Posts tagged “san marino

Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easily:

  • Greece

  • Iceland

  • Switzerland

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Latvia

  • Bulgaria

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

  • Serbia

  • Poland

  • Georgia

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

  1. Switzerland

  2. Poland

  3. Latvia

  4. Austria

  5. Iceland

  6. Denmark

  7. Albania

  8. Moldova

  9. San Marino

  10. Armenia

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • Iceland

  • Italy

  • Lithuania

  • Malta

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

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

See you next week!

EO logo with the Bulgarian flag

EO logo with Icelandic flag

EO logo with Lithuanian flag


Eurovision 2019 – Final Thoughts!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

Dutch Flag Map

Historical Markers

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

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

Other historical notes:

**updated with the corrected scoreboard

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

EO logo with Albanian flag

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

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

 

Israeli flag map

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

EO logo witch Dutch flag

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

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

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

 


Eurovision 2019 – 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: First Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

  • Greece

  • Portugal

  • Estonia

  • Iceland

  • Australia

  • Belgium

  • Czech Republic

  • Slovenia

  • San Marino

  • Cyprus

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

Opening Act:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, my favorite ten from tonight.

  1. Australia

  2. Czechia

  3. Slovenia

  4. Poland

  5. Georgia

  6. Montenegro

  7. Serbia

  8. Hungary

  9. Portugal

  10. Greeece

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

  • Australia

  • Cyprus

  • Iceland

  • Slovenia

  • Czech Republic

  • Portugal

  • Hungary

  • Greece

  • Belarus

  • Georgia

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

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

Auto Qualifiers:

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

Qualifiers!

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

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

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

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

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

  • Czech Republic – Woohoo! (4 for 6)

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

  • Iceland – no surprise (6 for 8)

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

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

Final Thoughts:

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


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: First Semi-Final

…and we’re back!

Hello Dear Readers!

Standard reasons for my disappearance apply…life…school…dissertation…mental health issues…and I founded a Pride Festival! With that all said, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you or Eurovision and am stoked for next week’s shows! Per usual, since I listen to the songs before the show, I don’t watch the stagings until the broadcasts.

We start with the First Semi-Final, the weaker of the two, by far. As such, after the handful of easy to guess songs, it was difficult to pick through all of these songs that are so evenly matched to determine who would qualify. Let me know your thoughts!

Running Order

County

Performing Artist

Song Title

Selection Method

1

Cyprus

Tamta

Replay

Internal

Like Greece a decade ago, Cyprus is repackaging basically the same song it found success with last year. There’s actually a nifty video that has a mash-up of Fuego and Replay that drives the point home. Redundancy notwithstanding, Replay took a successful formula and continues to extend it with a driving rhythm, easy lyrics, and an equally as beautiful singer. Let’s see if they can stage it as well as last year’s song.

2

Montenegro

D mol

Heaven

National Final

Supergroups are rarely a good idea at Eurovision. These six all seem sweet and nice enough, and their voices work well together, but the song is just boring and unforgettable. I do not expect this to qualify.

3

Finland

Darude &Sebastian Rejman

Look Away

Mixed

This song, unsurprisingly, has an incredibly dated sound. Why five to ten years ago, it would have fit in well with the popularity of 90s dance retro sound, today it just sounds…old. I’m also not a big fan of these kind of, “let’s make the world a better place,” generic songs that have more talk than actual action.

4

Poland

Tulia

Fire of Love (Pali się)

Internal

I’m not sure how I feel about this song. Tulia is more than a bit creepy with the way they stand so still and look so blank and sing in unison. This song, though, it’s hard to pull away from; it grabs you and it’s hard to shake off. What does that mean in terms of their qualification chances? Ehh, not sure, but I don’t think they’re going to make it.

5

Slovenia

Zara Kralj & Gašper Šantl

Sebi

National Final

This song is immensely popular, so I think it will have no trouble qualifying. In fact, I think this could theoretically land Slovenia back in the Top Ten for the first time since 2001. Though, I think a more realistic expectation would be mid-table, much like There for You in 2015, which was also quite popular but not a strong competition song.

6

Czech Republic

Lake Malawi

Friend of a Friend

National Final

I really like this song – it’s so fun. It also has the added benefit of being incredibly catchy and easy to sing along to. I think that it should qualify, but I don’t expect it to repeat last year’s success. I’m thinking mid-table finish in the teens.

7

Hungary

Joci Pápai

Az en Apám

National Final

Pápai returns with an emotional song about his father. Unfortunately, it is not quite as moving as Origo. I think it depends on the staging, as we know his vocals are quite strong, as to whether he will qualify or not. I see this finishing somewhere between 8-12.

8

Belarus

Zena

Like It

National Final

Blatantly going for the teen girl vote, Belarus hopes that Zena, this year’s youngest performer, can get them back to the Final for the second time in three years. Unfortunately, this song is rather generic and will seem even more so coming between two emotion-driven songs in Hungary and Serbia. Expect this song to languish behind in the semi-finals.

9

Serbia

Nevena Božovic

Kruna

National Final

I love the power of this song and Božovic sings this amazingly. Unfortunately, I don’t think this song has mass appeal. It is a standard Balkan ballad without any kind of notable composition or lyrics that set it apart. I do not have much hope for this one, but would be pleasantly surprised to see it succeed.

10

Belgium

Eliot

Wake Up

Internal

I like this song, but do not quite understand why it is so high on people’s lists and with the bookies. To me, this is a generic pixie-dream-boy song, but, we know that Belgium does well with these (see 2010, 2013, and 2015) though, this is nowhere near as strong as Rhythm Inside or Me and My Guitar.

11

Georgia

Oto Nemsadze

Keep on Going

Mixed

This is perhaps one of the most powerful songs, in terms of vocal delivery, in recent memory. Unfortunately, the song is so intense that I fear he comes off as angry. On top of that, the song is not very accessible – it lacks a catchy a melody or lyrics – so, expect this to fare quite poorly.

12

Australia

Kate Miller-Heidke

Zero Gravity

National Final

Interestingly, this is Australia’s fifth entry, but the first time that it is sending a white person. A testament to that country’s cultural shift of appreciating and promoting diversity. With that said, this song is quite pleasant to listen to and she’s such a fun performer. Australia has always been a jury favorite and I see no reason why this would change things this year. Expect Australia to qualify easily and challenge for the Top Ten.

13

Iceland

Hatari

Hatrið mun Sigra

National Final

Since the advent of the semi-final 16 years ago, Iceland has qualified eight times, every year from 2008-2014. But its recent string of failures will likely turn around this year. Hatrið Mun Sigra is a bookies darling and has a hoard of devoted fans. Will it actually finish in the Top Ten? Perhaps, it is the only rock song this year, but it will likely not get anywhere close to the top.

14

Estonia

Victor Crone

Storm

National Final

This is song has all the trappings of contemporary Christian music – easy to sing along to, super basic composition, and vaguely inspiring lyrics. Just like CCM, though, this song will have wide appeal because it is meant to burrow itself into your brain. In this semi-final, Estonia should easily qualify, but probably will fall flat in the Final.

15

Portugal

Conan Osíris

Telemóveis

National Final

Another head-scratcher, but, like Poland and Iceland, strangely captivating. Unlike Poland and Iceland, though, Telemóveis is more widely popular and appealing. It is a modern take on Portuguese fado music – as haunting as this traditional genre tends to be but with an updated sound that is both, intriguing and interesting. Definitely going to qualify and potential return Portugal to the Top Ten for only the third time.

16

Greece

Katerine Duska

Better Love

Internal

A song built to be an anthem (likely for the sizeable gay male fan base), Better Love is a traditional Eurovision song, like one would expect from the Swedish juggernaut. Why the song is a bit average in its construction, Duska is a great singer and this song is likely to trigger a sense of familiarity in listeners who associate this sound with Eurovision. This is likely to finally return Greece to the Top Ten for the first time since 2013.

17

San Marino

Serhat

Say Na Na Na

Internal

Serhat returns with a song actually designed to be uptempo. Like in 2016, it is hard to truly predict where this song will end up. It is fun and catchy, but not high quality. However, Serhat is popular among the fans and was able to achieve 12th in the semi-final with a weaker song three years ago. I think it has what it takes to qualify, but it will be close.

