Posts tagged “spain

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision Stagings for the Uninitiated

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

  3. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

  4. Russia 2008 – Believe performed by Dima Bilan

  5. Sweden 2012 – Euphoria performed by Loreen

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

  7. Azerbaijan 2013 – Hold Me performed by Farid Mammadov

  8. Ukraine 2011 – Angel performed by Mika Newton

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

  10. Belgium 2015 – Rhythm Inside performed by Loïc Nottet

  11. Moldova 2013 – O Mie performed by Aliona Moon

  12. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

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

  14. Russia 2011 – Get You performed by Alexey Vorobyov

  15. Sweden 2011 – Popular performed by Eric Saade

  16. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

  17. Malta 2013 – Tomorrow performed by Gianluca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2017 – Origo performed by Joci Pápai

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easily:

  • Greece

  • Iceland

  • Switzerland

  • Denmark

  • Armenia

  • Latvia

  • Bulgaria

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

  • Serbia

  • Poland

  • Georgia

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

  1. Switzerland

  2. Poland

  3. Latvia

  4. Austria

  5. Iceland

  6. Denmark

  7. Albania

  8. Moldova

  9. San Marino

  10. Armenia

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

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

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

  • Armenia

  • Australia

  • Germany

  • Iceland

  • Italy

  • Lithuania

  • Malta

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

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

See you next week!

EO logo with the Bulgarian flag

EO logo with Icelandic flag

EO logo with Lithuanian flag


Eurovision 2019 – 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!


ESC 2019 – Song Reviews: Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

We are storming right along with song reviews. Now, we turn to the six songs automatically qualifying for the Grand Final: Israel + the Big Five.

Votes in Semi:

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

1

Germany

S!sters

Sister

National Final

Another sweet song; this one is about two women overcoming catty infighting. There’s a lot of mixed feelings about this song among the fan community; but I like it. It’s inspiring and just makes you feel good when you hear it. With that said, it is likely that this will take Germany back to the bottom of the scoreboard. Just not sure how much mass appeal it has.

1

Italy

Mahmood

Soldi

National Final

The other big favorite after the Netherlands, the first rap song that has real potential to win (and only the second predicted to do well). Soldi has the added bonus of winning the OGAE fan club vote, which is 5-7 in predicting the winner in its 13-year history. Clearly, Italy will continue its dominance among the Big Five; and perhaps, we’ll be back in Rome next year.

1

United Kingdom

Michael Rice

Bigger than Us

Mixed

The UK continues to send strong, yet underappreciated, songs. We’ll see how the running order treats the Brits this year. Rice is a powerful singer and this is a very likeable song with appeal to both, the juries and the older folks who watch ESC. I imagine this will finish mid-table, which isn’t too bad for the UK which has been struggling these past few years.

2

Israel

Kobi Marimi

Home

Mixed

I appreciate the power of Marimi’s voice and the inspiring message of the song. But Home is so boring. I just..I can’t even. And Marimi looks so smug. I just…I can’t even. Expect this to continue the recent trend of host nations falling flat.

2

Spain

Miki Núñez

La Venda

National Final

Spain is back, baby! Well, it has a fun song that is both catchy and contemporary. Unfortunately, there are much stronger entries this year, but Spain should be back in the Top Ten with La Venda. You just can’t help but smile and dance when you hear this.

2

France

Bilal Hassani

Roi

National Final

While Toy was an anthem that was merely stolen & adopted by the gays, this is an anthem built for gays, by gays. The composition, the lyrics, even Hassani’s voice – none of these indicate that this should be good. But when this song comes on, I swear, rainbows shoot out of me. Expect this to light up rainbow flags across the continent and end up in between 11th and 15th.

How do I rank these six songs for my personal preference?

  1. Germany

  2. Spain

  3. France

  4. Italy

  5. United Kingdom

  6. Israel

How do I think they will finish (relative to one another) in the Grand Final?

  1. Italy

  2. Spain

  3. France

  4. United Kingdom

  5. Israel

  6. Germany

But, more importantly, do I think any of these songs has a chance at victory?

Italy is a legitimate contender for victory. Which, as I said before, is weird because it is a rap song. I think it captures a certain angst or frustration that so many experience without a positive outlet for it. This song is wildly popular, won the fan poll, has the highest streaming numbers, and is perhaps the most modern song this year. We could very well end up in Rome (or Naples or Venice or Milan…) next year.


Contender or Pretender 2018

Contender or PretenderHello Dear Readers!

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

  • Israel

  • Norway

  • Estonia

  • France

  • Czech Republic

  • Cyprus

  • Bulgaria

  • Sweden

  • Italy

  • Spain

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

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

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

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

CzechFlagMap1. Czech Republic

Lie to Me performed by Mikolas Josef

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

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

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

Swedish Flag Map2. Sweden

Dance You Off performed by Benjamin Ingrosso

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

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

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

Norwegian Flag Map3. Norway

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

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

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

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

Italian Flag Map4. Italy

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

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

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

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

Spanish Flag Map5. Spain

Tu Canción performed by Amaia Romero & Alfred Garcia

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

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

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

Bulgarian Flag Country6. Bulgaria

Bones performed by Equinox

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

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

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

Cypriot Flag Map7. Cyprus

Fuego performed by Eleni Foureira

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

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

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

New French Flag Map8. France

Mercy performed by Madame Monsieur

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

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

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

Estonian Flag Map9. Estonia

La Forza performed by Elina 

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

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

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

Israeli Flag Country10. Israel

Toy performed by Netta

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

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

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

Final verdicts:

Contenders

Pretenders

Norway

Czech Republic

Spain

Sweden

Bulgaria

Italy

Cyprus

France

Estonia

Israel

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


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

So, we already know for sure six qualifiers: the Big Five (France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and Germany) and Portugal (our defending champion). But, even with a bye out of the first round, do any of these songs have a chance of winning?

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Portugal

Cláudia Pascoal feat. Isaura

O Jardim [Garden]

National Final

Thoughts:

A pretty song that is certainly stirring. It won a weak and dated national selection; which means that this is vulnerable to another home turf letdown. I don’t think we’ll have a disaster we saw in Austria or Norway these past ten Contests, but don’t expect it to do all that well.

 France

Madame Monsieur

Mercy

National Final

Thoughts:

I like this song, but I’m not sure how it will perform. On one hand, the French are on a role and this song is certainly contemporary. But on the otherhand, the lyrics are confusing and I think this is reflected in composition. I don’t know, I think it will depend on its final running order slot to see how it fares on the night.

 Germany

Michael Schulte

You Let Me Walk Alone

National Final

Thoughts:

Ehh, this is definitely enough to pull Germany out of its recent slump. But I, personally, do not really enjoy this song. I think it’s boring and listless. But I think a ballad devoted to a dead mother will do well.

 Italy

Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro

Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente [You’ve Done Nothing to Me]

Mixed

Thoughts:

I do not like this at all. I just don’t get it. Condescending lyrics, uninspired composition, and two singers without much chemistry. It will probably do well, because Italy generally does well, but Top Ten may be a stretch.

 Spain

Amaia & Alfred

Tu Canción [Your Song]

National Final

Thoughts:

It’s been a while since we’ve heard an old-fashioned, Eurovision ballad duet. It sounds like something from the past, but not in a bad way. It sounds like what one would compose when thinking of a “stereotypical Western ESC ballad.” Depending on its running order slot, it could do quite well for itself.

 United Kingdom

SurRie

Storm

National Final

Thoughts:

This song subtly grew on me over time. I like its message and think it goes at the standard inspiration delivery in a novel way. I worry about its immediate impact effect. It will most likely continue Britain’s current trend of not doing well, but not failing.

*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, which songs do I think have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top ten? (in no particular order)

  • Italy

  • Germany

How would I rank them for myself? (in order)

  1. Portugal

  2. United Kingdom

  3. France

  4. Spain

  5. Germany

  6. Italy

And, most importantly, do I think any of these six songs have what it takes to win?

