this year (though, time will tell on that).  The song isn’t bad, and it probably sounds great as a studio version, just not live.  I like the costuming (not Wolf’s but her backing performers).  The longer this song goes on, the more she hurts her chances.  I think it would have been a stronger entry had the last ten seconds or so been omitted.

16. Portugal – Luta É Alegria performed by Homens Da Luta

They’re not so much singing as they are chanting.  The music is quite pleasant, but the chanting gives it a preschool song vibe…a socialist preschool.  Though, the lyrics themselves are not pro-socialist, the performance is.  How did the Portuguese vote for this?  Haha, a Twitter person on eurovision.tv page quoted her husband as saying, “They look like protesters outside a children’s TV show,” I couldn’t agree more.  The question isn’t whether or not Portugal will make it to the Final, the question is whether or not Portugal will get nul points or not (I think they will).

17. Lithuania – C’est Ma Vie performed by Evelina Sašenko

I like this, but the “C’est ma vie” should have been a much bigger note!  Hopefully it is the next time is comes up.  Oh, sign language, nice!  They copped out; adding in the rest of the backing arrangement when Sašenko should be hitting a big note.  People are right, though, it definitely sounds like something out of a musical, which the singer said she takes as a compliment.

Is anyone else getting part of the screen cut off?  Is a NDR technical issue or a Eurovision.tv issue?

18. Azerbaijan – Running Scared performed by Ell/Nikki

Once again, Azerbaijan brings American pop to the Contest.  The staging really lets you see just how big the stage and arena are.  I really like the staging, actually including the sparks, the lights and the backing singers wandering around the stage – it all kind of makes you forget that this is the song sung by a kept boy and cougar.

19. Greece – Watch My Dance performed by Loucas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike

More “rap.” Interestingly enough, Stereo Mike has not only won Best Greek Act at the MTV VMAs, but is now a professor at a London university.  This reminds me of Slovenia’s act from last year; it’s attempting to mix two styles that are normally at odds with one another (this time it’s folk music and rap).  And again, poor execution proves that fusion songs are good ideas but are rarely done well by its artists.  Honestly, this was a Stereo Mike song featuring Loucas Yiorkas and it was disappointing; for a song called, “Watch My Dance” I expected another Greek foot-stomper.  They should have performed a remix of the song.  I will give it to the choreographer, though, the dance routine was pretty solid.  It will move through because it’s Greece, but I think that it may be Greece’s first song outside the Top Ten in the Semi-Final era.  All good things come to an end, right?

My Top Ten on the Night Who I Think Will Progress on to the Final
1. Serbia (great lyrics & music) Turkey (will probably win tonight)
2. Albania (I feel the passion!) Greece (will move in b/c it’s Greece)
3. Lithuania ( Azerbaijan (it’s a nice American style pop song)
4. Norway Iceland (sad story and benefitted from its lead-in entries)
5. Iceland Hungary (it’s a favorite to win and is a pure dance tune)
6. Georgia Finland OR Poland (not both – will move in due to juries)
7. Switzerland Georgia (enough weak competition to move it through)
8. Azerbaijan Norway (it’s popular and fun)
9. San Marino Russia (duh, it’s Russia and it’s a cute boy)
10. Finland Lithuania (I think the juries will carry this through as well)

I like the use of the postcards as filler during the voting period.

The Interval Act: Hey! A black drumline from the US!  How about that!  And from North Carolina A&T at that – my brother attended that school.  For those who don’t know, marching band is a fairly American tradition, originally established for military bands and parades, Notre Dame University were the first to bring marching bands to football games.  The tradition grew from there.  And in the Black colleges and universities, the marching bands really excelled, creating dazzling shows, bucking the traditional marching styles seen at most schools.  One of the major sections of any marching band, particularly Black bands is the drumline – or the percussionists who march on the field playing snare drums, bass drums, tom-toms, and cymbals.  This tradition of Black marching bands of the South was the subject of the movie Drumline.  The school that was the focus of the movie “Atlanta A&T” does not exist – the band they used was actually from the school North Carolina A & T – where the Cool Steel Drummers met and started playing together.

This Jan Ola guy is no Svante!  We want Svante!  (only joking, of course…or not) I wish and hope that Mr. Sand has a long and successful tenure as Supervisor of the ESC and that he is able to take the Contest to newer highs and new frontiers.

The Ten that actually make it into the Grand Final:

-Serbia!  Huzzah!  This was my favorite!  I didn’t think it would move through, but it did – yay!

-Lithuania! Another one of my favorites I didn’t really expect to see move through, that had to be due to the juries.

-Greece – of course

-Azerbaijan – of course, but they actually did deserve to move through, though

-Georgia – and the rocking rappers move through

-Switzerland – WHOA!!! WHAT!!!  I mean, yay! But this is highly unexpected!  Dare I say Hungary and Armenia may be kept on the sidelines come Saturday?

-Hungary – well, there’s Hungary, and there’s three spots left.

-Finland – well, there goes Poland’s chances. Interesting, Russia, Turkey, and Armenia, three heavy hitters, are left with only two spots remaining.  Also left, fan favorite Norway.

-Russia – of course, it’s hard to say no to a cute boy, especially if he’s Russian.

-Iceland! – WHOA! I cannot say that I expected Iceland to move through with Norway, Turkey, and Armenia yet to be called.  Wow.

Final Comments: I am happy that Switzerland is finally returning to the Grand Final, a place they haven’t been to since 2006.  And they’re going with such a charming song – Bonne Chance la Suisse!  I am also pleasantly surprised that Lithuania and Serbia moved through, both are more-than deserving of a spot on Saturday and they should give the other 23 entries a run for their money.  I am also incredibly happy that Armenia got left behind; even with a large diaspora (many of whom participated tonight) a crappy song still fails.  I am utterly shocked that Turkey didn’t move through; not because I thought it was a great song (it was alright) but because it’s Turkey and it has definitely moved through on the backs of weaker entries.  Not to mention Sadakat is one of the country’s biggest stars.  I wonder if he would have been left behind if he had sung in Turkish instead of English.  One thing to note, four out of five of Turkey’s biggest vote givers (Germany, France, Belgium, and Bosnia & Herzegovina) were not voting tonight; I bet that had a huge impact on why Turkey is now going home as opposed to gearing up for Saturday.  Lastly, I am mildly surprised that Norway failed to make the Final; recently, it just seemed to have picked up so much steam that I thought it was going through for sure.  That just goes to show you, even a popular act can’t overcome the Number 2 starting position.  It also didn’t help that Mwangi’s singing left much to be desired.

Let’s see, eight out of ten for my post-show predictions, only six out of ten for my pre-show predictions.  That makes me feel good, I tend to be about the same on both, so it’s good to see that televoters are seeing what I am seeing and are not simply voting by name of the country.


ESC2011: Semi-Final One

Finally, I am getting around to posting my thoughts on this year’s entries.  These posts (this one and the next one) will also serve as this year’s predictions articles – so pay attention!  As a reminder, I base my thoughts upon Internet chatter, bookies, history, and the competition that the entries had to overcome in order to reach the Contest.  As a matter of personal beliefs, I do not listen to the entries before their first appearance at the Contest.  If you want to know why, look at any of the previous prediction articles or leave a comment asking why.  Also, as a reminder, please don’t take offense at my opinions – and feel free to leave your own.  I will approve any comment that is respectful; I will not allow any rude or insulting comments.

Semi-Final One: There are 19 entries competing on Tuesday night for a berth into the Grand Final.  Unlike last year, this year’s competition seems much less competitive in that there seems to be a wider range of quality among the acts (this goes across all 43 participants).  The first semi-final has six countries that probably could not even show up and will still make the final based upon historic voting trends: Greece, Turkey, Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Azerbaijan.  The real questions are: Will Poland’s popularity translate to votes? (maybe) Will Portugal & Iceland continue their streaks of making the Final? (probably one, but not both) And will Switzerland finally be able to pass through to the Final? (probably not)

Poland – Jestem performed by Magdalena Tul

So, Poland this year had a slew of…“interesting” entries this year.  However, Tul seems to be getting a lot of positive reception around the boards, particularly for the fact that she’s singing in Polish.  I think this act will make it through to Saturday and then flounder.  Though, I could definitely see this becoming one of those acts that do poorly yet remain popular among fans (think POR2008, CYP2007, or POR2009).

