EBJ’s top 10…national finalists of the 2014 season (plus a playlist of extras!)

Hello hello! There are just two weeks until the first semi final of Eurovision 2014, and you can guarantee that they’ll be some of the longest weeks of your life. I will be attempting to make the time fly here at EBJ, with reviews, predictions and today, a top 10 I’m pretty excited about.

It’s been a while since national final season ended, but that doesn’t mean we’ve all stopped analysing the results and complaining that so-and-so definitely should have won, and generally spending far too much time listening to every NF entry Europe-wide. One of my favourite times of year is corralling all the great new music I discover through the preselections into a playlist to freshen up my iPod – and then deciding which ones are the best of the best, so I can deliver them to you and we can commence debating.

I’ve finally done that for the latest NF season, and ten songs remain. It’s those ten songs, my personal favourites from Albania to Ukraine and quite a few places in-between, that I’m counting down right now. In addition I’ve put together a list of other songs I’ve loved this year that didn’t make the final cut, because I couldn’t resist. Have a look (and a listen if you want to) and let me know if we have any common musical ground whatsoever.

 

First up, my top 10 national finalists of season ’14:

 

#10 | Breathe by Stefan Stan feat. Teddy K (Romania, 5th)

How often have we seen a great song let down by a weak performance in Eurovision? I haven’t got enough fingers to keep count. Naturally, it happens in national finals too, and a prime example is this song from Romania that fell a little flat live – so much so that I’m posting the video clip so as not to affect anyone’s judgment of the song itself. I have so many feels for it in studio. It’s been constructed in such a way that, whilst Stefan and Teddy have their clearly defined parts to take care of, they come together beautifully, kind of like Nico and Vlad did for Romania in Belgrade. The result is emotional and dramatic, without tipping over the edge of either.

 

#9 | I’m Alive by Ilaria (Ukraine, 5th)

She may have had the best Eurovision-related light-up dress since Safura (in fact, I’d argue this one’s better) but it’s Ilaria’s weird and wonderful entry into the Ukrainian NF this year that really got me. I’m Alive is a unique song in that I don’t know how to describe it. Is it a ballad? Is it pop? Does it sample the tinny tune of a jewellry box? I’m not sure, but I can say it is quirky in the way of backing music for a gritty film adaptation of a fairy tale (Hansel and Gretel would totally freak out in the middle of creepy woods to this track). If you’re now wondering why the heck I like it so much based on that description, know this: I’m a girl who likes to be scared, as my horror movie collection is testament to.

 

#8 | Kthehu by Luiz Ejilli (Albania, 10th)

He represented Albania in 2006, in a questionable white suit with Zjarr E Ftohtë (which was much less questionable) and attempted to return to Eurovision eight years later with this stunner of a ballad that should have finished higher in a mediocre field. Luiz Ejilli’s entry into Albania’s Festivali I Këngës 2013 reminded me of some of the great Balkan ballads that have graced the ESC stage over the last decade or so, only it’s slightly less ethnic, the native tongue giving it an edge. I really like the way it develops over the three minutes, but from the beginning it’s mature, sophisticated and kind of mysterious. Some dry ice wouldn’t have gone astray for the performance.

 

#7 | Kertakäyttösydän by Jasmin Michaela (Finland, unplaced in semi)

Finland, Finland, FINLAND! What were you thinking sending this girl home so early? I’m not saying that because she and I have the same first name and I have some sort of compulsive need to defend her as a result. I’m saying it because her song was fresh pop perfection, performed with talent, charisma and an arsenal of sassy dance moves. All in all, it was terrific, and I can’t believe it missed the final. I’m reminded of Iceland here, who often neglect to send at least one adorable pop song to the ESC in favour of something less fun. Still, Iceland do generally see those songs through to the final, so again I say…Finland, Finland, FINLAND *shakes head despairingly*.

 

#6 | Für Elise by Traffic (Estonia, 3rd)

Of all the Mumford & Sons soundalikes we’ve heard in recent history, this is my favourite. It’s so ridiculously catchy, and well-performed in a way that makes you feel right at home with Traffic and totally up for singing along (even if you just end up butchering the Estonian language). Speaking of Estonian, it lends itself surprisingly well to this type of music – so much so that I don’t think I’d be as keen on the song if it were in English. I hope the titular Elise is hugely flattered by having such a great song written for her. I’m still in disbelief that it was beaten by not so much Amazing, but by that dreadful other song that I refuse to name the title or performers of.

 

#5 | Lootus by Lauri Pihlap (Estonia, 8th in semi)

Judging by his styling choices, Lauri fancies himself as Estonia’s answer to Danny Saucedo. In reality, he’s a former Eurovision winner (i.e. a member of 2XL, who took to the stage with Tanel and Dave in 2001) who, if Lootus is any indication, could be Estonia’s answer to Justin Timberlake. This is smooooooooooth stuff, y’all. It’s a bit of a throwback to late 90s/early 00s r & b, which a lot of people may not like about it, but I’m very fond of that time period AND its music. Once again, Estonian adds a touch of beauty to a song that could have been a lot plainer in English.

 

#4 | Ma Liberté by Joanna (France, 2nd)

I have to admit, I didn’t get this straight away. I was too busy insinuating myself into Team Moustache to notice anything but Joanna’s awesome hairdo, and what I then considered an ‘okay’ ballad. But listening to Ma Liberté after Moustache had safely won the French vote, and then again…and a few more times after that, I developed a real appreciation for it. Like many ballads, it starts off slowly and quietly, before ramping up with one heck of a chorus. What makes this one different is a) the French language, which classes up anything that comes remotely near it; and b) the simple but effective piano riff that adds another layer to the second verse and beyond. This is power and passion, à la Française.

 

#3 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (Sweden, 7th in semi)

Melodifestivalen was back in top form this year IMO, which meant a lot of casualties during the semi finals. It’s Josef whose loss I’m still mourning way after the fact. His electronically-tinged stadium ballad caught me off guard with how awesome it was. It’s right up my street because it reminded me of something that Darin, another Swedish singer who happens to be my favourite solo artist, like, ever (as mentioned multiple previous posts) would produce. His album Lovekiller was full of tracks like this – soaring power ballads with ‘anthem’ written all over them. Josef combined those musical stylings with a unique look and some nifty Molly Sandén camera effects for Melfest, and though his voice wasn’t as strong live as it is in studio, the result was super cool. The final missed this for sure.

 

#2 | Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola (Finland, 2nd)

If I could wind back the clock and make any country choose a different entry to send to Copenhagen, I’d choose Finland – and it wouldn’t be the delightful Jasmin Michaela I’d be swapping Softengine with. Instead, it’d be Mikko ‘I Can Cut Glass With These Cheekbones’ Pohjola, and the spellbinding Sängyn. This song gives me goosebumps from start to finish, complete with every hair on my body standing to attention. That gives me the overall appearance of a cold porcupine, but I don’t care because I’m so wrapped up in the magic of what I’m listening to. If you feel the same way, the song should speak for itself, and everything I’ve said about it was a waste of words.

 

Aaaaaaand my #1 song of the season is…

 

#1 | Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu (Estonia, 5th)

I love everything that Sandra Nurmsalu has ever been associated with – her music with and without Urban Symphony is amazing. I expected to be biased when judging her contribution to Eesti Laul this year, but I honestly believe that this song would be much loved by moi no matter who was singing it. It’s an effortless ray of sunshine that gets stuck in your head instantly, and it has the same tribal, Lion King soundtrack feel of Zlata’s Gravity, only in folksy packaging. Every part of it is infectious (in a good way) and if it doesn’t put some pep in your step, I’d be worried. Is there any chance the EBU can bend the rules and have this represent Estonia in 2015?

 

Well, you can’t say I didn’t like what Estonia had to offer this year! Entries from Eesti Laul made up 30% of a top 10 that was incredibly hard to put together. So hard that I must now present you with that promised playlist of other NF entries that impressed me, with a few comments thrown in.

  • Natë E Pare by Venera Lumani & Lindi Islami (Albania, 4th) – another lovely ballad from Festivali I Këngës, this one faring much better results-wise.
  • Stay With Me by NAPOLI (Belarus, 8th)                    
  • Rapsodiya #1 by Artem Mikhalenko (Belarus, 13th)
  • Wanna Be Loved by Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez (Denmark, 2nd)
  • Vi Finder Hjem by Emilie Moldow (Denmark, unplaced)
  • Error by Madeline Juno (Germany, unplaced) – Madeline didn’t actually get to perform this thanks to the German NF’s strange new system, which was a serious loss.
  • Petalouda Stin Athina by Crystallia (Greece, 3rd)
  • Catch Me by Gigi Radics (Hungary, 6th in semi)
  • It Can’t Be Over by Fool Moon (Hungary, 2nd)
  • Running Out of Time by Victor Király (Hungary, 3rd)
  • A Legnagyobb Hős by Honeybeast (Hungary, unplaced) – this song is adorable. It has the same kind of offbeat charm that made me fall in love with Kedvesem.
  • Þangað Til ég Dey by F.U.N.K (Iceland, unplaced)
  • The Movie Song by Eoghan Quigg (Ireland, 2nd)
  • One Last Ride by Daniel Testa (Malta, 3rd)
  • Heal by Mo (Norway, 3rd) – catchy and current are the keywords here. I will be listening to this on repeat for a long time to come.
  • Más (Run) by Brequette (Spain, 2nd)
  • Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (Sweden, 6th in semi)
  • Red by EKO (Sweden, 8th in semi)
  • Echo by Outtrigger (Sweden, 3rd in second chance round) – I am not a rock fan as a rule, but here’s an exception with a head-bangingly epic chorus.
  • Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (Sweden, 2nd)
  • Survivor by Helena Paparizou (Sweden, 4th)
  • Bröder by Linus Svenning (Sweden, 5th)
  • Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (Sweden, 8th) – if Eric Saade starred in High School Musical, this would be his solo. Love. It.
  • Efter Solsken by Panetoz (Sweden, 9th)
  • Love Is Lord by Viktoria Petryk (Ukraine, 2nd)
  • Courageous by NeAngely (Ukraine, 5th)
  • Tsvetok by Uli Rud (Ukraine, 20th) – Ukraine had no shortage of creepy songs in their NF. This one is bizarre but brilliant in studio. Not so much live.

 

That’s it! I’m done. It’ll take me another six months to actually download all of these songs, of course, but it’ll be worth the wait. Once I’ve done that, I will be revisiting the songs that just missed out on representing their countries and deciding whether they ultimately would have done better. Until we find out how the actual winners go, there’s not much point getting into that side of things.

