Posts tagged “ukraine

Playlist of the Week: Eurovision Stagings for the Uninitiated

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

  3. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

  4. Russia 2008 – Believe performed by Dima Bilan

  5. Sweden 2012 – Euphoria performed by Loreen

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

  7. Azerbaijan 2013 – Hold Me performed by Farid Mammadov

  8. Ukraine 2011 – Angel performed by Mika Newton

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

  10. Belgium 2015 – Rhythm Inside performed by Loïc Nottet

  11. Moldova 2013 – O Mie performed by Aliona Moon

  12. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

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

  14. Russia 2011 – Get You performed by Alexey Vorobyov

  15. Sweden 2011 – Popular performed by Eric Saade

  16. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

  17. Malta 2013 – Tomorrow performed by Gianluca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. Hungary 2017 – Origo performed by Joci Pápai

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision Song… Celebration – Part One!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lithuanian flag map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What a fun show!

 

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

  • Sweden

  • Belarus

  • Australia

  • Lithuania

  • Russia

  • Belgium

  • Malta

  • Norway

  • Israel

  • Romania

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

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

  1. Malta

  2. Russia

  3. The Netherlands

  4. Australia

  5. Belgium

  6. Romania

  7. Germany

  8. Israel

  9. Norway

  10. Ukraine


ESC 2018: Song Reviews – Semi-Final Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection

Norway

Alexander Rybak

How You Write a Song

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Romania

The Humans

Goodbye

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Serbia

Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

Nova Deca [New Children]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

San Marino

Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening

Who We Are

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Denmark

Rasmussen

Higher Ground

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Russia

Julia Samoylova

I Won’t Break

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Moldova

DoReDos

My Lucky Day

National Final

Thoughts:

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

The Netherlands

Waylon

Outlaw in ‘Em

Mixed

Thoughts:

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

Australia

Jessica Mauboy

We Got Love

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Georgia

Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao

For You

Internal

Thoughts:

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

Poland

Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer

Light Me Up

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Malta

Christabelle

Taboo

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Hungary

AWS

Viszlát Nyár [Summer Gone]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Latvia

Laura Rizzotto

Funny Girl

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Sweden

Benjamin Ingrosso

Dance You Off

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Montenegro

Vanja Radovanović

Inje [Frost]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Slovenia

Lea Sirk

Hvala Ne [No Thanks]

National Final

Thoughts:

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

Ukraine

MÉLOVIN

Under the Ladder

National Final

Thoughts:

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

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

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

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Ukraine

  • Romania

  • Australia

  • Montenegro

  • Poland

  • The Netherlands

  • Moldova

  • Norway

And which songs are my favorite? (in order)

  1. Sweden

  2. Latvia

  3. Ukraine

  4. Montenegro

  5. Norway

  6. Australia

  7. Moldova

  8. Denmark

  9. Poland

  10. Malta

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

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


Eurovision 2017 – Grand Final Live Notes!!

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

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

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

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

On to the show!!!

Parade of Nations

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

Opening Act

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

On to the songs!

01 Israel I Feel Alive

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

02 Poland Flashlight

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

03 Belarus Historyja Majho Žyccia/Story of My Life

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

04 Austria Running on Air

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

05 Armenia Fly with Me

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

06 The Netherlands Lights and Shadows

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

07 Moldova Hey, Mamma!

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

08 Hungary Origo

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

09 Italy Occidentali’s Karma

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

10 Denmark Where I Am

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

11 Portugal Amar Pelos Dois

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

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

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

12 Azerbaijan Skeletons

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

13 Croatia My Friend

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

14 Australia Don’t Come Easy

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

15 Greece This is Love

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

16 Spain Do It for Your Lover

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

17 Norway Grab the Moment

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

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

18 United Kingdom Never Give Up on You

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

19 Cyprus Gravity

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

20 Romania Yodel It!

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

21 Germany Perfect Life

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

22 Ukraine Time

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

23 Belgium City Lights

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

24 Sweden Can’t Go On

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

25 Bulgaria Beautiful Mess

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

26 France Requiem

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

 

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

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

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

  1. Bulgaria

  2. Portugal

  3. Belgium

  4. Italy

  5. United Kingdom

  6. Belgium

  7. Romania

  8. Sweden

  9. Armenia

  10. Azerbaijan

And, who were my ten favorites from tonight?