Norway – Haba Haba performed by Stella Mwangi

It’s never a good sign when the performer defends her victory with the words, “I never promised that I could sing well.”  Nor does it bode too well that the tv station is sending her to a vocal coach to prepare her for Düsseldorff.  With that said, this song seems to really polarize the folks, most either hate it (and there are a lot of folks who do) or like it (there are fewer folks who like it).  While there’s a strong possibility that Mwangi will continue Norway’s legacy of bottom-dwelling, I think it will land somewhere in the middle of the semis, popular among the fans, hated by the jury.

Albania – Feel the Passion performed by Aurela Gaçe

I’m sorry, but Europeans just don’t know how to make music videos, and Albania seems to be the worst at it.  With that said, people seem to enjoy her voice much more than the song.  I’ll be the first to admit, the Festivali i Këngës  is one of my favorite national selections for ESC, but I don’t know if the right song won this year.  If Feel the Passion truly is better than those other entries, then it should be a big hit.  However, there just doesn’t seem to be enough popular support for it.  It may slip into the Final, but it will depend on how strong the other border acts are.

Armenia – Boom-Boom performed by Emmy

I won’t spend too much time on this.  It’s Armenia, it’s a catchy tune sung by a pretty girl.  It beat out four equally as catchy tunes, and there is generic internet chatter about it.  Expect yet another top ten from Armenia.

Turkey – Live it Up performed by Yüksek Sadakat

Again, it’s Turkey – should easily move through to the Final.  It’s essentially more generic rock from Turkey.  I expect a strong performance and a Top Ten placing.  One interesting thing to note, it seems to be getting very little buzz, so I think it will probably be lower top ten – gasp, maybe even only 11th or 12th!

Serbia – Čaroban performed by Nina

Serbia’s selection this year was a family affair that yielded some hit or miss songs.  This one seems to be raising more questions (will it be performed in English? what decade does it make you think of?) than actually yielding opinions about the entry.  So, I will be looking to the bookies for help with this one – pretty much what I thought, it should make the Final and finish somewhere in the middle to bottom (15-22).

Russia – Get You performed by Alexej Vorobyov

It’s Russia, it should move through and finish in the top 15.  Internet chatter seems to say that the guy is hot (which he is, very hot!) but the song is crap.  Expect yet more outrage at a perceived ill-gotten respectable placing for Russia.

Switzerland – In Love for a While performed by Anna Rossinelli

Once again, Switzerland seems to have chosen a song that’s gathered a strong fan following, but is generally making a small splash.  What’s interesting is that there’s relatively few negative comments about this act.  Though, the comments seem to follow the trend that the song is really good, but isn’t memorable and will probably end up in 11th place in the first semi-final; I am inclined to agree.

Georgia – One More Day performed by Eldrine

This is an interesting choice from Georgia, though it’s not a country known for it’s mainstream entries to ESC and jESC.  It’s interesting; the official ESC site calls it a “refreshing combination of rock and rap.”  What’s more interesting is that the lead singer was switched out for a new one at either the band’s behest or, more likely, the broadcaster’s.  I don’t expect this song to do much, rap rarely goes over well at ESC.

Finland – Da Da Dam performed by Paradise Oskar

People seem to like this song, but have very little faith in it.  Finland had an unusually weak National Final this year, but, as the last few years have shown, shaking a cute boy at your Eurovision woes tends to yield favorable results.  Expect this one to make the Final, but end up somewhere in the teens.

Malta – One Life performed by Glen Vella

Whereas some countries had an unusually weak national final, Malta had an unusually strong one, so I have high hopes for Glen Vella in Düsseldorf.  Judging from the comments, this song hints back to Austria’s Get A Life, Get Alive! from 2007.  It is a decent song with a good message, but it has all the potential of a horrendous staging to destroy any chance of moving through (remember, Austria lived up to this potential and had the horrific living AIDS ribbon on stage, it was so bad I had blotted it from my memory for about a year).  Malta, now’s your chance to prove your more than Chiara alone.  Give this song a decent shot by having a great stage performance and you just might be surprised with the result.  I expect Malta to not heed this warning and dwell in the semi-finals for yet another year.

San Marino – Stand By performed by Senit

First things first – WELCOME BACK TO THE CONTEST, SAN MARINO!!!  Well, on the bright side, it’s not in the bottom five on the consolidated bookies rankings.  Also, the grand majority of comments online about this song are either positive or “Where is San Marino?”  Too bad Italy isn’t voting in Semi-Final One, I would say that this song actually stood a chance of sneaking into Saturday.  Barring some kind of awe-inspiring, makes you forget every other entry performance (or a music-induced jury orgy) this song will most likely linger behind in the Semis.  Hopefully, though, San Marino will continue to find the funding to continue participation.

Croatia – Celebrate performed by Daria

There seems to be very little faith in this song, from the fans and from the bookies.  The general trend is that the song is okay, but the singer is cold and that the English translation doesn’t live up to the original, Croatian lyrics.  I don’t foresee this song moving through.

Iceland – Coming Home performed by Sigurjón’s Friends

I was looking forward to this year’s Icelandic selection and the potential return of Yohanna, not to mention Iceland tends to have a pretty strong selection each year.  The fans, and the bookies, seem split on this.  So the question is, “Is this song good enough to slip into the Finals?”  I think the story behind this song’s trip to Eurovision (how the lead singer died a few weeks before the Icelandic selection process this year, ironic considering the lyrics of the song) alone is enough to take Iceland back to the Semi-Finals.  Many fans are thinking that this might be a dark horse entry this year, and I am inclined to agree.

Hungary – What About My Dreams? performed by Kati Wolf

Hungry comes roaring back to the Contest (Welcome back Magyar!) with a bookie favorite, a new position for the Hungarians.  The fans also seem to love her and the song (despite it’s translation into English, sadly no one seems to care when Hungarian is not brought to the ESC stage).  I have watched her X-Factor videos, and remain unimpressed.  I can definitely see this song falling to the same fate as CRO2010, a lot of build up, but ultimately, fails to live up to the hype.

Portugal – A Luta é Alegria performed by Homens da Luta

Portugal apparently seems to be sending a small army to try to conquer the ESC stage this year.  I will say this about Portugal, the best song from their National Selection tends to win, unfortunately their best tends not to be as good as a lot of other country’s third or fourth best.  In 2008, fans were excited and surprised by the awesomeness of POR’s entry and enraged when it didn’t make the Top Ten.  In 2009, fans were again surprised by how good the song was, but were not angry when it, too, reached only 15th in the Final.  Last year, fans were surprised that POR reached the Final – which was mainly due to weak competition.  This year, unfortunately, Portugal has lost the advantage of surprise and will most likely return to it previous days of failure.

Lithuania – C’est Ma Vie performed by Evelina Sašenko

Like Malta, Lithuania had an unusually strong National Selection this year.  The bookies don’t seem to like this song, nor do the fans.  Pretty much every thinks Sašenko has an amazing voice, but that the song is corny and boring.  Sorry Lithuania, the people have spoken another year in the Semi-Finals for you.

Azerbaijan – Running Scared performed by Eli and Nikki

Greece – Watch My Dance performed by Loukas Giorkas featuring Stereo Mike

Honestly, do I really need to do any research?  Both will be Top Ten songs.  Azerbaijan will outperform Greece simply on the merit that Greece uses a rapper.  Moving on…

So, my predictions for qualifiers from the first semi-final: Greece, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Finland, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Armenia, Albania, and….San Marino, why not?  The qualifiers will move on to the Grand Final, where they will meet the ten qualifiers from the Second Semi-Finals, and the Big Five, including the two that will be voting on Tuesday night, Spain and UK.

Spain – Que me Quiten lo Bailao performed by Lucía Pérez

I like Pérez’ voice, but Spain has a history of selecting good entries that just don’t seem to captivate the audience or the juries.  I think the Spanish fans will once again be disappointed, but I am not sure why.  Like Switzerland, Spain has chosen some pretty bomb-diggety songs over the last few years that have all fared average to poor.  Maybe this year will yield different results, but probably not.

United Kingdom – I Can performed by Blue

Not since 2009 has the UK had a song that has garnered a lot of interest from the bookies.  And what has-been boy band doesn’t get garner a lot of interest from the fans?  I predict Blue’s interest to maintain through the Final, expect a respectable placing from the country where boy bands and pop music originated.  Finally, the UK’s old-fashioned approach to the Contest may pay off for the country.  I expect a Top Ten finish.


