EBJ turns FIVE!! | My top 10 entries since the blog began

Yes. Oui. Totes. Five years ago today (a.k.a. five years ago on June 27th…nobody reads this blog for its timeliness) I uploaded my very first and probably most cringe-worthy post.

The story goes that back in 2009, having been forced to create a blog at uni, I decided to start one in the wake of the spectacular Moscow show that wouldn’t feature boring analyses of design theories. It would instead be about said Russian extravaganza, plus all the contests that had come before it and that we were yet to experience. I had been a grade-A Eurovision freak for four years prior, so I had a LOT of feels to express in the form of (hopefully) witty articles, lists, reviews and the like. So, keen to unload, I picked a blog theme that I thought was super sexy at the time, settled on Eurovision By Jaz as my nom de plume because I clearly wasn’t feeling overly creative, and got typing.

Fast forward half a decade, and I’m still here, whether you like it or not! EBJ may not be as wildly popular as certain other blogs that began after it (I’m not bitter…) but it has at least one regular reader (not including myself) and it has given me the opportunity to write for and be interviewed by other Eurovision websites, centre my life around Eurovision almost as much as I’d ideally like to, and connect with peeps in the Eurovision community from all over the world.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth putting in all the effort that I do – most of the time – to make EBJ a place that people want to come to; a place that treats the contest with the respect it deserves without taking it too seriously (i.e. I like to make funnies). Then I’ll get a comment or message from someone who not only read but also enjoyed one of my posts, or who just wants to lavish some love on the blog in general, and I remember why I’ve lasted this long and why I always want EBJ to be the best it can be (even if that’s mediocre). So to anyone who’s ever done that and made my day, or anyone who’s more of a silent type but who read something I’d written from start to finish, thank you/merci/grazie/tack/danke schön. My appreciation is like, THIS big (obviously you can’t see me right now, but I’m stretching my arms out extra wide).

EBJ Turns 5!!!

Sorry for the cheese. I just wanted my 5th anniversary/birthday to come with a heartfelt speech, as all milestone celebrations should. Now it’s out of my system, I can tell you how I plan on marking this event, a month overdue. Today’s post will be the first of five to look back on all the contests I have witnessed as a blogger, from Oslo 2010 to Copenhagen 2014. I wanted to pick out some of the bests and worsts during this period that have made it memorable, and not just in terms of music.

I’m beginning in a pretty predictable place, but as I’ve only established my top 10 ESC entries of all time, not from a particular span of time, I figured it would be interesting for me and for you (anyone not interested wouldn’t be reading this, right?) if I sussed out which entries of the Years EBJ I really love most. So I did. Yeaahh.

These are my top 10 Eurovision songs that were selected and sent in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014. While you check them out, I’ll be deliberating over whetheror not to go all the way down Pathetic Street and bake myself a party cake (which I wouldn’t be doing with the help of Aarzemnieki since they’ve got like, NO clue at all). Enjoy?!?

 

#10 | I know that if the sky would fall, I’d survive it all, because of you…

You by Robin Stjernberg (Sweden 2013)

Melodifestivalen, my most beloved national final in the land, was pretty rubbish last year. Understandably rubbish – after all, hosts Sweden had no desire to win on home soil. I’m betting all they wanted was not to be embarrassed in front of millions of people. There were two or three (five at a push) entries in Melfest ’13 that would have granted them that wish, and underdog Robin’s You was one of them. I love this song because it’s a different and interesting pop song, plus a perfect platform to show off Mr. Stjernberg’s epic range. It has an authenticity to it that the more relaxed attitude towards host entries gives, and while that didn’t catapult it to success, it gave Sweden a respectable enough placing sans embarrassment.

 

#9 | Nije ljubav stvar, da bih ti je vratio…

Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (Serbia 2012)

The day that Željko – the man behind my all-time ESC favourite Lane Moje – was announced as Serbia’s representative for Baku was one of the happiest I can remember (sad, I know). It was always going to be difficult for him to meet the standard he’d set on multiple past occasions with his second entry as artist/composer, and I have to admit, Lane Moje reigned supreme. But Nije Ljubav Stvar is a stunner of a Balkan ballad (a genre I am partial to) that puts as much emphasis on instrumentation as it does on lyrics, and slow-burns to an impressive crescendo. It is as mysteriously beautiful as everything ZJ produces. How about getting Serbia back in the game for show #60, my man?

 

#8 | Între soare si ploi se nasc mii di culori, dar noi vedem doar nori…

O Mie by Aliona Moon (Moldova 2013)

As much as I mourned the loss of the line ‘The Maya were not so wrong, it’s the end of the world…’ the Romanian version of this entry is lovely (and far less questionable, grammar-wise). Even if it was in Klingon I would love it. Who would have guessed that Pasha Parfeny of the trumpets and leather aprons could compose such an elegant, classy and ultimately explosive – in a good way – ballad? Not to mention appear onstage with Aliona and resist the temptation to do any ridiculous dancing. Props to you, Pasha.

 

#7 | I don’t know where to run from reality…

Love In Rewind by Dino Merlin (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2011)

Here’s another man from the Balkans who impressed me once at Eurovision prior to doing it again years later. A younger, partnered-up Dino who was yet to discover the joys of a tartan jacket performed Putnici in Jerusalem, which I’ve always found intriguing (Balkan artists do mystery better than Agatha Christie). It wasn’t a ‘typical’ ESC song, and neither was Love In Rewind, which Dino brought to the table in Düsseldorf. It’s not an easy song to describe, but I can pick out the elements that made me fall in love with it – for example, its charm, ethnicity, bouncy tempo and all-round infectiousness. The only unfortunate thing is I suspect the success of a man on the wrong side of young and fresh might have given the BBC the idea of recruiting Engelbert.

 

#6 | Undo my sad, undo what hurts so bad…

Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden 2014)

Yeah, this is happening. Accept it. My love for Queen Sanna should have been apparent to y’all way before this point, so I’m sure you won’t mind my gushing just a teensy bit more re: Undo. The fact that I was invested in this woman before she even cropped up for stab seven in Melfest, flipped out when she won and cried when she debuted in the first semi in Copenhagen = a slight bias, but I genuinely believe Undo is her best effort to get to Eurovision – and hey, it worked! While some call it clinical and cliché, the tinkling piano, electronic influences and Sanna’s crystal-clear vocal gets me every time. And despite my role as a senior sergeant in the Grammar Police, I will be using ‘undo my sad’ as a legitimate phrase on a regular basis.

 

#5 | Che da sempre sei per me l’essenziale…

L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)

I throw the word ‘catchy’ around a lot when describing songs I like, because it’s a heavily-weighted piece of criteria for me. I don’t often get all deep and meaningful with ‘emotional connections’ and stuff like that. However, I get the big-time feels from the (probably unreliable internet) translation of this classy Italian number. Italy has put forward four very different but equally worthy entries since they made their big comeback, but this is the one I’ve loved most because not only is it catchy (in a down-tempo, arm-waving kinda way) but I connect with it on that emotional level. #obscureyetcheesy.

 

#4 | I’m done tipping on my toes…

This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)

You don’t need a magnifying glass to see why this didn’t qualify based on the performance – and yet, I still weep a little inside whenever I think about it (while wearing my Anna-brand party dress and Converse in a poor imitation). I LOVE this song. Lyrically, it makes no sense, but it just sounds so pretty, and Anna’s voice has a huskiness to it that makes it rough around the edges – a.k.a. less cookie-cutter than some other Swedish entries. I can see why so many people thought it had a winning chance.

 

#3 | Ne jednom, ne dvaput, tri puta me…

Ovo Je Balkan by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)

I feel like this should be a guilty pleasure, but at the same time I’m not embarrassed to proclaim my love to the world (my 2010 crush on Milan and his ridiculous haircut, however, MUST stay between you and me). How could anyone resist those trumpets and Balkan Balkan Balkans? NOT ME!! Everything about this is fun and loud and effortlessly ethnic…in fact, it really speaks for itself.

 

#2 | Mert nekem nincs most más, csak a kedvesem, az én kedvesem…

Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix) by ByeAlex (Hungary 2013)

Hungary is fast becoming one of my favourite competitors, and a country I’m watching based on suspicions that a Eurovision in Budapest ain’t too far away. Since they joined Italy in making a 2011 comeback, it’s been bam after bam after bam (the bams of course representing quality entries) and for me, nothing bammed more than last year’s Kedvesem. It packs a quiet punch, but the extra impact given by the Zoohacker remix – as beautiful as ByeAlex’s original version is – is undeniable. It was love at first listen for me and this unique masterpiece.

 

#1 | Sa kuula, ka südamel on hääl…

Kuula by Ott Lepland (Estonia 2012)

I didn’t know quite how enamoured I was with this until I couldn’t rank anything above it – at least, nothing from 2010 onwards. And before you say it, no, my judgment has not been clouded by my unconditional, unwavering and as yet unrequited love for Ott (believe me, one of these days you will be calling me Mrs. Lepland). To some, Kuula is dull, but to me, it’s a stunner that shows off both Ott’s epic vocal capabilities and the beauty of the Estonian language. I love that it ends where it begins: softly, having built up to a crescendo in-between. Just…sigh.

 

So now you know which songs have made me the happiest kind of fan since EBJ got off the ground, whether you wanted to or not (mwahahaha). As your birthday gift, try not to object to my taste too aggressively when you tell me your top songs from recent history down below.

The next post in my 5th anniversary series will naturally cover the entries that make me want to rip my ears off, or at least plug them up with whatever’s lying around, so look out for that. I promise the gaps between postings will become less mahusive from now on.

Thanks again for being here, whether you’ve stuck by me for years or you’re a newbie who’s yet to realise what you’ve got yourself in for. Viva la ESC ramblings!

 

Until next time…

EBJ Signature

 

The 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 2 (The Performances, Costumes + Results)

Eurovision 2014. My awards. Very delayed second half. No further introduction necessary.

ebjees14

The Performances

s
Axel Hirsoux
Basim
Carl Espen
Conchita Wurst
Sergej Četković
Teo

DISCLAIMER: The Conchita persona may be a feminine one, but the majestic voice that comes out of her is, biologically, Tom Neuwirth’s. Therefore I’m classifying Conchita’s vocal performance as a man’s. In this category, she sure showed the boys who’s boss. Soft and vulnerable when it needed to be and all-powerful at every other moment, Tom’s voice never wavered – not even during the notoriously second-rate winner’s reprise (which is excusable). I’d have to give the Money Note of the Year Award (if I’d thought of including one) to that final ‘flaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame!!!’ for sure.

 

t

Cristina Scarlat
Hersi
Mei Finegold
Paula Seling
Ruth Lorenzo
Sanna Nielsen

Like you thought I was going to pick someone else. I now realise that a lot of what I said above also applies to Sanna. The woman’s got both the soft vulnerability and the lung-busting power down pat. Her vocal was clear as crystal every time I had the pleasure of hearing it (which was many, many times, all of them voluntary) not to mention effortlessly executed. Undo was engineered to show off her voice, and I commend it for a job well done.

 

u
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Norway
Spain
Sweden

Also known as ‘The Goose-Bump Arouser Award’ (for a sexier option) this goes to the performance that had a certain something special; something that connected with me emotionally and gave me the chills. Despite the little sob I had over Sweden in the first semi, I’m giving this to Norway, because Carl had me covered in goosebumps. Plus, I’m fairly sure my spine actually tingled at one point, and unless I had a spider down the back of my jumper (OH DEAR GOD) there’s only one explanation.

 

v
Austria
Belgium
Hungary
Moldova
Spain

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To win this award, artists can have made Oscar-worthy facial expressions on stage (hence the title) or been backed by emotional interpretive dance, or…I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. In the battle of diva drama fought between Conchita and Ruth Lorenzo, it’s Conchita who has the edge, because she managed to ooze drama despite standing in the same spot for her entire performance. There were minimal arm flourishes and hair flicks, and yet, her three minutes were more dramatic than an entire season of Days of Our Lives (though with the acting level on that show, that doesn’t say much). You go, girlfriend. Just not to drama school, ‘cause you’re already qualified.

 

w
France
Iceland
Malta
Norway
Slovenia
Switzerland

Like Conchita without her beard (sorry for mentioning her so much, but it’s gonna carry on all year) who is Tinkara without her flute? Having never seen her minus the flute (apart from in her postcard) I’m starting to wonder if she’s had it surgically attached. It added a nice (albeit mimed) touch to the performance, and the way she wielded it made her look even more like some kind of magical lady-warlock, which worked for me.

 

x
Azerbaijan (the trapeze artist)
Denmark (the banner to end all banners)
Greece (the trampoline)
Montenegro (the figure skater)
Romania (the hologram effect)
Ukraine (the hamster wheel)

032

You know it’s been a good year for props/gimmicks when you’re torn between a trampoline and a giant hamster wheel. In this case, I’m going for the hamster wheel. Ukraine proved once again that they are the masters of on-stage equipment by taking a pared-down version of Svetlana Loboda’s Hell Machine and pimping it out with a fine specimen of male flesh (i.e. a hot dude) to illustrate – I can only assume – the passing of time. As Greece would have, Ukraine get bonus points for having their singer interact with the prop rather than just sing in front of it.

 

y
Austria
Armenia
San Marino
Ukraine

Normally, I like my wind machines turned up to maximum. I’m talking 130km/h gusts that blow even the most gelled-down hair in history into a frenzy. But this year, I found myself appreciating the subtlety of Armenia’s wind machine use. With Aram Mp3 not in possession of a flowing mane, all the breeze did was give his jacket some lift, but that had a big effect – adding more impact to the dubstep portion of Not Alone. If he’d been blown off the stage by 130km/hr gusts, it wouldn’t have been the same. Although it would have been amusing…

 
z
Belarus
Denmark
Estonia
Hungary
Israel
Lithuania

Dance made up the bulk of the Estonian ingredients this year, after all. It may not have
ultimately worked in their favour, but Tanja and her man-friend had moves that deserve applause *insert a smattering here*. Apparently Tanja can sing in any position, and that knowledge was used to advantage as she ran, jumped, lunged, and got thrown around all over the place, all the while contributing more to the total vocal than Jedward did in 2011 and 2012 combined. I’m 90% admiration, 10% envy. Okay…60/40.

 

z1
Austria
Greece
Iceland
Montenegro
Poland
Slovenia

Say what you like re: the beard winning the contest, but you can’t deny that Austria’s entry was just as well-groomed in every other respect. As has been the norm for a while now, there was a lot of background screening to work with on the Eurovision stage, and in terms of using that to complement the rest of the elements (song, costume etc) I think Austria nailed it. Their background was gold and fiery and gave Conchita wings so she could literally (pardon the blatant misuse of ‘literally’) rise like a phoenix. If it was predictable, it’s only because we all knew what kind of visuals would suit the song.