  1. Hungary

  2. Armenia

  3. Belgium

  4. Portugal

  5. Bulgaria

  6. United Kingdom

  7. Denmark

  8. France

  9. Norway

  10. Poland

Voting Entertainment/ Interval, I guess

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

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

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

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

San Marino – more points to Portugal

Latvia – and the points continue for Portugal

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

Israel – Another 12 to Portugal

Montenegro – 12 to Greece

Albania – 12 points to Italy

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

Macedonia – first 12 for Bulgaria

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

Denmark – 12 to Sweden. surprise, surprise

Austria – 12 points to the Netherlands. Interesting

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

Spain – 12 to…Portugal (no surprise)

Finland – 12 points to Sweden (no surprise)

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

Greece – 12 points to Cyprus (no surprise)

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

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

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

Armenia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

Serbia – 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Germany – 12 points to Norway – interesting

Portugal – 12 points to Azerbaijan! Interesting…strategic?

Switzerland  – another 12 points to Portugal

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

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

Georgia – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

Slovenia – 12 points to Portugal

Belgium – 12 points to Sweden – that was highly unexpected

Poland – 12 points to Portugal!

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

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

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

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

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

Televote!

Spain is saved from null point land!

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

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

France got 90 points

Croatia got 103 points

126 points to Sweden

152 to Hungary – and quite the jump!

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

Romania – is next with a sizeable jump

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

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

264 points and third in the televote to Moldova

Bulgaria v. Portugal

337 points to Bulgaria

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

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

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

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

 

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2017 Contender or Pretender!

Hello Dear Readers!

First, in the event that you missed last week’s post, here are my initial thoughts concerning the songs that I think have a legitimate shot at winning this year in Kyiv. This also included this year’s bracket for ESC Obsession’s Annual Eurovision Tournament.

ESC 2017 Tournament

And, if you are curious, here is my personal bracket based solely on my personal preferences.

Second, we come to our yearly Contender or Pretender series, where we look at the top ten countries in the betting odds and access whether they have a realistic chance of winning (contender) or if they are merely names without foundations (pretender). I took the top ten countries and randomly sorted them.

You’ll see them in this order:

Day One: Australia and Romania

Day Two: Bulgaria and Italy

Day Three: Portugal and Belgium

Day Four: Azerbaijan and Sweden

Day Five: Armenia and Ireland

Some notes: It has been interesting watching the movement in the betting odds. Per usual, Sweden and Italy are in the top ten. Azerbaijan seems to be back in the good graces of ESC while Armenia has made its typical late-season push towards the top of the odds. As shocking as it is to see countries like Belgium (perhaps, though, not so much after finishing in the top twelve in three out of the past four years), Portugal (when was the last time they were among the top in the betting odds?), and Bulgaria, I think the most shocking are Ireland and Australia. Both started in the low teens back in March (once all the songs were known). Both sneaked up the rankings while others slipped (France, Denmark, Greece, and Hungary are the next four, all of which were once in the top ten). Interestingly, Macedonia seems to have fallen the farthest; reaching about seventh in the betting odds before following to the low teens.

Stayed tuned! Each day this week, we’ll cover each of the ten entries at the top of the betting odds; analyzing their potential, identifying their shortcomings, and providing a verdict.

