Posts tagged “russia

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision Stagings for the Uninitiated

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

  3. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

  4. Russia 2008 – Believe performed by Dima Bilan

  5. Sweden 2012 – Euphoria performed by Loreen

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

  7. Azerbaijan 2013 – Hold Me performed by Farid Mammadov

  8. Ukraine 2011 – Angel performed by Mika Newton

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

  10. Belgium 2015 – Rhythm Inside performed by Loïc Nottet

  11. Moldova 2013 – O Mie performed by Aliona Moon

  12. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

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

  14. Russia 2011 – Get You performed by Alexey Vorobyov

  15. Sweden 2011 – Popular performed by Eric Saade

  16. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

  17. Malta 2013 – Tomorrow performed by Gianluca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2017 – Origo performed by Joci Pápai

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part One!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lithuanian flag map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What a fun show!

 

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

  • Sweden

  • Belarus

  • Australia

  • Lithuania

  • Russia

  • Belgium

  • Malta

  • Norway

  • Israel

  • Romania

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

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

  1. Malta

  2. Russia

  3. The Netherlands

  4. Australia

  5. Belgium

  6. Romania

  7. Germany

  8. Israel

  9. Norway

  10. Ukraine


Eurovision 2019….Several Months Later…

Hello Dear Readers!

Welcome to my wrap-up post, so happy you could join me. Today, we’ll be giving out some awards as well as taking a step back to look at this year’s Contest as a whole. As I’ve noted before, this is one of my favorite winners and am happy with many of the results from this year. Come join me as we honor some of the best and worst from Tel Aviv! Please note, I do not own any photos/videos used here – all rights reserved to the EBU unless otherwise noted.

Annual Eurovision Obsession Awards

Best Lyrics

EO logo with Russian flagWinner: Russia

Tears won’t fall
While pride stands tall
Maybe they can’t be heard or seen
But tears aren’t quiet things –

They scream

A powerful ballad of heartbreak working against the machismo. Just because you are a man does not mean you shouldn’t show emotion. I love how, even though this is a song about a relationship ending, it is really a deeper look at the power of feeling one’s feelings.

Runner-Up: Austria

‘Cause the face in the mirror
Just couldn’t look clearer right back through me
And how I’d like to say
It will be better tomorrow or any day

Yeah I’m talking ’bout you, you, you…
And the luck you try to find

A song about deep introspection and realizing that pushing beyond your limits for the sake of others leaves one empty and hurting. So powerful.

Honorable Mentions: Albania, Azerbaijan, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia

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

EO logo with Slovenian flagWinner: Slovenia

The stars are not always visible
Stay true to yourself
Don’t tell me to forgive you

I realize that this song is predominantly meant to capture the feeling of unconditional love between a young couple; but the lyrics make little sense. Perhaps these are common Slovenian phrases and ideas that just don’t translate well into English.

Runner-Up: Croatia

I dream of love
You dream of love
Angels of God
We all dream of love

So, one element of songs that do well in this award is lazy or unimaginative song writing. This one takes the cake in that regard. It is a standard, trite song hoping for a better tomorrow. Not saying that the message is bad, the lyrics are just poor.

Honorable Mentions: Estonia, Finland, Norway, San Marino

Best Dressed Award

Nevena Božović at rehearsal. Photo copyright EBU/Thomas Hanses

EO logo with Serbian flag

 

Winner: Serbia

A beautiful black dress, stunning silver accessories including a dynamic necklace, flowing blonde hair, and make-up that turns up the contrast. Everything about Nevena Božović’s outfit is amazing and worn with elegance.

Jonida Maliqi at the second dress rehearsal on Weds. Photo copyright EBU/Thomas Hanses

Runner-Up: Albania

Another black dress. Jonida Maliqi outfit perfectly blends traditional elements with contemporary design, just like the song Ktheju Tokës. It even had the added bonus of making the staging reminiscent of the Albanian flag when the stage was lit in red.

Honorable Mentions: Australia, Israel, Montenegro

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

Eliot during a rehearsal. Copyright EBU/Andres Putting

EO logo with Belgian flagWinner: Belgium

The outfit, in addition to looking awful, poorly fit Eliot; so, he looked even more mousy and small than he is. It was just a very poor outfit situation all-around. I’m not quite sure what happened here, but I hope Belgium gets their act together moving forward.

Mahmood at the Grand Final. Copyright Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Runner-Up: Italy

Look at that shirt! It’s red and gold and it’s shiny. It does not seem to fit the song at all. I do not understand this outfit choice at all.

Honorable Mentions: Croatia, Cyprus, Portugal, Romania

Best Staging Award

EO logo with Swiss flag

Winner: Switzerland

Luca Hanni during rehearsals. Copyright EBU/Thomas Hanses

Made to look like a hot music video, She Got Me had a stunning, contemporary, hot staging. From the narrow perspective to open, to the constant use of red throughout, to the dance routine, to even having Luca Hanni wear a mesh shirt. Switzerland went all out and it paid off with the country’s first Top Ten placing since 2005.

Runner-Up: Australia

Kate Miller-Heidke during a rehearsal. Copyright EBU/Andres PuttingThe winner for the Marcel Bezençon Award for Artistry, Australia’s staging was magically, whimsical, and impressive. The interplay of the backing screen, her outfit, and their motions created this awesome floating effect. I didn’t have this one win because, unlike Switzerland, which got even sharper from the semi-final to the grand final, the Australian performance took a (small) step backwards.