Now I’m curious. Did you see/hear anything you liked up above? If not, which NF songs that could have been will you be playing to death this year?

 

NEXT TIME: Better late than never, I’m getting my reviews on. In the first installment, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and France had better watch out, ‘cause it’s judgin’ time!

 

Malmö Memories | My top 10 songs of 2013, one year later

I hope you guys like bargains, because today you’re getting two top 10 lists for the price of one. Woohoo?!

Here’s the deal: in my last post – a hilarious (cough) recap of Eurovision 2013 – I promised the next one would be a countdown of my favourite moments from Malmö, expanding on those I included in the recap. Unfortunately, I’ve been forced to semi-break that promise and squish that top 10 into another top 10 due to the general chaos of life at the moment, and also my warped idea of how much I could cram into the few weeks that remain before Copenhagen kicks off.

So, firstly, in condensed form, here are my top 10 moments* of the contest that was:

 

*“Moments” in this instance refers to anything from actual, brief moments to long, drawn-out moments i.e. entire performances. I’m not so strict with the definitions on this blog.

 

#10/ The Kedvesem clapalong – It wasn’t the easiest song to sing along to, so the audience in the Malmö Arena showed their appreciation for Hungary’s entry in a different way. Just the fact that they had that appreciation made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

#9/ Moldova’s magnificent money note – Pastora Soler left big stilettos to fill, and while Aliona didn’t totally fill them in terms of length, she certainly did in impact. How that voice can emerge from such a delicate person I will never know.

#8/ One hell of an Urban Orchestra – The second semi final saw a troupe of dancers transformed into human instruments, followed rather randomly by BMX stunts. Things don’t have to make sense to be awesome (which you have to accept if you’re a Eurovision fan).

#7/ Petra’s trip into Eurovision past – Ms. Mede proved herself up there with the Ankes of the hosting world by venturing into ESC history. She lost her patience with Udo Jürgens and accused Linda Martin of being Johnny Logan’s drag persona, and it was brilliant.

#6/ Astronauts and cyborgs and overall epicness…oh my! – Who See’s performance for Montenegro was a huge highlight for me, because it was executed with excellence that I didn’t expect. The boys were entertaining and Nina was fierce and vocally on her game.

#5/ Carola’s fall from grace – During the completely wonderful ‘Swedish Smörgåsbord’ interval act, the legendary ESC champ Carola opened her mouth to bust out Fångad Av En Stormvind, only to be swept off the satellite stage by a stormwind of the machine variety. This was 100% unscripted, of course.

#4/ Azerbaijan’s glass case of emotion – Virtual high five for the Anchorman reference *smack*! Farid’s glass box was one of the best props/staging concepts of recent memory, IMO. Put that on stage with Jemini and Cry Baby could have come top 5 easily.

#3/ A parade of pop stars – The artist parade is something usually reserved for Junior Eurovision, and I’ve always loved it there. Incorporating one into the adult comp was a nice move on SVT’s part, and I hope we see it again in the future.

#2/ Roberto Bellarosa jumps for joy – This really was a moment. A short but very sweet moment, in which Belgium’s boy wonder sang his last note, then proceeded to do this, which was EVERYTHING.

#1/ A Swedish dream team – I have to bestow the honour of Moment Numero Uno on the interval act of Darin and Agnes, and you’ll know why if you’ve been reading me for a while. It’s because it was my dream come true. I love Agnes, but Darin is my absolute favourite male artist on the planet, and he made it to Eurovision. Technically.

 

Sorry to rush through that without any build-up or suspense, but up next I have the main top 10 for today’s post, which is full of both of those things. It’s been over a year since all the songs were locked in for the 2013 contest, and between then and now, my rankings of those songs have changed many, many, many…*ten minutes later* many times. But as I haven’t actually sat down and figured out just how much in ages, I figured now would be an interesting time to do so.

I’m not going to go through the entire Class of Malmö here and now; instead, I’m going to hand out some very belated points to my newfound top 10 – my current favourite entries from the contest just past. Have your own votes at the ready and let me know where they would go if you could distribute them today. 

Here are the results of Jaz’s mental vote:

 

1 point goes to…

Greece with Alcohol Is Free by Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis

You can’t help loving this song, even as time goes on and you become aware that the alcohol is in fact NOT free – and downright expensive if you’re in Scandinavia. It’s an effortless ethnic party for three minutes, kilts and moustaches included, and appeals to me much more than the cliché Paparizou rip-offs that Greece has been guilty of sending in the past.

 

2 points go to…

Azerbaijan with Hold Me by Farid Mammadov

I didn’t like this much at first. It was doing so well with the bookies, and I was just thinking three letters: W, T and F. But – and this has nothing to do with the awesome stage presentation – I’ve come around. This is a ballad with a lot of impact, in and outside of the choruses. It’s a great addition to my personal Shower Karaoke Collection (the shower is my personal glass box, after all).

 

3 points go to…

Israel with Rak Bishvilo by Moran Mazor

Damn, there were some good ballads last year! Rak Bishvilo was one of the most dramatic ones, with this intensity to it that builds and builds until Moran’s epic crystal-shattering note, well, shatters some serious crystal. It is repetitive, but when the melody is so lovely, it doesn’t matter much.

 

4 points go to…

Sweden with You by Robin Stjernberg

Yep, I still love me some Robin. The ESC’s most recent host entry went from being my favourite in Melodifestivalen to one of my top songs before, during and after the main event, and it’s still up there despite a few other songs developing an edge recently. I see You as an atypical Swedish entry and quite a unique song in general, which I really appreciate.

 

5 points go to…

Montenegro with Igranka by Who See

The reason I was so worried about this live was because it’s so awesome in studio, as a song by itself. I’m not a huge fan of dubstep, but it’s a genre that’s still refreshing to see in Eurovision, and it made for an über cool contribution from Montenegro. It is divisive, which probably explains its failure to qualify in Malmö, but I’m definitely someone who loves it rather than hates it.

 

6 points go to…

Ukraine with Gravity by Zlata Ognevich

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be “going” to Denmark for Eurovision 2014. But as someone who never felt anything much for Only Teardrops, a part of me wishes we were going to Ukraine. Gravity would have made an excellent winner, being so majestic and soaring and reminding me that I should watch The Lion King again. I’m basically still as impressed by it as I was a year ago.

 

7 points go to…

Moldova with O Mie by Aliona Moon

Oh look, it’s another ballad. This one shares many similarities with Israel’s – it’s a little repetitive but still stunning, not in English which makes it all the more magical, and demands a lot from the lung capacity of the singer. It gets more points from me because…well, I don’t know. Melodically speaking, I guess it just appeals to my ear more. PS – My mother also likes this a lot.

 

8 points go to…

Norway with I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger

This was the edgiest and one of the most current entries of the year, and had lyrics that we all enjoyed musing over the possibly saucy subtext of (‘I have the future on my tongue’…hello!). Some people didn’t enjoy the backing track of grinding metal, but I loved that too. All in all, it’s intense, catchy and unique, and a side of Norway that I want to see more of in the future.

 

10 points go to…

Hungary with Kedvesem by ByeAlex

I fell in love with this song from the first time I heard it, shortly after it won A Dal kind of unexpectedly. I’ve been raving on about it a lot recently, what with the Malmö nostalgia everywhere at the moment, and I’m not stopping now, because it is that awesome. The original, non-Zoohacker version is the ultimate in beautiful simplicity, but the remix gives the song the bit of pep required to elevate it even higher in my opinion. Plus, Hungarian is one of my favourite musical languages and it sounds particularly lovely in this instance.

 

And finally, 12 points go to…

Italy with L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni

I haven’t changed my mind on Italy much since they chose their last entry. I still think this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard (for real) and that Marco is one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen (also for real, and irrelevant). It’s a ballad with integrity; one with real meaning to it, which I feel every time I listen to it despite sometimes forgetting the literal English translation. Marco’s performance at Eurovision wasn’t completely spellbinding – I’m not sure he’s capable of taking anything totally seriously – but the song is so magic it didn’t matter. And he’s so delicious I can forgive him.

 

And with the douze doled out, let’s recap. 

  1. Italy
  2. Hungary
  3. Norway
  4. Moldova
  5. Ukraine
  6. Montenegro
  7. Sweden
  8. Israel
  9. Azerbaijan
  10. Greece

Those are my most-loved songs of Eurovision 2013, and it wasn’t all that hard to separate them from the rest. I guess time, in addition to healing all wounds and going by so slowly, also makes you surer of what you like.

You know what comes next, right?

 

Hit me up, peeps – what’s your 2013 top 10, a year after the show?

 

NEXT TIME: Just when you thought it was time to move on from NF season, think again! I’m about to reveal the best could-have-beens of the 2014 season. That’s as far as I’m concerned, of course. #JoinUs #JoinMe and see if we have any in common.

 

Malmö Memories | Recapping Eurovision 2013

Hej hej, ladies and gents. You are reading the first installment of my annual trip back to the Eurovision that was. Was seemingly very recently, but in reality was just about a year ago, at that. Holy crap, right?

There’s less than a month to go until Copenhagen’s first semi, and we bloggers have a lot to cram in to such a short period – i.e. mass reviews and predictions – especially if we’re juggling uni assignments and a new job, as I am. But I’m going to make it all happen, because Eurovision is priority #1. Just don’t tell that to my lecturers or employers.

I’m beginning my re-coverage of last year’s contest right now with the Malmö Memories series (it’s not as catchy as Flashbaku, but what can you do?). During the next week I’ll be revealing my top 10 moments and top 10 entries, one year on, of 2013. But first, it’s recap time, in case anyone out there is having a brain snap and can’t remember what the heck went down in May. For those of you who can and just want a refresher, or even if you recall it all but are totes bored at the moment, this is also for you.  

L-R: Every ESC fan’s dream car at this time last year; even Malmö’s monuments got into the spirit of things; and the official countdown clock closes in on the contest. Danke to my online friend from Germany, Wolfgang, for taking these pics on the ground in Sweden and sending them to me!

L-R: Every ESC fan’s dream car at this time last year; even Malmö’s monuments got into the spirit of things; and the official countdown clock closes in on the contest. Danke to my online friend from Germany, Wolfgang, for taking these pics on the ground in Sweden and sending them to me!