My favorite ten

  1. Czech Republic

  2. Greece

  3. Portugal

  4. Australia

  5. Poland

  6. Serbia

  7. Slovenia

  8. San Marino

  9. Hungary

  10. Cyprus

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

  • Greece

  • Portugal

  • Estonia

  • Iceland

  • Australia

  • Belgium

  • Czech Republic

  • Slovenia

  • San Marino

  • Cyprus

    Eurovision Obsession logo

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

 

Quite frankly, no. Don’t get me wrong, I think Cyprus, Greece, and Portugal can break into the Top Ten, but none of them are legitimate contenders (more in my upcoming Pretender or Contender series later this week).


San Marino Goes Internal

Hello Dear Readers!

As a part of the OGAE ROW points race for tickets for ESC 2020, I am keeping tabs on San Marino’s selection process. Unfortunately, this year, SMRTV has decided to revert to an internal selection as opposed to doing another national selection like their collaboration with 1in360 from last year. Anywho, this is my first post for their blog. Enjoy!

San Marino’s Entry is Slowly Becoming Clearer

San Marino under a magnifying glassSan Marino after the swirling of rumors and anticipation on social networks, the microstate’s participating broadcaster, Radiotelevisione della Repubblica di San Marino (SMRTV), made an unexpected announcement shortly before we all flipped our calendars into the new year. Not only would SMRTV not be working with 1in360 this year, but they have reached an agreement with an “international artist” who will be announced soon along with their song; we must only stand by for the official press conference in a few weeks. Head of Delegation Alessandro Capicchioni and the SMRTV team are optimistic that this will entry will bring about a change in fortune for San Marino, who has qualified for the Final only once.

The Sammarinese delegation noted they considered a variety of proposals (maybe that including holding a national final again) and that this was the best option. I didn’t know, nor did most of the Eurovision community, that San Marino had so many options available to them. SMRTV General Director Carlo Romeo had this to say in an official press release,

This year we have worked hard on several proposals, as the Israeli edition is important to us for many reasons. Eventually we chose the best project, fully supported and approved with a wonderful International artist. Fingers crossed, but I think we will have a very good entry. Good luck to all our friends and colleagues involved in the organisation of such an important TV event, a world-wide event based on a joyous combination of music and dialogue, spectacle and friendship.

While I am disappointed in the lack of a semi-final, let’s hope the right choices are being made as post-production of the entry wraps up. SMRTV hopes that this song, their tenth in the Contest, will be the chain of light leading San Marino out of the depths of the ESC scoreboard.


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Norway

Alexander Rybak

How You Write a Song

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Romania

The Humans

Goodbye

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Serbia

Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

Nova Deca [New Children]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening

Who We Are

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Denmark

Rasmussen

Higher Ground

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Russia

Julia Samoylova

I Won’t Break

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

DoReDos

My Lucky Day

National Final

Thoughts:

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

The Netherlands

Waylon

Outlaw in ‘Em

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Australia

Jessica Mauboy

We Got Love

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Georgia

Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao

For You

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Poland

Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer

Light Me Up

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Malta

Christabelle

Taboo

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Hungary

AWS

Viszlát Nyár [Summer Gone]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Latvia

Laura Rizzotto

Funny Girl

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Sweden

Benjamin Ingrosso

Dance You Off

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Montenegro

Vanja Radovanović

Inje [Frost]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Slovenia

Lea Sirk

Hvala Ne [No Thanks]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Ukraine

MÉLOVIN

Under the Ladder

National Final

Thoughts:

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

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

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

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Ukraine

  • Romania

  • Australia

  • Montenegro

  • Poland

  • The Netherlands

  • Moldova

  • Norway

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Sweden

  2. Latvia

  3. Ukraine

  4. Montenegro

  5. Norway

  6. Australia

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Poland

  10. Malta

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

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


Eurovision 2017 – Second Semi-Final: Live Notes!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Make sure to keep refreshing the page throught the show!

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

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

 01 Serbia In Too Deep

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

02 Austria Running on Air

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

03 Macedonia Dance Alone

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

 04 Malta Breathlessly

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

05 Romania Yodel It!

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

 07 Hungary Origo

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

08 Denmark Where I Am

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

09 Ireland Dying to Try

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

10 San Marino Spirit of the Night

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

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

11 Croatia My Friend

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

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

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

12 Norway Grab the Moment

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

13 Switzerland Apollo

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

14 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia

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

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

14 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

16 Lithuania Rain of Revolution

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

17 Estonia Verona

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

18 Israel I Feel Alive

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

My Top Ten from tonight

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

Who I think will qualify (in no particular order)

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

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

Interval Act

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

A marriage proposal for Jana from Macedonia!!! Awwwww

Our Automatic Qualifiers

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

Now, on the results! Our ten qualifiers are:

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

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

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

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Belarus

Naviband

Historya Majho Žyccia

[Story of My Life]

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Bulgaria

Kristian Kostov

Beautiful Mess

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Croatia

Jacques Houdek

My Friend

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Estonia

Koit Toome & Laura

Verona

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Israel

Imri

I Feel Alive

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Lithuania

Fusedmarc

Rain of Revolution

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Norway

JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann

Grab the Moment

Televised

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson

Spirit of the Night

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Switzerland

Timebelle

Apollo

Televised

Thoughts:

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

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

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

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

Bulgaria

Hungary

Denmark

Ireland

Estonia

Denmark

Hungary

Bulgaria

Israel

Norway

Macedonia

Belarus

The Netherlands

Austria

Norway

The Netherlands

Serbia

Serbia

Switzerland

San Marino

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

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

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

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

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

Find the other reviews from this year here!

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The #SanMarinoPlan: A Way Forward for Microstates

Hello Dear Readers!

The 2016 Contest brought with it a new points format. The jury and televotes would no longer be combined on the country-level, as they had been since 2009, but each would be totaled individually before being combined to achieve the final results. While this reduces the bolstering of the middle-placed songs we saw under the previous system, it puts small countries that lack the population to support a televote at a disadvantage. In 2016, Sammarinese Flag MapSan Marino, a country of just 32,500 (fewer than the nearly 38,000 that attended Eurovision in 2001), which has historically always used 100% jury votes due to its small size required a televote in order for the new system to work. The solution? Create a composite score using a selection of countries (a list which has not been revealed) that stands in as San Marino’s televote. The EBU told us that this was to be employed if any country lacked either a jury or televote. San Marino is the only one for which this procedure was used. Understandably, the Sammarinese broadcaster, SMRTV, is not satisfied with this arrangement and has supposedly created a proposal to resolve this situation. How the EBU proceeds could be an influencing factor for how other small countries to continue participation (such as Albania and Moldova, both often use 100% jury as well in the past) and for others to return (such as Luxembourg, who is starting to see renewed fan interest in returning).

While we don’t know SMRTV’s exact proposal, which I have dubbed the #SanMarinoPlan, there are three likely avenues which SMRTV will pursue.

  1. Have Digame, the televoting partner, craft a new algorithm for smaller countries.

Right now, televoting depends on a certain raw number of votes to be certified. San Marino, with its modest population, just can’t reach the necessary threshold. However, San Marino has its own area code that differentiates it from Italy (0549), so it would be very easy to determine who is calling SMRTV’s numbers from San Marino. Whatever the current algorithm is for determining a statistically strong televote could be readily modified to fit a smaller scale. What makes this proposal difficult is that, with a smaller televote threshold, San Marino opens itself up to vote manipulation – a group could sponsor a bunch of folks to cross the border and use Sammarinese cell phones to vote for a particular country.

  1. Allow San Marino to create a second jury of non-professionals to create a televote.

SMRTV could gather a selection of citizens or hold official watch parties in the City of San Marino, Dogana, Domagnano, and/or other major population centers where they can collect votes and use those for their televote. It is incredibly easy to have people attend an event and cast ballots, collect these votes, and report the final results to the EBU. The biggest challenge with this proposal would be the increased cost to SMRTV. Hosing these events would cost money and they would need to have two (one for the semi-final and one for the Grand Final) in each chosen city. SMRTV would have the added difficulty of gathering fans (the largest cities only have a few thousand residents) and volunteers, as San Marino lacks its own OGAE (though, I’d gladly attend and host an event as a member of OGAE Rest of the World – we support San Marino and all the countries without their own OGAE).