Honorable Mentions: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Israel, Moldova, North Macedonia, San Marino

Worst Staging Award

EO logo with Croatian flagWinner: Croatia

Roko during rehearsal. Copyright EBU/Thomas HansesAngel wings equals an automatic zero in the staging department from me. Yes, even though angels are explicitly mentioned in the song. Not to mention there was just so much going on during Croatia’s three minutes. It was all just too much.

 

Runner-Up: France

Bilal Hassani and his dancers during a rehearsal. Copyright EBU/Thomas HansesWhen you have a song with the potential to inspire confidence in men, of all sexualities, who do not live up to masculinity ideals – you should capitalize on that and have a broad array of men on stage with you. France did not take this perspective. Aside from my general unease with the laying claim to the experiences of women to serve gay men’s purpose, when the song is literally called “King” shouldn’t that be the emphasis? Otherwise they should have titled the song “Moi” – no other lyric would have to change and the staging would have made more sense and felt more genuine.

Honorable Mentions: Germany, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom

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

Winner: Estonia

The twang in Victor Crone’s voice, the vaguely inspirational message of the lyrics, the basic composition – this all screams contemporary Christian music (which I’ve said before). This would be right at home on any generic Christian station in the US.

Runner-Up: Sweden

Just like Storm is a generic contemporary Christian song, Too Late for Love is a generic R&B song – though, not quite as contemporary. John Lundvik actually hit the American sound twice, both with his own song and the one he co-wrote and co-composed for the United Kingdom.

Honorable Mentions: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom

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

EO logo with Cypriot flagWinner: Cyprus

Runner-Up: United Kingdom

Honorable Mentions: Greece, The Netherlands, North Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland

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

EO logo with Danish flagWinner: Denmark

So, an under-appreciated, yet very common ESC genre, is the children’s song. And what lyric can be more childish than “love is forever” when sung with such a saccharine smile. A cute song with a bubbly message and catchy hook. Love is Forever is clearly the most ESC entry this year at ESC.

Runner-Up: San Marino

Additionally, few things represent ESC as nonsense lyrics. Say Na Na Na fits this to a T. It’s so simple and fun, a perfect example of schlager.

Honorable Mentions: Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Norway, Poland, Spain

The “Shiri Maimon Travesty of the Year” Award

Israeli Flag Country

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

USA flag in EO logoWinner: Madonna’s performance

There were simply too many interval acts this year. This was, by far, the weakest of them all. Madonna is a legend who revolutionized culture and deeply impacted pop music. It may be time for her to ride off into that beautiful sunset. I know the retirement age in the US is 65, but I think she’s earned the ability to head home five years early.

Runner-Up: EBU bungling the Belorussian automated jury vote

Human error is to be expected from a human-run event. But still, for all of eternity, when watching this Contest back, this error will need to be pointed out and corrected for folks watching. It also shines a light on the still mysterious and needlessly clandestine algorithm used to calculate votes for missing juries and televotes. Show your work, EBU, we’re curious!

Honorable Mentions: Too many interval acts. UK coming last, Germany’s poor showing, Ireland’s poor performance

Closing Thoughts

Again, one of my favorite years and favorite winners ever. I am so happy to have been able to bring the Eurovision Obsession Awards back after missing last year. What are your favorites and least favorites from this year. Be sure to check-out my Final Thoughts if you have not already; they’ve been updated with the correct scoreboard and with links to the various media outlets I appeared on following ESC in May. Stay tuned for further posts as we celebrate Ten Years of Eurovision Obsession! As always, you can find @escobsession on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Sporcle.


Eurovision 2019 – Final Thoughts!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

Dutch Flag Map

Historical Markers

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

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

Other historical notes:

**updated with the corrected scoreboard

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

EO logo with Albanian flag

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

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

 

Israeli flag map

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

EO logo witch Dutch flag

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

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

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

 


Eurovision 2019 – Grand Final Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Switzerland

  3. Australia

  4. Italy

  5. Sweden

  6. Iceland

  7. Malta

  8. Russia

  9. Norway

  10. Serbia

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

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

Opening Act

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

HERE WE GO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Azerbaijan

  2. The Netherlands

  3. Serbia

  4. North Macedonia

  5. Australia

  6. Malta

  7. Czech Republic

  8. Russia

  9. Spain

  10. France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINALLY we get to the votes!

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

The Juries

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

  • Azerbaijan: 12 to Russia, no shock there

  • Malta: 12 to Italy. Not too surprising

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

  • San Marino: 12 to Italy. NO surprise there

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

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

  • Estonia: 12 points to Sweden

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

  • Poland: 12 points to Australia – interesting

  • Norway: 12 to Czech Republic! Interesting.

  • Spain: 12 points to Sweden! Interesting.

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

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

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

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

  • Hungary: 12 points to Czechia, to too surprising

  • Moldova: 12 points to North Macedonia! Fun

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

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

  • Romania: 12 points to Australia

  • Cyprus: 12 points to Greece, of course

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

  • Australia: 12 points to Sweden

  • Russia: 12 points to Azerbaijan! Not too surprising

  • Germany: 12 points to Italy! Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Greece: 12 to Cyprus, of course

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

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

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

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

  • Finland: 12 points to big brother Sweden

  • Switzerland: 12 points to North Macedonia – quite unexpected

  • Slovenia: 12 points to Czech Republic! Fun times

  • Israel: 12 points to The Netherlands!