 

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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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Eurovision: More Than Just…Politics

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

Conspiracy Theories

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

“Political” Voting

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

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

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

Russia 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision 2016 – Wrap Up!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

No ESC for those in the US or Canada 😦

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

General Reactions

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

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

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

    We could barely see the screens inside Globen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Lyrics Award

Serbia

Winner: Serbia

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

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

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

UkraineRunner-Up: Ukraine

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany

The “Huh?” Award

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

IrelandWinner: Ireland

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

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

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Sweden, The Netherlands, Montenegro

Best Dressed Award

Albania

Winner: Albania

Albania dress

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

 

AustraliaRunner-Up: Australia

Australia outfit

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

Honorable Mention: Estonia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel

Most in Need of a Costume Change Award

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

Italy

Winner: Italy

Italy outfit

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

AzerbaijanRunner-Up: Azerbaijan

Azr outfits

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

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

Best Staging Award

Russia

Winner: Russia

Russia performance

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

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

ArmeniaRunner-Up: Armenia

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

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

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

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

Worst Staging Award

Estonia

Winner: Estonia

Estonian perfomance

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

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

MoldovaRunner-Up: Moldova

Moldova performance

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

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

Honorable Mention: Slovenia, San Marino, France, Croatia

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

Winner: Sweden

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

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

Runner-Up: Czech Republic

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

Honorable Mention: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Israel

Pond Leaper Award

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

ItalyWinner: Italy

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

NetherlandsRunner-Up: The Netherlands

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

Honorable Mention: Australia, Finland, United Kingdom, Bulgaria

The “Spirit of ABBA” Award

Given to the most stereotypical and/or traditional ESC entry

BelgiumWinner: Belgium

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

United KingdomRunner-Up: United Kingdom

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

Honorable Mention: Finland, Spain, Croatia

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

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

Winner: United Kingdom getting 24th place

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

RomaniaRunner-Up: Romania’s Disqualification

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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Reaction to the ESC2016 Grand Final!

Eurovision_2016_Official_Logo

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reaction to the Second Semi-Final

Hello Dear Readers!

There you have it! Our last ten finalists!
Latvia
Poland
Israel
Serbia
Lithuania
Australia
Bulgaria
Ukraine
Georgia
Belgium

Georgian Flag MapQuite interesting that, unlike Tuesday, the qualifiers are well spread out; there are no more than two that performed consecutively last night.

Some historical markers from last night.

Ukrainian Flag Map-Ukraine extends its 100% qualification streak. Georgia extends its to four. Belgium and Poland get their first back-to-back qualifications and Latvia gets its second (last time was 07-08).
Bulgarian Flag Country-Bulgaria qualified for only the second time (last was 2007). While it will be Australia’s second final, it’s the country’s first qualifying from the semi.
Irish Flag Map-Georgia may very well be the qualifier with the lowest betting odds of all time. Conversely, Nicky Byrne – former pop star, professional goalkeeper, and presenter – and Ireland’s lack of qualification will make it harder to recruit stars in the future.
-Donny Montell got a measure of revenge after Kaliopi beat him in Baku (2012).
Lithuanian Flag Map-For the first time since 1970 (when all five did not participate), this will be the first time with one or fewer Nordic countries to be in a Final since Sweden joined Denmark in the Contest back in 1958.

My reactions:
Macedonia-Deeply saddened by Macedonia’s failed qualification, especially since Kaliopi is so awesome. I guess third time was not the charm, but I hope she returns in the future.
Israel-Surprised by Georgia’s qualification and taken off-guard by Israel’s. Though, I am most disappointed in Lithuania’s qualification (especially since neither Macedonia nor Norway made it).
Belgium-While I originally contended that Semi-Final One was stronger, after last night and the results, Semi-Final Two definitely was more entertaining and proved itself to have the harder hitting entries. Probably because it was much more competitive as fewer spots were uncertain.

Now that we have our qualifiers, there’s nothing to it but to do it! Tonight we have our Jury Final and tomorrow, the Grand Final! USAComplete with an unnecessary performance from Justin Timberlake. I am so excited to see who will win! Check back tomorrow for my reaction to the Jury Final and final predictions!