  1. Create a system in which viewers in non-participating countries can vote to create stand-in televoting scores

The easiest way to reach the threshold would be to expand those eligible to vote through creating a portal through which those with IP addresses in a nonparticipating country could vote online/through the app. This would allow the EBU to have interactivity opportunities with new markets (like the US or China) without letting them participate. Depending on the popularity of this, they can institute it as some kind of back up televoting for all the countries that may need it (by randomly dividing received votes across all the countries that need a televote stand-in). The biggest difficulty, of course, is the vulnerability to being tampered with. More than that, though, it hurts the EBU’s chances for getting Luxembourg, Turkey, and other former competitors to return, as there would now be a way for interested fans to stay engaged without those broadcasters having to participate.

San MarinoPersonally, I think option two (SMRTV hosting viewing parties across San Marino) is the best choice. It engages fans with the Contest and ensures that the televotes are coming from within the country, reflecting the will of the Sammarinese public. However, the most realistic option would be to open voting to non-participating countries. This would allow the EBU to replace any country’s televote as needed (through randomizing the received votes). Additionally, it has the added bonus of engaging fans in countries not participating in the Contest without expanding the boundaries of the ESC. Now viewers in the US, Canada, Mexico, China, South Africa, etc., would be able to engage in the Contest on the same level as Europeans (and Australians) and the ESC would not have to allow those countries to compete. Furthermore, this can be facilitated through the official ESC app and would not significantly increase the cost to the EBU or require an in-country telephone partner.

What about the reverse situation? What if a country loses its jury vote?

Currently, the only solution for the loss of a jury vote is the composite scoring process detailed above. However, this is a more acceptable solution for this situation. The reason for the jury vote is to provide the perspective of music professionals to counterbalance the televote. It would be much harder to have a reserve of jurors in the event that a jury vote is nullified. Additionally, just as the EBU cannot duplicate the jury votes to generate a televote, it cannot duplicate the televote to achieve a jury vote. Nor can the EBU just discount the 58 points, as the new system is dependent upon an equal number of points in the juries and televotes.

 

Thoughts? Comments? Do you think any of these three plans would work? Do you have a different idea for what the #SanMarinoPlan could be?

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ESC 2016 Reviews: First Semi-Final, Part One

Hello Dear Readers!

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

First Semi-Final, First Half

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Armenian Flag Map

Armenia

Iveta Mukuchyan

LoveWave

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Croatia

Nina Kraljić

Lighthouse

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Finland

Sandhja

Sing It Away

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Greece

Argo

Utopian Land

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Hungary

Freddie

Pioneer

Televised

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

Lidia Isac Falling Stars Televised

Thoughts:

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

The Netherlands

Douwe Bob Slow Down Internal

Thoughts:

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

Russia

Sergey Lazarev You Are the Only One Internal

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Serhat I Didn’t Know Internal

Thoughts:

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

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

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Rockers

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

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

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

Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Rockers

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

  2. Georgia 2011 – One More Day performed by Eldrine

  3. Finland 2007 – Leave Me Alone performed by Hanna

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

  5. San Marino 2008 – Complice performed by Miodio

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

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

  8. Armenia 2013 – Lonely Planet performed by Dorians

  9. Georgia 2015 – Warrior performed by Nina Sublatti

  10. Turkey 2008 – Deli performed by Mor ve Ötesi

  11. Ukraine 2010 – Sweet People performed by Aliosha

  12. Finland 2014 – Something Better performed by SoftEngine

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

  14. Iceland 2007 – Valentine Lost performed by Eiríkur Hauksson

  15. Italy 2014 – La Mia Città performed by Emma

  16. Switzerland 2012 – Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

  17. Finland 2008 – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa performed by Teräsbetoni

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

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

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

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

Fun Facts

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

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

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

    Turkey

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

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

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


2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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ESC2014 – Second Semi-Final Reaction

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC2014: Semi-Final One – final predictions

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

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

Making it through easily:
Ukraine
Sweden
Armenia
Hungary
Azerbaijan

More than likely going through:
Russia
The Netherlands
Belgium
Estonia

Battling for the final spot:
San Marino
Montengro
Portugal
Moldova

Not going through:
Albania
Latvia
Iceland

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

Continuing right along with our song review!

 

Ukrainian Flag Map9. UkraineTick-Tock performed by Mariya Yaremchuk

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

Keys to Success: a tastefully done LED clock and choreography

Potential Stumbling Blocks: botched notes, an overwhelming LED clock

Personal Interest Score: 7

Likelihood of Success: 9

Composite:8

 

10. BelgiumMother performed by Axel HirsouxBelgian Flag Country

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 6

 

11. MoldovaWild Soul performed by Cristina ScarlatMoldovan Flag Map

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 7

Composite: 8

Sammarinese Flag Map12. San MarinoMaybe performed by Valentina Monetta

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 7.5

 

13. PortugalQuero Ser Tua performed by SuzyPortuguese Flag Map

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 4

Composite: 5

 

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

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 8

Likelihood of Success: 3

Composite: 5.5

 

15. MontenegroMoj Svijet performed by Sergej ĆetkovićMontenegrin Flag Map

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 7

Likelihood of Success: 1

Composite: 4

Hungarian Flag Map16. HungaryRunning performed by András Kállay-Saunders

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 8

Composite: 8.5


Eurovision 2013 – One Week Later

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

Best Lyrics Award

Icelandic Flag MapWinner: Iceland

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

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

First Runner-Up: Croatia

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

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

Second Runner-Up: Estonia

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

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

Honorable Mention: Greece, Cyprus, France, Israel

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

Winner: BelarusBelorussian Flag Map

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

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

First Runner-Up: Hungary

“Farkasok neveltek és
Táncolt egy délibábbal
Majd elillant csendesen”

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

Second Runner-Up: Montenegro

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

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

Honorable Mention: Lithuania, Serbia, Macedonia

Best Dressed Award

Winner: ItalyItaly

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

Runner-Up: Norway    norwayoutfit2

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

Second Runner-Up: Malta
malta outfits

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

Honorable Mention: Moldova, Georgia, Ireland, The Netherlands

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

Winner: Serbia
Serbia outfits

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

First Runner-Up: Romania
romania outfits

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

Second Runner-Up: Belarus
belarus outfits

Bright…shiny…death by sequins…

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

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

Winner: Azerbaijanazerbaijan performance

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

First Runner-Up: Denmark

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

Second Runner-Up: France

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

Honorable Mention: Italy, Moldova, San Marino

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

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

Winner: SloveniaSlovene Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Switzerland

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

Second Runner-Up: Moldova

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

Honorable Mention: Greece, Russia, Finland

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

Winner: GermanyGerman Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Sweden

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

Second Runner-Up: Greece

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

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

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

Winner: BelarusBelorussian Flag Map

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

First Runner-Up: Georgia

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

Second Runner-Up: Denmark

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

Honorable Mention: Russia, Malta

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

Israeli Flag CountryWinner Moment: Israel failing to qualify

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

First Runner-Up: San Marino failing to qualify

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Moldova, United Kingdom, Macedonia, Greece

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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


Eurovision 2013 – Live Notes for the Second Semi-Final

After a few days of thinking about it, I am still fairly satisfied with the results of the First Semi-Final – let’s hope that tonight will be equally as satisfying (if not more!).  A lot of people seemed shocked that none of the former-Yugoslav countries made it through, despite the fact so many of them were in the First Semi-Final together.  Now the big question is: “Who will they all vote for in the Grand Final (since Macedonia most likely will not be in the Final)?”  I can tell you now, Serbia will vote for Russia, Croatia & Slovenia will vote for Italy, and Montenegro & Macedonia will vote for Albania.

Something interesting going on with the draws for the halves of the Grand Finals:

Estonia, the Netherlands, Russia, Lithuania, Belgium, Moldova, Belarus, Spain, Germany, and France have all been drawn into the first half of the Grand Final – that means only three songs qualifying tonight will join them; all the rest will be in the second half.  What does that mean, the Netherlands, Russia, and Germany, who all had outside shots of winning, have much slimmer hopes now.  Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Norway – the remaining favorites (who all will most likely qualify tonight) have had their chances increased! as they will probably land in the second half of the show.  Italy also sees its slim hopes alive, as it is in the second half, and as I said previously, if it is close to Azerbaijan, it will surely still votes from last year’s host as it is the better male ballad between the two.  San Marino, who is a dark horse this year, could also see itself land in higher than expected spot if it qualifies for the Final and gets drawn to the second half.

Onward to the Second Semi-Final!