And Sweden wins the jury!

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

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

(30) That’s about as expected

(3) Awwww poor UK it deserved way more

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

(13) to Belarus

(0) OH NO! That’s just uncalled for!

(48) for Estonia

(54) for Serbia

(??) for Albania enough to get to 90

(59) for Slovenia not as much as expected

(24) for Greece, not too surprising

(291) for very popular song from Norway

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

(38) WHOA! Not too surprising

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

(51) for Denmark, not too bad

(20) for Malta, awwwww it deserved more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweden needs 253 televote points to win.

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

Dutch Flag Map

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

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

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

Thank you and goodnight!


Eurovision 2019 – Live Notes: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top Ten from tonight:

  1. Switzerland

  2. Latvia

  3. Malta

  4. The Netherlands

  5. Romania

  6. Moldova

  7. Armenia

  8. Azerbaijan

  9. North Macedonia

  10. Sweden

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

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Austria

  • Lithuania

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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

Let’s look at our auto-qualifiers!

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

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

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

FINALLY – Our Qualifiers

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

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

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

  • Sweden – as expected (3 for 4)

  • Russia – no surprises here (4 for 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC 2019: Contender or Pretender!

Contender or Pretender logo

Hello Dear Readers!

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

  1. Sweden

  2. Italy

  3. Switzerland

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. The Netherlands

  6. Russia

  7. Greece

  8. Cyprus

  9. Iceland

  10. Malta


Country: Sweden
Entry: Too Late for Love

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

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

EO logo with Swedish flag

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

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

 


Country: Italy
Entry: Soldi [Money]

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

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

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

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


Country: Switzerland
Entry: She Got Me

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

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

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

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


Country: Azerbaijan
Entry: Truth

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

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

EO logo with Azerbaijani flag

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

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


Country: The Netherlands
Entry: Arcade

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

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

EO logo witch Dutch flag

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

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


Russian flag mapCountry: Russia
Entry: Scream

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

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

EO logo with Russian flag

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

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


Country: Greece
Entry: Better Love

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

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

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

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


Country: Cyprus
Entry: Replay

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Country: Malta
Entry: Chameleon

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

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

EO logo with Maltese flag

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

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


Contender or Pretender 2019: Recap!

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

Contenders:

Italy
Switzerland
The Netherlands
Russia

Pretenders:

Sweden
Azerbaijan
Greece
Cyprus
Iceland
Malta

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

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


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

 

 Running Order

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

EO logo with Armenian flag

1

Armenia

Srbuk

Walking Out

Internal

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

2

Ireland

Sarah McTernan

22

Internal

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

3

Moldova

Anna Odobescu

Stay

National Selection

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

4

Switzerland

Luca Hänni

She Got Me

Mixed

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

5

Latvia

Carousel

That Night

National Final

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

6

Romania

Ester Peony

On a Sunday

National Final

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

7

Denmark

Leonora

Love is Forever

National Final

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

8

Sweden

John Lundvik

Too Late for Love

National Final

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

9

Austria

PAENDA

Limits

Internal

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

EO logo with Croatian flag

10

Croatia

Roko Blaževic

The Dream

National Final

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

EO logo with Maltese flag

11

Malta

Michela Pace

Chameleon

Mixed

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

EO logo with Lithuanian flag

12

Lithuania

Jurijus Veklenko

Run with the Lions

National Final

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

EO logo with Russian flag

13

Russia

Sergey Lazarev

Scream

Internal

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

EO logo with Albanian flag

14

Albania

Jonida Maliqi

Ktheju Tokës

National Final

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

EO logo with Norwegian flag

15

Norway

KEIINO

Spirit in the Sky

National Final

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

16

Netherlands

Duncan Laurence

Arcade

Internal

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

EO logo with North Macedonian flag

17

North Macedonia

Tamara Todevska

Proud

Internal

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

EO logo with Azerbaijani flag

18

Azerbaijan

Chingiz

Truth

Internal

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

My favorite ten

  1. The Netherlands

  2. Latvia

  3. North Macedonia

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. Albania

  6. Norway

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Russia

  10. Malta

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • The Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Azerbaijan

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Malta

  • Albania

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Switzerland

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

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


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Norway

Alexander Rybak

How You Write a Song

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Romania

The Humans

Goodbye

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Serbia

Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

Nova Deca [New Children]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening

Who We Are

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Denmark

Rasmussen

Higher Ground

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Russia

Julia Samoylova

I Won’t Break

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

DoReDos

My Lucky Day

National Final

Thoughts:

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

The Netherlands

Waylon

Outlaw in ‘Em

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Australia

Jessica Mauboy

We Got Love

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Georgia

Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao

For You

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Poland

Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer

Light Me Up

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Malta

Christabelle

Taboo

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Hungary

AWS

Viszlát Nyár [Summer Gone]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Latvia

Laura Rizzotto

Funny Girl

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Sweden

Benjamin Ingrosso

Dance You Off

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Montenegro

Vanja Radovanović

Inje [Frost]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Slovenia

Lea Sirk

Hvala Ne [No Thanks]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Ukraine

MÉLOVIN

Under the Ladder

National Final

Thoughts:

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

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

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

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Ukraine

  • Romania

  • Australia

  • Montenegro

  • Poland

  • The Netherlands

  • Moldova

  • Norway

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Sweden

  2. Latvia

  3. Ukraine

  4. Montenegro

  5. Norway

  6. Australia

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Poland

  10. Malta

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

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


Eurovision: More Than Just…Politics

Hello Dear Readers!