NOPE. While Italy will most likely do well, it is not strong enough nor memorable enough to take the crown. Likewise, Germany is going to do well, but sad songs rarely have the steam needed for victory (just ask Serbia & Montenegro 2004).

Check back tomorrow for our recap, our first prediction for who will win, and the reveal of the ESC Obsession bracket!


Eurovision 2017 – Grand Final Live Notes!!

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

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

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

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

On to the show!!!

Parade of Nations

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

Opening Act

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

On to the songs!

01 Israel I Feel Alive

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

02 Poland Flashlight

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

03 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia/Story of My Life

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

04 Austria Running on Air

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

05 Armenia Fly with Me

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

07 Moldova Hey, Mamma!

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

08 Hungary Origo

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

09 Italy Occidentali’s Karma

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

10 Denmark Where I Am

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

11 Portugal Amar Pelos Dois

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

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

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

12 Azerbaijan Skeletons

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

13 Croatia My Friend

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

14 Australia Don’t Come Easy

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

15 Greece This is Love

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

16 Spain Do It for Your Lover

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

17 Norway Grab the Moment

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

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

18 United Kingdom Never Give Up on You

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

19 Cyprus Gravity

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

20 Romania Yodel It!

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

21 Germany Perfect Life

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

22 Ukraine Time

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

23 Belgium City Lights

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

24 Sweden Can’t Go On

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

25 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

26 France Requiem

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

 

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

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

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

  1. Bulgaria

  2. Portugal

  3. Belgium

  4. Italy

  5. United Kingdom

  6. Belgium

  7. Romania

  8. Sweden

  9. Armenia

  10. Azerbaijan

And, who were my ten favorites from tonight?

  1. Hungary

  2. Armenia

  3. Belgium

  4. Portugal

  5. Bulgaria

  6. United Kingdom

  7. Denmark

  8. France

  9. Norway

  10. Poland

Voting Entertainment/ Interval, I guess

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

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

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

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

San Marino – more points to Portugal

Latvia – and the points continue for Portugal

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

Israel – Another 12 to Portugal

Montenegro – 12 to Greece

Albania – 12 points to Italy

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

Macedonia – first 12 for Bulgaria

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

Denmark – 12 to Sweden. surprise, surprise

Austria – 12 points to the Netherlands. Interesting

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

Spain – 12 to…Portugal (no surprise)

Finland – 12 points to Sweden (no surprise)

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

Greece – 12 points to Cyprus (no surprise)

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

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

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

Armenia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

Serbia – 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Germany – 12 points to Norway – interesting

Portugal – 12 points to Azerbaijan! Interesting…strategic?

Switzerland  – another 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Georgia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

Slovenia – 12 points to Portugal

Belgium – 12 points to Sweden – that was highly unexpected

Poland – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

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

Televote!

Spain is saved from null point land!

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

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

France got 90 points

Croatia got 103 points

126 points to Sweden

152 to Hungary – and quite the jump!

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

Romania – is next with a sizeable jump

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

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

264 points and third in the televote to Moldova

Bulgaria v. Portugal

337 points to Bulgaria

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

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

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

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

 

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Eurovision 2017 Song Reviews (Finally!) – Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

Only six more reviews for this year! Among the Big Five, there seems to be a sharp divide between title contenders and bottom-dwellers.

Automatic Qualifiers

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

 

Ukraine

O.Torvald

Time

Televised

Thoughts:

This will benefit from being the only rock song this year and the hometown entry. I think the song is alright, but definitely distinctive. I don’t think it will get in the Top Ten, but will definitely outperform the 19th place Ukraine got back in 2005 (the last time we were in Kyiv).

 France

Alma

Requiem

Internal

Thoughts:

So whimsical! I rather enjoy this song and could definitely help France repeat in the Top Ten (and possibly, dare I say, contend for the crown!). The splash of English in the refrain is just the right amount, much like last year. Though, if France is serious about winning, than it needs to ensure to give Requiem the staging it deserves (as I’ve discussed previously).

 Germany

Levina

Perfect Life

Televised

Thoughts:

Germany followed my recommendation to return to the original Ünser Star format. Ultimately, after defeating other contenders, Levina competed against herself with two songs in the final show’s super-final. This one is cheerful, but not all that interesting. Won’t be last place, but definitely not going to win.

Italy

Francesco Gabbani

Occidentali’s Karma [Westerner’s Karma]

Televised

Thoughts:

A thoroughly intellectual song (give the lyrics a read) about the futility of Westerners trying to adapt Eastern customs that are at odds with Western values. I think the song is okay, but in just the brief glimpses of what I’ve seen online, this is a heavy favorite to win right now.

Spain

Manel Navarro

Do it for Your Lover

Televised

Thoughts:

Another controversy for a Spanish entry (this is the jury’s favorite and went against the fan’s favorite). This song is…very California…and lazy…and lame. It’s overly repetitive to the point of being boring.

United Kingdom

Lucie Jones

Never Give You Up on You

Televised

Thoughts:

Probably the most popular (among the British) entry in at least a decade. It’s a bit drab and uninspired to me, but at least it’s another contemporary song despite last year’s stumble. It sounds like it could be a radio hit.

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

So, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? How would I rank these songs?

Predicted Top Ten Finishers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 6
(Starting with my most favorite)

France

France

Italy

Germany

Ukraine

Italy

United Kingdom

Spain

More importantly, who do I think will be competing for the crown?

France – Probably my favorite song this year, this song will most definitely build upon last year’s success – especially if it is given a proper staging. This song is distinctly French, yet still accessible. It is catchy and fun and whimsical without seeming childish or simple.

Italy – The other big fan favorite along with Belgium, thus far. Interesting staging, intelligent lyrics, and sung in the much-loved Italian language. And, unlike several other Italian performers, Gabbani actually seems like he wants to win and bring the Contest back to Italy (maybe they’ll host it in Milan or Palermo this time around).

Missed by previous review posts? Find them here:

First Semi-Final: First Half, Second Half

Second Semi-Final: First Half, Second Half

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my summary post and get my first prediction for who will ultimately win in May.

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Follow @escobsession on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Sporcle


Analyzing the Big Five: Spain

  1. Hello Dear Readers!

We turn our gazes today out west – to Spain! Debuting in 1961, España has had mixed success through the years, winning in 1968 and again on home turf in 1969, but rarely tasting much other success, having only two second places and six other top five finishes. This is well-reflected in Spain’s recent finishes, as the country has been up and down, but rarely achieved its full potential.

Recent History
2006 – 21st place with Un Blodymary by Las Ketchup
2007 – 20th place with I Love You Mi Vida performed by D’Nash
2008 – 16th place with Baila El ChikiChiki performed by Rodolfo Chikilicuatre
2009 – 24th place with La Noche es para Mi performed by Soraya
2010 – 15th place with Algo Pequiñito performed by Daniel Diges
2011 – 23rd place with Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao performed by Lucia Perez
2012 – 10th place with Quedate Conmigo performed by Pastora Soler
2013 – 25th place with Contigo Hasta el Final performed by El Sueño De Morfeo (ESDM)
2014 – 10th place with Dancing in the Rain performed by Ruth Lorenzo
2015 – 21st place with Amanecer performed by Edurne
2016 – 22nd place with Say Yay! performed by Barei

Spanish Flag MapSpain’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. There is an intense desire to use Eurovision to display Spanish culture, whether its showcasing the Celtic roots of Galicia (2013), bringing idioms to life (2010, 2011, 2016), or simply displaying contemporary Spanish pop music (2006, 2007, 2009, 2016). It is this emphasis on culture that leads to the inevitable, annual discussion of whether or not the entry should include English. Honestly, language isn’t the issue. The composition and staging display the culture just fine. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the incorporation of Spanish (or one of its dialects or a regional language) into the entry – but is it worth the fuss that we see ever year? In 2016, the Minister of Culture nearly disowned “Say Yay!” because it was entirely in English despite the composition and the presentation displaying Spanish culture. Likewise, the international fans are quick to blame the Spanish language for the nation’s lack of success, forgetting that two of Spain’s most successful entries in the past ten years were entirely in Spanish and the last was 50/50 with English. And this is why the emphasis on culture is a weakness for Spain – instead of unifying the country behind an entry that celebrates (at least a segment of) Spanish culture, each year there seems to be a firestorm – the public seems to whine about every entry, it’s either not “Spanish enough” or its the “wrong” kind of Spanish, etc. And, complaining from the public is typical, but it seems to be led by the government. It’s hard for RTVE to garner support when the government whines about the entry for not adequately representing “Spanish” culture. Spain is a diverse country, rich from the influence of many people groups (many Western European countries are diverse, but Spain is one of the least integrated countries, where the various groups tend to stay separated) – Catalonia, Galicia, Majorca, Canary Islands, Andalusia, etc. No one entry will be able to capture every aspect of every culture within Spain. The sooner that this fact is accepted, the easier it will be for RTVE to garner public support.