I was 8 for 10 in my predictions from Tuesday night – not too shabby!  Below are my initial thoughts on who will qualify for Grand Final from tonight’s show:

-San Marino

-Azerbaijan

-Finland

-Iceland

-Greece

-Israel

-Norway

-Albania

-Georgia

-Switzerland

I think San Marino is poised with its best chance to qualify since joining the Contest.  It has a good spot in the running order and is a big fan favorite (it got second place in the OGAE Fan Poll); but, we have seen fan favorites fall before.  Same goes for Norway – it is the kind of thing that would succeed in the Grand Final, but may not do well in a semi-final.  With a strong performance, Switzerland could join the Netherlands and Belgium in the Final – wouldn’t that be a sight!  Anyway, I’m super excited for this – so let the show began!

Opening Act:

I’m rather liking this Opening Act! I think it’s called dance symphony or something like that.  That was pretty awesome!

OH MY GOODNESS – What is our host wearing?!  And what’s up with her hair?!  And why did she compare herself to Indira Gandhi and Mother Theresa?

On to the entries!

Latvian Flag MapLatvia Here We Go performed by PeR

OH MY – this went from zero to sixty in a blink of an eye!  There’s…so…much…sequins – does that jacket really need to be so bright and silver?  Is that guy playing an iPad attached to a guitar?  I get it, he represents today, the keytar represents the 80s and the those two guys represent the 90s, the era from which this song was taken.  That was better than expected – but still rather silly.

San Marino Crisalide (Voda) performed by Valentina MonettaSammarinese Flag Map

Already some positive crowd reaction and it hasn’t started yet.  Looking at this robe she’s wearing – will there be a costume change?  Yes! the first since, what, 2009?  Remember when costume changes used to be the staple of the Contest?  Now the wind machine has taken over.  Well done (except for that last note, which was rather botched), though not quite as strong as I was hoping it would be.

Macedonian Flag MapMacedonia Pred da se Razdeni performed by Lozano & Esma

I like how Esma’s portions of the postcard all show off how famous and decorated she is.  Where’s Lozano’s glasses?  What is Esma wearing?  Is she sick?  Why is her voice so hoarse?  I wonder if Lozano came over to hug her to let her know it was time to start wrapping up the song.  If they had any hope of moving through, they needed a flawless performance.  This, unfortunately, was not it.  It looks like there will not be any former Yugoslav nations in the Final this year (the first time since they started joining the Contest in 1993).

Azerbaijan Hold Me performed by Farid MammadovAzerbaijani Flag Map

Is he singing in English?  Oh, yeah, he is.  He mumbles a lot.  Oh cool!  It’s like his shadow there in the box.  WHOA!  That guy is upside-down!  Does that lady’s dress need to be so long?  Oh – the box is actually a money machine full of little paper hearts!  Whoops – Farid dropped that last note.  His vocals were about as expected – okay, whiny and a bit nasally, but that’s his voice. That guy in the box is much like the sand artist for the Ukraine from 2010, makes the stage show so unique, it’s hard not to like it.

Finnish Flag MapFinland Marry Me performed by Krista Siegfrids

She looks so much more mature with her hair down – I actually think that hinders the song a bit.  Well, this most definitely gets the “Campiest Act of the Year Award.”  Was that part supposed go like that – because on the studio version she says “Yeah” one more time and for a longer amount of time.  And the timing seems rather off for launching back into the chorus.  And I roll my eyes at the girl-girl kiss – really?  That just cheapens everything.  But it’s a cheap song, so perhaps it will work well for them.

Hahaha – yes Petra, folks just tuning in are probably freaking out if the first thing they saw was that Finnish act.  I really like this Lynda Woodruff character – she’s funny!  And I loved the reference to Bonnie Tyler.

Malta Tomorrow performed by GianlucaMaltese Flag Map

I bet Malta is happy they got an advert break between themselves and Finland – gives us time to readjust ourselves.  There was a lot of energy in those first few entries, and we have to recalibrate.  I like the words on the screen, it gives the act a sing-along feel; like, we’re all on that beach with him and his friends in the postcard.  That’s such a sweet song – the whole thing is rather adorable.  Still don’t think it has a shot of moving through, though.

Bulgarian Flag CountryBulgaria Samo Shampioni performed by Elista Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov

And Europe’s favorite Bulgarian percussion duo is back on the ESC stage.  The only act to get Bulgaria to the Grand Final (back in 2007, they got 5th place), they’re hoping for a repeat after Bulgaria’s participating broadcaster polled people and found that folks wanted a ethno-club track in Bulgarian for ESC.  That bagpiper is a bit creepy.  Glad to hear that Elitsa’s voice is much stronger (and more frequently on key) than in 2007.  The bagpiper seems to have evolved into some kind of creepy tribal man – how strange.  This whole package – the song, the performance – just…kinda…strange.

Iceland Ég á Líf performed by Eythor IngiIcelandic Flag Map

Not a strong start out of the gate.  That big note was amazing!!  It completely wipes out the fact that the rest of the song was performed marginally (as compared to the studio version).  There’s his backing singers!  All I can think about is that big note in the middle – and it was amazing!  Well done!

Greek Flag MapGreece Alcohol is Free performed by Koza Nostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis

Oh cool – their instruments light up!  The energy here is maybe not as high as Latvia or as manic as Finland, but it feels Oh! so much more genuine.  While those other two acts may be a bit more dazzling, this one infects you and wants to get you up and moving and dancing and singing.  I thoroughly enjoyed that!

Israel Rak Bishvilo performed by Moran MazorIsraeli Flag Country

Wow, listen to that crowd reaction!  What a shame, that would be such a nice dress if it didn’t go all the way down to her belly button (apparently, it originally went lower before they thought better of it).  So, she’s only 21, but the combination of hair, glasses, and dress makes her look like she’s in her 40s.  Which works for this song, since it has such a mature sound and would seem disingenuous if she appeared her age.  Oh, she hit the high note, but was smart enough to not linger on it as it was getting away from her.  AMAZING!  Her voice is so powerful, it’s awe-inspiring.

Armenian Flag MapArmenia Lonely Planet performed by The Dorians

His voice sounds like a gospel singer – it’s really soulful.  Too bad this song is trite and dull.  Oh, spoke a little too soon, he’s gone a bit screechy.  If we’re trying to save the world – why so many pyros?  All that smoke cannot be good for the ozone.  Ouch – he botched that last note.

Hungary Kedvesem performed by Bye.AlexHungariran Flag Map

Who knew Europe had hipsters?  I like this song and I like reprising the cartoon from the music video in the background.  That was rather pleasant.  Unfortunately for Hungary, pleasant does not go far at the ESC.

Norwegian Flag MapNorway Feed You My Love performed by Margaret Berger

Is it me, or does the timing seem off?  Like, Margaret Berger is just ahead of the beat and that the whole song is a few clicks faster than it should be.  It kinda feels like she’s phoning in this performance.  The one from Norsk Melodi Grand Prix was much more emphatic.  I know she’s a favorite to win – but we’ve seen favorites fall in the semi-final and after with great performances.  With a song that is this different and this out-of-the-ordinary, you cannot risk having a less than awesome performance.  I think she left herself vulnerable here.

Lys Assia!  Glad to see her out of the hospital and looking good (she was hospitalized last week for pneumonia – she said that she thought that she was dying).  We weren’t expecting to see her this year – but here she is!  Great to have you Ms. Assia!  I wish every winner was as endeared to the Contest as she is.

Albania Identitet performed by Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar SejkoAlbanian flag country

Whoa!  We don’t need to be that close to Bledar!  The camera was, like, literally on his cheek!  Everyone seems to like this song so much – I think it’s because it’s the only rock song this year…and it has that killer guitar solo, but still.  It’s alright, but it could be better.

Georgian Flag MapGeorgia Waterfall performed by Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani

People compare this song to In a Moment Like This (Denmark 2010) and Running Scared (Azerbaijan 2011).  I don’t think it’s anything like 2011’s winning song; it’s much more powerful and emotive.  It is a lot like the Danish 2010 entry, though, “Eurovision by numbers” they say.  It worked then and I see no reason it won’t work now.

Ooh!  Sopho missed both big notes in that key change – badly!  Disappointing, but they’re going through.  This type of song is too popular and both Armenia and Azerbaijan are voting tonight.