EUROVISION 2013: THE BASICS

Edition 58th

When May 14th, 16th and 18th, 2013

Where Malmö Arena, Malmö, Sweden

Motto “We Are One”

Broadcaster Sveriges Television

Hosts Petra Mede, Eric Saade (green room)

Entries 39

Debutants 0

Returnees 1 – Armenia

Withdrawals 4 – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey

 

sf1

Participants 16

Opened Austria – Shine by Natalia Kelly

Closed Serbia – Ljubav Je Svuda by Moje 3

Interval act “Northern Lights” dance piece

My highlights

  • Slovenia: No, Hannah didn’t qualify. And no, she didn’t hang on to her vocal as well as she could have ideally. But did she give it her all? Did she look freaking fierce? Was her staging and choreography top-notch? Um, yes, yes and YES. This was the first performance of the night that impressed me.
  •  Ukraine: Part of me wanted Zlata to be plonked on her boulder only to stack it and spew forth a stream of expletives. One person shouldn’t be allowed to be so stunning, talented AND graceful. But as it turns out, she was, and she gave a perfect performance of Gravity as always. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She’s like a female Ott Lepland, only without the risk of impregnation via a smoldering gaze.
When your heels are so high you can't walk in them, there's only one solution...

When your heels are so high you can’t walk in them, there’s only one solution…

  • Montenegro: Igranka was and still is epic in studio, but could so easily have been the car-crash live act of the year. Fortunately for Who See, not only did Macedonia take out that title, but the boys and Nina managed to pull off a great performance of the tricky dubstep number. The fact that this didn’t qualify still makes me weep.
  • Moldova: This was just…everything. And I mean that. Moldova threw a lot at Aliona – the hair, the gown/projector screen, the dancers, the hydraulic lift – but she and her powerful voice complemented all of that rather than clashed with it.
Thousands in the audience, and not one person told Aliona her dress was on fire.

Thousands in the audience, and not one person told Aliona her dress was on fire.

  • Ireland: Having avoided listening to Ryan live until Eurovision itself (for fear that a song I really liked would go straight on the ‘going nowhere’ pile) I was nervous about how he’d go in a massive arena in front of a huge live audience and an even huger TV audience. But somehow, Mr. Dolan went from amateur at best to a totally competent and on-pitch performer. Bravo.
  • Belgium: Also proving the haters wrong was Roberto Bellarosa, who, despite being dressed like Donny Montell at a funeral, turned out a slick performance of Love Kills that made me as proud as if I were his mother. Weird but true.

 

The results

  1. Denmark 167
  2. Russia 156
  3. Ukraine 140
  4. Moldova 95
  5. Belgium 75
  6. Netherlands 75
  7. Belarus 64
  8. Ireland 54
  9. Lithuania 53
  10. Estonia 52
  11. Serbia 46
  12. Montenegro 41
  13. Croatia 38
  14. Austria 27
  15. Cyprus 11
  16. Slovenia 8
  • Denmark more than improved on 2012’s narrow qualification by winning the first semi, defeating the country that did the same in Baku.
  •  Belgium may have qualified for the first time since 2010, but Roberto’s advancement also marked the first qualification for an act selected by RTBF (Belgium’s French-language broadcaster) since the semi-final system was introduced.
  • The Netherlands made it to the final for the first time since 2004.
  •  Six countries in total qualified for at least the second year running, whilst the other four appeared in the final after previous failures to do so.
  • Serbia failed to qualify for the first time, ending the night in 11th place with Montenegro right behind them.
  • Slovenia lost the first semi, but they scored themselves a better placing than 2012’s 17th.

 

 sf2

Participants 17

Opened Latvia – Here We Go by PeR

Closed Romania – It’s My Life by Cezar

Interval act Darin performing Nobody Knows/So Yours and Agnes performing One Last Time/Release Me

My highlights

  • Azerbaijan: Here is a prime example of a country that really entered the Eurovision Staging Contest, but still managed to do damn well in the song equivalent. Hold Me did grow on me a lot, and it may or may not be one of my top 10 entries of the year (drop by later this week to find out!) but it was that nifty glass box and all that accompanied it that won me over. PS – can you buy those on eBay?
  • Greece: In Baku we got cliché Greece, but thankfully Malmö gave us fun Greece. Koza Mostra were a definite personal highlight because, from the moment Agathonas plucked his first bouzouki string, they got the audience going, and you could feel the atmosphere from your couch. Bonus points for having the ultimate sing-along chorus under their kilts.
  • Israel: I won’t mention That Dress (again). Instead, I’ll take a moment to bask in the sheer power and range of Moran’s glorious vocals. Pardon my French, but she sang the shit out of Rak Bishvilo, putting more emotion into her three minutes than the average cast member of Days of Our Lives puts into their entire career. That probably explains her reaction to not qualifying, proudly sponsored by Kleenex.
Moran: projecting true emotion, or in incredible pain from all the fashion tape holding her dress in place?

Moran: projecting true emotion, or in incredible pain from all the fashion tape holding her dress in place?

  • Hungary: What a gem you are, Kedvesem. I love this song to bits. Like Montenegro, however, Hungary could have come undone in the arena setting. But the quiet beauty of it managed to come through in that less-than-intimate context. My favourite part was when the audience began to clap along, because that’s when I knew ByeAlex was connecting and had a chance of moving on.
  • Norway: Girl crush alert! Margaret took to the stage looking like a sexy White Witch of Narnia, and gave an equally magnetic rendition of IFYML. It was Margs, and not an assortment of props, that did most of the vote-capturing.

 

The results

  1. Azerbaijan 139
  2. Greece 121
  3. Norway 120
  4. Malta 118
  5. Romania 83
  6. Iceland 72
  7. Armenia 69
  8. Hungary 66
  9. Finland 64
  10. Georgia 63
  11. San Marino 47
  12. Bulgaria 45
  13. Switzerland 41
  14. Israel 40
  15. Albania 31
  16. Macedonia 28
  17. Latvia 13
  • Azerbaijan topped their semi for the first time, having come 2nd in 2009, 2010, and 2011 – the year they went on to win the whole contest.
  • There were some close calls in this semi: Greece just pushed ahead of Norway to qualify 2nd; Hungary, Finland, and Georgia were in a battle just to make it through; and Israel came very near to nabbing the highly sought-after (not) 13th place from Switzerland.
  • Hungary made it three for three qualifications since their 2011 comeback. Armenia went through for the first time since 2010 (having sat out the Baku contest) and Finland and Georgia were back on their game after DNQs in 2012.
  • San Marino scored their best result ever with Valentina 2.0, but it wasn’t quite good enough to give them their first ticket to the final. She joined Bulgaria’s Elitsa and Stoyan as previous entrants that didn’t make it.
  • Latvia lost this semi, marking their fifth consecutive failure to advance.

 

gf

Participants 26

Opened France – L’Enfer Et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois

Closed Ireland – Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan

Interval act Loreen performing a medley of We Got The Power/My Heart Is Refusing Me/Euphoria; Petra Mede performing Swedish Smörgåsbord; Sarah Dawn Finer performing The Winner Takes It All

My highlights 

  • Belgium: Yet again, Le Bellarosa floated my boat, mostly because seeing him in the final meant Belgium was in the final – and that was a shock. He did his country proud, and he must have known it too because OMG THAT ADORABLE LITTLE JUMP FOR JOY AT THE END! I don’t even ‘aww’ at babies, but THAT was heart-melting stuff.
  • Germany: Glorious and all that surrounded it – Natalie’s dress, the props, the timing of the wind machine – lacked the impact we saw at the German final last year. However, that song was made for the stage (and the club) and as it was one of my favourites at the time, I still think it worked in a totally non-biased way.
  • Sweden: Home (country) boy Robin also did his country proud in what I thought was an architectural award-winning jacket. I never get tired of the special reception host entries get from the audience.
Robin clearly forgot to apply deodorant on this occasion.

Robin clearly forgot to apply deodorant on this occasion.

  • Hungary: ByeAlex and his two musketeers seemed to have gained confidence from their qualification, and that showed through in a performance that was just as quietly wonderful, but more polished than it had been in the semi.

 

The results

  1. Denmark 281
  2. Azerbaijan 234
  3. Ukraine 214
  4. Norway 191
  5. Russia 174
  6. Greece 152
  7. Italy 126
  8. Malta 120
  9. Netherlands 114
  10. Hungary 84
  11. Moldova 71
  12. Belgium 71
  13. Romania 65
  14. Sweden 62
  15. Georgia 50
  16. Belarus 48
  17. Iceland 47
  18. Armenia 41
  19. United Kingdom 23
  20. Estonia 19
  21. Germany 18
  22. Lithuania 17
  23. France 14
  24. Finland 13
  25. Spain 8
  26. Ireland 5
  • Denmark won the contest with a decent score, but definitely not by a landslide. Emmelie was helped along by 8 sets of douze points, none of which came from Denmark’s neighbours. Finland and Sweden elected to give theirs to Norway, whilst Norway sent theirs to hosts Sweden.
Emmelie learnt from Loreen that choking on confetti is a bad idea.

Emmelie learnt from Loreen that choking on confetti is a bad idea.

  • In 2012, Loreen won Eurovision with 18 sets of douze, her nearest rivals in that department being Albania, Azerbaijan and Serbia, all on 4 sets. Emmelie scored a meager 8 sets in comparison, two less than Azerbaijan. Ukraine scored 5, and Italy and Norway 3 apiece.
  • Let’s talk language: the 2013 top 10 featured three songs not performed entirely in English, with just two being completely native. Greece was the highest finisher of the three, in 6th place. In 2012, twice as many songs in the top 10 were, at least in large part, in a language other than English.
  • The Netherlands’ top 10 finish was their first since 1999.
  • Moldova once again proved their prowess at not quite making it when they ended 11th for the second year running – after coming 12th in 2011.
  • Countries making the biggest drops from good results to bad included Estonia, who went from 6th in 2012 to 20th, and Spain, who followed up Pastora Soler’s 10th place with 25th.
  • On the upside, Hungary went from 24th to 10th, Malta 21st to 8th, and most impressive of all, Norway from last place to the top 5.
  • Last-placed Ireland received points from three countries – the UK (1), Sweden (2) and Cyprus (2). Spain, in 25th place, received points fro, just two countries – Italy (2) and Albania (6).

 

 

Somebody stop me! I could probably pick out “fun” stat facts until the dawn of Eurovision 2099 (which, btw, will be held in San Marino for the fifth year in a row and be hosted by a cyborg in the likeness of Valentina Monetta). I think I’ve recapped Malmö enough for now. Or ever. So I’ll finish off by saying tack for reading, and by asking you…

 

…what were your highlights (or lowlights) of Eurovision 2013? Was there one performance that blew you away, or a result that shocked you to your very core (how dramatic!)? Let me know below.