So, what has gone wrong?
The issue of culture surely puts RTVE on edge, as they have to try hard to win over the doubters within their own country in addition to trying to win the hearts of Europe. Add the fact that it was the last of the Big Five to join the Contest and the least successful, and you get a situation where entries come off as desperate. 2007 and 2015 are great examples of this. Both were songs that were meant to capture the essence of contemporary sound, both went into the Contest with decent betting odds and a lot of attention. However, both had stagings that were too elaborate, so much so that it took away from the song. These overly-elaborate stagings come off as desperate for votes and we all know that desperation is a turn-off. 2016 was in a similar situation, but had betting odds that were on a downhill trajectory throughout the month of May and had the unfortunate task of performing after Russia’s show-stopping presentation.

What can Spain do to Improve in 2017?
SpainIt’s tempting to say that Spain just needs to send another diva. Spain’s two Top Ten songs were both ballads. But, 2008, arguably the most memorable and popular song, was a pure gimmick act. All three songs had something in common that the other seven we’re examining do not: authenticity (you could argue that 2013 was authentic, but was not performed very well). No one expected Rodolfo Chikilicuatre to have a strong song, but he went out there and got people dancing and laughing and enjoying the song. Even though there were other entries that have done better than 2008, this is still one of the first (if not the first) Spanish songs most ESC fans will name. Why? Because Rodolfo was true to who he was and basked in his oddity and made us want to join him in it. 2012 and 2014 have similar stories. Both were very traditional ballads that should have been lost in Contests with more dynamic entries and news stories that dominated headlines (“Russian grannies!” “Azerbaijan’s spotty human rights record!” “Loreen is literally everywhere in Baku!” “Denmark has gone broke over this Contest!” “Conchita is queen/the devil!” “Russia vs. gays!”), both songs maintained relevance and had powerful, heartfelt emotions that few entries have matched – and none of the other Spanish ones have.

The focus for Spain, more than anything, this year must be on a singer who is truly authentic and can convey this through their singing. 2008 showed that this doesn’t have to be a ballad, even something uptempo can work. Furthermore, don’t overcrowd the staging. The singer should stand out. 2008 basically recreated the music video, Rodolfo singing with his crazy dancers. 2012 was Pastora standing still in a beautiful gown with minimal light work. 2014 was Ruth Lorenzo singing with wet hair and a rain backdrop. 2017 needs to be minimal – no crazy camera work, no magic tricks, no major choreography – just a strong song performed well by a singer who knows who knows themself. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that 2017 will be won by a singer-songwriter type (think Germany and Belgium 2010, Germany 2012, or Netherlands 2016). Spain can bring this kind of authentic entry to the Contest. I’m not quite as up on Spanish music scene as I am on the British one, but I did find two artists that I think would do well for Spain.

Lantana is singer-songwriter and actress who predominantly makes piano-driven ballads. She has been critically acclaimed and has a strong following. Her biggest hits are La Noche de los Muertos Vivientes and Ex-Corazón. She is also known for being a bit of a performance artist (using the stage to create living art pieces of which she is a part). Which means she would create a staging that compliments the song. And for those wondering if this would be too crazy and distracting, here is a clip from a concert in Berlin (I chose a performance of my favorite song by her, Perdón).

Another artist that I think could do well for Spain is Luis Ramiro. Like Lantana, he tends to produce passionate ballads that are presented simply. He has also been critically acclaimed and has won several awards for his work. One his most acclaimed songs is Dos Coplas earned him a Young Creators Award. One of my favorites is Magia. The reason I think he can be successful thanks to the fact that every song he creates is stirring. One of his most recent singles is Contigo.

Both of these artists perform exclusively in Spanish (as far as I can tell). There’s one benefit to having an internal artist selection – it allows the broadcaster to take a hand-off approach. Think Netherlands 2013. TROS wanted Anouk to be their representative. She accepted on the condition that she gets full control. She chose a slow, haunting ballad and had one of the simplest presentations of the year. RTVE could offer the same deal to Lantana or Luis Ramiro (or a similar artist). Then, the entry is no longer representing ALL of Spanish culture, but is now just the vision of one Spaniard fighting for their people. It’s much easier to rally around one person who is fighting for you as opposed to trying to convince everyone that this three minute song is a representation of who you are.

What’s the worst thing Spain can do?
In reaction to the controversy over 2016’s full English-language entry, Spain decides to go full tilt in expressing Spanish culture. They have an artist and an entry more focused on culture than on success (i.e., Portugal just about every year). Think about if the RTVE sent a flamenco song, or a Sardana song (to make nice with Catalonia). It would add wonderful diversity to the Contest and I would love it but it would fail – hard. Just ask Finland how successful their Finnish tango entries are (not very). Again, this is not to say there’s something wrong with putting your folk cultures on display; Eurovision, to some degree, is meant for this. However, don’t put your folk cultures on display with the expectation that they will win. The last pure folk song to win the Contest was…arguably The Voice (Ireland 1996).

Essentially, Spain needs an artist that can take their experiences and life and authentically translate them to the Eurovision stage. This can even be done with a contemporary interpretation of a folk style; how many winners have won with this equation? 2016, 2009, 2006, 2005… Putting the entry in the hands of a singular artist who can set a vision for the presentation is the solution that Spain needs at this time.

Your thoughts? Is a singer-songwriter the right path for Spain? Is Spain right to focus so much on language? And, most importantly, under the new point system, can Spain still harness a big chunk of votes from Portugal (who returns next year)?

Be sure to check out my analyses on the other Big Five countries!

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Analyzing the Big Five: How can they get better?

Hello Dear Readers!

As decided by you on Twitter, the first series this summer will be on the Big Five – looking at their past ten entries (only six for Italy, as it rejoined in 2011) and determining their best path for success going into 2017. I’ll be examining them in reverse alphabetical order: United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.

But first, who are the Big Five, how did they get their status, and how do they *keep* their status?

Who are the Big Five?
In short: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Big Five

In more detail: the Big Five are the countries (and by countries, I mean participating broadcasters – remember, Eurovision is a competition between tv broadcasters) who (1) give the most money to the EBU – without their contributions, Eurovision would simply lack the funding to exist and (2) have (historically had) the largest television audiences in Europe. Simply put, France (France 2 + 3), Germany (NDR), Italy (RAI), Spain (RTVE), and the United Kingdom (BBC) have the greatest potential for the number of viewers of ESC. More viewers equals more money generated from advertisers. It also means more potential buyers of ESC merchandise.

How did they get their status?
Imagine it’s the nineties. Yugoslavia has split up and other Communist nations are slowly starting to look towards the West. In 1993, the EBU tried having a pre-selection show to handle all the new countries that sprung up in the East. It accomplished its goal, but this was not a permanent solution. As more countries wanted to participate, 1996 brought another pre-selection show. Juries would listen to songs from every country looking to participate (except the previous year’s winner, Norway) and select the songs joining the prequalified entries in Oslo. The German entry, Planet of Blue, did not qualify. 1996 was one of the lowest watched Contests, losing lots of money for the EBU. Why? Because Germany had unprecedentedly low viewership. After a few more years without a preselection, the EBU implemented a relegation system. Needless to say, the EBU did not want to risk another situation in which a major broadcaster had low viewership, especially since Italy had decided to stop participating altogether after 1997. When setting the rules for relegation, exempted would be the four countries with the largest tv audiences and financial contributions. Therefore, Germany, France, UK, and Spain would never be relegated – and thus, the Big Four rule was introduced. When the semi-final was introduced in 2004, the Big Four rule was maintained; these four countries and the top ten from the previous year would automatically qualify for the Final. When Italy rejoined the Contest in 2011, it was determined that it should join its peers and create the Big Five.