My Top 100 from 2001-2010

Happy New Year everyone!  What better way to celebrate the new year than by looking back?  Even though selections for this year are well underway (welcome back Italy, Austria, Hungary, and San Marino!), I thought that the ending of the New Millennium’s first decade deserved it’s own Top 100 list, so here we are.  I am currently wrestling with YouTube to get the accompanying videos posted.  I will add the links into this post as I get them posted.  Secondly, as an act of consecration, I will be fasting from Eurovision for the next 36 days (think of it as kind of Lent come early).  As such, this will be my last post until early February.  But best believe that I will come back with my reviews and predictions for the all the countries that have selected artists up to that point, including a full write-up on Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2011.  So, without further ado, here is My Top 100 Entries to the Eurovision Song Contest from 2001-2010.

100.  Switzerland 2009 – Highest Heights performed by Lovebugs

A great rock song, it demonstrated that the Swiss are more than just makers of trendy ballads or vampiric dance songs.

99.  Lithuania 2007 – Love or Leave performed by 4Fun

A song that really grew on me, Love or Leave tells a the story of a woman who is no longer wants to be in the yo-yo relationship she is in.  Quite moving.

98.  Switzerland 2008 – Era Stupendo performed by Paolo Meneguzzi

Despite a less than stellar performance (this will be a recurring element throughout this list), I still enjoyed this song from the first listening.  I think Meneguzzi (on the studio version, at least) has the perfect voice for this song and the lyrics are pleasant.

97. Greece 2007 – Yassou Maria performed by Sarbel

What a fun dance number!  I am a little ashamed to say that I actually know the entire choreography from the live performance.  This song is simplistic and very entertaining.

96.  Cyprus 2007 – Comme Çi, Comme Ça performed by Evridiki

I love this – a song performed in a non-national language that’s not English.  2007 brought three acts with this interesting characteristic and I commend Contest veteran Evridiki for doing such a good job and creating one of the biggest fan favorites of that year.

95.  Ireland 2007 – They Can’t Stop the Spring performed by Dervish

This is a song best appreciated in its studio form; for one reason or another, the singer just didn’t seem to have it together on the night of the Final.  Despite this, the song itself is a lovely display of Celtic folk tradition in a contemporary form.

94. Germany 2009 – Miss Kiss Kiss Bang performed by Alex Swings, Oscar Sings!

A truly appreciated both of Germany’s big band numbers from the past ten years (with 2007 being the other one), the thing that sets Miss Kiss Kiss Bang apart is perspective.  2007’s entry is the stereotypical, “I do what she says because I have to” type of song whereas 2009 brought us more of a “I do what she wants because she lights passions within me” piece.  See the difference?

93.  Israel 2003 – Milim Iaahova/Words of Love performed by Lior Narkis

Can a love song be chauvinistic; Lior Narkis seems to think so.  Despite its unnecessarily sexed-up performance, this song still represents a successful implementation of a nifty idea.  It’s a shame, in my opinion, that multi-language songs tend not to do well.

92.  Turkey 2005 – Rimi Rimi Ley performed by Gülseren

The first cheerful song of heartbreak I’ve heard.  She sings about how much she misses her love, and how she wants him to come back, but the song is up-tempo, bouncy, and Gülseren performs with a big ol’ smile on her face the entire time.  It’s an interesting combination of melancholy and pep.

91.  Romania 2007 – Liubi, Liubi I Love You performed by Todomondo

In my opinion, this is one of the most innovative songs ever to be on the Eurovision stage.  You have a nice, simplistic verse translated into six languages, then stapled together so that those languages can be presented next to one another.  The concept of each singer presenting a little of the culture of their language’s speakers is even better!  What a great song, a great concept, and a prime educational opportunity.

90.  Denmark 2002 – Tell Me Who You Are performed by Malene

In my opinion, this song is of the same caliber of Never Let You Go and better than Fly on the Wings of Love; however, instead of bringing Denmark more glory, she got last place!  I think this is a beautiful song that is tastefully understated.

89.  Georgia 2008 – Peace Will Come performed by Diana Gurtskaya

This is a powerful call to action with one of the niftiest costume changes in Contest history.  Ironically, it would be “military aggressions” at the root of Georgia’s withdrawal the following year.

88. Poland 2008 – For Life performed by Isis Gee

When I get married, I think that this might be my wedding song.  It’s a beautiful, heartfelt ballad (Gee wrote it with her husband in mind) that was admirably performed, twice!

87. Bulgaria 2009 – Illusion performed by Krassimir Assimov

An exhilarating popera entry from a countertenor who is able to not be creepy when he hits those ridiculous high notes.  Unfortunately, he was sick during the performance and so his ill-equipped and overzealous backing singer had to fill in for a lot of what, on the recorded version, Assimov had sung.  Though, I think this is a good example of an awesome song that, had it stuck to its studio version in competition, would have done a lot better.  Instead, the backing vocals were overly emphasizes (above and beyond what was needed to cover for the sick Assimov) and destroyed a great song.

86.  Switzerland 2010 – Il Pleut de l’Or performed by Michael von der Heide

I didn’t like this song much the first time I heard it, but it really grew on me.  From the sung drum beats to the exaggerated slide to von der Heide’s overly-flamboyant choreography, it is just a fun song.

85.  Russia 2006 – Never Let You Go performed by Dima Bilan

Once Mr. Bilan won in 2008, his runner-up performance in Athens was all but forgotten.  But I think Never Let You Go is superior to Believe.  While the latter was able to finally lift Russia to the Winners’ Circle with an inspirational message of believing in oneself, the Athens effort from 2006 is a haunting love song.  The composers and lyricists were able to combine intimate lyrics with spine-tingling music.  Unfortunately, the choreographer couldn’t come through.

84.  Slovenia 2005 – Stop performed by Omar Naber

Another song with killer music, the composers were able to take a simple scale motif and turn it into a haunting melody.  The lyrics are so-so and bit repetitive, hence, why it’s only number 84 on my list.

83. Bulgaria 2007 – Water performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankoulov

One of the most inventive and creative entries in Eurovision history!  Too bad the live vocals were not up to par.  The performance was amazing though; they showed why they are Bulgaria’s top percussionists.

82. Spain 2005 – Brujeria performed by Son del Sol

Thanks to my blind stumbling around YouTube, this was the first Eurovision song I heard after watching ESC 2007.  It’s a fast tempo, very-Spanish style entry from the Big Four country – I don’t know why it is so often forgotten when Spain’s recent entries are discussed.

81. Spain 2009 – La Noche Es Para Mi (The Night Belongs to Me) by Soraya Arnelas

What a great song from Spain!  It’s a fun dance tune, but I think it suffered from trying to do too much.  There was no need for the “C’mon and take me, c’mon and shake me”; there’s a pure Spanish version out there and that’s what should have been performed.  And the intro at the beginning – why on earth would they mess with a song that was already popular?  Had Spain left the song that won its national final alone, then they wouldn’t have earned one of the worst results of a song performing last in the running order.

80. Latvia 2009 – Probka performed by Intars Busulis

The best gag act in Eurovision history!  It is musically intriguing, the lyrics tell an interesting story, and the staging is quite well done.  This song suffers from being serious non-serious entry, fans just didn’t know what to make of it.

79. Latvia 2007 – Questa Notte performed by bonaparti.lv

Talk about popopera, I don’t know why Eurovision.tv heralded Sweden 2009 as the first popera on the Eurovision stage, 2007’s Slovenian and Latvian acts definitely came first.  Anyway, this act brought a lot of class to the ESC stage and was beautifully performed by six very talented tenors.  One more thing I love about this act, it was in Italian, even though it was from Latvia…beautiful (see entry #96 for explanation).

78. Croatia 2008 – Romanca performed Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents

Such a fun song.  It took me a few times to understand the lyrics, but I think I finally understand the meaning of the song to be that love stories never change through time; that it is fact that people have fallen in love, are falling in love, and will continue to fall in love until the end of time.  I also love the dancer and her beautiful dress.

77. Ireland 2010 – It’s for You performed by Niamh Kavanaugh

If all else fails, go back to you’re wheelhouse, or so must have gone the logic in Ireland in 2010.  Kavanaugh, the second in the Emerald Isle’s historic three-straight victories in the 90’s, took us back to 1992 with It’s for You, a classic, Irish style ballad.  Unfortunately, Europe was looking ahead, not behind, and the unthinkable happened – Kavanaugh (and her Irish ballad) ended up near the bottom of the scoreboard.  It didn’t help that her vocals weren’t as strong as they were seventeen years before, but it was still a shock for me.