 

NEXT TIME: Speaking of highlights, I’ll be expanding on that by counting down my top 10 Malmö moments. That’s everything from money notes to point revelations, interval acts, final poses and…other stuff. I don’t want to give it all away now, do I?

 

Retro Rankings | Istanbul 2004

If you’re like me, under the impression that Malmö’s Eurovision could not possibly have happened more than a few months ago, think again…and then collapse in shock when you realise we’re just over four weeks away from contest 59. Here’s hoping there will actually be a stage for this year’s contestants to perform on by then. Right now, all eyes are on Amsterdam’s Eurovision In Concert, which will give us more of an insight into who’s going to nail and who’s going to fail the show proper. But since I’m not currently en route to the Netherlands (and not bitter at all about that *grumbles very bitterly indeed*) I have the opportunity to continue on my quest to cram in as many posts as possible before the big event.

My reviews, predictions, and mini-series of Malmö flashbacks are soon to come, but today I thought I’d head back in time to contest 49, which took place ten whole years ago in Istanbul. I’ve done some Retro Rankings in the past (which you can check out here) and I thought it would be interesting to choose the 2004 contest this time around, not long after ranking 2014 for the first time. Back then, 36 countries competed, six of whom have since opted out of the ESC. The quality of songs was pretty low IMO, but among the hideous and sleep-inducing entries were some absolute gems. Without further ado, here is how I rate all 36 a decade later.

Just one thing…I haven’t commented on all of the songs, so if you want a reason for the position of one I’ve left ambiguous, just ask. Also, here’s a recap of the Class of Istanbul for those of you who need a pre-ranking refresher.

 

Now, my rankings. For real this time.

 

1. Serbia & Montenegro/ Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović – 2004 may have been a crappy year, song-wise, but it did introduce me to what would become my favourite Eurovision entry OF ALL TIME! Sorry to put that so aggressively. ŽJ’s first and best contest foray is hauntingly beautiful on the first listen and equally so on the 567, 869th listen (which is around about where I’m up to) and I’ve never come across anybody who doesn’t agree with that to some extent. If you happen to be that person and make it clear to me, I may get violent.

Serbia and Montenegro were more than all white.

Serbia and Montenegro were more than all white.

2. Ukraine/ Wild Dances by Ruslana – Despite my love for the above, I would never dream of questioning whether Ukraine deserved their one and only win to date. In fact, this has to be one of the most deserving winners ever. Even if we cast the perfect performance, costumes and whip-cracking aside, the song itself is still a flawless example of ethno-pop/rock. Ruslana knew how the ESC should be done (and she’s also available to be hired for parties as a Xena impersonator, FYI).

3. Turkey/ For Real by Athena – The relaxed approach many host countries take with their entries (with the pressure to win off/desire to win again nonexistent) often results in effortless success, because they’re not trying too hard. When Turkey hosted, their entry was chill, quirky and fun, but energetic enough to get the crowd going like no other. I’m actually having to clamp my mouth shut as we speak to stop myself from bursting into that chorus. Up, I wanna bring you up…

4. The Netherlands/ Without You by Re-Union – In the first year of televised semis, the Netherlands made the final with this cruisy sing-along song (and nothing short of Anouk got them back there). It didn’t do much once Saturday night came, ending the evening in 20th place, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It may be humble (meaning many viewers would have used it as their toilet break) but it provided some sweet relief from the more extravagant efforts.

5. Austria/ Du Bist by Tie Break – In case you didn’t know, I love a boyband. Naturally, for me, Eurovision + boyband = JACKPOT. Prime Minister, Eden, Blue…I’ve squealed hysterically over them all. So it is that as lame as Du Bist was on a fancy stage in a mahusive arena – and as lazily as the three guys were dressed for such an event – I still give it the thumbs up.

It wasn't Casual Friday, but Tie-Break clearly didn't get the memo.

It wasn’t Casual Friday, but Tie-Break clearly didn’t get the memo.

6. France/ A Chaque Pas by Jonatan Cerrada

7. Albania/ The Image of You by Anjeza Shahini

8. Spain / Para Llenarme De Ti by Ramón

9. Belgium/ 1 Life by Xandee – Eurodance magic, that’s what this is. Not once have I watched/listened to it without doing the dance steps Xandee and her backup duo/lady and gentleman lover (that hip rolling bit gives everything away) bust out at the beginning. Because YOLO – which is coincidentally what the 2014 version of this song would be called.

10. Slovenia/ Stay Forever by Platin

11. Germany/ Waiting For Tonight by Max

12. Iceland/ Heaven by Jónsi

Before there was Greta and Jonsi, there was Just Jonsi. And his finely sculpted cheekbones.

Before there was Greta and Jonsi, there was Just Jonsi. And his finely sculpted cheekbones.

 

13. Poland/ Love Song by Blue Café

14. Norway/ High by Knut Anders Sørum – Norway had the unfortunate honour of being last in the ’04 final, and not for the first or last time, I have to wonder why. High was far from Wild Dances amazeballs territory, but it was much less yawn-worthy than a bunch of other finalists, and had an anthemic quality that worked well in the arena.

15. Latvia/ Dziesma Par Laimi by Fomins & Kleins

16. Belarus/ My Galileo by Alexandra & Konstantin

17. Romania/ I Admit by Sanda Ladosi

18. Russia/ Believe Me by Julia Savicheva

19. Bosnia & Herzegovina/ In The Disco by Deen – Before B & H brought us such spellbinding masterpieces as Lejla and Bistra Voda, they had this to offer. There’s quite a contrast there, you might say. I don’t hate this – it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, and I think of it as the rich man’s version of Hungary 2009 – but I much, much prefer the Bosnia & Herzegovina that gave us class…not ass.

"See my vest, see my vest, plus my bronzed and hairless chest..."

“See my vest, see my vest, plus my bronzed and hairless chest…”

20. Sweden/ It Hurts by Lena Philipsson

21. Greece/Shake It by Sakis Rouvas

22. Estonia/ Tii by Neiokõsõ

23. FYR Macedonia/ Life by Toše Proeski

24. United Kingdom/ Hold On To Our Love by James Fox – Just looking at this written down makes me yawn. Like so many entries the same year, the UK’s was perfectly nice, but extremely boring. Adding to my pain is the fact that their NF that year had at least three better options, including one of my favourite NF songs EVER from a boyband (!) called Hyrise. Hashtag if only.

 25. Cyprus/ Stronger Every Minute by Lisa Andreas

26. Malta/ On Again…Off Again by Julie & Ludwig

Ludwig's attempts at serenading Julie didn't go so well...

Ludwig’s attempts at serenading Julie didn’t go so well…

27. Croatia/ You Are The Only One by Ivan Mikulic

28. Denmark/ Shame On You by Thomas Thordarson

29. Israel/ Le’ha’amin by David d’Or – I’m sorry to say that when David opened his mouth to sing his first note, it marked the first time I laughed out loud at anything Eurovision-related (which says a lot since Year Lordi was the first contest I saw). There are decent elements in this song, but that voice! I just can’t take it seriously. It’s a case of what I now refer to as ‘The Curse of Cezar’ – only it didn’t work out so well for non-qualifier David.

30. Finland/ Two To Tango by Jari Sillanpää

31. Monaco/ Notre Planète by Maryon

32. Ireland/ If My World Stopped Turning by Chris Doran – And the ‘Why Bother?’ Award for Most Pointless Attempt to Win Eurovision goes to…Chris Doran! Let’s have a round of applause, if you’re not unconscious. Brian McFadden of Westlife fame (here I go again with the boybands) co-wrote this snoozefest, and because I know he’s capable of writing way better stuff, I blame him entirely for this faux pas.

33. Andorra/ Jugarem A Estimar-nos by Marta Roure

34. Portugal/ Foi Magia by Sofia

35. Lithuania/ What Happened To Our Love by Linas & Simona

36. Switzerland/ Celebrate by Piero & the Music Stars – Piero and his music “stars”* remain the only act to have received zero points in a semi final, and there’s no confusion as to how that happened. Celebrate was like a low-grade JESC entry, only performed by adults dressed like children, which made it so much worse. The lyricist clearly had the reading comprehension skills of a four-year-old.

The Swiss Wiggles just never took off.

The Swiss Wiggles just never took off.

 

* While they were onstage, their star status was easily challenged. But they did give a decent a cappella performance in the green room which was worth at least one point.

 

I’ve had my say, so now it’s your turn. Do you think I’m crazy putting the Swiss on the bottom and that Piero should be Celebrate-ed instead? Did Ruslana whip-crack her way into your heart, or do you think Wild Dances was overrated? Whatever your opinion on the entries of Istanbul, let me know below!

 

NEXT TIME: Malmö gets the full recap treatment as I look back on the stats, results and best bits of Eurovision 2013.

 

Spotlight on…Russia

You know, I know, we all know Russia isn’t in the global good books right now. But seeing as they were the very last country to reveal their Eurovision entry this year (having originally planned to be one of the first) and that this is a blog about music, song and a competition in which you never can predict where such participants as Spain will get their douze points from (not) I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take this time to make Russia the focus of my latest spotlight. Why not read about them/discuss them before it becomes totally taboo to do so?

*Insert nervous laughter here*

So, that said, let the trip down memory lane begin. From 1994 to now (one pre-qualifying round from the 90s and the Tolmachevy Sisters not included) this is Eurovision, Russia-style.

 

RUSSIA: THE STATS

russia

Debut 1994 – 9th place with Vechni Stranik by Youddiph

Entries 17

Wins 1

Silver medals 3 – 2000, 2006, 2012

Bronze medals 2 – 2003, 2007

Best result 1st – 2008

Top 10 finishes 9/17

Top 10 success rate 53%

Top 5 finishes 7/17

Top 5 success rate 41%

Wooden spoons (last places!) 0

Semi final qualifications 6/6

Qualification success rate 100%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (2006). Two years before he had a white shirt, a bare chest and an Olympic figure skater, Dima had a singlet, a mullet and a penchant for stuffing women into pianos. His less stylish (oh god, the mullet!) but just as effective presentation in Athens, plus the fact that NLYG was/is an epic R & B-cum-ballad that I still love to watch and listen to as much as ever, makes Dima’s first Eurovision attempt the real winner in my mind. Not that he deserved to beat Lordi (and I’m not just saying that so they won’t kill me); it’s just that Believe, to me, is an inferior song that happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Dima sings the praises of his epic mullet.

Dima sings the praises of his epic mullet.