Why do they keep their status?
In case you doubt their contributions, keep in mind how many countries don’t know from year to year if they will be able to participate due to finances. When the EBU provides money for those broadcasters, it is typically from the dues of these five countries as well as from the revenue generated from their content. For example, San Marino was able to participate in 2008 because RAI, a major stockholder in SMRTV at the time, wanted to test the waters for an Italian return. They helped fund San Marino’s 2008 debut and helped them return in 2011. This happens beyond Eurovision; as broadcasters need funds (or the waiving of dues payments) to operate – the EBU is able to provide assistance because the Big Five broadcasters provide a substantial portion of funding. The debts that caused TVR (Romania) to withdraw in 2016 and could possibly dissolve BHRT (and its subsidiary RTRS) (Bosnia & Herzegovina) were built by loans that the EBU was able to provide thanks to the Big Five broadcasters.

From a competition standpoint, it may not seem fair that these five always qualify, especially since their entries as of late (~past sixteen years) have not done too well. The fact remains, there would be no Contest without these five countries – from their financial contributions that help other European broadcasters operate, to the advertising revenues they bring to the EBU, to the audiences they provide for Eurovision and year-round programming, the Big Five are as vital today as they have ever been to the Contest.

So, why haven’t they been doing too well these past ten years? Well…it depends on the country. We’ll spend the next two weeks examining each one’s recent history, identifying potential weak spots, and giving suggestions for 2017.

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Recap of Initial Thoughts and Predictions

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Norway – lovely dance tune and an eccentric love songNorway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Czech RepublicCzech Republic!

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

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

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ESC 2016 Reviews: Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

Only six more reviews for this year! Silly Italy has yet to premier the ESC-version of No Degree of Separation, so I was forced to review the original, full length, 100% Italian version from San Remo.

Automatic Qualifiers

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Swedish Flag Map

 Sweden

Frans

If I Were Sorry

Televised

Thoughts:

Not a fan of this. Sweden really doesn’t want to win back-to-back, huh. The lyrics are essentially saying, “Hey! If I owed you an apology, then I wouldn’t be such a jerk to you, but, here we are.” Yeah, not all that good. The composition is reminiscent of Cheerleader and other poorly composed pop songs.
New French Flag Map

 France

Amir

J’ai cherché (I Searched)

Internal

Thoughts:

I think that France has finally got it! While I have been an ardent supporter of its entries, I think this one is their best chance since 2010 at success (I say that knowing that they were favorites to win in 2011, but I never thought Sognu stood a chance). There’s just enough English to help the song be catchy, but the bulk of the lyrics are in French. The song, though, sounds very much like folk-pop sound that’s ever-so-popular right now (Imagine Dragons, X Ambassadors, HAIM, etc.). I expect this to get France into a respectable position this year!
German Flag Map

 Germany

Jamie-Lee

Ghost

Televised

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness. I so hope that they change her outfit for the Final. Otherwise, this will be a DEDF (decent entry derailed by fashion) and a shoo-in for the Barbara Dex Award. I do quite like the song once I look past what she’s wearing. This will most definitely restore respect in Germany after last year’s nul points.
Italian Flag Map

 Italy

Francesca Michielin

No Degree of Separation

Televised

Thoughts:

So, for whatever reason, Italy has not released the ESC-version of the song. What’s the difference,” you may ask. Well, the San Remo version is too long, clocking in at a full 48 seconds over the three minute time limit begging the question, what are the composers going to trim? Additionally, she will sing the refrain in English fthe last time through, as she did in the acoustic version of the song available online. Personally, I find the song to be boring and lifeless. Given that it’s Italy, I imagine it will still do respectably, perhaps just outside the Top Ten.
 Spanish Flag Map

 Spain

Barei

Say Yay!

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely a high energy, fun song. Quite uplifting! This strikes me as the more adult version of the Belgian entry. I think it will do quite well. Hmm, will this stand out amongst the other dance songs this year? With a good spot in the running order and a great staging, I think it can definitely be a Top Ten entry. Otherwise, it will be another midtable finish for Spain. I cannot stress this enough, a powerful, dance-driven staging is the key to this entry’s success.
Briton Flag Map

 United Kingdom

Joe & Jake

You’re Not Alone

Televised

Thoughts:

So, the UK has finally decided to send a song that could actually compete on the British charts. This sounds like every other generic, Brit pop song I hear on the radio. The key to that statement, on the radio – this sounds like a something that will get teen girls (and their parents) everywhere singing along. Will it win? Definitely not. But could it get the UK back into the Top Ten for the first time since 2009, most definitely!

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

So, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? How would I rank these songs?

Predicted Top Ten Finishers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 6
(Starting with my most favorite)

France
France
Spain
Germany
United Kingdom
Spain
United Kingdom
Italy
Sweden

More importantly, who do I think will be competing for the crown?

Spain – While I think each of the automatic qualifiers have a quality song,Spain I only think that Spain has a legitimate shot at the hoisting the trophy. This song is catchy, danceable, and makes you feel good. The best thing about it: from the very first listen you can sing along and jam along with it. This definitely will bring honor back to Spain and possibly the victory.

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

Missed by previous review posts? Find them here:

First Semi-Final First Half and Second Half.

Second Semi-Final First Half and Second Half.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my summary post and get my prediction for who will ultimately win in May.

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Balladeers!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

View the playlist here: Eurovision for Balladeers

  1. Poland 2008PolandFor Life performed by Isis Gee

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

  3. Estonia 2012 – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2007 – Unsubstantial Blues performed by Magdi Rúzsa

    Monaco

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

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

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

  11. Malta 2005 – Angel performed by Chiara

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

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

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

    Spain

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

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

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

  18. Sweden 2014 – Undo performed by Sanna Nielsen

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

  20. Sweden 2006 – Invincible performed by Carola

    United Kingdom

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS!

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Anglophobes

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Anglophobes

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

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

  2. Slovenia 2002 – Samo Ljubezen performed by Sestre

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

  3. Belgium 2003 – Sanomi performed by Urban Trad

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

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

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

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

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

  6. AndorraAndorra 2006 – Sense Tu performed by Jennifer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  14. FinlandFinland 2010 – Tyolla Elää performed by Kuunkuiskaajat

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

  15. Albania 2012 – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

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

  16. MacedoniaMacedonia 2012 – Crno i Belo performed by Kaliopi

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

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

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

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

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

  19. Montenegro 2014 – Moj Svijet performed by Sergej Ćetković

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

  20. FranceFrance 2014 – Moustache performed by TWIN TWIN

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

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

Fun Trivia

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

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

  • Ireland and Malta have only strayed from English once.

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

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

What are your favorite non-English language songs?

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


First Reactions to the Eurovision 2015 Grand Final

Hello Dear Readers!

Wow! What a show! Twenty-seven fantastic performances, exhilarating mid-voting & interval acts, and voting that kept us on edge until nearly the end. Some initial reactions and notes from Saturday night:

Swedish Flag Map-Congratulations to Sweden! It’s second win in four years, and sixth overall. Sweden now stands alone in second place in all-time victories. The UK, France, and Luxembourg are now in third place with five wins. Ireland is still in first with seven – Sweden is setting its sights on the coveted top spot. Rumor has it that it will be in Gothenburg next year, not Stockholm, but we’ll see.

Latvia-Overall, I am not too surprised by the Top Ten; I was only 60% accurate. I am very happy that both, Latvia and Belgium, were able to make it to the Top Ten, that they did not cancel each other out. I am disappointed that Azerbaijan did not make it, but I guess it’s nice to see that it is starting to normalize within the Contest as opposed to always being in the top – like what Armenia starting experiencing in 2011.