76. Norway 2008 – Hold On, Be Strong performed by Maria Haukaas Storeng

What a great message of hope for those of us struggling with loneliness.  Though a little cheesy, it propelled Norway back into the Top Ten with a heartfelt performance.

75. Armenia 2008 – Qele, Qele performed by Sirusho

I will admit, I don’t love this song as much as I used to.  I think seeing in the context of the Contest, and how of all the acts, it improved the most in terms of its performance from semi-final to Grand Final.  I still think the lyrics are bit simplistic, but, gosh darn it, it’s such a fun song to dance to.

74. Albania 2009 – Carry Me in Your Dreams performed by Kejsi Tola

This song was immediately one of my favorites because it had one of the best translation jobs I’ve seen in the Contest, too rarely does a song keep so much of its original lyrics when translated into English. The song was inventive, but the performance and music video were quite lacking.  I got the idea that the stage show was supposed to be a dream, but why was Tola wearing a tutu?  I realize that she’s young, but come on, a lot more could have been done.  And the music video, soooooo outdated!  It was like something out of the 80s.

73. Slovenia 2002 – Samo Ljubezen performed by Sestre

Another song of hope, only delivered much more entertainingly.  I enjoy this song, but it just doesn’t make a lasting impression when listened to.

72. Belarus 2005 – Love Me Tonigh performed by Angelica Agurbash

A love this song, it is ridiculously fun to sing along to and can provide a song for the intimate nights with the spouse.  If only the vocal performance during the live performance wasn’t so…horrid.

71. Slovenia 2007 – Cvet Z Juga performed by Alenka Gotar

Of the four opera inspired acts I have seen on the ESC stage, this was probably the most well done musically.  It has that classic, stereotypical spooky opera sound with the staging to go along with it.  Not to mention that Gotar has an amazing voice.  This, along with a few other entries in my top 100, suffers from the 2007 curve – Serbia’s victory set the trend for higher quality music, leaving songs that were vastly superior in their own time in the dust.  Hence, two years ago, this would have been in my Top 20, and now, it is only number 71.

70. Slovenia 2006 – Mr. Nobody performed by Anžej Dežan

Slovenia has a way with music, another simple music motif turned into an intriguing and layered melody.  And the lyrics told quite the story, from meeting to heartache.  Oh, “tell me, who’s the lucky hero?!”

69. Greece 2009 – This is Our Night performed by Sakis Rouvas

One of many of the high energy dance numbers sent by Greece, not to mention a stellar performance to go along with it.  I also like this song because it is so much fun to sing along to – it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite Greek entries of the past decade.

68. Malta 2007 – Vertigo performed by Olivia Lewis

Probably the biggest sufferer of the 2007 Curve that resulted in so many of my favorite songs from Helsinki being pushed to the bottom of my playlists as 2008, 2009, and 2010 supplied superior musical quality.  For the first year the Contest was in my life (essentially, up until the 2008 Contest in Belgrade) this was probably my favorite entry, even after I had retroactively watched 2004-2006 by the time the Contest was staged in Belgrade. Once I became more experienced with the Contest, I saw just how weak the lyrics and stage performance was for Vertigo. Unfortunately, its intriguing melody alone was not enough to keep this one-time favorite in my top 50.

67. Estonia 2010 – Siren performed by Malcolm Lincoln & ManPower 4

What a lovely throwback to the 80s!  The song is lacks in lyrical complexity, it more than makes up for in sheer quirkiness of music and performance.  Not that the lyrics aren’t worth merit, I definitely credited the duo for writing a song with as sophisticated a double entendre as Siren – you have the literal siren that sounds at various throughout the song as well as the figurative meaning of a siren being an alluring woman who leads men to their doom.

66. Macedonia 2005 – Make My Day performed by Martin Vučić

It’s about time a man made a song about standing up to a controlling girlfriend that is up-tempo and empowering.  Vučić performs ableably and the music is textured enough so that its simplicity isn’t noticed.  The reason I don’t rank this song higher is that it is generally forgettable, despite it’s infectious “Lej la, la la, lej la” refrain.

65. Germany 2010 – Satellite performed by Lena

In one of the most evenly matched Contests to date, Germany was able to pull off a decisive victory with Satellite.  It’s a fun song that fits Lena perfectly.  I definitely like this arrangement more than the original that Lena’s competitor sung – it sounds more genuine, like someone who’s only 19 would actually say these things to their boyfriend.  I particularly love that Lena was an amateur and that she went from average high school student to international superstar over the course of six months – it truly inspires us all.  With all that said, I don’t think this was the strongest song in 2010 and think that I can name at least four other songs of higher quality that competed, as well as about six songs that I liked better.

64. Russia 2001 – Lady Alpine Blue performed by Mumiy Troll

Many belie this song because of its nonsensical lyrics, but I find this song inexplicitly hypnotic.  I don’t know quite know if it’s the music or the singer’s voice or just the way how everything comes together on this song – it’s just a captivating song.

63. Moldova 2009 – Hora Din Moldova performed by Nelly Ciobanu

I will spare you the details of how much fun I have singing and dancing to this song.  It’ll suffice to say that this I think this is one of the most fun entries in the history of the Contest.  And the staging was just adorable.  I think I would rate this song higher if I could more easily distinguish between her Moldovan and English.

62.  Norway 2010 – My Heart is Yours performed by Didrik Solli-Togen

This was a decent title defense effort, though I agree with a lot of the chatter online that says that the song may be better suited for a musical than a music competition.  I also think the original arrangement during the Norsk Melodi Grand Prix was better, when it was just Solli-Togen and violins, and I think that this song fell into the trap of adding backing vocalists and a bigger instrumentation in order to make the song more ‟dynamic and dramatic.”  I truly enjoy this song but think that the second verse could have been written better.  As much as I hate to admit it, “I watch you at night” is not necessarily the best line to put into a love song.

61. Estonia 2004 – Tii performed by Neiokõsõ

Another captivating song without much reason to be. The style and staging are too close to pagan tradition for my tastes, but it’s a moving song nevertheless.  The lyrics seem to take a generic message of feeling as if one lacks control over one’s own life and turns it into an homage to fate.  However, because the song is such that it is a chant, it just comes off as five girls singing to themselves and not a real pop song.

60. Ukraine 2009 – Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl) performed by Svetlana Loboda

This is the ultimate guilty pleasure song, something that you like but don’t tell others that you like it.  It’s fun, it’s allows you to sing at the top of your lungs, and try to exude the power that Loboda did during her stage performance.  The reason this song isn’t higher on the list is because of the lyrics.  Aside from going “Boom” whenever a word couldn’t be thought of to fit into a line, the lyrics come off as “Be my valentine…or else!”  Violence is never sexy.

59. Norway 2007 – Ven A Bailar Conmigo performed by Guri Schanke

The Spanish flair to this Norwegian entry is what initially drew me to this song.  It’s fun to dance and sing along to and the lyrics make sense.  I even liked the staging where the costume change did the ever-so-rare short dress to long dress change.  This song is just so bubbly!

58.  Belgium 2003 – Sanomi performed by Urban Trad

A historic entry for the Contest, this was the first (and so far, most successful) entry in a “constructed” language.  I would argue that it’s one of the most important entries of the past ten years, if not in the history of the Contest (at one of the more historic Contests).  It’s a very relaxing song to listen to and is a quintessential example of what Americans consider “trendy Euro music.”  This is quite an enjoyable entry.

57.  Armenia 2009 – Jan Jan performed by Inga & Anush

One of the more memorable stagings of an entry since the Contest started becoming more elaborate in its presentation.  Despite the songs suspect lyrics, it is still a great dance tune and quite original.  The songwriters were able to successfully combine traditional Caucasian folk elements with modern Western pop music (which I think is the reason why the sister pair was chosen).  I thoroughly enjoy this song.

56.  Lithuania 2010 – Eastern European Funk performed by InCulto

I think the theme of enjoyable, fun songs has been well established on this list.  What sets this song apart is its ska sound, not something I would expect from Europe, let alone Eastern Europe.  Not only that, the song’s quirky and clever lyrics, which narrowly slipped by the EBU censures, gives the song an esoteric spin.