As promised, the first of four posts in the series “Eurovision: More than just…”

The fallout from Ukraine’s victory last May is still resounding, particularly as the host broadcaster, The Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC) is struggling to complete preparations in a timely manner. The winning entry in Stockholm was 1944 performed by Jamala, who wrote the song based on the experiences of her great-grandmother who had to go through the forced migration of the Crimean Tatars by the USSR, even incorporating words from a Tatar folk song about the event as the chorus. Clearly, while this song is about a historical injustice, there are clear parallels to the 2014 invasion of Crimea by Russia. Despite Russia’s protest about the song being potentially political (which violates ESC rules), the argument made by NTU (UA:PBC’s former name) was that it was a song about history, not current politics. This was enough to allow the song to compete. There is also a history of other countries using Eurovision to send thinly veiled political messages, such as Armenia’s 2010 and 2015 entries that marked the 95th and 100th anniversaries of the Armenian genocide (and event that Turkey still denies). Many countries also send very blatant political songs about peace (Hungary 2015 is the first I think of) or saving the environment (Ukraine 2010 and Armenia 2013 both come to mind). And being political is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a role of music within our society is to express the narratives that we actually live with day to day. And for smaller countries in particular, Eurovision can be the rare opportunity to express themselves in a wide-scale venue (hence, why microstates like San Marino continue to compete). The guys at Overthinking It did a good job of discussing this.

But, we’re not here to discuss the merits of politics at Eurovision, but the ways in which the Contest transcends them. I am going to focus predominantly on the voting and coordination of the event as opposed to the music. Music is art and can take any direction it pleases. The more important aspect is how the EBU enforces its rules against politics and actions it supposedly takes to convey a political message.

Conspiracy Theories

So often, people dismiss the results as being orchestrated by the EBU to favor Western countries or “friendly” Eastern nations. This is despite the fact that less liberal nations, such as Serbia, Azerbaijan, and Russia have all won and hosted the Contest over the past ten years. In 2016, countless fans put forward conspiracy theories that Western nations’ juries purposefully stiffed Russia to avoid a return to the nation in 2017 as they knew that it would win the televote. This is despite the fact that Russia still finished in the top five among the jury scores. And despite the fact that Poland, which finished third in the televote, garnered a mere 7 points from the juries. Poland is a West-friendly Slavic nation, it’s even in the EU, why wouldn’t the juries swing their support behind it if they truly wanted to sink Russia? Or why not swing that support behind one of their own, such as Germany or Spain? The answer, of course, is that juries remain independent from the EBU’s direct influence. There is no statistical evidence to support any concerted effort between juries.

“Political” Voting

From the beginning of the Contest there has been disputes over the allegedly political nature of votes. I have said it before (and I’ll say it again), there’s a difference between political votes and diaspora votes. Political votes implies a televote is actively moving in a direction to promote (or stop) a country for political reasons. It requires a conscious, concerted effort to do so. This is the reason why we don’t see votes between Armenia and Azerbaijan (though, Armenia gave Azerbaijan one point back in 2009). We don’t see this complete refusal to exchange points between any other countries, including between Russia and either Ukraine or Georgia, both of whom gave televoting points to the nation with whom they are at war.

The splitting of Yugoslavia was particularly bitter and there are very deep divides between the various former Yugoslav nations, particularly between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia as well as  between Slovenia and all of them. Yet, these countries routinely swap votes among themselves. Why? This is the effect of unconscious cultural bias — diaspora voting. Humans tend to like the familiar. While, politically, the countries that formerly comprised Yugoslavia may hate on another, they have strong cultural connections, they have overlapping music industries, and mostly mutually intelligible languages. It makes sense that they would naturally be attracted to the entries from the others. This is also why the Nordic nations tend to swap points, why Greece and Cyprus always swap points, and (to lesser extent) between the Netherlands-Belgium-France.

This may seem like a small difference but it’s important. There is a big difference between ascribing something to conscious effort and instinct/preference. Does this disadvantage smaller nations? Most definitely, and that’s why the EBU instituted things like the allocation pots and brought back the juries. The truth is, even if country names were removed from entries entirely, the diaspora effect would continue. It’s culture, it’s human nature, it’s comfortable — it’s not politics.

Russia 2017

I would be remiss if I did not address the controversy around Russia and 2017. For those who need the step-by-step layout of events:

  1. Russia internally selected Julia Sachenko to represent them with the song “Flame is Burning” mere days before the submission deadline.

  2. Ukraine announced that they were launching an investigation into Sachenko, as they had suspicion to believe that she illegally entered the country to perform in Crimea without passing through a Ukrainian checkpoint back in 2015.

  3. Sachenko confirms that she did, in fact, perform in Crimea in 2015.

  4. Ukraine officials announced in mid-March (with fewer than eight weeks to go before Eurovision) that Sachenko had indeed entered the country illegally and that she was prohibited from returning for five years – no exception.