Germany-Biggest Surprise: We have the first nul points in a Grand Final since the UK in 2003. Not just one, but two: Germany and Austria. It is the first time a host country has received the infamous score and only the second time a host has come last (the Netherlands came joint last in 1958). Regardless of your opinion of these two songs, neither deserved nul points. The performances were solid, the songs are catchy, and it’s inconceivable that, among forty countries, not a single one found a single point for either. It’s mind-boggling and I am sure will be a source of chatter within the fan community for years to come.

Russia-Fans are desperately and deeply split on Russia. On one side, we have people who oppose Russia’s politics (on multiple fronts) and view their entries as an extension of Putin. On the other side, we have fans that argue that we must be neutral and that Russia’s song deserved its widespread support. I try to stay out of the arguments, but given it is becoming one of the biggest issues (and not just with Russia, but Azerbaijan as well), I feel like I must comment. Personally, I think that if we think Russia should not compete, then we must petition the EBU to punish Russia, which could include blocking them from participation in Eurovision programming (ESC, JESC, Young Musicians, etc.). Until the EBU decides to take action, we must treat every competitor with respect. We can also take action by not attending an event in a country we protest and pressuring our broadcasters to withdraw in a year that we think that a country has politics contrary to the ideals of the Contest.

France-The Big Five (except Italy) all ended up at the bottom if the scoreboard. The UK missed an opportunity to capitalize on a truly unique and fun entry. France was screwed by its running order position (again! Just like 2013). Spain was a victim of its own over-production. Germany, inexplicably, earned zero points – why, I have no idea. It seemed like country really tried to do its best this year, so, as of right now, I have no suggestions for improvement other than to lick their wounds and move forward with renewed optimism.

Austria -The production was lovely, even though I thought it was a bit too heavy on promoting Conchita; her agent must be amazing. I appreciated that there were nods to the gay male fans, but we were not lifted up as the “ideal fans” or the only fans out there (something that I fear Sweden will return to doing, especially if Petra Mede is invited back to host). The organization left much to be desired, which I will dive into in a future post about my experience in Vienna.

-Finally, something needs to be done about this flag situation that’s become much worse since the standing section was introduced in 2013. The easiest solution would be to build a stage that is higher up or at least raise the angle of the cameras. It will result in much different kids of shots, but would help alleviate the problem.

I spent a combined total of 34.5 hours standing in queues ahead of the show. Most of those hours were outside, many in the rain, some in crowded, tight spaces. At times, we asked ourselves “why we were doing this?” And had to constantly remind ourselves that, despite the rain, despite the disorganization of the security staff, despite the pushing, shoving, and disrespect from other fans – experiencing the show was going to be worth it.

And it was. It simply was.

Not just for the reasons I mentioned at the top of this post, but also for the community. The new people that I met, the people I saw again from last year, and the overall crowd. I love Eurovision, not just for the combination of geography, pop music, and competition, but for ideal of unifying a continent (and beyond!) for a week. ESC is at its best is when shared in community. I guess that’s why I started this blog, to expand my ESC community. So I want to thank you, my dear readers, for it is you that helps keep this passion, this Eurovision Obsession, going and growing.

Eurovision is about people – die-hard fans, noobs, casual viewers, Europeans (regardless of their national origin), and non-Europeans alike. While we can argue about who should participate and how, we must all agree that the shared experience of enjoying the Contest is open to everyone. Thank you for your readership and I look forward to seeing how this blog continues to grow and expand into the future!

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Stay tuned for my wrap posts from this year’s event, including my annual awards and a post about my time in Vienna!


Experimental Music at the ESC

One thing that I enjoy about the Junior ESC is that the kids, much more than the adults, experiment with music – submitting songs that are out there, that are crazy contemporary – and seeing success with them. Georgia is a prime example, so many of its entries are quite off-the-wall. In 2008, Georgia even won with a song that I would say is the most experimental that we have ever heard on an ESC stage, junior or adult.

We are used to maybe one experimental entry (usually from Bulgaria), but this year, we have two truly experimental entries: Belgium and Latvia. And two more that are pushing the limit: Georgia and Spain.

Beyond Modern

Belgian Flag CountryBelgium and Latvia can be said to be “beyond modern,” their sounds are unlike any other – past or present. Compare this with Australia and Estonia, both of which sound like something off the current pop charts, and Denmark and the UK, which both harken back to past musical eras. Rhythm Inside and Love Injection sound more like art pieces than pop songs. Both toy around with rhythm and melody; both stretch the singer’s abilities to capture the feelings of the songs. The biggest advantage that these entries have is standing out so drastically from the other thirty-eight songs. They’ll make an immediate impact and will not be soon forgotten.

Personally, I like rather enjoy both songs; both are currently in my my personal Top Ten. However, I do Latvian Flag Mapnot think either song has a chance of doing well. I think that qualification would be a victory for both. The juries have shown that they tend to favor well-sung ballads and catchy pop tunes above all else. The public may not be ready for such futuristic tunes, especially since neither has a strong chorus that can lodge itself in your head.

BulgariaWhere most songs like this fail, though, is in the staging. They often try too hard to have a staging that matches the uniqueness of their entry – often to ill-effect. Look at that Bulgarian compilation again, how many of those entries would have been more successful if the staging was stronger? If you have read my live notes, you know that I have an expression “DEDF” – Decent Entry Derailed by Fashion. Both of these entries are at potential to fall prey to this. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Rhythm Inside is putting Loïc in a steampunk costume with a glowing piece over his heart. Throughout the song, he sheds the mechanical aspects, as if he’s becoming more human. However, while this could be done well – the tendency would be to go over the top; steampunk can go from supercool to scary and I fear that your typical stage director would not know the difference. Likewise, Love Injection could very well be enhanced by repeating the staging from the Latvian national selection, adding in some new light effects and possibly some chain elements; but how quickly would this devolve into some kind of dominatrix outfit? (Very quickly!)

Good luck to both Belgium and Latvia – I hope both delegations highlight their songs positively on stage without going overboard. But, these two are not the only ones experimenting this year, two more are giving us unique entries, albeit not quite as extreme.

Pushing the Envelope

Spanish Flag MapLess dramatic than Belgium and Latvia, Spain and Georgia both have songs that challenge traditional music expectations. Both songs have echoing, booming refrains that are easy to sing along with. Both songs have complex layers that create textured, intriguing pieces that captivate the listener. Both are different enough to avoid easy comparisons with the other entries, but neither are so otherworldly that they will scare off the casual viewer.

Like Belgium and Latvia, there will be a lot of temptation to go overboard with the staging of these acts.Georgian Flag Map Spain needs to focus on lighting effects – Edurne’s voice speak for itself (no pun intended). We don’t need dancers and a lot of graphics, just some well queued spotlights and coloring. Georgia has a bit more leeway. I would recommend reproducing the video, bringing women that represent different female warriors from around the world (or at least, around Europe) and from various time periods, from Maltese knights to modern British soldier, from ancient female heroins to tribal fighters. Again, good luck to Spain and Georgia, may commonsense and good taste prevail!

As we celebrate the 60th Contest, we are presented with a wide array of options, various genres are represented, from swing to punk rock to popera. This year, that diversity of music includes an increased number of songs that push the limits of modern music; that can be considered “experimental.” Regardless of the ultimate final placing of these songs, their presence alone enriches the ESC field of entries and promotes variance, hereby keeping the Contest relevant as it enters its seventh decade.

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2015 Entries Recap

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Speaking of participants, some unexpectedness has ensued this year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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ESC2014 – Final Predictions and Notes

Hello Dear Readers!

Finally, after much struggle and anguish and many hours, I have finally resolved enough of my technical woes to finally be able to post my notes for y’all!