 

z2
Armenia
Finland
Sweden

031

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This has been the mantra of many a Swedish entry in the period between Melodifestivalen and Eurovision, with the likes of Eric Saade and Loreen barely changing costume from one to the other, let alone anything else. In the not-so-curious case of Sanna Nielsen, her people hit on a lighting scheme that was simple but so effective, and almost served as a physical prop. So they didn’t sacrifice it for the big show; they just made it even more impressive. I’m now hoping to receive my very own light cage for my birthday this year. Ikea sells those, right?

 

z3
Greece
Poland
Portugal
Russia
Ukraine

It isn’t just an overload of props and/or gimmicks that sends a performance into OTT territory (which isn’t always a negative…if you can’t tie your hair to someone else’s and ride a see-saw whilst brandishing a light saber and dancing in unison in front of a giant sun at Eurovision, where can you?). Poland’s entry was choreographed and costumed to perfection, but it’s their determination to be boob-inclusive at all costs that wins them this gong. Those butter-churning, stain-removing girls had pretty much all of their charms on display despite the contest being a family show. I guess a lot of parents no longer have to give their kids the sex talk.

 

z4
Lithuania (excuse me sir, but your hands appear to be IN MY DRESS!)
Moldova (Cristina literally tears her hair out)
Romania (awkward hug…such an awkward hug)

I am a huge fan of your average costume reveal. Plaid pants are ripped off to expose sequined short shorts? Great, thanks InCulto. Three-piece suit becomes evening gown by the end of the song? Best part of Latvia ‘02. But it turns out that not-so-average costume reveals have the ability to freak me out, as demonstrated when Cristina Scarlat became so irritated with her overgrown weave, she went and yanked it right off. I applaud Moldova for trying something new, but if hair-pulling isn’t the final frontier, what is? Navel lint? Splinters? Teeth?

 

z5
Austria – 19%
Iceland – 4%
Israel – 6%
The Netherlands – 35%
Poland – 13%
Sweden – 15%
Ukraine – 8%

A lot of countries presented us with the total package this year. In fact, more did than didn’t, and disappointingly, there were zero train wrecks. But the country that impressed y’all the most by a long shot was the Netherlands, and though my vote went to Poland, I can see why. Dressed to perfection, Ilse and Waylon performed like the pros they are, using what could have been a very awkward microphone situation to their advantage. It was intimately staged and graphically effective. Let’s hope the trend continues for the Dutch in Austria.

 

The Costumes

z6
Cleo and the Slavic girls – 26%
Emma – 13%
Molly – 4%
Pollapönk – 9%
Suzy – 2%
The Common Linnets – 28%
Tinkara Kovač – 11%
Vilija – 7%

bdcl

When you think to yourself, ‘How would I dress this act?’ and can’t come up with anything better than the reality, you know costuming has been well-executed (either that or it’s so horrific, you couldn’t imagine anything worse). In this case it’s the former, and I applaud your choice of Best Dressed for 2014. Waylon would have had a hard time going wrong, so it really came down to Ilse – and fortunately, she appeared on stage looking like a country Americana angel. From the retro bouffant hairdo to the tips of her stilettoed pumps, she was glorious.

 

z7
Kasey Smith
The Shin & Mariko
Tijana Dapčević

wdtd

What happens when you combine button-up track pants and a tuxedo? A fashion faux pas, that’s what. Throw in some wack blue shoes that match your stunning but completely out-of-place chandelier earrings, and you’ve got one steaming hot mess. Oh Tijana. Suitability for the entry aside, she looked lovely from the neck up. From the neck down, though, it was 100% WTF. And now you know exactly where my Barbara Dex vote went this year.

 

z8
Andras Kállay-Saunders
Firelight

I know, I know – not every song calls for a backless, crystal-encrusted leotard with a feathered mullet skirt and matching platform boots (particularly not Running). But as I’m convinced that Richard Edwards wore the same outfit to Malta’s rehearsals as he did for the live shows, Firelight nabs this one.

 
z9
Emma
Kasey Smith
The Slavic girls
Twin Twin

033

Between them, these nominees had just about every body part on display (and if you’re wondering about Twin Twin, I have two words for you…DEM SHORTS). But I’d be crazy if I didn’t recognise Poland as the sauciest by far. Although, it wasn’t so much the Slavic girls’ costumes that were x-rated as the lack thereof.

 

z91

Cristina Scarlat
Kasey Smith

Because your average maxi dress is much easier on the eye than a part flouncy, part asphyxiating mix of…whatever that gold thing was a mix of. Also going against this creation was the fact that Kasey could hardly move in it, which made her look very uncomfortable on stage.

 

z92
Cleo
Lorent (Twin Twin)
Ruth Lorenzo
The Tolmachevy Sisters
Vilija

034

It may be forehead-pulsingly tight, but Cleo’s high braid feat. festive materials is one hairstyle from this contest that I’m desperate to copy. Unfortunately, I’m lacking the length of hair necessary to pull it off, so I hope it’s still a relevant look in, say, twelve months. #whocares, #gonnadoitanyway.

 

The Results

z93
Estonia
Israel
Lithuania
Portugal

I really, truly thought Estonia had the final in the bag. The upside to the choreography’s failure to see them through is that I can now insist to anyone who’ll listen (and even those who won’t) that Sandra should have walked Eesti Laul and would have been dangerous in the final she would have made for sure, blah blah blah. Nonetheless, I remain flabbergasted that one of my certainties back at prediction time turned out to be a DNQ.

 

z94
Montenegro
Poland
San Marino
Switzerland

Third time lucky is a legitimate thing, and Valentina Monetta knows that now. Let’s just hope she didn’t get one taste of glory and wants more next year (there has to be SOMEONE else from San Marino who can sing). ValMon’s qualification got her this trophy because it was the only one that literally made my jaw drop. I didn’t shut my mouth for hours, and was planning on suing the EBU for extreme dehydration.

 

z95
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Greece
Romania
Sweden
Ukraine

As we would later discover, this wasn’t Greece’s most successful year (STILL not over it) but even in an off year, they flew into the final with the greatest of ease. They are part of the exclusive 100% Club, which consists of those countries that have never failed to advance from a semi, so it’s always a safe bet when you put cash on them to go through. That’s not to say it’s impossible for them to DNQ, but the day that happened would be a shocking one (and a good one for all the pigs sprouting wings).

 

z96
Albania
Belgium
Georgia
Latvia

As admirably authentic as it was (and bonkers) there was never any hope for Three Minutes To Earth as far as I’m concerned. There was a possibility it wouldn’t come last in its semi, but even that was slim. Still, The Shin and Mariko gave a great performance, so if you’re reading this, guys…don’t hurt me.

 

z97
Armenia
Spain
Switzerland
United Kingdom

In terms of entry quality and results, Armenia (thankfully) made us forget all about Malmö’s double denim incident courtesy of Dorians. 4th may not have been the win they were hoping for, but I think Sirusho would agree that it beats the heck out of 18th.

 

z977
Austria
Finland
Hungary
The Netherlands
Sweden
Ukraine

Hungary is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with, and their national final A Dal one of the strongest I’ve ever followed. I have this sneaking suspicion we could be heading to Budapest within the next few years. Running’s somewhat unexpected top 5 placing built on this. I think we were all skeptical of the entry’s ability to push past the subject matter and be judged as a ‘package’ – the package being a well-performed, contemporary song that wasn’t nonsensical fluff, lyrically speaking. Fortunately, it was, and that makes me go WOOHOO HUNGARY YOU GO GIRLFRIEND. Et cetera.

 

z978
Azerbaijan
France
Greece
Poland

Like I said…soooooo not moving on from this travesty. It’s been two months and I still cry myself to sleep, sobbing ‘ri…ii..iiise upp!’. Just kidding. I don’t say that. I only weep. Even Kalomira clone Eleftheria (the only other recent Greek act to not hit the heights of the top 10) did better than Freaky Fortune. I realise this was an open year, and points were going all over the place, but IMO Greece should have been at least where Romania ended up. I guess holograms > trampolines.

 

z979
Austria
Belarus
Germany
Georgia
Sweden
Ukraine

There came a point – a sad, sad point – where I knew Sanna wasn’t quite going to go all the way, despite her victory in the OGAE vote. But after her amazeballs performance in semi one, I was convinced that the haters would be left with many unfortunate emotions to undo when she easily made the top 5. The bronze medal represents a great performance by a great act that was just missing that something extra that would have made it a winner.

 

z980
Azerbaijan – 19%
Estonia – 17%
France – 9%
Greece – 17%
Russia – 15%
United Kingdom – 23%

The last award of the 2014 EBJEEs (I hear your collective sigh of relief) is also a People’s Choice Award. You voted, and it turns out that Molly’s lack of success shocked you more than anybody else’s (or in Russia’s case, shocked you more than the twins getting that high). You’d think we would have learnt to never overestimate the UK after 2011 (though I still maintain Blue were robbed in part) but nope – here we all were again, gushing about a UK entry that wasn’t crap and/or sung by someone who lived in world sans Eurovision. All dreams of Manchester 2015 were dashed when the points just trickled in, in contrast to the flooding they were doing for Austria and the Netherlands.

 
At long last, I’m done! Hallelujah. Hard rock hallelujah. Thank the Lordi! And other ESC-related puns. My trophy table is now empty, and it’s time to move on to random filler until Junior Eurovision – now with 100% more Greece and Cyprus – comes along. I will be keeping an eye on the Austrian developments over the coming months, i.e. claiming I knew that INSERT CITY NAME HERE would get the hosting honours, so I hope you’ll join me. I promise I’ll be entertaining.

In the meantime…Part 2 of the awards: discuss.

 
What do you think of my picks and your picks of the performances, costumes and results from Copenhagen?

 

The 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

In incredibly scintillating news, I received my Eurovision 2014 DVD in the mail last week. Well, it was exciting for me. And now I’m thinking, what better time to reveal the winners of my contest awards for this year? At least that’s what I’m telling myself, to distract from the fact that it’s taken me THIS LONG to get my s%!t together and post them. But hey – this way you can be sitting down watching your DVD while you read this, and reminding yourself why the winners are worthy…or, as will probably be the case with many of you, questioning my terrible judgment. But remember, you got to choose the winners of six awards this year, three of which will be revealed in this first installment of the EBJEEs. There were almost 150 votes in today’s People’s Choice-ers alone, so thanks for making the decisions in such vast (by this blog’s standards) numbers!

I won’t ramble on about the specifics of Part 1. You know the deal by looking at the title of this post. I’m just going to leave you to enjoy the “ceremony” in which 17 trophies will be handed out, and hopefully accepted without incident – i.e. NOT in the style of Dana International in Jerusalem. Keep an eye out for the People’s Choice Awards, because the full voting results are included.

*clears throat*

Ladies and gentlemen and everyone in-between, this is…

ebjees14

The Artists

a
Andras Kállay-Saunders
Nikolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune)
RiskyKidd
Sebalter
Theofilos Pouzbouris (Freaky Fortune)
Topi Latukka (Softengine)
Waylon (The Common Linnets)

046

Between them, Freaky Fortune and Riskykidd more than upped the hotness quotient in Copenhagen. But with Theofilos being on the short side (as a woman of stature, I tend to steer clear of diminutive men) and Nikolas having had some dodgy hair moments, I have to give this first gong to the sheer beauty that goes by the stage name of Riskykidd. At 19, he’s slightly too young for me (I hate how that time has come already) but I’m still going to bask in the ambience of his chiseled cheekbones and often intense ‘wrong side of the tracks’ vibe.

 
b
Cleo
Conchita Wurst
Dilara Kazimova
Kasey Smith
Maria Yaremchuk
Paula Seling
Ruth Lorenzo
Tanja

047

This is always a tough category, and it’s unlikely that we’re all going to agree on the result (this also extends to the ‘He’ award. Sorry if Riskykidd doesn’t do it for you). My personal preference is the hot tamale from Spain, via the UK/US, Ruth Lorenzo. With or without a faceload of slap, with a retro updo or rocking the wet look, in a fancy frock or holey hand-me-downs, this woman looks stunning. I look at her and the main word that comes to mind is ‘bombshell’. FYI, others include ‘How come my eyebrows never look that perfect?’, ‘Wearing a red lip: any tips, Ruth?’ and ‘How you doin’?’. I guess you could say I’ve developed a girl crush.

 
c
Conchita Wurst
Men of Pollapönk
Nicolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune)
Sebalter

There was no beard more talked about this year than Conchita’s, and I’m not just referring to the talk regarding Eurovision. In fact, I don’t expect another beard to become as much of a household name (in my house, it’s called Frank) for the rest of 2014. It is perfectly-groomed facial hair that graces the chin/cheek/upper lip area of a stunning woman, and that makes it a beard with a difference. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time talking about a beard in my life. Such is the power of Frank.

 
d
Basim – 20%
Heiðar Örn Kristjánsson (Pollapönk) – 9%
Jöran Steinhauer (Aarzemnieki) – 24%
Nikolas Raptakis (Freaky Fortune) – 7%
Sebalter – 39%
Teo – 2%

You guys chose – and pretty firmly – Sebalter as your Mr. Congeniality for 2014! The Swiss fiddler/whistler/waistcoat-wearer beat out Latvia’s Jöran by 15%, presumably with his on and off-stage charm and charisma. By all accounts, he’s friendly and funny, making him as nice on the inside as he is on the outside (as far as some are concerned…he’s no Lepland/Mengoni for me personally).

 
e
Conchita Wurst – 15%
Mei Finegold – 15%
Ruth Lorenzo – 25%
Sanna Nielsen – 15%
Suzy – 15%
Tijana Dapčević – 17%

Someone else who’s good inside and out is Ruth Lorenzo, who bumped Tijana to take out the Miss Congeniality award with a quarter of the votes. Far from the fiery, fierce stereotype of your average hot-headed Spaniard (and I emphasise, stereotype…Spanish women, don’t get mad) Ruth is cool, calm and collected, and from what I’ve seen, always willing to give anyone a bit of her time. She’s a woman I’d want to be friends with – in fact, when I’ve finally nailed down Kaliopi and Hannah Mancini as half of my ladies’ wolfpack, Ruth will be next on the list.

 
f
Basim
Emma
Pollapönk
Sebalter
Teo
Twin Twin

I get the feeling these guys never have an off night. Then again, I think I’d be constantly energetic and entertaining too if I got around in a bright blue (or *insert the colour of your choice here*) suit. With a matching velour tracksuit for lazy time, of course. As a band catering to children and adults, Pollapönk have to have the enthusiasm to cover all bases. They definitely conserved it for their six minutes in the spotlight.

 
g
Conchita Wurst – the bearded lady
Elaiza – underdogs of USFD
Paula Seling & Ovi – Eurovision royalty return
The Tolmachevy Sisters – JESC (t)winners
Valentina Monetta – third time’s the charm

Conchita Wurst

She made up a considerable amount of the discussion bulk within the ESC bubble, and basically all of it in the outside world, making many of us wonder why something so simple as a five o’ clock shadow (albeit an exquisitely-groomed five o’ clock shadow) was causing such a stir. There can be no other rightful winner of this award than Conchita, who I’m sure doesn’t rock the beard with the intention of it being a gimmick, but doesn’t have much of a choice. If beardless Nadine Beiler had donned the gold lace and busted out Rise Like A Phoenix, we’d be headed to Amsterdam next year.