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Contender or Pretender 2016 – Recap!

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Contender or Pretender 2016: Ukraine and France

Hello Dear Readers!

We are on our fourth episode of Contender or Pretender and things are heating up. Only a few more left to examine, today: Ukraine’s history lesson with *no relevance to recent events* and France’s best shot at victory in years!

Ukraine

1944 performed by Jamala

Ukrainian Flag MapWhy it is a contender: This song has immediately made an impact. It has incredibly moving lyrics and composition and performance. There’s nothing like it in the Contest this year. With a strong stage show that displays the song’s narrative, this will make a huge impact in the Grand Final.

Why it is a pretender: This song is rather modern, like most modern songs, it will split the televoting audience as well as the juries (though, the juries will most likely rate it highly). Furthermore, because the refrain is in a rare, Turkic language (Crimean Tatar), it is integral that the commentators do their job and communicate the meaning of the song – which will probably fall short of happening effectively.Ukraine

Final Verdict: Pretender This is one of my favorite songs this year. However, it is just too modern and too divisive to win. I completely think it will be in the Top Ten, but not hosting the crystal victor’s trophy. Great song, but it will not win.

France

J’ai Cherché (I’ve Searched) performed by Amir

New French Flag MapWhy it is a contender: It’s fun, contemporary, and catchy. France has finally found an effective way of incorporating English into their entries while maintaining a predominantly French flair. This is the kind of entry that will do well in the charts after the Contest.

Why it is a pretender: While the song is contemporary, it’s sound is a few years late. I also think that the composition, while fun, is simple, a little too simple.

Final Verdict: Contender FranceThis song entertains all! The fans love the idea of a strong French entry and the casual viewers will love the sound of the song. As mentioned above, J’ai Cherché is instantly sing-alongable and will stay with you long after it is off the stage. There is a definite possibility that we will be in Paris or Caen or Cannes or Marseilles or Nice….

What do you think? Will Ukraine’s ode to the 1944 forced migration of Crimeans to central Asia at the hands of the USSR captivate Europe? Is France being setup for another disappointment à la 2011?

With that, we have only two entries to address tomorrow: Malta and Australia!
Missed the previous episodes?
Sweden and Russia
Serbia and Armenia
Latvia and Bulgaria

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ESC 2016 Reviews: Second Semi-Final, Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Second Semi-Final, Second Half

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Albanian flag country

 Albania

Eneda Tarifa

Fairytale

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 Belgium

Laura Tesoro

What’s the Pressure

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 Bulgaria

Poli Genova

If Love Was a Crime

Internal

Thoughts:

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

 Denmark

Lighthouse X

Soldiers of Love

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 Georgia

Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz

Midnight Gold

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 Norway

Agnete

Icebreaker

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 Romania

Ovidiu Anton

Moment of Silence

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 Slovenia

ManuElla

Blue and Red

Televised

Thoughts:

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

 Ukraine

Jamala

1944

Televised

Thoughts:

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

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

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

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

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

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

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

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

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

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Eurovision 2016 – And so it begins!

esc2016

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

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

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

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

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Christmas!

Merry Christmas Dear Readers — and Happy New Year!

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

Find the playlist on YouTube: Eurovision for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Nox (Hungary 2005) – Szent ünnep

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

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

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

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

  15. Litesound (Belarus 2012) – Shooting Star

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

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

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

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

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

  21. Bzikebi (JESC Georgia 2008) – Ave Maria

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

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Rockers

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

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

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

Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Rockers

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

  2. Georgia 2011 – One More Day performed by Eldrine

  3. Finland 2007 – Leave Me Alone performed by Hanna

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

  5. San Marino 2008 – Complice performed by Miodio

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

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

  8. Armenia 2013 – Lonely Planet performed by Dorians

  9. Georgia 2015 – Warrior performed by Nina Sublatti

  10. Turkey 2008 – Deli performed by Mor ve Ötesi

  11. Ukraine 2010 – Sweet People performed by Aliosha

  12. Finland 2014 – Something Better performed by SoftEngine

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

  14. Iceland 2007 – Valentine Lost performed by Eiríkur Hauksson

  15. Italy 2014 – La Mia Città performed by Emma

  16. Switzerland 2012 – Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

  17. Finland 2008 – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa performed by Teräsbetoni

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

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

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

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

Fun Facts

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

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

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

    Turkey

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

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

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


Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Dance Parties

Hello Dear Readers!