Eurovision 2014 Write-ups

2014 Country Profiles

 

Reactions from the Jury Final

Last night was the jury final and I can safely say that only one country had a bad enough performance to hurt themselves.  Though, Italy had, by far, the worse performance.  It was pretty flat.  This will definitely be Italy’s worse finish since returning.  Even if Emma has a mind-blowing performance tonight, I see little reason to believe that she will score any higher than 15 based on the jury performance alone.

The UK also had some minor issues when a backing singer tried to end the song a few seconds early.  I am sure that will not happen again tonight. Poland also seemed to suffer from some timing issues that affected the performance.

A few countries also helped their case.  Azerbaijan, a song that was already jury fodder, will likely score very highly for the performance she gave last night.  Likewise, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland also gave exhilerating performances that are sure to go over well with the juries.  I won’t go into more detail because they were minor improvements to their semi-final performances.  Spain gave a good performance as well.  Valentina Monetta from San Marino was the most improved from her semi-final performance and has secured that she will at least be spared the embarassment of a null points.

Final Predictions

Well, I think (and really, really hope) that this will be the closest Contest in quite some time.  The odds favorite is now Austria, with Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK right behind.  After that, the odds begin to drop.  After much back and forth and consultation with my new friends waiting in line for the shows, I truly think that Sweden will take the crown.  Denmark’s song and staging is weak.  The Netherlands will benefit from being so close to the end and so different from everything else, but at the end of the day, country has never placed higher than second at ESC and I do not think that will change this year.  I do not think the juries will be as enamored with the UK entry as the fans are.  Even though the Austrian entry is my favorite this year, I do not think it will be a winner.  Aside from Conchita Wurst’s look, songs in this style – big, dramatic, ballads that sound like they should be on a James Bond soundtrack – do not have as much mass appeal as one would think.  Especially, not compared to more traditional pop ballads such as the one Sweden has.  Sweden has a simple staging that emphasizing the song; its subtly and power seperate it from the other entries, the juries traditionally like these kinds of songs, and the drama is just enough to captivate audiences without scaring them off.  Undo has the perfect combination of factors to carry the trophy, and the Contest, back across the Øresund for the sixtieth edition in 2015

After Sweden, I think the remaining Top Ten will be:

  • Austria
  • UK
  • The Netherlands
  • Azerbaijan
  • Spain
  • Montenegro
  • Greece
  • Ukraine
  • Hungary

As far as the Bottom Five, I would predict Italy, Belarus, Iceland, Slovenia, and Finland.  These five lack a combination of adequate public appeal, public interest, and stagning.

Final Thoughts Ahead of the Grand Final

Let’s try to keep the politics out of ESC!  This goes both ways.  As far as Russia is concerned, booing Russia does not help anything and only encourages the true villains more.  What happens when you boo the Tomaschevy Twins is that you are booing 17 girls who are Junior Eurovision champions – that’s all.  The best way to handle the situation is to sit quietly; lack of reaction is much more impactful.  Additionally, with Austria.  What the character of Conchita Wurst represents is great, but that is no reason to vote.  Give Austria points because Rise Like a Pheonix is an amazing song, not because you want the drag queen to win.

And with that, enjoy the show!!  It promises to be fantastic!  I will be keeping live notes the best I can from the ESC party that I am attending.  See you this evening!


ESC2014 – Contender or Pretender: Episode Three

It’s Sunday, 27 April!!  You know what that means — the technical rehearsals begin tomorrow in Copenhagen!!  Click the link for the official schedule.  Eurovision is finally upon us!!  (For those of you worried about my “Road to Denmark” series, I have not forgotten it, but it will continue post-Contest).

Alas, we have reached the final episode of Contender or Pretender.  We have already deemed Sweden and Denmark true contenders in the race for Eurovision glory, while Ukraine and Armenia will most likely leave CPH disappointed.  In this episode, we’ll review the UK and Norway a bit more closely.

United Kingdom

Briton Flag MapSong: Children of the Universe          Performing Artist: Molly

Why it is a contender: It’s anthematic chorus that sticks in your head.  The fact that the UK is sending a young, attractive female will also turn heads, as it has not done this since 2009.  Molly also does a really good job delivering the song – it’s wholly convincing and inspiring.

Why it is a pretender: It’s lyrics are not the strongest, not to mention the music video is also a bit strange.  By now, you would have listened to the song three times – each time was a different experience, was it not?  This indicates that it will result in a wide range of reactions, more than most, which lowers its chances as well.

Final Verdict: Pretender I still do not get the hype with this song.  Despite Molly’s performance of it, I don’t think big lungs are enough to bring about a high score (nor should it be).  I expect the UK to finish 11-16, better than the past few years, but still not where they want (or at least what they think they should) be.

Norway

Song: Silent Storm          Performing Artist: Carl Epsen

Why it is a contender: It’s a strong male ballad, in line with Estonia 2012.  Epsen has the ability to capture the vulnerability of the lyrics and sing so genuinely.  It’s an honest song that is delivered honorably.

Why it is a pretender: Well, it’s delivered well in the studio version and he did a decent job at NMGP, but did you see his Eurovision in Concert performance?  He was like the shy, quiet guy doing karaoke in the corner of a crowded bar.  Another uninspiring performance, and Norway will easily extend its record streak of last place finishes.  And for those who think that being a strong male ballad is enough, think back to 2010, where we had four strong male ballads that all flopped: Norway, Spain, Cyprus, and Israel – all of which were much stronger than Silent Storm.

Final Verdict: Pretender This song’s predicted success is even less understandable than the British one.  At least Children of the Universe is a captivating song.  Epsen might be able to deliver the song with the proper emotional setting, unfortunately, that setting is weak.

So to recap:

Contenders: Sweden, Denmark

Pretenders: Ukraine, Armenia, United Kingdom, Norway

We also already established that I do not have much faith in the remaining entries in the bookmakers’ top ten: Hungary, Belgium, Romania, and Azerbaijan.  That’s not to say that I think they will do poorly, I just don’t think that they have a legitimate shot at winning.  In short: Hungary is too serious of a topic for it to gain top marks at ESC, Belgium is too off-centre to be successful, Ovi and Paula Selig will draw comparisons to their 2010 entry Playing with Fire, which was much stronger and this song just doesn’t fit the two of them very well in general, and Azerbaijan, while pretty and moving, is a bit of a snoozer.

That’s also not to say that I think that the Sweden and Denmark will be alone in duking it out for victory.  My next post will be on my new YouTube channel!  Watch my first video on ESC2014 Dark Horses, where I will be looking at entries that I think are flying under the radar and could make big moves in Copenhagen.


ESC2014: Song Reviews – Automatic Qualifiers

This is the final allotment of song reviews.  I’ll be having a recap soon, so stay tuned!

Danish Flag MapDenmarkCliché Love Song performed by Basim

This song ebbs and flows with me; sometimes I like it, sometimes I think it’s silly. I don’t know. Obviously, he cannot leave the giant Danish flag in the staging; that’d be a one-way ticket to the wrong side of the scoreboard. I think the biggest advantage for the host country is knowing their starting order before knowing everyone else’s – that way, they can easily surround themselves with weaker entries. Let’s see what DR decides to do.

Keys to Success: Focusing on Basim’s million-dollar smile, putting weak ballads on either side of it

Potential Stumbling Blocks: A crazy staging or keeping the giant Danish flag around

Personal Interest Score: 7

Potential for Success: 8

Composite: 7.5

New French Flag MapFranceMoustache performed by TWIN TWIN

This song is a blast! It’s silly and definitely fits into the French archetype – there seems to be a joke that no one else seems to be in on. Unlike 2007 and 2008, this song is rather accessible to the everyday listener. I foresee a fun, silly, colorful staging for this one, which will help them overcome what will surely be a poor draw number.

Keys to Success: Being fun and let all of Europe enjoy the performance with them

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Toning down the staging in an attempt to appeal to the middle

Personal Interest Score: 8

Potential for Success: 6

Composite: 7

 

German Flag MapGermanyIs it Right? performed by Elaiza

Another song that I enjoy tremendously. The sound is a bit dated, but I think Elaize pulls it off well. It’s also nice to see the accordion, as there seems to be a dearth of those this year. I think that this song has the ability to sneak up on folks. No one is really paying attention to it, but I think it will be close to the top.