 

The Songs

h
Austria
France
Greece
Latvia
Malta
Sweden

Moustache may not sound eerily similar to another song on the whole – although I could make a case for it being a masculine, less raunchy version of Katy Perry’s Peacock – but the verses ignited such loud screeches of ‘PLAGIARISM!’ for their resemblance to Stromae’s Papaoutai, I’ve got to give this one to Twin Twin. Plagiarism or not, I’m indifferent. I love both songs, so I’m just going to congratulate both artists on stumbling upon a catchy string of notes. And make a plea with Stromae to one day represent Belgium.

 
j
Austria
Estonia
Romania
Spain
Sweden

Dancing In The Rain is one of those songs you’d only hear at Eurovision. There are so many elements that make it come off as contrived for the purpose, i.e. the mix of languages and those massive money notes, which may not be in Spanish, but can be roughly translated to ‘I’m trying so hard to push FTW, I may burst into smithereens’. I’ll admit that you could say the same re: My Beloved Sweden, but as Sweden = more than a fanwank in the end, and Spain = not quite as much, I’m not going to.

 
k
Austria
Azerbaijan
Montenegro
Norway
Spain
Sweden

Speaking of Sweden (as I have done way too often since Sanna won Melfest and will continue to do for the rest of eternity), my bias towards Undo cannot be totally quashed for the purposes of these awards. There were some damn good ballads competing in Copenhagen, but as Sanna’s has given me the feels/goosebumps from the first listen through to my most recent, and because I actually cried during her semi-final performance (hey, it was a freaking long time coming, and I was emotionally invested, okay?!?) it’s far and away my Ballad of the Year. My apologies if that gives you a sad that’s hard to undo.

 
l
Azerbaijan
Georgia
Montenegro
Poland
Portugal
Slovenia

They were thin on the ground this year, so anything with a vaguely traditional instrument thrown in has made the shortlist. But five have made way for the half-folksy, half-hip hop, all sexy Youtube sensation that is My Słowianie. The song somehow manages to be divisive and edgy as well as perfect for Eurovision and appealing to its audiences, which couldn’t be achieved by the likes of Igranka. Carried with attitude and talent by Cleo (Donatan’s actual contribution is yet to be measured) it’s everything I want from my ethno-pop – yet miles away from your typical examples of the genre.

 
m
Denmark
Estonia
France
Greece
Israel
Portugal

This isn’t a difficult category to narrow down for me, because every year there’s at least one entry that I CANNOT HELP shaking my thing to. These songs have some kind of force that catapults me off my couch and has me doing my best Shakira imitation before my brain has had time to process what’s happened. In 2014, I was a little torn between Greece’s trumpets and Portugal’s wa-wa-wehs, and I’m still not sure what swayed it in Greece’s favour, but as the MC and big boss of these awards, I don’t have to justify my decision. Instead, I’m just going to twerk a bit, as the mere mention of Rise Up has awoken the mysterious booty-shaking powers within. BRB.

 
n
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Finland
Georgia
The Netherlands
Russia

There was a decent amount of songs that I didn’t ‘get’ initially this year. Something Better made a huge leap in my estimations – so much so that I went from wishing Finland had literally chosen something better to digging the heck out of it (whilst still holding a candle for some other UMK gems). It was the live performance and ‘more is more’ approach to lighting that helped win me over. The song is a stadium anthem that, when it won UMK, wasn’t in the right setting to show it off to full advantage. Plus, the months between the NF and the ESC gave Softengine time to polish up (and grow up).

 
o
Russia
Ukraine

ENTERTAINMENT-DENMARK-EUROVISION-SONG-CONTEST

Just a couple of not-so-special songs IMO were elevated by aesthetics this year – elevated all the way into the top 10, in fact, which in Russia’s case was particularly surprising to me. The Tolmachevy sisters’ three minutes on stage featured everything but the kitchen sink (though I’m not convinced that wasn’t hidden away somewhere in amongst the see-saws and staffs and papier-mâché suns). But, with pared-back costumes and seamless choreography that utilised all of those props, I couldn’t stop watching. This is one example of why the Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t always live up to its name.

 
p
France
Greece
Romania
Slovenia

I may be referring to studio versions here, but Moustache also works better in another kind of studio – the intimate TV kind, as opposed to a massive arena with a massive stage to fill. When it comes to listening though, the studio version is cleaner and slicker. Plus, you’re not being distracted by a failed attempt to use a big space in the right way.

 
q
France – 4%
Hungary – 11%
Iceland – 15%
Moldova – 4%
Poland – 37%
Spain – 7%
Switzerland – 22%

There were faux game shows, dramatic storylines and wayward servings of spaghetti to choose from, but you guys went for what I will re-title ‘Breast Preview Video’. Poland wins! And by a decent length from Switzerland, too. I can’t say I’m in total agreement with this, but the video certainly stays true to the statement being made by the song. It’s not as though setting it in a convent and having the Slavic girls churn butter very clinically whilst wearing ankle-length habits would have made sense.

 
r
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Denmark
Germany
Macedonia
Poland
Portugal
Slovenia
United Kingdom

All the contestants went out of their way making their #MyEurovisionFlag, though some clearly put in more effort than others (a painting, Valentina?? Really? At least Suzy chose to paint herself). As such, this is the biggest, toughest and probably most subjective category of the entire EBJEEs. My pick is host country Denmark, for its mix of effort and creativity (see Valentina? More non-canvas painting!) and daringness in not only repurposing a heap of ancient furniture, but also a stretch of road that I’m sure got Basim and his buddies in trouble with the local council.

 

That’s Part 1 taken care of, and it’s now time for intermission. The line for the toilets will be long, but since Part 2 won’t be coming to you for a few days, don’t be concerned. Just before you go, it’s time to let the disagreement ensue…

 

Tell me what you’re thinking re: the People’s Choice winners, and my personal picks.

 

NEXT TIME: Before they get too dusty, I’ll be handing out EBJEE trophies in the categories of The Performances, The Costumes and The Results.

 

EBJ’s top 10…should-haves and could-haves of the 2014 NF season

FYI, I’m going to stop apologising for the unintentionally large gaps between my posts. If I don’t, you’ll never want to read anything I manage to produce anyway, because you’ll be so sick of everything starting with ‘I’m soooooooooorrrrrrrryyyyyyyy!’. Know that I will get the job done eventually, though. I may be a slowpoke in most areas of life, but I have blogged pretty religiously for almost five years now *insert gasps of shock and awe here*. Just assume that all the posts I say are coming in the next few days will actually come in the next few weeks, and you’ll never be disappointed.

Let’s move on to le subject of this post now. It’s been over a month since the Wurstmeister (© Jaz 2014, because I know you’ll want to steal it) rose like a lace-clad phoenix to the top of the Eurovision scoreboard; but with sporadic JESC selections and the enigma of the 2015 host city making up the bulk of current affairs, we have to keep chatting all things Copenhagen.

One of those ‘things’ is which countries made the right choices for Denmark, which countries so did not, and which had a plethora of dope songs to pick from. In retrospect it’s easier to justify exactly who made mistakes or could have ended up in a similar position with a different entry, and you can bet your autographed copy of Valentina Monetta’s Guide To San Marino-oh-oh-oh that I want in. So, I’m revealing my top 10 songs from the national final season – which I believe should have been sent, or could have been sent for an equally impressive/unfortunate result – right now.

Although, it wasn’t just me who compiled this list, guys…I had major help from Rory over at ESC Views (which just celebrated its 1st birthday *blows kazoo enthusiastically*) who discussed the subject with me at length until we’d settled on the possibilities from every single country. Thanks for a great conversation, Rory. I hope this list at least partially does your opinions justice!

 

Let’s count backwards from #10…

 

#10 | Finland

Could have chosen Kertakäyttösydän by Jasmin Michaela (unplaced in UMK)

It is true that I ended up enjoying Something Better – so much so I completely stopped complaining that ‘something better’ was exactly what I wanted – and I realise that 11th place is nothing to be ashamed of (unless you’re Azerbaijan, so that 22nd must have hit real hard!). But my soft spot for a couple of other UMK entries meant I would have enjoyed seeing other songs in Copenhagen. One such song was Jasmin Michaela’s, which could have signaled another year of Fun Finland had it not been inexplicably knocked out in the semis. Kertakäyttösydän would have been an equally quirky, but less novelty and much more Finnish successor to Marry Me; not to mention a precisely choreographed, trendy and vocally impressive one. Basically, Jasmin would have repped her country in style, and that could have taken her to 11th place.

Rory says: Jasmin should have gone. She had amazing vocals, and okay, the visual performance was a little out there…but she should have at least qualified!

 

#9 | Spain

Could have chosen Más (Run) by Brequette (2nd in Mira Quién Va A Eurovisión)

Sí, they could have! And they very nearly did, with Ruth’s victory the narrowest of the whole NF season. A lot of parallels can be drawn between Ruth and Brequette, including the fact that both are female belters of the highest order, who arrived at the Spanish final armed with powerful ballads. But Brequette’s Más was more contemporary and less cliché-Eurovision than Dancing In The Rain. Though I see those aspects as pluses, they may have been reason enough to rob Spain of their second 10th place in three years. Still, I think Más would have been a worthy entry, and who could say for certain that even with the right staging and draw etc, it couldn’t possibly have done as well as DITR?

Rory says: I love Más but I love Ruth…maybe Ruth could have sung Más?

 

#8 | Greece

Could have chosen Petalouda Stin Athina by Crystallia (3rd in Eurosong)

I’m glad they didn’t, as I will fawn over any up-tempo song with trumpeting in it. But the only other decent song in the Greek line-up IMO did come courtesy of Crystallia, who was flawless in her rendition of a very Greek ballad/national anthem. Petalouda would have been distinctive in a year of little ethno-pop, and would have qualified at the least, this being Greece we’re talking about. It wouldn’t have taken much for it to best 20th place once in the final. With Crystallia, I suspect we would have seen a similar or slightly better result to that of the boys with the oh-so-freaky flow (STILL not over it).

 

#7 | Norway

Could have chosen Heal by Mo (3rd in MGP)

Silent Storm remains a sentimental favourite of mine, and I don’t want to imply that Norway made a wrong choice this year. But, had Carl fallen too deep into his own void (judging by the lyrics, it’s a big one) and been unable to surface in time for Eurovision, Mo would have made a top replacement. You could compare Heal to Vilija’s Attention if you were looking for hypothetical competition, both of which would have been in the same semi, but I still believe it would have been Norway winning out over the less slick and more divisive Lithuania. With no other songs like it in the final – and those awesome dance moves Mo busts out – Heal could well have done what Silent Storm managed to do. Alternatively, it could have done some of the crashing and burning that Mo sings about…but as nobody will ever know, I defy you to prove that would have been the case.

 

#6 | Malta

Could have chosen One Last Ride by Daniel Testa (3rd in MESC)

This song is one of the most un-Malta-like songs to come out of their final in years. Scribble out the giveaway ‘Testa’ (it screams ‘HEY! I’M MALTESE!’ like Micallef and Debattista, et cetera) and it could have been lifted from NMGP, DMGP, Melfest…any one of a number of other finals famed for, shall we say, more modern offerings. It’s an instant, stadium-suitable pop song with a lil’ box ‘o’ cutesicles at the helm, and when you combine that with the fact that it wouldn’t have been compared with the Dutch and Swiss entries – as Coming Home was, and in the end it was beaten fair and square by both of those songs – it’s plausible that Daniel could have broken the curse of JESC contestants alongside the Tolmachevy Sisters, by qualifying and succeeding in the final.

 

#5 | Romania

Could have chosen Hearts Collide by Anca Florescu (4th in Selecția Națională)

Ignore the shocking camera work, bare-bones presentation and misplaced ball gown (this song calls for a Getter Jaani-style party frock, stat) and imagine that Paula and Ovi gave everyone else a shot by bowing out of the Romanian NF, and Hearts Collide = the clear choice. It’s only a could-have rather than a should-have because I don’t think it’s necessarily stronger than the power of Paula and Ovi. Not even they managed to escape from the 11th-13th-place rut that Romania and Moldova are constantly stuck in. Anca would probably have been similarly placed, but she would absolutely have been selected based on her song and talents, not her name.

Rory says: I loved Anca!

 

#4 | Belgium

Should have chosen Need You Tonight by Yass (4th in Eurosong)

The first ‘should have’ on this list – i.e. the first big mistake – comes from Belgium, and can be 95% blamed on Ruslana. The main point I want to get across here is that humble Frenglish guitar pop should ALWAYS triumph over what sounds like the opening theme of The Young and the Restless’ Mother’s Day special. It’s not that I don’t appreciate Axel’s talents, or his appreciation for the woman who gave birth to what I can only assume was an impressively-sized baby. It’s just that OH DEAR GOD THE CREEPINESS AND MELODRAMA! And neither Yass nor his hopeful song for Belgium had creepiness or melodrama. He had good looks, a great falsetto and a guitar (and the man-with-guitar thing kinda worked for Belgium in the past) and his song was a charmer that did not once mention anybody’s mother, if my rusty school French isn’t failing me. Accompanied by an intriguing interpretive dance routine, and some (literally) colourful drumming, á la the NF, Need You Tonight would have served Belgium a lot better – and obliterated the ick factor.