55. Albania 2010 – It’s All About You performed Juliana Pasha

Talk about an unexpected power, Pasha really showed her pipes with this song.  The song was well written, well composed, and, in its final form, well orchestrated.  The addition of the background vocals was an amazing decision that greatly enhanced the entry and helped Albania continue its streak of making it into the Final.

54. Turkey 2008 – Deli performed by Mor ve Ötesi

This is a strong rock entry from Turkey and is one of the country’s rare Turkish-language entries since 1998.  Not to mention, it’s quite fun to sing along to.  Again, this is an entry with “interesting” lyrics, but the music and performance more than make up for this shortfall.

53. Lithuania 2001 – You’ve Got Style performed by Skamp

What a cool song.  This retro entry just makes you want to throw on some bellbottoms and an applejack and hit the local roller rink!  The song was well performed on the night; though, the stage was huge, so it is a little confusing as to why the band seemed to be crowding each other.

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

An awesome, R&B style song that should have done much better than it did.  Mando has an amazing voice and this song was well suited to her.  I can only say that the staging was quite boring, especially given the competition Greece stood against that year.  Though, it’s important to note that Greece has since sent only titillating entries (save for 2006) since 2003 and have yet to fall outside of the Top Ten since 2003.

51.  Belgium 2008 – O Julissi performed by Ishtar

Belgium’s second attempt with a constructed language, O Julissi is much more fun and entertaining than Sanomi, but a lot less successful.  One thing that hurt Ishtar was the transition from the Belgian national qualifier (a small stage with a supportive audience) to the stage in Belgrade (a much bigger stage with a neutral audience).  While they seemed to have gotten the crowd in Belgrade excited, the energy just didn’t seem to transfer to the television viewers.  Not to mention, the lead singer got quite winded during the song, diminishing its effect.  Despite all this, I still love this song.

50.  The Netherlands 2010 – Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie) performed by Sieneke

One of the most divisive songs from 2010, people either hated or loved this song; I fall in the latter camp.  For starters, its the first Dutch entry in Dutch in ages.  Secondly, it’s so infectious.  Thirdly, it’s old-fashioned tune and staging set it apart from the competition, not disadvantage it.  This entry was the most popular Dutch entry in a long time, both in the Netherlands and abroad, so something must have been done correctly.

49.  Finland 2002 – Addicted to You performed by Laura Voutilainen

Another disco-esque song from the past ten Contests makes my list.  This song is surprisingly soulful for any entry from the ESC, let alone from the land of hard rock, tango, and accordion folk.  I’m quite “addicted” to this song.

48. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

This song won the hearts of Europe with its electrifying performance and incredible musical arrangement (but surely not its lyrics).  I was captivated from the very first time I watched the winning performance – and I am still held captive by this song.

47. Greece 2006 – Everything performed by Anna Vissi

A truly stirring song; I didn’t fully appreciate it until a few months after I watched the 2006 Contest.  Vissi so poignantly transmits the heartache of the lyrics.  The performance lived up to the level of drama that this song demanded.  This is just a great song all around.

46. Israel 2008 – Fire in Your Eyes performed by Boaz

This is another song with a great musical arrangement and dramatic performance.  The lyrics are a little confusing, particularly the few lines in English, but Boaz and his backing singers did such a great job of delivering the song that no one seemed to notice.

45. Croatia 2004 – You Are the Only One performed by Ivan Mikulić

In my opinion, Mikulić has one of the biggest notes of the decade during this performance.  Who hasn’t daydreamed of singing this song to a special someone, especially those of us who don’t exactly have a long list of ex-partners?  What really makes the song special is that, despite it’s lyrics, the music still has that former-Yugoslav sadness in it.

44. Armenia 2007 – Anytime You Need performed by Hayko

Another powerful ballad, I especially like the addition of the Armenian language lyrics thrown in at the end.  This song had a flawless performance, with flawless lyrics, and flawless music – it’s so tender and genuine.

43. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

Talk about fun songs, this has to be one of the most fun entries to date (not to mention one of the funniest).  It perfectly encapsulates folk music with pop while delivering a message of empowerment while pulling off some incredible dance moves in crazy high stilettos.  If you’re a woman and some undesirable guy starts to hit on you, make him tuck his tail and run by proudly proclaiming that, “Not a single blade of grass has grown where I’ve stuck my high heel!”

42. Bulgaria 2008 – DJ, Take Me Away performed by Deep Zone & Bathazar

Bulgaria is known for sending kind of off-the-wall, experimental entries, so who better to grace the ESC stage with a dance house track than the Balkan nation?  Especially since it worked out so well for them the previous year.  For as cool and inventive as the song was, I thought that the performance left something to be desired.  But, this song is just so much fun to sing and dance to, it’s all right.

41. Belgium 2007 – Love Power performed by The KMG’s

When I saw this song live, I literally said, “What was that?!”  The live performance is unforgettable, but not in a good way.  When I listened to the studio version for the first time the following day, I automatically fell in love with the song.  It’s light and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s the perfect fluff piece that, had it been executed properly, could have provided some break to the monotony of ballads and power ballads that flooded the ESC stage in 2007.  Normally, I think the music videos for ESC entries are, well, lame – but this one is hilarious.  If you have yet to see it, I suggest that you hightail it back over to YouTube to check it out!

40. Turkey 2006 – Süperstar performed by Sibel Tüzün

Talk about a song for seduction, if you weren’t the least bit melted by this sizzling song and Tüzün’s sultry performance, then you must not have been paying attention.  One of the sexiest songs to grace the Eurovision stage and my music collection.

39. Ukraine 2006 – Show Me Your Love performed by Tina Karol

Not to often will I say that the live performance of a song is better than the studio version, but this is definitely the case.  Free of the studio’s technology, Karol has a chance to really let her voice soar and bring a whole new power to the lyrics.  The music is also well done; it’s always nice when an accordion can be worked in tastefully.

38. Switzerland 2005 – Cool Vibes performed by Vanilla Ninja

Lyrical issues aside, this song is great.  From the soft oboe at the beginning to the ghouly backing vocals of the refrain to the timpani that sounds at the finale, this is a beautiful musical piece.  Not to mention, Vanilla Ninja give an amazing performance of the song.

37. Estonia 2009 – Rändajad performed by Urban Symphony

I think this entry is an example of effective use of simplicity.  The lyrics, the music, the performance, they were all very simple – but the song made a huge impact, both on the night and among fans.  This is Estonia’s best entry, from a popularity standpoint and from a quality standpoint, thus far.

36. Slovenia 2001 – Energy performed by Nuša Derenda

This song is an effective dance tune (with dance being techno’s more pop-friendly brother), if only Slovenia had been able to make the piano fly like in the music video – it would have won for sure!  I love the lyrics of this song and think that Derenda had a near-flawless delivery.

35. Israel 2010 – Milim performed by Harel Ska’at

One of the biggest travesties of the decade, if not the entirety of the Contest’s history, Milim should have been the winning entry at the 2010 Contest.  I mean, c’mon, it is the first entry to win all three Marcel Bezançon Awards – doesn’t that count for something (I know it doesn’t)?  This song is beautiful in every way.  The lyrics have so much more meaning than the average run-of-the mill ESC song.  The music is perfectly timed.  And the Final performance was unbelievably heartfelt and genuine (yes, even the cracked note) – not to mention that Ska’at is easy on the eyes.  There’s no reason why Skaat shouldn’t have been hoisting the crystal microphone at the end of the night.

34. Sweden 2008 – Hero performed by Charlotte Perelli

I want to start by saying that I like the idea of having the performance start in black and white, but, while the Melodifestelaven folks were able to effectively arrange this effect, those in Belgrade were not quite as successful.  Issues with the performance aside, this is a quintessential Eurovision song, schaleger at its best.

33. Croatia 2010 – Lako je Sve performed by Feminnem

In my notes from the 2010 Edition, I say something along the lines of “One’s thing is obvious after that performance: Feminnem came to win.”  Despite the results, I stand by that statement, I think it was one of the most perfectly executed, perfectly sung entries of the decade.  This song achieves to delicate balances: it tells the rare “woman cheats on man and begs for forgiveness” story, and it is done tastefully and the music is dramatic without being melodramatic.  Also, this is miles better than Feminnem’s other entry, Call Me (despite the latter’s built-in tribute to the Contest).