Keys to Success: A nice, minimal performance, like how she won the German selection

Potential Stumbling Blocks: An over-the-top performance, with lots of lights and fog

Personal Interest Score: 8

Potential for Success: 8

Composite: 8

 

Italian Flag MapItalyLa Mia Città performed by Emma

No jazz or ballads this year, Italy is sending rock. If the song itself isn’t enough to let you know that this song stands out, watch the music video – it’s a trip! I am not sure of this song’s chances at success, but so far, Italy cannot seem to fail since it has returned to the Contest.

Keys to Success: Letting the composition and performance stand for itself

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Trying to reproduce the music video – I think it’s too out there to appeal to the typical viewer

Personal Interest Score: 7

Potential for Success: 9

Composite: 8

Spanish Flag MapSpainDancing in the Rain performed by Ruth Lorenzo

I do not know if you have seen the videos from Eurovision in Concert, but Ms. Lorenzo was, by far, the best performer. She was amazing in Amsterdam. It will be interesting to see if that strong performance returns for the actual competition. This song is jury bait, but she needs to nail it in order to woo the viewing public.

Keys to Success: Reproducing the Eurovision in Concert performance, or even topping it

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Anything less than a flawless performance will doom her

Personal Interest Score: 7

Potential for Success: 6

Composite: 6.5

 

Briton Flag MapUnited KingdomChildren of the Universe performed by Molly

Another song with a lot of hype that I do not understand. The composition is pedestrian, I don’t quite get the song’s message, and Molly’s voice is alright. I am not quite sure why this song is getting so much support from the bookies, but I just don’t see it being any more successful than any of other recent UK entry, both of which, I think, are better than this one.

Keys to Success: Somehow creating a universe within the arena – using LED lights, audience bracelets, etc.

Potential Stumbling Blocks: Keeping the staging simple

Personal Interest Score: 6

Potential for Success: 7

Composite: 6.5


Eurovision 2013 — Grand Final Live Notes…Live!

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Actual Top Ten

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

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

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

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

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

And Azerbaijan is officially second!

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia – no surprises here

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

Montenegro – what’s up with that echo?

Denmark – No real surprises here.

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

Greece – Denmark breaks 200 and Azerbaijan regains second place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

135 for Denmark, 113 for Ukraine, 100 for Azerbaijan

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

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

Spain – Italy is back in the Top Ten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romania – Azerbaijan is now only 7 points behind Denmark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love the sequence of over-the-top endings!

Poor Linda Martin, no need to attack her.

Yay, more history!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor cameraman, he must have drawn the short straw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brace yourselves everyone – here comes Romania!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BTW, my pre-Contest prediction for Top Ten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Everyone!


Eurovision 2013 – 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!

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Eurovision 2013 – Big 5, Sweden, & Predictions!

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And we have reached the conclusion of our five-part series previewing the 39 entries to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.  For those who may  have missed it, each day this week, I looked at one half or each semi-final.  Find those articles here: First Semi-final: first half, second half; Second Semi-Final: first half, second half. Today, I turn my focus to the six automatic qualifiers – the Big Five (France, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, and Germany) and Sweden, our host and defending champion.

France L’Enfer et Moi (Hell and Me) performed by Amandine BourgeoisNew French Flag Map

I rather like this song!  The lyrics are unexpected and tell a story of a painful, unhealthy love (think Bad Romance) that is poignantly performed.  The composition also fits it perfectly, always steadily driving forward, pushing the song further and further to the edge until it boils over. I have high hopes for this!

German Flag MapGermany Glorious performed by Cascada

How disappointing!  It’s a decent song, but I’ve come to expect so much more from Cascada.  I hate to say this, but I think Cascada will demonstrate why international mega stars, who are currently still relevant all around the globe (not just Europe), do not take part in ESC.  I think they will fail to reach the Top Ten. I don’t think they will embarrass themselves, I just don’t think they’ll do that well.

Italy L’Essenziale (The Essential) performed by Marco MengoniItalian Flag Map

So, after two years of reaching the Top Ten with remarkably popular jazz songs, Italy tries it hand at submitting a desperate, pop ballad.  It works, it really does.  I think if Megoni can win San Remo with this, he has a strong chance of taking ESC as well (lest we forget that San Remo was the contest upon which ESC was based).  Oh!  What if he actually was crying by the end of the song – that would better his edge!  Expect this song to do well!

Spanish Flag MapSpain Contigo Hasta El Final (With You Until the End) performed by El Sueño de Morfeo

What a pretty, sweet song.  It’s so nice!  It kind of reminds me of POR2009 – just a sweet, innocent song that makes one want to fall in love.  I think this will, like POR2009, finish in the middle of the pack.  It’s just not quite dynamic enough.

Sweden You performed by Robin StjernbergSwedish Flag Map

Meh.  The live version of this song leaves much to be desired and the studio version is marginally better.  This song has a lot of wow potential, particularly with all those extended notes throughout the refrain.  Who knows, with its favorable spot in the running order (16th) perhaps he will have an amazing performance the night of the Grand Final and surprise me (but I doubt it).  Next year we will not be in Sweden.

Briton Flag MapUnited Kingdom Believe in Me performed by Bonnie Tyler

If one old legend doesn’t work, try another!  That seems to be the BBC’s logic in choosing Bonnie Tyler after Englebert Humperdinck flopped last year.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Love Will Set You Free, but Europe did not.  I fear this song will have the same fate.  Though, with the fact that the Swedes will personally assign each song in the running order (except their own), the Britons will take a year off from whining about Eastern Europe and turn their ire northward, like in the olden days of the Contest!  I think this song is nice, but it doesn’t make a big impact and it’s vaguely reminiscent of late 80s/early 90s music (go figure!).

So, what do I think of the Automatic Qualifiers?

My Order of Preference How I think the final scorecard will look
France Sweden*
Spain Germany+
Italy Italy
United Kingdom France
Germany Spain
Sweden United Kingdom

*Who I think will definitely be Top Ten
+Who I think may be Top Ten depending on the strength of the Semi-Final qualifiers

So, what does all of this mean?

For the first time since 2008, none of the Big 5 are favored to win, or even be in the Top Five (as far as I know). In 2009, the UK was supposed to be tops, 2010 was to belong to Germany, France was to win in 2011 but only after defeating the UK and a strong German effort, and all were thought to be in the mix last year.  In my opinion, Sweden has the best chances of a Top Ten finish this year with Germany not too far behind.  Italy tends to do rather well, particularly since it’s rejoined the Contest, but I would expect a sub-10 finish this year.  While I love the French entry, I don’t think Europe will.  And the UK has little chances given the slower speed of the song and age of the performer.

So, how will they fare amongst the 20 entries I predicted would be in the Grand Final?Swiss Flag County

My Order of Preference How I think the final scorecard will look
Switzerland Denmark
The Netherlands Azerbaijan
Norway Norway
Moldova Moldova
France Georgia
Denmark Greece
Israel Russia
Hungary Ukraine
Azerbaijan Sweden
Greece Ireland
Georgia Germany
Ireland Switzerland
Austria Israel
Spain Italy
Malta The Netherlands
Cyprus Spain
Italy Austria
Bulgaria Armenia
Belarus France
United Kingdom Belarus
Germany Malta
Sweden Cyprus
Russia Bulgaria
Ukraine Serbia
Serbia Hungary
Armenia United Kingdom

Please note:Danish Flag Map

1.) These are based on my first listens and opinions.  The next round of predictions will have a bit more research to back them up.  This is also my first attempt to predict the final position of each entry this far in advance!

2.) As I said in January, I think Only Teardrops has the potential to win, and, honestly, is one of the best Danish entries in a long time in my opinion.  Even though I think the Netherlands and Switzerland should be duking it out for the top spot, I’m not foolish enough to think either country will win.  Both will be happy just to make it to the Grand Final and avoid last place.