 

#3 | Latvia

Should have chosen Stay by Samanta Tina (3rd in Dziesma)

I’ve got the guilts, saying that Latvia made a non-ideal decision. Taking the rights of representation away from Aarzemnieki (if only in my mind) is like telling a puppy it’s too ugly to play with all of the other puppies. However, if we’re talking results, Samanta Tina pulling a Sanna and finally getting to Eurovision would have been the best way for Latvia to go. Dziesma was pretty woeful this year, with the eventual top three a bit of a step up. But as I don’t ‘get’ Dons, and taking Aarzemnieki’s fate into consideration, Samanta got my vote as the best hope of the trio. Copenhagen was better for Cake To Bake’s cuteness (and Jöran’s charisma) but Latvia’s shocking qualification record wasn’t. The drama, epic light show and amazing outfit that Samanta would have accompanied her dance track with would have given Latvia a better chance of changing that.

Rory says: Latvia always pick the wrong song to go to Eurovision. Samanta should have gone to Copenhagen.

 

#2 | France

Could have chosen Ma Liberté by Joanna (2nd in Les Chansons D’Abord)

Seeing as Twin Twin couldn’t have ended up further from the win win, you may think France should have sent Joanna. But as a Moustache-aholic, I can’t bring myself to admit that. Besides, somebody has to come last in the final, so that doesn’t automatically mean that somebody should never have been chosen in the first place. If France had selected Joanna though…well, I don’t believe theywould have come last, and I think they would have scored more than two measly points. The case for Ma Liberté? It would have worked better in the arena and on TV than Moustache; as a ballad, it wouldn’t have been performed right after/directly overshadowed by major player Undo; and it would have had broader appeal, with the possibility of Joanna’s big vocal wooing anyone who didn’t like her song.

 

#1 | Estonia

Should have chosen Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu (5th in Eesti Laul)

Many people would have viewed Sandra as a predictable choice for Estonia this year, in spite of Tanja’s status as favourite. I know I thought Miss Nurmsalu had Eesti Laul all sewn up, and not just because she’s ESC alumni (and a perfect angel sent from heaven to make us and our wayward bangs look average). From my first listen of her solo attempt to get to the contest, I was in love. Quite a few months later, I’m just about ready to propose marriage to it. This song is pure energy, joy, light, and a host of other cheesy nouns. It’s also instant, irresistible and distinctive, with the same Lion King-esque majesty that secured Zlata Ognevich’s Gravity the bronze medal in Malmö. I am 110% sure that Estonia’s failure to choose Sandra – i.e. placing her 5th even after she’d won her semi – was the biggest mistake of the whole NF season. With her, Estonia would have been dangerous; perhaps not for Conchita, but for Sanna, Aram Mp3 and Kalláy-Saunders. There’s no way they would have been sent packing prior to Saturday night.

Rory says: SANDRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

 

And that, my friends, is that! Please keep in mind that all of the above is a mixture of two opinions only, and not the be-all and end-all of which countries could and should have taken a different approach to Eurovision 2014. If you happen to disagree (or if, by a miraculous chance, you don’t) get it off your chest in the comments below. Just don’t use too many swear words if you can *&%#$ing help it.

Next on my agenda: the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence, AT LAST. They’re taking place so post-ESC, they themselves should win an award for being the most belated of the year. I’m keeping the People’s Choice polls open for a few more days, so if you haven’t voted yet, do it here. Thanks to everybody who has voted so far, though – you’ve exceeded my expectations.

Swing by in a few days’ (weeks?) time to check out the results, plus all the winners I’ve selected.

 

Until then…

EBJ Signature

 

HAVE YOUR SAY: Vote, vote, vote for the winners of the 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence!

Never mind Golden Globe and Oscar time – we all know the best awards season is Eurovision awards season! When the contest (and most of the residual PED) is over, it’s time to reflect on the best and worst of everything, from the songs to the scoreboard shockers, the vocal performances to the vile outfits (and I’m actually not referring to Lithuania…I NEVER agree with the Barbara Dex) and everything in-between. Though more important and popular ESC sites have been staging awards ceremonies for weeks, the time for my own – known for three years as the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence – is fast approaching, so iron the creases out of your tuxedoes and brush the lint off your evening gowns in preparation. If you don’t mind? I have a dress code, you know.

Before my star-studded ceremony can take place, however, there’s a little business to take care of. Namely, I need you guys to decide the winners of my super-awesome personalised trophies that were definitely not put together haphazardly in MS Word with Clipart. This year, the EBJ EEs will feature more awards in the categories of Artists, Songs, Costumes, Performances and Results than ever before, and I need more help than ever with choosing the winners. So, instead of having a sole People’s Choice Award for All-Rounder of the Year (which went to Norway’s Margaret Berger in 2013) I’m letting you decide six of the awards. Woohoo! There are many more that I’ll be deciding myself, of course, but just think yourself lucky that you don’t have to spend 48 straight hours going through an endless parade of polls.

So here today, I’m asking you to vote on these particular six which have been taken from each category. I’ve narrowed each list of nominees down to a small group, so if you’re really desperate to vote for someone who’s not included, leave me a comment saying so and I will count that as a vote. The results will be kept secret until the all the awards are revealed next week. Hashtag mysterious.

Without further ado, get ready to make your choices (and share the link to this post to get more people voting, if you’re feeling generous). Here are the People’s Choice Awards for the 2014 EBJ EEs!

 

The Artists

The friendliest, most charismatic guy on the ground in Copenhagen.

  

The woman you’d want to be your BFF.

 

 

The Songs

The most entertaining, amusing or attractive MV of the year.

 

 

The Performances

The act that ticked all the boxes – vocals, costume, staging and so on.

 

 

The Costumes

The most stylish artist/s to take to the stage.

 

 

The Results

The final placing that left you scratching your head.

 

There’s your six! I hope you chose wisely…JK, it doesn’t really matter. But hey, you could be giving a country that didn’t win anything on the night/s a prize of sorts after all, and that’s a big deal. Kind of.

ANYWAY, thanks for voting (and sharing, if you were up for that). Stay tuned for the revelation of the results as well as the revelation of all of the other award victors, when the EBJ EEs kicks off next week. Before that, I’ll be presenting you with my Top 10 Could’ves and Should’ves of 2014 – that is, the national finalists who, on reflection, should have been sent to Copenhagen instead, or who would have had similar success to those songs that were chosen. Putting that list together was no easy task, but I got by with a little help from a friend…

Until next time ↓

EBJ Signature

 

My Very Late ESC 2014 Grand Final Review (Part 2): Thoughts on the scoreboard feat. the semis

If there’s a prize for being late to the party (the party being reviewing Eurovision 2014) then back off, because it’s mine! The thing is – and you’ll be bored of me rehashing this – since I was too excited to study during the ESC week, and too depressed to be productive in the few days afterwards, I’m now in a period of chaos where I have multiple MAHUSIVE assignments due within the next week (my last week of the semester, thank the Lordi) that I’ve barely begun. Therefore, I’m having to work my butt off with little time to blog, which sucks. That’s my excuse for why the second part of my final review is coming out over a fortnight after the contest, and over a week after the first part.

This is basically just a run through of the scoreboards from the final and the semis, with comments by moi, plus a recap of the Australian online vote and a mini post-show ranking to show you how my preferences were changed by epic lighting and/or magnificent costuming. I’m not going to get into the intricacies of the split results much, as similar analysis has been done (The Eurovision Times published a a few particularly good ones you can find here and here if you haven’t checked them out yet) so this is more of an overview accompanied by catty judgments.

 

The Final Scoreboard: A Closer, Totally Unbiased Look

 Two things about the voting sequence before we get to the results:

a) Crossing to all of the spokespersons at once on the big screen? More of that please. Although if I’d spotted Alyona Lanskaya I would have remembered to mute her impromptu and totally unnecessary version of Solayoh. You had your moment last year, Alyona. NO ONE CARES.

b) Umm, that early winner announcement! I’ve had more than one night’s anger over that. After the backlash caused by the same thing in Malmö, I assumed it wouldn’t happen again. But oh no, charming Nikolaj and adorable Pilou lost a bit of their charm and adorableness when they announced Austria as unbeatable with about two or three countries left to vote (I know they were just doing what they’d been instructed to, but I have to lash out at somebody). We all knew Conchita was the winner – to announce it early took away from the significance of the remaining countries votes, turning them into an afterthought. I am hoping this doesn’t become a tradition.

Now, those results…we’ve all seen them, but who wouldn’t want to see them again and then hear me complain about Greece not beating Romania for several paragraphs?

1. Austria 290 – No real surprises here. After Conchita’s performance I was thankful I’d predicted Austria as a probable winner. Still, with the spread of scores and the relatively low gap between 1st and 2nd place, this was no landslide.

If you don't have proper weights, why not use your Eurovision trophy to tone those arms?

If you don’t have proper weights, why not use your Eurovision trophy to tone those arms?

2. The Netherlands 238 – I’m thrilled for the Dutch, still. If Anouk had been last year’s runner-up, I’d have struggled to understand it, but The Common Linnets captured the mood and created a magic that I totally got (in the end).

3. Sweden 218 – I’m happy with this, and I hope Sanna is too. I knew my favourite song of the year wasn’t quite going to go all the way after a certain point, but because I was worried Sweden could head in the direction of Hungary in 2011, the bronze position is brilliant.

'And directly in front of me you can see the most valuable light saber in my collection...'

‘And directly in front of me you can see the most valuable light saber in my collection…’

4. Armenia 174 – Again, this ain’t exactly shocking. I never saw Armenia winning with Not Alone, as much as I love it. Finishing in 4th, they’ve got to be at least a teensy bit pleased that they blew Azerbaijan out of the water.

5. Hungary 143 – This is proof that Hungary is getting better and better at playing the Eurovision game every year. A very good, very current song that many thought would bomb because of its subject matter triumphed instead. Well done Andras!

6. Ukraine 113

7. Russia 89 – Now THIS was a surprise. As the televoters much preferred it over the jurors, I put it down to the staging, which I personally couldn’t tear my eyes away from. The hair trick and giant see-saw are surely what people remembered when they picked up their phones.

8. Norway 88

9. Denmark 74

10. Spain 74 – I guess the lesson here for Spain is if they send an attractive brunette who can sing the leg off a chair to perform a typically Eurovision ballad, they’ll secure themselves 10th place. That’s a good showing for Spain.

'If my hair touches any of this electrical equipment, we could be in trouble!'

‘If my hair touches any of this electrical equipment, we could be in trouble!’

11. Finland 72

12. Romania 72 – Romania and Moldova are experts in just missing out on the top 10. In this case, Romania should have completely missed out IMO.

13. Switzerland 64

14. Poland 62 – The jury sealed Donatan & Cleo’s fate via the drag effect of ranking them 23rd to the televoters’ 5th. Not that 14th is a terrible result – I’m just mourning what could have been for one of my favourite entries.

15. Iceland 58

16. Belarus 43

17. United Kingdom 40 – Ouch. After weeks of steadily declining odds and promising rehearsals, Molly failed to meet expectation and then some. But there was only 34 points between her and Ruth, which is something of a consolation.

Due to nerves, Molly couldn't wait for her three minutes to end so she could go to the toilet...

Molly soon regretted eating that curry just before her turn onstage…

18. Germany 39

19. Montenegro 37 – Not only did they make the final for the first time, but Montenegro beat big players Greece, Italy and Azerbaijan. That’s a win for them as far as I’m concerned. Figure skaters = success. Just ask Dima Bilan.

20. Greece 35 – How…just how did this happen? I am CRUSHED. Okay, so when I step back and look at all the factors I can kind of see how it happened. But even cookie-cutter, dated Aphrodisiac did better than this!

21. Italy 33

22. Azerbaijan 33 – So, they’re not invincible after all, eh? For the first time since their 2008 debut, Azerbaijan finished out of the top 10, and not narrowly. I have to admit, it pleases me to learn that they are capable of failure, since up until now I assumed they’d do amazingly even if they sent a bag of garbage (literally) to represent them, and that irritated me.

23. Malta 32

24. San Marino 14 – Props to SM for not coming last. I hope such an unprecedented result doesn’t encourage a fourth consecutive appearance from Valentina (and Ralph)…*shudder*.

It was Valentina's incredibly accurate zombie impression that got her to the final.

It was Valentina’s incredibly accurate zombie impression that got her to the final.

25. Slovenia 9

26. France 2 – Not for the first time in recent history, one of my most-loved entries lost the final. Waldo’s People in 2009, Tooji in 2012, and now this! Maybe Moustache wasn’t very effective in such a grand setting, but…TWO POINTS?!? I guess I should just be grateful that Twin Twin didn’t pull a Jemini.

 

Australia calling! The results from our unofficial final vote

Over on broadcaster SBS’s Eurovision site, us fans Down Under had the chance to thumbs up or thumbs down each entry as was our want. I couldn’t even do that, because of state-related time zone issues, so it was up to the rest of my fellow Aussies to decide our “points”. Here’s our top 10, in traditional ESC fashion:

1 point went to Ukraine

2 points went to Malta

3 points went to Switzerland

4 points went to the UK

5 points went to Poland

6 points went to Iceland

7 points went to Finland

8 points went to the Netherlands

10 points went to Sweden

Aaaaaaaaand, surprise surprise…our 12 points went to Austria.

So it looks like Conchita has recruited herself a fan club over here as well. We actually agreed with Europe’s entire top 3 (albeit in a slightly different order) but put Finland, Iceland, Poland (woohoo!), the UK, Switzerland and Malta in place of Armenia, Hungary, Russia, Norway, Denmark and Spain. Oh, and in case you were wondering, San Marino came in 26th. So I guess it wasn’t so much a Maybe here as a Definitely Not.

 

Back To The Semis: The Winners, Losers and Almosts

Semi final 1 ↓

  1. The Netherlands 150
  2. Sweden 131
  3. Hungary 127
  4. Armenia 121
  5. Ukraine 118
  6. Russia 63
  7. Montenegro 63
  8. Iceland 61
  9. Azerbaijan 57
  10. San Marino 40
  11. Portugal 39
  12. Estonia 36
  13. Latvia 33
  14. Belgium 28
  15. Albania 22
  16. Moldova 13
  • For the first time ever, the Netherlands topped a Eurovision semi final. I’m still surprised by this to be honest (because I didn’t think the majority would rule on a humble l’il country number…and it’s the Netherlands) but it’s something for all of the countries in a rut to take note of. With the right song and act, anything is possible.
  • Sanna pipped Andras for the honour of qualifying second, but not by much. Hungary are going from strength to strength, having qualified every year since their 2011 comeback, and made the final top 10 for two consecutive years.
  • There was a 55-point gap split between the 5th and 6th qualifiers – Ukraine and Russia. Montenegro made it to their first final on the same point level as Russia, with Iceland very close behind.
  • Azerbaijan’s 9th place made quite the change from their previous stellar history. During the 2008-2011 period they qualified 6th, 2nd, 2nd and 2nd, and won their semi final last year in Malmö. It’s safe to say Dilara didn’t start many fires with her slow-burn ballad!
  • Jaws all over the globe hit the floor when San Marino went through, unsurprisingly in 10th place. What we didn’t know at the time was that poor Portugal had finished just under San Marino. A single point was all that separated Valentina and Suzy, which probably left the latter wondering what she could have done to win over a few more jury members (it was the juries who sealed her fate by ranking her last).
  • Moldova’s hair-ripping routine failed to get them to the final for the first time since 2008. Perhaps now they’ll realise that the classic costume reveal is still okay?