  5. The EBU expresses dismay over this decision. Initially, they offer to find a way to allow Sachenko to perform in Moscow and have it telecasted in the arena. Both Russia and Ukraine scoff at this. Russia, because the rules state performances must be live in the arena AND that telecasting denies them full participation benefits. Ukraine, because showing Sachenko on Ukrainian television would violate the law and circumvent the punishment of banning her entry.

  6. The EBU reaffirms that Ukrainian law must be respected and that it will work with the host nation to find a solution.

  7. One of the highest ranking administrators at the EBU issued an ultimatum to Ukraine: provide an exception for Sachenko or risk being banned from Eurovision events (ESC, JESC, Eurovision Young Musicians, and all its entertainment content one imagines) for several years (a punishment that was doled out to Lebanon after it said that it would not broadcast the Israeli entry in 2005, forcing it to remove itself from the Contest – where it was set to debut – and drop any expectation of receiving a refund of its participation fee as well as received a five year ban from Eurovision competitions).

  8. Russia is offered the solution of replacing the artist of the song (which is the most sensible solution and consistent with past situations of similar natures, in my opinion).

  9. Again, Russia scoffs at this solution while Ukraine refuses to budge.

  10. Russia ultimately decides to withdraw and refuses to broadcast EC 2017.

This just goes to show you that, try as they might, the EBU cannot prevent politics from creeping into the Contest. Of course, this all could have been avoided if they had made Jamala change the lyrics of 1944 last year. Or if Russia decided to be the bigger man and choose an artist that did not break the law.

So, is this whole post moot? Doesn’t this just prove that my arguments against the political nature of Eurovision are wrong? No. One example, even one as big as this, does not unravel my argument. Nor does it prove the Contest as a whole is political. In fact, it can be said that the EBU was trying its best to mitigate a political event to avoid politics entering the Contest.

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Eurovision 2016 – Wrap Up!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

No ESC for those in the US or Canada 😦

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

General Reactions

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

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

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Lyrics Award

Serbia

Winner: Serbia

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

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

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

UkraineRunner-Up: Ukraine

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany

The “Huh?” Award

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

IrelandWinner: Ireland

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

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

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Sweden, The Netherlands, Montenegro

Best Dressed Award

Albania

Winner: Albania

Albania dress

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

 

AustraliaRunner-Up: Australia

Australia outfit

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

Honorable Mention: Estonia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

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

Italy

Winner: Italy

Italy outfit

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

AzerbaijanRunner-Up: Azerbaijan

Azr outfits

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

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

Best Staging Award

Russia

Winner: Russia

Russia performance

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

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

ArmeniaRunner-Up: Armenia

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

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

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

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

Worst Staging Award

Estonia

Winner: Estonia

Estonian perfomance

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

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

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

Moldova performance

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

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

Honorable Mention: Slovenia, San Marino, France, Croatia

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

Winner: Sweden

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

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

Runner-Up: Czech Republic

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

Honorable Mention: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Israel

Pond Leaper Award

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

ItalyWinner: Italy

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

NetherlandsRunner-Up: The Netherlands

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

Honorable Mention: Australia, Finland, United Kingdom, Bulgaria

The “Spirit of ABBA” Award

Given to the most stereotypical and/or traditional ESC entry

BelgiumWinner: Belgium

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

United KingdomRunner-Up: United Kingdom

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

Honorable Mention: Finland, Spain, Croatia

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

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

Winner: United Kingdom getting 24th place

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

RomaniaRunner-Up: Romania’s Disqualification

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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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!


Contender or Pretender 2016 – Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Contender or Pretender 2016: Sweden and Russia

Hello Dr. Readers!

So, we open up with the two songs that probably have the most support within the fan communities: Sweden and Russia! One is a contemporary hipster anthem dripping with sarcasm; the other is a quintessential schlager tune that builds upon the pop legacy of Heroes. Interestingly enough, the schlager is coming from a little further east than usual.

Sweden

If I Were Sorry performed by Frans

Swedish Flag MapReasons why it is a contender: The song is catchy and simple and takes advantage of the most basic of human entertainment: storytelling. It’s simple enough for folks to follow the plotline without being overly repetitive and still maintains an air of mystery.

Reasons why it is a pretender: The song is a bit too basic and, quite honestly, the singer comes off like a jerk. The composition is also simple and not too entertaining; the song is just flat throughout its duration.

Final Verdict: Pretender Sweden was deemed "a contender" in last year's series.The song is neither captivating nor uplifting. It also lacks any kind of musical element that makes this song captivating. We know that it will perform 9th on Saturday night and it will be long forgotten by the end. Not to mention that only four countries have ever won on home soil – Spain (1969), Luxembourg (1973), Israel (1978), Ireland (1993 & 1994) – and no one has done it for over twenty years.

Russia

You Are the Only One performed by Sergey Lazarev

Russian Flag MapReasons why it is a contender: A traditional ESC entry in that this is full-blown schlager, a German word meant to capture the style of pop that typified the German and Scandinavian entries of the 70s and 80s…and 90s. Russia is moving away from its diva entries of the recent past with a rousing pop tune that has a captivating composition and stage show.