3.) I don’t trust, nor can I predict, the Swedish producers.  When the running order was random, every entry had an equal chance of a crappy starting position or a great one, now, that’s not the case.  The Swedish producers will be deciding the running order and it is impossible for me to guess their prejudices, production opinions, and objectives for the show.  I say this because, despite how much SVT and the EBU deny it, running order drastically affects how an entry finishes on the scorecard.  Hopefully, next year, the EBU returns to randomized running orders.

This concludes my five-part series previewing the 39 entries to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.  The Heads of Delegations meeting was this past week, so I will have a post hitting some of the main points from that meeting tomorrow!


ESC 2012 – Two Weeks Later

Howdy All!

I was hoping to publish this last week, but decided to wait to see if the EBU would release the split jury/televoting results.  They have yet to do so and I have grown tired of waiting.  If there’s anything significant, you can expect another post!

 

Best Dressed

Winner: France

A beautiful dress that I thought was used brilliantly throughout the performance, particularly when the wind machine was used.

Second Place: Serbia

Not just Joksimović, but the whole ensemble was dressed splendidly.

Third Place: Portugal

I like her dress; I don’t care what others think.

Honorable Mention: Bosnia & Herzgovina, Azerbaijan, Romania

 

Most In Need of Costume Change

Winner: Ireland

Really, really, do I need to explain this decision?

Second Place: Switzerland

There clothes were not too bad, but their hair was horrendous.

Third Place: Italy

I didn’t much care for her dress or her shoes, or the combination of the two items.

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Denmark, San Marino

 

Best Lyrics:

Winner: Bosnia & Herzegovina

“Nemoj mi kvariti dan, nikad mi nije bilo teže/Ti nisi živio sam u zlatu paukove mreže/Kao ja…Korake ti znam”

The lyrics tell a story of woman trying to salvage a relationship.  The tale that unfolds in the lyrics really draws you in.  Bravo!

Second Place: Spain

“Perdóname si no supe amarte, amor/No era mío el corazón/Quédate conmigo, quédate conmigo/Si no estás, no sale el sol”

Talk about trying to salvage a relationship, Quédate Conmigo poignantly captures the desperation one feels as you try to keep your love from walking away.

Third Place: Azerbaijan

“But I still wanna keep us alive/But it’s cold, cold, cold, cold when the music dies /t’s all black and white and there’s no sunrise/When the music dies”

Completing the pattern is a third song about a woman trying to save a relationship.  I love this song because of how final the lyrics are, the singer knows she’s at the end of line this is her final effort.  Also, the use of repetition is highly effective, as each time “cold” is sung it becomes more emphatic, more desperate.

Honorable Mention: Iceland, Macedonia, Finland

 

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

Winner: Russia

“Kırdžjalom žon-žon-žon, ektom mi kuaž-kuaž alji/Kırdžjalom žon-žon-žon, ektom mi kuaž-kuaž alji/Party for Everybody – Dance!”

The lyrics are rather repetitive, both the refrain and the actual stanzas.

Second Place: Ukraine

“You can be my guest!/People, be my/Guest!/Welcome People!/Na na, na na…”

Gaitana stated that she likes to write simple lyrics so that everyone can understand them.  Mission Accomplished.

Third Place: San Marino

“Oh oh, ooh oh oh…/Everybody loves you so/Ooh ooh, ooh oh oh…/Everybody lets you know/Do you wanna be more than just a friend?”

Arguably, it can be said that this was a satirical song.  However, I’m surprised that it was allowed to be performed given how many sexual references were littered throughout it.

Honorable Mention: Montenegro, Georgia, Switzerland

 

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

Winner: Latvia

Mindless pop music – check.  Simple lyrics – check.  Unbelievably catchy tune – check.  Yep, this passes all the tests of standard schlager.  Congratulation Anmary of Latvia!

Second Place: Serbia

Returning Serbia to its roots, Joksimović crafted a beautiful ballad of heartbreak that the region has become known for.

Third Place: United Kingdom

Eurovision, past, present, and future, has truly always been about the ballads.  And the UK brought a strong one this year, definitely in line with a lot of what has been successful on the ESC stage through history.

Honorable Mention: Romania, Malta, Russia

 

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

Winner: Slovakia

Normally, upon playing entries for friends, one is bound to hear comparisons between it and the American music market.  This year, only one elicited an immediate response in this vein – Slovakia.

Second Place: Norway

From the presentation to the costuming to the composition itself, this sounds like something that could easily have been produced in New York or LA.

Third Place: Cyprus

The first time I heard this song, I couldn’t help but think of Rihanna.  I think that fact that Cypriots went completely with dance music and forewent any ethno-undertones also contributed to this award.

Honorable Mention: Romania, Germany, Denmark

 

“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: Cyprus

Because Americans love dance tracks, particularly ones that are still pop-y enough to receive a lot of radio airplay.

Second Place: Austria

Because Americans love anything imploring them to shake their booty.

Third Place: Germany

Because it’s an unexpected, anti-love ballad, Loeb looks and sounds like your standard indie-pop artist, and the song is catchy enough to have wide-appeal.

Honorable Mention: Italy, France, Hungary, United Kingdom

 

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

 

Winning Moment: Iceland finishing 20th

This, in my opinion, should have been vying for victory.  It was an amazing performance of an amazing composition with amazing lyrics.  Of all the entries this year, this one, I think, had the best combination of parts.

 

Second Place: United Kingdom getting second to last place

This was an amazing ballad, well-deserving of a spot in the Top Ten.  It’s a downright shame that this entry faired so poorly.

 

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

 

10. United Kingdom – A wonderful ballad performed by a legend

9. Iceland – A powerful song of lost love

8. Israel – Fun, catchy, and quirky

7. Norway – Great to sing along to!

6. Belarus – This song really grew on me once I looked up the lyrics

5. Italy – The song is dynamic and exciting; not to mention it keeps jazz relevant at the Contest

4. Sweden – An emotional and haunting song, truly beautiful

3. Spain – An impassioned ballad that truly connects the listener to the singer’s pain

2. Cyprus – Fun, catchy, and easy to sing along – and dance – to

1. France – My favorite entry despite the performance on Saturday night because of the lyrics, the music, the originality of the composition; I love Anggun’s voice on this track and love how all the various elements of the song come together as one.

 

Final Thoughts

First and foremost, kudos to Azerbaijan for a job well done!  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the event went.  Even though they did run over on the Final, I thought the pacing of the performances was great.  I enjoyed the postcards (even if they were a bit repetitive) and the interval acts.

Unlike the last couple of years, I do not have any major complaints or qualms about how things ultimately went down and have not seen too much backlash.  Should Norway have been last, probably not, but hey – they’ve done it more than anyone else, so it’s not very surprising.  Did a few songs outperform where they should have ended up, yes.  Did a few songs score lower than they deserved, yes.  Was there any outrageous placements, not really.  2012 was a year with minimal controversy.  I think it’s also worth noting that the Greeks have finally fallen from grace; for the first time since 2003, the Hellenic Republic has fallen outside the Top Ten.  I wonder if this is a reflection of Europe growing tired of them sending the same song every year (I doubt that) or more a reflection of the strength of competition this time around (much more likely).

Overall, a good (but not great) year for the ESC.  There were strong entries that were beautiful examples of artistry and there were entries meant more for entertainment purposes.  The entirety of the Big Five seem to be taking the Contest very seriously and are seeing the fruits of their labor.  In fact, just about every country seems to be taking it seriously, and those that don’t seem to be competing with gag entries that actually stand a chance of doing well.  Overall, I’m pleased with the outcome as well as the trend that Sweden’s victory sets.  Serious entries with heartfelt performances are still winning and the results are diverse enough that no one can complain of bloc voting.  Of the Top Ten, three were from the former USSR, one was Nordic, and one was Yugoslavian (the three blocs considered to be the most powerful).  Of the remaining five, three hailed from Western Europe, one was Turkey, and one was a country with one of the most unremarkable ESC records out there (Albania).  While I don’t think this Contest was particularly historic, I do think it will be remembered as one of the smoothest and least controversial ones to date.