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


Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Dance Parties

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

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

Fun Trivia

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

What are your favorite ESC songs to dance to?

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


Playlist of the Week – Eurovision for Beginners

Hello Dear Readers!

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

Find the playlist here: Eurovision for Beginners Playlist

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

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

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

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

Support ESC Obsession and my trip to Eurovision! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision


ESC Sees some Racial Diversity!

This year, diversity is taking the forefront at ESC, this is Conchita Wurst’s legacy. I, for one, am quite excited that we are finally diving deeply into this issue. Diversity is more than merely having folks of different backgrounds present, it’s incorporating the variety of differences into the event, organization, etc. and celebrating our unity through celebrating our variance. Armenia’s supergroup, Genealogy, is built on this principle; celebrating the wide breadth of the Armenian diaspora through having each continent represented within the group.

ESCInsight has a fantastic article looking at disabilities and the Contest, something brought to light through due to various forms of ability represented this year: the band members from Finland each have a developmental disorder, Monika from Poland has paralysis, and Bianca Nicholas, one half of Electro Velvet from the UK ha,s cystic fibrosis. I won’t dive into disabilities here, no need to rehash what has already been discussed so well.

France is no stranger to having artists from its former colonies to represent the mosaic of the French people. AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO

France is no stranger to having artists from its former colonies to represent the mosaic of the French people.
AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO

I do want to talk about the racial diversity at this year’s Contest. In addition to the smattering of black background singers that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, we have several black lead artists, from Latvia and Switzerland.  And Maimuna from Belarus and Guy Sebastian from Australia are of Asian descent. Between these lead artists, the backing vocalists, and backing dancers – this will probably be one of the most ethnically diverse Contests on record.

Why is This Important?

Gaitana raised a lot eyebrows when selected to represent her home country, Ukraine. Photo credit: mirror.co.uk

Gaitana raised a lot eyebrows when selected to represent her home country: Ukraine.
Photo credit: mirror.co.uk

As the ESC continues to increase its brand globally, it needs to increase the presence of non-white folks onstage to broaden its appeal. While many European countries tend to fall along the bottom of global diversity scales, no country is 100% singular in its ethnic make-up. Furthermore, Europe is slowly becoming more diverse. As we reaffirm that ESC is for all, we must then ensure that all are actually represented on stage. This holds especially true as we discuss the legacy of colonialism among Western nations, the increasing immigration in the North, and the various people groups throughout the East, all of these contribute to the diversity across the continent. Just as the LGBTQ+ Community often exclaims, “visibility matters;” seeing people who look like you, as a member of the minority, in prominent places (such as onstage in a starring position at Europe’s Favorite TV Show) helps you feel more represented, connected, and a part of the larger society. This, in turn, leads to increased positive feelings and welfare. I am not arguing that increasing the ethnic diversity of Contest performers will singlehandedly improve race relations across Europe, but it can certainly play a part in it.

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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 – Second Semi-Final Reaction

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

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

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

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

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

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


ESC2014: Semi-Final One – final predictions

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

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

Making it through easily:
Ukraine
Sweden
Armenia
Hungary
Azerbaijan

More than likely going through:
Russia
The Netherlands
Belgium
Estonia

Battling for the final spot:
San Marino
Montengro
Portugal
Moldova

Not going through:
Albania
Latvia
Iceland

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

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

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

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

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

 


ESC2014 – Contender or Pretender: Episode One

Howdy All!