 

Semi final 2 ↓

  1. Austria 169
  2. Romania 125
  3. Finland 97
  4. Switzerland 92
  5. Belarus 87
  6. Norway 77
  7. Greece 74
  8. Poland 70
  9. Malta 63
  10. Slovenia 52
  11. Lithuania 36
  12. Ireland 35
  13. Macedonia 33
  14. Israel 19
  15. Georgia 15
  • From losing their semi final and limping only to 16th place in last year’s to winning the whole thing, Austria sure rose up (pardon the pun) in the rankings this time around. Conchita’s powerful pipes won convincingly over Paula Seling’s dog-frightener of a note.
  • Surprisingly high qualifiers in this semi (for me) were Finland and Switzerland, in 3rd and 4th places. Switzerland turned out to be less of a borderline entry than many of us thought it would be. Greece, on the other hand, didn’t do as well as is expected of them, nor as well as I was hoping.
  • Poland’s qualification was pretty convincing for a country that hadn’t seen a Saturday night since 2008, putting them 18 points ahead of just-in Slovenia.
  • Vilija can’t have been as devastated as Suzy must have been to end up 11th, as her result was brought on by much more than one point. Things were quite tight in the 11th-13th-placed range.
  • Israel coming second-to-last with only four more points than bonkers Georgia was a big shock for me, and I’m not even a massive fan of Same Heart. Mei’s performance was fiercer than 100 angry Beyoncés in a fistfight, and I’m sure she’s made it her mission to hunt down and poke her sword at everyone who failed to vote for her.
  • Georgia last = duh. Okay, so the song has grown on me, and the parachute thing actually worked IMO, but Three Minutes To Earth was always going to be more like Three Minutes to the Bottom of the Scoreboard.

 

My top 10, two weeks later

As usual, seeing the songs performed live for the real deal changed my already changeable mind a LOT. Once again I used this handy sorter to gauge my own opinion, and below you can see my post-show top fifteen (because I didn’t think anyone would want to read through my entire top 37 for the third time) and how they’ve moved from my most recent ranking done just prior to the first semi. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who might have been hoping for a renouncement of my Team Sanna membership.

  1. Sweden (=)
  2. Poland (+5)
  3. Greece (-1)
  4. France (-1)
  5. Armenia (+1)
  6. Denmark (+4)
  7. Italy (+6)
  8. Belarus (=)
  9. Norway (=)
  10. Hungary (-6)
  11. Montenegro (-6)
  12. Ukraine (+12)
  13. Iceland (+1)
  14. Finland (+21)
  15. Albania (+7)

So I’m clearly crushing on Finland after Softengine rocked the Hallerne…what about you? How have your rankings changed since the show?

 

That’s about all I have to say on the scores at the moment. I hope this overview was worth the delay in one way or another! If you’re still up for complaining and/or rejoicing in the outcomes of this year’s contest, I’m up for listening, so comment down below with any of your unaired thoughts.

 

NEXT TIME: Watch out…the 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence are coming! I’m about to open my People’s Choice polls, and I want you to vote to decide each winner (duh. That’s the whole point) so make sure you drop by in a few days’ time to have your say. This year you get to vote on more awards than ever before in the two-or-three-year history of the ceremony, so get excited! Please? Just a little bit?

 

My Very Late ESC 2014 Grand Final Review (Part 1)

Well, this is belated. Having been unable to focus on study for the week leading up to Eurovision, and then over the Eurovision period itself, I was forced to make up for lost time the second Conchita Wurst ended her winner’s reprise. To cut a boring story short, I’ve only just been able to put together something of a review of last Saturday’s final from Copenhagen to follow my overviews of the semis. I’ve barely even started dissecting the results, so while that’s still in progress (I’m hoping you guys will still be interested in reading that by the time I post it) I’ll just cover everything up until the voting.

As it’s been like, FOREVERRRR since the final took place, allow me to refresh your memory via my personal highlights and lowlights of the evening; plus some extremely exciting photographs of my decorating/waving paraphernalia. Things just don’t get more epic than this…

011012

I had a mini Molly, Conchita and Sanna (courtesy of Ben Morris’ Minipop Icons) to accompany me during the show, plus some DIY banners to wave until the Sellotape gave way.

To begin: we all know that it was Austria’s golden girl Conchita who took out the contest on Saturday evening, marking her country’s first win since 1966. It wasn’t a landslide win, but despite the EBU’s best efforts to disguise the result for as long as possible via their voting order algorithm (only to have the hosts announce the winner early AGAIN which I will complain about in detail when I talk results) there came a point where we knew we were going to Vienna. Or Innsbruck. Maybe Graz? I’m reluctant to settle on the likeliest host city for 2015 after the great “Oh, it’s definitely going to be Stockholm!” incident of 2012. Not that it matters – wherever in Austria the 60th contest takes place, I’ll be über excited to see the show. My delayed congratulations go out to Conchita, and her short but sweet victory speech. Rise Like A Phoenix may not have been up there with my favourite entries of the year, but it’s a worthy winner in so many ways. The added bonus is that it’s always nice to see a country of few recent successes do incredibly well. This could be the start of a wave of excellent results for Austria, a la Germany 2010-2012…so long as they don’t decide to send Trackshittaz again.

My state newspaper won't be winning any awards for original headlines on this one.

My state newspaper won’t be winning any awards for headline originality in this instance.

 

My favourite acts of the night

Many of those who impressed me during the semis did it again during the final. In fact, all of my highlights bar one were semi-finalists. Read on to find out which member of the Big 6 floated my boat.

  • Iceland – as proud as I am of the fine Australian export that is The Wiggles, I was born a bit early to have grown up with them (the Spice Girls were my one true childhood love). Pollapönk seem like an adult-appropriate version of The Wiggles to me, so I’m not ashamed to say I was thoroughly entertained by their colourful performance yet again. No Prejudice is like the theme of Conchita’s win. I wonder if she and the boys ever got together for a chat? They seem to have a lot in common (beards included).
ICELAND_second_rehearsal_Thomas_Hanses_preview

Um, that’s not quite how you do the YMCA, guys…

  • Armenia – Aram was perhaps feeling some pressure in the final, as his vocal was slightly ropey. But I still found his three minutes full of impact. Waiting for the song’s climax to explode (almost literally, with those fire jets they had going), knowing it was about to go BAM, was exciting every time.
  • Poland – following in the footsteps of the comparable Igranka, here was a song that could have been dreadful live but turned out to work like a charm (it must be the charming beauty of the Slavic girls). Cleo swapped t-shirts, but apart from that, Poland put on the same saucy, folksy performance that catapulted them into the final in the first place.
  • Greece – no song got the crowd moving like Rise Up. At home, surrounded by junk food and feeling particularly lazy, I stayed put on the couch…but my #TeamFreakyFortune banner was getting a workout, believe me. The energy level here was through the roof, and that was pre-trampoline.
Freaky+Fortune+Eurovision+Song+Contest+Rehearsals+3vYQbRo7yNDl

“Look, Ma – no gravity!”

  • Austria – this was a winning performance, flawless and full of the sass and drama that has become Conchita’s trademark. The roar of the crowd before, during and after was well-deserved, and gave me a strong feeling that what was a very open contest had narrowed over the course of just three minutes.
  • Sweden – I didn’t cry this time, but my beloved Sanna nailed Undo just as she had in the semi, and continued to give me the feels and the chills I mentioned in my review. And I must thank her for giving me something to put on my Christmas list – my own personal (and preferably portable) cage of light.
  • Finland – Softengine have wooed me, and I swear it’s not because of their clean-cut cuteness. I wasn’t fazed by Something Better at UMK, or when I watched the music video, and yet somehow the Eurovision performances have left me digging the heck out of it.
  • Denmark – this has to be done, I’m afraid…SKUBA DUBA DAP DAP DIDI DAJ, I LOVE YOU! Because I honestly do, Denmark. Basim kicked home country butt, renewing my affection for Cliché Love Song in the process. The unfurling flag put off some people, but I thought it was a massive fabric cherry on top of an excellent performance.
  • The Netherlands – The Common Linnets were the total package on final night. They sounded great, looked great, connected with each other and the camera well (Waylon’s smouldering eyes…) and their staging was simple but perfectly suited to CATS. My only complaint concerns the guitar soloist, who put way too much drama into his shred on a clearly unplugged instrument.
article-2625266-1DBBBB6200000578-720_634x460

Ilse attempts to disguise her jealousy over not being given a hat of her own.

 

My least-favourite acts of the night

Because nobody hashtag failed (not miserably, anyway) I’m about to get rul, rul picky. Prepare yourselves.

  • Romania – neither Paula nor Ovi sang as well as they had in their semi, and all the elements of the act that were awkward then seemed even more so on this occasion. I draw your attention to the hug, which resulted in Ovi almost choking on a chunk of Paula’s hair. He’ll be producing hairballs for weeks.
  • Italy – Emma’s vocals are rough around the edges, and that’s part of her appeal. But to me her performance was a bit messy and aggressive. I felt like she was shouting directly at me for most of the song. Amazing outfit though – it was like she smashed a bunch of mirrors, poured PVA glue all down her front and then rolled in the debris. I am totally copying that for my next night out.
eurovision-2014-emma-marrone-rivincita-guardian

“If I just stick my arm out awkwardly like this, maybe they won’t notice my underwear…”

  • Spain – don’t get me wrong, Ruth’s a great singer, and stunning to look at (the wet look really works for her). But there were moments when she was over-singing those money notes so much, I thought she was going to explode. I don’t think the janitors would have appreciated having to Hoover up bits of Ruth from all over the arena.
  • United Kingdom – nothing was particularly wrong, but something wasn’t right here. I didn’t connect and I didn’t feel the anthemic-ness of COTU was genuine. A UK win was a lost cause when I found myself thinking more about how awesome Molly’s shoes were than anything else.

 

What else went down?

  • The Danish version of the Swedish artist parade gets my tick of approval. Taking us through the running order and introducing each act in one hit was genius. I hope the Austrians were taking notes!
  • The hosts were…well, there. Nikolaj was charming, Lise was a pro, and Pilou continued to be adorable and have a stage name that reminds me of a certain Claymation penguin. BUT THEY WEREN’T JANA AND MIKKO! Three is an odd number (duh) but I always find it extra odd with Eurovision hosts. One or two people  is enough, and makes it far easier to divvy up duties such as chatting awkwardly with the contestants in the green room.
article-2625266-1DBBC62100000578-838_634x425

Pilou totally missed the memo to keep his hands clasped in a professional manner at all times.

  • I have to mention the postcards again. I touched on them briefly in my semi reviews, but I don’t think that adequately conveyed my feelings for them. I love it when the postcards make you want to watch them over and over again (unlike the touristy ones from the likes of Baku which become little more than attractive yet annoying breaks between songs) and these ones definitely did that. Aside from giving us a look at the next artist up, they entertained AND informed us that, for example, Andras Kállay-Saunders trots around with pre-solved Rubik’s cubes in his backpack, and Emma maintains her figure by making flags out of her food instead of eating it. These postcards made our #MyEurovisionFlags look amateur.
  • It was a relief to see Emmelie de Forest deviate from singing Only Teardrops for the billionth time in order to perform Rainmaker, a song I prefer. It’s been a year and she still hasn’t stumbled upon a shoe store, but at least she’s found a hairbrush and added some colour to her wardrobe – she looked like Pocahontas at a rave, and it was glorious. All the artists in the final joining her on stage to sing along was as heart-warming as I imagined it would be, although I bet they spent the whole time surreptitiously elbowing each other out of the way to get in shot.

 

Well, that’s my fan’s-eye view of the grand final, albeit over a week after the fact (oops). Of course, there are the all-important results – the shocks, surprises, and expectations pretty much met – remaining to be discussed (by me…the rest of the planet has got their act together and done it already) and I’ll be doing that sometime in the next few days. Following that, I have some exciting stuff re: Copenhagen planned – i.e. my annual EBJ Awards. For this edition, I want you guys to vote for more than just one award á la last year, so have your poll-taking fingers poised!

 

Looking waaaaaaay back at the final of Eurovision 2014, what were your performance (or other) highlights and lowlights? Did the right song win the contest? And have you managed to undo your post-ESC sad yet?

 

The story so far: My verdict on Copenhagen before it’s FINAL-ly final time!

I’m back! After close to a week of social media avoidance, I’ve witnessed both semi final 1 and 2 on Aussie TV with much DIY banner-waving and popcorn consumption, and I can now temporarily rejoin you all in Eurovision Land before I have to hunker down again to avoid final spoilers. I’m going to take advantage of this, not just by checking my backlog of Twitter notifications and comments, but by having my say on the semis in brief, and taking another look ahead at the final now the participants and running order is locked in. 3, 2, 1, go!

 

SEMI FINAL 1

Together, Pilou, Lise and Nikolaj were no Petra Mede or Anke Engelke, but despite their lame jokes and the lack of segue from ‘Good evening, Europe!’ into postcard numero uno (unless our broadcast was edited down…grr) they hosted without fault. Of course, they had an amazing setting and massive audience to work with, which helped.

As someone who can take or leave Only Teardrops, I tolerated the semi-opener by Emmelie de Forest, and quite enjoyed the Ugly Duckling interval act as a lover of fairy tales (that guy’s sequined tracksuit WILL BE MINE! Mwahahaha!). But it’s the performances of the competing songs and the results that we really want to discuss, right? Here’s what I thought.