32. Portugal 2009 – Todas As Ruas Do Amor performed by Flor-de-Lis

I don’t have much to say about this entry, other than: What a sweet song!  The lyrics to this song are just adorable and the music and performance fit them perfectly.

31. Turkey 2002 – Leylaklar Soldu Kalbinde performed by Beket Bengisu & Grup Safir

The refrain alone is enough to get this song on this list.  The reason I have ranked this song so highly is because the way in which the music and the singer’s voice fit together; I think Bengisu’s deep alto is perfect for the arrangement of this song.  I think that the arrangement also heralds back to the early 90’s, which fits impeccably with the style in which the lyrics are written.

30. Russia 2009 – Mamo performed by Anastasia Prikhodko

I am not quite sure why so many people disliked this song – it is a heartbreaking ballad that is painfully sung by Prikhodko, not to mention the nifty aging trick on the CGI screens.  Speaking of a great use of the screens, the performance is staged in such a way that it’s almost as if a chorus of Prikhodko heads are singing, until the lights shine upon the backing singers.

29. Andorra 2006 – Sense-Tu performed by Jenny

There’s only one plausible reason as to why this song finished last, Jenny commuted a cardinal sin of European entertainment, BBWBS: Being Big While Being Sexy.  In the US, the sizzling lyrics, the tantalizing performance, the epic music – this would have been a hit (if in English).  This song is, by far, Andorra’s best entry to date.

28. Ukraine 2007 – Dancing Lasha Tumbai performed by Verka Serduchka

Probably the most fun song on this list, definitely something that catches one’s attention!  It’s loud, it’s glitzy, it’s hilarious – one of the most well done gag acts in the history of the Contest and one of the most successful.  The song is just so infectious, it’s impossible to resist!

27. Romania 2005 – Let Me Try performed by Luminiţa Anghel & Sestem

A powerful love song that helped bring sparks to the ESC stage, what’s not to love about this entry?  Sestem’s music provides the ideal accompaniment the lyrics.  You can feel the desperation coming through in the musical arrangement and in Anghel’s voice – flawless.

26.  Iceland 2008 – This is My Life performed by Euroband

I liked this song a lot when I heard it for the first time during the second semi-final; I loved this song when I heard it at the Final.  There was a tangible improvement from Thursday to Saturday, and it made the big notes seem that much bigger and the lights that much brighter.  While I am a little dismayed that the English lyrics don’t really match the Icelandic ones, I still enjoy them and prefer their message to the song’s original one.  I also love the dance beat that this song has.

25. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2007 – Rijeka Bez Imena performed by Marija

This is the song that introduced me to the soul stirring power of the former-Yugoslav’s heartbroken ballads.  The lyrics are indomitable – “with this heartache I will die,” how powerful!  The music seals the deal, though, not just creating an ebb and flow for the singer’s voice to follow, but doing so in such a way that draws the listener into the song as an undertow draws in a swimmer.

24. Ireland 2003 – We Got the World Tonight performed by Mickey Joe Harte

I will go to my deathbed saying that this song should have won the Contest back in 2003.  It combines sweet lyrics with an unassuming melody – just a perfect meeting in the world of pop music.

23. San Marino 2008 – Complice performed by Miodio

If there ever was an epic pop-rock song to grace the stage of ESC, this is it.  The boys of Miodio take melodrama to a whole new level with this song, but in a completely awesome way.  The desperation and persistence with which this song is sung only make the words come alive that much more.  I think it is also worth noting that the music, and how it kind of trails off at the end fit the song quite well.

22. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

It was this song’s victory that made me fall in love with the Contest.  Had Serbia not won in 2007, I probably would not have become the obsessed super-fan that I am now.  I remember thinking halfway through Šerifović’s performance, “This Contest is over; she has just won it for Serbia.”  It was the perfect song winning off of a perfect performance.  The music was dramatic, the lyrics were personal and moving, and Šerifović’s ability to belt out the notes was unmatched, probably the clearest cut, and most deserving, victor of the decade.

21. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

A former goodwill ambassador to the United Nations, Ani Lorak tore up the Eurovision stage unmercifully.  She continued the Ukraine’s tradition of powerful divas with this stunning dance number.  The lyrics are words of empowerment and the music makes the heart beat faster.  While I think the staging could have been better, this song still wows listeners, even in its studio version.

20. Azerbaijan 2010 – Drip Drop performed by Safura

I really do think that Safura let her nerves get the best of her, especially on the Final night.  Listening to her in the Azerbaijani national selections, she was amazing.  Listening to her doing the promotional performances, amazing.  Listening to her at the actual Contest…not so much.  Pitchy performance aside, the song tells a compelling story and the music is properly arranged.  The reason this song makes my top twenty is because of how dramatic it is, especially the bridge, “I don’t cry…And be lost in myself, again…”

19. Germany 2006 – No No Never performed by Texas Lightening

Apparently, this is the most popular German entry in Germany…and it’s quite understandable as to why.  It’s a sentimental love song without being sappy, “My loves burns just like eternal flame, and you feel it when I’m calling your name.”  It’s a wonder as to why this song didn’t finish better than it did.  The reason this song is in my top twenty is because it’s easy to sing along to, the lyrics are deceptively simple, and the style is unexpected.  Who would have thought that the Germans would send a country act?

18. Turkey 2009 – Düm Tek Tek performed by Hadise

“Can you feel the rhythm in my heart?  The beat is going: Düm Tek Tek!” Come on, when a song pauses so that everyone can shout together it’s deserves to be in a Top 100.  When that same song consistently delivers itself in a sexy package with a hot choreography, it deserves to be in the Top 50.  When that same song has a killer dance beat wrapped up in an ethno-pop package, it deserves to be in the Top Twenty.

17. Iceland 2009 – Is It True? performed by Yohanna

Talk about deceptively simple, this song has a very basic melody with very basic lyrics, but it’s stunning.  Yohanna’s performance is what knocks this song into my top twenty.  The way how she belts out the notes and the way how the song builds and builds until that huge note third time through the chorus, “Is it true, Is it over? Did I throw it all awa…y?”

16. Portugal 2008 – Senhora do Mar (Negras Águas) performed by Vânia Fernandes

This song is impossible not to love.  The performance of this song, particularly during the Semi-Final, was breath-taking.  The fact that this was the first Portuguese entry to qualify for the Final since 2004 and remains one of the country’s most popular entries makes the song that much more remarkable.  What makes this song deserve a Top Twenty placing for me is how dark the song’s music is and how the music helps paint the image of this whaler’s wife waiting on the edge of the sea for her husband to return.  The winds, the waves, they’re all there.

15. The Netherlands 2008 – Your Heart Belongs to Me performed by Hind

At the time, this was my favorite entry from 2008 and remains as my favorite Dutch entry to date.  The reason why this song is so good (other than Hind’s great voice and looks) is because this song grabs you from the first beat and doesn’t let go (literally, when she sings, “Your belongs to me,” she means it!).  Unlike other dance-y pop numbers, this song steps above them with its intricate musical style.  The musical arrangement harks back to almost, kiddie music (just look at the music video) while Hind’s voice and the lyrics provide a mature tone to the song.  Well done Netherlands, well done.

14. Hungary 2009 – Dance With Me performed by Zolí Adok

Bet you didn’t see this one coming!  This is in my top twenty because 1) it’s my favorite dance number from the Contest. 2) It’s insanely infectious “C’mon dance with me, make me lose my way!  Dance with me, make my body sway…”  Tell me the song isn’t now stuck in your head.  3) It’s just a sexy song (not the performance, but the music, the lyrics, the music video).

13. Serbia & Montenegro 2004 – Lane Moje performed by Žečjko Joksimović & The Ad Hoc Orchestra

This is the song that really defined the former Yugoslav countries’ heartbreak ballads.  Molitva (SER2007), Lejla (BiH2006), Lijepa Tena (CRO2009), Rijeka Bez Imena (BiH2007), Oro (SER2008), etc…  Lane Moje is in my Top Twenty because, while it may not have been the very first one of it’s kind, it certainly set the stage for all the ones that followed.