Switzerland You and Me performed by TakasaSwiss Flag County

Another change from the studio version – the girl lead singer gets the second verse.  In case you were wondering, the bass player is 95 and is now the oldest person to ever compete in the Contest.  I don’t know.  I love this song, but it is definitely lacking energy – it just is not very dynamic tonight.  Disappointing.

I find it interesting that calling themselves “Salvation Army” and wearing their uniforms was too political and religious, but Krista Siegfrids can kiss a girl in protest on the stage (something that Russia was forbidden from doing in 2003) and use her song for political activism….interesting…

Romanian Flag MapRomania It’s My Life performed by Cezar

WHAT IS HE WEARING?!?!  What is up with the awful outfits this year?!  Are those dancers naked?  Why are they red, like, they’re covered in blood or something?  Oh, time for “Spot the Backing Singer!”  Oh look, a lady covered in gold.  Oh my gosh!  He’s so tall!  Wait, I think he’s on stilts.

Oh!  Thanks Petra – I guess the backing singer was under Cezar’s vampire cloak.

And, there you have it!  In an hour’s time, we will have the last ten songs to enter the Final.

Any else reminded of Jedward by the Latvian duo?  They jump around, where a small country’s worth of sparkles, and sing off key.

Overall, I am somewhat disappointed.  This was supposed to be the stronger of the two semi-finals, with three favorites (Norway, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), a major fan favorite (San Marino), and a bunch of my personal favorite entries (Macedonia, Switzerland, etc.) but everyone seemed to be under-performing except for Azerbaijan, Greece, and Israel – I hope all three move through!

My Top Ten Who I Think Will Qualify
Israel Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Greece
Greece Israel
Malta Norway
San Marino Albania
Hungary Georgia
Latvia Armenia
Switzerland Iceland
Norway Malta
Iceland San Marino

Excuse me, I stand corrected, Moran Mazor is actually 22.

I love the history bits!

Haha San Marino!  I noticed that this time they used the faster part of the song as opposed to the slower half in the second recap (in the first recap, the slower half was used).  I guess if people only remembered half of it, they wanted to make sure that they remembered to vote for them!

Interval Act:

Darin!  A major Swedish pop star and Melodifestivalen loser (he got 4th in 2010).  He’s attractive but his voice is not that good.  But he’s a pop start, so I guess that’s a winning combination.

And now we have Agnes.  Who has not competed in Melodifestivalen (yet) but did win the second season of Swedish Idol (Darin was runner-up the preceding season).  I liked her bit better than Darin’s songs, but I am not about to run out and buy either of their albums.

Why isn’t Amadine Bourgeious not in the arena for this semi-final?

The Actual Qualifiers Are:

-Hungary!  Whoa!!  That was not expected! (0 for 1)

-Azerbaijan – no surprise here (1 for 2)

-Georgia – they need to step up their game if they hope to contend for the victory (2 for 3)

-Romania – What…the…Heck!  How did this happen? (2 for 4)

-Norway – I was getting scared after Romania got through…Oh, I hopw San Marino makes it!! (3 for 5)

-Iceland – yay! (4 for 6)

-Armenia – it’s a weak song, but well performed (5 for 7)

-Finland – big reaction!  I wonder if it will be as popular on Saturday (6 for 8)

-Malta – nice, but now a more deserving entry (San Marino or Israel) will not make it (7 for 9)

-Greece – right, I forgot they hadn’t moved through yet (8 for 10)

Final Thoughts:

What just happened?  I like Kedvesem but it did not deserve to go through.  Romania…what?!…how?  I’m so confused!!!  How on earth did he garner enough points to move through?  How did Israel and San Marino fail to garner enough points to progress?  What?!  My head hurts.  I can’t think about what just happened.  San Marino had so much fan support.  Israel was such a high quality entry – what?  Romania?  What? How?  I give up.  Let’s just look at the running order:

Break down of who landed where

The three unlucky entrants that will be in the first half on Saturday: Finland, Malta, and Armenia

All others are in the second half.

They just released the running order (remember, I’m watching the semi-final in the evening (American East Coast time) since I work during the day)

  1. France
  2. Lithuania
  3. Moldova
  4. Finland
  5. Spain
  6. Belgium
  7. Estonia
  8. Belarus
  9. Malta
  10. Russia
  11. Germany
  12. Armenia
  13. The Netherlands
  14. Romania
  15. United Kingdom
  16. Sweden
  17. Hungary
  18. Denmark
  19. Iceland
  20. Azerbaijan
  21. Greece
  22. Ukraine
  23. Italy
  24. Norway
  25. Georgia
  26. Ireland

France gets to open the show – and interesting choice when Spain or Malta might have been provided an easier, smoother opening.

Lithuania gets the kiss of death with the second spot – not that it had much chance to win, anyway.

Finland is sandwiched between two ballads, which will either smother it or boost its ratings, I’m not sure.

The Netherlands once again finds itself at the end of the first half, sandwiched between two very different songs, Armenia (which will probably a slightly smoother transition than Ukraine) and before Romania (which will probably wipe out the Netherlands from people memories with its craziness).

The United Kingdom is much higher in the running order than expected, given the name recognition of Bonnie Tyler (compared to Anouk, who is always as late in the running order as possible, most likely due to her celebrity).

Interestingly enough, with the producer chosen running order, all the favorites are at the end of the show:

18. Denmark

20. Azerbaijan

22. Ukraine

23. Italy

24. Norway

25. Georgia

This has never happened before, where so many betting favorites are lumped together and with prime running order position.  Russia is the only favorite not in that run because it was drawn in the top half of the show.  I’m interested to see how this affects the show, I imagine that it will lead to a more even point spread.  Since many favorites tend to be knocked out by running order position (think Russia last year or Azerbaijan in 2010) points were easily pooled into one or two acts.  This year, the favorites are all together at the end of the show, they will all be vying for points against one another – I think my prediction of a tie just might come to fruition!

Finally, Ireland closes the show.  In my opinion, this song should not even be in the Final, now it will most likely finish in the Top Ten.  Oh well, at least it’s not a bad song.

I think I’ve recovered from Romania’s qualification, but, yikes! it was still so unexpected.  I guess its 100% qualification record survives another year.  Okay, so, we can all take Friday to recover, reflect on what has happened on Tuesday and Thursday, and prepare for the Grand Final – I’ll see y’all here Saturday!  I’m posting my live notes live this year!  So don’t miss out!


Eurovision 2013 – Final Predictions!!!

2013 Desktop

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

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

Starting with the First Semi-Final:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-Denmark

-Russia

-Ukraine

-The Netherlands

-Ireland

-Austria

-Montenegro

-Croatia

-Belarus

Danish Flag Map-Moldova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line: Who do I think will qualify?

-San Marino

-Azerbaijan

-Finland

-Iceland

-Greece

-Israel

-Norway

-Albania

-GeorgiaGeorgian Flag Map

-Switzerland

I think Georgia and Azerbaijan are the most serious contenders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Italy

-Germany

So, who’s going to win?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESC2013 Logo Facebook Cover

ESC2013 Facebook Cover


Eurovision 2013: Semi-Final Running Order

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Hello Readers!

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

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

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

Semi-Final One

Winners

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

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

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

Losers

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

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

Semi-Final Two

Winners

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

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

Losers

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

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

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

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

First Semi-Final

Second Semi-Final

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

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


Surprises of ESC2013 thus far

Hello Dear Readers!  Today was a big day – we finally have a running order for the semi-finals!  I will be making a post about that in the coming weeks.  You can find the running orders here: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=eurovision_2013_semi-final_running_order_revealed.

 

Instead, while I prepare that blog post, I will give you another one that has been mulling over in my mind.  The eight biggest surprises I’ve discovered thus far as I have been diving into ESC coverage.  This list is unranked.