Fun fact that you probably already knew #354216: Dima has tried to come back to the contest a third time, accompanied by t.A.T.u’s Yulia Volkova. That was back in 2012, when he was beaten out not by a bunch of Finnish monsters, but by a bunch of precious grannies from Udmurtia. They say if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so expect to see Mr. Bilan frocked up in a shawl and baking wood-fired treats with the Babushki any day now.

 

My least favourite entry

Nobody Hurt No One by Natalia Podolskaya (2005). This just did nothing for me. Well, nothing except make me pine for a more grammatically pleasing song title. Middle-of-the-road chick rock evidently did little for Europe too, because Natalia finished 15th, giving Russia one of its lowest placings on record.

 

More of the memorable

Vechni Stranik by Youddiph (1994) – it’s not so much the song, but Youddiph’s, may I say, totes cray outfit, that made Russia’s debut one to remember. See below for more info…

Solo by Alsou (2000) – Russian pop is in a league of its own, and the sixteen-going-on-twenty-six-year-old Alsou gyrated her way through a great example.

Ne Ver’, Ne Bojsia by t.A.T.u (2003) – clearly inspiring Dima’s wardrobe choice of three years in the future, t.A.T.u’s questionable talent and offstage antics kept ESC fans in horrified fascination.

Yulia and Lena: pushing the boundaries of the ESC dress code.

Yulia and Lena: pushing the boundaries of the ESC dress code.

Song #1 by Serebro (2007) – sex sells. That is all.

Believe by Dima Bilan (2008) – yeah, he won, blah blah blah. What I’m really interested in is how you can create a surface that can be figure-skated on and stood on in bare feet. Also, how good of an idea it is to be barefoot in close proximity to someone who has figure skates on.

Party For Everybody by Buranovskiye Babushki (2012) – thoughts on the song aside, you can’t help feeling warm and fuzzy for these adorable grannies. The whole world fell in love with/was confused by them.

 

Their best stage show

Believe/Get You by Alex Sparrow (2011). You could easily argue that the performance of Believe, and not Believe itself, won Eurovision, and I’d be inclined to agree with you. It wasn’t flashy, and there were no costume reveals (unless you count Dima showing the world he’d had his chest waxed that week) but it was organic, eye-catching and full of star power.

Not that I don’t enjoy flashiness…Alex Sparrow’s stage show was that and a half. The lighting, acrobatics and slick dance moves were great, but the coolest aspect was obviously the light-up leather jackets. Where do I get me one of those babies?  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-3ohaRN3MM (Apologies, but my embedding function had a nervous breakdown halfway through posting this. #techfail.)

 

Their best costume/s

Youddiph. Never has a costume elevated an entry so much. Nor has a costume ever been so versatile – it was like the Blu-Tac of the fashion world. You can’t appreciate the magic via still photography, so watch as Youddiph’s seemingly simple red number becomes the star of her show.

 

Their best vocalist/s

Dina Garipova (2013). Say what you want re: the schmaltz, but you can’t deny Dina’s got a voice. She is, after all, The Voice of Russia. She belted out What If, which doesn’t seem an easy song to sing, with ease last year in Malmö. If you want proof, check out this (often hilarious) recap of the 2013 contest with the music stripped out. Dina’s turn starts around 1:40.

 

I hate to be Russian off like this, but that’s all I have to say about this country at the moment. It remains to be seen how the Tolmachevy twins will do in Copenhagen, but I think it’s safe to say the girls won’t be the first act to win JESC and ESC. What about you? 

 

What will Russia’s result be in Denmark? Have they impressed you or disappointed you throughout their ESC history?

 

NEXT TIME: I’m going back in time again, on this occasion to re-rank the songs that graced the stage ten years ago in Istanbul – or as we now refer to it, Year Ruslana. But Ruslana’s not my #1 of 2004…stay tuned to find out who is!

 

Ranking the Class of Copenhagen: My first top 37 of 2014

Well, another national final season has come to an end, and I don’t know what to do with my life anymore. The Netherlands are calm after the silent storm inside Carl Espen, which was originally worked up in Sanna Nielsen’s head; Greece are trying to rise up but Conchita Wurst’s determination to rise like a phoenix is getting in their way a little bit; and Latvia are still pondering over how to bake that cake with no help from TEO who’s got the cheesecake recipe down pat. I could go on, but instead, allow me to introduce the first of many (i.e. about three) complete rankings of this year’s Eurovision.

Russia’s entry was the missing piece of the puzzle up until a few days ago, and now we’re all free to get busy ordering all 37 competitors from douze-worthy to ‘OH DEAR GOD WHY! WHYYYYYYYYY!!!!!’. It took me a while to figure mine out, and because I hadn’t ranked since around the twenty-song mark, I was flabbergasted by my own apparent opinions. Without further ado, I’ll let you be flabbergasted by them too. This is my pre-contest top 37, with a few justifications along the way.

 

  1. France – My t-shirt with ‘Team Twin Twin’ emblazoned on the front is in the post as we speak. Well, I wish it was anyway, because Moustache has been right up my street from the start. It’s exactly what I want from French pop: catchy, fun, and singing the praises of facial hair (kind of). L’AMOUR.
Twin Twin attempting to spot that sought-after moustache on the horizon.

Twin Twin, attempting to spot that sought-after moustache on the horizon.

  1. Sweden – And underneath my TwinTwin shirt, I’ll be wearing…another one that reads ‘Team Sanna!’, of course. I’m still riding high on her Melfest triumph, and to quote Loreen, I’m feeling serious euphoria over Undo. It’s pretty in its own right, but what makes it a stunner is Sanna’s amazing vocal performance. Wear a cardigan when Sweden takes to the stage peeps, ‘cause you’ll be getting chills.
  2. Greece – I didn’t realise quite how much I liked this until I went a-ranking. The combo of dance sounds, rapping, singing by hot Greek men and trumpets is an excellent one. The Floorfiller of the Year Award may be a lost cause for all the other up-tempo countries.
  3. Belarus – That’s right, the cheesecake is still in a sweet (ha) position in my top five. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being won over by TEO’s Robin Thicke-brand sleaze. I just find this irresistible.
  4. Armenia – Rounding out my top five is Aram Mp3, with what is emerging as a hot favourite to win the whole contest. I’m a bit confused by that, but I do love Not Alone. It’s got light and shade, drama and beauty, serenity and anger…basically, a whole lotta contrast.
Could Aram (and Robin Stjernberg's jacket) possibly win the ESC for Armenia?

Could Aram (and Robin Stjernberg’s jacket) possibly win the ESC for Armenia?

  1. Denmark
  2. Iceland
  3. Hungary
  4. Poland – This is undoubtedly the Igranka of 2014 (with added boobage) and while that means it’s unlikely to qualify, it also means I love it. I am still trying to figure out what Donatan’s going to do on stage, though.
  5. Norway
  6. Estonia
  7. Italy
  8. Albania
  9. United Kingdom – They’ve done good this year, you’ve got to admit. I personally am finding COTU to be more of a grower than an instant hit, but I love how anthemic and fresh it sounds. I genuinely hope Molly can give the UK their best result since Blue, or even Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jade.
Molly - the first UK contestant in years to have full bladder control.

Molly: the first UK contestant in years to have full control of her bladder.

  1. Germany
  2. Latvia
  3. Netherlands
  4. Malta
  5. Spain
  6. Montenegro
  7. Romania – It’s a miracle that I’ve come around on this one, let me tell you. I’m still highly unimpressed by the lyrical content, such as it is, but as far as catchiness goes, I’ve mellowed.
  8. Slovenia
  9. Moldova
  10. Ukraine – The original version of Tick Tock would have made my top 15 at least. But I’m part of the minority who think Ukraine have turned it into a totally different and much less appealing song with this third overhaul.
The look on Maria's face says it all.

The look on Maria’s face says it all.

  1. Portugal
  2. Ireland
  3. Azerbaijan
  4. Israel – This is a perfectly good pop song, but that’s all I can really say about it. It doesn’t do anything for me/to me. And TBH, I find Mei a little scary in the way she attacks this song.
  5. Lithuania
  6. Switzerland
  7. Finland
  8. Macedonia
  9. Austria – This is not the ‘ugh!’ end of the spectrum; that’s reserved for the bottom two songs only. This is the ‘not my thing’ section. I like the drama Conchita’s giving us, and her performance will be just as dramatic for sure, but the James Bond vibe just doesn’t float my boat.
I can't wait to see what outfit Conchita pulls out for the ESC.

I can’t wait to see what outfit Conchita pulls out for the ESC.

  1. Russia
  2. San Marino
  3. Georgia
  4. Belgium – Last year, Belgium blew me away, and as far as I can remember, never dropped out of my top 10. This year, I cannot stand them. Well, their song, anyway. Not the whole country. I don’t get this at all. I’m not even sure it’ll get the mother votes.

So that’s that! I will of course be offering more in-depth critiques of all the entries in my reviews, coming up in April. For now, in case you can’t be bothered to scroll back up (it’s Sunday…the laziest day of the week, right?) this is a recap of my current top 10:

  1. France
  2. Sweden
  3. Greece
  4. Belarus
  5. Armenia
  6. Denmark
  7. Iceland
  8. Hungary
  9. Poland
  10. Norway

One of the bajillion things I love about Eurovision is that you never know which countries you’re going to end up fist-pumping for. While I’m pleased to say that the likes of Hungary and Sweden are ranking highly with me yet again, it makes me equally happy that I can fully back countries like France, Belarus and Poland for the first time in ages (or in some cases, ever). How all of these countries will do in the contest – and whether they’ll keep their current positions in my ever-changing rankings – remains to be seen.

That’s all I have to say for today, but I will be back in a big way in the lead-up to May 6th. Here’s a peek at my posting schedule for anyone interested (yes, I made one. It’s a great way to procrastinate study).

ebjschedss 

Before that chaotic period begins, let me know all about your rankings. Who’s riding high in your top 10? Which countries have impressed you for the second, third or infinite time in a row? And which delegations shouldn’t even bother hopping on the plane to Copenhagen? Hit me up with all of your thoughts.

 

Until next time…

EBJ Signature

 

The Final Super Saturday: Discussing the songs of the week and the songs still to come!

Bonjour. It’s been a week since my last post, which at this point in time means approximately 1 345 599 things of significance have happened within the Eurovision bubble. So let’s get straight on to discussing the chaos of the past seven days, plus the action coming your way this weekend and beyond.

 

Since we last spoke…

…a lot of countries have chosen for Copenhagen. Quite a few of them premiered entries for the artists they picked what feels like years ago, with the rest emerging from national finals on top. Here are my initial thoughts on a bunch of the last week’s selections/revelations, in alphabetical order (the best kind!).