12. Serbia 2008 – Oro performed by Jelena Tomašević featuring Bora Dugić

This song is in my Top Twenty because the way how everything fits together.  The circular motion of the music and the lyrics perfectly reflect the title Oro (a circular dance that has a unique variant in each Balkan culture).  The way how the melancholy lyrics play off the affectionate good night wish, “Nuna ney…[Wake me on St. Vitus Day, to look at him again].” (translated from the original the Serbian lyrics) is genius.  What a perfect title-defense effort and I hope that Serbia can find its way again (not that I dislike 2009 and 2010, but it’s no 2007 or 2008).

11. Norway 2009 – Fairytale performed by Alexander Rybak

Never before in history has a song so dominated the competition as Fairytale dominated the other 41 songs in Moscow.  The song itself packages folk music in a nice, cute package, from the innocent lyrics (“But when I do, We’ll get a brand new start!”) to the bubbly backing singers’ “Duh, do, dah.”  The fact that Alexander Rybak wrote, composed, and performed the song virtually all by himself (the first to do so and win, I think) top off the reasons as to how this song earned its way into my Top Twenty.

10. Hungary 2008 – Candlelight performed by Csézy

A song that could dominate the Adult Contemporary charts in the US if given the chance, Candlelight is a perfect example of what makes that genre so compelling.  The lyrics, the music, the way in which they fit together to form this large, aural sweeping motion – it’s the utter definition of a romantic ballad.  This earns a spot in my Top Ten because of how transcending the song is, no matter how many times I hear it – I’m transported to a romantic scene (“I will fly tonight, forever keep you in my heart/Make it feel so right when you love me by sweet/Candlelight, hold me till the morning shine/All my fears subside when I look into your eyes.”)  Anytime a song can inspire such vivid imagery so consistency, it deserves a spot at the top.

9. Austria 2005 – Y Así performed by Global.Kryner

Before this entry, who ever would have thought of trying to meld Latin music with polka?  This song is innovative and catchy, poppy yet intriguing, and has a yodeler!  This song makes my Top Ten because of its effective use of polka (not an easy feat), its use of Spanish (“Bailar como Latina/El ritmo puro de la música alpina/Y así, y así /Y así baila la chica del Caribe”,) the unique story that it tells, and this is one of the most fun songs I’ve seen at the Contest.

8. Georgia 2007 – Visionary Dream performed by Sopho

Talk about epic entries!  The performance (with those swords), the music, Sopho’s voice – this song is just so powerful!  Everytime Sopho sings the words, “Sailing thorough my story!  Sharing my history!” I’m just blown away.  The reason this song is in my Top Ten is because it’s incredibly cathartic; every time the song explodes in musical array, I explode with it.  It’s arranged in such a way that it always takes me by surprise each time that I listen to it.

7. Israel 2005 – Hasheket Shinish’Ar performed by Shiri Maimon

To those who regularly follow the blog, you know that I often invoke the name of Shiri Maimon when talking about “travesties” at the Contest; times when I so vehemently disagree with the results that I feel an injustice has occurred.  There is absolutely no reason this song should have lost, especially to that Greek mess that was My Number 1.  But the reason this song is in my Top Ten is because it is unbelievably stirring and heartbreaking – even before I knew what the lyrics meant.  What makes the song even more astounding is that Maimon is generally a sexed-up pop singer, so she really steps out of her comfort zone and showcases her pipes.  Lovely job!

6. Turkey 2003 – Every Way That I Can performed by Sertab Erener

Talk about a dominant personality!  This is a Top Ten song because the lyrics are those of a heartbreak ballad, “I’ll cry, I’ll die, to make you mine again!  I’m in love with you, I’ll do all you want me to…,” but it is delivered in an aggressive, powerful way – as if the man who broke Erener’s heart is the sorry one.  It’s this contradiction that intrigues me so, that makes me love this song so much, and probably what helped Turkey win in 2003.

5. Moldova 2008 – A Century of Love performed by Geta Burlacu

A jazzy love song.  I think the music video does a great job of showcasing why I love this song; it is effective and applicable at every level of a relationship – from puppy love to ageless romance.  “This is all I mean, be my everything, and remember, our dreams together…” what beautiful lyrics.  The music can take you to an intimate jazz lounge or a cozy night a couch with a that special someone.  This is a Top Five song because I listen to it every day.  I listen to it everyday because, to me, it’s a quintessential romantic song that should be a part of every couple’s soundtrack.

4. France 2009 – Et S’Il Fallait le Faire performed by Patricia Kaas

This is the ultimate love song – a tale of a love so fanatic, so impassioned that the singer is willing to do anything for her beloved, “Until being nothing more but the shadow of your nights/Until being nothing more but a shadow that follows you/And if it had to be done” (translated from the French lyrics).  Not that I advocate for this kind of devotion, but Kaas so beautifully sings the song that it’s all right.  Her vocals and her performance are breathtaking; there’s a reason why she won the Bezençon Artist Award in 2009.  Another reason this song is in my Top Five, how unmistakably French this song is.  In an era of the Contest when songs are starting to sound more and more like each other, this song sticks out as a distinct ethnic fingerprint.

3. Russia 2010 – Lost and Forgotten performed by Peter Nalitch & Friends

In my opinion, this is one of the most misunderstood acts out there.  It’s a genuine heartbreak ballad delivered so painstakingly that it’s impossible to resist.  Also, like many other songs from 2010, Lost and Forgotten is done in a style that harks back to an earlier time in music history, this time to the 1960’s.  The reason I love this song so much that it’s number three on my list is because of how genuine the group delivers the song – from the woeful lyrics, “Would you believe, Lord of Mercy?,” to the simulated phone call, “ ‘What are you doing man?’ ‘I’m looking at her photos…’,” to Nalitch’s painful wail near the end of the song.  From the first listening, this song touched me in ways that few have.

2. Sweden 2009 – La Voix performed by Malena Ernman

Popopera at its best.  While I have all four opera-inspired entries on this list, this song blows them away with its clever lyrics and Ernman’s stunning performance.  La Voix blows away the 98 preceding songs on this list because of its originality (it’s opera…from Sweden!), its musical arrangement (dynamics, texture, contrast!), and Ernman’s singing prowess that makes the song come alive.  This song made an immediate impact on me, so much so, that I quickly was able to memorize it and have performed it on several occasions.  Not to mention that this is, by far, the most popular song among those I introduce the Contest to.  There’s something special about La Voix, and that’s why it’s number two.

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

Interesting, all three of the Željko Joksimović composed songs made my Top Twenty; that man is talented!  I love this song so much; within three months, I had listened to it over 100 times, at least thirty more times than the next song, which I had for three years prior to adding Lejla to my music library.  I love this song so much, I wrote and directed a short movie based upon it (can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEnGcdWi2xA)This song is number one on my list because it master’s each of the three things I look for in an ESC entry, lyrics, music, and performance.  Lyrically, I was instantly moved by the sorrowful words, “Dove, my dove/Bring her tears instead of a song/I’m leaving, as if I’m guilty/For loving the one who I am not allowed to.” (translated from the Bosnian lyrics).  Before I understood the lyrics, I understood the music.  The music is so unbelievably fitting for this song – the music swells at the right moments, it pauses at the right moments, it suddenly gets loud and softens at just the right moments.  The music is just impeccably timed.  Hari Mati Hari’s performance is subtle yet makes a lasting impact.  The stark white clothing against the black backdrop, the use of mixed sex backing singers, the way how they all come together at the end.  The performance looks so effortless and is enacted smoothly.  What really sells me is the end, everything comes together at the final line.  The six performers walk forward in the a line during the last stanza to build up to the final line.  In marching band, they will tell you that one of the most powerful motions a band can do is march forward in a horizontal line.  Then the music drops out as the lead singer utters those most painful words, ‘For loving you…” all the pain and anguish the song talks about is summed up in those words.  And then, those explosive final word, the name of the cursed beloved.  The singer is left all alone, the music comes roaring back, and we hear the singer’s pained cry, “Lejla!”  There’s has yet to be better entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in my opinion.


Notes on the ESC 2010 – Oslo: First Semi-Final

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2010 – OSLO!

It’s finally here!!!  ESC 2010, live from Norway!!!  I am beside myself with excitement.  As always, I will be writing these notes as I am watching the Contest for the first time.  Remember, I have not heard anything more than thirty seconds of each song or seen anything more than one still picture each on the Eurovision website.  I do not mean to offend or hurt anyone or any people with this; I wish only to express my opinion.  As always, your feedback and comments are welcome!  So, shall we begin?