 

  • Denmark is the big leader STILL.  Check the polling sites, the betting sites, the commentary sites – Denmark is the favorite to win come May!  This is not only surprising but rather pleasing!  As soon as I heard the song I thought it was a winner, then it took DMGP, and now it’s the big favorite to win.  How exciting!  Is it too early to say next year in Copenhagen (or perhaps Århus)?
  • Azerbaijan is nowhere to be seen. This goes beyond simply the fact that the Caucasus country is not on anyone’s radar in terms of succeeding.  Normally, AZ is throwing money at the Contest; normally, we would have seen at least one official music video, a remix, and several tour dates for the Azerbaijani entry to promote their song. Perhaps they don’t want to run the risk of winning again so soon.
  • The Netherlands is not only popular, but has a legitimate shot at winning. I love Birds, despite the fact that the lyrics require a lot of thinking about to help them make sense, it’s an amazing song and goes in a completely different direction than any other entry has for quite a while.  Apparently, Europe loves this, too.  And Anouk’s voice only sweetens the pot!
  • Albania is popular?! I don’t understand it, but apparently there’s a large group of people out there who think this song is amazing.  It’s okay, but I completely don’t understand the hype around this entry.
  • San Marino may actually qualify this year. Despite being slotted the #2 spot in the Second Semi-Final (in case you did not know, no country has ever won the Contest being performed in the #2 spot, but people have qualified out of the semi-final from it) which means it will be harder to maintain its impression in viewers’ minds, it is rather popular and has a chance to qualify.  It would be San Marino’s first ever trip to the Grand Final.
  • Lithuania and Montenegro have a strong fan following, France does not. Searching around the internet, I have come across a lot of fan rankings and Lithuania and Montenegro actually seem to be fairly well liked around the world wide web.  France, on the other hand, is not.  Despite the constant whining of fans that there are too many “ballads” (which, there not, it’s really no more than any other year) this fast and unique song is not appreciated.
  • Macedonia is getting a lot of backlash, still. Really, people?  I understand that Imperija was an amazing entry, it was off-tempo, powerful, and beautifully blended the pop and traditional musical styles of Macedonia.  However, Pred da se Razdeni fits these characteristics as well.  So, what’s the issue?

The number of non-English language songs is increasing. I think it speaks volumes that Moldova switched to Romanian.  More countries are using the ESC stage to display a part of their culture – their language.  I think this is a change for the better.  However, there has only been a few non-English entries that have had a serious shot at winning since 1998. Molitva.(SER2007) is the only non-English winner since the language rule was abandoned in 1999, and only the third since in the past twenty Contests (NOR1995, ISR1998, SER2007).  This year, Moldova is the most popular non-English entry, but still does not have much chance to win.


Eurovision 2013 – Second Half of the Second Semi-Final

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Hello! Welcome to the fourth installment of my five part series previewing this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.  Each day this week, I have been previewing each half of each semi-final.  The First Semi-Final was split between Monday and Tuesday; yesterday was the first half of the Second Semi-Final. Today, I’m looking at the second half of the Second Semi-Final.

Albania Identitet performed by Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar SejkoAlbanian flag country

It’s okay.  I don’t mind it, but I definitely don’t prefer it.  It’s composition rocks harder than the singing.  I have a feeling that this song is trying to be much more epic than it is succeeding at being.  Better luck next year Albania

Armenian Flag MapArmenia Lonely Planet performed by Gor Sujyan

Meh.  I’m not impressed.  I feel like this song missed its potential and will most likely hover around the qualification line, particularly if the Swedish producers want to disadvantage it by placing it between two very memorable songs (like Georgia and Greece).  Speaking of which…

Georgia Waterfall performed by Sopho & NodikoGeorgian Flag Map

A very powerful song, but not all that great.  I think this song, like several other Georgian entries, was designed to be jury fodder.  I think it will also benefit from votes from Armenia and Azerbaijan. I expect it to move through.

Greek Flag MapGreece Alcohol is Free performed by Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis

Whoa!!  This entry is a little over the top, much like LIT2010 and MOL2011.  And, like those entries, I like it!  Despite the apparent promotion of drinking and drunkenness, it’s so catchy and I have a weakness for pop-ska.  It’s Greece, so, of course, it will do well, perhaps bringing the country back to the Top Ten, but it’s still too early to tell in that regard.

Hungary Kedvesem (My Sweetheart) performed by ByeAlexHungariran Flag Map

What a pretty song.  It’s so soothing and nice.  Even though it’s about being in love with a mermaid, it’s a nice lullaby.  Unfortunately, lullabies do not tend to do too well.  Though, a favorable position (perhaps immediately after Greece so those who were overwhelmed have a chance to grab on to something pleasant) will bolster its chances.  It’s on the bubble right now!

Israeli Flag CountryIsrael Rak Bishvilo (Only for Him) performed by Moran Mazor

AMAZING!!  Israel is bringing it after taking a few years away from serious contention!  This song is awesome!  The composition fits Mazor’s voice perfectly, she conveys the lyrics (a deep, mature love for her man) in such a powerful way that leaves all her competition sounding like itty-bitty teeny-boppers.  This song must do well!  It must!!

Norway I Feed You My Love performed by Margaret BergerNorwegian Flag Map

Yikes!  This sounds like a “love me or else” type of song, the kind that provides the soundtrack for anime fanvids for many years to come.  In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s already a Sailor Moon fanvid set to this song somewhere on the Internet right now.  I like it a lot!  I think if it qualifies for the Grand Final, then it will be in the Top Ten, otherwise, it will be last or close to it in the semis.

Romanian Flag MapRomania It’s My Life performed by Cezar

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Countertenors are creepy!”  How did this become the selection for Romania?  I like the beat, but the whole song is a bit much.  I think Romania will be missing the Grand Final for the first time since 2002.

Switzerland You and Me performed by TakasaSwiss Flag County

One of the most controversial entries this year come from a group of Salvation Army workers.  Apparently, their actual name “Heilsarmee” (literally “Salvation Army” in German) was perceived as too religious by the EBU and their outfits too off-putting (they usually dress like soldiers given their association with the Salvation Army).  Regardless, this song is most definitely one of the best of the Contest this year and already one of my favorites after one listen. Oh, and in case you are wondering, “takasa” is a Swahili word meaning “clean” – which, to many Christians, can be another way of saying “salvation” – it’s often used as a metaphor, like “washed and made clean” due to Jesus’ death and resurrection (which is the basic concept of salvation). But of course, I’m sure the band means it more along the lines that they’re clean and wholesome….or they mean it both ways.

So, what do I think of the second half of the Second Semi-Final?

My Order of Preference How I think the final scorecard will look
Israel Greece*
Switzerland Israel*
Norway Georgia*
Hungary Norway*
Greece Hungary+
Georgia Switzerland+
Albania Armenia+
Armenia Romania
Romania Albania

*Who I think will definitely move through to the Grand Final
+May move through to the Grand Final depending on the second half of the Second Semi-Final

So, what does all of this mean?

I solidly predict Azerbaijan, Greece, Israel, Georgia, and Norway to move through to the Grand Final.  After that, it’s a bit murky, as my desires play with my reasoning.  While I really want San Marino to move through, I don’t think it’s quite there just yet.  With that said, I think Switzerland, Hungary, Armenia, Malta, and Bulgaria are.  I don’t think Romania, Latvia, Finland, or Macedonia have a chance of progressing, but nothing’s for sure.  The competition is much closer in this semi-final than in the First one.

Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on the Automatic Qualifiers as well as my first official prediction for the outcome of the Grand Final.


Eurovision 2013 – First Half of the Second Semi-Final

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Hello!  If you are new to Eurovision Obsession (or haven’t been here in a while) I am in the middle of a series.  Each day this week I am previewing one half of each semi-final, and the Grand Final on Friday.  Over the past two days, I examined the First Semi-Final, on Monday I looked at the first half and yesterday, the second.

Azerbaijan Hold Me performed by Farid MammadovAzerbaijani Flag Map
Immediately, I think this is stronger than the majority of entries from the First Semi-Final (links to my thoughts on the First Semi-Final are above).  It’s a strong entry from a very popular country that has never seen the wrong side of the Top Ten.  I do not think there’s any question that this will be a Top Ten song, if not a competitor for the Winner’s Circle.

Bulgarian Flag CountryBulgaria Samo Shampioni (Only Champions) performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov
Our favorite Bulgarian percussionists are back hoping to return Bulgaria to the Top Ten.  Unfortunately, this song is not a strong as Voda, but it’s close, the question is, would Voda be competitive nowadays?  We’ll see.  Even the traditional chanting makes a return in this song – good stuff! I do not understand how this did not win originally; it’s light years better than Kismet.  Perhaps the co-writer of Kismet did not see anything wrong with the final version but instead wanted to give Bulgaria a better shot of succeeding (in case you did not know, Kismet was to be the song for Bulgaria, but the third author of the song challenged it on grounds that he was not consulted on the final version.  To avoid issues around copyright and plagiarism, Bulgaria simply moved to the runner-up song).