Reasons why it is a pretender: It’s a little too typical. The song can become tedious and, without a big staging, is just not much. The lyrics are trite and lack any kind of depth.

Final Verdict: RussiaContender This song, in addition to having a great stage show, will be more than adequately performed, as Lazarev has a good live voice. Not to mention that Russia has a large diaspora and a lot of guaranteed points, at least from the televoting public.

Come back tomorrow when we will examine Serbia and Armenia.

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Recap of Initial Thoughts and Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Norway – lovely dance tune and an eccentric love songNorway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Czech RepublicCzech Republic!

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

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

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ESC 2016 Reviews: First Semi-Final, Part One

Hello Dear Readers!

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

First Semi-Final, First Half

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Armenian Flag Map

Armenia

Iveta Mukuchyan

LoveWave

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Croatia

Nina Kraljić

Lighthouse

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Finland

Sandhja

Sing It Away

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Greece

Argo

Utopian Land

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Hungary

Freddie

Pioneer

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

Lidia Isac Falling Stars Televised

Thoughts:

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

The Netherlands

Douwe Bob Slow Down Internal

Thoughts:

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

Russia

Sergey Lazarev You Are the Only One Internal

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Serhat I Didn’t Know Internal

Thoughts:

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

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

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Eurovision 2016 – And so it begins!

esc2016

Hello Dear Readers!

Officially, Eurovision kicks off at the end of March when all the competing countries have to turn in their official entries (and all related media). But, National Finals season, the period where each competing country selects its entry, has begun! Typically, AlbaniaAlbanian flag country kicks things off with Festivali i Këngës, held annually around Christmas Day. However, a growing number of countries have decided on an artist, a song, or both earlier and earlier. As of January 1, 2016, eight countries (Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, The Netherlands, and Russia) have selected an artist and one (Albania) has an artist and song selected. Germany had an artist selected, but, due to his controversial history, decided to go in another direction. A new artist has yet to be selected.

Yes! You read that correctly, Bosnia & HerzegovinaBosnian Flag Map is finally returning to the Contest after a three year absence! And it’s not alone. Bulgaria, Croatia, and Ukraine are returning to the Contest! Bulgaria and Croatia each last competed in 2013, and Ukraine last competed in 2014. Sadly, Turkey is not making a return after early rumors that it would. And, due to financial restraints, Portugal is once again withdrawing from the ESC.

Australian Flag MapUnsurprisingly, Australia was invited to return as a regular contender. Though, since they are no longer a guest, the country will have to compete in the semi-finals and hope to qualify for the Grand Final. I predict that there will be another song from Down Under on Saturday night.

Swedish Flag MapEqually as unsurprising, SVT, this year’s host broadcaster, has announced that there will be two hosts this year, the popular Petra Mede (who hosted the ESC solo in 2013) as well as last year’s winning performer Måns Zelmerlöw (who has several hosting gigs under his belt, including Melodifestivalen). The Green Room host (if there is to be one) has yet to be announced.

Those are the biggest news stories thus far for ESC2016, but as the National Finals begin in earnest, more news will surely break! Stay tuned for my post about my hopes and expectations for Stockholm from a fan standpoint as well as from that of an attendee.

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Christmas!

Merry Christmas Dear Readers — and Happy New Year!

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

Find the playlist on YouTube: Eurovision for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Nox (Hungary 2005) – Szent ünnep

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

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

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

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

  15. Litesound (Belarus 2012) – Shooting Star

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

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

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

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

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

  21. Bzikebi (JESC Georgia 2008) – Ave Maria

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

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Break-Ups

Hello Dear Readers!

I thought this week, I would try something different. Instead of the usual twenty song playlist, I decided to craft two ten-song playlists – one for the heartbroken and one for heartbreakers. It’s no secret that Eurovision is full of love songs, but there are also quite a few anti-love songs. Here are twenty on both sides of the equation that I think are worth a listen. As a reminder, these songs come from the Televoting Era (1998 – onwards) with focus on recent years.

Songs for the Heartbroken

It’s never fun to be dumped — unless you can turn that pain into a successful song at Eurovision! These songs capture the anguish, remorse, loss, and pain that the end of a relationship can bring.


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for the Heartbroken

  1. DenmarkDenmark 2012 – Should’ve Known Better performed by Soluna Somay
  2. Serbia 2008 – Oro performed by Jelena Tomašević
  3. Cyprus 2010 – Life Looks Better in Spring performed by Jon Lilygreen and the Islanders
  4. Iceland 2009 – Is it True? performed by Yohanna
  5. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2007 – Rijeka Bez Imena performed by Maria
  6. GreeceGreece 2015 – One Last Breath performed by Maria Elena Kyriakou
  7. Sweden 2004 – It Hurts performed by Lena Philipsson
  8. Russia 2010 – Lost & Forgotten performed by Peter Nalitch and Friends
  9. France 2009 – S’Il Fallait le Faire performed by Patricia Kaas
  10. Serbia & Montenegro 2004 – Lane Moje performed by Željko Joksimović

Honorable Mention: United Kingdom 2002, Portugal 2003, Slovenia 2006, Serbia 2012, Cyprus 2015, Montenegro 2015

Eurovision for Heartbreakers

Not every relationship ends in despair, in fact, oftentimes, one person is happy that the relationship is over. Sometimes their emotions can be joy, relief, excitement — just happy to be free of a bad relationship. These songs are for those who are feeling great to be single.