 

My performance highlight/s

  • Sweden – Having been invested in Sanna from the moment she was announced as a Melodifestivalen contestant (yet again) and Undo being my #1 song of the contest, my best hope for victory, my shoulder, my shelter, my satellite – oops, veering off into Hirsoux territory there – Sweden’s performance was always going to float my boat. What I did not expect was to burst into tears at the end of the three minutes. I think it was a combination of excitement, emotion and…well, my general pathetic-ness, let’s face it. I welled up when Sanna won Melfest, so I should have seen this coming. She was spellbinding, as usual. Perfection with a blonde bob and in black lace. #creepymuch?
  • Iceland – Pollapönk dried my tears, coming straight after Sanna and brightening everything up. They looked sharp, sounded great, oozed personality and all in all just had a great time up there, and as a result I did too. I’m finally on board with their decision to sing in English now. Watching them, I thought to myself ‘this has GOT to be a qualifier.’
  • Albania – Aside from the tattoo (that’s got to be the most painful postcard of all time) I have to give props to Hersi for singing so beautifully. I love the sound of her voice. Also, she didn’t look hideous as I may have predicted she would earlier this week. I had to pick someone!
  • Russia – Here was proof that good staging can make you love a mediocre song. I enjoyed everything about this performance, even though I’m still not sure how most of it – the hair thing, the see-saw, the Perspex light sabers, etc – was relevant to the song or its message. All I know is that it looked awesome. The twins’ vocals were on point too, and they looked very nice. I didn’t see the immature act I was expecting.
  • Ukraine – Again, an A+ for staging goes to Russia’s non-BFF Ukraine. That hamster wheel was used to full advantage, both by Maria and her man friend (who I’m assuming wasn’t asthmatic or anything since he had to run pretty much the entire time) in what was a simple but effective staging device. This was actually pared back by Ukrainian standards, but after the initial shock of Maria not being carried onstage by a giant, I appreciated it.
  • Portugal – This was old-school Eurovision that still worked like a charm IMO. The crowd was very responsive to it. It was full of energy and Kati Wolf Suzy had the best costume of the night – she looked UH-MAYZING. I didn’t want this performance to end, and I really wanted it to qualify. Sniff.

 

My performance lowlight/s

  • Moldova – First things first: nobody was terrible in this semi. No-one looked awful, sang badly or fell into the moat around the stage (that was a bit of a disappointment). But if I had to choose my least favourite act, it would have to be Moldova because a) it wasn’t as slick a performance as we usually get from them; b) the costuming was fine, but I expected more; and c) WHAT THE %@!* WAS WITH THAT HAIR THING? Whatever happened to tearing off a part of your dress or something? The classics are still okay, guys. Which is more than I can say for Cristina’s scalp right about now.

 

The qualifiers

  • Montenegro – What else can I say except YEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS! It could have gone either way, but I’m so happy it went this way. Welcome to the final, Montenegro!
  • Hungary – Our Australian commentators were surprised by this, but I wasn’t, and I doubt you were either.
  • Russia – Saved by staging, Russia went through and broke the JESC Curse. I’m glad some Junior alumni have finally made it to Saturday night.
  • Armenia – Duh. That is all.
  • Azerbaijan – How shocking for Azerbaijan to qualify! Ha. Ha. They turned out a perfect performance as always.
  • San Marino – My jaw actually hit the floor here. As lovely as Valentina looked and sounded, you CANNOT tell me this wasn’t a pity vote in large part. I’m convinced this qualified 10th and stole a final spot from Portugal or Estonia. Still, congrats to SM for making the final for the first time alongside Montenegro.
  • Ukraine – Another shocker here. Who on earth foresaw it happening?
  • Sweden – I was having palpitations by the time Sanna went through, so thank god they didn’t leave her ‘til last. I may not have been here to type this.
  • Netherlands – Riding the wave of Anouk, are we? CATS will add some genre variety to the final.
  • Iceland – I’m not sure why Iceland was left until last, but woop woop! I desperately wanted them to fill the final spot, and I got my wish.

 

How accurate were my predictions?

Fairly, but far from totally! I correctly predicted 7 of the 10 qualifiers, stumbling on Estonia, Belgium and Moldova. After seeing Axel and Cristina in action, I changed my mind, but it was too late to change my prediction. I am shocked by Estonia’s fail, and I bet Tanja is too…but can I just say, Estonia – if you’d picked Sandra, that would not have happened!

 

 

SEMI FINAL 2

This was a semi where I knew I was going to lose a country I liked, and to make matters worse, everyone was on top form. Kind of. I didn’t mention the postcards earlier, but I found them very interesting viewing again, and I can’t wait to see the final six. Australia was represented with a song-and-dance that could have been less cringe-worthy, and by the lovely Jess Mauboy who did us proud despite some vocal wavering (having seen the doco about her trip to the ESC broadcasted beforehand, I put it down to nerves). The other interval act, featuring Europe’s finest dancers (who videoed themselves and submitted it to eurovision.tv) was great. Now, on to the main event: the competing entries.

 

My performance highlight/s

  • Poland – That’s it…I’m running away to Poland to be a Slavic girl. This was freaking EPIC! It ticked all of my boxes (not that I normally have a check-box for ‘gratuitous display of boobs’). Cleo has everything a star attraction needs to have, plus attitude in spades; the costumes were as folk-mod awesome as I knew they’d be; handkerchiefs were used to great effect…the list goes on.
  • Austria – How could you not be impressed by the power of Conchita? Standing on that platform in her gold dress, looking like a particularly glam Academy Award statuette, she sung the crap out of RLAP like she always does, with a passion that never once appeared forced. Dana International, eat your heart out.
  • Lithuania – This was everything I didn’t expect it to be and more. In the minority I may be, but I LOVED it. Vilija looked amazing (even in a leather tutu), sung like a champ and looked totally unfazed by the man who refused to come out from beneath her skirt. 110% on point.
  • Finland – Yes, the adorable boys from Softengine did win me over some way with their simple but perfect-version-of-what-it-was performance. They get a gold star for using lighting to add so much to the visual of their act, and lead singer Topi gets a mug of hot lemon and honey tea to conserve his screamability for tonight.
  • Greece – You know I’m a little obsessed with Greece this year (song-wise and man candy-wise) so naturally, I was jumping for joy (get it?) after their appearance. It doesn’t take a stack of cash to entertain, and that’s exactly what they did, with the crowd (and moi) going crazy for Rise Up. Plus, thanks to Lise, we now know that Nikolas has a cat called Gary, and that is invaluable information.

 

My performance lowlight/s  

  • Ireland – Again, there were no train wrecks in this semi, which was a bit disappointing actually (somebody better screw up BIG during the voting to make up for it) but Ireland’s performance was rather messy and uncomfortable. Kasey’s costume was distracting because it looked like she was wearing three different outfits at once, so that wasn’t the best either. 

 

The qualifiers

  • Switzerland – Every time the Swiss qualify, I go ‘aww!’, whether I like the song or not. Hunter of Stars has a certain charm, so I was pleased to ‘aww!’.
  • Malta – Yeah, they did. There was never a question.
  • Slovenia – I’m not sure of where all the votes came from to get Tinkara in the top 10, but she’ll add some ethnicity to the final.
  • Norway – I want to congratulate and hug Carl so badly, assuming his ‘silent storm’ isn’t a metaphor for irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Poland – YESYESYESYESYESYES!!! Happiness for Jaz is when the Slavic girls make it through when she didn’t think they would.
  • Romania – Ugh. I was secretly hoping they’d miss out so I could laugh, but alas, Paula & Ovi are set to lame it up in the final. I’ll only keep the sound on to hear Paula’s glass-breaking note sequence.
  • Greece – I’m as happy as a guy in spandex on a trampoline. Which is very.
  • Belarus – That’s right, Anti-Cheesecake Brigade. We did it.
  • Finland – As with Slovenia, I am slightly confused as to where all the interest for this came from, but as the boys are so cute and were so competent, I say well done Finland!
  • Austria – This was always the one that would be left until last. I’ve never seen anyone so relieved as Conchita was to nab that final spot.

 

How accurate were my predictions?

Slightly more so than in Semi 1! I scored 8/10 this time around, with Israel and Macedonia being my incorrect predictions. But with Poland (one of my favourites) and Switzerland (it’s always precious when they qualify) replacing them, I’m happy I was wrong.

 

 

A WORD BEFORE THE FINAL BEGINS…

Right now I’m in that brief gap of time between having seen both semis on Aussie TV, and when the final begins in real time (which I won’t see until Sunday night). Having now seen all but the auto-finalists perform once, I feel it’s only fair I get to update my predictions for what’s going to go down on the scoreboard in the final. And not just because two of the countries I predicted to win didn’t even qualify *blushes*. So…

 

Who will win?

I’m not much surer of this than I was when I last predicted, but at least now I can say it will definitely not be Estonia or Israel (hashtag FAIL). This contest is still wide open, and all I can do is have a stab in the dark. So here are my stabs:

  • Armenia – It’s the favourite. I’ll feel like the world’s biggest moron if I take Aram out of the equation and then he wins.
  • Austria – It’s powerful, memorable and interesting. A dated-style winner maybe, but a worthy one based on Conchita’s power and passion alone.
  • Malta – There’s just something comforting about this that draws you in, and if it draws enough jury members and televoters in…
  • Spain – This is too typical-ESC for me to want it to win, but it has a decent draw, and Ruth has the potential to out-diva Conchita.
  • UK – There was already so much going for this entry, and then the UK only go and get drawn in the plum spot of 26! The BBC couldn’t have hoped for a better slot. If waiting all that time to perform doesn’t affect Molly negatively, there’s a good chance she could take this.

 

Who will make the top 10?

Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden and the UK. I still feel like I’m being too obvious, and there’s sure to be a few surprises up there, so…don’t laugh at my terrible predicting skills. Not to my face, anyway.

  

Who will be left at the bottom?

Surely it’s San Marino? I know I said that about the loser of semi 1, but my god…it has to be, right? I really wish we didn’t have wait until song 25 to sit through it, but I suppose the UK will look even better coming afterwards. If you’re looking for a shock loser (which we’ve had more than once in recent history) I’d say unless it’s a favourite, it won’t be that shocking.

 

Who’s not going to do as well as we think?

Romania. Okay, so not everyone is convinced Miracle will be exactly that, but it has none of the spark that Playing With Fire had. It’s relatively early on in the draw, and I think it will be overshadowed.

 

Who’s going to do better than we think?

Poland and/or the Netherlands. One’s big, brash and full of boobs and the other’s super humble (guess which is which!) but I have this feeling either one (or perhaps both) could defy expectation and neither be considered too OTT or get lost in the field.

 

With all of that said (‘at long last!’ I can hear you saying) it’s time for me to go to bed while those of you in Europe and those of you planning to watch the final live online get your celebration on, damn you. To be honest, I’m still none the wiser about where we’re headed for the 60th ESC, and that is very exciting. The chances of a runaway victory are slimmer than the chances of this being the last we hear of Valentina Monetta (she’s like Freddy Krueger…no matter what happens to her, she will rise again and attempt to murder you in your sleep) so the voting sequence should be a nailbiter. But before that, we have 26 performances to watch. I hope you make the most of every moment, and that the final doesn’t go by as fast as the semis did. I’ll be back early next week to join you all in the throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. Let’s ride it out together by dissecting every little detail of Eurovision 2014.

 

May the best song (preferably in my opinion) win!

 

Hit me up with your highlights and lowlights of the semis, plus your picks for the winner!

 

It’s time to #JoinUs! Predictions and expectations for Eurovision 2014 (plus my latest top 37)

I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach, and since I didn’t have anything nerve-wracking to do today, it meant one thing and one thing only: IT’S EUROVISION TIME!!! Well, kind of. As I write this intro, the first semi final is mere hours away, although I won’t be seeing it until Friday night. The Australian TV broadcast kicks off then and continues over the weekend, and it’s a ritual for me to wait for it rather than haul myself out of bed to watch the contest live via a very unreliable stream. I’m not even buying my Eurovision food until tomorrow (my snacks of choice this year being sugared popcorn and Redskins) which is also when my internet blackout starts in a quest to avoid spoilers. It’s hard work, but I’ve managed successfully in the past, not counting the year I found out the winner about an hour before the final was screened here (circa 2010). So I won’t be blogging until at least after I’ve seen the first semi, but I will definitely be back. Feel free to comment or interact with me any time, because it’s up to me to avoid any virtual contact until the coast is clear.

My last post before the winners and losers of tonight’s first semi final are known (I still can’t believe today’s the day!) is a mix of rankings, predictions, expectations and hopes for everything concerning Eurovision 2014. I’ve been so busy with uni lately that a lot of this was written last-minute, so I apologise if that’s super obvious, or if it doesn’t sound like I’m that excited about the ESC being upon us. Believe me, I am – it’s my driving force to get as much study out of the way as possible so I can enjoy THE best weekend of the year. On that note, I’ve got many riveting readings to do tonight, so I’ll get down to business right now. First up, it’s ranking time!

 

My pre-contest top 37 revealed!

This is my second full ranking of the year (I did my first a month or so ago here on the blog) and to make life easier and more accurate, I used this sorter that’s been circulating around the web for a while now. Here are the results, complete with stats showing how each country has moved up, down or not shifted at all since I last ranked.

  1. Sweden (+1)
  2. Greece (+1)
  3. France (-2)
  4. Hungary (+4)
  5. Montenegro (+15)
  6. Armenia (-1)
  7. Poland (+2)
  8. Belarus (-4)
  9. Norway (+1)
  10. Denmark (-4)
  11. United Kingdom (+3)
  12. Moldova (+11)
  13. Italy (-1)
  14. Iceland (-7)
  15. Portugal (+10)
  16. Estonia (-5)
  17. Lithuania (+12)
  18. Germany (-3)
  19. Slovenia (+3)
  20. Malta (-2)
  21. Spain (-2)
  22. Albania (-9)
  23. Belgium (+14)
  24. Ukraine (=)
  25. The Netherlands (-8)
  26. Israel (+2)
  27. Latvia (-11)
  28. Russia (+6)
  29. Ireland (-3)
  30. Switzerland (=)
  31. Azerbaijan (-4)
  32. Austria (+1)
  33. Romania (-12)
  34. Georgia (+2)
  35. Finland (-4)
  36. Macedonia (-4)
  37. San Marino (-2)

As you can see, there’s been some serious jumps in both directions. Feel free to let me know below which countries’ songs have made major leaps either way in your rankings, and/or what your pre-contest top 10 looks like.

Now, without further ado/rankings…let the predictions begin, show by show!

 

Semi Final 1

Who will qualify Armenia, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, Moldova, the Netherlands and Hungary

I’m not convinced Russia’s perfect qualification record will be broken, but based on the song and the purported Curse of the JESC Alumni, I’m not convinced they’re a given either. It’s in the bag for Armenia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Hungary as far as I’m concerned, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see others in place of the rest. There are a ton of ‘maybes’ this year! 

Who I want to qualify Armenia, Latvia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Portugal, Montenegro and Hungary

I’m desperate for Montenegro to go through, but after hearing nothing but negative comments about their choice of gimmick (when they shouldn’t have chosen anything) their chances may be dashed. Latvian and Portuguese qualifications would each be sweet in their own way.