Firstly, the NF winners:

  • Denmark: It’s a Cliché Love Song that will represent the home country, with the adorable Basim in the driver’s seat. Damn, it’s catchy, with those shoobi-doobis. Denmark made the right decision out of the three songs that made the DMGP super-final. Bring on the Bruno Mars comparisons, because both Bruno and Basim are awesome.
It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Bruno Mars! Oh wait. It's actually Basim.

Just to clarify, this is a photo of Basim…NOT Bruno Mars.

  • Germany: Speaking of right decisions…Is It Right? Yes, it is. Wildcard act Elaiza took out Unser Song Für Dänemark on Thursday with that aptly titled track, and after recapping the other songs Germany could have chosen, I think they made the best choice. That’s not a compliment, considering how weak the lineup was IMO. Are Germany losing the plot again? Where is Stefan Raab when you need him?
  • Greece: The hosts of 2006 have come up with another slice of trumpeting fun in Rise Up by Freaky Fortune feat. Riskykidd. The pros? It’s trumpeting fun (as aforementioned), it made me want to shake something, and all three of these guys are hot. The cons? Apparently the live performance was laughably bad. I haven’t had the guts to see it for myself yet, but I hope either a) that’s not true, or b) they can sort it out by May-time.
  • Sweden: First off, the Melfest final was the first and only one I plan to watch live this season, and it was AMAZING. There was a strong field in the end despite some major casualties in the semis. It was thought to be Ace Wilder’s for the taking, and I would have enjoyed that, having prepared myself for Sanna Nielsen to lose yet again. But Team Sanna rejoice, because she finally came out on top! It was a narrow victory plagued by technical difficulties, but she’s got the trophy at last, and she’s off to the ESC. Undo is stunning as far as I’m concerned, and it’s definitely in my top 3 heading into this last big weekend of national finals.
Forget 'third time lucky.' Sanna's all about lucky number seven.

Forget third time lucky; Sanna’s all about lucky number seven.

And now, the song premieres:

  • Armenia: Aram Mp3’s entry Not Alone is the latest to have been publicised, with Aram himself being one of those acts announced back when most of us were still in nappies. Was it worth the wait? Well, after one listen, I can say I rather like it. It starts off a little repetitive and humble, but builds into something dramatic. The contrast is good. All in all (right now) it’s a definite step up from the Lonely Planet double-denim gang.
  • Georgia: Three Minutes To Earth by The Shin & Mariko has been released, and it’s…interesting. ‘Interesting’ in this instance of course means ‘confusing and painful and makes me miss off-the-shelf Swedish ballads.’ Just, no.  
  • Montenegro: Sergej Četković will sing Moj Svijet in Denmark, which is a very nice Balkan ballad that actually makes me miss Serbia a little less because it’s very Serbia-like. It also reminds me a bit of Korake Ti Znam, which qualified against the odds. I’m not convinced Montenegro can get to the final for the first time with this, though. It could be too nondescript.
  • The Netherlands: The Common Linnets have gone country with The Calm After The Storm, which will be a refreshingly peaceful three minutes on stage. I find country music very soothing, so even though this entry isn’t particularly dynamic, I’ve taken to it straight away, which didn’t happen to me with Birds.
  • San Marino: Valentina version 3.0 was a personal letdown. Maybe (Forse) is unlikely to make it third time lucky for her. I like it less than both of her previous entries, neither of which I was ever that keen on. Boring and dated are the key words here.

 

Tonight: four more songs?

I put a question mark on the end of that because Azerbaijan is involved this evening, and based on reputation, they could keep us all hanging on their song choice for longer than scheduled. Dilara Kazimova won her country’s final a few weeks ago with an original song, which could or could not be the song she takes to Eurovision. I haven’t listened to that song (Impossible) in case I hate it and it’s picked, or love it and it’s not picked, etc. But this is Azerbaijan we’re talking about – I’m not eager to go to Baku again just yet, but you can never discount them because they know how Eurovision is successfully done.

One country that’s had trouble in that area is Moldova, who seem to be cursed with not quite hitting the heights of the top 10 when they qualify to the final, often alongside neighbours Romania. Their final – O Melodie Pentru Europa – takes place tonight, and as is often the case, I suspect I’m going to like what comes out of it a lot more than I like what came out of the Romanian final (which was no Miracle for me). I haven’t followed their selection this year, mainly because of my current time deficiency (thanks a lot, university) so I’m sorry I can’t say anything about how epic/crappy/both the line-up is for 2014. But Moldova usually gives us a bit of quirk, and I have loved them the last couple of years. Fingers crossed they pick another weird and wonderful song from this selection:

  1. One And All by Diana Staver
  2. Energy by Doiniţa Gherman
  3. Perfect Day by Boris Covali
  4. I’m Yours by Tatiana Heghea
  5. Frozen by Lucia S
  6. Vis by Margarita Ciorici & Metafora
  7. Dragostea Divină by Ana Cernicova
  8. Forever by Edict
  9. Never Stop No by FLUX LIGHT
  10. Urme De Iubiri by Aurel Chirtoacă
  11. Fragmente by Paralela 47
  12. Hallelujah by Diana Brescan
  13. Follow Your Dreams by Mikaella
  14. Your Recovery by Curly
  15. Wild Soul by Cristina Scarlat
  16. The Way I Do by Felicia Dunaf

 

Also tonight, it’s the final of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix…another one I haven’t had time to follow (if you came to this post for reviews and predictions, I really am sorry). I’m not convinced there are any Adeléns or Margaret Bergers amongst the group left standing, with the few snippets I’ve heard being quite dull (aside from Mo’s song, which isn’t the peak of originality but still appeals). But innocent until proven guilty, right? I.e., the potential for a great entry is there until a rubbish one wins. Here are the tracks Norway have to choose from:

  1. Ain’t No Love (In This City No More) by El Cuero
  2. Sole Survivor by Elisabeth Carew
  3. Taste of You by Knut Kippersund Nesdal
  4. Needs by Dina Misund
  5. Heal by Mo
  6. High Hopes by Linnea Dale
  7. Hit Me Up by Charlie
  8. Silent Storm by Carl Espen
  9. Sing by Oda & Wulff
Who's going to win? And would they look as good in this dress as the Bergster?

Who’s going to win? And would they look as good in this dress as the Bergster?

I know one big favourite is Silent Storm, also one of the snippets I listened to that bored me. But you can’t judge a song on a snippet, so if he’s the one, I’ll give him a chance to grow. Those of you who’ve listened to more than previews, let me know below who’s going to represent Norway this year!

 

While you’re at it, feel free to tell me the same re: Portugal. Festival da Canção comes to an end tonight, and let’s hope the result is a triumphant return for a country who took a year’s vacation from the ESC. Surprise, surprise, I haven’t heard a single Portuguese offering yet, so the winner will be a total mystery to me until I press play on their victorious performance. I remember Catarina Pereira from a few years ago, and her status as a former runner-up could give her a boost this time. She’s back with another Andrej Babić creation, and some questionable footwear according to Twitter. We’ll see how she and the others go.

  1. Ao Teu Encontro by Rui Andrade
  2. Mea Culpa by Catarina Pereira
  3. Nas Asas Da Sorte by Zana
  4. Sonhos Roubados by Raquel Guerra
  5. Quero Se Tua by Suzy

All I can say is good luck to everyone…so long as they’ve got a decent song to offer!

 

What’s left of the N-Fs?

Not much at all, people! Post-tonight, there’s only one actual televised final left, and that belongs to Belgium. Eurosong concludes Sunday night, and will hopefully be worth all the pre-final casting and filtering programs. The winning song will have to be damn good to rival my killer love for Love Kills, which I maintain kicked butt. The fact that it got Belgium out of the semis and almost within top 10 range is testament to that. Will the burst of confidence from that result carry through to another impressive (by Belgian standards) showing? I for one am hoping so.

Belgium aside, there are only two countries remaining without complete entries. Austria will allegedly reveal Conchita Wurst’s song on Tuesday, which I’m not exactly enthusiastic for. I can’t imagine it will be anything but a stereotypical Eurovision schlager anthem, and even if it wasn’t, it’s too hard to take someone who looks like an unshaven Kim Kardashian seriously. I admire Miss Wurst in many ways, but I just don’t believe she’s going to do Austria any favours in terms of results.

Conchita is a thing of beauty, but she's also bizarre.

Conchita is a thing of beauty, but she’s also bizarre.

That leaves Russia – controversial Russia. Everything bar music aside, I’m intrigued as to whether they will actually send JESC 2006 champs the Tolmachevy Twins to the contest, as initially stated. I got super excited at that prospect, only to have it snatched away shortly after the fact, so I’m on edge at the moment. I have this feeling we can expect a good effort from Russia, or at the very least something less cheesy than What If (a song with peace-advocating lyrics that now seem rather ironic). Not that it would be difficult to contribute something less cheesy than that.

 

When Russia finally makes its decision (and providing Azerbaijan have also) that’s it. We’ll have our Class of ’14. That’s when the real fun – namely arguing about who’s going to win/qualify, why your taste sucks and mine is fabulous, and lamenting the loss of many amazeballs national finalists – can begin! We’re less than eight weeks away from the first semi final, if you can believe that, and there are a lot of nostalgic (aah, Malmö!) and prediction-based (TwinTwin for the winwin!) things to cram in to that time frame. Join me for the frenzy, won’t you?

In the meantime, enjoy the last Super Saturday of the season.

EBJ Signature

 

PS – I almost forgot to mention THE best news of the week. Australian peeps, get excited, and everyone else, get jealous. This year our broadcaster SBS is holding a televised Eurovision quiz show called The Eurovision Quiz Contest (shocking). Details are still a bit fuzzy (i.e. I’m not sure how many parts there’ll be) but filming starts this weekend, and we can expect the show to be on TV around Eurovision time. YAY! I’m so excited for this, and once again proud of SBS for giving Eurovision the limelight it deserves. If it turns out you can watch the show online internationally, I’ll post the link ASAP so y’all non-Aussies can check it out.

 

A very Scandinavian Super Saturday (feat. the results of your Melfest votes)

Hey, people who read my blog! Tonight is a great big fat night on the NF calendar, with impending host country Denmark and last year’s hosts Sweden going head-to-head with their respective finals. There’s also the Slovenian final to look out for, plus semis in Norway and Portugal and an alleged revelation from Russia…and that’s not all. Yikes, right? Unlike likely Melodifestivalen winner Ace Wilder (spoiler alert!) I suspect none of us will be busy doin’ nothin’ this evening. In fact, we’ll be busy doin’ a heck of a lot. Here’s a more in-depth look at what you’ll be dividing your time between.