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Heartbreakers

  1. GermanyGermany 2015 – Black Smoke performed by Ann Sophie
  2. Slovenia 2005 – Stop performed by Omar Naber
  3. Cyprus 2007 – Comme Çi, Comme Ça performed by Evridiki
  4. Italy 2012 – L’Amore È Femmina (Out of Love) performed by Nina Zilli
  5. Macedonia 2005 – Make My Day performed by Martin Vučić
  6. Slovenia 2011 – No One performed by Maja Keuc
  7. BelarusBelarus 2014 – Cheesecake performed by Teo
  8. Lithuania 2007 – Love or Leave performed by 4Fun
  9. Belgium 2013 – Love Kills performed by Roberto Bellarosa
  10. Denmark 2014 – Only Teardrops performed by Emmelie de Forest

Honorable Mention: Andorra 2006, Ukraine 2008, Denmark 2009, Poland 2011, Israel 2014, Estonia 2015

Fun Facts

  • Ballads of heartbreak and sadness are most known for coming from the former Yugoslav countries, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.Serbia Furthermore, one man, Željko Joksimović is behind some of the most famous and successful entries for these countries as composer and occasional performer:
    • 2004 – he performed Lane Moje, he won the semi-final but ultimately finished second
    • 2006 – he composed Lejla, which Hari Mata Hari performed for Bosnia & Herzegovina. This is not only my favorite ESC song ever, but its third place is the best BiH finish to date.
    • 2008 – in addition to hosting, he composed Serbia’s title defense effort Oro, finishing sixth.
    • 2012 – his triumphant return as a performed, he performed his self-composed entry Nije Ljubav Stvar, finishing in third place.
    • 2015 – he composed the Montengrin entry Adio, which only finished 13th, but is only the second Grand Final qualifier for Montenegro, and its highest ever finish.
  • As female-led songs become more popular, we’ll see more and more heartbreaker songs.
  • Interestingly enough, songs on both sides of the break-up spectrum range in tempo and tone.

The most recent previous list: Eurovision for Rockers
Next week: Eurovision for Baladeers


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Anglophobes

Hello Dear Readers!

Language has had a tough time at the Eurovision Song Contest. Songs could be in any language until the language rule was adopted in 1966; from that point on, songs had to be in an official language of the participating country. The rule was abolished from 1973-1977, but re-implemented from 1978. As the breadth of countries increased, the EBU saw a need to allow more freedom for participants. Starting in 1999, countries have since been able to compete in any language they wish. Almost immediately, English became the predominant language of the Contest, with a few holdouts (namely France and Portugal) generally sending entries in their own languages. Many choose to sing in English to broaden the appeal of their song; additionally, many argue that the language rule favors countries with English as an official language (the UK, Ireland, and Malta) and cite the unprecedented success of both Ireland and the UK in the 90s as examples. Interestingly enough, the only year that televoting and the language rule overlap, 1998, a non-English song (Diva, which was in Hebrew) won; however, all three English entries finished in the Top Ten.

Whether you long for the days of national languages appearing in full force or you just enjoy the breadth of diversity of the Contest, this week’s playlist is for you! It features 20 fan favorite (and personal favorite) entries of the Televoting-era (1998 onwards) that do not contain a single word in English. Enjoy!


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Anglophobes

  1. Spain 2001 – Dile Que la Quiero performed by David Civera

    One of Spain’s most popular and successful entries, this song decisively won Spain’s national selection and came in 6th place in Copenhagen. The song is a declaration of love and loyalty.

  2. Slovenia 2002 – Samo Ljubezen performed by Sestre

    SloveniaAs discussed in last week’s playlist, Dana International’s victory opened for more LGBTQ culture on the ESC stage. Sestre was a musical group comprised of three of Slovenia’s top drag queens. The title translates to “Only Love” and the song calls for everyone to love everyone else.

  3. Belgium 2003 – Sanomi performed by Urban Trad

    The infamous imaginary language entry, Sanomi came second to Turkey by two points in one of the Belgiumclosest Contests in history. There have been one and a half other entries in constructed languages. The Netherlands sent Amambanda in 2006, which was sung partially in Dutch and partially in a fictional language. Belgium again sent an imaginary language entry in 2008, O Julissi, but it failed to get out of its semi-final.

  4. Russia 2003 – Ne Ver’, Ne Boisia performed by t.A.T.u.

    The infamous t.A.T.u. took to the stage for Russia, one of the few artists to compete at the height of Russiatheir popularity. Coming in third, a mere three points from first place Turkey, there’s a lot that can be said about this entry. Focusing on the language, it’s worth noting that was only in Russian due to an error made by the delegation. This song, like much of t.A.T.u’s work, talks about standing out and against a society trying to tear you down.

  5. Serbia & Montenegro 2004 – Lane Moje performed by Željko Joksimović

    Winning the semi-final, but ultimately coming second in 2004, Lane Moje was the song that introduced the Contest (and the continent) to one of its most popular and successful stars: Željko Joksimović. He went on to compose three other Top Ten entries (BiH2006, SER2008, SER2012), Montenegro’s second qualifying and best placing entry (2015), and co-hosted the Contest in 2008, the first year with two semi-finals. Like every song composed by Jooksimović for the Contest, Lane Moje is about heartbreak and longing for a lost love.