Finland Marry Me performed by Krista SiegfridsFinnish Flag Map
Going in the exact opposite direction as Cyprus, Finland turns 360º from last year’s entry and heads straight for the 90s.  Unfortunately, it’s equally as weak, but without the nice sentiment of being written by a sibling pair for their mother.  It’s kinda annoying, actually, but not in an endearing way like ICE2006.  Speaking of Iceland…

Icelandic Flag MapIceland Ég á Lif (I’ve Got a Life) performed by Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson
It’s about time we heard some Icelandic on the ESC stage!  It’s been absent for 14 years! Too bad this song is somewhat boring.  It’s pretty, no doubt, but definitely a little dull.  Though, I do like the orchestration a lot; it gives the song a bit more of an anthem feeling, which makes sense given the lyrics.  And the lyrics are vaguely Christian, definitely a plus!

Latvia Here We Go performed by PeRLatvian Flag Map
Awww….a boy band that raps.  The rapping is better doen than a lot of other ESC rap songs, but given that Latvia does not have the clout of Greece, the only nation to successfully land a rap song in the Top Ten, I imagine this song will linger behind in the semi-finals.

Macedonian Flag MapMacedonia Pred da se Razdeni (Before the Dawn) performed by Esma & Lozano
I like this a lot!  I think it is one of the best matching of contemporary and folk traditions we’ll see on the ESC stage.  With that said, without any other former Yugoslav nation, I’m not sure if Macedonia stands much of a chance without some kind of amazing performance in the semi-final (it does have Albania to help it out, but one country is not enough to push it forward).  But the country can pride itself on putting out another high quality act for the second straight year!  Also, I don’t quite understand the need to change songs; the original selection, Imperija, is just as good as this one, if not better.  Either way, Macedonia will be staying in the semi-finals, I’m sure.

Malta Tomorrow performed by Gianluca BezzinaMaltese Flag Map
I’m beginning to get the sense that Malta is nothing but sunshine and smiles.  Gone are the power ballads and bellowing ladies, here are the guys who just want to sing about love and good times.  This song is so fun and bouncy and tells a fun story.  I hope they don’t screw it by giving it a poor staging.  I think you get a nice couple of dancers to act out the story, keep Bezzina and his three backing singers off to the side and out of the way of the unfolding story, and this song has a decent shot of qualifying.

Sammarinese Flag MapSan Marino Crisalide (Vola) (Chrisalis (Fly)) performed by Valentina Monetta
Everyone’s favorite social media star is back!  Once again, I’ll just like to remind everyone that she was brought to SMRTV’s attention due to her jazz singing, which is her specialty.  With that said, this song is a thousand times better than her entry last year!  I don’t know if the tempo change is necessary…or the key change.  Let’s hope they have a ribbon climber on stage, that would definitely add to epic-ness of this song and give them a shot of moving through to the Grand Final.

What do I think about the first half of the Second Semi-Final?

My Order of Preference How I think the final scorecard will look
Macedonia Azerbaijan*
Azerbaijan Malta+
Malta Bulgaria+
San Marino San Marino+
Iceland Iceland+
Bulgaria Latvia
Finland Finland
Latvia Macedonia

*Who I think will definitely move through to the Grand Final
+May move through to the Grand Final depending on the second half of the Second Semi-Final

Check back tomorrow for the second half of the Second Semi-Final!


ESC2012 – Semi Final One – Live Notes

Hello lovely readers!  I may not have been able to do my usual round of pre-Contests posts as thoroughly or as often as I would have liked, but I am here now for the live notes – which are really the best part of the blog, in my opinion.  Per usual, I am writing these notes live as I am watching the Contest.  A few things to note, I have the lyrics for each song pulled up, because, how can you judge a song contest without knowing the lyrics.  Secondly, I know that, traditionally, I do not listen to the songs before they premiere live at the Contest, but this year, due to the extreme tightness of my schedule, I had to in order to get my prediction pieces done.  So, I am actually quite familiar with the songs which is a major shift from how I normally write these live notes.  Additionally, unlike previous years, I have not read about the stagings of the songs.  Normally, I don’t listen to the entries and read about the rehearsals, this year, I am doing the reverse.  Also, look for my tweets – #eurovisionobsession.

 

With that said, here are my pre-Contest predictions for who will qualify:

Greece             Iceland

Cyprus             Denmark

Romania          Switzerland

Russia              Hungary

Ireland             Moldova

Since these have not changed since my previous post, I will not go into detail as to why I chose each of these songs.

 

So, let’s begin!

 

Opening Act:

What an interesting arena!  So many diamonds; definitely the most unique arena I’ve seen thus far for a Contest. The stage is rather nice, though!  Looks like there’s not going to be an opening act for the semi-finals this year again.  Did that third host say that she’s a lawyer?  Why is a lawyer hosting?  Did she remember to say Spain in the Big Five?  (“France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom” I don’t think she did).

 

No, El, Azerbaijan is not in Europe.

 

I see that Azerbaijan has returned to showing off the country for the post cards.

 

On to the entries:

Montenegro – Euro Neuro performed by Rambo Amadeus

Crna Gora has been saving up money for two years, and this is the best staging they could afford?  I guess it works for the song.  Speakin of which.  It’s interesting, but I don’t quite think Europe will get it.  Hopefully, Mr. Amadeus can avoid a null point.

 

Iceland – Never Forget performed by Greta Salóme & Jónsi

Gereta’s voice is a little off.  I think that she put down the violin, or least wait until the instrumental break.  Not necessarily a winning performance, but I think good enough to get them through to the Final.

 

Greece – Aphrodisiac performed by Eleftheria Eleftheriou

Is the background singer so loud on purpose?  This just feels so…cheap.  This song had the potential for a really amazing performance, but instead, they settled for depending on a background singer to provide the majority of the vocal support, a scantily clad singer, and some weak dance moves.  I know I said that this was My Number One rebirthed, but it’s not, it’s nowhere close.  As much as I dislike My Number One, it won because it was fresh and well-performed.  This was just stale.

 

Latvia – Beautiful Song performed by Anmary

She might have been born in 1980, but this entry and its staging is rather 1970.  At least she and her backing singers are modestly clad. So, aside from the fact that this song is fairly forgettable, it’s rather presumptuous.  I hate when entries declare themselves the winners and talk about all the fame that will result.  But, I guess, what more could we expect from Latvia?

 

Albania – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

I don’t know why the press give artists so much flack for performing in their own language, I rather prefer it.  Excellent use of lights for the high notes!  If only she remembered to hold the microphone up to her mouth the entire time.  Did you hear that crowd reaction?  They loved it!  What a heart-wrenching performance – woohoo!  This is one of my favorite entries – and this is why!  Great job!  She should move through, but she probably won’t, unfortunately.

 

Romania – Zaleilah performed by Mandinga

The moon walk would have been so much better if the mouthpiece of the bagpipe was actually in his mouth.  Fire!  Romania, right now, is the country to beat.  I know that they can count on twelve points from Moldova and Spain, and probably several others.

 

Switzerland – Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

Whoa, that was a cool camera effect – that long shot to close up to long, again at the start of the first chorus.  I wonder why he isn’t using the catwalk – this seems like the perfect song for that ­– oh, there goes his brother, he took off down that thing!  I wonder why they didn’t really show it.  Fire!  This is, what, the third or fourth pyrotechnics of the night?  But, where is the wind machine?  I do believe the Swiss are headed back to the Final.

 

I like these postcards – they’re doing a great job of showing off the country.  I just thought of something, are those little diamonds in the audience this year’s green room?  That would be rather interesting and I imagine rather frustrating for the artists who want to relax and decompress after their performance.

 

Belgium – Would You? performed by Iris

This is a sweet song, but ultimately rather forgettable.  But she’s giving her all.  I love it when a competitor, who probably realizes that she’s outmatched, still gives her all.  Way to go Belgium!  There’s no reason for you to feel bad about the outcome, Iris, you did the best you could with a weak song.  Hold your head up high!

 

Finland – När Jag Blundar performed by Pernilla

I love how they make the flags on the Crystal Hall’s exterior!  This song has a sweet story.  The singer’s brother wrote it in honor of their mother (who’s there in Baku with them).  I assume that’s him on the cello.  What a wonderful sight for their mother to behold.  I hope all three of them cherish these three minutes, because I doubt they will happen again.  Thank you Finland for singing in NOT English, even if it isn’t your official language.  I find it funny that we have to go to Finland to get an entry in Swedish, the first time the language has been on the ESC stage since 1998.  A pretty song, but will be forgotten, much like Belgium.