Semi-Final One:

Pre-Contest Predictions for countries to move forward: Iceland, Greece, Albania, Moldova, Slovakia, Belgium, Portugal, Latvia, Russia

Opening Act:  Lovely opening sequence to introduce the concept of sharing the moment!  The stage is a bigger than it had looked in the pictures, hooray.  However, I would have liked to have seen some kind of performance.  I don’t like the “clang” sound that is ringing throughout the opening section before the hosts began speaking.  I am happy to see a Black host; it is very unexpected that there would be one on the ESC stage, regardless of the country, let alone a Scandinavian one.

Postcards: So, this is what was meant by lights being used to create a portion of the postcard in the arena, nifty!  And I like to incorporation of live, on-stage footage.  And I love world flags!  THESE POSTCARDS ARE AWESOME in so many ways!!!

Moldova: Awesome violin, decent sax, the female singer is good, the act would be better without the male singer.  I wouldn’t vote it through on that performance, but, given who they are up against, they probably will performing again on Saturday.

Russia: I am reminded of San Marino 2008 and Switzerland 2009, a really good song – it sounds like something from a musical – but the live vocals leave much to be desired.  Though, his voice improves as the song goes along, especially for that high note.

Estonia: This sounds like some generic 80’s pop song.  Which is appropriate as this stage seems like a retro ESC stage, like something from fifteen-twenty years ago.  It’s funny, what would be typical then is eccentric now.  I really like the camera effect when it spins with the blue dots behind the singer’s head during the refrain.  I like this song – the lyrics, the music (especially the music), even the performance (remember, it’s a song competition, not a talent search!), but it has no shot of passing through to the final.

Slovakia: The first projected top ten song to be performed.  I like the effect of having the singer sing slowly on top of fast music and fast dancing.  I don’t think it has what it takes to get to the Top Ten, so it will be interesting to see what the online comments say.

Finland: What a fun song!  And the duo really seems to be enjoying themselves!  It should move through, it’s folksy, uplifting, and about cherishing relationships and beautiful days, but I worry that Europe will not be as enthused as I.

Latvia: How awkward Aisha looked during the Latvian postcard.  As soon as I learned about this entry, I wondered if the writer team realized that “What for” is not a proper English term (and I’ve never heard “Mr. God” before, either).  I thought Aisha was supposed to be one of the better voices of this Contest, no no!  Or, I at least hope not!  This was also billed as a gospel-esque entry.  The refrain is in this style, but the verses are not nor is Aisha’s voice up to the challenge of gospel singing, at least not tonight.

Serbia: Is it just me, or does the singer look like he is made of plastic?  At least he is happy!  This is definitely true to its “Balkan” title.  I don’t dislike it, but I don’t prefer it.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: I don’t like this.  Maybe the studio version is better?  I cannot see this making the Final.  It’s not poppy enough for pop folks, not rock enough for rock folks, it’s just a middle ground lingerer.

Poland:  Hey!  All you people who whined about the overrepresentation of ballads this year, we are getting our first one at number 9!  Supporters of this song would say that it is the story of a love struck knight trying to convey this love to his wannabe love.  Critics would say that it’s about rape.  I think it is no better or worse than any of the fairy tales or folk stories from Central Europe (Brothers Grimm, HC Andersen, etc…).  It’s an alright song, the performance is better than the lyrics/melody; it actually stands a decent shot of moving through to the Final in my opinion.  Special note – this act features the first jESC singer to perform on the ESC stage, Weroniką Bochat (pol2005), she was the featured backing singer with black hair.

Belgium: I like this.  His voice was shaky at the beginning, but I think it only adds to the genuineness of the performance.  It should be a shoo-in for the Final.

Malta: Oh my goodness; Thea is on fire!  Oh wait, that’s just an oddly placed smoke machine.  The wings, if they have to be used, could have been better utilized for the time they were behind the singer, there were questionable camera angles and choreography.  I don’t think Malta will be performing again in the Final.

Albania:  Okay, this Contest, the staging, the performers, the music, the costuming, it’s all very eighties/early nineties!  The entire Contest this year is retro!  I like this song, and, as you recall, this is the one I listened to by accident.  It is slightly better in English, but I think they could have left it in Albanian and accomplished the same thing.  But listen to that crowd reaction, definitely will be performing again on Saturday.

Greece: One of the most polarizing acts this year; everyone either loves or hates this song.  I like it.  It’s very high energy and once again, Greece sends another well-choreographed number to dance its way into Europe’s hearts.

Portugal: Will Filipa be able to bring Portugal’ reign as “king of most losses” to an end?  Probably not.  But I think this is a pretty little number, though.  It helps that it has a very American sound, and the Filipa is incredibly cute, though I think Portugal will be regulated once more to the mid-teens come Saturday.

Macedonia: Anyone else notice how Skopje was in Cyrillic; did they do that for Belgrade, too?  I don’t understand why everyone hates this song.  Other than the blatantly misogynistic (putting down women for men’s perceived gain) performance, it is one of my favorite entries thus far.  Even the rapping and the overzealous guitar solo don’t ruin the act for me.  Though, they will probably damn the Macedonians to another Semi-Final finish.

Belarus:  Oh no, four of them are perfectly in tune, one of them is not (and it’s neither of the boys)!  It’s amazing, these are five of Belarus’ most prominent rising stars, and they sing about peace and beauty, not love or rivalry or some other passion-producing topic.  Though, this song is so cheesy, I would be afraid to play it to my lactose intolerant friends.  It’s alright, but will probably linger behind in the Semis.

Iceland: The favorite to win the first semi-final (I know, Slovakia is a favorite to win the whole thing, but it’s been going down in the rankings lately while Iceland has been moving up!).  This is great!  And it probably will return Iceland to the top ten on Saturday.

My Top Top on the night: Who I think will be moving through
1. Iceland Iceland
2. Russia Serbia
3. Macedonia Albania
4. Portugal Portugal
5. Greece Greece
6. Estonia Slovakia
7. Finland Latvia (FIN is better, but LAT is more popular)
8. Albania Belgium
9. Belgium Russia
10. Poland Poland (replaces Moldova from pre-show predictions)

The video with the rabid fans…hilarious!!!  The Norwegians most definitely know how to make a great show on a tight budget!

Interval Act: How lovely!  What a great way to incorporate the Contest’s theme.  The video of “Finding Eurpoean people’s voice.” And the funny video clips of “People trying to come to Oslo for the Contest” was also amusing.  And the mini-hosts, so adorable!

The Ten that Actually Made the Final

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina (this is a travesty, but not a big surprise)
  • Moldova (d’oh!  I guess Poland will not be moving through)
  • Russia (1/3 so far; yay, it’s a great song, very 70’s)
  • Greece (2/4 so far; it’s a foot stomper from Greece)
  • Portugal (3/5 so far; a well deserved qualification!)
  • Belarus (WHOA!!!  this is a shocker!)
  • Serbia (4/7 so far; it’s not terrible and it’s catchy as all get out)
  • Belgium (5/8 so far; their first qualification from the Semis (in 2004 they pre-qualified), yay!)
  • Albania (6/9 so far; nice up tempo number, no surprise at all)
  • Iceland (7/10 on the night! Good job Hera!)

Final Thoughts

Two things: One: Never trust the bookies — so much for Slovakia being a favorite to win.  I can’t wait to see the results of the televoting and jury.  Two, I guess Hera is the magic touch for Iceland – she did backing vocals for both of the two previous Iceland that have qualified for the Final, 2008 – It’s My Life & 2009 – Is it True?, the latter of which was runner-up and set a record for points achieved by Iceland.

The “Nordic’s Knot” on the final that developed over the past two years has come undone.  This will be the first time that all five Nordic countries will not be in the Final since 2007.  Which is unfortunate, as Finland had a s great song and deserved to be in the Final.

Overall, a great show!  I don’t fully agree with the results.  Finland should be going to the Final and Bosnia & Herzegovina should not be.  Belarus is pretty and I don’t dislike the song, but Poland and Macedonia both had better songs in my opinion.  The important thing is that Belgium did make it through, as there was a lot of pressure on Tom Dice to turn around the country’s recent misfortunes and qualify, so good for him!  Overall, I feel bad for good songs like Portugal, Albania, Belarus, and Moldova who will be pushed to the bottom of the scoreboard on Saturday by the superior qualifiers from Thursday night and the highly anticipated pre-qualified acts (Germany, Norway, and Spain).