Thanks for joining us for this year’s rendition of Contender or Pretender. I did this last year and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would bring it back! Last year, the betting odds had ten entries all grouped together. This year, I think the top ten currently in the betting odds are not all realistic. I guess I am naming four of them as pretenders right off the bat! So, I will only look at the top six: Armenia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, United Kingdom, and Ukraine. I will randomly pair them and look at each entry’s chances of winning. I am leaving Hungary, Azerbaijan, Romania, and Belgium out as I do not think any of those four have a realistic chance of winning and time is of the essence!

The pairings will be:

Sweden & Ukraine

Denmark & Armenia

United Kingdom & Norway

 

Sweden

Song: Undo                 Performing Artist: SannaSwedish Flag Map

Why it is a contender: This is Fredrik Kempe songwriting at its best – a powerful ballad that pulls the heart and draws the ear. Sanna is a marvelous singer and perfectly captures the song’s emotions. The staging and performance from Melodifestivalen were both flawless – if they are reproduced in Copenhagen, perhaps on a heightened scale, then we could easily find ourselves back in Sweden next year.

Why it is a pretender: The lyrics leave something to be desired, “Undo my sad/Undo why I feel so bad,” not exactly the deepest of emotions being expressed here. The new video, which also debuts a new version of the song, tames it quite a bit, taking away most of its punch.

Final Verdict: Contender If you have read anything I have written here or elsewhere online for this year’s Contest, you know that I deeply believe in this entry’s ability to go far. While the new version is rather lame, I have no doubt that they will revert to the original composition once the rehearsals begin next week. For better or for worse, Sweden could very seriously be hosting the Contest again next year.

Ukraine

Ukranian Flag MapSong: Tick-Tock         Performing Artist: Maria Yaremchuk

Why it is a contender: Aside from the fact that Ukraine is currently benefitting from a rare surge of interest from the West, it has a strong track record in the Contest, particularly when relying on an entry’s staging. Not to mention the fact that divas tend to equal success for the country. This is one of the few, true foot-stompers this years and has a lot of potential for an amazing stage show.

Why it is a pretender: The lyrics are weak, the singing is sometimes weak as well. Not to mention that, as a heard on ESCInsight, “Ukraine has other things to worry about than a pop song competition at the moment.” This is a fun song, but lacks any real depth in composition or lyrics.

Final Verdict: Pretender Quite honestly, I do not know why this song is so high in the betting odds. In fact, I think this song will be another mid-table finisher for Ukraine – something that is still atypical, but is becoming more and more common. While this song will benefit from being different from the others, it doesn’t stand a chance again the much stronger entries.


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

Continuing right along with our song review!

 

Ukrainian Flag Map9. UkraineTick-Tock performed by Mariya Yaremchuk

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

Keys to Success: a tastefully done LED clock and choreography

Potential Stumbling Blocks: botched notes, an overwhelming LED clock

Personal Interest Score: 7

Likelihood of Success: 9

Composite:8

 

10. BelgiumMother performed by Axel HirsouxBelgian Flag Country

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 6

 

11. MoldovaWild Soul performed by Cristina ScarlatMoldovan Flag Map

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 7

Composite: 8

Sammarinese Flag Map12. San MarinoMaybe performed by Valentina Monetta

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 6

Composite: 7.5

 

13. PortugalQuero Ser Tua performed by SuzyPortuguese Flag Map

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 6

Likelihood of Success: 4

Composite: 5

 

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

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 8

Likelihood of Success: 3

Composite: 5.5

 

15. MontenegroMoj Svijet performed by Sergej ĆetkovićMontenegrin Flag Map

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 7

Likelihood of Success: 1

Composite: 4

Hungarian Flag Map16. HungaryRunning performed by András Kállay-Saunders

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

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

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

Personal Interest Score: 9

Likelihood of Success: 8

Composite: 8.5