 

Israel – Time performed by Izabo

Anyone else find it interesting that they talk about Azerbaijan being a “holy land” right before Israel’s performance?  I like the 70’s sound of this song; I could totally image roller skating to this song.  Unfortunately, even though Europe is behind the times, it’s not so far back that it will appreciate this entry to the fullest.  The guitarist has his own mic, why is he coming over to the lead singer’s?  What an interesting use of the backing singers.

 

San Marino – The Social Network Song (Oh Oh Uh Oh Oh) performed by Valentina Monetta

This postcard fits nicely, as Monetta is a jazz singer by profession.  Her eyes are so big!  And her voice is so small!  I’m sorry, but this sounds like something adults make to entertain children (the lyrics referring to sex aside, of course).  Why is there a pilot and a doctor?  Sorry, San Marino, another year in the semi-finals for you – better luck next year!  How much more fun would this performance be if they had actual Facebook pages and Tweets floating around behind them, of fans from the 42 participating countries?

 

Cyprus – La La Love performed by Ivi Adamou

This always reminded me of something that Rihanna could sing.  And like the Bahamian singer, Ivi is stunningly beautiful and sings just flat throughout her song.  Again, we have the issue of backing singers who are too loud.  Is the dance routine so rigorous that we need to have all four ladies at full blast to help Ivi out?  The dance break and the bridge had some amazing camera direction – good job whoever directed this performance.  While I like this song, the overbearing backing singers gave it a bit of an amateurish sound.  It was more like something you would expect at a local community musician expo, not a continent-wide song pop contest.  Hopefully, it’s better on Saturday.

 

Denmark – Should’ve Known Better performed by Soluna Samay

I don’t understand the bassist’s outfit – it seems rather out of place.  Aside from that, this is nearly identical to the MGP performances of this song.  There’s something that can be said for consistency.  Well, actually, her voice is a little less whiny this time around, which is a very good thing.

 

Russia – Party for Everyone performed by Buranovskiye Babushki

Didn’t we already see that Baku is a sunny city?  That’s a giant oven they have on stage!  Which I guess makes sense since the song is about a them preparing a party for their children and grandchildren.  The audience seems to be getting really into it! I wonder if they have enough pastries for everybody?  That little short one has some nice moves!

 

Are they allowed to use the term “Golden Girls”?

So, I was right about the green room being out in the arena.  Wow!  Valentina Monetta has a rather deep voice!

 

Hungary – Sound of Our Hearts performed by Compact Disco

I wonder, if for the Final, every postcard is just going to say “Azerbaijan: Land of Fire!” and show things burning throughout the country.  This entry is so…smug.  Like the singer is saying, “Look at me!  I am singing about the human condition!  Aren’t I so artsy!  Be inspired by me!”

 

Austria – Woki Mit Deim Popo performed by Trackshittaz

Whew!  They’re keeping this thing moving – it’s only been 70 minutes since they’ve started and we’re already just about done with the presentation of the entries.  Uh oh, I think the timing was slightly off with lighting effects.  I’m glad they went with pole dancers as opposed to just three girls who shake their butts while holding poles.  I’m glad that they toned down the entry from the National Selection performance, but they may have went a little too far – it definitely lacked a lot of the electricity it had during when they won in Austria.

 

Moldova – Lăutar performed by Pasha Parfeny

So, I’m a HUGE fan of the song he took to the Moldovan national selection last year, Dorule.  This song cannot touch the awesomeness that is Dorule.  Though, this is pleasant and has a decent shot of moving through to Saturday, I think.  It would have been more effective if there was an actual trumpet on stage somewhere, either one of the backing dancers could hold it or just a giant trumpet on the LED screen, something!  There’s one at the end, at least.  The choreography was really great, though.

 

Ireland – Waterline performed by Jedward

Hey, their hair is even worse than it was last year!  WHAT ARE THEY WEARING?!?!  I think we have this year’s Barbara Dex award.  Perhaps they were aiming to get the infamous title renamed for themselves.  Why are they jumping around, this is not that kind of song.  They’re singing is not awful, but this song is dated and forgettable.  If they didn’t have the name recognition that they did, this song would be dead last tonight.  With any luck, Albania did enough to displace them from the projected Top Ten.

 

My Ten Favorite from tonight:

1. Albania

2. Romania

3. Iceland

4. Belgium

5. Denmark

6. Cyprus

7. Finland

8. Russia

9. Switzerland

10. Moldova

 

My Predictions for who will qualify to the Final (in no particular order)

Romania (probably the strongest performance of the night, all things considered)

Denmark (mass appeal soft ballad that was well sung)

Iceland (it’s a contender for victory and was performed well-enough to make it through to Saturday)

Cyprus (not a strong performance, but benefits from the fact that more than half make it through)

Greece (it’s Greece)

Russia (this song is immensely popular and makes people smile)

Ireland (yuck! but Jedward is popular enough to move through)

Switzerland (they had a strong performance)

Hungary (good enough song to move through, despite the singer’s smugness)

Albania (I think she did enough to earn a spot and Moldova did not)

 

Interval Act:

That’s amazing!  I see why this guy was awarded the highest Azerbaijani honor for a musician.  It’s amazing, though, how similar musical and dance traditions can be across regions.  His drumming is not far off from what one would expect in an Afro-Cuban tradition.  And the dancing is not dissimilar from Balkan and Middle Eastern dances (which makes sense given Azerbaijan’s location).  It’s amazing how different we all are from one another, yet so like each other at the same time.  I love it!

 

All six of the pre-qualified entries are amazing and have a legitimate shot of being Top Ten (with Spain, in my opinion, having the best chance of winning among them).  This year has yielded many great entries; unlike last year where there were many entries that were all equally average, this year we have a lot of songs that are equally strong.

 

I see that Jon Ola Sand is still not yet comfortable speaking on camera.

The actual qualifiers:

A. Romania – I am 1 for 1 in predicting the finalists, thus far

B. Moldova – 1 for 2

C. Iceland – 2 for 3

D. Hungary – 3 for 4

E. Denmark – 4 for 5

F. Albania – 5 for 6 (ooh!  I wonder whom else I got wrong in addition to Moldova, hopefully Ireland)

G. Cyprus – 6 for 7

H. Greece – 7 for 8

I. Russia – 8 for 9 (and the audience goes wild!)

Either Ireland or Switzerland will get left behind, I’m guessing it’s the latter of the two, unfortunately

J. Ireland – 9 for 10 (yuck!)

 

Final Thoughts:

First, El talks like a Kindergarten teacher.  I don’t know if it’s intentional or just his accent, but it’s a bit annoying.

 

Second, I was 9 for 10 with the pleasant surprise of Albania making it through to the Final and the unpleasant correct prediction of Ireland moving through.  The song is weak, the performance is weak, and I hope it gets crushed on Saturday.

 

Other pleasant surprises: Belgium was surprising good.  I was not expecting much from since the song was so lackluster, but Iris gave a great performance.  She gets my award for best on the night!  Also, three out of the five non-English entries (Romania, Russia, and Albania) made it through – good for them!

 

Drawing for starting positions for the Final

Romania – 14, so, we can expect at least a decent placing for them

Moldova – 26, lucky man, that will definitely give him a boost.  Maybe even top 15.

Iceland – 7, <insert sad trombone sound here> that might just slay there chance of contending for victory, but it will open the door for Spain (and possibly even Italy)

Hungary – 2, looks like Hungary will be back in the bottom five with that spot

Denmark – 15, dare I say a Top Ten finish for Ms. Samay, depends on who’s around her, I think

Albania – 3, well, she did say she’s just happy to be there and have the chance to sing again

Cyprus – 8, she still has an outside chance of winning, but should still finish Top Ten

Greece – 16, Top Ten is assured for the Hellenic Republic

Russia – 6, they come right before Iceland, which might actually help Iceland’s chances

Ireland – 23, blah! now they will get a placing much higher than they deserve

What we know now:

1. United Kingdom

2. Hungary

3.

4.

5.

6. Russia

7. Iceland

8. Cyprus

9. France

10. Italy

11.

12.

13. Azerbaijan

14. Romania

15. Denmark

16. Greece

17.

18.

19. Spain

20. Germany

21.

22.

23. Ireland

24.

25.

26. Moldova