 

PS – Read on to the Melfest section to see the results of last week’s poll, and whether they’ve influenced my prediction at all.

PPS – Getting to that section may take while. Seriously – this is a long post. Go grab yourself a cup of tea, or better yet, an energy drink, and get reading.

 

Norway: the semis continue!

I have a confession to make: I didn’t have the time to follow Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix this year.

Having followed it the last few years and enjoyed myself immensely, I had every intention of doing the same thing in 2014. Unfortunately, life (and a bunch of other NFs) got in the way, and last night I realised it wasn’t going to happen, what with the first semi final taking place pretty much as I was accepting that. Oops.

But the show must, and did, go on without me. Three songs out of five are through to next Saturday’s final – Heal by Mo (which I have previewed and quite enjoyed), Needs by Dina Misund, and High Hopes by Linnea Dale. Tonight, another five songs will compete for another three places. They are:

  1. Hele Verden by Cir.Cuz
  2. Right Now by Martine Marbel
  3. Sing by Oda & Wulff
  4. Taste of You by Knut Kippersund Nesdal
  5. Hit Me Up by Charlie

I can’t offer any educated insights here, but I can offer uneducated ones. Based purely on title/name appeal, I like the look of Hele Verden, Right Now and Hit Me Up. It’s a given that at least one of those will qualify to the final, but that won’t stop me from gloating when that happens, just to warn you.

Tomorrow night, it’s the same deal with lucky last semi three, featuring:

  1. Bensin by Moi
  2. Ain’t No Love In This City No More by El Cuero
  3. Who Needs The Universe by Ilebek
  4. Sole Survivor by Elisabeth Carew
  5. Silent Storm by Carl Espen

I’m interested to (eventually) hear Bensin, Who Needs The Universe and Sole Survivor in this group. I’m also interested to hear whether anyone has the potential to reach or top the standard of Margaret Berger – i.e., is Norway keen to keep the ESC in Scandinavia for another year, or are they just not that bothered?  

 

Denmark’s MGP seeks someone to fly the home flag

Speaking of not being bothered…here’s Denmark! DMGP was very strong last year, and we all know what came of that. I’d like to take a moment to remind you of one my personal favourites from back then.

What could have been *sigh*…but it was Emmelie de Forest who took the win, then again in Malmö. That’s why we’re all referring to Denmark as ‘the host country’ this season, isn’t it? So, in saying that, the host country chooses its entry tonight, and whichever song wins can be guaranteed a rapturous applause in the Eurovision final.

That song will be one of ten entries competing in Odense, listed below in running order.

  1. I Choose U by Bryan Rice
  2. Your Lies by Rebekka Thornbech
  3. Feeling The You by Sonny
  4. She’s The One by Danni Elmo
  5. Vi Finder Hjem by Emilie Moldow
  6. Right By Your Side by GlamboyP
  7. Before You Forget Me by Nadia Malm
  8. Cliché Love Song by Basim
  9. It Hurts by Anna David
  10. Wanna Be Loved by Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez

I chose to be lazy here and only listen to the snippets a few times over.

The impression I got was that Denmark definitely don’t want another win; but at the same time, give these songs a chance and you’ll probably find quite a few that will give the Danes a middling to decent result, which won’t embarrass them.

Here’s my top five:

I Choose U Bryan Rice is my ultimate ‘one who got away’. He 110% should have gone to Eurovision in 2010, but was left languishing in second place. Four years later, he’s back with a song that doesn’t have the same impact as his last, but is perfectly good radio pop with a great tempo.

Feeling The You The disco sound is having a revival, no? I blame that for my attraction to this cheesy funkfest. It can’t have anything to do with that nonsensical title, which could either refer to Sonny’s penchant for sexual harassment or some kind of heightened vibe-sensing ability he possesses.

Vi Finder Hjem This reminds me of something you’d find in the Swedish preselection for Junior Eurovision, which suits me just fine. Extra points for singing in Danish!

Cliché Love Song Damn, this is catchy. And I wish some other songs would be this honest. For example, Dina Garipova’s What If would be Shamelessly Lame Ballad Wired To Rake In The Points, and Solayoh would’ve been Off-The-Shelf Ethnopop Five Years Past Its Use-By Date.

Wanna Be Loved Very European dance pop. Not original, but a decent example of what it is.

Now, who among these five and the leftovers will succeed Emmelie as the Danish rep? I always have a hard time predicting DMGP, but working on the basis that my favourites hardly ever win it, I’m going to guess Danni Elmo or GlamboyP. If I was to get lucky and have a most-liked take out the comp, it’d be Bryan Rice or Basim.

What do you think? Who’s going to fly the Danish flag on home ground?

 

This is it: Melodifestivalen reaches its exciting conclusion

And I’ll be getting up at 3am to tune in! I am so P.U.M.P.E.D, my mini Swedish flag is practically quivering with excitement.

This is the ten-strong lineup for tonight, accompanied by some bite-sized reviews.  

Natural by Anton Ewald – I’ve finally figured out what isn’t clicking here. It’s too forced, too try-hard, too ‘I want to come back and WIN, damn it.’ I loved Anton last year, and I still think he has the face of a Hollywood heartthrob (and the voice of Eric Saade on an off day) but Natural is one club banger that will stay in the club.

Songbird by Ellen Benediktson – And the award for Song Most Likely To Send Me To Sleep goes to Sporty Spice lookalike Ellen! I was shocked when this qualified straight through, because it is nice, but boring as Sanna Nielsen’s outfit. Bless the girl, but she will be my toilet break.

Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar – The schlager-tastic trio has sucked me in with their hypnotically catchy chorus circa 2002, and I no longer dread the thought of them winning. That is partly because they won’t be winning. But they will more than make up for the lack of bedazzling on Sanna.

Alcazar's motto: peace, love, and a sh%!load of sequins.

Alcazar’s motto: peace, love, and a sh%!load of sequins.

Yes We Can by Oscar Zia – Perhaps it’s my secret addiction to cheesy Disney Channel movies talking here, but I LOVE this one. Oscar is adorable, can bust a move and has the voice of an angel (when compared to Anton Ewald). Combine those pros with the karaoke dream that is Yes We Can, and I for one am sold.  

Bröder by Linus Svenning – I’m so happy this came out of AC, because it was one of my favourites in the first semi. It’s one of just two Swedish-language songs in the final, which coupled with the sad back story makes it all the more special. I don’t expect it to do much tonight, but it will stand out in the line up.

Survivor by Helena Paparizou – She made it (almost) all the way! I’ve grown to love Survivor, and the already-established love I had for Helena herself means there is a whole lotta love from me to this entry. I’ve been singing this in the shower, back-to-back with Undo, constantly for the last month. My neighbours are not amused.

Just call her a survivor, already!

Just call her a survivor, already!

To The End by YOHIO – I still prefer Heartbreak Hotel, but this has grown on me. I have to admit though, my favourite thing is that the big, brash performance is going to make Sanna’s simplified staging a breath of fresh air. I think YOHIO’s chances of winning have waned, but he should do okay with this.

Undo by Sanna Nielsen – Sanna is a perfect human, and this is a near-perfect lady ballad IMO. You can take your Wrecking Ball comparisons and shove them somewhere intimate, because there is no way you’ll ever see Sanna swinging across the stage astride a heavy-duty piece of destruction equipment. I do hope to see her swinging into first place during the voting, however.

Efter Solsken by Panetoz – I love these guys, their sound, and their irresistible choreography. They are definitely a collective ray of sunshine in this competition, and if there was to be a shock winner, I’d want it to be them.

Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder – This song is an ear worm and a half. It’s also interesting and modern enough that it would make a good winner. I’m skeptical of Ace’s live vocal abilities (she’s no rival for Sanna in that department) but if Eric Saade can win Melfest, singing prowess is obviously not that important…

The outcome of Melfest 2014 isn’t going to be as hard to predict as DMGP, or as I initially thought. We’ve seen how the acts performed in the semis, we’ve seen the betting odds, and we have our gut instincts to guide us. Still, I was that hopeless during the semis and AC that I needed all the help in the world to make my prediction. That’s why I recruited you guys to vote for who you thought would win tonight.

Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for voting – the numbers were bigger than I expected, and I appreciate every click made. Secondly, HERE ARE THE RESULTS!

mfpr2

 

It was a close one between Ace and Sanna at first, but perhaps poor Sanna is destined to be second-best.

I’m not so sure she can defy that destiny this evening. The result comes down to televotes from the Swedish public, as well as vote cast by a variety of international juries. Last year, the juries took victory away from YOHIO and boosted Robin into what became a winning position. Not to sound too dramatic, but acts will suffer at the hands of either Sweden or the juries. It’s the way of the system.

I’m calling Girl Power to overcome the suffering, in the form of either:

Ace – I had a feeling about her before the poll results proved her so popular. I don’t think the juries will love her, but Sweden does/will, and they could give her the boost required so that a middling jury score won’t matter.

Ellen – Hers was a shock qualify, and I still don’t get it. But apparently there’s something about her I’m missing. Songbird is understated where Busy is aggressive, and sometimes less is more. The victory may depend on how many people have migraines.

Sanna – I am Team Sanna. I want her in Copenhagen, dammit. She’s tried six times in the past, and I’m not convinced she’ll get over the line now, but I can’t discount her. She has a decent draw, and based on downloads Sweden has responded well to Undo. The juries should rate it too, so if it’s not quite a win for Sanna, it will be a good result.

If she wins, it'll undo her sad for sure.

If she wins, it’ll undo her sad for sure.

If you’re watching Melfest tonight, join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz. I’m excited to share my first (and probably only) live NF of the season with anyone who’ll have me. We can share witty 140-character quips until the sun rises (or until the show is over and you go to bed at a reasonable hour, if that’s your situation). See you there?

 

Sans Scandinavia (i.e. elsewhere in Europe)…

I think this post has gone on long enough, so I’ll just gloss over the rest of this weekend’s happenings.  

Tonight

  • Russia will supposedly make an internal selection, having set an NF date and pushed it back already.
  • Slovenia’s EMA final, featuring 2005 rep Omar Naber and a song co-written by Hannah Mancini, begins and ends.
  • Portugal’s Festival da Canção kicks off with a semi.

Sunday

  • Sergej Četković’s song for Montenegro will be premiered. According to Wikipedia it’s called Moj Svijet, which means it’s very unlikely to actually be called Moj Svijet.

Tuesday (not part of the weekend, but worth a mention)

  • Greece decides which of four acts to send to Denmark, presumably flying economy or with the baggage.