Who is most likely to…win the semi Armenia. As far as I know without bothering to check, Aram remains the bookies’ favourite FTW, and as the first semi final’s opening act he’s likely to blow us all away and make sure nobody forgets about him. Other countries in the mix to win would be Hungary (if the subject matter doesn’t prevent it) and Sweden (a prediction made on behalf of biased Jaz of Team Sanna).

Yes, this man could easily win his semi...and possibly the whole contest.

Yes, this man could easily win his semi…and possibly the whole contest.

Lose the semi San Marino. Valentina has by far the most boring song in the lineup, and I can’t imagine anything about it, even with staging and costume taken into account, that would attract votes in mass.

Get the biggest round of applause Belgium. Axel is the male, Belgian equivalent of Susan Boyle, is he not? There are multiple “moments” in Mother that just strike me as golden opportunities for rapturous applause that drowns out whatever gushing declaration of love for his mum Axel makes next.

Sing best live Belgium again. Say what you will about their entry – this is a man with one heck of a set of pipes. I’d also have to single out Sweden, because Sanna’s vocal is always on point. The clarity of her voice sends shivers down my spine, for cereal.

Axel: focusing on singing, not creepy stalkers.

Axel: focusing on singing, not creepy stalkers.

Sing worst live Armenia. Before you say anything that could be misconstrued as a death threat, hear me out. I’m only pegging Aram as a possibility because his song requires both soft, subtle notes and big, BAM IN YOUR FACE shouts/notes, and as I’m yet to hear him sing live, I don’t know how well he handles that combination. I have heard Ukraine’s Maria was ropey in rehearsals, so she may also be up for this title. 

Make the best use of the background Montenegro. All they need is to model their graphics after the Moj Svijet video clip and I’ll be swooning.

Have the most boring stage show The Netherlands. Boring isn’t necessarily bad; there are some songs that shouldn’t be accompanied by tons of pyro and a twenty-foot Hell Machine, or intricate choreography. Calm After The Storm is one of them. There will not be much going on aside from guitar-strumming and staged eye contact.

Have the best costume/s Moldova. Think back to any Moldovan entries past and you’ll find they’ve got the ‘weird yet wonderful’ outfit market cornered. Don’t let Cristina’s hideous neon lace number from the opening party fool you – they’ll be style and edge aplenty in her stage selection. And probably a hairstyle that could win awards for architectural excellence.

Cristina with her trophy for 'Best Costume That Can Double As An Art Installation.'

Cristina is on track for the ‘Best Costume That Can Double As An Art Installation’ award.

Have the worst costume/s Albania. It’s safe to say that Hersi won’t have a dreadlock wrapped around her neck (unless she borrowed one of Rona’s for the occasion) but judging by some of the outfits I’ve seen on her up until now, what she wears on her big night may not be the most stylish of outfits. In fact…she likes lace and Peter Pan collars. Maybe she’ll wear Cristina’s hideous neon lace number? Sorry, Hersi and fans of. You’re more than welcome to prove me wrong.

 

Semi Final 2  

Who will qualify Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Finland, Belarus, Macedonia, Greece, Slovenia and Romania

Once again, there are some definites and more possibles in this bunch. I’m expecting Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Greece and Romania to sashay into the final with no troubles, but the other spots could go to any combination of countries. The likes of Macedonia and Belarus could just as easily get left behind as they could make it through. 

Who I want to qualify Malta, Israel, Norway, Poland, Austria, Lithuania, Belarus, Switzerland, Greece and Slovenia

I would LOVE the Slavic girls to be there on Saturday night, but I can’t see it based on what I’ve been calling the ‘Igranka effect’ – if that didn’t make the final, why would this? The one time I want Lithuania to do their trick of surprisingly qualifying, it doesn’t seem to be on the cards. 

Who is most likely to…win the semi Greece or Romania. My personal preference is for Greece (refer to my bagging of Romania in my last lot of reviews to see why) but I feel like either country could dominate with their high-energy songs and acts.

Paula & Ovi's pulling power could win Semi 2 for Romania.

Paula & Ovi’s pulling power could win Semi 2 for Romania.

Lose the semi Lithuania. That’s if they don’t qualify against the odds like they’ve done more than once in the past. I just think there’s so much that doesn’t work with Attention, mostly based on what I’ve heard regarding the visual aspects, that it could easily end up floundering in last place. 

Get the biggest round of applause Austria. Conchita’s song is massive, as is her voice and her stage presence. I’ll grow a perfectly-shaped beard if the crowd doesn’t go crazy for her.

Sing best live Conchita. As I said and as we all know, she’s a powerful vocalist who handles money notes and key changes with ease. Unless she’s worn out her chords this week, she shouldn’t fail to impress.

Sing worst live Vilija. Again, I haven’t heard her sing live, so this is more or less down to the possibility. Consider my benefit of the doubt given, though.

vilija-mataciunaite-64109082-620x330

It is hard to concentrate on vocals when you’re in this position.

Make the best use of the background Finland. Something flashy would definitely spice up a performance in which the band will be in one place the whole time.

Have the most boring stage show Ireland. This song is so mid-tempo, I’m not sure what kind of stage act would work with it. It’s too bad if I turn out to be right about this, because the song doesn’t really go anywhere and some Ukraine-esque score-boosting props or dancers would give it a better chance of success.

Have the best costume/s Poland. Even those of us who haven’t seen Cleo & co’s fashion choices for the contest will know what they are. The mixture of traditional costume and, well, skimpier stuff, goes well with the fusion of folk and modern sounds that is My Słowianie. My runner-up would be Slovenia, as I have seen Tinkara’s dress and it looks amazing. The Slovenian girls always do!

The embroidery machine exploded, but it was worth it.

The embroidery machine exploded, but it was worth it.

Have the worst costume Lithuania. Again, I’ve seen it, and although it’s nothing on the likes of Moje 3’s candy-coloured monstrosities from Malmö, it’s not good. Actually, come to think of it, one of those ridiculous dresses might have worked for Vilija…

 

The Grand Final

The lineup, IMO Armenia, Estonia, Sweden, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, Moldova, the Netherlands, Hungary, Malta, Israel, Norway, Austria, Finland, Belarus, Macedonia, Greece, Slovenia, Romania, Germany, Italy, Denmark, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. In a totally random, non-producer engineered order, of course. NOT.

Who will win Oh, how I wish that was an easy question to answer! Apart from the fact that I totally don’t, because this is one of the most open contests I’ve ever experienced and that makes it extra exciting. Still, I’ve had such a hard time predicting the winner that I could only narrow my long list of potentials down to five. In alphabetical order, here they are:

Armenia – Not Alone is the favourite, and you can’t discount the favourite! I’m still having trouble visualising the credits rolling over it (which is apparently a good indication of a song’s winning chances) but it certainly has impact and grabs attention.

Azerbaijan – Because come on, it’s Azerbaijan. They have a comparatively unique ballad up their sequined sleeve, a strong voice in Dilara, and what sounds like great staging as always.

Could Dilara take us back to Baku so soon?

Could Dilara take us back to Baku so soon?

Estonia – Amazing itself is close enough to Euphoria that it would be a questionable winner, but it’s accessible and instant, and the presentation will stick in people’s minds no matter where it crops up in the running order. Don’t forget that history often repeats…

Israel – I didn’t see this one’s success in the OGAE vote coming, so I’m attempting to see a possible contest win coming. Mei’s a powerful performer with a very competent pop song that has edge. She could drive straight up the middle of the scoreboard with consistent 6s, 7s and 8s.

UK – I’m hoping Molly has a real shot, and we’re not all getting ahead of ourselves like we did with Blue. The difference here is that not only is the song good, the performance will likely be too. If I Can reached 11th with that messy performance, COTU could do a lot better. And I mean a LOT.

Eating your microphone is no way to win Eurovision, Molly.

Eating your microphone is no way to win Eurovision, Molly.

Who will make the top 10 Again, in alphabetical order, my guess is Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Malta, Sweden and the UK.

This list perhaps features too many cliché top tenners, when in recent years there’s been a few surprise acts making it this far. But they’re a surprise for a reason – it’s hard to predict them!

Who will be left at the bottom Finland or the Netherlands, assuming they both get to the final. I just feel that their songs could be the kind that get overshadowed when the going gets tough. Otherwise, France or Germany are possibilities. I adore Moustache and like Is It Right quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean either will capture anyone’s mood. The chances of predicting this correctly are very slim, so I’m just going with random feelings here.

Where the final six will end up I’m foreseeing two of the auto-finalists in this year’s top 10 – Denmark and the UK. Molly may end up anywhere from 1st-6th position, while the host act will likely be in the 5th-8th range. I think Italy will narrowly miss out on the top 10 in about 11th or 12th place, followed by the too-typical Spain in 13th-16th. As mentioned just before, I reckon France and Germany could be (undeservedly) down the bottom end of the scoreboard – in the 18th-26th area.

 

A few bonus bits

Here are some extra predictions/hopes etc that didn’t fit in anywhere else. Enjoy?!?

The five countries I want to succeed the most Greece, Montenegro, Poland, Sweden and the UK, all for different reasons and with the knowledge that it’s not going to happen for all of them.

Five things I’m excited for

  • Seeing the stage in action – it’s like a giant dissected Rubik’s Cube, and that is freaking awesome.
  • Watching the postcards – we’ve all been getting our #MyEurovisionFlag on in the leadup to Copenhagen, and now in the postcards, each artist will be doing the same. Props go to whoever came up with that idea (which does remind me a teensy bit of Belgrade ’08).
  • Cheering on the Australian entry – Jess Mauboy is representing us, if only in the second semi’s interval act, and I can’t wait to wave a flag for her! I know she’ll do us proud, and it’ll be great practice for when the EBU finally let Australia participate for real. Hashtag IN MY DREAMS.
Jess already knows her way around a wind machine, so she'll be fine.

Jess already knows her way around a wind machine, so she’ll be fine.

  • Knowing the qualifiers – this year has been incredibly hard to predict, and it will be a relief to finally know which of the many maybe songs are to become finalists.
  • Nail-biting my way through the final voting – with such an open year on our hands, the voting sequence has the potential to be the most tense we’ve seen in a very long time. As stressful as that will be, I say bring it on.

Five cities I’d love to see host the 60th contest

  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Manchester, England
  • Paris, France
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Warsaw, Poland

Lugano, Switzerland would also be neat, 2015 being a big Eurovision anniversary and all…any chance you can make that happen, Sebalter? Hypnotise the continent into voting for you via your superior whistling skills!

 

I think that about covers everything. It’d want to, considering I’ve rambled on for the equivalent length of an encyclopedia. It’s very late where I’m at, and I’m falling asleep on my keyboard (the impressions it’s leaving in my face are extremely attractive) so I’m off to sleep through the start of Eurovision 2014 before commencing my spoiler-watch. On behalf of me, myself and I, I wish you the merriest of Eurovisions, whether you’re watching live or you’re waiting for something better (by which I mean a TV broadcast, not the Finnish entry to come on). May the best song win, whatever that may be, but above all, let the show exceed all of our expectations and make for hours of flag and TEAM SANNA 4EVERRRRRRR banner-waving. Or is that just going to be me?

 

Get in while you still can, people! Give me your tips for qualifiers, the winner and everything in-between. Or, if the results have been and gone, tell me what I can do next year to improve on my terrible predicting skills…

 

Copenhagen Reviews: Part 4 (Romania-UK)

I bet you didn’t see this post coming! Any number of topics could have been covered after the Copenhagen Reviews: Part 3, but I’ve gone controversial and chosen to critique the remaining nine songs in the Eurovision 2014 alphabet.

As usual, I haven’t even been tempted to watch any rehearsal footage (I’m not bragging – it’s just something I never do because I love the element of surprise) but I’ve seen some snaps and heard plenty of gossip from my preferred sources on the ground in Denmark. How everybody’s going to go is becoming a little easier to predict in what is still a very open contest. Perhaps the winner will be one of the countries I’m reviewing today. FYI, they are: Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Check out my thoughts on this final group and then let me know what you think about their winning chances. San Marino’s got to be up there, right?

 

*Awkward silence*

 

Let’s start with Romania!

 

ROMANIA

Miracle by Paula Seling & Ovi

romaniaSounds like: a rejected B-side to Playing With Fire

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: Unfortunately, yes

IMO: I get the impression Romania think they’re on to a winner sending Paula & Ovi back to Eurovision. That their names and previous success alone will be enough to secure them what they allegedly deserve. Romania does deserve to win, as much as any other country – particularly those who’ve never had the honour. But Romania doesn’t deserve to do it with this song. Miracle never even comes close to living up to its title, and I have little doubt that Paula & Ovi won their NF because they’re Paula & Ovi, not because they had the best song on offer. The whole situation actually makes me angry. What we have here is a by-the-numbers dance track that offers nothing special, that’s made up of meaningless lyrics and has a ‘Let’s Show Off Paula’s Incredible Range, Shall We?’ segment thrown in for good measure. And just because this duo sang their way to 3rd place four years ago (which was genuinely deserved in my opinion) they’re coming into this contest with this air of entitlement that drives me crazy. Now, I have nothing against Romania – they’ve sent great songs in the past, and they have a lovely country and I’m sure, lovely people to their name. But this move has made me want to waggle my finger at the whole nation and say ‘Shame on you!’, like some teacher who’s just found the class delinquent carving swear words into the wood on his desk. The worst part is, I don’t have a completely terrible time listening to Miracle, and that makes me hate myself because I know, and have just articulated, how second-rate it is. It’s another entry that I assume will snatch away a place in the final from one that deserves it more. In spite of my unwelcome almost-enjoyment of the listening experience, I’d rather Paula & Ovi did a Dana International than a Dima Bilan.

Winner, loser or grower: I can’t even classify this, but I’ll give it 4 points.

 

RUSSIA

Shine by the Tolmachevy Sisters

russiaBest lyric: ‘Can you be a masterpiece of love?’