  6. AndorraAndorra 2006 – Sense Tu performed by Jennifer

    My favorite Andorran entry, this song is sultry, its performance was sexy, and its lyrics tell a good story. Unfortunately, it finished last in the semi-final. This entry is a song of empowerment, as Jennifer sings about moving on from a bad relationship.

  7. CyprusCyprus 2007 – Comme Çi, Comme Ça performed by Evridiki

    Rarely does a country submit a song in a language that is neither its own nor English. 2007 saw three such entries – Romania (which contained six languages), Latvia (sung in Italian), and Cyprus’ French language rock song. Despite not qualifying for the Final, this entry is one of the most popular from the 2007 ESC and from Cyprus, winning several fan awards after the Contest. The song describes a so-so (bland) relationship that has grown stale and Evridiki’s intentions of leaving because of it.

  8. Bulgaria 2007 – Voda performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankoulov

    BulgariaThe one and only entry from Bulgaria to qualify for the Grand Final, Voda features two of the most prominent percussionist in the country. The song stands out for its trance composition and the traditional folk style of the singing. It finished fourth in Helsinki. The song, written in a folk tradition, is about s search for life’s meaning using thirsting after water as a metaphor.

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

    PortugalThe first time that Portugal ever qualified from a semi-final, this haunting song sparked a three year run of qualifications for the much maligned country. The song captures the painful sorrow of a woman waiting for her husband to return from going out to sea – much appropriate for Fernandes, who is from an island off the coast of Portugal.

  10. Spain 2008 – Baila Chiki Chiki performed by Rodolfo Chikilicuatre

    SpainOne of the most pronounced gimmick entries to take the ESC stage, Baila Chiki Chiki is fun song crafted by its comedian artist. It teaches a four part dance to the audience.

  11. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009 – Bistra Voda performed by Regina

    The second Bosnian song to the Macel Bezençon Composer Award, this rock Bosnia & Herzegovinaentry is perhaps the biggest fan favorite from the country. Despite lyrics that may or may not harken back to the days of Communism, the song remains a Contest classic.

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

    One of the most popular and well-known singers from France, Patricia Kaas performed the song that most recently landed France in the Top Ten. The tale of all-consuming love was a major favorite among the juries.

  13. GreeceGreece 2010 – Opa! performed by Giorgos Alkaios & Friends

    The first Greek entry in Greek since the language rule was lifted, maintained the nation’s streak of Top Ten placings. Interestingly enough, Giorgos Alkaios, who is much better known for his ballads, wrote this song of overcoming the past with the hopes of finding a new young artist to sing it. Not finding a suitable performer, he took the song to Oslo, himself.

  14. FinlandFinland 2010 – Tyolla Elää performed by Kuunkuiskaajat

    A fun song, this is the most recent entry to take the stage in Finnish. Despite having a large fan following, the song failed to make the Grand Final.

  15. Albania 2012 – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

    The only song with a title in Latin in ESC history, this song shattered perceptions about what “a ESC song” should sound like. Nishliu’s unique voice conveys heartache like few others.

  16. MacedoniaMacedonia 2012 – Crno i Belo performed by Kaliopi

    One of the few qualifications for Macedonia, Crno i Belo marks the return of Kaliopi who was the singer of the Macedonian song in the 1996 preselection, Samo Ti. This song was written by her ex-husband and is, understandably, about a fracturing relationship.

  17. Italy 2013 – L’Essenziale performed by Marco Mengoni

    A epic song of love, this entry was third consecutive Top Ten finish for Italy. Mengoni insisted that the song remain wholly in Italian, making it the first to do so since Italy’s return in 2011.

  18. HungaryHungary 2013 – Kedvedsem (Zoohacker Remix) performed by Bye.Alex

    Only Hungary’s third Top Ten song, Kedvedsem was wildly popular for its catchy melody and easy to sing-along to lyrics. The title translates to “Sweetheart” and is a love song to the unique girl that captured Bye.Alex’s heart.

  19. Montenegro 2014 – Moj Svijet performed by Sergej Ćetković

    The first-ever Montenegrin to qualify for the Grand Final. This gentle song talks of a world of peace, understanding, and love. The performance also features a dancer on rollerblades made to look like an ice skater.

  20. FranceFrance 2014 – Moustache performed by TWIN TWIN

    The first time ever that France finished in last place, this rap song tells the story of man who has everything but the one thing he wants: a mustache.

Honorable Mention: Italy 2015, Portugal 2014, France 2013, Finland 2012, Estonia 2012, Austria 2012, Estonia 2009, Russia 2009, Albania 2008, Latvia 2007, Slovenia 2007

Fun Trivia

  • The United Kingdom, despite having a vast array of languages represented within its population has never submitted a song that was not in English.

  • Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are the only countries to never submit a song that was not at least partially in a national language.

  • Ireland and Malta have only strayed from English once.

  • Sweden and Denmark have clauses where winning songs must be translated into English regardless of the original language of the entry.

  • Finland’s most recent non-English song was När Jag Blundar, which was sung in Swedish!

What are your favorite non-English language songs?

Missed last week’s playlist? Eurovision for Beginners
Next week, we’ll be looking at Eurovision for Dance Parties!


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!


Reaction to the First Semi-Final

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

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


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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