 

Alright. I’ve talked at you for long enough. I’ll let you go and prepare your viewing snacks and test your flags for wave-ability and flex your pumping fist. Me, I’ll be setting my alarm for a very silly hour of the morning and choosing the pajamas that would be best suited to watching Melfest.

#AustralianESCfanproblems.

Enjoy your evening, ladies and gents!

EBJ Signature

 

EBJ’s top 10…Melodifestivalen entries of the past five years (+ keep voting for the 2014 winner!)

Hej, children of the universe. I’m assuming that’s how Molly Smitten-Downes would address anyone she came across, although I’d say we were more like children of the Euro-verse. But I’m not here to talk about the freshly debuted UK entry for Copenhagen (that’s what my reviews are for). Nope, as promised, I’m here to celebrate Melodifestivalen just days before the 2014 final takes place in Stockholm. It’s going to be a hotly-contested comp this year, with any one of three, four, or even five songs being possible winners, which means, IMO, that Melfest is back to its former glory. You know, the kind of glory that exists in countries that haven’t just won Eurovision and really aren’t keen on winning again.

Although the 2013 final was strong, the standard in the semis was pretty low. This year, it was much higher, meaning we’ve lost some gems along the way. That’s happened on many occasions over the years. I have literally shed tears over the loss of Melfest entries at the semi stages. So, to be relevant rather than random AND revisit some of these gems, today I’m revealing my top 10 Melodifestivalen songs, 2009-2013 (because, as I have mentioned before, covering the past ten years plus is too darn difficult). There are some in this list which did make it past the semis, with a few doing very well indeed. But I’ve found that a great deal of my favourites were clearly not Sweden’s favourites at the time. Check out the lucky ten and let me know whether any of them are your personal favourites, or if I officially have the worst taste on the planet (if you’re going to say that, however, word it nicely).

 

PS – I chose not to include any songs that won Melfest and went on to Eurovision, because I see those more as ESC entries to be included in other lists. I also have not included any songs from the 2014 edition, because they’re still so fresh and can’t be compared to songs I’ve been listening to for, like, ever.

PPS – If you haven’t yet voted in my poll to see who will win MF on Saturday, you can find it at the end of this post, and I will bow down to you and do all your bidding if you have your say. Voting closes on Friday, so hurry and help me predict the winner!

 

Now, on with my top 10 Melfest entries of the past five years, beginning with #10.

 

#10 | Baby Goodbye by EMD (2009, 3rd in final)

The three ridiculously good-looking guys who make up EMD – Erik Segerstedt, Mattias Andreasson and Danny Saucedo – have all participated in Melfest outside of the group, but it was together that they were at their most schlager-tastic and suave. Baby Goodbye has been heard time and time again in Melfest (let’s be honest, Manboy and Youngblood are retitled versions of the same thing) but for some reason, I find it the most appealing. I suppose the hypnotic power of the three handsome men singing it could be influencing that opinion a little.

 

#9 | Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (2011, DNQ)

Julia was one of two wildcard entries into Melfest 2011, and like the other, she failed to win over the voters. She did win over a certain Australian fangirl in a big way, though (that’s me, in case you were wondering). I fell in love with her unusual synth-pop number instantly after hearing it for the first time, and whilst I knew it didn’t have much hope of going to the final, let alone winning, I was still a walking sadface when Julia ended up 6th in her semi. I will admit, the stage performance featuring those giant lampshades was disturbing, so perhaps that was partly to blame.

 

#8 | Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andreasson (2012, DNQ)

He wasn’t suited up when he went solo, but EMD’s Mattias was still smooth and suave in Year Euphoria – and that was before he’d even opened his mouth to bust out the first line of the slick R & B track that is Förlåt Mig. It’s not the coolest use of light sabers since Kate Ryan (almost) nailed them in Athens that makes me get down to this. It’s the general catchiness and clever construction, build worth waiting for, and the fact that it’s in Swedish, which somehow elevates it for me – perhaps because songs like this often have nauseating lyrics when they’re in English.

 

#7 | Begging by Anton Ewald (2013, 4th in final)

He’s one of a bunch of artists who returned to MF this year, and like the majority, Anton’s come back with a weaker song, IMO. Natural’s just fine, but Begging was the bomb! It took me a few listens to really ‘get’, which may explain why Sweden didn’t vote it straight through to the final, but to Andra Chansen instead. Not only did it emerge from AC alongside eventual winner You, but it out-scored six songs that had been voted straight through. It’s on this list because it manages to be contemporary and mainstream at the same time as being original in its genre…and, of course, because it’s freaking catchy. That’s my main criteria.

 

#6 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012, 9th in final)

Miss Miskovsky has penned songs for, among others, the Backstreet Boys – one of my many true loves – so it’s not surprising that I’m a fan of her own music. This effort from Melfest two years ago sounds nothing like a BSB chart-topper, but that makes it no less beautiful. It’s hauntingly so, if I may say so without sounding like a ponce. Whether that’s from the unusual instrumentation, her voice or a combo of both, I don’t know. I just love it. It’s a shame it didn’t do better in the final, but 2012 was a strong year, and Lisa didn’t have crab-dancing in her repertoire.

 

#5 | Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt (2012, DNQ)

Andreas did cheese as part of Six4One at Eurovision, and plenty of it as part of Alcazar (and what do you know? They’re doing it again in 2014!). When he donned a metallic dinner jacket and ventured on stage by himself, there was no cheese to be seen anywhere. Aldrig Aldrig was like the musical love child of Coldplay, Urban Symphony and Donny Montell, and I mean that in a positive way. It had symphony, claps possibly borrowed from the Friends theme song, a mod-disco beat, and, once again it was in Swedish, which instantly made it more exotic in my eyes. Andreas performed it like a boss, and I wouldn’t mind him doing it again some day if he ever manages to shake off those pesky bandmates of his. JKIDOLOVEALCAZARISWEAR!

 

#4 | Mystery by Dead By April (2012, 7th in final)

Am I a rock fan? Not really. Metal (if it ain’t Lordi)? Uh, no. How about songs that incorporate death growls? Forget about it! That was until Dead By April somehow won me over with the gentle verses and irresistible chorus that contrasted so nicely with the aforementioned screaming to form a cohesive piece of awesomeness. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s because I actually have no idea what it is about Mystery that I can’t get enough of – it really is a mystery. The massive crush I had on lead singer Zandro at the time may have played a part. Could it be another case of EMD syndrome?

 

#3 | Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012, 3rd in final)

2012 was a seriously amazing year for Melfest, standard-wise. Sweden’s answer to Peter Pan, Ulrik Munther, provided yet another example of that with the rousing, anthemic Soldiers, which I’m sure has won some sort of award for Best Use of a Harmonica. I don’t say this very often, but in this case it’s the lyrics that have a lot to do with how I feel about this song. They are flawless and meaningful, and don’t rhyme ‘love’ with ‘above’, or ‘heart’ with ‘apart’ or any of that cliché crap. It’s genius songwriting, is what it is. I also have a thing for the drumming, which is suitably militaristic and makes me want to march right into Neverland with Peter/Ulrik and play the harmonica for the rest of eternity. Kind of.

 

#2 | Kom by Timoteij (2010, 5th in final)

I’m yet to come across a person who didn’t at least like this a lot, so expect a great deal of criticism if you tell me Timoteij aren’t your cup of tea! The quartet and their respective instruments turned folk on its head by making it pop and making it dramatic. Everything they produce is in this vein and is epic, but Kom is the pinnacle to date. Just try getting that chorus and/or riff out of your head. The song won the OGAE Second Chance Contest in 2010 and made us all wonder what could have been, since things didn’t go so well for Anna Bergendahl.

 

 

Finally *drum roll*, my favourite Melodifestivalen entry of the past five years is…

 

#1 | You’re Out of My Life by Darin (2010, 4th in final)

Beating Timoteij in the 2010 final (despite qualifying below them in their semi) was Eurovision 2013 interval act and my favourite artist period, Darin. He did so with a ballad that gave me goosebumps on the first listen, and still does approximately 10 995 listens later. I’ll admit, the live performance didn’t have the exact impact of the studio version (that money note is a toughie) but it’s still magic as far as I’m concerned. I know hardly anyone will agree with me on this, but know that whichever songs give you the bumps probably wouldn’t do the same to me. YOOML is my personal stunner, and sometimes I do wish it had beaten Anna. And Salem. And Eric Saade. Man, 2010 RULED!

 

EBJ extras: the ones that just missed out…Keep On Walking by Salem Al Fakir (2010); Try Again by Dilba (2011); My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (2011); Elektrisk by Anniela (2011); På Väg by Abalone Dots (2012); Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandén (2012); Hello Goodbye by Erik Segerstedt & Tone Damli (2013).

 

So that’s that…what did you think? Do we have anything in common? Yay or nay, I think we can agree that this Saturday night is one to look forward to. In the latest Melodifestivalen final, one of ten songs will become a Eurovision entry, whilst the others will compete for places on lists like this one for years to come. You can still help me decide which one will come out on top by voting in the poll that I mentioned earlier, and have been bugging everyone on social media etc about for days now. Here it is!

You still have the power to change the results. You won’t win a prize if you do, but it may make you feel superior for a few minutes. #winning?

I’ll be back on Saturday with the final poll results, predictions and other (hopefully) entertaining stuff re: NF season. Takk for reading, and see you then!

EBJ Signature

 

Vote, vote, vote for the winner! Of Melodifestivalen, that is…

Hello there. So, in my last post, I promised that Melodifestivalen madness would take over my next ramble, with a poll AND a top 10 focused on what is the most Eurovision-like national final around. I intend to keep that promise, however…now that the Melfest final is full up for another year, I couldn’t resist getting my poll on early, for reasons such as a) I don’t want to be the absolute last person to do it; b) I want to give you guys more time to vote; and c) I seriously need help predicting the winner of this year’s comp, and I figured this might help with that. I’ll add my Top 10 Melfest entries of the last five years into this post later in the week, but right now, let’s get our poll awn, y’all!

I’m asking you – yes, you (love that shirt, by the way) – this very important question. This isn’t about who should win Melfest in your opinion; it’s about who you believe will sing their way into the good graces of Sweden and the international juries and head off to Copenhagen in May.

Consider your choice carefully…the correctness of my upcoming prediction depends on it!

Spread the word and get your friends, family, mailman, newsagent and that creepy guy staring at you on the bus to vote for the likely winner. Le results will be revealed prior to Saturday’s final (duh!) so get in while it still makes sense.

BRB…voting myself.

 

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