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

IMO: For the second year in a row, the ESC is being graced with the presence of Junior Eurovision alumni – only this time, it’s an act that conquered that competition. The Tolmachevy twins won JESC 2006 in Bucharest with Vesinniy Jazz, and eight years down the track, not that much has change. They still look pretty young, they can still sing very well, and they still dress EXACTLY THE SAME. Seriously, it creeps me out. Sadly (as I always get excited by a JESC artist making the transition to the adult contest) their song is different, but not for the better. In many ways, it’s more child-like than their JESC winner, leaving me with the overall impression that this is a Junior act trying to make it at a show it’s not ready for. I’m starting to wonder if there’s a curse related to the kids who try and do both – Poland 2010, Serbia 2013, and quite possibly, Russia 2014, resulting in zero qualifications. The twins have certainly been cursed with a mediocre song, making it a 100% record for me not loving any Eurovision-related song called Shine. It’s okay, pleasant even at times. It doesn’t offend anyone (except those who read too much into the lyrics about crime and crossing the line) and it verges on being catchy, although the cheesiness of the lyrics distracts me from that plus. The girls are vocally in sync, as you’d expect from two people who’ve shared a womb/room since forever. My main issue, aside from the whole ‘not ready’ thing, is that the song sounds like it was written decades before they were even born. It’s so dated I can’t even pinpoint the era it takes me back to (one that passed well before I was born). And that’s not what I want to see in Eurovision these days. There are songs that are retro in a nostalgic kind of way, and combine that with fresher sounds. But Shine is just old hat through and through, and whilst I appreciate the message they’re trying to send with it, nobody’s going to believe it coming from Russia at the moment. I’m torn over whether it’s going to go through because it’s Russia, or not because the song shouldn’t…and it’s Russia. Either way, I don’t want the twins to have a traumatic Eurovision experience. They’re only seventeen and they don’t come off as adult as past young’uns like Maja Keuc. Be gentle with them, Europe.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.

 

SAN MARINO

Maybe by Valentina Monetta

san marinoSounds like: San Marino thinks this is Eurovision 1974

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

IMO: We’ve all heard the saying ‘third time lucky’, and in life, it often proves to be true (that’s why I intend on proposing to Ott Lepland twice more by snail mail before I lose hope). San Marino is going for third time Maybe with Valentina, but I think the more realistic way of putting it is ‘third time no way in hell, to be blunt. I commended the Sammarinese effort to regroup after the Facebook incident and present Malmö with a new and improved Valentina to the one we all knew and tried not to laugh at. But even though Crisalide was a serious song, I couldn’t take the poor woman seriously having seen her in THAT outfit, doing THOSE dance moves, and singing THAT song. Now, on attempt three, I’ve stopped bothering to try and consider her as a contender. Now I’m just thinking, ‘You’re a lost cause.’ It’s time to move on and try someone, and something else, guys. Maybe reeks of desperation and mothballs (like it’s been sitting in the back of Ralph Siegel’s closet for thirty years). To be blunt again, it’s a stale snoozefest, and Valentina deserves better. But she keeps on being thrown songs that aren’t true to her style, and in this case, language. I know there are people out there who see this song as classically beautiful, and I respect your opinion, but to me it’s just a country clutching at straws, hoping to squeeze into the final because they’re the ultimate tryer. As far as I’m concerned, it’s never going to happen. I don’t mean never for San Marino, just not this year. We know they can produce stronger stuff – I personally loved their debut entry, and their JESC debut last year was retro, but creditable and entertaining – and when they finally find the right formula for Eurovision, they’ll qualify and deservedly so. This current formula is broke, so they need to fix it. Ciao once again, Valentina.

Winner, loser or grower: Loser. 3 points.

 

SLOVENIA

Round and Round by Tinkara Kovač

sloveniaSounds like: Say It Right by Nelly Furtado

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Ethno-pop is in short supply this year, so thank you Slovenia for adding some to the buffet. It’s a decent serving (the food analogy ends here) if not mind-blowing. Tinkara – proud owner of the world’s most magical name – has a gimmick, and that is her flute, which adds a nice touch of haunting Slovenian-ness to a song that’s not particularly haunting outside of that. It may also have the benefit of making her performance memorable, if home viewers end up thinking to themselves, ‘That chick with the flute was good. I’m gonna send a vote or two her way.’ If there was no flute, HOW WOULD THEY REMEMBER HER?!? Ahem. Anyway, I really like this entry, but apart from the flute thing, it’s not that distinctive. It’s well-executed and competent, but for some reason even I don’t think it’s special. I have caught a glimpse of Tinkara’s dress and that looked pretty elaborate, but even with that in the mix I can’t see where all the votes for Slovenia would come from to get them out of their semi. The odds are in their favour to be a sure qualifier, but I see them finishing in the 11th-13th range as easily as 10th. For me, Hannah’s Straight Into Love was edgier and more exciting, although Round and Round will probably be vocally superior and, as alluded before, just as impressive in the fashion stakes (my thumbs are up for Slovenian style). If it gets to Saturday night it will also add much-needed variety of language to the proceedings. Basically, I’ll be pleased if it goes through because I like it, but I won’t be shocked if it doesn’t.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

SPAIN

Dancing In The Rain by Ruth Lorenzo

spainSounds like: a big contender for fanwank of the year…

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Spain has retreated back into Pastora Soler territory this year, considering that more likely to give them a respectable result. Pastora 2.0 = Ruth, a dark-haired, attractive (I may have a girl crush in progress) female who can belt out a ballad like nobody’s business. You may remember that I was a huge fan of Quedate Conmigo, all the while knowing it was a Eurovision-exclusive kind of song that those of us in the bubble would go crazy over, but that may not be so well received by your average, non-obsessive voter at home. I’m following the same pattern of thinking with Dancing In The Rain, only I wouldn’t say I love it. Like a bunch of other songs this year, it’s competent, pleasant to listen to and vocally commendable, but I can’t bring myself to rave about it. Lyrically and in the way it’s been constructed, it’s generic, and something you’d only hear in the contest or in a national final (hence what I meant by ‘Eurovision-exclusive’) which means a lot of fans are going crazy over it, predicting it as the auto-finalist that will finish highest. I’m not so sure. However, it is, I reckon, in the live performance where the song loses some of those generic qualities, and transforms from something I find a little flat into something much more lively. That’s because Ruth can sing so well, and knows exactly what she’s doing in a staged environment. Her time on The X Factor clearly made her comfortable with working the camera and owning her performances, and though she can take it to theatre-drama levels sometimes (i.e. over-perform) it’s still effective. She looks stunning on film, and even if some of those big notes test the eardrums of the live audience, us TV viewers will be spared. The juries will commend her vocal abilities and connection, so I guess it’s a matter of whether DITR is memorable enough to catch on that will determine her fate.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

SWEDEN

Undo by Sanna Nielsen

swedenBest lyric: ‘Undo my sad’…what else?

Better than 2013: Don’t even think about making me pick. *points threatening finger*

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: A disclaimer to begin – yes, I am fully aware that the majority of my comments about Spain up there↑ including the use of the word ‘fanwank’ could also apply to Sweden. The difference here is that I’m extremely biased about Sweden because I adore Sanna, adore this song and still relive the magical moment when she FINALLY won Melodifestivalen back in March multiple times a day in my mind. 95% of the time, Sweden is a country I support wholeheartedly in Eurovision. I don’t know if it’s because I follow Melfest and get very invested in my favourites (one of which usually wins) but for as long as I have followed it, I’ve loved every winner. Sanna’s Undo is therefore just one in an increasingly long line of Swedish reps that I have drooled over. I have liked her Melfest entries in the past, but for me (and I know there’s divided opinion on this) this is the one she deserved to win with – and no matter how narrow a victory it was, it was still a victory, so get over it already, Team Ace. This song gives me two very important things: a) feels and b) chills. OMG THE FEELS AND THE CHILLS! I know it’s unoriginal and by-the-numbers and blah blah blah, but this is the kind of ballad that gets me. Here, said getting has been helped along by Sanna’s amazing vocals. The woman can dip in and out of soft, delicate notes and big money notes like she was born doing it, with a constant clarity to her tone that is spellbinding. Also giving me goosebumps is the staging, in which a bunch of lights have never been used better. But to come back to the song itself – it may be repetitive and predictable, but sometimes that works. I feel like Sanna’s speaking to me on an emotional level (you may laugh if you want to). I don’t see the clinical side that those outside of Team Sanna keep mentioning. I see – or hear – beauty throughout. I even think ‘undo my sad’ is a hook that people will remember. Haven’t we all been referencing it on Twitter for weeks? The grammar policewoman in me knows it’s just artistic license, and that’s fine. Do I think Sweden will win next week as easily as they won the OGAE vote? Well, Sanna could be an Emmelie or a Loreen, who also won their respective OGAE votes; or, I’ll admit, a Kati Wolf, who won in 2011 only to be forgotten about in the actual contest. I still think Sanna has a spot saved in the top 5, but ultimately, my biased self will just have to wish her good luck and let Europe decide.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!!!

 

SWITZERLAND

Hunter of Stars by Sebalter

switzerlandBest lyric: ‘I’m the hunter, and you the poor prey. Tonight I’m gonna eat you up.’

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No                                                                               

IMO: The situation in Switzerland was situation normal this season – the powers that be whittled the submitted songs down to a small and quite frankly, crappy pile that made me think ‘Of all the contributions, these are the best you could choose?’. Then, they went and made the best selection they possibly could have under the circumstances, which went on to appear a bit weak as more and more other countries chose their songs. I’m always sad to have to say that, but on the positive side, ‘a bit weak’ is a far cry from how the Swiss entry usually comes off by the time the field is at full capacity. Hunter of Stars isn’t exactly a force to be reckoned with, but I have to confess, it’s won me over in the time since it triumphed at Die Grosse Show. It’s a charming little ditty in a country vein, and uses whistling to nice effect. It also has an amusing preview video that complements the laid-back, folksy vibe perfectly. When you put it next to other country-esque entries, it actually one-ups them in some respects. For example, it’s more fun and exciting than the Netherlands’, and less contrived than Malta’s both lyrically and melodically. Unfortunately, Sebalter has found himself in the same semi final as Firelight, who have a much greater chance of qualifying (and it’s unlikely both will go through). Speaking of Sebalter – he’s got serious personality (not to be confused with a serious personality a la Carl Espen) and he’s very charismatic and personable on stage, so he shouldn’t have any trouble connecting with the audience, either in the arena or through the camera lens. I hope his seemingly happy-go-lucky attitude means he won’t be devastated to be sent home after Thursday night. I also hope if by some chance he does qualify, you guys won’t refer back to this review and tell me what a moron I am for discounting Switzerland.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 7 points.

 

UKRAINE

Tick Tock by Maria Yaremchuk 

ukraineSounds like: a slower version of Britney Spears’ Toxic

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: It’s a running joke that either Belarus or Ukraine never send the same song/artist combo that wins their national finals to Eurovision. This year, though, they both have. OR HAVE THEY?!? That was my incredibly dramatic way of saying that my, my, haven’t Ukraine done a number on Tick Tock? With a totally different arrangement and revised lyrics, you can hardly call it the same song that Maria strutted her way through back in December. At first, this was an outrage to me as I enjoyed the tacky, trashy original version. It was infectious bubblegum pop, and they twisted and reshaped it into something unrecognisable that had much lamer lyrics in the chorus. Having had time to get accustomed to Tick Tock II, I still prefer the original, but I have been reminded that one should never assume Ukraine don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to the ESC. This revamp has been welcomed with open arms by the majority of fans, and it has classed up the whole affair, right down to Maria’s styling (in the video and from the rehearsal snapshots I’ve seen). Even if the song had been swapped out for three minutes of Maria inhaling helium and reciting the alphabet backwards, I’ve no doubt clever staging would have kept Ukraine’s seat in the final warm for them. A prop or gimmick for presentation purposes has propelled them to success multiple times over the years. Maria herself is a tribute to all of the women her country has put forward to the contest – she’s hot, fierce, and has the voice of a slightly promiscuous angel, which she will coordinate with precise choreography and make it look natural, if I know Ukraine at all. I’m not seeing another podium finish so soon for them, but the lower half of the top 10 is within easy reach of Maria’s manicured fingers.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Children of the Universe by Molly

ukBest lyric: ‘Tastes like a bitter pill but I’ll just wash it down with the taste of something sweet that some doctor gave me now.’

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Is it possible that the BBC have hit on the magic Eurovision formula for the first time in way too long? The short answer is yes. They could be onto a winner, or at least an excellent placing, with Molly and her Children of the Universe, which is thankfully not a cheesy ballad about the youth of today coming together to share and care and make us all physically sick (I’m thinking of a similarly-titled song from the Dutch NF a few years back). As a package deal, this entry ticks a lot of boxes: Molly is a) not a pensioner, b) pretty to look at, and c) a capable singer, and her song is a) current, b) unique, particularly lyrically, and c) easy to latch on to (Power to the people? You can’t tell me that line wasn’t made for being shouted out and fist-pumped to in front of thousands of flag-waving fans). This is, without doubt, the strongest total package entry delivered by the UK in an über long while. What I like most about the song is how each segment is interesting in its own right – the quieter verses make you listen out of curiosity for what’s being said and where it’s going, while the choruses are sing-along friendly and pack a decent punch. Molly’s voice, too, is interesting. She’s almost like the anti-Sanna, with a rawness to her vocal that adds edge to her performance. All in all, I’m really fond of this, though it’s not right up there with my favourites (I just called Molly the anti-Sanna, which is a huge clue). But I’m having trouble seeing it as a winner. I would love to see a UK contest for the 60th, but I think the UK should be very happy if they manage to make the top 10. We don’t know yet how this will be staged, but when Molly first found out she apparently got goosebumps just imagining it. Perhaps Undo was on in the background during the unveiling. The point is, there are now great expectations of staging to go along with those of how Molly will fare score-wise. I would love it if for once, everything could come together for the UK.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

Well, with the UK done and dusted, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve officially reviewed all 37 members of the Class of Copenhagen, with three days to go until Semi Final 1 (!!!). Here comes the obligatory mini-ranking:

  1. Sweden
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Ukraine
  4. Spain
  5. Switzerland
  6. Slovenia
  7. Russia
  8. Romania
  9. San Marino

I don’t know about you, but even with a few extra days to go until the Australian broadcast kicks off, my excitement levels are through the roof! It helps that here in Oz we have our very own Eurovision Quiz Contest starting on Monday at 8pm on SBS2 (for anyone in the country who may not have known the details) and continuing until Friday. Also, tomorrow night, Molly’s Graham Norton episode is on air here, so I’m calling Sunday the unofficial beginning of Eurovision Week.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with a last-minute prediction special, including my final pre-contest top 37 (not even I know what that’s going to look like right now) so look forward to that if that’s something you’d normally look forward to. Until then, leave me with your snarky comments about and/or lashings of praise over the songs from Romania through UK. Although…if you’re a Paula & Ovi devotee, I’d rather not have that kind of language on this blog.

 

Merry (almost) Eurovision!!!

EBJ Signature

 

 

 

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